Everyone likes a good beach. The crashing of the waves on the rocks, the beating down of the sun on your face, and the pure, unbroken relaxation that derives from enjoying some time lying in the sand. There are millions of beaches in the world, making for over 200,000 miles of coastline; about as long as the distance between here and the moon.
With that in mind it is quite the pursuit to try and name the most incredible beaches in the world, and it all depends on preferences. Some people like a nice quiet spot for sunbathing, others like to party. Geological features may be your forte, or perhaps the killer waves to surf. Here is a selection of some of the world’s most incredible beaches, that hopefully cater to some different tastes.
Europe is a vast continent, a land where travel between countries is easy, but where borders of culture are still well defined. There are many ways to enjoy the Continent, many climates, large cities and urban sprawls, rural expanses, mountains, lakes, rivers, beaches, and just about every activity you can think of. People find their own way to fall in love with Europe, their own perspective from which to see its beauty. Here are five vastly different European trip ideas:
EU Rail Pass
If you are interested in exploring Europe by train, hopping from city to city to taste the cultures of up to 24 European countries, then the EU rail pass could be the ticket to your vacation. The pass gives you reduced price train fair deals, and can be purchased to cover one country, several bordering countries, or all 24 countries involved in the scheme. Prices for the full pass start at 400 Euros, but for three months unlimited travel across the EU, tickets reach 1000 Euros.
This may seem costly, but it makes for huge savings and the ability to get across the vast continent quickly and with comfort. You can visit anywhere with a major train connection, across France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Romania, Budapest, Greece, Croatia, and many more. Sounds great doesn’t it?
Here is a completely different type of European trip, and one more suited to the nature loving outdoor adventurer. Europe is very accommodating for hikers, long distance bikers, and horse riders, and features hundreds of routes laid out as GR paths, marked with red and white stripes. Many of these paths are suitable for any ability level, but research is advised especially where mountain trekking is concerned.
Spain features a famous Christian pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago, which spans the entire breadth of the country, and has many popular routes from all directions on the Continent. The Pyrenees, either on the French, or Spanish sides, offer weeks of peaceful, enduring, but accessible mountain trekking, broken only by quaint farming villages. For some serious Alpine trekking you could try Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn, which takes you past 10 of the 12 highest peaks in the Alps, from France to Switzerland.
A Beach Holiday On The Mediterranean
The mediterranean is hot, dry, and the sea is warm, blue, and inviting. The people are relaxed, and why wouldn’t they be? They live in one of the most relaxing environments on the planet. There are many European countries that you could visit for a beach holiday; check out the golden mile in Spain, or the West coast of Ibiza, or sunbath in Crete, Turkey, Sardinia, Sicily, Cyprus, or the south coast of France. There are many Mediterranean beach getaways, for the party-goer, the family, or the couple, and you can find high intensity resorts and hidden coves. Wherever you choose a suntan is guaranteed.
Just when you thought Europe was going to be too warm and relaxed, you are going to come to realize that it also has some of the best skiing in the world. You can glide down mountain slopes, and be welcomed back to the plushest of ski resorts, and most wholesome homemade food you will ever appreciate. Europe is home to the Alps, the famous mountain range of mountain ranges. They are accessible for skiing mostly from Austria and Switzerland, but also from France and Italy.
You have seen the big cities, hiked through mountains and waded through rivers, relaxed on the Mediterranean, and raced through the Alps on a pair of skis. Now, it is time to wind down with a vacation in the charming European countryside. Try the UK for some quaint country charm, combined with rolling hills, and farmland, or the agricultural capital France, with its flat farmland, mountains, lakes, vineyards and wine culture, or Eastern Europe for some of the most impressive scenery the Continent has to offer.
For a completely different perspective of the world, the ever sought after birds-eye view, why not take to the skies in a hot air balloon, the perfect way to relax and enjoy some epic surroundings. Balloon rides are more accessible than ever before, and many tour guide operators offer them all over the world. There are lots of exceptionally beautiful places to enjoy the experience, and any view from above is stunning. Some travel destinations do lend themselves particularly well, so here are 8 incredible hot air balloon rides that will blow your mind.
The North Pole
It isn’t particularly commercial yet, but Quark Expeditions offer a yearly hot air balloon ride as part of their expedition to the North Pole. Fifty holidaymakers took to the skies and traveled by balloon to an area only slightly south of the North Pole last year. I imagine the views to be quite white, and the air to be quite cold, but then again this is not an experience for the faint hearted.
Loire Valley, France
Back to reality, because I know few readers are going to jump up and rush to the North Pole. The Loire Valley in France offers fantastic balloon rides, with views over the fairytale castles and chateaus below, as well as idyllic villages, sunflower fields, and a network of rivers and streams. For those who can’t resist the French charm, but would rather see it from a safe distance, so that they do not get fat off the bakery products, which are some of the finest in the world.
Here is a place that is as much epic and exhilarating, as the Loire Valley is charming and quaint. Gstaad in Switzerland is a hot air balloon ride set against a backdrop of jagged peaks and snowy caps, a crystal clear blue sky, and some tiny towns nestled in between the loom of the mountains. In winter the conditions for ballooning are perfect, and an annual ballooning festival is held here in the last week of January, at Chateau d’Oex.
Located close to Mexico City, Teotihuacan features the remains of an ancient city known as the City of God. A balloon ride reveals views from above of the huge and integral structures of the Pyramid of the Sun and the Moon, as well as the Avenue of the Dead, and the Temple of Quetzalpapalotl. The city was once the finest in North America, and the remains are simply fascinating; from the ground and from above. A hot air balloon simply adds a perspective of the scale, and a view that can give an extra dimension to the massive structures that still remain.
Luxor lies opposite the great city of Thebes, a four thousand year old archeological wonder. Located on the East bank of the river Nile Luxor features a wide array of ancient monuments, columns and temples. Licensed operators allow visitors to fly over the whole area, with balloon rides lasting up to two hours. Perfect for a relaxed arial experience of some ancient wonders.
The rock formations around the high plateau of Cappadocia are very strange and otherworldly. Created by volcanic eruptions and carved by wind and rain erosion, the rocky limestone crops of land were home to some of our oldest ancestors. Later, civilizations carved temples and homes into the rocks, adding even more awe to an already naturally stunning landscape. Cappadocia is a very popular spot for ballooning for good reason, but best to avoid crowds by visiting out of the summer season.
Here is something a bit different, a must do for animal lovers, and certainly high up on my bucket list. It is possible to fly over the Serengeti National Park, which spans immense distances and features all the mammals you would expect to see on safari. This is hot air balloon safari at its best, and you are guaranteed to see a number of animals in any season, including wilder beast, antelope, gazelle, and zebra, as well as chancing some rarer sightings of lions and elephants. Top notch tour operators use quieter burners than usual, so they can fly above animals undetected. For an epic experience try going during a wilder beast migration.
There is perhaps no finer sight from a hot air balloon than Bagan, the capital city of the First Burmese Empire, and once home to 13,000 Buddhist temples. Now visitors can fly over the thousands that still remain, their beautiful designs forming perfect points against the purple haze of the sunset sky.