Best Castles In Scotland To Visit

Scotland is such a beautiful country to explore, and with so much to see and do, you’ll be wanting to stay for a longer trip. This is especially true when seeing all the best castles in Scotland that are dotted around the country.
You see, it’s not only, Scottish culture, music, or Scottish food that makes this country amazing. It’s the history and stunning buildings, with the castles being no exception.
Take a look, below, at the best castles in Scotland to explore. Have the best trip.

Edinburgh Castle

Okay, let’s start with one of the most famous and best castles in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle.
Perched right in the heart of Edinburgh, the castle sits on top of the plug of an extinct volcano with the Royal Mile close by. Once here, make sure to spend some time exploring all the things to do in Edinburgh, see the Old and New Town and explore the castle grounds themselves.
It really is a special place.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle (in Stonehaven) was a total surprise to me and easily one of the best castles in Scotland to explore if you’re on the east coast.

Once here, take a ramble down to the rugged shoreline, explore the old castle grounds and buildings and learn more about a lion that once lived inside the castle walls. Yup, it’s true… this once used to be home to a lion.
Come rain or shine, this medieval castle is stunning to see and always looks so dramatic on the east coast.

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle is situated in Royal Deeside and probably one of the most famous castles for royalty in Scotland. Not only that, It’s one of the largest (in use) and best castles in Scotland to see when you’re in the east of the country.

A favourite of the Royal Family, Balmoral Castle is a regular retreat for the Queen to escape the hustle and bustle of Buckingham Palace. Nowadays, you can head in on tours of the castle (at certain times) and learn much more about the history of this stunning spot.

Drummond Castle & Gardens

Drummond Castle and Gardens is probably one of the best examples of formal terraced gardens in the whole of the UK. This alone makes it one of the best castles in Scotland to explore on a lovely summer day.

Take some time to wander around the grounds, see the gorgeous terraces and enjoy the beauty of this place.

Stirling Castle

One of the largest and historically important castles, Stirling Castle is one of the best castles in Scotland that’s easy to visit.

After heading to Stirling, head into the castle grounds and explore more of the medieval rooms, the families that lived here and learn more about the region itself.

Craigievar Castle

Once home to the Clan Sempill and Forbes family, Craigievar Castle is now a beautiful example of a harled castle in Scotland. Now, before visiting Scotland, I had no idea what ‘harled’ actually meant.

Thankfully, you need to look no further than Craigievar as it’s easily one of the most iconic. Now, if you’re already around the Aberdeen area, it’s really easy to drive and visit this castle for a day trip. You won’t be disappointed.

7 reasons to Visit the Brecon Beacons in Spring

The Brecon Beacons becomes a patchwork of colour during Spring, with Daffodils, lambs and lighter evenings making it a wonderful time of the year to visit our National Park!

1. Meet the Lambs!

Get up close and personal and feed fluffy little lambs at Cantref Adventure Farm! Bottle feeding the lambs is a hands-on experience you will never forget making magical memories from your family day out in the Brecon Beacons.

Between Easter and the end of July, you can bottle feed our cute fluffy baby lambs and from the beginning of the summer holidays until the end of October half term you can bottlefeed our cheeky kid goats.

2. Go out for a walk

We have plenty of great places to go for a walk in our National Park,  check out our Spring walks with breathtaking views for some inspiration.

3. Surround yourself with the Butterflies at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales

Visit the National Botanic Garden of Wales and immerse yourself in the blooming beauties. Some plants have come as far as California, Austrailia and Chile – find out more here! You’ll find an inspiring range of themed gardens, the world’s largest single-span glasshouse, a new tropical Butterfly House, play areas and a national nature reserve, all set in a Regency landscape which provides the stage for a packed programme of events and courses throughout the year.

4. Go Underground

If the Spring weather isn’t quite what’s expected (it is Wales!), why not escape the rain and head underground? There are beautiful natural playgrounds to be found in the Beacons, hidden from view…The caves and mines underneath the hills are waiting to be explored! Visit Dan Yr Ogof Caves, Dolaucothi Gold Mines or go caving with your friends with one of our activity providers . If you’re looking for a free day out Big Pit is the place to go!

5. Visit our Towns and Village

The Brecon Beacons is ringed with characterful market towns while, further inside our Park, the River Usk, the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal and the shores of Llangorse Lake are dotted with pleasant country villages and sleepy hamlets.

Together, our towns and villages reflect our history and heritage as a mining, quarrying and farming region and our role as custodians of a beautiful region of hills, valleys, lakes and waterways. Our towns and villages also offer great places to stay, eat, shop, fix up outdoor activities and chat about things to see and do.

6. Come and enjoy Cycling and Mountain Biking in the Brecon Beacons

Our National Park is a great place for a day out on two wheels, or even a cycle touring or mountain biking holiday. Cycling and mountain biking is a fabulous way to experience the Brecon Beacons glorious countryside. It gives you good exercise, relieves stress and allows you to spend time in the fresh air with family and friends. Cycle Across the Beacons, this route runs from Llandeilo in the West to Abergavenny in the East, following a Roman Road with panoramic views of the Central Beacons, winding along lovely country lanes before joining the pretty towpath by the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal!

7. Simply enjoy the Wildlife and Scenery!

Our National Park contains some of Wales’ most spectacular scenery and rarest wildlife. Go quietly and you may see our key species – otters, great crested newts, marsh fritillary butterflies, bats and reed warblers – along with a host of other mammals, birds, amphibians, fish and insects.

3 Of The Best Road Trips in The UK

There is something about a road trip that creates a state of heightened excitement. No matter the destination, a road trip unfolds at the same, ascending rhythm.

Prepping for your trip

It’s important to prepare carefully for a road trip – it’s no fun being stuck roadside because you’ve run out of fuel, or getting a puncture with no spare wheel. If you’ve not got a banger of your own, that’s no problem: there are plenty of rental companies offering competitive deals. Better still, hire an electric car and help protect the pristine landscapes you’re driving through. Be sure to check charging points along your route, or – if you’re car isn’t electric – fill up the tank before you leave.

If you’re taking your own car, it’s worth a trip to the garage before you leave to check it’s in good shape. Make sure you’ve got all your car documents on hand, as well as a spare tyre in the boot. It also pays to pack a first-aid kit and some non-perishable snacks, just in case.

North Coast 500, Scotland

This circular route is a greatest hits of Scottish icons, stretching across 805 km of back roads. Skirting the coast from Inverness and the Black Isle, past the seaboard crags of Caithness, Sutherland and Wester Ross, it offers up gothic ruins, rugged fairways, historic castles, shingle-sand beaches.
Along the way, the road becomes a symphony, building note after note, bend by bend, from its rallying start through the east coast villages of Dornoch and Wick to Aultbea, Poolewe and Gairloch on the savage west coast. Here, it reaches a crescendo below the impregnable peaks of Loch Maree.
Finally, the road reaches the brilliant Bealach na Bà, which loops up and over the Applecross Peninsula like a piece of gigantic spaghetti. It could scarcely be more isolated or awe-inspiring.

The Atlantic Highway, England

A storied ribbon of tarmac and maritime history, this 275 km road has the wild beauty that has become the hallmark of southwest England: it’s all about the big views.

Sandwiched between barley fields and a succession of bays and beach breaks, the A39 from Bridgewater to Bude is a magical concertina that creases and folds along the Devon and Cornwall coasts. Beyond the roadside hedgerows, the windswept dunes become the territory of shaggy-haired surfers, where foaming waves beat the shoreline.

Stop off at Exmoor National Park for hikes across the hilly moors, before driving south from Barnstaple through the salt-tanged seaside towns of Bude (for surfing), Padstow (for seafood) and Newquay (for weekend partying). Then it’s onwards to Land’s End – the place Cornish residents once thought was the end of the world.

Coastal Circuit, Northern Ireland

Plan a journey around the knuckle-shaped fist of the Northern Irish coast and you won’t regret it. There’s a hypnotic quality to this 195 km route from Belfast to Derry/Londonderry, one that can see you detour off the road to find smaller villages. It’s one of the most varied road trips in the UK in our list.

First, head for the Gobbins Cliff Path, an ambitious walkway chiselled out of basalt rock with hammers and rudimentary tools. North of Belfast, it carves a path through caves, over bridges and gantries, and down steep drops.

3 of the best day trips to Wales from London

A day trip to Wales is sure to be unforgettable and, despite what you may think, trains from London to Wales can be as quick and simple as the daily commute. A day trip to Wales from London can whisk you away to an awesome new destination and just as easily get you back home for bedtime – so what are you waiting for? Enjoy a change of scene for one magical day, all without having to worry about packing!

1. Cardiff

The Welsh capital is every bit as cosmopolitan as London town, with the benefit of being a bit more compact, a touch more laid back, and friendlier. Trains from London to Cardiff take just 2 hours so you can enjoy some downsizing in your capitals without losing any of the city conveniences (or much of your day).

There are plenty of things to do in Cardiff to fill a whole day and night, but we reckon most Londoners ought to start with the things that the UK capital just can’t get, and in this case, it’s stunning sea views. A coastal city, Cardiff Bay is the place to head so you can appreciate your new seaside location. Featuring a marina, chic coffee shops , the area is home to The Welsh Millennium centre, a building that’s iconic of the city. If you’re very lucky you’ll be able to catch a performance here, it’s the shining jewel in Wales’ creative crown.

Hop on a water taxi from here and arrive in Bute Park, one of Cardiff’s best parks with plenty of open spaces, winding paths and the epic Cardiff Castle towering over it all. If the weather isn’t permitting, the National Museum is nearby , offering plenty hours of exploration with exhibits that range from dinosaur bones to Greek pottery to a more local taste of history with ancient Welsh artefacts. If museums aren’t your thing, Principality Stadium is equidistant from the park and is where sports lovers will surely want to head. This hallowed ground is home to the mighty kings of rugby that Wales is so well known for and tours of its inner sanctums run daily.

2. For Sea and Surf – Swansea

We’re keeping things coastal and heading for Swansea, home to some of the best beaches in Wales. While Cardiff Bay was a lovely touch of ocean charm for those looking for a city break, a day trip to Swansea is the preferred stop if you’re intent on a real day beside the seaside. Of course, it’s not all about kiddies, buckets and spades here, Swansea is a student town, and there is a definite cool vibe in the air – one that extends to the beaches. Swansea Bay Beach is a leading spot to enjoy some surfing with plenty of like-minded locals.

Just off the waterfront is the Wales National Waterfront Museum, a glass and metalwork building set around an old warehouse, it’s a fitting home for its exhibits that centre on the industrial history of Wales. It’s a great place to spend a few hours, with interactive and beautifully presented displays that will keep visitors of all ages enthralled.

3. For Glorious Nature – The Brecon Beacons

For many, Wales = nature, so where better to head than The Brecon Beacons? This stunning mountain range will surely take your breath away. Set in a designated national park area, this is one day trip from London that may make you never want to go back. The park is pretty immense, so you’re best to plan your trip before you head off and ensure you can make the most of every moment.

With rolling hills to ramble, rivers to raft down and caves to crawl through, lovers of the great outdoors will be hard pressed to find any better example of just how great outdoors can be. History lovers will find plenty to enjoy too, as will avid explorers of any age, as you can don a hard hat and head into the Dolaucothi Gold Mines, the only known Roman gold mines in the UK. And how could we not mention the national park’s very own train? The Brecon Mountain Railway is a steam train every bit as charming as the surroundings it passes through. Even if you want to do nothing more active than sit with a book, this is one of the most beautiful places in the UK to do just that.

How to plan a day trip to Stonehenge from London

London has its fair share of tourist attractions, museums, galleries and historic sights, making it a top destination for visitors from all around the world. However, for tourists and natives alike, there is one national monument that people from everywhere flock to see – Stonehenge.

This mystical prehistoric monument nestled in the Wiltshire countryside was erected in 2,500 BC, yet the site itself dates back even further to 4,500 BC. As such, it’s an incredible part of living history and a true engineering feat that you must visit at least once in your lifetime.

Some believe that the giant stone ring formation was once a religious site or perhaps an astronomical observatory. There are even theories that it was used for healing, burial and acoustics, due to its excellent sound reflection.

With some 1.3 million visitors a year, the area is well equipped for tourists, making the journey from the capital entirely do-able. Taking one of the first trains of the day, it’s easy to take in the sights of the wider Salisbury area and get back home in time for tea. So, if you’re planning a day trip to Stonehenge from London, here’s a useful day guide to make the most of your visit.

Getting to Stonehenge from London

Nearly 90 miles from London, situated close to historic Salisbury, the landmark site can be visited by train, car and bus. However, the train is often the preferred route for a day trip, taking just 1h 23m from London Waterloo on the direct train to Salisbury.

09:20 – Arrive in Salisbury

Since Stonehenge doesn’t open until 09:30, there’s plenty of time to make your way from the city on a scenic journey through the rural countryside.

The 07:50 train from London Waterloo is perfectly timed to arrive at 09:20, allowing you to make the most of your full day out.

A fitting setting for such a mysterious sight, many believe Wiltshire has a unique energy attached to it. Some suggest that its ley lines are associated with sacred sites, and many have been wowed by the crop circles and other unusual activity over the years. Put simply – a day trip to Stonehenge from London is a must.

There are plenty of taxi options available from the station when you arrive. From here it’s a quick 15-minute journey to the Stonehenge Visitor Centre, operated by English Heritage since it is a protected site.

09:35 – Arrive at Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Upon arrival, you’ll come into the Stonehenge Visitor Centre. This can be enjoyed at your leisure – it usually takes an hour or two to look around.

The virtual stones experience is a good place to start. This exhibition will teach you about the monument and its ancient history. Bringing it to life virtually, you can ‘touch’ the stones in a 360-degree audio-visual experience. This is great for children but no less informative for adults.

In the Stonehenge exhibition, there are more than 250 fascinating archaeological treasures on display, which were discovered on site.

The final part of the tour is a visit to the Neolithic houses. Reconstructed to reflect life 4,500 years ago, they are impressively built using authentic materials and original techniques, in keeping with the integrity of the exhibition.

11:30 – The Stone Circle

And finally, here it is – thousands of years of history standing in front of you. It’s quite a sight to behold! Upon arrival at the Stone Circle, take time to wander around this iconic symbol of mankind, taking it all in. It’s hard not to reflect on the enormous engineering effort that went into creating this solid structure that stands before you today.

The stones are said to have been constructed in parts – there are lots of information points dotted around the site that explain the stones and their roles in more detail.

Since it’s a protected area, you cannot touch the stones, and there is some distance between visitors and the formation. However, even with these protective measures, visitors get a full sense of the scale and magnificence of the site. Join the hundreds of visitors vying for the best position for a photograph, and of course a mandatory selfie before you leave.

12:45 – Lunch

After working your way back down to the visitor centre, there’s an opportunity for lunch in the café. There are sandwiches, soups and pastries along with a choice of coffee to choose from.

Before leaving, be sure to visit the gift shop. There’s plenty of brilliant merchandise you won’t want to leave without!

14:20 – Head into Salisbury

With plenty of time left in your schedule, it would be remiss not to take a detour into Salisbury. A taxi into the centre takes a further 17-minutes, arriving at 14:20.

This medieval city is brimming with historical significance and sights to see. At its centre is Salisbury Cathedral, a beacon in the skyline, inviting worshippers since the late 12th-century. It’s also home to the original copy of the Magna Carta written in 1215 AD, which is not to be missed.

A gentle walk back to the train station takes less than 15-minutes and allows you to take in the sights and streets along the way. This includes a number of National Trust buildings, including Mompesson House, as well as the natural beauty of Queen Elizabeth Gardens.

16:47 – Return to London

Of course, all good things must come to an end. Beat the early evening rush by catching the 16:47 train to London Waterloo, which takes 1h 34m. Arriving back in the city at 18:21, you’ll have enough time to enjoy a refreshing sip before the sun sets.

Reasons why you should book a tour to Europe

Travelling to Europe is such an adventure! Why is it not a rite of passage for every single person around the world? Travelling is educational, inspiring and just plain fun! Here are some of the reasons why so many travel packages around Europe…

You get to walk amidst living history

Civilisation in Europe has been around for many years and the continent has the buildings to prove it. The cities are old, REALLY old. Some of the buildings date back around 2000 years, especially in places like Rome. Take note of the buildings around you, visit the museums and take loads of pictures! These cities are living, breathing reminders of the past. They are filled with stories just waiting to be heard. Europe culture has so much to offer. You can walk up the Acropolis and think as Socrates once did. Or, you could get lost along the cobblestone walkways of Prague’s Old Town. Why not hike among the UNESCO-accredited Italian fishing villages of Cinque Terre in Italy? Wherever you choose to go, you’ll enjoy a historical experience like no other.

It’s undeniably gorgeous

The Europe attractions do not hold back! From the snow-capped mountains of the Swiss Alps, to the golden charm of the Italian coastline. Europe is filled with jaw-dropping views. Even the urban scenery has its own unique charm! No matter where your European travels take you, you are bound to stand in awe at the beauty that surrounds you.

One word: CULTURE

Europe has some of the finest theatres on the planet. Not to mention art museums! Did you know that Italy has more masterpieces per square metre, than any other country in the world? Or that the Musée du Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art? That’s a lot of culture waiting to be explored!

It’s easy to get around

European countries have had time to perfect urban planning and get public transport under control. This makes getting around so easy! Travellers can enjoy a variety of sights in a relatively short space of time.  A single day could include: artworks, shopping, famous landmarks, delicious foods, medieval architecture and relaxing.

Europeans celebrate EVERYTHING

Europe is known for its one-of-a-kind festival calendar. From the historically important and cutting-edge. To the ridiculous . You can enjoy the company of like-minded locals and visitors at festive events throughout the year. Music, film, comedy, food , fashion… You name it, Europe has a festival that celebrates it!

Travelers are welcomed with open arms

For most Europeans, hospitality is a way of life. No matter where you travel, you are sure to be welcomed with open arms. The locals will always be pointed in the direction of the best attractions.

The shopping is phenomenal

Europe is home to some of the world’s fashion capitals. This makes high street shopping even more exciting than usual. Travelling on a basic budget? You are sure to find some well-priced keepsakes at markets and small, local vendors. Visiting during winter? You are in for a treat! Europe has some of the most magical Christmas markets you’ll ever encounter.

Top 6 coastal towns in Italy

Hilltop villages, clear water, beautiful beaches, and good food. These are all things you can expect to find in our top 6 Italian coastal towns. You can reach all of them quickly and easily by train from all over Italy – in fact, for some of them, the scenic train journey to get there is half the reason why you should go.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Representing the beautiful Cinque Terre on our list, Vernazza packs a lot into one tiny, colourful village – an authentic marina, brightly coloured houses, dramatic rocky coastline, a historic bell tower, even a secluded swimming hole and cliffside restaurants. Doria Castle, clinging to the rugged hillside, is a local highlight. The railway line connecting the Cinque Terre is one of the most spectacular journeys in Italy. And Vernazza is a convenient starting place for hiking to the other Cinque Terre villages. Especially Corniglia and Monterosso, which have the best swimming beaches in the area!

Vietri sul Mare, Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is the epitome of what beautiful Italian coastal towns can be. While many Amalfi Coast towns have come to rely on tourism, Vietri sul Mare has remained a traditional fishing village. That has helped this quaint but vibrant seaside town retain a high level of authenticity. In cliffside restaurants, you can taste possibly the best tuna and sardines you’ll ever try. Stroll the winding old streets up to the town’s central beacon, the Church of Saint John the Baptist, for incredible ocean views. The only Amalfi Coast town with a train station, Vietri sul Mare is a mere 8 minutes from Salerno and 53 minutes from Naples on Trenitalia trains.

Rimini, Emilia-Romagna

With impressive historical buildings to match its 10 miles of sandy beach, Rimini has long been a favourite among Italian coastal towns. It is Italy’s biggest beach resort – you could spend all day every day in different parts of the beach, and after a month you might still be discovering new spots. It’s not all about swimming and sunbathing here, though, as Rimini’s nightlife scene is almost as famous as its beach. And only an hour away from Bologna on Frecciarossa or Frecciabianca trains, the capital of the region that gave the world Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar and so much more, Rimini is a gastronomic paradise. On Frecciarossa trains you can enjoy plenty of high-quality services, including free WiFi and onboard entertainment Le Frecce portal, large leather armchairs, at-seat power sockets and a welcome service with complimentary snacks in all classes except for the Standard one.

Polignano a Mare, Puglia

Think turquoise waters and white-pebble beaches, Roman ruins and whitewashed houses. Puglia, wrapping around the heel of Italy’s boot, is loaded with beautiful beach towns. And Polignano a Mare may well be the best of the lot. The town’s iconic abbey and 16th-century tower, overlooking the sparkling Adriatic Sea from the top of a cliff, offers a photo opportunity you won’t want to miss. Polignano a Mare is less than 40 minutes away from Bari on a regional train.

Sorrento, Campania

Looking back towards the ancient city and Mount Vesuvius from across the Gulf of Naples, the location of Sorrento is enough in itself to warrant its status as one of the finest Italian coastal towns. So the fact that it throws ridiculous historical beauty and otherworldly rugged landscapes into the mix is just unfair. Given its topography, it’s a tricky place to drive – but it’s easy to walk around. And its central train station, located near Piazza Angelina Lauro in the centre of the city, is well serviced by commuter trains from Naples as well as trains from other towns and cities.

San Remo, Liguria

Compared with its much noisier neighbours over the border on the Côte d’Azur, San Remo feels humble and understated despite its historic grandeur. That’s not to say that there isn’t glitz and glamour here. There is – epitomised by its imposing architecture. But there’s also a lot more to this Italian Riviera gem. San Remo hosts a range of global events year-round, from the International Rally Challenge to the wildly popular Sanremo Music Festival television song contest. Oh, and did we mention that the train journey to San Remo, hugging the coastline between Imperia and Ventimiglia, is one of the most beautiful in Italy?

Here are the top 6 tourist attractions to see in Rome

Piazza Navona, Rome Overview

Hailed as a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, the Piazza Navona is bristling with life in a hundred shops, restaurants and eateries that surround this historical place.

The Piazza Navona was worked on by Borromini and Bernini. It is populated by street cafes and open air performances and a very festive atmosphere. You could go there to wonder at the architectural magnificence as you sip on the best coffee in your life, while a local street performer plays the most melodious tunes in the background. This is a great place for history buffs, families, couples and even solo travellers!


This was originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre, and was mostly used as public entertainment arena.

The Colosseum is one of the most famous attractions in Rome, and is where most gladiatorial fights took place. Today, actors in gladiator clothes stand outside the Colosseum, where you can take pictures with them. The Colosseum is a testament to the ingenuity of the builders, having stood the test of time. While parts have been damaged, the Colosseum still remains standing in most of it’s original glory today. It is advisable that you buy your tickets in advance to skip the ticketing queue, which can be quite the time saver!

EUR, Rome

One of the most chilling yet underrated attractions of Rome, the EUR houses works by famous architects like Marcello Piacentini, Giuseppe Pagano Pogatschnig, Luigi Piccinato, Luigi Vietti and Ettore Rossi. If you do visit, do not miss the Palazzo della Civiltö Italiana, the Fascist answer to the Colosseum.

Vatican Museums

Founded in the 16th century, the museums are one of the best in the world.

The Vatican museums feature 7 km of historically and culturally significant artefacts. Their acquisition of everything from Egyptian mummies to modern paintings is as impressive as their labelling is not. Hire a guide, take an audio guide or buy a guide book to get the full impact of the centuries of history in these hallowed halls.

Galleria Borghese

The Galleria Borghese is one of the most extensive and impressive private collections in the world. If they had to choose one museum to visit during your Roman vacation, many people would choose this over the Vatican!

The Galleria Borghese is filled to the gills with Bernini, Raphael and artefacts like floor tiles from the Colosseum that are directly lifted from the blueprints of history. The galleria allows only 300 odd people to enter it every session, with every session lasting 2 hours. Buy your tickets in advance! The approach to the Galleria Borghese is the Villa Borghese, which can also turn into a beautiful stroll if you plan your day accordingly.

The Pantheon

One of the most culturally significant and most well preserved buildings in Rome, the Pantheon houses the remains of several illustrious figures, including Raphael.

The origins of the Pantheon are contested, with some claiming that it was a temple dedicated to the pagan gods of Rome while others say it was the sacra privata of the original builder, Agrippa. In any case, the Pantheon is currently in use as a church, and you can even participate in Mass, held there every Sunday. The pantheon currently also houses the remains of late Italian Kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, along with the latter’s wife, Margherita; along with them, the tomb of the artist Raphael is also located in the Pantheon.

The Five Best Temples in Hong Kong

Ditch the shopping malls and skyscrapers and delve into the city’s rich cultural heritage with a visit to one of Hong Kong’s top five temples. Nowhere is better to learn all there is to know about the hopes, dreams, fears and superstitions of this city’s industrious urbanites – especially true during Chinese New Year and important lunar calendar festival dates. While some places of worship have been given a glossy new makeover, many of Hong Kong’s oldest temples have been serving as important community gathering points for hundreds of years.

5. Lam Tsuen Tin Hau Temple and Wishing Trees

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This quaint collection of villages in Tai Po has been drawing visitors to its Tin Hau Temple and two wishing trees for hundreds of years. Traditionally, festival goers would write their wishes on joss paper and tie it to an orange, which was then tossed up towards one of the banyan tree’s highest boughs – the higher the branch the better the odds of your wish coming true! As the practice became more popular, authorities stepped in to help preserve the trees and visitors are now encouraged to tie wishes to wooden racks nearby instead. Steps away you’ll find a small Tin Hau temple, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea, which can typically be found in any ancient fishing community in Hong Kong or along the Chinese coastline. Sit down with a fortune teller here if you want to find out about that wish.

4. Man Mo Temple

[Also see our travel article “10 Best Beaches in Hong Kong“]

Stepping into the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road is like entering another world, a realm inhabited by the venerable deities of Man (God of Literature) and Mo (God of War) who are worshiped here. Rays of sunlight cut through the rising smoke of giant incense coils hanging low from the ceiling and down onto the altars of the 10 judges of the underworld. Make sure to take in all the details – the lines of descending green Shekwan roof tiles represent bamboo and longevity, while the antique sedan chairs inside were used to carry statues of the gods during festival processions.

3. Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

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Although calling itself a monastery, the name is a bit of a misnomer as there are no resident monks at this eclectic Sha Tin temple. Follow the steep winding path up the hillside, flanked by 500 life-sized Arhand statues to reach the main complex and its 9-story pagoda. Here you’ll supposedly find more than 13,000 Buddha statues – but at this point, who’s counting? – and a few bodhisattvas on horseback for good measure. The main attraction, however, is the preserved body of Yuet Kai, the monastery’s supremely devout founder. Embalmed in lacquer, plastered with gold leaf and dressed in robes, the upright body currently sits on display in a glass case inside the main monastery building.

2. Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden

[Also see our travel article “The Four Best Chinese Restaurants in Hong Kong“]

At Diamond Hill, only one subway stop away from the Wong Tai Sin temple, you’ll find the peaceful and serene Chi Lin Nunnery. In stark contrast to its colorful and brash Taoist neighbor, the Buddhist nunnery exudes calm and tranquility with smooth stone balustrades, lotus ponds and stunning wooden architecture. Inspired by Japanese and Tang Dynasty temples, the elegant series of halls and walkways were constructed without the use of nails, using a complex design of counterweights and dowels. Across the road, the Nan Lian Garden is a scenic oasis amid towering high-rise apartments looming up along the hillside. A relaxing stroll past ancient bonsai trees, koi ponds and meticulously landscaped gardens is the perfect antidote for those needing some time out from the hustle and bustle of the city.

1. Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple

[Also see our travel article “The Top 10 Reasons to Visit Hong Kong“]

With its bold, red pillars and ornamental latticework, Wong Tai Sin displays all the qualities of the archetypal Taoist Chinese temple. Colorful and noisy, worshipers come year round to pray for good fortune and divine guidance from the “Great Immortal Wong.” Crowds flock here during the Chinese New Year to offer incense, make wishes and visit fortune tellers in hopes of an auspicious and prosperous year to come. Visiting the temple during this time may be interesting from a cultural perspective, but it is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Throngs of people push their way through the winding temple complex in a cloud of smoky incense towards the main altar and gather around stalls selling charms and amulets of all shapes and sizes. It is certainly a once in a lifetime experience, but alternatively, an early morning weekday visit will serve just fine.

The World’s Ten Best Green Hotels

Green hotels aren’t just huts on the beach — and if they are, these exceptionally modern green hotels have luxury in their corner. These ten are just a sampling of a stunning array of how far the eco culture has come and how it can provide a dreamy honeymoon or adrenaline-filled getaway for every type and budget.

10. Adrère Amellal: Desert Ecolodge, Siwa, Egypt

[Also see our travel article “Visiting the Ancient City of Luxor“]

Step way, way back in time at Adrère Amellal, where beeswax candles replace electric lights and the crisp desert nights stand in for air-conditioning. Set in the protected Siwa Oasis, the ecolodge was hand-built using a mixture of stone, salt water and clay, and blends into the shade of a giant yellow rock mountain. Except for the modern bathrooms and comfortable, locally made beds, the place looks like it hasn’t changed in thousands of years. Leave modernity behind while dining on local organic fruit and veg, and learn the value of an early bedtime and sunrise wake-up call.

9. Six Senses, Con Dao, Vietnam

Six Senses cares for its guests, the environment and its neighbors in equal measure, making it a truly guilt-free splurge. The hotel puts a portion of its mineral water sales towards building a clean water supply for the local school, buys its food from local vendors, and works with suppliers that share its views on sustainability. The family friendly hotel itself is built for maximum airflow, reducing the need for air-conditioning. Bikes are available for sightseeing. Golfers can even aim for the water, as the golf balls biodegrade in 48 hours and release fish food. The pools, crystalline waters and private atmosphere seal the deal for an unforgettable stay.

8. Tierra Patagonia, Torres del Paine, Chile

[Also see our travel article “Two Weeks in Chile“]

Set just outside Torres del Paine National Park, Tierra Patagonia is an eco haven for eco-adventurists. Quite impressively, the setup requires no air-conditioning in summer and barely any heating in winter. The soft curves of the hotel’s architecture juxtapose the jagged mountain peaks that dominate every window view. Lenga wood comes from a sustainable rainforest, and the majority of furniture is also locally made. Tierra Patagonia also plants one tree for every visitor, helping along the reforestation efforts after the January 2012 forest fire.

7. Whitepod, Aigle, Switzerland

Almost 4,600 feet above sea level and at the beginning of the Swiss Alps, White Pod features 15 igloo-esque pods that dot the pristine landscape. The pods are low-impact, and the resort puts a heavy emphasis on low electricity and water consumption, using renewable resources and educating guests on environmental protection. The airy pods come with a wood-burning stove and tons of natural light. Luxury is just a few steps away, with the main pod-house offering massages, a Finnish sauna and a Japanese bath. In the winter, skiing is obviously the main draw, along with dog sledding, treks and paragliding. The summer season offers hikes and dog karting, bringing a sense of summer camp to sustainable luxury.

6. Saffire Freycinet, Coles Bay, Tasmania

With colors and sweeping curves that reflect the landscape, Saffire Freycinet almost becomes one with the incredible views from every window. Between the on-site farm and nearby ones, local produce colors the extravagant meals. The resort planted 30,000 native plants to help restore the once-battered landscape, and the buildings, designed by a Tasmanian architect and filled with locally made furniture, limit light pollution and collect and conserve rainwater. One of the best (and most extravagant) ways of getting back to nature includes dining on fresh-caught oysters and sipping local white wine while still in the estuary.

5. Treehotel, Harads, Sweden

[Also see our “Travel Guide to Stockholm and its Top Attractions“]

Treehotel turns typical luxury a curveball with a unique, offbeat setup in the middle of nowhere. A few miles from a village of 500 and set in the middle of a forest, the hotel features five cabins, or rather, treehouses. Treehotel took great pains to build these cabins into the trees without disturbing the surrounding environment and allows visitors a one-of-a-kind experience without a giant carbon footprint. The wooden floors contain no trace chemicals, and each cabin features underfloor heating, LED-lighting, combustive toilets and hydroelectric power. In addition to a guilt-free stay in a UFO or cone-shaped or mirrored box cabin, visitors who pass through in the colder months can dine on the ice, snowshoe and possibly catch a showing of the aurora borealis.

4. San Camp, Kalahari Desert, Botswana

[Also see our travel article “The World’s Best Places to See Wildlife“]

San Camp provides five-star accommodation in an oasis on the decidedly less hospitable Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Calling the six custom-built canvas lodges tents doesn’t fully define the romantic, elegant design among a surreal landscape. Each tent is made from sustainable Zimbabwean teak, and the furniture is crafted by local artisans. Solar energy powers almost the entire sight. Perhaps best of all, San Camp knows the value of leaving while they’re ahead — the camp packs up at the end of every dry season, leaving almost no trace behind except for the same tracks that every jeep uses on the way out to reduce land disruption.

3. Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Family owned and family and honeymooner-friendly Morgan’s Rock sits in the middle of a 4,000-acre jungle and next to a mile-long private beach. Sea turtles are a year-round staple, as are howler monkeys and sloths. In addition to ziplining through the pristine forest or getting tipsy on the beach, visitors can lend a hand with the daily operations by helping out at the organic farm in the morning and enjoying the fruits of their labor at the dinner table. Morgan’s Rock supplements its farm-to-table meals with food from local farms and vendors, which aligns nicely with its commitment to local education and preservation. The 15 three-sided bungalows that were constructed by a sustainable Managua-based company are an adventure in themselves, as they rest on cliff-side treetops across a suspension bridge.

2. h2hotel, Healdsburg, California, United States

From top to bottom, LEED gold certified h2hotel is a prime example of eco-friendly chic. Many of the building blocks were sourced from nearby, and 85% of the leftover debris was recycled. Minimalist yet cozy guest rooms contain bamboo flooring, organic sheets and towels, and glass carafes made from recycled wine bottles. Both the bar and restaurant source local food and drink for fresh and refreshing dining. Solar panels heat the pool and washrooms, and the living roof filters rainwater, some of which is then used in an art installation downstairs. Guests can further reduce their environmental impact by using the hotel’s complimentary bikes to visit the local wineries.

1. Chumbe Island Coral Park Eco-Bungalows, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Chumbe Island cleverly mixes rustic charm with a sort of ultra modern Robinson Crusoe-type adventure, with open-air bungalows, crystal clear snorkeling and a heavy emphasis on environmental education. The unpopulated island only accepts a maximum of 14 guests at a time, immediately giving the place an exclusive feel. The luxury, though, comes in the form of being next to one of the last unspoiled coral reefs in Africa and at being one with nature. The park maintains a strict standard of making almost zero impact on the surrounding land. This includes solar power, composting toilets and an impressive system of filtering rainwater for the washrooms and then cycling that out to nearby plants.