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Planning a Romantic Getaway to Iceland

Romantic Iceland Getaway

Iceland might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of romance, but the truth is, this amazing country offers many advantages that the romantic traveler should carefully consider when planning for that vacation away. Not for nothing is Iceland called the land of fire and ice—and you can bring that fire to your romantic relationship on an amazing romantic getaway to Iceland.

The Capital City

In Reykjavik, Iceland, you’ll find just 200,000 people—a small city by many standards. This city, however, nevertheless has all the amenities you could ask for: an amazing nightlife, with parties that start at midnight and last until five in the morning; Hallgrímskirkja church, with its incredible tower that can be seen from anywhere in the city; Höfði House, which is one of the most beautiful buildings in Reykjavik; and plenty of other attractions to visit with your sweetheart.

Incredible Views

Throughout Iceland, you’ll find incredible views that are the very heart of romance. Since the country is relatively small, you’ll be able to see a large percentage of it on your stay—or, conversely, take the time to really explore a specific area with the one you love. There are some amazing, sweeping views and beautiful locations in nature throughout Iceland that the two of you will be delighted to explore together.
Seljalandsfoss is a stunning waterfall that you and your beloved can easily walk behind together as you explore the incredible landscape. This waterfall looks like something out of a fantasy novel: a beautiful, romantic location for a picnic or simply for sitting and taking in the view together—especially if the view includes the person closest to your heart.
Thingvellir National Park includes more than just the stunning landscapes you can expect to see as you travel throughout Iceland. At Thingvellir National Park, you can go snorkeling over the Silfra fissure with your loved one. This five-hour tour will take you through crystal clear waters to view a stunning underwater adventure. This trip is limited to six participants per guide, so you’ll get a wonderful small, romantic trip that you and your beloved will be talking about for years to come.
The Great Geysir will be sure to evoke feelings of awe as you and your beloved stand a safe distance away, watching as it shoots water hundreds of feet into the air. It’s a stunning display that is amazing to capture on camera, but even more incredible to capture in your minds for future reminiscing together.
Gullfoss is another gorgeous waterfall with an amazing story to tell. Explore the area with your beloved, taking in stunning scenery as you hold hands and wander around together. The beauty of untouched nature will leave you awed—and that awe will translate to one another.

Choosing Your Home Base in Iceland

While you’re staying in Iceland, you want to stay at the best hotels: the ones that will allow you to focus on your sweetheart and keep the romance alive. Luckily, there are plenty of great options to choose from.
Silica Hotel, which is located at the famous Blue Lagoon, is a fantastic romantic getaway for travelers through Iceland. This gorgeous hotel is just minutes away from the main Blue Lagoon resort and has its own private bathing lagoon just for hotel guests—a definite plus for checking out with your sweetheart. The amazing, serene atmosphere is perfect for focusing on the one you love during a relaxing stay.
Hotel Borg, located in the heart of Reykjavik, offers nice, large rooms where you and your sweetheart can cozy up for an evening in together. Large, deep bathtubs offer plenty of space for one or both of you, while heated marble floors in the bathroom will keep you warm. The understated decor leaves you free to focus on the one you love during your stay in this luxurious hotel.
CenterHotel Thingholt was designed with romance in mind. This gorgeous hotel includes all the amenities you could ask for from a romantic retreat with your sweetheart. The lighting and design are inspired by the beauty found throughout Iceland, from lava flows to waterfalls. In the attached spa, you’ll find rainfall showers, soaking tubs where you can receive a shoulder massage together, and more.

The Most Romantic Meals in Iceland

Of course, a romantic trip with your sweetheart wouldn’t be complete without a few romantic dinners along the way. As you sample the local cuisine, these stunning restaurants will help keep the romance flowing and make your adventure even more memorable. Note that in Iceland, if you want to get a table in high season or on the weekend at many of these amazing restaurants, you should make your reservations at least two weeks in advance to be sure you’ll get the table you want to share with your beloved.
Lækjarbrekka provides amazing Scandinavian cuisine in an incredibly romantic environment that will have both you and your sweetheart smiling. Sample their amazing lobster dishes or try the lamb together. Many guests opt to check out the three-course menu, which provides everything from the wine to the dessert.
At Fiskfelagid, or Fish Company, you’ll find a decadent menu that’s perfect for sharing with your beloved. The restaurant provides amazing service coupled with a dim atmosphere where you can enjoy some quiet conversation with the one you love before heading back to your hotel or off on another romantic adventure together.
MATUR OG DRYKKUR provides a cozy, intimate feel that you and your beloved will be sure to enjoy together. The amazing menu is one of the highlights of your trip together.
Planning a romantic getaway to Iceland is a great way to rekindle the fire with your loved one. There are some incredible sights to see, foods to try, and hotels and spas where you can experience incredible luxury together. It’s time to book your getaway to Iceland today and discover just how much this incredible vacation can benefit your relationship.

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Wonderful Romantic Getaways in Finland

Romantic Finland Getaways

Whether you want to sit back and take in the breathtaking views or stay at a place where you get pampered all day long, Finland has the perfect spot for you. Now, you can immerse yourself in the culture and beauty of Finland while indulging in the perfect escape with someone special.

Finnish Wineries

One of the first things you will want to do on your romantic trip to Finland is to visit a winery. At Pihamaa Estate & Winery, you and your loved one can enjoy the quaint atmosphere of this small wine shop. Located in the village of Kalkkinen, 28 km from Vääksy, Asikkala, the estate has been operated by the same family for a number of years. In addition to an amazing selection of wines, you won’t want to miss the range of vegetables, berries, cheeses, and flowers. Hold hands as you take in the tastes and scents of the wonderful and locally produced goods. Open daily from June through August, this is the perfect way to enjoy a summer day in Finland. Don’t forget dessert at this unique winery! Pihamaa Estate & Winery is known for some of the best cheesecake that you will ever taste. On your way out, browse the downstairs shop for home goods that you can cherish well after your trip is over. It is undeniable that this is truly a hidden gem in Finland.
Continue reading Wonderful Romantic Getaways in Finland

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Authentic Austria: 8 Great Ways to Live Like the Locals

Austrian City

If you want to get more than a tourist’s peek of Austria’s rich culture, Vienna is a perfect place to find accommodations. It’s not only the largest city in the nation, it’s also one of the most well-organized in the world. The surrounding countryside and nearest city hold treasures that are easily explored from this favorable spot, which makes Vienna an ideal jumping-off point for a priceless, once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Take a look at these 8 insider tips for living like the locals in Austria and creating an authentic and memorable holiday experience. Continue reading Authentic Austria: 8 Great Ways to Live Like the Locals

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Don’t Leave Germany Without Doing These 3 Things

Without a doubt, Germany is a great place to visit. The country has something to offer for every age and every type of traveler. Germany, in fact, remains one of the most popular international destinations for U.S. travelers. Many Americans have ancestors who were from Germany, and many others served or know someone who served in a U.S. Army Base in the south. In countless families, the stories of Lederhosen and Bratwurst are legendary. So why not experience these traditions firsthand?
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Time is limited, and the country simply offers too many much to see everything there is to see. The white cliffs of Ruegen and Schloss Neuschwanstein sound nice, but also happen to be almost 1,000 miles away from each other. This is why planning your itinerary should be your first step. History buffs will look for very different destinations than hikers or beach lovers. Regardless of where you fall on the traveler scale, do not leave Germany without doing these three things.

Have a Drink at the Hofbräuhaus

What’s the first thing you think of when you consider Germany? Beer tends to be a common answer. The drink is so embedded in German culture that it’s difficult to disconnect one from the other. In most countries, beer is an alcoholic beverage used to get a buzz. In Germany, it’s almost a food, designed to be enjoyed the way a nice steak or Schnitzel would be. It’s difficult to leave Germany without having partaken in this experience at least once. And if you really want the full German experience, you have to visit the original Hofbräuhaus in Munich.
By now, branch restaurants of the same brand have sprung up all over the world. But while they’re surprisingly authentic, they have nothing against the original. Still owned by the Bavarian State, it opened in 1589 as the private brewery of the Bavarian Royalty. Its beer was and still is brewed according to the German purity law.
The food is authentic, the beer is great, but it’s the experience that makes this a must-stop during your Germany vacation. Live traditional Volksmusik plays every night, and despite its worldwide fame, the place still exudes authentic charm. That might be because, in spite of the countless annual tourists, an at least equal number of locals still enjoy their beer, food, and company as they have for hundreds of years.

Travel the Fairy Tale Route

You probably know most German fairy tales, from Hansel and Gretel to Rumpelstiltskin. They serve as the inspiration for countless Disney stories and have become as famous in the United States as in their country of origin. But did you know that you can still visit the locations that became their inspiration?
The 400-mile-long Fairy Tale Route is more than a single destination. It’s an attraction you might want to plan for in advance and devote a significant chunk of your itinerary to. Still, it’s perfect for any visitor who wants to explore the mythical tales of German folklore. Along the way, you’ll learn about the country, its varied landscapes, and more.
Destinations along this route vary widely. Families with children might enjoy the Red Riding Hood House, while history buffs will recognize Sleeping Beauty’s castle as a historical beauty from the early 14th century. Ancient forests and mountaintops will convince even those who’ve never heard of Grimm’s Tales that this route is a must-visit during your Germany trip. As for the educational component, a Snow White Museum in Bad Wildungen and a German Fairy Tale Museum in Bad Oeynhausen are perfect to understand the historical and cultural backgrounds behind some of your most favorite childhood stories.

Enjoy a Watt Wanderung

As you travel down the Fairy Tale Route, you might begin to realize that Germany offers some of the world’s most unique natural wonders. Perhaps chief among them is the Wadden Sea, an area in the North Sea where the water retreats so far during low tide that miles of sea ground become walkable.
Naturally, this phenomenon—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—is great to visit for anyone who isn’t used to it. It’s the perfect highlight of a trip to the North Sea, where you can enjoy white beaches with mild waves on islands like Foehr or Sylt. During high tide, you get your typical beach experience. At low light, the unforgettable part of this stop begins.
Countless spots across the North Sea offer guided tours, known locally as Wattwanderung. Here, a trained expert takes visitors to help them explore the intricacies of the Wadden Sea. That means digging out watt worms and crabs for the children and exploring the sea ground in other ways for the adults. In fact, some of the largest and most well-known Wattwanderungen don’t just go out for a bit, but actually allow you to hike through the sea ground from one North Sea island to another. The water, when timing it just right, never gets above your knees. During high tide, it will once again become deep enough for large ships to drive through. It’s an experience, unlike anything you can get anywhere in the world.

Making the Most out of Your German Vacation

Of course, these are just a few of the many destinations available for and popular among tourists in Germany. In reality, you will be able to easily find an attraction you will love, no matter where you visit.
Chances are you’ve heard about attractions like Neuschwanstein, the Berlin Wall, and the Brandenburg Gate. You might even be aware of some of the most beautiful cities to visit, from Mainz to Hamburg. But without a doubt, the best way to visit Germany is to truly experience it.
The country is old but proud. Traditions in Southern Germany very much differ from the North. This means you can customize your vacation to fit exactly what you’re looking for, including adding these 3 stops to your itinerary. Drinking a beer at the Hofbräuhaus, traveling the Fairy Tale Route, and taking part in a Wattwanderung, will allow you to begin to understand the German people better than a day trip to a typical tourist attraction ever could.
Traveling to Germany has the potential to make memories that last a lifetime. Especially if you know what destinations to visit, you can plan a vacation that you will never forget, and always long to repeat.

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The Adventure Travel Guide to Italy

Adventure Travel Italy

From coastline-gazing on kayaks and alpine hiking to exploring mysterious caves deep underground, Italy has an outstanding array of opportunities for adventurers of all ambition levels. Consider these possibilities if you’re looking to elevate your adrenaline levels while feasting on some of the lesser known wonders of Italy.

Explore an Underwater Medieval City

More than 2,000 years ago, Julius Caesar and Cicero were known to regularly visit the city of Baia along the Bay of Naples in southern Italy, where the Roman elite had vacation homes and enjoyed the many spas built over the natural hot springs. But now the resort city that drew Roman aristocracy in ancient times has been completely covered by rising sea levels, which has turned the area into a natural attraction for thrill-seekers. While the most adventurous scuba divers will get a full view of the incredible statues and mosaics that are now underwater, the site also makes for terrific snorkeling and you can also charter a glass-bottomed boat to get a look without even having to get wet.
The region surrounding Baia also comes with other exploration opportunities, particularly for those eager to gather some eye-popping views of the Italian coastline. By Kayaking along the Neapolitan coast, you’ll get a chance to see rich green gardens and rugged rock formations–like the Faraglioni di Capri–on your way to hidden sea grottos and various other points of intrigue. You’ll also see ancient ruins up close that are not accessible at all by foot. While kayaking Naples during the day can be on the mildly thrilling side, more experienced kayakers can check it out at night for an extra layer of adventure and mystery.

Hike the ‘Path of the Gods’

The Amalfi Coast in southern Italy is great to look at it from a distance, but it is even better to explore up close and personal by hiking between the small coastal towns of Agelora and Positano. Over eight kilometers of mostly cliff-hugging pathways, the Path of the Gods trail shows off blooming orchids in the spring and beautiful foliage in the fall, though it’s also popular in the summer as well. Allegedly named for a lover of Hercules, the famous pathway offers some of the greatest coastal views in southern Italy in addition to connecting the charming small towns that once formed the basis of a sea-trading empire.
Though the trail isn’t especially grueling in either direction, heading west from Agelora to Positano will offer a very mild, slightly downhill walk that makes it extremely easy to lap up the stunning visuals from high above the Tyrrhenian Sea. You can also skip to the middle in Praiano for an abbreviated version of the trek, though a 1,000-stair climb behind the St. Domenico Convent will still give you an opportunity for a workout. With plenty of hotels in the area that provide shuttle service to the starting and endpoints, all you have to do is remember to bring enough water and enjoy the scenery.

Climb to the Top of St. Peter’s Basilica

One of the most popular destinations in Italy, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is generally considered a must-see for its cultural significance and beauty, but it also contains a behind-the-scenes look at Michelangelo’s 16th-century masterpiece that many visitors miss. Up a windy and narrow 551-step staircase, visitors eventually emerge at the very top of the dome looking down directly over St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican Gardens, Sistine Chapel, and a panoramic view of Rome. Though not for the claustrophobic, the climb is also the perfect starter-level adventure for those hoping to keep moving on the trip and offers another great way to experience one of Rome’s most famous icons.

Check Out the Dolomites

A part of the Southern Limestone Alps in the northeast corner of Italy, the Dolomites mountain range showcases a stunning display of alpine beauty and natural treasures that make it an organic gathering point for thrillseekers. The region also has a fairly astonishing range of hiking trails that cater to all levels of skill and endurance. On an easy day-hike, visitors will pick their way through lush evergreen forests and deep blue alpine lakes–all backed up by the towering peaks of the Alps, which can be snow-capped during parts of the year. While the less strenuous hikes focus more on the valleys and meadows that make up the area, there are also plenty of hikes that take visitors up into the mountains and require a bit of stamina and athleticism.
But an afternoon trip to the Dolomites just might not be enough considering everything there is to offer. The area is also a very popular spot for multi-day backpacking excursions that give visitors a chance to see the full scope, which can include visits to the quaint little Italian villages sitting at the base of the mountains. There are also opportunities to hike from “rifugio to rifugio,” or “hut to hut,” allowing for easy overnight accommodations. For groups that have members with physical limitations, visitors can also utilize the gondola system to help with some of the more difficult parts of the terrain. From afternoon trips to weeks-long adventures, the Dolomites offer a choose-your-own style expedition that makes it a perfect region for adventure travelers.

Exploring the Frasassi Caves

Located in Genga, Italy (Ancona Province) in central Italy, the Frasassi Caves have been a spot of importance since at least the early part of the 11th century and today offer an exciting opportunity to see one of Italy’s better-kept secrets. The caves themselves’ offer some astounding eye candy, including a crystallized lake of calcium carbonate and a whole assortment of nooks and crannies to explore. Outside of the main caves, there are also other caves in the area that have their own secrets and ancient mysteries and interested visitors can even inspect a chamber that’s home to a large bat colony. Although a relatively easy two-hour tour is ideal for beginners, guests can head out on an extended tour that heads into the system’s narrower passages.
But the Frasassi Caves themselves are only the beginning, as the surrounding hiking trails give you some more stellar glimpses of the mountains and countryside as you stretch your legs. Ultimately, most hikers will end up at the Sanctuary of Santa Maria infra Saxa, an ancient chapel built directly into the mountains, that is believed to be about 1,000 years old. The other impressive building along the way is the Tempietto Valadier, built nearly 200 years ago under the guidance of Pope Leo XII. Like many of the best spots in Italy, the Frasassi Caves have a terrific combination of adventure and history that make them well worth the trip away from the more beaten paths and tourist hubs of Italy.

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Don’t Leave Finland Without Seeing These 3 Amazing Places

Finland, a country that’s at the top of the world and borders Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, has a unique culture that every traveler should experience at least once. From the attractions of Helsinki to the remote regions of Lapland, this country offers a great deal to people who value an unspoiled landscape and a friendly, welcoming population. If you’re fortunate enough to plan a trip to Finland, make sure you don’t miss these three incredible destinations.

Helsinki

Most visitors to Finland fly into the capital city, Helsinki. It’s also a port that’s a popular stop for many Scandinavian cruises. For a city that was founded in the 16th century by a Swedish king, Helsinki is quite modern with lots of restaurants, museums, cafes, and art galleries. It’s easy to get around by tram if you don’t want to rent your own car. Many of the favorite attractions are within walking distance of the harbor. If you want to save money and enjoy greater convenience while exploring the city, consider getting a Helsinki City Card, which includes public transportation, admission to many museums, and discounts on restaurants and shopping. Here are some of the spots in Helsinki to check out:

  • National Museum of Finland: If you want to learn as much as possible about Finland’s culture and history, this is the best place to come. There are both permanent and temporary exhibits showcasing Finnish art and history in the Medieval, Swedish, and Russian eras up until modern times when Finland became an independent nation in 1917.
  • Old Market Hall: Vanhakauppahalli or Old Market Hall is the city’s oldest market, and has been operating continuously since the late 1800s. This is a great place to sample some of Helsinki’s delicacies such as fresh fish, mushrooms, berries, and all kinds of produce. There are also cafes, bakeries, and a store selling wine and spirits.
  • Temppeliaukio Church: This church is unique in a number of ways. It has a distinctive dome with a skylight, letting in plenty of natural light during the day. It’s also known as Church of the Rock because it’s partly underground and some of the walls consist of natural rock. In addition to being an active Lutheran church, concerts and other events are held here.
  • Public Saunas: While in Helsinki, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the many public saunas. One of the most popular of these is Allas Sea Pool, which is right in the heart of the city near Market Square. It has three saunas, two warm water, and one saltwater. In addition to the saunas, there are wellness activities such as yoga, a fitness center, and restaurants.
  • Linnanmäki: The country’s most popular amusement park, this place has a quaint and traditional atmosphere. It opened in 1950 and many of the original rides, including the famous roller coaster, are still operating. With lots of rides, arcade games, an aquarium, and theater, this is a favorite family attraction.
    In addition to these attractions, Helsinki has many scenic areas that are ideal for long walks or bike rides. A ride on one of the quaint trams is another enjoyable way to soak in the city’s atmosphere.

Lemmenjoki National Park

If you want to experience the wild and untamed parts of Finland, you must visit Lemmenjoki National Park. This is the country’s largest park, covering more than 1,000 square miles in Northern Lapland. You can hike, take a riverboat cruise, pan for gold, and explore the ancient Sámi culture. One of the more challenging aspects of visiting this amazing spot is actually getting there. Many visitors arrive from Helsinki, renting a car or taking a bus. You can also take a flight directly to one of the Lapland airports.
Lemmenjoki National Park is beautiful throughout the year. Most people, however, visit between spring and early fall. If you want to challenge yourself and experience a Lapland winter, that’s also possible if you make arrangements with local guides. Keep in mind, however, that you may find it difficult to reach the park during harsh weather. Here are some of the activities you can find at Lemmenjoki National Park:

  • Hiking: The park contains hundreds of miles of trails for hiking and trekking. The breathtaking scenery includes primeval forests and waterfalls.
  • Boating: There are daily cruises along the Lemmenjoki River, where you can appreciate the scenery and make a stop for a hike. Some guided river tours include panning for gold, a traditional part of the local economy.
  • Cross-country Skiing: Another way to appreciate the landscape is on skis.
  • Fishing: You can catch some of the region’s fresh fish, including trout, whitefish, and grayling. Ice fishing, as well as hook-and-line fishing, are available in certain areas. Make sure you get a permit first, which can be obtained online.
  • Observe and Photograph Wildlife: Lemmenjoki National Park is one of the best places to appreciate the region’s wildlife, including reindeer, wolves, bears, golden eagles, and moose.
  • Nature Center and Museum: To learn more about the fascinating area and the people who live here, visit the Sámi Museum and Northern Lapland Nature Centre.
  • Northern Lights: Lapland is one of the best areas to see the spectacular Northern Lights. The best time of year to see this unforgettable sight is between September and March.

Turku

Turku is Finland’s second largest city and was actually the largest for a long time until it was surpassed by Helsinki. It’s also Finland’s oldest city, having been settled in the 13th century. Turku, located in the Southwestern part of the country, has been the center of many historical events and has long been an important port city. Many passenger and commercial ships continue to pass through here. If you visit Turku and have a little extra time, you might want to visit nearby Archipelago National Park as well. Here are a few of the top attractions in or near Turku.

  • Turku Castle: Turun Linna or Turku Castle is a huge medieval castle that was built in the 13th century. Over the centuries, this impressive structure has served many functions, including a prison. You can still tour the dungeons today. There’s also a museum and daily tours.
  • Turku Art Museum: This museum has one of the best collections of Finnish art in the world.
  • Aboa Vetus and Ars Nova: These are two connected museums that combine history and modern art. Aboa Vetus features artifacts from streets and buildings dating back to medieval times. Ars Nova brings you back to the present with contemporary art exhibits.
  • Turku City Library: This library is known for its architectural grandeur and combining old and new styles. The original structure is from the early 19th century while the new section, recently completed, has a very modern design with glass and open spaces. The library, which has an English language section, also has great views of the city and Aura River.
  • Archipelago National Park: This is a vast archipelago of islands that combine Finnish, Swedish, and Russian influences. It actually has more islands than any other archipelago in the world. These islands are great destinations if you enjoy nature and water sports. They also give you a chance to explore traditional cultures. You can hike on magnificent nature trails on many islands. Since this amazing national park consists solely of islands, you have to make arrangements to visit ahead of time with a tour or renting your own boat.

Worth the Trip to the Far North

There’s no place quite like Finland. Even the language is unique, distinct from the Scandinavian and Slavic languages of its neighbors. In Finland, you can see the Northern Lights, visit the Arctic Circle in Lapland, camp in the wild and live on fish and reindeer meat, or experience the modern conveniences and culture of Helsinki. Whether you’re stopping here as part of a multi-country trip or making Finland your solo destination, you can spend days, weeks, or even months exploring this amazing Northern land.

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Don’t Leave Hungary Without Seeing These 3 Places

Hungary is a country that offers many fascinating historical and cultural attractions. It’s also an underappreciated place where you can enjoy exceptional value. For example, Budapest is a world-class city where prices for food and hotels are considerably cheaper than in Western European cities such as London, Paris, or Rome. In fact, Budapest is sometimes called the “Paris of Eastern Europe.” Hungary has a culture all its own, including a tasty and nourishing cuisine and a language that’s completely distinct from its neighbors. Here are our top three choices for destinations not to miss when you visit this amazing country.

Buda Castle

Buda Castle or the Royal Palace is one of the best-known attractions in Budapest and at the top of our list of places not to be missed. In one sense, you can’t miss it if you visit the capital city as this magnificent castle is visible from almost everywhere. Buda Castle has a long and colorful history. Originally built in the 13th century, it suffered multiple sieges and was completely destroyed during the Battle of Buda against the Turks in 1686. It was soon rebuilt, however, and the new castle has been standing for more than 300 years. The palace suffered still more damage during World War II but this was repaired as well.
While you can admire Buda Castle from afar, it’s definitely worth exploring up close. One of the most distinctive features is the dome, a relatively recent addition that was created in 1961. The dome is actually part of the Hungarian National Gallery, a museum that opened in 1957 and which contains some of the nation’s most prized artwork. In addition to viewing paintings and sculptures from Hungary and throughout the world, the dome terrace is one of the best places in Budapest to get panoramic views of the whole city and the Danube river.
Buda Castle also houses a couple of other impressive museums: The Budapest History Museum and the National Library. Exploring the castle and grounds, you’ll encounter a variety of scenic views and impressive works of art, including the famous Lion Courtyard with its majestic lion sculptures, a famous statue of King Matthias. If you want to save yourself the trouble of walking up the hill to Buda Castle or if you just want to enjoy a scenic ride, take the Buda Hill Funicular, a tram that goes from the river to the castle.

Tihany

If you want to experience some of the natural beauty of Hungary, take a trip to the peninsula of Tihany, which is on the shore of Lake Balaton. The most famous attraction in Tihany is the 11th-century Benedictine Abbey that overlooks the lake. The Abbey has a museum that showcases some of the area’s long history. Naturalists and gardeners love this area for its diverse and beautiful flowers and trees. It’s especially striking in spring and summer when you can admire blooming almond trees and take in the scent of lavender. Because of its uniqueness, the area has been designated a National Park since 1952.
The Lavender House Visitor Centre is a good place to get your bearings and learn more about the area. Here you’ll find a variety of exhibits, films and a lovely lavender garden and maze to wander around. There’s also a tea shop and an opportunity to purchase unique herbal products made from local herbs, including lavender of course.
In addition to being a pleasant place to hike and explore history, Tihany has its own growing arts scene. There are several art centers and galleries as well as an annual summer arts festival called ARTplacc. Kalandsziget Tihany Forest Adventure Park is a fun family destination that has rides, obstacle courses, climbing trees and other challenging activities. Tihany has a number of great restaurants, including the famous Régi Idők Udvara Skanzen and Restaurant, which provides a complete experience of dining in the traditional Hungarian manner. All in all, the charm and natural beauty of Tihany provides a refreshing contrast to the more cosmopolitan atmosphere of Budapest.

Eger

Eger, in Northern Hungary, is one of the country’s many spa towns, where you can relax and rejuvenate in thermal baths and enjoy a variety of beauty treatments. In Eger, you can visit the famous castle in between sessions at the spa. Situated in the scenic Bükk Mountains, Eger Castle has played a crucial role in Hungarian history for hundreds of years. This castle has seen plenty of action and suffered destruction at the hands of the Mongols, Turks, and Austrians. Its most famous moment was when the town’s residents successfully fended off a much larger Turkish army in 1552.
You can tour the surviving parts and ruins of the castle, including some underground passages. Many new exhibits and features have been added in the last few years, including a 3D movie about the history of Eger Castle. While the castle is the highlight of Eger, the area also has other points of interest. Dobó Square is the center of the town and has some interesting buildings, including the picturesque Minorite Church. As noted, you can enjoy some luxurious thermal baths and spas in spots such as Saliris Resort. There’s also the Lyceum, a college built in the 18th century, which has a library and museum dedicated to astronomy. The Torok Kori Minaret, built by the Turks, is a remnant from the days when the Ottoman Empire occupied the area. If you’re game, you can climb the narrow 97 steps and get a great view of the town and Eger Castle.
Still another reason to visit Eger is to sample the region’s famous wines. The area has numerous caves, which were originally built as hideouts from invaders but are now wine cellars. Quite a few of these are open to the public. Siren’s Valley, also known as Valley of the Beautiful Women, has the largest selection of these wine caves.
Hungary is a diverse and underappreciated destination that offers all kinds of charms. If you’re planning a multi-country trip, it shares borders with 7 other nations, including Austria, Romania, and Slovakia. Budapest offers at least as many attractions as any other European capital and often at a considerably lower cost. If you’re fortunate enough to have a chance to visit Hungary, see as much as you can but make sure you don’t overlook the sites we’ve covered here.

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The Thrillseeker’s Guide to Croatia

Croatia Adventure Travel

Snorkeling and Diving

Although snorkeling is a popular activity in Croatia, the waters are actually so clear that its aquatic life can often be seen from nearby balconies without any gear. But if you want to get a closer look, rest assured that underwater visibility is excellent and there are no sharks or large whales in the area, so the Adriatic Sea offers a very safe environment for swimming. If you want to see dolphins, you can usually spot a few near Rovinj and Losinj. Rather than being an organized group activity, snorkeling is more individualized and anyone with the right gear can participate.
Wreck divers will also find plenty to explore along the coasts. Some of the most visited wrecks include the Baron Gautsch, the Totonno, the HMS Coriolanus, and even a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. The wreck of the SS Lina, an Italian cargo steamship that ran aground in heavy fog in 1914, is one of the most beautiful diving spots in the country. Despite its steep slope, the site is large enough that visitors can swim among its cargo decks and cabins. In addition to the wreckage, marine life is plentiful. Divers can catch glimpses of schools of salemas and even conger eels.

Whitewater Rafting

Croatia is home to countless lakes, rivers, canyons, and rapids that appeal to travelers looking for an adrenaline rush. Many of them offer sites for white water rafting, with a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike located on the River Una. The waterway creates a natural border with Bosnia, and the most challenging stretch lies between the Strbacki Buk waterfalls and Lahovo, where much of the area is considered a IV and V grade river.
For first-timers and those who prefer a more laid-back experience, the River Mreznica sits less than fifty miles from Zagreb. It’s actually a series of small lakes connected by waterfalls of varying size. Most routes will take rafters over the smaller waterfalls, and the area offers much more than just a whitewater adventure. Visitors will get to see all types of birds as well as old mills and freshwater springs.

Windsurfing

Windsurfing is one of the most popular pastimes in Croatia. Some people will wake up at four in the morning and drive for an hour just to fit in twenty minutes of the water sport before they have to go to work. Tourists can find windsurfing sites all along the coast, although a local favorite is the village of Viganj, located on the Peljesac Peninsula.
One of the most attractive windsurfing sites in Croatia can be found on the south side of Brac Island. With one of the most beautiful beaches on the Adriatic, and idyllic wave and wind conditions, it is a perfect spot for all experience levels. Beginners can choose from several local windsurfing schools to learn the basics before heading out on the water.

Caving

Caves are plentiful throughout Croatia. The country hosts several underground caverns, with varying levels of difficulty. One favorite spot is the Modric Cave, which can be found near the small village of Rovanjska about twenty miles to the northeast of Zadar. It’s a natural cave, meaning there are no man-made railings, concrete, or even lighting. The entrance is a bit cramped, but the cave itself is mostly wide open. They do have a minimum age requirement (12 years old), but no previous caving experience is necessary. Visitors can even take a swim in the Zrmanja River that runs through it!

Canyoning

For low-key thrill seekers who enjoy exploring canyons, Croatia offers plenty of options. One of the most recommended treks is the Vrazji Prolaz (also known as Devil’s Passage), which carves through the hills of Gorski Kotar. At more than a mile long, 300 feet high, and two miles wide, many visitors hail it as one of the most impressive sights they’ve ever seen. Besides canyoning here, tourists can also hike, swim, and water dive.
For visitors who prefer something a bit more involved and challenging, the Cetina River in Dalmatia is worth checking out. The trek is about a mile and a half long and takes anywhere from four to seven hours to complete, depending on how many cliffs are jumped and how much time is spent in the water. The guides are highly experienced and can arrange private tours if requested.

Horseback Riding

Throughout the country, adventurists can find several local ranches and equestrian clubs that offer horseback riding trails. Some even provide packages for trips that last for a few days or up to a full week. One of the best experiences can be found at Old Mulberry in Golinja, which offers home cooked meals, lodging in traditional Croatian homes, and a selection of horses for a day of riding. Another local favorite is Samy’s Ranch in Istria, which even offers paintball, quad ATV tours, and swimming with the horses in addition to riding trips.

Ziplining

In Istria, thrill seekers can get a bird’s eye view of the Croatian countryside by ziplining over the country’s canyons and forests. A favorite spot involves flying over Pazin Cave. Two lines are available here, with the longer one built for speeds of around 30 miles per hour.
By far the most popular ziplining site though is found in Omis above the Cetina River Canyon. This location has eight lines of varying length, with the longest offering rides that fly along at 40 miles per hour. At almost five hundred feet in the air, it’s a great way to take in Croatia from above. Additionally, visitors can spend a few hours hiking along the mountain trails to take in the beauty of the park before checking into a nearby hotel.
Whether you’re into extreme sports or just like to explore the outdoors, Croatia is the perfect getaway. With its many hidden gems and protected countryside, it’s a thrillseeker’s paradise.

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11 Tips for Living Like the Locals in Italy

Italy Town

No Cappuccino after 11 AM

This one might be tough if you’re addicted to caffeine. Americans, in particular, are accustomed to sipping coffee drinks whenever they need it. But in Italy, cappuccino is a beverage reserved for the breakfast hour. They shy away from it for the rest of the day because they consider it bad for digestion.
Italians can always spot a tourist from a local by watching who orders a cappuccino past the morning hours. Those seen carrying one around after 11:00 tend to get strange looks. Continue reading 11 Tips for Living Like the Locals in Italy