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Pad Thai, mango sticky rice and curries served up in coconuts… Sounds pretty freakin’ delicious, right?
Last month we offered up a tasty prize for one of you food aficionados and a friend to win the ultimate adventure – a tongue tingling tour of Thailand! Over 500 amazing and punny entries later and we found our winner. A big congrats to @mackenzie_marasco for her NOM-inspiring photo below:
Go and pack those bags to get ready for the ultimate 15-day “Thailand on a Shoestring” Tour from G Adventures, an off the beaten path experience exploring the region’s northern hilltribes and natural beauty of the southern islands.
We also want to give a special shout-out to @hey_ciara who posted a shout-out to her 28.1K followers, encouraging them to participate in the sweepstakes.
Want to make that stomach rumble? Check out some our favorite entries below and search #EatYourWaytoThailand on Instagram.
Despite the exciting whirlwind of city life, sometimes it’s good to break away from the crowds and breath in some fresh country air. Here’s our round up of the best day trips accessible from London to do exactly that…
Oh we do like to be beside the seaside
Visitors have flocked here for centuries, and it’s not just for the beach and pier combo. The self-proclaimed liberal capital of Great Britain has an abundance of vegan restaurants, hipster cafés and massive celebrations for Brighton Pride. It’s no surprise that Brighton is considered one of England’s most forward-thinking cities.
Don’t miss: Shopping for vintage clothes in the Lanes – a vibrant and historic quarter of the city full of retro shops, art galleries, boutiques, cafes and record shops.
Time from London: 1hr by train.
Often referred to as “Shoreditch-on-Sea” following the recent migration of East London hipsters to this seaside town, Margate has come a long way since its donkey rides on the beach days. You’ll find the Turner Contemporary Gallery, a tangle of vintage shops, trendy places to eat and drink, and a cool retro amusement park, Dreamland.
Don’t miss: Cycling along the 32-mile Viking Coast Trail. Explore the chalk cliffs and rural villages in this charming part of Kent.
This up and coming town along the Kent coast has undergone a massive regeneration project recently. Expect to find art galleries next to vintage boutiques and trendy cafés in the cobbled streets of the Creative Quarter. Around the corner, the Harbour Arm is full of pop-up restaurants and street-food from all over the world.
Don’t miss: The sandy beach – one of the closest sandy beaches to London. It’s a perfect place to chill out on a warm summer’s day.
Time from London: 1hr by train.
4. Blenheim Palace
Set among lakes, water terraces and miles of sweeping parkland in the Oxfordshire countryside, this Baroque masterpiece is a UNESCO-listed site. The home of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, it’s also the only non-royal country house to hold the title of palace.
Don’t miss: Exploring the cute nearby market town of Woodstock.
Time from London: 1h 30min drive, or the same by train and bus.
Technically in London, we do have good reason for cheating. Discover acres of riverside gardens, a world-famous maze, vineyard and resident ghosts thanks to Henry VIII’s wife-swapping antics.
Don’t miss: Walking there along the idyllic Thames Path from Kingston
Time from London: 50min by tube.
Spots to up your Insta Game
6. Warner Bros. Studio Tour
Attention all wannabe wizards and witches! (So everyone then). Live the magic of Harry Potter at the world-famous Warner Bros. Studio Tour London. Walk through the forbidden forest, visit Dumbledore’s office, step onto Platform 9¾, ride a broomstick against a green screen and drink a Butterbeertm.
Don’t miss: Wandering through the wizarding shopping street of Diagon Alleytm stopping to pick up your wand. Question is, will you have the same one as Harry?
Firstly, Leeds Castle is not in Leeds, but in the heart of the Kent countryside. Secondly, surrounded by lakes and romantic green parkland, it’s considered to be one of the loveliest castles in the world. And finally, its last Lady of the manor was something of a raver who allegedly had several notable party-goers including former US President John F. Kennedy.
Don’t miss: Arrive early to see the hot-air balloons fly from here – or get in one yourself to see glorious countryside all around you.
Time from London: 1hr 20min drive.
8. Mayfield Lavender Fields
You could easily be mistaken for thinking this is in Southern France, but no, forget Provence, it’s just a mere 1 hour drive from the city. You smell the aroma of lavender long before you see it. Wander through the rows of purple, as you snap the perfect selfie next to the iconic red telephone box.
Don’t miss: The owners run a photography competition so if you think your shots are great don’t forget to enter.
The famous White Cliffs of Dover are the first sight of England that visitors see coming by ferry from France. Make sure to visit the coastal path for impressive insta-worthy views and great scenery along the English Channel.
Don’t miss: Dover Castle sits on top of the cliffs but there are miles of tunnels waiting to be explored that were built into the cliffs during the Second World War.
Time from London: 1hr by train
10. Bombay Sapphire Distillery
A quintessentially British tipple – a gin and tonic is almost as popular as a cup of tea. Go behind the scenes at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery to learn about the history and craftsmanship of this tasty drink. More importantly though, you do have a gin tasting after the tour.
Don’t miss: Fancy making the perfect G&T cocktails back home? Take part in a Masterclass and learn to create cocktails with a specially-trained Gin Expert.
Home to a magnificent cathedral and UNESCO World Heritage Site, travellers have been visiting Canterbury for centuries. Four reasons why you should too: Roman walls, tangled medieval alleyways, riverside garden strolls (and pubs!) and a thriving student-driven nightlife.
Don’t miss: A visit to the St Lawrence Cricket Ground. A classic English pastime is either playing or watching cricket. It’s not as confusing as you think! Time from London: 55min by train.
12. Hellfire Caves
Deep in the sleepy village of West Wycombe something sinister lurks. Underneath this unassuming community lies a mile of tunnels where back in the 18th century high class gentleman (known as the Hellfire Club) would meet to practise occult rituals, read ‘rude’ books and drink heavily.
“My kingdom for a horse!” and cue all other Shakespeare one-liners. The birthplace of the Bard, Shakespeare and Stratford go hand in hand. When you’re not misquoting the world’s most famous playwright, explore pub-lined Tudor streets, Anne Hathaway’s house (no, not the actress!) and the Holy Trinity Church, the burial site of Shakespeare.
Don’t miss: More bass and less Bard, see another side of Stratford at the annual Global Gathering Electronic Music festival.
Time from London: 2hrs by train.
Feeling inspired for a whole new adventure, all manageable in a day? It’s only a short train ride or drive away. Check out our BritRail and National Express deals and head on out beyond London!
Today’s post is brought to you by Emma Neely, a Michigan State Alum and our newest Marketing Executive. Emma is well traveled having been to 18 countries (and counting), but today she shares some tips about the ultimate national park road trip in the Southwestern USA!
The desert is always calling and here in the Southwestern United States, we have some of the most photographed and most visited sites in the country. Here’s our picks for the Top 10 Southwest National Parks you need to add to your bucket list. Ready to start hiking? Check out the AllTrails App for great hiking reviews.
1. Zion National Park
While there are many spots to hike in this awe-inspiring national park, Angels Landing is by far the most famous and well-worth your time. The trek to the very top has varying degrees of incline, steep drop offs, and is rated difficult, with the most challenging part being the optional route to the summit where you hold onto chains to pull yourself up. Despite this, the views you get are so worth it! Top tip- Avoid the massive crowds and hot temperatures by going outside of peak season.
A post shared by Emmy Neely (@emmy_neely) on Jan 13, 2018 at 3:59pm PST
2. The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is a firm favorite as far as national parks go and for good reason. It is immensely vast and accessible from numerous points each with their own amazing views and activities. Ever wonder where to find those famous postcard views of the Grand Canyon? The South Rim is where it’s at. Here you’ll find loads of activities like guided hikes, art studios, biking, camping, shops and even an IMAX theater! This side is best for both people wanting to hike to the bottom or just check out the sweet vistas. The North Rim will provide you with similar activities like hiking, biking and camping, but with noticeable differences. Because it is a whole 1,000 feet higher in altitude than the South Rim, it is cooler (an essential for hiking in the hot summer time) allowing plants and wildlife to thrive there and is much less crowded. It’s a dramatically different experience, but still awe-inspiring. You can also ride mules! Lastly, but certainly not the least, we have Grand Canyon West. Visiting here is perfect for those adventurers without a fear of heights – here you can step onto the famous Skywalk which juts out 70 feet over the canyon.
A post shared by Erika Bauer (@erikabauer) on Mar 9, 2018 at 2:17pm PST
3. Horseshoe Bend
This impressive geological formation overlooking the Colorado River is located just 7 miles away from the “official” Grand Canyon, and is often referred to as Grand Canyon East. It is fairly easy to access by driving, but still involves a moderately challenging (and completely unshaded) hike.
A post shared by streff_streff (@streff_streff) on Sep 16, 2017 at 2:35pm PDT
4. Havasu Falls
Ignore TLC, get out there and chase those waterfalls! This spot near Grand Canyon West is home to five world-famous and insta-worthy ones to marvel at. We can see why it’s referred to as a modern day “Garden of Eden.” This trip is not for the average hiker – its 12-mile trail will require camping and permits as it is located on tribal lands.
5. Arches National Park
Fancy hiking Indiana Jones style? This red-rock wonderland was featured in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” and will surely amaze anyone who visits. When in Arches there are two trails, we’d highly recommend the Devil’s Garden Loop and the Delicate Arch Trail. The former is a difficult hike which involves Spider-Man climbing up rock walls over water pools and the latter is a bit shorter and more moderate than the Devil’s Garden Loop. Here you’ll find the iconic arch that’s also featured on Utah license plates!
A post shared by Erika Bauer (@erikabauer) on Feb 17, 2018 at 6:27pm PST
6. Bryce Canyon
Home to the famous spire-shaped rock formations, Hoodoos, it’s hard to do Bryce Canyon justice on your camera. There are so many things to see and do here there’s something for everyone. Whether you prefer hiking and horseback riding, staying in camp grounds, moonlit hikes, telescope stargazing, there’s nothing quite like Bryce Canyon anywhere else in the world!
A post shared by Quigley (@officiallyquigley) on May 7, 2018 at 8:11pm PDT
7. Monument Valley
Always wondered what the American Southwest looks like? This is it! Monument Valley has been the setting for countless movies and advertisements. This place is about as tricky to get in as backstage at a concert. They only let 20 people in a day as it’s within the Navajo Reservation. If you can’t get in, driving down US-163 is your best option to witness these monumental structures. It’s on this highway you can snap some classic road trip selfies – you won’t be disappointed.
A post shared by French Roamer (@travelstanzas) on May 6, 2018 at 3:58am PDT
8. The Wave and Antelope Canyon
These geological beauties are made from vibrant Navajo sandstone and although nearby offer starkly different experiences. The Wave, made famous due to its selection as a Microsoft desktop background, is an incredible sight to see. But instead of staring at your computer screen, go see it with your own eyes (if you should be so lucky). It is strict about the number of visitors they let in, so be sure to plan this trip waaaaay in advance as there are incredibly competitive and confusing permit processes including an online and in person lottery. If you can’t see this, Antelope Canyon, the most famous slot canyon in the world, is also in it of itself a bucket list item and only requires a guide be present. Both are equally beautiful and worth a visit.
9. Capitol Reef National Park
Full of white sandstone domes and cliffs (reminiscent of and named for the United States Capitol building), colorful canyons, and bridges -this place is a hiker’s dream! The park is known for its indigenous history which is shown in the many pictographs (painted on rock surfaces) and petroglyphs (carved or pecked into the rock surface) on rock surfaces. The top three rated trails (per AllTrails, any hikers go to app) in this park are: Hickman Bridge Trail, Cassidy Arch Trail, and Grand Wash trail via Northeast Trailhead, and Capitol Gorge Trail. Hungry after all that hiking? Capitol Reef National Park has orchards to pick fruit in. Best enjoyed stargazing at night because this park doubles as an international dark sky park!
A post shared by Berty Mandagie (@bertymandagie) on Mar 26, 2018 at 9:37am PDT
Despite being Utah’s largest national park, Canyonlands is one of the most underrated and least crowded. Take a scenic drive to the Island in the Sky district for the best views, go boating in the Rivers, or break out the four-wheel drive for some backcountry off-roading in the Maze. If you’re keen to work those legs, try the easy 2-mile hike ‘Grand View Point Trail’ for incredible panoramic views along the cliffs edge.
Because let’s face it, without music, the world would just B flat, right?
Collaborating with the music-mad crew at Beats Travel, STA Travel Beats are unique small group tours that are all about music, festivals and culture. From Iceland’s Secret Solstice to India’s Magnetic Fields festival, plus exclusive raves, sailing adventures and underground music events in between, we are back on the road this year with a killer lineup of festivals and music tours.
Discover the world, discover new music, discover a new way of traveling.
Let us introduce you to the crew…
Beats Travel is a crew of avid travelers and music enthusiasts, who saw a gap between the two, and decided to bring music touring to life as the next generation of traveling. The crew consists of experienced tour guides, along with DJs, photographers, videographers and event planners, all with one thing in common, a love of a unique party, and sharing this passion with everyone.
Are you a Beats traveler?
If you love music and travel, you’ve come to the right place. Experience a new generation of traveling by combining your love for music and culture in unique locations around the world. We revolve solely around music and festivals, working with renowned artists and DJs from around the globe. Think exclusive parties, cult nightclubs and underground music events.
A legendary Beats guide and crew, festival tickets, special events such as opening and closing parties, new friends that you didn’t know you needed, and all transport and accommodation. Dependent on the country, this can range from hand-picked hostels/hotels, to Bedouin tents and VIP Yachts.
Where do we go?
STA Travel Beats has three types of trips: Festival Tours, Sailing Tours and A.M.C Tours (Adventure, Music and Culture).
8 Day Icelandic Beats (includes Secret Solstice festival)
When: 18-25 Jun 18
Where: Reykjavík, Iceland
Go for: Dancing under the midnight sun
The British food scene is a vibrant mix of multicultural influences, reinvented classics and revolutionary street food.
But before we go off on a whim about where to get the best Yorkshire pudding burritos, let’s take it back to basics and let you in on some of Britain’s finest culinary creations.
1. Cheese glorious cheese
With more than 700 different cheeses produced across the UK, from creamy Cornish brie to crumbly Stiltons, cheeseboards are a staple on menus and dining room tables across the country. Add a few grapes, a bowl of homemade chutney and a glass of good port.
The first written evidence of a Yorkshire pudding appeared in 1747. And the northerners haven’t shut about them since – and for good reason, there’s nothing batter (sorry guys). Made from eggs, flour and milk these light and airy pud’s are a Sunday roast showstopper or the perfect vessel to hold sausage and mashed potato. Pour over a jug of gravy and your one step closer to living the Northern foodie dream. Head to a pub on a Sunday and you’re sure to see these bad boys on the menu.
Even writing the words fish and chips brings with it a scent of salty sea air, lashings of vinegar and keeping an eye out for sea gulls wanting a beak full of the action. Fresh fish is wrapped up in crunchy batter, served with chunky fries, salt and vinegar and an optional side of mushy peas (yes that is peas- mushed). We like ours served up by Britain’s beaches – try Brighton or Whitby in Yorkshire.
Perfecting the gravy and squabbling over the last roast potato, Sunday roast dinners are a great British institution. Join the Brits as they get together for a comforting roast with friends and family at the local pub – washed down with lots of red wine and real ale.
The story goes that at a cricket tea at posh Eton college in the 1920s, an errant Labrador sat on the meringues intended for the pavlova. In throwing the crushed meringues, berries and cream together anyway, one of England’s favorite desserts was born: Eton Mess.
From beachfront cockle shacks to Michelin-starred fish restaurants, Britain’s rich waters produce some of the finest and most sustainable seafood in the world. Head to Fit and Flounder in Hackney, London for indulgent oysters in the city or go straight to the source at Venus Café that sits on Blackpool sands beach.
The British like their food with a bite, that’s why the nation’s second favorite dish is a good old curry. Don’t miss London’s Brick Lane and Manchester’s famous curry mile for a mild to blow-your-socks off curry and pillowy naan.
Fine bone china, bite-size delicacies, and your pinkie sticking out – afternoon tea is a centuries-old English tradition. The Ritz in London is the high priestess of tea, but you’ll find deals and offers in hotels and tea rooms across Britain.
Coming onto the scene in the 18th century by the Bun House in, you guessed it, Chelsea, this rich lemon and cinnamon spiced bun is made by rolling up dough spread with a mixture of currants, brown sugar and butter. Pick one up at Borough market and eat warm, washed down with a cup of tea, of course..
So there’s a little something to whet your appetite and open your eyes to the world of British food. Ready to grab a knife and fork and dig in for yourselves? Head to our England Travel Guide for travel deals more inspiration…
STA Travel Beats, India and Europe
Good for: solo festival-goers
“Nah, I’m not really into Stormzy, or Clean Bandit, or fun. But thanks for asking anyway!”.
First of all, doesn’t like Stormzy? What kind of monsters are we dealing with here. And second of all, if your own friends aren’t interested in going to festivals with you, then we know a gang of people who are.
In collaboration with the music-mad humans at Beats Travel, our small group festival tours are hitting up a serious lineup of festivals this year. 8 Day Icelandic Beats takes on Iceland’s Secret Solstice in June (the Foos and The Prodigy headlined last year) and 10 Day Balkan Beats includes Serbia’s EXIT festival in July, plus Sail Beats in Croatia and Goa Beats in India.
Unique tours built around music, culture and people, you’ll explore new destinations, the local underground music scene and some of the greatest moshpits on the planet. And more to the point, you’ll do it with people who quite clearly have much better taste in music than your regular friends.
Bura Surfhouse, Lagos, Portugal
Good for: solo surfers and yogis
Get down with your new omies! (Ommmmm….).
Finally, an establishment that appreciates drinking time as much as downward facing dog time. Located on the Portuguese Algarve, this super social surf hostel is great for solo travelers. Famous for its banana pancakes and subversive combination of sporting and drinking activities, there are heaps of ways to explore the area. Or just chill out at the pool bar or rooftop terrace.
Specialist packages include the 5 Day Surf Yoga Wine, 5 Day Boot Camp, or our particular favorite, Bad Yogis, described as 9 days of “stretching and savasana followed by (several) $1 beers and BBQs by the pool”.
1-2 Week Thai Elephant Conservation, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Good for: solo animal lovers
Or how about these elephants in Thailand? They come with their own trunks, making them excellent travel partners. And as an elephant never forgets, you’ll basically have a best friend for life.
Working at this internationally-renowned conservation project, you’ll help feed, bathe and care for abandoned or abused elephants, with weekends free to explore with the other volunteers. There’s also an on-site dog rescue project. Just stop now…
Kiwi Experience, New Zealand
Good for: solo adrenaline junkies
Welcome to the friend zone.
Backpackers have been exploring New Zealand on Kiwi Experience’s legendary hop-on hop-off buses for over 30 years. More popular than a company credit card at a Christmas party, Kiwi Ex is the perfect way to meet other travelers while discover one magical country. (So magical, it even has its own government appointed wizard. His name is Ian. Not Ian McKellen – real name Gandalf – but another Ian).
Make friends from all over the world, have the freedom to travel at your own pace, and book beds and bungy jumps as you go – making your trip as active as you want.
G Adventure active tours, mostly high up places
Good for: solo hikers
Hiking up big scary-looking mountains on your own is a truly terrible idea. So, if you can’t find a friend mad enough to climb Kilimanjaro, Everest, Annapurna or Mount Blanc with you, join these guys.
G Adventures connect you with other trekkers, helping everyone keep costs down compared to hiring individual guides and porters. Share laughs (and Deep Heat), and cheer each other on, celebrating your achievement at the top with new friends you’ll never forget.
Contiki tours, pretty much everywhere
Good for: solo 18-35s
Showing the young, the wild and the free the world since 1962, Contiki are the go-to tour company for 18-35 year olds. With more activities, meals and accommodation included than other tour companies, it’s a great way for solo travelers to buddy up and not blow their budget by having to pay for single rooms or private guides.
Plus, while we love partying with the odd Octogenarian, Contiki are a good way of ensuring that your tour group’s demographic stays strictly Calvin Harris. (“I’ve got love for you if you were born in the 80’s, the 80’s…).
The universities of Oxford and Cambridge have been frenemies for over 800 years, ever since they were the only two universities in Great Britain. Today, the rivalry gets most heated for the annual Oxford and Cambridge boat races and rugby clashes.
So here’s the deal. They’re both great at punting (think Venetian gondolas without the stripy tees), they both have chess sets dedicated to them, they both have impressive architecture and grounds, and they’re both around 60 miles from London. But which to choose…
Best of Oxford
Cosy pubs famous writers plotted novels, a vibrant student culture, keen cyclists, and historic architecture you may recognize from your favourite movies – It’s a history lover’s dream! Here’s our pick of what makes Oxford that extra bit special.
Museum: Modern Art Oxford. Browse the cutting-edge modern and contemporary art on offer, see live music or catch a talk at this central Oxford gallery. Once you’re done, grab a slice of delicious homemade cake and mint tea in the popular café.
Music: Catweazle Club. This is alternative Oxford at its best. Don’t miss Thursday’s open mic night. Or maybe do, if you’re stage shy.
Do: Harry Potter walking tour. Walk in the footsteps of Harry and explore the historic locations throughout the city and colleges that inspired Hogwarts and were used in the films. Wands at the ready!
Best of Cambridge
Much like it’s rival, Cambridge is a buzzing university town with students nipping around on bikes, riverside ‘backs’ to lounge in and an impressive campus that’s older than the United States. Spend the day wandering the leafy college grounds or take it all in on the river with a spot of punting. Here’s what else makes Cambridge a firm favourite.
Famous alumni: Charles Darwin, Tom Hiddleston and David Attenborough.
Food: Cambridge is for food truck fanatics. Veggies try the Wandering Yak, not-so-veggies head to Steak and Honour.
Pub: Free Press Pub. A printshop-turned-drinking hole, with great craft beer and a log fire.
Museum: Kettle’s Yard. The former home of Tate Gallery curator Jim Ede, this is one of England’s best galleries. First, explore the quirky house filled with beautifully curated 20th century art then get your modern art fix in the newly expanded adjoining gallery.
See your host country through a local’s eye! Avoid exploiting and objectifying a country for its rare cultural practices and tourist destinations by catching unique perspectives when you stray from tourist populated areas.
Avoid walking around with your camera
You will want to capture every moment in this new place; everything seems so exotic and new. But rather than taking photos of everything you see take it in visually. You will appreciate the moment for what it is, and you will blend in and appear to be more of a local in the process.
Explore in small groups, pairs, or by yourself (if its safe)
Walking around in large groups can capture unwanted attention. Grab a friend or someone you want to get to know and explore the area you’re living in! This will call less attention to your status as a foreigner.
Walk into unknown eateries
If you don’t share a language trust the power of communication without spoken word, and get a taste of what people in your host country have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My friends and I discovered yellow sticky rice for breakfast from a woman around the corner – it was delicious and kept us full all day.
Make friends with locals
The only way to truly get to know your city, town, or village from a local’s eye is to have someone show you around. They know the ins and outs of their hometown; the best places to get good and inexpensive food, local performances and crafty villages or festivals.
If you have the time, volunteer!
Volunteering or working in your host country is an excellent way to make connections and get involved in the community. I made many friends whom later showed me their favorite places around the city.
When reserving hotels, hostels, or Airbnb’s – book in small, residential neighborhoods
The best way to see what local life is like is to be a part of it. Smaller areas tend to attract fewer tourists so you can get a taste of a place for what it is, rather than what the tourist industry wants you to see it as.
Sit back and blend in
Observe and take in all the rare and familiar cultural practices. Sitting in a café and people-watching is a great way to understand a new place and what goes on everyday.
Although I was and never could truly be a local, spending time in residential areas and following these guidelines gave me a better understanding of what Vietnam is like to the people that live and have grown up there, rather than what Vietnam is portrayed to be through social media, government representations and romanticized vacations.
Sophia Richards is a junior studying Sociology, Anthropology and Women’s Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She recently spent her fall semester in Vietnam, volunteering and studying the history, language and culture. She’s now back at school in Geneva, New York, awaiting her next adventure. Check out photos from her travels in Vietnam on Flickr.