Derek Freal

Derek Freal

" ǝʌıʇɔǝdsɹǝd ɹǝɥʇouɐ ɯoɹɟ sƃuıɥʇ ǝǝs oʇ ǝʌol ı "
Derek is a perpetual wanderer, cultural enthusiast, and lifelong traveler. He loves going places where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, as well as places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo (supposedly its healthier and more efficient). Say Hello On Twitter!

Medellin. The City of Eternal Spring. This business city turned tourist hub may never be able to shake away the memories of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel, but that's okay. History builds character and the modern Medellin has become one of the safest (and most fun) cities in the world. Plus there are many more memorable things to see, do, eat and enjoy around the city nowadays -- like experiencing a colorful Christmas in Medellin.

Imagine wandering around a city illuminated by over 30 million Christmas lights, including over 800 kilometres of rope lights and tens of thousands of glowing figures and displays. Known as El Alumbrado ("the lighting") this unique tradition is truly one for the bucket list.

Christmas in Colombina is best celebrated in Medellin with El Alumbrado

A Colorful & Delicious Christmas in Medellin, Colombia

Although public lights displays in the city during the holiday season date back to the 1850's, it's really only been during the last 50 years that the modern light show has evolved. Beginning the first week of December and lasting until mid-January, the Christmas lights of Medellin have become such a big event that in recent years more than four million people from around the world come to Medellin to experience El Alumbrado. Nowadays there is a different theme every year -- and gets a little bit more grandiose every year. Past themes include "Colombia is Light" "Our Chistmas" and "Values Illuminate Christmas".

The entire event is focused around the lights over and along the Medellin River, which cuts right through the center of town. Colorful lights flow across the water and illuminate its surface. It truly is a magical sight to behold.

El Alumbrado in Medellin is the perfect way to spend an authentic Christmas in Colombia

According to numbers on last year's El Alumbrado, the Christmas lights are estimated to use 0.8 gigawatt-hours of total electric power over 45 days, which is equivalent to about 50 minutes of total power consumption in city of Medellín over the entire year. The entire event has been coordinated by the Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) since 1967, so we can expect even more extravagent lightings as they approach the 50th anniversary.

El Alumbrado in Medellin is the only way to spend Christmas in Colombia

A Feast for the Eyes and the Stomach

While the lights of Medellin may be the main highlight of the Christmas season, the food comes in a close second. Here are some of my favorite Colombian consumables that every visitor needs to try:

Buñuelos - Fried cheese balls. Unconvinced by that description, need I say more? These juicy treats are so delicious that you can find them year-round in many parts of Colombia. However they are much more common (and addictive) during the Christmas season.

Hojuelas - Because frying makes everything better, hojuelas are also a popular winter pastry. They come in many different forms, from elongated fried crisps to triangluar shapes that resemble samosas and even more elegant designs, such as flowers.

Natilla - This custard pudding comes in a seemingly never-ending variety of shapes, colors and varieties depending upon where you try it. Served cold it may look unappealing at first try it but trust me -- nothing with this much sugar in it can be bad.

Ready for Christmas in Medellin yet?

  This post was brought to you by the fine folks at Medellin Travel @medellin_travel

  flickr // Ivan Jota chilangoco Ivan Jota

Situated in between Fort Worth and Dallas, Arlington, Texas, is home to tons of sights and activities. Best known as the home of the Dallas Cowboys football team and a couple of major amusement parks, Arlington is a fun, touristy city. Many visitors overlook the city's best attractions, though. The next time you find yourself passing through Arlington, check out some of these unique and offbeat destinations

International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame

When people think of Arlington, the first thing that invariably pops into their heads is the sprawling Six Flags Over Texas amusement park. Travel just down the road from the rollercoasters and rides, and you'll find the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame. Located right next to the highway, this place isn't exactly off the beaten path, but it's definitely unique.

Welcome to the International Bowling Museum
photo via eagrick

Did you know that bowling was originally invented by the ancient Egyptians? Or how a bowling ball is made? You can learn lots of interesting things at the bowling museum, even if you're not a big fan of the sport. The museum is full of historical information, a bowlers' hall of fame, and interactive exhibits that offer a great way to kill an hour. There's even a miniature bowling alley at the end for you to get in a round or two before leaving.

If you're a bowler, then visiting this place is a must. The Bowling International Training & Research Center is also located on site, so you could run into a professional bowler during your visit.

World's First Billy Bass Adoption Center

Anyone who lived in the United States in the late 1990s remembers the commercials for the singing fish mounted on a plaque, the Big Mouth Billy Bass. The commercial had one of those annoying jingles that gets stuck in your head. Between the jingle and the sheer ridiculousness of a singing fish hanging on the wall, these things actually proved to be a brief hit before they found their permanent home tucked away in a closet.

The world's first and only Billy Bass adoption center is one of the unique and offbeat places keeping Arlington interesting

The Billy Bass Adoption Center is located within a popular Arlington restaurant known as the Flying Fish. This places serves excellent seafood with a Cajun twist, and it's worth visiting just for the food. The massive collection of novelty singing bass is an added bonus, though. Have one somewhere around your house? Bring it with you and make a donation!

Anish Kapoor's "Sky Mirror"

As the name implies, "Sky Mirror" is a 6-meter-wide stainless-steel dish that serves as a giant mirror. It's angled so that one side reflects down on the people standing in front of it, while the other side reflects up toward the sky. Anish Kapoor, the same artist who created Chicago's famous "Cloud Gate" reflective sculpture, also designed "Sky Mirror."

The Sky Mirror is one of the unique and offbeat places that makes Arlington interesting
photo via vincehuang

Originally unveiled in 2001 in Nottingham, England, "Sky Mirror" quickly became a popular sculpture. It's moved several times over the years and even spawned a couple of imitations. Since 2013, it has resided outside Arlington's AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Do you have any other unique and offbeat destinations to recommend in Arlington?

"During summer when it's 24 hours of daylight, we drink to celebrate that. When it's winter and only a few hours of daylight, we drink just to get through it." Welcome to Iceland, a country with a complex and interesting relationship love of alcohol -- including several unique types of alcohol that are available nowhere else in the world. As such, no trip to Iceland is complete without visiting a few cities and regions that are famous for their local brews.

  Much like the United States, Iceland has a complex past with prohibition -- one that started earlier and lasted many, many decades longer. Enacted in 1915, the ban on alcohol was eventually loosened over the years on certain spirits, but unfortunately beer over 2.25% remained illegal until March 1st, 1989.

In order to have the most authentic Icelandic experience available, be sure to make a few new local friends over the following drinks:

Brennivín

Brennivín is unquestionably the national drink of Iceland. It is a purely Icelandic creation using potato mash and herbs native to this Nordic island nation to create an unsweetened schnapps. Sometimes called "Black Death" in reference to the original bottles, which featured a white skull on a black label, Brennivín is primarily served chilled in shot form. It is often accompanied with Icelandic hákarl (fermented shark), the national dish of Iceland. Although I am an adventurous eater, I much prefer my Brennivín sans-shark. Why? Well, as Anthony Bourdain so eloquently said, Hákarl is "the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing" that he has ever eaten anywhere in the world.

Would you like a little Hákarl with your Brennivín? Yes please!
Would you like a little Hákarl with your Brennivín?

Because Brennivín is unsweetened, outside of Iceland it is sometimes referred to as an "akvavit" instead of a schnapps. Regardless, it is surprisingly smooth, hits hard, and has no shortage of foreign fans despite the fact that Brennivín has never been exported internationally. At least not until 2014 when Egill Skallagrímsson, the countriest premiere Brennivín brand and also an award-winning beer brewery, began exporting Brennivín to the United States -- but no where else. Yet.

  While Brennivín can be found throughout the country, never is it in more abundance than during Þorrablót, the Icelandic mid-winter festival every January.

Fjallagrasa Moss Schnapps

There is an old saying that the worse something tastes, the better it is for you. That would appear to be a big selling point behind Fjallagrasa Moss Schnapps, which yes, is made with real Icelandic moss. There is even a tuft of the famous lichen lovingly included in each bottle produced. Icelandic moss is so important that it is protected by law and has been used medicinally for centuries to treat things such as cough, sore throat and upset stomach. (Of course if you drink too much Fjallagrasa, you are liable to end up with one of these afflictions, rather than curing it.)

Fjallagrasa Moss Schnapps, one of the unique types of alcohol only found in Iceland

The moss is hand-picked in the mountains of Iceland, ground up and mixed with a "specially prepared alcohol blend" which remains a trade secret of IceHerbs, the company that produces Fjallagrasa. It is then soaked for an extended period of time, allowing all of the biologically active components of the moss to dissolve. No other artificial colors or flavors are added.

Just like with Brennivín, as there is no sugar in Fjallagrasa Moss Schnapps, it is technically not a schnapps by international definition. Regardless, it is still consumed around the country for both healthly and recreational purposes.

Iceland has many unique types of alcohol not found anywhere else in the world

Reyka Vodka

Vodka may not be an Nordic creation (we owe Poland for that one) however Icelanders may have perfected it. Reyka Vodka is often referred to as the best vodka in the world by vodka connesiours. Using pure arctic water naturally filtered through a 4,000 year old lava field and then distilled in a top-of-the-line Carter-Head still -- one of only six that exist in the entire world, and the only one that is being used for vodka -- the result is so pure and delicious it goes down like water.

Reyka Vodka, arguably the best vodka in the world

With only one still Reyka is brewed in small batches of only 1,700 litres each, ensuring optimal quality every time. As an added bonus, the entire Reyka distillery is powered by volcanic geo-thermal energy, meaning that the world's best vodka is also the greenest. Everyone wins.

  Although this is Iceland's first distillery, public tours are unfortunately not available. But you can take a digital tour to see exclusive photos and learn more about the process that makes Reyka vodka so special here.

Opal

Opal is a popular licorice candy in Iceland and also the name of an equally popular vodka that also tastes like licorice. As my local buddy put it, "Once you outgrow the candy you switch to the drink." At 27% ABV Opal is not the strongest, but if you are a fan of Jägermeister straight then you will probably enjoy an Opal shot or three.

Opal is a unique type of vodka only found in Iceland

Bjórlíki

Up until 1989, the only type of beer that was legal in Iceland was the weak "near-beer" consisting of only 1-2% alcohol content. However because 40% ABV spirits such as Brennivin and vodka were legal, people would add them to their beer. Known as Bjórlíki, you will never find this for sale in any store or bar. However if you venture off the beaten path and explore the Icelandic countryside, you can taste this beauty for yourself.

Bjorliki, a weak Pilsner spiked with vodka, is a unique type of alcohol only found in Iceland

Björk & Birkir

Made from the sap of birch trees, Björk and Birkir are two relatively new Icelandic creations. Sure they might not have the history or significance of other drinks such as Brennivín and Bjórlíki, but c'mon now where else in the world can find liquor made from birch trees? Yeah, that's what I thought.

As the story goes, the two brothers behind Foss distillery traveled around Iceland sampling all the native flora until they decided that birch was the most delicious. So they planted what will one day become a sustainable birch forest and now gently "borrow" a little sap from the growing trees to make their spirits. Oh and in case you were wondering, the 27.5% ABV Björk is not named after the singer but rather the Icelandic word for "birch". It has an earthy, woody taste with a slightly sweeter finish than the 36% ABV Birkir, but both are intriguing. Either one would make a unique souvenir to take home the next time you travel Iceland.

  BONUS

Celebrate Bjórdagur, Iceland's "Beer Day"

  After nearly 75 years of prohibition, it's time to celebrate. Every March 1st is Iceland's "Beer Day" and it is best celebrated in the capital city of Reykjavik by doing a Rúntur -- the Icelandic word for "pub crawl".

During this time of year the sunset is after midnight and sunrise just before 3am, but because of the lingering glow that exists even after sunset, it never truly gets dark. As such, the "night" is perfect for bar-hopping and celebrating the holiday with some new Icelandic friends. Did I meantion that bars are open until 4am?

Want more unique things to do in Iceland?

The ultimate Iceland off the beaten path travel guide

  flickr // chrisgold considerable_vomit mmepassepartout borkazoid vannortwick

The very mention of Monaco evokes images of glamorous ladies in evening wear escorted by dashing gentlemen to the tables at one of the many casinos in this small country. Monaco is also known for its Formula One Grand Prix, besides being a popular tax haven for the rich and famous, as well as the rich and not so famous. Glitz, glamour, and the spectacular landscape are all reasons to add the country to your itinerary planner. Here are some not-to-be-missed destinations in this tiny nation that is part of the French Riviera.

Roll the Dice at Monte Carlo Casino and Opera House

Monte Carlo Casino and Opera House
Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco by Paul Wilkinson

A venue for special gala dinners, the Casino and Opera House also houses a marble paved atrium. What catches the eye, though, are the magnificent onyx columns that surround the atrium. With a 130-year-old history under its belt, this building was also the venue of two royal gala dinners. The casino is unique given its stained glass windows, allegorical paintings, bronze lamps, and spectacular decorations. The Casino has also been featured in quite a few notable Hollywood movies including the James Bond series and Ocean's Twelve.

Swim With the Fish at the Oceanographic Museum


Oceanographic Museum, Monaco by wami82

Perched on the Rock of Monaco, this museum of marine sciences is a stunning example of Baroque Revival architecture which by itself is sufficient to ensure it a place on your Monaco travel planner. The museum which towers over the cliff face makes for a picturesque setting. It took 11 years to construct this building which is now home to various several thousand sea creatures including sharks and turtles. The Oceanographic Institute devoted to the study of oceans and their inhabitants are also housed here.

Get a Taste of the Royal Life at Palais du Prince

Palais du Prince, Monaco
Palais du Prince, Monaco by healinglight

The building of the Palace dates back to the 13th century and has its origins as a fortress, but has since been turned into a luxurious palace. There is a gallery with 15th-century frescoes that will leave you awe-struck. The gilded décor of the ‘Blue Room’, the 17th century Palatine Chapel, and the Main Courtyard with its spectacular Carrara marble double staircase make it a ‘must-see’ addition to your Monaco trip planner. Don’t forget to check out the Changing of the Guards ceremony that takes place at about noon each day.

Commune with Nature at the Jardin Exotique de Monaco

Jardin exotique de Monaco
Jardin exotique de Monaco by Sylvain Leprovost

Situated on a steep cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Ocean, this garden is home to varied species of plants from Africa, Arabia, and Latin America. There are at least 7,000 types of succulents which thrive in the great climate the region enjoys. Stalagmites and stalactites are found in the Observatory cave situated on the premises. You can further enrich your knowledge of the pre-historic era and early civilisation with a visit to the Anthropology Museum situated within the property.

Hop on a Catamaran for a Spin around Monaco Harbour

Monaco Harbor
Catamaran rides, Monaco by Dennis Jarvis

The harbour at this princely state is always filled with moored luxury yachts from across the world. It is a great place for a stroll and you can find plenty of places to grab a bite to eat as you watch the spectacular yachts pull out or weigh anchor. Catamaran rides are available for a closer look at the coastline. If you are lucky you might be able to catch a glimpse of the rich and famous arriving to attend one of the many galas or races that take place in Monaco Harbour.

The small size of the country makes it easy to get around and see it all without having to travel too much. Don’t forget to take a close look at the narrow city streets where Formula One drivers race down in May each year!

Exploring the fjords and glaciers. Embracing the midnight sun. Breathtaking scenery and one of the homes of the Northern Lights. A vibrant sauna culture. Yes, Norway is known for a lot of things. However the country is not known for its one-of-a-kind museums, eccentric artists and lust for liquor. But maybe it should be. The next time you find yourself in Oslo, make sure to check out at least one of the unique and offbeat destinations:

  But first a gift for all you Pinterest addicts...

All the quirky, unique and offbeat things to do in Oslo, Norway

The Mini Bottle Gallery

When you think of a glass bottle collection, do you think or of ships and other miniatures inside of bottles? Regardless of which answer you picked, this is the place for you! Welcome to The Mini Bottle Gallery, the only museum of its kind in the world. It is home to over 50,000 bottles of all shapes, sizes and designs.

The unique and offbeat Mini Bottle Gallery in Oslo, Norway, is home to a collection of over 50,000 bottles, the world's largest

The owner is a fourth generation descendent of the Ringnes brewery founders and one of Norway's most affluent businessmen. His love of bottles started as a kid upon receiving a half bottle of gin as a gift and has grown over the years into a massive collection.

In spring of 2000, Ringnes purchased a building in the heart of Oslo, and three years later the museum opened. Most bottles are full of alcohol but others have fruits, berries, even animals. Public hours are limited to between noon and 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays only, however private visits for large groups can be scheduled in advance for alternative days.

  Official Web Site

Light fixture made out of old glass bottles at the unique and one-of-a-kind Mini Bottle Gallery in Oslo, Norway
Looking up at a light fixture on the ceiling made from colored glass bottles

Torggata

All those beer and liquor bottles have you craving a drink? Head on over to Torggata, specifically the blocks in between Youngs Gate and Hausmanns Gate. 6-7 years ago this was a seedy street full of trash, graffiti and drug dealers. Now it is full of trendy new restaurants and bars, and street art has replaced graffiti. Yes, Torggata has quickly become one of the hippest parts of Oslo.

The shit shop on Torggata in Oslo, Norway
Restaurants, bars and stores that sell shit. Welcome to Torggata.

Cobblestone streets. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Outdoor diners enjoying the day. And a strong emerging nightlife. This is Torggata, where McDonald's struggles and exotic foreign cuisine florishes. Jaime Pesaque, the renowned Peruvian chef with restaurants in Lima, Dubai and Milano (just to name a few), now has one in Torggata as well: Piscoteket

The entire area is full of restaurants serving different cuisines from around the world, and most of these also serve alcohol as well. However there are plenty of dedicated bars to. Just go for a stroll and stop in whatever place catches your eye. Guarantee you'll have fun!

Norwegian Museum of Magic

Traditional museums have a tendancy to be boring, it's okay, we can all agree here. That's why it is our duty as travelers to support all those strange, quirky and one-of-a-kind museums scattered around the world. My rule is this: if the museum name makes you think "WTF" then you're obligated to go inside.

Over the last two decades more and more professional magicians are worrying that their trade is dying. Some magicians are revealing the secrets behind popular tricks, to inspire a new younger generation to follow in their footsteps. Others are devising newer and more elaborate stunts with the help of modern technology. Meanwhile in Norway a group of magicians began collecting magician memorabilia to tell their story.

Free entrance to the Museum of Magic in Oslo, Norway when you attend one of the Sunday magic shows

By 2001 this collection of posters, props, photographs and gear had grown so large it needed to be moved to its own apartment (exterior pictured above). Thus Norsk Tryllemuseum, the Norway Museum of Magic, was officially born.

Note: The museum is only open on Sundays from 1pm-4pm with a magic show at 2pm. Ideally, you are supposed to go for the show and enjoy the museum as a "free bonus".

  Official Web Site

  More Unique & Offbeat Museums Around The World

Vigeland Installation at Frogner Park

Gustav Vigeland was one of Norway's most esteemed sculptors and nowadays is known throughout the world. His easily recognizeable work are thos iconic statues of human beings doing, well, human things. Vigeland was also the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal.

In a deal with the Oslo government, Vigeland agreed to donate all his future works to the city. By the time he passed away in 1943 this was over 200 sculptures. Together they cover a sprawling 80 acres and comprise the largest sculpture park in the world created by a single artist. The pinnacle of all this artwork is a 14-metre tall monstrosity known as The Monolith. Carved entirely out of granite, 121 writhing bodies for a human totem pole obelisk.

The Gustav Vigeland Installation at Frogner Park -- 212 statues that make up the largest sculpture park in the world created by a single artist. And one of the cool, quirky and unique sights to see in Oslo, Norway

The park is open 24 hours a day and entrance is free, however it is quite popular with both locals and tourists, so try to avoid visiting at peak hours.

  Official Web Site

Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum

That's right, Gustav Vigeland had several brothers, one of which became a famous artist: Emanuel Vigeland. Although he never attained the same level of fame as his older brother, he was nonetheless an accomplished sculptor, painter and stained glass artist.

The mausoleum itself is an intriguing homage to life, death and sex, all rolled into one. It was originally intended to be a museum but halfway through Emanuel changed his mind and decided to combine mausoleum and museum into one. Shaped like a small church with bricked up windows, the acoustics of the building are so powerful that speaking loudly is simply not possible.

The Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum is one of the cool, quirky and unique sights to see in Oslo, Norway

When Emanuel passed away 1948 he was creamted and ashes placed within a low-hanging niche above the entry. The end result is that every guest of the mausoleum has to bow down to Emanuel on their way out.

  Official Web Site

Of course this is only the tip of the glacier of things to do in Oslo. For more advice and information for what to do and where, check out this Norway travel guide....and have fun!

What other unique or quirky Oslo sights are there?

  More Offbeat Travel Guides     More On Norway

  flickr   //   iammadforit   glimeend   vidariv   aaslex   BONO

The beauty of the U.S. mountain states lies in their diversity. Imagine climbing some of the highest mountains in the country or driving through a wide expanse of desert lands — or hiking through beautiful canyons and jumping into a blue lagoon. You'll fall in love with the beauty. Here are some destinations in both the northwest and southwest regions of the mountain states.

Flagstaff, Arizona: Base of Your Adventures

Flagstaff is a city graced with diverse landscapes: picturesque deserts, serene mountains, and pine forests. It is the entry point for your Humphrey's Peak adventure and the Grand Canyon. Alternative destinations are the Wupatki National Monument and the Walnut Canyon National Museum, where you can immerse yourself in the rich history of the area. Finding great hotels in Flagstaff should be the least of your concern. At DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Flagstaff, your comfortable bed ensures a sound sleep. Plus, you'll get a complimentary cookie upon check-in.

Salt Lake City, Utah: Home of Canyonlands

For a city, there is none more geographically gifted than Salt Lake City, which lies between the Wasatch mountain ranges and Great Salt Lake. You can explore the nearby Canyonlands National Park to explore. Take in the buttes designed by the Colorado River. If you prefer knowing the city more, check the architecture of Temple Square, the Salt Lake Tabernacle, and in Utah State Capitol, to name just three. If you're on a budget, you can find cheap Salt Lake City hotels. For its strategic location, Residence Inn by Marriott Salt Lake City – Downtown makes everything within reach and is affordable.

Saint George, Utah: Love by the Border

Situated in southwestern Utah, Saint George is near the border between Utah and Arizona, making it an ideal location for travelers who have long road trips in mind. Trek through Snow Canyon Park, and wait for the gorgeous sunset. Visit Sand Hollow State Park, the Mojave Desert, or the Pine Valley Mountains. You can easily find affordable hotels in Saint George. For example, The INN at Saint George offers great comfort for a very reasonable price.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado: A Dip in the Hot Spring

Hearing the name Glenwood Springs may make you think of the huge Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. Imagine dipping your tired body in welcoming warm water. It's an instant cure for your sore muscles after a day of hiking around the Hanging Lake Trail or enjoying Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. If you're looking for upscale Glenwood Springs hotels, try The Hotel Denver, situated near the train station. This hotel provides great breakfast choices, and its rooms are elegant and comfortable.

Billings, Montana: The Thrill of the Magic City

Billings, the largest Montana city, is not nicknamed the Magic City for nothing. The name came from the city's rapid growth, and Billings continues to grow. For leisure and business travelers alike, there are many things to do here. Pictograph Cave State Park and the Rimrocks appeal to the adventurous, while the Western Heritage Center and the Yellowstone Country Museum interest the history lovers. If you're looking for Billings hotels that fuse the historical and the exciting, the Northern Hotel may be the perfect place for you.

Mountain state destinations are among the most exciting in the U.S. So go ahead and pack so you can find your own adventure.

  Featured photo by Annette Kirk via trover.com

  This post was originally published on Backpacking With a Book by Jona.

Some time ago, we posted a list of 16 must-see places before you die—or, in other words, an ideal travel bucket list. But while it can take a lot of time, money and effort to check these places off, it's also never a bad idea to add a few more destinations to the list. You might live to be 100, but you're not going to see too much of the world. That's just not really possible!

So here are five more must-see places to include in your plans.

1. Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, Cambodia, a destination that should be on everyone's travel bucket list

Often mysteriously ignored as one of the world's most incredible sights, Cambodia's Angkor Wat is an ancient temple of the Khmer Empire that at one point lorded over a vast portion of Asia. Although, as Nomadic Matt points out, it's not a lone tourism destination. That site offers detailed travel tips for a huge range of places all over the world, and notes that there are several temples in the area worth visiting. But the chance to tour Angkor Wat in particular is breathtaking. It's a massive, ornate temple built into a jungle landscape, and you can actually take a tour through it, rather than simply look at it from afar. The article from Nomadic Matt also mentions that a nicer hotel room in Siem Reap, the closest major city, will only cost about 50,000 KHR, or roughly $12 per night.

2. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe, one of the most beautiful places in the USA

As far as travel destinations go, the U.S. is known largely for its big cities and fun beaches. Too often the beauty of the country, particularly in the western and northwestern regions, is ignored. And nothing exemplifies that beauty quite like Lake Tahoe. Known for some of the best skiing in the U.S. and as a pristine natural getaway during the rest of the year, it truly is a stunning place to visit. Accommodations are expensive pretty much across the board, but no matter when you go it's a trip you won't forget.

3. Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal in Agra, India, a destination that should be on every travel bucket list

The Taj Mahal is frequently mentioned as a bucket list destination, though it didn't make our last write-up. It's recognized all over the world as a stunning feat of architecture—but it's more than a fancy building. Lottoland's hub for the EuroMillions lottery recently wrote up its own bucket list travel article, and pointed out that the Taj Mahal is actually a tomb (whereas many might assume it's a palace). The construction was completed by Shah Jahan in the 1630s to honor his wife. Now, it stands as one of the true wonders of the world, and a must-see stop on any trip to India.

4. African Safari

An African safari should be on every travel bucket list!

Simply put, an African safari is one of the most incredible experiences you can have while traveling. You'll encounter gorgeous landscapes and fascinating wild animals, and ultimately feel a sense of both peace and adventure that's difficult to find anywhere else. Different countries and national parks throughout Africa provide different sights, but with a little bit of research into the country's best safari destinations, you can likely find something that appeals to you. Sometimes that might mean a traditional safari with a chance at seeing all kinds of animals; sometimes it means a trek to observe a specific type of primate; and sometimes it may even mean a river cruise where you'll spot crocodiles, hippos, and elephants cooling off.

5. Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands, Denmark, a top-rated destination for your bucket list

Iceland has been mentioned so often as an up-and-coming travel destination in recent years that it's hard to imagine it being underrated any longer. The word is out about Iceland. So if you like the idea of a northern Atlantic island getaway, but you prefer someplace off the beaten path, you should probably check out the Faroe Islands. Located almost exactly at the midpoint between the UK, Iceland, and Norway, these beautiful little islands are more accessible than they might sound. Rugged coastal areas, winding roads, and gorgeous seaside (and lakeside) views pretty much set the tone for a vacation focused on hiking and sightseeing, though the islands are also known for their own cuisines, as well as occasional events like music festivals.

It's no secret that travel is addicting. You cannot take just one trip and then return home without wondering what other spectacular sights, foods and experiences await. Expanding markets like India and China are unleashing more than a hundred million tourists into the foreign travel market a year and still growing steadily. The of rise social media influencers and digital nomads have shown the public that it is possible to travel and have a successful career. That combined with the abundance of professional travel bloggers and vloggers are inspiring a new generation of informed travelers.

Navagio Beach aka Shipwreck Beach in Greece

But once the travel bug bites, what do you do?

Find a way to incorporate work into your travels. In this digital age where so much can be done from a phone or tablet and wifi is never far away, it is easier than ever to work online.

Take amazing photographs?   Consider selling your photos online. You don't even need a portfolio or blog, just join one of the popular stock photography web sites. Alamy and Shutterstock are two of the most popular, both with photographers and customers. Already have a web site? Check out PhotoShelter or SmugMug. In fact here is a great guide on the most profitable places to sell your photos online.

Native English speaker? Bilingual?   English speakers are in demand in a lot of non-English countries. TEFL courses can be taken in person or online, and likewise classes can be held in a physical room or via Skype. Hell some countries don't even care if you have no experience or degree, just that you are a native English speaker. (Like Vietnam!) Professional translation services are also in demand because, let's be honest, Google translate just isn't that reliable.

Already well-traveled or know one location VERY well?   Become a tour guide or travel agent. Several veteran travel bloggers have started their own tour companies. Use your knowledge and eperience to help other people have a rewarding and worry-free trip.

That's what my friends Gunjan and Pranjali did.

Gujan and Pranjali of Tripoetic at Yellowstone National Park in the USA
Gunjan & Pranjali at Yellowstone

After having lived in the United States and traveled around Asia and Europe, Gunjan and Pranjali moved back to India. As more and more Indians are acquiring both the means and the motivation to travel abroad, they soon found themselves using their knowledge to help plan trips for friends and family. Soon they realized their next logical step was to turn this into their career.

Everyone starts off as a tourist and, if they visit enough places, eventually become more traveler than tourist. Travelers learn more, appreciate more and experience more than tourists. That is hands-down the most rewarding way to travel.

The beauty of having an experienced traveler help plan your trip is that they can use their knowledge to ensure that your trip is more of an authentic travel experience, rather than getting caught in an unenjoyable tourist trap. With India's outbound tourism market growing at record numbers, there is no better time for Gunjan and Pranjali to start building toward the future. And thus Tripoetic was born.

Gujan and Pranjali of Tripoetic in Athens, Greece

Using contacts and friendships from their travels around the world, not to mention all their experiences from planning their own journeys, these two travel addicts are now planning trips for all sorts of people with many varied backgrounds. Every trip is custom planned based around your interests, goals, must-see sights, timeframe, budget and of course stomach. (That's right, if you want to make sure you can have your favorite comfort food once every other day, Tripoetic will ensure that an appropriate restaurant is worked into the itinerary.)

Beyond just simply making reservations and handling transportation, Tripoetic takes it one step further by provided extra little services to make your journey smoother. For example, every traveler is also given a daily sightseeing itinerary -- kind of like a miniature guide to everything nearby that might be of interest to you. After all, nothing worse than getting home and learning that you not only missed out on a spectacular site, but that you actually were within minutes of it and didn't even realize.

If you are thinking about heading abroad for the very first time and are a little nervous or only have a short time to pull off a perfect vacation, make sure to get with Gunjan and Pranjali at Tripoetic. They'll handle everything to ensure that you have a wonderful trip.

  Remember: The beauty of travel is that it is a powerful force towards economic uplifting and great tool for putting foreign money directly in the hands of the locals who need it the most -- but only if we avoid the massive international chains and trust in local, family-owned businesses. Travel far, buy local. And always trust in your fellow travelers. Because as Mark Twain famously said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."

Multi-colored volcanic lakes. Haunted resorts. The world's largest mud volcano. The world's most elaborate funerals. An abandoned chicken church and other abandoned structures. Yes, this is Indonesia Off The Beaten Path.

When I arrived in Indonesia for the first time ever, I assumed one month would be long enough to see all there was worth seeing. HA! How wrong I was. Here it is many years later and I'm still finding new places to travel in Indonesia.

Indonesia is one of those countries where for every one place you visit, you learn of two more places that you have to visit. You're never done. There is always more.

Unfortunately most visitors stick to the same overcrowded sights and miss out on all the amazing, offbeat and unique sights and activities just around the corner from popular tourist destinations. My job is to keep you from doing just that. So save this list! The next time you find yourself in Indonesia, make sure to visit at least a couple of this unique, offbeat destinations:

The World's Largest Mud Volcano

  Not far from Suarabya

In May of 2006 a drilling accident in Sidoarjo resulted in the formation of a mud volcano. Mud has been flowing out ever since, swallowing up everything nearby. Ten years later and the mud is still flowing, the victims have only been compensated a fraction of what they were promised, and the drilling company has weaseled its way out of all responsibility. What remains has turned into a one-of-a-kind off the beaten path attraction.

The manmade Sidoarjo Mud Volcano totally screwed things up for the people of that town. Surprisingly few people know about it though. That's why it is one of the unique, quirky and off the beaten path things to do in Surabaya, Indonesia
More photos can be found on Inside Other Places

You won't find any signs or entrance lines, but you may find locals who will charge you a few rupiah to see the sights or to be your motorcycle tour guide. As long as they don't ask for something completely unreasonable, just go for it -- they need it more than you in this case.

  Sidoarjo is located 25km south of Suarabya and the mud volcano is located on the south side of town near the river. It's pretty hard to miss. This is what it looks like from above:

Aerial view of the Sidoarjo Mud Volcano as well as the damage to surrounding residents and roads

Although mud flow has dropped from 100,000 cubic metres per day to less than 10,000m3/day, scientists estimate that it could continue erupting for another 20-30 years.

The Abandoned Chicken Church

  Not far from Yogyakarta

Aerial view of the Chicken Church of Magelang, one of the unique and off the beaten path destinations in Indonesia

Move over Borobodur, you've got some competition! Another place of worship has risen up past the jungle treetops just 2 kilometres away. The story begins in 1989 when an elderly man visiting his wife's family in Magelang was struck with a "vision from God" that told him to build a church atop this particular hill. So he bought 3,000 square metres of land on Rhema Hill and built this omnistic (open to all religions) church shaped like a chicken. (Or as he called it, a Dove.) The church finally opened its doors for a few years in the mid-1990s but it wasn't long before money dried up and the property was abandoned. Designed to look like a dove, the church so much resembles a chicken that it is known to the locals as Gereja Ayam ("Chicken Church").

Aerial view of the Chicken Church of Magelang, one of the unique and offbeat destinations in Indonesia

Given the Chicken Church's prominent location atop a hill just a couple kilometres further down Jalan Raya Borobordur past Borobordur, it's not too hard to find. However if you get lost, just ask any local, "Dimana Geraja Ayam?" ("Where is the Chicken Church?") Oh and dress accordingly as it does require a short hike through the brush and up the hill.

The Tri-Colored Lakes

  Not far from Komodo National Park

The tri-colored lakes of Kelimutu Volcano, Flores, one of the unique and offbeat destinations in Indonesia

Kelimutu Volcano has a good reputation with tourists of Indonesia who make it as far East as Flores and Komodo National Park. However few outside of this niche group have ever heard of Kelimutu Volcano, also known as the Tri-Colored Lakes. The mountaintop is home to three crater lakes of three different colors! The westernmost lake, Tiwu Ata Bupu (Lake of Old People), is blue, Tiwu Ko'o Fai Nuwa Muri (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) in the middle is green, and Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched or Enchanted Lake) is red. Of course their colors have been known to vary slightly, which researchers assume is from fluctuations in the gases from the volcano.

Aerial view of the three-colored lakes of Kelimutu Volcano, Flores, one of the unique and offbeat destinations in Indonesia
Aerial view of the tri-colored lakes of Kelimutu via Michael Day

The Tri-Colored lakes of Kelimutu were not discovered until 1915 and the last official eruption was in 1968. However water in the lakes was boiling for several days back in 2005 and again 2013. As geologists worry that the next eruption could destroy the tri-colored lakes, research there is ongoing.

  Given everything, I recommend visiting sooner rather than later. And staying one night nearby so that you can catch the sunrise from Kelimutu.

Like what you're reading?     More Offbeat Travel Guides

Witness A Tana Toraja Funeral Ceremony

  Far from everything. In Sulawesi

A Torajan funeral can last for weeks! Definitely one of the unique and one of a kind offbeat destinations in Indonesia
via Arian Zwegers

The funeral ceremonies of the Toraja people are certainly not off the beaten path anymore -- they've been covered by journalists, photographers, researchers, bloggers and cultural preservationists before. Many, many times before. However no list of unique and offbeat activities in Indonesia would be complete without mentioning them.

In Toraja culture, a funeral is more a celebration of life than a mourning of death. The most extravagent event in their entire lives is, ironically, their funeral. They are elaborate affairs that can last for weeks and cost a fortune. People in Tana Toraja work and save their entire life not for their future, but for their funeral. Sometimes funerals are even delayed for years after the deceased has passed in order to give the family time to raise the remainder of the money necessary for these grand events. During this time in limbo the body will wait patiently inside the family home, waiting for its burial....up on a cliffside.

In Tana Toraja the deceased are
via Arian Zwegers

Yes, rather than bury their deceased in the ground, Torajans place them inside of a wooden coffin and hang it up on a cliffside. Sometimes these are just propped on the side of the rock wall. Occasionally childrens' coffins are just suspended by rope. However if the family is wealthy enough, they will carve out a miniature cave in the rockface with enough room for several family members. A handcarved wooden effigy is then placed outside and facing away, to watch out over the land and protect the deceased.

Nusa Penida Island: Like Bali Was 40 Years Ago

  Not far from Bali

Nusa Penida Island, Bali's hidden paradise -- and one of the unique and off the beaten path destinations in Indonesia

In between Bali and Lombok lies a small little island known as Nusa Penida. It is a pristine paradise, home to several small villages, plenty of deserted beaches, and only one hotel and one bungalow complex. Nusa Pendia is Bali's Hidden Paradise. Thanks to minimal tourim the traditional way of life still exists here. It's like Bali was 40 years ago.

Come here for a few days to escape the tourists and the touts. Rent a motorcycle and explore the island. It actually takes several days to cover every road, village and beach. Up north you'll find countless seaweed farms that are a photographer's dream. There is even a Buddhist temple inside of a cave! Even as I type this, I'm still wearing the bracelet I got from the priest during my blessing there back in 2014.

Seaweed farmers hard at work on Nusa Penida Island, Bali's hidden paradise -- and one of the unique and off the beaten path destinations in Indonesia
Seaweed farmers hard at work on Nusa Penida

  Don't miss Tanglad, the mountaintop village of Nusa Penida. It is known throughout Indonesia for its colorful tenun fabric, which is still handmade to this day. Learn more here.

The Controversial Equator Monument

  Not far from Pontianak, Kalimantan

The Pontianak Equator Monument is not actually on the equator. That is why it is one of the unique and offbeat destinations of Indonesia.
via Stefan Krasowski

While most of the Indonesian archipelago lies south of the equator, this invisible line cuts Kalimantan in half. Just a few kilometres north of the town of Pontianak lies a monument that is supposedly on top of the equator. Or was. Much like the fake equator monument in Ecuador, GPS has since revealed that this location of this monument is not on the real equator. Another small marking has been erected a slight distance away that is supposed to signify where the equator has "moved" too, but this too is debated. Regardless, the monument still stands and is definitely worth stopping by for a photo opportunity if you find yourself in the neighborhood.

The Abandoned Beach Resort

  Not far from Denpasar, Bali

The abandoned Beach Bountry Club Bungalows on Gili Meno are one of the unique and offbeat destinations of Indonesia.

As a result of the terrorist bombings in Bali in 2002, international tourism temporarily stopped and the Beach Bounty Club Bungalows never officially opened. These 26 luxury bungalows and their grounds have ever since remained quietly stuck in time as nature gradually takes back over. Located on the southwest coast of Gili Meno, they are not hard to find. Most likely you will have the entire place yourself. Ferries are available from Lombok or fast boats from Bali -- at both Sanur Beach and Padangbai.

  There is another abandoned resort located on Bali that suffered a similar fate in 2002 before it could ever open its doors. Located on the mountainside near Bedugal Lake lies the Taman Rekreasi Bedugul, also known as the Ghost Palace Hotel, this place is far creepier than the Beach Bounty Bungalows.

Of course these are but a fraction of all the amazing things to do in Indonesia. Take my advice and definitely book the longest trip possible. And no matter where you decide to visit, check out Traveloka.com for cheap hotels throughout Indonesia.

  Know of any other quirky or off the beaten path destinations in Indonesia?

  More Offbeat Travel Guides     Indonesia Archives

Planning a visit to London? After booking your flight and picking the perfect London hotel, the next item on the list is figuring out where to dine in this British metropolis. London is packed with everything from expensive, swanky restaurants to ultra-affordable, no-frills street vendors. The great thing about this city is that whether you dine in luxury or while just lounging on a park bench, you can enjoy some truly delicious food.

But what should you eat while you're there? You'll be bombarded with international cuisine options and hearty English dishes everywhere you turn. Tantalizing smells will waft from street carts, cafes and restaurants alike, all of which make it more difficult to decide what to eat. But on a limited jaunt in this city, you'll want to make your menu selections carefully. It's important to enjoy the traditional flavors this city serves up without missing out on some of the more exotic offerings.

To help travelers make the most of every meal in London, we've put together this hassle-free guide to the city's best dishes. Use this menu to make sure you don't miss out on the incredible flavors that London has to offer during your visit.

Top foods to try in London infographic

  This article was originally published on IHG on May 9th, 2016.

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