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Arts & Culture At Home Entertainment

8 Unexpected Travel Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen Yet

There are the classic travel movies you know about, and then there are the newer and lesser-known travel-centric films that inspire a surprising amount of wanderlust. If you’re stuck at home thinking you’ve seen all the travel movies worth watching and rewatching, think again—here are eight unexpected options, ranging from action-packed blockbusters to indie flicks.

Downhill (2020)

The king and queen of comedy have come together for a vacation movie we can all get behind. Downhill stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell on a fictional family trip to the Alps that goes awry and forces them to ask hard questions about their relationship, family, and overall life together.

Charlie’s Angels (2019)

No one asked for a Charlie’s Angels reboot, but the new female-directed action movie is a surprisingly perfect travel movie for its use of many dazzling city landmarks as famous backdrops to fight and chase scenes. The new round of Angels fight bad guys in Hamburg, Germany; Istanbul, Turkey; and Chamonix, France. Anyone who’s seen Hamburg’s Philharmonic, Istanbul’s bazaars, and Chamonix’s apres ski charm will be floored.

Midsommar (2019)

Who says a horror film can’t be a travel movie? Midsommar made waves in 2019 for its haunting depiction of a fictional Swedish town that celebrates midsummer—a time when parts of the region see 24 hours of sunlight per day—with rituals carried out by a pagan cult. Keep in mind that it’s less sunny Swedish scenery and more gore and terror.

The Farewell (2019)

An independent film that racked up rave reviews and accolades in 2019, The Farewell follows a Chinese-American family overseas to visit their grandmother and stage a fake wedding when she’s (unknowingly) diagnosed with a terminal illness. A charming travel movie based on a surprisingly true story, it illustrates the divide—and some surprising similarities—between China and “the West.”

Little Women (2019)

A reboot that actually lives up to the literary classic, writer/director Greta Gerwig’s 2019 version of Little Women takes viewers back in time to both colonial New England and Paris via filming locations travelers still visit today. Concord, Massachusetts—the area where the movie was filmed—is also home to the historic Louisa May Alcott House, where Alcott wrote and set her novel Little Women. But the movie goes beyond the gorgeous New England scenery to 19th-century Paris.

The Trip to Spain (2017)

In a lesser-known movie version of their TV show The Trip, British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon set out on a culinary journey to Spain as fictional versions of their still-famous selves. The old friends’ witty banter (and many celebrity impressions) color their visits to iconic Spanish historic sites and many mouth-watering restaurants—follow along with your own tapas and wine at home for optimal viewing. (Bonus: A new movie from the duo called The Trip to Greece is due for release in 2020.)

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Perhaps a more-expected movie than the others on this list: If you want to truly unwind with a hilarious and effervescent romantic comedy, there are few as over-the-top as Crazy Rich Asians, the 2018 blockbuster based on the novel trilogy by Kevin Kwan. Explore sparkling Singapore by way of a down-to-earth couple attending their first family wedding together, where old money and a new girlfriend clash in a surprisingly tender love story.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

If you liked Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited as a travel movie, you’ll love the director’s The Grand Budapest Hotel for its similarly whimsical framing of a far-off, complex place. The film follows hotel staff at a 1930s ski resort as they uncover a murder and a mysterious painting, which fill in the rich cultural history of Eastern Europe with plenty of dark humor.

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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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Arts & Culture At Home

20 Binge-Worthy Shows on Popular Streaming Services

No more excuses for “having nothing to watch”. We’ve rounded up the most binge-worthy shows on popular streaming services to help keep you entertained while stuck at home.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on Hulu

We love Hulu for its variety of shows, affordable pricing, and integration with cable networks: You can get a streaming bundle package with ESPN, Hulu, and Disney+ for under $15 per month. Right now, Hulu is offering a free 30-day trial.

Here are our picks for the best binge-worthy shows on Hulu:

Little Fires Everywhere

little fires everywhere tv show.

The new series adapted from the best-selling novel (of the same name) features two megastars—Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington— as the main characters. All it takes is one episode to get hooked. New episodes air every Wednesday. Tip: Read the e-book first if you’re really looking to kill some time.

Shrill

shrill tv show.

You’ll quickly fall in love with this comedy starring SNL’s Aidy Bryant. There are two seasons available to binge, totaling 14 episodes.

Family-Friendly Pick: Steven Universe

steven universe tv show.

Kids and parents will love this animated coming-of-age story from Cartoon Network. All four season (126 episodes are available to stream).

Travel Pick: Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations

anthony bourdain no reservations tv show.

No binge-able TV show roundup from a travel website can omit an Anthony Bourdain show. Seasons seven and eight of fan-favorite No Reservations are available on Hulu.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on Netflix

Netflix’s original content can’t be beat, and the streaming network gets bonus points for its incredible culinary content. Netflix is currently offering a free 30-day trial.

Here are our top binge-worthy shows on Netflix:

Ozark

ozark tv show

Transport yourself to the mysterious and gloomy world that is the Lake of the Ozarks. Netflix just released the third season of this original drama, so you have 30 episodes to binge.

Schitt’s Creek

schitts creek tv show.

If you’re in need of a pick-me-up comedy during this time, Schitt’s Creek is the perfect fit. There are five seasons currently on Netflix, and the sixth is currently airing on Comedy Central and Pop networks.

Family-Friendly Pick: The Big Family Cooking Showdown

big family cooking showdown tv show.

This family-oriented cooking competition comes from the BBC. Binge two seasons of heated fun on Netflix.

Travel Pick: Ugly Delicious

ugly delicious tv show.

Binge this documentary series on Netflix with James Beard Award-winning host, David Chang. Each episode takes you on a culinary journey and explores how a well-known food dish is made around the world. There are two seasons available to binge.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on Amazon Prime Video

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you have free and immediate access to original Amazon Prime Video content and you can link up other networks, like Showtime, Cinemax, HBO, and more to your account with Amazon Channels. You can also try Prime free for 30 days. 

Here are our favorite binge-able shows on Prime Video right now:

The Widow

the widow tv show.

Fans of Jack Ryan will love this thriller series with the lead character, Georgia, played by Kate Beckinsale. Based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the show takes you on a series of twists and turns as Georgia searches for her presumed-dead husband.

Family-Friendly Pick: Just Add Magic

just add magic tv show.

Mystery follows when three friends discover a magical cookbook. Follow along for the three seasons, currently on Prime Video.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on Disney+

If you’re a Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, or National Geographic fan, then this is the streaming service for you. With Disney+ you get access to full collections from each brand and franchise for your binging pleasure. Don’t forget, you can save on a bundle package that includes ESPN, Hulu, and Disney+ for under $15 per month.

Here are our favorite TV shows to binge on Disney+:

Travel Pick: Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted

gordan ramsey uncharted tv show.

Explore the world with famed and outspoken chef Gordan Ramsay as he explores destinations like Peru, Alaska, New Zealand, and Hawaii through food in season one.

Travel Pick: Lost Cities with Albert Lin

lost cities with albert lin.

Channel your inner archeologist with this incredible docuseries, streaming on Disney+. Explore ancient ruins and landscapes with 3D-scanning and other hi-tech technologies and transport yourself to another world with a captivating National Geographic host.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on HBO Now

HBO perhaps created the concept of binging, bringing you classic series like Sex and the City and The Sopranos long before other networks. Check out old favorites and new series with HBO’s streaming service. Thankfully, HBO is streaming hundreds of episodes for free right now.

Our favorite shows to binge watch from HBO:

The Wire

the wire tv show.

For those that didn’t get a chance to watch this fascinating series air the first time around, you can binge all five seasons for free with HBO Now. Set in Baltimore, this crime drama was created by a former police reporter.

Westworld

Currently in its third season, Westworld keeps you wanting more as it transports you to an alternate universe and an amusement park filled with robotic characters where you can live out your wildest dreams without consequence … or so it seems. The show is an adaptation of the 1973 movie, and features a recognizable and award-winning cast.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on CBS All Access

Watch live TV, stream thousands of network episodes, and gain access to original content with a CBS All Access pass. You can even try it free for 30 days right now.

The Good Fight

the good fight tv show.

This three-season series is the first original scripted show for CBS’s All Access streaming service. The legal drama is spin-off sequel to the hit TV-series, The Good Wife (so binge that first if you haven’t seen it already). Catch up now as season four is set to premiere soon.

Star Trek: Discovery

star trek discovery tv show.

Created specifically for this streaming service, Star Trek: Discovery is the first series in the franchise to air since 2005. Set about a decade before the original series, it’s a fun TV show to binge for both those new to the franchise and die-hard fans. There are currently two seasons available to binge with a third expected this year.

The Best Shows to Binge Watch on Apple TV+

If you’re loyal to your Apple TV, then you most likely have access to a free month of Apple’s streaming service. For non-Apple TV users you can easily access these original shows with the Apple TV app to stream on your devices, and try a free seven-day trial.

Here are binge-able TV shows on Apple TV+:

For All Mankind

for all mankind tv show.

If you’re a fan of history and outer space, then this original TV series is for you. The show takes place as if the great “space race” never ended. Currently, there’s one season available to binge.

Oprah’s Book Club

oprahs book club tv show.

Oprah’s binge-able TV show really will help time fly by. Read the book for each episode and then watch Oprah interview the author and facilitate conversations about each novel.

The Best Episodes to Binge Watch on Masterclass

Ever wanted to take guitar lessons from a rock star, a business course from the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or a cooking class from a Michelin-star chef? With a Masterclass membership you gain access to hundreds of courses taught by celebrities and professions ranging from Steph Curry to Natalie Portman.

Here are a few standout lessons on Masterclass to binge:

Martin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking

martin scorcese master class.

Get a personal look at Martin Scorsese’s inner mind with this series of 30 lessons (about 12 minutes each) that range in topics from working with actors to production design. You’ll also get a downloadable workbook after.

Steve Martin Teaches Comedy

steve martin master class.

Learn a new skill, like comedy, with this series of 12 lessons (at 12-minutes each) by Steve Martin. From tips and tricks on how to start your act to writing faux paus, the lessons themselves are pure comedy

How to Stream New Movies

Movie-buffs, we didn’t forget about you. While movie theatres might be closed, you can still watch new releases from the comfort of your couch.

Prime Video is offering members the ability to purchase “Early Access” movies that would normally be showing in theatres, starting at $20.

In addition to offering TV shows to rent or purchase, Fandango Now is releasing “Home Premieres” as well as a selection of movies that are direct from theatres.

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Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

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Arts & Culture Entertainment

21 Sites Offering Virtual Tours and Live Streams for Travelers Stuck at Home

As the world grinds to a halt in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, many would-be travelers find themselves stuck at home, dreaming of their next trip. Fortunately, the internet is here to help. You can take a virtual tour of the world’s great art museums, watch live streams of adorable animals in aquariums and zoos, and even catch a Broadway show, all from the comfort of your couch.

Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

Though Italy remains in lockdown, the Vatican Museums have put a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel on their website so you can explore its magnificent artwork without the crowds.

Google Arts & Culture

Use the Street View section of Google Arts & Culture for a peek inside dozens of museums and landmarks, including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico City, the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, the Australian National Surfing Museum in Torquay, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Broadway HD

Broadway may be dark right now, but you can stream shows like Kinky Boots, Miss Saigon, and Macbeth through subscription service Broadway HD. You can start with a seven-day free trial, then pay a monthly or yearly fee.

Zoos Victoria, Australia

Two zoos in Victoria, Australia, are bringing some of their most popular critters visible through live cams. Tune in for a glimpse at penguins, baby snow leopards, giraffes, and lions.

The British Museum, London

Take a virtual tour through time and space as you explore the British Museum’s wide-ranging collections, from Japanese porcelain to ancient Egyptian artifacts.

The Metropolitan Opera, New York

Need a culture fix? The Met is streaming archived opera performances each night through March 29 while the opera house is closed, including works from Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and more.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, California

Be mesmerized by tropical fish, sharks, jellyfish, penguins, and birds on the live cams of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California.

The Frick Collection, New York

Survey the works of Old Masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer in a Gilded Age mansion with a virtual visit to the Frick Collection.

Skyline Webcams

What’s happening at the Roman Colosseum or at the Zocalo in Mexico City? Spoiler alert: Right now, not much. But there’s something soothing about being able to look out over famous landmarks and beautiful beaches, even if they’re eerily deserted at the moment. Check out the full lineup of destinations at Skyline Webcams.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid

Madrid’s Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, currently closed, is offering a virtual tour of its Rembrandt and Amsterdam Portraiture exhibition, scheduled to run through May 24.

National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.

Get your fill of dinosaur fossils, minerals, Egyptian artifacts, and more with a virtual tour of this Smithsonian institution, including past and current exhibits.

Berlin Philharmonic, Berlin

The Berlin Philharmonic is making the performances in its Digital Concert Hall free for everyone who signs up by March 31.

San Diego Zoo, California

Let cute furry animals ease your cabin fever by tuning into the live cams from the San Diego Zoo, featuring koalas, pandas, polar bears, elephants, and more.

360Cities

Providing 360-degree views of cities and natural areas across the globe, 360Cities offers a fun way to virtually visit rainforests, monasteries, and geysers. Check out the site’s curated collections or search on a world map.

Volunteer Park Conservatory, Seattle

Need a moment of Zen? This conservatory is posting daily live streams of plants and flowers on its Instagram account.

Yosemite National Park, California

Explore Yosemite’s waterfalls, lakes, and rugged rocks through the imagery at Virtual Yosemite.

The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam

Peek around the Secret Annex where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II.

Google Earth

Take in 360-degree views of the Matterhorn, the Hoover Dam, the Florence Duomo, and more on Google Earth.

Florida Beaches

Give yourself a virtual vacation with rolling waves and sunshine from live cams across the Fort Myers and Sanibel areas of Florida.

Tenerife, Spain

See spectacular aerial views of beaches, mountains, parks, and rocky coast in Spain’s Canary Islands chain.

National Palace Museum, Taiwan

Navigate your way through the serene gardens and priceless exhibits of Taiwan’s National Palace Museum via this virtual tour.

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The Best Travel Destinations for Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type

Editor’s note: Travel to some countries mentioned in this story have been affected by COVID-19. Check the websites of the CDC and the U.S. State Department before your trip for current recommendations about the safety of travel to your intended destination.

Spin a globe, point your finger, and see where it lands—if only planning a trip were that easy. For those who prefer to take a more rational approach when arranging travel, look to your Myers-Briggs personality type.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a behavioral assessment that calculates how people perceive the world and make decisions. Based on the theories of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, the test determines your four-letter personality archetype based on the following main factors:

  • Extroversion (E) vs. Introversion (I): Do you draw energy from your surroundings (outgoing) or from within (reserved)?
  • Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N): Do you process new information through concrete facts or by reading between the lines?
  • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F): When making decisions, are you more likely to prioritize logic and objective criteria or personal values and others’ feelings?
  • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P): Do you approach life in a systematic, schedule-oriented way or prefer more flexibility and open-endedness?

Not sure of your Myers-Briggs personality type? You can read about the various types here.

For each of the 16 total Myers-Briggs types, we’ve recommended destinations around the world that best complement your personality and comfort zone. Find out in which direction your internal compass points you for your next trip below.

ENFJ: Sao Miguel Island, Azores

hydrangeas coastal path Sao Miguel, Azores Islands.

Go on vacation with an ENFJ, and they’ll frantically ensure that you’re happy and living your best life. These people pleasers strive to cultivate a sense of community wherever they go, which is why the Azores’ largest and most lively island is the perfect spot for their next getaway. With diverse attractions and easy accessibility (you can drive from one end of the island to the other in less than two hours), the ENFJ will be in their element, organizing activities galore.

Where to stay: Because planning can be exhausting, we suggest seeking respite in the wellness-inspired Furnas Boutique Hotel.

ISTP: Rwanda

Solo travel can be food for any type’s soul, but perhaps no one “owns” that style quite like the ISTP. Often described as an adventurous loner, this type gravitates toward the road less traveled, and the Central African country of Rwanda is a perfect example. Any visit to Rwanda’s dense forests will reward the ISTP with a renewed sense of peace, while local interactions will leave them feeling humbled and with an enriched perspective on the world, something they’re always seeking.

Where to stay: The journey continues at the Bisate Lodge, where the ISTP can become one with nature in an environmentally friendly hut nestled in the mountains.

ISFJ: Santa Fe, New Mexico

“The City Different” is an ideal trip for these unique social introverts who can adapt to their surroundings arguably more than any other type. With its communal atmosphere and colorful melding of Mexican, Native American, and Spanish cultures, the oldest capital city in North America will satiate ISFJs’ love of history and tradition while fostering personal connections along the way.

Where to stay: Bunk up at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, a traditionally designed hotel only steps from Santa Fe’s historic Plaza.

ENFP: Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia

Routines don’t sit well with the ENFP, a type with an aching desire for anything out of the ordinary. Behold: the Republic of Georgia. Nestled at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the underrated city of Tbilisi is a hub of food, wine, history, and adventure. These amiable free spirits will have plenty of options to bounce around, based on whatever feels right in the moment, and they’re sure to make friends along the way.

Where to stay: ENFPs will swoon over the Stamba Hotel, a former printing house with a storied past and a hip, social vibe that will quench the ENFP’s thirst for creativity and personal connections.

INTP: Hydra, Greece

Channeling one of history’s great INTPs, Socrates, this philosophical type was born to explore the deeper meaning of life. The small, slow-paced Greek island of Hydra offers a welcome invitation for INTPs to unravel details of some of humanity’s earliest civilizations and see the world in a new way, while savoring all the alone time they need.

Where to stay: The historic Bratsera Hotel is more than a place for INTPs to rest their heads; with a fascinating history, this converted sponge factory is an experience all its own.

ESFJ: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap continues to rise in the ranks as a top travel destination, with any mention usually complemented by a glossy image of the famed ancient temple of Angkor Wat. While ESFJs will be highly attuned to the country’s history, these altruistic social butterflies also will love the city’s trendy downtown peppered with colorful boutiques and culturally rich restaurants.

Where to stay: Plan early so you can snag one of three rooms at Hotel Be Angkor, each of which features the work of a local artist.

ISFP: Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Living in the moment is an ISFP’s mantra. Pair that with their emotionally driven spirit, and we can’t think of a better place to go with the flow than Mostar. This small city is an inspiring representation of the country’s perseverance—a story that will pull at the ISFP’s heartstrings as they stroll through its intimate cobblestone streets. When the need to recharge strikes, retreat to the banks of the Neretva River and marvel at Mostar’s iconic Stari Most bridge.

Where to stay: The cozy, traditionally designed Hotel-Restaurant Kriva Cuprija offers picturesque views.

ESTJ: Bhutan

When it comes to planning a trip, ESTJs are more likely to save up for one big, bucket-list adventure than take a few spontaneous vacations throughout the year. This logical approach is bound to lead them to places of which people only dream—and next year or the following (because we know this year is already planned), we set the ESTJ’s sights on Bhutan. Tucked away in the Himalayas, the small kingdom will invigorate this high-energy type with its friendly locals, vibrant culture, and breathtaking mountain landscapes.

Where to stay: The Dhensa Boutique Resort’s prominent location near several hiking trails means the ESTJ will never get bored.

INFP: Tunisia

Daydreaming is the INFP’s pastime, but when traveling, this empathetic type prefers places with which they can emotionally connect while simultaneously feeding their curiosity. Tunisia’s capital city of Tunis and its suburbs are a conglomerate of cultures, historic landmarks, and streets made for getting lost. Soak up the sights and sounds of the Medina, revel in the white and blue buildings of Sidi Bou Said, and discover centuries past at the ancient ruins of Carthage.

Where to stay: All the areas listed above are within proximity of Tunis, so we suggest using the city center as a starting point, with the Dar El Jeld Hotel and Spa as your home base.

ESFP: Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Where there’s a spotlight, there’s an ESFP. Old San Juan’s cobblestone streets lined with pastel-colored, Spanish colonial buildings set the stage for these natural entertainers, who enjoy surrounding themselves with people in fun-filled environments. That’s exactly what you’ll find in Puerto Rico’s capital: bustling locales and musical block parties that beckon everyone to have a good time—all within few steps of fresh local cuisine.

Where to stay: To balance out the party scene, stay at the Gallery Inn, where 300-year-old buildings and sea breezes make for a relaxing escape in the heart of downtown.

INTJ: Telluride, Colorado

Unlike ESFPs on the opposite end of the spectrum, INTJs make it a point to avoid the spotlight. Their ideal vacation involves a lot of time dedicated to introspection, and Colorado’s postcard-perfect town of Telluride—isolated by its surrounding cliffs and forested mountains—affords ample opportunities to do so. Hike amid alpine lakes and wildflowers in the summer, bike through fall foliage in September and October, or take advantage of world-class skiing without the crowds and over-commercialization during the long winters.

Where to stay: Downtown Telluride’s charming Hotel Columbia is only steps from the gondola, the United States’ first and only free public transportation service of its kind.

ESTP: Tasmania, Australia

From hiking seemingly untouched mountains to whitewater rafting in the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Franklin River, Tasmania’s diverse terrain affords myriad thrills for this risk-taking type. When you’re not relishing the rugged, protected lands that comprise most of the island, embark on an urban adventure through Tasmania’s quaint capital city of Hobart.

Where to stay: Pamper yourself in between treks at Hobart’s historic Islington Hotel.

ISTJ: Kyoto, Japan

If anyone lives by the book, it’s the ISTJ—which is why they thrive in the peaceful, orderly environment of Kyoto, Japan. The ancient city is replete with temples, museums, and shrines that pique the ISTJ’s intellectual senses as they pace through their spreadsheet of activities.

Where to stay: At Villa Sanjo Muromachi Kyoto, a local, Kyoto-based publisher offers highly organized concierge services with “travel solutions” geared toward individual interests.

ENTP: Guyana

Driven by a desire to challenge the standard, ENTPs continuously seek new experiences, using logic over their emotions to make decisions, including when it comes to travel. A logical reason for the ENTP to visit Guyana now is that its natural beauty remains unspoiled, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a chain store in any of its cities or towns. In South America’s only English-speaking country, you can trek to Kaieteur Falls, the largest single-drop waterfall in the world, and taste your way through history during a rum distillery tour.

Where to stay: Find your home away from home at the Cara Lodge, one of the oldest buildings in the capital city of Georgetown.

INFJ: Alacati, Turkey

To an outsider, the INFJ might appear quiet and reserved; in reality, they love connecting with others and sharing their advice and wisdom, as long as the setting is right. This setting conjures up visions of Alacati, a Turkish fishing village where alfresco cafes on bougainvillea-canopied cobblestone streets inspire deep conversation, and quiet moments allow you to hear the breeze roll off the Aegean Sea, carrying with it the scents of lemon, thyme, and other herbs.

Where to stay: Alacati’s intimacy continues at Alavya, where lovingly restored stone buildings are surrounded by private gardens and courtyards.

ENTJ: Jerusalem, Israel

Every group of travelers needs an ENTJ—someone to take charge and put activities into motion. When it comes to vacation planning, these natural-born leaders set the bar higher than any other type. Jerusalem’s historically significant archeological sites could fill a week-long itinerary, so a trip to this city requires strategic organization; this way, you get to enjoy a little bit of everything.

Where to stay: Plant yourself at the Alegra Boutique Hotel, and explore hidden gems in the heart of Jerusalem’s tranquil Ein Karem neighborhood.

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Affordable Europe in the Spring Shoulder Season: Where and Why You Should Go

Ah, the infamous shoulder season. For those unfamiliar, shoulder season is the time period where a destination is transitioning from its off-season (in Europe’s case, winter) to its high season (in this case, summer). Both spring and fall are considered Europe’s shoulder seasons, each offering plenty of tempting reasons to book a European vacation. However, springtime has a higher chance of warm temps and lush landscapes.

Why Visit Europe in the Spring Off-Season?

If you’ve ever taken a trip to Europe in the spring, you probably saved some money on airfare and didn’t encounter swarms of crowds at popular attractions. You also probably had more affordable accommodation options, as hotels and vacation rentals weren’t booked full.

With plenty of low-cost carriers now traveling the transatlantic route, it’s worth staying up to date on airfare sales for spring travel to Europe. We recommend Airfarewatchdog (our sister site) for finding the most sought-after airfare deals for travel to Europe.

In general, spring is an ideal time to visit hot spots that are overcrowded in summer, but there are some standout destinations for spring specifically.

Where to Go in Europe in the Spring

And now, since you’re in the know about Europe’s “secret” shoulder season, here are the best places to go for March, April, and May in Europe to maximize your savings.

The Best Places to Visit in March in Europe

You can ride the coattails of winter off-season savings well into March. You may not luck out with perfect weather, but I’d argue these spots are even better with misty cloud cover.

Ireland

People relax and have a drink outside the famous Irish pub The Temple Bar in the center of the Irish capital

Chance your luck (with the weather) and visit the Emerald Isle in March. Temperatures tend to be mild compared to most places in the U.S., and you’ll catch the country during its most festive time, St. Patrick’s Day. The rainy weather is also a perfect excuse to explore the country’s famed pub scene.

Barcelona

Pleasant temperatures (some days can get up to the high 60s) and low humidity mean March is an opportune time to visit Barcelona. Make sure to hit the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, like the Gothic Quarter and Gracia, and enjoy smaller crowds at popular attractions like La Sagrada Familia and the Picasso Museum.

Scotland

Ardnamurchan distillery is producing whisky since 2014 and actually expanding their warehouses in Glenbeg, Scotland

Similar to the rest of the U.K., Scotland’s weather fares much better than that of many U.S. cities during the gloomy month of March. And besides, what’s a more perfect excuse than “it’s raining out” to enjoy a whiskey tour through the Scottish Highlands?

The Best Places to Visit in April in Europe

As the weather warms up, Europe’s street side cafes open and botanical gardens flourish.

The Netherlands

Keukenhof park of flowers and tulips in the Netherlands.

We recommend the Netherlands in spring for its blooming tulip fields, cross-country bike trails, and the iconic canals of Amsterdam. There’s no shortage of outdoorsy spring opportunities in the Netherlands’ moderate marine climate. Plus, every April 27th, a sea of orange takes over Amsterdam to celebrate King’s Day.

Italy

Visiting Italy in the shoulder season, especially April, is a no-brainer, as it carries the trifecta: lower prices, fewer crowds, and better weather in comparison to summer … especially when you take into consideration that many hotels don’t have air-conditioning. Plus, April kicks off orange blossom season on the Amalfi Coast; who needs cherry blossoms in Japan when you can sip your espresso seaside in Italy?

Croatia

Old stone street of Split historic city, Dalmatia, Croatia

In recent years Dubrovnik has quickly become one of the most popular destinations to visit in Europe over the summer. So instead of visiting when everyone else does, head to Croatia in April.

Spring is typically the rainy season, so you may want to pack an extra umbrella for your trip. Despite the rain, however, prices are among the lowest of the year and there are plenty of indoor activities, like exploring churches in the Old Town of Dubrovnik or museum-going in Split.

The Best Places to Visit in May in Europe

If you’re lucky, you’ll get summer-like temperatures in most of the southern continent for the month of May, but fewer crowds before summer vacations start.

Estonia

Even though Estonia is relatively affordable year-round, May is particularly pleasant with festivals like the Tallinn Flower Festival. It’s also worth considering a Baltic or Scandinavian cruise to get the most bang for your buck in the shoulder season.

Germany

Baroque Dresden, Zwinger museum

Between castles, national parks, canals, and forests to explore, Germany has plenty of outdoor activities to offer. And its cities are best appreciated while sipping a pint outside. If it does rain, there are tons of museums to visit (Berlin alone has more than 150).

Portugal

Another summer hot spot (complete with hot weather) is the coastal country of Portugal. With plenty of nonstop routes now from the U.S., you can easily visit Portugal in May before school vacations start. Whether you chose to wander the neighborhoods of Lisbon, soak in the ocean air in Cascais, wander around Sintra’s castles without crowds, drink port in Porto, or visit the lesser-known Alentejo region, you’ll enjoy Portugal more in the shoulder season.

Turkey

Cappadocia hotels carved from stone rock, cave style

Get the most bang for your buck and tack on a trip to Turkey—which is usually more expensive and harder to get to than some other parts of Europe—by rail, with a wallet-friendly Eurail Global Pass or Select Pass (both are valid on Turkish Republic State Railways). Room rates typically go up in June in Istanbul, and airfare increases as well during the summer. Tourist hot spots like Cappadocia are also less crowded in May, and the weather isn’t terribly hot yet. Check a hot air balloon ride off your bucket list, hike the Lycian Way, visit ancient ruins crowd-free, and see the capital’s famous tulips all in spring.


What to Do in Europe in Spring

Unless you’re traveling in the southern part of the continent toward the end of spring, you probably won’t be blessed with beach weather, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the outdoors. Wander through botanical gardens, dine alfresco, and experience Europe’s breathtaking national parks and attractions, all without sticky summer temps and crowds.

Spring Break in Europe

A trip to Europe over spring break is becoming an increasingly popular way to spend time off, and rightfully so. If you’re a college-aged student looking for a different type of spring break, check out any of the following tour groups to help plan your bucket-list European spring break affordably: Contiki, EF Ultimate Break, Intrepid, G Adventures, Topdeck, and U River Cruises.

Bear in mind that traveling over school breaks means higher prices. Typically, Easter is a busier time for European holidays, so it might be worth planning a trip outside of these dates if you want cheaper prices and fewer crowds.

River Cruising in Spring in Europe

Signing up for a springtime river cruise in Europe almost guarantees fairy-tale landscapes and fields of flowers. And while the scenery might be in your favor, one note of caution is that you run the risk of higher water levels depending on the amount of rainfall. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a river cruise in spring, because you can also save a decent amount in comparison to summer prices; just book with caution and consider travel insurance.

What to Wear in Europe in the Spring

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Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

Editor’s note: Caroline Costello and Sarah Pascarella contributed to this story.

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Arts & Culture Experiential Travel Food & Drink

The Tuscany Tradition You Don't Want to Miss

Anghiari, in the far east of Tuscany, is in many ways a traditional Tuscan hilltop town. It’s beautiful but not particularly intent on commercializing that beauty, it’s more local than tourist most of the time, and each year Anghiari puts on an annual series of community events.

Late every summer, Anghiari welcomes its theatrical tradition of Tovaglia a Quadri. Tovaglia means tablecloth and quadri means square, so literally the term means checkered tablecloth. But quadri also means stage, a double meaning that really delivers here.

The play is not in a theater—though the town has a beautifully restored one—but in a tiny piazza surrounded by 800-year-old buildings. The piazza is filled with tables covered in checkered tablecloths, at which theatergoers, during the play, eat a four-course meal that often includes the town’s signature pasta dish—a thick spaghetti called bringoli.

The apartment buildings, garages, and shops that surround the square are all part of the action. Actors hang out of windows, gossip in doorways, and shout declarations from balconies.

In Anghiari, Tovaglia a Quadri is a big deal. Would-be theatergoers line up early in the morning weeks in advance for tickets, and getting one is an adventure all its own. Performances run in the evenings for just two weeks each year, and to get a ticket, people wait hours for the chance to hunch over seating charts and negotiate with event organizers for an ideal vantage point.

The 2019 play featured shepherds, migration, and crumbling bridges (a concern of many in this part of Italy after a 2018 bridge collapse in Genoa). In years past, the play has taken on topics like the refugee crisis and the Amazonification of the world. Each year for the last quarter century, the play is written—by the team of Andrea Merendelli and Paolo Pennacchini—just a few months before it’s performed, so it has that right-here-right-now feeling. 

In scope, Tovaglia a Quadri always draws on a mix of local, national, and global issues, and is performed in a seamless blend of Italian, the local dialect, and—helpfully for people who don’t understand much Italian—a lot of easy-to-interpret physical theater.

Tovaglia a Quadri delivers a lively mix of heart, politics, singing … and Italian grandmas. Pro tip: Get the scoop on the plot in advance, and if you don’t speak Italian, sit next to someone who can keep you in the loop.

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What’s the Best Island in Hawaii for You?

There’s no wrong choice when it comes to deciding which Hawaiian island to visit. They’re all naturally beautiful, they all have gorgeous beaches, and they all welcome visitors with the gentle “aloha” spirit for which the islands are known. But there are important differences from one island to the next—and while there’s no such thing as a single best island in Hawaii, there may be a best island for you.

What’s the Best Island in Hawaii?

The best island in Hawaii depends on your passions. Are you into food? Adventure? Hiking? Beaches? There are six Hawaiian islands open to visitors, and each one offers something unique.

Luckily, you don’t have to choose just one. Most flights from the mainland U.S. land in Oahu, but frequent service from Hawaiian Airlines makes it easy to fly to other islands in the chain. You can also visit four different islands in seven days with Norwegian Cruise Line, allowing you to sample the best of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.

Below is a rundown of Hawaii’s six main islands to help you decide which one (or more than one) is the right choice for your next tropical vacation.

Oahu

oahu skyline

About 1.4 million people live in Hawaii, and you’ll find the bulk of them on Oahu. The capital city, Honolulu, is home to the best high-end shopping, fine dining, and nightlife in the islands. Waikiki is the heart of the action, where you can hit the beach, snag a new pair of Gucci sunglasses, and sample chef Roy Yamaguchi’s Japanese/Hawaiian fusion cuisine all in the same day.

But Oahu has its quieter sides, too. Get outside of Honolulu and you’ll discover the laid-back surf towns of the North Shore and the lush green mountains of the windward (east) coast. Movie buffs and adventurers should stop at Kualoa Ranch, where you can go horseback riding or mountain biking, take an ATV tour, or check out the filming locations for dozens of movies including Jurassic Park and 50 First Dates. For more ideas, see The 10 Best Things to Do in Oahu Beyond Waikiki.

Best for: Shoppers, foodies, city lovers, and those who like a mix of action and relaxation. Oahu is also probably the best island in Hawaii for travelers on a budget, as you don’t have to spend extra on inter-island airfare, and the wide choice of hotels and vacation rentals means it’s easier to find a reasonably priced place to sleep.

Where to stay: One of the most popular spots to stay in Waikiki is the upscale Aston Waikiki Beach Tower, with spacious condos located right in the heart of the action. A more affordable option is the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, which has two towers right on the beach as well as a vast outdoor complex including a saltwater lagoon, waterslides, and five swimming pools.

Maui

garden of eden maui

The second-largest of the Hawaiian islands, Maui is a perennial visitor favorite because it has a little of everything: golden beaches, tumbling waterfalls, laid-back nightlife, championship-caliber golf courses, and plenty of outdoor adventure, from hiking and biking to snorkeling and surfing. You can get a taste of many of these attractions along the rugged Road to Hana, one of the most gorgeous drives on the planet.

If all you want to do during your vacation is to lie on a beach and relax, you can do so in popular resort areas like Kaanapali and Wailea. But more active travelers will find endless things to do in Maui. Head to Haleakala National Park to watch the sunrise from the summit of a volcano and then take an exhilarating 26-mile bike ride back down to the base. Go snorkeling among sea turtles and lava arches off the small island of Molokini. Come in the winter months to see migrating humpback whales. Or visit Maui’s many farms and plantations to sample local specialties like coffee, dragon fruit, and chocolate. (Many of these ingredients make it into farm-to-table cuisine around the island.)

Best for: Adventure seekers, honeymooners, foodies who love sampling local fare, and travelers who enjoy scenic drives.

Where to stay: Hotel Wailea is an ultra-luxe, adults-only resort featuring 72 beautifully designed suites with ocean or garden views; it’s the perfect spot for a secluded honeymoon. Or book yourself a beachfront condo at Maui Kai, where family-friendly units include kitchenettes and on-site laundry is available.

Big Island (Island of Hawaii)

beach turtle

Put all the other Hawaiian islands together and they’re still only about half the size of the Big Island (officially known as the Island of Hawaii). Nor can they match the Big Island’s sheer natural diversity. As you travel around the island, you’ll see not only the landscapes you’d expect to see in Hawaii—black and white sand beaches, golf courses, fertile jungle valleys, waterfalls—but also a green sand beach (Papakolea), stark black lava fields, and even a little snow.

This varied terrain means there’s plenty to do on the Big Island for any visitor, starting with its most famous attraction, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which you can explore on foot or by car. Try stargazing from Maunakea, the island’s highest peak, where you’ll see that aforementioned snow. Near Kona you can relax on the beach or go snorkeling at night with manta rays, while the Hilo area is known for rainforest hikes, botanical gardens, and waterfalls. The Big Island is also a good spot to see Hawaiian green sea turtles, especially along the Kohala Coast.

Best for: Animal lovers, golfers, and outdoorsy travelers. The Big Island is also the best island in Hawaii for those seeking a variety of climates and landscapes on their vacation.

Where to stay: The Fairmont Orchid sprawls over 32 oceanfront acres in the northwestern part of the Big Island. Thanks to its large swimming pool, tennis courts, fitness center, and “spa without walls,” you may never leave the resort. If a B&B is more your speed, try The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls, an eco-friendly collection of rooms surrounding Hawaii’s largest privately accessible waterfall.

Kauai

kauai hawaii

As you drive past mile after mile of lush foliage in every imaginable shade of green, it’s not hard to see how Kauai earned the nickname “the Garden Isle.” Only about 20 percent of the island is accessible by foot or road; the rest is a dense tangle of rugged cliffs, primeval jungle, and rain-drenched mountain peaks. Consider taking a helicopter ride for the best views over Kauai’s most remote landscapes.

But there’s plenty to do on land, too. Drive to the western part of the island where lookout points and hiking trails offer spectacular views into Waimea Canyon, a deep and colorful gorge that’s often compared to the Grand Canyon. Just up the road is Koke’e State Park, where you can gaze out over Kauai’s distinctive Napali Coast and the pristine Kalalau Valley. Another must-see spot is the North Shore. Here you’ll find Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, home to albatrosses and red-footed boobies, and Kauapea Beach (also known as Secret Beach), a vast, unspoiled stretch of golden sand accessible via a short downhill hike. For more ideas, see The 10 Best Things to Do in Kauai.

Best for: Nature lovers, beach bums, hikers, bird watchers, and travelers who want to escape tourist crowds without getting too far from civilization.

Where to stay: Those looking for a resort experience should try the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, which offers multiple restaurants, a golf course, a massive pool area (including a lagoon and a lazy river), and a location right on the beach. A more affordable option is the family-owned Garden Island Inn in Lihue, with 21 rooms featuring kitchenettes and freshly cut tropical flowers from the hotel’s own gardens. The beach is a short walk away. For more ideas, see The 10 Best Kauai Hotels for Every Budget.

Lanai

lanai hawaii menele bay

Lanai sees only a tiny fraction of the tourists that visit the four best-known islands, and that’s part of its appeal. For much of the 20th century, the island was used exclusively for pineapple farming by the Dole company, but these days the main source of income for Lanai is its small but growing tourism industry. About 98 percent of the island—including its two Four Seasons resorts—is owned by billionaire Larry Ellison.

Apart from relaxing on Lanai’s uncrowded beaches, travelers can visit the Lanai Cat Sanctuary to see what the staff playfully calls “Hawaiian lions,” check out the galleries and boutiques in Lanai City, relax on serene Hulopoe Beach, or hike the 12.8-mile Munro Trail to Lanaihale, the island’s highest point.

Best for: Well-heeled travelers looking for an exclusive escape and day trippers from Maui (via the Lanai Ferry).

Where to stay: The Four Seasons Resort Lanai is all about oceanfront opulence and seclusion, complete with a spa, an 18-hole golf course, limo service, and a Nobu restaurant. Non-Four Seasons options on Lanai are few and far between, but the 1920s-era Hotel Lanai offers 11 simple, recently renovated rooms.

[st_related]The 9 Best Cheap Hotels in Hawaii[/st_related]

Molokai

molokai hawaii

The only Hawaiian island that sees fewer visitors than Lanai is Molokai, which feels like the island that time forgot. The pace of life is slow, there are no big resorts or traffic lights, and the mostly Native Hawaiian locals still embrace a simple, laid-back lifestyle. “If you want a place where you can sit on the beach by yourself and have no one talk to you, Molokai might be the best bet,” one recent visitor told me.

Molokai’s most unique attraction is Kalaupapa National Historical Park, a remote part of the island where people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) were once sent to isolate them from the rest of the Hawaiian population. (You can currently reach the park only by air due to a landslide that wiped out the trail used by mules and hikers; restoration efforts are under way.) The island also has numerous uncrowded beaches, including Papohaku, a three-mile stretch of white sand. Take a guided hike through the stunning Halawa Valley to learn about local history and see one of the island’s most impressive waterfalls.

Best for: Outdoorsy travelers, those looking for off-the-beaten-path experiences, and people who want to get away from it all.

Where to stay: Accommodations on the island are limited. Hotel Molokai is the best of the bunch, offering comfortable rooms (some with air conditioning, some cooled only by the trade winds) as well as a pool and restaurant. The condos at Ke Nani Kai are another good option, though past guests report that some units feel dated.

[st_related]7 Most Romantic Hawaii Resorts[/st_related]

What to Pack

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Sarah Schlichter traveled to Hawaii as a guest of Hawaiian Airlines and Barclays. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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10 Best Places to Go in New Zealand


For many travelers, New Zealand is both a dream destination and a once-in-a-lifetime place to visit. If you’re planning your first trip to New Zealand, or if you’re planning a return trip to see more of this beautiful and wild country, you may want to know which places in New Zealand are at the top of the must-see list. Here are our picks for the 10 best places to go in New Zealand.

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Bay of Islands

Bay of islands new zealand

The Bay of Islands is one of the best places to go in New Zealand for fishing, sailing, and other watersports. The Bay of Islands is about three hours by car from Auckland. This gorgeous region is made up of 144 islands between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula.

What’s there to do in the Bay of Islands? Get on or in the water! Try scuba diving with Paihia Dive‘s intro-to-diving course. You will be ferried far out into the bay to explore a whole new underwater world.

[st_content_ad]Or get up close and personal with the marine life in the Bay of Islands on a Fullers GreatSights Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise. On a good day, you’ll see both whales and dolphins on this cruise.

The cruise will take you to one of the Bay of Islands’ most famous sights, the Hole in the Rock. You can sail through this unique opening in a rock formation when the tide is right.

Where to stay: Spend a night at the historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel, which has the distinction of holding the oldest pub license in New Zealand and is located on a peninsula that sticks straight out into the middle of the bay.

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Milford Sound, New Zealand

Fiordland

Rudyard Kipling called Milford Sound the “eighth wonder of the world,” and if you visit this region of New Zealand, you’ll see why. Formed by glaciers during the Ice Age, the landscape around Milford Sound still bears evidence of its creation in the form of epic scenery: Cliffs rise from fjords crowned by mountains and waterfalls.

The best way to see Milford Sound is via boat. Take a sightseeing cruise on the fjord to see waterfalls and wildlife such as dolphins and penguins. Or navigate the waters under your own steam on a kayaking tour.

Once you’ve experienced the water from the surface, go underneath with a visit to the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory. This is the only floating, underwater observatory in New Zealand, and visitors can go more than 30 feet deep (while staying dry) and get 360 degrees of the underwater environment.

Where to stay: There are not a lot of places to stay close to the Sound, but if you’d rather not drive the three and a half hours from Queenstown, consider The Milford Sound Lodge. The lodge offers several packages for hiking and boat tours, and there really is no beating this spot in terms of access to the Sound.

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Auckland, New Zealand

As both the largest city in New Zealand and its international air travel hub, Auckland is one of the best places to go in New Zealand. Many international flights arrive in New Zealand through Auckland Airport, which makes it an ideal city from which to start your exploration of New Zealand.

Spend at least a day or two in Auckland to get over your long flight and explore the vibrant metropolis before venturing farther afield in New Zealand. Here are our suggestions for what to see and do in Auckland:

  • Get some culture by visiting one of the many museums in Auckland, such as the Auckland Art Gallery. This is the largest art institution in New Zealand, featuring more than 15,000 works of historic, modern, and contemporary art.
  • If the weather is nice, take a stroll through the 185-acre Auckland Domain park. If you’re visiting on a Saturday, include a stop at the nearby Parnell Farmers’ Market, which sells fresh produce in the morning.
  • Auckland is also home to a host of multicultural bars and restaurants serving up all types of cuisine, so be sure to dine in downtown Auckland (and go out for a cocktail or two to check out the nightlife).
  • If you’re looking for adventure activities in Auckland, consider the Auckland Bridge Climb. And if you’re really brave, try the Auckland Bridge bungee jump.
  • If you’re looking for guided trips in Auckland, book an Auckland City Tour or an America’s Cup sailing experience on Waitemata Harbour.

Where to stay: No matter where you stay in Auckland, you will be close to something interesting. Try the accommodations at CityLife Auckland, which is within walking distance of several Auckland highlights like the harbor, both North and Princes Wharf, and the SkyTower.

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Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Just a little more than 30 minutes by boat from downtown Auckland is Waiheke Island, one of the best places to go in New Zealand for wine lovers. For a small island in the middle of Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island sure is home to a lot of vineyards. To sample as many of them as you can on your visit to Waiheke Island, you’ll want to find someone else to drive. Our pick is Waiheke Island Wine Tours, whose expert local guides will shuttle you around to three vineyards to sample 14 different wines.

All that wine from the vineyards of Waiheke Island will make you hungry. When it’s time to eat, book your lunch or dinner at the Mudbrick Vineyard Restaurant, a gorgeous eatery with sprawling views of the vineyard and the sea. For a really special meal, book the Mudbrick Vineyard Restaurant’s tasting menu, a seven-course event with wine pairings.

Of course, there’s more to do on Waiheke Island than just drink wine! Waiheke Island is also famous for its vibrant art community, beaches, forests, and olive groves. We recommend booking a culture tour, scenic flight, or hiking trip while you’re there to really see why Waiheke Island is one of the best places to go in New Zealand.

Where to stay: It’s definitely worth staying overnight on Waiheke Island, too. Choose the Delamore Lodge, one of the best-reviewed Waiheke Island hotels on Tripadvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company). The hotel also offers some great packages featuring everything from wine and food to spa treatments for couples.

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Christchurch, New Zealand

Aerial view of the christchurch gondola and lyttelton port from hills in new zealand

Despite being rocked by four large earthquakes between September 2010 and December 2011, Christchurch has made a true comeback. Visitors to Christchurch will see evidence of the city’s rebirth everywhere, including new buildings made out of old shipping containers and other unique materials like the Cardboard Cathedral.

Of course, many of Christchurch’s original attractions are still standing. One of the best places to visit is the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, a sprawling network of conservatories, walking tracks, and horticultural displays. The gardens also feature some of the largest, tallest, and oldest trees in New Zealand.

Take in the new and the old of Christchurch from above with a journey on the Christchurch Gondola. This cable car lifts you on a scenic ride to the top of Mt. Cavendish.

Where to stay: Pick Heritage Christchurch for its central location and status as a World Luxury Hotel. It might cost a little extra, but it will be worth it.

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Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown from the skyline luge at sunrise

Located on the southwest side of the South Island, Queenstown has a well-deserved reputation as the adventure capital of New Zealand. During the winter and spring months (June to October), Queenstown is known for world-class skiing. Of course, there’s plenty to do in Queenstown year-round. Adventure activities such as bungee jumping, skydiving, jet boating, and river rafting will let you experience the region from dizzying heights and at breathtaking speeds.

Queenstown is also home to the world’s highest cliff jump, the Shotover Canyon Swing, where you can hurl yourself off a cliff in a number of different ways—including backward or tied to a chair.

If you haven’t lost your appetite (or your lunch) on these adrenaline-pumping activities, enjoy the dining scene in Queenstown—it’s one of the best in New Zealand. As locals and tour guides alike will tell you, one of the best places to eat in Queenstown is Fergburger, which CNN says “may be the best burger joint on the planet.”

Where to stay: Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel is located on the edge of town, giving easy access to the restaurants and other shops but also letting you sleep in relative peace away from the hub of activity.

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Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, New Zealand

Whakarewarewa geyser at te pui thermal park in geothermal valley of rotorua

No list of the best places to go in New Zealand would be complete without mentioning Te Puia, the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute located in Rotorua’s Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley. At this Maori heritage center, you can get an authentic “steambox” meal prepared using ancient geothermal cooking techniques. You’ll also experience a Maori welcome ceremony and traditional song and dance performance.

The Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley is also home to a number of active geysers, including Pohutu, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere. Mud pools are another natural attraction in the geothermal valley: These boiling pools reach temperatures of more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Where to stay: The Aura Accommodation in nearby Rotorua is located on the coast of Lake Rotorua. The entire facility is powered by geothermal heat to give you a better appreciation for the valley.

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Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

Waitomo glowworm caves

The Waitomo Glowworm Caves, naturally illuminated by thousands of glowworms, are among the most unique places to go in New Zealand—and a visit to the caves is one experience you’ll be hard-pressed to duplicate anywhere else. You can take a boat ride through the caves to learn about the history and science behind the phenomenon.

Or, if you really want a unique adventure, try black-water rafting with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company, which will float you on an inner tube down a subterranean stream. It will be pitch-dark (except for the glowworms), and you’ll get to do everything from jumping off waterfalls to rappelling down cave walls. Choose your own adventure when you book the tour.

There are other (non-glowworm) caves in Waitomo, too. Aranui Cave features ancient cave decorations; Ruakuri Cave has an awesome spiral entrance and unique limestone formations—and, okay, more glowworms, but in this cave, you can do a walking tour rather than a water-based excursion.

Where to stay: The Waitomo Caves Hotel is minutes from the famous glowworm caves. It offers a spa as well as cave tour reservations through its website.

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Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Franz josef glacier

You can hike an actual glacier in New Zealand. The Franz Josef Glacier plays host to both guided walks and jaw-dropping helicopter tours. Tours offer everything from ice climbing to a more relaxed hike on the 6.8-mile-long glacier.

Won’t you be freezing on top of a giant glacier? Nope! The Franz Josef Glacier receives a lot of sunlight, and temperatures on the ice are usually only a few degrees colder than in the nearby town.

Cap off a day touring the Franz Josef Glacier with a soak in the Glacier Hot Pools. The pools are fed by the waters from the Franz Josef Glacier, and you can use one of the three warm pools or get a private pool.

Where to stay: Franz Josef is a small enough town that precise location won’t make too much of a difference (you’ll be close to everything no matter where you are). Consider the Aspen Court Franz Josef, which has received some of the best ratings in the area.

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Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

mount cook new zealand.

See New Zealand’s highest mountains and longest glacier in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking here, no matter what your skill level. For experienced climbers, there are 23 peaks over 9,800 feet. For those looking for something a little more low-key, there are lots of walks along paved trails or boardwalks that still offer spectacular views.

Make sure you stay past sunset for a visit to the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, where light pollution is strictly controlled for amazing stargazing opportunities.

Where to stay: Located inside the national park, The Hermitage Hotel will put you close to everything you want to see and do. Splurge on a room with a view of Mt. Cook—it’s worth it.

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What to Pack on Your Trip

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2014. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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10 Best Things to Do in Aruba

The tiny Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba sees more than a million visitors per year—and not just for the beachfront resorts and romantic Aruba hotels. Travelers from the U.S. and beyond know Aruba for its bright blue waters and white sand, but there’s also rugged outdoor adventure and colorful Caribbean culture to break up your beach lounging.

The Best Things to Do in Aruba

Below are 10 of the best things to do in Aruba, including some lesser-known gems. And before you pack your bags, also consider these things you should know before traveling to Aruba.

Visit Arikok National Park

boca prins aruba.

Did you know almost 20 percent of Aruba is a protected national park? Arikok National Park stretches from the island’s arid center to its eastern and northern coasts, where it meets tropical blue shores and steep ocean cliffs.

Inside Arikok you’ll see centuries-old cacti and rock-face paintings. Cooling off means heading to its breezy coastal inlets, like Boca Prins (pictured) for far-flung ocean views.

Opt for a hike of the trails to see bright quartz peeking through the desert soil and succulents like aloe flourishing; then head toward the wind turbines in the distance (which create a significant portion of the island’s electricity) to experience the nearby sea cliffs and swimming spots.

Explore Caves

guadirikiri cave aruba.

At the edge of Arikok National Park are shady caverns rife with ancient paintings, stalactites, skylights, and (only a few) bats that are sure to make you feel like a true explorer. Unlike Aruba’s beaches, these caverns rarely fill up with tourists—giving you a unique up-close experience with the island’s natural formations. Guadirikiri Cave is a favorite for its two large main caves connected by a “Tunnel of Love,” lit by skylights and dotted with thousand-year-old Arawak Indian cave paintings and hand prints.

Discover San Nicolas

baby beach aruba.

Most Aruba visitors stay in the resort-saturated Palm Beach area on the north coast, but the opposite side of the island has some of the best local beaches and cultural things to do in Aruba.

The San Nicolas area is home to colorful street murals, local art galleries and artisan shops, and Baby Beach—which earned its name for its calm, clear bay that’s fit for babies to splash in. You’ll get equal parts nature and culture in San Nicolas.

Go Snorkeling

sea turtle and snorkeler in aruba.

The clear, calm waters of Aruba make snorkeling a can’t-miss activity, and there are plenty of animals to see outside the water as well. Head to Arashi Beach or Boca Catalina for pristine waters full of tropical fish, or pick one of the many hotels on the island that have their own snorkeling and wildlife areas.

The Renaissance Aruba Resort in Oranjestad (Aruba’s capital) has its own private island complete with snorkeling, plus iguanas and vibrant flamingos that lounge on the beach with you.

Visitors can feed the flamingos the provided treats, although food isn’t necessary for the pink residents to walk right up to you on the soft sands. Colorful iguanas and blue lizards lounge on the beach next door as well, and a regular boat shuttle takes you back and forth from the hotel.

Celebrate Carnival

carnival performers in aruba.

Caribbean destinations like Aruba celebrate traditional Carnival annually, taking to the streets in ornate costumes and masks. The colorful events go on for weeks in Aruba between early January and late February. Locals and visitors alike honor the tradition with music, food, dancing, and parades—just in time for spring-break season. It’s one of the best things to do in Aruba if you want to experience the island alongside locals.

Most Arubans speak the local language of Papiamento, plus Spanish, Dutch, and English. It’s a treat to hear all the languages co-exist on this one happy island, and the friendly Arubans are welcoming of visitors.

Taste Aruban Flavors

mahi mahi meal in aruba.

The Dutch-Caribbean food scene is a unique one that includes both rich European flavors from Holland as well as spicy Caribbean flavors like seasoned seafood and fried plantains. For the latter, Zeerovers’ seaside picnic tables and fried fish baskets are island-famous and perfect after a long day at the beach. Local coffee, beer, and quick bites are a favorite at Craft Aruba.

For romantic dinners, Wilhelmina in Oranjestad offers Dutch-influenced dishes, local seafood options, and international fare. Papiamento Restaurant also stays true to local and Dutch flavors, and is located at a historic local house with intimate tables both inside the home and on its open-air patio.

Don’t leave the island without trying fresh local fish like red snapper, mahi mahi, and Caribbean rock lobster.

Learn About Aruban History

fort zouman aruba.

Aruba might be tiny, but it has a long history that dates back beyond the Arawak Indians, who drew Arikok National Park’s cave paintings about 1,000 years ago. You can learn about the original Arubans and see 4,000-year-old pre-ceramic artifacts at the National Archaeological Museum Aruba, or hear about the Dutch settlers and pirates that landed here in the 1700s at the Fort Zoutman Historical Museum.

Go Sailing

tranquilo tours sailboat aruba.

Take to the Caribbean Sea with a sailing expedition that will give you the full view of the island and an opportunity to experience various swimming spots all in the same day. Try Tranquilo Tours for a locally led daytime cruise around the island, with onboard lunch and off-boat swimming included.

Hit the Beach

divi divi tree on eagle beach aruba.

Aruba has over a dozen idyllic public beaches worth exploring, from Eagle Beach‘s white sand and Palm Beach‘s cabanas to Boca Prins‘ sea spray.

Locals and visitors alike take to Druif Beach for relaxation closer to downtown, while the calm waters of Baby Beach or watersports at Palm Beach might also be worth the trip for some water lovers.

Buy Local Goods

shopping in oranjestad aruba.

A haul of all your favorite Caribbean and Dutch goodies makes for great Aruban souvenirs, from European cheeses and chocolate to local spices and tropical jams—best found at local grocery stores. While retail shopping can be pricey on Aruba, especially near resorts, just strolling colorful Oranjested’s shopping district is worth the view.

Local crafts and goods made in the Netherlands or the greater Caribbean are worth getting since they’ll be cheaper than they are in the States. Look out for authentic items like Caribbean-made papaya hot sauces and Dutch sweets. Just be sure to declare cheeses and similar food items at customs if you do indulge.

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Associate Editor Shannon McMahon visited Aruba as a guest of Aruba Tourism Authority and JetBlue. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Search Aruba activities and where to stay on Aruba.com.

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9 Best Things to Do in Miami Beach (That Aren’t the Beach)

While most people head to Miami Beach for, well, the beach, there are plenty of activities off the sand as well. In Miami Beach you’ll discover fascinating history from the Al Capone era told through architecture, plus some of the best dining experiences in Florida. Here are nine of the best things to do in Miami Beach that don’t have anything to do with the actual beach.

Explore Art Deco Architecture

art deco buildings in miami beach.

One of the best things to do in Miami Beach is to discover its art deco architecture and history. The Miami Design Preservation League sponsors a 1.5-hour daily walking tour through Miami Beach’s historic district. Explore the history of Miami Beach through its architecture and style while visiting hotels, restaurants, and other buildings relevant to the art deco, Mediterranean revival, and Miami modern eras.

Hang Out by the Pool

pool at national hotel miami beach.

You don’t have to be rich and famous to enjoy some of Miami’s hottest hotels; many five-star and luxury properties offer a day pass for their pools, so you can lounge in style at a fraction of the nightly room rate. Hotels on Miami Beach offering day passes include The National Hotel Miami, Delano South Beach, Mondrian South Beach, and SLS South Beach.

Attend an Event

art basel miami beach.

One of the best things to do in Miami Beach is to go for an event. Because of its year-round warm weather, locals and tourists alike flock to the area’s famous annual festivals.

Standouts include Art Deco Weekend in January, the Miami International Boat Show in February, Ultra Music Festival and Music Week in March, Gay Pride in April, and Art Basel in December.

Visit a Museum

jewish museum of florida.

Miami Beach—which doesn’t even include the popular Wynwood neighborhood, downtown Miami, or the design district—has plenty of museums worth exploring. In the South Beach area you’ll find The Bass (contemporary art), the Art Deco Museum, Wolfsonian-FIU (art and design), the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, and the ArtCenter South Florida.

Sample the Culinary Scene

chicken watermelon and waffles at yardbird miami beach.

Miami Beach has a varied culinary scene that ranges from well-known steak houses to incredible Cuban cuisine. Notable dishes include the Giant Chocolate Chunk Cookie from Big Pink, the Chicken ‘n’ Watermelon ‘n’ Waffles from Yardbird, and the famous Key lime pie from Icebox Cafe. And if you’re a seafood lover, one of the best things to do in Miami Beach is try the stone crab claws from Joe’s Stone Crab.

Play Golf

aerial view of miami beach golf club.

The Miami Beach Golf Club is a public golf course right in Miami Beach. Formerly an under-utilized course, Bayshore, it’s now regarded as one of the premier golf clubs in South Florida, and is one of the best things to do in Miami Beach outside of the beach.

Go Shopping

lincoln road miami beach.

Strolling along Lincoln Road is a must-do for anyone in the mood to shop. This pedestrian-friendly promenade is packed with trendy shops, restaurants, and entertainment. You’ll also find boutiques such as The Webster as well as high-end designer stores at the Bal Harbour Shops. With a style all its own and plenty of retail options, you’ll have a hard time leaving Miami Beach without buying something.

Enjoy the Nightlife

dj equipment.

One of the main attractions of Miami Beach is its nightlife, and South Beach and Ocean Drive don’t disappoint. From 24/7 venues to hotel nightclubs, you’ll find endless entertainment spots that stay packed into the wee hours of the night. Notable nightclubs include STORY, Basement (at the Edition Hotel), and LIV (at the Fontainebleau).

Or if you want a different type of nightlife, check out the events schedule for the historic Colony Theatre or The Fillmore Miami Beach—both host comedy, music, dance, opera, and films.

Hit the Boardwalk

miami beach boardwalk.

While some might consider this the beach, the Miami Beach Boardwalk is still one of the best things to do in Miami Beach—and it’s free. The 40-block path is great for running or walking, and part of the path is bike-friendly as well. A decent portion of the path is covered by palm trees, so you have some relief from the sun. Hop on and off the boardwalk and enjoy the shops, bars, and restaurants along Ocean Drive.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Portugal vs. Spain: Which Country Is Right for You?


While both Portugal and Spain occupy the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, you may be wondering: Which one should you visit? The best answer is both, of course, but which one to choose depends on what kind of vacation you want to have. Here’s the ultimate rundown on Portugal vs. Spain so you can make the best decision.

Portugal vs. Spain: Language

Portuguese is the official language of Portugal. It’s fairly similar to Spanish, but a word that goes far is obrigado/a for “thank you” (not to be confused with the Spanish gracias).

Spain gets a bit more complicated. While the predominant language is Spanish, and you can hear and see that everywhere, Spain has several semi-autonomous regions that are proud of their heritage and language. I once hopped into a cab in Barcelona and received a grouchy “Catalan or English—no Spanish!” when I tried to give my address. Catalan is spoken widely in places like Barcelona and Valencia, but there’s also Galician in Galicia, and Basque in places like Bilbao.

The good news? English is also widely spoken in both countries, especially in the bigger cities.

Winner: If you speak Spanish, Spain is much easier to navigate. But for simplicity’s sake, Portugal wins this round.

Portugal vs. Spain: Food

pasteis de nata portugal.

Portugal offers some of the best seafood in the Mediterranean, with delicious cod, octopus, prawns, and sardines. It’s less known than other “fine dining” destinations like France, so as a result, incredible multi-course dinners are fairly affordable. This is changing quickly though, with Michelin awarding its first stars to Portuguese restaurants in 2019.

Most restaurants open late—if you can get in at 7:00 p.m., you’re likely in a tourist spot—with dinners stretching into the wee hours of the morning.

One famous dessert you can find in Lisbon is pasteis de nata, an egg custard tart sprinkled with the tiniest bit of powdered sugar. It’s heaven in a bite, and worth the long wait at Pastéis de Belem, around the corner from Jeronimos Monastery.

Spain is globally known for its delicious food, especially its avante-garde fine dining scene made famous by Ferran Adria. But Spanish food is equally delicious in its simplest form: cured meats, cheeses, and olives. You’ll find regional specialties from jamon iberico in Andalusia to paella in Valencia and sea urchin in Costa Brava.

Like Portugal, restaurants are open late. But Spain also enjoys a thriving tapas and pintxos scene—small plates at tiny standing-room-only bars—where you can start your dinner as early as 4:00 p.m.

Winner: This one is close—you won’t go wrong! Portugal is easier for vegetarians and pescetarians, but Spain continues to produce globally renowned restaurants and high-quality food across every region, making it the winner.

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Portugal vs. Spain: Wine

In Portugal, head north to Porto, the birthplace of port. You can take a river cruise through the Duoro Valley and sample not just tawny but also ruby, rose, and white port. While you’re there, try vinho verde or “green wine,” which is crisp, acidic, and perfect to pair with seafood, not unlike a sauvignon blanc. Or you can explore the island of Madeira for a wine you’d rather drink than cook with (trust me!).

Spain is known mostly for bold, fruity tempranillos from the Rioja region (similar to a pinot noir or a cabernet sauvignon, depending on how they’re aged), but you’ll also find sparkling cava in Penedes and bright sherries from Jerez. You’ll generally find delicious, surprising options anywhere in the country.

Winner: This one depends on your wine preferences! If you’re a red wine drinker, Spain. If you’re a white wine drinker or into fortified wines, it’s Portugal all the way.

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Portugal vs. Spain: Key Destinations

beach near lagos algarve portugal.

Start your Portugal trip in the capital city of Lisbon. Covered in tiles and palm trees, it doesn’t feel like the major metropolis it really is. Climb up to the historic Alfama neighborhood, listen to fado fading through the alleyways, ride an iconic yellow tram, or head to Belem to explore monasteries and palaces of old.

Portugal’s charm comes from its laid-back cafe culture. Nearby Sintra offers colorful castles and palaces that inspired Hans Christian Andersen. You’ll find delightful small towns across the country, especially Cascais, Sortelha, and Amarante. Explore medieval Obidos or the Roman ruins in Coimbra.

Portugal’s coastline boasts deep cliffs and gorgeous views. Whether you explore the caverns of Lagos, surf or sea kayak in Albufeira, or hop over to the Azores Islands, you’ll find less crowded beaches than elsewhere in the Mediterranean.

In Spain, you’ll have your pick of big cities between Madrid and Barcelona. Madrid offers cosmopolitan hustle and bustle, world-class museums, and imperial palaces; Barcelona has funky Gaudi architecture, wide-open avenues, and plenty of delicious food.

Head south to Andalusia to slow down and experience Moorish architecture or Granada’s famous Alhambra. Another alternative: Head north to Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls or make the pilgrimage by foot on the Camino del Santiago to the Santiago de Compostela. Try your hand at world-class rock climbing in the Pyrenees, cheer for your favorite team at a soccer match in Barcelona, or watch flamenco dancers twirl and stomp in Seville.

Then, when you’re ready to relax, head to the beach: Spain has nearly 5,000 miles of coastline for you to choose from. Whether you want to hang out in the sleepy fishing town of Cadiz or island hop to nightlife centers like Ibiza or Mallorca, you’ll find perfect cliffside beaches across the country.

Unlike Portugal, Spain struggles with overtourism, which has made it more difficult to visit due to long lines and crowds from cruise ships dropping thousands of visitors overnight. All that really means is you’ll have to adjust your expectations, be willing to pay for a tour to skip the lines, or travel during the shoulder or off-season.

Winner: This one also depends on what you like. For big cities with medieval charm and pristine, relatively empty beaches, Portugal’s the winner. For outdoor enthusiasts and art and architecture lovers, Spain wins this round.

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Portugal vs. Spain: Cost of Travel

I’ll use two of the most popular destinations in both countries as a proxy for cost—it does vary between high season and low season, and depending on whether you’re in a more popular tourist area. Porto, Portugal, for example, is much cheaper than Lisbon; the little white village of Ronda in Spain is much cheaper than bustling Madrid.

Is Portugal cheaper than Spain? Overall, yes. In Lisbon, you can find a great hotel for around $100 a night depending on the neighborhood, averaging out around $175/night. The average hotel in Barcelona is closer to $200 or $250 depending on the neighborhood.

For restaurants, you’ll pay between 10 and 15 euros for a main course in Lisbon, while Barcelona tends to be between 20 and 30 euros, especially if you’re trying to bag bucket-list dining experiences like a table at Tickets.

Attractions in Portugal also tend to be cheaper—for example, a ticket for the Tile Museum in Lisbon costs 5 euros, while the Prado in Madrid costs 15.

Winner: If you’re on a budget, you won’t beat Portugal’s value. While Spain is definitely still on the cheaper side for most of Europe, Portugal’s the winner.

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The Bottom Line

mijas spain street with plants.

Both Portugal and Spain offer a wide variety of exciting attractions and delicious food.

Head to Portugal if you’re a seafood fanatic wary of crowds, or if you’re on a budget. Portugal is an up-and-coming destination that will surprise you.

If you’re really into fine dining, world-class museums, or rock climbing and hiking, Spain is a great choice. It’s the type of destination you can visit again and again and experience something new.

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Always in search of adventure, Kayla Voigt hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can usually find her at the summit of a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.

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Cities Historical Travel

Pedralbes Monastery: Barcelona’s Best Kept Secret

On the first day of a recent trip to Barcelona, Spain, I found myself elbow to elbow with a mob of fellow tourists outside Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batllo, one of the city’s most famous attractions. A few hours later, I shouldered through the hordes at a Christmas market in front of the cathedral. And the next day I discovered a line stretching out the door of the Basilica in Montserrat (a popular day trip from Barcelona), where hundreds of travelers waited to touch the hand of the revered Black Madonna. I’d hoped to miss out on crowds by traveling in early December, part of Spain’s winter low season, but that wasn’t the case—with one exception.

During an hour and a half at Pedralbes Monastery, located in a leafy residential area just a 15-minute subway ride from the center of the city, I wandered through the world’s largest Gothic cloister, peered into small cells where nuns once embroidered and prayed, and marveled over a chapel adorned with colorful 14th-century frescoes. The best part? I had this serene spot almost entirely to myself.

Known in Catalan as Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes, the monastery was founded in 1327 by Queen Elisenda de Montcada as a home for the Poor Clare Sisters, an order of Franciscan nuns. While the sisters lived lives of quiet contemplation, they also accumulated a surprising number of religious treasures, from altarpieces and alabaster sculptures to gold and silver chalices. (My favorite? The massive, richly illustrated choir books.) Many of these artifacts are on display under the vaulted ceiling of what was once the nuns’ dormitory.

As you walk through the monastery, you’ll see the sepulcher of Queen Elisenda, the refectory where the nuns took their meals, the abbey room (the oldest part of the building), and even the kitchen, where I loved the colorful tiles added in the 19th century. It’s easy to imagine what life may have been like here, especially when you stand in the center of the cloister with its trees, fountains, and medicinal garden. It’s a perfect place for quiet contemplation—and a balm to anyone seeking to escape the crowds at Barcelona’s top tourist spots.

How to Get to Pedralbes Monastery

To reach the monastery, you can take the FGC train (which connects easily to the Metro) from Placa Catalunya to the Reina Elisenda station, a 10- to 15-minute walk from Pedralbes. Barcelona’s hop-on, hop-off bus and several public buses also run out to the monastery.

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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The 5 Best Ticket Websites for Booking Day Tours and Travel Activities

When it comes to booking travel, most of our attention goes to finding the best airfare, hotel rate, cruise price, and maybe car rental; the big ticket, can’t-get-there-without-it, stuff. Those are obviously fundamental components of any trip. But they’re certainly not the only important bookings you’ll make. Once you’ve booked everything you need to get there, consider these activity and excursion ticket websites—the best of which let you search popular things to do and see in your destination. And whether you’re looking for something as exhilarating as skydiving or something as simple as a walking food tour, you can usually search for them on one site.

The excursions, tours, performances, and other activities you experience on your travels can make or break a trip. No one wants to be disappointed when an activity booking doesn’t work out or turns out not to be what you though it was—so you’ll want to be able to search offerings, and preferably to compare ratings of them. Plus, it’s essential to make sure you’re booking with reputable ticket websites offering reasonable prices. 

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The Best Excursion Ticket Websites for Travelers

Here are five ticket websites and providers that won’t let you down.

Viator

Owned by TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company), Viator is a vast activity and excursion ticket website; one of the largest out there. Travelers can book anything from airport shuttle service, to guided tours, to skip-the-line admission at attractions all over the world. And because it’s similar to TripAdvisor, travelers can also browse reviews of the activity they’re eyeing. Most listings include comprehensive details about the tour and a generous cancellation policy (usually 24-hours prior to the activity with no penalty).

Viator does not operate the tours it sells. Rather, it’s a search engine of things to do. As such, its offerings tend to focus on cities and better-known travel destinations, although that includes excursions out of those places into the surrounding areas; like tours from Boston to New Hampshire’s White Mountains, tours of the Dutch countryside from a departure point in Amsterdam, etc. This makes Viator a great option for travelers who want to headquarter themselves in one hotspot but still experience the broader region. 

GetYourGuide

Another day-tour-heavy option, GetYourGuide overlaps somewhat with Viator, but is focused more solely on experiences and tours (Viator includes services such as airport and in-town transportation services). Functionally, the sites aren’t very different; both offer an opportunity to compare tours and prices. And on that last note, it can be worth checking both: I found the exact same Dutch windmill tour on both sites, and the price on GetYourGuide was $67, compared to $73 on Viator. Not a huge difference, but for the exact same experience it’s worth noting.

StubHub

For more event-focused resale ticket website StubHub is a useful last-minute option for verified tickets to everything from sports and concerts to comedy shows and theater seats. For the uninitiated, StubHub is a resale marketplace for ticket holders (and, let’s be honest, scalpers) to unload tickets they can’t use. This means shopping on StubHub is a double-edged sword: You’ll likely pay well above face value for high-demand or sold out events, but you can also find great deals at the last minute if the opposite is true. In the former case, StubHub (or similar initial-sale and resale option Ticketmaster) may be your only viable option. And in the latter case, StubHub can be a savvy way to save or even make some money; keep that in mind if you’ve ever bought some event tickets and then couldn’t attend.

Check out SmarterTravel’s roundup of the best in booking sites for 2020. Want more expert tips and vacation inspiration? Subscribe to SmarterTravel on YouTube!

Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb is all about living like a local, and Airbnb Experiences is no different. The emphasis here is on small or even private tours led by locals rather than tour companies, with an eye toward unique experiences rather than traditional sightseeing. Sometimes these experiences can be tailored to your interests: I booked a private bicycle tour of Berlin through Airbnb Experiences a few years back, and the guide all but ditched his preset itinerary and improvised based on my interests. As a result I got to see parts of the city I might never have found on my own. 

One important consideration to remember: These are often regular folks, not full-time professional guides or tour operators, so it’s a good idea to bring a go-with-the-flow attitude on your excursion. Your experience may not be as polished or precise as a traditional tour, even if the host has been doing this for a while. Of course, the point of these experiences is to forgo those cookie cutter tours in favor of something different. AirBnB includes reviews and makes it easy to communicate with the experience host beforehand, so don’t hesitate to ask questions prior to booking.

Atlas Obscura

Speaking of forgoing the cookie cutter experience, Atlas Obscura focuses, as its name implies, on all things obscure: The bizarre, forgotten, and hard-to-reach corners of a given city or destination that you wouldn’t normally find on excursion ticket websites. While nowhere near as robust as the other entries on this list, Atlas Obscura also offers a curated selection of tours and experiences. It’s currently in a half dozen U.S. cities, with more to come. Think: A guided wine-and-bug (yes, insects) pairing experience in Los Angeles, or a trip inside a holographer (maker of holograms) laboratory in New York. The tours are offered through Atlas Obscura, but AirBnB handles the booking, After all, anyone can visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, right? So why not be different and check out a … Sci Fi Sewage Sanctuary

Readers: What are your go-to providers for on-the-ground activities? Share your favorites in the comments below.

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9 Places Where the U.S. Dollar Goes Furthest in 2020


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The U.S. dollar hit a 30-year high in 2019, granting Americans some of the strongest purchasing power in the world. And while there’s no guarantee that the high will last through all of 2020, there are some destinations where the U.S. dollar is particularly powerful compared to the undervalued local currency—and the exchange rate is therefore the most advantageous it’s been in decades.[st_content_ad]

Destinations Where the U.S. Dollar Is Strongest in 2020

Here’s where the U.S. dollar is strongest right now, so you can make your next bucket-list international getaway an affordable one. While these exchange rates are high now, CWT’s Global Travel Forecast notes: “The Global Uncertainty Index, a barometer of unpredictability in 20 countries, reached a record level in 2019,” and reports that the U.S. dollar is predicted to fall in 2020.

Editor’s note: The Economist’s Big Mac Index, a measure of world currencies based on the average local cost of a McDonald’s Big Mac, was used to compare currency rates for this story—you can find the methodology here. All currency exchange rates were correct at time of writing; to see up-to-date conversions, check XE.com.

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Chile

Santiago Chile cityscape.

Political instability is often the harbinger of an economic downturn, and therefore an advantageous exchange rate for Americans—and Chile is a prime example of this. After massive protests broke out in the Chilean capital in 2019 when subway tariffs were raised by the government, the value of the peso dropped significantly. It reached the lowest point it’s seen in the past two decades, making Chile one of the places where the U.S. dollar is strongest right now.

According to The Economist’s Big Mac Index, the Chilean peso is 33.3 percent undervalued against the U.S. dollar. The cost of a four-star hotel in Santiago ranges from $30 to $180 per night, and average mid-range meals are only several U.S. dollars, according to PriceofTravel. And Santiago is just a jumping-off point for the nation’s Torres del Paine National Park, Andes Mountains, Easter Island territory, and more.

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The United Kingdom

Beetham Tower Manchester United Kingdom.

If England doesn’t sound like it belongs on a list of places where the U.S. dollar is strongest, consider how low the value of the pound has wavered since Brexit—especially as the finality of Britain leaving the E.U. approaches this year. According to the Big Mac Index, “a Big Mac costs £3.29 in Britain and US$5.74 in the United States. The implied exchange rate is 0.57. The difference between this and the actual exchange rate, 0.80, suggests the British pound is 28.5 percent undervalued” against the U.S. dollar.

Only time will tell which way the pound goes as Brexit comes to a head under a new government. To avoid the price gouge of London, head for up-and-coming English gems like culture-forward Manchester, historic Bath, or coastal Brighton. And of course, the pound has the same value in other U.K. capitals like Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast.

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Brazil

Sao Paulo Brazil reflection.

After last year’s election of a new president, Brazil saw a drop in the already-low value of its currency; the real reached its lowest level since 2016 and is worth about half what it was valued at a decade ago. Beyond the fact that Brazil recently nixed its pricey entry visas for Americans (read: it’s now free to enter the country), according to the Big Mac index the Brazilian real is 20 percent undervalued against the U.S. dollar. PriceofTravel says that Sao Paulo four-star hotels range from $80 to $300 per night, and average budget meals are under $10—although luxurious experiences like Michelin-star restaurants are surprisingly affordable, too.

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Egypt

camels staring at pyramids in Egypt.

There’s never been a better time to book a Nile River cruise or gawk at the Pyramids of Giza, as Egypt rebounds from its tourism drought with its currency still low. Since Egypt’s pound tumbled in 2016, it’s remained at the lowest level in decades: The Big Mac Index suggests that the Egyptian pound is 56 percent undervalued against the U.S. dollar. Average meals can cost as little as a few dollars, and four-star hotels in Cairo range from $57 to $130 per night according to PriceofTravel.

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Hungary

aerial view of Budapest Hungary

While the euro is trending low compared to past years, there are even more affordable currencies to take advantage of in Europe—like Hungary’s forint, which makes colorful Budapest’s thermal baths, castles, and surrounding vineyards a steal. According to the Big Mac Index, the Hungarian forint is 46 percent undervalued against the U.S. dollar. Meals are a few dollars, and beer and wine are particularly cheap; four-star hotels in Budapest range from $40 to $119 per night, according to PriceofTravel. Flat and central Pest’s options are typically slightly more expensive than green, hilly Buda’s larger hotel options.

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India

Taj Mahal reflection at sunrise India.

A bucket-list destination that’s long been affordable, India’s rupee is 54 percent undervalued against the U.S. dollar, according to the Big Mac Index. The extreme air pollution that hits India’s capital of Delhi each fall typically disperses by winter, and Delhi four-star hotels range from $30 to $126 per night according to PriceofTravel. Other cities to add to the itinerary include Agra for the Taj Mahal, Jaipur for pink palaces, and Mumbai for coastal wonders like the Elephanta Island cave temples.

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Canada

Frontenac in Old Quebec Canada.

Our neighbor to the north has had an advantageous exchange rate for Americans since the U.S. dollar’s value rose above it in 2015. Costs will of course vary depending on the city, but the Canadian dollar is about 10 percent undervalued against the U.S. dollar according to the Big Mac Index.

Ontario and Quebec are generally the more affordable Canadian provinces (especially when compared to pricey British Columbia) and home to city cultural getaways like Montreal, Quebec City, and Toronto. For a bucket-list nature getaway that’s affordable, consider the Maritime Provinces: New Brunswick (for the otherworldly Bay of Fundy), Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

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Turkey

Hagia Sophia in sunrise Istanbul Turkey.

The nation that straddles Europe and the Middle East, Turkey is a bucket-list spot that’s still popular among tourists despite its political instability of late—and it’s seeing a resurgence compared to its drop in visitor numbers in years past.

Bustling Istanbul is a cultural hub that attracts artists and adventurers alike, while Aegean coastal cities like Izmir are perfect for food and wine getaways to affordable vineyard hotels. The Big Mac Index suggests the Turkish lira is 57 percent undervalued against the U.S. dollar, and Turkey also ranked as one of SmarterTravel’s cheapest places to fly in 2020.

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New Zealand

Wellington cable car in New Zealand.

A surprising but strong contender for places where the U.S. dollar is strongest, New Zealand’s dollar is 26 percent undervalued against the U.S. currency, according to the Big Mac Index. That’s the lowest New Zealand dollars have dipped in over 15 years—making the island nation an affordable Southern Hemisphere option for anyone who wants to turn winter into summer—or vice versa.

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For more ideas, see The Top Travel Destinations for 2020.

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Editor’s note: A prior version of this story inverted the descriptions of Buda and Pest in Hungary. It has been corrected.

SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her adventures on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

Categories
Family Travel Romantic Travel Weekend Getaways

The 3 Most Festive Christmas Destinations in the World


With the holiday season upon us, many travelers will be heading home to celebrate with family. But, some Christmas destinations are magnificent enough to make us wonder if there really is no place like home for the holidays.

Whether you’re looking for a tropical spot or a winter wonderland, there are endless possibilities for holiday travel. However, these three destinations are a step above the rest. Here’s why you should have Puerto Rico, London, and Munich at the top of your Christmas getaway list.

London

(Photo: Christmas in London via Shutterstock)

This one seems like a no-brainer—London is a world-famous Christmas destination, and for good reason. From ice-skating and festive lights to Christmas markets, musicals, and caroling, Britain’s capital has something for every holiday-season traveler.

There are dozens of Christmas markets in London alone (see also Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool) that boast shopping, food, crafts, and games. Hyde Park’s massive Winter Wonderland features acrobats, carnival rides, and a full ice rink. These markets typically have free admission and are open until a few days before Christmas.

But, the celebrations don’t end there.

December 26 is Boxing Day in the UK, which extends the festivities. This national holiday is another historic day of giving, on which English servants used to get gift boxes from their employers. Nowadays most people don’t have to work (or, in this year’s case, get the following Monday off), and will spend the day with family, outdoors, at sporting events, and take advantage of holiday savings at the start of an annual sales season.

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Puerto Rico

(Photo: Bogdan Migulski via flickr/CC Attribution)

If the holiday season flies by too fast for you every year, try heading somewhere warmer. The American Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico boasts the longest Christmas season in the world, and for good reason. While London’s celebrations are supplemented by Boxing Day and go until New Years, Puerto Ricans stay full of holiday cheer until the Festival of Saint Sebastian in mid-January. There’s also Three Kings Day—a staple in most Hispanic countries—which is celebrated January 6, and New Years, which is just as fun as Christmas. All of these days come with a long list of traditions.

Christmas is the island’s busiest time of year. Tourists and locals alike eat seasonal treats like arroz con dulce (rice pudding) and coquito (coconut-based eggnog with rum), while carolers mill about and an endless array of festivals take over San Juan.

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Each December 31st, Puerto Ricans ring in the New Year with parties around the island. Revelers take part in the popular yet odd tradition of eating a grape for each chime of the clock in the seconds before midnight. Three Kings Day means parades a plenty, and the following week you can dance and shop your heart out at the Festival of San Sebastian. Local artisans will set up shop and Puerto Ricans will parade around Old San Juan in honor of the patron saint of soldiers and athletes.

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Munich

(Photo: Christmas in the Marienplatz via Shutterstock)

Germany has some of the oldest and most heralded Christmas markets in the world and is about to see an influx of tourism in 2016 thanks to the German Beer Purity Law’s 500-year anniversary. Each Christmas, the massive Christkindlmarkt in grandiose Marienplatz Square emerges to mark the beginning of holiday celebrations in the heart of Bavaria.

Winter festivals, toy villages, and craft markets take over early, with most opening in mid or late November. Germans don’t have a Thanksgiving to delay their affinity for strings of lights and decorated trees. Even Munich’s five-star airport is home to a seasonal Christmas Market, which stays open until December 27, so visitors returning home can be immersed in the festivities until they’re boarding their departing flight.

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You Tell Us: Which winter wonderland suits you best? Comment below.

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Editor Shannon McMahon has visited both London and Puerto Rico and can attest to their Christmas spirit. Follow more of her adventures on Twitter @shanmcmahon_.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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