There's more than just one reason why Outside magazine calls Vancouver, Canada the world’s 'Best Weekend Escape'. It’s a destination with an incredible range of outdoor activities, cultural attractions, accommodations and restaurants, all set against some of the most picturesque scenery imaginable. Green spaces abound in this city, along with the natural beauty of mountain vistas and miles of coastal waterfront. As you stroll through the streets, you’ll feel a palpable sense of energy that lends an element of excitement to the town. You’ll also note the cultural mosaic that comprises this diverse and exciting, cosmopolitan hub. The varying ethnicities help to contribute to the city’s international feel, perhaps especially when it comes to its highly touted culinary scene, which teems with award-winning restaurants and chefs.
Small and traditional, Mino City rests like a gateway to the Japanese Alps. From your first drive across the Nagara River, you are tied to its twists and turns as you journey further up into northern Gifu prefecture. The journey is worth making for the river alone: the bridges offer up elevated views of the impossibly clear water speckled with statuesque fishermen in their traditional straw hats. In Mino on a sunny day the wide, pebbly banks of the river are invisible beneath the camping chairs, barbecues and inflatables resting on its banks. The city bakes in the heat of summer and the cool, transparent river really is the only real refuge. Sometimes even a look at the water brings relief on a sticky summer day in central Japan.
Imagine a palace on a hill, surrounded by a fortress of trees that preserves its beauty. Castle-like pillars and towers poke their ridged roof tops through the greenery. A steeple with a cross tops a bell tower, and a long wall of chambers hides a Romanesque coliseum. One’s imagination could go only so far beyond the reddish brick that builds this palace. Mystical and unreal, and - when illuminated by the moon - it offers up an image reminiscent of a Van Gogh painting. This is the Alhambra, one of Europe's most visited attractions, steeped in history and heavily wrapped in amazing. It is an icon that heralds an important part of Spain's great history and serves as the backdrop for the ever-amazing Granada, in the heart of Andalucia and at the foothills of the illustrious Sierra Nevada Mountains, an amazing vacation destination in its own right.
The great thing about backpacking for many consecutive months is that you are able to visit and really get to know so many countries. The downside, however, is that you can’t always get your timing right. We visited China and Tibet in the warm summer months of July and August and had enjoyed the endless sunshine on the mountainous plateau of Tibet. We enjoyed some hiking in Tibet and just assumed that if we continued on over the mountain range to Nepal, we could continue to enjoy the mountainous scenery. But we quickly discovered as we crossed to the other side of the Himalayas that the reason we had such beautiful sunny weather in Tibet, was that the huge mountains were protecting us by holding back the large clouds that were looming over Nepal. Apparently we had arrived in rainy season. Not to be deterred by a little rain, we looked into booking a hiking trip. However, after speaking with fellow travellers who captivated and cautioned us with tales of landslides blocking roads and poor visibility of and within the mountain ranges, we decided that we might be better off making our trip to Nepal more of a cultural one. At first we were disappointed to miss out on what we thought was the highlight of Nepal, but as we began to check out what we see and could do around Kathmandu we found plenty.
Dubai is a city that draws millions upon millions of visitors each year, and it's no wonder why. The city, once a tiny, slightly desolate port of call for traders in the region, today is one of the world's most important global cities. The place dazzles like a glittering diamond in the desert, radiating charm, beauty and mystery in a rainbow of colours, all greeting you from the moment you step off the plane. Imagine turquoise blue waters with palm trees swaying softly in the breeze on a hot day. Picture warm nights spent on the edge of the Arabian Desert, admiring the endless splendour this destination has to offer, something to suit every visitor's taste. While planning my trip I was told by many that a visit here would not disappoint; they couldn't have been more spot on. This city is nothing short of breathtaking.
Although we love Malaysia and have travelled to peninsular Malaysia many times, we found ourselves short on time when planning a trip to Sabah, Borneo. After seeking some advice on how best to use our time and consulting those we knew who had spent more time there, we soon found ourselves spending five days diving around Sipidan Island and then climbing to the highest peak, Mt Kinabalu. It was a ten day trip in all, but each day was action-packed as any trip to Borneo - long or short - can easily be.
It’s impossible to be immune to the allure of Charleston. The city oozes and drips charm, overwhelming your senses with its intoxicating ambiance, gracious Southern hospitality, colorful history and rich culture. I was prepared to like Charleston before my visit, based purely on the continuous travel pub awards it receives for America’s Prettiest Place, America’s Most Mannered City and #1 U.S. City, but I was taken aback at just how much I truly enjoyed it. To say I was besotted and smitten with the place would be an understatement; my attraction to the atmosphere and environment was instant and magnetic. Charleston woos visitors with the rustle of Palmetto fronds in the ocean air and the delicious fragrance of Magnolia trees. It’s a city set in a garden full of cinnamon crepe myrtles and Lady Banks rose vines, with stately antebellum homes that sit behind wrought iron gates and meticulously tended flower boxes. History seeps from both the city’s cobblestone streets and the nearly 4,000 pre-Civil War dwellings that are preserved and cherished by local residents.
The famous Cinque Terre region of the Italian Riviera consists of a gorgeous coast-line stretching between five very special towns. Situated on the Ligurian Sea to the north-west of the country, the whole area has been made a national and marine park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a result, the area is well protected, which preserves the towns in their original beauty.
One of the biggest draws here for visitors is the walk along the coastal path between towns. The lower walking trail can be theoretically walked in one day, though most visitors choose to stay several days so they can take the time to enjoy the towns, the views and the sensational Italian food. There are also trails higher up in the mountains and the extra effort to walk here pays off.
The Croatian city of Split is in the heart of Dalmatia and boasts a history of hosting - or defending against - the likes of the Greeks, Romans and Slavs at various points throughout the last few millennia. It lies as a jewel in the Adriatic, as yet still largely undiscovered by the glossy travel agents’ pamphlets and tour guide hounds. That is rapidly changing, however, as is the case in all of Croatia. It’s a kick-off for all the sprinkle of islands that lay within easy reach by ferry: Hvar, Korčula, Brač and Vis, to name just a few. One of the most famous people in the city's history, who wasn't actually born here, was Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus Augustus, or known to us simply as Diocletian. He built the palace here on the waters in preparation for his retirement in 305 ACE. This was an unusual move, as no Emperor had ever considered retiring, or had even made it to retirement before being done away with in some gruesome fashion. But against all odds he did retire to the Grand Palace that faced out to spectacular views of the Adriatic, where his hobbies included growing cabbages and persecuting Christians in the purpose-built dungeons below. If you have only a day to spend in Split, it’s worth spending most of it wandering the palace, for one reason: it is arguably the best preserved roman structure still standing in the Mediterranean.