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10 Haunted Places in the World That Are Beautifully Scary

Nothing beats a good ghost story on Halloween, and our planet is chock full of ’em: UFO sightings in Transylvania, murders on luxury cruise ships, and spirits wandering the halls of British castles. No matter where you’re traveling, you’re sure to find some sort of haunted site, as well as a ghost tour to go along with it. But even if you’re not a fan of paranormal activities, some of the spookiest locations are still worth your time, whether for their beautiful architecture, jaw-dropping locations, or fascinating histories. Here, the 10 most haunted places in the world you’ll want to visit any day of the year—not just on October 31.

Hoia-Baciu Forest, Romania

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From the moment a military technician captured a photograph of a “UFO” hovering over the forest in 1968, Hoia-Baciu has gained paranormal notoriety around the world, with some believing it to be a portal that causes visitors to disappear. Those who have passed through the forest without being zapped into another realm have reported rashes, nausea, and feelings of anxiety, according to The Independent. Known as the “Bermuda Triangle of Transylvania,” the spooky curved trees that populate the forest just add to the eerie atmosphere.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Canada

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Built in 1888 to encourage tourism and sell train tickets, this chateau-style hotel sits pretty by the Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park. But it gets a tad more Gothic once you get inside—and we aren’t talking about the architecture. The Calgary Herald has reported several resident ghosts, including a bride who supposedly fell down the stone staircase during her wedding. But there’s a less tragic spirit, too: Sam the bellman, who worked at the hotel until 1975 and claimed he’d come back to haunt the joint. His spirit supposedly pulls shifts helping people with their bags before disappearing.

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA
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The castle-like Eastern State Penitentiary took solitary confinement to new levels when it was built in 1829. Prisoners lived alone, exercised alone, and ate alone; when an inmate left his cell, a guard would cover his head with a hood so he couldn’t see or be seen. The prison had to abandon its solitary system due to overcrowding in 1913, although the forms of punishment did not get any less severe (chaining an inmate’s tongue to his wrists is one example) before it closed for good in 1970. The site now welcomes thousands of visitors every year, both for its museum and Halloween celebrations. Reported paranormal happenings have included disembodied laughter, shadowy figures, and pacing footsteps.

Bhangarh Fort, India
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Located just 100 miles southwest of Delhi, the lush ruins of Bhangarh Fort make for a curious juxtaposition against the desert landscape of Rajasthan. To this day, the oasis remains largely uninhabited due to an alleged curse cast by a disgruntled sorcerer after his advances were rebuffed by a local princess. If you prefer your trips to skew more spiritual than haunted, Traveler‘s former editor-at-large Hanya Yanagihara suggests saluting the sun during a session of pre-dusk yoga at the site.

Château de Brissac, Brissac-Quincé, France
Chateau de Brissac Brissac Quince France

One of the tallest castles in all of France, the seven-story Château de Brissac is perhaps best known as the home of “The Green Lady,” aka the ghost of Charlotte of France. The chateau’s website tells the legend of Charlotte, the illegitimate daughter of King Charles VII, who was murdered by her husband after he discovered her having an affair. Named for the color of her dress when she was killed, the Green Lady can be found roaming the chapel’s tower room and moaning in the early hours of morning.

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO
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The Stanley Hotel’s stately Georgian architecture and world-renowned whiskey bar have lured travelers to Estes Park since opening in 1909, but the hotel reached new levels of fame after inspiring Stephen King to create the The Shining‘s fictional Overlook Hotel. That eerie association aside, many other ghost sightings and some mysterious piano music have been connected to the hotel, and the Stanley Hotel leans into its reputation with nightly ghost tours and psychic consultations from the in-house Madame Vera.

La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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You don’t have to be religious to be moved by La Recoleta Cemetery, which features thousands of statues, mausoleums, fairytale grottoes, and intricate tombstones, as well as the remains of Argentina’s most iconic figure—Eva Perón. The stone walkways and labyrinth of mausoleums are as beautiful as they are eerie, and Recoleta has a couple haunted legends of its own. One of the most famous stories involves David Alleno, a former grave-digger and caretaker who worked at the cemetery for 30 years before killing himself. Today, people report hearing Alleno’s keys jangling as his ghost walks the pathways at dawn.

Tower of London, England
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Built by William the Conqueror in 1066, this uncompromising fortress has had many functions. But it’s best known for its bloody history as a prison and execution site—Henry VIII famously ordered the execution of two of his wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, here. It’s also where two young princes were imprisoned after the death of their father, King Edward IV; they disappeared shortly after in 1483, and their remains weren’t found until 1647. Unsurprisingly, ghost stories of the Tower’s victims—and ghost tours through Historic Royal Palaces—abound.

Jazirat Al Hamra, United Arab Emirates
Haunted Places in the World Jazirat Al Hamra UAE

You’ll find the nearly-abandoned town of Jazirat Al Hamra about 14 miles southwest of Ras Al Khaimah in northern UAE—located between a huge mall and a huge waterpark. Established in the 14th century, the town grew into a thriving pearl fishing village in the 1830s before it was suddenly abandoned in 1968. The town now consists of dirt roads, 13 mosques, and more than 300 coral-and-mud houses—and, of course, some resident spirits. People claim that visitors are bound to experience strange noises and chilling apparitions, usually djinns (genies) in the form of animals.

St. Augustine Lighthouse, FL
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The St. Augustine Lighthouse is visited by nearly 225,000 people annually, but it’s just as well-known for its otherworldly visitors. Several tragic events that occurred at the now-historic site have contributed to the alleged paranormal activity. The ghost of a lighthouse keeper who fell to his death while painting the tower has been spotted watching over the grounds. And ever since the horrific death of three young girls, who drowned when the cart they were playing in broke and fell into the ocean, visitors have claimed to hear the sounds of children playing in and around the lighthouse.

Which place do you think is the scariest? Since Halloween is just around the corner I thought this would make a good topic.

10 Mysterious Corners of Our Planet the Travel Guides Don’t Mention

Travel lovers are well aware of all the main attractions offered by popular tourist destinations. Anyone can visit those places to see them with his or her own eyes. But there are other corners of Earth: spots that, for one reason or another, remain forbidden to ordinary sightseers. I would love to see those places for myself – wouldn’t you?

The Kofuns, Japan

10 Mysterious Corners of Our Planet the Travel Guides Don’t Mention

These artificial islands are the ancient burial sites of members of the Japanese Imperial family. On rare occasions, they can be visited by archaeologists, but only with the permission of the Imperial Court.

North Sentinel Island, India

The natives living on the island will stop at nothing to protect their land from outsiders. So, for the tourists’ own safety, the Indian authorities prohibit anyone from approaching the location.

Church of St. Mary of Zion, Ethiopia

A specially built chapel houses the church’s holiest treasure: the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark’s guardian – the only person who has access to the relic – is forbidden to ever leave the church’s premises. Neither can he converse with outsiders.

British Telecom Tower, United Kingdom

Ever since an incident involving an explosion inside the tower, the revolving restaurant and observation deck remain closed off to the public. Occasionally, when the BT Tower plays host to charity events, a few hundred people still get the lucky chance to see London from a different perspective.

Ise Grand Shrine, Japan

The territory of Japan’s holiest shrine complex is only accessible to priests and members of the Imperial family. Everyone else has to make do with admiring the roofs of the shrines from behind several rows of fences.

The ghost town of Varosha, Cyprus

This resort, adjacent to the city of Famagusta, used to be Cyprus’s top tourist destination. But everything changed in July 1974 when, following a mass evacuation, the deserted city was taken over by invading Turkish troops. Ever since then, Varosha remains fenced off, forming part of the buffer zone patrolled by the Turkish army.

Sable Island, Canada


Situated in the Atlantic, this drifting sandy island has a population of fewer than 30 people and is a veritable graveyard of sunken ships. Because of its unique features, Sable has been declared a nature reserve. To visit it, you have to write a petition to the government of Canada, explaining the necessity of the trip.

Pionen Data Center, Sweden

Built in Stockholm during the Cold War, this nuclear bunker has lately been transformed into an ultramodern office environment for a Swedish Internet service provider. Here, at a depth of 98 feet and hidden behind three-and-a-half-foot thick doors, the information belonging to many famous websites is being stored.

Lascaux Cave, France

To preserve this cave’s unique prehistoric paintings, the entrance to Lascaux is now closed to tourists after 15 years of unrestricted access. You can visit an exact replica of the cave or enjoy a virtual tour.

An illusive underwater waterfall, Mauritius

When viewed from above, Mauritius Island in the Indian Ocean seems to be located near a fascinating underwater waterfall. However, this beautiful phenomenon is just an optical illusion created by a run-off of silt and sand deposits.

A Photographer Travels to Faraway Places to Show Landscapes Very Few Have Ever Seen Before

Originally a landscape painter, photographer Benjamin Everett, known as BeJamin, explores the connection between painting and photography, creating his own photography style. He took photography to a different level and his creativity paid off: in 2018, he has won the Hasselblad Masters competition in the landscape category for his extraordinary photo art.

1. “Each image represents a highly personal reaction to the landscape.”

2. “It’s an inquiry into a specific idea or feeling, drawn out of a singular time.”

3. “Oh North skies, My heart sings with warmth, Wearing three parkas”

4. “Each of my images is an innovative collaboration with these places.”

5. “It was a stormy night, and I was feeling restless. Time to go exploring.”

6. “Appearance is just part of the experience.”

7. Spiral Jetty is an earthwork sculpture constructed in April 1970.

8. “That great place where the floor is fertile, the walls are meant to be climbed, and the ceiling is infinite.”

9. “Since both photography and painting come with assumptions about how they represent truth or reality, their combination explores a landscape somewhere between the 2.”

10. “There is a time of year when the temperature finds a certain degree, the sun slowly melts, and all clocks lose synchronicity. We don’t go to other moments, they come to us.”

11. “Sunrise can be quite a show with a cozy audience.”

12. “My goal was to explore the relationship between painting and photography by using landforms that often look like brush strokes.”

13. “When faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the way forward, no matter how daunting, is always the same. Honor the problem. Focus on solutions.”

14. Cut the engine and drift ashore.

15. Reaching the stars

16. “Balancing and bouncing between 2 oceans of sea and sky.”

17. “Sometimes a wandering trip through nowhere is more fulfilling than a path to somewhere.”

18. “There is an interesting contrast between adventures that require clarity and presence of mind and those that leave room for the imagination to grapple with its own uncharted regions.”

19. “I don’t think about style much, but most of my influence comes from painting.”

20. “Following emotion over literal reality could be from expressionism.”

21. “Following the heroic depiction of nature is from romanticism.”

22. “Showing the interest in light could be from impressionism.”

23. “Showing multiple perspectives or moments in time, within one frame, could be like cubism.”

24. “Breaking any rules about photography or single-frame restrictions would be modernist.”

25. “The camera is a joy to use, and the image quality is incredible.”

15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in China

Ever since the world first discovered China through the writings of adventurer Marco Polo more than 700 years ago, this large Asian country has come to be regarded as the embodiment of all that is mysterious and exotic. Even now, after decades of economic growth, this vast country has lost none of its fascination. Indeed, the contrast between China’s ancient customs and the new ultra-modern state that is developing has only increased the fascination with a culture that dates back many millennia.

It’s a culture that is much celebrated by the Chinese themselves, as evidenced by the preservation of such important historic sites as the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace in Beijing, each recalling the days of China’s emperors. And then, of course, there’s the famous Great Wall, winding for 6,700 kilometers all the way from the Yellow Sea to Central Asia, while its countless shrines exude the spirit of age-old Eastern religions.

Thanks to its size, China as a tourist destination offers limitless scope for exploration. Whether you choose to travel aboard a luxury cruise ship through the picturesque Yangtze gorges, visit a bustling city, or seek out the tranquility of an ancient temple, this country is full of incredible experiences and sightseeing possibilities.

Discover fascinating, unusual, and adventurous things to do with our list of the top tourist attractions in China.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China

“Nobody can be a true hero unless he has been on the Great Wall” goes the popular Chinese saying, one that clearly demonstrates the importance placed upon this unique ancient monument.

The magnificent Great Wall of China – known in Chinese as ‘Changcheng’, or the ‘Long Wall’ – stretches more than 6,000 kilometers from the fortresses of Shanhaiguan in the east all the way to Jiayuguan in the west, passing through Hebei, Tientsin, Beijing – where the best preserved sections of the wall can be visited – Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, and Gansu.

Averaging six to eight meters in height but rising as high as 16 meters – and wide enough in places for five horses or 10 men to pass – the wall boasts numerous battlements and watchtowers. Some of the wall’s oldest fortifications date back as far as the 7th century BC, with the best-known areas added around 210 BC when its various sections were joined together.

Today, the most visited section of the wall is near Badaling Pass northwest of Beijing, easily reached by public transport or organized tours. Other restored sections worth a visit include the section near Gubeikou, 130 kilometers from Beijing; and in Mutianyu, just 70 kilometers northeast of Beijing.

2. The Forbidden City & the Imperial Palace, Beijing

The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City

China’s largest and most important building, the Forbidden City (Zǐjìnchéng) – also known as the Imperial Palace – is situated in the very heart of Beijing and is a must-see when visiting the country. Started during the Yuan Dynasty between 1271-1368, much of the complex seen today was built between 1406 and 1420. Really many splendid palaces in one, this sprawlinng complex was the residence of 24 Ming and Qing Emperors, whose presence forbade the entry of anyone other than the imperial family and their courtesans.

Covering some 720,000 square meters and protected by a 10-meter-high wall with watchtowers and a wide moat, this massive complex consists of areas set aside for ceremonial and administrative purposes, as well as a private residence used by the emperor. While it can take many hours to see everything, highlights include the five white marble Golden River Bridges; the Hall of Supreme Harmony, a 35-meter-tall building housing the imperial throne; and the exquisite emperor’s banquet hall (the Hall of Preserving Harmony); and the Palace Museum with its large collection of art and artifacts from the Ming and Qing dynasties (English language museum tours are available).

Other important attractions in the vicinity of the Imperial Palace include famous Tiananmen Square, and the Temple of Heaven, one of the country’s most important religious sites, which dates back to the 15th century.

3. The Terracotta Army, Xi’an

The Terracotta Army
The Terracotta Army

It was while digging wells on the outskirts of Xi’an in the 1970s that farmers stumbled across what was to be China’s most important archeological find: the Terracotta Army. Distributed over three large underground pits and built to guard the First Emperor’s tomb, the find included more than 8,000 life-size warriors, some 520 horses, and more than 100 chariots, along with numerous other non-military characters dating from around 280 BC.

Although some were severely damaged due to the passing of time, many of the statues unearthed have been painstakingly re-assembled and stand as testament to the importance bestowed upon the emperor and the afterlife. The site – part of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum Site Park – is one of China’s most important tourist destinations and offers the unforgettable experience of standing in front of this assembly of soldiers and horses as if inspecting a centuries-old parade. English language guided tours are available.

4. The Summer Palace, Beijing

The Summer Palace
The Summer Palace

An easy 15-kilometer commute from Beijing, the sumptuous Imperial Summer Palace (Yíhé Yuán) is set amid more than 700 acres of beautiful parkland and is one of China’s most visited attractions. While the palace itself was built in 1153, its large lake was added in the 14th century to enhance the Imperial Gardens.

Highlights include the magnificent Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (Renshou Dian), with its throne; and the beautiful Great Theatre, a private three-story structure built in 1891 to satisfy the imperial family’s love of opera. This historic venue is still used for performances of traditional Chinese plays and musical events, and is worth a visit for a performance or show.

Other highlights include the Hall of Happiness and Longevity (Le Shou Tang Hall), with its lovely gardens and courtyards, as well as many miles of picturesque pathways and walking trails. If time allows, try to also take in the ruins of the Old Summer Palace, said to have once been one of the country’s most elaborate and architecturally attractive palaces. Sadly, this once impressive structure was destroyed by colonial forces in the mid-1800s.

5. Cruising the Li River, Guilin

Cruising the Li River
Cruising the Li River

The town of Guilin, in the northeast corner of Guangxi, boasts some of China’s most beautiful countryside and is famous for the Li River, which meanders through the town and surrounding karst mountains. While for hundreds of years this unique scenery has attracted poets and artists and has been the subject of countless fairy tales and legends, these days, it’s popular with tourists from around the world wanting to see this natural splendor up close.

The best way to enjoy the area is to take a cruise along the Li River. The most popular stretch is from Guilin to Yangshuo, where the river meanders peacefully through some 80 kilometers of remarkable rock formations and caves with romantic names such as the Mount of Unique BeautyElephant Trunk Hill, and Reed Flute Cave. Depending upon the type of boat used – you can choose from a tourist cruise ship to small bamboo punts – trips can take anywhere from a few hours to multiple days.

6. Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Sichuan

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

No visit to China would be complete without at least one panda experience. While the country’s top zoos boast many fine specimens of these fascinating creatures, the best place to see them in a close approximation to their natural habitat is at the excellent Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, located in the province of Sichuan. Here, you’ll have the chance to watch as many as 80 pandas go about their daily routines, from foraging to playing in the facility’s large park-like setting.

In addition to viewing these splendid animals up close, you’ll learn a great deal about them from the many permanent exhibits and displays detailing ongoing conservation efforts to safeguard their future.

If possible, try to time your visit for the morning feeding sessions when the pandas are at their most active. Better still, sign-up for one of the unique experiential volunteer programs that will have you involved in the feeding and care of these cuddly creatures – and possibly even holding a baby panda. English language tours are available.

7. The Yangtze River and the Three Gorges

Xiling Gorge, Yangtze River
Xiling Gorge, Yangtze River

Known in China as Chang Jiang (“Long River”), the mighty Yangtze River extends more than 6,000 kilometers, making it the longest and most important river in China and the third longest in the world after the Amazon and the Nile.

Flowing from Tibet in the west to Shanghai in the east through eight provinces, the Yangtze has, for more than 2,000 years, been China’s major transportation route (some 2,700 kilometers are navigable). Its vast catchment area, with its 700 tributaries, cover about one-fifth of the total area of the country and encompass a quarter of the country’s agricultural land.

While its immense length ensures the river can be visited at numerous points in China, by far the most popular for tourists is the beautiful Three Gorges – Qutang, Wu, and Xiling – a 200-kilometer stretch between the towns of Fengjie and Yichang. In places a mix of raging torrents and dangerous shallows, here the river winds its way through the gorges and their rugged cliffs and high mountain peaks in a stretch of scenery as dramatic as the Grand Canyon.

Numerous sightseeing options are available, from luxurious riverboat cruises focusing on the region’s many historical attractions and places of scenic beauty to challenging adventure tours along the most dramatic sections of the river.

8. The Classical Gardens of Suzhou, Jiangsu

The Classical Gardens of Suzhou
The Classical Gardens of Suzhou

Considered one of the world’s most important historic gardens – hence their designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Classical Gardens of Suzhou should rank highly on your China travel itinerary. Located in the historic city of Suzhou in Jiangsu province, these magnificent gardens were established in the 11th century, at a time when the city was experiencing unprecedented growth, and were among some 270 or more gardens planted here.

Of the surviving restored gardens, the most famous is the delightful Garden of Lingering, a seven-acre site laid out in 1800 on the site of a park originally created during the Ming Dynasty. One of the most famous garden complexes in China, the garden boasts a pool, several attractive buildings, a man-made hill, a grove of peach trees, and a lovely covered pathway on the walls of which hang more than three hundred stone tablets engraved with old Chinese characters.

Also worth visiting is the Garden of the Cang Lang Ting Pavilion, a two-acre garden offering many unique features, including a double arcade connecting the inner and outer sections.

9. The Potala Palace, Tibet

The Potala Palace, Tibet
The Potala Palace, Tibet

Another of China’s most recognizable historic structures is the magnificent Potala Palace in the town of Lhasa, Tibet. Constructed as a fortress and residence for the Dalai Lama, it was for centuries a center of political and religious power and contains many of the religion’s most important treasures.

The first of the two Potala Palaces, the Red Palace, was built in the 17th century and contains the complex’s most important shrines. These are found in the Enthronement Hall, the walls of which are covered with murals depicting scenes from the lives of the Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan kings. Other highlights of the Red Palace are its many vast halls devoted to the religion’s teachings, and the elaborate tombs (known as “stupas”) of a number of Dalai Lamas.

The equally impressive White Palace was completed in 1648 and includes the sleeping quarters, studies, and reception rooms, most untouched since 1959 when the Dalai Lama fled Tibet. While in Lhasa, be sure to visit the superb Jewel Gardens. Part of the Dalai Lama’s summer residence, these 90-acre gardens were first started in the 1840s and encompass everything from grand palaces and pavilions to pleasant lakes.

10. Shanghai’s Promenade: The Bund

Shanghai's Promenade: The Bund
Shanghai’s Promenade: The Bund

A remarkable act of smart city planning and preservation can be seen in Shanghai’s splendid riverside promenade, the Zhongshan Lu, perhaps better known as the Bund (Wàitan). As you stroll this wide pedestrian zone along the Huangpu Jiang River, you’ll almost forget you’re bang-smack in the middle of China’s largest city (Shanghai’s population exceeds 24 million people).

Famous for its European feel, a fact owed to the district’s past as the location of the city’s International Settlement, the Bund is popular for its 52 preserved English- and French-influenced buildings, many now restaurants, cafés, stores, and art galleries. Representing a variety of influences from Gothic to Renaissance styles – including a number of Art Deco buildings – the architecture includes highlights such as the old harbor customs office, with its bell tower, and the majestic Peace Hotel.

For the best views of the Bund, visit the 468-meter Oriental Pearl Tower on the opposite bank of the Huangpu Jiang River. If time allows, be sure to also visit the Yu Garden. Known affectionately as the “Garden of Happiness,” this must-see garden can trace its roots back to 1559 when it was laid out. Many of the original structures survive to this day.

11. Hangzhou’s Historic West Lake

Hangzhou's historic West Lake
Hangzhou’s historic West Lake

Few cities in China can boast quite the same concentration of splendid historic sites and ancient temples as the city of Hangzhou (Hangchow). Capital of Zhejiang province and located at the southernmost end of China’s famous Grand Canal, much of this rich collection is gathered around lovely West Lake, a six-kilometer-square stretch of water in the heart of the old city, which is surrounded by numerous hills, pagodas, and temples.

Divided into five distinct sections by man-made causeways dating back as far as the 11th century, it’s a marvelous area to explore on foot as you cross from one stretch of water to the next, only to be met with another cluster of fine old buildings. It’s particularly pleasant in spring when its many peach trees are blossoming.

Part of the fun is lingering on the lake’s many fine old bridges, one of the best being the Broken Bridge (Duanqiao) linking the Baidi Causeway with the shore, and exploring Little Paradise Island with its four mini-lakes linked by the zigzagging Bridge of the Nine Arches.

Be sure to hop aboard one of the many tour boats and small pleasure craft available to whisk you around the lake. And if time permits, stick around for the fun musical fountain show held each evening.

12. The Mausoleum of Light: The Northern Imperial Tomb, Shenyang

The Mausoleum of Light: The Northern Imperial Tomb
The Mausoleum of Light: The Northern Imperial Tomb

In China’s mountainous northeastern region is the old city of Shenyang. This important center for trade and culture is home to the Mausoleum of Light (Zhaoling), also known as the Northern Imperial Tomb. One of northeastern China’s most important historic sites – it’s included on the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s list of Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties – the tomb is noted for its unique architectural style: a combination of traditionally arranged Chinese burial sites and castle-like buildings of the early Qing period.

Buried here in a vast site covering more than 180,000 square meters that took eight years to complete is Emperor Huang Taiji, who reigned from 1626-35. The site is notable for its ‘Path of Souls’, a laneway lined with stone columns and sculptures of the emperor’s favorite horses.

Another important site is the imposing Imperial Palace dating from the early Qing era, the second largest completely preserved palace complex in China after the Imperial Palace in Beijing. The complex served as a residence for the first Qing Emperors and includes several splendid courtyards around which are grouped numerous buildings, including the Hall of Exalted Government (Chongzheng Dian) housing the imperial throne.

13. Leshan Giant Buddha, Sichuan

Leshan Giant Buddha
Leshan Giant Buddha

The mountain is a Buddha and the Buddha is a mountain.” So goes the famous Chinese saying, one that’s attributed to the spectacular 71-meter-tall Leshan Giant Buddha. And it certainly makes sense as you stand at its feet as the colossal statue towers high above you.

Started in AD 713 by a Buddhist monk and completed 90 years later, this important religious icon is carved entirely from a stone cliff-face and is the largest Buddha sculpture in the world. Representing the Buddha Maitreya, the statue is even more dramatic given its location overlooking the river that it was designed to appease (it had often proven treacherous for shipping).

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant Buddha continues to draw huge numbers of pilgrims from across the globe and is widely regarded as one of China’s must-visit attractions. Easily accessible from the city of Chengdu, the Leshan Giant Buddha can be reached by a fun ferry trip from the public docks in Leshan. The scenic park in which the Buddha is set is also worth exploring, so be sure to allocate sufficient time in your itinerary.

14. The Hong Kong Skyline

Hong Kong Skyline
Hong Kong Skyline

Widely considered one of the world’s most dramatic city skylines – as much a result of its having one of the highest concentrations of skyscrapers as it is the presence of the tall hills that frame them – Hong Kong has for decades been the bustling capital of finance and commerce in this part of the Pacific. And it’s a cityscape that can be enjoyed from a number of different vantages.

One of the best views is from Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island, where the skyscrapers frame the city’s huge harbor, a special treat after nightfall. Equally stunning is the view from Victoria Harbour itself. Here, you can hop aboard one of Hong Kong’s famous ferries and head to various points to wander and explore, such as Kowloon. Or you can simply stay on board and enjoy the views.

If possible, try to time your trip to coincide with the nightly laser extravaganza, a stunning 360-degree laser-light show that uses the harbor’s skyscrapers as a magical backdrop. For the best views, try to catch the show from the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour.

15. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Hunan

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

When you first set eyes on Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan province, it’s certainly not difficult to see how filmmaker James Cameron was able to draw inspiration from it. Cameron’s box office hit, Avatar, could well have been set in this area of stunning natural beauty, its many unique pillar-like rock formations looking like some incredible alien landscape right out of a sci-fi movie. One of the tallest pillars, standing at an impressive 1,080-meters, has been renamed “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.”

This is one of the lesser known places to visit in China, but it’s well worth the effort to get here. In addition to its many natural wonders, which can best be explored as part of an organized tour, the park boasts a number of new man-made attractions. The first to be built was the Bailong Elevator, aka the “Hundred Dragons Sky Lift.” Elevating groups of up to 50 people 326 meters skyward in under two minutes, it’s an impressive structure, and one that offers dramatic views all the way.

Also notable is the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge. Opened in 2016, it’s heralded as the world’s highest and tallest pedestrian bridge. Standing 300 meters above the ground and extending 430 meters along a spectacular cliff face, it’s an attraction that’s definitely not recommended for the faint of heart but one of the best things to do if you are looking to add a little adventure to your day.

10 Best Tropical Vacations

Dreamy beaches, silky warm seas, lush scenery, and endless sunshine: These are some of the top ingredients of the ideal tropical vacation. But each destination offers its own sultry charms. Some dazzle with their natural beauty. Others add cultural attractions to the mix, with exotic customs, architecture, and mouthwatering cuisine. A few offer eco-adventures and wildlife-rich wilderness, and some sleepy islands seem to take you back in time.

Divers flock to thriving coral reefs, and surfers seek the perfect wave. It’s just a matter of finding the perfect fit. From Asia to Australia and the US to the Caribbean, this list of tropical vacation hot spots covers some of the most beautiful islands in the world, as well as ideas of fun things to do and destinations for all budgets, whether you’re seeking an over-the-water bungalow in Bora Bora or a bamboo hut on a Bali beach.

1. Maldives

Maldives
Maldives

Strung across the Indian Ocean southwest of India and Sri Lanka, the 26 natural atolls of the Maldives exude an almost surreal beauty due, in large part, to the luminous blue waters that surround them. If slipping into the crystal-clear, soul-warming sea is a top criteria for your perfect tropical vacation, this is the place to do it, as water comprises 99 percent of the Maldives. Paradoxically, it also threatens to inundate the shores of this low-lying island nation.

Male’ is the capital city, but most visitors head straight out to one of the remote atolls, where luxury resorts and bone-white beaches fringed by aquamarine waters await. Diving and snorkeling are world-class, and the Maldives is also a top surfing destination with the most popular surf spots in the North and South Male’ Atolls.

Other popular activities here include swimming with manta rays and whale sharks as well as big-game fishing. With water being a focal point and so many islands to choose from, the Maldives is also the perfect candidate for a cruise vacation.

2. Bora Bora, Tahiti

Bora Bora, Tahiti
Bora Bora, Tahiti

Bora Bora is the quintessential South Pacific paradise. This lush and dramatically beautiful island in French Polynesia rises to a sharp emerald peak ringed by an azure lagoon. Clusters of coconut palms bristle along the beaches, and luxury bungalows perch over the crystal-clear waters, some with glass floor panels, so you can peer into the thriving sea below.

While Bora Bora scores top points for natural beauty, it also ticks the box if you’re seeking some cultural appeal. The official language is French, and you can taste the Gallic influence in the gourmet cuisine. Add a bevy of fun water sports, kayak trips to tiny motu (islands), picturesque hiking trails, and adventures such as shark dives, and, it’s easy to see why many travelers rank pricey Bora Bora as a top honeymoon destination and the ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime place for a tropical vacation.

3. Riviera Maya, Mexico

Beach at Tulum Ruins
Beach at Tulum Ruins

If you’re looking for beautiful beaches, culture, and zesty cuisine all wrapped up with an affordable price tag, the Riviera Maya (Mayan Riviera) in Mexico is a great choice. On the tip of the Yucatán peninsula, along the Caribbean coast, the Mayan Riviera encompasses the resort destinations of Cancún, Playa del Carmen, and the island of Cozumel.

You don’t have to stay at a big bustling all-inclusive resort here, though you’ll find plenty fronting the long, postcard-worthy beaches. Intimate boutique hotels and yoga retreats are also in the mix. Swimming with stingrays and dolphins, diving, snorkeling, and fishing are popular activities in the warm, clear waters, and culture vultures can explore the magnificent ancient ruins of Tulum, in a stunning setting above the turquoise Caribbean Sea, or Chichén Itzá, a few hours’ drive away from the resort strip.

4. Aitutaki, Cook Islands

One Foot Island
One Foot Island

Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, with close ties to New Zealand, is a dream destination for would-be castaways. Blessed with a luminous aqua lagoon, lush peaks, sublime beaches bristling with palms, and some of the friendliest people in the South Pacific, Aitutaki ticks all the boxes for the perfect exotic tropical vacation.

Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands, and the main tourist gateway, but Aitutaki, a 45-minute flight away, is the jewel in the crown, and that’s saying plenty in an archipelago of 15 ravishing tropical isles. Swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and fishing are all fantastic, and the island offers a window into the laid-back village life, which slows to a halt on Sundays for church services.

More than 20 motu (small islands) are sprinkled around the lagoon, and the small island of Tapuaetai (One Foot Island), in its southeast corner, is a popular excursion with a beautiful perspective of the lagoon. If you really want to splurge, opt for a luxurious over-the-water bungalow. From here, you can paddle to your own private motu, plonk down under a palm tree, and pretend you’re Robinson Crusoe for a day.

5. Kaua’i, Hawaii

Kaua'i, Hawaii
Kaua’i, Hawaii

Called the Garden Isle, Kaua’i is a tropical Eden, with lush rainforests, waterfalls, and spectacular green coastal peaks. A natural masterpiece of dramatic lava-sculpted landscapes, the island has a more laid-back vibe than its popular sister islands of Maui and Oahu. Though Kauai is known for being home to one of the rainiest places on earth, the island is comprised of several microclimates, and the area around touristy Poipu tends to be drier.

Underwater, you’ll find colorful coral reefs, where turtles and tropical fish swim. On land, you can bask on golden beaches, admire the cloud-capped scenery from the cliffs above Hanalei Bay, hike among the velvety peaks of the breathtaking Napali Coast, and explore the deep and jungly 10-mile-long Waimea Canyon. Tropical gardens, waterfalls, cute coastal towns, and fantastic surf breaks are other top tourist attractions.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself sharing the beach with slumbering monk seals; nature reigns here, and that’s a big part of the island’s allure.

6. The Mamanuca Islands, Fiji

The Mamanuca Islands, Fiji
The Mamanuca Islands, Fiji

If you’re dreaming of an idyllic South Seas island bathed in sunshine, the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji fit the bill. A short boat ride from the gateway town of Nadi, this picture-perfect string of about 20 islands are popular for their gleaming palm-studded beaches, crystal-clear waters, and thriving coral reefs. When you first glimpse these tropical beauties, it’s easy to see why Survivor and the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away were filmed on islands in this chain. When choosing where to stay, your budget and interests will determine the best Fiji island for you.

Accommodation ranges from lively backpacker resorts to family-friendly hotels with thatched bures (traditional huts), and luxury hideaways like Vomo Island Resort, Likuliku Lagoon Resort, and the adults-only Tokoriki Island Resort. Popular mid-range resorts include Matamanoa Island Resort, Malolo Island Resort, Mana Island Resort, and Castaway Island.

One of the planet’s top surf breaks, Cloudbreak, lies about a mile away from Tavarua Island Resort, but you can access this legendary break from other island resorts as well. Fijians love children, so this is also a fabulous destination for families with youngsters looking to relax.

7. St. Barts, The Caribbean

St. Barts, The Caribbean
St. Barts, The Caribbean

If you like the glittering jet-setter scene, private villas, and pretty beaches, French-influenced St. Barts should be top on your list. But it all comes at a price. A constant stream of visiting movie stars and mega-moguls means that accommodation and food costs more here than other destinations – especially during high season. However, in return, you’ll find beautiful blond beaches backed by green hills, world-class shopping and dining, and a cultural sophistication that many other tropical destinations lack.

Like everywhere, low season offers great deals, and all the beaches are public, so you can hide away in a private villa or boutique hotel and live the life of the rich and famous for less. Besides basking on the beaches, shopping, and feasting on mouthwatering continental delicacies, popular activities here include snorkeling, diving, kite-surfing, kayaking, fishing, surfing, and sailing.

The top beaches are Saline Beach, Gouverneur Beach, and Lorient, and the red-roofed capital of Gustavia is one of the prettiest towns in the Caribbean.

8. The Abacos, The Bahamas

The Abacos, The Bahamas
The Abacos, The Bahamas

Almost 300 kilometers east of Florida, the beautiful Abacos, in the Bahamas, offer some of the world’s best waters for boating and sailing. These peaceful Atlantic islands, also called the Out Islands or Family Islands, seem a world away from the crowded tourist strips of nearby Florida, with their secluded pine-fringed beaches; flourishing coral reefs; and sleepy fishing villages, where golf carts and boats are the main mode of transport. British Loyalists settled these islands, and you can witness this heritage in the cute and colorful colonial cottages lining the narrow streets.

Prime areas for a low-key vacations include cute Elbow Cay, with its famous candy-striped lighthouse; charming three-mile long Green Turtle Cay, which feels like stepping back in time to the old Bahamas; and Treasure Cay, on Great Abaco, with its ravishing white-sand beach lapped by waters in technicolor turquoise. Guana Cay, Walker’s Cay, and Man “O’ War Cay are other popular islands. Favorite pursuits include fishing, diving, snorkeling, relaxing, and chatting with the locals, and with miles of pristine beaches, it’s easy to find your own private patch of soft, white sand.

9. Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye, Belize
Ambergris Caye, Belize

Off the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, Ambergris Caye in Belize is one of the country’s top tourist destinations and the largest of its 200 cayes. While its Caribbean beaches are generally better for fishing than swimming, thanks to their flourishing turtle grass flats, the magnificent Hol Chan Marine Reserve more than compensates with superb diving and snorkeling less than a half-mile from shore.

This underwater wonderland is part of the Belize Barrier Reef system, the second largest barrier reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Shark Ray Alley is a popular site, where divers can come face to face with nurse sharks and stingrays. Anglers also flock here to prowl the flats for bonefish and try their luck for permit, tarpon, snook, and barracuda.

Part of the island’s charm is its colorful town of San Pedro, where golf carts rule the streets, and funky restaurants showcase fresh seafood and Mexican-inspired cuisine. Since the northern part of the island lies a stone’s throw from Mexico, the island has a strong Mexican influence, and many locals speak Spanish.

10. Dominican Republic

Punta Cana
Punta Cana

On the eastern side of the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic is a top choice for budget-minded travelers, but this popular vacation destination is much more than glorious beaches and great-value resorts. Rich in history and culture, “DR,” as it’s called, also boasts some of the most diverse eco-systems in the Caribbean, with steamy jungles, deserts, mangroves, coral reefs, savanna, and soaring green peaks.

Venture away from the tourist strips of Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, La Romana, and Samaná, where all-inclusive resorts cluster along idyllic sweeps of palm-fringed beach, and you’ll discover a world of adventures. You can climb the highest peaks in the Caribbean, raft the white waters of the Río Yaque del Norte, hike to waterfalls through the steamy jungle, and bike through pine forests along alpine trails. Cultural attractions are also a highlight.

The capital, Santo Domingo, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with charming colonial architecture and a fascinating history. But if you just want to bask on a beautiful beach, dive, swim, surf, and snorkel, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to do that, too.

15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Switzerland

For ravishing alpine scenery and quaint villages oozing storybook charm, it’s hard to beat Switzerland. The soaring snow-capped peaks of the Alps, glittering blue lakes, emerald valleys, glaciers, and picturesque lakeside hamlets imbue this landlocked nation with a fairytale beauty. Snuggled amid the mountain valleys and lakes lie world-class international resorts and a long list of things to do, including hiking, biking, climbing, paragliding, skiing, and tobogganing.

Travellers come here for jaw-dropping scenery but are charmed by the many cultural attractions. Steeped in history, cities such as Zurich, Geneva, and Lausanne offer excellent museums and galleries, historic buildings, and renowned music festivals. The capital is Bern with a stunning medieval old town hugging the crook of a river. Germany, Italy, Austria, and France border Switzerland, and their languages and customs infuse this country with a multicultural sophistication.

From the Italian architecture of palm-studded Ticino to the dialects of Swiss-German and Latin-derived Romansch, Switzerland can sometimes feel like several countries in one—yet all with the slick packaging and punctuality for which it is famous.

Plan your trip and explore the best sites with our list of the top tourist attractions in Switzerland.

1. The Matterhorn

The Matterhorn
The Matterhorn

The Matterhorn, Switzerland’s iconic pointed peak is one of the highest mountains in the Alps. On the border with Italy, this legendary peak rises to 4,478 meters, and its four steep faces lie in the direction of the compass points. The first summiting in 1865 ended tragically when four climbers fell to their death during the descent. Today, thousands of experienced climbers come here each summer.

At the foot of this mighty peak, lies the charming village of Zermatt, a top international resort with horse-drawn carriage rides, quaint chalets, and world-class restaurants and hotels. To preserve the air quality and peaceful ambience, motorized vehicles are banned in the village.

In the winter, skiers can schuss down more than 300 kilometres of slopes. In the summer, swimming and tennis are popular pursuits as well as hiking, biking, and climbing in the surrounding mountains. Summer glacier skiing is also available.

2. Jungfraujoch: The Top of Europe

Jungfraujoch: The Top of Europe
Jungfraujoch: The Top of Europe

One of the most popular things to do in the beautiful Bernese Oberland is the train journey to Jungfraujoch, the “Top of Europe,” with an observation terrace and scientific observatory perched at 3,454 meters. The longest glacier in Europe, the Great Aletsch Glacier begins at Jungfraujoch, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The famous Eiger Trail from the Eiger glacier station to Alpiglen clings to the rocks at the foot of the north face.

Other popular walks include Panorama Way to the sunny, south-facing First slope; the Gletscherschlucht (Glacier Gorge); and Öpfelchüechliwäg, the high-altitude trail from Holenstein to Brandegg through fields of flowers, alpine pastures, and woodlands. The less active can ride gondolas and cable cars to scenic viewpoints over the Lauterbrunnen Valley.

Picturesque Grindelwald is a glacier village in the Jungfrau region, which makes a great base for adventures into the surrounding mountains. It nestles at the base of snow-cloaked mountains and is one of Switzerland’s oldest and most popular resorts. Towering above this alpine valley is the tiara-shaped Wetterhorn and the sheer north face of the Eiger, one of the planet’s most dramatic and difficult climbs. Between the mountains lie Grindelwald’s two glinting glaciers. For the best views, Faulhorn, at 2,681 meters, offers breathtaking panoramas of the giant peaks.

Jungfruajoch - Section map
Jungfruajoch Map (Historical)

3. Interlaken

Interlaken
Interlaken

Nestled between Lake Thun to the west and Lake Brienz to the east, Interlaken is one of Switzerland’s most popular summer holiday resorts. In the centre of town, Höhematte is a marvel of urban planning with 35 acres of open space. Flower gardens, hotels, and cafés surround the Höheweg, the main boulevard through here with breathtaking vistas of the mountains. The mighty peaks of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau tower above the town providing excellent opportunities for alpine adventures. Hiking, climbing, abseiling, and kayaking is prime pursuits.

More than 45 mountain railways, cable cars, chairlifts, and ski lifts transport visitors into the surrounding countryside and offer plenty of chances for sightseeing from up above. In the winter, skiers and snowboarders can take their pick from the surrounding resorts and cross-country ski along with the extensive trail network. In the summer, paragliders launch from Beatenberg-Niederhorn. To admire the scenery from lower elevations, hop aboard a paddle steamer for a cruise around the lakes.

4. Lucerne

Lucerne
Lucerne

Imagine a sparkling blue lake surrounded by mountains, a car-free medieval old town, covered bridges, waterfront promenades, frescoed historic buildings, and sun-splashed plazas with bubbling fountains. No wonder Lucerne (in German, Luzern) is a top spot for tourists. Famed for its music concerts, this quintessential Swiss town lures renowned soloists, conductors, and orchestras to its annual International Music Festival. The Culture and Convention Center is home to one of the world’s leading concert halls.

One of the city’s most famous landmarks is the Chapel Bridge, built in the 14th century. In a small park, lies the famous Lion Monument, a poignant sculpture of a dying lion, which honours the heroic death of Swiss Guards during the attack on the Tuileries in the French Revolution. History buffs will enjoy the Swiss Transport Museum with extensive exhibits on all forms of transport, including air and space travel, railroad locomotives, and a Planetarium.

For beautiful views of Lucerne, the Alps, and the lake, ride the funicular to the Dietschiberg on the north side of Lake Lucerne; cruise up Mt. Pilatus on the cableway; or head to the Rigi, a famous lookout point.

5. Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva, Europe’s largest Alpine lake, straddles the Swiss/French border, and laps at the shores of some of Switzerland’s most popular cities. The city of Geneva (in French Genève; in German Genf) sits between pretty snow-capped peaks at the point where the Rhône spills into Lake Geneva.

This French-speaking “capital of peace” is the European seat of the United Nations and exudes a pleasing blend of French joie de vivre and Swiss structure. Promenades, parks, and gardens surround the lake, and the old town is a lovely spot to stroll among the historic buildings. The Jet d’Eau, a fountain in Lake Geneva shooting water 150 meters into the air, is a famous landmark. Cultural attractions include the Opera House and the Grand Théâtre, which stages international acts.

Also on the lake, about 62 kilometres from Geneva, Lausanne boasts lovely views over the surrounding region and the lake, with the Alps rising in the distance. Take a stroll through the medieval old town with its cute cafés and boutiques and stunning Gothic cathedral. At the foot of the Alps, on Lake Geneva, Montreux hosts the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival in June/July.

6. Chateau de Chillon, Montreux

Chateau de Chillon, Montreux
Chateau de Chillon, Montreux

On the shores of Lake Geneva, near Montreux, the Chateau de Chillon (Chillon Castle) has inspired artists and writers for centuries. Lord Byron, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Victor Hugo are among the luminaries who have written about this architectural treasure.

Once the stronghold of the Counts and Dukes of Savoy from the 12th century, the complex encompasses about 25 buildings clustered around three courtyards. Highlights include the Great Halls, with magnificent views of Lake Geneva; the Gothic underground rooms; the Chapel, adorned with 14th-century paintings; and the Camera Domini, a bedroom occupied by the Duke of Savoy decorated with medieval murals.

7. St. Moritz

St. Moritz
St. Moritz

Mirror-like lakes, glaciers, jagged peaks, alpine forests, and oodles of sunshine make St. Moritz one of the world’s top mountain destinations and a must-have on your list of things to do in Switzerland. Palatial hotels and pricey restaurants are par for the course at this chic resort town, which has hosted two winter Olympics.

Sitting in an alpine valley 1,800 meters above sea level, the town is divided into two parts: St. Moritz Dorf sits on a sunny terrace overlooking the Lake of St. Moritz. The other part of town, lakeside St. Moritz Bad on the valley floor, is a health resort with less expensive lodging. Winter sports run the gamut, from skiing, snowboarding, skating, and bobsledding to tobogganing on the famous 1.2-kilometer-long Cresta Run.

In the summer, hiking, biking, and water sports abound. Glacier skiing is also available in the summer. Adding to all this spectacular mountain scenery, St. Moritz is a cultural crossroads. Romansch, German, Italian, French, and English are all spoken in the surrounding areas—not to mention the different languages of the many well-heeled international visitors and ex-pats.

8. Bern

Bern
Bern

In a stunning location, perched on a peninsula of the River Aare, the Swiss capital of Bern exudes old-world charm, and the city’s medieval old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Strolling along the cobbled streets, visitors can explore the tallest cathedral in Switzerland, with panoramic views from its tower; 16th-century fountains; the Zytglogge medieval clock tower with moving puppets; and six kilometres of shopping arcades, called “Lauben” by the locals. The Rose Garden (Rosengarten) offers beautiful views of the old town centre.

Bern has many tourist attractions waiting to be discovered, including many excellent museums. Art lovers will appreciate the impressive galleries, including the Zentrum Paul Klee, the world’s largest collection of works by this famous artist, and the Bern Museum of Art (Kunstmuseum). Don’t miss the markets, held in the Bundesplatz (parliament square) with views of the elegant Renaissance-style parliament building (Bundeshaus). Families will also enjoy a visit to Bear Park.

9. Lake Lugano and Ticino

Lake Lugano and Ticino
Lake Lugano and Ticino

Lake Lugano lies on the Swiss/Italian border in Ticino, Switzerland’s only official Italian-speaking canton, and offers a tantalizing taste of the Mediterranean. Citrus, figs, palms, and pomegranates flourish in the mild climate here—even as snow-capped peaks beckon in the distance. In the towns around Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore to the west, the feel of Italy is unmistakable in the architecture, the piazzas, and the passion for fine food, which spills over the Italian borders from the south, east, and west.

Visitors can explore the area by touring the lake on one of the white steamers or renting a boat. For a panoramic overview, Monte San Salvatore offers one of the most spectacular vistas of the surrounding countryside, lake, and snow-capped peaks.

Lugano, a financial centre and the largest and most significant town in Ticino, is a popular summer resort. Northwest of Lugano, in sun-drenched Locarno on Lake Maggiore, Swiss lakeside living takes on a subtropical touch with warm days, blossoming gardens, and palm-studded estates. In Bellinzona, the capital of the canton, three magnificent castles are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

10. Zurich

Zurich
Zurich

Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city, a major transportation hub, and a top starting point for travellers. The city lies at the northwestern end of Lake Zurich astride the river Limmat. Beyond its buttoned-up façade, this affluent banking capital boasts a rich line-up of cultural treasures.

A great place to begin a walking tour is the cobbled streets of the Old Town with its quaint shops, cafés, and galleries. Mile-long Bahnhofstrasse, one of Europe’s finest shopping strands, beckons with designer stores selling fashion, watches, and jewelry.

Venturing away from the boutiques, visitors will find more than 50 museums and 100 art galleries, as well as many other tourist attractions. A top pick is the Kunsthaus Zürich, the museum of fine arts, with an impressive collection of art from the Middle Ages to the present day. Another favorite is the Rietberg Museum, focusing on non-European art with many works from China, India, and Africa.

A short stroll from Zürich’s main station, the Swiss National Museum, in a Gothic chateau, spotlights Swiss cultural history. Families will love the Zurich Zoo with an elephant park, penguin parade, and Madagascar pavilion. From the city, take a train ride to Uetliberg Mountain for panoramic views of the city and countryside.

11. The Rhine Falls

The Rhine Falls
The Rhine Falls

Spanning 150 meters, the Rhine Falls (Rheinfall) at Schaffhausen are the largest falls in Central Europe. The best time to visit is during June and July when the mountain snow melts, and the falls swell in volume to spill over a 21-meter-high ledge of Jurassic limestone.

Boat trips up the Rhine provide excellent views of the falls, as do the viewing platforms on both sides of the river.

12. Swiss National Park

Hiking trail in the Swiss National Park
Hiking trail in the Swiss National Park

Founded in 1914, Swiss National Park in the Engadine Valley is the oldest reserve in the Alps. The park sits right on the border with Italy and encompasses more than 170 square kilometers of flower-dotted hollows, fast-flowing rivers, and limestone crags. The scenery is especially dramatic in winter, when the forested mountains are covered in a blanket of snow, and the views from the cross-country ski trails are stunning.

Nature-lovers can explore the region on the large network of trails, though veering off these paths is forbidden in an effort to preserve the natural ecosystems. More than 5,000 species of wildlife call the park home, including marmot, red deer, chamois, ibex, fox, and more than 100 species of birds.

Swiss National Park - Layout map
Swiss National Park Map (Historical)

13. The Albula/Bernina Railway Line

The Bernina Railway line
The Bernina Railway line

One of the very few railway lines in the world designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage listing, the Albula/Bernina line on the Rheatian Railways offers a majestic ride not to be missed. The route extends throughout the Albula and Bernina landscapes, covering 122 kilometers and winding through almost 200 bridges, the Graubünden mountains, and a number of tunnels and viaducts along the way.

A ride on this train means panoramic seats that overlook unspoiled mountain landscapes, including the Piz Bernina, the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps at just over 4,000 meters tall. The train operates all year long, and the views are just as magical in summer as they are in winter.

14. Oberhofen Castle

Oberhofen Castle
Oberhofen Castle

Right on the shore of Lake Thun and surrounded by a 2.5-hectare park, this 13th-century castle is one of the most breathtaking in Switzerland. Because Oberhofen Castle changed hands many times through the centuries, and new owners kept adding rooms to it, the result is a magical mix of many styles: Bernese Baroque-style buildings, Romantic style facades, and Prussian-inspired exotic new areas (including a library and a smoking room).

The castle also houses a living museum showcasing the times and lives of feudal societies that called the castle (and its surroundings) home from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

15. Swiss Grand Canyon

View over the Ruinaulta (Swiss Grand Canyon)
View over the Ruinaulta (Swiss Grand Canyon)

The Ruinaulta (also known as the “Swiss Grand Canyon”) is a deep gorge surrounded by expansive meadows and forested cliffs. Located in Eastern Switzerland, it was created over 10,000 years ago—when the Ice Age Rhine Glacier retreated, it led to a chain of events that resulted in a massive rockslide in the Rhine Valley. As the Rhine river seeped through the rock walls, the gorge was filled with water.

Today, the Swiss Grand Canyon is one of Switzerland’s most beautiful areas and a preferred destination for hikers, bird-watchers, and nature lovers. It’s possible to raft the rapids here between May and October or rent a canoe or kayak for a gentler route with stunning views of the steep cliffs all around.

12 Best Places to Visit in Florida

At least a dozen images spring to mind at the mention of Florida, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. For many, it is Orlando’s world-famous theme parks at Disney World and Universal, while others may think of the nearly endless number of championship golf courses that are scattered throughout the Sunshine State.

Waterbugs and sun-worshippers have hundreds of beaches to choose from, and retail connoisseurs will find luxury stores and quirky boutiques in abundance in each city. If your trip is based around a beach vacation or specific activity, you may want to consider the climate and best time of year to visit Florida.

Beyond the entertainment and recreation, Florida has a rich historic and cultural past featuring peaceful natives, Spanish conquistadors, swashbuckling pirates, and generations of Caribbean influences that make it an incredibly interesting and diverse place to visit.

Florida is also home to some of the most unique and special natural places, including Everglades National Park and the scores of barrier islands with precious ocean ecosystems.

1. Miami

Miami
Miami

Located in southern Florida, Miami is one of the state’s hippest and most popular cities. Miami and nearby Miami Beach showcase the old and new side of Florida. The thriving modern city center stands in contrast to the much more laid-back atmosphere of Miami Beach.

South Beach is the most exciting of Miami’s beaches, known for its Art Deco District and ultra-trendy pedestrian mall that stretches out parallel to the beach, full of water-facing outdoor restaurants, entertainment, and plenty of things to do. It’s also a popular honeymoon destination in Florida.

Downtown Miami’s Flagler Street has a good number of historic attractions, while the Brickell neighborhood and the Design District are home to a plethora of high-end stores and posh eateries. Caribbean influences are found in Miami’s lively ethnic neighborhoods of Little Haiti and Little Havana, and the Overtown neighborhood is known for its rich African-American history and hearty soul food.

The Vizcaya museum and historic homes made of coral rock are found in Coconut Grove, an area where peacocks strut unfenced among numerous street entertainers and sidewalk cafes.

2. Orlando

Orlando
Orlando

At the heart of Florida’s tourist industry is the city of Orlando, home to internationally known theme parks like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld. These have expanded over the years to include large themed water parks, like Discovery Cove, Typhoon Lagoon, and Volcano Bay.

Families descend on the amusement parks in large numbers during school holidays, but the city is a popular destination year-round. This constant influx of tourists has brought a full range of recreational activities and services to the Orlando area, from championship golf courses and chic spas to restaurants and huge shopping centers.

Other nearby attractions can be a refreshing change of pace and are easily visited on day trips from Orlando. Some of these include the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral and seeing the manatees on the Crystal River.

3. Key West

Key West
Key West

Historic Key West, at the far southern tip of the continental USA, has a distinctly island feel, with old architecture and a slow pace. This picturesque and laid-back city is famed for having been home to several well-known authors, including Robert Frost, Tennessee Williams, and Ernest Hemingway.

Its location has led to a rich cultural mix that includes influences from many Caribbean islands, which have brought a relaxed attitude, interesting architecture, and culinary variety to the region. Key West is also a popular cruise ship port, full of entertainment options and things to do.

Duval Street is the main tourist area, home to boutiques, souvenir shops, restaurants, and even some historic homes. Some of the city’s top attractions include a shipwreck museum that explains the area’s long history of salvaging, and the Key West Aquarium. Those interested in ocean ecology will want to visit Dry Tortugas National Park, which consists of seven reef islands that form an archipelago.

Although the Florida Keys aren’t known for their beaches, Key West has a number of beaches. These can be a nice break from sightseeing.

Key West’s casual atmosphere and the fact that it’s a small city with many things to do makes it a great destination for solo travelers. Getting around is easy, and people are friendly. It’s one of the best places in the US for people traveling alone.

4. Naples

Naples
Naples

The southernmost city along Florida’s Gulf Coast is Naples, an upscale area with a quaint city center and lovely stretch of beach. A mix of elegant houses, a few luxury resorts, and condo towers line the ocean, but the downtown has maintained a small-town feel.

Naples’ Third St. South and 5th Avenue South are home to its trendiest restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques.

The beaches in and around Naples are some of the best in the entire state. The warm, shallow waters here are generally calm with small waves, making them ideal for swimming and playing. The white sand is soft and perfect for laying out on your towel and soaking up some of that famous Florida sunshine while you gaze out over the Gulf of Mexico.

A visit to Naples Pier, the city’s most beloved historic landmark, is a must for tourists and the perfect place for spotting dolphins without getting on a boat. Despite its reputation as a high-end golf resort town, Naples has several historic attractions, as well as unique nature parks.

The historic Smallwood Store trading post is now a museum that remembers the days of fur trading, and the Museum of the Everglades explores 2,000 years of the region’s history back to the Calusa Indians. Both properties are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Gulf Coast Everglades Visitor Center is the park’s only admission-free center, and visitors can take a boat tour or rent a canoe or kayak to explore the mangrove estuaries and see the region’s amazing wildlife.

Other nearby parks are the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, known for its ancient cypress forest, and Fakahatchee Strand State Park, home to the ghost orchid and other rare and endangered plants and animals.

5. Tampa

Tampa
Tampa

The city of Tampa sits on an inlet on Florida’s west coast, just across the bay from St. Petersburg. Tampa is especially popular with families, who come to enjoy its many wildlife-filled attractions. Busch Gardens is the best-known, a giant amusement park combined with a zoo that has endless things to see and do.

Animal-lovers can also visit the Tampa Zoo at Lowry Park and the Tampa Aquarium and a public manatee-viewing center. Tourists can also visit Big Cat Rescue, a sanctuary for abused and abandoned cats, including lions, tigers, jaguars, and more.

Families with younger kids will love the Glazer Children’s Museum, which focuses on learning through creative play, and the whole family will enjoy the Museum of Science and Industry, where you can explore the world of technology with hands-on exhibits and take in bigger-than-life shows at the IMAX theater.

Tampa’s Ybor City is one of its most historic areas and the center of the city’s Latin community, where a meal at the famous Columbia Restaurant is a must.

6. St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg

Across the bay from Tampa is neighboring St. Petersburg and nearby Clearwater. Visitors, particularly travelers from northern states, come here to escape cold winters and enjoy the oceanfront beaches and mild climate.

Some unique areas to explore include the St. Petersburg Pier, the dockside shops and restaurants of Johns Pass, the quaint atmosphere of historic Pass-a-Grille, and the soft sand of Indian Rocks Beach.

Clearwater is also known for its beach, one of the best beaches in Florida, particularly for families, and also a popular resort destination. St. Petersburg has many cultural tourist attractions, including several theaters and prominent art museums, like the Dali Museum and the Morean Art Center.

One of the most popular things to do when visiting St. Petersburg is taking boat tours that range from dolphin-spotting and eco-tours to recreational cruises. Nature lovers will appreciate the abundance of peaceful spots, like Caladesi Island State Park, which has remained undeveloped thanks to its offshore location and is full of beaches and nature trails.

7. Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers Beach fishing pier
Fort Myers Beach fishing pier

Downtown Fort Myers, also known as the River District, is full of things to do, from plentiful shopping options to a wide variety of dining choices, as well as sightseeing in this historic area.

Families will enjoy the IMAG History & Science Center, which includes dozens of hands-on exhibits; exciting wildlife interactions, including the chance to touch an alligator; and even the opportunity to see the original fort at Fort Myers in a 3D virtual reality experience.

Fort Myers Beach is on the shores of Estero island, separated from the mainland by a narrow inland waterway and connected by bridges. The expansive beach is known for being an ideal place to see dolphins playing in the water and is full of top-notch resorts that are popular with families, couples, and celebrities.

Fort Myers also attracts many New England baseball fans, who come to watch Red Sox spring training games and hope for chance sightings of their favorite sports heroes around town.

8. Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island sits off the west coast of Florida as an important barrier island, connected to Fort Myers by a causeway. Sanibel is best known for its high-end resorts, which are popular with families, celebrities, and couples. Beyond each resort’s generous amenities, tourists will find no lack of things to do, from ocean adventures to leisurely shopping at Sanibel’s numerous boutiques and galleries.

One of the most appealing aspects of Sanibel and Captiva is the dedication to conservation, a mission that has resulted in the protected status of half of the island’s land and the establishment of organizations like the Sanibel Sea School and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

Many resorts also have their own programs led by naturalists to educate tourists about the delicate ecosystem and amazing wildlife. Some of the island’s most treasured wildlife includes the loggerhead sea turtle, which nests on the pristine beaches; manatee and dolphins, which play in the water nearby; and hundreds of bird species, including the bald eagle.

9. St. Augustine

St. Augustine
St. Augustine

St. Augustine is often referred to as the oldest city in the USA. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés landed here on September 8, 1565 and claimed the territory in the name of King Philip II of Spain. Colonial architecture and old homes line the streets of the historic center, which has become a popular tourist attraction.

The Colonial Quarter is a living history museum that introduces visitors to life in St. Augustine from the 1500s through the 1700s, including the construction of the replica of a 16th-century boat and a working blacksmith shop.

St. Augustine is proud to be home to several of Florida’s most significant historic attractions, including the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum, Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, and the Castillo de San Marcos. Mariners will also enjoy seeing ships like the Galeón and admiring the exhibits at the Maritime Museum.

10. Pensacola

Pensacola
Pensacola

The port of Pensacola, situated on the best and largest natural harbor in Florida, is the economic center of the western edge of the Panhandle, the “Miracle Strip.” Its history goes back more than 400 years, and the carefully restored Historic Village contains buildings of the Spanish, French, and British colonial periods.

Features of interest in the surrounding area are the U.S. Naval Aviation Museum, Fort Pickens (1834) at the west end of Santa Rosa Island, and Pensacola Beach with its expanses of sugar-white sand. Visitors will find that Pensacola has less of the Floridian resort-town atmosphere and more of the down-home influences of the deep south.

Here, you will find plenty of grits, a slight Southern drawl, and a slower pace. Despite its smaller size, Pensacola is home to plenty of things to do, including family activities, museums, and several performing arts companies.

11. West Palm Beach

West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach

West Palm Beach on Lake Worth, inland from Palm Beach, has a number of interesting museums and many trendy and fine dining restaurants. As the city’s name suggests, it is often defined by its amazing miles of soft, sandy beaches, and many tourists come primarily to soak up the sun and enjoy the water.

West Palm Beach is also home to plenty of other attractions, many of them family-friendly animal encounters. The South Florida Science Center and Aquarium is popular for its numerous exhibits and underwater residents, and the Manatee Lagoon gives visitors the chance to see these gentle giants up-close and free of charge.

Sea creatures don’t get all the attention, though – the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society is home to 700 animals from habitats around the world, and Lion Country Safari gives visitors an opportunity to ride through the park to see some amazing African animals, as well as interact at the petting zoo and giraffe feeding station, and cool off in the water playground.

12. Daytona

Daytona
Daytona

Daytona’s main claim to fame is the Daytona 500 Nascar Race held here each February, but the beaches also draw visitors year-round. Daytona Beach, once known as a spring break hot spot, has become more of a family-oriented destination that also attracts seniors.

Daytona’s beaches stretch along 23 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline and feature an activity-filled boardwalk that is home to amusement rides, games, restaurants, special events, and a long pier.

Cultural attractions include the Cici and Hyatt Brown Museum of Art, which houses the largest collection of Florida art in the world, and the Stetson mansion. Visitors can also admire Florida’s tallest lighthouse, the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, which reaches 175 feet tall.

18 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Singapore

Singapore has been described as a playground for the rich, and it’s true that the small city-state does have a certain sheen of wealth. But Singapore offers more than just high-end shopping malls, luxury hotels, and fine dining (though it’s worth indulging in those a bit if you can). There is also a vibrant history and diverse ethnic quarters to discover, along with many family-friendly attractions and lovely public spaces that make visiting this slightly futuristic city worthwhile.

Singapore has an excellent public transportation system that makes getting around convenient and easy. Once you’ve gotten a sense of the metro map, you’ll have no problem zipping from one part of town to the next. English is spoken everywhere, and signs are in English as well. In fact, Singapore is one of the easiest and most comfortable countries to navigate in Southeast Asia. And as long as you’re not comparing prices to nearby Thailand or Vietnam, you’re in for a lovely stay.

1. Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands

The opulent Marina Bay Sands resort complex includes a high-end luxury hotel, a mall with a canal running through it, the ArtScience Museum, and the Marina Bay Sands Skypark Observation Deck—a vantage point for taking in the entire city. The Skypark’s viewing deck and infinity pool are found in the ship (yes, ship) that tops the hotel. Only hotel guests are allowed to use the infinity pool, but anyone can visit the observation deck.

From the Skypark, you can see the innovative double helix bridge, the port, the Gardens by the Bay (101 hectares of land converted into waterfront gardens), and the impressive skyline.

While up there on top of the city, guests can grab a snack or a coffee at the rooftop restaurant or pick up some keepsakes from the souvenir stand. You can purchase a photo of yourself green-screened in front of the massive hotel as it’s all lit up at night, but the cost is steep at 50 Singapore dollars—better to ask a fellow tourist to snap a photo of you if possible. The elegant opulence of the Marina Bay Sands exemplifies Singapore’s style and status as a major international city in Southeast Asia.

2. Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay

Once you’ve glimpsed this beautifully designed green space (from the top of the Marina Bay Sands, perhaps) you won’t be able to stay away. Wander through the Bay East Garden, perfect for enjoying the vibrant plant life and escaping the city bustle for a moment.

You won’t want to miss Supertree Grove, where you’ll find a cluster of the iconic, futuristic structures designed to perform environmentally sustainable functions. Then, head to the Cloud Forest Dome to see the world’s tallest indoor waterfall and learn a bit about biodiversity. Check the website for ticket sale prices and tour times.

3. Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens
Botanic Gardens

Not to be confused with the Gardens on the Bay, the Botanic Gardens are also worth a visit. Singapore received its first UNESCO World Heritage nomination for its botanical gardens, and with good reason. The city can sometimes feel like a concrete jungle, albeit a clean and comfortable one, but the botanic gardens preserve pieces of Singapore’s wilder heritage.

Here, a walking trail leads to the gardens’ heritage trees, which are conserved as part of an effort to protect the city’s mature tree species. Make sure to visit the impressive National Orchid Garden as well.

Other popular things to do include visiting the eco-garden, eco-lake, bonsai garden, sculptures, and several other formal gardens.

4. Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo
Singapore Zoo

Billing itself as the world’s best rainforest zoo, the Singapore Zoo is a pretty impressive place. The facility is clean and inviting, and the animals appear well treated, with plenty of lush vegetation and habitat space.

The orangutans are particularly impressive, and visitors can watch as babies and adults alike swing high above their platforms and snack on fruits. There is also a large chimpanzee family, zebras, meerkats, a komodo dragon, mole rats, white tigers, kangaroos, and many other creatures.

Guests can observe feedings for some of the animals. Allow at least three hours to make your way around the zoo.

If the zoo doesn’t satisfy your need for getting close to wildlife, there’s also the Night Safari, River Safari (including a giant panda forest), and the Jurong Bird Park. Park hopper passes are available if you plan to visit more than one of the wildlife parks.

For a unique and personal wildlife experience, try the Singapore Zoo Breakfast with the Orangutans. This hassle-free tour includes transportation from and to your hotel, allows you half day to explore the zoo, and has an optional upgrade to enjoy breakfast in the company of the zoo’s much-loved orangutans

5. Orchard Road

Orchard Road
Orchard Road

One could be forgiven for coming to Singapore and doing nothing but shopping, as this is a world-class city for style and designer chic. The Orchard Road area is a great place to start a shopping spree, as there are high-end stores at every turn. You’d expect nothing less from a neighborhood that boasts 22 malls and six department stores. There are also four movie theaters, including an IMAX cinema, and a KTV karaoke establishment.

If you get hungry while burning through all that cash, there are plenty of eateries in the neighborhood serving international food.

6. Singapore Flyer

Singapore Flyer
Singapore Flyer

If the observation deck at the Marina Bay Sands doesn’t quite do it for you, try taking in high tea while looking out over the city from the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest giant observation wheel. Choose from several different packages that allow you to be served and pampered while enjoying a view that encompasses not only the Singapore skyline but as far away as the Spice Islands of Indonesia and Malaysia’s Straits of Johor.

There are several different ticket packages to choose from, and each includes access to the multimedia Journey of Dreams exhibit, which delves into Singapore’s history and the creation of the Singapore Flyer.

Flights last 30 minutes and run from early morning until late at night, so you can choose which view of the city you want to enjoy: the beginning of another bustling day or when Singapore is aglow after dark.

7. Raffles Hotel Singapore

Raffles Hotel Singapore
Raffles Hotel Singapore

This colonial building is one of the world’s last grand 19th-century hotels, once visited by literary luminaries such as Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad, as well as movie star Charlie Chaplin.

Built in 1887, the property has served as a city landmark for well over a century and continues to live up to its tony reputation with excellent food and service. The classical architecture and tropical gardens provide a refined setting and represent another facet of Singapore’s varied and rich history.

The Raffles Hotel Singapore is located in the city’s Colonial District, which is also home to several other historic sites, and a good place to base yourself in the city. Here, you’ll find the Raffles Landing Site, where Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, is said to have stepped ashore in 1819. The story has it that he saw the small fishing village but recognized its potential as a port, so he purchased the land from the Sultan of Johor and invited Chinese and Indian immigrants to move here. And so the seeds of Singapore’s multi-ethnic identity were sown.

8. Chinatown

Chinatown
Chinatown

If you’ve ever visited China, Singapore’s Chinatown neighborhood will bring you right back here. From the small mom-and-pop stores and authentic Chinese food to the bright red lanterns, there’s excitement and hustle in this district. You can visit the Chinese Heritage Centre and see the impressive and beautiful Sri Mariamman Hindu temple.

Another temple worth seeing is the Buddha Tooth Relic temple. If you’re up early enough (think 4am), you can hear the morning drum ceremony. Or you can just check out the closing ceremony in the evening after viewing the relic.

Heritage markers have been installed throughout the neighborhood in English, Japanese, and simplified Chinese, so visitors can better understand the significance of the area. But this neighborhood is not just a testament to the influence of the Chinese throughout Singapore’s past. This is a progressive neighborhood (with free Wi-Fi for all), and it’s home to the trendy Ann Siang Hill area, where the quaint bistros and upscale boutiques could be at home in any Western city.

9. Sentosa Island

Sentosa Island
Sentosa Island

Singapore isn’t exactly known as a beach destination, but if you’re really craving some fun in the sun, Sentosa Island is the place to find it. Siloso Beach is a good spot for getting in beach time, and visitors can play volleyball on free courts or go kayaking and skimboarding. There are several other beach attractions as well, plus an Underwater World aquarium, where you can swim with dolphins.

A must-see on Sentosa Island is the Merlion, Singapore’s famous statue that has the head of a lion and the body of a fish. You can take an escalator to the top of the statue and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area. Adventurous types will want to check out The Flying Trapeze and the SeaBreeze Water-Sports @ Wave House, where you can try your hand at flying strapped to a water-propelled jet pack.

Sentosa Island Map - Tourist Attractions
Sentosa Island Map (Historical)

10. Clarke Quay

Clarke Quay
Clarke Quay

The “center of commerce during the 19th century,” Clarke Quay lives up to its legacy as a busy hub. Today, it has a more polished sheen, so after a long day of shopping on Orchard Road, visitors can happily head to Clarke Quay for an evening of waterfront dining and entertainment.

River taxis and cruises also depart from here, giving tourists the chance to admire some of the city’s historic bridges and view landmarks like the Merlion from the water. The Quay’s biggest hit with younger tourists is a giant bungee-jumping attraction, an adrenaline-packed thrill ride.

Nearby attractions include the Asian Civilisation Museum; the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery located in Singapore’s oldest fire station; and the Hong San See Temple, a picturesque century-old Buddhist place of worship.

11. Universal Studios Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore
Universal Studios Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore occupies 49 acres of Resorts World Sentosa. The park is arranged thematically, with each area paying tribute to a location, film, or television show. Destinations include New York City, Hollywood, Madagascar, and a trip back to Ancient Egypt. Fiction-themed areas include Shrek’s Far Far Away, Lost World, and Sci-Fi City, where Battlestar Galactica-themed dueling roller coasters and an indoor dark coaster, Revenge of the Mummy, dominate the thrill rides.

In addition to the many rides—that range from kiddie-friendly to daredevil —the park also has diverse dining options, shopping, and live shows throughout the day and night.

12. Night Safari Singapore

Night Safari Singapore
Night Safari Singapore

Night Safari Singapore puts a new twist on the traditional zoo experience by introducing visitors to the nocturnal lives of the residents. The park’s habitats are divided into four sections, each with its own trail that lets you observe these elusive creatures as they go about their “day.”

The Leopard Trail has, as expected, leopards, as well as lions, flying foxes, civets, and porcupines among other animals. The Fishing Cat Trail tours the habitat of animals native to Singapore, including the fish-loving felines, pangolin, binturong, and other species both common and endangered. East Lodge Trail features Malayan tigers and spotted hyenas, and the Wallaby Trail introduces visitors to the marsupials of Australia.

Private tours, buggy rides, and educational sessions are available, as well as once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as an Asian elephant feeding session.

13. Merlion Park

Merlion Park
Merlion Park

Singapore’s Merlion is just what it sounds like—the figure of a mythical creature that has the head of a lion and the body and tail of a fish. The Merlion represents the city’s humble start as a fishing village combined with its traditional Malay name Singapura, “lion city.”

The structure, which was relocated to Merlion Park in 2002, where it can overlook Marina Bay, weighs 70 tonnes and stands at 8.6 meters tall, spouting water from its mouth in a fountain.

The “Merlion Cub” sits nearby, only two meters tall but a hefty three tonnes, and there are five additional official Merlion statues throughout the city. Merlion Park is an ideal spot for photo-ops, whether you are taking a selfie in front of the iconic creature or capturing the magnificent views from the park as it looks out over the bay.

14. Asian Civilisations Museum

Asian Civilisations Museum
Asian Civilisations Museum | yeowatzup / photo modified

If the Raffles Hotel and Fort Canning Park haven’t satisfied your taste for colonial architecture, pay a visit to the Empress Place Building. It was constructed in 1865 and built in the Neoclassical style, and was named in honor of Queen Victoria. It now houses the Asian Civilisations Museum, which delves into the many Asian cultures that helped form Singapore.

The museum’s collections focus on the themes of trade and spirituality, both of which heavily influenced Asian cultures. Exhibits cover topics such as the Indian Ocean trade, stories of faith and belief, and a look at the important role that scholars played in Chinese culture for centuries.

15. Pulau Ubin (Granite Island)

Pulau Ubin (Granite Island)
Pulau Ubin (Granite Island)

For a look at what life in Singapore was like before it was all about glamor and skyscrapers, visit the small island of Pulau Ubin, where fewer than 100 people still live in the same simple way as they did in the 1960s. The island’s name is Malay for “Granite Island,” a moniker given due to its past prominence as a quarry town.

Today, it is a peaceful, rustic place where tourists can enjoy unspoiled forests and diverse wildlife. The island is also home to the Chek Jawa Wetlands, which contain a coral reef teeming with sea life.

The island is easily reached by boat, a 10-minute ride that departs from Changi Point Ferry Terminal.

16. Fort Canning Park

Fort Canning Park
Fort Canning Park

As military strongholds go, Fort Canning has had a long and varied life. Built in 1859, the fort was originally meant to defend Singapore against attacks but it became a bunker during World War II and was eventually surrendered to the Japanese in 1942.

Now in peacetime, the original building is home to modern performing arts troupes, and the park regularly sees picnics, concerts, theater performances, and festivals.

Other attractions at the park include relics from Singapore’s early history, from as far back as the 14th century, and Sir Stamford Raffles’ personal bungalow. Guests can also see a replica of the spice market Raffles established in 1822, as well as ASEAN sculptures that were erected in the 1980s.

17. The Maritime Experiential Museum

The Maritime Experiential Museum
The Maritime Experiential Museum

This indoor-outdoor museum is located right on the water, and it’s a great way to explore Singapore’s maritime history through fun, interactive exhibits. Before you even enter the building, you’ll be able to see several ships anchored here.

Inside, the highlight of the museum is the Jewel of Muscat, a replica of a sailing vessel that sank in 830 CE while traveling between Africa and China. You can also see large-size models of trading ships that traveled the Silk Route, learn navigation skills and how to read nautical charts, and experience a 9th-century shipwreck at Typhoon Theater in a special-effects simulation.

18. Fort Siloso

Fort Siloso
Fort Siloso

Fort Siloso, the country’s only preserved fort and a military museum, is located on Sentosa Island. You can reach the fort via the Fort Siloso Skywalk trail, a massive steel bridge towering 11 stories up. Surrounded by lush tropical canopy, the bridge is accessed by either a glass elevator or simple stairs—though taking the elevator means sweeping open views of the Keppel Harbor, which you can’t really see if you choose to walk your way up. The 181-meter-long bridge offers great views of the nearby islands, as well as the jungle floor below.

Once at the fort, visitors can join guided tours to learn more about the history of the area—although it’s also possible to explore on your own, just walking around and seeing the sights.

Highlights inside the fort include the many massive cannons on display, three tunnel systems used to move ammunition around, and special exhibits showcasing daily life in the fort for the soldiers living there in the 1800s.

The entire fort is a beautiful shaded park, where you can spend a couple of hours exploring.

11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Japan

Many first-time visitors to Japan are often surprised to learn that, as one of the world’s most advanced industrialized nations, this relatively small Asian country also boasts a rich and fascinating history that dates back thousands of years.

Indeed, long before many of Europe’s most spectacular cathedrals were built, Japan’s Shinto and Buddhist temples were already well-established and drawing pilgrims and patrons for their often elaborate designs and décor. At the same time, the country was already perfecting the skills and trades that would set it on the path to riches, from fine porcelains and ceramics to textiles such as silk.

Much of this rich tradition has, despite wars and natural devastation, been preserved (or rebuilt), and a visit to Japan is a memorable adventure. Boasting an endless list of top attractions, fun things to do, and points of interest to explore, a vacation in Japan is certainly a great investment of time and money.

1. Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji

Without a doubt Japan’s most recognizable landmark, majestic Mount Fuji (Fuji-san) is also the country’s highest mountain peak. Towering 3,776 meters over an otherwise largely flat landscape to the south and east, this majestic and fabled mountain is tall enough to be seen from Tokyo, more than 100 kilometers away.

Mount Fuji has for centuries been celebrated in art and literature and is now considered so important an icon that UNESCO recognized its world cultural significance in 2013. Part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Mount Fuji is climbed by more than a million people each summer as an act of pilgrimage, which culminates in watching the sunrise from its summit.

While some still choose to begin their climb from the base, the majority of climbers now start from above the halfway mark, at the 5th Station, resulting in a more manageable six-or-so-hour ascent. Those who do attempt the complete climb are advised to depart in the afternoon, breaking up the climb with an overnight stop at one of the “Mountain Huts” designed for this very purpose. An early start the next day gets you to the top for the sunrise.

Of course, for many, simply viewing the mountain from the distance, or from the comfort of a speeding train, is enough to say “been there, done that.”

2. Imperial Tokyo

Imperial Palace and Nijubashi Bridge
Imperial Palace and Nijubashi Bridge

Tokyo’s most famous landmark, the Imperial Palace with its beautiful 17th-century parks surrounded by walls and moats, is a must-see when visiting the nation’s capital. Don’t be put off by the fact that the majority of the palace is closed to the public (it’s still in use by the Imperial family), as there is still enough to see simply by strolling the grounds.

In addition to the many fine views of the palace from numerous points in the surrounding parkland, visitors are permitted into the East Higashi-Gyoen Garden and other areas that are opened to the public as part of an organized tour. One of the most romantic views is of the famous Nijubashi Bridge, or “double bridge,” so named for its watery reflection.

Another one of the must-sees for tourists visiting Tokyo is the famous Ginza shopping district. This always bustling area is home to the Kabuki-za Theatre with its Kabuki performances, as well as the Shimbashi Enbujo Theatre with its traditional Azuma-odori dances and Bunraku performances.

3. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

While little needs to be said here of the horrors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945, much can be said of the incredible efforts this vibrant city has made to commemorate the many victims of the world’s first nuclear attack. Perhaps even more importantly, Hiroshima has become a symbol of lasting peace.

Visited by more than a million people each year, many from overseas, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Kōen) lies at the epicenter of the atomic blast in what was once a bustling part of the city. Here you’ll find a number of important monuments, memorials, and museums relating to the events of that fateful day.

In addition to the grounds and gardens with their colorful cherry blossoms, the park is where you’ll find the Peace Memorial Museum, with its numerous exhibits dealing with the issue of world peace. It’s also where you’ll find the Memorial Cenotaph and the Flame of Peace, as well as the Atom Bomb Dome, the ruins of an administrative building that lay at the center of the explosion.

4. Historic Kyoto

Bamboo forest in Kyoto
Bamboo forest in Kyoto

One of Japan’s most visited cities, lovely Kyoto – one of the few cities in the country to be spared the devastation of WWII – attracts more than 10 million visitors annually. Most of them are here to explore Kyoto’s fine old streets and architecture, much of it unchanged since the Imperial family took up residence here more than 1,000 years ago.

Even then, the city was Japan’s most important cultural center. This legacy, in fact, continues to this day with its many museums and art galleries, each bursting with important sculptures, paintings, and other art forms.

Highlights of Kyoto’s Buddhist-influenced architecture include its many well-preserved temples, 30 of which are still in use, and important structures such as the 14th-century Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), famous for its exquisite gold-leaf-clad exterior.

Be sure to also visit Nijo Castle, a 17th-century fortress that has retained its original walls, towers, and moat. Also worth seeing are the castle’s beautiful gates, along with its palace with fine interior décor.

Another landmark to visit is the original Kyoto Imperial Palace (Kyoto-gosho). Built in AD 794, it’s one of the city’s most visited historic sites.

Finally, no visit to Kyoto is complete without spending time exploring the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. This beautiful area of tall bamboo is just a few minutes’ walk from the town center.

5. The Island Shrine of Itsukushima

The Island Shrine of Itsukushima
The Island Shrine of Itsukushima

Just a short ferry ride from mainland Hiroshima is the island of Miyajima, famous the world over as Japan’s Shrine Island. Covering an area of 30 square kilometers in Hiroshima Bay, Miyajima is best known as the home of the Itsukushima Shrine, a Shinto temple dedicated to the Princess daughters of the wind god Susanoo.

Dating from the eighth century, the majority of the shrine’s buildings rise out of the waters of a small bay supported only by piles. The effect at high tide is simply stunning, making these structures – including the famous Great Floating Gate (O-Torii) – appear as if they’re floating on water.

Linked together by walkways and bridges, it’s a fascinating place to explore, in particular its larger halls. These include the exquisite Honden (Main Hall), the Offerings Hall (Heiden), the Prayer Hall (Haiden), and the Hall of a Thousand Mats (Senjokaku).

Another notable feature is the shrine’s stage, where visitors are entertained with traditional dances and musical performances. Also worth exploring are the island’s exquisite grounds and gardens, home to wild deer and numerous bird colonies.

Please note: You can expect some interruptions and inconvenience from now until 2022 due to major renovations taking place at this historic site.

6. Temple City: Historic Nara

Temple City: Historic Nara
Temple City: Historic Nara

For centuries the hub of Japanese culture, the lovely unspoiled city of Nara is home to a large number of historic buildings, along with important national treasures and works of art.

In addition to its many historic streets, the city boasts numerous important old temples. These includ the magnificent seventh-century Kofuku-ji Temple, perhaps the best known of the Seven Great Temples of Nara; and the splendid eighth-century Todai-ji (Great East Temple), famous for its huge bronze statue of the Great Buddha (Daibutsu), cast here in AD 749.

Also of interest in Todai-ji are its Great South Gate (Nandaimon). This spectacular two-story structure is borne on 18 columns, with two Nio statues standing eight meters tall, and it guards the temple entrance. Also of note here is the Hall of the Great Buddha, the world’s largest timber building.

7. Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle with autumn leaves
Osaka Castle with autumn leaves

Built in 1586 by famous Japanese warrior and politician Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Osaka Castle (Ōsaka-jō) was at the time the largest and most important fortress in the country. Although destroyed and rebuilt a number of times since, the present structure, built in 1931, remains true to the original.

Highlights of a visit include the huge five-story, 42-meter-tall main tower. Built on an imposing 14-meter-tall stone base, the tower is home to a number of displays detailing the history of the castle and the city. Be sure to visit the top floor for its superb views over Osaka, an especially attractive sight as the sun sets.

Also of interest in Osaka Castle Park is the Hokoku Shrine, while Osaka’s best-known temple, Shitennō-ji, is also worth visiting and dates back to AD 59. Notable as Japan’s first Buddhist temple, this lovely shrine features a five-story pagoda along with a number of other exquisitely decorated buildings. Among them are the Golden Pavilion (Kondō), with its fine statues and paintings; the Lecture Hall (Kōdō); and a lovely covered corridor linking three of the site’s gates.

8. Chūbu-Sangaku National Park and the Japanese Alps

Chūbu-Sangaku National Park and the Japanese Alps
Chūbu-Sangaku National Park and the Japanese Alps

Japan boasts a number of outstanding areas of natural beauty, many of them designated as national parks or, in some cases, UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of the country’s most spectacular of these is Chūbu-Sangaku National Park in the center of Honshu. Located in the park’s northern and central regions is the group of mountains collectively referred to as the Hida Mountains, or Japanese Alps.

This region contains some of the highest peaks in the country, including Hotaka at 3,190 meters, and Yari at 3,180 meters. Similar in many ways to the Alps of Central Europe – both in the character of the landscape and in its abundance of snow in winter – the Japanese Alps attract large numbers of walkers and climbers in summer and skiers in winter.

Of particular interest is the park’s abundance of flora and fauna, including the rare ptarmigan and mountain antelopes found at higher altitudes. The park’s many hot springs also draw visitors and led to the development of various spas and holiday resorts, the best known being Kamikōchi.

9. The Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya

The Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya
The Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya

The Atsuta Shrine, in the heart of the city of Nagoya, is the most important Shinto shrine in Japan, and attracts more than five million visitors each year. Established in the first century, this religious site is famous for its preserved Imperial insignia, the “grass-mowing sword” (kusanagi-no-tsurugi), one of only three in the country.

Also of interest are its principal shrine, Hongu, surrounded by an enclosing wall, and the treasury with its numerous works of art, including old and modern paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and traditional masks. While in Nagoya, be sure to also visit Nagoya Castle. This splendid moated complex was built in 1612 and boasts a 48-meter-high main tower that is famous for its two gilded dolphins (shachi). It’s also a popular place to visit for its museum, containing art treasures from the former palace, and its spectacular views over the city and the Nobi Plain.

10. Fukuoka Castle and the City’s Ancient Festivals

Fukuoka Castle and the City's Ancient Festivals
Fukuoka Castle and the City’s Ancient Festivals

One of the few surviving examples of the once prolific and majestic hilltop homes preferred by Shoguns and city rulers, Fukuoka Castle (Fukuoka-jō) is one of the highlights of a visit to Fukuoka. Once part of a massive complex that covered an area of some 47,000 square meters, this beautiful castle still impresses with its size and its position on a tall foundation overlooking the Naka River.

Fukuoka is also well known for its many events and festivals. The best-known of these is Hakata Gion Yamakasa, a famous two-week long, 700-year-old celebration held each July that draws millions of visitors from across the country to its colorful parades, as well as its traditional races and costumes.

The city is not without its modern attractions, too. Most notable among them is Canal City Hakata, a-city-within-the-city complete with a canal running through the complex, along with great shops, hotels, restaurants, and a theater.

11. Sapporo, Hokkaido

Sapporo, Hokkaido
Sapporo, Hokkaido

Located on Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, the city of Sapporo offers many things to do for tourists. As the island’s largest city, it’s a hub of cultural activity, hosting many excellent events and festivals. It also has a distinctive culinary style; a rich theatrical history; and plenty of museums, galleries, and parks.

The focal point here is very much the city’s attractive downtown area, the center of which is Odori Park, a large swath of green that’s very pleasant to explore. From here, you can also access points of interest such as the Sapporo TV Tower, as well as the city’s famous aerial tramway, an easy walk away. The Mount Moiwa Ropeway will eventually get you to the summit’s Upper Station, from where you can enjoy incredible views over the city, a real treat at night.

The mountain is also the location of the Mount Moiwa Ski Resort, a popular winter destination, especially since the 1972 Winter Olympics were held in the city. And if you’re arriving in winter, be sure to visit the Sapporo Snow Festival, held here each February and drawing in excess of two million revelers.