Arts & Culture Entertainment Travel Etiquette

10 Foreign Words We Desperately Need in the English Language

English can be inadequate—there are some feelings that just can’t be described in our tongue. For those times you accidentally eat the whole thing or are longing for a place that you’ve never been, here are the languages that step up with the perfect word.

Hiraeth (Welsh)

Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again,” meaning the place you long for no longer exists. The Welsh word hiraeth is the same concept and loosely translates to something even more intense than homesickness: missing a place you can’t go back to.

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Sinvergüenza (Spanish)

The Brits might use the term “cheeky” to refer to someone who is shameless,  but I like the Spanish word sinvergüenza even better. It literally translates to “without shame,” but is commonly used to refer to someone who is being naughty or sassy.

Shemomedjamo (Georgian)

If there was ever a word that the American vocabulary needed, it’s shemomedjamo, the Georgian word that means “I accidentally ate the whole thing.” I foresee Domino’s renaming a pizza after this word in the very near future.

Pelinti (Buli)

[st_content_ad]We’ve all been there–your food arrives looking so delicious that you can’t help but take a bite, even though it’s still steaming. The result: pelinti, the Buli (a language spoken in Ghana) word for when you have to move hot food around in your mouth in an attempt to not burn yourself.

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Ya’arburnee (Arabic)

When you love someone so much you don’t want to live without them, you may tell them ya’arburnee, an Arabic word that translates as “may you bury me.” That way, you’ll never have to live a day without them.

Voorpret (Dutch)

Do you ever feel like half the fun of going on vacation is the anticipation you experience leading up to a trip? That’s what the Dutch call voorpret, the emotion you feel before you do something fun or exciting.

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Dépaysement (French)

Dépaysement literally translates to “disorientation,” but it refers to a more travel-specific kind of confusion: that of being out of your element and away from your home country.

Jayus (Indonesian)

Ever heard a joke that was so terrible, yet delivered so earnestly, that you felt compelled to laugh anyway? That pity chuckle is known as jayus in Indonesian.

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Utepils (Norwegian)

Utepils may be a Norwegian word, but the act that it refers to—sitting outside in the sun and enjoying a beer—has universal appeal. Next time the weather cooperates, invite your friends out to the nearest beer garden for utepils.

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Tidsoptimist (Swedish)

Are you a tidsoptimist or do tidsoptimists drive you crazy? A tidsoptimist is what the Swedish call someone who is always late. The word literally translates to a “time optimist,” meaning the person isn’t habitually running behind on purpose, but rather because they truly believe that they have more time than they really do.

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Caroline Morse is a Senior Editor with SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelwithCaroline and Twitter @CarolineMorse1 for photos from around the world.

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

Active Travel Adventure Travel Beach Budget Travel Island Money

9 Private Islands You Can Actually Afford to Rent

Imagine casually saying to your friends, “Oh, I’m holidaying on a private island in France this summer.” Bragging rights can be yours for less than the cost of a hotel room in Paris when you rent one of these unbelievably affordable private islands.

Coz Castel, France

Coz Castel, France island for rent

You can’t find a luxury hotel in Paris for less than $256, but you can rent your very own private island in France for that amount—and it sleeps up to 10 people if you want to split the cost and make it even cheaper. Located on the Cotes-d’Armor, the island is just over 650 feet for the mainland and is accessible by car at low tide, so you can get out and explore Brittany as much as you like (as long as you make it back before high tide when the island is surrounded by water).

North Twin Lake, Maine

North Twin Lake, Maine island for rent

Nearby Baxter State Park in Maine can get packed during the summer, but you can escape the crowds by booking this private island that has views of the Appalachian-trail ending Mount Katahdin, and no neighbors within a half-mile. The half-acre island is all yours for as little as $150 a night. Unlike Baxter State Park, the island even has excellent cell phone coverage, so you won’t be completely off-grid.

L’llot, Mauritius

L’llot, Mauritius island for rent

No boat is required for the private island L’llot, which is accessible via a rock-and-wood bridged causeway. Spend days lounging on the sand and swimming in the turquoise lagoon, or pop back over to the mainland whenever you feel the need. There’s fresh water on tap, electricity, and all the modern conveniences you’d find at a hotel. The comfortable house has four bedrooms and can sleep up to 10 people. Rates start at $446 a night—a bargain if split four ways.

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Saint George, Maine

Saint George, Maine island for rent

Get two private islands for one at the low price of $550 a night. This rental off the coast of Port Clyde, Maine, includes both McGee and Barter islands. McGee Island offers 110 acres of solitude and has three houses on it that have a combined 10 bedrooms. Barter Island is undeveloped, and you can take a boat there or walk across a natural land bridge at low tide to explore.

Lark Caye, Belize

Lark Caye, Belize island for rent

This little slice of paradise is aptly named Private Heaven. Located in the middle of the brilliant Caribbean Sea, next to a coral reef, and six miles off the coast of Placencia, the island is home to a well-equipped eco-lodge that can sleep up to four guests. Solar energy and a backup generator provide the electricity and hot water, and there’s even air conditioning to keep you cool. Relax in one of the hammocks, grill some fish on the grill, or even stream Netflix inside when it rains. Rates start at $595 per night.

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Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire island for rent

Stay in one of Lake Winnipesaukee’s original historic homes, which has been renovated into a vacation house with all the modern amenities (including Wi-Fi, new kitchen appliances, and a Sonos speaker system). The three-bedroom house is located on Devens Island, a 1.5 acre island on the lake. Leave your car behind at 19 Mile Bay and rent a boat from a local marina to get here. The island can host up to eight people, and rates start at $445 a night.

La Isla Zacatolsa, Nicaragua

La Isla Zacatolsa, Nicaragua island for rent

Gather six of your closest friends and you can have a private island together for less than $20 per person. For $110 a night, this retreat on the Lake of Granada in Nicaragua is a bargain. La Isla Zacatalosa is a private villa that has its own tennis court, pool, garden, and walking path. You’ll share the island with howler monkeys and birds, as well as a caretaker who will help you with anything you need during your stay. The island is a 10-minute boat ride from the mainland, and your stay includes one free round-trip boat ride.

Bremen, Maine

Bremen, Maine island for rent

Start practicing your paddling—this private island is accessible via kayak from Bremen, Maine. Don’t worry, it’s just a few minutes rowing, and kayaks and life jackets are provided. Once you’ve made landfall, you’re rewarded with a stay in a quaint log cabin complete with a fireplace, electricity, and hot water—all for as little as $150 per night.

British Columbia, Canada

British Columbia, Canada island for rent

You could share an all-inclusive resort with hundreds of other people, or you could have your own private island eco-retreat for $448 per night—your choice. Out There, an off-grid retreat on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, includes a stocked kitchen for you to make your own breakfast and lunches, and a home-cooked dinner each night. Up to six people can sleep in the island’s tent cabin and yurt; and the island’s fire pits, hammocks, and private beaches are all available for you to enjoy.

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Caroline Morse Teel would like to book all of these private island stays immediately. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline.

Experiential Travel Oddities Travel Trends

9 Nudist Destinations Where You Can Take It All Off

Picture your perfect vacation: a peaceful cabin in the woods, a sun-kissed beach, maybe a quiet European town. Now, imagine enjoying each of these places without any clothes on.

If this idea only makes the scenario better then these nine nudist destinations around the world are for you. They range from the hidden nudist villages to  luxurious clothing-optional hotels—and they all offer the chance to strip away your worries… and your clothes.

Cap-d’Agde, France

Cap-d’Agde is the mecca of naturism. Described as the nudist capital of the world, this town doesn’t just have a nudist zone, it has an entire nudist village. Every single part of the Naturist Village is made for those who want to break free from the restrictions of clothing. Here, you can go about daily tasks like doing groceries and getting your hair done, all in the nude.

Because of the unique nature of the village, entrance is highly regulated, and visitors are required to fill in access forms to get permission for their desired length of stay. Once inside, it’s all about enjoying your natural self. But don’t think you’ll be able to share any part of your visit on social media: video and photography are quite restricted.

Where to stay: Stay at Natureva Spa to avoid having to leave the Naturist Village. It’s the perfect uninterrupted nudist vacation.

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Miami, Florida

Miami is a city for hedonism. Everything from the food to the nightclubs is meant to treat the senses—and the beach is no exception. Though there are many topless beaches in Miami, those who want to take it a step further can head over to Haulover Beach. This beautiful county park boasts one of the most popular public nude beaches in the U.S.

Joining in the fun is as simple as going into the fenced section and laying in the sand. If you visit in July, you can participate in the beach’s whimsical National Nude Recreation Week events.

Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbor is about a mile from Haulover Beach, so you can cut down clothes-wearing time and get to beaching a la nude faster.

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Vera Playa, Spain

On the beautiful Coast de Almeria, Vera Playa has an entire naturist zone. This zone includes long strips of beaches, as well as numerous apartments and resorts, promenades, and restaurants. If you wish to, you can spend your whole vacation without putting on clothes— nudity in any part of the naturist zone is not just encouraged, but expected.

Where to stay: Vera Natura Apartments provides a nudist home away from home with beachfront access within the naturist zone.

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Little Beach, Maui, Hawaii


If you’re more about the experience than the amenities, this is the place for your nudist within. Little Beach in Mākena State Park does not offer many facilities, but provides the experience of connecting with nature. To get there, you must cross a rocky footpath that leads to a splendorous view of the ocean. Swimming and wildlife watching are the preferred activities at this secluded clothing-optional beach. For a magnificent experience, participate in the Sunday Sunset Drum Circle that features fire dancers, music, and a joyous nudist community.

Where to stay: Hotel Wailea provides a luxurious and relaxing stay in Maui. Car rental is available for guests who wish to drive around this beautiful island.

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Ontario, Canada

The eastern province of Ontario has a number of nudist resorts that offer lakes and forests instead of beaches. The secluded nature of these resorts means naturists can be themselves in comfort. In communal spaces, guests are encouraged to interact and connect with like-minded people.

Where to stay: Bare Oaks Naturist Family Park is all about embracing the freedom of nudity and the beauty of nature. Spend your days hiking in the woods, swimming in the lake, and paddling through streams, all au naturel. 

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Florianopolis, Brazil

Praia do Pinho is one of those destinations you have to work for. Cradled by mountains, this secluded beach on the coast of Brazil is protected from fame by its relative inaccessibility. You’ll probably need a car, but it’ll be worth it to be in on this naked secret.

Where to stay: Girassois da Lagoa Guesthouse offers a homey waterfront experience. It’s the perfect place to set up base when you’re not out looking for hidden beaches.

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Byron Bay, Australia

The Australian nudist community tends to flock to Byron Bay. The clothing-optional sections at Tyagarah Nature Reserve and Belongil Beach offer chill vibes and fun events like the annual Anzac Day Nude Cricket Match. Even if you can’t make it to the event, no worries—nudist volleyball games are as regular as sunny days here.

Where to stay: Wake up to the sound of the ocean at Bluewater on the Beach. Located right on Belongil Beach, naked fun in the sun is never far.

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Sylt, Germany


Spending your precious vacation time getting to the one nude beach that’s close to you can be pretty frustrating. Luckily, Germans don’t waste time, and don’t want you to, either. Perhaps this is why the island of Sylt has made every single one of its beaches clothing-optional. The freedom of having choices coupled with no naked time wasted make for a perfect vacation.

Where to stay: Enjoy comfort steps away from the beach at the Dorfhotel Sylt.

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Vernazza, Italy

Spiaggia di Guvano might be the best destination on this list for travelers who love to get off the beaten path. Getting to this secret beach is an adventure that requires you to bring your own flashlight and cross through an abandoned tunnel. At the end of the tunnel is a quiet little beach where you can leave your clothes on the sand and soak in the beauty of Cinque Terre away from the suffocating crowds.

Where to stay: You’ll have to wear clothes at Affittacamere da Nicolina, but the views are worth it.

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Traveling? Consider the Carry-On from Away

The carry-on from away
The Carry-On from Away

Although you may not need a lot on your nudist vacation, this baby is perfect for your trip nonetheless. With 360° spinning wheels, a TSA-approved lock, a super hard exterior shell, and a USB-port for charging whatever it is you need charged, the Carry-On from Away is built to be your last.

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Editor’s Note: This story originally misidentified Haulover Beach as a state park rather than a county park. It has been corrected.

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

Beach Island

Secret Caribbean Islands: The 10 Least Visited

Caribbean tourism is hot right now, with tourist arrivals increasing by 12 percent in the first quarter of 2019. So if you’re looking for an island getaway without the crowds, you’ll want to consider these secret Caribbean islands.[st_content_ad]

Note: This story is based off data from the most recent UNWTO Tourism statistical annex, ternational tourism arrivals as a standard of measurement. The numbers included are from the most recent report.

Montserrat: 8,000 Visitors

Rendezvous bay in montserrat, west indies, caribbean.

Nicknamed the Emerald Isle for both its lush tropical forests and its ties to Ireland, Montserrat is one of the smallest islands in the Caribbean. On arrival, you’ll receive a shamrock-shaped passport stamp, and you’ll notice that the country’s flag and national costume are the same green, orange, and white as Ireland.

Montserrat measures about 10 miles long and 7 miles wide, and is home to about 5,000 inhabitants. Montserrat’s population and tourism industry was severely impacted by a major eruption of the previously dormant Soufriere Hills volcano in 1995, which displaced many residents and decimated parts of the island. Now, the active volcano draws in tourists looking to safely see a volcano from afar.

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Anguilla: 68,000 Visitors

Caribbean beach on anguilla island.

Anguilla has 33 white sand beaches, year-round water temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and world-class snorkeling. What it doesn’t have are crowds: the secret isn’t out yet about this stunning Caribbean island.

Anguilla is the northernmost of the Leeward Islands, and is located about 150 miles east of Puerto Rico, so it’s fairly easy to get a connecting flight from the U.S. through San Juan. You can also reach Anguilla by ferry from one of the nearby islands, or via air from St. Maarten and Antigua.

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St. Vincent and Grenadines: 76,000 Visitors

Petit st. vincent, vincent and grenadine.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ visitors are spread out over the 33 islands that comprise the country. St. Vincent is the largest island, while the Grenadines account for the remaining 32 islands, some of which are uninhabited. It’s easy to ferry hop here between white sand beaches, volcanoes, and rainforests.

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Dominica: 79,000 Visitors

Boats on soufriere bay, soufriere, dominica.

Known as the “nature island,” Dominica is the Caribbean destination for people who get bored sitting on the beach. (Although there are plenty of beautiful beaches here, too.) Dominica is one of the best islands in the Caribbean for hiking, and recently opened the 115-mile Waitukubuli National Trail, the first long-distance walking trail in the Caribbean.

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St. Kitts and Nevis: 114,000

Basseterre, st. kitts and nevis town skyline at the port.

Two unique islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, make up this country that was once known as the gateway to the Caribbean. St. Kitts is the larger of the two, and offers lively nightlife, plenty of lodging options, and local culture. Nevis is smaller and quieter, and has a distinctive volcanic mountain that dominates the landscape.

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Antigua and Barbuda: 247,000 Visitors

St. john's, antigua port at sunset.

Located in the West Indies between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, the country of Antigua and Barbuda is made up of the two eponymous islands plus a number of smaller islands. Abundant coral reefs and shipwrecks make it a world-class diving and snorkeling destination.

Barbuda was hit particularly hard by two hurricanes in 2017, but is beginning to make a comeback.

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British Virgin Islands: 335,000

Virgin gorda in british virgin island.

With over 50 islands, you’re sure to find one that’s perfect for you in the British Virgin Islands, or BVI. Tortola is the main island and home to the capital city, Road Town. There are three other larger islands (Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke), plus a number of uninhabited islands that you can sneak away to. Although the BVI is a territory of Great Britain, these islands are definitely more Caribbean than European, with warm weather and a laid-back vibe.

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St. Lucia: 386,000

white beach in saint lucia, caribbean,

Mango-shaped St. Lucia is just 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, but the island’s slow and winding roads can make getting between the north and south a half-day journey. The north and south of St. Lucia offer two completely different experiences. In the north, Rodney Bay has Pigeon Island National park to explore, lively bars and nightlife, and the hopping Friday Night Fish Fry. In the south, you’ll find the iconic Pitons that have made St. Lucia famous, along with some of the country’s best beaches.

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Trinidad and Tobago: 395,000

trinidad and tobago palm trees ob the beach.

Trinidad and Tobago is the Caribbean’s southernmost country, but it’s worth the longer flight to get here. The two islands of Trinidad and Tobago are about 50 miles apart—you can easily take an inexpensive ferry or a quick flight between the two.

Trinidad’s Carnival is one of the biggest in the world. Held in the days before Ash Wednesday, this yearly festival starts at 4 am on Monday and doesn’t stop until Wednesday. Visitors can even join in the fun by buying a costume from one of the Carnival bands and joining in the parade for a true local experience.

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Curaçao: 399,000 Visitors

Willemstad, curacao.

Curaçao is one of the lucky Caribbean islands in the ABC group (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao), which are hit less often by hurricanes. So Curacao can be a great destination to consider if you’re traveling during hurricane season.

Curaçao stands out from the rest of the Caribbean in more ways than just weather—it’s been part of the Netherlands since it was colonized in the 1600s, and the European influence is strong today, showing up in everything from the cuisine to the architecture.

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What to Wear in the Caribbean

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world.

Fashion & Beauty Packing

15 Weird Things to Buy on Amazon (That Are Actually Perfect for Travel)

Are you addicted to scrolling through Amazon’s “Interesting Finds“? If so, you might be interested in these weird (but surprisingly useful-for-travel) products I recently came across.

Weird but Useful Things to Buy on Amazon

From a gargle cup to crystalized deodorant, these 15 weird things to buy on Amazon will at the very least intrigue you—and maybe even come in handy the next time you travel.

Plastic Travel Toothbrush Holder Case


[st_content_ad]Also known as a “gargle cup,” this is one of the weird things to buy on Amazon that’ll save you both packing space and counter space at your hotel. The plastic tube is a sanitary toothbrush and toothpaste holder, and the top pops off to serve as a drinking cup.

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Natural Bamboo Charcoal Odor Eliminator


Freshen up your clothes and shoes with this charcoal air freshener and purifier. Bamboo charcoal absorbs and eliminates any and all odors so you don’t have to worry about any dirty laundry stinking up your suitcase on your travels home.

iRing Phone Grip and Mount


This ring attachment for your smartphone is actually pretty useful. It serves as a phone grip and comes with a mount for your car or walls to create a quick and easy stand.

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Mini-Selfie Spotlight


Tired of bad lighting ruining your vacation photos? This weird, but easy-to-use selfie light is perfect for nighttime and food photography. Simply clip the device onto your smartphone and let the LED fill-light work its magic.

Anti-Blister Balm


This is one of the weirdest things to buy on Amazon, but the deodorant-like stick works wonders for blisters. If you’re taking a trip that requires a lot of walking, you’ll want to bring along this anti-blister balm.

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Mini Cool Mist Humidifier


This compact gadget is ideal if you need a humidifier in your hotel room or vacation rental. Simply screw the device to the top of any standard-sized water bottle and you’re good to go. The best part is that the mini-humidifier is powered by batteries or USB charger.

Microbead Portable Pillow


This weird, brown, flower-shaped pillow is actually a traveler’s best friend. It can be altered into various positions to relieve neck, knee, and back problems. It also comes with a compress and cover for any icing or heating needs.

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Crumpled City Map


For overseas travel, avoid hefty data roaming charges with an old-school map. But, this map is not like the others. The waterproof paper can be crumpled up and stored literally anywhere.

Portable Dim Mood Lamp

Portable dim light. 

Travel with this mood lamp for atmospheric lighting in your hotel room or vacation rental. The egg-shaped silicone lamp is soft to the touch, so it won’t break in your suitcase and it’s smaller in size than an iPhone 7 Plus. The rechargeable battery will last up to 12 hours and the lamp is tap responsive.

Silicone Facial Cleansing Brush


Take care of your skin on the road with this portable cleansing and exfoliating brush. The device uses sonic cleansing to unclog your pores and get rid of dead skin cells. Its small size makes the strange-looking brush perfect for travel, plus the dual sides also treat signs of aging.   

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Thai Crystal Deodorant


You’ll never go back to drugstore deodorant again. This stick-shaped crystal deodorant is formed from natural mineral salts and contains no chemicals, oils, or fragrances. Instead of covering up body odor, it kills smelly bacteria at the source. To use, wet the stone and apply as you would a normal deodorant—it dries immediately and won’t damage clothing. Bonus: You can also you use it on your feet.

Hands-Free Phone Hanger


If your pet peeve is poorly placed outlets (or germy nightstands) in your hotel room, then this phone hanger will give you a proper place for your phone when charging. It also works well to hold your phone when driving and as a desktop stand. Plus, you can hang items like like keys and headphones, too.

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Firm Beastie Ball


This oddly-shaped massage ball is great for travel, especially during long flights. Use it for a targeted deep tissue massage on your neck and shoulder or roll it under your foot after long walking days.

Fun-Shaped Contact Lens Case

animal shaped contact lens case.

Make traveling with contacts easier with this funky mini-contact lens kit. The rabbit-shaped container comes with a compact, inner mirror, tweezers, solution vial, and contact lenses case. It may be one of the weirder things to buy on Amazon, but it serves an essential purpose for contact wearers.

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Water Bottle with Built-in Pill Box


If you travel with daily medication, then this weird travel tool is for you. With a 23-ounce capacity, the dual pill holder-water bottle will also keep you well hydrated.

Outfits to Buy on Amazon

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The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents: This Tiny Museum Is a Sensory Wonderland

The first thing you notice upon entering the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents is, curiously, the absence of scent. There’s no perfume counter one-two punch as you open the wooden arts-and-crafts-style front door of the tiny museum in Berkeley, California. Instead, a visual feast awaits: gently lit manuscripts, ancient maps, and the sparkle of tiny glass bottles—capped and waiting for you to come discover them—arranged throughout the single room.

[st_content_ad]Mandy Aftel—a renowned boutique perfumer who created the space and runs it with her family—says that, as she was designing the museum and exhibits, the thing she kept coming back to was the urge to create a dreamy space where the rest of the senses could take a break. “I wanted to let the nose lead the way,” she explains. Based on the collection she had built over many years, the resulting Aftel Archive of Curious Scents is a jewel box of a museum that feels like a carefully curated cabinet of curiosities, each beckoning to be discovered, to tell its story.

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“It’s not a museum about perfume,” Aftel says. “It’s about scent, and about going back and teaching people to smell again.”

The education starts simply. Whether you’ve made a reservation for the one-hour experience in advance or simply stopped in on a Saturday (the one day of the week the Archive is open), you’ll be welcomed with a quick introduction: “We want to give people just enough information to get oriented, but not so much that they get too into their heads about it,” says Aftel. You’re then handed your tools of exploration, which include a small piece of felt (a neutral scent to help your nose reset in between inhales) and three delicate paper sticks for dipping into your favorite oils to take home.

“Everything in here has magic,” notes Aftel. The trick is to get your brain out of the way and let your sense of smell lead the way. Open drawers to smell and touch your way through dozens of the ingredients—barks, roots, resins, and leaves among them—from which essential oils are derived. Compare 100-year-old and newer scents for a lesson in the ways age can deepen and change a smell like vanilla or jasmine.

It’s a place that unpacks the complexity of scent into its components, an experience not unlike hearing the individual notes and instruments of a symphony for the first time. Natural rose has more than 200 molecules that combine to create the scent we think of as, simply, rose. Individual exhibits delve into the interplay of top note, middle note, and base note scents that go into single scents such as rose. And the room’s crowning glory unites scent in the massive scent organ. Build to resemble the organ Aftel uses in her own custom perfume lab, it’s a veritable amphitheater of smells, divided into these top, middle, and base notes. It’s here that you can uncap tiny bottles individually—almond, cedarwood, butter, bergamot, and dozens more—and discover the scents that transport you, shake loose memory, and inspire joy.

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Woven in with these sensory experiences are more intellectual pursuits. Mounted on the walls, original maps trace the history of scent around the world. And next to a welcoming window seat is a small bookcase packed with 150 antique texts—some with notes and personal recipes jotted in the margins—detailing the medicinal, ornamental, and traditional uses of aromatics.

To visit for an hour is to emerge changed, more attuned to scent and the way it wraps itself around everything else—travel, food, even the change in the air when day turns to dusk. It’s an entire world that’s never more than a deep inhale away, whether you’re close to home or thousands of miles away.

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Christine Sarkis loves Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.


The 14 Most Unique Hotels in the World

[st_content_ad]After you’ve been traveling a while, every hotel begins to look the same—unless, that is, you’ve booked a much more unusual place to stay. For those who’ve gotten bored of the standard overnight setup, here are 14 of the most unique hotels in the world.

Treehouse: Treehotel, Sweden


Kids don’t think twice about sleeping in a treehouse, but as adults, we forget how much fun it is. Revive that childhood magic at Sweden’s remarkable Treehotel, which consists of seven living pods suspended in tall pines up to 20 feet above the forest floor. (You get into them via ladder, suspended bridge, or electric stairs.)

Choices include an abode that looks like a humongous bird’s nest, one shaped like a UFO, and the reflective “Mirrorcube.” Guests get enchanted views of the woods, the Lule River, and (at the right time of year) the aurora borealis. From September to March, the hotel’s employees give guided northern lights tours; all year long, you can eat at the on-site restaurant, which specializes in northern Swedish cuisine, and explore the 600-person village of Harads.

Other worthwhile treehouse hotels around the world include British Columbia’s globular Free Spirit Spheres, Quebec’s Canopée Lit in the Boreal forest, Peru’s Amazonian Treehouse Lodge, Texas’s new Treehouse Utopia, and Washington state’s Treehouse Point and 50-foot-high Cedar Creek Treehouse, with its rainbow-painted suspension bridge. For more ideas, see The 10 Most Incredible Treehouse Hotels in the World.

Undersea Accommodations: The Muraka, Maldives

muraka undersea bedroom

In late 2018, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, already known as an extraordinary place to stay, debuted a two-story, three-bedroom undersea residence with a modern, domed design and 24-hour butler service. But the Muraka’s most impressive feature is its full, glassy immersion in the Maldives’ mesmerizing ocean life. World-class architects and engineers teamed up to construct the unique hotel room in Singapore; they then transported it to the Maldives, anchoring it in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The only catch: The Muraka costs $40,000 per night.

Those of us not stocked with that level of disposable income can have a meal at the Conrad’s undersea restaurant, Ithaa. Or travel instead to Key Largo, Florida, to stay at Jules’ Undersea Lodge—named after Mr. Verne, natch. You’ll have to scuba dive down to this strange guest room, at the bottom of a fish-filled lagoon.

Other undersea suites around the world include those at Tanzania’s Manta Resort, Dubai’s Atlantis, The Palm, and Singapore’s Resort World Sentosa. Bali’s Bambu Indah resort has a glass-bottomed room that lets its guests observe the sea life below. And coming soon, supposedly: Fiji’s 40-foot-deep Poseidon Undersea Resort.

Igloo: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Finland

kakslauttanen arctic resort

By now, everyone knows about Sweden’s remarkable Icehotel and its frozen brethren: Quebec’s Hotel de Glace, Norway’s Snowhotel Kirkenes, and Ice Hotel Romania—all artist-sculpted hotels that arise gorgeously every winter, only to melt away in summer.

But if you’re more interested in finding out what it’s like spend the night in a real-life igloo, head to Finland for a stay at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Most images of it show its rows of glass-domed “igloos,” which are eminently worthwhile in and of themselves, particularly for their unobstructed view of aurora borealis. For the true igloo experience sans quotation marks, however, opt for one of the property’s dozens of actual snow igloos, where you’ll find calm, quiet, and a sleeping bag to keep you toasty in the room’s below-freezing temperature.

Traveling farther south? Iglu-Dorf lets you experience igloo living in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria.

Crane Hotel: The Yays Crane Apartment, Netherlands

yays crane apartment

What to do with an old crane? Why, turn it into a hotel, of course. This is exactly what a company called Yays did with a retired Figee—it commissioned Dutch designer Edward van Vliet to create a stylish interior for a three-story apartment with vertiginous views over the IJ River. The crane operator’s box was left intact, so guests can still hear his recorded stories play.

Apparently, transforming cranes into hotels isn’t a one-off thing to do in the Netherlands: There’s also the 164-foot-high Crane Hotel Faralda, as well as the Harlingen Harbour Crane, whose movement you can control yourself.

Should you find yourself getting hooked on overnighting in industrial contraptions, you can continue on to sleep on a decommissioned oil rig at Malaysia’s Seaventures Dive Rig, in a granary at New Zealand’s SiloStay, in a wine barrel at the Netherlands’ De Vrouwe van Stavoren Hotel, or in a drainpipe at Austria’s Das Parkhotel.

Lodge with Live Animals: Giraffe Manor, Kenya

giraffe manor

At the 12-room Giraffe Manor, one of the unique hotels in Africa’s Safari Collection, the welcoming employees teach each guest how to feed giraffes. This is because the elegant property, built in 1932 at an elevation of almost 6,000 feet, is home to a herd of endangered Rothschild’s giraffes who are fond of stretching their long necks into the hotel’s large windows for a snack. Every guest room is stocked with giraffe food so that when you receive the inevitable long-necked visitor, you can nourish it appropriately. (For a similar experience, but with elephants instead of giraffes, book at Zambia’s Mfuwe Lodge.)

If you can’t get out of the U.S. but still want to sleep where animals dominate, you have at least one option in Texas—The Lodge at Fossil Rim—and three in California: Safari West in wine country, Vision Quest Safari B&B at the Monterey Zoo, and Farm Sanctuary, which also offers accommodations in upstate New York.

Hyper-Themed Hotel: Fantasyland Hotel, Canada

fantasyland hotel space room

Everyone loves a good theme. And while amusement parks are famous for making good use of them, it’s harder to find hotels that are themed through and through. In Canada, Edmonton’s Fantasyland Hotel is in a shopping center, but that’s hardly the most unique thing about it. True to its name, Fantasyland offers 120 fantasy-themed rooms, and you choose your surroundings. Options at this novelty hotel include rooms that look like a spaceship, a gas station, Polynesia, Rome, the Arabian desert, and a prison cell. Plus, the attached mall has a waterpark, thrill rides, miniature golf, and a bowling alley.

Other unique hotels with hyper-themed suites include Denver’s Curtis Hotel (Star Wars rooms and Star Trek and Ghostbusters suites), New Hampshire’s Adventure Suites (room names include “Motorcycle Madness,” “Dragon’s Lair,” and “Cupid’s Corner”), and Fort Worth’s Western-themed Stockyards Hotel, where Bonnie and Clyde once slept in a suite that bears their names.

For Dog Lovers: Dog Bark Park Inn, Idaho

dog bark inn

Idaho’s Dog Bark Park Inn is on virtually every list of the world’s most unique hotels for good reason: It’s shaped like a dog. Also, everything inside the homey B&B is over-the-top dog-themed, including the pillows, the bedrest, the books, the cookies, the board games and puzzles, the curtains, and the canine chainsaw art (also sold in the on-site gift shop) handmade by the property’s welcoming mom-and-pop owners. More than a quirky roadside attraction—though it’s that, too—”Sweet Willy,” built in 2003, is made from wood, metal, and stucco. And yes, you can bring your own pup.

If you’d rather sleep inside a Trojan horse, book at Belgium’s uber-whimsical La Balade des Gnomes.

Cave Hotel: Ottoman Cave Suites, Turkey

ottoman cave suites

If you’ve ever had the craving to sleep in a cave, put Turkey’s magical Cappadocia region on your bucket list. There, many of the unusual hotels are carved right into the land’s ancient stone. There are plenty of cave hotels to choose from in Cappadocia, including the lovely Seraphim Cave Hotel, but Ottoman Cave Suites, in a town called Goreme, is perhaps the most unique hotel of the bunch. Its dramatic, Ottoman-themed rooms feature velour furnishings, Turkish art, and—the distinguishing feature—scalloped stone walls and ceilings of cool, hollowed-out volcanic stone.

Elsewhere in the world, you can also stay in Grand Canyon Caverns’ cave suite, at Kokopelli’s Cave in New Mexico, and at Switzerland’s Felsenhotel La Claustra.

Train Hotel: Red Caboose Motel, Pennsylvania

red caboose motel

Train buffs will be pleased to learn that the world has a set of unique inns situated in retired locomotives. Pennsylvania’s Red Caboose Motel, for example, has turned the world’s largest privately owned collection of cabooses into a quirky hotel that’s surrounded by Amish farms, with an on-site dining car called Casey Jones’ Restaurant, and the impressive Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania just down the road. The sleeping quarters resemble basic motel rooms—except that they’re set in real caboose cars.

Fans of the iron horse can also sleep in retired trains at California’s Featherbed Railroad and Railroad Park Resort, Minnesota’s Whistle Stop B&B, Montana’s Izaak Walton Inn, Indiana’s Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown Union Station, Alaska’s Aurora Express, and South Africa’s Santos Express.

Eccentric Lodging: Helga’s Folly, Sri Lanka

helga's folly

Here’s a line from Helga’s Folly‘s website: “If expecting a regular hotel experience, best look elsewhere, thank you.” This is an understatement. One of the world’s truly weird hotels, this property in Kandy, Sri Lanka, is covered from top to bottom in psychedelic hand-painted art, skeletons, wax-dripped candelabras, and a clutter of other creepy-cool decor. Staying here is guaranteed to make you feel like you’ve stepped into a Tim Burton movie. If you’re not quite up for a full-on overnight, you can visit just for dinner.

For other properties approaching this level of wackiness, check out Vietnam’s Crazy House and Chile’s hobbit-like Montaña Mágica Lodge.

For Art Lovers: Angad Arts Hotel, Missouri

angad arts hotel room

The recent opening of the Angad Arts Hotel in St. Louis is good news for anyone who’s ever wished they could sleep in their favorite art museum. At the Angad, there’s striking artwork throughout, pop-up performances, a musical playroom, and a refined David Burke eatery. You choose which color you want your guest room to be saturated with: a bold red, green, yellow, or blue. Calling itself an “incubator for the arts,” this unique hotel is in the city’s Grand Center Arts District, surrounded by more than 40 thriving arts venues.

Art lovers can also stay at Japan’s Benesse House, which displays original works by Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Yayoi Kusama, and David Hockney, as well as Florida’s Art Ovation Hotel, or any of the 21c Museum Hotels.

Celebrity Connection: Villa Casa Casuarina, Florida

villa casa casuarina suite

Miami’s Villa Casa Casuarina, better known as the Versace Mansion, has been many things: Gianni Versace’s over-the-top villa, a rundown apartment building, and the home of the Standard Oil heir Alden Freeman, who built the property in 1930 as a replica of Christopher Columbus’s son’s house. It became a murder landmark in 1997 when the famous fashion designer was gunned down on the mansion’s front stairs. After that, it was the backdrop for FX’s American Crime Story television series—then, finally, a hotel. Spanning its three palatial stories are 10 bedrooms, including the aptly named “Extravagant Villa Suite,” where Versace himself slumbered. Overnight guests can luxuriate amid hand-painted frescoes, a fountain courtyard, hand-carved wood doors, elaborate mosaics, Italian marble, opulent furnishings, and a swimming pool lined with 24-karat gold.

If your particular interest is staying at hotels that are owned by celebrities, there’s also Australia’s Palazzo Versace (owned by Gianni’s sister, Donatella), Florida’s Costa d’Este (Gloria and Emilio Estefan), Morocco’s Kasbah Tamadot (Richard Branson), Belize’s Blancaneaux Lodge (Francis Ford Coppola), Italy’s Palazzo Margherita (also Coppola), Utah’s Sundance Resort (Robert Redford), Dublin’s The Clarence (Bono), and two in Carmel, California: Cypress Inn (Doris Day) and Mission Ranch (Clint Eastwood).

Salt Hotel: Hotel Palacio de Sal, Bolivia

palacio de sal

True to its name, Bolivia’s Hotel Palacio de Sal is built entirely of salt. Its walls, ceilings, and sculptures, as well as the majority of its furniture—including the beds—are made from large salt bricks. The floors, for their part, are covered with a thick, crunchy layer of the stuff. The sodium-themed property, which sits at an elevation of 12,000 feet, also offers a full-service spa, a fine-dining restaurant, and an in-house tour operator that takes guests out onto Salar de Uyuni, the planet’s largest salt flat—an otherworldly white-desert destination that should be on any serious traveler’s bucket list.

Another unique hotel to consider on Bolivia’s vast Salar de Uyuni is Kachi Lodge, a new luxury dome camp that looks as though it would be right at home on the surface of the moon.

More interested in staying amid other minerals? Consider Zandotel Oss, in the Netherlands, to sleep in a bona fide sandcastle, or Sweden’s Sala Silvergruva, a historic silver mine whose “Mine Suite” is the world’s deepest hotel room at 508 feet underground (claustrophobes, steer clear).

Airplane Hotel: Hotel Costa Verde, Costa Rica

hotel costa verde plane

Never been able to sleep on a plane? You won’t be able to say that any longer after staying at Costa Rica’s Hotel Costa Verde, the site of an upcycled Boeing 727 that used to belong to Avianca Airlines. The innkeepers hollowed out the fuselage, paneled the interior in Costa Rican teak, added furniture, and perched it high in the jungle for elevated views of trees and sea, making for a completely unique getaway.

A similar experience can be had at Stockholm’s Jumbostay Hotel, a grounded 1976 Boeing 747 spiffed up with comfy beds—book the cockpit, if you like. Aviation aficionados will also be interested to know that New York City’s TWA Hotel is set to open this May at John F. Kennedy International Airport, as an upscale tribute to the defunct but beloved airline. Request a runway-view room if you’d enjoy watching as jets take off.

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Follow Avital Andrews on Twitter @avitalb or on Facebook.

Adventure Travel Beach Experiential Travel Island Luxury Travel Outdoors Romantic Travel

10 Gorgeous Beaches You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

[st_content_ad]South Beach, Bondi, Myrtle, Copacabana: World-famous beaches that have become a household name are revered for good reason—but they’re sure to pack in the crowds, too.

The Best Hidden Beaches You’ve Never Heard Of

If you want a jaw-dropping shoreline without the sunburned tourists and splashing masses, head for one of these lesser-known gems that are just as dazzling—even if you’ve never heard of them.

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Playa Negra: Vieques, Puerto Rico

Palm trees black sand beach vieques puerto rico

The idyllic beaches of San Juan are enough of a getaway for most people, but the more remote beaches on the smaller islands off Puerto Rico are well worth the trip. Vieques, known for calm snorkeling coves and the enchanting wild horses that roam the island, is also home to a hidden black sand beach, Playa Negra. The soft, dark sand makes this beach as nice a spot for horseback riding as it is for lounging in the sun.

Where to Stay: El Blok Hotel is one of Vieques’ few waterfront hotels, and just a five-minute taxi ride from Playa Negra.

Navagio Beach: Zakynthos, Greece

Navagio beach zakynthos greece

You’ve probably seen this little-known but much-photographed beach before, but might not know its name. With its turquoise water, sweeping white cliffs, and a rusted-over shipwreck plopped on the sand, Navagio (meaning shipwreck) Beach is a popular spot for visitors to the Greek Isles. But, it’s difficult to reach: A lookout point above it is more accessible than the cove itself, which you’ll need to sail into if you want to swim or peer into the shipwreck.

Where to Stay: Since you’ll need to sail there in order to reach it, Navagio Beach is isolated from most Zakynthos hotels. But Zakynthos Town, where most visitors arrive, has plenty to choose from, including the affordable Hotel Strada Marina, for waterfront views and a central location.

Shell Beach: Denham, Western Australia

Shell beach denha western australia

Sandy beaches sound ideal until you’ve seen one that’s covered entirely in tiny white shells. Bring your flip flops to Denham, Australia’s famed Shell Beach, for a unique beach walk on the western coast’s Shark Bay. The sparkling cockles that cover this area can be as much as 29 feet deep in some places, and at low tide the flat beach is a vast expanse of white shoreline and shallow tide pools.

Where to Stay: The RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort offers comfortable digs on sprawling surroundings where you can spot wildlife like dolphins and emus.

Cox Bay Beach: Vancouver Island, Canada

Cox bay beach vancouver island canada

Flanked by the wild natural scenery of Pacific Rim National Park, Cox Bay Beach’s position on the west coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island makes for ideal surfing conditions year-round (hence its other name, Surf Beach). Take a forest path to one of the beach’s narrow cliff paths for access to the flat, wide Tofino coastline, and keep an eye out for giant drift logs and sand dollars.

Where to Stay: The Meares Vista Inn lives up the name with sweeping mountain and water views.

Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka

Boats on a tropical beach mirissa south sri lanka

For a tropical beach getaway that’s as scenic as Thailand without the overwhelming crowds, Sri Lanka’s beaches will make you feel like you dove into a postcard. Mirissa Beach on the tear-drop-shaped island’s south coast faces the expansive Indian Ocean for surf-worthy waves and uninterrupted sunset views. Post up with an umbrella or in a palm-tree hammock by day for warm sun and sand. At night, head to the beach’s many open-air, tiki-style bars to watch the tide roll in.

Where to Stay: The boutique Triple O Six Hotel’s rooms offer floor-to-ceiling windows, and you can go luxe for less thanks to Sri Lanka’s favorable exchange rate.

Camilo Beach: Lagos, Portugal

Camilo beach lagos portugal

Some of Europe’s best beaches are in Portugal’s Algarve Region, where white-sand beaches, rocky cliffs, and brightly colored fishing towns echo Italy’s Amalfi Coast. In the beach town of Lagos, descend the wooden steps to Camilo Beach (or Praia Camilo) for a day of lounging on soft sand and exploring stone arches in the sea cliffs. Switch into adventure mode by booking a boat tour of the bay that can bring you into the nearby grottoes and sea caves that drain at low tide.

Where to Stay: The Carvi Beach Hotel Algarve is a short walk from Praia Camilo and overlooks Praia Dona Ana, a rocky cove worth exploring by boat.

Nungwi Beach: Zanzibar, Tanzania

Nungwi beach zanzibar tanzania

Beach getaways don’t get much more exotic than Zanzibar, the archipelago of Tanzania, home to famously idyllic beaches and the cultural trading hub of Stone Town. Spend an afternoon at Nungwi Beach on Zanzibar Island’s northern point for tidepool starfish, fisherman watching, waterfront dining options, and to spot the occasional farm cow wandering by. Most importantly, don’t miss the pink-hued beach sunset.

Where to Stay: The DoubleTree by Hilton Resort Zanzibar is situated on Nungwi Beach, so you’ll never have to part with the view of this idyllic secret beach.

Dry Tortugas National Park: Florida

Fort at dry tortugas national park florida

A bucket list spot you’ll want to see before it disappears, Dry Tortugas National Park sits 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, and is a piece of military history floating in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico’s rising sea waters—but 19th-century Fort Jefferson’s brick interior can still be toured today. The white sand beaches of Dry Tortugas are a popular spot for snorkeling, camping, and scuba diving. You can also walk the seawalls of the fort, which will put you right over the shallow turquoise waters.

Where to Stay: Dry Tortugas is remote, but a good choice among Key West hotels is the stylish Havana Cuba at Key West for its massive pools, outdoor hammocks, and colorful decor.

Tulum National Park: Quintana Roo, Mexico

Tulum el castillo quintana roo mexico

Don’t want to settle for views from a cabana? Head to this national park on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Outside of tourist-addled Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo’s Tulum National Park boasts beachfront fun, protected sea turtles, and Mayan ruins at an archaeological site you can explore. That is if the sea cliffs and white sand aren’t enough.

Where to Stay: One of the closest hotels to Tulum’s archaeological site is the beach-nestled Diamante K, which has open-air villas, authentic Mexican food, and luxe amenities, all on a private stretch of shoreline.

Anse Source d’Argent: La Digue, Seychelles

sunset anse source d'argent la digue seychelles

On one of the world’s most remote island chains lies one of the world’s most photographed beaches. Anse Source d’Argent’s smooth rock formations, turquoise waters, and colorful fish make it feel a world away—which, at the center of the Indian Ocean, it is for many travelers.

Where to Stay: Closest to Anse Source d’Argent is Le Repaire Boutique Hotel’s central, cozy beachfront digs–complete with free breakfast.

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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel and is always looking for a new secret beach to visit. Follow her on Instagram @shanmcmahon.


Booking Strategy

Where to Stay in South Korea: Lodging Tips You Need to Know

Considering a trip to South Korea? Set aside that spicy bowl of kimchi for a moment and settle in for a crash course about where to stay in South Korea. As a major East Asian tourist destination and convention hub, South Korea is home to an array of accommodation options that includes everything from the luxurious and modern to the cozy and conventional to the downright bizarre. Indeed, South Korea lodging options will suit every budget, and virtually every fancy.

Hotels in South Korea

The most obvious place to begin your time in South Korea is at a hotel. Hotels in South Korea are largely the same as you’ll find at home, and just like those, vary in standards and service. An average room can be quite inexpensive outside of major tourist destinations like Seoul, Busan, and Jeju Island, but prices may skyrocket depending on the time of year or local events.

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You can browse hotel listings throughout South Korea on review sites like TripAdvisor, SmarterTravel’s parent site. Avoid hotels branded as “tourist” or “business”; quality is often subpar at best. Agoda is also an excellent website for hotel booking in South Korea.

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South Korea Luxury Hotels

You’ll find plenty of luxury hotel options in South Korea, operated by many of the same global hospitality chains that you’re familiar with back home. If you’re willing to splurge, you’ll have an opportunity to experience legendary Korean hospitality, a king-sized bed, swimming pools, and all the other modern amenities you could ever want. Standouts include the JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul, where the impeccable rooms include marble bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows; the Conrad Seoul, known for world-class service and hospitality; and the Lotte Hotel Busan, the most luxurious place to stay in the southern part of the country.

South Korea Resorts

The resort experience in South Korea can be incredibly unique. For example, you can cruise (but not really) aboard the Sun Cruise Resort, a giant ship firmly affixed to solid ground in Donghae, offering a faux deep-sea adventure for the consummate land lover. South Korea is home to myriad quirky resort properties such as these.

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South Korea Jjimjilbangs

On the other end of the spectrum from the luxury brands are Korea’s ubiquitous saunas, also known as jjimjilbangs. For about the cost of a fast food meal at home, you can sleep on the (heated) floor in a community bathhouse.

Hang on—this is not nearly as bad as it sounds. In fact, jjimjilbangs, almost always open 24 hours, are an excellent option for weary travelers who are simply looking for a place to rest awhile. These social gathering places include access to steam baths and saunas, so despite sleeping on the floor, you may actually come away feeling rejuvenated.

Listings are difficult to find online and typically only in Korean. The Visit Korea site, however, does supply a good listing of Seoul’s jjimjilbangs, as does TripAdvisor.

South Korea Motels

Travelers beware: Not all motels are created equal. More often than not, South Korean motels double as houses of ill repute. “Love motels,” as many of them are known, are usually rented by the hour—your first clue that you’re not in Kansas anymore.

That said, if you’re in a pinch or you arrive late to a destination that is otherwise sold out, motels actually aren’t a bad option in South Korea. Beds are usually large (surprise, surprise), and most rooms are clean and well appointed. If you don’t mind sleeping next to a condom dispenser or walking across a floor of velvet, a love motel could suit you.

Love motels aren’t usually listed on sites like TripAdvisor, and rarely advertise; the easiest way to find one is to learn to recognize the Korean symbol for love motel, and then inquire within. Don’t worry, they’re easy to spot; most marquees and logos include a heart shape somewhere.

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South Korea Guesthouses and B&Bs

Koreans are famously hospitable. Staying at a family-run guesthouse is a great way to peek inside Koreans’ everyday lives; a night at a guesthouse often includes a community breakfast, tea time, and more socializing than you’re probably used to when traveling. Guesthouses are similar to Western bed and breakfasts, though the term “B&B” is relatively new to South Korea. A property advertised as a B&B is probably recently opened and more expensive than a guesthouse.  To find these types of accommodations in South Korea, try Agoda or TripAdvisor.

South Korea Hanok Lodging

A hanok is a traditional Korean building; think clay-tiled roofs, massive wooden support beams, overhanging eaves, and plenty of peace and quiet. Sparsely styled, a hanok will usually feature ondol (traditional home) standards, beautiful paper doors, and manicured gardens. More expensive than a guesthouse, a hanok stay is a uniquely Korean experience, and worth the inflated price.

Some of the best hanok experiences include Rakkojae Andong, at the Hahoe Folk Village; Rakkojae in Seoul; and the stunning Hyangdan Hanok Guesthouse in charming Gyeongju. For many guests, the best part about staying in a traditional hanok is the blissful disconnect from the everyday. No TV, no Wi-Fi, no distractions—not something you can say often about visiting South Korea.

South Korea Temple Stays

The only type of accommodation more unique than the hanok is the temple. A Korean temple stay is a charming experience; imagine waking up at dawn each day and watching monks in saffron-tinted robes wander about a perfectly manicured garden while lost in thought. Join them in prayer, enjoy simple meals, meditate, and reconnect with your spiritual self at any one of South Korea’s many overnight temples.

Tapsa Temple is an outstanding option for first-time visitors looking for an experience that won’t overwhelm. Originally built by a Buddhist hermit in a valley near Maisan Mountain, Tapsa features dozens of stone pagodas (some more than 30 feet tall), each constructed by hand over a period of years. The temple has an almost ethereal air about it, especially at night. For more information and to book temple overnights in South Korea, check a website called Templestay.

South Korea Yeogwans

Yeogwans were once the most common type of accommodation in Korea. These simple rooms are notable for their ondol stylings; instead of a bed, you sleep on a mattress on the floor, which is sometimes heated, sometimes not. The supposed explanation? Koreans like to travel in groups. By removing the bed, you can get more people into a room.

Whether this is truth or myth doesn’t matter much: Yeogwans were the standard in Korean travel for generations, though they’re far less popular these days. A night in a yeogwan is pretty cheap, but be prepared to share restroom and dining facilities. The cozy minbak (see below) is a step up from the yeogwan. Want to try staying in one? Yeogwans are frequently listed alongside hostels on major lodging websites, including TripAdvisor.

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South Korea Minbaks

Cheaper than hotels, a minbak is a family-run outfit that offers modest accommodations. Expect a simple room that may or may not feature a bed. If your room does not come with a bed, make sure that the floor is heated. Restroom facilities may be shared, and kitchens are often provided. Minbaks vary wildly in comfort and size, so it pays to have a look at your room prior to booking. Looking to book one? Minbaks are often listed alongside hostels on sites like TripAdvisor.

South Korea Hostels

South Korea’s range of hostels is no different from what you might expect to find in other parts of the world. The best offer tidy dorm rooms, shared kitchen facilities, clean bathrooms, and community living spaces. Most of South Korea’s hostels are in Seoul; jjimjilbangs (see above) are far more popular in other parts of the country. Looking to book a hostel in South Korea? Try HostelWorld or

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–original research and reporting by Flash Parker

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

Experiential Travel Historical Travel Oddities

I Spent the Night in a Haunted Hotel

In Mount Morris, New York, The Allegiance is a bed and breakfast that screams hospitality. Its tall Greek columns, red-white-and-blue draped windows, and a bucking horse statue on the front lawn make it an impressive, all-American sight. But I know something about the Allegiance most guests don’t—it’s haunted by a shroud of ghosts.

I’m a first-time guest visiting the Finger Lakes region on a weekend tour of the Haunted History Trail of New York State, which is dedicated to cataloging the state’s haunted and historical attractions. I’ve never knowingly checked into a haunted hotel before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Would there be a creepy groundskeeper to tell me there was no going back? Would I feel a chill go down my back as I entered? Or see a mysterious face staring out of the window?

I’m a skeptical person and on most days I’ll tell you that I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe that some places feel inherently different. Maybe some places hold on to good or bad energies, which are what give you that good or bad feeling when you experience a place for the first time. That’s why I elected to stay in a haunted hotel in the first place: I wanted to see if something would happen, something I could be sure was more than just a creepy feeling.

As I approached the Allegiance, I was not at all prepared for what actually happened. As I climbed up the front steps, two wraithlike flashes darted out at me, heading straight for my ankles with wide eager eyes.

It was Sarah and Mr. Wizzy, the Allegiance’s resident teacup schnauzers.

Checking into a Haunted Hotel

[st_content_ad]I cooed over and rubbed the bellies of the two small dogs as the Allegiance’s owners, who had been on the porch with their schnauzers, welcomed me. Steve and Glenda Lueck moved from California to the quiet village of Mount Morris (located between Rochester and Buffalo) in 1999 and purchased the historic mansion.

The Allegiance is named for Francis Bellamy, the Mount Morris native who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance. Today, it’s a bed and breakfast that attracts mostly travelers on their way to nearby natural wonders like Niagara Falls and Letchworth State Park. Steve and Glenda were attracted to the historical charm of the home, but they didn’t know it was haunted until guests, and Steve himself, started having strange experiences.

A Haunted History

As Steve shows me to my room he tells me about the ghosts. He has heard the sound of people walking upstairs when nobody was home, spotted a large tabby cat in his bedroom, and has seen a man sitting in a chair in the library. Many guests over the years have also reported seeing and speaking to a teenage girl in the Wadsworth Room, seeing a woman with long gray hair standing at the top of the stairs, and have even described seeing the same tabby cat Steve saw. Many have also heard a dog barking, but it was never seen until very recently, when one guest spotted a white dog sitting in the back window of the Rochester Room.

With word of the haunted hotel spreading over the years, the Allegiance has attracted paranormal groups and mediums who have been able to communicate with the ghosts and provide more details about them, including their names. The woman with long gray hair is called Karen, and the man Steve saw sitting in the library is Raymond, who’s known for being very talkative.

“And don’t call him Ray, because he hates that apparently.” Glenda tells me.

There’s also Sammy the manservant, in the basement. He worked for one of the home’s former owners, Mr. Prophet, and is still very loyal to him. Members of the Wisner family who built the home in 1838 are also still present: Mr. Wisner, his first wife Sarah, and his second wife Ellen have all been discovered by paranormal groups who reported that “Mr. Wisner and Ellen are hiding out from Sarah because she is angry that he replaced her.” Mr. Wisner has also said that he loves the horse statue out front because it reminds him of a white horse during his time that would get loose and run up and down the street.

Guests have woken up in the middle of the night feeling something heavy on their legs. Steve says that they also have a ghost cat and a ghost dog that sometimes like to sleep on top of guests’ feet. He mentions that the cat in particular likes the room I’m staying in.

“We’ve had a lot of people come and it’s pretty clear that our spirits are harmless.” Steve tells me. “We had one woman who was a medium. As soon as she walked in the front door she said ‘It’s a party in here!’ … so we know it’s all good energy.”

I’m not a medium, but when I stepped into the Allegiance it felt like a party to me, too. Trimmed in Victorian touches, the first floor looks like something from a different time. Chandeliers hang in just about every room, and from the decorative wallpaper to the patterned rugs, the decor provides a feast for the eyes. As I walked past the dining room, the sitting room, and the library, I didn’t see any strange figures out of the corner of my eye—but I was suddenly overcome with the desire to book the whole place for the world’s most authentic murder-mystery dinner party.

Steve showed me to my room, and I settled in.

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Sleeping with the Lights Off

After exploring the surrounding area for a few hours on a nearby ghost-hunting tour, I returned for my overnight stay in the haunted hotel. The Luecks and all the other guests had gone to bed. I let myself in with a key they provided and tip-toed to my room.

As I went through my motions before bed, I felt extremely aware. The stories of each ghostly character played through my head. I looked in corners and windows, checking to see if everything is exactly where I left it, and listened constantly for sounds of—well, anything. I was extremely present and definitely paranoid.

As I drifted off to sleep, though, I hoped I might feel a cat curling up by my feet.

But it never came. After the full day ghost hunting in the Finger Lakes, I was exhausted. In the plush, king-size bed of the Dansville Room, I was in for a deep and dreamless sleep. But that doesn’t necessarily prove anything: Even if any ghosts did pay me a visit that night, I doubt Raymond’s talking or any ghostly barking could have stirred me.

Earlier in my stay, Glenda had told me that this house was one of parties, dances, and was always filled with children. Although it’s haunted, it’s by friendly spirits who don’t mean anyone harm. Maybe they just didn’t want to leave the party.

After just one night in this friendly haunted hotel, I felt that energy for sure—the party. Which might be why I found it so easy to fall asleep despite my paranoia. There’s a cozy and comfortable energy here, from the celebratory decor to the historic air of the manse.

Morning Comes

Once the sun was up, I enjoyed a quiet breakfast of coffee and cinnamon cake and wandered through the study and sitting rooms one last time. I said goodbye to the Luecks and their schnauzers. I packed up my things and as I walked out the door, I looked back one last time at the staircase where Karen with her long gray hair was known to stand.

I felt overcome with eerie curiosity and a strong desire to spend another night, or to return one day with friends for that murder-mystery dinner party. After experiencing this particular haunted hotel for myself, it’s easy to see why so many spirits have decided to stay indefinitely.

More from SmarterTravel:

Jamie Ditaranto visited the Finger Lakes as a guest of the Haunted History Trail of New York State. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @jamieditaranto.

Fashion & Beauty In-Flight Experience Packing

9 Pinterest Packing Hacks to Try on Your Next Trip

I love a good packing hack, which is why I spend hours weekly scouring Pinterest for time- and space-saving packing tricks. Here are nine viral Pinterest packing hacks using everyday items. All are useful and super easy to do.

P.S. Follow us on Pinterest for more awesome ideas like these.

Pinterest Packing Hacks Using Household Items

  1. Use a hardsided sunglasses case to organize phone cords and chargers.
  2. Use an old mint container to keep earbuds untangled.
  3. Store cotton swabs and bobby pins in an empty pill bottle.
  4. Use a shower cap to cover dirty shoes.
  5. Place a cotton pad in compact makeup to prevent cracking.
  6. Protect your razor blade with a binder clip.
  7. Use a clothespin for a toothbrush holder to keep your toothbrush off germy counters.
  8. Store liquids that you only need a small amount of in a contact case.
  9. Place a dryer sheet in shoes so they don’t stink up the rest of your suitcase.

Can’t get enough packing hacks? Check out 8 (More) Pinterest Packing Hacks Using Household Items.

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Booking Strategy Cities Road Trip Sustainable Travel

10 Speedy Train Routes in Europe That Are Faster Than Flying

While Europe doesn’t have the caliber of high-speed trains that Asia is known for, the continent certainly has better train travel than the U.S. Train routes in Europe are often affordable and easy, especially when traveling within the Schengen zone. Train travel has plenty of advantages over flying: You’ll arrive right in the city center, the fares are often more affordable, and you won’t have to deal with security lines.

[st_content_ad]Here are 10 train routes in Europe that will get you to your destination quicker than flying—some may even surprise you.

All data is taken from Omio, which analyzed bus, train, and flight times from its database. Note that flight duration includes the time required to be at the airport beforehand, taking into consideration the time to get through airport security.


Save yourself over three hours by taking the Eurostar between London and Paris. Plus, you’ll arrive right downtown as opposed to airports that are far from the city.

Duration by Train: Two hours and 16 minutes

Duration by Plane: Five hours and 40 minutes

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These two famous Italian cities are about 300 miles apart, and you can travel this train route in Europe much faster than flying. A one-way journey on ItaliaRail takes just two and a half hours as opposed to the five hours it takes to fly.

Duration by Train: Two hours and 50 minutes

Duration by Plane: Five hours 


Travel between the coast and Spain’s capital in about an hour and 40 minutes with Spain’s high-speed train, AVE—it’s almost twice as fast as flying.

Duration by Train: One hour and 42 minutes

Duration by Plane: Three hours and 10 minutes

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If you’re headed to London for a European vacation, why not add on the lesser-visited (but equally as cool) Manchester? In just over two hours on Virgin Trains you can hit up Manchester’s music, shopping, and sports scenes. Or save money by flying into Manchester from the U.S. and then taking the train directly to London’s city center—more than 10 major U.S. cities (on both the East and West Coasts) have direct flights into Manchester.

Duration by Train: Two hours and 11 minutes

Duration by Plane: Three hours and 35 minutes 


Save over an hour between Bologna and Rome by taking the train instead of flying. There are multiple train companies that do this route quickly, so compare prices and times between Italotreno and Trentitalia’s high-speed train, Frecciargento.

Duration by Train: Two hours

Duration by Plane: Three hours and 15 minutes

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You can now take the Eurostar between London and Amsterdam, and it’s almost an hour faster than the time it takes to fly. The train stops in Brussels, where you switch to a Thalys train that goes straight to Amsterdam’s city center.

Duration by Train: Three hours and 41 minutes

Duration by Plane: Four hours and 30 minutes 


Surprisingly it takes just about the same amount of time to travel between Munich and Vienna on a train as a plane. The rail journey is just slightly faster with Deutsche Bahn’s high-speed sprinter train.

Duration by Train: Four hours and 10 minutes

Duration by Plane: Four hours and 15 minutes

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The high-speed rail between these famous Spanish cities was created by Renfe about 10 years ago, and it’s the quickest way to travel between the two cities. Use the hour-plus that you save to explore sights like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid.

Duration by Train: Two hours and 30 minutes

Duration by Plane: Three hours and 45 minutes 

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Save yourself the hassle (and a little time) by taking the train between Milan and Zurich instead of the train. The 135-mile journey can be completed in just over three hours by train on Trentitalia.

Duration by Train: Three hours and 23 minutes

Duration by Plane: Three hours and 46 minutes

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Save some time for baguettes and coffee by taking the train between Amsterdam and Paris instead of flying. The route on Thalys takes just under four hours and will get you right to the city center.

Duration by Train: Three hours and 48 minutes

Duration by Plane: Four hours

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Health & Wellness Oddities Travel Etiquette

3 Ways to Find a Bathroom While Traveling

Maybe you drank too much coffee. Maybe you’ve got a chronic condition such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome. Or maybe you’re suffering from an acute case of traveler’s diarrhea. Sooner or later, every traveler will feel the need to find a bathroom—fast.

How to Find a Bathroom When You Travel

When the urge strikes, you don’t have the time or inclination to trek all over an unfamiliar city trying to find a bathroom. Get relief with these practical tips.

Research Before You Go

[st_content_ad]Before you leave home, learn how to ask where the nearest bathroom is in the local language. Even if you’re traveling to an English-speaking country, keep in mind that other terms may be more common than “bathroom”—such as “washroom,” “toilet,” or “W.C.” (for “water closet”).

If you’re traveling in a country with an unfamiliar alphabet—such as Japan or Russia—try to memorize the characters that make up the local word for bathroom so you can recognize it on signs.

Do a Google search for “bathrooms in ____” and you’ll turn up plenty of information and tips specific to your destination. For example, the New York City tourist board has a whole page on public restrooms, including an unexpected tip: “New York City Police Department stations will let you use their bathrooms if you ask.”

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Use a Bathroom App

Looking for a loo? Yes, there’s an app for that—several, in fact. Keep in mind that the majority of bathroom apps rely on crowdsourcing, so they’re only as good as the travelers who use them. You may want to download more than one bathroom app in case one has better intel about your destination than another.

Charmin’s Sit or Squat lists more than 100,000 bathrooms in locations around the world. Better-rated bathrooms are called “sits” and marked in green, while others are called “squats” and marked in red. You can filter your results to show only free bathrooms, or only bathrooms that are handicap accessible or equipped with baby-changing tables.

Where is Public Toilet (Android only) has even more listings—about 280,000—and more filters, including options such as showers, sharps disposal units, and left- or right-handed transfers from wheelchairs. The app includes opening hours for some toilets.

Flush (iOS | Android) lists about 200,000 toilets around the world. Some entries include information on disabled access and whether a key or fee is required to use the toilet.

Refuge Restrooms helps transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming travelers find a bathroom that’s safe for them.

Other bathroom apps to consider include Toilet Finder (iOS | Android), Bathroom Scout (iOS | Android), and Got to Go (iOS | Android).

In a pinch, you can often find bathrooms by typing “public toilet near me” into a Google search or “public bathroom” into your favorite mapping app. Keep in mind that results may vary, depending on where you are; one such Google search produced more bathroom fixture stores than public restrooms.

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Get Creative—and Come Prepared

Some places to find a bathroom are more obvious than others. Standard spots to look include train and bus stations, rest stops, gas stations, and major chains such as Starbucks and McDonald’s.

You’ll often find nicer alternatives in malls, department stores, and the lobbies of large hotels. Public libraries, visitor information centers, and parks are also good spots to check. Many big cities have public restrooms in downtown areas.

As you attempt to find a bathroom, keep in mind that you may need to pay a fee to use some public restrooms, so you’ll want to keep some small change on you at all times. Many shops and cafes only allow customers to use their restrooms; be prepared to buy something inexpensive such as a bottle of water or cup of coffee.

It’s always a good idea to bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer, just in case. Women who have trouble peeing while standing might also want to pack a portable urination device, which can be helpful when camping, hiking, or traveling in a country where squat toilets are standard.

One final word of wisdom, learned over many years of traveling: If you have the opportunity to use a clean, comfortable bathroom, do it—because you never know when your next chance will come.

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

Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Experiential Travel Outdoors

7 Unique Hostels Worth Planning a Trip To

Hostels are a great, social way to travel and often a cheaper alternative to hotels (and even vacation rentals). They’re a great place to meet likeminded people, share travel experiences, and even find a new travel companion. And while most hostels aren’t known for luxury details, they can offer unique experiences.

Unique Hostels Worth Planning a Trip To

If you want part of your travel experience to involve meeting other travelers and staying somewhere off-the-beaten path, check out these seven unique hostels worth planning a trip to.

Chili Kiwi Lakefront, Chile

unique hostels

Voted the number one hostel in Latin America for two years running by Hostelworld, the Chili Kiwi Lakefront is a perfect stop if you’re planning a trip to Chile. With several hobbit-themed cylinder rooms and two treehouse rooms, your stay here will be anything but ordinary.

The hostel’s amenities include free parking, free Wi-Fi, plus multiple kitchens and bathrooms, central heating, and even an on-site bar.

The hostel is located directly on Villarrica Lake, which is a great spot for kayaking or paddle boarding. But there are plenty of other activities, like hiking a volcano, visiting a hot spring, and skiing and snowboarding.

Book it: Get prices for Chili Kiwi Lakefront

Mountain Hostel Tarter, Andorra

unique hostels

If hiking through the Pyrenees is on your to-do list, consider a trip to the small but beautiful Principality of Andorra where you’ll find Mountain Hostel Tarter. It’s the perfect home base for the active adventurer, with a mountain location. Whether you’re planning your trip for the summer or the winter, there are plenty of activities to keep yourself occupied.

With panoramic mountain views, a year-round hot tub, and even a small grocery store on-site, your stay here will be nothing but comfortable.

Book it: Get prices for Mountain Hostel Tarter

Skyewalker Hostel, Isle of Sky, Scotland

unique hostels

If spending time on an island in northern Scotland is on your bucket list, look no further than Skyewalker Hostel … and no, you don’t have to be a Star Wars fan to appreciate it (but it certainly wouldn’t hurt).

The hostel is 25-minutes from Portree, the capital city on the island, and there are buses for easy transport. The Skyewalker has a self-catering kitchen, regular Scottish folk music sessions (with instruments available for guests), as well as a glass dome on site for guests to relax in.

Book it: Get prices for Skyewalker Hostel

Zostel Ooty, India

unique hostels

Ooty is a popular summer destination in India famous for its rose-filled botanical gardens and the 65-acre Ooty Lake. Located only a few kilometers from the city, in a small town called Lovedale, is Zostel. If the name “Lovedale” wasn’t enough to convince you to take a romantic trip here, the scenic views will.

Zostel gives its guest the option to sleep in the classic hostel dorms, a private room, or if you’re feeling adventurous, wake up to the sunrise in a hillside tent.

Book it: Get prices for Zostel Ooty

Lucky Lake Hostel, Amsterdam

unique hostels

Located about 30-minutes outside of Amsterdam in the Dutch countryside is a collection of multi-colored caravans that makes up Lucky Lake Hostel. This hostel is far enough away from the city that guests can enjoy a short walk to a lake for kayaking or swimming, while still being close enough that a free shuttle to the metro will have you in the city in no time.

If you’ve been wanting to visit Amsterdam but don’t want to stay in the city, Lucky Lake is the perfect location to book. With all the right amenities (free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and a ping-pong table), you won’t have to worry about anything other than the best way to spend your adventure.

Book it: Get prices for Lucky Lake Hostel

Yudanaka Seifu-So, Japan

unique hostels

Hot springs in the mountains? Say no more.

But if you do want to know more, Yudanaka Seifu-So in Nagano, Japan will give you a truly unique experience. Japanese Macaques are a species of monkey that lives in the mountains of Japan. They’re famous for their unusual behavior of soaking in the natural hot springs found there. This hostel is a short trip away from their territory, aptly named Snow Monkey Park.

The Nagano Station is about two and a half hours from Tokyo by train, and another half hour to the hostel from there, so by the time you arrive you’ll be ready to relax in some hot water.

Besides the natural hot tubs, the hostel also offers free Wi-Fi and parking.

Book it: Get prices for Yudanaka Seifu-So

Celica Art Hostel, Slovenia

unique hostels

Located in the capital city of Ljubljana, the Celica Art Hostel is a beautifully converted historic building. Each room was once a jail cell and many still have bars on the doors, but the inside of each one is designed by a different artist.

Amenities at Celica include free Wi-Fi, a common kitchen, as well as bike and car rentals on-site. It’s safe to say that while it may look like a prison, it won’t feel anything like it.

Book it: Get prices for Hostel Celica

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Matt Buckley is a writer based out of Boston. Check out some of his personal travel experiences on his travel blog Matt Goes Exploring and follow his Instagram of the same name.

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Adventure Travel Experiential Travel Outdoors Sustainable Travel

10 Things to Know About Hurtigruten, Norway’s Expedition Cruise Line

Sailing on a modern-day cruise ship may be a long way from the perilous polar expeditions of 19th- and 20th-century Norwegian explorers—but when you cruise with Hurtigruten, those adventures don’t seem so far away.

This expedition company based in Norway isn’t your typical cruise line. Onboard, the vibe is more about casual dress and learning about wildlife than evening wear and hairy-chest contests. Hurtigruten sailings draw adventurous travelers seeking to explore remote places like Greenland, Antarctica, and the far reaches of Norway.

Intrigued? Here’s how to decide whether Hurtigruten cruises are right for you.

Hurtigruten Has a Long, Adventurous History

Now celebrating its 125th anniversary, Hurtigruten was founded in 1893 as a solution to a problem. Back then it was difficult and time-consuming to travel by sea between northern and southern Norway; because there were relatively few lighthouses, nighttime sailing was dangerous. But Richard With, a sea captain from northern Norway, was adventurous enough to take the risk.

In 1893 his steamer, DS Vesteraalen, began weekly sailings between Trondheim and Hammerfest and, later, between Bergen and Kirkenes. The latter route took just seven days and was dubbed hurtigruten, or “the fast route.”

A few years later, With pioneered a regular service between mainland Norway and the remote northern islands of Svalbard. Since then, Hurtigruten has expanded its operations to exotic destinations around the globe.

hurtigruten ms fram greenland

Hurtigruten Sails to Norway, the Poles, and Beyond

For many years the company’s North American name was “Norwegian Coastal Voyage,” and this route is still the one for which Hurtigruten is best known. Eleven ships explore the fjords and islands between Bergen and Kirkenes year-round, allowing travelers to enjoy the midnight sun of the Arctic summer or the northern lights that wash over the winter sky. You can book a one-way journey or stay aboard for the entire 12-day round trip from Bergen.

What makes this voyage unique is that Hurtigruten’s Norwegian coastal ships also serve as ferries for locals (some of whom only stay on for a few hours) and as cargo delivery vessels. This means they make frequent—and sometimes very brief—stops, but you’ll still have time to explore the larger ports along the route.

A few of Hurtigruten’s expedition ships travel more widely, offering cruises to Antarctica and to various parts of the Arctic including Greenland, Svalbard, Iceland, and the Northwest Passage. During the shoulder seasons (spring and fall), you can explore non-polar destinations such as Europe and the eastern coast of North and South America.

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The Ships Aren’t Large

If the thought of cruising with thousands of other passengers makes you want to run and hide, the modest size of Hurtigruten cruise ships might offer a better fit. No ship carries more than 970 passengers, with most having a capacity of 400 to 600. MS Fram, the line’s main expedition ship, carries 318 passengers, and Nordstjernen, which sails in Svalbard, holds just 149.

These vessels have a more intimate feel than bigger ships from lines like Carnival or Royal Caribbean, but keep in mind that this also means fewer amenities. On Hurtigruten ships you’ll only have one to three restaurants to choose from, and onboard entertainment is limited, with no casinos or production shows. If you’re content to read a book, soak up the passing scenery, and attend lectures about the local culture and wildlife, these ships might be right for you.

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Sailings Can Be Unpredictable

Cruise ships are always at the mercy of waves and weather, but that goes double for expedition sailings in remote parts of the world. A few years ago, I was aboard Hurtigruten’s MS Fram on a trip from Iceland to Greenland, and we missed two scheduled port days due to heavy fog and ice.

“We always have a plan B, C, D, E, and F,” a member of MS Fram’s expedition team told me on a more recent sailing. This means you shouldn’t have your heart set on visiting a particular port—but you can count on the captain and the expedition team to make necessary changes to maintain passenger safety and comfort.

dinner on ms fram hurtigruten

The Cuisine Reflects Norwegian Heritage

If you’ve ever wanted to eat like a Norwegian for a week or two, this is your chance. Even on non-Norwegian sailings, items like brown cheese and gravlax (cured salmon) are regular items on the buffet, and other Scandinavian dishes—reindeer soup, anyone?—often show up on the set dinner menus.

It’s all part of the line’s “Norway’s Coastal Kitchen” initiative, which focuses on locally produced ingredients and sustainable seafood. If you love fish, you’ll be in heaven. If you don’t, there are plenty of other alternatives, including meat, pasta, and a small salad bar.

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Expect a European Crowd and a Laid-Back Vibe

Despite growing popularity in North America, most of Hurtigruten’s passengers come from across Europe. PA announcements are given in multiple languages depending on the mix of nationalities onboard; this typically includes English, Norwegian, and/or German.

Onboard dress is casual at all times, though many passengers take it up a notch for dinner (think dress pants and a nice top). You can leave your suit or formal gown at home.

arctic superior cabin on ms nordnorge

Don’t Expect Fancy Cabins

As on many expedition vessels, the staterooms on Hurtigruten’s ships are more functional than luxurious. In lower-priced categories, expect fold-down single beds that can’t be pushed together. If you’re looking for a more romantic option—i.e., a double bed for you and your partner—you’ll have to upgrade to a superior cabin or suite.

Balconies are few and far between, available only on select suites on certain ships. But if you have the budget, they’re worth paying for; imagine gazing out at Antarctic icebergs floating under the midnight sun from your own private verandah.

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Do Expect a Variety of Excursions

Hurtigruten excursions vary widely depending on where you’re sailing, but might include activities such as snowshoeing in Antarctica, hiking through a Viking settlement in Greenland, dog sledding in Svalbard, or visiting a working farm in Lofoten, Norway. There’s generally a range of options for all physical abilities. As on most larger cruise lines (and unlike on many expedition lines), Hurtigruten excursions cost extra.

lecture aboard hurtigruten ship

You’ll Learn Something New

Most Hurtigruten ships have a dedicated expedition team aboard all sailings. Enthusiastic and knowledgeable, these experts lead excursions and give onboard lectures on everything from Viking history to Arctic wildlife. You might also hear them over the PA system offering information about the port you’re sailing into or about a whale just spotted off the bow.

Hurtigruten Is Environmentally Responsible

With sailings in some of the world’s most endangered places, Hurtigruten takes its environmental obligations seriously. The company recently announced that it will eliminate single-use plastic items aboard all its ships by July 2018 and retrofit up to nine of its older vessels to run on a combination of liquefied natural gas and battery power (both cleaner options than diesel fuel). MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen, new expedition ships that will debut within the next two years, will use hybrid technology that reduces CO2 emissions by more than 3,000 metric tons per year.

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Sarah Schlichter traveled to Canada and New England as a guest of Hurtigruten. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.