From a romantic sunset in Cape Town to heli-skiing in New Zealand: make the most of your vacation in unique destinations this year.
Unforgettable landscapes: Iceland
Travelers who visit Iceland for the first time are often stunned by the intensity of its pristine and wild natural beauty. This pleasant perception is mainly due to this island’s location between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic, closer to Europe than North America.
The country's interior boast large plateaus with deserts, mountains, and glaciers, and the lowlands are fertile with plains. The rivers gently flow into the sea, and although it snows heavily in winter, its more than 330,000 inhabitants enjoy a mild climate thanks to the Gulf Stream.
Typically, to reach Iceland you fly into the capital Reykjavik. This small town stuns with its vibrant cultural life that is evident in a significant number of exhibition halls, museums, theaters and activities related to the worlds of fashion and music. Also, there are plenty of parks and delightful restaurants serving Icelandic cuisine.
However, the real reason to travel to Iceland is not to its urban sites, but to fully enjoy its overflowing nature. It would be ideal to have at least 15 days to explore the entire island country.
The country's interior boasts expansive plateaus with mountains, deserts, and glaciers.
First— and this is the most important advice I can offer you—rent an SUV, and secondly, visit the island during the summer months to fully enjoy its pleasant temperature while you are treated to a 24-hour daylight cycle.
Your first visit should be The Golden Circle to see Thingvellir National Park, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO. There, you will admire the famous Öxarárfoss waterfall. Geology lovers should know that this is the point where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates separate. Don't leave the park without seeing Strokkur geyser, which ejects boiling water every fifteen minutes to a height of 50 feet.
Nearby is the captivating 180-foot-high twin waterfall Gullfoss and Seljalandfoss. To the south, there are two beaches. Dyrhólaey is characterized by its black sand, and Vik is renowned for its basalt columns. A mandatory visit while in this area is to the largest glacial lake in the whole island, Jökulsárlón, where you can see seals and floating icebergs.
Iceland's extreme beauty and savage landscapes are also a source of inspiration for active travelers who love nature.
Adventure and Relaxation: New Zealand
The islands of the New Zealand archipelago are located in a distant corner of the world. Their position in the Southern Hemisphere seems to somehow disconnect them from the rest of the world. This peculiarity is evident in the amazing beauty of their unique landscapes in places like Wakatipu Lake and the surrounding mountain range. This mountain chain is different from the more famous European Alps, South American Andes or the Rockies of North America.
Wakatipu Lake is located in the southeast of New Zealand’s South Island. It is 50 miles long with an area of 181 square miles and sits at an altitude of 1,017 feet above sea level. Surrounded by the massive Southern Alps, we found Blanket Bay Lodge, a luxurious country state considered among the best in the world. This idyllic place is caressed by the waters of Lake Wakatipu. Since its debut in 1999, the hotel has become an integral part of the natural environment. Its stone walls, windows, and wooden roofs mix with the landscape in astonishing symbiotic confluence.
If you prefer to delight in solitude, one of the best options is fly-fishing on the rapid torrents of nearby rivers, in small quiet ponds or in the tranquil waters of the lake, surrounded by cliffs and green pastures.
New Zealand offers pristine landscapes perfect for reflection or adventure in the Southern Hemisphere.
Other relaxing options are hiking and horseback riding on pristine routes that extend through the countryside. You can even opt for camping excursions to explore the area’s many wonderful sites, like Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Park. But leisurely activities do not mean giving up adventure. We invite you to also get lost in the valleys and forests, only to discover amazing waterfalls, glacier lakes, and the local wildlife.
If, on the contrary, you wish for more action, you've come to the right place. Hiking, mountain climbing, extreme mountain biking, rafting, water skiing, paragliding, and kayaking are available and highly recommended, but perhaps the most exciting activity in the area is heli-skiing. A helicopter transports skiers and snowboarders to the top of a mountain. Once there, they jump onto great open spaces with the best powder on the island.
After a day outdoors, there is always time to unwind and relax. Blanket Bay Lodge boasts a beautiful spa with saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools and magnificent views of lake and mountains.
Travel through time: Lisbon
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is an unexpectedly amazing city by the sea. With modern buildings, old manor houses, mansions, and palaces—some already into abeyance—it showa detailed decorations, tiles and ceramics typical of a country that loves art.
The city come alive in each of its different neighborhoods. The Baixa—filled with amazing plazas and iconic boulevards—starts at Restauradores Square. It crosses busy La Libertad Street and ends at the Plaza del Marques de Pombal, where we enter modern Lisbon. The medieval quarters of Alfama and Mouraria--pure and authentic--are the most famous and recognizable in the city.
Lisbon, the city by the sea, is one of Europe's most beautiful capitals.
The Praça Luis de Camoes, one of the scenarios of the Carnation Revolution—in Portugal even the revolutions bear the names of flowers— marks the boundary between the Chiado and Bairro Alto neighborhoods.
Chiado is an elegant, bohemian area, where you will find fashion boutiques and the most famous restaurants. Meanwhile, the Barrio Alto represents the more authentic Lisbon, with its graffiti-filled walls and laundry hanging on the balconies to dry. It is an ideal place to hear the best fado— traditional music imbued with saudade, the poetic and melancholic sense of life.
We recommend a visit to the Park of Nations, a new and modern neighborhood that emerged after the 1998 World Expo, where commercial areas coexist with modern residences. Not to be missed are the domes of the Orient Station—designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava—and the Portuguese Pavilion, designed by architect Siza Viera.
Docas de Santo Amaro is one of Lisbon’s most charming areas, lined with old Port warehouses that have been converted into bars and trendy restaurants.
If you love the sea: Croatia
Although it has a vast culture and long history, the fact is that this small country on the coast of the Adriatic Sea is also the perfect holiday destination for those who seek adventure and enjoy nature. It boasts hundreds of charming and unspoiled islands with stunning natural beauty.
With a spectacular coastline that stretches from Istria to Dubrovnik along 5,835 kilometers, more than 60 marinas and pristine waters, the Croatian Adriatic is perfect for sailing year round.
In addition to its 1,244 islands, Croatia has the most indented coast of the Mediterranean, with a variety of beaches to suit every taste. If you want to enjoy the sun away from civilization, Stiniva Bay is your place. Located on the island of Vis, it is the most secluded beach in the country and almost inaccessible by land.
The most famous pebbled beaches are Zlatni Rat on the island of Brac, Punta Rata in Brela, Baska on the isle of Krk and Banje in Dubrovnik. But Croatia also offers soft sand beaches—the most popular for sunbathing and relaxing. These include Heavenly Beach on the island of Rab, Bačvice in Split, Saharun in the Dugi Otok Island, Lumbarda on the island of Korcula, Kukljica on the island of Ugljan and Spiaza in the remote island of Susak.
Croatia: history, luxury and relaxation on the Adriatic Sea.
This country that was part of the former Yugoslavia also has a large area of protected sites, including eight national parks. Plitvice Lakes National Park, on the World Heritage List of UNESCO, is especially noteworthy. World famous for its 16 lakes connected by waterfalls, it also stands out for its natural barriers of travertine, a sedimentary rock formed by calcium carbonate deposits.
For adventurers, Croatia offers some unforgettable experiences, as the country offers a whole range of activities. Hikers have the unique opportunity to enjoy the clean air and unspoiled nature on the slopes of the mountain ranges that dominate the Lika and Velebit regions. Other exciting activities include kayaking trips on the calm, clear waters of the Adriatic Sea, which are dotted by coves, caves and unusual rock formations. The Strbacki Buk waterfall and the Zrmanja River are the best places to visit for lovers of nature and rafting.
Romantic Summertime Getaway: Camps Bay
The natural beauty of Cape Town is effortlessly intertwined with the urban landscape. Many of the visitors to this South African city, consider it among the most beautiful in the world. Not far from the city, you will find Camps Bay, one today’s most famous tourist destinations in Africa. Its location on the Atlantic Ocean, at the foot of the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range, makes it a privileged place to enjoy the area.
Camps Bay is a small suburb of Cape Town situated just 15 minutes from downtown. It has the charm of a fishing village. Highly appreciated for its white sands and cosmopolitan atmosphere, the town has become an international magnet for celebrities from around the world.
Camps Bay sparkles on the beautiful coastline of Cape Town, South Africa.
Camps Bay’s romantic charm attracts couples from all corners of the word for stunning sunset weddings by the beach in the city’s beautiful venues.
The most elegant area of the neighborhood is located along Victoria Road, where there are excellent restaurants serving some of the finest and freshest seafood accompanied by the country’s best wines.
Camps Bay has a broad range of accommodations, from apartments to colonial style villas, but if you are looking for a luxurious place to rest and relax, your best bet is the Bay Hotel.
With the majestic Twelve Apostles Mountains as the backdrop and the unparalleled beauty of an endless beach by the Atlantic Ocean, Camps Bay is one of the world’s most beautiful places to take a drink while enjoying one of the most glorious sunsets on the planet.■
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