6 #Destinations You Should #Explore By #Car

Whether you’re headed to a destination with no public transportation or you just like to travel off-the-beaten-path, renting a car can be a necessary travel arrangement. And while renting a car may be an added expense, the pay-off can be huge. With your own car you’re not subject to bus and train schedules and you can travel on a whim — exploring remote villages, stopping for impromptu picnics or pulling over to watch the sunset. So throw away that bus schedule and check out these six destinations where you need to rent a car.

Iceland

What do you do when you’re headed to a remote island with limited public transportation and stunning natural terrain just waiting to be explored? You rent a car. Whether you’re headed straight to the Golden Circle or circumnavigating the island on Route 1, exploring Iceland is best done with the freedom of four wheels. From soaking in natural hot springs to hiking glaciers to viewing waterfalls and volcanoes up close, Iceland is the perfect place for an incredible road trip. Just a couple of tips before you go —  be prepared for one-way bridges, high gas prices and hidden speed cameras. On the plus side, you won’t get tired of witnessing Iceland’s breathtaking landscape and boundless expanses from the open road.

South of France

Sure, there’s a train that can take you from Nice to Avignon, but if you want to see all that the South of France has to offer, you should rent a car. There are so many more places you can discover while driving on your own, from small towns with charming markets to rolling vineyards and fragrant lavender fields. In fact, the authority of European travel, Rick Steves, suggests taking two weeks to drive through the French Riviera by car, beginning in Nice and ending in Marseille. Along the way, he suggests taking a “joy ride” though Camargue and stopping in Châteauneuf-du-Pape for some fabulous French wine. We can’t say no to that!

Ireland

If you’re flying into Dublin and planning to remain city-bound, then renting a car isn’t necessary. However, if you’d like to see more of the Emerald Isle, renting a car is the ideal way to get around. The beauty of the green countryside makes for lovely driving, and you can stop at your leisure at quaint villages and picnic spots along the way. And since Ireland isn’t very big, you can see a lot in a short amount of time. Driving straight across the country from Dublin to Galway only takes 2.5 hours. Once there, you’ll be amazed by the stunning Cliffs of Moher and the remote Aran Islands. There are also several road trip loops like the Dingle Peninsula Loop or the famous Ring of Kerry. Just be prepared for some roundabouts and narrow roads along the way.

Montana, United States

Many of America’s 50 states are ripe for a road trip, but there’s something about Montana that makes it necessary to rent a car. This state is filled with towering mountains, vast prairies and tons of backroads leading to gorgeous viewpoints. In other words, you need a car to get around. Bigger cities like Billings, Bozeman and Missoula have public transportation, but the key to visiting Montana is getting out of town and into nature. A car is necessary for visiting both Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, both beautiful and vastly different public lands. And whether you prefer hiking to natural hot springs or relaxing at a hot spring resort, Montana has got you covered. If you choose the former, make sure to rent a 4X4 — Montana backroads can be rough.

Tuscany, Italy

Cruising through the Italian countryside, enjoying leisurely lunches, stopping at wineries, is the ultimate way to see Tuscany. While the region does have public transportation, it’s geared towards transporting locals, not tourists. Without a car, you may miss some of the more charming villages and valleys along the way, such as Val d’Orcia. This picturesque region of Tuscany is filled with rolling hills, golden wheat fields, cypress trees and medieval castles. Next, head to the well-known wine region of Chianti and drive on your time frame using this suggested DIY itinerary. End the day with a glass of vino and a plate of pasta, and find yourself in Italian heaven.

New Zealand

Whether you’re visiting the North Island or South Island or both, the best way to see New Zealand is by car. Even better, upgrading to a campervan or RV is one of the most popular ways to see the country. In fact, there’s so much to see in New Zealand you could easily take a month off to drive around both islands. On the North Island, start in Auckland before driving out to the Coromandel Peninsula, home to spectacular beaches and incredible Pacific vistas. Next, check out the thermal wonders at Rotorua before making your way across the island to the Interislander Ferry Terminal. On the South Island, there’s still so much to discover, from hiking around Queenstown to the witnessing the falls in Milford Sound. And after tasting the region’s delicious wine and quality espresso, you may never want to leave.

10 #Rules You Can’t #Break as a #Tourist

There are plenty of unspoken rules of travel and polite etiquette norms to follow mind when you explore a new destination. But there are even more important rules that tourists occasionally ignore. These rules can get you into serious trouble — not just with glaring locals — but also with the law. Here are 10 rules you should never break as a tourist.

Rock Sensible Shoes

It’s understandable that you’d want to make a fashion statement when traveling, but if you wear heels, you may run into bigger problems than blisters. In Greece, it’s actually against the law to wear high heels when exploring most of the country’s ancient sites, including the Parthenon and the Acropolis. You can also get into hot water for wearing heels to almost any archaeological, ancient stone, or marble site within the rest of the country. And in many temples in Asia, you have to remove your shoes completely before you enter. Stick to sneakers, which are easy to slip off and can help you avoid sprained ankles and citations.

Be Careful Where You Sit

We get it. You’ve probably been walking for hours and you’re tired. But if you need a break, be mindful of where you plant your butt. Sitting on the Spanish Steps in Rome can get you banned from the site. The same goes for almost any historic walkway in the Italian capital. This rule also applies in other cities. In Venice you can be fined for sitting or lying down on bridges or historic monuments. Wherever you travel, it’s best to find a proper bench or chair to take a seat if you need a break.

Don’t Feed the Wildlife

Don’t Take a Dip Wherever You Want

Be careful where you swim. You can get hit with serious fines for taking a dip in any of Rome’s famous fountains or Venice’s canals. The same applies for natural bodies of water. Heidi Klum and her rocker husband Tom Kaulitz were fined a whopping $6,000 for swimming in Capri, Italy’s famous Blue Grotto. Sometimes the rule is set to protect the local ecosystem or wildlife, as is the case in New Zealand’s recent ban on swimming with the dolphins of Bay of Islands. It’s always best to do your research or ask a local where you can and can’t dip your toes.

Don’t Lose Your Shirt

If you go swimming where it’s permitted, don’t assume you can traipse around afterward shirtless or in just a bikini top. In some cities, including Barcelona, Spain (where there are plenty of actual nude beaches), you can get fined or banned for not wearing a shirt in public. Be mindful of your surroundings and pack a dry change of clothes in your beach bag for when you’re done with the sun and surf.

Be Smart About Snacking and Sipping

Exploring can work up quite an appetite, but think twice before eating, drinking, or even chewing gum when you’re out about. In Singapore, importing chewing gum is illegal, so be sure you don’t have any in your pockets leftover from your flight. Eating is prohibited near tourist attractions in Rome, and you can also get fined or banned for putting your mouth on drinking fountains in the city. Eating, drinking, and chewing gum is also a no-no near ancient historical sites in Greece. Also, we’re not sure why you would, but just in case, make sure you don’t bring pork or pork products to the Maldives. As a largely Muslim country, you could be subject to a fine.

Rethink Your Vices

Depending on where you’re visiting, laws around drinking, smoking, and drugs may vary, so be aware of what you’re getting into before you set foot in a foreign land. You can be fined in the Maldives for bringing alcohol into the country, and alcohol is prohibited outside resort areas. Plenty of countries have banned smoking in public places, and if you’re hoping to engage in a city’s loose laws on marijuana, just be sure you do some research ahead of time. Despite its reputation, marijuana is still mostly illegal in the Netherlands, with some parts of the country restricting sales to tourists or banning it altogether.

Nix the PDA

If you’re traveling to Dubai or anywhere else within the United Arab Emirates, be careful not to get affectionate outside your hotel room. The decency laws in the UAE prohibit kissing, touching, and even hand-holding in public and can actually land you behind bars. Don’t believe us? In 2013, a British couple spent a month in jail for allegedly kissing in a restaurant.

Mind Your Metrocards

Depending on where you are and where you’re headed, don’t throw away a single-use train ticket, Metrocard, or similar pass after you’ve gotten onto the train. In some cities such as Paris and Madrid, you also need your ticket to get off — and not doing so can result in a fine that may break your entire vacation budget. Save yourself the headache and just keep it in your pocket for the ride (or get a multi-ride pass wherever you are, which typically ends up being cheaper anyway).

Be Careful About Souvenirs

Sometimes it can be difficult to find the perfect souvenir to bring home to remind you of your journeys. Maybe you collect postcards or keychains, but be careful if you want to go beyond the souvenir stalls. In most places, it’s illegal to take anything from the natural surroundings. This includes things like sand, seashells, rocks, plants, and more. One couple faces jail time for removing sand from a beach in Sardinia, and another man was forced to return rocks he took from a Cornwall beach or pay a heavy fine. These rules apply to almost every natural landscape, from U.S. National Parks to beaches and mountains around the world. So please, just buy the postcard.

#10 #Safest #Cities in the #World

As with anything, traveling comes with its risks. Odds are, you’ve heard some stories of tourists becoming victims of crimes or being taken advantage of on their holidays. Unfortunately, crime exists in all parts of the world and it can sometimes be difficult to avoid. However, book your holiday in one of the 10 cities listed below and you have extremely good odds of enjoying a peaceful and incident-free adventure. Check out some of the safest cities in the world that also double as excellent vacation destinations.

1. Tokyo, Japan

Aerial photo of Tokyo at night

The bigger the city, the more dangerous it is? Not true for Tokyo. This city has a population of over 13 million and it’s still one of the safest cities on the planet. In terms of how well your cyber security is protected, Tokyo is ranked on top. This means identity theft is super rare and digital privacy is highly respected and protected. The low crime rates are probably related to the fact that the majority of the Tokyo residents are considered “upper-middle class.” What’s more? Tokyo boasts a world-famous nightlife scene which can be enjoyed worry-free!

2. Singapore

Aerial photo of Singapore skyline

The number of violent crimes, theft, and level of police engagement is the lowest in the world in Singapore. If that doesn’t make you feel safe, we don’t know what will. In fact, Singapore reported a 135-day completely crime-free streak in 2017. The small island nation has close to 100,000 surveillance cameras positioned around the city, keeping citizens honest and majorly deterring those who are tempted to stray. Because of their super-safe environment, Singaporeans really trust each other. It’s not uncommon to see shops without windows, locks, or doors!

3. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Photo taken on a bridge in Amsterdam, with bikes in the foreground and buildings in the background

This city is probably best known for its liberal and legal use of marijuana and a notorious red-light district. Despite this (or could it be because of it?!) Amsterdam has been named one of the safest cities in the world. The city’s infrastructure is some of the best in the world. Amsterdam has high-quality buildings and roads, while simultaneously boasting a low number of car accidents and excellent air quality. Perhaps this is due to another one of the city’s trademarks – the biking culture!

4. Stockholm, Sweden

Photo of colorful buildings in Stockholm

The capital of Sweden proudly presents itself as the safest country in all of Europe. How does Stockholm keep its nearly 1 million residents in check? Thanks to an extremely effective police force, the crime rate is uber-low here. There may be the occasional petty theft or pickpocket incident, however violent crime is impressively low. Stockholm is also one of the best cities in the world when it comes to protecting its people’s cyber privacy and health security.

5. Osaka, Japan

Photo of Osaka at night

If safety is your top priority when you’re traveling, Japan is a great choice. Osaka is the second Japanese city to make our list of safest cities in the world. The city of roughly 2.6 million shares some similar characteristics with Tokyo. Osaka is home to a wealthy population, is considered to be the second safest city in the world in terms of violent crime (just behind Singapore), and has an excellent health care system ensuring its residents are well cared for. To clarify: safe doesn’t mean boring. Osaka’s got a happenin’ nightlife and stylish restaurant scene that rivals the likes of Paris and New York City.

6. Munich, Germany

Photo of city square in Munich

Party at the biggest beer festival in the world, learn something at a world-class museum, and admire ancient architecture in Munich all without a care in the world. This German city is ranked as one of the safest cities for tourists to visit. Solo female travelers can feel especially comfortable in Munich and the risk of being mugged or scammed is very low. Additionally, airport security is tight – just be patient and remember it’s for your own protection!

7. Reykjavik, Iceland

Aerial photo of the city of Reykjavik with a mountain in the background

The land of the Northern Lights is a super popular travel destination for those who crave a unique holiday. Even better, traveling around the scenic Icelandic capital is hassle and worry-free thanks to the Reykjavik’s safety rating. There are literally no “bad areas” in the city and homelessness, drugs, and crime are essentially non-existent. Reykjavik is an easy country for new travelers to explore as there is very very little chance of being ripped off by dishonest locals or being pickpocketed or mugged.

8. Vienna, Austria

City square in Vienna

The riverside Austrian capital boasts imperial palaces, art galleries, museums, and oozes modern culture that appeals to travelers from every corner of the world. Vienna was also the home of Mozart and Beethoven, giving it even more clout. The icing on the cake is that visitors can enjoy the charms of the city in peace. Violent crimes and muggings are rare here. Just take the normal precautions against pickpockets and be logical when it comes to bargaining with locals and you’ll easily avoid getting robbed or scammed.

9. Niagara Falls, Canada

Photo of Niagara Falls and a crowd looking on

One of the most internationally recognized places in North America is also one of the safest. The locals are very friendly to visitors and violent crime is practically nil. The only thing tourists really need to be careful of is the water and mist around the famous falls, which can cause slippery conditions. Keep your footing and a holiday here is all gravy. By the way, the city of Niagara Falls isn’t just a pretty (waterfall) face – it’s also renowned for its breweries, wineries, boutiques, casinos, and festivals. Is there any reason not to visit this Canadian wonderland?

10. Abu Dhabi, UAE

Aerial photo of Abu Dhabi

Interestingly, over half of this middle-eastern city’s population is made up of ex-pats! Foreigners flock to Abu Dhabi for business opportunities, but end up staying because of its extremely safe and easy-going atmosphere. Ritzy, glitzy and at the same time traditional and charming, Abu Dhabi is one of the safest cities in the middle east as well as the world. Travelers have a very low risk of being mugged, pickpocketed, or scammed and women report feeling just as safe in Abu Dhabi as they do in other European and North American cities.

7 #Places Where #Summer Never #Ends

There’s something special about summertime that makes us wish it could stay forever. Whether it’s a weekend getaway, sunset on the beach, or drink by the pool, we all have favorite activities when the weather is warm and the sun is shining. Some lucky locations get to keep that summertime fun going all year long. If you aren’t ready to say goodbye to the season just yet, check out these seven warm-weather destinations where summer never seems to end.

Fort-de-France, Martinique

The tropical island of Martinique located in the Caribbean boasts warm weather year-round, with average temperatures ranging from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Martinique is on the southern end of the Lesser Antilles, in between the popular tourist islands of Dominica and Saint Lucia. The official language of the island is French due to Martinique’s long history of French influence and it is still an official Region of France today. Apart from its scenic beaches, a must-see landmark on the island is the active volcano Mount Pelée. Don’t worry — it has remained dormant since its eruption in 1932. A day hike to the volcano is a perfect activity for any outdoor adventurer — plus it comes with a great view.

Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca is a great warm-weather destination for travelers looking for sunshine and vibrant culture. As a Moroccan port city on the Atlantic Ocean, Casablanca is home to breathtaking sunsets and impressive Moorish architecture. The weather here has little variation, with warm summer temperatures in the 80s and mild winters with little to no rain. Try traditional Moroccan fare, tour the ornate Hassan II Mosque, or go on a sunny stroll through a local market. The rich colors and patterns of local textiles and architecture provide a cheerful and lively environment. For an unforgettable meal, make reservations at Rick’s Cafe, a romantic restaurant inspired by the 1942 film Casablanca.

Nosy Be Island, Madagascar

Nosy Be is an island off the northwestern coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. With year-round average daily temperatures in the 80s, this nature-filled island is an ideal getaway during any time of the year. Similar to neighbor Madagascar, Nosy Be is home to many species of lemurs, chameleons, geckos, and other exotic animals. Check out the Lokobe Nature Reserve for a once-in-a-lifetime view of these native species. Surrounded by smaller islands and coral reefs, these serene blue waters offer exciting encounters with sea turtles and other marine life. Despite being such a rugged island, there’s a variety of accommodations along the western coast including luxurious hotels and open-air seaside bungalows.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

What country better embodies a never-ending summer than Mexico? From the warm waters of the Gulf to romantic sunsets on the West Coast, travelers flock to Mexico when in need of a tropical breeze. Although there are many great destinations in Mexico, Cabo San Lucas, on the tip of the Baja California Peninsula, is the most fun. Known for its rock formations like the Arch of Cabo San Lucas, this coastal city has more than just a pretty landscape. The main beach, Playa El Médano, is home to romantic outdoor restaurants and upbeat bars and nightclubs. One of the most beautiful views is from El Farallon Restaurant’s cliffside dining area located in The Resort at Pedregal.

Sentosa Island, Singapore

Singapore is a technology and architecture hub located off the coast of southern Malaysia. Besides its ever-growing cityscape, this island also has excellent summer weather with temperatures ranging from the upper 70s to the lower 90s all year. Looking for a beach? Sentosa Island is an action-packed resort area connected to the city by road, cable car, monorail, and boardwalk. Home to Universal Studios Singapore, Tiger Sky Tower, luxury hotels, and scenic beaches, Singapore is the ideal place for family-friendly summer fun at any time of year.

Islamorada, Florida, U.S.A.

Tucked away in the center of the Florida Keys is Islamorada, the “Village of Islands.” Islamorada encompasses the central Keys and is commonly called the “Sportfishing Capital of the World.” With average temperatures in the 70s and 80s all year, outdoor activities are plentiful here. For nature lovers, catch a sunset dolphin cruise or try your hand at scuba diving. Islamorada is known for its upscale, small-town atmosphere due to its sprawling bay and ocean views, fine dining options, and luxury resorts.

Cairns, Australia

Cairns, in Queensland, Australia, is best known for its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. This tropical city boasts hot summers in the 80s and mild winters, making it perfect for year-round snorkeling. Palm Cove, located just north of the city, is known for its palm tree-lined beach and outdoor activities such as golfing and kayaking. Journey through the tropical rainforest in Kuranda by train or get a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest canopy from the Skyrail in a gondola. A few islands line the coast of Cairns, including Fitzroy Island, that can be visited by ferry for hiking and relaxing on the beach.

CREDIT: thediscoverer

How to #Protect Yourself in a #Foreign #Country

Traveling is exciting, but it still involves a certain amount of risk. Traveling outside your comfort zone and exploring an unfamiliar destination is inherently risky. This is part of what makes it so fun, but you still need to stay safe. If you’re traveling to a new destination, keep these tips in mind on how to protect yourself in a foreign country.

Keep Scanned Copies of Important Documents

Whether someone manages to steal some of your important documents or you just forget them in the hostel, losing your travel documents can be a major headache. To avoid this pain, make sure to scan and copy your passport, tickets, driver’s license, and any other documents you may need, like your travel itinerary or copies of hotel reservations. Make sure to scan the back of everything as well. This can make your life much easier if you happen to lose your passport or something of equal importance.

Try to Blend in

One of the easiest ways to protect yourself while traveling is to avoid standing out. Dressing like the locals and avoiding typical tourist apparel can help keep you from becoming an easy mark. Instead of dressing to impress, opt for a more casual dress code. This will help you avoid the attention of pickpockets or purse snatchers. As a bonus, dressing casually means you’ll probably be more comfortable. Just leave the bright white sneakers at home.

Stay in Well-Lit Areas

While experiencing the nightlife of a major city can be one of the more exciting parts of travel, it can also be risky. To stay safe, make sure not to venture too far into the dark. Staying out of sight can make you easy prey for criminals, so instead, stick to well-lit, crowded areas. If this means you can’t explore the part of a city you really wanted to see, just visit the area in the daytime instead. This is far less risky, plus you’ll be able to see more in the daylight.

Buy Traveler’s Insurance

Traveler’s insurance offers plenty of benefits. Whether you have a medical emergency or just need to cancel your trip early to return home, your insurance can help you recoup some of your losses. It doesn’t cover everything, but it’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around. Different plans cover different aspects of travel, so don’t just pick the first traveler’s insurance you find. Make sure to compare a few different plans and decide on what you need.

Use Credit Cards Instead of Cash or Debit

If a thief steals your wallet, cash money is as good as gone. Even if you don’t carry cash, a debit card effectively gives them direct access to your bank account. Using a credit card while traveling offers much more protection. If your credit card is stolen, you can easily freeze your credit. This means that you might be inconvenienced, but you don’t stand to face the same losses as if your cash is stolen. If you do carry cash, be sure to scatter it among your belongings and not keep it stored in one place. That way, if you lose your wallet, you still have some money stocked away in your suitcase, backpack, even the soles of your shoes.

Let Friends and Family Know Your Itinerary

It’s never a good idea to travel without letting anyone know you’re leaving. If you’re headed somewhere where you may be concerned for your safety, this is doubly true. When your friends or family know you’re traveling, they’re more likely to answer a call from a foreign country. Send them a copy of your travel itinerary so they can keep track of the news in the areas you’re visiting. If you need help for any reason, it’s good to have certain people know you may be trying to get in touch with them.

Keep an Eye on Your Belongings

This may sound like a given, but some people tend to leave their bags or luggage lying around. If you’re not directly holding on to a bag, make sure you keep a very close eye on it. Even seeing that you’re watching your luggage can be enough to deter a potential thief. Setting something down for just a few seconds might seem relatively risk free, but a few seconds is all it takes for someone to grab your bag and run.

Lock Your Bags

Locking your bags isn’t as easy as it used to be. If you plan to check them, you need to use a TSA-approved lock which, in turn, makes it easier for thieves to open your bags. That said, even the appearance of a lock on your bag can be enough to deter criminals. If you’re not checking your bag, you can use sturdier locks. You can also buy a lock once you’ve arrived at your destination to be safe.

Don’t Zone Out on Your Phone

One of the key aspects to staying safe no matter where you are is to be aware of your surroundings. You can’t do this if you’re busy staring at your phone. You may be used to losing yourself in your phone on public transit at home, but don’t do this while traveling. If you need to check your phone, try to get to a safe area first. If you’re traveling with someone else, have them keep an eye out while you post your photos to Instagram or update your friends. Otherwise, try to duck inside an alcove or similar space where your back is protected.

CREDIT: thediscoverer

5 #Popular #Travel #Destinations #Everyone #Needs to #Visit #Once

Around the world, travelers gravitate towards the Eiffel Tower, Rome’s mighty Coliseum, and Australia’s precious Great Barrier Reef. While wandering off the beaten path has become a mission for many, the beauty and grandeur of the world’s most popular destinations still often outshine the crowds. Here are five popular tourist destinations that should still make it onto your bucket list.

New York City, New York, United States

New York City is a trendsetter in the arts, fashion and dining categories. Its grid of streets offers a smorgasbord of choices from Michelin-starred restaurants to unassuming $1 pizza joints. Explore the boroughs where iconic yellow cabs roam, traversing through Brooklyn, Tribeca and Queens and discovering each neighborhood’s unique personality. Spend your afternoon laying on the immaculate lawns of Manhattan’s urban oasis of Central Park with fresh bagels from a nearby deli, or nibbling on cotton candy on Coney Island. When night falls, the city is bedazzled in neon lights. Quintessential to any NYC experience is a night out on Broadway, clapping along to an acclaimed musical or sharing laughs with the audience at an improv show. Visit during the Christmas holidays for an air of romance, when plazas convert into outdoor ice rinks and horse drawn carriages trot down the snow blanketed streets.

The best part about New York City is that no matter how many times you’ve been before there’s still something new to discover. New clubs and bars, restaurants, hotels, shows and more make this city feel fresh every time you stop through.

Florence, Italy

Traipse the city’s delicate web of narrow alleyways and you’ll discover overwhelming evidence of the Renaissance in each monument, internationally-recognized museum brimming with works by Michelangelo and da Vinci and fresco-adorned cathedral. Shop (or window shop) for fine jewelry in the stores that line the Ponte Vecchio, and hang out on the banks of the Arno river with some rich and creamy pistachio gelato. Interspersed with atmospheric piazzas and elegant cathedrals, Florence was made for every kind of traveler. Make your way to one of Florence’s many delightful eateries and warm up with a hearty bowl of ribollita — a hearty bread and vegetable soup — or gorge on a succulently grilled Florentine steak seasoned to perfection, paired with a glass of house Chianti. Beguiling Florence is a destination of fine Tuscan culinary indulgence and rich history. And despite the tourists that flock here every summer, it’s one Italian hotspot you shouldn’t miss.

Tokyo, Japan

Incredibly modern yet rooted in tradition, Tokyo is a city of parallels — where stand-up ramen bars share the sidewalk with fine dining establishments featuring perfectly marbled Kobe beef. Where the timeworn traditions of observing cherry blossoms and sumo wrestling contrast modern Japanese entertainment of zany robot shows and karaoke. The city plays host to an eclectic collection of themed cafes that allow visitors to immerse themselves in diverse worlds in the span of an afternoon. Relax in an onsen, a volcanically heated hot spring, then shop among cosplayers in the perpetually moving district of Shibuya, where the city’s infatuation with manga and their thriving pop scene add depth to Tokyo’s complex culture. Like New York, Tokyo is constantly evolving, reaching for newer and more elaborate spectacles in all spheres of life.

Maui, Hawaii, United States

A dynamic landscape of verdant valleys and otherworldly volcanic slopes, Maui is an island of stunning geographical diversity. Encircled by the Pacific and blessed with a pristine coastline, Maui is a premiere destination for beach bums and water sports enthusiasts. The island is also a haven for nature lovers, with a sizable network of trails that transport hikers past rotating windmills and along rugged terrain. Road trippers embark on the Road to Hana, a drive of harrowing hairpin turns that unveil a treasure trove of sparkling red and black sand beaches, secluded coves and silky waterfalls. Budget time to witness golden sunrises or fiery sunsets that transform into a dark night sky of dancing stars atop Maui’s active shield volcano of Haleakala. While parts of the island can get overcrowded, especially during peak travel seasons, if you travel smart you can miss the crowds and enjoy the wonders that this island holds.

Prague, Czech Republic

Irresistibly charming, Prague is an urban wanderer’s delight. The city is a mishmash of architectural styles, as demonstrated by the solid piers of St. Longin’s Rotunda in Romanesque form, the soaring spires of the Gothic Vitus Cathedral and the glory of the Baroque Saint Cajetan Church. From Staré Město, Prague’s Old Town Square, wander on the cobbled streets towards the 14th-century Charles Bridge for a romantic stroll and find yourself admiring the enchanting Prague Castle. Though drawing in hordes of tourists year round, it’s possible to find peace by strolling through neighborhoods like Vinohrady, and meandering away from the center to uncover charming cafes, secluded gardens and pubs frequented by locals.

CREDIT: thediscoverer

#10 #Beaches to See Before You #Die

When aren’t you in a tropical state of mind? Even as snow storms pummel the northern hemisphere, images of sandy beaches and sunshine continue to pop up on our phones, beckoning us to get away. And while we love the mountains and city, there’s something about the beach that screams “vacation time.”

If you’re thinking about escaping to the beach in the future, I recommend going big or staying home. TripAdvisor just released its list of best beaches in the world. The ranking is based on the millions of reviews and opinions collected about the world’s beaches over a year.

Pick one of these, and remember to leave your coat at home — you won’t need it where you’re going.

1. Baia do Sancho, Brazil

Located on the small island of Fernando de Noronha, Baia do Sancho was rated “excellent” by 91 percent of reviewers. People love this beach for its beautiful, bright waters and its isolated, tropical surroundings. In fact, the beach is part of the national park Parque Nacional Marinho de Fernando de Noronha, so while you have to pay an environmental tax to get in, the end destination is totally worth it. If you can hold out a little longer, the best time to visit the secluded beach is during the rainy season, from April to June, to catch a glimpse of two waterfalls forming off a nearby cliff.

2. Varadero Beach, Cuba

With steady weather ranging between 60 and 80 degrees Farenheit, white beaches and calm waters, it’s no wonder Varadero Beach makes it to No. 2. The beach is simply stunning, and the water is warm and soothing, almost like dipping into a bath. Covering 13 miles, Varadero Beach offers the perfect respite for the busy traveler.

3. Eagle Beach, Aruba

Eagle Beach is exactly what you picture when you think of a Caribbean beach. Complete with white sands, cerulean waters and Aruba’s famous divi divi trees, it looks like it was plucked from a travel brochure. This highly-rated beach is so large it rarely feels crowded, feeling like a private beach wherever you post up. The beach is also the prime spot for Aruba’s nesting turtles, who make their way to the ocean from May to November.

4. La Concha Beach, Spain

The crescent-shaped La Concha Beach separates the sea from the Spanish city of San Sebastian. Its urban border makes it easy to transition between the city and the natural beauty of the bay. One traveller called it “This is a gorgeous stretch of beach with the background of mountains and a lovely promenade beside it.” Whether you’re strolling along the sand or hiking for views in the mountains surrounding the bay, you’ll want to make sure you have enough space on your camera for all the photos.

5. Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos

Grace Bay Beach is known for its soft stripe of white sand bordered by thickets of trees on one side and those crystal blue waters you always want to see on your beach vacation. This beach in Providenciales stretches 13 miles and has some of the softest sand in the Bahamas. Though resorts and restaurants are easily accessible, the beach feels isolated and tranquil, creating a relaxing haven just for you.

6. Clearwater Beach, United States

The only U.S. beach to top the list is, no surprise, in Florida. Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, the warm waters of Clearwater Beach offer a safe haven for those fleeing their daily life. Dolphins swim so close to the shore you can usually spot them from where you’re sunbathing on your towel. Plus, all the nearby restaurants make it easy to spend your entire day here.

7. Spiaggia dei Conigli, Italy

Surrounded by a rocky cliffs and outcroppings, Spiaggia dei Conigli in Siciliy feels like your very own little secret. Translated as “Rabbit Beach”, this spot features a rugged coastline that spills into a narrow sliver of sand.  You can surf waves with schools of fish, or hike to the top of the nearby hills to drink in the whole scene. It can be hard to believe, but pinch yourself — it’s real.

8. Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

Seven Mile Beach is the place to go if you want to get a little adventurous in paradise. Try parasailing in the bright water, or watch the sunset on a dinner cruise. If you get tired of the ocean (as if that’s possible), you can make the easy switch to the pool at your resort for a slight change of scenery. But I doubt you’ll need it. One reviewer called the Seven Mile Beach “heaven on earth.”

9. Playa Norte, Mexico

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres makes it easy to feel like you’re far, far away from your regular life. Featuring beautiful water, fine sand, and a ban on motorized water activities, Playa Norte puts an emphasis on the peaceful tranquility of the ocean. Nearby food and drink options will keep you satiated but you’ll still enjoy minimal crowds in this oasis.

10. Seven Mile Beach, Jamaica

Not to be confused with the other seven-mile beach on this list, the Seven Mile Beach in Negril, Jamaica has something to keep you busy at every interval. Loungers are available right on the sand, and bars, restaurant and entertainment are in no short supply. Walk along the beach between venues and soak up the sun you’re probably missing back home.

CREDIT: thediscoverer

6 #College #Towns You Don’t Need to Be a #Student to #Enjoy

Who doesn’t love a good college town? Their youthful population means they’re inherently full of things to do from sporting events to bar crawls. However, for those outside the student demographic, some university-centered cities can get old fast. There are some destinations, however, that appeal to all ages regardless whether you’re an undergrad, Ph.D, or just someone looking for a great weekend away. Here are 6 college towns you don’t need to be a student to enjoy.

San Luis Obispo, California

San Luis Obispo, located on California’s Central Coast, is a hidden gem. Home to California Polytechnic State University, the city boasts more than just a great school and gorgeous beaches. It’s also a killer stop for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can take a guided kayak tour of the nearby Morro Bay and enjoy outdoor rock climbing, surfing, overlanding, zip-lining, hiking, biking, botanical gardens, horseback riding, ATV riding and boat tours. Avila Beach also offers whale watching and an opportunity to see adorable elephant seals.

Unique to San Luis Obispo are the sticky-but-sweet Bubblegum Alley and the scenic coast where you can explore the historic grounds of Hearst Castle and the Point San Luis Lighthouse. If you want a truly quintessential place to stay during your trip, look no further than the famous Madonna Inn, which boasts numerous rooms with their own ultra-kitschy charm. It’s also not too far from Wine Country, with neighbor Paso Robles playing host to dozens of vineyards.

Fort Collins, Colorado

Colorado State University is nestled in Fort Collins, Colorado and there’s plenty more to do in town than hang out on campus. Adventurers and nature fans can hike nearby in Roosevelt National Forest, while Lory State Park also offers a wide range of available activities including hunting, boating, rock climbing, picnicking, horseback riding, fishing, geocaching, volleyball, biking, and hiking trails. When you need to refuel and unwind after a day full of exploration and exercise, check out the Old Town district, on which Disneyland’s Main Street, USA’s architecture is based. Rest up in a number of charming lodging options, dine out at local eateries, and enjoy a number of festivals throughout the year. The town is a Certified Colorado Creative District thanks to its wide range of galleries, artisanal shops, live music, and performances.

Fort Collins is also a great place for those with a taste for craft beers. The town is known as Colorado’s craft beer capital and features more than 20 breweries, which produce 70% of the state’s craft beers (and 7% of America’s).

Athens, Georgia

Located two hours outside of Atlanta, Athens, Georgia is home to the University of Georgia and so much more. The city is a music fan’s dream with a slew of live venues and even a Music History Walking Tour. Theaters, art galleries, and even a zoo provide entertainment for days. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Sandy Creek Nature Center, and Georgia Museum of Art are free to visitors, as are its many biking and hiking trails. You can also take a North Oconee River trip in a kayak or canoe. Who said small towns are sleepy?

Fort Worth, Texas

Though many tourists flock to nearby Dallas, Forth Worth, Texas is worth the 30-minute trip. Home to Texas Christian University, Texas Wesleyan University, and other institutions, this cowboy town owes its Texan charm to the Fort Worth Stockyards, which lets visitors experience cattle roundups and rodeos. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this college town is only ranchers and cattle. There’s also a thriving art district, with museums like the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Kimbell Museum hosting rotating exhibits alongside impressive permanent collections.

The Water Gardens in Fort Worth should also be on your itinerary. This terraced fountain is 38 feet tall and looks stunning lit up at night. Plus, check out miles of bike trails along the Trinity River, stopping into a BBQ joint or cool riverside eatery as you go.

Flagstaff, Arizona

Northern Arizona University students sure are lucky. Though it’s only an hour and a half drive to the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff, this college town has its own array of geological landmarks nearby, including those stunning red rocks you’ve come to expect in northern Arizona. Avid hikers and adventurous mountain bikers will love exploring Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, a dormant cinder cone volcano. You can also ski in Flagstaff at the Arizona Snowbowl, which is nestled in the San Francisco Peaks at 9,500 feet. The outdoorsy are bound to feel at home here.

Annapolis, Maryland

Residents of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore might have the perks of a buzzing metropolitan filled with politicians, journalists, and diplomats, but Annapolis, Maryland embraces a much more relaxed atmosphere. The University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins make Annapolis a gathering place for aspiring doctors and intellectual academics, but this city also includes charming row houses along downtown Main Street alongside seafood restaurants, art galleries, and shops. Stopping by to experience the United States Naval Academy perform the “noon meal formation” is also a unique form of entertainment and comparing the massive yachts at Ego Alley is a true spectacle.

CREDIT: thediscoverer

6 #Travel #Destinations #Perfect for #Introverts!

It’s a common misconception that introverts are quiet, socially inept types who like to stay at home. Wrong! Introverts enjoy traveling and exploring, they just prefer to take in things on their own terms and at their own pace. While they welcome opportunities for solitude and reflection, they also enjoy stimulating experiences and making connections with fellow travelers or locals.

Many travel destinations offer something for every type of temperament, so it’s often a matter of choosing particular sights or activities that can best deliver on individual preferences. That said, here are 6 travel destinations particularly well suited for introverts, whether you like to travel alone or with a like-minded friend.

Sedona, Arizona, USA

Sedona, Arizona, USA

Known for its stunning red rock landscape and energy vortexes, Sedona has a uniquely calming, yet energizing effect on its visitors. Rarely crowded, the area offers an overabundance of things to do, but the most popular activity is simply hiking one of the hundreds of trails and enjoying the splendid surroundings at your own pace. For an extra dose of solitude and magic, head out early in the morning to witness the sunrise or stay out late in the day to catch a sunset. At night, you can chill by a fire pit with a glass of wine or enjoy stargazing. If you prefer organized activities, there are many yoga, meditation and healing retreats, well suited for introverts.

Camino de Santiago, Spain

Camino de Santiago, Spain

This network of walking paths in the northern part of Spain was once one of the most important Christian pilgrimages. Thousands still make the epic 500-mile journey through stunning countryside every year. Aside from its religious significance, Camino de Santiago also attracts hiking and cycling enthusiasts, nature lovers and those who seek a spiritual retreat from modern life.

There are several different trails referred to as “ways”: the Original, French, Portuguese, Silver and a few others, but they all lead to the shrine of apostle St. James the Great at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. You can make your way as part of an organized group or with a friend, but it is also perfectly fine to make the journey completely on your own. Many do, relishing the solitude and the chance to unplug, connecting with other pilgrims along the way when and if they feel like it.

Iceland

iceland

Iceland is probably an expected contender on this list, but for good reason. Despite its hugely increased popularity with tourists over the last few years, this country is still a relatively remote place with ample opportunities to get lost and leave the crowds behind. Incredible landscapes full of hiking trails, roaring white glacier rivers with multiple waterfalls, black volcanic desert sands and hot springs are just some of the items from a long list of its natural attractions, best suited for outdoor enthusiasts. Another draw is the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. If all this is not enough to convince you, Iceland is listed as one of 10 most introverted countries in the world, offering more proof that introverts will feel at home here.

Slovenia

lake bled, slovenia

Lake Bled, the country’s famous fairy tale-like destination is synonymous with tranquility and serenity. But there are plenty of other reasons introverted travelers will love Slovenia. Not far away is Triglav National Park, whose incredible mountain peaks, tiny lakes, beautiful waterfalls and sheep herds quietly munching on alpine grass will leave you in awe. The nearby Soča Valley captivates with its peacefulness and the greenest crystal-clear river you have ever seen. Stay at one of the off-the-grid mountain huts or choose glamping, either will be a special experience. Equally charming is Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, one of Europe’s most underrated cities and perfect for leisurely exploring on foot. If you need more ideas, there are vineyard tours, spectacular underground caves and the coast dotted with small picturesque towns and villages, slender cypresses, colorful oleanders, fig trees and fragrant rosemary bushes.

Paris, France

paris, france

One of world’s top tourist spots and brimming with endless energy, Paris might not feel like a logical choice, but the City of Lights is a perfect city destination for introverted travelers. Think long peaceful walks along the Seine, a picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens or Champ de Mars or a small group bike ride through the city exploring some of the historic sites. Stay at one of the smaller, boutique hotels or an apartment. Get lost in one of the city’s fantastic museums, charming neighborhoods or antique stores for as long as you want. Sit down on a bench with a book in hand or at one of the city’s lovely cafes with pain au chocolate and people watch. The French capital has that special power of allowing you to feel alive and present or miles away, quietly contemplating in your own world. Oui oui!

Kauai, Hawaii, USA

aerial view of Kauai, Hawaii, USA

Kauai is nothing like Oahu or Maui, two of the most popular islands of the Aloha state, which can sometimes feel a touch too urban or packed with tourists. Known as the “Garden Island”, Kauai is covered with green valleys, lush rainforests, magnificent mountains hiding jaw-dropping waterfalls, coconut groves, orchid farms and coffee plantations. Several parts of the island are only accessible by sea or air and offer views straight out of Jurassic Park (which, coincidently, was filmed here). For an unforgettable experience, hike the 22-mile-long (round trip) Kalalau Trail on Na Pali Coast, one of the toughest and most spectacular hikes on the planet. Or, simply relax, enjoy the sound of the ocean, gentle breezes and spectacular sunsets on any of the islands pristine beaches. Introverts will love the small town feel and laid-back vibe of this island.

CREDITS: thediscoverer

How #habits #affect your #mental #health?

New research reveals a list of everyday activities that can bring on feelings of isolation or lift spirits

Depression affects around 10 per cent of the population at any given time, according to the Office for National Statistics, and is now second only to high blood pressure among the most common conditions recorded by GPs.

But while bereavement, unemployment and illness are common triggers for low mood, experts say everyday activities — from what we eat and drink to spending too much time online — could also contribute to leaving you feeling down.

So what’s affecting the way you think? Here are some possibilities, and what can you do about the impact they have on you.

Taking antibiotics

Certain groups of antibiotics, including quinolones and penicillin, are linked to depression, say scientists.

A large Tel Aviv University study of British patients found that taking just one course of antibiotics can raise the risk of depression and anxiety by around a quarter. And taking between two and five courses raises the risk by nearly half, they reported in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. It’s thought that disrupting the balance of bacteria in the gut can harm the way in which the brain cells communicate.

BOOST YOUR MOOD

A major proportion of your immune system actually lies in your gut in the form of friendly bacteria, and antibiotics can wipe these out — automatically weakening your immune system.

Restore the balance by promoting the production of good bacteria when taking antibiotics by eating live yogurt (containing lactobacillus, for example), or fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and miso.

Always online?

Swedish researchers found that those who spend long hours in front of a computer screen or on their phones (up to 150 hours a week) reported more depression, possibly due to sleep deprivation and lack of face-toface communication.

And a separate study by University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross found a direct correlation between time spent on social media and feelings of dissatisfaction, loneliness and isolation.

BOOST YOUR MOOD

Don’t visit a social network when feeling sad or dissatisfied with your present situation as, chances are, it will only make you feel more sorry for yourself and more depressed. Consider deactivating your account temporarily or unfollowing those who make you feel worse.

Pick up a bestseller instead. Those who read books regularly are, on average, happier and more satisfied with life, according to a study by reading charity BookTrust.

Too many coffee breaks

In the same way that sugary and fatty foods can leave you on a rollercoaster of emotion, coffee and high-caffeine energy drinks, too, can impact the way you feel, warns nutritionist Patrick Holford, author of Feel Good Factor.

Consuming caffeine sets off a stress response in your brain, which then stimulates the production of adrenaline, making you more alert, he says.

“In the long term, however, too much caffeine throughout the day causes constant adrenal overload,” he adds. “As a consequence, an increasing number of people are suffering from chronic anxiety, panic attacks, low mood, insomnia and stress-related weight gain.”

BOOST YOUR MOOD

Cut back on caffeinated drinks and eliminate them completely after 4pm. Instead, try herbal teas.

Not eating your greens

Those who eat the least fresh fruit and vegetables are most likely to become depressed, according to a University College London study.

The high levels of antioxidants found in fresh produce help prevent free radical damage to cells, including those in the brain.

BOOST YOUR MOOD

Find ways to sneak extra fruit and vegetables into your meals.

Eating just one extra portion of berries, greens or salad boosts one’s mental wellbeing by the same amount as walking for an additional 10 minutes for seven days a week, over four weeks, say researchers.

And, adding 10 additional portions of fruit and vegetables to your daily diet has the same effect on emotional wellbeing as going from unemployment into a job.