A hugely popular favorite with cruises and resort dwellers, you could be mistaken for believing that there is no stone left unturned in The Bahamas. However, these islands have a wealth of hidden gems which make them a must for anyone’s traveling bucket list.
Photo via WikiMedia
If you’ve ever wanted to explore deep sea wreckages, head to the island of Norman’s Cay where the remains of a smuggling plane lie under 6 feet of warm Bahamian waters. The wreckage can be easily explored with a snorkel, just watch out for the nurse sharks who like to sleep under its wings!
Photo via WikiMedia
Located on the island of Great Inaguas, Lake Rosa (also known as Lake Windsor) is home to some 80,000 West Indian flamingos, making it one of the largest flamingo sanctuaries in the world. The birds feed in the wetlands of Rosa Lake which is within the Inagua National Park 287-square-mile reserve. Stretching 12 miles, Lake Rosa is also home to a vast array of other species including herons, ducks, pelicans and roseate spoonbills, making it the ideal destination for bird watchers.
Complete with a medieval style monastery, Mount Alvernia (also known as Como Hill) is the highest point in the Bahamas. Although only 206ft above sea level, the view from the top is stunning so make sure to pack your camera. The monastery was built in 1939 by a Catholic Priest, Father Jerome, who named the hill Mount Alvernia, after a mountain in Tuscany which was given to St Francis of Assisi.
Photo via WikiMedia
There are so many places to eat out in the Bahamas, but none quite as awesome as Doc Sands’ Conch Stall. Proprietor Nicola Sands treats customers to the preparation of their meal, as she shucks the conch flesh and chops it into the salad right in front of them. Located by the Paradise Bridge, Doc Sands’ Conch Stall is a must for anyone traveling the Bahamas on a budget.
Hidden away on the island of Nassau, Clifton Heritage Park is most definitely off the beaten track, as it is not even accessible by public transportation. With historical ruins such as the Pirate Steps, as well as three stunning secluded beaches, a sacred circle and an underwater sculpture garden, this park is perfect for anyone wanting to get away from the crowds.
Originally a natural stone arch connecting the northern and southern parts of the island of Eleuthera, the Glass Window Bridge is an amazing example of nature at its best. Though the natural arch was destroyed by hurricanes many years ago, the bridge has been rebuilt since and still goes by the name given to it by artist Winslow Homer in 1885. Also known as the “narrowest place on earth”, the bridge provides a panoramic view of the striking contrast between the rich navy blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the calm turquoise-aqua waters of the Caribbean Sea, separated by a strip of rock no more than 30ft wide. Stunning!
Want more offbeat things to do? More Offbeat Travel Guides
When planning family trips, it's best to keep kids busy with activities from crafting and music lessons to hiking and swimming. (No one wants to hear, "Mom, I'm bored" while lounging beach side with a cocktail in hand.)
Travel is one of the most fun ways for a parent to share the cultures and natural wonders of the world. These destinations are safe for kiddos, catering to the picky eaters, adrenaline junkies, nature lovers, and beach bums too. Not only will kids be welcome, they'll find programs and excursions designed just for them on each of these global adventures.
While it may sound like a lazy beach vacay, this beautiful resort is on one of Hawaii's most exciting islands – and one of the world's top resorts for families. The resort offers tons of kid-friendly activities (think ukulele lessons and lei making) in-house. But families can also find breathtaking hikes, ziplines for the token daredevil, horseback riding and kayaking to name a few. For something more low key, splash in a two-tiered pool or the saltwater lagoon that meanders through the hotel's property. By nightfall, kids will definitely be ready to crash.
For the boy (and girl) scouts who are looking for a back-to-nature experience, this Thai getaway won't disappoint. Thailand is one of Asia's best destinations for kids. With a drive and boat ride to this hotel, they may start to feel a bit like Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Bamboo guest rooms float on top of the River Kwai and offer visitors a taste of Mon culture. It's a bit rustic (as in there are wick lamps instead of electricity. But don't worry, in-room bathrooms are a part of the deal). Kids love exploring the nearby jungles atop of a gentle elephant, or visiting natural wonders such as the Lawa Cave or the Sai Yok Waterfall. Get a few thrills without leaving River Kwai by river jumping or bamboo rafting — something to excite even the most adrenaline-seeking tweens.
Nicaragua makes for an affordable, and adventure-filled, Central American trip (and many parents are choosing it over the equally kid-friendly Costa Rica). Visitors won't see nearly as many expats and will get a great taste of the local culture, plus tons of hiking and swimming! In a bungalow at Morgan's Rock, guests are nestled in the treetops and have easy beach access. One of the more exciting excursions to make is to Ometepe Island, formed by two volcanoes, which can be reached by ferry. Explore ancient rock art and petroglyphs and brave the hike up the dormant Maderas Volcano. Parents will appreciate the beaches known for waves that are safe for first-time surfers, zip-line excursions, and an insider look at the lodge's sustainable farm where kids get to collect farm eggs and milk the cows for an awesome family breakfast!
A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is an incomparable adventure. While a flight to the Aussie coast may not be ideal for many faraway travelers with tiny tots, the experiences offered through resorts like One&Only can change a nervous parent's mind. If your bucket list includes snorkelling, sailing, kayaking, water skiing or a helicopter adventure above the reef (which is the largest living thing on Earth, mind you), then book a few tickets to Hayman Island. Of course One&Only also offers an entirely kid-centric program called KidsOnly full of excursions and meals from 9am to 6pm if parents need a break.
Camping and cruising may appeal to families that seek adventure on-the-go. Many of these trips welcome first-time campers and those who are especially interested in learning the lay of the land, whether that's in sunny California or rugged Maine. Nature lovers, budding botanists and eager explorers will get animal interactions, sparkling night skies and a new set of skills when signing up for one of these trips.
For North Easterners, this trip will make an exciting escape from the bustling city, but any visitors will be in awe of the natural beauty of the Appalachian Trail. Eager hikers can find programs like the Appalachian Mountain Club's Family Camps, which take families with kids as young as five years old around New Hampshire and Maine, near beautiful mountains and full of sleepaway camp-style fun. Expect canoeing, fishing, stream exploration and a classic campfire sing-a-long.
While this isn't exactly a family vacation, road trip style, there is so much kids can learn by a trip to this incredible archipelago. National Geographic is one of the few to organize a cruise to these islands near South America that is geared specifically at budding scientific minds. In the day, kids can snorkel in crystal blue waters and hike the shores among animals like giant tortoises and sea lions, all of which are completely unphased by the presence of humans. Parents will leave with zoologists and nature photographers on their hands.
This is a fabulous spot to dive into the world of camping as a family for the first time. Whether you're interested in nesting up in an unassuming lodge or setting up a tent under the stars, a trip to this natural Cali beauty guarantees great views and swimming. Several programs like Orange Torpedo and Oars set up multi-day whitewater rafting ventures, but there are hikes to take and plenty of beach lounging to be done as well. On Orange Torpedo's Klamath River Wild and Scenic trip, kids will get to swim in warm water and calm side creeks (the rapid on this trip is exciting, but never dangerous) and the guides will introduce anyone from five years old to the basics of both rafting and camping. These trips can also be as short as two or three days, ideal for any locals or those not wanting to commit to any extensive travel with kids.
This post was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on July 19th.
Singapore is a small island city-state, which means that it quickly gets boring for uninformed travelers. Three days in Singapore, and you have literally done it all — or so you might think.
But the next time you find yourself passing through Lion City, drop your bags off at a nice hotel in the best part of Singapore and then knock a few of these offbeat activities off your travel bucket list:
Singapore is a sprawling metropolis — at least the main island is. However, up north, next to Malaysia, lies the smaller island of Pulau Ubin. Known as the Last Kampung of Singapore, this island is the only place you can still see the traditional village houses of the past. Only around 100 residents remain today, surrounded by lush flora and diverse fauna. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails to explore and quiet beaches to relax on. Definitely a nice retreat from the city life in Singapore!
Dating back to 1937, Haw Par Villa has earned itself a reputation as Singapore's most bizarre tourist attraction and religious theme park. Originally known as the Tiger Balm Gardens, it was built by two brothers, the same duo who created Tiger Balm rub. The park was designed to teach Chinese mythology, but over the years it has evolved into an over-the-top collection of over 1,000 multicolored statues and giant dioramas depicting various — and often gory — scenes from Chinese history, folklore, and legends. Haw Par Villa might not be off the beaten path anymore, but Singapore doesn’t get any stranger than this!
Located right on Clarke Quay, this is one activity that every visitor to Singapore has seen but few ever try. The G-MAX reverse bungy is like nothing else you have ever experienced. Strap yourself in, and get ready. After being slingshot up in the air, reaching speeds of up to 100 km/hr, riders bounce and fly around in what G-MAX politely refers to as a "swing" — ha! This experience is so uncommon that I recommend having someone else film your ride. Besides, at 45 SGD, it's the cost of two drinks in Clarke Quay — and definitely more worth it.
To make a long story short, a Taiwanese company developed a machine that prints photos onto coffee foam. Of course, the next logical step is to use this for selfies instead of trippy designs. If you don't mind paying a hefty premium for your coffee and waiting a few extra minutes (yes, even longer than usual), you just might be a perfect fit for Selfie Coffee. And where else in Singapore would it be located than the hipster hotspot that is Haji Lane?
Up in the northeastern corner of Singapore lies Kranji, the Singapore countryside that many tourists do not even realize exists. Yes, there is a part of the main island that isn't a cement jungle! Here the jungle is still thick, and small farms are scattered among it. The biggest and best-known is Bollywood Veggies and its Poison Ivy Bistro, which serves what is arguably the freshest food in all of Singapore. There are also several nearby parks and nature reserves worth exploring, including Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Kranji Reservoir Park, and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
Beyond just greenery and fresh foods, Kranji also has plenty more to offer. Horse racing takes place every Friday and Sunday at the Singapore Turf Club, conveniently located right next to the Kranji MRT Station. The Kranji War Memorial pays homage to all the fallen soldiers from all the nations who helped defend Singapore from the Japanese during World War II.
Singapore may be small, but the harder you look, the more you find. What other offbeat and quirky sights or activities would you recommend?
Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most beautiful states in India thanks to its scenic, untouched landscapes and breathtaking mountains. Though the state suffered during the years when terrorism was in its most intense and destructive phase, it has slowly limped back to normalcy.
Over the past couple of years Kashmir is quickly becoming one of the most visited states in India. The amazingly beautiful landscape of the land has enthralled emperors and kings for countless generations, and mesmerized visitors for centuries.
If you are planning a trip to Kashmir, it is important that you decide on the places you want to visit beforehand. There are so many picturesque locations that it can be a bit overwhelming. Let’s have a look at some of the places that are must-see for any tourist.
Anantnag is also known as the rice bowl of Kashmir valley. Kokernag, Verinag, Achabal and Daksum are places noted for their beauty. These scenic towns are also home to many renowned health resorts and spas. Located at 2438m (8,000 ft) above sea level, Daksum is lush, green and rich in exotic flora and fauna. The dense forests are surrounded by snow-capped mountains and offer endless trekking options to enthusiasts. You can also go fishing in the trout-rich streams of Daksum.
Pahalgam is a famous hill station in Anantnag located at an altitude 2740m (8,990 ft) above sea level. Vast meadows and pastures, pine forests and snow clad mountains justify why Kashmir is often referred to as the Switzerland of India. It has featured in several Bollywood romances and still is one of the most favored honeymoon spots for Indian newlyweds.
Lidder River is any angler’s dream come true with bountiful brown trout fishing beats. The beautiful trekking routes through pine and cedar forests, a 9-hole golf course, lovely camping sites and skiing opportunities make Pahalgam an adventure seeker’s paradise. The picturesque Kolahoi glacier is another must-see.
Gulmarg is famous for its vast expanse of flower-clad meadows set against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains. This exceptionally beautiful mountain resort boasts of the highest green golf course in the world located at a height of 2650m (8,694 ft) above the sea level. The first ski resort in India was established in Gulmarg in 1927 and continues to be the premier skiing destination in the country.
The Gulmarg Gondola is Asia’s highest and longest -- and the world’s second highest -- cable car project. The views are breathtaking and you get to see the Meadow of Flowers, as Gulmarg is popularly known, in all its glory.< If long treks to ski spots are not your thing, you can also opt for a pony ride. Some pony owners may try to overcharge foreign tourists though, so be careful and be sure to haggle.
If you are a skiing enthusiast then head to Apparwath Peak and Shark Fin for what are arguably the best skiing trails in the country.
Srinagar is the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and does not in any way fall short where natural beauty is concerned. Lush gardens, historical monuments, ancient shrines and serene lakes make it one of the most sought after and visited tourist destinations in the country.
Shikharas are beautiful decorated wooden boats that are found on the Dal and Nagin lakes in Srinagar. No tourist to Kashmir can afford to miss a ride on the delicate Shikhara. You also get to see quaint floating vegetable and flower markets on the lakes.
There are houseboat hotels where you can book in advance for a luxury stay on the lake. You also can indulge in watersports like kayaking, water surfing, angling and canoeing.
The lakes are the star attractions but, you must also find time to visit other places of interest like Jama Masjid, Hazratbal Mosque, Sri Pratap Singh Museum, Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden and Shankaracharya Temple. The Mughal Gardens and Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary are other places that you should visit during your stay in Srinagar.
Sonamarg means ‘Meadow of Gold’ and is noted for its pristine natural beauty. Sonamarg is blessed with lovely alpine forests and is nestled in the towering snow-clad Himalayan Mountains.
The valley is located at an altitude of 2800 meters, and the journey to Sonamarg is in itself as satisfying and beautiful as the destination. As you meander through the valley you get to see the imposing Harmukh range that dominates the horizon all along the way. If you are a selfie lover, there are plenty of photogenic spots along the route where you can stop to click some good pictures.
Sonamarg is located on the banks of Sindh River where you can enjoy fishing for the plentiful trout and mahseer. If you are visiting in summer you can plan a trip to the Thajiwas glacier. It is a major tourist attraction and you can choose to trek up the scenic trail or hire a pony ride.
Sonamarg experiences heavy snowfall and avalanches during winter months, so always check with authorities before you plan a trek into the mountains.
Pangong Lake is a 5-hour drive from Leh and the extreme landscape will give you an experience you will never forget.
The azure-blue lake is a 45km stretch on the Indian side and is fed by inland streams and rivers. The salty water does not allow fish and other flora and fauna to flourish, but small crustaceans can be found in the waters. The marshy surroundings are also home to ducks, gulls, and migratory birds. So you can see this also a great place for bird watching.
Pangong Lake first got noticed when it featured in the Bollywood blockbuster 3 Idiots and has since attracted tourists in thousands. But it’s not Pangong Lake alone that Ladakh has on offer. Located at a distance of 45km from Leh is the quaint town of Hemis. Leh and Ladakh are perfect places to sample India’s incredible diversity, so ensure they are on your itinerary.
Hemis is home to the renowned Hemis National Park which provides shelter to many rare forms of wildlife including the snow leopards and bharals. You can also pay a visit to the Buddhist monastery in Hemis which is the largest in Ladakh and attracts tourists from all over the world.
Schedule your visit during the Hemis festival to enjoy the true culture of Hemis.
Conclusion Kashmir is one of the most breathtaking and picturesque places in the world, where you get to enjoy a unique blend of cultural warmth and hospitality. The next time you are in India, make sure to plan a visit to the northernmost tip of India.
I don’t know if it is due to my mother coming from a mining area, visiting underground mines or caves at a young age, or my own technical work experience gained at mines in Germany and Mongolia, but I like going underground. Caverns, mines, tunnels...you name it! Some of these trips have been pretty spectacular and well worth a visit. Here are my top 5 subterranean tourist attractions:
Freiberg Visitor Mine (Saxony, Germany) Official Site
I spent the summer of 2010 working at Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg - the oldest university of mining and metallurgy in the world (the chemical elements indium and germanium were also discovered there). Silver (and later other minerals) have been mined in Freiberg for centuries, with the 850th anniversary of the “Silberstadt” being celebrated this coming weekend. The main mine, while no longer productive (though rising metal prices may make production once again favourable), has over 1000km of tunnels running under the small city, however only 20km of these are accessible as the lower levels of the mine were flooded when production ceased.
Various mine tours can be arranged – however tours in English usually need to be arranged in advance with a minimum of 8 people. Alternatively take someone with you to translate the tour – many Freiberg students will be familiar with the mine which is still used today for teaching. They can be found in most bars in the town centre singing the traditional German mining song “Das Steigerleid”. There is also a kind of bar located in the mine itself, over 100m underground, where rock concerts are sometimes performed and can also be hired out for parties and other events.
Another mining-related attraction is Terra-Mineralia, a geological museum located in Schloss Freudenstein in the town centre. The museum has interesting rock samples from all over the world, as well as Freiberg and the Erzgebirge (“Ore Mountains”), and even outer space!
Freiberg is best visited over the last weekend in June, during what is known as “Bergstadtfest” – a celebration of the town’s mining heritage, with street stalls, a funfair, fireworks, beer, beer and more beer, culminating in a miner’s parade from the Dom on the Sunday morning. Even outside of Bergstadtfest, Freiberg can still be a pleasant day out if you are staying in the vicinity of Dresden or Leipzig.
Cruachan – the Hollow Mountain (Dalmally, Argyll, Scotland) Official Site
Short and sweet, but still very interesting, Cruachan is a pumped-hydro power station. That is, during periods of surplus electricity, water is pumped to the top of the mountain (Ben Cruachan) and stored in a reservoir. When energy demand increases e.g. at breakfast time when everyone is making coffee, the water is flowed back down the mountain and used to generate electricity. The humidity and temperature in the underground tunnels is significant enough to allow tropical plants to be grown in artificial sunlight. The tour gives a deeper explanation of the process, the history of the power station, and shows the inner workings of the mountain. Cruachan is an interesting stop for anyone with an engineering background, or simply anyone who wants to know a bit more about where our electricity comes from.
The Cruachan visitor centre is pleasant rest stop on the way up to Oban, Fort William or the Western Isles, and visitors arriving by public transport or bike gain free entry (Falls of Cruachan railway station is only 200m walk). The scenery on the way is your stereotypical Scotland, and can be enjoyed whatever mode of transportation you take. Those of the outdoor persuasion can also hike up to the corrie (known to the English as a tarn) on Ben Cruachan where the storage reservoir can be found – though be prepared for the rain!
St Michael’s Cave (Gibraltar) Official Site
I visited this one several times during my childhood. The British overseas territory, Gibraltar largely consists of a large formation of Jurassic limestone known as the Rock of Gibraltar (or simply the Rock), containing over 150 caves. St Michael’s cave is the largest and most visited of these, being one of Gibraltar’s leading tourist attractions. Entry also includes entry to the Siege Tunnels and the Moorish Castle. Taking the Lower St. Michael's Cave tour is strongly recommended by the locals, but must be booked 3 days in advance minimum and children under 10 are not allowed (For more info, see the link above, under the option "Tours").
The cave can be reached by road, cable car or on foot – taking the cable car up and walking back down is particularly pleasant and allows you to get up close to the Barbary apes that inhabit the Rock. It is thought that the apes first reached the Rock from Morocco through the network of caves long ago. Another legend is that the ancient Greeks thought the cave to be the gateway to the underworld of Hades.
Eisriesenwelt (Upper Austria, Austria) Official Site
This one is pretty spectacular. Located 1641m above sea level in the Austrian Alps 40km south of Salzburg, Eisriesenwelt is the largest ice cave in the world with the network stretching over 42km. To access the cave you drive to the visitor centre, take a 20 minute walk to the cable car station, and after a vertigo-inducing trip in the cable car (the faint of heart can take a 90 minute trek by foot), take another 20 minute walk to the mouth of the cave. The pressure differential due to the temperatures inside and outside the cave causes a blast of ice cold wind that can reach up to 100km/h when the cave doors are opened – when this happens you can easily see why the cave was once thought to be (another) gateway to hell. Once inside the cave the air is still again, and you are guided up and down 700 steps with your path lit by old-fashioned lamps, and the impressive ice formations illuminated by magnesium tapers.
One thing I will emphasise: this is an ICE cave. As the name suggests it is filled with ICE – come prepared for spending up to an hour in temperatures below freezing. That means come prepared with sensible shoes such as boots or trainers, thick socks, trousers, long sleeves, thick jumpers, hat, gloves, scarf...no matter how warm it is outside. On my tour around the cave a poor newlywed couple from the Middle East enjoying their honeymoon underestimated how cold it would be and didn’t even bring pullovers. The husband begged the tour guide to hurry through the cave - before we had even been inside two minutes! They hadn’t expected to be so cold for so long, not having any experience of sub-zero temperatures, and coming from a place where you only ever saw ice in your drink. Even me, in true Scottish style, prepared for all weathers and able to wrap up warm, found my toes getting a little cold towards the end (canvas pumps are a bad idea!).
Eisriesenwelt is a good day trip from Salzburg, with many tour companies organising bus trips. Salzburg itself is very cultural, being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with several palaces and historic churches, as well as being the famed birthplace of Mozart (there is always a busker to be found playing his music). There’s also the whole “Sound of Music” experience to found too. Finally if your hunger for all things subterranean hasn’t been sated, there is also a salt mine and museum in the nearby town of Hallein, which features among other things underground slides!
Licking salt from the walls is perfectly
acceptable - in fact, permission to take up
to 1kg of salt is included in the tour price!
Wieliczka Salt Mine (Krakow, Poland) UNESCO Site
This one is a subterranean MUST SEE!
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the mine contains over 3km of tunnel accessible to the public – but this is only a very small percentage of the tunnel network. Also contained within the mine are several chapels, fine sculptures and even chandeliers – all of which are formed out of salt. Also present is are salt lakes and many massive chambers carved out of the rock salt – one so high as to have been the location of both the world’s first underground bungee jump and underground hot air balloon flight. Tours are available in several languages and very reasonably priced, and the mine is easily reached by bus from Krakow city centre, meaning there is no excuse to miss out on this. In one word: SPECTACULAR!
Krakow itself has all the charms of any historic European city, and with an excellent night life to boot (a trip down the salt mine will also help clear up a moderate hangover, should you overdo it). Did I also mention that Krakow is cheap? – I went out for 5 days with the same amount of money I spent in Oslo in a weekend (around £100), and still came back with plenty to spare. I recommend visiting in December when there is a good Christmas market to be found in the main square.
Manali is a hill station, a paradise on earth located in Himachal Pradesh at an altitude of 6400 ft (approx) above sea level. The hill station is near to the Rohtang Pass which has been a trade route in the olden days and even today. It is one of the route to reach Ladakh, another destination which is very amazing.
Manali is located on the banks of river Beas and the best time to visit it is from March to July, as after that the weather can play devil at times. You can visualize lots of landslides in the later months. The winters are from November to January and during that time you can find lots of snow here. Snow can be seen on the mountains year-round, even in the summer. The Sollang Valley and Rohtang Pass are the best option during the summer.
Well I shall mention why I love this place because its not only wonderful to sit in the lap of nature and have amazing views of mountains and valley but you can also enjoy adventure sports like paragliding, skiing, river rafting and various other adventure trips. Its best to have at least 4-5 days free when visiting Manali. Here you can see lots of tourists but especially Indian tourists, as this is one of the favorites among local travelers.
The Green rating is high for this city as the steps taken by government are really appreciable here. Electricity generation is done here by a mere alteration in the river route and new construction is banned here.
SUMMARY OF MANALI, HIMACHAL PRADESH
Overall Rating: 4 1-2=Ignore 2-3=Can go 3.5-4.5=Must go 4.5-5=Dream destination
Comfort Rating: 4 1-2=Poor 2-3=Basic 3.5-4.5=Comfort 4.5-5=Luxury
To Do Activities: 4 1-2=Nothing 2-4=Interesting 4.5-5=Must do
Transport Options: 2 1-2=Single approach 2-4=Multiple 4.5-5=Well connected
Economic Rating: 3.5 1-2=Cheap 2-3=Economic 3.5-4=Midclass 4.5-5=Expensive
Cultural Rating: 3.5 1-2=Adverse to strangers 2-4=Comfortable 4.5-5=Mixed culture
Language Rating: 3.5 1-2=Local 2-4=Understand English 4.5-5=English very common
Safety Rating: 4 1-2=Not safe 2-4=Safe 4.5-5=Very safe
Unique Rating: 3.5 1-2=Nothing unique 2-4=Unique activities 4.5-5=Very unique
Green Rating: 4.5 1-2=Adverse to nature 2-4=Close to nature 4.5-5=Nature only
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Few forms of travel involve more excitement, unpredictability, and opportunities to connect with the locals than road trips. Whether in a car, motorcycle, RV, or even a converted school bus (yes, I've done it!), nothing beats a good old-fashioned road trip! This summer, why not hit the road on one of these epic routes and see what you find:
One of Southeast Asia's most popular motorcycle routes is the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail that runs north to south through this elongated nation. I spent three months in Vietnam in 2014 and this was one of the highlights of my time there. The countryside of Vietnam is gorgeous and most of the roads were smooth sailing.
Along the way there are tons of small villages to stop at and meet locals, as well as plenty of sights to see that are off the main tourist trails. One example is the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, home to over 300 caves, including the largest one in the world, Sơn Đoòng Cave. Back in 2003 the park earned itself a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List and although tourism has been slowly increasing ever since, most visitors to the park are Vietnamese.
Back in 2010, I spent six months on a 32-state United States road trip and had an unforgettable experience. We went from California to Washington, D.C., and then back to California. It was amazing to see the way the terrain, roads, people, and food varied state to state.
Most people always assume that life in the United States is the same throughout the country; however, nothing could be further from the truth. But the only way to experience this is to travel cross-country for yourself!
If that's too grand of a road trip for this summer, check out the 7 Best American Road Trips for Last Minute Getaways.
flickr // auspices
Iceland is a majestic and beautiful country, and one of the best ways to experience it is to spend a couple of weeks circling the entire island in a rented car. As my friend Liz of Young Adventuress describes it, Iceland's Ring Road (also known as Route 1) is "830 miles of adventure and surprises." Just be sure to read all the do's and don'ts of an Iceland road trip before you go!
India's diversity cannot be understated. From the deserts of the west to the lush and rainy mountain hills in the far east, the climate, flora, and fauna change as dramatically across the country as do the people and the food. While some of this is seen when traveling the country by bus or train, only when you navigate the roads yourself does this become clear.
Earlier this year I traveled 3,000 kilometres from the far west of India to the far east ... by rickshaw! With a top of only 55 km/hr (around 35 mph) it took us two weeks, but was absolutely incredible. Highly recommended — and possible for you to do. Learn more here.
One of the most popular year-round beach destinations in Texas is South Padre Island. Although the island is most known for being a party haven of college students every spring break, it is also popular with families all summer and snowbirds all winter. The island may be small but is perfect for relaxing (as long as you are not trying to do that during spring break, of course). So the next time you need a quick weekend getaway, South Padre Island is where to go -- and this is how you make the most of it in just 48 hours!
Beaches are fun, but don't spend all your time lying around on them. Get up and go try something new. There are plenty of fun and exciting water-based activities available in South Padre, from kiteboarding to wakeboarding, kayaking, parasailing, snorkeling, scuba diving (and certification), even surfing. Pick one or two that you have never tried before and give it a shot!
Most visitors come to South Padre Island for its beaches, obviously, however there is more to do than that. The island boasts several great parks and nature centers, such as Andy Bowie Park and the SPI Birding and Nature Center. Or for those looking for a bit more adventure, consider trying fly boarding while in South Padre, a hot new water-based activity that you may recognize from TV or the movies. It is essentially a water-powered jetpack that propels the wearer into the air and is wicked fun!
One of the best things about all islands is the abundance of good seafood. Thankfully South Padre is no exception to the rule. Blackbeards' restaurant is a laid-back and affordable place with great seafood. They are also the proud home of the best onion rings on the island. Don't believe me? Try them for yourself!
Or if you want to treat yourself or take your loved one out somewhere nice to enjoy a romantic sunset dinner and a cocktail or two, look no further than the Sea Ranch Restaurant, the island's premiere dining establishment and a local favorite for nearly 40 years. Try the Ahi Tuna, my personal favorite. Or if you've been out fishing recently, bring your catch in here and their chefs will turn it into a delicious dinner.
Just because the sun has set doesn't mean the fun has to stop. If you still have energy left before heading back to your South Padre hotel, consider heading over to Clayton's Beach Bar & Grill. The serve both seafood and traditional American staples such as burgers and buffalo wings, however their real claim to fame is being the largest beach bar in all of Texas. Live music and concerts are regular events here that definitely help make for a memorable South Padre experience!
As a native Texan, I've been to Padre more times than I can count. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask away!
Millions visit Hawaii every year for the beaches and volcanoes, however there is much more to the islands than that! Even in and around Honolulu tons of offbeat activities abound -- if you know where to look. So the next time you find yourself on a crowded Waikiki Beach and want to break free of the masses and do something uniquely Hawaiian, here's where to start:
Places like Manoa Falls and the Maunawili Trail are beautiful, however they are also overcrowded. To find somewhere less touristy but still beautiful, head on out to Likeke Falls just a few miles northeast of Honolulu. Although the falls are not as big as Manoa Falls, the view along the hike more than makes up for it! Just bring shoes because it is always muddy.
Located about thirty minutes outside of Honolulu on the original fields, the Dole Pineapple Plantation includes a museum housed in a replica of the old Dole plantation home, as well as The Pineapple Express, a train tour through the fields. However, their claim to fame is the world's largest maze, built entirely out of Hawaiian pineapple plants and certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Hidden within the 137,000-square-foot maze are six stations with uniquely shaped hole punches. Each maze-goer is given a card with which to collect these punch marks. However, if one should get frustrated or give up, the card can be ripped open to reveal a map. Those who complete the maze with all the punch marks on an unopened card win a prize if their time is one of the daily or weekly tops.
The plantation is located on the Kamehameha Highway and reachable by bus if traveling on a budget.
Lesser-known than the Dole Plantation is the re-creation of a 1900s sugar plantation, Hawaii Plantation Village. It is a detailed look at the history and development of Hawaiian plantations, crops, immigrant workers, and the modern economy. Several tours are offered, all under $10.00 per person, with the longest lasting over two hours. The museum is nonprofit and sorely in need of extra funding, so make sure to buy your bottled water there, instead of bringing it with you.
Since the 1960s, more than 50 Hollywood blockbusters have been filmed on the Kualoa Ranch, including "Godzilla" and "Jurassic Park," as well as TV shows like "Lost." Production gear and props still exist, providing ample selfie opportunities as you get a guided tour through the exciting and beautiful history of this corner of The Big Island. And because Hollywood's "Hawaii Backlot" is still used every year, there is always a chance of encountering a shoot in progress.
The food truck trend has caught on in Hawaii, and scattered throughout the city are a variety of shrimp trucks, all of which serve succulent, mouth-watering shrimp. However it's the shrimp trucks on the North Shore that are the most famous -- particularly Giovanni's -- which brings me to my next suggestion.
To truly break free of the Waikiki crowds, head up to the North Shore for a night or two. There are still plenty of hotels, resorts and beaches, but far fewer people. However, keep in mind that the North Shore is a surfers' paradise famous for its waves, which can be several feet even on a calm day. Not ideal for young children or a relaxing float.
Of course we all know that Hawaii can be an expensive destination, but it doesn't have to be if you plan ahead. Keep an eye out for flight specials by signing up for alerts with one of those airline search sights (whichever your favorite happens to be).See More Offbeat Travel Guides United States Travel Ideas
I have been an adrenaline junkie as far back as I can remember... having already gone skydiving, bungee jumping and hang gliding to name a few... I am still seeking my next rush!! My little sister has been asking me to come on an adventure for a while now, eager to one day skydive with me. I am however, not prepared to jump out of a plane with my sister just yet. So I brought her, as test, to the World's Tallest Slingshot in Orlando, Florida to see if she was really ready to roll with the "Big Dogs"!
Looking at this slingshot, it really doesn't seem too bad. However, being thrown into the air well... let's just say that's another story. I am pretty sure my eyes rolled into the back of my head, but overall it was an enjoyable experience for just 25 bucks!!!
After viewing the video, I must say my little sister is definitely on her way to being able to handle some of my adventures. Who knows.. Maybe even skydive! I chose to refrain from commenting on my friend sitting next to me and my sister... I think he embarrassed himself enough in the video... don't you think? After all, we definitely couldn't see Jamaica from the slingshot. :)
So, if you desire a quick thrill without paying a whole bunch of money...check out the slingshot. There are tons of other videos of celebrities doing it, and some people even fainting (check on youtube)... So don't take it lightly.
Nonetheless, I found that my sister may have what it takes to be a part of my adventures and I checked something off my bucket list!! 2 birds with 1 stone! #boom #winning