Whether you’re well-traveled or planning your first vacation, these five unique places should be on everyone’s list of truly unique places to explore.
Our first stop takes us to the imaginary and mythical world of Tolkien and the Hobbiton film location in New Zealand. It’s the kingdom of the Hobbits and the place that Frodo and Bilbo Baggins both called home.
In Hobbiton, homes disappear into the earth. The only hint of their existence is doorways located on the sides of hills. It’s said that once you pass over the threshold of one of these unusual houses, you enter a beautiful home that would “arouse the jealousy of everyone.” Because Hobbits love to party and drink, be sure stop at the Green Dragon Inn. There you’ll get a true taste of the Lord of the Rings with a pint of their finest hobbit ale.
The Door to Hell
In the Karakum Desert of north-central Turkmenistan, a flaming crater has been burning for decades. The sights and sounds coming from this crater are so frightening that the locals call it the “Door of Hell.” The crater is 98 feet deep and 226 feet across. It covers an area that is almost as big as a football field. The flames and heat are so intense that you can’t even stand close to many parts of the crater’s edge.
The flames are caused by natural gas that seeps from cracks in the surrounding rocks of the crater. This causes thousands of flames to burn continuously throughout the door to hell.
The Great Blue Hole
The Great Blue Hole is located in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll near Belize City located along the Caribbean coast. Discovered by marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau, the Great Blue Hole is approximately 1,000 feet across and about 400 feet deep.
Blue holes are generally underwater sinkholes or inland caves. They are generally located in low-lying coastal areas. Most inland blue holes contain a mixture of saltwater and freshwater. Due to these unique water conditions, skeletal remains of extinct and still living species are well-preserved inside blue holes. Divers all over the world come to see the huge stalactites and stalagmites inside the passages of Belize’s Great Blue Hole.
Glass Beach is located in the Mackerricher State Park near Fort Bragg in California. Due to its unique composition, it’s a popular tourist attraction. This remarkable beach stretches for miles. Its sand is covered by glass that can be safely walked upon.
Once this ocean area and beach were used as a landfill. The waves have eroded and weathered the glass fragments, then washed them to the shore.
Glass beach is a breathtaking attraction. Some people describe the beach as a fine piece of jewelry. Although there are many other glass beaches around the world, this California beach is by far the largest and most unique.
Lake Retba is a pink lake in Senegal in West Africa. It’s one of the world’s saltiest lakes. In fact, with a saline level of 40%, it’s even saltier than the Dead Sea which has a saline level of 34%. The color of the lake varies by season and is more pronounced between November and June, during the dry season. At other times of the year, the pink color of the water is diluted by rainwater. The lake’s unusual color is caused by Dunaliella salina algae which is one of the few organisms that can tolerate the high saline levels. The red pigments produced by the algae give Lake Retba its striking pink color.
The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting Germany
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” is a popular adage that applies to wherever in the world you travel. However, the converse is ALSO true. When you venture to a new part of the world, it’s just as important to be aware of what NOT to do.
This is especially true in Germany, where being orderly is a way of life. In fact, Germans have an expression of their own: “Ordnung muss sein,” which means, “There must be order.”
If you’re venturing to Deutschland, it’s important to honor its social etiquette—starting with these five critical “don’ts.”
When you’re crossing the road, do you usually look left and right to confirm that the coast is clear, and then go for it? While you may be able to get away with this at home, jaywalking is a big no-no in Germany.
Even if there isn’t another car or person around, wait until the traffic signal is green. Crossing on red will earn you a steep fine and the disapproval of anyone who happens to see you.
While you’re at it, steer clear of bicycle lanes unless you’re riding. Walking in the bike lane is also a traffic violation—and dangerous, too.
2. Ignore recycling requirements
Germany has long held the distinction of being the world’s recycling leader. It doesn’t take this reputation lightly. You shouldn’t either. The vast majority of homes in Germany have different recycling bins for pretty much everything, and glass is even sorted by color.
Speaking of bottles, Germany also has a rigorous bottle return system. When you buy certain types of glass bottles, cans, and containers, you pay a deposit ("pfand"). When you return the empty container to any store that sells drinks (not necessarily the one you purchased from), you get your money back.
3. Drive in the Autobahn’s middle lane
The Autobahn may be famous for its lack of speed limits. However, this doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. In fact, one of the reasons people can drive at higher speeds on this world-famous highway is because driving is strictly regulated.
Unless you’re looking to experience some international road rage, steer clear of the middle and left lanes, which are reserved entirely for passing. And make sure to maintain a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you.
4. Be late
“Fashionably late” is not a thing in Germany. Germans are relentlessly punctual, and expect others to be punctual, too. Lateness is viewed as wasting other people’s time, which is viewed as rude and unacceptable.
If you have reservations, an appointment, or are expected at someone’s home, leave yourself some wiggle room in case you encounter traffic or issues with public transportation.
5. Ignore “Quiet Hours”
Certain times of day are designated as “quiet hours” in Germany, and Germans are very invested in keeping the peace during these times. This means refraining from doing anything that could potentially disturb your neighbors—from talking loudly to mowing your lawn. Have a loud washing machine? Even that may get you in trouble.
While “quiet hours” are held at specific times, Germans are generally restrained in their daily lives, as well. Oktoberfest revelry aside, if you behave raucously in Germany, you’ll almost certainly get some serious side-eye.
Heading to Scotland? Some tourists are perfectly happy to get the full tourist experience, but if you prefer a more authentic visit, your itinerary may look a bit different. Check out five ways to get to know the real Scotland.
1. Visit a few lochs besides Loch Ness
A loch is simply a lake or body of water that is at least mostly surrounded by land. And, Scotland is known for some of the most gorgeous lochs you can imagine. If you want to get to know the real Scotland, however, there are lochs far more rewarding than Loch Ness. Loch Ness is no doubt a nice place to visit—hey, who wouldn’t want a chance to catch sight of Nessie (aka The Loch Ness Monster)? But, if you want to set your eyes on some even more picturesque bodies of Scotland water, consider others like Loch Maree in the Highlands or Loch Awe near Dalmally.
2. Check out small towns outside the main tourist attractions
Certain Scottish cities are known as major tourist attractions, such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeenshire. These cities no doubt have a lot to do and see: museums, castles, bus tours, you name it. However, if you want to get an inside look at what life in Scotland is truly like, trek your way to some smaller, less-visited towns. Pittenweem, for example, is a seaside village north of Edinburgh. Here, you can stroll the streets, check out the fishing harbor, and buy fresh fish right from the local fishermen.
3. Grab food from smaller cafés and eateries
Scotland has some pretty amazing food, even if names like Cullen skink and neeps and tatties can sound a little odd. You’ll have no trouble finding amazing dining opportunities in just about any town. But food favorites can also vary from town to town. So, if you want something a little more cozy and local, check out the smaller cafes and eateries. For example, The Ceilidh Place in Ullapool is a quaint little place with a menu full of local ingredients.
4. Book a stay in a bed and breakfast
Scotland is full of inns and hostels, both of which can give you a chance to mingle with other travelers. However, if you’re looking to get to know the real Scotland, book a stay in a bed and breakfast instead. These more private accommodations put you in a residential environment in an authentic Scotland home. Plus, guests at B&Bs are more likely to be locals, and you get the chance to enjoy some local home-cooked food.
5. Check in at neighborhood pubs
Local pubs tend to be full of friendly locals. While some pubs are hot spots for tourists, such as Deacon Brodies Tavern in Edinburgh, the best way to find and mingle with the locals is to visit those establishments that are a little less noteworthy. You can find small pubs tucked into many neighborhoods in Scotland, and most are not all that large or flashy. Just the same, walk in and order a dram and the locals will likely strike up a conversation.
If the sum of what you know about Ireland is "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" and kissing the Blarney Stone, then you’re in for a surprise when you arrive in Ireland.
But it’s a pleasant surprise. Here are some tips for finding the authentic Ireland.
Jive to the Music and the Dance
There’s simply no way to separate the country from its music and dance, so just give in to it when you have a chance. And chances are, you’ll have plenty of opportunities. It doesn’t matter if your voice doesn’t match the quality of a noted Irish tenor. It’s the spirit of it, after all. Dublin is a great place to experience Irish music and dance — and don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming those haunting tunes as you fall asleep at night!
Head for the Country
Dublin, Cork, Kilkenny, Galway, Waterford, and Limerick are all worth seeing, but it’s the wilder, "less traveled" parts of Ireland that will capture your heart and leave a lasting impression on your soul. Spend some time, if at all possible, just walking the hills, exploring the craggy seaside cliffs, and wandering the back roads. Surf in the cool water of the Atlantic, or follow a dirt path until the road ends. Pull on your boots and follow a muddy riverbed until you find the headwaters, then stop for a picnic lunch. This is the "real" Ireland.
Book a Stay in a Cozy B&B
Forego the chain hotels, and seek out an off-the-beaten-track, small, family-owned pension or bed and breakfast in a small town. Settle in for a few days of peace and an adventure that will score a "10" on the pleasure index. Rent a bicycle, or walk. Strike up conversations with locals. You won’t regret it!
Put Aside the "Normal"
Embrace "wellness" in Ireland — a renaissance is currently underway. Visit a spa to tailor a treatment regimen to your personal preferences — indulge yourself with a sauna experience, aromatherapy, a steam room and whole-body workout, a dip in a natural hot spring followed by an invigorating massage, or a treatment with essential oils. It’s just another way to immerse yourself in local culture and "go Irish," no matter how long or short your visit may be.
Indulge Your Inner Foodie
If you’ve ever thought that Irish food is bland and tasteless, a visit to the country should change your mind after just a couple of meals. Contemporary Irish chefs have rewritten the rules and the recipes. You’ll discover a new tradition that has its roots in organically grown, eco-friendly production — savor the taste of fresh beef and poultry, locally sourced, organically grown produce, cheeses, and breads that offer a new twist on tradition, and innovative dishes and menus that will have you clamoring for more!
Then, of course, there’s the beer and Irish Whiskey — be sure to visit a traditional Irish Pub — not for the spirits alone, but for the spirit that is sure to draw you in!
your palate and
The Insider’s Guide: 5 Ways to Get to Know the Real Philippines
You can vacation like a tourist. Or, you can vacation like a traveler. What’s the difference between the two? The former sees a destination through the eyes of an outsider, while a traveler experiences the world like a local.
If you’re planning a trip to the Philippines and want to be in the second category, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn five ways to soak in all the splendor of the Philippines while enjoying a truly authentic and immersive experience.
1. Feast on Filipino Foods
One of the best ways to get to know a country is to savor the local fare. And you’re in luck in the Philippines. Not only is the country’s cuisine delicious, it’s also affordable.
A few of our favorite Filipino dishes include tocino, AKA "Filipino bacon;" kinilaw, raw fish in a vinegar-marinade; sinigang, a sour stew and the ultimate Filipino "comfort food;" adobe, often cited as the national dish of the Philippines; and lechon, seasoned, slow-roasted suckling pig.
The perfect sweet treat to end any meal? The shaved ice and evaporated milk concoction, halo halo.
2. Be flexible—but not punctual
There’s nothing wrong with having a plan, but tying yourself down to an unalterable itinerary can prevent you from the joy of unexpected and unanticipated discoveries that won’t be found in any guidebook.
On a related note, if you’re lucky enough to be invited to visit a local’s home in the Philippines, don’t ever be on time;. While showing up late for a social engagement may be polite in some countries, it’s considered rude to be punctual in the Philippines. To be greeted with enthusiasm as opposed to dismay, plan on arriving a respectable 15 minutes late.
3. Let it go—and karaoke
Karaoke is pretty much a way of life in the Philippines. Regardless of whether you think you’re the next American Idol or you’ve never sung a note outside the privacy of your car or shower, you must take the mic for a spin if you truly want to live like the locals.
And remember—no one will judge you if you sound like a yodeling cat. By the same token, however, you should be respectful of the talent (or lack thereof) of the other singers.
4. Go island hopping
The Philippines is home to a breathtaking 7,000 islands—each with its own distinctive vibe and flavor. One way to experience a variety of what the Philippines has to offer? Go island hopping.
Here are a few ideas for where to go and what to see while you’re there. Exploring Cebu’s stunning Inambakan Falls and epic Sardine Run, swimming with the sharks on remote Malapascua, discovering Palawan’s hidden lagoons and breathtaking beaches, splashing with the giant sea turtles on Dumaguette, scootering around pristine Coron, and taking in the showstopping sunset on Cambari.
5. Go off-the-beaten-path
Attractions like Puka Beach (and the shops there), Metro Manila, and any establishments or tours billing themselves as “the largest” or “the best” are likely to be packed with tourists. The locals, however, avoid these places like the plague. Another red flag that an establishment caters to tourists? Signs and menus that are written in English and other foreign languages.
Instead of relying on the same guidebooks every other tourist is using to plan each element of your trip, ask a local—such as the hotel concierge, a taxi driver, or your Airbnb host.
On that note, one last way to live like the locals? Live with the locals. Staying in someone’s home through a vacation rental or other home sharing arrangement will give you a much more authentic perspective of life in the Philippines—as well as access to someone who may be able to offer insights on the best neighborhood places in the to eat, shop, and discover.
Getting ready for a trip across the pond? Whether you’re visiting London or enjoying a vacation in the English countryside, you’ll want to be sure to avoid these five potentially offensive actions that can drive a wedge between you and your potential new English friends.
1. Talk About Money
In America, many people are excited to share when they get a big raise at work or otherwise come into money. In England, you’ll want to steer clear of financial conversation. Instead of talking about how much your vacation cost or a great deal that you got on a flight, make small talk.
2. Walk Around With a Perma-Grin
In some English circles, smiling is a normal part of interacting, but in others, it’s a sign of an uneducated or poorly mannered person. Keeping a straight face while you’re out and about in England isn’t a sign of unfriendliness, rather, it will help you blend in like a local.
3. Give the Palm-In Peace Sign
Throwing up the index and middle finger in photos or as a way to bid someone farewell is a common way to say "peace" in America, but in Great Britain, this is the same as throwing up a middle finger. Trust us–no one will be giving you well wishes in return if they see you giving this hand gesture in their direction.
4. Talk About Your Accomplishments
In America, many college grads take a great deal of pride in talking about their alma mater, but this subject isn’t a common topic of conversation in England. Talking about one’s accomplishments–in both education and career–is looked at as over-the-top and rude. English people tend to steer away from talking about themselves, especially in new company. When you’re looking to connect with a new friend in England, make small talk about the pub you’re in, the park you’re visiting, or the weather–don’t try to find common ground by discussing potentially shared elitist experiences.
5. Insist on Ice
In America, you’re used to being served an icy glass of water or iced tea with your meal, but in England, icy beverages are not as common. If you want to go with the flow and drink like a local, don’t ask for ice in your drink.
There’s some truth to the stereotype that Swedes are polite yet reserved. Still, most of them are happy to welcome tourists to their country. However, if you want to get the most enjoyment out of your Swedish vacation, it’s best to understand the culture and comport yourself in a way that Swedes find normal and acceptable. Here are five things you should never do when you visit Sweden.
1. Don’t Assume That All Swedes Speak English
Although more than 80 percent of people in Sweden speak English, not all of them do. It’s smart to have a few common phrases at the ready in case you need them. A “hej” (hello) or “tack” (thank you) shows your hosts that you’re making an effort to appreciate their language.
If you do attempt to speak Swedish, don’t use the exaggerated accent and gestures of the Swedish chef on the Muppets. Most Swedes don’t think he’s funny.
2. Avoid Loud and Animated Conversation
Swedes talk calmly and without much body language. What might be considered normal volume in America can come across as loud and obnoxious in Sweden. If your conversation becomes too expressive, you might see Swedes turn away and shade their eyes. That’s a sign to dial it back.
Also, Swedes value personal space. Don’t stand too close to other people, and don’t sit next to someone on a bus unless it’s the only type of open seat. And never cut a line. It’s unwelcome anywhere, but it’s shocking in Sweden.
3. Don’t Wear Shoes in a Swedish Home
If you’re invited to someone’s home, take off your shoes as soon as you walk through the door. There will likely be a rack where you can leave then, and your host may even offer slippers.
Even if guests are nattily dressed, perhaps for an evening on the town, the shoes still come off. That’s why it’s a good idea to wear clean, comfortable socks without holes. They look and smell better, and sometimes Swedish floors are cold.
4. Don’t Worry If There’s Silence
Much of the world is abuzz with conversation. If there are a handful of people gathered, it’s expected that someone (maybe more than one person) will be talking. Not so in Sweden.
Swedes are comfortable with silence. They avoid small talk and don’t speak unless they have something to say. To outsiders, it can feel funny when there’s a bus full of passengers and no one’s saying a word.
This may seem awkward to you, but for Swedes it’s comfortable. Relax and enjoy the fact that you don’t have to think of anything to say.
5. Don’t Dress Down When Stepping Out
If you go to a nightclub in Stockholm wearing your grubbies, they probably won’t let you in. It’s called “face control.” Often it’s at the bouncer’s discretion who is well-dressed enough and who isn’t. You’ll find some fashionable clothing in Swedish stores if you didn’t bring along enough stylish threads.
For most people, we have our comfort spots. The places that we know are going to be consistent and become part of our routine. For a lot of people, coffee shops are among those places where we find ourselves on a near daily basis. Typically, you’ll find people flocking to Starbucks or a more regional chain. There’s more to life than just the big name brands, though. If you want to traverse the world and find the most out-there coffee shops in the world, here are some that you must see at least once.
5. East Beach Cafe
Our first coffee stop is located in Littlehampton, England where you’ll see one of the most unique looking exteriors for a coffee shop. The back end of the shop doesn’t have any windows, but when inside you’ll at least be treated to a nice view of the sea while you’re sipping on your morning joe. This award winning building definitely stands out and the coffee inside isn’t so bad, either.
4. Cafe Du Soleil
There are many coffee shops around the world that are named Cafe Du Soleil, but only one sits at the very peak of a mountain. In Vietnam, Cafe Du Soleil sits atop Mount Fansipan and offers some of the most extraordinary views that you can possibly hope for, coffee shop or not. On particular days, you’ll be sitting above the clouds and gazing at the natural wonders of the world while enjoying comfortable seating and some of the best coffee in the country. If you’re afraid of heights, though, you might want to have your coffee delivered to the base of the mountain.
3. Lhong Tou Cafe
Our next visit takes us to Thailand where you’ll find Bangkok’s Lhong Tou Cafe. This has become a popular tourist destination throughout the years thanks to a very unique interior that makes you feel like you’re in the neighborhood’s most exclusive treehouse. A lot of the seating within the cafe requires some climbing, so make sure you’re up to the challenge to get to the second level without spilling one of the many delicious drinks that Lhong Tou has to offer.
2. Airship Coffee
We couldn’t talk about coffee shops without including at least one from the United States. Perhaps the most unique that the country has to offer is in the same hometown as retail giant Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas. Airship Coffee, from its exterior, looks like it’s about to host a Shakespeare in the Park evening, but is actually a tourist destination for coffee lovers. Brewing their own coffee, Airship is an open-air concept that will make you feel right at home in Arkansas.
1. Chillout Ice Lounge
Here in the United States we have Las Vegas, but the United Arab Emirates has their own Vegas in the form of Dubai. There, you’ll see some of the most unique concepts, which includes a coffee shop where the interior is made of ice. While sitting in subzero temperatures, you can treat yourself to a cup of coffee, as well as other drinks like hot chocolate and cocktails (sans alcohol).
Traveling is something that almost all of us love doing, but there is one drawback. People tend to feel ill after arriving home, and a lot of it has to do with exposure to people and places that they’ve never experienced before. You don’t have to be one of the countless many to have to spend your time returning home lying sick in bed, though. If you’re careful, you can be healthy before, during and after your next vacation. We’ve come up with some tips for every traveler to follow to stay healthy and happy while creating memories that will last a lifetime.
1. Sanitize Everything
One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic taught a lot of people is the importance of sanitizing. For many years, most people simply thought of sanitizing their hands. Since 2020, though, we’ve learned to sanitize just about anything that we come into contact with. Whether it be your airplane seat, the counters in the hotel room or anything in between, it doesn’t hurt to have some sanitizing wipes on hand and plenty of hand sanitizer.
2. Stay Hydrated
It’s something that we all know but not many of us do, and that’s making sure you get enough water on a daily basis. It’s even more important to stay hydrated when you’re on the road. If you’re sitting in your living room and feeling a little dehydrated, that can be a quick fix. When you’re wandering through the streets of a city that’s far away from home, though, that’s a completely different story.
3. Mind the Elevation and Temperature
Another big reason why you’ll want to stay well hydrated when traveling is because you might not be used to the climate of your destination. Let’s say you’re from Nevada where you’re used to 100 degree temperatures and you see 90 degrees in Florida and don’t think it’s too bad. That is, until you experience humidity for the first time. It will take some time to adjust, and it’s the same case for elevation changes. You might be feeling a bit out of breath when visiting a place like Denver for the first time.
4. Take Your Vitamins
Nothing is more important for your health while traveling than your immune system. Of course, the best way to boost your immune system is to make sure that you’re getting enough vitamins on a daily basis. Whether it be a multivitamin or something like Emergen-C, anything that you’re adding to your diet helps. Even while you’re already on the road, get plenty of fruits and vegetables to increase your vitamin intake.
5. Don’t Trust All Food
Not all fruits and vegetables will be safe, though. When eating at a place that you’ve never been, always be hyper aware of what food you’re putting into your body. Always do your research and look at reviews on Yelp and Google to see if anyone has had an experience with health hazards. All restaurants should also contain a grade from a local health inspector.
Each year, more than one-third of Americans will go on a vacation, and this includes more than 40 percent of those traveling with their children. When you go on a vacation, you want to make sure it’s an experience that you or your family will never forget. However, when you get back into the grind of everyday life, it can be easy to forget some of the details of the memories you made on your trip. If you want to make sure those great moments aren’t lost to time, here are some ways that you can keep those memories sacred on your next vacation.
1. Stay Away from the Phone (In Most Cases)
We all know that we’re living in an age where people are glued to their phones for a majority of the day. Not that it’s a bad thing as we want to stay connected, but when you’re on vacation, it’s best to keep the phone away for the most part. Don’t leave your phone in the hotel, though. Simply switch it to airplane mode to avoid any incoming calls or texts and use your phone as a camera to capture some of the best moments of your vacation.
2. Get Chatty With the Locals
As North Americans, we tend to be a bit extroverted by nature. While not every country will appreciate our outgoing personalities, there will be plenty that will welcome you with open arms. When you start talking with locals, you’ll be submerging yourself into the local culture. This will help you locate some of the best spots to visit and which places have the best food. You can also make some lifelong penpals, so don’t be afraid to talk in a place where nobody knows who you are.
3. The Pen is Mightier
The best way to remember details from your experiences is to write them down. This is why people keep journals or diaries, so don’t be afraid to do the same when it comes to your vacation. Take note of the people you met, the events that happened and the places that you saw. When you read the journal many years down the road, those memories that you had will come flowing right back and bring a warm feeling.
4. What’s in the Box?
A lot of people collect souvenirs while they’re on their vacations, but they can tend to get lost in storage within a standard Amazon box. Instead, try to design a unique looking small box where you can keep some of your most cherished memories of your trip. This could include small trinkets, pictures, little notes or anything else that you can think of. You can even make an entire shelf devoted to your vacation boxes.
5. Pin to Win
One great way to remember a particular vacation or all of your vacations is to get yourself a world map. After visiting a destination, make sure to place a pin in the city you went to. Don’t be afraid to use different colors, either. For instance, use one color to mark a place that you definitely want to visit again because you enjoyed it so much. You can even mark places you don’t want to see anymore.