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The Most Impressive Malls in the World

While more and more people may be doing their shopping online these days, nothing quite beats the thrill of a shopping spree at an action-packed mall. From Canada to Dubai, here are some of the most impressive malls around the world that every shopaholic needs to visit at least once in their lifetime. 

West Edmonton Mall, Canada

EDMONTON, CANADA - JULY 7, 2017 : St.Maria pirate vessel in the West Edmonton Mall. Its the largest shopping mall in North America and the tenth largest in the world.

© Nick Fox / Shutterstock.com

When Canada’s West Edmonton Mall first opened its doors in 1981, it was the largest shopping mall in North America, and this is a title that it still holds.

Covering 490,000 square meters in area, more than 32 million people visit this shopping mall each year. 

Why? 

Because it boasts a number of amazing features, including: 

  • More than 800 shops and services 
  • More than 100 dining venues 
  • Two hotels 
  • Nine attractions 

Plus, parking is always a breeze with space for more than 20,000 vehicles. 

As you can imagine, the sheer number of stores here mean that both luxury and bargain brands are represented, giving shoppers plenty of choice. 

Wondering what the attractions at this mall are? 

One of the most popular is Galaxyland, which is the second largest indoor amusement park in the world. 

You will also find the second largest water park in the world here, as well as an ice hockey rink, a shooting range and so much more.

Don’t have much time to spend here? 

If so, do not miss the themed sections of the mall. From Bourbon Street, which is inspired by New Orleans, complete with bars and restaurants, to Europa Boulevard, which looks just like a street scene from a European city, the way in which these areas have been designed are truly spectacular. 

The Dubai Mall, Dubai

DUBAI, UAE - OCTOBER 1: Waterfall in Dubai Mall - world's largest shopping mall based on total area and sixth largest by gross leasable area, October 1, 2012 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

© S-F / Shutterstock.com

What could be more impressive than the largest mall in the world?

Stretching out at 1.1 million square meters, which is basically the equivalent of 200 soccer fields, you can be sure that you will find exactly what you need at the Dubai Mall. 

This is the most-visited shopping and leisure destination in the world, so prepared to be impressed…

In addition to the two sprawling department stores within the mall, there are 1200 other retailers here, as well as over 200 dining venues. 

Wondering what sort of stores you would find here?

That all depends on which part of the mall you are in! The Dubai Mall is split up into different shopping areas, such as: 

  • The Village – a casual and relaxed shopping area with a retractable roof, The Village is home to trendy, active lifestyle brands 
  • Level Shoe District – features 40 different footwear boutiques offering shoes by more than 250 designers 
  • The Souk – done up like a traditional Arab souk, this is where you will find local jewelry, handicrafts, clothing and more 
  • Fashion Avenue – home to the high fashion brands of the world, including department stores from Galeries Lafayette and Bloomingdale’s 

If you get tired of shopping, there is plenty else to do here. The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is always popular, especially since this is one of the largest aquariums in the world. You will also find an indoor theme park, an Olympic-sized ice rink, an entertainment complex for children, and so much more here. 

Want to see some stunning views? 

Head up to the mall’s Observation Deck, which is the highest one in the world, for some extraordinary views of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.

Istanbul Cevahir Shopping and Entertainment Centre, Turkey

ISTANBUL,JUNE 13,2012: Cevahir Shopping Center;modern shopping mall located in Mecidiyekoy,Istanbul. Opened on 15 October 2005,is the largest shopping mall in Europe, the sixth largest in the world.

© Photo Oz / Shutterstock.com

Famous for being the largest shopping mall in Europe, Istanbul Cevahir is known for being the prime retail spot in Turkey. 

While its 280 stores and 48 restaurants may not seem as much as some of the other malls on this list, Istanbul Cevahir still boasts a couple of features that make this mall really stand out. 

The first is its roller coaster, which spans the interior of the mall. As you can imagine, this gives both shoppers and thrill-seekers some truly unique views! 

The mall also boasts a wave pool and a bowling alley, as well as 12 cinemas, one of which is a 3D IMAX theater. 

Want to see something really special? 

Look up at the mall’s glass roof and you will notice a massive clock. This is, in fact, the largest clock in the world, with each digit on the clock being three meters in size. 

In terms of the stores at the mall, you will find everything from bargain chains to high fashion brands. Many of the brands that call this mall home cannot be found anywhere else in Turkey, making this the mall to visit if you are looking to purchase a one-of-a-kind item. 

Ala Moana Shopping Center, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, Oct. 31, 2016: Panorama view of the new Ala Moana Shopping Center with a cloudscape background.

© Theodore Trimmer / Shutterstock.com

Not only is the Ala Moana Shopping Center the largest one in Hawaii, but this is also the largest outdoor shopping mall in the world. 

As you can imagine, this mall offers quite a unique shopping experience, enabling you to make the most of the blue skies and balmy temperatures of Honolulu. The landscaping here is really outstanding, with banana and kukui nut trees lining paths, along with koi ponds and tropical flowers.

The mall stretches out for over two million square feet, and is home to a few special stores that draw in shoppers from far and wide. One of these is the Louis Vuitton boutique, which is one of the largest Louis Vuitton stores in the world, while the Chanel Fine Jewelry boutique is also extremely rare. You will also find a Philip Rickard Factory Showroom here selling exclusive Hawaiian jewelry pieces. 

Many of the designers housed at this mall, from Gucci to Dior to Hermes, often release exclusive designs just for their Ala Moana boutiques, making this the mall to go to if you are seeking limited edition pieces. 

Feeling hungry?

Head up to the mall’s fourth floor terrace, where you can take your pick from more than 70 different dining establishments. Scattered among the chain restaurants are some must-visit restaurants, from the famous Tsukiji Fish Market and Restaurant to the Japanese food court and beer garden. 

For an authentic taste of Hawaiian culture…

Make sure that you are at the mall for 1pm, no matter which day of the week you are visiting. 

Why?

Because each day at this time, the mall hosts a traditional 20-minute hula show with dancers performing native dances.

Siam Paragon, Thailand

BANGKOK - AUG 25: Shoppers visit Siam Paragon mall in the Siam Square area on Aug 25, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand. With 300,000 sq m of retail space Siam Paragon is one of the world's largest malls.

© 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com

Located in Bangkok, Siam Paragon faces plenty of competition from its next door neighbor, CentralWorld, which is the largest mall in Thailand. However, shoppers still flock to Siam Paragon for its more upscale shopping experience. 

This mall focuses on upmarket boutiques, and its open-plan design enables shoppers to see all of the stores on the five levels around them while they browse. 

Wondering what you will find on each of the five floors?

Here is a quick breakdown: 

  • Main Floor – this is the luxury fashion floor, with designers such as Prada, Hermes, Versace and more. This is one of the most exclusive shopping areas in all of Bangkok 
  • First Floor – this is known as the Fashion Venue, and is where you will find the premium high street fashion brands, such as Paul Smith, Hugo Boss, Gap and H&M
  • Second and Third Floors – you will find lifestyle and leisure stores here, with everything from car displays to book shops to beauty salons
  • Fourth Floor – the majority of the mall’s electronic stores are clustered here, along with souvenir stores and several restaurants 
  • Fifth Floor – you will never get bored on the fifth floor with all of the entertainment options available, from a bowling alley to cinemas, including a 3D IMAX screen, to an exhibition hall

Want to catch a movie? 

The cinemas on the fifth floor are the place to go, but if you want a more luxurious experience, book yourself in for the Nokia VIP Ultrascreen. You will find deep-seated double leather sofas here, along with footrests, blankets and complimentary food and drink. Whether you are on your own or traveling with other people, this is a great way to really pamper yourself while in Bangkok.

Are you in Bangkok on holiday?

If so, make sure that your first stop at Siam Paragon is the information desk on the ground floor. Here, you will be able to sign yourself up for a Tourist Discount Card, meaning that you will be able to enjoy a 5% discount from almost every store at the mall. 

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy

MILAN, ITALY - JULY 12, 2015: Famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in a beautiful summer day in Milan on July 12, 2014 in Milan, Italy

© S-F / Shutterstock.com

Milan is already known for being one of the fashion capitals of the world, so it should not come as a surprise that the city is also home to one of the world’s most impressive shopping malls. 

Completed in 1867, this is the oldest shopping mall in Italy, and is also a major tourist hotspot in Milan. 

Why 

Because its historic architectural style is truly extravagant, with its glass dome allowing plenty of natural light to flood through. 

Wondering what type of stores you would find in this majestic mall?

The store’s match the malls extravagant décor, with high end brands galore. There are a number of haute couture designers here, along with jewelry stores, book shops and fine art galleries. 

If you want to stop for a bite to eat…

Some of the oldest restaurants in Milan can be found at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. For a Michelin-starred feast, head to Felix Lo Basso, where you will be able to enjoy a panoramic views of the city alongside your meal, or to Cracco, which can be found next to the Prada boutique. 

The historic Savini is also worth a visit, especially if you would like to sample some traditional Milanese cuisine. 

Villaggio Mall, Qatar

DOHA, QATAR - JAN 7: Canal and Gondola inside of the Villaggio Mall Shopping Center in Doha. January 7, 2012 in Doha, Qatar, Middle East

© Philip Lange / Shutterstock.com

Located in Doha, which is the capital of Qatar, the Villaggio Mall will definitely impress as soon as you set foot inside the incredible building. 

The ceiling and lighting of the mall has been designed to make you feel as though you are shopping outdoors, with different sections of the mall representing different times of the day. Whether you want to shop under bright sunlight, in the vibrant colors of sunset, or at night time with street lamps, this mall offers all of this and more. 

The décor of the mall is pretty impressive too, with everything focused around an Italian theme. 

Wondering how many stores you will find here? 

There are around 220 stores in total, along with several different restaurants and food courts. The stores range from high street brands to high fashion, giving shoppers plenty of choice. 

There are quite a few entertainment options to enjoy at this mall too, with the most popular being the ice skating rink and the IMAX 3D cinema, which offers 13 screens. There is also a theme park here, known as the Gondolania Theme Park, where you will find multiple attractions, including a bowling alley and a roller coaster. 

Being such a large mall, navigating your way around the Villaggio Mall can be tiring, but there is something that can help you with this…

There is a canal that runs through the mall, complete with gondolas to carry shoppers, and all of their bags, from one end to the other. This fits in perfectly well with the mall’s Italian theme, and really gives the mall an extra air of luxury. 

This mall made headlines in 2012 after a devastating fire broke out within the building. Although it took a few years for most of the stores to properly bounce back, the majority of them are open for business once again. 

For those of you who love to shop, these malls are definitely ones that you will not want to miss. Whether you want a tropical outdoor shopping experience in Hawaii, or a sprawling Middle Eastern mall in Dubai, make sure that you prioritize each of these malls when putting together your shopping bucket list. 

Haven’t yet decided where you’re going to be spending New Year’s Eve? 

Here are 10 cities in the USA that will guarantee you a great time. 

New York City, New York

No New Year’s Eve list would be complete without a mention of New York City, with the Big Apple being one of the most popular New Year’s Eve destinations in the world.

The city’s legendary celebrations take place at Times Square, with over a million people in attendance. Not only that, but around one billion people watch the Times Square celebrations on TV each year, making this one of the world’s most talked-about celebrations. 

What exactly happens at Times Square on New Year’s Eve?

Well, people tend to start early in order to bag the best spot, with revellers beginning to make an appearance in the morning of the 31st. As the evening goes on, party favors, from hats to noise-makers, are handed out to the crowd, while Christmas concerts and shows keep everyone entertained. 

NEW YORK CITY - DECEMBER 31 2013: The Times Square Alliance hosted the square's 110th New Year's Eve countdown with celebrities, crowds & cold temps, Culmination of the countdown & the start of 2014

a katz / Shutterstock.com

The famous Ball is raised and lit by 6pm, after which it begins its slow descent. The official countdown starts a minute before midnight, and then, when the Ball drops, the celebrations really begin.

If you don’t want to join the crowds at Times Square on New Year’s Eve…

There are plenty of other ways in which you can bring in the new year in New York City. From parties at bars to cruises that give you a spectacular view of the harbor, New York City comes to life more than ever on New Year’s Eve. 

Las Vegas, Nevada

Parties in Las Vegas are pretty crazy no matter the time of year, so you can only imagine the intensity of the festivities that take place here on New Year’s Eve.

The entire Las Vegas Strip is closed to traffic for the night, with the whole road turning into a massive street party. 

Close to half a million people attend each year, all decked out in party clothes and holding plenty of party favors. 

What happens at midnight? 

The casinos along the Strip join forces and launch a fantastically choreographed fireworks spectacle, which many would say is one of the best in the country. 

Of course, there are also plenty of clubs, casinos, hotels, restaurants and more in Vegas where you can ring in the new year, giving you so much to choose from. 

Chicago, Illinois

The New Year’s Eve fireworks show in Chicago is truly iconic.

The celebrations take place at Navy Pier, with attractions available for all ages. The fun-filled night culminates with a fantastic fireworks show at midnight, which is synchronized to live music. 

New Year's Eve fireworks in Chicago

For a truly memorable experience, spend your evening taking a dinner cruise over Lake Michigan, which will provide you with the perfect vantage point from where you can watch the fireworks. 

If you would prefer to stay indoors, check out some of the hotels that host huge New Year’s Eve parties, such as:

  • The Hilton Chicago 
  • The W Chicago 
  • JW Marriott 
  • Swissotel Chicago
  • The Congress Plaza Hotel 

Not only will these parties included drinks and a buffet meal, but the entertainment is also usually top notch. If you plan on staying in Chicago for a few days, it could be worth looking into one of the New Year’s Eve packages that those hotels offer too. 

Traveling with children? 

Then a visit to the Chicago Children’s Museum for Noon Year’s eve is a must.

Wondering what that is? 

The fun begins at 10:30am on the 31st of December, and includes craft activities, a dance party and more, with the pinnacle being the countdown to noon. This is the perfect way to celebrate the end of the year with young children. 

Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage may not seem like an obvious choice when it comes to New Year’s Eve destinations, but you will probably have one of the best nights of your life here. 

The main festivities at Town Square Park begin early, at around 5pm when the sun goes down. 

What exactly do the festivities involve?

Live music performances and a dance party to begin with, along with light shows, an ice gallery for children, food vendors and more. 

A child-friendly fireworks display takes place at 8pm, after which the adults can return for the official one at midnight. 

For a celebration that is even more special…

Spend the evening at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood. 

Why? 

Because this is where the Torchlight Parade takes place. It begins at 9pm over the mountain, where a few hundred skiers and snowboarders make their way slowly down, with one carrying a bamboo torch. As you can imagine, this is an incredibly beautiful sight, and is perfectly topped off with the massive fireworks display at midnight. 

New Orleans, Louisiana

Looking for a fun and slightly crazy New Year’s Eve? 

New Orleans could be the perfect place for you. A city famous for their Mardi Gras celebrations, the New Year’s Eve festivities in New Orleans come a close second. 

The biggest party can be found at Jackson Square, where revellers can enjoy live music performances all night long, along with a number of other attractions. 

What happens at midnight? 

Well, instead of a ball drop, things are done slightly differently in New Orleans…

A 25 foot pole placed at the top of the building drops a huge fleur de lis, while fireworks provide a dazzling backdrop. This is all choreographed to music, of course. 

Once the clock has struck midnight, the festivities still continue on…

Head to Bourbon Street for the best selection of bars and clubs in the city, where you can celebrate the new year until the early hours of the morning. 

Nashville, Tennessee

Home of country music, Nashville is an exciting place to spend New Year’s Eve, even if you aren’t a fan of the genre. 

Where about in Nashville should you go?

To the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, which can be found in downtown Nashville. This is where the Nashville’s New Year’s Eve celebrations take place, which promise to keep you busy for the entire evening. 

New Year's Eve fireworks in Nashville

The fun starts at around 4pm, with free music concerts held throughout the evening. Expect big country names to be in attendance, from Keith Urban and Peter Frampton to Caitlyn Smith and Brett Young. There are also numerous exhibits, food trucks and other vendors all around the park, giving you plenty to do. 

Instead of a ball drop at midnight, Nashville keeps things unique…

At about 6:15pm, a red music note is raised up a 15 foot pole, and this is then dropped at midnight. This is accompanied by a fabulous fireworks display to celebrate the new year. 

Dallas, Texas

Dallas is a city that knows how to party, and this definitely applies to New Year’s Eve. 

The place to be is somewhere that provides a view of Reunion Tower. 

Why? 

Because this is where you will find the Streaming Lights event. You don’t have to be right at the tower to watch the celebrations, as the spectacle can be seen from the entire downtown river. Grab yourself a seat by the Trinity River for some of the best views. 

What exactly is the Streaming Lights at Reunion Tower event? 

It consists of more than 4000 fireworks being let off from the top of Reunion Tower, alongside a light show and accompanying music score, all of which lasts for about eight minutes. 

For those of you who like music festivals and are looking for something a little less family-friendly…

The two day Lights All Night festival will be once again taking place on the 30th and 31st. 

Some huge acts have been booked this year, with everyone from Mark Ronson to Diplo to Tiesto expected to perform.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Looking for a family-friendly New Year’s Eve event? 

The celebrations in Honolulu are said to be amongst the most family-friendly in all of the USA, making this the city to pick if you have young kids in tow.

What exactly happens in Honolulu on New Year’s Eve? 

Well, the Kaka’ako Waterfront Park is the place to go, because this is where the biggest celebrations take place. 

The entire park is turned into a magical theme park with eight different activity sections. You will find everything from a giant Ferris wheel, carnival rides and street entertainers to food trucks, a beer garden and other vendors here, with the entire crowd filled with a buzz of excitement. There are several different stages of performers and entertainment to choose from, providing plenty to do all night. 

Fireworks take place every hour, beginning at 9pm on the 31st, and this is a part of the night that kids tend to really love. The fireworks, along with the stars, frame the Diamond Head Crater and the open ocean, giving you some truly one-of-a-kind views.

New Year's Eve fireworks in Hawaii

If you plan on spending a few hours at the park, which would definitely be a good idea, make sure that you bring a blanket along with you so that you can spend some time sitting down and taking in your surroundings. 

The best thing about New Year’s Eve in Honolulu? 

If your head is feeling a little tender the next morning, spending some time on one of the island’s gorgeous beaches will be the perfect cure! 

Orlando, Florida

There is so much going on in Orlando on New Year’s Eve, so no matter the type of festivities you are looking for, you will most likely be able to find it in this city. 

Let’s begin with the New Year’s Eve Block Party, held at Wall St. Plaza. This is the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in the city. 

What does it involve? 

Free entry into all seven of the themed bars located here, including the Monkey Bar, the Wall Street Cantina, and the Hen House. 

You will also be able to enjoy light shows, DJs, dance parties, and, of course, an excitement-filled countdown to midnight, after which you will be able to view the city’s orange drop. 

Let’s not forget all the theme parks that Orlando is home to…

Each one of these will be hosting their very own New Year’s Eve bash, such as: 

  • Universal Orlando Resort – featuring some of Universal’s most popular characters singing and dancing all day until past midnight, complete with confetti and fireworks 
  • Walt Disney World Resort – there will be magnificent family-friendly countdowns at the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and more 
  • SeaWorld Orlando – boasting DJ stations, craft beer and food stands, and a musical celebration to ring in the new year, complete with fireworks 
  • Legoland Florida Resort – hosting a large scavenger hunt and other child-friendly activities, along with a Lego brick drop at 8pm and a huge fireworks show

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah is bursting with activity each year on New Year’s Eve, and this year is no exception…

The main festivities take place at City Market, and this starts at 9pm. It includes live music, restaurant specials, market shops and stalls, and more. 

What happens at midnight? 

Head to River Street for the annual Up the Cup celebration. Rather than dropping a ball, the city drops a large to-go cup instead, complete with a Wet Willie countdown. 

Of course, fireworks are a-plenty, with spectacular views to be seen of the fireworks exploding over the river. 

While the fireworks here are great, the ones on Tybee Island are even better…

Known for hosting the largest New Year’s Eve fireworks show in the south-eastern USA, the best views can be had at Tybee Pier. 

New Year’s Eve is a time for celebration, and there are plenty of places where you can do this in the USA. From the beaches of Honolulu to the skyscrapers of New York City, these 10 cities will definitely not disappoint when it comes to ringing in the new year. 

Woman enjoying a clay mask facial treatment at the spa

Every year, just about every industry out there will experience different trends, and the skin care industry is no different. From products designed with your genetics in mind to active ingredients that are more potent than ever, here are the key skin care trends to watch out for in 2019.

Intensified Active Ingredients

Everyone knows that the active ingredients within a product are the ones that really pack a punch. 

Whether you are looking to clear up an acne breakout or smooth away wrinkles, the active ingredients help to get the job done. 

So, how do you make a skin care product even more effective? 

By intensifying its active ingredients! 

This is something that more and more skin care brands are going to be doing in 2019, boosting their actives to make them even more powerful. You will likely see entire new collections with boosted actives coming out, each one aimed at targeting different skin concerns. 

For those who are looking for a truly potent product, keep an eye out for any containing intensified active ingredients. 

Probiotic Skin Care

You have likely heard plenty about how good probiotics are for your health, thanks to the way in which they are able to balance out the good and bad bacteria in your gut.

Well, it didn’t take long before people started to realize the benefits of applying probiotics topically on the skin too…

How does that actually work?

The probiotics, when applied on the skin, harness the full power of the good bacteria within skin cells, enabling the skin to really thrive. They are especially effective when it comes to re-balancing your skin’s natural ecosystem, which will therefore help to clear away any skin issues you may be dealing with.

In particular, probiotic skin care would benefit those who:

  • Have sensitive skin – this is due to the way in which probiotics help to build up and strengthen the skin, healing it from any damage and protecting it from future harm
  • Have oily, acne-prone skin – research shows that certain strains of good bacteria are able to treat acne just as effectively as antibiotics. This could make probiotics a leader when it comes to safe acne treatments
  • Are regularly exposed to pollution – pollution creates free radicals, which then leads to accelerated skin aging, meaning fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and more. Probiotics help to calm the skin and prevent the breakdown of collagen and elastin, along with the healthy skin cells that the free radicals would otherwise be causing damage to

Plant-Based Beauty

Natural and organic beauty is nothing new, with this trend having been around for quite a while now. 

This looks set to continue in 2019, with the plant-based beauty market growing faster than ever. This is accompanied by similar trends in other industries, from plant-based foods to plant-based clothing, showing that the plant-based lifestyle really is here to stay. 

So, what does plant-based beauty for 2019 involve? 

Well, in order to keep up with this trend, companies are now incorporating even more plant-based ingredients into their skin care products. Many are producing specialized collections that focus on these, which are idea for those who are looking for skin care that is as natural as possible. 

Other companies are looking at new ways in which they can harness the potential of various plant-based ingredients. 

Those same superfoods that are good for your health are likely to start appearing in skin care products, such as: 

  • Kale – packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, kale is also a great source of vitamin K, which is fantastic for clearing away dark circles around the eyes and tightening up the skin
  • Blueberries – high in antioxidants, as well as vitamins A, C and E, blueberries are also able to soften and moisturize the skin 
  • Spirulina – an algae that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, spirulina contains anti-inflammatory properties and is effective at healing skin damage 
  • Quinoa – a great source of magnesium, which increases the skin cell regeneration process while improving the elasticity of the skin

Skin Care Based on Genetics

One of the most exciting trends of 2019 is going to be the mainstream introduction of genetic-based skin care. 

You are probably wondering what this is…

Well, as you likely already know, your genetics determine quite a bit when it comes to the health and appearance of your skin. This is all written in your DNA, and companies now want to use this predetermined information to help you to make the very best choices for your skin. 

How would they do that? 

By carrying out a DNA analysis, which would first require a DNA sample from you, usually in the form of a mouth swab. Your results will then be broken down into different categories, from sensitivities to pigmentation to collagen breakdown. After speaking to a consultant face-to-face to help you better understand your results, you will then be equipped with everything you need to choose the most suitable products for your skin.

Sound too good to be true? 

These services already exist, and those who have tried them have experienced exceptional results with the new skin care routines they developed based on their results. This is why genetic-based skin care is a trend that is set to really explode, since it brings nothing but benefits to your skin and overall health. 

The one main thing that is lacking in all of this is…

While you may have a better understanding of your skin’s needs, you can still only choose from pre-existing products, rather than having a say over specific ingredients. Hopefully, in the future, companies will find a way to create custom products for individuals based on their genetics. 

Waterless Skincare Products

Take a look at the ingredient list on some of your favorite skin care products…

It is more than likely that one of the main ingredients in the majority of them is water, usually accounting for at least 70% of the product.

Why is water so widely used in skin care?

Because it is a fantastic, and easy-to-find, solvent, meaning that it enables various water-soluble ingredients to be combined together to create a smooth emulsion.

So, what’s the problem?

The problem lies in the global water shortage that is becoming a serious problem for many countries. China, for example, faces water shortage as their second-most threatening environmental problem (with pollution being their first).

It goes without saying that in order to continue to grow in the long term, skin care companies are now going to need to find a way around this problem, which means using less water in their products.

What will they use instead?

Many essential oils can serve the same purpose, although this has not been a popular method so far due to the fact that essential oils cost so much more than water.

Others are using botanical saps and extracts as their base, meaning that the product ends up containing even more skin-boosting benefits.

Wondering if water-less skin care is going to be a good or bad thing?

In the end, for the consumer, it is probably going to be a good trend to get on board with. Water-less products will not only contain a higher concentration of other, more beneficial, ingredients, but the lack of water will also mean that the products will enjoy a longer shelf life. They will also not need the same amount of preservatives, as the lack of water means that there is no longer a breeding ground for bacteria to grow.

New delivery methods are also going to become more popular when it comes to water-less skin care products. Examples include:

  • Skin care bars rather than creams
  • Blotting papers that contain skin care ingredients
  • Freeze-dried skin care ingredients
  • Dry masks that contain ingredients that have been technologically imprinted onto fabric

Eco-Friendly Packaging

As more and more people are realizing the importance of sustainability, there has been a huge move towards adapting the modern day lifestyle into a more eco-friendly one. 

The amount of plastic being used in the world is a huge problem, which is why many companies are now trying to cut back on the amount of plastic utilized in their products. 

Research shows that consumers are willing to pay more for products when environmentally-friendly packaging has been used, and this has really encouraged companies to look into this further.

Some of the more eco-friendly materials that are going to be increasingly used in skin care packaging include: 

  • Recycled paper and glass 
  • Bamboo 
  • Recovered ocean plastic 

In addition to making use of eco-friendly materials in their packaging, companies are also opting for refillable and reusable products. These make it easier for consumers to re-use their original packaging, while also saving costs when it comes to replacing a product. Products in smaller sizes will also become more popular, as this enables a product to be fully used up before it actually reaches its best before date, therefore preventing wastage.  

Ayurveda-Inspired Skincare

You have probably seen the term Ayurveda on beauty shelves before, but do you know what it is?

Ayurvedic medicine has been around for over 5000 years, originating in India.

When it comes to skin care, the Ayurvedic approach is quite a unique one…

Rather than tackling individual issues on the surface of the skin, Ayurveda looks at the skin as a whole, treating it as a reflection of the body’s internal health. Ayurveda focuses on a person’s overall well-being, taking a more holistic approach to skin care. 

Wondering how this is going to translate to conventional skin care? 

You are likely going to see a number of ingredients in the skin care products of 2019 that have stemmed from Ayurvedic treatments. 

These include: 

  • Ginger – a natural anti-inflammatory, ginger can really help to clear up acne breakouts 
  • Honey – naturally antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial 
  • Turmeric – contains astringent properties and is also a powerful anti-inflammatory 
  • Oatmeal – soothing and hydrating, ideal for sensitive skin 
  • Jasmine – boosts cell turnover while repairing the skin 
  • Ghee – a clarified butter, ghee is packed with saturated fats that make it so nourishing for dry skin

Of course, in-keeping with Ayurveda, there will likely also be a push next year for holistic skin care. 

Oral supplements will possibly become more popular, as this enables a person to treat their skin from within. 

Rubber Face Masks

Rubber face masks are nothing new in Asia, but they have become quite the trend around the rest of the world. 

What are they? 

Well, as you can tell from their name, they are face masks that look and feel like rubber. 

Do they actually contain rubber?

No, they are usually made from components that have been derived from seaweed. The unique compounds within them are what give the mask their rubber-like consistency. 

When applied to the skin, the “rubber” forms a thick and strong barrier between the ingredients within the mask and the air around you, pushing those key ingredients deeper into your skin. 

While some rubber masks look pretty much like a standard sheet mask that has been made from rubber, others begin as a powder consistency, and then turn rubbery once water has been added. 

Whichever one you decide to opt for, these masks are fantastic for delivering a high concentration of active ingredients into your skin, giving your skin an intense boost of nutrients. They are also incredibly hydrating, making them perfect for moisturizing your skin and brightening up your complexion. 

Since they peel off so easily, they are also ideal for sensitive skin. 

It is always fun to take a sneak peek into the year ahead to see what skin care trends are lurking around the corner. 2019 looks set to be extremely exciting for the skin care industry, featuring so many innovative new ingredients and products that are simply begging to be tried. 

There are weird and wonderful plants to be found all over the world, but some of them really are just that extra little bit special. 

From the mountains of the Philippines to the forests of Costa Rica, here are the destinations to head to if you want to check out some of the most unusual plants in the world. 

Mount Victoria, Palawan, Philippines

You may have heard of Palawan before, because this tropical island is quite famous. 

Why? 

Because it has been voted as the world’s best island numerous times now, thanks to its awe-inspiring natural beauty, rich culture and heritage, and delicious local cuisine, which heavily features fresh, locally caught seafood.

For those who love unusual plants, there is one recently-discovered variety in Palawan that you really need to see…

The Nepenthes attenboroughii was named after naturalist Sir David Attenborough, and is the largest carnivorous plant in the world, or at least as far as we know. 

The famous carnivorous pitcher plant in Southeast Asia

It is also known as the pitcher plant, and has some unique characteristics. Its bell-shaped flower can hold up to one and a half liters in volume, while the stem can reach over five feet in height. Within the cavernous flower lies a chamber containing digestive juices, as well as a small amount of nectar. This is what draws insects, and even small mammals, into the plant, after which the plant’s waxy coating causes them to fall into the flower.

Want to see this plant? 

It can only be found at the top of Mt. Victoria in Palawan, on ground that is so rocky that it cannot support much other natural life. The mountain itself is the second highest on the island, with the majority of it being relatively unexplored. 

How long does it take to reach the summit? 

At least three days, and since there are quite a few rock faces that are pretty much vertical, you need to have a fair bit of climbing experience behind you in order to tackle this mountain. 

However, if you decide to take it on, you won’t be disappointed…

In addition to seeing the pitcher plant, you will come across many other plant species that are unique to the mountain, and will also be able to interact with the local Tagbanua tribe. 

Kahurangi National Park, South Island, New Zealand

The second largest national park in New Zealand, the Kahurangi National Park is home to some of the rarest and most fascinating plant life in the country. 

The park is over a million acres in size, and boasts numerous walking tracks to enable visitors to thoroughly explore the park. 

The park is home to two mountains, and these are where you need to go if you want to see a truly unusual plant…

Known as the vegetable sheep, this alpine plant resembles a sheep from a distance, due to the way in which its surface is covered in tiny woolly leaves. The cushion that is created helps to keep the plant warm at such a high altitude, and this has allowed the plant to thrive and evolve in different ways over the years.

In addition to being able to see the vegetable sheep, there are quite a few other natural wonders that you will find in the Kahurangi National Park, such as: 

  • The marble mountains – the two mountains mentioned above boast extensive cave systems made of marble 
  • Scenery from The Lord of the Rings – many scenes from the movie were shot here 
  • Fossils – the oldest fossil in New Zealand, at around 540 million years old, was found in this park 
  • Endangered birds – at least 18 species of birds live in this park, with some of them being threatened or endangered, such as the rock wren and the great spotted kiwi 
  • Rare spiders – the caves in the park are home to the Kahurangi cave spider. These rare insects have legs that stretch out for 12 centimeters 

Sequoia National Park, California, USA

Stretching out for more than 400,000 acres, the Sequoia National Park is named after its famous giant sequoia trees.

The most well-known of them all is called General Sherman, with thousands of tourists flocking here every year to see the largest tree on the planet. 

Giant sequoia tree called General Sherman, in Sequoia National Park in California

Not only is the sheer size and volume of this tree impressive, but so is its age, with General Sherman believing to be between 2300 and 2700 years old.  

The area of the forest where you will find General Sherman is called the Giant Forest, because it is home to five of the ten largest trees in the world, providing some truly magnificent landscapes to explore. The best way to see these beauties up close is by following the Sherman Tree Trail. The trail itself is less than a mile long, and will not only take you past the base of General Sherman, but also the other giants in this part of the forest. 

Montverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Montverde, Costa Rica

Have you ever heard of a cloud forest? 

This term refers to forests, usually either tropical or subtropical, that have a pretty much constant level of cloud cover around the forest’s canopy. This not only provides the plants with a continuous supply of moisture, but also prevents moisture from within the plants from evaporating, resulting in the perfect habitat for a spectacular amount of biodiversity. 

The Montverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica is one of the most famous cloud forests in the world. 

Why? 

Because this protected stretch of forested land extends out for more than 35,000 acres, and is home to such a rich ecosystem, including: 

  • Eight different life zones
  • More than 100 mammal species 
  • 1200 reptile and amphibian species 
  • Around 400 bird species 
  • All six of the cat family species, including jaguars, pumas and more

What about its unusual plants? 

There are several to be found here, but one that you should definitely keep an eye out for is called Psychotria Elata, also known as Hooker’s Lips. 

This is a plant that you will instantly recognize, thanks to the way in which its tiny white flowers are covered by a leaf-like bract that looks just like a pair of perfect red female lips. 

Sadly, due to deforestation, as well as the fact that this plant has become increasingly popular with collectors around the world, Hooker’s Lips is now considered to be endangered. If you want to ensure that you catch a glimpse of this plant while in Montverde, it would be worth signing up for a guided tour of the cloud forest, where an expert will be able to point this plant out to you. 

Batang Palupuh Nature Reserve, West Sumatra, Indonesia

The sixth largest island in the world, Sumatra is known for its rugged wilderness and untouched nature. While the entire island is absolutely stunning, the west part is distinctly unique, not only in terms of its culture but also its scenery. 

It is in West Sumatra where you will find the Batang Palupuh Nature Reserve, home to a number of rare and protected plants. 

One of these plants is the Rafflesia Arnoldii, also known as the corpse lily. 

Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world

Why? 

Because it smells of decaying flesh. 

This might not seem like a tempting reason to visit, but this parasitic plant produces the largest individual flower on the planet. 

How large is it? 

The largest one discovered was over a meter in diameter and weighed 11 kilograms. Each petal was thicker than an inch. This is one of the rarest plants in the world, and is near extinction, meaning that you need to seek it out soon if you want to see it.

While you’re at the nature reserve, keep an eye out for the Amorphophallus titanum, another rare and giant flower. This plant is also known as the corpse flower because, just like the corpse lily, it smells of rotting meat. 

While the corpse lily blooms quite consistently throughout the year, the corpse flower is much more sporadic, so you will need to have luck on your side if you are hoping to catch this one in action. It is rare for a plant to bloom more than once a year, with the majority of them blooming every three to ten years. 

Socotra Island, Socotra Archipelago, Yemen

Often referred to as the Jewel of Arabia, the island of Socotra lies just off the coast of Yemen in the Arabian Sea. Since this island has been quite secluded from larger land masses for centuries, it now boasts a wide range of biodiversity that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. 

However, there is one plant in particular that Socotra is most famous for…

Known as the dragon blood tree, or Dracaena cinnabari, this tree features tightly woven branches underneath the leaves, looking almost like the tree’s roots are in the air. 

Wondering what gives this tree its unique name? 

The vivid red sap produced by the tree, which actually has a number of uses. Not only can this gummy resin treat a range of health conditions, but it is also known for being a stimulant and an astringent, as well as a fantastic dye. It has been used in the past to make everything from toothpaste to varnish, making this tree extremely important to the island.

Of course, with Socotra being such an untouched parcel of wilderness, there are plenty of other unique natural features to be found here too. 

Keep an eye out for the following: 

  • The pale Socotran dunes, which can be found on small parts of the southern coast 
  • The rare Bottle Tree, also known as the island’s desert rose 
  • The spectacular Dogub Cave 
  • The idyllic Ditwa Lagoon and Beach 
  • Rare birds, including the Egyptian vulture 

Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia

Blue Mountains

Famous for its dramatic natural beauty, the Blue Mountains features over one million hectares of eucalyptus forests, steep canyons, cascading waterfalls and more. The range has been designated a World Heritage Area, and there are 87 miles of walking trails to enable visitors to really explore their stunning surroundings.

One of the plants that you will see growing wild here is the large duck orchid, also known as Caleana major. If you are familiar with orchids, you likely already know that they come in so many weird and wonderful formations, and this variety is the perfect example of that. 

The flower itself is shaped like a flying duck, and it has evolved to look this way on purpose. Its unique shape attracts specific insects that pollinate the flower, and this is how the flower has managed to thrive over the years. 

Explored the mountain trails but still want more nature? 

Head on over to the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, located at Mount Tomah. There are over 5912 different plant species growing here, with these plants coming from more than 65 countries. The garden has a great system for helping visitors to identify plants that they like, enabling them to learn more about these plants afterwards. 

What about the wildlife in the Blue Mountains? 

There are over 400 different animal species roaming this mountain range, and this includes quite a few threatened and endangered species. 

Keep an eye out for the following: 

  • The native dingo 
  • The koala 
  • The tiger quoll 
  • The long-nosed potoroo 

For even more animal life, the Featherdale Wildlife Park is not too far away, and boasts the only koala petting facility in Australia. 

The planet is home to some truly unusual plants, but, sadly, many of these are now critically endangered. If you do decide to pay a visit to see one of these natural beauties in person, make sure that you follow all the rules when it comes to keeping the plants, as well as their ecosystem, intact, so that generations to come can also enjoy the rich biodiversity that the planet has to offer. 

A naturally beautiful country with plenty of history and culture, the Netherlands has so much to offer.

Never thought about visiting the Netherlands? 

Here are nine reasons why you should…

The Tulips

Holland boasts quite a few claims to fame, with one of their most popular being their tulips. 

Blooming colourful tulips in Keukenhof Park

During the months of spring, certain parts of the country are completely transformed into a sea of colorful flowers, stretching out as far as the eye can see. Even if you aren’t someone who usually appreciates florals, this is a sight that will take everyone’s breath away. 

Where about in the Netherlands should you go for the best tulip views? 

Without a doubt, the answer is Keukenhof. This is a 32-hectare garden where more than seven million tulip bulbs burst into life each year. These are joined by daffodils, hyacinths and other colorful blossoms, making this the largest flower and tulip garden park in the world.

The Capital City

The city that the Netherlands is most famous for is Amsterdam, and this in itself is a great reason to visit the country. 

While the capital city may be quite different from what the rest of the country has to offer, Amsterdam boasts a number of historical and cultural attractions that are well worth visiting. 

Wondering what you should make a priority when visiting Amsterdam? 

Here are some of the city’s must-do activities: 

  • Explore Jordaan – this historic neighborhood, with its narrow cobblestone streets and old buildings, is filled with art galleries, bars, restaurants, antique shops and more, making it a delight to explore 
  • Visit Museumplein – this is the museum district, home to the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum and more 
  • Take a canal cruise – the canal belt in Amsterdam is protected by UNESCO, and a cruise around the city’s waterways is the perfect way to take in this scenic city from a unique vantage point
  • Shopping at The Nine Streets – also known as De Negen Straatjes, this shopping area is home to over 200 independent boutiques and specialty stores, providing a one-of-a-kind local shopping experience 
  • Visit the Anne Frank House – one of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam, this house-turned-museum is where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for two years. Make sure that you book your ticket in advance, as queues here can be extremely long

Beach Culture

Many people do not realize that the Netherlands is home to some of the best beaches in all of Europe. Wide stretches of soft and clean white sand line large portions of the country’s coastline, with several outdoor activities taking place on these majestic beaches. 

Not only that, but beach life in the Netherlands is nothing without a strandpaviljoen. 

Wondering what that is? 

It’s a beach café, and is usually built right into the soaring sand dunes, or further out on the sand on stilts. The vibe at these cafés is shabby chic and sophisticated, with beachy furnishings decorating the interiors. 

Scheveningen in Netherlands April 2018, Sunny spring day at the beach boulevard with cafes and restaurants

Scheveningen in Netherlands April 2018 | © fokke baarssen / Shutterstock.com

So, where are some of the best beaches to go to experience the beach culture of the Netherlands? 

Here are some of your options: 

  • Texel – this inhabited island has some incredible beaches on its northern coastline, as well as in the Dunes of Texel National Park 
  • Makkum – a historic fishing village with beaches, water sports and beach hotels 
  • Hook of Holland – located in Rotterdam, this area features wide open beaches with plenty of water sport facilities 
  • Domburg – the oldest bathing site in the region, with its beaches and waters reputed to have healing properties, which is why this area is packed with a variety of wellness-related activities
  • Pieterburen – usually boasts quite low tides, making this a popular spot for mudflat hiking

The 2018 European Capital of Culture

If you enjoy city life but aren’t keen on a visit to Amsterdam, the next best city to visit in the Netherlands would be Leeuwarden. 

Why? 

Because this city was designated the 2018 European Capital of Culture. 

Never heard of Leeuwarden before? 

This city is the capital of the Friesland province, which can be found in north-east Netherlands. 

As you can imagine, there are a number of different cultural sights and activities to take in here, from historic museums and churches to winding canals and repurposed buildings, and even a leaning tower that rivals that of Pisa. The tower can be climbed, and it is definitely worth doing so, as you will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views of Leeuwarden and the surrounding areas. 

In a way, Leeuwarden offers a range of attractions similar to that of Amsterdam, but has a much more laidback charm, and also lacks the frustrating crowds that tend to flock Amsterdam. 

Stroopwafel, Bitterballen, Poffertjes and Other Tasty Treats

Dutch cuisine may not be quite as internationally famous as the foods from other countries around the world, but the tasty local foods are enough of a reason in themselves to visit the Netherlands. 

While Dutch cuisine is traditionally relatively simple, the 20th century brought change with it, evolving local dishes into more cosmopolitan versions. 

Feeling peckish? 

Make sure that you don’t leave the Netherlands without trying each of these dishes: 

  • Poffertjes – these are small fluffy pancakes usually topped with butter and powdered sugar, and are a popular street food snack in the colder months 
  • Bitterballen – these delicious breadcrumb-battered balls are filled with a tantalizing mixture of beef, broth, herbs and spices, and are usually served with a tangy mustard dipping sauce 
  • Stroopwafels – these waffle cookies feature two thin layers of batter, which are sandwiched together with a sticky syrup. These can be found in just about every store in the Netherlands, but the freshly-made versions from street food stalls are, without a doubt, the tastiest
  • Hollandse Nieuwe Haring – this traditional dish features freshly-caught raw herring that is served with chopped onions 
  • Drop – the Netherlands boasts the highest per capita consumption of licorice in the world, making drop a sweet that you really need to try, with so many delicious varieties to choose from 

Unknown hand dipping bitterballen into dipping sauce

Of course, no mention of Dutch cuisine would be complete without talking about Dutch cheese…

Everything from Edam to Gouda to Limburger comes from the Netherlands, and you will find cheese shops, markets and museums dotted throughout the country, with these being the best spots to learn more about, and try, the local cheeses. 

The Local Craft Beer

Now that you know which foods you need to try in the Netherlands, it is time to learn about the local craft beers that are perfect for washing those dishes down with. 

The craft beer industry in the Netherlands is thriving, with new independent breweries continuously popping up all over the country. Not only do these produce unique craft brews, but many of them also offer brewery tours, so that visitors can enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek into how the beers are made. 

These breweries truly are fascinating, with many beer aficionados planning trips to the country solely based around brewery visits and tastings. 

Wondering which breweries you should visit, along with which beers to try? 

These are some of the finest in the Netherlands: 

  • Brouwerij ‘t IJ – located right under Amsterdam’s largest windmill, Brouwer ‘t IJ beers are a household name in the Netherlands, with their strong and dark beers, such as Zatte and Natte, being among their most popular 
  • Texelse Bierbrouwerij – this brewery can be found on the island of Texel, and pride themselves on using the freshest of water and the most local of ingredients. Try the Eyerlander, which is an exceptionally smooth amber beer, and give the fruit beers a sample if you enjoy sweeter brews 
  • Brouwerij Brand – the oldest brewery in the country, Brouwerij Brand produces limited editions of dark and blond beers, along with a popular Dubbelbock 
  • SNAB (Foundation of Noord Holland Alternative Beer Brewers) – this brewery makes use of unconventional brewing methods and unusual ingredients, resulting in some truly unique, but delicious, beers. Give the Snab Pale Ale a try, with this non-pasteurized brew being the first American Pale Ale to be brewed in Europe 
  • Jopenkerk – located in the historic city of Haarlem, Jopenkerk has numerous awards behind them, and also boast a cafe and restaurant alongside their brewery. Give the Jopen Mooie Nel a try for a rich, bitter and fruity drink

The Flat Cycling

While many people are tempted by the idea of cycling more, the thought of struggling to pedal a bike up a steep hill is usually enough to put them off. 

Well, this isn’t something that you have to worry about in the Netherlands…

Not only is the entire country unbelievably flat, but the Dutch love to cycle, with a 30,000 km network of cycling paths criss-crossing around the country. The Netherlands boasts a fantastic road safety record, and the roads are well-maintained, making them a joy to ride. 

Wondering which area of the Netherlands is the best for cycling? 

This all depends on what you’re looking for…

Groningen is often referred to as the most bike-friendly city in the world, with a city center that pretty much completely bans cars. 

Alternatively, if you want to see some scenery while you ride, the 400-mile coastline of Zeeland will not disappoint. This province lies in southwest Netherlands, and is the spot at which three rivers (the Rhine, the Scheldt and the Meuse) converge with the sea, guaranteeing some dramatic views.

The Windmills

Windmills have served numerous purposes in the Netherlands over the years, and today they are a quintessential part of the country, with these traditional Dutch windmills being found nowhere else in the world.

Solitary windmill in the Dutch countryside

Wondering how many windmills there are in the Netherlands? 

An impressive 991, so you are likely to encounter some no matter where in the country you visit. 

While this may be the case, those who are particularly interested in windmills should pay a visit to Kinderdijk. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the most famous group of windmills in the country, and will teach you so much about how the Netherlands are so vulnerable to flooding. 

Zaanse Schans is another place to go if you want to learn about the history of windmills. This museum and conservation area was the first industrial site in the world, and had 600 windmills doing everything from creating paper to building shelves.

Want an even more unforgettable experience? 

Some windmills allow visitors to spend the night, giving you the opportunity to wake up to unparalleled views of the Dutch landscape.  

Child-Friendly Activities

For those travelling with young children, it can often be difficult finding places to go that truly are child-friendly. 

Well, just about everywhere in the Netherlands is, making this a popular country to visit for families. 

There are multiple zoos and amusement parks around the country, but if you would like your kids to have a more educational experience, there are also several museums that they would love too. 

Give the Children’s Book Museum a try if you are in Hague, or the Nemo Science Museum in Amsterdam, both of which are especially popular with the younger ones. 

When it comes to finding child-friendly accommodation…

You have just about every accommodation option available, as you will rarely come across a hotel that has a “no kids” rule. 

For those who would prefer to stay within nature, camping is also popular across the country among local families, with the Frisian Islands being a top camping spot. 

The Netherlands is a country with so much to offer, and this list barely even scratches the surface of what you will find when you visit. With everything from history and incredible scenery to culture and cosmopolitan cities, it is easy to see why this is a country that appeals to just about everybody out there. 

No matter how much of an animal lover you are, there are likely to still be numerous species around the world that you have never even heard of. 

From the gharial of India to the walking fish of Mexico, here are some of the most unusual animals in the world, as well as the places you need to go if you want to catch a glimpse of them. 

The Sumatran Rhino

Sumatran rhino on a field

Also known as the hairy rhinoceros, the Sumatran rhino is unique for a number of different reasons, such as: 

  • It is the smallest of all rhino species, usually measuring just three and a half feet tall 
  • It is the only Asian rhino that has two horns 
  • They are covered with long and bristly hair, giving them more in common with the extinct woolly rhinos than any of the other rhino species around today 
  • They, along with the Javan rhino, are the most threatened of rhinoceros species 

Sadly, in 2015, the Sumatran rhino was declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia, and can now only be found in protected areas, where they are literally guarded by their own protection teams in order to prevent poaching. 

Want to see these magnificent creatures? 

You better be quick, because there are only around 80 of them left on the planet. 

Wondering why there aren’t more captive breeding programs set up for these rhinos? 

There are a few, but these animals are difficult to breed, with long pregnancies that last 16 months. In fact, only four Sumatran rhinos have ever been born through captive breeding programs.

To see this animal in a semi-wild habitat, the best place to go is the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary at the Way Kambas National Park in Indonesia. 

Around 100 hectares of land has been set aside for the Sumatran rhino here, and their breeding program is looking to be quite promising. 

In addition to being home to the rare Sumatran rhino, you will be able to see several other protected animals at the national park, including: 

  • Mitred Leaf Monkey 
  • Agile Gibbon 
  • Eurasian Wild Boar 
  • Red Muntjac
  • Sunda Slow Loris 

The Okapi

Okapi eating off a tree shoot In the field

Native to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa, the okapi has stripes that make it look similar to a zebra, but is actually related to the giraffe. In fact, it is the only relative of the giraffe that is living today. 

This hoofed mammal is quite secretive in nature, meaning that it can be difficult to spot them in the wild. They live in rainforests, and this is why they are shorter than giraffes, as they need to be able to navigate fallen branches, tree trunks and more. 

Why do they have such unusual stripes? 

They actually provide camouflage when the sunlight filters through the trees in a forest, and also enable a young okapi to see where its mother is. 

Wondering where to go to see okapi in the wild? 

The best place is the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Ituri Forest in north-east Congo. 

The reserve itself is absolutely stunning, with everything from dense rainforests to cascading waterfalls, showcasing some of the region’s finest natural beauty. When you take a look at the scenery all around you, it is no surprise that the reserve was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. 

In terms of the okapi, the population here is around 5000, which is quite impressive considering that only 30,000 okapi remain in the wild. 

Wondering what else you will see in the park? 

Here are a few of the reserve’s other highlights: 

  • The largest population or chimpanzees and forest elephants in the Democratic Republic of Congo 
  • 13 species of primates 
  • Leopards
  • Forest buffalo 
  • Several bird and insect species

The Japanese Spider Crab

Long-legged Japanese spider crab in deep blue aquarium

Are you afraid of spiders? 

If your answer is yes, this is an animal that you probably won’t want to see…

Although technically a crab rather than a spider, these carnivorous animals have the longest legs of any arthropod, and scuttle across the floor of the ocean in the same way a giant spider would. 

They can actually reach over 12 feet in length, and weigh up to 44 pounds. 

Terrified? 

Don’t be, because unless you are diving in the deep ocean around Japan, you are unlikely to have a surprise encounter with one. In fact, the larger and older they get, the deeper into the ocean they move.

Want to know another fascinating fact about them? 

They live for at least a century! 

So, if the Japanese Spider Crab lives deep within the oceans of Japan, there isn’t much chance of seeing one, right? 

Not in the wild, but aquariums all over the world are home to these crabs. Not only will you be able to see the crabs up-close, but many facilities also give visitors the chance to handle one of these unusual animals. 

Here are a few aquariums around the world with the Japanese spider crab to check out: 

  • Tennessee Aquarium, USA
  • Georgia Aquarium, USA
  • Oregon Coast Aquarium, USA
  • Long Island Aquarium, USA
  • Aquarium La Rochelle, France 
  • Sea Life Center Blackpool, UK
  • Two Oceans Aquarium, South Africa
  • Shanghai Aquarium, China 

The Patagonian Mara

Patagonian Mara breastfeeding her young

The Patagonian mara is most definitely an unusual animal. 

When looking at one for the first time, it can be hard to determine what this creature actually is.

Well, here’s the answer…

These animals are actually long-legged rodents, although their bodies are similar to those of hoofed mammals. They act in a similar way to rabbits, and this is perhaps what has led to an increasing number of these animals being kept as pets, and even being trained to walk on a leash.

These animals are native to South America, but, just like all of the other animals mentioned above, there aren’t many of them left in the wild…

Patagonian mara are classed as near threatened, due to populations being wiped out by hunting, as well as habitats being taken over by domestic sheep. 

It goes without saying that the best place to visit the Patagonian mara is in Patagonia, Argentina. This sparsely-populated area is home to large grasslands and deserts where the Patagonian mara roam wild. 

The region itself is exceptionally stunning, and is one of the last stops a person can make before heading to Antarctica. Its natural beauty makes it a popular spot for hiking and trekking, with lush valleys, snow-capped peaks, craggy glaciers and so much more to see. 

It’s a little tricky spotting the Patagonian mara on your own, especially if you aren’t experienced in it, so your best bet when it comes to seeing them would be to sign up for a local wildlife tour. 

In addition to seeing the Patagonian mara, you are also likely to catch a glimpse of the following: 

  • Wild horses 
  • Patagonian puma 
  • Guanaco 
  • Gray foxes 
  • Deer 
  • Eagles and hawks 

The Glass Frog

Ghost glass frog on a leaf

Frogs may not seem like anything unusual, but glass frogs are not like the frogs you would usually see in your backyard…

While these small frogs may look primarily lime green in color, if you step a little closer, you will notice that their abdomens are completely transparent. 

Yes, this means that you can see the organs, including the liver, heart and intestines, within their body, as well as their bones. 

There are actually 60 different species of glass frogs out there, so you would think that you would have a high chance of seeing one in the wild.

However, this isn’t quite true…

To begin with, glass frogs are nocturnal animals that live in rainforests, so you would have to venture out into a rainforest after dark. 

If that hasn’t put you off…

Head to the Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica. http://orogoldstores.com/top-honeymoon-destinations/ 

This national park sprawls out for over 19,000 hectares, and is home to a large population of glass frogs. You will also see 170 other species of reptiles and amphibians here, along with 60 mammal species and 300 bird species. 

While the variety of animals here may be impressive, the park is most famous for being one of the most important turtle nesting sites in Costa Rica, with a 22 mile strip of beach being protected for nesting turtles. 

Since glass frogs tend to favor areas near fast-flowing streams, taking a canoe or kayak ride down one of these rainforest streams would give you a better chance of seeing these creatures than if you were on foot. 

The Gharial

Gharial

Also known as the gavial, or the fish-eating crocodile, the gharial is a crocodilian that is native to the north of India. These are large creatures that can reach up to 15 feet in length, and are recognizable by their thin snouts that make it easy for them to catch fish.

Why have you never heard of a gharial before?

Because ever since the mid 1900’s, the population of gharial in India has declined by more than 98%.

Why?

Due to humans, of course. Not only have humans manipulated the flow of rivers around the country, making it harder for the animals to find a suitable freshwater habitat to survive in, but these special creatures are also being used in traditional Asian medicines.

Because of all of this, the gharial has been classified as critically endangered

So, how can you go about visiting the gharial?

Well, these crocodilians can be found in zoos around the world, but visiting an animal in its natural habitat is always so much more rewarding.

To do this, you will need to head to northern India, where around 1500 gharials are thought to be living.

There are a few national parks that are home to gharial populations, with one of the most popular, as well as the oldest in the country, being the Corbett National Park.

Originally established to protect the Bengal tiger, this park is home to one of the largest gharial populations in India, and there are several viewpoints around the park from where you can try to catch a glimpse of these shy reptiles.

The park also offers guided safari tours, where you will be able to see a number of other native animals, including:

  • Several deer species
  • The Bengal tiger
  • Wild boar
  • Leopards
  • Over 450 species of birds

The Axolotl

Axolotl, also known as Mexican walking fish

Otherwise known as the Mexican walking fish, the axolotl is actually a type of salamander, making it an amphibian rather than a fish.

No matter what it may be classified as, this fascinating creature has quite a paradoxical story to it…

Although the axolotl is near to extinction in the wild, they are actually one of the most widely-distributed amphibians in the world’s pet shops and laboratories, with this animal being considered a culinary delicacy in Japan.

While there are several captive breeding programs for the axolotl around the world, the only place to see this animal in the wild is in the lakes and canals of Xochimilco, which lies nearby to Mexico City

Certain canals and waterways of Xochimilco have been blocked off with barriers to protect axolotl from invasive and predatory fish species, where they are then monitored by researchers until they are strong enough to enter back into the rest of the water system.

Axolotl numbers in the wild are drastically declining, and if you would like to learn more about these creatures, the Parque Ecologico Xochimilco is the place to go. There are several recreational activities to be found here, as well as a restored natural area in which axolotl are thriving.

The world is full of fascinating and unusual animals, but, sadly, many of their populations are drastically declining. While breeding programs are in place for some, there is nothing quite like visiting an animal in its natural habitat. If you do decide to visit one of these unusual creatures, make sure you do so in a way that is sustainable and supportive of their long-term future. 

There are a lot of reasons why the thought of Australia might give you a serious case of itchy feet, be that its fabulous beaches, the superb hospitality or the signature Aussie laid-back approach to life.

Even though the continent is widely known for outdoor or nature-focused adventures, the fast-evolving Australian cities can offer delightful urban adventures that are on par with world’s most visited metropolises.

So, whether you’re interested in hanging out with unusual animals, want to explore the outback or are itching to catch the waves, there is no doubt that Australia will have something just up your alley.

Check out our list of Australia’s 12 best destinations!

Melbourne

One of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the world, you can rest assured that Melbourne will give a warm welcome to every stripe of traveler and entice it will all kinds of interesting adventures.

For example, if you want to soak up the city’s unmistakably bohemian vibes, make sure to get lost in the small streets of Fitzroy – Melbourne’s hip district famed for its vibrant eateries and cozy cafés.

For a more highbrow idea of entertainment, head over to the National Gallery of Victoria and Melbourne Museum, or simply admire the city’s breathtaking Victorian-era architecture.

Sports is a serious affair in Melbourne – between Formula One, Australia Open, cricket and AFL football, we are sure you won’t be left short of exciting sport-centered events. 

Kangaroo Island

Let’s be honest – many holidaymakers travel to Australia so they could admire its colorful animal life which, due to unique geological trajectory of the continent, has evolved to be unlike anywhere else on the planet.

And one of the best places to get up close and personal with Australia’s furry creatures is the island named after its most famous resident, the kangaroo.

Not only is Kangaroo Island a great wildlife-oriented getaway, it’s also fairly low-key when it comes to tourists, so you will have the pleasure of discovering its impressive fauna away from the crowds.

Other than the playful marsupials, at Kangaroo Island you will also get a chance to observe one of the largest colonies of sea lions, nestled some 50 kilometers from Kingscote, the island’s most populous town.

Kangaroo Island is also home to Little Sahara, a sand dune that spans two square kilometers in the southern part of the isle. This is the perfect place to embark on an adrenaline-pumping adventure, such as sand-surfing or sliding on sand toboggans.

Sydney

Boisterous beaches, architectural wonders and eclectic arts and culture scene, it sure seems like Sydney has it all.

First and foremost, the most populous city in Australia is home to its iconic landmark and an architectural masterpiece, the Sydney Opera House.

Elsewhere, Harbour City also offers exquisite beaches set against the vast blue of the pacific ocean, the most famous one being the Bondi Beach.

Sydney also carries reputation of having one of the most pumping nightlife scenes in all of Australia, so if you want to party the night away while Down Under – this city is the perfect place to do so.

Tasmania

As approximately one-third of Tasmania is protected via natural parks, you can rest assured this island state is one of the most unspoiled stretches of nature in the entire country.

And of the most beautiful examples of its untouched landscape is Mount Wellington, a majestic 1,271-meter tall summit which offers breathtaking views of Hobart and the surrounding area.
While in Tasmania, you can also learn more about Australia’s dark history as a penal colony, especially at Port Arthur, which used to be the base for early-day convicts. 

Nowadays, Port Arthur operates as an open-air museum which has been recognized as a World Heritage Site.

And if you want to take a piece of Tasmania home, make sure to visit the Salamanca Market, which is open every Saturday at Hobart’s lively waterfront.

Finally, Tasmania’s becoming increasingly popular for its epicurean delights. On this island, you will be able to feast on everything form world-class beef to mouthwatering seafood.

Brisbane

Even though its popularity pales in comparison with its bigger siblings, the fast pace at which Brisbane is evolving has certainly put this city on the map of most intriguing spots in Australia.

As a result of its cultural flourishing, Brisbane has become home of a host of intriguing artistic and historic spots.

One of the most fascinating ones is Queensland Cultural Center, the defining spot for all events that have to do with arts and culture. Here, you will also find the Queensland Museum, which hosts an impressive collection dedicated to this region’s art, science and nature.

An ideal place to soak up Brisbane’s lively atmosphere is the West End, a cultural melting pot and a labyrinth of small family-owned eateries, fashion-forward boutiques and independent galleries.

Another spot where you can get to experience Brisbane like a local is the district of South Bank and its adjoining waterfront. This area is the home of Wheel of Brisbane and Nepal Peace Pagoda.

And to get away from the hustle and bustle, head over to Mount Coot-tha, an outdoor playground where you’ll find Brisbane Botanical Gardens and Sir Thomas Brisbane Observatory. 

Adelaide

Offering a blend of cosmopolitan vibes with laid-back, cozy atmosphere, Adelaide is a great choice for every traveler who is looking to explore Australian cities at a more relaxed pace.

To see what Adelaide’s growing reputation as a gastronomic hub is all about, head over to the Central Market, where you will be able to sample the best of the local cuisine at one of the 80 food stands.

Adelaide is also known as one of the top shopping destinations in all of Australia. For an afternoon of retail therapy, make sure to go to Rundle Mall, where you will be greeted with an abundance of delightful boutiques, high end brands and hip eateries.

Adelaide is home to one of the country’s most comprehensive art collections, the Art Gallery of South Australia. This intriguing cultural spot is housed in a gorgeous building that dates back to 19th century.

And if you’re wondering whether you’ll still be able to get a chance to interact with Australia’s exotic wildlife, fret not: just north of the city, you will find the second oldest zoo in the country and a home to over 3,000 different species.

Perth

If you plan on exploring Western Australia during your visit down under, then a trip to Perth should definitely be at the top of your itinerary.

This laid-back, yet happening metropolis offers an attractive blend of all-Australian symbols, whether that’s sprawling beaches, laissez-faire lifestyle or exciting gastro scene.

Moreover, the cultural landscape of the town has been rapidly evolving and these days, Perth is a home to countless interesting galleries, artisanal shops and independent cinemas.

The area surrounding the city is home to one of the most famous wine regions on the continent, the Swan Valley. This lush hub of vineyards, cellars and restaurants is a perfect destination for a day trip.

Another great thing about Perth is that it’s suitable for year-round visits due to its Mediterranean climate, which secures favorable weather regardless of the season.

Broome

This sensual resort town, which is nestled on the Indian Ocean coast, is known across Australia for its unparalleled tropical beauty and incredible hospitality.

The most famous landmark in Broome has to be Cable Beach, a 22-kilometer stretch of lush sand sprawling against aquamarine waters.

A great way to soak up Broome’s vibrant blend of cultures is to visit the local Chinatown, a historic landmark which fuses Asian and Colonial architectural styles. While roaming through the boisterous streets, make sure to try local delicacies or pick up a couple of souvenirs for your loved ones.

And for those who happen to be visiting Broome anytime between the months of March and October, be sure to check out the Staircase to the Moon, a spectacular natural sight that occurs when the moon ascends the Roebuck Bay at low tide.

Whitsunday Islands

This delightful archipelago comprises 74 sun-kissed island of varying sizes, making it the ideal destination for experiencing the beauty of the Queensland coast in all its glory.

It’s also the perfect place to explore the Great Barrier Reef and its spectacular aquamarine life, which includes vibrant corals, tropical fish, rays and dolphins.

Because of its rich marine flora and fauna, Whitsundays are a haven for water sports enthusiasts. In fact, the azure waters of Queensland coast are one of the prime spots for diving, snorkeling and other exciting adventures.

To fully grasp the natural beauty of the archipelago, make sure to book a seaplane or helicopter ride, which will take you on a scenic ride across the islands.

Travelers looking for luxury should definitely set their sights on the Hamilton Island, a luscious getaway that’s packed with upscale hotels, fine dining establishments, as well as golf ranges.

Great Ocean Road

Australia’s southern coast is home to one of the most scenic stretches in the world called the Great Ocean Road.

Featuring spectacular cliffs and intriguing rock formations, all set against the backdrop of the roaring ocean, this amazing feat of nature makes for completely mesmerizing car drives. Due to its intense geology, it’s also one of the favorite spots in the country for both rookie and professional photographers.

The crown jewel of the Great Ocean Road is undoubtedly the Twelve Apostles, a fascinating collection of rock formations composed of limestone stacks rising from the ocean.

Another breathtaking natural gem is the Lock Ard Gorge, where you can learn more about a historic shipwreck that took place here in 1878.

Even though this part of the coast is known for being pretty hostile, there are some spots which are swimmer-friendly. One of them is Port Campbell beach, which is nested in a sand-covered bay in close proximity of the eponymous sleepy town.

Eyre Peninsula

If you enjoy embarking on watersport adventures and seafood is your favorite dining option, then it sounds like you’re the perfect candidate for spending your vacation on the Eyre Peninsula.

Visitors who are looking to up their adrenaline levels will be pleased to hear that Eyre Peninsula is among prime spots for swimming with great white sharks.

Nestled on the coast of Boston Bay, Port Lincoln is one of the most populous towns on the Eyre Peninsula. It’s best known for fantastic seafood eateries and rich fishing industry.

Nature lovers can head straight to Coffin Bay National Park, whose breathtaking coastline provides the ideal setting for fishing, sailing and boating.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to have a more laid back holiday experience, then head over to one of Coffin Bay’s lush sandy beaches.

On the west coast of the peninsula, you will find Ceduna, a town famed for excellent seafood restaurants and amazing ocean panoramas. Ceduna is also a gateway for exploring inland wonders of the peninsula.

Yulara

Yulara is a tiny village located in the Northern Territory which serves as a gateway for exploring the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

One of the most prominent landmarks of the Australian outback, this national park is home to world-famous mythical rock formations and sacred Aboriginal sites.

The most well-known one is the Uluru, a gargantuan brick-hued block that measures around 863 meters in height. Since Uluru represents a holy formation for the indigenous community, there are many legends dedicated to this site.

And to absorb the full beauty of this unique wonder of nature, head over to Imalung, which offers spectacular sunset views. 

Another fascinating geological feat is Kata Tjura, which comprises multiple domed rock formations. This awe-inspiring site is believed to be 500 million years old.

National Park is also home to Wintjiri Arts and Museum, which houses a rich collection of Aboriginal artwork.

And with this, we round up our list of most coveted destinations Down Under. Between buzzing city vibes, quirky wildlife and spectacular coastal beauty, we have no doubt that this immense continent will give you an opportunity to tailor your dream vacation.

Breathtaking foliage, mouthwatering wine and pumpkin carving… Is there anything not to love about the fall season?

If you enjoy all these autumnal sensations, then perhaps the best way to immerse yourself in seasonal delights is to visit one of the many national festivals dedicated to its magic. Luckily, there is no shortage of interesting and entertaining festivals from coast to coast that will be sure to suit every type of visitor.

From hearty harvest celebrations to exquisite gastro events to trendy desert-set music festivals – here are some of the fall time festivals you need to check out in the season ahead.

Wareham Cranberry Harvest Celebration, Massachusetts

Farmers harvest cranberries during the 9th annual Cranberry Harvest Celebration

Farmers harvest cranberries during the 9th annual Cranberry Harvest Celebration | © John Kropewnicki / Shutterstock

With fall comes Thanksgiving, and with Thanksgiving, the sweet, sweet taste of cranberries.

Well, if are curios to see how this juicy berry travels from farms to your dining table, then you sound like an ideal candidate for visiting the Cranberry Harvest Celebration, an annual event which takes place every October in the town of Wareham in Massachusetts.

Not only will this festival give you a convenient excuse to visit New England – one of the most beautiful regions in the country when it comes to autumnal palettes – it will also delight you with all other kinds of festivities dedicated to this delicious symbol of fall.

The focal point of this festival is the cranberry harvest, which is a spectacular visual sight in its own right.

Visitors get the chance to observe the vast crimson fields in their full splendor; those who want to get an even better view can even book a helicopter ride from the local tour operators.

On the ground, you will find a diverse program, including live cooking, music performances and other exciting activities.

The festival also hosts a boisterous marketplace, where you can get your hands on one of the many cranberry-infused delicacies and other kinds of seasonal treats.

The little ones will also have a whale of a time at the Cranberry Harvest, as the children’s area comes equipped with wagon rides, ponies, paddle boats and much more.

Austin City Limits, Texas

Austin - October 10: Festival goers enjoy an art expo during the Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 10, 2014.

Festival goers enjoy an art expo during the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2014 | © Dana Gardner / Shutterstock

Despite being the city’s second most famous festival (after South by Southwest), what Austin City Limits has to offer is nothing to be sneered at.

Taking place over the course of two weekends in October, this rich celebration of music and arts hosts eight stages, where visitors can get a chance to see a wide variety of acts, from local indie bands to fully established hip-hop and rock’n’roll titans.

When it comes to music, Austin City Limits’ line-ups have always delivered big names and immense performances ever since its inception in 2002.

Some of the past headliners include well known and well-loved acts, such as Radiohead, Paul McCartney, Metallica and Kendrick Lamar.

Other than strong and diverse headliners, Austin City Limits also operates an area for showcasing the richness of the local dining scene, under the name Austin Eats. In this gastro-oriented spot, visitors have an opportunity to sample the immense palette of the city widely known for its exciting dining scene.

The festival also holds a lively art market, where visitors can get to see works made by local artists and creators.

At the Austin City Limits, you will also find an area dedicated to local community, where festivalgoers have a chance to learn about local causes, but also find out how to support them.

Finally, Austin City Limits hasn’t forgotten its youngest visitors – the grounds hold a designated children’s area, where even the little ones can also get to enjoy the magic of Texas’ vibrant music festival.

Aloha Festivals Floral Parade, Hawaii

Aloha Festivals 2005 Floral Parade in Honolulu Hawaii

Aloha Festivals Floral Parade, Hawaii | © Bruce C. Murray / Shutterstock

If you are in a mood for a somewhat atypical fall festival, then jet off to Hawaii, where you will receive a warm welcome into a vibrant ceremony known as the Aloha Festivals Floral Parade.

This exuberant event takes place every September in the Hawaiian capital of Honolulu.

The color-packed procession starts at the Ala Moana Beach Park and runs through the Kalakaua Avenue before ending in Kapiolani Park.

During the festivities, visitors have a chance to see beautiful floats adorned with flowers native to the islands, as well as Hawaii’s traditional pa’u horseback riders.

The procession is also riddled with all kinds of music performances, from hula dances to Hawaii’s own marching bands.

The event represents one of the most important celebrations of Hawaiians arts, culture and tradition.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico

Albuquerque, NM - October 5, 2013 - Mass ascension begins at the annual Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

Mass ascension begins at the annual Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta | © Michael E Halstead / Shutterstock

Without a shadow of a doubt, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is one of the most spectacular and colorful festivals in the country.

Its origins date back to the 1950s, when the event that involved flying hot-air balloons was originally set up to celebrate Albuquerque’s 770 KOB Radio.

Over the years, the number of balloons that participated in the festivities kept growing and, in 2009, it reached a record number that counted 1,019 balloons in the air.

These days, the Balloon Fiesta, which is held every October, is the largest balloon-themed festival in the world and one of the most popular fall events in the US.

The event begins in dusk, when a small number of balloons is launched to test the weather. The mass accession takes place midday, over a one or two-hour period.

In the evenings, visitors can also admire the lit-up balloons as they paint the sky.

Other than the traditional hot-air balloons, this event also features unique shapes and designs, from animals and symbols to famous cartoon characters.

The event is also accompanied by music performances featuring prominent rock and country music artist.

It should also be mentioned that the Balloon Fiesta is a dream come true for photography lovers; the sight of hundreds of colorful balloons floating above New Mexico’s prairies provides the perfect opportunity to make some jaw-dropping snaps.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, California

October 8, 2017 - San Francisco, California: Hundreds of thousands of people attend the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park held every first weekend in October.

Thousands of people attend the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in 2017 | © EddieHernandezPhotography / Shutterstock

Taking place every first weekend in October, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (once Strictly Bluegrass) is one of Nor Cal’s most popular festival.

This three-day event, which is held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, offers its visitors to see some of the most prominent acts in the sphere of guitar-based music – free of charge!

Ever since its inception is 2001, this non-commercial event has strived to cultivate quality music and free-spirited attitude. The original idea was to only invite bluegrass artists, but the management decided to diversify the lineup in 2004, so the festival name acquired the attribute “hardly” to keep up with the updated music offer.

Because of its welcoming attitude, the festival is well loved by visitors and musicians alike.

Acts that have been featured at the festival multiple times include Emmylou Harris, Connor Oberst, Nick Lowe and Moonalice.

Therefore, if you like your live music soulful and gritty and you find yourself in SanFran this autumn, then paying a visit to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass should definitely be a no-brainer.

Sonoma County Harvest Fair, California

Wooden sign of Sonoma Valley against a vineyard background

Sonoma Valley, California | © Gustavo Frazao / Shutterstock

Autumn is the most important season for wine-making, which means this could be an ideal time to visit one of the lush grape harvest festivals, which are held across the country this time of year.

And one of the most visited ones is the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, nestled in the picturesque vineyards of the most famous wine countries in the US.

Each October, the district hosts harvest-related festivities in the idyllic town of Santa Rosa.

These include the traditional grape stomp world championship, in which all the attendees can participate.

Elsewhere, visitors can also indulge in wine-tasting or sampling the culinary palette, prepared by some of the most renowned chefs in the region.

Sonoma County Harvest Fair also hosts cooking demonstrations, as well as wine tasting seminars for any and all budding wine connoisseurs.

Finally, if you want to take home a souvenir to remind you of your delicious adventures, head over to the market, where you will be greeted with an abundance of award-winning wines, all produced in the Sonoma County.

Alternatively, you can cop one of the hand-crafted trinkets that will make for great gifts for the folks back home.

Life is Beautiful Festival, Nevada

LAS VEGAS - SEP 27 : A general view during the 2015 Life is Beautiful festival on September 27, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas, 2015 | © Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock

Perhaps the barren desert of Nevada isn’t the first place you’d associate with autumnal destinations, but this doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on your radar in the season ahead.

In fact, one of Las Vegas most prestigious music festival takes place in this period, offering a chance to anyone who finds themselves in Sin City during the fall months to witness some of the hottest music acts of today.

Life is Beautiful Festival takes place in downtown Las Vegas in late September and lasts for four days.

Each year, it draws top performers across genres, including rock, indie, hip-hop and EDM. To illustrate, previous headliners included Gorillaz, 2 Chainz, Muse, Lorde and Blink-182.

Even though music is the main focus of this vibrant festival, Life is Beautiful offers a plethora of exciting accompanying events. For example, the festival also offers an opportunity to check out some of the most buzzed about names in comedy, including Michelle Wolf, Hannibal Buress and winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, Trixie Mattel.

Elsewhere, the festival also hosts a large-scale cookout, where world-class chefs present a new menu each day, each containing dishes cooked over sizzling wood fires. There is also the Cocktail School, where you have an opportunity to learn all the best-kept secrets of renowned mixologists.

Art lovers will be able to check out intriguing murals and installations put up by local and international artists.

Maryland Renaissance Festival, Maryland

Annapolis, Maryland, USA - September 19, 2015: Renaissance Fair Street Activity

Maryland Renaissance Festival, Maryland | © Dora Ramirez / Shutterstock

Gather all ye who are looking to experience autumn as it once was!

Now you have an opportunity to do so at one of the nation’s most colorful fall events – Maryland Renaissance Festival, the second largest festival of this type in the country.

For this occasion, locals and visitors dress up in opulent medieval garb and take part in celebrations that take place over the course of nine weekends, from August to October. The Renaissance Festival is held in the town of Crownsville, in a recreation of a 16th-century English village called Revel Grove, which spans a whopping 25 acres of luscious meadows and woodlands.

The fair is filled with over a hundred of food stands and craft shops. It also operates eight full-sized theaters, as well as several smaller stages that are located within the festival’s rustic taverns. The Maryland Renaissance Fair also contains a designated children’s area, in which the youngest visitors can also experience the magic of the medieval times.

Each year, over 1300 performers partake in the jolly celebration, while festivalgoers get a chance to see all kinds of exciting sights, from catapult demonstrations to Tudor-era theater plays.

National Apple Harvest Festival, Pennsylvania

A bushel basket of stayman apples at a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania farmer's market

A bushel basket of stayman apples at a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania farmer’s market | © Brian Yarvin / Shutterstock

Arguably the most famous harvest festival in the United States, this unmistakably autumnal fair takes place during the first two full weekends of October near the historic site of Gettysburg.

For this occasion, Pennsylvania’s apple country hosts a variety of activities for both children and adults.

Before anything, National Apple Harvest Festival will invite you to please your palate by feasting on all kinds of apple-related treats, including apple jelly, apple pies and candied apples.

For a different kind of entertainment, head over to the antique car lot, where you can admire all kinds of classic cars.

And if you’re in a mood for something a little more interactive, you can challenge your competitive streak in one of the many carnival games that are dotted around the festival grounds.

To see where it all begins, take a tour of Pennsylvania’s apple orchards and learn more about the apple growing tradition.

Finally, you can check out one of the three hundred market stalls and fill your shopping bags with all kinds of apple delicacies and handicrafts to remind you of this fun-filled harvest festival.

And with this, we round up our list of the must-visit autumn-themed festivals in the United States. Whether you’re a fan of music, arts, wine or general fun and games, we hope these destinations will inspire you to make the first steps towards your ideal fall adventure.

Being the largest country in the world, it should come as no surprise that Russia has so much to offer. With Russia hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup, tourism in the country is picking up, with many people curious about this fascinating region.

From big cities packed with history and culture to untouched areas of wilderness filled with natural beauty, here are some of the top places to visit in Russia this year.

St. Petersburg

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg is known for being the cultural capital of Russia, making this the city to visit if you would like to learn more about the country’s history, heritage and traditions.

With over four million residents, this is a crowded and busy city, but is one that is always bursting with life.

Wondering what there is to see and do in St. Petersburg?

One of the most popular attractions is The Hermitage, a museum that features so much artwork that it would take you 11 years to examine every single exhibit. Of course, you likely do not have 11 years to spare, so spend your time checking out the masterpieces here, by artists such as Picasso, Rembrandt, and Leonardo da Vinci.

For even more history, the Peter and Paul Fortress is not to be missed, with this historic site having been built in 1703. 

Want to tour some of the city’s extravagant cathedrals?

St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the one you shouldn’t miss, with its gold dome being iconic in the city’s skyline. 

In addition to visiting all of the famous places in St. Petersburg, simply wandering the streets is so much fun. You will stumble upon everything from palaces to suburban parks, with a boat trip along the city’s canals rewarding you with an even greater taste of life in St. Petersburg.

Lake Baikal

For those who want to experience Russia’s great outdoors, Lake Baikal is the place to go.

Located in southern Siberia, Lake Baikal is considered to be the deepest lake in the world, measuring 1700 meters. Having been formed over 25 million years ago, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is also the oldest lake in the world, and contains 20% of all of the unfrozen freshwater in the world. 

So, what is there to actually do here?

Well, let’s begin with the lake itself…

The waters have long since been believed to have healing properties, and there are many shallow, and relatively warm, spots around the lake that are perfect for a swim.

Other than that, here are a few other popular activities that you can do at Lake Baikal:

  • Hike through the series of trails that encircles the lake
  • Visit Listvyanka, one of Lake Baikal’s villages
  • Tour the Ivolginsk Datsan, the largest Buddhist center in Russia
  • Do some wild camping on the islands within the lake
  • See the sunbathing seals and other local wildlife 

One other thing that Lake Baikal is famous for is Baikal Omul, a local fish dish. This will be an easy one to find, as its popularity means that it is sold in just about every coastal town and tourist spot, although the flavors will vary slightly at each different place you eat it at.

Sochi

Sochi, Russia-June, 2017: arboretum in Sochi.

Sochi, Russia-June, 2017: arboretum in Sochi | © mikaelawill13 / Shutterstock.com

Many people equate Russia with icy cold temperatures, but don’t forget that Russia is the largest country on the planet, meaning that it is home to quite a few different climates.

Being one of the southernmost places in Russia, Sochi boasts a subtropical climate with warm seas, and can become quite busy in the summer months.

You have probably already heard of Sochi, as the city hosted the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and is also one of the cities hosting this year’s FIFA World Cup.

The city is stretched along the coast of the Black Sea, and is actually the second longest city in the world after Mexico City.

This is quite a unique city, for a few different reasons…

The first is that the air quality in Sochi is exceptional for a city.

Why?

Because the city is home to around 500,000 acres of forest, with 10,000 acres being located in the city center itself.

As you can imagine, all of this nature plays a central role in life in Sochi, with everything from its botanical gardens to its arboretum being top tourist attractions.

When it comes to healthy living, Sochi residents are passionate about this, with daily walks being a ritual for many. Thanks to this, there are many pedestrian byways dotted around the city, all of which make Sochi easy to explore by foot.

Petropavlovsk

Petropavlovsk is still considered to be quite the hidden gem in Russia, but this city is slowly attracting more and more tourists.

You may be thinking…

I’ve never heard of Petropavlovsk, why would I want to visit it?

Because of its unique scenery, for starters. This city boasts a magnificent backdrop of surrounding mountains, giving you gorgeous views from just about everywhere.

Thanks to the increase in tourism, there are now many boating excursions available, as well as organized trips to nearby attractions, giving you the opportunity to really explore this relatively unseen part of the country.

For those who enjoy dramatic natural beauty, make sure you visit some of the nearby volcanoes, such as Uzon Volcano and the Tri Brata Volcano, as well as its nature reserve. To learn even more about volcanoes, spend a few hours at Vulkanarium, a museum dedicated to these natural wonders.

Kazan

Qol Sharif mosque in Kazan, Russia with night illumination

The name Kazan means “cooking pot” in Tatar, and this name is fitting seeing how this spot is where Europe and Asia seem to meet each other.

This is another extremely unique city, and, being over 10,00 years old, is one of the oldest in the countries, featuring a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities and religions living happily together as one. 

There are several interesting things to see and do in Kazan, such as:

  • Visiting the Kazan Kremlin, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Touring some of the local mosques, since Kazan is considered to be the Muslim capital of Russia
  • Exploring the Volga-Kama National Park, which is part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
  • Doing some shopping at the local malls and markets 

Another one of Kazan’s highlights is its culinary scene…

The local cuisine in Kazan tells so many stories of the city’s history, and many dishes can be found nowhere else in Russia.

Not sure what to try?

Give some of these foods a taste:

  • Kystyby – stuffed delicate flatbreads with a velvety texture
  • Kazylykthinly sliced, air-dried horse sausage
  • Zur-Belisha large, closed pie that tastes most extravagant when prepared with goose
  • Talkysh Kaleve a complex but exceptionally tasty sweet treat, made from honey, sugar, flour and melted butter 

Stolby Nature Reserve

Founded in 1925, the Stolby Nature Reserve is one of the oldest natural reserves in Russia, as well as one of the most famous in the world. 

What makes it so unique?

The fact that it is home to magnificent volcanic rock pillars, known as stolby, that appeared on the surface of the plant about 400,000 years ago, for reasons that are still unknown.

Climbing to the tops of these pillars is a popular activity here, but there are also many new paths and steps that have been created, making it easy for even the less active to access the viewpoints up at the top. There is even a chairlift to take you up one of the most impressive rock pillars, and this is open throughout the year. 

Wondering where you would stay if you visited the Stolby Nature Reserve?

Well, while the nature reserve may be a pocket of natural paradise, it is actually located just a 20 minute drive from the center of Krasnoyarsk.

This large city is home to several of its own attractions, as well as plenty of luxury hotels, including:

  • Hotel Krasnoyarsk
  • Ogni Eniseya
  • Sky Centr
  • Soft Hotel
  • Kupechesky Hotel

Yessentuki

YESSENTUKI, RUSSIA - MAY 23, 2016: View of the old building in Essentuki, resort town in Caucasian Mineral Waters, Russia

YESSENTUKI, RUSSIA – MAY 23, 2016: View of the old building in Essentuki, resort town in Caucasian Mineral Waters, Russia | © gumbao / Shutterstock.com

If you have ever been into a Russian grocery store, you will have likely noticed the name Yessentuki splashed across bottles of water.

Why?

Because this resort town has given its name to a brand of salty mineral water, as it is famous for its mineral springs, as well as for its hot springs.

Thanks to these natural features, Yessentuki has been popular with those seeking a health-conscious getaway since the early 19th century, and continues to promote this reputation.

This is the place to go if you are wanting some rest and relaxation, with several stunning spas to choose from. The largest is the Essentuki Therapeutic Mud Baths, which not only boasts spectacular architecture, but also over 100 years of history behind the treatments that are on offer.

Not only does the spa use natural mineral waters, but they also use mud from Lake Tambukan, offering up treatments that can help with everything from skin diseases to diabetes to the peripheral nervous system.

The Altai Mountains

Have you ever seen a stretch of pure wilderness that has literally been untouched by civilization?

It is likely that your answer is no, but this could change if you paid a visit to the Altai Mountains.

Thanks to the absence of both air and rail connections, the Altai Mountains are one of the least-visited regions on the planet, making this the place to go if you enjoy travelling off the beaten track.

Of course, you will need to travel quite some way into the mountains in order to really get away from civilization, but the effort really is worth it.

You will probably meet quite a few of the local Asiatic Altai people here, and if you are interested in culture, the locals are usually always happy to share their traditions.

Prefer outdoor adventure to culture?

The Katun River is known for being one of the best rafting spots in Russia, while horseback riding is a popular way to get around and explore the mountains. Sailing and fishing are also popular, as is visiting the local spas, where you will find one-of-a-kind saunas built into large cedar barrels. 

Suzdal

Pokrovskiy monastery in Suzdal.The Golden Ring of Russia.

Suzdal is a historic small town that is a part of Russia’s Golden Ring. 

Never heard of the Golden Ring before?

It refers to a ring of ancient towns and cities, encompassing those such as Suzdal, Rostov, and Sergiyev Posad.

Many would argue that Suzdal is the main historic town in the Golden Ring, which is why this town tends to be the most visited out of all of them.

Although Suzdal may be a small town, there is so much to do here, such as:

  • Checking out the local architecture, with its wooden buildings and stone churches
  • Visiting the churches and monasteries around Suzdal, with most of them dating back to the 17th or 18th century. Some of these are extremely unusual, such as those that have concave tents, which cannot be found anywhere else other than Suzdal
  • Touring the Suzdal Kremlin
  • Taking a walk along the Kamenka River, or on the frozen river if you are visiting in the winter. You could even give ice fishing a try
  • Shopping at local markets

There is one more thing that Suzdal is famous for…

This is known as medovukha, which is a Russian cider that has been made from honey. This is a famous drink that everyone visiting Suzdal should try, but make sure that you do not purchase any off the streets, as counterfeits are common.

Russia is such a vast country, with every part of it offering such a different experience. As you can see from the places listed above, every town and city in Russia has something unique about it, and this is exactly what makes the country such a magical one to explore. From subtropical gardens and healing lakes to rafting along a mountain river and ice fishing, you never know what you will find when travelling around Russia.

Even though Abu Dhabi is often overshadowed by the ultra-modern playground of Dubai, this Emirates’ capital is slowly becoming recognized as an alluring tourist attraction in its own right.

Between the vastness of its beaches, the opulence of its mosques and the rapidly growing cultural and artistic landscape, you won’t be left short of intriguing sights to explore in the enchanting metropolis of the Gulf.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | © Luciano Mortula – LGM / Shutterstock

If there is one absolute must-visit while in Abu Dhabi, then it has to be stunning Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

The construction of this monumental sacred sight was completed in 2007 and it has since been visited by curious visitors in hundreds of thousands. 

It features its signature pristine white façade made out of Macedonian marble, as well as 82 domes in seven different sizes.

The courtyard of the mosque, which extends for about 17,000 m2, is composed of a picturesque mosaic that is thought to be largest one in the world. Due to its sheer size and mesmerizing design, it represents an attraction in its own right.

The inside of the mosque treasures what is considered to be the largest carpet in the world. It measures 5,627 m2 and was crafted using New Zealand wool. This ornate carpet took almost two years to complete.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, United Arab, Emirates, December 5, 2017: The Louvre. Visitors looking at Greek and Roman sculptures dating from the 5th century BC, on loan from the Louvre, Paris.

Visitors examining ancient sculptures in Louvre Museum, Abu Dhabi | © LizCoughlan / Shutterstock

This breathtaking art complex is one of the most recent additions of Abu Dhabi’s growing cultural palette.

Louvre Abu Dhabi was established as a part of a 30-year agreement with the French government and its Parisian counterpart.

In 2017, ten years after the approval was granted, Louvre Abu Dhabi was opened on Saadiyat Island to great fanfare.

The concept behind pieces showcased in the museum aims to bridge the gap between eastern and western art; the exhibition space artists from all over the globe, including Ai Weiwei, Paul Gaugin and Vincent Van Gogh.

The most buzzed about piece of art that found its way to Louvre Abu Dhabi was undoubtedly Salvador Mundi, painted by none other than Leonardo da Vinci. The purchase of the painting marked the most valuable art transaction as of 2017, worth a whopping $450.3 million.

Aside from the impressive collection it hosts, architecturally speaking, the museum is a work of art in its own right.

The construction features a one-of-a-kind web patterned roof which allows for the sun rays to shine through. The effect is meant to mimic the shade created by date palm tree.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MAY 23, 2013: Aerial view of Ferrari World Park is the largest indoor amusement park in the world.

Aerial view of Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi | © Burachet / Shutterstock

Abu Dhabi’s most beloved theme park should be on top of the to-do list for every visitor who is looking to pump up their adrenaline.

Perched on the Yas Island, this bustling playground features over a dozen rides, which range from go-karts to flight simulators to teacup rides.

Since the thrills are numerous and diverse, the theme park can be enjoyed by the entire family.

Other than white-knuckle rides, Ferrari World also hosts shows featuring stunts, acrobats and other kinds of exciting performances.

And when you need to take a break from all the action, you can always fill your belly in one of the park’s excellent restaurants or go shopping in Ferrari’s largest retail space in the world.

Emirates Heritage Club Heritage Village

ABU DHABI - 23 MAY: Heritage village in Abu Dhabi on 23 May 2016

Emirates Heritage Club Heritage Village, Abu Dhabi | © DavidNNP / Shutterstock

Due to Abu Dhabi’s markedly modern character, it might be difficult to grasp what the region looked like before all the luxurious motels and vast shopping malls started popping up.

However, all you need to do its head over to the Emirates Heritage Club Heritage Village and you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the Emirati way of life as it once was.

This reconstructed space represents a traditional village where the old-school Gulf lifestyle still lives on.

Here, you will find everything from old workshops to spice vendors to old irrigation systems, even a recreation of the traditional souq.

And to learn more about the pre-oil history of the region, you can always head to the open museum that’s contained within the village, where you can find out all the information on how life used to look on the Arabian Peninsula.

Mangrove National Park

Abu Dhabi, UAE - Feb 9 2013 Kayaking in Abu Dhabi mangrove national park

Kayaking in Abu Dhabi Mangrove National Park | © Greysline / Shutterstock

Once you’ve got a taste of Abu Dhabi’s state-of-the-art urban landscape, you might be in the mood to experience something a little wilder.

Worry not, because the Emirates’ capital is nothing if not accommodating for every stripe of traveler. 

And the perfect place for thrill-seekers and nature lovers to embark on an adventure would be the Mangrove National Park, Abu Dhabi’s prime outdoor getaway.

To get up close and personal with the flora and fauna surrounding the city, it’s best to look into booking a kayak or canoe tour into the mangrove forest, where you can feast your eyes on the serenity of the surrounding nature.

The most stunning sight in Mangrove National Park is undoubtedly the colorful flamingos, who assemble along the tidal flats for all visitors to see.

Other than flamingos, this protected reserve is also home to other kinds of exotic animal life, including herons and crabs.

Qasr Al Hosn

Qasr al-Hosn tower - the oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Qasr al Hosn tower, Abu Dhabi | © Philip Lange

The oldest tower in entire Abu Dhabi, Qasr Al Hosn is a sight not to be missed.

This monumental edifice, also called “The White Fort”, was constructed in the 18th century, first serving as a watchtower meant to protect the only freshwater well on the island of Abu Dhabi.

Over the years, it has been expanded and renovated many times. Historically, it used to be the place of permanent residence of the ruling sheiks and until 1966, it operated as the official seat of the government.

These days, the fort is partially opened to the public; it houses an exhibition space which details the history of the Qasr Al Hosn and Abu Dhabi. In it, you will find a collection of photographs, artefact and weapons that illustrate the state’s pre-oil boom historical trajectory.

Manarat Al Saadiyat

Abu Dhabi / UAE - Feb 5: Saadiyat Manarat; the high-tech center for interactive, local cultural displays & international exhibitions on Feb 5 ,2015 in Al Saadiyat island, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Manarat al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi | © PiakPPP / Shutterstock

Abu Dhabi’s latest effort to appeal to the more high brow visitors has been embodied in Manarat Al Saadiyat, an intriguing complex dedicated to the city’s booming arts and culture scene.

Nestled at the heart of Saadiyat, Manarat Al Saadiyat regularly hosts exhibitions, performances and other culture-oriented community events, and all visitors are welcomed to join. 

During your visit to Manarat Al Saadiyat, you can join a local workshop, attend movie screenings, listen to a panel discussion or simply enjoy a cup of coffee or a hearty meal in the company of other art lovers.

At the Terrace, Manarat Al Saadiyat’s outdoor space you can take a moment to relax amidst greenery or even grab a mat and join one of the local yoga classes.

Corniche

Corniche promenade in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Corniche promenade in Abu Dhabi | © trabantos / Shutterstock

One of Emirates’ main draws are the long sandy beaches and mesmerizing emerald waters.

In Abu Dhabi, you’ll find the most alluring stretches of beach along the famous Corniche Road, which curves along the western coast of the Abu Dhabi Island for about 8 kilometers.

The pristine beach has all the amenities you’ll need for your day of fun in the sun, including chairs, parasols, changing rooms and showers.

Other than long stretches of sand, Corniche is a true haven for outdoor adventures, since this promenade also features opulent fountain, relaxing green oases, as well as play areas for children.

Corniche is also one of the prime spots for cycling, and a great way to experience the promenade is to rent a bike and pedal your way along the seafront.

And if you’re not exactly in a rush to get physically active, you can always go on an epicurean adventure in one of the numerous waterfront eateries and cafés that are dotted along the Corniche.

Emirates Park Zoo

Lioness in Emirates Park Zoo. Abu Dhabi - UAE. 24 December 2016.

Lioness in Emirates Park Zoo | © Mohammed Shamaa / Shutterstock

In a city that is known worldwide for its wealth and opulence, it should come as no surprise that Abu Dhabi is also home to one of the largest and most diverse zoos on the planet.

The Emirates Park Zoo, which counts over 1800 animals belonging to 250 different exotic species from all over the world, guarantees a fun afternoon, whether you are traveling with children or on your own.

The wildlife you’ll get to see in the Zoo includes lions, leopards, giraffes, elephants, cheetahs and many others. The Arabian peninsula is home to some of the most fascinating birds of prey, and you’ll find many here.

You can also get up close and personal with various exotic species in the petting zoo. The park also organizes elephant and giraffe feedings, and both adults and children are invited to partake.

And if you’d rather watch someone else feed the beasts, you can always enjoy the spectacle from afar; for example, you can catch the daily feedings of Zoo’s Nile crocs.

Empty Quarter

Dunes of the Rub al Khali or Empty Quarter. Straddling Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Yemen.

Rub al Khali or Empty Quarter, Abu Dhabi | © Damian Ryszawy

Abu Dhabi doesn’t only produce the best and biggest when it comes to man-made creations.

This bustling hub is also located on the edges of what is referred to as the Empty Quarter or Rub al’ Khali, the largest continuous sand surface on Earth.

And even though this area is completely devoid of man-made creations, plants and, of course, water, you can bet that the locals still know how to turn even the seemingly hostile desert into a playground for all kinds of adventures.

All it takes is a short car ride from the center from Abu Dhabi to find yourself transported from sleek skyscrapers to seemingly never-ending sandy vastness.

Once you reach the desert, exploring the dunes can be done in various exciting ways.

One of the most popular ones includes riding the camels; however, if you want something a little more adrenaline-pumping, you can always go on a wild dune buggy ride or perhaps safari-style jeep.

If you are looking to truly grasp the immensity of the desert, make sure to book a balloon tour, where you will be able to admire the sandy stretches from up in the air.

For something a little more low-key, you can book an overnight stay in one of the desert resorts and indulge in your very own Arabian Nights experience.

Marina Mall

Abu Dhabi, UAE - April 21, 2013: inside of Marina Mall, arranged over four levels and an observatory, is one of the biggest shopping mall in Abu Dhabi. Lifestyle, luxury, shopping concept.

Interior of Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi | © Benny Marty / Shutterstock

It goes without saying that no visit to the UAE would be complete without indulging in some of the most exclusive shopping experiences on the planet.

And Abu Dhabi has just the place to shop ‘till you drop.

Marina Mall is more than just your regular shopping center; these days, it represents a bona fide landmark of the city.

Located just a short from the lush Corniche Beach, the Marina Mall is a great alternative when you don’t feel like lazing around in the sizzling sun.

In this enormous space, you will be able to browse for the garments of all stripes: from small local designers to high-street brands to full-blown haute couture.

If you’re not feeling like having a bout of retail therapy, there are other things to do in Marina Mall that don’t include maxing out on your card. For example, you can climb up the 100-meter viewing platform to get a breath-taking panorama of Abu Dhabi.

Alternatively, you can go ice skating (always a welcome break from the desert heat!), bowling or catching the latest cinematic releases.

By now, it should be crystal clear as to why Abu Dhabi represents one of the most alluring destinations on the Arabian peninsula. Between its ultra-sleek character, opulence at every step and hospitability unlike anywhere else in the world, we are sure the Emirates’ capital will quickly become the destination of your dreams.