St. Lucia is a beautiful, volcanic island in the Caribbean. It went back and forth between British and French control before gaining independence in 1979. It is also the only country in the world named after a woman, Saint Lucy of Syracuse. They speak English, but also Patois, which is also known as Saint Lucian Creole French.
St. Lucia is the top romantic destination in the Caribbean and has a ton of couple focused activities and tours you can partake in.
Hike Gros Piton and Petit Piton, the two mountains on the island. They should be decently challenging, but won’t take more than a day to do both. At the top, you can see the whole island! They were also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.
Take a mud bath at the Sulfur Springs. The mud is said to have rejuvenating properties and it’s so relaxing. Or take a dip under the waterfall after taking your own mud bath down the street like a local.
Snorkle or Scuba off Sugar Beach in the coral reefs and see turtles, octopus, sharks and rays as well as the bright and colorful fish.
Visit Dasheene Restaurant for some amazing food with a local twist and then enroll in a mixology course at The Bar at Dasheene.
Or go to Jardin Cacao Restaurant and Bar for some traditional dishes and tour the amazing plantation while you’re there.
Visit the Castries open-air market and pick up some local fruits and Caribbean street food like accra and plantains.
Go to a cooking class at Spices Cooking Studio and make a traditional Lucian dish.
August is Chocolate Heritage Month, but chocolate is celebrated throughout the year on St. Lucia. You can get a chocolate body scrub, you can take chocolate tours to see how chocolate is made, or you can make your own chocolate bar.
Ride a chairlift or go ziplining through the rainforest.
Visit the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Castries. It’s covered in paintings by local artist Dunstan St. Omer.
Spend the day at Pigeon Island and learn the history of the national park, lay on the beach, and eat at a restaurant or two. You could also go to the St. Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival which is held here every year.
What did you do in St. Lucia? Let us know in the comments below!
Puerto Rico is a vacation destination for many people in the US. It’s actually an archipelago with several islands you can explore. It is a territory of the United States so they use the dollar as currency and English and Spanish are the national languages.
The history is interesting, Puerto Rico was inhabited by the Taino people but then was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain. The French, Dutch, and British tried to invade but the Spanish was able to hold onto it. Unfortunately, the Spanish used African captives, and Canarian and Andalusian settlers to colonize and keep the island prosperous. But through that, there is a distinct creole Hispanic culture and a unique dialect that combines the Native language, African languages, and Iberian languages as well as Spanish. The IS appropriated Puerto Rico as a territory in 1898 after the Spanish-American War.
There are many resorts and all-inclusives to choose from, but there are also different options as well if you want to save money or avoid the crowds.
Here are several things you can do and should try when you’re in Puerto Rico:
Go Spelunking in the Rio Camuy Caves. You can take the tram and the paths, or you can explore the river and the caves with Aventuras Tierra Adentro and have more of a thrilling adventure.
Go kayaking in the mangroves in La Parguera and if you’re lucky, you’ll see manatees, dolphins, and turtles. The bay has some of the brightest bioluminescence so make sure you go out at night to watch the see light up. There are several places you can book tours to go out into the bay at night for scuba diving, snorkeling, or swimming.
You can also go for a bioluminescent tour in Mosquito Bay. During the day, relax on Vieques beach and have dinner in the town of Esperanza.
Go ziplining and free falling through the Carite National Forest with Acampa and afterward experience some traditional food and music.
Learn to surf at Rincón where the 1968 World Surfing Championships were held. If you go in the winter months, peak surfing time, then you can also see the whales come through on their migration path.
Go hiking in El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the US Forest System and seek out the beautiful waterfalls.
Go birdwatching in Guanica State Forest and see if you can find some rare species as well as some beautiful more common birds.
Go to Desecheo and dive in Las Cuevas to visit the many canyons and caves. You can’t go to the interior of the island due to the potential of unexploded ordinance from the World War 2. The military used this island for a bombing range and for survival training until 1976 when it was given to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. You’ll also probably run into some rhesus monkeys descended from the group that was dropped on the island as part of a study on adaptation in 1967.
Visit Mona Island, an untouched ecological reserve. With enough hiking you can find ancient carvings left but the Taino Indians who once inhabited the island.
Visit El Morro (Fuerte San Felipe del Morro), a fortress built between 1539 and 1589 to deter sea attacks. Also visit San Cristóbal, one of the largest Spanish Forts in the Caribbean.
Go shopping in Old San Juan and Calle del Cristo. Explore the many art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and outlets.
While you’re in Old San Juan, take a food tour and learn about the culture and history of Puerto Rico.
Go horseback riding on the beach in Isabela.
Try Flyboarding and fly 20 feet above the water!
If you’ve been to Puerto Rico, what did you do? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments!
Vietnam is a beautiful country with a lot more area that you would think. It was part of China until 939AD when an independent Vietnamese state was formed. Several royal dynasties were in power until the French colonized in the mid 19th century. They expelled the French in 1954 after the First Indochina War. Vietnam split into North and South Vietnam and conflict between the two started the Vietnam War. Vietnam then unified as communist and stayed that way until 1985 when the government began reforming economically and politically. Since 2000, Vietnam has been diplomatic with all nations and their economic growth rate is among the highest in the world.
It’s a beautiful place to visit with so many places to see. The temple complexes are gorgeous. The It can be a long trip to get from one end to another, but I highlighted places to go around the major cities.
Spend time in the Old Quarter of Hanoi which is full of tiny bars and amazing street food stalls.
Go to the Temple of Literature, dedicated to Confucius and built in 1070
See the Ngoc Soc Temple and Hoan Kiem Lake.
Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex with the Stilt House and the One Pillar Pagoda.
See a Water Puppet Show the explains the pillars of Vietnamese cultural beliefs.
Go to the Perfume Pagoda, a complex of Buddhist temples built into the Huong Tich Mountains.
Explore the Gulf of Tonkin, an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hike the Fansipan Mountain and meet the indigenous Hmong people and learn about their traditional way of life.
Visit Hoi An, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, the small city is full of historic buildings and temples.
Get some clothes made by Be Be, the best tailor in Hoi An.
Tour the rice fields and visit Cam Kim, a peaceful island.
Go to An Bang beach.
In Ho Chi Minh, go to Bixteco Financial Tower and the Saigon Skydeck on a clear day.
Go to the Dong Khoi Area and see the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office and the National Theatre.
Visit the War Remnants Museum.
Experience the floating markets of Cai Rang.
Something to consider, if you’re going to take a guided tour, pay for it there, do not buy ahead of time because you’ll end up paying much more.
And you have to check out the street food, but if you get the pho, make sure you go to a busy place so you know the food is fresh and yummy.
Have you been to Vietnam? Please let me know what your favorite places were and what I’ve missed in the comments!
Phuket is a province with the old town in as the capital. The old town was built in a “Sino-Portuguese” architecture style which is Chinese mixed with European, reflecting the cultures who had influence there. Throughout Phuket you can see Buddhist, Hindu, and Taoist shrines and temples. There is so much history and natural beauty, but it is balanced with the bright lights and neon of a lively city.
Here are just a few of the things to do:
Tour the Chalong Bay Rum distillery and then make your own cocktails at the end!
See the Buddha at the top of the Nakkerd Hills, one of Phuket’s most famous landmarks.
Visit Wat Chalong and the Grand Pagoda, which houses a splinter of bone from the Lord Buddha.
Go to the Naka Market. Beat the crowds by going in the afternoon instead of at night when it gets really crowded.
Visit the tigers at Phuket Tiger Kingdom. If you’re brave (or crazy), you can get into the cage with one.
Take a Thai cooking class and learn some techniques to take home.
If you want to be immersed in the infamous Thai nightlife, go to Bangla Road. Drinks are cheap and there is entertainment everywhere.
Also check out Patong Beach. It can be very crowded, but during the day it’s the usual tourist activities and at night at Soi Bangla, the drinks start flowing.
Photo courtesy of Phuket.org
Hobnob with the rich and famous at Surin Beach and eat out at one of the many high-end restaurants overlooking the beach.
Ride an elephant through the jungle with Kok Chang Safari Elephant Trekking.
Visit the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project and volunteer with the gibbons.
Photo courtesy of Phuket.com
Help out with stray dogs at the Soi Dog Foundation, which spays and neuters around 12,000 stray animals a year. They rehabilitate horribly abused and neglected animals and work on creating awareness about the dog meat trade as well. Honestly, it’s hard to find a picture to represent this foundation because the before pictures of dogs they have rehabilitated are so heart-wrenching.
Visit Toh Sae Hill, known as Monkey Hill, which has around 40 macaques living on it. At the foot is a shrine known to be lucky. If you visit the monkeys, keep your belongings close.
Spend the day at Phang Nga Bay, full of small islands, mangroves, caves, and lagoons. It’s just beautiful! Make sure you visit Ko Tapu, also known as James Bond Island.
Go to the Simon Cabaret show and see the Ladyboy show. This is the most famous cabaret in Phuket.
Go to the Phuket Fantasea Show, a 140 acre park with a huge restaurant, Las Vegas style theatre show, carnival, and shops.
Visit the Phuket Trickeye Museum, an interactive museum intended for you to see and become part of the art.
Visit the Jui Tui Shrine house and see Tean Hu Huan Soy, the god of performing arts and dancing.
Walk around Phuket Old Town and see the Chinese and Buddhist temples, shophouses, and the old, disused red light district.
Visit the Shrine of the Serene Light, covered with Taoist etchings, and recently repainted on the outside.
For a romantic dinner, go to Mom Tri’s Kitchen, overlooking the Andaman Sea and Kata Noi Beach. It’s a bit expensive but it’s highly recommended.
Visit the Two Heroines Monument memorializing the heroines Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Sunthon who rallied the islanders to repel Burmese invaders in 1785.
If I missed anything, please let me know in the comments below.
Go to where where Andy and Red escape to in the Shawshank Redemption! Ixtapa is a planned resort community Mexico created in the 1970s in order to compete with Cancun. It’s next to a Mexcian beach village named Zihuatenejo which is pretty laid back and has a long history to explore.
Here are some things to do there:
Visit Zihuatenejo and it’s cobblestone streets and boutiques. And eat the fresh fish right out of the ocean. And go to Zih Galeria and see the art by famous Mexican artists. This town has a long history and it’s reflected in streets.
Ride on a dolphin’s belly or have them push you up in the air in Ixtapa. You can book this at any hotel.
Visit the horse ranches and ride horses along the beach. This can also be arranged through your hotel
Go snorkeling or scuba diving near Isla Ixtapa. Book this through your hotel.
Go kayaking through the mangroves.
Go to the beach! Playa Las Gatas (Cats Beach) and Playa La Ropa (Clothes Beach) are a bit further away, 10 or 15 minutes, but beautiful. Playa Troncones is a bit further away, but it doesn’t have the crowds that Ixtapa has. It’s considered “the real Mexico.”
One thing to note is the beaches closer to the towns. Make sure you check to see what beaches are currently open to the public and clean. This is a beautiful place to lay on the beach but due to the pollution caused by fishing boats and runoff, some beaches are not good to go swimming. Mexico has higher restrictions on water pollution then the US, and they will close beaches if the pollution is too bad.
Let me know if there’s something I missed in the comments below!
Laos was home to one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia for four centuries, the Kingdom of Lan Xang Hom Khao, translated to the Kingdom of a Million Elephants Under the White Parasol. After that it broke into three different kingdoms and in 1893 became a French protectorate. It finally became independent in 1953, and after the civil war ended in 1975, the country was renamed the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Vientiane is their capital city.
Vientiane has a long and interesting history. It began as an early Khmer settlement but when the Lao people settled, they took over the city. It was made the capital city in 1563 to avoid a Burmese invasion. In 1707 it became the Kingdom of Vientiane, and in 1779 it was conquered by the Siamese. King Anouvong tried to rebel but was defeated and the city was burned to the ground and looted. In 1893, the French rebuilt it and made it the capital city. During World War II, it was occupied by the Japanese. During the civil war, it changed hands a few times before it was liberated symbolically by a group of Pathet Lao women in 1975.
Even though there’s a lot of history in this city, it’s very small, and you can actually see most of attractions in one day. Here are some attractions you can see in Vientiane:
Visit Xieng Khuan, the Buddha Park. It was built by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat in the 1950’s combining the Buddhist and Hindu religions. The park has more than 200 sculptures.
Join an outdoor fitness class during sunset along the boulevard next to the Mekong.
Go shopping at the night market that pops up on the boulevard near central Vientiane for souvenirs and necessities alike.
Visit the National History Museum, which is a subjective look at the history of Laos.
Go on a Temple Tour. Unfortunately, due to the periods of conflict, none of the temples are very old. They are still very beautiful and many of them tell the stories of the Buddhist religion.
For a look at what happened in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and the Unexploded Ordinances (cluster bombs), visit the COPE Visitor Center.
Rent a bicycle to explore around the outside of the city. You can ride down the Mekong, pass by temples, and visit with the locals.
Visit the Patuxay Monument, or the Victory Gate, also known as the Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane.
Let me know if there’s anything else that you visited if you went to Vientiane in the comments below.
Bali, Indonesia is one of those places that people have always dreamed of going to. It’s part of the coral triangle which has the greatest biodiversity of marine species in the world. The beaches are amazing, the snorkeling is out of this world, and its steeped in culture and the arts.
Among the touristy activities like safaris, spas, fantastic and unique restaurants and bars, there are some more spiritual and off the beaten path things to do in Bali:
Get a traditional Jari Menari rhythmic massage at the Dancing Fingers School. On Tuesdays you can learn how to do it yourself, participate in a yoga class and have lunch.
Dine at Prince Ajoaes’ Tabanan Palace, a 17th century restored palace and following dinner, see the dance performance.
Take a day long tour to the 7 temples of enlightenment, A UNESCO World Heritage site, including Bali’s first Hindu temple dating back to the 10th century. privateconciergebali.com
If you go during Balinese New Year, there is a day of cleansing ceremonies, then villages hold huge processions, then on Nyepi, you will experience a day of silence, where everyone must stay inside and there is no noise and no lights in the houses.
Photo courtesy of Love Bali
Visit the rice terraces and water temples that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. combalirescentre.com
Photo courtesy of Indonesia Tourism Forum
This is only a sample of all the things to do in Bali. There is so much, both culturally significant and more light. Please let us know what you’ve seen and done in Bali in the comments below!
Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean with beautiful beaches and mountains and is very rich with history. It dates back to the Neolithic times and has been occupied but the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Alexander the Great, Ptolemaic Egypt, the Roman Empire, Arab caliphates, the French Lusignan dynasty, the Venetians, and then the Ottoman Empire until it was placed under British administration in 1878. It was then granted independence in 1960. The city of Nicosia is divided and was not free to walk between the Turkish and the Greek sections until 2003.
It is a great place to go if you love adventure, there is so much to do:
See the Kykkos Monastery in the Troodos Mountains. It is said to be the wealthiest Greek Orthodox monastery and if you are there early enough you can see the monks in their morning prayers. Also there is a Byzantine Museum with artifacts.
The same mountains have the ten Byzantine painted churches with their wall frescoes that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List
Explore the villages in which little has changed over the generations. And given how many years the island has been inhabited, the architecture is influenced by many cultures. You can find some wonderful crafts made by hand as well.
Go to the Akamas for a hiking adventure. The Avakas Gorge is some beautiful hiking in spring. Visit the turtle conservation project at the Lara headlands. l See the Karavopetres, ‘the Sailing Ship Rocks.’ And while you’re there, visit the small chapel of Panayia tou Vlou, the Byzantine church of the Virgin Mary of the Blind, to have your eye problems miraculously cured. And if you’re up for more adventure, drive up to the Cape Aranouti and see the mythology with the Fontana Amorosa and the Baths of Aphrodite.
Go snorkeling or scuba diving at the wreck of the MS Zenobia which is off the coast of Larnaca.
Photo courtesy of Gloria Travel Services
Visit the capital of Nicosia where you can see the city divided between the Turkish Cypriots in the north and the Greek Cypriots in the south. The city is the only divided city in the world. The division was opened up in 2003. Stand on the 11th floor of the Shacolas Tower to see a panoramic view of Nicosia and visit the Great Inn, a 16th century Ottoman Inn.
Photo courtesy of Visit North Cyprus
If you like acoustics, visit the Curium, where it is said that you can speak quietly in the center of the stage and be heard at the farthest reaches of the theatre. They hold productions there often.
Take a walk on the Limassol Coastal Walk and pass the beaches, gardens, sculptures, and the archeological site of Ancient Amathus.
Go Skiing on Mount Olympus!
Photo courtesy of CypLive
Visit the donkeys on the Karpas peninsula. Someone shot some of them and it united the Greek and Turkish Cypriots through Facebook to protect the donkeys who roam freely around the peninsula.
Visit the Bellapais Abbey, a 12th century French Gothic Abbey in the Five Finger Mountains which was said to inspire Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle
Go to Paphos, the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its remains of ancient villas, theatres, fortresses, tombs, and mosaics.
Go to an old restored Turkish Bath at Omeriye Hamam in Nicosia. hamambaths.com
Photo courtesy of About Travel
Make sure you try the Mezé, which is the traditional meal of Cyprus. It starts with a salad, dips and bread, then seasonal veggies, seafood, and then a meat and pasta dish, a meat dish, and for dessert, a bowl of chilled fruit.
Also try the wine. Cyprus was the first country in Europe to produce wine, since 3500 BC, and has several family-run wineries.
If you’ve been to Cyprus, let us know how it was in the comments!
For the truly adventurous, Cambodia is a beautiful country with a terrible history. If you’re planning on taking a trip here, it’s a good idea to hire a tour guide or have an itinerary so you know how to get around and where to go. Then you’ll see some spectacular things.
Some history for a moment: from 802 AD until the mid-15th century, Cambodia was ruled by a succession of kings. When Angkor fell to Ayutthaya, it was ruled as a vassal state. Then in the 1863 it became a protectorate of France which helped the country grow in land area and Cambodia gained independence in 1953. The US bombed Cambodia during the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1973, and in 1970 there was a coup and the deposed king gave his support to the Khmer Rouge. They took Phnom Penh and carried out the Cambodian Genocide from 1975-1979 until they were ousted in the Cambodian-Vietnamese War, which lasted until 1991. After the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, a United Nations mission governed Cambodia from 1991 to 1992, and then they withdrew. In 1997, there was a coup in which the Cambodian People’s Party took over and remain in power.
Things to do in Cambodia:
-The Cambodia Landmine Museum and Relief Center where people can learn about landmines and the continuing threat in the Cambodia and the world. They also provide care and education for at-risk children on the property.
-The Angkor National Museum which covers the Golden Era of the Khmer Kingdom.
-The Psah Chas market which features souvenirs and street food.
-The Made in Cambodia Market where all products are made in Cambodia.
– Phsar Leu which is the biggest market meant for locals.
-Artisans Angkor where you can watch artisans work.
-New Hope Restaurant which has great food, is a trade school for former sex workers, an elementary school for at-risk kids, and a local free medical clinic. You can take a tour and meet the kids too.
– The Floating Villages on Tonle Sap Lake. Take food or school supplies for the kids who will rush you in hopes that you will give them something. This is a very poor part of Cambodia but something to see for a realistic view of the country.
-The Banteay Srei temple which is notable for its intricate carvings on rose pink sandstone.
– Drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap or vice versa. You’ll see rice paddies, ox-driven carts, and old French colonial towns.
-The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which was originally a high school, turned into a torture center, and now a museum for people to learn the history of the Khmer Rouge.
-The Killing Fields which is full of mass graves from the Khmer Rouge era.
-And the Royal Palace where the kings of Cambodia have lived since the 1860s and the Silver Pagoda which is located on the property.
-Wat Phnom which is the highest temple in the city of Phnom Penh
But the temples are why most people come to Cambodia.
Near the town of Siem Reap, Angkor is a temple complex with several temples located there including Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm as well as several others that you can visit. Make sure you go early because it gets very crowded, but seeing the sun rise is stunning. It was built between mid-12th century and the late 16th century. Over that time, it went from a king’s state temple to Vishnu, capital city, and Hindu center of worship to Buddhist center of worship which is has stayed to today. In the 20th century, work was started restoring it and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. Researchers are still finding buildings and pieces that were previously undiscovered. The monkeys are a force to be reckoned with though, they will grab stuff right out of your hands!
While you’re in Cambodia, make sure you try the rice wine (maybe not too much if you’re pregnant), sticky rice from the roadside snack stands, and the Cambodian Red Curry. If you’re really adventurous, try the fried spiders.
Have you ever traveled to Cambodia? Let us know how it was in the comments!
From Washington, DC, round trip tickets cost between $480 and $600. More affordable place to travel to than others on this list, and though the rooms are more expensive, the benefits are that all the rooms are ocean front and have a personal plunge pool, and you have access to a personal assistant! This is also the beach
From Washington, DC, round trip tickets cost between $900 and $1700. This place also has complementary butler service. This resort is pretty private, as in, you can only access it by boat. Pretty expensive but a once in a lifetime trip.
From Washington, DC, round trip tickets cost between $900 and $1050 round trip. The Villas are between the beautiful beach of Mai Khao and the Sirinath National Park. And although it’s in Phuket, the villas are in a quiet spot.
From Washington, DC, round trip tickets cost between $550 and $1600 depending on the time of year you want to go. St Lucia is known for beaches and outdoor activities like hiking and exploring the parks.