Original content owned & copyrighted by Green Global Travel.
My love affair with Costa Rica began more than 20 years ago, in the early days of ecotourism. It was only my second trip outside the US, and the first where I learned about the importance of environmental and wildlife conservation.
We explored much of the country’s central and western regions, from the Arenal Volcano and Monteverde Cloud Forest to the Nicoya Peninsula and Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge (on the northern border with Nicaragua).
We saw countless animals, from cute, cuddly Coatimundis and Sloths to every type of tropical bird, butterfly, and frog you can imagine. By the time an orphaned monkey climbed on my shoulders at Caño Negro, I was madly in love with the country.
In case you haven’t read the story about how Green Global Travel was born, Mary and I came up with the concept in Tortuguero National Park during our 2010 visit. When we returned in 2013 as part of a coordinated group press trip, it gave birth to our Green Travel Media agency.
This Central American hotspot obviously holds a special place in our hearts, as well as those of many of our travel blogging friends.
So we enlisted their help to compile this epic guide to the best places to stay in Costa Rica, including all our favorite Costa Rica resorts, eco-lodges, and hotels. –Bret Love
Arenas Del Mar is the only eco-luxury resort located right on the beachfront in Manuel Antonio. With the beautiful beach at your front and the lush rainforest supporting your back, Mother Nature gets to share her best sides as the two ecosystems intertwine.
You’ll awake to the sounds of the ocean gently crashing against the shore, and walk onto the balcony to take a morning dip in your private jacuzzi. Check out the resort schedule to see if that day’s yoga class is being held on the secluded beach or on the patio overlooking the forest.
Rest assured that this upscale indulgence is just the surface of your experience. Behind the scenes, sustainability and supporting the local community is at the forefront of this posh Costa Rica resort’s mission.
From the gift shop and the mini bar (which is included in the price) to the food in the restaurant, many products you’ll find at Arenas del Mar are natural, organic, and sourced from local companies.
Solar panels are utilized to heat the hot water, while the pools are chlorine-free, instead using ionization to clean the water. Twenty percent of the resort’s land is devoted to the rooms, facilities, and beach, while the remaining 80% is protected as part of the Cayuga Nature Conservancy.
Keep your eyes open at all times, as you’re sure to see an array of the incredible wildlife that can be found on the property. From Sloths to Iguanas, White-face Capuchin Monkeys, and more, this is their home first and foremost, and we are lucky to be their guests. Read More Reviews & Check Rates. –Yoli Ouiya of Yoli’s Green Living
This remote eco lodge is located on the border of Corcovado National Park, in an area with no airport and no roads, a solid two hours by boat from the nearest town. It’s as close as you can get to the park without camping, and one of the few Costa Rica resorts to earn a 5-Leaf rating for Sustainable Tourism.
US expat Steven Lill bought the land in 1974 (a year before the park was created) to try his hand at subsistence farming. For 20 years it was a pristine 170-acre nature reserve (monkeys, sloths, and birds still abound on the property today), and in 1994 he opened Casa Corcovado Jungle Lodge.
The resort boasts 14 charming bungalows, a Spanish Hacienda-style restaurant, two swimming pools, lushly landscaped gardens, an outdoor bar/lounge, and a margarita bar offering stunning sunset views. The rooms are spacious and secluded, with screened-in porches, hammocks, and outdoor showers.
Their sustainability initiatives include a solar electric system, a hybrid solar convection for heating water, and an electric generator. They also installed a hydroelectric turbine, a wastewater management system, and financed a recycling center in Sierpe (with all proceeds benefitting a local high school).
The lodge offers lots of activities, including hiking tours into Corcovado National Park, which is considered one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. They can also arrange snorkeling/Scuba diving excursions at Caño Island, which is about 40 minutes away by boat. Read More Reviews & Check Rates.–Bret Love of Green Global Travel
Located just south of Tamarindo, Drift Away Eco Lodge is one of our favorite places to stay in Costa Rica. It’s a true eco resort focused on sustainability, both environmental and social.
Whether you’re a family looking for a base for your adventures, a couple seeking a romantic getaway, or a solo traveler hoping for to venture off the beaten path, this resort offers something for every type of traveler.
You can hop on a complimentary bicycle and ride to Playa Negra or Playa Avellanas to try your hand at surfing, grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant, take a yoga class, and much more. The staff at Drift Away Eco Lodge is also able to arrangescuba diving, zip lining, and other day trip excursions for you.
Once you’re done exploring the different activities in the surrounding area, you can enjoy the relaxing atmosphere back at the lodge. You can grab a book and kick back in the hammocks, take a refreshing dip in the pool, play a game of pool or ping pong, or head down to the isolated beach.
The rooms at Drift Away are decorated with repurposed wood, Costa Rican crafts, organic cotton linens, a reusable water bottle you can use during your stay, and locally made natural toiletries.
In addition to being laid-back and beautiful, Drift Away is the perfect place for anyone trying to make a positive impact while traveling. To name just a few of the resort’s sustainable practices, they’re free of single-use plastics, hire locals, repurpose and reuse items, and source local ingredients for their food, beer, wine, and kombucha. Read More Reviews & Check Rates.–Ashley Hubbard of Wild Hearted
In the hills above San José, just 15 minutes from Costa Rica’s international airport, the town of Heredìa is home to Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort (FRB), the country’s original boutique hotel.
It was also the first place in Costa Rica to earn a 100% score on the Certification for Sustainable Tourism. This is the country’s trailblazing national standard, a seal of approval that grants one to five green leaves to businesses engaged in sustainable practices.
Ecotourism runs very deep at FRB, but so do art and coffee. The resort feels like one part lush private nature reserve, one part plantation for some of Costa Rica’s best single-origin, shade-grown coffee. It’s also a flight of creative fancy, with each room uniquely designed with imaginative architectural touches, murals, original artwork, and local crafts.
FRB is within day-trip reach of numerous parks and activities (including river rafting, canopy tours, cultural tours, and volcano-spotting), but there’s plenty of distraction right on site, including the grounds with 50-plus varieties of native fruit, trees and other tropical flora, and many indigenous and migrant birds.
For coffee fans, the 2½-hour, in-depth, educational coffee plantation tour is a must, especially when rounded out with coffee cupping and tasting. And the resort boasts a large swimming pool, the El Buho Bar and farm-to-table El Tigre Vestido Restaurant.
Once considered a backpacker’s paradise, the small, funky town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca has become the most popular tourist stop on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Just an hour drive south of the port city of Limón (and not far from Panama), Puerto Viejo has a West Indies feel and is well worth a visit.
Our favorite place to stay in the area is the adults-only Hotel Banana Azul, which is located on one of the most beautiful beaches in PV. The grounds are a veritable botanical garden— lush and beautifully manicured, surrounding a pool with small waterfalls and a thatched-roof patio.
Built with native hardwoods, the resort has a warm and rustic feel, with comfortable beds, tropical interiors, and private baths. The second story rooms have French doors which open onto a covered balcony overlooking the pool, each with its own table and chairs and some with a hammock.
Open the doors at night to enjoy the evening breeze coming in from Playa Negra beach. The beach itself is quiet with waves that are sometimes large enough to do some light surfing.
During the day, visit nearby Cahuita National Park, the beautiful beach town of Punta Uva, the Jaguar Rescue Center, or go surfing at Playa Cocles. The on-site restaurant serves tasty meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the small bar is open all day long.
The resort staff can also help you arrange a variety of spa services, day trips, and transportation to the airport or nearby Bocas del Toro, Panama. But one thing is certain, you’ll never really be ready to leave! Read More Reviews & Check Rates.–Lori Sorrentino of Travlinmad
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve ranks among Costa Rica’s most beloved tourist attractions, drawing 70,000+ visitors a year. It’s a haven for wildlife: The reserve’s six ecological zones are home to around 100 species of mammals, 120 types of reptiles and amphibians, and 400+ bird species.
A pioneer of ecotourism in the area, the carbon neutral eco-hotel was the second ever built in the cloud forest. Recent renovations marked a major upgrade, with their sustainability initiatives earning the prestigious 5-Leaf recognition from CRTI.
Their Peninsula rooms offer spectacular scenic views of the surrounding mountains. But we loved the Chalet rooms, which make you feel like you’re right in the heart of the forest. All rooms feature private balconies and terraces, beautiful hardwood decor, spa tubs and free wifi, while some also boast beautiful ocean views.
In terms of amenities, this boutique luxury hotel includes a wellness spa, yoga classes, and delicious farm-to-table food at Restaurante Celajes. You can also arrange a 3.5-hour guided hike through the trails of nearby Curi-Cancha Wildlife Refuge, where you’re guaranteed to spot an array of animals.
One of the first Costa Rica resorts I ever visited back in 1998, Hotel Belmar has only improved over time! Read More Reviews & Check Rates.–Bret Love of Green Global Travel
Original content owned & copyrighted by Green Global Travel.
Oceans cover more than 70% of the planet, but that doesn’t adequately convey the amount of space available for aquatic animals to roam. Where land animals are limited by gravity, marine animals can go from coastal shallows to trenches the depths of which humans have barely begun to explore.
So it’s no surprise that the planet’s largest creatures, whales, are ocean-dwelling. In terms of the world’s largest animals, the competition isn’t even close.
The next largest animal of any species, the Whale Shark, is pint-sized compared to the five largest whale species. Clearly the only way to describe the marine mammal’s immensity—46 feet long, 15 tons— was to name it after whales.
African Elephants, the world’s largest living land animals, aren’t one-tenth the size of the largest whales. Even the dinosaurs weren’t as big as whales. Perhaps this explains why whale watching has become one of the most popular ecotourism activities.
If you’re going to discuss whales, it makes sense to start with the largest whale species of them all, the Blue Whale. Blue Whale size and weight stats are truly spectacular, making us humans seem tiny and utterly insignificant by comparison.
But there are plenty of other fascinating Blue Whale facts, including what they eat, where they live, why they’re endangered, how many remain, and what’s being done to save them. What follows is arguably the Internet’s most comprehensive array of Blue Whale information.
1. Blue Whales are one of around 80 species of Cetaceans, including other whales, dolphins, and porpoises. The term is derived from an ancient Greek word—këtos— that means “large fish,” but all members of this classification are mammals. Cetaceans are split into two parvorders: Odontoceti, or toothed whales, and Mysticeti, or baleen whales. The Blue Whale is a baleen whale.
2. Like other mammals, this species is warm-blooded and breathes via lungs. Mothers give birth to live baby Blue Whales, which they then nurse.
3. The Blue Whale’s scientific name is Balaenoptera musculus, and there are actually three subspecies. Balaenoptera musculus musculus inhabits the North Atlantic and North Pacific. Balaenoptera musculus intermedia lives in the Southern Ocean, and Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda lives in the Indian Ocean.
4. Despite their common name, the Blue Whale is actually a more mottled blue-gray color when out of the water. However, underwater their skin appears to be true blue. Their pale bellies often take on a yellowish tinge, which results from the millions of microorganisms that live in their skin.
5. In addition to being the largest animal in the world, they’re amongst the longest living animals as well. The average Blue Whale lifespan is 80 to 90 years, but some live to 110 (Bowhead whales are the longest living mammal, at over 200 years). Strangely, a whale’s age is calculated by counting the layers of their waxy earplugs, á la tree rings!
Blue Whale by NOAA Fisheries/Lisa Conger [Public domain]
Blue Whale Size
6. Blue Whale size is staggering to consider: They can measure in the vicinity of 100 feet long (making them the longest animal in the world), and can weigh up to 200 tons. It’s difficult to conceive when we imagine something so big that sometimes moves at considerable speeds.
7. The Blue Whale is the largest animal ever known to have lived on Earth. They are larger, longer, and heavier than any other animal, including all known species of dinosaurs.
8. More trivial tidbits about Blue Whale size: Its tongue weighs as much as an elephant and is roughly the same length. The Blue Whale weighs the equivalent of about 40 full-grown elephants, with a heart as heavy as a Volkswagen Beetle. It’s about as long as 2.5 school buses, measured bumper-to-bumper.
9. Blue Whale weight has been difficult to calculate due to the animal’s sheer mass. In order to weigh them, deceased whales have to be cut into manageable pieces (for scales that weigh trucks) and the sum total calculated. This results in fluid and blood loss that also has to be accounted for.
10. Baby Blue Whales enter the world already ranking among the largest animals, averaging 3 tons and 25 feet. They gain about 200 pounds every day for their first year of life, feeding on nothing but mother’s milk for the first few months.
11. The big Blue Whale also has the largest bone (its mandible), brain, and penis (more info on that below) of any animal on the planet.
12. Female Blue Whales are actually larger than the males.
13. Despite the Blue Whale’s size, it actually has a slender overall appearance compared to some other species of whales. From its broad head, its elongated body tapers into something that could easily be described as svelte.
14. At its widest point the Blue Whale measures about 25 feet across, accounting for the largest flukes (a.k.a. tail fins) of all.
15. As is the case with many baleen whales, Blue Whales have small dorsal fins (the top-of-body ones that sharks are famous for). A Blue Whale’s dorsal fin only measures an average of about 11 inches long. A male Orca’s dorsal fin, on the other hand, can grow up to six feet tall!
Blue Whale by janeb13 via Pixabay
Blue Whale Habitat
16. Given their gargantuan size, you may be wondering where does the Blue Whale live. Interestingly, the answer is just about everywhere! Blue Whale habitat encompasses all of the planet’s oceans, though not necessarily at all times of the year.
17. Blue Whales generally like to spend their summers in cool polar waters. This is their feeding season, and their favorite food becomes more plentiful when colder environs warm up. The biggest Blue Whales are known to reside near Antarctica.
18. During the winter, Blue Whale migration patterns move them towards the equator. But they tend to avoid seas that are too warm, because they can easily overheat. This migration to warmer waters also helps with their reproduction cycle.
19. Blue Whale reproduction includes a 10- to 12-month gestation period. Mothers give birth every two to three years, often in the same habitat in which they were impregnated.
20. Blue Whale migration can occur in small groups (called pods), but they’re usually content to travel solo or in pairs. Even when they seem to be traveling alone, scientists who study Blue Whale behavior suggest they’re actually moving in pods miles apart, communicating via calls underwater.
21. Blue Whales usually swim at about five to 12 miles per hour. But when threatened (or inspired by other active whales), these behemoths can use those massive flukes to move at up to 30 miles per hour.
22. The most concentrated Blue Whale habitats in winter are the waters off of Baja California, Mexico and Pico Island, Portugal. During the summer, they frequent Quebec’s Gulf of St. Lawrence and Husavik, Iceland. Chile, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka are also prime spots for Blue Whale watching.
23. If you’re out looking for Blue Whales, keep in mind that they prefer to live in deep oceans and are rarely seen close to the shore. Weighing in at over 100,000 tons, how would they get there? These big, blue behemoths really need the space of the open seas.
“Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)” by Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Blue Whale Diet
24. Though Blue Whales are known as gentle giants, they’re actually carnivores and apex predators. Simply put, they feed on other animals, and generally travel the oceans without worry of predators attacking them. This makes them vital to well-functioning marine ecosystems.
25. Like all baleen whales, Blue Whales don’t have any teeth. Instead, they have a system of fringed plates made of keratin (fingernail-like material) that filter out prey rather than tearing it apart. To feed, they take enormous gulps of water, then force the water out through the plates. This process ensnares small marine animals, which they then swallow whole.
26. The Blue Whale diet is mostly made up of Krill– shrimp-like creatures that are very small (about the two inches long). Nevertheless, using this gulp-and-filter technique, Blue Whales are known to consume 4 tons (approximately 40 million krill) a day during peak feeding season.
27. During migration (which can last up to four months), Blue Whales eat very little, instead living off the blubber they’ve acquired during peak feeding season. Despite their massive size, they only have a thin layer of blubber when compared to other whales. For example, Right Whales–which weigh a mere 100 tons and grow about 60 feet long– are much more blubbery.
28. As mentioned above, baby Blue Whales can gain over 200 pounds a day, averaging out to about 10 pounds an hour. This is accomplished by drinking up to 100 gallons of their mother’s milk (which is 35-50% fat) each day. They’re weaned at about six months, by which time they’re already over 50 feet long. After weaning, young whales start consuming solid foods and hunting their own prey.
“Balaenoptera musculus” is licensed under CC BY 4.0
Why Are Blue Whales Endangered?
29. Given their massive size, you might wonder why Blue Whales are endangered according to the IUCN Red List. The only known Blue Whale predators (which are rarely successful) are pods of hungry Orca. And even these “Killer Whales” rarely prey on anything larger than a baby Blue Whale.
30. Prior to the 20th century, Blue Whale numbers were estimated in the hundreds of thousands. Approximately 95 to 99% of their global population was decimated by unchecked whale hunting. Their total number is currently estimated to be around 10,000, and slowly growing.
31. Commercial whaling was banned in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission. But some countries have objected to the ban on cultural grounds, including Iceland and Norway currently as well as Russia and Japan historically. At least 2.8 million whales were killed in the 20th century alone.
32. Nowadays, with the oceans steadily warming, climate change is becoming a serious Blue Whale threat. The warm waters are increasingly shrinking the Blue Whale’s habitat and distorting their annual migration patterns. The effect of climate change on Krill is even more problematic, as they need tons of Krill each day in order to have successful breeding cycles.
33. Other issues threatening Blue Whales include ship strikes and becoming ensnared in fishing nets. Lots of shipping routes cross their migratory routes, and irresponsible fishing practices from modern-day vessels and fishermen in the past have created problems by discarding their nets in the ocean.
“Balaenoptera musculus (blue whale) 3” by James St. John is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Blue Whale Conservation
34. Blue Whale conservation efforts have been both numerous and largely successful. Most of them have centered around stopping whaling in general, with only a handful of countries remaining among the holdouts. Luckily, Blue Whales are not among the list of cetaceans most likely to be hunted.
35. The International Whale Commission created whaling regulations in 1946 and enacted an all-out ban in 1986, referred to as the commercial whaling moratorium. Blue Whale protection has also been extended under the Species at Risk Act (Canada) and Endangered Species Act (United States), among other initiatives across the globe.
Blue Whale exhale in Sri Lanka by Christopher Michel via flickr & CC & 2.0
Other Blue Whale Facts
37. Blue Whales are one of the loudest animals in the world. They emit pulses, groans, and moans that can be heard hundreds of miles away. These songs can be used to communicate, navigate, and for mating purposes. At 188 decibels, some of their calls are louder than a jet engine. But, at 15-40 Hz, they are often below our human hearing range.
38. As mammals, Blue Whales require lungs and air to breathe. They inhale and exhale via their blowhole, which is located on top of their massive heads. For deep dives, they can take in enough oxygen to last 90 minutes underwater, but typical dives only last half an hour. When they exhale, the spray that erupts into the air is from water that congregates atop the blowhole while submerged.
39. The Blue Whale’s mouth is extraordinary! Their throats have expandable pleats, and their mouths can open so wide that another whale could actually swim into them. Scientists studying this phenomenon calculated that the Blue Whale’s mouth captured enough food during a truncated 11-minute dive to provide 100 times the energy used to make the dive in the first place.
40. At the risk of being grotesque, the Blue Whale’s penis is dumbfounding, reaching 8 to 10 feet long. It weighs several hundred pounds, but is hidden inside a genital slit during normal daily activities. Each time they have intercourse, a Blue Whale can ejaculate 30-40 pints of semen, which increases their chances of reproduction and flushes out the sperm of competing males.
Original content owned & copyrighted by Green Global Travel.
Despite R&B legends TLC’s classic admonition not to go chasing them, waterfalls remain among those magical natural features that can put a given destination on millions of people’s world travel bucket lists.
You’ll find waterfalls on every single continent. Countries like New Zealand and Norway are known for the volume of waterfalls they offer. Argentina/Brazil and Zambia/Zimbabwe are known for the sheer size of their waterfalls, while Japan’s falls are renowned for their beauty. Even ice-cold Antarctica has a famous waterfall!
While most of us have a particular image of what a waterfall looks like, there are actually many types of waterfalls. Waterfalls can form cascades, horsetails, plunges, cataracts, fans, squares, and even be frozen. Each type is different, and each category has its own superstars when it comes to attracting tourism.
Of course, measuring the biggest waterfalls in the world is complicated. Some of the tallest waterfalls in the world are fed by small streams, with just a tiny sliver of water careening down. Some of the most voluminous falls drop just a few feet. We rarely think of the widest waterfall in the world, but that’s another way of measuring them.
So, when we say “the biggest waterfalls,” how do we judge? Are we talking about the tallest waterfall? The widest waterfall? The largest waterfall in the world by volume? The longest waterfall in the world that free falls? There really is no right or wrong answer… nor are the largest waterfalls always the most impressive to see.
So, in the interest of being as thorough as possible, our list of the largest waterfalls in the world goes far, wide, high, low, and in-between to point out the best waterfalls in the world travelers should visit on each and every continent.
BIGGEST WATERFALLS IN AFRICA
Victoria Falls (Photo by otsuka88 courtesy Pixabay)
Inga Falls & Livingstone Falls
Frequently listed among the largest waterfalls in the world, Inga Falls is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s formed by the Congo River, which is ranked as the ninth longest river in the world.
It’s considered the largest waterfall in the world by volume, moving at a rate of over 900,000 cubic feet per second. But Inga Falls is remarkable for some of its other noteworthy features as well.
Though it drops only 315 feet, Inga Falls is over 9 miles long. It’s also exceptionally wide, with an average width of 3,000 feet and a maximum width of over 2.5 miles! At its widest, the falls separate into hundreds of different channels and rivulets.
Despite the fact that it is regularly designated as the world’s largest waterfall by volume, many consider the majority of it to be nothing more than rapids. It does, however, have one steep drop of around 70 feet, which indisputably makes it a waterfall.
Inga Falls is the site of one of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams. It’s also close to Livingstone Falls, which is often considered the most beautiful part of the Congo River, as well as the second largest waterfall in the world by volume.
Tourists in the Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls by Ian Restall at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia
One of Africa’s top tourist attractions, Victoria Falls is neither the widest or tallest waterfall in the world. But it is sometimes considered the world’s biggest waterfall because it is both tall (354 feet) and wide (5,600 feet), producing the overall biggest sheet of falling water.
Victoria Falls is formed by the Zambezi River, which creates a natural border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. So it is technically located in both countries– Livingstone, Zambia and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The falls are formed when the river lowers in a single drop.
The waterfall is also known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya, which translates as “the smoke that thunders.” It was named by David Livingstone, the first European believed to have seen the falls, who named it in honor of Queen Victoria. It is preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under both names.
The world-renowned Devil’s Pool is a seemingly precarious place to take a dip at the top of the falls. There are also helicopter rides, bungee jumping, and national parks on both sides. But unfortunately mass tourism is beginning to threaten the natural beauty of the site.
Kongou Falls by Lengai101 CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons
One of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, Gabon’s Kongou Falls is over 10,000 feet wide and pushes nearly 32,000 cubic feet of water through per second. It’s formed by the Ivindo River, which also features several other falls. But Kongou is easily its largest.
Kongou Falls is notable for having an unusual configuration, with several different streams, cascades and steps separated by islands. Kongou is really intermingled with the rainforest that surrounds it. Actually, though the waterfall itself is spectacular, it’s this lush surrounding forest that garnered its place on the list.
Part of Ivindo National Park, Kongou Falls is located in what many experts consider to be a modern-day version of the Garden of Eden. Gabon is 85% rainforest and, though accessible, there are few signs of civilization going to and from the falls. This rainforest is home to some the densest populations of forest elephants, chimpanzees, and gorillas on the planet.
The park was established in 2002, and a bid was put in for UNESCO status three years later (though it has never gotten World Heritage recognition). In 2007, plans for building a hydroelectric power station nearly destroyed the falls, but environmental activists were able to stop the construction.
Tugela Falls first drop off by Andynct CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons
Located in South Africa, Tugela Falls makes five impressive dives, plunging for about 3,110 feet in all. It’s globally recognized as the highest waterfall in Africa, and the second highest waterfall in the world.
Due to the five plunges (as opposed to just one), it is also considered the highest cascade on earth, which is a worthy superlative.
Tugela Falls (also known as Thukela Falls) is fed by the Tugela River, which originates from the Mont-aux-Sources. The falls’ name comes from a Zulu word meaning “sudden.”
It’s located in the Royal Natal National Park, cascading down the park’s highlight– the Drakensberg Amphitheatre, a huge rock wall that’s over 1/4-mile high and three miles long.
Tugela Falls has been remeasured and found to be over 100 feet taller than its currently recognized height, but the claim is still awaiting verification. This increase would make it the tallest waterfall in the world, over Venezuela’s Angel Falls (an uninterrupted plunge). Consequently, controversy has brewed regarding which one gets the official title.
Whichever side one chooses in the tallest waterfalls debate, Tugela is remarkable, as is the national park that surrounds it. There are several routes for hiking up to the top of the falls, and it’s easy to spot from the main road of the park during rainy times.
Local Fishermen in Boyoma Falls/Wagenia Falls by Foto Ad Meskens [Attribution, CC BY-SA 3.0Stanley/Wagenia/Boyoma Falls
Formerly recognized as Stanley Falls, Boyoma Falls is a cataract waterfall made up of seven relatively short, steep, powerful waterfalls and a series of rapids formed by the Lualaba River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The falls spread out over 60 miles, dropping just 200 feet along the way, with the cataracts each being less than 20 feet.
Boyoma Falls ranks as the third biggest waterfall in the world in terms of volume, with all three located in the Congo. While Inga and Livingstone Falls are both formed by the Congo River, Boyoma is formed by the Lualaba, which then joins the Congo.
Boyoma Falls also has one other name, Wagenia Falls, which is what many French-speakers call it. This name derives from local fisherman, called the wagenia, who have developed a unique technique for fishing the falls. They construct wooden tripods over holes carved out by the rapids, where they ensnare large fish in baskets.
BIGGEST WATERFALL IN ANTARCTICA
Blood Falls, the Creepiest Waterfall in the World, by Peter Rejcek via CC 2.0Blood Falls
When picturing waterfalls, rarely does Antarctica come to mind. And for most people, the thought of cascades of blood kind of turns the stomach. But that’s basically what the world’s coldest continent has to offer up for this list!
Blood Falls, though not quite the vampire’s dream-come-true one might envision, is definitely odd enough to warrant such a name.
Blood Falls is buried under a quarter-mile of ice. Roughly five million years ago, sea levels rose and formed a saltwater lake in eastern Antarctica. Millions of years later, the lake was completely covered by glaciers. When the glaciers scraped the bedrock below, it churned lots of iron into the water.
The salinity of the water continued to rise as the glaciers froze over the lake, and that water became too salty to freeze. Antarctica’s red waterfall began to flow when water seeped through a fissure in the Taylor Glacier.
The waterfall has never seen the light of day, and it’s completely devoid of oxygen. As a result, when the iron-rich water spills into Lake Bonney, the air causes it to immediately rust and turn red.
Though not necessarily huge on the global scale, Blood Falls is technically the biggest waterfall in Antarctica, and it’s just too weird not to include here. Unfortunately, it can only be reached by cruise ships visiting the Ross Sea or via helicopter from nearby scientific research stations.
BIGGEST WATERFALLS IN ASIA
Khone Falls, the Widest Waterfall in the World (Photo by Mr. ATM courtesy Flickr via CC 2.0)
Khone Falls is located in the south reaches of Laos, culminating near the border with Cambodia.
They’re the major obstruction that prevents the Mekong River from being navigable for trade between Laos (and China) and Cambodia (and Vietnam). It only tumbles down a total of 69 feet over a collection of cascades and rapids.
Despite its short drop, Khone Falls could technically be considered the world’s biggest waterfall. It’s only fifth in terms of volume, with just over 400,000 cubic feet of water per second. But it averages over 35,000 feet across, which makes it by far the widest waterfall in the world.
Interestingly, the falls are most readily apparent when the weather is a bit drier. During monsoon season, when the Tonle River becomes Tonle Sap Lake and backs up to the Mekong River, the waterfall basically disappears into little more than a collection of rough currents.
Khone Falls are the home of plabuck, an endangered catfish that grows to be over ten feet long and more than 600 pounds. They’re sometimes considered the largest freshwater fish in the world, though a couple of sturgeon species and a freshwater stingray are actually bigger.
Hannoki Falls & Shomyo Great Falls by I, Kahusi GFDL , CC-BY-SA-3.0Hannoki Falls & Shomyo Great Falls
Considered twin falls, Hannoki Falls and Shomyo Great Falls are the two tallest waterfalls in Japan.
Technically Hannoki– which boasts a single drop of 1,640 feet– is both the highest of Japan’s waterfalls and the highest waterfall in Asia. But it is seasonal, and only visible from April to July because it is dependent on snowmelt. The tallest permanent waterfall in Japan, Shomyo Great Falls, measures 1,148 feet and occurs in four stages.
These two amazing waterfalls are located side by side. They both flow through the Midagahara Plateau before falling in a V-shape into a single pool that’s around 200 feet across and 20 feet deep.
The finest view of the two waterfalls is said to be from Shomyo Bridge at the Takimi Orchard. The best time to visit the falls is late spring and early summer, when the area’s snowmelt is at its greatest. From November to April, the roads are often closed due to snow.
There are numerous other notable waterfall pairings in Japan. Ginga and Ryusei Falls are also twin falls, known as “the husband and wife waterfall.” Other admirable pairings include Amedaki and Nunobiki Falls, as well as Shiraito and Otodome Falls.
Thi Lo Su waterfalls, Umphang district, Thailand by Yxejamir CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL from Wikimedia
Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Located in northwestern Thailand, Thi Lo Su (or Black) Waterfall is the country’s tallest and largest waterfall. It’s just under 1000 feet high and 1,500 feet wide. While it doesn’t rank as one of the larges, it is considered by many to be amongst the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.
Thi Lo Su Waterfall is located within the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bordered by Mae Wong National Park in the east, Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in the south, and several national parks in the Kanchanaburi province, it’s part of Southeast Asia’s largest protected area.
Though Thi Lo Su is huge and sometimes thundering, the Thailand waterfall is so remote that it was only “discovered” a couple of decades ago. It is particularly striking because there are a multitude of streams, pools, and cascades that comprise it.
The waterfall is good for swimming during dry season (November to May), but is far too perilous during peak rainy season (August through October). With a little determination, it can be reached by road in dry season or by a rafting–hiking combination otherwise. The park also has a large camping area equipped with bathrooms, showers, and a shop.
Original content owned & copyrighted by Green Global Travel.
I was a voracious reader when I was growing up, typically reading two books a week on average.
My lower-middle class family didn’t have the money to do much in the way of traveling, outside of the occasional camping trip in North Georgia. Both my parents worked, and my dad worked multiple jobs to support his family of five.
The furthest we ever traveled was a trip to visit my godparents in Virginia when I was 14. So instead I read books about travel and adventure long before I had the financial means to start taking adventures of my own.
But the first classic quote I remember having a significant impact on me came in the form of a Robert Frost poem: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.” This idea influenced many of my choices, setting me on the path to becoming a full-time professional writer in my twenties.
For me, these inspirational travel quotes aren’t just words: They are the distillation of a philosophy that continues to drive my life and work today. I hope they will prove equally influential for you… –Bret Love; photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett
1. “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” –Marcel Proust
2. “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” –Pat Conroy
3. “Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” –Freya Stark
4. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” –Mark Twain
5. “Travel is more than the seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” –Miriam Beard
6. “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” –Paul Theroux
7. “One of the gladdest moments of human life, me thinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of routine, the cloak of many cares and the slavery of home, man feels once more happy.” –Sir Richard Burton
8. “I travel around the world in a way that tries to open my mind and give me empathy and inspire me to come home and make this world a better place.” –Rick Steves
9. “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” –Marcel Proust
10. “I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” –Mary Anne Radmacher
11. “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” –Andre Gide
12. “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” –Jawaharial Nehru
13. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –H. Jackson Brown Jr.
14. “To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give, To roam the roads of lands remote, To travel is to live.” –Hans Christian Andersen
15. “In the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” –Jack Kerouac
16. “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal.” –Paulo Coelho
17. “Adventure isn’t hanging on a rope off the side of a mountain. Adventure is an attitude that we must apply to the day to day obstacles in life.’’ –John Amatt
18. “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in 10 seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” –Ray Bradbury
19. “Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.” –Irving Wallace
20. “There’s a race of men that don’t fit in, A race that can’t sit still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin, And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and rove the flood, And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood, And they don’t know how to rest.” —Robert W. Service
31. “To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know that even one life has breathed better because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
32. “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” –Lin Yutang
33. “The best education you will ever get is traveling. Nothing teaches you more than exploring the world and accumulating experiences.” –Mark Paterson
34. “Travel is like an endless university. You never stop learning.” –Harvey Lloyd
35. “If real, regular, normal, boring life, (when you’re at home every day, seeing the same people, doing the same things) is like sitting at home on the floor surrounded by toys… traveling feels to me like going to Toys R Us with your toy box and getting to trade stuff in and buy new things and explore whole new ideas.” –Alex Day
36. “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children” –Chief Seattle
37. “We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.” –John Hope Franklin
38. “Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings.” –Hodding Carter
39. “When you travel with children you are giving something that can never be taken away… experience, exposure, and a way of life.” –Pamela T. Chandler
40. “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” –Tim Cahill
42. “A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander.” –Roman Payne, The Wanderess
43 “I am convinced that the jealous, the angry, the bitter and the egotistical are the first to race to the top of mountains. A confident person enjoys the journey, the people they meet along the way and sees life not as a competition. They reach the summit last because they know God isn’t at the top waiting for them. He is down below helping his followers to understand that the view is glorious where ever you stand.” –Shannon L. Alder
44. “A person susceptible to ‘wanderlust’ is not so much addicted to movement as committed to transformation.” — Pico Iyer
45. “How will I know who I can become if I don’t give myself the chance to try new things, to push myself beyond my normal boundaries? Who might I be if I am away from the things that I currently use to define myself?” ― Eileen Cook, With Malice
46. “Two roads diverged in a wood and I– I took the one less traveled by… And that has made all the difference.” –Robert Frost
47. “To get away from one’s working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one’s self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change.” – Charles Horton Cooley
48. “Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it.” – Eudora Welty
49. “Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone.” — The Dhammapada
50. “All I wanted was to live a life where I could be me, and be okay with that. I had no need for material possessions, money, or even close friends with me on my journey. I never understood people very well anyway, and they never seemed to understand me very well either. All I wanted was my art and the chance to be the creator of my own world, my own reality. I wanted the open road and new beginnings every day.” — Charlotte Eriksson, Empty Roads..
Original content owned & copyrighted by Green Global Travel.
My first encounter with Alaskan animals 20 years ago was arguably my most memorable.
We were stopped at a light on the 6-lane highway leaving Anchorage when we saw a mama Moose crossing the road, with an upset calf who clearly had no interest in doing so. Traffic came to a standstill as the drama played out, and we cheered when the youngster finally followed.
It was the first of many incredible sightings of Alaska wildlife, which includes approximately 112 mammal species, 525 bird species, 14 species of whales and porpoises, and 3700+ other species of marine life.
From Alaskan tundra animals (including Caribou, Wolves, and Arctic Foxes) and Alaskan bears (Black, Brown, and Polar) to endangered species such as Steller’s Sea Lions and Humpback Whales, the wildlife of Alaska is thrillingly diverse.
As influential as my first trip to Denali National Park was on the work we do now with Green Global Travel, our recent small ship Alaskan cruises with AdventureSmith Explorations were equally impressive in terms of animal sightings.
Held as sacred among the indigenous Tlingit people, these humongous birds are anything but common when seen up close.
Frequently sighted along the coast (we saw quite a few of them while walking the streets of Juneau), they can grow up to 27 inches long. They boast a low, but loud croaking call that will definitely get your attention.
With its uniformly black feathers, shaggy head, and prominent bill, it’s easy to see why the Raven inspired Edgar Allen Poe’s famous gothic poem.
There are two species of Puffins in Alaska, but they’re fairly easy to tell apart. The Horned Puffin has a white belly, an orange Parrot-like bill, and a distinctive black, fleshy “horn” above each eye.
The Tufted Puffin is mostly black, with long tufts of golden feathers that curl back from either side of its head.
Both are commonly seen in coastal waters, where they can “fly” underwater to feed on fish. We saw them fairly often throughout our Alaskan cruises in both Kenai Fjords National Park and the Inside Passage.
Semi-palmated Plover in Alaska
12. SEMI-PALMATED PLOVER
Typically found along Alaska’s southern coastal areas, the Semi-palmated Plover is a beautiful brown shorebird.
They often nest along beaches, and will become persistently vocal if you get too close to their nesting area.
They’re identified by their white throat and breast, a black band around its neck, and a black-tipped orange bill. They use the latter to probe in mud and sand in search for the invertebrates on which they feed.
We saw this one scrounging on the beach near the Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge.
Now commonly associated with Harry Potter, the Snowy Owl generally prefers marshes and tundra in the Alaskan Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.
But they’re increasingly migrating further south in winter, when their food sources tend to get more scarce.
Growing up to 27 inches long, these big, beautiful birds are mostly white, but with head, chest, and wings spotted with black bars. They’re one of the few species of Owls you may actually get to see hunting during the day.
One of two species of swans found in Alaska, the Trumpeter Swan is larger than the Tundra Swan, growing to over five feet from bill-tip to tail.
Both species can be found in all sorts of water– lakes, marshes, ponds, and rivers– and both are all-white.
Other than size, the only easy way to tell them apart is their bill (the Tundra Swan’s is black) and their call. The Trumpeter’s is low and distinctively horn-like, while the Tundra’s is high and sounds like a “whoop.”
Black Bears in Alaska at Mendenhall Glacier
16. BLACK BEAR
Though not quite as large as Brown Bears or Polar Bears, Alaskan Black Bears are an intimidating presence in many of the state’s forested areas.
Our tour guides frequently advised us on safety procedures in bear country, including always hiking with a buddy, carrying bear spray, talking loudly so that you don’t surprise them, and never running if you encounter a bear in the woods.
We saw them numerous times during our latest trip to Alaska, including several loners wandering in Kenai Fjords National Park and a mama bear with two adorable cubs along the Steep Creek Trail at the Mendenhall Glacier.
Despite their name, these omnivores can actually range in color from black and brown to cinnamon and even shades of blue (for camouflage near glaciers).
Original content owned & copyrighted by Green Global Travel.
Underground caves are mysterious and mesmerizing places to explore.
From marble caves, glow worms caves and those formed from glacial lagoons, to a cave of crystals, prehistoric rock art and ancient Mayan burial sites, natural caverns come in an incredible range of attractions.
ATM Cave in Belize, photo by Peter Andersen via Creative Commons
1. ATM Cave or Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave (Belize)
The most famous cave in Belize, this is an experience best reserved for the fit and adventurous. Once a Mayan burial site, the ATM Cave is full of skeletons, pottery and other ceremonial objects left by the Maya. The cave’s most famous skeleton, “The Crystal Maiden,” features bones cemented into the floor by natural processes, leaving them with a sparkling appearance.
Through tropical rainforest, multiple streams and several different chambers, the 45-minute hike from the cave entrance will have you swimming, climbing and exploring along the way.
The ATM cave is 5 km deep: The deeper into it you trek, the more recent the Mayan activities were, and the more ceramics and pottery of all sizes to be found.
ATM Cave Tips: Note that the inner chambers will require you to take off your shoes so as to not damage the priceless artifacts, and no cameras are allowed.
There also very narrow passageways that can be tight if you’re built like a football player. Be sure to wear closed toed shoes and prepare to get wet in cold water. Mary wore a long sleeve T-shirt on top of her bathing suit to keep warm. Touring the ATM Cave is one of the best cave tours we ever took! Get more info on tours and read reviews at: Get Your Guide
New Zealand’s Glowworm Caves, photo photo by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner via Creative Commons
2. Waitomo Glowworm Caves (New Zealand)
Waitomo is famous for its glowworm caves, wherein thousands of magical glowworms illuminate a series of caves with their unmistakable light.
The glow worm, Arachnocampa luminosa, is a unique species only found in New Zealand, and makes these famous caves some of the world’s most unique.
Visitors can take a guided tour which explores three different levels of the caves including the catacombs, or opt to take a boat ride under the glowworms and witness a myriad of tiny bright lights dotting the cave ceilings – the lights of a thousand glowworms. Get more info about guided tours and read reviews at Get Your Guide.
Mogao Caves, photo by intothegreen via Creative Commons
3. Caves of the Thousand Buddhas or Mogao Caves (China)
The Mogao Caves are known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas– 492 cave temples near the city of Dunhuang, China, of which 30 are open to the public. These are the most famous Buddhist grottoes in China, carved into the sandstone cliffs of the Singing Sand (Mingsha) Mountains.
Originally dug out in 366 CE as places of Buddhist meditation and worship, the underground caves now contain religious artwork, murals, Buddhist sculptures and stone carvings which span across 10 dynasties, from the 4th to the 14th century.
There are over 2,000 color statues and 45,000 paintings throughout the caves, making this the greatest shrine of Buddhist art treasures in the world. Get more info on tours and read reviews at Get Your Guide.
Skaftafell Ice Cave, photo by Orvar Thorgeirsson via Creative Commons
4. Skaftafell Ice Cave (Iceland)
Located on a glacial lagoon on the Svínafellsjökull glacier in Skaftafell, Iceland, Skaftafell Ice Cave is one of the most unique natural wonders in the world. Travelers fortunate enough to step inside the ice cave are transported into a mesmerizing realm of blue glacial ice.
Blue ice is formed from the compression of pure snow, which develops into glacial ice over centuries of extreme pressure. This process eliminates the air originally caught in the ice when the snow fell, leaving very little reflective surface for the light from the sun.
Skaftafell bears more resemblance to an ice tunnel than a cave, and indirect daylight into the cave gives the ice its luminescent blue glow. To get more info on a Skaftafell Ice Cave tour and read reviews, check out Get Your Guide
Marble Caves, photo by Javier via Creative Commons
5. Patagonia Marble Caves (Chile)
Arguably the most beautiful caves in the world, the Patagonia Marble Caves of Chile are a 6,000-year-old cave system made of solid marble and surrounded by the glacial Lake General Carrera. These caves are only accessible via boat.
The caves are known for their propensity for constantly changing their appearance. The swirling patterns of the cavern walls are a reflection of the lake’s blue waters, which change in shade and intensity depending on the water levels, which are affected by weather and season.
Mountain River Cave, photo by John Spies via Creative Commons
6. Mountain River Cave or Hang Son Doong (Vietnam)
Hang Son Doong Cave (or Mountain River Cave in English) is the largest cave in the world, formed around 2.5 million years ago. Over the years the river water eroded the limestone underneath the mountain, causing the ceiling of the cave to collapse and form what are now huge skylights.
The Vietnam cave has both a jungle and a river found inside of it, and it’s large enough to fit a 40-story high skyscraper between its walls! This is a relatively new Vietnamese cave discovery and “trial tours” are just beginning.
Fingals Cave, photo by Graeme Pow via Creative Commons
7. Fingal’s Cave (Scotland)
At 72 feet tall and 277 feet deep, Fingal’s Cave is a sea cave constructed completely of hexagonal basalt columns and pillars (much like the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland). Located on Staffa, an uninhabited island in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, the cave is part of a National Nature Reserve.
Named after the hero of an epic Scottish poem by James Macpherson, the cave resembles a cathedral with its naturally arching ceiling. The cave has inspired Celtic legends, and is known as “the Cave of Melody” for the eerie sounds that emanate from within.
We had an opportunity to visit Fingal’s Cave on our 5-Day Highlands Tour from Edinburgh, which we highly recommend. Unfortunately, it was high tide and the sea was too rough to get close to the cave. To find out about a Fingal’s Cave Tour, check out Get Your Guide.
Naica Mine (Cave of the Crystals), photo by Paul Williams via Creative Commons
8. Naica Mine or Cave of Crystals (Mexico)
Naica Mine is known as the Cave of Crystals because the main chamber is home to the world’s largest crystals on earth. The big crystal measures 39 feet (12m) in length, 13 feet (4m) in diameter and weighs about 55 tons.
The Mexican cave is one of the most beautiful and unique in the world, though it remains relatively unexplored due to its incredibly hot temperatures of up to 136 degrees Fahrenheit (58 degrees Celsius).
Travelers without protection can only withstand 10 minutes in the cave at a time.
Etologic Horse Study in Chauvet Cave, photo by Thomas T via Creative Commons
9. Chauvet Cave (France)
Located near the commune of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc on a limestone cliff above the former bed of the Ardèche River in Southern France, the Chauvet Cave is considered one of the world’s most significant sites of prehistoric art.
The chauvet cave paintings are of animals– including horses, ibex, mammoth, giant stags, lions, bears and rhinos– which were once native to the region, many of which have never been found in other rock art and most of which are now extinct.
Holding the earliest (over 20,000 years old) and best preserved cave paintings known to man, the cave gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2014.
Hastings Cave, photo by Mike Jerrard
10. Hastings Caves (Australia)
Tasmania’s Hastings Caves are home to the largest dolomite cave in Australia open to tourists, with chambers which started forming tens of millions of years ago.
One of the few caves in Australia formed from dolomite rather than limestone, the underground caves are beautifully illuminated throughout, and also home to a number of strange and fascinating animals.
Over 40 species have been discovered within the caves, many of which remain undescribed and are so used to living underground that they are unable to survive on the surface. To read more about Hasting Caves Tours, check out Get Your Guide. –Meg Jerrard
Megan Jerrard is an Australian journalist, and the founder and Senior Editor of Mapping Megan, an award-winning blog bringing you the latest in adventure travel from all over the globe. With the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure, Megan and her photographer husband Mike believe travel has the potential to inspire change in people, and in turn inspire change in the world. They embraced travel as a lifestyle in 2007, and are dedicated to documenting their journey through entertaining, candid articles and brilliant photography. Follow their journey on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.
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We’ve long been fascinated by Guatemala history, from the ancient and modern-day Maya peoples to the mingling of indigenous and colonial influences after the Spanish conquest led by 16th century conquistador Pedro de Alvarado.
Our action-packed itinerary gave us time to explore ancient Mayan settlements such as El Mirador and Tikal (posts on both coming soon). We also visited Guatemala tourist attractions such as Lake Atitlán, the charming small town of Flores, and the National Archaeology Museum in Guatemala City.
But, for our money, the #1 can’t-miss tourist attraction in Guatemala is Antigua, a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. Antigua Guatemala (whose name means “old Guatemala”) offers an incredible array of activities for a town with just over 45,000 residents, with colonial architecture, rich indigenous culture, massive volcanoes, colorful wildlife, and more.
Here’s a look at our picks for the Top 15 things to do in Antigua, Guatemala, with an emphasis on natural and historical attractions.
The Iconic Arco de Santa Catalina
GETTING FROM GUATEMALA CITY TO ANTIGUA
Antigua is located approximately 35 kilometers (21 miles) southwest of Guatemala City, which makes it easy to visit Antigua during your Guatemala vacation.
But if you’re coming from La Aurora International Airport, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get there quickly. Depending on traffic, road conditions, and other unpredictable factors, getting to Antigua could take anywhere from 40 minutes to several hours.
Here’s a quick look at the various ways to get from Guatemala City to Antigua:
• Take the Chicken Bus: Although this option is cheap (around $1.25 US) and rich with local flavor, we don’t recommend using the public bus. For one, crime can be an issue, as can the language barrier unless you’ve mastered Spanish.
• Book a Shared Shuttle: This is the best budget-friendly option– usually $10 to $15 per person– and can be reserved in advance. There’s even an eco-friendly option, CA Express, which offers spacious seats, a fully stocked bar, and power outlets at each seat.
• Hire an Airport Taxi or Uber: If money’s not an issue and you don’t want to share your space, it’s easy to get a taxi or Uber from the Guatemala airport to Antigua. It can be pricey, though: Taxis have a $35 flat rate, and Uber rides are even more expensive during peak traffic times.
• Rent a Car & Drive Yourself: Having spent 10 days traveling in Guatemala with a private driver, I can’t recommend driving yourself. Traffic can be insane, roads are full of potholes, and let’s just say local drivers aren’t necessarily as rule-conscious as you’d like. Not recommended.
TOP 15 THINGS TO DO IN ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA
The fantastic facade of the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral
1. Visit the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral
Also known as the Saint Joseph Cathedral (or Catedral de San José in Spanish), the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral is located right on the city’s popular Parque Central.
The original church was built on the site sometime around 1541, but suffered through a number of devastating earthquakes and was ultimately demolished in 1669. It was rebuilt over the next decade, and by the mid-1700s it was one of the largest Roman Catholic cathedrals in all of Central America.
The cathedral suffered serious damage again during the famous 1773 Guatemala earthquake, which began on July 29 and lasted through December. Antigua (then known as Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala) was at that time the colonial capital of Central America. But the earthquake’s destruction was so bad, Spanish authorities decided to move the capital to what is now known as Guatemala City.
Fortunately, the two front towers remained mostly intact and were extensively restored in the early 1800s, and the cathedral was partially rebuilt. Get up close to the gorgeous facade and you’ll notice hands missing from some of the statues of saints, which could not be repaired after the earthquake damaged them.
The inside of the church is now an extremely popular wedding venue (there was one about to start when we visited). And the outside looks especially beautiful at night, when the most beautiful of the many churches in Antigua, Guatemala is illuminated.
Violet Sabrewing Hummingbird at Finca el Pilar
2. Birdwatching at Finca el Pilar
Visiting Finca el Pilar doesn’t rank anywhere near the most popular things to do in Antigua, Guatemala on TripAdvisor. That’s because this under-the-radar private nature reserve belongs to the family of ecotourism advocate Juan Rivera, the co-owner/product manager for Beast Wildlife Adventures.
Named after the family matriarch, the farm is a haven for nature lovers, with more than 10 kilometers of trails through forests filled with towering cypress, oak, and white pine trees. The biking and hiking trails are accessed via a winding (unpaved) road that leads up to a summit at 8695 feet above sea level, where you’ll find a spectacular overview of Antigua and the surrounding area.
The trails are well-maintained, sculpted into the mountain side by Juan and his family, with steps, bridges, and viewing platforms ensuring a safe, slip-free hike. Wildflowers, wild orchids, and bromeliads are almost everywhere you turn, and the dense forest canopy keeps the burning sun at bay.
Along the way we saw beautiful birds such as the Thompson’s Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, and Yellowish Flycatcher. There’s also a lushly landscaped Hummingbird feeder station, where we saw 8 different species (including the Berylline, Rivoli’s, Green-throated Mountain Gem, and Violet Sabrewing).
At the end of the hike you’ll find three swimming pools filled with pure mountain water, and BBQ grills and clean bathrooms nearby. There are also cabanas and pavilions at the top of the mountain, and overnight camping available. We advised Juan that this would be the perfect place to build an eco lodge.
There is a guarded gate on the property, and taxis won’t be allowed to enter. So if you want to visit Finca el Pilar, reach out to them on social media or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The smoking summit of the Pacaya Volcano
3. Hiking the Pacaya Volcano
Located just over an hour from Antigua, the uber-active Pacaya Volcano has erupted at least 23 times since the Spanish conquered Guatemala’s Mayan people in the 16th century. After a 70-year period of dormancy, there was a major eruption in 1961. The volcano has has a steady stream of relatively mild Strombolian eruptions ever since then.
Part of the Central American Volcanic Arc, Pacaya rises an imposing 8,373 feet above sea level, dominating the landscape. The road to reach its base is riddled with spectacular scenery, with rolling hills, verdant pastures, and wildflowers all around. The surrounding area is all protected as Pacaya National Park.
Numerous different tour operators offer a wide range of half-day, full-day, and overnight Pacaya Volcano tours, some of which include visits to a nearby hot springs. But due to our busy schedule, we elected to do the half-day hiking tour and mostly hiked around the base of the mountain.
Some tour companies used to offer hiking towards the volcano’s crater, where visitors had a chance to see lava up close. This opportunity ended in 2016, but some companies still allow hikers to roast marshmallows over fumaroles.
Given the fact that a major eruption in 2010 led the government to declare a “state of calamity” in the Pacaya area, we personally wanted to stay as far from the crater as we could. So instead we hiked through black sand from the lava rivers that flowed slowly down its slope during the 2006 eruption.
Smoke bellowed from the summit continuously, with gorgeous yellow flowering bushes (known as “Wild Margaritas”) providing a striking color contrast. The view from the mountain’s base was nothing short of breathtaking, and proved well worth the hike.
Organic vegetables for sale at the Antigua Street Market
4. Shopping at the Antigua Street Market
Looking for fresh organic vegetables, grilled meats, toys for the kids, or perhaps some traditional Guatemalan clothing? You can find all of this and a whole lot more at the Antigua Street Market, which happens every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.
At the epicenter of the action is the Mercado de Antigua, which is where locals shop for pretty much everything they need. But the bustling street market outside brings in villagers from surrounding areas, who hawk their wares north and west of the main market building.
It’s truly crazy– a colorful cauldron of chaos– from the maze-like interior of the Mercado to the mixture of Mayan art and clothing and modern music blasting along the ancient cobblestone streets.
If you’re remotely interested in shopping in Antigua, Guatemala, this is the place to do it. And even if you’re not really interested in souvenirs, just grab yourself some delicious street food and find yourself a good spot for people-watching!
Chicken Bus ready to roll out
5. Check Out the Chicken Bus Terminal
The Chicken Bus is a memorable, unusual part of the Guatemala travel experience. These brilliant bursts of color are a common sight throughout the country, but it just so happens there’s an entire terminal of them right behind the Mercado de Antigua.
Known locally as La Camioneta, these vehicles begin their lives as U.S. school buses, which are typically auctioned off after 10 years or 150,000 miles. Most are purchased for under $2000, then driven back to Guatemala and neighboring countries in Central America.
Once there, they’re transformed into something infinitely more interesting. The yellow paint is replaced by wild designs, with crazy colors running from hood and windshield to bumper. There may be artistic murals or names of the owner’s girlfriend, and you may find the exit doors plastered with wrestling posters.
The insides of Chicken Buses are typically decked out in festive Christmas lights, tassels, and posters of nude female silhouettes and/or Che Guevara. There’s usually a cranked-up sound system installed, often blasting lively Latin music (when they’re not playing Spanish-language hair band videos on the TV).
There aren’t usually chickens on top of the buses these days, yet they remain one of the most fascinating ways to experience local Guatemalan culture. But if you’re not down for the wild, sometimes dangerous ride, the Antigua terminal is a great place check them out as ready for their next route.
Touring a Guatemala Coffee Farm
6. Tour a Guatemalan Coffee Farm
As diehard coffee devotees, we’ve been blessed to tour some amazing coffee farms during our travels, from Hawaii and Tanzania to Costa Rica, Rwanda, and more.
But Antigua’s volcanic soil, altitude, and temperate climate makes it a great place for growing our favorite bean, and Guatemalan coffee easily ranks among the world’s best.
Finca Filadelfia Coffee Resort offers immersive tours of its plantation, teaching visitors about every step in the process from bean to cup. You’ll learn a lot about their 140+ years of coffee-growing tradition, including a behind the scenes look at the cultivation, harvesting, processing, and sorting of the beans.
We learned a lot about how Guatemalan farmers dealt with La Roya (“the rust”), which posed a grave threat to the country’s coffee crops just a few years ago. Visitors also get to walk through the nursery, the plantation, the wet milling area, and the drying patio. The tour ends at the finca’s cupping lab, where you get a chance to sample the world-renowned R. Dalton Genuine Antigua coffee for yourself.
You can arrange a tour with breakfast or lunch included for an additional charge. Or, if you’re a serious connoisseur, splurge for a Professional Coffee Tasting Session, where you’ll learn all about identifying characteristics such as acidity, aroma, flavor, fragrance, and aftertaste.
The Ruins of San José el Viejo
7. Explore the Ruins of San José el Viejo
Located just around the corner from the Antigua Guatemala Cathedral in the Tortuguero District of Antigua, the church of San José el Viejo was built around 1736. The modest chapel was designed to house a statue of Saint Joseph crafted by the famous Guatemalan sculptor Alonso de la Paz.
Unfortunately the original chapel was damaged by an earthquake in 1751, and the construction of a more spacious church took another 10 years due to a lack of funding.
The second iteration of the church was more formidable, with low, heavily buttressed walls and a single nave. But still the building was irreparably damaged by another earthquake in 1773, and for years the ruins were used as a barn for the farm next door (which now houses a Spanish language school).
These days the ruins serve as a striking reminder of the power of the seismic activity of the volcanoes surrounding Antigua, Guatemala. The unusual façade is cracked to reveal the bricks beneath the white topcoat, and the baroque details of the interior are often cracked or missing altogether.
But it remains one of the most popular wedding venues in Antigua, and it’s incredible to see it decked out with flowers, candlelight, white linens, and other romantic flourishes.
A Child Vendor in Parque Central
8. Have a Picnic in Antigua’s Parque Central
Located at the bustling epicenter of Antigua, Parque Central (Central Park) has been around just as long as the UNESCO-protected city itself.
It was originally known as Plaza Mayor (Main Plaza) and Plaza Real (Royal Plaza), because this is where all official celebrations took place (along with public punishments and executions). It was later referred to..
Original content owned & copyrighted by Green Global Travel.
My journey into making natural travel toiletries and other personal care products began back in 2013 at a hostel in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
I was brushing my teeth and there was no mirror, so I scrubbed while reading a flyer posted next to the sink. It was all about the ills of fluoride. With a mouth full of foamy chemicals that were no doubt killing me, I decided then and there that it was time to make a change.
My wife Emma and I are always eager to join in on a good boycott or protest. We’ll gladly do without our favorite food brands or eating bacon if it’ll make even the smallest inkling of difference towards saving the planet.
In Central America, toothpaste had always been an issue anyway. It’s a product dominated by corporate conglomerates that test on animals and other unsavory acts in the name of whiter teeth. Finding a paste that lined up with our ethics (or whose offenses we had yet to discover) was always a challenge, but the fluoride flyer was the last straw.
So our adventures in homemade toiletries began on that December morning, as we were overlanding on our way to South America, traveling slowly between eco-farms as volunteers.
It turned out that DIY personal care products were perfect for our eco-conscious scene, and from toothpaste we gradually began to expand into other travel toiletries.
Personal Care Products you can make Aromatherapy image by Seksak Kerdkanno from Pixabay
Why Natural Travel Toiletries Are Better
There are many positive arguments to be made for natural personal care products, which tend to benefit both the user as well as the ecosystem around said user. Commercial travel toiletries, on the other hand, generally contain a cocktail of chemicals that aren’t good for the environment.
The sulfates and anti-bacterial elements of many deodorants and soaps aren’t biodegradable, so they tend to build up in water sources. Plastic microbeads, which are used in an ever-expanding array of personal hygiene products, are often found in marine animals’ stomachs.
Palm oil, a common ingredient in toiletries, causes the mass destruction of rainforests. Petroleum, which is found in lots of beauty care products, is causing the mass destruction of the planet.
As bad as they can be for animals and the environment, store-bought travel toiletries aren’t great for our human health either. Deodorants have been linked to breast cancer, and sunscreen to skin cancer. Fluoride, a neurotoxin in toothpaste, damages the brain over time.
So making homemade toiletries is a good way to control what our bodies are exposed to, protecting the environment and our own well-being simultaneously. There are only a handful of organic ingredients necessary to make everything from toothpaste and shampoo to deodorant and skin care products. DIY toiletries can also help save money on personal hygiene products, leaving you more $$$ for travel!
Finally, making your own personal care products drastically decreases the packaging and shipping materials required to get all those tubes around the world. Now our toiletry bags are filled with reusable travel bottles rather than wasteful travel size toiletries that just add to the world’s growing plastic pollution problem.
How To Make Natural Travel Toiletries
How to make Natural Toothpaste image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay
1. How to Make Natural Toothpaste
It can take a tremendous amount of time and money to maintain our teeth, and doing so begins with a mind-boggling selection of toothpastes. There’s teeth whitening, tartar control, sensitive teeth, and all sorts of other bells and whistles. It begs the question: Why do we complicate the simple act of brushing our teeth?
A quality natural toothpaste is very inexpensive to make at home. The following formula has a refreshing flavor, whitens teeth, and eliminates plaque. This flouride-free toothpaste without SLS is easy to make yourself, and it only has three simple ingredients!
Stir in 4 TBSP of fine baking soda and 15 drops of essential oil (peppermint, spearmint, or cinnamon, depending on the flavor you prefer).
Put it in a jar.
Important Note: Put a lid on the jar and label it somehow. The lid will prevent the baking soda from absorbing smells that occur naturally in the bathroom. And since many of these DIY concoctions use similar ingredients, labeling prevents putting DIY deodorant on your toothbrush (which would actually work fine, despite how gross it might sound).
“Take The Risk” by Kyle Jones is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
2. How to Make Natural Deodorant
It’s become second-nature to swipe our underarms with deodorant in the morning, to ensure we won’t be a sweaty stink-hog during the day. Who knew we’ve been swabbing questionable deodorant ingredients onto our bodies all these years, and that the aluminum in deodorant is harmful to our health?!
Of course, these day more conscious, non toxic deodorant choices have become widely available. You can buy vegan deodorant,organic deodorant, chemical-free deodorant, and other types of healthy deodorant for men, women, and even children. Unfortunately, these products are not always effective.
But it’s really easy to make a chemical-free deodorant that works. It’s arguably the best natural deodorant you could ask for, and it’s incredibly cheap to create.
Melt approx. 4 TBSP of coconut oil in a glass jar.
Stir in 4 TBSP of baking soda and your essential oil of choice (Lemon and Lavender are good).
Put a labeled lid on the jar.
In truth, I don’t even bother with three ingredients anymore. I wet my hands, put my fingertips in baking soda, and rub it underneath my armpits. It works better than any deodorant stick or spray I ever used. If your body has a bad reaction to baking soda, try a splash of apple cider vinegar instead.
How to Make Natural Shampoo image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
3. How to Make Natural Shampoo
By this point, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise to learn that most store-bought shampoo has some unsavory ingredients. There are parabens, phthatlates, sulfates, and methylisothiazolin to name a few.
More disturbingly, shampoo is often has the opposite effect as advertised! If you use a shampoo for dry hair or a shampoo for oily hair, they really just create dependency rather improving things. In other words, using these shampoos perpetuates our need to use them.
Add 1 TBSP of baking soda to 1 cup of water in a reusable shampoo bottle.
Shake this up.
My wife uses this natural shampoo twice a week. But I have a dry scalp, and the baking soda made it worse. So I just use the DIY conditioner recipe in the next section for my hair care regime. It’s the best shampoo for dry hair I’ve used, while Emma says this is the best shampoo for greasy hair she’s used.
Add ½ cup of apple cider and two cups of water to a repurposed bottle.
Shake it up.
After using this in the shower for the first year, I came up with a new method. I have the mixture in a spray bottle on the bathroom counter. I spritz my hair with it three or four times a week after a shower. In the shower, I use a scalp scrubber with just water. Your hair needs about a week or two to transition, but this does actually work!
Pouring Mouthwash by Colin Knowles via Flickr CC. 2.0
5. How to Make Natural Mouthwash
Toothpaste is undoubtedly important for keeping your teeth clean and sparkly, but mouthwash is also a great tool for fresh breath and general oral health.
Unfortunately, most commercial mouthwashes are full of chemicals, some of which can cause major health problems. Toxic ingredients include fluoride, chlorhexidine (increased blood pressure and heart problems), methyl salicylate (dilation of capillaries), triclosan (cancer, thyroid disorders), methylparaben (breast tumors in women), and more.
Fortunately homemade mouthwash is very easy to make, and DIY mouthwash has the same minty flavor and zesty feeling of the name brand stuff. Though the antimicrobial mouth rinse is antifungal, this natural mouthwash won’t come with a laundry list of unwanted side effects.
Boil some water and pour it into a repurposed 16-ounce bottle.
Add about 10 cloves to the bottle and 20 drops of essential oil (for a mint or cinnamon mouthwash)
Put the cap on, shake it up, and allow it to cool.
Tip: We use mouthwash to brush our teeth half the time. Baking soda can be abrasive, so we alternate between homemade toothpaste and DIY mouthwash to avoid enamel trouble. When we gave up using fluoride, a dentist friend said brushing with nothing works just as well. But fresh breath is nice, too.
All natural body wash can be made in three simple steps from a variety of recipes. And of course making a homemade body wash allows you to improvise: You can add exfoliants like sand or coffee grounds, moisturizers like aloe, and whatever scent suits your fancy.
The following is a fantastically simple recipe for an essential oil body wash that will improve your memory, relieve stress, instill anti-aging properties, and boost the..
Original content owned & copyrighted by Green Global Travel.
When you travel the world as much as we do, you begin to realize that most hotels are actually pretty boring and conventional.
From plush pillows and flat screen TVs to mini bars and continental breakfasts, most decent hotel brands basically offer the same amenities. The only thing that really changes is the view. But every once in a while you’ll visit a unique hotel that truly stands out.
We’ve found that amazing hotels and eco lodges can help to make a good trip great, and turn a great trip into a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
While we’ve traveled a good bit in the 9 years since we started Green Global Travel, there are still TONS of cool hotels left on our bucket list. There are ice hotels, capsule hotels, hotels in caves, underwater hotels, and unusual hotels inside old airplanes, buses, and ships.
So, in order to make this list as all-ecompassing as possible, we enlisted 20 travel experts to review the world’s most unique hotels based on their personal experiences. We’ve broken them down by continental for organizational convenience.
Despite its name, this sanctuary is better known for its screensaver-worthy views of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley than its Hippo sightings.
The Hippo House (and its seven stately bedrooms) provides the main accommodations. But it’s Dodo’s Tower, and its nine stories of understated elegance, that makes this such an amazing hotel.
The 360° views from the tower are majestic. The classic colonial British décor blends with the natural ambiance wonderfully. Organically farmed veggies and Indian Ocean-sourced seafood are the basis for the restaurant’s four-star cuisine.
But the fact that grazing Giraffes and Zebra saunter by as you savor it all makes Hippo Point truly magical. Read Reviews and Check Rates. –DeMarco Williams
Pelican Point Lodge
2. Pelican Point Lodge (Walvis Bay, Namibia)
Sometimes a hotel is made unique by virtue of its design, and other times it’s more about an unusual location. In the case of Pelican Point Lodge, it’s both!
In terms of design, the luxury hotel was built inside an old harbor control building situated right beside a classic lighthouse. All of the rooms were renovated and modernized to include amenities such as en suite bathrooms, free Wifi, and private balconies. There’s also a gourmet restaurant on site.
But the real showstopper is the ultra-luxurious Presidential/honeymoon suite on the top floor, which offers spectacular 360º views of the entire Pelican Point peninsula.
Which brings us back to location. Pelican Point Lodge is as remote a romantic hotel as you can imagine, surrounded by nothing but sand and surf. But it’s a great place for wildlife lovers, with huge Seal colonies along the beach and Dolphins,Whales, and other marine life often spotted from the shore. Read Reviews and Check Rates. –Bret Love
Located in the Cederberg Mountains in South Africa‘s western cape, Kagga Kamma is both an unusual hotel and a protected nature reserve. The hotel is built right into the rocks of the reserve’s sandstone mountains, so seamlessly that you might not even see them from a distance.
Inside the rooms you’ll find all the luxuries you expect from 4-star South African hotel, including plush pillows and beds, fine linens, Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and a gorgeous decore designed to complement the natural surroundings.
The hotel offers 1o Cave Suites (including a Honeymoon Suite) and several spacious Hut Suites, as well as a swimming pool, spa, restaurant and bar, and more. But if you can afford it, you won’t regret a night in their Star & Sky Open-Air Suites, whose remote private locations allow you to sleep beneath the stars in luxury.
The resort offers an array of tours, from hiking, mountain biking, and quad bike safaris to guided excursions to see ancient African rock art and safari game drives. On the latter, guests have a chance to see weird animals such as the Elephant Shrew as well as Antelopes, Ostrich, Lynx, and the rare Cape Mountain Leopard. Read Reviews and Check Rates. –Bret Love
COOL HOTELS IN ASIA
Treehouse Hideaway by Maria Haase
4. Treehouse Hideaway (Bandhavgarh National Park, India)
This eco-lodge is unique not only because it’s a luxury treehouse, but also because it’s located inside Bandhavgarh National Park in India. The park is one of the most popular Tiger safari destinations in India, and being able to stay inside the Buffer Zone is an incredible experience.
There are good chances to see an array of Indian animals right from your treehouse balcony, or at one of the observation towers throughout the property. I only saw Tigers during my safari in Bandhavgarh’s Core Zone, but was told that they’ve had Tiger and Leopard sightings right there on the lodge’s property. Amazing, right?
The Pugdundee Treehouse Hideaway only has 5 private treehouse suites. While the decor is rustic, they offer all the amenities of a luxury accommodation. Guests enjoy rain-head showers, air conditioned rooms with a tea & coffee station, and extremely comfortable beds.
Rooms usually come with full board and 1 daily safari. While they do not have a pool or spa on the property, you can use those facilities at their nearby sister property, King’s Lodge.
Another point I loved about my stay at the Treehouse Hideaway was that the Pugdundee company takes sustainability very seriously. They eliminated single use plastic, source their food locally, hire mostly local staff, and offer education about the local environment and sustainability to their guests. Read Reviews and Check Rates. -Maria Haase of India Up Close
Capsule hotels are high-density accommodations, mostly in Japan, that were designed for people looking for an inexpensive, clean place to sleep without concern for amenities. Originally designed as a place where “salarymen” could crash near work between office hours, the concept has since expanded to be somewhat trendy, if still basic.
The idea is to put your things away, get a hot shower, change into something comfortable, and go to sleep. What I found at the Nine Hours Capsule Hotel was a futuristic looking row of individual pods that held a mattress a little larger than a standard twin bed, high-quality sheets, a white noise generator, recessed LED lighting, and a plug to recharge your electronics.
The experience includes a bath kit that contains travel toiletries such as a razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, bath towel, a pair of slippers, and loungewear for going to the locker room down the hall. The locker room itself has nice private showers and fancy Japanese-style toilets.
I am a little claustrophobic, and I expected my experience at the Nine Hours Capsule Hotel to feel a bit like trying to rest in a filing cabinet drawer. But I was surprised to find a compartment large enough to sit up in, and I actually managed to get a decent night’s sleep.
The Nine Hour Capsule Hotel is designed to accommodate travelers connecting through Tokyo Narita Airport. It’s best if you have a layover that’s too short to go into the city, but too long to stay in the main terminal. If you’re looking to explore the sights of Japan, you’d want to consider something else. But if you’re a single traveler wanting a place to rest for a few hours, this could be a perfect fit. Read Reviews and Check Rates.-Jonathan Look Jr. of Life Part 2
Seaventures Dive Rig is an extremely unusual hotel because it’s located in a converted oil rig. It was moved from another site, where it served as housing for oil rig personnel, and placed near Mabul Island, off Malaysian Borneo’s southeastern coast.
The rooms are much like the cabins on a ship, but not a cruise ship. These are more basic, with painted metal walls that show the rivets, presumably unchanged since the oil rig workers lived in them. The cabins have beds and not much else, but they do include a tiny en-suite bathroom.
The decks, though, are a real treat. The main one spans the whole rig, offering shelter from the sun but open to the sea breezes. At one end is the dive center, since Scuba diving is the whole point of a visit here.
In the center of the main deck is a bar, which gets most active in the evenings. The main deck is also where meals are served, buffet style. Another deck near the top of the rig is open to the sun, but in the evenings it’s cool, comfortable, and perfect for watching the sunset over the ocean.
Crazy House or Hang Nga Guest House is a popular, but quirky accommodation in Da Lat, Vietnam. It was designed by Vietnamese architect Đặng Việt Nga, who admitted it was inspired by Antoni Gaudi, the architect who designed the famous Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
The building looks like a mix of expressionist influence with a hint of a fairytale coming to life. The main design resembles a giant tree with caves, branches, spider webs, plants, narrow pathways, and stairs surrounding the building. It was built by Đặng Việt Nga in 1990 as a way to remind people how caring for nature is important and to incorporate these values into her designs.
Aside from being one of the main tourist attractions in Da Lat, Crazy House is also a popular place to stay. If you don’t mind the crowd that flocks to the guest house during the day, Crazy House offers a unique hotel experience. The rooms resemble hobbit-like stone caves that are individually themed. From Kangaroos to Bears, each offers a unique design to satisfy your inner child.
The guest house offers the typical services that 3- to 4-star hotels normally offer, including a 24-hour front desk, car hire, room service, tour desk, currency exchange, and luggage storage. Some of the rooms also have outdoor seating areas that offer a view of the complex. If it gets too cold, the fireplace in the common room is quite handy.
Crazy House also offers arguably the best view in Da Lat: From the top, you can see the entire city. If you choose to stay, you’ll get to experience Crazy House transforming at night into a Disney-like complex because of the amazing lighting. It’s like sleeping inside a work of art! Read Reviews and Check Rates. -Christine Rogador of Ireland Travel Guides
The world-renowned La Balade Des Gnomes is located in Durbuy, Belgium, about a 90-minute drive south of Brussels. You can really only reach this unusual hotel by car, but it’s worth the drive, which allows you to take in the lush forests and winding rivers of the Ardennes region.
If you’re a fan of unique places to stay, you won’t find many more interesting than this quirky accommodation. Upon entering the hotel grounds, you’re immediately drawn into a somewhat bizarre fantasy world.
Each of the 11 rooms has a different theme, which has been carefully designed by the owner. Themes include:
● Macquarie Island, which is in two levels of the main building and includes a “cliff” and the chance to sleep in a sailboat.
● The Latcho Dom Trailer, which is a traditional gypsy trailer with a double bed, toilet, tub, and cooking facilities.
● The Trojan Horse, which is the accomodation this hotel is most famous for. The horse is situated outside the main property, and the entrance is through its back ende! The room includes a bubble bath, shower, one double bed, and two children’s beds.
● The Luna Room, which is decorated like the surface of the moon, including the stars in the sky and a bathroom that looks like a spaceship.
Prices range from 125 to 260 euros for two guests. -Michelle Barrett..
Original content owned & copyrighted by Green Global Travel.
By what standards should we measure “the best mountains in the world”?
Should it the most popular mountains? The biggest and tallest mountains? The most challenging for climbers? Or perhaps the most historically significant to the region in which they’re found?
For us, the best mountains are those that capture the imagination of locals and visitors alike. The ones that have played a role in local folklore for centuries, and which continue to draw travelers from around the world today.
It’s not just size that matters here. It’s the dynamic landscapes. It’s the flora and fauna found in the area. Chances are good that, if a mountain has been protected by National Park or UNESCO World Heritage Site status, it’s probably worthy of your bucket list consideration.
We’ve been fortunate to see some pretty extraordinary mountains in our travels. From the Great Smoky Mountains in the southeast to the remote landscapes of Alaska and Hawaii, the United States has been blessed with more then her fair share and picturesque peaks.
But every continent boasts its own impressive pinnacles worthy of appreciation (including the Seven Summits and the Seven Volcanic Summits). From the Appalachians, Andes, and Rocky Mountains to the Alps, Pyrenees, and mighty Himalayas, the planet offers countless ranges to explore.
So here’s a look at our totally subjective picks for the 20 Best Mountains in the World, some of which we’ve already visited, and many of which we hope to visit in the future…
BEST MOUNTAINS IN THE WORLD MAP
BEST MOUNTAINS IN AFRICA
Photo via pixabay
Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)
Mount Kilimanjaro is world renowned as the highest mountain in Africa, one of the famed Seven Summits.
Towering at 19,340 feet, it is topped with multiple glaciers and a small (and gradually diminishing) ice field, despite being located just 190 miles south of the equator. The snowy summit is known as Kipoo in Swahili, the local language.
First climbed in 1889, the mountain is now an extremely popular hiking destination. Its summit is relatively achievable for almost anyone who is fit in terms of both health and bank balances. Just make sure that you pay attention to your guide’s admonitions to go “pole pole” (slowly).
Along the way to the photogenic summit, hardy hikers see virtually every climate, from tropical to arctic. Visitors who prefer to stay closer to sea level can also get a stunning view up from the neighboring town of Moshi.
There’s also a variety of wildlife found in Kilimanjaro National Park, predominantly below the tree line. Blue monkeys and western black and white colobuses can often be spotted (or heard) in the forest, plus leopards, elephants and cape buffaloes can be found.
Table Mountain, South Africa by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay
Table Mountain (South Africa)
One of the most unique natural structures on the planet, this aptly named South Africa attraction looks like a piece of furniture for the gods.
Table Mountain is one of the shortest mountains on this list at a measly 3,558 feet. But what it lacks in height, it more than makes up for in prominence. Overlooking Cape Town, the mountain is a picturesque landmark that is familiar to many South African travelers.
Essentially, this is a very tall and distinct plateau that’s roughly two miles across, with each end dropping off into vertigo-inducing cliffs. On the east side, Devil’s Peak neighbors it. On the west side, Lion’s Head bookends the formation.
What makes Table Mountain a fun feature is that, unlike the other mountains on this list, this one can be climbed via cable car (built in October 1929). Hiking up the mountain is also an option.
Along the way, there are thousands of endemic species to look out for. From the top, the gorgeous city of Cape Town spreads out before you to its famous coastal border.
BEST MOUNTAINS IN ASIA
Photo via Pixabay
Ama Dablam (Nepal)
When you talk about the biggest mountains in the world, the vast majority are found in the Himalayas. This 1,500 mile range stretch from Pakistan and India east to China, Bhutan, and Nepal. It’s home to more than 50 mountains that stand over 23,600 feet.
At a mere 22,349 feet, Nepal’s Ama Dablam is nowhere near the tallest mountain in the range. But it is the third most popular peak in the Himalayas in terms of permitted climbing expeditions.
The first summit of the mountain was back in 1961 by a team of US, UK, and New Zealand-based climbers. They had previously acclimatized over winter at the base camp established on an expedition with legendary mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary.
The mountain’s name means “Mother’s necklace.” Locals say that the long ridges on each side of the summit look like the arms of a mama protecting her child. The hanging glacier resembles the traditional double-pendant necklace often worn by Sherpa women, which contain pictures of the gods.
Peak climbing season here is from April to May (before that annual monsoon) and September to October. All climbers are required to get a climbing permit and a liaison officer.
Located in China, the Bogda Peak (which is sometimes referred to as Bogda Mountain) stands at a whopping 17,800-plus feet high.
The mountain is noted as being particularly striking because its sides are so incredibly steep, sloping at angles between 70 and 80 degrees. Even so, the mountain has been climbed successfully on numerous occasions.
In reality, the Bogda Peak is the highest of a two-mile, permanently snow capped ridge that juts forth from Central Asia’s UNESCO-protected Tian Shan mountain range.
Making it even more remarkable, the northern perimeter of the mountain drops into the Turpan Depression, which is an earthly hollow located some 500 feet below sea level.
Amazingly, there are other mountains within the Tian Shan range that reach even greater heights. Pik Pobedy summits at 24,589 feet, while Khan Tengri is a couple of feet shy of 23,000.
Even so, because Bogda Peak is nearer to civilization and offers a unique challenge in steepness, it gets more attention.
Mt. Everest, Nepal/Tibet
Mount Everest (Nepal/Tibet)
Yes, we’re aware of the fact that Ama Dablam is a part of the same Himalayan mountain range as the almighty Mount Everest. And while we’d normally try to avoid featuring two mountains from the same range, no list of superlative mountains can ignore Everest and still be considered legit.
At 29,029 feet above sea level, Everest’s size is hard to quantify. However, with its challenging climbing routes and fabled (some might say tragic) history, its attraction surely is not. Many people consider this both the biggest and best mountain in the world.
The mountain was given its name in 1865 by Royal Geographical Society member Andrew Waugh, who was then the British Surveyor General of India. He named it after his predecessor, Sir George Everest, even though Everest himself protested the honor.
Despite its countless serious threats (including altitude sickness, avalanches, rapid shifts in winds and weather conditions) Everest has been a fixation for professional and amateur mountaineers alike for nearly a century.
The first confirmed successful summit of the mountain wasn’t until 1953, when Tenzing Norway and Sir Edmund Hillary ascended via the southeast ridge route. In the years since, the growth in Everest tourism has grown exponentially, leading to more garbage, more bottlenecks, and more deaths.
As of 2018, more than 300 people had died during their attempt to climb the world’s tallest peak.
The crazy thing about Mt. Fuji is that, even though it’s wider than Rhode Island (78 miles, to be precise) and nearly 12,400 feet tall, it’s often hard to see. Blame clouds that smother from all sides for some of the obstructed views.
Mount Fuji is a stratovolcano– a composite cone caused by a series of serious eruptions that leave behind layers of rock, ash, and lava. The massive volcano (Japan’s #1 tourist attraction) is still active and sits atop a junction of three tectonic plates.
From July-August, thousands of climbers attempt to make the eight-hour ascent up the mountain. Approximately 200,000 people make it to the summit annually.
Located in the northwestern part of China’s Hunan province, the 11,900-acre Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is part of the larger Wulingyuan Scenic Area, a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.
China’s first national forest park, Zhangjiajie is best known for its massive pillar-like geological formations. They’re commonly known as the Avatar Mountains, as they were the inspiration for the Hallelujah Mountains featured in James Cameron’s 2010 film, Avatar.
Though these massive pillars resemble limestone karst landscapes, they were actually formed by years of physical erosion resulting from expanding ice in wintertime. The tallest, which was formerly known as the Southern Sky Column, measures over 3,050 feet.
Due to the year-round moist weather, the foliage here is always abundant and verdant. If you visit, head to the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge, where you can take in jaw-dropping views from a scenic perch atop the mountain.
Plan to spend at least two to three days in the area, and make sure to bring good shoes for walking! The best times to visit are in summer (when the weather is best) or in autumn (if you want to avoid the crowds).
Driving is the best way to see it, because the route takes you through Northern Europe’s highest mountain pass. There are so many jaw-dropping scenic vistas along the way, you’ll want to stop and take photos after nearly every stomach-turning switchback.
County Road 55 has connected eastern and western Norway for centuries, running from the quaint villages of the Sognefjord to the verdant Bøverdalen valley. Along the way, you’ll find yourself surrounded on all sides by snow-capped mountains, impossibly green fields and rushing waterfalls.
The views only get more stunning as you ascend into Jotunheimen (which aptly translates as “The Home of the Giants”). This 1,351-square mile area contains all of the 29 highest mountains in Norway, most of which tower over 6,600 feet.
Even at the beginning of Norway’s high tourist season, you’ll likely see very few other cars along the way. In fact, we saw more sheep than people– most of them allowed to graze freely.
Kirkjufell with Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall by Mike Gerrard
Located along the main road (Route 54) in Grundarfjordur, Iceland, Kirkjufell is considered one of the most photographed mountains in the world. Game of Thrones fans may recognize “church mountain” (named for its uncanny resemblance to a church’s steeple) from the show’s seasons 6 and 7.
The 1,519-foot tall freestanding mountain is undeniably impressive– lush and green in summer months and often covered with ice and snow in the winter.
But it’s almost always seen in the background of another Snæfellsnes peninsula show-stopper, Kirkjufellsfoss, which is widely considered among the most beautiful Iceland waterfalls.
The falls are relatively small but remarkably picturesque, allowing visitors to walk right up to the cascading water. And when you combine the crystal-clear waters with Kirkjufell’s uniquely shaped summit, the site is arguably among the country’s most photogenic sites.