The 20 most haunted places in the world

From a ghostly castle in France to a paranormal pub in Britain, these ‘possessed’ destinations are guaranteed to spook even the most sceptical of travellers…

1. Château de Brissac, Maine-et-Loire, France

The Castle of Brissac, a renaissance castle rebuilt in the 15th century by one of the ministers to King Charles VII (Shutterstock)

The Castle of Brissac, a renaissance castle rebuilt in the 15th century by one of the ministers to King Charles VII (Shutterstock)

The site: Dubbed as the ‘Giant of the Loire Valley’ this is the highest castle in France boasting seven floors, 204 rooms, numerous portrait galleries, and a private opera house which seats 200 people. It was a fortress built by the Counts of Anjou in the 11th Century and King Louis XIII dropped by in 1620.

The ghosts: The most active is La Dame Verte, (Green Lady), who was apparently the illegitimate child of King Charles VII and was later murdered by her husband in the château in the 15th century after he caught her having an affair.  She is often seen in the tower room of the chapel, wearing her green dress, with gaping holes where her eyes and nose should be. When not startling guests by her appearance she can be heard moaning around the castle.

Current situation: The château is a popular hotel that hosts special events such as a Christmas market and tastings of the well-regarded wines, produced from its own vineyards. Guests who are brave enough to stay overnight enjoy rooms lavishly decorated with period furniture.

2. Monte Cristo Homestead, New South Wales, Australia

The site: A late Victorian mansion, with intricate cast iron lattice work, built by wealthy landowner Christopher William Crawley in 1876. Reputedly Australia’s most haunted house.

The ghosts: Take your pick. There’s the young child who was dropped down the stairs, the maid who fell from the balcony or the stable boy who burned to death. The most active, however, is the ghost of the son of the caretaker who was found curled up next to the dead body of his mother and chained up for 40 years.

Current situation: The house currently operates as a B&B, offering dinner followed by a ghost tour where you can learn all about its gruesome past. Those who dare can spend the night in the haunted homestead.

3. Bhangarh Fort, Rajasthan, India

Tourists visiting the ruined fortress in the ancient city of Bhangarh. This palace is said to be cursed and entry during night is prohibited (Dreamstime)

Tourists visiting the ruined fortress in the ancient city of Bhangarh. This palace is said to be cursed and entry during night is prohibited

The site: The ruins of a fort city built in the 17th century, Bhangarh Fort consists of fort walls, bazars, havelis, royal palaces, and numerous temples, with three grand storeys you can explore. But do not be fooled by the beauty of these ruins as they are ranked as the most haunted fort in India.

The ghosts: A wizard called Singhia and a princess called Ratnavati who spurned his advances. Legend has it that the enchanted oil he hoped would make her love him turned into a boulder when she threw it away – and it crushed him. But not before he cursed the palace, condemning the inhabitants to death, without any hope of rebirth. Another story suggests a local ascetic cursed the fort because its shadow overpowered his property. And apparently, if anyone attempts to build a roof for the fort, it will collapse.

Current situation: Bhangarh Fort is now an archaeological site, known as the ‘House of Ghosts’. It is possible to hire a guide who can show you around the site and give you the details of its eerie past. Be sure to visit in daylight as the fort is closed between sunset and sunrise, with locals convinced that anyone who spends the night amongst the ruins will never be seen again. 

4. Myrtles Plantation, USA

Myrtle's Plantation has been called 'one of the most terrifying places in America' (Shutterstock)

Myrtle’s Plantation has been called ‘one of the most terrifying places in America’

The Site: Situated in the small town of St. Francisville, north-west of New Orleans is the mansion of Myrtles Plantation, boarded by a 125-foot veranda. The stained-glass front door leads into a grand foyer displaying a huge French crystal chandelier.

The ghosts: With 10 people being murdered in the mansion itself, it’s no surprise there have been so many reported ghost sightings, the most famous of which is Chloe, who had her ear cut off by her lover. She wears a green turban, peering intently at visitors while they’re in bed and has even appeared in a photograph. A more recent photo also shows another young girl, known as ‘Ghost Girl’ peering through the window of the house. More eerie sightings include a child bouncing on the beds, a soldier, a voodoo priestess and the ghost of a previous owner who was shot in the chest has been heard staggering up the stairs where he died.

Current situation: Despite being known as the most haunted house in America, the plantation is now a pretty Bed and breakfast offering 12 accommodations. Ghost tours are run from the site and you can choose between daily tours or the spookier and more popular evening tours. And soon a new restaurant on site will bring fresh, local food to visitors.

5. Dragsholm Slot, Denmark

Dragsholm Slot is a haunted hotel in Denmark (Shutterstock)

Dragsholm Slot is a haunted hotel in Denmark

The site: Dragsholm Slot, or Dragsholm Castle, was originally built in 1215, making it one of the oldest castles in Denmark and reportedly the most haunted castle in all of Europe. In the 16th and 17th century parts of it were used to house prisoners of noble or ecclesiastical rank, and in 1694 it was rebuilt in a Baroque style.

The ghosts: The castle is thought to be home to at least 100 ghosts including the Earl of Bothwell, the husband of Mary Queen of Scotts who died as a prisoner in the castle. You may also see the White Lady wandering the halls, who’s skeleton was found encased in a wall by builders in 1930.

Current situation: The castle has been transformed into a luxurious hotel with lavish rooms and a Michelin-rated restaurant serving locally sourced food. The hotel offers their own guided tour explaining the history of the building but for a truly terrifying experience, book a ghost tour including a two-night stay, a tour highlighting the spooky occupants and dinner at the gourmet restaurant.

6. Ancient Ram Inn, Gloucestershire, England

The Ancient Ram Inn in Gloucestershire (Shutterstock)

The Ancient Ram Inn in Gloucestershire

The site: Built in 1145, the inn was used by priests who kept slaves and workers in there to help build the St. Mary’s Church. Located in Wotton-under-edge, it is situated on two ley lines, places believed to have spiritual energy from Stonehenge. It has also been reported that it was the scene of a child sacrifice and devil worshipping.

The ghosts: It is widely believed that the redirecting of water on the Ancient Ram property caused a portal for dark energy to open up, meaning many ghosts haunt the inn. The ‘Witch’s Room’ is said to be haunted by a woman burnt at the stake in the 1500s as she was accused of being a witch. A high priestess has been spotted sitting on a bed, a centurion on horseback has been seen walking through the walls, the agonising screams of a girl heard, a monk in the most haunted room and even a succubus is said to slip into the beds of visitors.

Current situation: Despite being well known as one of the most haunted places in the world, featuring on TV programs such as ‘Most Haunted’ and ‘Ghost Adventures’, the inn has changed hands several times in the recent past, making the owners difficult to track down. However, many paranormal events are hosted at the inn.

7. Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town, South Africa

An overview of the De Kat Balcony within the Castle of Good Hope which is South Africa's oldest structure (Dreamstime)

An overview of the De Kat Balcony within the Castle of Good Hope which is South Africa’s oldest structure

The site: Built in the 17th century by the Dutch East India Company, the Castle of Good Hope is South Africa’s oldest building.

The ghosts: The first ghost was spotted in 1915 when the apparition of a tall gentleman was seen jumping off the side of one of the castle walls, and then walking between the bastions Leerdam and Oranje. Another famous ghost, the Lady in Grey, was often seen running through the castle holding her face and crying hysterically, but has not been seen since a woman’s body was found during excavations.

Other unexplained events include the bell in the bell tower ringing of its own accord and the ghost of a black dog that pounces on unsuspecting visitors, then simply vanishes into thin air. 

Current situation: Arguably one of the world’s best preserved 17th century buildings, the castle is now a popular tourist attraction with three prestigious museums, a memorial to Krotoa the leader of the Khoi nation and an opportunity to learn more of the hidden history surrounding the castle on a guided tour. You can also eat in the restaurant in the front courtyard and watch the Key Ceremony and cannon firing.

8. Hell Fire Club, Montpelier Hill, Ireland

The ruin of former hunting lodge Hell Fire Club, atop Montpelier Hill in Dublin, Ireland (Shutterstock)

The ruin of former hunting lodge Hell Fire Club, atop Montpelier Hill in Dublin, Ireland

The site: The Hell Fire Club was a hunting lodge, built in 1925 for William Connolly, an Irish parliamentary speaker. The stones of the buildings are from ancient passage tombs, said to have angered the Devil, which first associated the site with the supernatural.

The lodge reportedly became a gathering place for a small group of Dublin elites who met for debauchery and devil worship. Its ruins sit atop the summit of Montpelier Hill in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains.

The ghosts: Tales of animal sacrifice, black masses, cloven-hoofed men and murder are linked to the structure. The most popular tale tells of a visit by a satanic creature, in the form of a man, who was only discovered when one of the players dropped a card and on picking it up, noticed the guest had cloven feet.

On his discovery, the creature disappeared in a ball of flames. There are stories about a big black cat, the size of a dog who took on a priest and haunts the lodge. The most regular ghostly visitor is a young lady, believed to have been placed in a barrel, set on fire and rolled down the hill for fun.

Current situation: The Hell fire club is a popular stopping point on a walking trail through the Dublin Hills. Ghost tours of the site are also available, with extra tours running for the week of Halloween.

9. Banff Springs Hotel, Alberta, Canada

View of the Banff Springs Hotel building in Canada’s Rocky Mountains (Dreamstime)

View of the Banff Springs Hotel building in Canada’s Rocky Mountains

The Site: Styled after a Scottish baronial castle, The Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta Canada, is one of Canada’s great railway hotels and reportedly one of the most haunted buildings in the country.

The ghosts: There’s a bride who fell down the staircase breaking her neck after panicking when her dress caught fire. She is often seen in the ballroom dancing, with the flames coming from the back of her dress. A family were murdered in room 873. The door to this room has since been bricked up, but the family can still be seen in the hallway outside the room.

And former bellman, Sam Macauley who served at the hotel during the ’60s and ’70s still likes helping guests up to their rooms, dressed in his ’60s uniform. If you try to tip him or make conversation, he disappears.

Current situation: Now part of the Fairmont chain of luxury hotels, the Banff Springs, also known as ‘The Castle in the Rockies’ still remains a landmark in the town of Banff, Alberta and remains a popular year-round resort.

10. Poveglia Island, Italy

Is Poveglia Island the scariest in the world? Well, we wouldn't be too surprised if it was... (Shutterstock)

Is Poveglia Island the scariest in the world? Well, I wouldn’t be too surprised if it was…

The site: In the Venice Lagoon between Venice and Lido, this small island was a place where mainlanders fled to seek refuge from invaders. In the 14th century Venetians infected by the Bubonic plague were sent here to die – and, when they died, they were burned on giant pyres. The site was also used as a mental asylum during the 1800s where patients were experimented on and tortured.

The ghosts: Ask a local and they will tell you the island is full of ghosts and cursed with unhealthy spirits. Voices and screams are often heard, and visitors have reported seeing dark, fleeting shadows. Many visitors say they begin to feel an oppressive evil feeling as soon as they step on the island.

Current situation: Despite nearly being auctioned off to an entrepreneur, the island remains totally abandoned and off bounds to most visitors. Even if you were allowed to go to the island, you’d be hard to find someone willing to take you as many locals won’t step foot on Poveglia for fear of being cursed and fisherman refuse to fish in the area, worried they’ll drag up human remains.

11. The Separate Prison, Port Arthur, Australia

The haunted corridors of the Separate Prison (Shutterstock)

The haunted corridors of the Separate Prison

The site: Until the late 1800s, the Separate Prison in Tasmania’s secluded Port Arthur housed some of Britain’s toughest criminals. Taking inspiration from the works of British writer Jeremy Bentham, this panopticon-style prison block thrived on completely isolating prisoners to a torturous degree.

The Separate Prison operated a ‘silent system’, where prisoners were hooded, placed in solitary confinement and forbidden to speak to anyone. Conditions were so unbearable that countless inmates would murder their fellow prisoners. They’d rather face the death penalty than spend another minute there. 

The ghosts: Hundreds of hooded inmates are said to wander the halls at night, a handful of the thousand people buried in the unmarked burial ground. 

Current situation: Port Arthur is a now a historic site museum open to the public. There are (chilling) nightly ghost tours if you’re feeling brave. 

12. La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina

A tomb in Cementerio de la Recoleta (Shutterstock)

A tomb in Cementerio de la Recoleta

The site: Located in the Recoleta neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, the Cementerio de la Recoleta is regarded as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. First built in 1822, it is full of ornately-designed tombs, elaborate sculptures and mature shady trees. Buenos Aires’ best and brightest are buried here, including actress Eva Perón, the former First Lady of Argentina.

The ghosts: There are reportedly multiple spirits wandering the grid-like aisles of Recoleta. One of the most famous stories is of Rufina Cambaceres, a wealthy 19-year-old woman, the daughter of a beloved Argentine author.

Urban legend states that heavy rain postponed her burial. When the groundskeeper returned to the tomb to lay her to rest once the weather cleared, he found Rufina’s coffin lid ajar, with scratch marks on the inside. The legend goes that she had been buried alive, and woke in her coffin after suffering a case of ‘catalepsy’.

If you hear a jangling noise in the breeze, they may be the ghostly keys of David Alleno, a gravedigger who worked at the cemetery for 30 years. He killed himself at the cemetery, allegedly after his tomb was completed, and was buried on site. 

Current situation: While still a functioning graveyard, Cementerio de la Recoleta remains a popular destination for locals and tourist alike. Pick up a map at the entrance to help you negotiate your way around the 6,400 graves.

13. Jazirat Al Hamra, United Arab Emirates

An abandoned building in Jazirat al Hamra (Shutterstock)

An abandoned building in Jazirat al Hamra

The site: Once a flourishing pearl fishing village, Jazirat Al Hamra near Ras Al Kaimah was completely abandoned in the 1960s. Some say it was because of tribal conflicts, whole others blame the changing tides. The most popular theory is that the residents were driven away by ghosts.

The ghosts: Local legend has it that the ruins are haunted by malicious djinns who wander the dirt roads of the town disguised as animals. Visitors regularly hear strange noises and spot apparitions amongst the mud-coral houses. 

Current situation: The ruins are regularly used as a film set by Hollywood directors, such as Michael Bay. Each year, residents of nearby towns and cities gather to have a party in the town. 

14. The Langham Hotel, London, England

The Langham Hotel on Regent Street (Shutterstock)

The Langham Hotel on Regent Street

The site: The 153-year-old Langham Hotel has long been a staple of the high life in London. Literary legends Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain stayed here. And the luxury accommodation provides the setting for a famous Sherlock story, A Scandal In Belgravia, by Arthur Conan Doyle

The ghosts: As befits one of London’s finest five star hotels, the ghosts that haunt the corridors here are a cut above, too. Reports have suggested that there are at least five ghosts in the 500-room establishment, with room number 333 rumoured to be the most haunted of all.

Given the size of the hotel and its lengthy history, you could potentially run into any number of spirits. However, your haunting encounter could potentially be with one of the Langham’s most esteemed ghostly guests, such as Napoleon III, the first president of France, or a German nobleman, who was said to kill himself in the hotel. 

Current situation: Re-branded as the Langham Hilton in 1991 after a £100 million refurbishment, the hotel remains one of London’s most iconic hotels. 

15. Teatro Tapia, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Teatro Tapia (Creative Commons: Bjoertvedt)

Teatro Tapia

The site: First built in 1824, the Italian-style horseshoe-shaped opera house in San Jua, Puerto Rico has been the centre of the city’s cultural life for over 100 years. Don’t let its supernatural connection put you off. It’s worth a visit for its unique design alone.

The ghosts: The stalls here are said to be haunted by the spirit of an actress who fell to her death during a performance. She returned to haunt the venue from beyond the grave and can still be heard, at times, singing from the stage. There have even been reports of doors slamming shut backstage. 

Current situation: Teatro Tapia, in addition to its fame as one of Puerto Rico’s most haunted sites, hosts a full calendar of more earthly events including frequent ballet and opera performances. 

16. Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, India

Ferries jostling in front of the Taj Mahal Palace (Shutterstock)

Ferries jostling in front of the Taj Mahal Palace

The site: Arguably the grandest hotel in Mumbai, if not India, the 560-room Taj Mahal Palace has been the place to wine, dine and sleep since the days of the Raj. It has put the tragedy of the 2008 terrorist attacks behind it, to take centre stage in the city again. 

The ghosts: One of the hotel’s architects, W. A. Chambers, threw himself from the fifth floor balcony. Apparently, he was distressed when he returned from a trip abroad to discover that the hotel’s design had gone in a completely different direction in his absence. In a tragic twist of fate, his ghost is said to wander the halls and the Old Wing of the hotel.  

Current situation: Still one of India’s most glamorous hotels, rooms start from £200.

17. Carl Beck House, Ontario, Canada

Carl Beck House (Airbnb)

Carl Beck House

The site: This large, picturesque county house was built by Canadian lumber magnate, Carl Beck. After his wife died, his eldest daughter Mary took over as head of the household. Despite raising her younger siblings, she was left only a single dollar in her father’s will. The rest of the estate was divided amongst the siblings that she’d given up her life to care for.

The ghosts: Guests staying at Carl Beck House have reported seeing a suited-up man being chased by a very angry woman wearing a dark-coloured blouse and skirt. No prizes for guessing who they are.

Current situation: You can spend the night Carl Beck House on Airbnb, with prices starting from $98 a night. If you’re unafraid of a thrill, that is. The house frequently lands on lists of the most haunted Airbnb properties you can stay in.

18. Chaonei Church, Beijing, China

The ruins of Chaonei Church (Creative Common: Daniel Case)

The ruins of Chaonei Church

The site: Chaonei 81, commonly known as Chaonei Church, was first built in 1910, not as a church but as the North China Union Language School to teach Mandarin Chinese to missionaries from the West.

From the 1930s, the Chaoyangmen neighborhood of Beijing’s most imposing house served as a Catholic church, until the communist government took control of the building in the 1950s. Truth be told, there’s still a bit of dispute as to the building’s true origins.

The ghosts: One grisly tale about Chaonei Church’s origins suggests it was the home for a Chinese National Party official in 1949. That story didn’t end so well. 

So, depending on your luck, you’ll either come across the government official’s mistress, who killed herself there after their break up, or a group of three drunk construction workers who broke into the building and were never seen again. Eerily, the temperature of the house is said to be much colder than the rest of Beijing, even during the summer.

Current situation: The house is still abandoned, though. It’s considered the most haunted place in Beijing, and is left undisturbed by the city’s wider population, wary of the ghostly householders. Unless, of course, there’s an opportunity to film a movie there…

19. Kellie’s Castle, Batu Gajah, Malaysia

Kellie's Castle in Batu Gajah, Malaysia (Shutterstock)

Kellie’s Castle in Batu Gajah, Malaysia

Site: This unfinished mansion, built in a Moorish revival and Indo-Saracenic style, was started by a Scottish planter named William Kellie-Smith. It was meant to be a as be a gift to his wife, but sadly he died of pneumonia in Lisbon, Portugal, where he was visiting to purchase a lift for the property. 

Neither his wife nor his children could bear to return to the property, and other family didn’t wish to return to Malaysia, so it was left to decay and become derelict. 

Ghosts: Photographers visiting the area for its nature and wildlife have claimed to see ghostly figures standing by the window frames. The man himself, Mr Kellie-Smith, despite dying in Portugal, is still said to haunt the second-floor hallway, no doubt disappointed his grand vision was never completed.  

Current situation: Kellie’s Castle still stands to this day, and you can embark on a private tour to fully explore the building and its history. Tours are available daily from Kuala Lumpur, which is two hours away.

20. Casa de la Poesia, Bogotá, Colombia

Casa de Poesía Silva, Bogotá, Colombia (Poesía Silva)

Casa de Poesía Silva, Bogotá, Colombia

The site: Located in the Candelaria neighbourhood of Bogotá, Casa de la Poesia was the home of the great Modernist poet José Asunción Silva. He was known to be quite morbid, and lived through several personal tragedies, including the death of his beloved sister, Elvira.

He also lost his many of finest works – handwritten manuscripts – during a shipwreck. José died in the house in 1896, at the young age of 30. In 1995, it was declared a Colombian national monument for its historic significance.

The ghosts: Señor Silva himself is said to still haunt his house. Visitors frequently report hearing the poet muttering under his breath from other rooms. 

Current situation: Casa de Poesía Silva remains a listed national monument in Colombia. Visitors and locals alike can see the house during one of its regular poetry readings or literary workshops. 

Plant🪴purification

Some people go to shops and buy air purifies but those things don’t work. Here are 2 plants who make air clean and fresh.

1. Money Plants

I’m sure you’ve heard of this plant before but did you know it cleans air really well.

My mom is really fond of these 😂. Money plant is popular and known for bringing positivity, prosperity and good luck to the area. This air purifying plant is one of the best plants to energize the house by filtering air and increasing oxygen flow.

2. Snake Plants

The snake plant (also known as ‘mother-in-law’s tongue’) is a natural air purifier. It emits oxygen at night that helps you sleep better. It’s also known to remove some harmful chemicals from the air.

And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed his post and start planting these in your home.

12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in New Zealand

Nature crafted New Zealand with the surreal beauty of a movie set. Few destinations boast so many staggering natural wonders packed into such a small area. Snow-capped peaks, sparkling coves, coastal glaciers, rain forests, fjords, and fish-filled rivers are some of the treasures travelers can explore. In Rotorua, one of the world’s largest geothermal areas, visitors can witness the powerful forces that birthed these landscapes in the bubbling mud ponds and hissing springs.

Thanks to its dramatic topography, New Zealand is a hot spot for adrenaline-fueled sports. White water rafting, luging, jet boating, heli-skiing, skydiving, hiking, and mountain biking round out the list of outdoor adventures, and the country is home to one of the highest bungee jumps in the world.

Strategically, New Zealand is a breeze to travel around. Self-drive vacations are popular, and the country’s diverse accommodations range from quaint bed-and-breakfast inns and eco-lodges to some of the world’s most luxurious hotels. For more ideas on things to do, read our list of the top attractions in New Zealand.

1. Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound, South Island

Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound, South Island
Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound, South Island

A World Heritage Site, Fiordland National Park protects some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Glaciers sculpted this dramatic landscape, carving the famous fjords of Milford, Dusky, and Doubtful Sounds. Visitors here can explore gushing cascades, offshore islands, virgin rain forests, vast lakes, and craggy mountain peaks.

Not surprisingly, the park is a haven for hikers with some of the country’s best hiking, including the famous Milford Track. Sea kayaking is a popular way to explore the fjords, and visitors can also enjoy a scenic flight over the park for a bird’s-eye view of its staggering beauty.

2. Bay of Islands, North Island

Bay of Islands, North Island
Bay of Islands, North Island

A three-hour drive north of Auckland, the beautiful Bay of Islands is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the country. More than 144 islands dot the glittering bay, making it a haven for sailing and yachting.

Penguins, dolphins, whales, and marlin live in these fertile waters, and the region is a popular sport-fishing spot. Visitors can sea kayak along the coast, hike the many island trails, bask in secluded coves, tour Cape Brett and the famous rock formation called Hole in the Rock, and explore subtropical forests where Kauri trees grow. The quaint towns in the area such as Russell, Opua, Paihia, and Kerikeri are great bases for exploring this scenic bay.

3. Queenstown, South Island

Queenstown, South Island
Queenstown, South Island

Snuggled between the shores of shimmering Lake Wakatipu and the snowy peaks of the Remarkable, Queenstown is New Zealand’s adventure capital and one of the country’s top destinations for international visitors. Bungee jumping, jet boating, white water rafting, paragliding, rock climbing, mountain biking, and downhill skiing are just some of the adrenaline-fueled things to do here, and visitors can explore the stunning alpine scenery on the excellent network of hiking trails.

In addition to the adventure sports, Queenstown offers all the creature comforts, with first-class hotels, spas, restaurants, galleries, and shops. It’s also a great base for sightseeing trips to the Central Otago region, where visitors can explore gold-mining towns and the Middle Earth scenery from the popular Lord of the Rings movies.

4. Lake Taupo and Tongariro National Park, North Island

Lake Taupo and Tongariro National Park, North Island
Lake Taupo and Tongariro National Park, North Island

In the center of the North Island and just a few kilometers from glittering Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake, lies Tongariro National Park. A dual World Heritage Site due to its spectacular volcanic features and its importance to the Maori culture, the volcanic peaks of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and part of Ruapehu were in fact gifted by Maori chief Te Heuheu Tukino IV in 1887 to the people of New Zealand in order to preserve this sacred land.

One of the oldest national parks in the world, Tongariro is a land of dramatic beauty, with towering volcanoes, turquoise lakes, arid plateaus, alpine meadows, and hot springs. A highlight of the park is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the most popular day walks in the country. Fun things to do here include camping, enjoying the park’s many walks and hiking trails, and spending time in its interesting visitor center.

5. Rotorua, North Island

Rotorua, North Island
Rotorua, North Island

On the tumultuous Pacific Ring of Fire, Rotorua is one of the most active geothermal regions in the world. This is a land where the earth speaks. Boiling mud pools, hissing geysers, volcanic craters, and steaming thermal springs betray the forces that birthed much of New Zealand’s dramatic topography.

Visitors can take a walking tour of these geothermal wonders and soak in steaming mineral springs while visiting a variety of interesting attractions in order to learn about the region’s rich Maori history and culture.

Adventure seekers will also find plenty of things to do. Sky-diving, luging, and mountain biking are some of the activities on offer. Trout fishing is also popular, and Rotorua is the gateway to the ski fields of Mt. Ruapehu.

Nearby Wai-O-Tapu is also a popular tourist attraction with colorful hot springs and the famous Champagne Pool and Lady Knox Geyser.

6. Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, South Island

Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, South Island
Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, South Island

Among the most accessible glaciers in the world, Franz Josef and Fox glaciers are the main tourist attractions in spectacular Westland Tai Poutini National Park. Both of these rivers of ice flow from some of the highest peaks in the Southern Alps to near sea level, where the gentle coastal climate makes it easy for visitors to explore them on foot.

Guided hikes lead to the contorted frozen landscape of ice caves and pinnacles at the foot of the glaciers, plus a series of fascinating hot pools. For an aerial view, seaplanes and helicopters fly visitors to the top of these vast tongues of ice.

7. Abel Tasman National Park & the Abel Tasman Coast Track, South Island

Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park

The Abel Tasman Coast Track in Abel Tasman National Park is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Winding along sparkling Tasman Bay, from Marahau to Separation Point, this scenic 51-kilometer hike lies in one of the sunniest regions of the South Island. Along the way, visitors can snorkel or kayak in secluded coves; enjoy tours that offer the chance to spot fur seals, dolphins, penguins, and a diverse range of birds; hike through cool forests; and enjoy panoramic views from the rugged coastal cliffs.

Photographers will also enjoy the many weathered rock formations, especially Split Apple Rock, a giant granite boulder sliced in two. The hike takes around three days, and accommodation ranges from campgrounds, to rustic huts, and plush private lodges. Sea kayaks are also a popular way to explore this beautiful coast.

8. Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, South Island

Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, South Island
Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, South Island

In the heart of the Southern Alps, New Zealand’s highest peaks rise above the alpine landscapes of Aoraki National Park, also called Mount Cook National Park. More than 40 percent of the park is covered in glaciers, and the country’s tallest mountain Aoraki/Mount Cook and longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier, lie within its borders, making this a top destination for mountaineering. Sir Edmund Hillary trained here for his legendary Mount Everest ascent.

Nature lovers will appreciate the diversity of flora and fauna, with more than 300 species of alpine plants and 40 species of birds. Mount Cook Village is a great base for exploring the park and organizing activities such as scenic flights, ski touring, heli-skiing, hunting, hiking, and stargazing trips.

9. Napier, Hawke’s Bay, North Island

Art Deco buildings in Napier
Art Deco buildings in Napier

In the sunny region of Hawke’s Bay, Napier is famous for its gourmet food and Art Deco architecture. After a powerful earthquake destroyed the town in 1931, it was rebuilt in the Spanish Mission style and Art Deco design for which Miami Beach is also famous. Today, fun things for visitors to do include taking a self-guided tour to view these buildings, some of which are embellished with Maori motifs, or spending time at Napier Beach.

Along the Marine Parade seafront promenade lies the town’s famous statue from Maori mythology, called Pania of the Reef. Napier is also a haven for foodies. Gourmet restaurants here specialize in using fresh produce from the region, and the town plays host to popular farmers’ markets. Nearby attractions include hiking trails and the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers.

10. Auckland, North Island

Auckland, North Island
Auckland, North Island

Blessed with two sparkling harbors, Auckland, the “City of Sails,” is New Zealand’s largest city and the most populous Polynesian city in the world (population = 1.6 million). Blond- and black-sand beaches, rain forest hiking trails, picturesque coves, islands, and volcanoes surround the city, making it a perfect base for day trips and wilderness adventures.

To appreciate Auckland’s stunning location, visitors can zoom up the 328-meter Sky Tower for spectacular views across the city and hinterland. Other fun things to do in Auckland include enjoying its top-notch dining, sampling its vibrant arts scene, and a revamped waterfront district packed with boutiques and restaurants.

11. Coromandel Peninsula, North Island

Coromandel Peninsula, North Island
Coromandel Peninsula, North Island

Just across the Hauraki Gulf from Auckland, the rugged Coromandel Peninsula seems a world away from the city’s hustle and bustle. Craggy mountains cloaked in native forest form a spine along the peninsula, offering excellent opportunities for hiking and birding.

Other fun things to do for tourists include relaxing on the golden beaches, sea kayaking around the offshore islands, sky diving, and visiting the many galleries and art studios. At Hot Water Beach, a dip in the bubbling hot pools is a great way to end a busy day of sightseeing.

12. Kaikoura, South Island

A whale breaching in Kaikoura, South Island
A whale breaching in Kaikoura, South Island

Birders, wildlife enthusiasts, and seafood aficionados will love the charming coastal village of Kaikoura. Tucked between the Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Pacific Ocean, Kaikoura offers excellent coastal hikes and popular whale watching tours. In addition to sperm whales and humpbacks, passengers may spot fur seals, dolphins, and a wide variety of birds including the graceful albatross.

A Cursed Diamond…

According to the legend, a curse attends the owner of the Hope diamond, a curse that first befell the large, blue gem when it was plucked (stolen) from an idol in India—a curse that foretold bad luck and death not only for the owner of the diamond but for all who touched it.

The Hope diamond is the most famous cursed diamond in the world, but it is only one of many. In fact there are dozens of others; according to “The Giant Book of Superstition” by Claudia de Lys, “Diamond superstitions are now found everywhere in the world.

Wilhelm Fals was a Dutch jeweler who was responsible for cutting the 115-carat diamond to the 45-carat Blue Hope Diamond we see today. After it was cut, he suffered ill fate when his son allegedly stole the diamond, murdered his father and then took his own life.

Today, Simon Frankel, a New York jeweler, bought the infamous diamond for $148,000.

10 Victims of the Hope Diamond Curse | Mental Floss

Ghost train in Italy!?

Italy’s mysterious train disappeared with 104 passengers, no clue found till date. Two people managed to jump of the train after it went to a tunnel and never came through. The people said they saw white smoke and got scared so they jumped off. In the year 1911, it is said about the disappearing mysterious train (train mysterious disappearance) that was already seen in Mexico in the 1840s.

12 Best Places to Visit in the UK

Consisting of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom (UK) has long been one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. The country’s appeal has much to do with its diverse scenery and rich cultural heritage. The best places to visit include everything from beautifully preserved country estates and castles, to its many world-class art galleries and museums.

One of the greatest pleasures of a UK vacation, however, is just how easy it is to explore this fascinating and diverse country. Thanks to its size-the UK could easily fit into the state of Texas (with room to spare)-you can base yourself in cities such as London or Liverpool and simply take a train or bus to explore other areas.

From the nation’s capital, a 90-minute train ride is all it takes to access beautiful Salisbury, and a short bus ride or tour from here will take you to one of the country’s most recognizable attractions, Stonehenge. And if you want to hop between the Scottish cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, a one-hour train ride will deposit you in the heart of either city.

1. London: The UK’s All-in-One Destination

London: The UK's All-in-One Destination

London: The UK’s All-in-One Destination

While it’s possible to plan a trip to the UK without visiting London, it’s certainly not to be advised, as the nation’s sprawling capital boasts plenty of attractions to keep you busy. For those interested in learning more about the UK’s rich history, one of the top things to do in London is visit the Tower of London. Located beside the spectacular Tower Bridge on the banks of the River Thames, this former palace and prison includes highlights such as the iconic 1,000-year-old White Tower, with its fascinating displays of armor and weaponry, and the Jewel House, home to the Crown Jewels.

Fans of Britain’s Royal Family will want to head to Buckingham Palace, London’s Royal home since Queen Victoria’s reign. Here, you can enjoy the colorful pomp of the Changing of the Guard or even take a tour of the Palace’s State Rooms (be sure to book in advance as they’re only open for a few weeks each year).

The city’s Whitehall Road area is another must, where you’ll find Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings, as well as Westminster Abbey, scene of many a royal wedding. Another area to visit in London is South Kensington, home to the city’s best museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum, as well as the famous Harrods department store. Also check out Trafalgar Square, home to iconic Nelson’s Column and the National Portrait Gallery.

2. Edinburgh: Scotland’s Capital

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

One of Scotland’s most attractive cities, the capital city of Edinburgh is also one of the UK’s most visited destinations. Popular for its many well-preserved historic buildings, Edinburgh is perhaps best known as the home of the majestic Edinburgh Castle. Perched high above the old city on a rocky promontory, this 13th-century royal fortress includes highlights such as the famous One O’Clock Salute, held daily at Half Moon Battery; the Scottish Crown Jewels in the Royal Palace; the Scottish National War Memorial; and the famous Stone of Destiny (the Stone of Scone), only returned to Scotland after being held for 700 years in London.

From the castle, it’s easy to explore the other most important historic sites in the city, most notably the Old Town’s Royal Mile with its fine architecture, boutique shops, cafés, restaurants, and art galleries, as well as the splendid old Palace of Holyroodhouse. Other Edinburgh highlights include broad Princes Street, popular for its shopping and dining, as well as for the Royal Botanical Garden and the National Gallery of Scotland.

3. Roman-Era Bath

Bath

Bath

Although one of the UK’s smaller cities, Bath more than makes up for its diminutive size with a multitude of things to see and do. Named after its famous Roman Baths, this beautiful city has been luring visitors to its healing waters for more than 2,000 years. Gushing from three hot springs, the water-known to consist of 43 different minerals, hence its curative properties-travels upwards some 3,048 meters at a rate of 275,000 gallons per day, before spilling out at a consistent 46.5 degrees Celsius.

While it’s not possible to bathe in the original Roman Baths, a number of nearby spas-most notably the superb Thermae Bath Spa-offer guests the chance to enjoy the city’s famous waters.

In addition to its ancient history, Bath is also famous for its lovely Georgian architecture, the best examples of which can be seen along the magnificent, curved Royal Crescent, with its palatial townhomes. One of them, No.1 Royal Crescent, is now a museum that offers a fascinating peek into life during Georgian times.

4. Ancient Stonehenge and Medieval Salisbury

Ancient Stonehenge and Medieval Salisbury

Ancient Stonehenge and Medieval Salisbury

One of the planet’s oldest World Heritage Sites, Stonehenge has been a place of pilgrimage for more than 4,500 years. It was believed to have been erected as a place of worship, but these days, the crowds consist of tourists drawn by the sheer scale of this magnificent monument to mankind’s ingenuity.

It’s a sprawling site, covering an area of more than 20 square kilometers and boasting a state-of-the-art visitor center, which offers a fascinating glimpse not only into the construction of Stonehenge, but also its history since then. Plan ahead and purchase a timed ticket for the day of your visit.

Be sure to also spend time exploring the nearby medieval city of Salisbury, located just 16 kilometers south of Stonehenge. Here, you’ll be rewarded with a chance to visit one of the country’s most famous cathedrals, dating back to 1220 and home to an original Magna Carta. Afterwards, be sure to wander the old city center with its many fine churches and historic medieval architecture.

5. Wonderful Windsor

Wonderful Windsor

Wonderful Windsor

The historic town of Windsor, conveniently located a short train ride west of London, offers plenty of fun things to do for tourists. In addition to its lovely Thames-side setting and the many medieval half-timbered buildings along its quaint old cobblestone laneways, it’s also home to spectacular Windsor Castle, the most famous of the UK’s royal castles.

This grand old castle has served as the summer residence of British royalty for more than a millennium (it was started by William the Conqueror in 1078) and is the world’s largest inhabited castle. Highlights include the splendid State Apartments containing the Queen’s Gallery and dining hall, each with magnificently painted ceilings and woodcarvings, and St. George’s Chapel, famous as the home of the Knights and Ladies of the ancient Order of the Garter.

When you’ve had your fill of these historic buildings, be sure to also spend time exploring the castle’s large and beautiful grounds, which are almost 10 kilometers long. Here you’ll enjoy some truly memorable panoramic views over Windsor and its castle.

Other area attractions worth visiting include Legoland Windsor, a fun family resort set on 150 acres of parkland and just a short bus ride from the town center, and Royal Ascot, the UK’s most famous horse-racing venue (try to time your trip to coincide with the Royal Meeting held each June).

6. Idyllic England: The Cotswolds and Lake District

The Cotswolds and the Lake District: Idyllic England

The Cotswolds and Lake District

Covering almost 1,287 square kilometers of pristine countryside, the beautiful Cotswolds is undoubtedly one of the most photographed corners of the UK. Located an easy day trip west of London and close to the popular tourist attractions of Bath and Bristol, the Cotswolds includes some of the best parts of the counties of Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire.

Travelers flock here to experience a true taste of rural English life, and to explore its many quaint village greens and idyllic pasturelands. One of the most popular ways to do this is via the area’s extensive trail network, including the excellent 16-kilometer-long Cotswold Way. Other fun things to do include horseback riding and biking, or simply soaking up the history of popular market towns such as Castle Combe or Tetbury.

To the north of the Cotswolds and covering an area of 1,448 square kilometers is another slice of beautiful English scenery: the Lake District National Park. Encompassing 12 of the country’s largest lakes (Windermere and Ullswater are the biggest), this region is another region of the UK that’s great to explore on foot thanks to its more than 3,218 kilometers of trails. Highlights include visiting Scafell Pike, at 978 meters the highest mountain in England, as well as exploring its many picturesque towns, including Grasmere.

7. Medieval York and its Minster

Medieval York and its Minster

Medieval York and its Minster

One of northern England’s most popular tourist destinations, the medieval city of York, long the ecclesiastical capital of the Church of England, boasts one of the country’s most magnificent cathedrals. The country’s largest medieval church, York Minster can trace its roots back to the spread of Christianity in the 3rd century, although the splendid present Gothic structure was built almost 1,000 years later.

Highlights of a tour include the opportunity to view its 14th-century stained glass windows, plus the richly decorated interiors of the choir and north transept. Also worth a visit is the crypt, which contains parts of the original 11th-century church the cathedral now stands on.

Other landmarks worth exploring are the ancient City Walls, which stretch almost five kilometers around the old medieval city center and offer excellent views over The Shambles, a narrow 14th-century roadway, famous for its fine old timber-framed buildings, many of which hang over the street below. It’s also an area known for its many restaurants and tearooms, as well as its many boutique shops and galleries.

York also boasts a number of major museums, the most popular being the National Railway Museum. Highlights of this museum’s vast collection include many fine old steam engines dating as far back as 1820, plus a unique collection of Royal Trains.

8. The University Towns of Cambridge & Oxford

The University Towns of Cambridge & Oxford

The University Towns of Cambridge & Oxford

The UK has long been a center of learning, with two of its most famous university towns also ranking highly as tourist destinations. An easy commute north of London-and just 128 kilometers apart-Cambridge and Oxford have for centuries been rivals for the title as the country’s top academic establishment, a rivalry celebrated during the famous rowing event, The Boat Race, which takes place each spring on the River Thames.

Despite this generally good-spirited rivalry, each location offers plenty of attractions to make them worthwhile additions to your UK travel itinerary. Highlights of a visit to Cambridge include the chance to wander the UK’s largest collection of preserved historic buildings, many of them located within an easy walk of Cambridge University’s 31 colleges, the oldest of which was founded in 1284.

In addition to touring the stunning college grounds (only a handful of the university’s buildings offer tours), visitors to Cambridge should also take a punt along the River Cam, as well as explore the old town center.

Oxford University’s 38 colleges are equally attractive, each set around a quadrangle and several inner courtyards along with chapels, dining halls, libraries, and student accommodations (some offer unique tourist accommodation packages, too). Oxford highlights include the Carfax Tower, with its fine views over the city center, and the many fine old buildings of the town’s High Street.

9. Liverpool and Manchester

Liverpool and Manchester

Liverpool and Manchester

Thanks to its international airport, Manchester is often the first stop for many visitors planning to explore northern England, Scotland, or Wales. Highlights include Castlefield, popular for its well-preserved Victorian houses, canals, and Roman ruins, as well as the many old warehouses now serving as trendy shops, hotels, and restaurants. Other attractions include Manchester Cathedral and the historic Town Hall, as well as a rich cultural scene that includes museums (Museum of Science and Industry), galleries (Manchester Art Gallery), and entertainment (Chinatown).

Liverpool, just an hour away by rail, offers plenty of cultural excitement of its own, not least because of its association with the Beatles. Music fans are drawn here for “Fab Four” related attractions such as The Beatles Story in the renovated Albert Docks area; the famous Cavern Club, where the band made its debut in 1961; as well as the former homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney (numerous walking tours and bus tours of Beatles sites are also readily available).

Other great reasons to visit Liverpool include its many historic buildings; lovely gardens and parks; as well as great museums such as the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the Museum of Liverpool, and world-class art galleries like the Walker Art Galleryand the Tate Gallery.

10. Canterbury

Canterbury

Canterbury

Pay a visit to historic Canterbury in Kent, and you’ll soon discover why this beautiful city continues to be such a draw for visitors to the UK. An easy hour’s train ride from central London (or just minutes away from the EuroTunnel), Canterbury has been a draw for pilgrims for more than 1,500 years, ever since St. Augustine first started converting pagan Anglo Saxons to Christianity here in AD 597.

The city’s most famous attraction is Canterbury Cathedral, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this stunning cathedral offers plenty to see, from the intricately carved masonry of its exterior to its magnificent interior, a highlight of which is the beautiful choir with its statues of six English kings. Also of note are the exquisite Miracle Windows, dating from the 12th century and depicting scenes from the life of murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket.

Afterwards, be sure to spend time wandering the pedestrianized area of Old City Canterbury with its many preserved, historic, timber-framed buildings, particularly along Mercery Lane. Other must-sees include the Canterbury Tales, a fascinating look at the life and times of famous English poet Geoffrey Chaucer (aka the “Father of English Literature”), and the excellent Canterbury Roman Museum, built around the remains of an original Roman townhouse and its unique mosaic.

11. Cardiff: The Capital of Wales

Cardiff: The Capital of Wales

Cardiff: The Capital of Wales

Despite being much smaller than both Scotland and England, Wales is home to some of the UK’s top attractions and fun things to do, from exploring the breathtaking scenery and enjoying outdoor adventures in its national parks to visiting its historic castles.

One of the best places to sample a little of everything that Wales has to offer is the country’s capital, Cardiff, with most travelers beginning their visit at Cardiff Castle. Located in the middle of the city and built on the ruins of an ancient Roman fort, parts of the current structure date as far back as 1090, with much of it restored in the 1800s. Highlights include the State Apartments, the Clock Tower, the Chapel, and a spectacular Banqueting Hall with its fine murals.

Afterwards, be sure to spend time wandering the city’s many old Victorian shopping arcades, the best of which can be found around The Hayes. Also worth checking out is Cardiff Bay. One of the UK’s largest redevelopment projects, this vast area is now home to numerous fine restaurants, theaters, galleries, and shopping opportunities, many of them housed in former warehouses on lovely Mermaid Quay.

Cardiff Bay is also where you’ll find the World of Boats, with its unique collection of vessels from around the globe, and Techniquest, a fun science center featuring a planetarium and theater.

12. Loch Ness and Inverness

Loch Ness and Inverness

Loch Ness and Inverness

Despite the fact that the legends of mythical monsters have largely been debunked (just don’t tell the locals), spectacular Loch Ness remains an extremely popular tourist attraction for travelers heading to Scotland. While it’s unlikely you’ll encounter any monsters, you will, however, be rewarded with seeing some of the UK’s most beautiful scenery.

Highlights include the ruins of Urquhart Castle, overlooking the loch, one of Scotland’s largest fortifications (the current structure dates from the 14th century). For those wanting to learn more about the area’s many legends, the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition recounts its history, along with that of its monster, including details of ongoing searches for the elusive creature.

A little farther north is Inverness, which boasts numerous excellent attractions, including Inverness Castle, the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, and the late 19th-century St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

History buffs should also check out the Culloden Battlefield and Visitors Centre. It was in Culloden in 1746 that the English and Scots fought their last battle and where the fate of Scotland as a British dominion was determined. Also of interest are the gravestones of warriors from the Scottish clans, as well as the six-meter-high Memorial Cairn erected in 1881 to commemorate the battle.

12 Best Places to Visit in Russia

The largest country in the world really has it all—mountains, valleys, frozen lands and warm sands, and an incredible number of amazing natural destinations to impress any visitor. Some of the oldest cities in Russia, including Moscow and St. Petersburg, still retain their imperial splendor—obvious not only in their architecture but also in their majestic parks, shopping centers, and even metro stations.

Other cities and regions—including far-away destinations in Siberia and the Far East—offer a chance to explore things like the stunning beauty of the tundra and the Northern Lights, volcanoes, and more skiing than you could ever dream of.

From striking gilded palaces to vast natural spaces, take a look at our list of the best places to visit in Russia.

1. Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal

When it comes to breaking records, Lake Baikal is hard to beat. This massive high-altitude rift lake in Siberia is the oldest and deepest lake in the world—reaching a maximum depth of 1,642 meters and an estimated 25 million years of age. Baikal is also the largest freshwater lake in the world—over 20 percent of the world’s fresh water is in this lake.

Although Lake Baikal is considered one of the clearest lakes in the world, this is particularly noticeable in winter, where, in some areas, it’s possible to see up to 40 meters down into the water—even though much of the lake’s surface freezes over for up to five months of the year.

For about a month around August, the lake’s water temperature can reach around 16 degrees Celsius, making it suitable for quick dips or short swims. During the rest of the year, however, it usually stays under five degrees Celsius.

In summer, Lake Baikal is a famous destination for kayaking, boat cruises, and island hopping to discover shorelines and beaches. In winter, when the lake freezes over, visitors can cross-country ski across sections of it and visit the frozen Tazheran Steppes caves.

2. Moscow

Red Square in Moscow
Red Square in Moscow

Since most international flights arrive or at least stop in Moscow, it’s worth planning your trip so you at least have a few hours to explore the city. Russia’s capital is a magnificent mix of greenery, stunning architecture, and lots of historical reminders of times gone by.

Visitors to Moscow usually start exploring in the center, where the Kremlin, Red Square, and the colorful St. Basil’s Cathedral are located. The shopping mall GUM, with its glass and steel roof, is also a popular destination—even by tourists who can’t afford the luxury brands sold here—and a great place to try authentic Russian food.

Even if museums are not your thing, Moscow has some amazing options, including The State Tretyakov Gallery (which houses only Russian art); the Pushkin Museum (for more international collections); and the Kremlin Armory Museum for a look into some unique items, such as the ivory throne of Ivan the Terrible and gold-covered imperial carriages. The Bolshoi Theater, one of the largest ballet and opera theaters in the world, is also worth a visit if you can get tickets.

Some of the best things in Moscow require some walking to be properly explored, such as the pedestrian-only shopping street Stary Arbat and the boardwalk along the River Moskva.

Moscow’s Metro stations are a work of art in themselves, decorated with porcelain relief, crystal chandeliers, and unique mosaic artworks that make these places basically look like subterranean palaces.

3. St. Peterburg

St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg

Although smaller than Moscow, St. Petersburg actually has so much to offer, it’s often impossible to see it all in one day. Compared to Moscow, St. Petersburg feels more European—fine art and exquisite design details mixing in with history around every corner. You can explore it on foot to admire the architecture up close and personal, or hop on a cruise to explore part of the 300 kilometers of canals that cut through the imperial city.

For a stunning overdose of white and gold colors, visit Moika Palace (most famous for being the place where Rasputin was killed) and the Neoclassical, 19th-century St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which is actually a Russian Orthodox museum.

The Hermitage Museum, perhaps St. Petersburg’s most famous tourist attraction and the second largest art and culture museum in the world, has a collection of over three million items that cover everything from prehistoric art (including articles from the nomadic tribes in Altai) to Catherine the Great’s art collection.

About 25 kilometers outside of St. Petersburg, and more than worth the day trip, is Peterhof Palace. Built in the early 1700s as a summer residence for Peter the Great, it greatly resembles the Palace of Versailles in France.

4. Altay

Horses in the Altay Mountains
Horses in the Altay Mountains

The Altay Mountains in Siberia extend from Russia into China, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. Traditionally inhabited by different ethnic groups involved in horse husbandry and forestry, it is also a very popular tourist destination for both locals and travelers. Together with a number of natural reserves and lakes, the Altay Mountains are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There’s a lot of untouched beauty in Altay, where frozen rivers and snowcapped mountains attract cross-country skiers and other outdoor lovers in winter, as well as hikers (the area around Aktru Glacier is especially popular for trekking), kayakers, and climbers in summer. More unusual activities, including diving, cave exploring, and herb and mushroom picking, can also be pursued here.

The Denisova Cave in Siberia is particularly significant because of the bone fragments, artifacts, and even prehistoric horses that have been here—some dating back 50,000 years.

The resort town of Belokurikha is a popular starting point for Altay adventures, and many tourism agencies offer organized trips from here.

5. Sochi

Rosa Khutor ski resort
Rosa Khutor ski resort

A summer beach resort town sitting right on the Black Sea, Sochi offers long stretches of pebble and sand beaches, imposing examples of Stalinist architecture, a summer film festival known as Kinotavr, and plenty of spas and outdoor markets to please all budgets and tastes. The longest river in Russia, Mzymta, cuts through Sochi before it empties into the Black Sea, and it’s a very popular destination for rafting.

The 3000-square-kilometer Caucasian State Nature Biosphere Reserve, just 50 kilometers from Sochi, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to a number of unique species of flora and fauna, including the endangered Persian leopard.

The nearby Rosa Khutor ski resort is another favorite destination during winter and a world-class alpine skiing area—the 2014 Winter Olympic Games were hosted here.

6. The Russian Tundra

The Russian tundra
The Russian tundra

The tundra is a unique biome that only exists in or near the Arctic Circle. Here, temperatures are so cold that trees can’t grow, and only moss, shrubs, and certain types of grasses can get through the winter. In most places, the tundra is synonymous with permafrost—meaning the ground is permanently frozen. In areas where the top layer of ground does melt during summer, marshes and streams will form over the land, leading to beautiful patches of colorful icy water.

The Russian tundra is home to polar bears, seals, gray wolves, and rich birdlife during nesting season. Over the past few decades, ecotourism has become more and more interested in the tundra areas, especially the Great Arctic State Nature Reserve near Krasnoyarsk Krai, where visitors can take a number of environmental routes to explore, try bird-watching, or visit as part of an educational tour.

The city of Murmansk, in the Kola Peninsula, not only offers incredible tundra views, but it’s also a great place to catch a tour to see the Northern Lights.

7. Peterhof

Peterhof Palace
Peterhof Palace

Peterhof might be home to a university and a major Russian watch manufacturer, but this relatively small city’s call to fame is the Peterhof Palace. Originally designed and built in the early 1700s for Tsar Peter the Great in a style that resembles the Palace of Versailles, the palace grounds cover an area of almost 4000 hectares.

There are 173 garden fountains around the palace—some, like the Grand Cascade fountains, with special features that activate water jets when people get close. The lower gardens, designed in French formal style, offer marble statues, shaded walking paths, and even an aviary pavilion.

The Grand Palace itself is a masterpiece of architecture, with majestic colors (there are gold details everywhere), art imported from Asia and the Far East, walls covered in authentic Chinese silk, and a massive ballroom covered in gilded carvings. The palace contains 10 separate museums, which hold art, furniture, and palace items from the 18th century.

8. Olkhon Island

Olkhon Island
Olkhon Island

One of the world’s largest lake islands, Olkhon is covered in steep mountains, lush forests, and taiga. The island is in Eastern Siberia and has a small permanent population that consists mostly of local Buryats, a Mongolic indigenous group who believes the island to be a powerful spiritual place.

Tourism has become a growing industry on Olkhon Island, with visitors coming over to explore places such as the coastal sand dunes and the abandoned Peschanaya Village and former Soviet labor camp nearby.

This area is also famous for its “walking trees,” an unusual phenomenon that causes strong winds to uncover tree roots on the beach and gives them the appearance of a standing person.

There are several semi-urban settlements on the island, with Khuzir being the largest and the one offering homestays for visitors who want to stay over. The village also houses the small but interesting National History Museum of Revyakin, which chronicles life on the island as far back as Neolithic times.

9. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Snow-covered volcano in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky
Snow-covered volcano in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Located in the Russian Far East, the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is surrounded by volcanoes (including the active, snowcapped Koryakskaya Sopka volcano) and cannot be reached by road. Those who take on the challenge and get here, however, will discover an active city center with tons of monuments, squares, and churches. The city lies right against Avacha Bay, a great place for a waterside stroll and to catch a whale watching tour.

Tours to the volcanoes should be at the top of your list if you visit here, but skiing on Krasnaya Sopka mountain and a visit to the world’s only Museum of Salmon are also must-dos.

The small but unique Vulcanarium Museum here offers a unique insight into the world of volcanoes and probably your only chance ever to touch lava.

10. Vladivostok

The Russky Bridge in Vladivostok
The Russky Bridge in Vladivostok

Located near the borders with China and North Korea and just across the ocean from Japan, Vladivostok is Russia’s largest port city. A major stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway route, the city was actually off-limits to foreigners during Soviet Union times and now receives lots of foreign visitors eager to discover it. The city is home to many parks and public spaces, including Sportivnaya Harbor with its beautiful beach and promenade, and the Eagle’s Nest viewpoint at the top of a hill.

Vladivostok’s Russky Bridge is a stunning architectural marvel and the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world at 1,885 meters. The bridge connects Vladivostok to Russky Island, where visitors will find Philippovsky Bay and its beautiful sandy beaches, as well as Voroshilov Battery, a military museum. History buffs will appreciate a chance to explore the WWII C-56 Submarine or visit the Museum Vladivostok Fortress, originally built to protect the city against potential attacks from Japan.

11. Anapa

Stony beach at Anapa
Stony beach at Anapa

Anapa—perfectly located against the Black Sea and a very popular resort destination for decades—is well known for its sandy beaches, spas, and stunning views from the rocky promontory where Anapa’s lighthouse sits. A somewhat more modest destination than Sochi, Anapa also offers plenty of other things to keep visitors entertained besides coastal attractions.

Places worth exploring include The Anapa Archaeological Museum and the single remaining gate of an Ottoman fort that once occupied this area.

Both the Sukko Valley and the Wildlife Preserve of Bolshoy Utrish are just minutes away from the city and offer plenty of options to explore nature, swim in clear waters, and take to the trails for some trekking.

12. Novosibirsk

Bugrinsky Bridge in Novosibirsk
Bugrinsky Bridge in Novosibirsk

Located on the banks of the Ob River, Novosibirsk is the third-largest city in Russia and the unofficial capital of Siberia—a place where summers are hot enough to swim and sunbathe, and the winters have temperatures that reach -40 degrees Celsius.

Home to the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater, a number of universities, and several museums, the city has much to offer visitors. The outdoor Museum for Railway Technology is particularly interesting, as it features many diesel and steam locomotives, electric trains, snowplows, and a number of unusual carriages, such as tank cars, hospital and prison cars, and even fire engines.

The Novosibirsk Trans-Siberian railway station is one of the largest ones in the country and it was once at the epicenter of the transport of prisoners to gulags (Soviet forced labor camps). Today, it is the main departing point for train adventures to nearby cities, including the town of Berdsk, on the shores of the Ob Sea—which is actually a man-made reservoir, not an actual sea.

Tomato Salad 🥗 recipe

Hi guys, today I tried a new recipe today called Tomato Salad. It turned out really well and I wanted to share the recipe with you. This great for a little get together or snack.

Ingredients: 3 or more Tomatoes (depending on how much you) olive oil, salt, parsley, oregano and basil.

Steps:

1. First cut up the tomatoes into thin slices.

2. Mix up the slices into olive oil.

3. Add little amounts of oregano, basil and parsley in that order.

4. Sprinkle a bit of salt.

5. Mix well and enjoy 😉

I used 3 tomatoes for mine and this is how it turned out. I really hope you enjoy it and remember to share my posts, like and follow so you don’t miss out on anything.

14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Australia

Australia is a land of dreams. From the sacred legends of the aboriginal Dreamtime, when the great spirits conjured the coral reefs, rainforests, and scorched red deserts, to armchair travelers who describe Australia as their dream destination, the Land Down Under deserves all the hype. The world’s smallest continent and largest island, Australia is almost the same size as the United States but with a population the size of New York State and some of the quirkiest wildlife on the planet.

Australia is also a land of staggering contrasts and spectacular beauty. Along the coast, you can explore vibrant multicultural cities, vast sand islands, ancient rainforests, and one of the planet’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders – the Great Barrier Reef. In the Outback, rugged national parks and red-earthed deserts offer the ultimate in adventure travel. Top it all off with a laid-back feel and friendly people, and it’s no wonder Australia scores top billing on bucket lists around the world. Create your own adventure with our list of the top attractions in Australia:

1. Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

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Mention “Sydney, Australia” and most people think of the Opera House. Shaped like huge shells or billowing sails, this famous building on Sydney’s Bennelong Point graces the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is one of the world’s great architectural icons. The location is stunning. Water surrounds the structure on three sides, and the Royal Botanic Gardens border it to the south.

Danish architect, Jørn Utzon won an international competition for its design but withdrew from the project after technical and financing problems. Construction was finally completed in 1973 at a cost ten times the original budget. By this time, Utzon had left the country never returning to see his magnificent creation.

Today, you can enjoy a performance here; dine at one of the restaurants; or take a tour of the building, which encompasses theaters, studios, a concert hall, exhibition rooms, and a cinema. But it’s far more impressive viewed from a distance. One of the best sites to photograph the Opera House is Mrs Macquarie’s Chair in the Royal Botanic Gardens, or you can hop aboard a harbor cruise or ferry for yet another picturesque perspective.

2. Editor’s PickGreat Barrier Reef Marine Park

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

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Visible from outer space, the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is one of the largest living structures on the planet. In 1975, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was established to protect its fragile ecosystems, which include more than 3,000 coral reefs; 600 continental islands, including the beautiful Whitsunday group; 300 coral cays; and inshore mangrove islands. One of the seven wonders of the natural world, the park stretches for 2,300 kilometers along the state of Queensland, on Australia’s east coast (that’s about the distance between Mexico and Vancouver). Diving and snorkeling are spectacular. The astounding array of marine life includes soft and hard corals, more than 1,600 species of tropical fish, sharks, dugongs, dolphins, turtles, rays, and giant clams. If you prefer to stay dry, you can see the reef from underwater viewing stations and glass bottom boats. On the mainland, Cairns, Port Douglas, and Airlie Beach are the main launching points for tours.

3. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

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Deep in the heart of Australia’s Red Centre, Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock), is one of the most photographed natural wonders in the country. The striking red monolith forms the centerpiece of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, a World Heritage Area jointly managed by Parks Australia and the traditional landowners, the Aṉangu people. Uluru, meaning “shadowy place” in the local aboriginal dialect, rises to a height of 348 meters from the surrounding plain, with most of its bulk hidden beneath the earth’s surface. Also in the park are the red dome-shaped rocks called Kata Tjuta (the Olgas). As the sun dips in the sky, sightseers gather to watch the colors of Uluru and Kata Tjuta transform in the shifting light. A great way to appreciate these sacred sites is to join a tour led by Aboriginal guides and rangers.

4.Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

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Along with the Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of Australia’s most famous tourist attractions. Affectionately called “the Coathanger,” this impressive feat of construction is the largest steel arch bridge in the world. It was completed in 1932, 40 years before the Sydney Opera House. Rising 134 meters above the harbor, the bridge spans 500 meters, connecting Sydney’s North Shore to the central business district. In addition to the pedestrian path, two railway lines extend over the bridge, as well as eight lanes for road traffic, and the direction of each lane can be switched to accommodate traffic flow.

One of the top things to do in Sydney is a guided ascent to the top of the bridge, where you can enjoy spectacular views over the harbor and city. For an overview on the bridge’s history and construction visit the museum in the southeastern pier. Interestingly, Paul Hogan, of Crocodile Dundee fame, worked as a painter on the bridge before rocketing to international stardom.

5. Blue Mountains National Park

Blue Mountains National Park

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A UNESCO World Heritage Site, beautiful Blue Mountains National Park lies 81 kilometers west of Sydney and is a popular day trip from the city. Named for the blue haze emanating from the many eucalyptus trees, this stunning park protects more than 664,000 acres of wilderness and encompasses dramatic gorges, waterfalls, aboriginal rock paintings, and 140 kilometers of hiking trails. The most famous attractions in the park are the towering sandstone rock formations called the Three Sisters. Other highlights include the Katoomba Scenic Railway, the world’s steepest, which whisks passengers down the Jamison Valley through a cliff-side tunnel into an ancient rainforest, and the Skyway, Scenic Cableway, and Scenic Walkway, which all offer elevated views of the dense forests. Hiking, abseiling, rock climbing, mountain biking, and horseback riding are all popular things to do in the park.

6. Melbourne

Melbourne

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Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, is a popular stop on many Australian itineraries – especially for culture vultures. Galleries, theaters, restaurants, shops, and its distinctly European feel are the main draws of this sophisticated city on the Yarra River. It’s also a green city, with parks, gardens, and open spaces occupying almost a third of its total area. Highlights of the city include the Royal Botanic Gardens; Federation Square; the National Gallery of Victoria; and the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where sports fans can watch cricket in the summer and Australian Rules football in the winter. Shoppers flock to the elegant Royal Arcade on Bourke Street, as well as Chapel Street; the Melbourne Central Shopping Center; and the Queen Victoria Market, which has been selling fruits, vegetables, clothes, and crafts for more than a century. To the east, greater Melbourne extends into the beautiful Dandenong Ranges, and in the south to the Mornington Peninsula, where many locals escape for day trips and seaside getaways.

7. Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

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Bronzed bodies, blond sand, backpackers, and surf – throw it all together and you get one of the world’s most famous beaches. Only 15 minutes by car from the city center, Bondi Beach is home to one of the oldest surf life saving clubs in the world. It’s also a great spot for a seaside stroll or picnic, and crowds of tourists and locals gather here to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year. A great way to soak up the sea views is to stroll along the scenic Bondi to Bronte coastal walk, which begins at the southern end of the beach and follows the coastline for six kilometers along sandstone cliffs. Shops, cafes, and restaurants lie across the street from this famous coastal strip. Other attractions around the beach include the Sunday markets, ocean pool, and skate park. Take care when swimming at Bondi. Strong rip tides often sweep unsuspecting swimmers out to sea, especially at the southern end of this kilometer-long strand, so swimmers should stay between the flags. There’s a reason the Aussies made a reality TV show called Bondi Rescue.

8. Daintree National Park

Daintree National Park

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A Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Daintree National Park in Far North Queensland is among the most ancient ecosystems on Earth. The area belongs to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people, and many of its natural features hold great spiritual significance. The park encompasses two main sections: Mossman Gorge, where crystal clear waters gush over granite boulders, and Cape Tribulation, one of the most beautiful places to visit in Australia, where rainforest meets reef along the white sandy beaches of the Coral Sea. This stunning stretch of coast is one of the few places in the world where two of the planet’s richest ecosystems converge. The park’s astounding biodiversity includes more than 18,000 plant species and a vast array of animal species, including the cassowary, crocodile, giant blue Ulysses butterfly, and the secretive Bennett’s tree kangaroo. The resort town of Port Douglas, just south of the park, is a great base to arrange wilderness safaris into the park.

9. Fraser Island

Fraser Island

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World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, between Bundaberg and Brisbane off Australia’s east coast, is the largest sand island in the world and one of Australia’s top outdoor adventures – especially for four-wheel drive enthusiasts. Along windswept Seventy Five Mile Beach, you can see the rusted hulls of shipwrecks, the colored sandstone cliffs of The Cathedrals, and the bubbling fish-filled rock pools called Champagne Pools.

Venturing inland, highlights include crystal-clear freshwater creeks and lakes, some fed by springs, others perched amid towering sand dunes, and ancient rainforests filled with an amazing diversity of plants and animals. Sharks, dolphins, and whales prowl the waters, and the island’s fauna includes wild horses, dingoes, bats, sugar gliders, and more than 300 species of birds. Access to Fraser Island is by ferry from Rainbow Beach and Hervey Bay. Four-wheel drive vehicles are essential as the island has no sealed roads.

10. Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

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Kakadu National Park, in the Top End or the Northern Territory, is a World Heritage Site and one of the planet’s great wilderness areas. Covering more than 19,840 square kilometers, Kakadu is the largest national park in Australia and the second largest in the world. Within its borders lie monsoon rainforests, mangrove swamps, rivers, gorges, ancient rock paintings, wetlands, and waterfalls, as well as an astounding diversity of wildlife. In addition to the many mammals, reptiles, and fish, more than 300 different species of birds make their home here, and both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles lurk in the wetlands. You can explore the park’s diverse ecosystems by car, air, boat, or on foot via the vast network of hiking trails. Note that during the wet season (Nov-April), many roads and attractions close due to heavy flooding.

11. Great Ocean Road

Great Ocean Road

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Most top tourist destinations have spectacular driving routes, and for Australia, one of its best is the Great Ocean Road. Built to provide employment during the Depression, the road stretches for 300 kilometers along Australia’s southeast coast, from the surfing town of Torquay to the town of Allansford, near Warrnambool, in the state of Victoria. The top attraction along the road is Port Campbell National Park, with the wind and wave-sculpted rock formations known as the Twelve Apostles, London Bridge, the Arch, and Loch Ard Gorge. From a helicopter tour, these rock formations look like giant puzzle pieces, lashed by the pounding surf of the Southern Ocean. Other highlights along the road include the popular holiday resort town of Lorne and Otway National Park, an area of dense eucalyptus forests, fern-filled rain forests, hiking trails, and waterfalls.

12. Broome and the Kimberley region

Broome and the Kimberley region

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Once the pearl capital of the world, Broome, in Western Australia, is now a booming tourist town and the gateway to the spectacular Kimberley region. Its star tourist attraction, Cable Beach, with seemingly endless white sands and turquoise water is one of Australia’s best beaches, and riding camels at sunset is one of the most popular things to do here. Other highlights include the Broome Historical Museum; Broome Crocodile Park; and the Staircase to the Moon, a phenomenon during certain conditions between March and October, where the moonlight creates an optical illusion of steps leading to the moon. From Broome, you can explore the rugged and remote Kimberley region and its incredible natural attractions like the Horizontal Waterfall, Cape Leveque, the Gibb River Road, Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park, and the stunning cascades of Mitchell Falls.

13. Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island

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Nature takes center stage at beautiful Kangaroo Island off the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. Kangaroos hop along the powdery shores, sea lions and penguins frolic in the crystal-clear waters, and koalas cling to the fragrant eucalyptus trees. Diving is also excellent. You can spot sea dragons in the temperate waters, and many wrecks lie offshore. The striking, wind-sculpted rock formations, known as the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch in Flinders Chase National Park are other distinctive features of the island, and you’ll find plenty of hiking trails along the soaring sea cliffs and in the pristine forests. Foodies, too, will be in heaven. Creamy cheeses, Ligurian honey, and fresh seafood grace the plates in local restaurants. To get here, you can fly direct to the island from Adelaide or catch a ferry from Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

14. Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park

Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park

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Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park is a national tourism treasure and a nirvana for nature lovers. Sparkling lakes, serrated dolerite peaks, alpine heathland, and dense forests characterize the raw, glacier-carved wilderness here, and 1,616-meter Mount Ossa is one of the park’s most distinctive features and the highest point in Tasmania. As you might expect, hiking here is fantastic. Favorites include the Weindorfer Walk, a six-kilometer loop through dense forests, and Lake Dove Walk, with breathtaking vistas of Cradle Mountain (1,545 meters). Stand on the summit of Cradle Mountain, and you can soak up stunning views of the central highlands. Experienced hikers can also tackle the famous 80-kilometer Overland Track, which runs south from Cradle Valley to stunning Lake St. Clair, Australia’s deepest lake. Keep an eye out for Tasmanian devils, wombats, wallabies, pademelons, and platypus among the many species of weird and wonderful wildlife.

11 Best Places to Visit in Scotland

For those looking for a memorable vacation or weekend break full of historical attractions, countless great cultural experiences, and other fun things to do, Scotland should rank highly on your list of great places to visit in the UK. Part of the appeal is the fact that, as a relatively small country – its population is just over five million – you’re never too far away from fantastic sightseeing opportunities and interesting places to go in Scotland.

Those interested in world-class cultural events should head to Edinburgh, the country’s capital, to enjoy major festivals such as the Edinburgh Fringe, one of the world’s leading art festivals. Much of the fun takes place around the magnificent Edinburgh Castle.

Glasgow, too, is a must-visit and offers some of the country’s top museums and art galleries to explore. Smaller Scottish cities like Aberdeen and Inverness in the north are not without their charms and make great bases from which to explore the majestic Scottish Highlands and lovely natural attractions such as Loch Ness and Loch Lomond.

To help you decide where to go, be sure to use our list of the Best Places to Visit in Scotland.

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

1. Edinburgh

Edinburgh city skyline
Edinburgh city skyline

If you’re only able to visit one city in Scotland, make it Edinburgh. The country’s capital is home to well-preserved architecture from a number of different periods of history, including medieval times (Edinburgh Castle and the incredible shop-lined Royal Mile), to the more recent New Town area, much of which was built in the 18thcentury. A highlight of this newer part of the ancient city is simply wandering among the many elegant Georgian townhomes, taking in the Grassmarket, an attractive pedestrian-friendly public square popular for its shops, galleries, and cafés.

Edinburgh is also an important cultural destination, hosting numerous popular events and festivals throughout the year. One of the largest arts festivals in the world, the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival draws huge crowds, as do the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the latter held in the grounds of the castle.

Other fun things to do include visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia, once the Queen’s personal yacht and now a fascinating museum that allows visitors to tour the State Apartments and Royal Bedrooms. For a true British treat, book a table in the Royal Deck Tea Room for a proper high tea experience.

2. Glasgow

Glasgow Cathedral
Glasgow Cathedral

Situated on the River Clyde on Scotland’s west coast, the city of Glasgow has, in the last few decades, reimagined itself as a major European cultural center, using its many excellent museums, art galleries, and festivals to attract tourists year-round. It’s a great city to explore on foot thanks to its many lovely parks and pedestrian-friendly streets, especially if you also take in Glasgow cathedral and the famous Glasgow School of Art.

After exploring the city center, head down to the waterfront and the Riverside Museum. One of the top free things to do in Glasgow, this superb modern facility focuses on the history of transportation in the city through its large collections of vintage steam engines, trams, buses, carriages, cars, and seafaring vessels, along with an authentic reproduction of 1930s shops and homes.

Glasgow has also earned a reputation for other cultural activities, too. Highlights for theatergoers include a chance to take in a play at the King’s Theatre, partake in a little opera at the home of the Scottish Opera in the Theatre Royal, or a classical concert at the Royal Scottish Orchestra at the Concert Hall. Other notable arts-related attractions include the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, notable for its displays of local art, and the wonderful Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style Gallery with its diverse collection that includes works by Van Gogh and Salvador Dali.

3. Scottish Highlands

Sunset over the Scottish Highlands
Sunset over the Scottish Highlands

Few travel destinations have captured the imagination to the extent of the magnificent Scottish Highlands. Stretching from the attractive garden city of Inverness on the country’s rugged east coast all the way to John O’Groats in the north, this area of outstanding natural beauty is where you’ll find some of the most romantic scenery anywhere – it has served as the backdrop to hit movies and TV shows, including the hugely popular Outlander series.

Begin your exploration of the Scottish Highlands in Inverness, then head straight to nearby Loch Ness. Popular for its monster and the dramatic ruins of Urquhart Castle, Scotland’s most famous lake is part of Glen More, a natural fault line that’s marked by the Caledonian Canal, one of the country’s most amazing feats of engineering and a delightful way to spend a few hours (or days) sightseeing by boat.

A few popular places to visit in Scotland as you tour the Highlands include the quaint coastal town of Dornoch, a great place to stop for its old castle ruins and cathedral, and Aviemore, popular as a ski destination in winter. In warmer weather, the region is popular for the hiking and biking adventures available in the Cairngorms National Park. This sparsely populated area is also great for other outdoor experiences, including sea kayaking, white-water rafting, gorge walking, and fishing.

4. St. Andrews

The ruins of St. Andrews Castle
The ruins of St. Andrews Castle

St. Andrews is well-known as one of the world’s top golf destination. Golfers from around the globe make the pilgrimage to St. Andrews’ seven classic links courses, drawn by the prestige of playing the world’s oldest golf course – the par-72 Old Course – and the chance to play where so many golf greats have teed off before them. It’s also one of the most dramatic courses, its spectacular scenery including a stretch of rugged coastline and the attractive old Clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. Founded in 1754, it’s the world’s oldest golf club, and its popularity as a golf mecca means you should try to reserve your tee time at least six months in advance to avoid disappointment.

Fortunately for the rest of us, there are plenty of other fun things to do in St. Andrews, too. St. Andrews is also famous as a university town. Be sure to spend time exploring the many fine old buildings associated with the University of St. Andrews. One of the top free things to do in St. Andrews is to simply wander the university grounds, admiring the well-preserved medieval architecture; and if time permits, be sure to check out on-site attractions such as its natural history museum and art galleries. The ruins of St. Andrews Castle and the town’s old cathedral are also worth exploring.

5. Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

Shrouded in myth and legend, Scotland’s beautiful Loch Ness remains one of the country’s top places to visit. Despite there being no definitive evidence that “Nessie,” the world’s most famous sea monster, actually exists, that first glimpse of the water doesn’t stop excited tourists from scanning the horizon excitedly… just in case.

But even without a monster sighting, you won’t be disappointed. Thanks to its starring role in movies and on TV – most recently in the hit series, Outlander – places like Urquhart Castle are enough to make the journey to this Highland attraction worthwhile. Built in the 1100s, the castle now lies in ruins after being devastated by fire some 500 years ago, but not before featuring in some of Scotland’s most important historical events.

Expect to spend at least a day exploring the old castle and other Loch Ness attractions. Other fun things to do include a boat cruise along the loch and, if there’s time, the Caledonian Canal, which connects Scotland’s east and west coasts. Other points of interest include the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition in the village of Drumnadrochit, with its displays relating to the loch’s history – and of course its monster – and Fort Augustus, with its old fortifications and Benedictine abbey and its viewing spots over the Caledonian Canal, where it joins the south end of the loch.

6. Aberdeen

Aberdeen
Aberdeen

The attractive North Sea port city of Aberdeen is well worth including on your Scotland travel itinerary. Like so many of the country’s top city destinations, Aberdeen is a delightful place to explore on foot. Lacing up the walking shoes will not only allow you to explore its many fine examples of old, well-preserved architecture, but also to spend time in its many pleasant parks and gardens.

A highlight of a self-guided walking tour is St. Machar’s Cathedral, built in the 1300s and one of the best-preserved examples of medieval architecture construction in Scotland, as well as the many fine examples of old homes and merchant buildings made from the unique local granite that seems to sparkle in sunlight, giving the town its affectionate “Silver City” nickname.

Aberdeen has a second, equally complimentary nickname: “The Flower of Scotland.” And it’s certainly well-deserved thanks to the presence of the city’s many lovely green spaces, most notably the David Welch Winter Gardens at Duthie Park. Here, you can wander one of the biggest indoor gardens in all of Europe, home to numerous species of domestic and exotic plants. Set on some 44 acres, it’s a wonderful place to explore, and in the warmer months makes a great picnic spot, especially during the park’s concert season.

7. Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond

An easy drive from Glasgow – and easy to get to from Edinburgh, too – Loch Lomond is a convenient place to visit in Scotland for those seeking a glimpse of some of the country’s most iconic (and romantic) scenery. The largest body of fresh water in the UK, it’s so picturesque that one of the country’s leading writers, Walter Scott, famously labeled this magnificent stretch of water the “Queen of Scottish Lakes.” Gentle activities and pursuits include boat tours and cruises and visiting attractions such as the Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre, or even shopping at the modern Loch Lomond Shores entertainment complex with its family-friendly SEA LIFE Aquarium.

As popular a spot as it is for sightseers, Loch Lomond also appeals to those seeking fun outdoor activities. For adventurous sorts, the big attraction is the spectacular Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, a vast tract of unspoiled wilderness covering an area of 1,864 square kilometers with the loch and Ben Lomond at its center. The top things to do for adventurers include fishing, boating, canoeing, and kayaking, as well as hiking and biking along its extensive trail network.

8. Stirling

Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle

The historic town of Stirling is one of the best places in Scotland to serve as a base from which to explore the country: it’s situated almost half way between Glasgow and Edinburgh, so it makes for a great day trip and boasts plenty of great things to see and do. Topping the list is stunning Stirling Castle, famous for once having been a royal palace (Mary Queen of Scots spent her childhood here), as well as its role in the centuries-long struggle between Scotland and England. A visit to this “mini-Edinburgh Castle” includes a chance to explore the well-preserved medieval structure’s grand halls and rooms, either on your own or as part of a guided tour.

On the outskirts of town is the Bannockburn Heritage Centre, which offers a fascinating retelling of the Battle of Bannockburn. It was here that Scottish king Robert the Bruce sent the English army packing, and the site commemorates this historic victory with excellent displays and interactive exhibits. If you can squeeze a little more into your Stirling itinerary, include a visit to the neighboring village of Bridge of Allan, home to the Wallace Monument, which dominates the skyline here, offering a little history about the legendary William Wallace, as well as amazing views over Stirling and the surrounding countryside.

9. Isle of Arran

The village of Lochranza on the Isle of Arran
The village of Lochranza on the Isle of Arran

The attractive Isle of Arran has made a name for itself as a top place to visit as it’s something of a microcosm of everything that’s great about Scotland. Located just off the mainland from Glasgow and reached via a scenic one-hour ferry ride, this 429-square-kilometer island is therefore perfect either for a day trip from Glasgow, a weekend break, or an extended vacation. As you tour the island – by bike, car, or the regular bus service that circles the island – you’ll find attractive areas that resemble some of the most beautiful aspects of Scotland, from moors to tall mountains just waiting to be hiked across, long stretches of sandy beach, quaint fishing villages, great little golf courses, and historic castles.

If you can spare a few hours (pending your level of fitness), allot time to tackle the 873-meter Goat Fell Mountain; you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with magnificent views over Arran and the Firth of Clyde toward Glasgow, as well as northward toward Mull of Kintyre. Also spend time exploring Brodick Castle, a popular tourist attraction for its displays of period furniture and its grounds, which house an authentic iron age dwelling. There are also plenty of great restaurants on the island, as well as good hotels and resorts.

10. Isle of Skye

The Mealt Waterfall and Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye
The Mealt Waterfall and Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye

Another Scottish island to explore is the lovely Isle of Skye. Like Arran, it boasts a little something of everything that is Scotland but with the advantage that it’s connected to the mainland via road bridge. Part of the Hebrides in the northwest section of the Highlands, this large island is some 80 kilometers in length and is a nature-lover’s paradise, home to colonies of seabirds, seals, and other native wildlife, along with mile after mile of rugged coastline and spectacular hill views.

Hikers and hillwalkers in particular are well-catered to, thanks to the island’s extensive trail networks, which lead across romantic moors and valleys and up mountains, including the Cuillin Hills, which boast some of the best views in Scotland.

Man-made attractions include the attractive Armadale Castle. Located near the ferry port of Mallaig, this early 19th-century edifice is set in the heart of a huge country estate and features excellent displays and artifacts related to one of the most powerful of Scotland’s historic clans, the Donalds. Expect to easily spend a few hours exploring the large grounds and gardens with their walking trails, as well as the Museum of the Isles. Also worth a visit is Dunvegan Castle, once the seat of the MacLeod clan, located in the village of the same name and a great place to embark on a boat tour or fishing excursion.

11. Fort William

The Jacobite steam train on the Glenfinnan Viaduct
The Jacobite steam train on the Glenfinnan Viaduct

The attractive west coast resort town of Fort William makes an excellent starting point for excursions into the unspoiled Highlands, including Ben Nevis. Located at the south end of the Caledonian Canal, Fort William – named after fortifications built here in the 17th century – offers visitors plenty of points of interest to explore, including the West Highland Museum in Cameron Square, notable for its collections of furniture, paintings, weapons, and Highland costumes. There’s also an impressive collection of artifacts and documents relating to the opening of the West Highland Railway in 1894, along with the celebrated conquests of Ben Nevis, notably that by Henry Alexander, who in 1911 drove a Ford Model T to the summit.

A great excursion from Fort William is to Glenfinnan Viaduct, often recognized from numerous Harry Potter movies (among other films) as the route the Hogwart Express took when whisking young wizards to school. Fun steam excursions can be enjoyed aboard the lovely Jacobite steam train along this stretch of the West Highland Line, taking in the viaduct and some of the most scenic vistas found anywhere in Scotland. From Fort William, you can also easily get to other popular Scotland destinations, including Glencoe, a spectacular valley famed for its breathtaking scenery, winter sports, hiking, and mountain climbing.

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