The stone towers and walls of Edinburgh Castle have dominated the Edinburgh skyline since the 13th century. Perched atop black basalt rock, it offers magnificent views of the city and a trip through Scotland’s tumultuous history.
Famous as being Sweden’s first ever town and founded in AD 980, the last century of the Viking era, the idyllic village of Sigtuna nestles alongside Lake Mälaren in the lush green landscape of Uppland, north of Stockholm. Sigtuna’s amazing history is to be found in the medieval churches, ruins, rune stones, and buildings that remain to this day. Along Storgatan, which has stood for more than a thousand years, are clusters of interesting little boutique shops selling fashion, designer items, and handicrafts. By car, Sigtuna is just 45 minutes from Stockholm, 30 minutes from the medieval university town of Uppsala, and just 20 minutes from Arlanda airport.
A beautiful view of winter morning.
The Matterhorn, Switzerland’s iconic pointed peak is one of the highest mountains in the Alps. On the border with Italy, this legendary peak rises to 4,478 meters, and its four steep faces lie in the direction of the compass points. The first summiting in 1865 ended tragically when four climbers fell to their death during the descent. Today, thousands of experienced climbers come here each summer.
High Park is a huge green space with sunken gardens, hanging basket gardens, nature trails, natural ponds, and streams. The 165-acre country property, originally owned by the Howards, was deeded to the City of Toronto in 1873. This deed came with the stipulation that the park was to remain “for the free use, benefit and enjoyment of the citizens of Toronto and it be called High Park.”
In Vanier Park near Burrard Bridge, the Museum of Vancouver is a large institution devoted to all things Vancouver. It covers the city history from the first Coast Salish communities to Japantown, Kitsilano hippie days, and urban development. Other worthwhile museums and centers are within a short walk, including the HR MacMillan Space Centre with its planetarium, an observatory, and the waterfront Maritime Museum, where splendid views capture English Bay with the North Shore mountains beyond.
Stanley Park is a lush peninsula park of huge trees adjacent to Downtown Vancouver. A paved seawall path encircles the green space, and most visitors take the time to explore on foot or by bicycle. Inland, the park offers many things to do, and visitors can spend a full day exploring attractions ranging from the totem poles at Brockton Point to the west coast sea life at the Vancouver Aquarium. Spectacular views are a standard throughout the park.
For mountain bikers, Colorado is a haven, with great trails all over the state. Unfortunately, the mountain climate limits the season in many areas. But the town of Fruita, near Grand Junction, has the climate to enable you to stretch out your mountain biking season through the shoulder seasons and into the winter months. It’s also a quirky little town with enough character to make you want to stay a while and return.
In Hancock Park, La Brea Tar Pits offers a unique opportunity to see live excavations of fossils and learn about the process. The Tar Pits were formed 40,000 years ago, when oil seeped through the rock, entrapping passing animals, which would get stuck in the substance. The tar then preserved the fossils throughout the ages, leaving behind an incredible glimpse into another age.
The Orlando Science Center showcases several branches of science from mechanics to biology and applied technology. There are a variety of themed exhibits. Among the top favorites is “Kids Town”. Kids Town is available to children under 48 inches tall with stimulating interactive exhibits. There are also laser shows and large format films at the Dr. Phillips CineDome.
The Old Town San Diego State Historic Park gives visitors a look at the town’s Mexican and early American history, and offers opportunities for shopping and dining. It was probably founded in 1820 by demobilized Mexican soldiers who had done their military service at the Presidio or in the fort on Presidio Hill, both of which are located here. Many of the historic buildings, including numerous adobe houses, have been repaired. Also located here are interesting shops and restaurants with outdoor patios. The Old Town State Historic park is the most visited state park in California. There is no admission fee.
The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco is the last remaining structure from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this classical looking building is beautifully situated on a lagoon that reflects the mirror image on the surface of the calm water, while ducks and geese drift by.
No visit to China would be complete without at least one panda experience. While the country’s top zoos boast many fine specimens of these fascinating creatures, the best place to see them in a close approximation to their natural habitat is at the excellent Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, located in the province of Sichuan. Here, you’ll have the chance to watch as many as 80 pandas go about their daily routines, from foraging to playing in the facility’s large park-like setting.
Erawan National Park has much to offer to visitors, including a number of caves; paths that cut through thick deciduous forests; and fauna that includes wild elephants, gibbons, and great hornbills. But it’s the waterfalls here—and especially the seven-tiered Erawan Falls that attract the bulk of the visitors.
Ayutthaya offers a magnificent peek into the glory of ancient Thailand, where visitors can wander the haunting but romantic ruins of the former capital.
Every Thailand visitor looks forward to cheap and delicious food and that’s exactly what they can find in abundance at Chiang Mai’s Sunday Night Walking Street. Vendors sell all kinds of treats here: from the popular pad Thai and chicken satay to samosas, fried bananas, sweet roti, and fresh fruit shakes often for less than $2 a piece.
Penguins are adorable in any setting, but seeing them waddle around in their natural environment is a particular thrill for wildlife lovers. About an hour’s drive from Cape Town, Boulder’s Bay in Simon’s Town shelters a breeding colony of more than 2,000 endangered African Penguins. This beautiful wind-sheltered, white-sand beach belongs to the Table mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, and the park charges an entrance fee to access these shores. But it’s worth it.
On a winter morning, a farmer is laying plow on his land.
A beautiful view of winter morning.
Inland, in Morocco’s eastern Sahara region, are the grand and rippling sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi, where would-be explorers and adventure-seekers head to get a dose of desert action. This is prime territory for dune-surfing, four-wheel-drive dune-bashing, and the (much more authentic) camel trekking. For those with less of an active nature, just sitting amid the sand dune splendor is worthy enough of the long journey out here. For most travelers who make it this far, the highlight is spending the evening at a desert camp amid the dunes themselves.