Yearly Archives: 2019

Top 10 Fairytale Towns in Germany

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Category : Europe , Germany

There’s no place like Germany when it comes to half-timbered homes, medieval castles, sweeping alpine vistas, and all the other makings of a fairytale backdrop for your vacation. My personal favorite time to visit is during the winter: sprinkle a little snow over everything and drop in a few Christmas markets and you won’t believe you’re still in the modern age. But at any time of year, these ten prettiest towns in Germany are sure to delight your eyes:

1. Rothenburg ob der Tauber

All right, let’s start the list with Rothenburg, because I think we can all agree, this is one of the most charming towns on the planet! This pretty town is located within an easy drive of Munich, Nuremberg, and Stuttgart—but trust me, you’ll want to spend at least a day wandering around the cobblestone streets of the well-preserved medieval town. You can see the whole Altstadt (old town) from the top of the Town Hall Tower, which I recommend doing early in the morning, before the crowds really set in. Then, spend the rest of the day getting lost down the countless alleyways!

Why go there?

Not only is Rothenburg well-connected to other southern German cities, but it has some of the best-preserved medieval architecture in the whole country. The 14th-century walls are still intact (although they did suffer some damage during WWII), and you can even take a walking tour of them. Plus, there’s the historic Marktplatz(market square), the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum, and plenty of other attractions that should more than keep you busy! Definitely don’t miss St. Jakob’s Church with its 500-year-old carved wooden altarpiece—one of the finest examples of craftsmanship in Germany.

Where to go: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

2. Dinkelsbuhl

One thing to note about Rothenburg is that it gets a crazy number of tourists every year, especially during the summer months and December, when tourism is at its peak across Germany. But nearby Dinkelsbuhl has all the charm of Rothenburg without all the people elbowing you out of the way to take that perfect picture! The town has an interesting history as it was accepting of both Protestants and Catholics during the Reformation—and it’s just a quaint little place with half-timbered buildings and window boxes galore!

Why go there?

Again, despite being one of the major stops along the Romantic Road, Dinkelsbuhl is far less crowded than Rothenburg. What this translates to is, you’re able to get prime people-watching seats at a street-side café. There’s no better way to experience German culture than watching everyday life happen before your eyes as you sip an afternoon coffee and enjoy a pastry or two. The town also features a number of different architectural styles, including Gothic (St. George’s Minster), late Roman (St. Paul’s), Rococo (the chapel in the Castle of the Teutonic Order), and more—so definitely get your camera ready to snap some shots!

Where to go: Dinkelsbühl, Germany

Dinkelsbuhl, Germany

3. Lubeck

Let’s jump up to the northern part of the country and talk about another medieval city: Lubeck. This city has one of the most extensive Altstadt, or old town, areas of any northern German city. Today, it’s still guarded by its iconic 15th-century red brick gate, and you’ll find plenty to love from the medieval city-center to the bustling Baltic Sea port areas.

Why go there?

There are six churches in Lubeck’s medieval quarter, and inside you’ll find some impressive examples of northern German ecclesiastical art. You’ll also want to check out the two city gates that have survived into the modern era, plus the old Rathaus, or town hall. But what I especially love about Lubeck is that it’s right there by the sea—don’t forget to view the ships at the Museumshafen or take a boat ride around the city! And you definitely need to try some of the marzipan that the city is famous for.

Where to go: Lübeck, Germany

Lubeck, Germany

4. Meissen

Meissen is one of the oldest towns in Saxony, so you definitely shouldn’t leave it off your itinerary! On first glance, the town actually looks a lot like Prague, thanks to its red roofs with the castle and cathedral set up on top of the town. But the culture of the town is uniquely German. What the town is really known for is its porcelain, which started being produced in the town in the early 16th century and which is still in production today.

Why go there?

Albrechtsburg, Meissen’s castle, dates to the 15th century and is considered to be Germany’s oldest castle. The Gothic architecture of the castle is very unique and well-worth a look. Next to the castle, you can also check out the Gothic cathedral—which frequently hosts classical music concerts! But the main attraction is the Meissen Porcelain Museum, which will tell you all about the town’s history as well as allow you to attend hands-on demonstrations. You can also browse shop after shop selling all sorts of different porcelain wares—so you should have no problem finding souvenirs for everyone on your list!

Where to go: Meissen, Germany

Meissen, Germany

5. Lindau

This town is located in the south of Germany, right on the border between Germany and Austria and right on the picturesque shores of Lake Constance (German: Bodensee). Pretty much anywhere you walk along the water, you can look out and see the Alps off in the distance—at least, you can if your eyes aren’t glued to the half-timbered houses and historical buildings of Lindau itself!

Why go there?

Lindau is a popular summertime resort, and with good reason! The lake stays pretty cool year-round, but that makes for a refreshing swim on those hot days. You’ll also have the chance to take boat trips on the lake, go hiking (I recommend heading to Bregenz and hiking up until you get a view of the lake), rent bikes, and otherwise participate in a plethora of outdoors activities. And oh yeah, did I mention that the town itself is incredibly beautiful? Your camera is going to be working overtime here for sure.

Where to go: Lindau, Germany

Lindau, Germany

6. Triberg

You can’t go to Germany and not visit the Black Forest! And although it might seem like there’s not much to do in a town as small as Triberg, you’re in for a surprise! Not only is the town itself charming, but it’s also a great place to learn about the history of the Black Forest area as well as to indulge in some outdoors activities (and some of the famous Black Forest cake—heaven in dark chocolate and cherry form!).

Why go there?

Soak in the cute town first, and then head over to Triberg’s Schwarzwaldmuseum, or Black Forest Museum. The place has a ton of artifacts, including many of the famous Black Forest cuckoo clocks that the region is known for. (Once you’ve finished there, head over to the House of 1000 Clocks where you can browse through different types of clocks—and buy traditional cuckoo clocks at a great price!) But also not to be missed is the quaint main street of town, and the nearby Triberger Waterfall, Germany’s tallest waterfall, which stands at an impressive 535 feet. There are a few different hiking trails in the area that will take you straight there.

Where to go: Triberg, Germany

Triberger, Germany

7. Worms

Although you might be a bit put off by the name of the town, Worms (pronounced vorms) is one of the oldest cities in Germany. It’s located right along the River Rhine, which is about as romantic as it gets, although it may not have the half-timbered houses of some of the other entries on this list. In fact, the town is famous as the setting of many medieval legends, including the Nibelungenlied about the hero Siegfried—so in my books, it definitely ranks amongst the top fairytale towns in the country!

Why go there?

Worms has been a religious city for many centuries. It’s 12th-century cathedral can be seen from all over the city—but the city is also home to the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe. You also can’t miss the Nibelungen Bridge and tower. But the smaller attractions are where the real charm is at. Pay a visit to the Liebfrauen Church, which is set amongst sprawling vineyards producing the delicious Liebfrauenmilch. Take a stroll along the Rhine or through the park surrounding Schloss Herrnsheim. You’re sure to find the fairytale beauty in every turn.

Where to go: Worms, Germany

Cathedral of Worms, Germany

8. Ramsau

You’ve undoubtedly seen pictures of St. Sebastian’s Church, located in Ramsau—they’re frequently on the covers of German guidebooks and brochures. And you’ve probably also seen pictures of the nearby Hintersee Lake. Or perhaps you’ve seen pictures of the fall festival, Almabtrieb, when the cows are brought down from the summer pastures for the cold winter. If you’re looking for a quaint, alpine village to spend your days in, look no further than Ramsau.

Why go there?

Although Ramsau is home to only about 3000 people, there are tons of things for you to do in the area. Whether you like hiking, skiing, swimming, star-gazing, or just relaxing and feasting on German food and drink, Ramsau is the place for you. And oh yeah, that church looks beautiful and straight out of a fairytale no matter what time of year it is.

Where to go: Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden, Germany

Ramsau, Germany

9. Bamberg

Bamberg became a UNESCO Heritage City in the early ’90s, and it’s easy to see why, given the medieval architecture that’s present in the old town. The city is spread over seven different hills, and it’s known for its arched bridges and the old Rathaus, which is perched on one of these arched bridges over the river. You’ll find many different styles of architecture here, from medieval and half-timbered to baroque to modern.

Why go there?

One of the main sights to see in Bamberg is its unique Rathaus, but you’ll also find similar fairytale-style buildings in the Alte Hofhaltung (Old Court), which was once home to the bishop. Speaking of bishops, don’t miss the 11th-century cathedral. And if all the architecture isn’t doing it for you, Bamberg is well-known for its numerous breweries, including the 15th-century Schlenkerla brewery, which make a type of smoked beer that isn’t made anywhere else in the world. Grab a tankard…er, glass…and some wurst you might feel like a knight from olden days!

Where to go: Bamberg, Germany

Bamberg, Germany

10. Bad Mergentheim

Bad Mergentheim is another pretty town where you’ll find quaint, cobblestoned streets and lovely half-timbered buildings. Also, as with all German towns that have ‘bad’ in the name, Bad Mergentheim is a spa town—and its waters have supposedly been curing people of various ailments for many centuries. I think everything about this town, from the history to the architecture, is absolutely lovely—and best of all, it’s a bit off the main tourist track!

Why go there?

Of all the towns on this list, I think Bad Mergentheim’s market square, with its colorful half-timbered buildings, is the prettiest—and not least of which because it isn’t crowded with tourists everywhere you look! And if your vision of fairytale includes knights in shining armor rescuing damsels in distress, you have to pay a visit to the Deutschordensschloss, or the castle that served as the medieval home for the Teutonic Knights once upon a time. There’s a museum inside the castle

Where to go: Bad Mergentheim, Germany

Bad Mergentheim, Germany

Of course, this is only a small selection of the fairytale towns that you’ll find scattered across Germany. Have you visited others? What were your favorites and why? Tell us about them in the comments below!

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP

The 15 Most Inspiring National Parks in Europe

Category : Europe , Visit Europe

I’m not much of a city person, so I love getting out into national parks when I’m traveling. Whether it’s hiking, skiing, or even just taking a drive through, I want to see every bit of beautiful landscape that this world has to offer. When you think of Europe, though, I bet you’re probably thinking of its popular cities like Rome, Paris, and London—or even if you’re thinking of landscapes, you’re probably thinking of the beaches of Barcelona or the majestic Alps. There’s plenty more to Europe than that, though! Don’t miss checking out these absolutely stunning national parks (listed in no particular order):

1. Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Italy

The Dolomites are technically part of the Alps, but they look nothing like what you’re picturing. In many places, these impressive limestone formations seem to jut straight up into the air, with near-vertical slopes. There are a plethora of outdoors activities that you can take part in, including skiing, climbing, hiking, and paragliding. You can stay directly in the park in accommodations ranging from mountain huts to hotels. But be careful: one look at the peaceful morning sunrise coming in over those peaks and you might never be able to drag yourself away!

Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Italy

Important info:
Admission: free.
Location on map: Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Italy

2. The Black Forest National Park, Germany

If you’re looking for gingerbread houses and other fairytale delights, look no further than Germany’s Schwarzwald, or Black Forest. The pretty little villages like Triberg, Kinzig, and Calw are everything that you would imagine, with half-timbered houses and plenty of places to buy traditional wooden cuckoo clocks and other delicately-carved woodcrafts. And if you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature, there’s no better place in all of Germany. This is the country’s largest national park, and it’s home to mountains, dense forests, and tons of varied flora and fauna. There’s hiking galore, plus plenty of other great outdoor activities to suit any interest.

The Black Forest National Park, Germany

Important info:
Admission: free.
Location on map: The Black Forest National Park, Germany

3. Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

When you think of Austria’s landscapes, you’re probably picturing something from the Sound of Music. And those dramatic mountains overlooking sprawling meadows are exactly what you’re going to get in Hohe Tauern—among other things. The park is home to Austria’s tallest mountain, along with roughly three dozen other distinct peaks, and it’s a great place to take a drive—the Grossglockener High Alpine Road is a great place to start. The park has inspired many artists and writers, so get ready to indulge your creative side as you explore by car, on foot, by bicycle, on horseback, or however else you choose.

Weisssee, White Lake in Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

Important info:
Admission: many parts are free; fees apply to certain areas.
Location on map: Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria

4. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

No matter where you look in this part, it honestly looks a bit surreal, as though your eyes were tricking you. The main reason for that is the colors: with its turquoise lakes (there are more than a dozen of them) and bright, leafy green trees, you’ll feel as though you’re caught in a photograph where someone bumped the saturation and changed the hue on you! Unfortunately, if you were thinking of taking a dip in these tranquil waters, that’s against the rules—but there are plenty of other great activities to enjoy like hiking, or you could head to Krka National Park instead, which offers similar views but with the opportunity to go swimming in one of the pools.

Breathtaking view over the Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Important info:
Admission: 55-180 kuna ($8-25), depending on the season.
Location on map: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

5. Triglav National Park, Slovenia

This is Slovenia’s only national park (surprisingly—but what they lack in number, they make up for in quality!). It’s another of those places where you won’t believe your eyes. Many tourists stay in nearby Bled and take day trips into the park, but if you’re looking to get off the beaten path, it’s better to stay along the shores of peaceful Lake Bohinj or in one of the many mountain lodges, where you’ll really have the chance to find your zen and enjoy your surroundings. During the summers, locals and tourists alike flock to the rivers in the park for kayaking and other water activities. Hiking is also popular in the park, and you can get great views from the summits of many of the peaks or from the high alpine meadows.

Beautiful Lake Bohinj surrounded by mountains of Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Important info:
Admission: free.
Location on map: Triglav National Park, Slovenia

6. Goreme National Park, Turkey

Goreme (also known to many travelers under the wider region of “Cappadochia”) is an incredible place to visit, from its cave towns to its general scenery. One of the most special experiences that you can have in your life is an early-morning hot air balloon ride over this alien-looking landscape of so-called fairy chimneys. The quiet is absolutely surreal, and the strange shapes of the rocks and the rising balloons will offer a thousand photo opportunities. Hiking and mountain biking are available for visitors of all fitness levels—and there’s a traditional Turkish bathhouse right in the middle of Goreme town where you can rest those muscles after a long, strenuous day. Just avoid traveling here during the height of summer, when the heat can be absolutely stifling; you’re better off visiting during the spring or fall.

Hot air balloon flying over Gorema National Park, Turkey

Important info:
Admission: fees apply to certain sites but are generally less than $10.
Location on map: Goreme National Park, Turkey

7. Curonian Spit National Park, Lithuania.

There’s nowhere in the world that’s quite like the Curonian Spit—in fact, the place is unique enough that it’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So what exactly is it, you may be asking? It’s a long, narrow strip of sprawling white sand dunes and 100-year-old pine groves that stretches along the edge of the Baltic Sea, forming the edge of the Curonian Lagoon. There are plenty of prime spots for sunbathing along the dunes; for the more active traveler, you may choose to hike or cycle through the area—just make sure to stay on the marked paths since the shifting sands and fragile ecosystem mean that straying from the beaten paths can do serious damage to the park!

Wooden path into the Dunes. Curonian Spit National Park, Lithuania

Important info:
Admission: €5 toll to enter the area + €0.80 to take the ferry across the lagoon; no fee to enter the park (see more information here).
Location on map: Curonian Spit National Park, Lithuania

8. Oulanka National Park, Finland

No matter what time of year you visit Oulanka, you’re sure to find some incredible scenery there to greet you. You’ll want to avoid visiting during the spring, when the park is prone to flooding, but in the summer, you’ll find jewel-bright greens. In the fall, on the other hand, the foliage will change over to brilliant orange and yellow hues. And in the winter, when everything is white, you’ll find that, far from being a harsh and forbidding landscape, Oulanka’s snow-covered trees and huts beckon you in to explore a special kind of solitude. The most popular trekking route in Finland (the 80-kilometer Karhunkierros Trail) lies within Oulanka’s borders, as do many other shorter routes, and if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of reindeer!

Kuusamo, Paahkanakallio, Oulanka National Park, Finland

Important info:
Admission: free.
Location on map: Oulanka National Park, Finland

9. The Lake District National Park, England

I love everything about England’s countryside, from its sprawling hills to its rich pastures full of sheep. What I love most about the Lake District, though, is the color palette. Here, you’ll find deep purples, greens, and blues like you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Although the mountains may not be as impressive as some of the others on this list, the juxtaposition between the sprawling mountains and tranquil lakes is definitely a sight to behold. Don’t even get me started on charming towns like Keswick or Grasmere. And as if that all weren’t enough, there’s plenty of history in the area as well, with everything from castles and abbeys to the Neolithic Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Ullswater, Lake District National Park, England

Important info:
Admission: free.
Location on map: The Lake District National Park, England

10. Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway

Jostedal Glacier is the largest glacier in continental Europe, so if you’re looking to go trekking, take some amazing photos, or just soak in views of some of the best things nature has to offer, this is the place for you. Even if you’re averse to cold weather, you can enjoy a visit to the glacier: the glacier continues to exist because there tends to be a decent amount of snowfall during the winter months, but temperatures actually stay pretty comfortable during most of the year. However, I personally recommend visiting during the winter or early spring. The temperatures may be a bit colder, but you’ll have the chance to take a guided tour underneath the glacier and into the Blue Ice Cave.

Jostedalsbreen Glacier, Norway

Important info:
Admission: free.
Location on map: Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway

11. Sarek National Park, Sweden

If you really want to visit a place that emphasizes how vast and magnificent the world really is, my vote is for Sarek National Park in the Lapland region of Sweden. There’s just something about the sprawling valleys and wide open, untouched expanses of beautiful land that will have you standing mouth agape in awe. Part of what makes it feel so rugged and wild is the lack of marked trails and signage—unless you’re an experienced backcountry hiker, it’s recommended that you travel with a guide. It takes a little more work to explore than some of the other parks on this list, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, you’re sure to have an incredible experience.

Sarek National Park, Sweden

Important info:
Admission: free, but it’s recommended that you travel with a guide, which can get pricey.
Location on map: Sarek National Park, Sweden

12. Snæfellsjökull National park, Iceland

There are plenty of amazing landscapes to captivate the traveler lucky enough to visit Iceland, so narrowing it down to just one national park is difficult! However, Snæfellsjökull offers a little taste of everything, from sweeping shorelines to volcanoes to glaciers and more. The area is home to an impressive selection of wildlife, and it’s also notable from a literary standpoint as being the point where the characters in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth find the actual passage to the center of the Earth. Although you may not find any evidence of that passageway during your trip, you will be able to view different archaeological remains such as the Forni-Saxhóll farm, thought to date back to roughly a thousand years ago.

Kirkjufell Mountain, Snaefellsjokull National Park, Iceland

Important info:
Admission: free.
Location on map: Snæfellsjökull National park, Iceland

13. Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Snowdonia is a hiker’s paradise, with nearly 1500 miles of trails spanning its roughly 800 square miles. The northern parts of the park are the most popular with tourists, many of whom choose to climb Snowdon Mountain, the park’s namesake and the largest mountain in all of Wales and England. But there are plenty of other mountains in the park, with varying levels of remoteness, plus bogs, coastline, and more. And with a plethora of classes on offer to the public, there’s way more to do than just hiking! One thing to note is that parts of the park are private property—so make sure you stay on marked routes or in places that you’re sure offer open access rights, and if you plan on fishing, make sure you have the appropriate permits.

Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Important info:
Admission: free.
Location on map: Snowdonia National Park, Wales

14. Valbonë Valley National Park, Albania

Hiking in the Alps can get frustrating when you’re rubbing elbows with tourists every step of the way. But Valbonë’s craggy mountains, rivers, and lakes will offer you a lot of the same scenery without all the bustle and mass culture. Plus, how many people do you know who can say that they’ve danced at a St. George’s Day celebration (May 6) in an Albanian village that numbers only a couple hundred inhabitants? Best of all when you’re hiking during those summer days? The temperature tends to stay relatively cool, usually in the upper 60s or lower 70s Fahrenheit. Despite Albania’s small size, it can take a while to travel to Valbonë—but once you make it there, you’re sure to forget all about that!

Valbona Valley National Park, Albania

Important info:
Admission: free.
Location on map: Valbonë Valley National Park, Albania

15. Pyrénées National Park, France

From canyons to greenery to wildlife (and domesticated animals like sheep) to waterfalls, this section of the Pyrenees has everything that you could hope for and more. It’s a paradise for bird-watchers and hikers during the spring and summer, and in the winter, there’s the possibility for some great ski-touring too. Even if you’re not big on outdoor activities, there’s plenty to enjoy in the Pyrénées, such as the Train d’Artouste. One of my favorite things about a trip to the Pyrénées, though? Undoubtedly the food! From a scrumptious picnic during the summer to some hearty soup by the fire in the winter, you’re sure to find that the meals are a perfect complement to the beauty around you.

Lake Gentau, Pyrenees National Park, France

Important info:
Admission: free.
Location on map: Pyrénées National Park, France

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP

The 17 Best City Parks in Europe

Category : Europe , Visit Europe

Europe is one of the most popular destinations on earth. The many unique countries enjoy a thriving tourism industry year round, and for good reason. Europe is home to some of the most diverse and historical cities in the world. The attractions are endless and the culture is thriving. Alongside this, its natural reserves and rural areas are truly breathtaking to behold.

If you’re someone who loves both the urban and the natural, picking your ideal European destination can be tricky. Fortunately, many cities across the continent are home to beautiful parks, which provide a green respite from the hustle and bustle of the town centers.

Here are 17 of the very best city parks to help you choose the perfect European break for you.

17. Parque de Maria Luisa in Seville, Spain

Seville has earned itself the title of the ‘real Spain’. Its traditional cuisine, architecture, flamenco style and penchant for bullfighting makes it the perfect Spanish archetype. However, in the summer months, the paved streets heat up quick and the sun can be scorching.

Because of this, Parque de Maria Luisa is a crucial part of the city’s charm. Sheltered by vast trees, it provides picturesque shadows over the quaint paths and paved squares. The park was formerly a palace garden and there are countless ornate pavilions and fountains to spot. You can explore on foot, by bike or in the horse and carts, which are available to rent. With many species of exotic and domestic plants and animals, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a cool and relaxing siesta.

Directions: Parque de Maria Luisa, Paseo de las Delicias, Seville, Spain

Parque de Maria Luisa, Seville, Spain

16. Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin, Germany

The German capital is home to many attractions remaining from WWII and the subsequent iron curtain era. Tempelhofer Feld stands as a wonderful representation of the German character and their relationship with their turbulent past.

The park was once a military parade ground, which opened to the public on weekends and holidays. In 1920, an airport was built. However, 88 years later, the stretch of land was once again transformed into a park of the people. Today, it’s a hotspot for local athletes, with facilities for skating and cycling. There’s also an urban gardening project, which provides a quaint and picturesque area for picnics – or just for a quick rest!

Directions: Tempelhofer Feld, Berlin, Germany

Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin, Germany

15. Bernardine Gardens in Vilnius, Lithuania

Tucked away in the Baltics, Lithuania remains one of Europe’s most beautiful hidden gems. With a rich history, the capital city of Vilnius tells an important story through its architecture, culture, and people. Nowhere is this diverse past celebrated so perfectly than in the Bernardine Gardens.

Originally created in the 18th century by local artist, Vladislovas Štrausas, the recent restorations has renovated the gardens to their former glory. The riverside paths, beautiful fountains and central square are all identical to their original pre-WWII versions. The botanical elements of the park also hold an exciting history. Among the various awe-inspiring species of trees, the garden is home to three of the oldest oaks in Vilnius. The eldest dates back an impressive 300 years! The park also has a modern twist; the musical fountain in the central square is an exciting attraction that plays both classical and modern tunes.

Directions: Bernardine Park, B. Radvilaitės g. 8A, Vilnius, Lithuania 

Bernardine Gardens, Vilnius, Lithuania

14. Park Eduardo VII, Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon remains one of the most underrated cities in Europe and the Park Eduardo VII is one of its finest attractions. Its prime location offers panoramic views of the Portuguese capital and is a local favorite spot for relaxing on warm summer evenings. The vast stretches of green space also make it ideal for festivals and cultural celebrations.

If you lucky enough to be in Lisbon between May and September, be sure to attend one of the free Jazz concerts – it will be the highlight of your trip! The venue has such a welcoming and friendly atmosphere that it’s the perfect spot to strike up a conversation and get to know some new people.

Directions: Parque Eduardo VII, Lisbon, Portugal

Park Eduardo VII, Lisbon, Portugal

13. Vondelpark in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Since it was established as the epicenter of the hippy movement in the 1960s, Vondelpark has been a lively outdoor community area that is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Celebrating the Dutch love of cycling, the best way to explore is on a bike. The many paths will lead you around the lakes, trees, and art that characterize this natural paradise.

Throughout the year, there is always plenty to do in the park. Yoga classes are a common occurrence and the open-air theatre hosts festivals, dance, cabaret, comedy shows and children’s performances. There are also many high-quality cafes and restaurants where you can grab a bite. Although the park boasts over 10 million visitors per year, you can always find a quiet spot to relax and enjoy the nature.

Directions: Vondelpark, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Vondelpark in Amsterdam, Holland

12. Lycabettus Hill in Athens, Greece

This vast limestone mound is one of Athens’ defining features. Located on the outskirts, it provides spectacular views over the city that has long been known as the cradle of Western civilization. Covered with soaring pine trees, it’s a perfect way to get out of the main city and enjoy the sights of Athens from afar.

You can spend a day hiking up the mount or there’s a cliff railway if you’d prefer not to exert yourself. Once at the top, the attractions are numerous. The chapel of St. George crowns the hill and there are many restaurants to enjoy a classic Italian meal. However, by far the main lure of the hill is the stunning open-air theatre. As great outdoor celebrations have long been a tradition in Greece, it provides a perfect spot to soak up some local culture. Both native groups and international artists headline the stage, including Black Sabbath, Massive Attack, and B.B. King.

Directions: Mount Lycabettus, Athens 114 71, Greece

Lycabettus Hill in Athens, Greece

11. Phoenix Park in Dublin, Ireland

This 354-year-old national park is one of the main attractions for visitors of the Irish capital. It’s currently home to the president’s house and headquarters for the police service, but the surrounding gardens have endless surprises and jaw-dropping sights.

Animal lovers will be filled with glee at the free-roaming deer herds. Plus, the onsite zoo is home to almost 100 different species. If you’re interested in exploring the cities history, then the Viking cemetery and the Wellington monument are essential stops. Alongside this, Ashdown castle stands as the oldest building in the park. For those who enjoy more adrenaline in their adventure, be sure to head down to the motor rally track, which hosts an annual race event.

Directions: Phoenix Park, Dublin 8, Ireland

Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland

10. MFO Park, Zürich, Switzerland

When you think of the word ‘park,’ you imagine luscious sweeping fields and wooded hillsides. However, Zürich has taken the concept to a whole new level. As one of the best examples of urban green-spaces in the world, the park is comprised of vertical steel structures, each intertwined with a myriad of trees and plants.

The impressive structure is built around the bones of an old factory, masterfully up-cycled into a true work of art! It’s mesmerizing the sit beneath the canopy and shut out the city for even just a few moments. Boasting over 104 species of plants, the site has won numerous international awards. Despite this, it’s still a well-kept secret that hasn’t yet been tainted by large crowds.

Directions: MFO Park, Zürich, Switzerland

MFO Park, Zurich, Switzerland

9. City Park in Budapest, Hungary

Quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations in Eastern Europe, Budapest is such a hit because it has something for everything. This wide variety of enjoyment and activities is also evident in the city’s most impressive park. With so much on offer, it’s advisable you dedicate a whole day to exploring.

Vajdahunyad Castle stands at the center and provides an iconic view from all angles. The impressive structure was built in 1896 as part of the celebration for 1000 years as an independent Hungarian state. Across the river stands the famed Széchenyi Baths, one of the best examples of the city’s thermal-spa culture. With naturally heated waters, it’s the ideal way to relax after walking the expansive lawns of the park. There is also a zoo and the Museum of Hungarian Architecture to visit.

Directions: City park, Budapest, Kós Károly stny., 1146 Hungary

City Park, Budapest, Hungary

8. Drottningholm Slott in Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm’s charm comes from its location. Situated on an archipelago in the South East of Sweden, the collection of islands rivals Vienna and Amsterdam for its picturesque waterways and riverside parks. Just out of the city, Drottingholm Castle is a must-see landmark, with vast grounds that provide visitors with one of the more breathtaking city-park experiences in Europe.

Spanning 1400 acres, the park has expanded over time. The inner section dates back to the late 1800s and is comprised of luscious tree avenues, decorative fountains, hedge mazes and long stretches of green lawn. The outer circle of the park came later, but its spectacular combination of canals, bridges and open grass are well-known for unmissable vistas. The grounds are also home to the Chinese Pavilion, an oriental style structure gifted to the Royal family in 1770.

Directions: Drottningholms Slott, Stockholm, Sweden

Drottningholm Slott, Stockholm, Sweden

7. Tiergarten Park, Berlin, Germany

Berlin is awash with fascinating and unique parks. The most popular is Tiergarten, in the heart of the city. During the summer, this park is one the most popular favorite to while away the hours, as it’s always alive with activity.

For first-time visitors, there are a few essential stops to check off. The famed memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, the Reichstag Parliament building, and the Brandenburg gate line the eastern edge. The western side is home to the city zoo, numerous restaurants, and the park’s beautiful lake and canal system. Be sure to look out for events taking place, as the venue hosts celebrations throughout the year.

Directions: Großer Tiergarten, Straße des 17. Juni 31, Berlin, Germany

Tiergarten Park, Berlin, Germany

6. Garden of Mont des Arts, Brussels, Belgium

This stunning city park only exists thanks to a spontaneous decision by King Leopold II in the late 1800s. He decided that the site, which then housed a busy neighborhood, would be flattened to make room for a ‘Mont des Arts.’ Unfortunately, the project was a slow starter and the space remained empty for many years. It wasn’t until 1910 that an important event in the city forced the commission of a temporary garden.

Today, this last-minute provision is a much-loved part of the city. It offers avenues of fountains and flower gardens, alongside the monumental staircase that has since become its most iconic feature. The impressive grounds are reason enough to visit the park, but the spectacular views it offers are equally magnificent. The gardens provides one of the best vistas of Brussels that can be found – so don’t forget your camera!

Directions: Mont des Arts, Bruxelles, Belgium

Garden of Mont des Arts, Brussels, Belgium

5. Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain

Gaudi’s stamp in one of the defining feature of Barcelona. The modernist architect combined his love of nature and geometry, to create a visual aesthetic that today has become the symbol of this famed Spanish city.

Gaudi created Parc Guell in the early 1900s, first opening it to the public in 1926. The breathtaking intricacy of his sculptures and mosaics are perfectly intertwined with Spanish nature, to create a park like no other in the world. Wandering his beautiful creations is like entering a dreamland. The cherry on top of the experience is the breathtaking view across the city offered by the park’s main square.

Directions: Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain

Parc Guell, Barcelona, Spain

4. Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy

Rome is home to some of the most iconic sights and buildings in the world. Considering this, it’s understandable that the majestic Villa Borghese often does not receive the credit it deserves. Spanning 80 hectares, there’s so much to do here that I recommend dedicating an entire day to the trip.

For nature lovers, the bio-park is a true highlight. Showcasing life of all kinds, this zoo/botanical garden has so much to see. If you’re looking for a more authentic Roman experience, then the Villa Medici and Galleria Borghese showcase classic renaissance architecture and Italian artwork.

Directions: Villa Borghese, Piazzale Napoleone 1, Roma RM, Italy

Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy

3. Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France

Often described as the Central Park of Paris, these iconic gardens are regularly seen on TV, film and in works of photography and art. Their long chestnut groves blaze orange in the autumn and provide much-needed shade from the summer sun. Originally donated to the children of the city by Napoleon, it’s now a favored spot for Parisians and visitors of all ages.

It’s impossible not to be caught up in the romantic mood of the park – one the best dates I’ve ever had was spent wandering its ornate terraces! With traditional Punch & Judy shows, a carousel and horse rides on offer, it’s also the ideal family destination. Even if you’re just passing through on a business trip or city break, you have to take a moment to enjoy its enchanting charm.

Directions: Le Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France

Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France

2. Hyde Park in London, England

Made famous as one of England’s premier music venues, Hyde Park is a must-see attraction, whether you’re there for a concert or not. Set over 350 acres, the combination of green spaces, monuments, outdoor activities and local nature make it the perfect destination for the whole family.

The park is also home to some of London’s most important monuments. The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is located in the center. Alternatively, the nearby Kensington gardens – made famous by Peter Pan – hosts art installations from prominent British sculptors. Speakers Corner, in the north-west of the site, is a notorious public space where speakers from all walks of life can share their ideas and beliefs.

Directions: Hyde Park, London, UK

Hyde Park, London, England

1. El Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain

Located near the center of one of Spain’s most thriving cities, El Retiro Park does exactly as the name promises: offers a place to retire from fast-paced city life. Originally created for the country’s royalty, today locals and tourists alike can enjoy the beautiful gardens that are, literally, fit for a King!

The central lake is a picturesque lagoon, crowned with the breathtaking Alfonso XII monument – a grand pillared crescent complete with numerous life-size statues. Exploring the grounds, you’ll stumble across the rose garden, a vast walkway of statues and even a muster of beautiful peacocks that hang out in the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez. However, don’t forget to keep an eye on the sky in this area, as the birds are known for swooping down from the above trees!

Directions: El Retiro Park, Plaza de la Independencia, 7, Madrid, Spain

El Retiro park, Madrid, Spain

There are so many fantastic destinations in Europe that its hard to narrow it down to the perfect list. However, the city parks are all definitely worth adding to your bucket list! Not only do they allow you a break from their respective city’s noise and business, they provide unmissable attractions in their own right.

If you know of any other green spaces that deserve a spot then be sure to leave a comment below – we’d love to hear your ideas!

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP

Top 10 Highest Peaks in Europe

Category : Europe , Visit Europe

When one thinks of Europe, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? The tree-lined boulevards of Le Champs d’Elysee? A cold stein of beer in a warm public bar in Germany? How about a snow-capped mountain? No, not the Alps. Well, not just the Alps. Europe is actually home to a myriad of world-famous, world class mountains, particularly those with impressively high peaks. So, for the adventure travelers who isn’t afraid of a little snow, we’ve compiled a list of the highest peaks in Europe; the ones that should be highest on your list.

10. Dom, Switzerland

Though it might be an anticipated choice, when talking European mountains, it’s impossible to avoid mentioning the Alps. However, those whose pondering of the Swiss Alps has never made it past The Matterhorn and Mont Blanc will be surprised to learn of the majesty of Dom, the third highest peak in the range clocking in at an impressive 4,545 m (or 14,911 ft). It, along with it’s twin, Taschhorn, make for a pretty pair of mountain majesty.

Why go there? As far as mountain climbing goes, Dom is actually considered an easy climb, despite its impressive height. It is also the point of intersection between the main Alps chain and an auxiliary chain running from Schwarzberghorn in the South to Distelhorn, meaning the summit offers impressive views of neighboring mountains peaks.

Location on MapDom, Switzerland

The Dom peak visible from Furka pass, Switzerland

9. Monte Rosa, Switzerland

Another treat from the Alps, Monte Rosa is actually considered the highest peak in Switzerland, and the second highest in the Alps, making it a respectably daring choice for any mountain aspiring mountain climber. Dufourspitze, it’s main peak, measures 4,634 m (15,203 ft) and is the subject of many a touristic camera lens point, both from close up and from a distance. But Dufourspitze is only one of many sightly peaks to explore on a trip up Monte Rosa.

Why go there? Monte Rosa is snowy year-round, and therefore a popular tourist destination for hiking, skiing, snowboarding, and mountaineering, as well as trekking. A complete trek of the mountain can me completed in about 10 days, but is not for the faint of heart or the cold-fearing, as temperatures can often drop sub-zero, even before sunfall.

Location on Map: Monte Rosa, Switzerland

Doufourspitze peak, Monte Rosa, Zermatt, Switzerland

8. Ushba, Georgia

Located in the Svaneti region of Georgia, near the Russian border, the Georgian Ushba mountain is often called the Matterhorn of the Caucasus Mountains, not for its height (which is impressive at 4,690 m (15,387 ft)), but rather for the truly awe-inspiring nature of its spindly double-summit, which is the subject of many impressive photos. However, Ushba is considered the hardest climb in the Caucasus Mountain Range, with the average climb-time running at over 12 days of exhausting mountaineering, so those pictures can come at a steep cost.

Why go there? For a true adventure climber or seasoned mountain tackler, Ushba Mountain, sometimes called “The Queen of the Caucasus” is the perfect challenge. Heavy snowfall and impressive year-round storms can make the climb arduous at best and treacherous at worst. Summit of the north peak mountain also technically involves a border crossing into Russia, which is an added bonus for travelers looking to cross another country off their list.

Location on MapUshba, Georgia

Mount Ushba at night

7. Mont Blanc, Italy, France

An exhilarating crossroad between France and Italy (though the summit is technically in France), Mont Blanc, Monte Bianco, or “White Mountain” is often cited as the second most famous mountain in the Alps, right after the Matterhorn. It is a stunning 4,807 m (15,778 ft) tall, and the stately views from the top do not disappoint, whether on foot or seen from the comfort of a plane journey from Paris to Milan.

Why go there? Lovers of winter sports will be impressed by the plethora of skiing, snowboarding and other winter sport adventuring, though the biggest and best way to experience Mont Blanc is, of course, mountaineering. For adventurous ice-climbers, Monte Blanc also features the Mer de Glace glacier, the second longest in the Alps.

Location on MapMont Blanc, Italy, France

Mont Blanc with Lac Blanc

6. Tetnuldi, Georgia

Tetnuldi is another snow-tipped Georgian charmer located among the mountains of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range. Its highest peak, Adishi, clocks in at 4,853 m (15,922 ft), and is definitely a sight for sore eyes. This peak wins Tetnuldi the title of the 10th highest peak in the Caucasus as well as grants it some absolutely stunning views of its neighbors, including Mount Elbrus, and the tiny town of Mestia. Year round blanket of powder fresh snow makes it an appropriate home to many new and up-and-coming ski resorts.

Why go there? Those who love skiing will be pleased at the array of new ski resorts popping up on and around Tetnuldi, granting it greater accessibility and enjoyment as a touristic destination. However, once hitting base camp, camping is the only option for those wishing to summit the peak. And be careful, because Tetnuldi’s icy climes make it a considerably more difficult trek than other mountains in its height range.

Location on MapTetnuldi, Georgia

Mountain ski resort, Tetnuldi mountain, Swaneti region5. Mount Kazbek, Georgia

The third Georgian charmer on the list, Mount Kazbek (also known as Stepantsminda) is actually a dormant subclass of volcano known as a stratovolcano, as well as a part of the Caucasus Mountain Range. Its volcanic status has earned it the name “Molten Mount” in local tongues. Kazbek is considered the third highest peak in Georgia, at a height of 5,047 m (16,558 ft), but only the seventh highest in the Caucasus system. Though it’s a true feat to climb it, Kazbek’s commanding presence can also be enjoyed safely (and while sipping hot chocolate) from nearby Stepantsminda Village.

Why go there? Mount Kazbek is considered the crown jewel and main site of the Kazbegi National Park, official designated in 1979 and home to an abundance of alpine meadows and beech tree forests, making it a lovely destination for mountain climbers and nature lovers alike. However, unpredictable weather makes for a potentially treacherous and harrowing climb, so aspiring mountaineers should be careful as and well prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.

Location on Map: Mount Kazbek, Georgia

Mount Kazbek and Gergeti Church_

4. Koshtan-Tau, Russia

Moving across the border into the Russian section of the Caucasus, there is the Koshtan-Tau mountain, with a height of 5,144 m (16,877 ft). Though technically considered a massif, meaning there are several separate peaks on the mountain, the Koshtan-Tau is the only to go above the impressive 5,000 meter mark. Located near the Georgian border, the mountain’s Russian steep altitude and Northern-hemisphere location means there is snow year-round, making for some particularly scenic wintertime-all-the-time vistas.

Why go there? Since its discovery and first climb in 1889, the mountain has remained rather remote and not a particularly popular climb, making it an advantageous trek for those interested in venturing into relatively unchartered territory. However, travelers will be pleased to note that routes of many different terrains and difficulties exist, from easy rock routes to treacherous traverses.

Location on MapKoshtan-Tau, Russia

View of the highest peaks in Caucasus - Koshtan-Tau, Shkhara, Mizhirgi, Dykhtau

3. Shkhara, Georgia

Another Georgian summit of the Svaneti Caucasus region, Shkhara is simply another stunning, snow-topped peak, and in fact, Georgia’s highest summit. The highest point is a 12 km (7.5 mi) ridge known as Bezingi, which is 5,201 m (17,060 ft) high. Shkhara was first summited in 1888, and is not considered an easy climb by any means. However, aspiring climbers dissuaded by the challenge may be equally charmed by Shkhara’s local Georgian village, Ushguli, which is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Why go there? Shkhara is a high-risk, high reward kind of climb. The high levels of snow year round and treacherous rocky, steep mountain terrain dissuade many novice and even expert mountain climbers, and the completion of the entire Shkhara-Benzingi Wall is known as one of Europe’s most difficult climbs. Those who tough it win both commanding views and bragging rights. Though journey times vary widely, skilled climbers can complete a Shkhara trek in 6 or 7 days.

Directions: Shkhara, Georgia

Ushguli village at the foot of Mount Shkhara. Upper Svaneti, Georgia, Europe

2. Dykh-Tau, Russia

If this article doesn’t prove that the mountain range with the highest capacity for awe-inspiring peaks is indeed the Caucasus, not the Alps, nothing will. Dykh-Tau (also called Dikh Tau or Dycktau) is known as “jagged mount” in Turkic, and is aptly named, if we do say so ourselves. This second highest peak of the Caucasus Region is located in Russian territory, and known for the technical difficulty created by its jagged terrain and the frequent avalanches they cause. It is a truly steep 5,205 m (17,077 ft) at its highest point, and offers absolutely stunning views from its peak.

Why go there? This mountain, like so many of the others in this range, presents a challenging climb for true adventurers with no “beginner” or shortcut summit. Climbing takes an average of 13 days camping on the mountain, which can quickly stretch into more due to the challenging nature of the climb. Mountaineers, be sure to pack accordingly and choose wisely between the bitterly cold winter, and the summer when the rocks are out their roughest.

Location on Map: Dykh-Tau, Russia

Dykh-Tau - the second highest mountain in Europe

1. Mount Elbrus, Russia

Topping our list is the impressive Mount Elbrus, of the Caucasus Range in Russia (Eat your heart out, Matterhorn). Mount Elbrus is, of course, the highest peak in Europe, making it one of the world’s “seven summits.” The mount itself clocks in at the tenth most prominent in the world, with a stunning figure of 5,642 m (18,510 ft). Toe the surprise of many, Elbrus actually consists of two main peaks, both dormant volcanoes, stretching to the West and East. But lava-shy climbers, have no fear! The last eruption was in the year 50 CE.

Why go there? Despite its impressive size, Mount Elbrus has been fairly well carved out for travelers, making it an easier summit than many of the other giants on our list. The ascent can be aided by chairlift, and generally can take as little as eight hours. However, that doesn’t mean that the climb can be made by anyone, as it tops not only this list, but several lists of the most dangerous mountains in Europe. Adequate planning is important to ensure that these absolutely once in a lifetime views don’t come at the cost of one’s life.

Location on Map: Mount Elbrus, Russia

Mount Elbrus in the morning

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP

Top 10 Places to Visit in Scandinavia

Category : Europe , Scandinavia

While the aurora borealis might be the reason most people put Scandinavia at the top of their list of places to visit, it shouldn’t be. There’s much more to Scandinavia than a multi-colored glow in the sky. Scandinavia encompasses several different  countries and although they’re often grouped together, they are all uniquely special.

What they do all have in common is wonderful, cultured people who will welcome you to their country with real heart. Fascinating cultures full of myth, mystery and legendary gods some of which you’ll be familiar with and others you may never have heard of. And the real reason you should be going there – the absolutely, breathtaking dramatic landscapes and natural wonders the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

So if you’re thinking of heading to Scandinavia, what should be on your top ten list of places to visit?

10. Koli National Park, Finland

The landscapes of the Koli National Park aren’t just stunning, they’re also inspiring. Voted the best hiking area in Finland in 2013, the amazing views from the Koli Hills have ignited the creative juices of many famous artists. The park has over eighty kilometers of hiking routes which wind through centuries old, moss covered forests, past waterfalls and through meadow-like clearings.

Take the trail up Ukko-Koli Hill and when you reach the summit, over three hundred and fifty meters above sea level, you’ll be rewarded with the best-known view in all of Finland – the panorama of Lake Pielinen. If you prefer to sit and ponder on the wonders of the world, then climb the hiking route up Paha-Koli Hill. You’ll find Finland’s most famous viewpoint at the top. A large jutting rock where you can rest and contemplate the incredible views of the lake below.

Why Go? Koli National Park is the place to get back in touch with nature. It’s totally unspoiled and uncommercialized. If you want to immerse yourself to the full in the Finnish experience, try this Helsinki Koli National Park Four Day Tour. The skiing, cycling, and canoeing come highly recommended as does the fantastic Koli Relax Spa. The Koli National Park has inspired many great creatives when you go, maybe it’ll inspire you too.

Koli National Park, Finland

9. Oresund Underwater Bridge, Denmark and Sweden

When man puts his mind to construction the results can often be astounding. The Oresund Underwater Bridge which links Sweden with Denmark is one of those feats. It stretches for almost five miles across the Oresund Strait and is the longest road and railway bridge in the world. Its imposing design, almost as iconic as the Golden Gate Bridge, is visible from the air when you fly into Copenhagen.

But that fact is not the one which makes it uniquely special. What does make it special is how the dramatic bridge structure, which starts on the Swedish coast outside of Malmo, suddenly takes a sloping dive and submerges beneath the waters converting into the Drogden tunnel. The two and a half mile long tunnel re-emerges on the Danish island of Amager.

Why go? Driving over the Oresund Bridge is a surreal experience. One minute you’re cruising almost two hundred feet above the water the next plunging down to over thirty feet below it. In less than fifteen minutes you can leave Sweden and be in Denmark or vice versa depending where you’re coming from. Definitely a drive everyone should do at least once in their life.


Oresund Underwater Bridge, Denmark and Sweden

8. Preikestolen, Norway

Every hike has its end rewards. Some bigger and more spectacular than others. Preikestolen in Norway is one of the latter. At just under a staggering two thousand feet high, the flat-topped cliff looms over the glacial blue waters of the Lysefjord below. The granite plateau can only be reached by a short but steep path which can take anywhere up to three hours to climb. It won’t be the climb which takes your breath away though, it’ll be the views you’re compensated with when you reach the top.

Why go? The Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock is one of nature’s unique rock formations and is the most famous viewpoint in Norway. Standing on the edge to get the ultimate photo will bring on a serious adrenaline rush. It’ll make you think twice about how the Base jumpers, who use it as a launch site, feel before they leap into the great void. Don’t feel confident enough to hike it alone, but still want to give it a go? You can take a Guided Hike of Preikestolen which will make it all seem like a walk in the park.

Preikestolen, Norway

7. Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to have your own private island, you need to sail around the Stockholm Archipelago. With upward of twenty thousand islands spread throughout the Baltic Sea, your imagination would have plenty to choose from. You might not want to share with the seagull colonies which inhabit some, but there are others which are studded with Viking graves, nature trails to cycle along and there’s some amazing wildlife like eagles and seals to spot.

Why go? The Stockholm Archipelago is world renowned for the quality of its food. The islands are peppered with farm shops where you can try and purchase local food stuffs which have been ecologically produced. It’s also the ideal place to practice your kayaking skills too. If you’re worried about navigating round the islands or nervous of not making it back to civilization, then try a Kayaking Adventure with a professional guide. He’ll make sure you get back to Stockholm. If you prefer to feel the wind in the sails rather than doing some strenuous paddling, then try a Stockholm Sailing Tour. You’ll discover what it’s like to captain a yacht through one of the most beautiful places in the world. Only one word for it – amazing.


Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

6. Löyly Sauna, Finland

The Löyly Sauna in Finland’s capital city, Helsinki, really is worth getting steamed up about. Although it’s easy enough to get a sauna pretty much anywhere in the country, this one is special and just shouldn’t be missed. Stunningly stylish, the waterfront installation looks out over the Baltic. As well as enjoying a traditional smoke sauna followed by a dip in the sea, there’s a very classy restaurant and some great cafe terraces where you can enjoy the views.

Why go? If you’re in Finland then you have to try out the sauna culture and there’s no better place to do it than the Löyly Sauna. Communal or private, though going it alone does involve quite an inversion, it’s something you should experience. The bonus, you’ll feel all the better for it and be pink and glowing with health after.


Aerial Drone view of Loyly Sauna, Helsinki, Finland

5.Råbjerg Mile and Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse, Denmark

If you visit the Råbjerg Mile in Denmark, don’t stand still for too long. The impressive stretch of sand dunes creep forward at a rate of just under sixty feet a year and engulf everything in their path. Phenomena of nature, the dunes can reach anywhere up to one hundred and thirty feet in height. That’s a lot of sand and the closest thing to a desert you’ll find in Scandinavia.

Propelled by the winds which gust through the area, the Råbjerg Mile covers a surface area of just under half a square mile. The Rubjurg Knude Lighthouse is one of the shifting sands latest victims. The high point it once stood on is now covered with sand and although it’s not completely engulfed by the dunes, it won’t be long before it is.

Why go? If a visit to the Sahara to photograph the dunes there is out of the question, then you should go here instead. The Råbjerg Mile dune formation is constantly changing from week to week so no two photographs are ever really the same. Go there while the Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse is still standing. It won’t be long before the lighthouse succumbs to the pressure of the sands which are encompassing it, collapses under the strain and becomes nothing more than a pile of rubble.

Rabjerg Mile and Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse, Denmark

4. The Atlantic Road, Norway

If you’re into exciting drives, the Atlantic Road should be right at the top of your list of amazing highways. The Atlantic Road curves its way through an archipelago of islands on the western coast of Norway. The road links the islands together with five miles of switchbacks more twisted than a dragon’s back, eight bridges, and several viaducts. It has been designated the honorable title of Norway’s construction of the century.

Why go? If you’ve ever wanted to island hop without getting on either a boat or a plane then the Atlantic Road is for you. It might not be the longest drive in the world, but it is definitely one of the most demanding. It gets even more exciting when the sea is rough and waves crash over the road. There’s plenty of places to stop along the way which include some great viewpoints where you can look back and marvel at what you’ve just driven over. It really is the road trip of a lifetime so don’t miss it.

Atlantic Road in Norway. Aerial drone shot

3. Ice Hotel, Sweden

There really is only one place you can go for a perfect chill out stay and that’s the Ice Hotel in the small town of Jukkasjärvi in northern Sweden. The hotel started as one single room in the late eighties. Now there are around seventy deluxe suites constructed every year with ice blocks taken from a nearby river. The igloo-type rooms are decorated with stunning murals and ice statues carved by local sculptors. There’s no worry of anything melting as the temperature in the rooms maintains a steady -5 to -8 degrees. Now that’s cool.

Why go? It really is a unique and very special experience to lay back, wrapped up in an army issue sleeping bag and reindeer skin blankets, to watch the cosmic show through the skylight opening of your room. The Ice Hotel’s remoteness, it’s one hundred and twenty odd miles north of the Arctic Circle, means it’s also a place where you can listen to real silence. After you’ve been out on a dog sled ride and before you tuck yourself in for the night, a shot or two of vodka served in an ice glass at the Ice Hotel’s bar is a definite must do.

Read more or Book: Ice Hotel

Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

2. Lofoten Islands, Norway

There’s an old saying which goes – where there’s a will there’s a way and you’ll need to be very determined to get to the Lofoten Islands in northwest Norway. It takes the best part of a day, by plane and boat, to get there, but it is well worth it.

The isolated islands, which are north of the Arctic Circle, have been blessed with landscapes which look as if they could only have been created by the most imaginative of game designers. Stark and steep mountain peaks back the glacial waters of the fjords which are so clear they reflect the blue of the sky and the colorful, painted fishing huts which line their shores. Add the extra nuance of Arctic light by day or the aurora borealis by night and it’s as if a little piece of heaven has somehow ended up in a remote corner of the earth.

Why go? If you love the great outdoors and are the adventurous type, the Lofoten Islands is the ideal place for you. The fjords are perfect for canoeing or kayaking or if you want to explore, hiking over the ruggedness of Austvågøya Island should be on your list. If seeing the world through a camera lens is your thing, you’ll need a guide to show you the best spots for photography because you’ll be far too busy snapping off shots to look where you’re going.


Lofoten islands, Norway. Drone view

1. Geirangerfjord, Norway

Norway is without a doubt a country full of fjords. With an estimated count of around one thousand two hundred, it’d have to be a special one to stand out from all the rest. The Geirangerfjord meets all the criteria to make it Norway’s king of the fjords. Over nine miles long and just under a mile wide it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by steep cliffs on both sides, the Geirangerfjord is adorned with several very impressive waterfalls and some of the most scenic hiking trails in the world.

Why go? If you’re going to see a fjord then make sure it’s this one. The Geirangerfjord really is the one to hike around until you find that certain spot, the jutting rock, where you can sit and get the most epic photograph ever. If you’re not brave enough to hang on the edge of a precipice there’s also some solid fenced observation points where you can stare at the view without worrying you’ll slip over the edge. If hiking just isn’t your thing, but you’d love to go around the fjord then sit back, relax and tour it by bus. Whichever way you see it, you’ll know you’ve seen the best.


Geirangerfjord, Norway

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP

20 Places in Europe You Must See Before You Die

Category : Europe , Visit Europe

Okay, so you might not exactly be going to pass over to the celestial realm real soon, but just consider if you were. Would you pack your bags and go on a trip around Europe? Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? So why sit at home and wait until you’re knocking on death’s door to do it? Throw your stuff in a suitcase, get your tickets sorted and go have some fun while you can. Some things are better done and dusted than left stagnating on an I want to do this before I die list.

It would literally take a lifetime to visit all the amazing places there are to see in Europe. So if you have to whittle down your list, what are the twenty best spots to see in Europe whether you’re about to die or not? If you’re going to do it then do it right and make sure you get to see all of these fantastic places while you’re still alive.

20. Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

When you consider just how old the Charles Bridge which spans the Vltava River in Prague is, it’ll make you wonder how it’s still standing. The bridge’s sixteen arches are over five hundred years old and the bridge towers, which are part of a previous construction, date right back to the fourteenth century.

Why Go? The Charles Bridge is stunningly Gothic. The thirty odd statues of saints you’ll come across when you walk over the bridge are a serious must see. You won’t find anything like it anywhere else it Europe. It is completely unique.

Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

19. Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland

The Glenfinnan Viaduct is the longest railway bridge in Scotland. It’s not only special because it appeared in the Harry Potter films either. The viaduct has twenty one arches which carry a single track railway line one hundred feet above the River Finnan and through the Finnan valley for more than one thousand two hundred feet. Without one ounce of metal reinforcement? Now that’s magic.

Why Go? As far as mass concrete structures go, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is probably one of the most amazing in the world. Board the train ride to cross it and you’ll be guaranteed one of the most scenic rides of your life.

Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland

18. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Architect Antoni Gaudi left his mark all over Barcelona with his imaginative designs. None is as prominent as the Sagrada Familia. It’s a building which really pokes you in the eye with its exaggerated elaborateness. Construction of the church began way back in the late nineteenth century and still hasn’t been completed.

Why Go? The Sagrada Familia is a great place to see before you die. Why? If you live to be a hundred and they ever actually finish it, you’ll be able to say you saw it while it was still being built. You can’t say that about many national monuments so make the most of the unique opportunity.

Related: 25 Tourist Attractions in Bacelona

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

17. Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

The Grand Canal cuts through the city of Venice in Italy for almost two and a half miles. The inner-city waterway is almost three hundred feet wide in places which is good as there can be anywhere up to five thousand boats a day navigating along it.

Why Go? The Grand Canal is lined either side with incredible historic buildings and is probably the most decorated stretch of waterway anywhere in the world. Most of the amazing buildings are only viewable by boat, but it’s the constant wash of boat wakes which cause them structural damage. Go and see them before their foundations are beyond repair and they disappear beneath the water in a pile of rubble.

The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

16. Dona Ana Beach, Lagos, Portugal

The Dona Ana Beach is an incredible stretch of impeccable sand just one and a half miles from the centre of Lagos. It’s hard to believe such a stunning stretch of coastline could actually be so close to urbanity. What makes it even more impressive are the rugged cliffs which back the beach. They’ve been eroded by the action of sea and wind into unusual formations which expose the rock’s multi-colored strata.

Why Go? Who needs a reason to go to the beach? If you do need a reason, well, you can always boast you saw the cliffs before they were worn away by the elements and became just another grain of sand.

Dona Ana Beach, Lagos, Portugal

15.Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

The Cliffs of Moher are a staggeringly rugged part of Ireland’s west coast. It’s a long, almost four hundred foot, drop from the cliff tops down into the Atlantic Ocean below. They’re steep, they’re gaunt and believe it, Nature used her harshest tool when she carved away the land to form the eight and a half miles of this stark geological formation.

Why Go? Visit the Cliffs of Moher and you’ll be able to say you’ve stood on the edge of, if not the world, then at least Ireland. There’s always the option of adjourning to the pub after to sample a pint or two of Guinness. Any more persuasion needed?

Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

14. The Gorges du Verdon, SE France

Carved from solid rock by the raging waters of the Verdon River, the Gorges du Verdon stretches like a scar through the French countryside for over fifteen miles. Even more awe-inspiring are the gorge sides which tower over two thousand feet about the glacial blue river water.

Why Go? The Gorges du Verdon is the perfect place to get a big adrenaline thrill. Canoeing through the canyon is like time traveling back to a Jurassic world, only thankfully without the dinosaurs.

The Gorges Du Verdon, south-eastern France

13. Preikestolen, Near Stavanger, Norway

One of the best places to visit in Scandinavia is the Preikestolen which is an enormous rock formation in the Norwegian wilds. Known as Pulpit Rock it looms over the ice blue waters of the Lysefjord to a staggering height of almost two thousand feet. Topped by an eighty square foot plateau it is one of Norway’s most photographed landmarks.

Why Go? If you ever wanted to preach a sermon to the world, well, this is the place to do it. The Preikestolen isn’t nicknamed Pulpit Rock for nothing. Spread your arms and shout a few words, your voice will carry for miles.

Preikestolen over Lysefjorden, Stavanger, Norway

12. The Blue Lagoon, Reykjanes Peninsula, SW Iceland

The Blue Lagoon on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula is the world’s most picturesque spa. The cloudy azure waters of the man-made lagoon are heated by an underground volcanic lava field and loaded with therapeutic minerals which are reputed to aid the healing of skin problems.

Why Go? If you’re going to spoil yourself with a spa treatment then do it in the best. The Blue Lagoon is definitely that. It can work out quite pricey for a quick dip so if you’re traveling on a budget, check out these cheaper alternatives to the Blue Lagoon instead.

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

11. Landwasser Viaduct Bridge, Filisur, Switzerland

The Landwasser Viaduct carries a single track rail line across the Landwasser River at a mind-boggling height of over two hundred feet. Its six arch formation is an incredible architectural accomplishment considering it was constructed well over a hundred years ago.

Why Go? The Landwasser Viaduct Bridge is one of the best places to visit in Switzerland. Why? Board the train and ride across it. It’ll be the scariest edge of your seat, hold your breath, adrenaline thrill you’ve ever had without entering an amusement park.

Landwasser Viaduct bridge in Winter

10. Gásadalur, Faroe Islands

The Gásadalur or Múlafossur Waterfall as it is also known really is one of Nature’s hidden treasures. Situated on a remote Faroe Islands with only the small village of Gásadalur close by, the stunning waterfall tumbles over a steep cliff edge colonized by seabirds. It is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Europe.

Why Go? If you do go to see the Múlafossur Waterfall, you can call yourself a true adventurer. It is so far removed from civilization not many people have actually been there. You’ll be one of only a few who are able to upload their photos to the internet.

Gasadalur, Faroe Islands

9. Hallstatt Village, Austria

The Hallstatt Village is on the shores of Lake Hallstatt in Austria. Backed by a rugged mountain landscape, it’s more easily accessible by boat than by road. Seemingly untouched by time, the village’s colorful alpine houses and cobbled streets date to the sixteenth century.

Why Go? Going to Hallstatt Village is like visiting the land that time forgot. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to time travel backwards a few centuries, you’ll find the answer here.

Hallstatt Village, Austria

8. Keizersgracht, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Keizersgracht or Emperor’s Canal is the widest canal in Amsterdam. Over a hundred feet wide, the canal is lined by five hundred-year-old buildings which, although they may have been converted into luxury apartments, still maintain their original facades.

Why Go? Amsterdam is a city full of canals. If you’re going to make a point of seeing one, make sure its the biggest. Go in winter when it’s frozen over and rather than sail down it in a canal barge, you can skate down it instead.

Canal Crossroads At Keizersgracht, Amsterdam, Netherlands

7. Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

Out of the five towns which comprise the UNESCO site of Cinque Terre in Italy only Vernazza has a harbor. The multi-colored houses of the car-free fishing hamlet area a major attraction to photographers.

Why Go? Vernazza has previously been heavily damaged by flooding and mudslides. Go and see it before it happens again and the town is destroyed beyond repair. If that’s not reason enough, they also produce a local wine called vernaccia which is a delectably good. Do you need a better reason to go?

Vernazza village in Cinque Terre area, Italy

6. Oia, Santorini, Greece

Oia is a village which snuggles in a volcanic cauldron on the coast of the Greek island of Santorini. Its houses are painted an eye-dazzling white and blue, but while it may look spotlessly new, the settlement’s history is traceable as far back as the beginning of the eleventh century.

Why Go? Most Greek monuments are either ruins or at some stage of falling into disrepair. Maintained to a pristine, impeccable level, Oia is a Greek rarity. Go there and you’ll see Greece at its impeccable best.

Related: Top 10 Feritaile Towns in Greece

Oia, Santorini, Greece

5. Neuschwanstein Castle, SW Bavaria, Germany

The impressive Neuschwanstein Castle perches on a hill and overlooks the Hohenschwangau valley in SW Bavaria. It is one of the best castles in Germany. Built as a king’s folly in the mid to late nineteenth century its internal plumbing and heating systems were a major leap forward in the technology of the times.

Why Go? Neuschwanstein Castle is often called the fairytale castle because of its exterior multi-turreted appearance. Whether it was inspired by a fairy tale or writers of fairy tales were inspired by it is a question which still begs to be answered. Visit the castle to see if you can find a vital clue to the never-ending mystery story.

Neuschwanstein Castle, southwest Bavaria, Germany

4. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

The Eiffel Tower does literally tower above Paris, the French capital. The metal construction is a dizzying one thousand feet high and is the tallest structure in the city. It took two years to build and was inaugurated just in time for the 1889 World Fair.

Why Go? The Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most iconic monuments. The view from the observational platform is the view of Paris you must see before you die.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

3. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Iceland

The Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is one of Iceland’s most impressive waterfalls. The water source, from a glacial melt, rages over the cliff and drops a magnificent two hundred feet before continuing its course.

Why Go? Hidden behind the raging stream of water which is the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is a cave. Accessible by foot, the cave gives you a unique viewpoint to observe the waterfall in all its force and to get some amazing photographs – rainbows included. You can’t do that anywhere else in Europe.

Passage under Seljalandsfoss waterfall

2. Seven Sisters Waterfall, Geiranger, Norway

The Seven Sisters Waterfall is a group of seven streams which cascade over a cliff near Geiranger in Norway. Not the highest waterfall in Norway by any means with a drop of just over eight hundred feet, but definitely one of the best things to see in Scandinavia.

Why Go? The Seven Sisters Waterfall is fed by melting glacier ice without which there’d be no waterfalls. Go to see it before the effects of global warming turn it dry and it’s nothing more than another Norwegian cliff face.

Seven Sisters Waterfall, Geiranger, Norway

1. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

The Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is an amazing configuration of sixteen lakes interlinked by stunning waterfalls and surrounded by forests. Situated between the Mala Kapela and Lička Plješivica mountain ranges, it’s recognized worldwide as a place of outstanding natural beauty and was Croatia’s first national park.

Why Go? The beauty of the Plitvice Lakes National Park defies description. It is something you just have to see with your own eyes to believe it. Even photographs don’t do it full justice. Don’t miss it.

Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia

Thanks to: PANDOTRIP

Most Incredible Towns in Spain

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Category : Europe , Spain

Spain is one of my favorite countries that I’ve ever visited, because of its fascinating cities, beautiful landscapes, warm people, and fun nightlife. But Barcelona, Madrid, and the other big cities will only give you part of the picture. If you really want to know the Spanish lifestyle and immerse yourself in the “tranquilo, tranquilo” attitude, you’ll need to get off the beaten path. Here are the most incredible places that you could visit during your trip:


This Catalonian town is not far to the north of Barcelona, but it packs a punch that few other cities in Spain can live up to. From the medieval bridge to the cobblestone streets, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped right back into some sort of fairytale land during your visit. The place is everything you might think of when you think of a medieval town. But one of the most interesting things to note here is the Jewish heritage, which you’ll see evident in the Jewish synagogues and the Jewish bath—one of only a few surviving bathhouses from that time period in all of Europe! I can’t imagine taking a bad photo here…

Besalu in Girona, Spain


The whitewashed, narrow streets of Frigiliana will send you home with photos upon photos to impress your friends with. The town is located down in the south of Spain, meaning that the climate remains comfortable year-round—so it can be a great place to head during the frigid winter months! The so-called white village of Spain is consistently voted one of the prettiest places to visit in the entire country, and it’s no wonder why. It’s an artsy town as well, so if you’re looking to do a gallery-hop, this is the place to do it. Best of all? Many of the restaurants and bars have rooftop spots where you can look out over the amazing views while you’re sipping on sangria and nibbling on tapas.

Picturesque narrow street decorated with plants. Frigiliana, Andalusia, Spain


The Basque country has stolen my heart, because of its friendly people, delicious pintxos, and stunning scenery. And although San Sebastian, Bilbao, and Vittoria are definitely worthwhile places to visit, you’d be amiss if you didn’t take the time to visit Lekeitio during your trip. Originally a small fishing village, today you’ll find plenty to delight you, from the Gothic basilica to the beaches. And then there are the bars and the food, which are absolutely divine. Of course, there are plenty of other small Basque towns in the area, and I recommend you get out and explore as many as you can during your time there!

Lekeitio beach, Nicolas island , Biscay, Spain


I’m a bit of a history nerd, and Ronda appeals to all the best of me. There’s two different parts to the town: the Moorish section and the later Renaissance town that dates to the 15th century CE. For the past few centuries, the two towns have been connected by a stone bridge that makes for impressive pictures across the canyon, but you’ll still find distinctive flavors in each part of the town. Definitely don’t miss the Arabic baths, which are some of the best-preserved in all of Spain! But head less than fifteen miles out of town and you’ll also find an impressive Roman amphitheater and more. If you’re really looking to immerse yourself in the layers of Spanish history, I can’t recommend better.

The Puente Nuevo New Bridge over Guadalevin River in Ronda


Mallorca and other beachside locations in Spain can frequently be known for their drunken tourism and partying, but this doesn’t seem to have hit Sóller yet, fortunately, despite the fact that the town is an easy hop over from Palma. And between the beaches, open-air cafés, and more, you’re sure to find plenty to love in this little vacation spot. In fact, if you’re looking for European charm, there are few places that come close! Don’t forget to try the amazing seafood while you’re here and soak up some rays—you’re sure to make all your coworkers jealous.

Beautiful view of Port de Soller

These are, of course, just a few of the small towns in Spain, but they’re some of the most authentic, interesting, and fun to visit. From the food to the cultural experiences, you’re sure to have a great vacation. As the Spanish would say, buen viaje!

Thanks to: Pando Trip

14 Best Places to Visit in Switzerland

Category : Europe , Switzerland

If you think Switzerland is all about watches, holey cheese, and financial bankers, maybe it’s time you actually went there for a visit. If you’re questioning why you should, let’s just answer one or two of those doubts which are crossing your mind.

No, Switzerland isn’t just about snowboarding or skiing down alpine slopes. Yes, they do manufacture some of the best chocolate in the world. Which in itself, is quite probably reason enough to get on a plane and go there without too much in-depth contemplation. Is there anywhere to visit other than chocolate factories or anything else to do other than going on the piste? Yes, there is.

Just check out these fourteen amazing places to visit in Switzerland and it won’t be long before you’re purchasing your flight ticket.

14. Ponte Dei Salti Bridge, Valle Verzasca

Is there anything exciting about a medieval bridge constructed over four hundred years ago? Only if it’s the Ponte Dei Salti Bridge in Valle Verzasca, Switzerland. Salti literally translated to English means jump. It’s now starting to sound quite interesting, isn’t it?

Along with the fantastic rock formation of the Valle Verzasca, the unusual shape of the double arches makes it a great photography subject, but what puts it firmly on this list is the fact you can leap off the bridge into the crystal waters below. It’s just a ten metre drop, no bungee rope provided, so its a real adrenaline trip.

When to go: If you’re planning on jumping off the bridge then go when the water’s had a chance to warm up. Late spring through to summer is the best time, but be prepared for some crowds when the weather’s good. It’s a popular place to visit.

Pro Tip: If you don’t like heights, you might want to think twice about jumping in. It’s a long drop.

Location on map: Ponte Dei Salti Bridge, Valle Verzasca, Switzerland

Panoramic view of Ponte dei Salti bridge

13. Gruyères Castle, Gruyères

If you’ve ever fancied strutting your stuff across the ramparts of a medieval castle pretending you’re a knight in shining armour or a damsel in distress, you really need to visit Gruyères Castle, in Gruyères, Switzerland. This almost eight hundred year-old structure might look as if its dropped straight out of a fairy tale, but its historic past is enough to make your blood curdle.

As you explore the castle’s interior, you’ll be completely grossed out by the mummified hand exhibit. Yes, it’s a real one, but nobody has any idea who it belonged too or where the rest of the body is. Ponder on that while you wander onto the battlements to take in the stunning mountain views and if you get a whiff of cheese, you won’t be imagining it. Gruyères is also famous for producing some very tasty versions of it.

When to go: If you like your castles with a dusting of snow then go in the winter, but wrap up warm. Best time to visit is spring and summer when the temperature’s had a chance to rise above freezing and the mountain flowers are in bloom. Weekends can be over crowded so, if you can, visit Gruyères Castle during the week.

Pro Tip: When you’re in Gruyères, don’t miss popping into the HR Giger museum which is dedicated to the artist who created the alien in the film Alien. His macabre art will make any sci-fi fan’s heart sing as will the surreal interior of the Giger Bar next door if you pop in for a quick drink.

Location on Map: Gruyères Castle, Gruyères, Switzerland

Drone View of the Gruyeres Castle, Switzerland

12. Oeschinen Lake, Kandersteg

If you’re going to tell someone to take a hike, then tell them to take it around Oeschinen Lake in Switzerland. There’s no place more beautiful or with purer air for a walk or for taking a picnic than by the pine-forested shores of this enormous stretch of water.

Sound too sedate for you? It won’t be. Apart from being a major area for cross country skiing when snow lays on the ground, this alpine location is 1500 metres plus above sea level. Take the dizzy ride up on the cable car then ride back down on the toboggan run for the longest, most hair-raising slide of your life.

When to go: If you want to participate in winter sports then don’t go in the spring or summer. In winter the lake freezes over and you can skate, walk across it or go ice fishing for your dinner. The warmer months are better for hiking.

Pro Tip: If you’re planning to hike up or around Oeschinen Lake, make sure you’re wearing the correct footwear. You’ll need it. There are small mountain huts higher up the trails where you can rest or shelter from bad weather if need be.

Location on Map: Oeschinen Lake, Switzerland

Oeschinen Lake, UNESCO World Heritage Site

11. Jet d’Eau, Geneva

We all know someone who is good at spouting off, but even the best will have trouble competing with the Jet d’Eau fountain spout in the Swiss city of Geneva. This mega water-jet blasts into the air for a staggering one hundred and forty metres. That’s the equivalent height of thirty two double decker buses stacked one on top of the other. It’s certainly not your average shower flow either as it uses around five hundred litres of water every second to be able to reach that amazing height.

When to go: The Jet d’Eau spouts all year round but is twice as spectacular when its illuminated so take an evening stroll around the harbour for the full effect.

Pro Tip: Geneva is not renowned to be the most economic city to visit. If you’re on a budget and want to see the Jet d’Eau from a boat, check out the Lake Geneva water-buses, Mouettes Genevoises, which sail past it on their regular, low-priced, lake crossings.

Location on MapJet d’Eau, Geneva

Aerial view of Jet D'Eau in Geneva

10. Ruinaulta, Switzerland’s Grand Canyon

If you’ve ever wanted to replicate the pioneers of old and go panning for gold, you’d probably be thinking you’d need to fly to the States to do it. Well, wrong. You can also do it in the richest country in the world, Switzerland and you get to keep your findings too.

The Ruinaulta, Rhine Gorge or Switzerland’s Grand Canyon, whichever name you prefer to call it by, has the sort of rugged landscape which will really appeal to your explorer’s nature. Trek through the gorge, go white water rafting on the raging flow of the Rhine river or pan for those golden nuggets in the shallows by the shore. Whatever you do while you’re there, you’ll feel like a real adventurer.

When to go: Unless you like your scenery covered with a blanket of white and don’t mind sub-zero temperatures, visit Ruinaulta from April through to September.

Pro Tip: If you’re really not in rafting or trekking, there’s a train which runs through the gorge.

Location on Map: Ruinaulta, Switzerland’s Grand Canyon

Drone view to Ruinaulta or Rhine Gorge, Grand Canyon of Switzerland

9. Staubbach Falls, Lauterbrunnen

Is one waterfall better or more impressive than another? It is when it’s the Staubbach Falls in the alpine village of Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland. Why? It’s the most talked about, most photographed and has the largest cascade of all the seventy-two waterfalls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.

If you want to get up close and feel the spray of this famous waterfall on your face, all you have to do is make the, not too challenging, hike up to the Staubbach Falls Gallery. Though take some earplugs with you as the rush of water is pretty deafening.

When to go: Go when the sun is shining. The touch of winter often turns the Staubbach Falls into one, gigantic hanging icicle.

Pro Tip: Lauterbrunnen has become quite a renowned spot for those who like to participate in the sport of base jumping. If flying through the air is of more interest to you than watching falling water, you need to know, you leap from the cliffs completely at your own risk.

Location on Map: Staubbach Falls, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Staubbach waterfall, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

8. Old Town Bern, Bern

Have you ever wanted to time travel rather than take a normal holiday? If you have, you really should put Old Town Bern on your list of places to visit in Switzerland. You won’t need a time machine to go either. This medieval nucleus nestles at the heart of Switzerland’s capital city, Bern. Almost cut-off from reality by the winding oxbow of the Aare river, it’s just not caught up with modernity and is perfect for experiencing first hand just what life might have been like in the twelfth century.

When to go: For a fun and unusual visit to Old Town Bern go when it’s carnival time. The dates vary every year, but plan for around the end of February or the beginning of March to catch the major parades. Yes, people really do dress as bears and go roaming the streets mingling with the other carnival revellers. Or, if you’re a jazz fan, then you just have to go between March and May. Old Town Bern will hit just the right note for you during its two month long jazz festival.

Pro Tip: If binging on history is your thing, check out Old Town Bern’s Museum Night. Also in March, usually on a Friday, just one single entrance ticket will you get you admission to up to forty different museums.

Drone view of the Bern old town

7. Lake Brienz

If you’ve ever wanted to have a crack at yodelling, Lake Brienz in Switzerland could be the ideal place to give it a try. The pristine blue of the alpine lake is surrounded by the perfect backdrop of mountain peaks to attempt to reverberate your voice off. If yodelling is not your thing, take a boat ride across the glassy waters or hike the hill and get close up to Giessbach Falls. The landscapes here are so stunning that even if you’re not an artist, you may still be inspired to paint them.

When to go: As cold as it might be, and think glacial, winter is a great time to visit Lake Brienz. It’s a lively hub of winter sport activities ranging from kayaking to snowboarding, ice skating and skiing. You can also go night sledding and follow that with a traditional and very warming cheese fondue. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Pro Tip: Lake Brienz might not be a summer sun destination, but you’ll still need to take some sunscreen with you to prevent snow burn. Make sure you pack the right clothing too.

Location on Map: Lake Brienz, Switzerland

Aerial view of Iseltwald on Lake Brienz

Drone view of Iseltwald on Lake Brienz

6. Harder Kulm

You’re going to need a serious head for heights if you’ve added the Harder Kulm to your list of places to visit in Switzerland. No beating about the bush, if you don’t have one, you might want to scroll on to place number five on the list, because just reading about this place will make you dizzy.

If you’re brave enough, take the cable car up for over a kilometre then step out onto the footbridge to look up to the famous Eiger, which overshadows all the other peaks, then down onto the lakes of Brienz and Thun far below. The altitude will leave you completely mind-boggled.

When to go: The footbridge and restaurant at the top are only open from April through to October as is the cable car. Late May through to early September is better when the days are clearer and you get the full impact of the incredible view without cloud coverage.

Pro Tip: The higher you go  the colder it gets. Take a jacket with you even in summer, you’ll be pleased you did.

Location on Map: Harder Kulm, Switzerland

Viewpoint at Harder Kulm in Interlaken, Bern, Switzerland

5. Château de Chillon, Montreux

If you’re thinking, oh no, not another medieval Swiss castle, well you’d basically be right. But the Château de Chillon, on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, has a lot more to offer than dungeons and historical exhibitions. It has wine. Very good quality wine, which shines a different light on things, doesn’t it?

Apart from the amazing exhibitions in the Château de Chillon, which include graffitti by none other than the 19th century poet, Lord Byron, the chateau has its own vineyard and after a tour round the medieval artefacts, you’ll get to indulge in a glass or two of the delicious Clos de Chillon which they produce.

When to go: The Château de Chillon closes its doors early during the winter months, so if you want a leisurely visit go from April through to September when it’s open until 7pm.

Location on MapChâteau de Chillon, Montreux, Switzerland

Classic view of Chateau de Chillon in Switzerland

4. Mount Pilatus

All folklore, myths and legends originate somewhere and Mount Pilatus in Switzerland is well known for inspiring more than a few. So if you like tall stories as well as stunning scenery, this is a place you’ll just have to visit. Reputed to have once been inhabited by dragons, though none have been spotted recently, it does have the world’s steepest cog railway which you can ride on to get to the top. The seriously steep angle of ascent is scarier than many roller-coaster rides so be prepared.

When to go: Go between April and October. As soon as snow starts to fall then the mountain shuts down for safety reasons.

Pro Tip: There are several hikes of varying difficulty around Mount Pilatus, but make sure you go with a professional guide if you’re considering doing the trickier ones.

Location on MapMount Pilatus, Switzerland

Mount Pilatus Switzerland

3. The Rhine Falls

Seen one waterfall seen them all? Not true. If you’re in Switzerland, you really should take in the magnitude of the Rhine Falls, one of the not-to-be-missed waterfalls in Europe. The best way to do it? On a boat ride which gets up close to the tumultuous waters that cascade over the rocks of this one-hundred and fifty metre wide wonder of nature.

There’s more than just a major flow of water at the Rhine Falls too. The falls are overlooked by the enormous castle Schloss Laufen which you need to cross an arched viaduct to reach, but what will really grab your attention is the fantastic activity centre, the Rhine Falls Adventure Park. Yes, you really can zip-line for half a kilometre, on the Panorama Express, to see the falls from a completely unique angle. It’s wild.

When to go: You can view the falls all year round and twenty four hours, there’s really only one day when you really should be there. Go on the 31st of July when the Rhine Falls Firework Display lights the night sky above the falls. It’s truly amazing.

Location on Map: Rhine Falls, Switzerland

Rhine falls the largest plain waterfall in Europe

2. The Matterhorn

There are many famous mountains and then there are mountains which are iconic. The Matterhorn in Switzerland is one of the latter. In truth it’s not just a mountain, but more of a monument to the people who have died trying to climb it. The Matterhorn stands at a colossal four and a half thousand metres plus high from its base to the summit of its four-faced pointed peak. While you might not be contemplating climbing the Matterhorn, scale some heights by taking a ride in Europe’s highest cable car to view all thirty-eight alpine mountains and get a closer look at what makes the Matterhorn so memorable.

When to go: As famous as it is, the Matterhorn is just a rather large lump of rock, so why not combine going to see it with a great skiing trip? There’s enough snow even in summer!

Pro Tip: If you can’t go up it, you can go round it. Plan on taking at least two weeks holiday to do it as trekking round the base of the Matterhorn takes around ten days.

Location on Map: The Matterhorn, Switzerland

Matterhorn Peak and Zermatt Valley

Matterhorn Peak and Zermatt Valley

1. Landwasser Viaduct Bridge

Some man-made structures defy definition and the Landwasser Viaduct bridge in Switzerland is one of those. Its monumental arches, all six of them, which curve sixty-five metres high above the Landwasser river, are even more amazing when you consider they were built almost two hundred years ago. They really are an incomparable feat of engineering and architecture which needs to be seen to be appreciated. Ride over them on the Glacier Express by jumping on at Chur Station, in the direction of St Moritz. See if you’re brave enough to look down before disembarking in Filisur.

When to go: Mist can obscure the Landwasser Viaduct from view when the weather is cold and although it looks great with a coating of snow, it’s much better to visit in the summer.

Pro Tip: If you prefer to look up to this incredible bridge or want to take a photograph of the Glacier Express going over it, there’s a view point at ground level which is reachable from a car park nearby. There’s also a trail you can hike along from Filisur Station, but only do it if the weather is decent.

Landwasser Viaduct bridge in Winter

Thanks to: Pando Trip

Top 10 Things to See and Do in Iceland

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Category : Europe , Iceland

If we say the word ‘Iceland’ many of you will instantly conjure up images of stunning natural beauty, hauntingly quiet lakes, lost castles and (if you’re reading this at lunchtime) delicious fish dishes. But, there is plenty more to discover in Iceland, so we thought we’d take you on a whistle-stop tour of the top ten things to see and do. Ready?

10. Whale Watching

Iceland could very well be one of the best places in the entire world for whale watching. In fact, the whale-ultra-celeb, Keiko from Free Willy, was captured in Reyðarfjörður Fjord, Iceland. Keiko was a Killer Whale but there are about eleven species which are regularly sighted year-round.

Iceland’s best spots for whale watching. Although whales can be spotted all along the coast, there are three stunning main locations for whale watching tours. Húsavík is Iceland’s premier destination for whale watching. This small town has only 182 inhabitants and is surrounded by rolling green hills. If you’re there be sure to visit the Whale MuseumEyjafjörður is the longest Fjord in Iceland and Reykjavík, the capital, has a friendly, colorful and welcoming feeling that you’ll love!

Best time to visit? You can see whales at any time of the year in Iceland but the best period is during summer (June-September) when the warm seas are abundant with krill and fish. The peak time is June to August, so be sure to book in advance.

Whale near Husavik City in Iceland

Whale near Husavik City in Iceland

9. Vestrahorn Mountain

Imagine this, you’re sitting on the shore of a gentle lagoon as the crystal clear water laps at your toes, a flat black sand beach that you are sitting on stretches out before you and one of the most stunning peaks of Iceland dominates the view. Vestrahorn, a 454 meter (1,489 foot) tall screen mountain is definitely one of our top spots to visit during your trip to Iceland.

Why go there? To capture this awe-inspiring landscape on camera, due to its rural location, it isn’t crowded so you can capture amazing shots tourist free. If photography isn’t your passion don’t worry, you’ll enjoy strolling along the unique black-sand beach, petting the Icelandic ponies and if you’re lucky you might even see a few seals.

Best time to visit? Open all year but, remember in Winter that it will be both cold and icy so be prepared for a somewhat difficult trip. You’ll be rewarded with snowy peaks, icy-black reflections on the water and moody skies.

Map location: Vestrahorn Mountain

Vestrahorn mountain and Stokksnes beach

8. Geysers

Not only are geysers great fun (hands up how many of you have jumped with surprise when a geyser currently erupts), but they are also a fairly rare natural phenomenon, only about 1,000 exist on the whole planet.

Geysers are a natural spring which, when the water meets superheated magma far below our feet, it forces the water to bubble and gush upwards until it explodes into the air with unbelievable speed and, in some cases, incredible height. The term ‘Geyser’ was actually coined from the Icelandic work ‘geysa’ which means ‘to gush.’

Where to go? The ancient Great Geysir is located in Haukadalur Valley, 90-minutes drive from the capital, Reykjavik. Although for now, this sleeping giant is classified as dormant the Great Geysir was the first European Geysir to be discovered. In fact, when active, it shoots boiling deep water up to 70 meters (229 foot) in the air.

Not far from the Great Geysir is the restless Strokkur Geysir which erupts every few minutes! Although smaller in eruption size, at just 20 meters, you’ll be able to watch it a few times during your visit, we still jump every time it does though.

Map location: Great GeysirStrokkur Geysir

Blue pool with the Strokkur Geyser in Iceland

Blue pool with the Strokkur Geyser in Iceland

7. Landmannalaugar

Iceland is home to many magical landscapes from its multicolored mountains, meandering lava trails, crystal clear lakes and calming hot springs. But, where can you find all of these incredible natural phenomena in just one area?

The answer, of course, is Landmannalaugar. You might be wondering what makes the unique colorings of the mountains as they stand proud against the skyline. The peaks are made a mineral-filled lava called Rhyolite, which, as it cools unusually slowly it creates splashes of rainbow colors.

Also, one of the best hikes in Iceland – Laugavegurinn (which takes in rainbow-colored hills to jet-black volcanic deserts, mystical ice caves, and luscious green valleys) starts here.

Laugavegurinn Hike. A challenging 34 mile (55km) hike where the landscape morphs into steaming and bubbling hot springs all along the route and the colors run wild through the mountain peaks. It can be quite a difficult hike so make sure that you are fully prepared.

Best time to visit? Landmannalaugar is only accessible in the Summer months, from June to September. For the rest of the year, the roads are closed.

Map location: Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar in Iceland

Landmannalaugar in Iceland

6. Hallgrimskirkja

This white concrete church was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson in 1937 and can be seen from anywhere in the capital. Surprisingly, its design took inspiration from the volcanic basalt pillars that are dotted across Iceland’s countryside.

Why go there? Atop of the hill, with his back to the church, it seems that the statue of Leifur Eiríksson, Discoverer of America, is standing guard. There are great views from here, but take the lift next to the main door of the church and you’ll be whisked up to the viewing platform and rewarded with panoramic views over the capitals bright rooftops and beyond.

You could take part in this evening tour which will take you around Reykjavik and the surrounding area to discover much more history and folklore.

Best time to visit? From mid-June to mid-August there is a roster of activities in the church, from Choir Concerts, organ recitals on the 5000-pipe organ and Sunday services.

Map location: Hallgrimskirkja

Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, Reykjavik, Iceland

Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, Reykjavik, Iceland

5. Dyrhólaey

This dramatic coastline offers a majestic glimpse into the ferocious power of nature. As the sea gushes below you with turbulent waves you can stand atop this 120 meter (393 foot) coastline and, quite simply, enjoy the view. If you’re feeling a little bit like a daredevil then you can walk the archway and stand at, what seems like, the edge of the world.

Why go there? The simple answer is: for the incredible views in all directions. Looking out North you’ll see the bewilderingly large Mýrdalsjökull glacier (Iceland’s fourth largest ice cap), turn eastwards for the interesting Reynisdrangar rock formations and to the west, your gaze will follow a seemingly endless black sand coastline.

Best time to visit? The area is a designated bird sanctuary, primarily for puffins and arctic terns. As such, its part closed during nesting season in May and June. The exact dates vary from year to year.

Map Location: Dyrhólaey

Huge Sea Arch In Turquoise Blue Ocean. Dyrholaey Sea Arch in Iceland

Huge Sea Arch In Turquoise Blue Ocean. Dyrholaey Sea Arch in Iceland

4. Ice Caves in Vatnajökull Glacier

In the depths of Vatnajökull Glacier, there is an ever-shifting, ever-changing, colorful icy world just waiting to be discovered. If you ever thought that Elsa from Disney’s ‘Frozen’ was cool, then you will love this place.

Where to go? Vatnajökull Glacier, at 8100 km2, is Europe’s largest glacier and covers a whopping 8% of the country. Deep maze-like formations are created every year and are best explored with a guided tour.

Is it safe to visit the caves without a guided tour? Regardless of how experienced you are, we would recommend taking a guided tour. No one will stop you from entering, but the caves are constantly shifting and it is best to have a well-trained eye to ensure your safety.

Best time to visit? Ice cave season is from November through to March, when the weather has been consistently cold enough for the caves to be deemed stable.

Map location: Vatnajökull Glacier

Ice Cave in Vatnajokull, Iceland

3. Catch the kaleidoscope of colors in the Northern Lights

Once considered to be the glitter of Valkyries taking dead souls to the afterlife, these magical lights are still one of the wonders of the world. Actually caused by solar particles entering the earth’s magnetic field and being drawn to the North Pole we all know that you need good planning and luck in order to see them. In Iceland, they are visible almost 8 months out of the year and unlike other countries, there is less cloud cover which means that your probability just went up a notch!

Best time to go. Between October and April, with peak visibility from December to February. There is a simple formula to see them: complete darkness + no moonlight + no/part cloud cover + being at the right time in at the right place.

There is no definite way to forecast the activity of this natural kaleidoscope, although there are a certain number of apps and websites such as Vedur to help with your planning.

Best way to see the Northern Lights. There are a few different options to go Northern Light hunting. Firstly you can sit still in the town that you’re staying in and hope for the best. This might not be the best option as light pollution seriously affects your chances.

You could get active and head out to a remote spot either on your own or as part of a guided tour. There are many tours running from Reykjavik and Akureyri.

Your third option is to see the Northern Lights from a boat tour such as this one from Reykjavik.

Northern Lights near Jokulsarlon, Iceland

Northern Lights near Jokulsarlon, Iceland

2. Head to the Hot Springs

Iceland has enough geothermal waters to satisfy everyone’s desires. So, what better way to enjoy Iceland than to join in! There are hot springs across the country, from the largest town to the most remote location, one of the most famous is the Blue Lagoon.

Blue Lagoon. Stepping into the Blue Lagoon area will make you feel like you just stepped into a fairytale. The strangely colored bright blue waters due to the large amounts of silica and sulfur lap against the jet black volcanic rocks. Just remember to make sure that your camera has enough battery you’ll need it!

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

1. Gaze in wonder at the many waterfalls

Iceland is known for its vistas of astounding beauty and over 10,000 of these sites include waterfalls. From Bruarfoss which is just 3 meters (9 foot) tall to Morsi Waterfall which tumbles from 240 meters (787 foot). A trip to Iceland just isn’t complete without gazing at these stunning sites.

The best waterfalls to visit in Iceland. You’re spoilt for choice, so for the best of the best read our article on the best waterfalls in Iceland. We think that SkogafossSeljalandsfoss, and Gullfoss should be top of your list.

Actually, you might recognize Skogafoss waterfall, with its bright green banks from the Walter Mitty movie. You can creep behind the watery curtain of Seljalandsfoss waterfall and discover what secrets it hides, whilst Gullfoss is a large traditional two-tiered waterfall.

Passage under Seljalandsfoss waterfall

Passage under Seljalandsfoss waterfall

Want to see more… get packing!

We know, we’ve gotten you all excited about your trip to Iceland. There is so much to see and do that we had difficulty picking out top ten favorite things. We hope we’ve inspired you, given you a sense of wanderlust and helped you plan your trip!

Thanks to: Pando Trip

Top 10 Natural Wonders in Italy

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Category : Europe , Italy

Italy is all about pizza, pasta and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, right? It goes without saying that Italian ice-cream is the best in the world and the wine, well, say no more. Considering all of those, it’s easy enough to see why Italy is such a popular place to visit. You don’t even need to be a connoisseur of fine food to appreciate its gastronomic offerings. Yes, Italian food tastes amazing, there’s really no arguing with that, and the tower is one of the country’s most famous landmarks, but what sets Italy apart as a country to visit are its incredible natural wonders.

From where its rugged alpine border connects with neighboring Switzerland to the tip of its boot-shaped coastline, Italy is one hundred and sixteen thousand square miles of awesome things to marvel at. Stunning rock formations, which could have been carved by the hands of the mythical Roman gods of old, rub shoulders with pristine mountain lakes and fiery volcanoes. Italy really is a natural wonder in itself which you just can’t miss out on exploring. If you haven’t already got a ticket to go, what are you waiting for?

Check out these ten natural wonders in Italy and before you can learn to say ciao, you’ll have purchased your flight and be standing in the check-in queue at the airport.

10. Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee), South Tyrol, Italy

Nestled among the mountains of Italy’s South Tyrol is Lago di Braies. This is a lake which is much more than just picture-perfect. Though admittedly, post a photo of Lago di Braies to Instagram and not only will you be the envy of all your followers, it’ll probably get thousands of extra likes as well.

The alpine lake’s waters are crystal clear and match the color of the blue skies above it. There are superb but relatively easy-going, hiking trails through the pine forests around the lake or for the more adventurous walker, the Alta Via 1 can also be accessed from Lago di Braies. Don’t miss the tiny bays with secluded beaches along the lake’s shoreline which are just waiting for you to discover.

Why Go? Lago di Braies, or Pragser Wildsee as it is also known, is a corner of Italy where all those magical environmental elements have come together to create something uniquely special. Mountains, lake, pine forests and beaches combine in a natural perfection which is just incomparable. It’s such a beautiful place, once you’re there, you’ll probably want to stay for days. If that’s the case, then check out the Hotel Lago di Braies, it’s the only hotel there.

Map Location: Lago di Braies, Italy

Boathouse at Lago di Braies or Pragser Wildsee, South Tyrol, Italy

9. Scala dei Turchi (Staircase of the Turks), Sicily

Italy really does have more than its fair share of beautiful coastlines, but even they struggle to compete with the stunning Scala dei Turchi on the Italian island of Sicily. Reminiscent of icing on a cake, these cliffs rise above the sea in layer upon layer of sparkling white rock. Carved by the erosion of wind and sea, the marl rock formation is also referred to as the Staircase of the Turks.

Almost a natural amphitheater, it’s the ideal place to have a chilled out picnic while waiting to watch the sunset over the stunning blue of the Mediterranean Sea. That’s a sight which is so captivating; you’ll probably want to see it every evening for a week. You won’t have to carry your picnic basket too far if you stay at the Hotel Belvedere Scala dei Turchi. The rooms there are decorated in the same, restful on the eye, blue and white as the cliffs and the sea.

Why Go? The elements wait for no-one, and the abrasive action which formed the scala is a force to be reckoned with. It’ll keep wearing away those beautiful cliffs until there’s nothing left but dust as fine as talcum powder and it is a sight you just can’t afford to miss. If the Belvedere is fully booked, check out the La Scogliera Turca, they’ve terraces with impressive sea views.

Map Location: Scala dei Turchi, Sicily

The rocky white cliffs Scala dei Turchi, Sicily, Italy

8. Gran Paradiso National Park, Graian Alps, Italy

The Gran Paradiso National Park is the place to go to explore Italy’s natural beauty at its rugged best. The wild landscape of the park, which covers just under three hundred square miles, incorporates majestic mountains, lakes and some incredible fauna and flora endemic to the region. You’ll have seen their pictures on the internet, yes, those cute, four-legged creatures which can scale practically vertical cliffs. The long-horned Alpine ibex, a very agile mountain goat which was once almost extinct, is now thriving in the park environment and here, you can go and see them for yourself rather than on the screen of your laptop or phone.

The Gran Paradiso National Park is also a hill walkers paradise with over three hundred miles of trails crisscrossing the park’s valleys, or if you prefer some wintertime activity, there’s skiing or snowshoeing to take the place of hiking when there’s snow on the slopes.

Why Go? Apart from visiting to admire the area’s natural beauty or hike the trails, it’s impressive to see first hand how research and conservation can make an impact on the survival rate of a species. In the last seventy years, the ibex population has increased ten-fold. That’s something everyone should witness first hand and take note of.

Map Location: Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy

Aerial Drone view of Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy

7. Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto), Capri, Italy

The Grotta Azzurra on the island of Capri is a sea cave in which, due to the unusual refraction of sunlight entering it, the water appears an incredible blue. To see it, you’ll need to sail away from the coastline of Capri on a boat ride, then transfer to a small rowing boat. It’s the only way to get inside as the entrance arch is pretty low, so low, in fact, you’ll need to lay down to prevent banging your head.

Going into the Grotta Azzurra might just be what dying and going to heaven is like. Be prepared because one second you’re in pitch darkness and the next you’re in a world of celestial blue. The cave is about two hundred feet long, so while visits to this ethereal world are visually sensational, they are relatively short.

Why Go? It’s not often you get to step foot, metaphorically at least, where two of the world’s most renowned authors have been. If you’re into history or literature, then going into the Grotta Azzurra will have added significance because you’ll be going somewhere documented by Pliny The Elder twenty centuries previously and written about by Mark Twain in the nineteenth century. The experience will leave you lost for words.

Map Location: Grotta Azzurra, Capri, Italy

Blue Grotto or Grotta Azzurra, Capri, southern Italy

6. Lago di Garda, Northern Italy

Lago di Garda or Lake Garda, measuring thirty-two miles from shore to shore at its longest point and covering a surface area of one hundred and forty-three square miles, is the biggest freshwater lake in Italy. Its super clear waters are surrounded by stunning mountains, its hundred miles of shoreline decorated with picturesque towns, villages and pristine beaches, plus it’s dotted with islands whose fascinating histories can be traced back to pirate times. The impressive combination of lake scenery, historical monuments, and the areas superb microclimate have made Lake Garda one of Italy’s favorite places to take a chill out vacation.

Why Go? If you love being on, in or near the water, you can’t skip visiting Lake Garda when you’re in Italy. The lake’s prevailing winds make it the perfect place for practicing sailing, surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing. If you like to pit your wits against some wily fish, bait your hook then cast it out, the lake is teeming with fish of all varieties. Before you know it, you’ll have hooked something, and you may even end up taking a trout home for your dinner.

Map LocationLago di Garda, Northern Italy

Panorama of Lake Garda or Lago di Garda in Italy

Panorama of Lake Garda or Lago di Garda in Italy

5. Cascate del Mulino, Saturnia, Italy

Vacations are meant to be therapeutic, and in Italy, that becomes literally true if you visit the Cascate del Mulino in the Italian town of Saturnia. There, an underground water source, which is heated geothermally, breaks through to the surface and the steaming, sulfur-impregnated water trickles gently down in graduating cascades to fill depressions in the rocks forming the pools of a natural spa. The waters, which maintain a steady 37ºC in the higher pools then cool as they run their course over the falls, are said to be beneficial to respiratory ailments as well as incredibly relaxing.

Why Go? Most spa treatments cost a fortune; the Cascate del Mulino is completely free. You can indulge to your heart’s content, though it’s recommended not to be immersed for longer than twenty minutes at a time. Don’t expect any on-site facilities such as changing rooms or restrooms, there aren’t any, and you need to go equipped with a towel and take some water shoes as the rocks can be slippery with algae. If that all sounds too rustic and you want to splurge on some luxury instead, the Hotel Terme di Saturnia has Roman baths, saunas, and a thermal spa.

Map Location: Cascate del Mulino, Saturnia

Aerial drone view of Cascate del Mulino, Saturnia, Italy

4. Mount Etna, Sicily

The island of Sicily is where Italy’s most active volcano, Mount Etna is. Believe it, this volcano doesn’t steam it smokes – constantly. Yes, it really is that hot even in winter, when the peak can be covered with snow, it carries on emitting a steady stream of dark and dramatic, venomous clouds. At almost eleven thousand feet high, it looms over the town of Catania and is the highest volcano anywhere in Europe. Its last major eruption was in 2017 and its been continuously grumbling ever since.

Why Go? Mount Etna is one of the most stunning volcanoes in the world, and even though it is active, you can ride up it in a cable car or explore it by jeep. Getting so close to a live volcano is a real adrenaline trip, and yes, there are some dangers involved, but it is an unforgettable experience. Go now before it completely blows its top and leaves Catania under a layer of lava and ash.

Map Location: Mount Etna, Sicily

The mount Etna with smoke, Sicily, Italy

3. Arcipelago di La Maddalena (Maddalena Archipelago), Sardinia

As far as island paradises go, the Archipelago di La Maddalena ticks all the right boxes to classify as perfect. This group of over fifty islands and islets, in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the north-east coast of Sardinia, are so idyllic they take the definition of the word to a whole new level. Surrounded by incredibly clear, crystalline waters, the shorelines of the islands boast some of the most beautiful and pristine beaches in all of Italy.

Even though Isola Maddalena is the largest of the islands, if you could drag yourself off Spalmatore beach for long enough, you could probably walk the twelve miles of road which run around its coastline. If that sounds too strenuous, then ride the local bus to discover all the hidden bays and stunning beaches like Monte Rena. Caprera, the second largest island in the chain, not only has impeccable beaches like the ones at Due Mari, but is covered with pine forests which are great for hiking.

Why Go? If you’ve dreamt of navigating Utopia on a yacht and discovering a deserted beach, you’ll have found it in the Arcipelago di La Maddalena. Just don’t drop anchor by the Spiaggia Rosa, the famous pink beach on Isola Budelli, it’s now a highly protected from all environmental threats, including beach flipflops, so get out your telescopic lens, take a photo from the deck of the boat and sail on by.

Map LocationArcipelago di La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy

Mortorio island, Maddalena Archipelago, Sardinia, Italy

Mortorio island, Maddalena Archipelago, Sardinia, Italy

2. Val d’Orcia, Tuscany, Italy

The Val d’Orcia, in the Tuscany region of Italy, is the rural heart of the country. To drive the Strada di Valoresi, a road lined either side with regimental cypress, from La Foce to Monticchiello is like driving through an agricultural time capsule. The road winds its way through the verdant, rolling hillsides of the valley. Covered with vineyards and olive groves, this scenic view has remained unchanged for centuries and will continue to be untouched by progress as it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Why Go? A road trip through the Val d’Orcia in the autumn is like driving through a living kaleidoscope. With the onset of the season, the foliage turns to an array of colors ranging from bronze to russet to mauve. It is an incredible sight which attracts artists and photographers from all over the world. Or is that just a good excuse for trying the regions fantastic wine and olive oil? Both are reason enough for a visit on their own.

Map Location: Val d’Orcia, Tuscany, Italy

Val d’Orcia, Tuscany, Italy

Val d’Orcia, Tuscany, Italy

1. The Dolomite Mountain Range, North-east Italy

Everyone and everything shows its age at some time. Italy’s age is no more apparent than it is in the Dolomite Mountain Range. Formed of rock dating back to the Triassic age, yes, this part of Italy really was around a few hundred million years ago, but considering that fact, it’s wearing well.

The entire area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and encompasses several stunning national parks including Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park and Dolomiti d’Ampezzo Natural Park. The highest mountain, of all the craggy peaks, is the Marmolada at the height of almost eleven thousand feet, but the most easily recognized are the three forbidding peaks of the Tre Cime de Lavaredo.

Why Go? The Dolomite Mountain Range is where you can get in touch with the real Italian great outdoors. Popular for hiking, there are some fantastic trails as well as incredible views from the observation points. And there’s no denying, the range is a fashionable ski-resort in winter. The mountains passes of Passo Giau and Passo Sella, both with elevations of over two thousand feet, are great for cycling. You’ll definitely get a distinct view of Italy as you pedal at altitude through the Dolomites.

Map Location: Dolomite Mountain Range, Italy

Passo Giau, Dolomites, Italy

Passo Giau, Dolomites, Italy

Thanks to: Pando Trip



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