Places


Few destinations are as much like a storybook as Germany—especially when you’re on an epic road trip.

The country is filled with roads that wind through the land, with over 100 routes traversing the picturesque villages and countryside. With castles and flowing rivers, mountain peaks and beautiful towns, it’s straight out of a fairytale.

And it doesn’t stop there. Even the names of the roads lend themselves to this storybook theme. Next time you pack up and hit the road in Germany, consider these three routes that make for exciting and romantic road trips.

Romantic Road Trip

The Romantic Road

Located in the southern part of the country, the Romantic Road runs from Würzburg to Füssen—350 kilometers or 220 miles. Formulated in the 1950s as a way to stimulate tourism, the culture and scenery along the route really does lend itself to a romantic atmosphere full of canals, lakes and sweeping meadows.

Start in historic Würzburg as you wind south past the medieval cities of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dinkelsbühl and Nördlingen. Also a part of the tour, Neuschwanstein Castle and the Alps provide a chance for visitors to tour a castle. You’ll end up in Füssen, an adorable Bavarian town with mountains in the distance.

The Castle Road

If your image of a storybook road trip is one filled with expansive German castles, the Castle Road is the route for you. You’re bound to have a magical experience with more than 70 castles along the way.

The road starts in southwestern Germany in Mannheim with Mannheim Palace, a Baroque castle that hosts tours and devotes part of the building to the local university. The entire route runs 1,000 kilometers—more than 600 miles—before ending over the border of the Czech Republic in Prague. Other notable castles include Heidelberg Castle, Nuremberg Castle and, of course, Prague Castle.

Castle Road Trip

The Fairytale Road

Not as long as the Castle Road, but longer than the Romantic Road, the Fairytale Road runs from Hanau in the central part of Germany to Bremen in the north, allowing you to cover many different parts of the country between the three roads. The road gets its name because it features many destinations relevant to the lives of Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm. People around the world are familiar with their tales.

Along the way, visit Hanau, where the brothers were born, and Steinau, their childhood home. They studied at Marburg, also along the route, and visitors can also spot Little Red Riding Hood land from Alsfeld to Fritzlar and Bad Wildungen, Snow White’s village. The picturesque and historic nature of the route just enhances the experience.

Getting Ready to Go

Next time you’re planning a road trip in Germany, make sure you have plenty of space in the car. You can ensure there is room to be comfortable by enlisting the help of a cargo hitch carrier to keep your luggage safe and sound atop the car.

Packing for these types of road trips require one very important thing—a camera. Before you head out, make sure your memory card has plenty of space so you can capture the romantic trip. You’ll be impressed by so much of what you see—from stunning viewpoints to even the most minute details.

Another thing you’ll want to bring along is a physical map. The map will ensure you stay on the right route and find your way back if you get lost. Happy travels!

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Luxury is almost guaranteed when it comes to Caribbean travel. This region offers some of the finest islands in the world. Windswept white sands, palm trees swaying side-to-side, vibrant turquoise waters and spectacular hotels overlooking it all. What more could you ask for?

While all of these islands offer deluxe experiences, these six islands are a step above the rest when it comes to Caribbean luxury vacations.

1. The Bahamas

Technically, there is more than one island in the Bahamas that is perfect for a high-class experience. Whether you choose to stay on New Providence, Grand Bahama Island, Eleuthera, the Exumas or one of the many others, you’re sure to enjoy your stay.

Take a helicopter tour of the area by day then head out on a yacht at night or hit the local beachside bars. Guests will also enjoy adventure activities like swimming with sharks, getting up close with stingrays and exploring caves and blue holes.

2. Antigua

A lesser-known island in the West Indies, Antigua is especially stunning. It’s deep teal water and island greenery make for unbelievable views—and photos.

While the beaches are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, diving, windsurfing and horseback riding, the island has an underlying culture that enriches each and every visitor. From the Anglican cathedral of St. John the Divine to the historic sugar plantations and mills, there is a lot to see.

There are also many small islets offshore that make Antigua a huge boating, fishing and sailing destination. Consider staying on 300-acre Jumby Bay, a private island where you’ll find quiet, expansive villas to rent.

3. St. Thomas

St. Thomas is part of the Virgin Islands, making them a territory of the United States. But you definitely won’t feel like you’re in the U.S. as you explore this history-filled island.

Get back to the island’s roots with visits to Blackbeard’s Castle, a famous watchtower built in the 1600s, and Fort Christian, which has been converted into a local history museum. There are also five historic churches on St. Thomas.

Don’t forget to check out the island’s activities: diving, snorkeling, shopping, a marine park with animal encounters and one of the best golf courses in the world. There is also a Skyride attraction that lifts visitors 700 feet above Charlotte Amalie for panoramic views.

4. Turks and Caicos

Seven main islands make up Turks and Caicos, a Caribbean gem that has some of the best beaches and coral reefs around.

Tourism isn’t a major part of this country (yet) so you’re less likely to find crowds on the beaches and modern towns. Instead, relax on your Turks and Caicos luxury vacation and explore the historic villages. You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back in time.

Make sure to go diving or snorkeling along the reefs, but there is plenty else to do as well. Head to the top of a local lighthouse to spot whales frolicking below, get a town on the powdery white sand beaches or explore the caves on Middle Caicos. There are also museums to visit as well as a 200-year-old cotton plantation and the only conch farm on earth.

5. Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is one of those places where you find adventure around every turn. We’re talking adventure parks, off-roading, ziplining through the rainforest, horseback riding, cave exploration and scuba diving with sharks.

Those looking to explore less and relax more have that option too. Whether you want to spend the day at the golf course, snorkel with colorful fish or sunbathe on a catamaran, the options in the Dominican Republic really are endless.

Quality vacation rentals can be found everywhere from Punta Cana and Playa Grande to Cabrera and Cap Cana.

6. Anguilla

The British territory of Anguilla is another island known for its luxurious beaches. But it also happens to have a huge variety.

Beaches like Shoal Bay East, Rendezvous Bay and Meads Bay offer guests a chance to relax, sip drinks in the sun or partake in water activities like swimming and snorkeling. Though stunning, these are your typical tourist beaches. For something a little different, visit Sandy Ground, where you can dine along the sand or experience some stellar nightlife.

For some seclusion, Little Bay and Sandy Island both offer unique experiences. Little Bay is hard to reach, but it is also very small—you’ll feel lost in paradise on its shores. Sandy Island, though not on the mainland, is a little spit of sand that will give you that castaway feeling all day long.

What other islands should be on this list? Share your experiences!

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La Concha Bay, San Sebastian

Spain is home to more than 5000 miles of coastline, so there really is no lack of choice on where to catch some beach time. Often, we associate beaches with sun, sand, and… shells, but it really depends what your flavour is. Whatever it is, Spain can provide.

Playa de las Cathederals- Ribadeo

Spain is blessed with both the white sands of the Mediterranean, and the rugged coastline of the atlantic. Some of the countries’ most impressive coastal spectacles, are on the less renowned, choppy coasts of the north. It is the rough temperament of the ocean which puts some holidaymakers off, but the relentless battering of the ocean on the side of cliffs are a pull-factor for those that can bear the winds.

The Playa de las Cathedrals is a stunning example of atlantic coastline, and an awe-striking reminder of the power of nature. Here, the white horses of Pegasus charge forwards to batter against the cliffs, leaving a row of majestic cliff carvings, unlike any others.

It is an absolute must to arrive here at low tide, and is worth planning ahead. At low tide, it is possible to walk under a series of arches in the cliffs, and explore caves, making for a unique beach side stroll. At high tide it is still possible to admire the formations from above, but there will only be a tiny amount of beach available.

La Concha- San Sebastian

Not all beautiful beaches are nestled away in the middle of nowhere, and there is the odd city beach which manages to be just as stunning. Situated near the French border on the Northern Atlantic coast San Sebastian is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. It boasts two very clean, and appealing beaches, both of which are worth a visit. Forget the beaches of Barcelona, and check out La Concha!

A far cry from the usual below-average-but-I-guess-it-will-do beaches, La Concha is set against a backdrop of hills and island. The atlantic waters lap the shore of the golden sand, adding atmosphere to an already buzzing city. The beach and surrounding promenade are thriving with tourists, but the atmosphere is rousing, and the beach can turn it’s sands to partying when the sun goes down!

San Sebastian is set to be European Cultural Capital in 2016, and is thriving with budding artists and musicians. A stroll along the sea-front at sunset will tickle the senses, and delight the soul, as the lapping of the sea merges with the sounds of the buskers, and the chatting of tourists and locals alike.

Playa de les Illets- Formentera

So let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Sometimes, you just want a straight up vacation, with a hard weeks relaxation, lapping up the sun-rays, and only moving from the sun-lounger to cool down with a dip in some crystal clear Mediterranean water. Sound familiar?

Formentera is one of the Balearic Islands, and lies to the south of it’s party-hard cousin, Ibiza. It is part of the Ses Salines nature reserve, and the beaches are both spectacular, and reasonably quiet. Where Ibiza screams out for dance, drugs, and sex on the beach, Formentera whispers white sand, water-sports, and fine-dining on seafood.

One of the finest beaches the island has to offer is Illets, which offers several kilometres of perfect white sand, close to the amenities of the adorable port town. The mild sea is family-friendly fun for swimming, snorkelling, and kicking back in the sun. For a relaxing beach, with a tropical island vibe, Playa de les Illets really hits the spot.

Mundaka- Basque

Somewhere hot and comfy to lie in the sun is high up on most people’s beach priorities. But not everybody’s. Some people want to hit the waves! Spain has many beaches that suit all levels of surfer dude, but Mundaka is not for the faint hearted. Mundaka lies deep in the heart of Basque country; a northern region with it’s own identity, and a rich history waiting to be explored.

It is perhaps the most famed surf beach in Spain, and is internationally acclaimed in the surfer community. Intermediate and expert surfers come here to ride the beast left-hand wave, which reaches heights of 12ft! Needless to say, Mundaka is not the best place to learn, so newbies should try out their skills elsewhere first.

Beginners, or interested bystanders can marvel at the wild velocity of the waves, and at the courage of the keen surfers who take on the ocean. Mundaka is not however the first pick of beach for those who are not interested in surfing. There are much sandier, and more relaxing beaches available. It is a beach that is all about the beauty of the wave!

Playa de Rodas- Islas Cies

The Islas Cies are a beautiful set of islands off the coast of the Galician region of Spain. This is a little taste of the Caribbean in Spain, and you will be pleased to know the stunning island is completely uninhabited. It instead forms part of a national park, which is open to the public in the summer months, and accessible via a short boat ride from the pretty town of Baiona.

Here a perfect crescent of soft white sand, couples with the lapping of the atlantic ocean. The experience is a tranquil one, that would perhaps not be available on the equally beautiful, but often hideously overcrowded beaches of the Med.

You may notice an under-representation of south coast Mediterranean beaches. There is no doubt that the well-known areas up and down the coast, such as Malaga and Alicante, contain their share of stunning sand, and omni-present sun. Sometimes the ease and luxury of these beaches can be their downfall, and the resorts that amass around them can take away from the charm.

It all depends what you are looking for really, but the real untouched beauty, may be found on the more rugged atlantic coast, where sun might have to be sacrificed for superb scenery, and secluded gems. Whatever it is you are looking for, Spain has a beach to satisfy.

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Beautiful landscape of the Grand Canyon sunset.

The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations attracting over 5 million visitors a year, many of them American. The Colorado river carves its way through the plateau exposing two billion years of geological history. The Grand Canyon National Park has fascinated all that visit with its awe inspiring vastness, and intimidating depths, as well as its immense and powerful beauty, and diverse micro-climates.

The canyon can be over 2km deep at points, and spans a length of 446km, with a width of nearly 30km, making it one of the largest canyons in the world. The Grand Canyon sits in the desert in the state of Arizona, and is still inhabited by tribes and Native American people to this day. With such a rich cultural background, a display of geological splendor, and a unique sprawl of scenery that can only be seen in one place in the world, it is little wonder why the canyon pulls in the crowds.

Many visitors of the park are satisfied with seeing the Canyon with a shuttle bus ride, or by parking their car at overlooks along the South Rim, which can be accessed relatively easily. The North Rim is far less accessible; 345km round the canyon by car, or 34km by foot on the North and South Kaibab Trail. For those who want a more adventurous experience, nothing can beat a hike into the canyons, to give a real sense of the scale and immensity of the area. Although hiking can be an exciting way to explore the Grand Canyon, there are several things you will need to know before embarking.

Day Walks

If you are planning a day walk there are many options available, and no permit is needed. The Grand Canyon National Park boasts many trail routes, some of them well maintained and others very rugged. Some of the trails and sections are suitable for day trip excursions, without the need to camp out. South Rim walks range from the easy Rim Trail walk, which is easily lengthened or shortened by using the shuttle bus, to the very steep Grandview Trail.

There are also many North Rim day hikes suitable for casual walks, ranging from the 30 minute Bright Angel Point Trail, to the 8 hour strenuous walk to the Roaring Springs on the North Kaibab Trail. You will need to plan your day walk to suit your ability; it is better to take on less and have an enjoyable experience, than to risk danger by taking on a hike that is not suitable to be done in a day.

Longer Trails

To see more of the canyon an overnight hike, or a several day excursion, might open up more options. The Corridor Zone trails are the most well maintained in the Grand Canyon and are recommended for first time hikers. They often have more abundant supplies of purified water, ranger stations, and some basic facilities like toilets. Subsequent zones increase in difficulty from the threshold zone, for experienced hikers, and the primitive and wild zones for only proven navigators, and trained desert hikers. Choose a zone and a trail wisely, and be totally honest. Have concern for your safety and you will have a most enjoyable time hiking. Whatever trail route you chose it is never clever to wander off the beat and track in an area as inhospitable as the Grand Canyon.

Obtaining a Permit

For most excursions longer than a day it will be necessary to obtain a permit, which can be applied for from Backcountry Information Centre. There are some developed campsites where hikers can rest without a permit, but to have access to all available camping options a permit will be necessary. They cost around $10, plus an extra $5 a night for every night camping in the park. Permits must be displayed on tents for rangers to see easily. The park has many designated camping grounds that vary in facilities. If you plan on using a horse or a mule this should also be stated when applying for a permit.

Water, or the Lack of It

The trail routes and campsites in the Grand Canyon National Park may or may not have a decent supply of drinking water. You will need to plan ahead and understand the availability of water for the time of year. Whilst some of the more popular trails have regular water stations, some of the less maintained ones will have no drinking water, especially in hotter, dryer months.

Hikers may sometimes need to purify water from rivers and streams, or carry an abundance for a certain section. It is important therefore, when a trail hike has been picked, to check how much water will be available and how much should be carried. Whilst walking, it is recommended to drink at least quarter a liter an hour, more on a hot day. Do not risk dehydration; take plenty of water, do some research, and get some advice if unsure.

Other Gear

Apart from water, you will also need to carry enough food. There are not any restaurants once you descend into the canyon, and so taking more than enough food, and some emergency rations will be imperative. This is not a list for hiking gear but other considerations will include clothes, tent, and sleeping bags at the least. Have enough protection from the sun, enough warmth for when the temperature dips at night, and a good enough tent to withstand the elements. Wear good hiking boots on tougher trails, and take good maps, guide books, and navigational equipment for tougher trails.

Climate

It is very important to understand the climate of the Grand Canyon, or to at least be aware of how it may affect your hike. Because of the intricacies, and large changes of gradients in the canyons, many micro-climates can be found there. For example, the coldest and wettest weather station at Bright Angel Rancher, North Rim, is located only 8 miles from the driest and hottest one, Phantom Ranch. The coldest temperature recorded at Bright Angel was -22 degrees F, and the hottest at Phantom 120 degrees F.

The deeper you descend into the canyon, the hotter the temperature, by around 5.5 degrees F per 1000 meters. It is therefore wise to be prepared for all extremes, for extreme hot and cold. The Grand Canyon is mostly a desert sort of climate, although the canyons are subject to the occasional storm, and lightning strikes. Temperature changes can be extreme, even swinging during a day by as much as 30 degrees. Be prepared for hot, dry daytimes, and cold nights.

Snow can arrive high up on the Rims of the canyon, especially the North Rim, and towards the end of summer monsoon season hits briefly. Research the climate, and check the weather forecast for the canyon. Get some information that correlates to the time of year that is is, and the specific areas you will be hiking.

Hiking in the canyon is not hugely dangerous if these considerations are met. With a bit of preparation and responsibility, the epic views of the canyons can be enjoyed with a tailor made hiking experience. Chose wisely and reap the benefits that the tourists in the car park on South Rim will simply never understand!

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Trail hiking

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?

  • Trail Hiking

    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.

  • Skiing

    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.

  • Countryside Charm

    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.

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