Epic 7-day Itinerary To Visit Malta On Holiday

Best Things To Do In Malta & Gozo (9)

Malta is an incredible island to explore. Nestled right in the Med, it’s is filled with thousands of years of history, stunning bays and the most incredible cities that are just too beautiful to miss. So, to help you get the most out of your trip, we wanted to share our bumper itinerary to visit Malta on your next holiday.

 

Now, you might be wondering if Malta is for you?

Well, let me give you a little snippet of why it should be on every traveller hit list!

First up, Malta (and neighbouring Gozo) is basked in that incredible Mediterranean sunshine that’s just so good. Not only that, Malta is totally chilled and a great place to visit if you fancy a bout of downtime on your trip.

That being said, Malta is also a jewel in the Mediterranean if you fancy a gander around historic cities and ancient sights. It’s an island that can (and totally does) fit with the kind of trip you’d like.  This is why we keep going back, over and over again!

So, as the island starts to safely open up, we wanted to share some places in Malta that you can’t miss.

And, as always, be sure to travel safely. Check your government’s guidance on travel and official information from the Maltese Government on any restrictions that might be relaxed or in place.

 

Take a look, below, at our bumper itinerary to visit Malta on holiday. Oh, and with all our itineraries, feel free to add, take out or follow exactly the places we’ve mentioned – it’s your holiday after all!

Have an amazing time.

Day one: Valletta

 

As far as Mediterranean cities go, Valletta is a gem to visit!

Unlike other large capital cities in Europe, Valletta is not too big to get overwhelmed and not small enough to get bored. In fact, I’d say it’s perfect for a few days exploring.

After arriving, be sure to take a wander to see the Grandmaster’s Palace and the gorgeous Upper (and Lower) Barrakka Gardens. These are stunning first thing in the morning and a great way to stretch your legs before a day head.

For a sugary pick-me-up, head to Amorino (on Republic Street). Here, you’ll get to sample some of the best gelatos in all of Malta. Trust me, you’ll go back for seconds.

In the afternoon, take a gander around the centuries-old Casa Rocca Piccola in the heart of Valletta. Throughout the day, you can join a guide and take a peek into a classic (and affluent) palace that’s too gorgeous to miss.

Before sundown, pop into St. John’s Co-Cathedral which’s stood pride of place in Valletta since the 1500s. It’s so beautiful and a great way to see some of Girolamo Cassar works. After all, he’s one of the islands most famed architects.

Feeling peckish? Head into the gorgeous cobbled streets and pop into Noni (on Republic Street) that fuses Maltese dishes with a modern flare. Their tasting menu is so delicious for an evening treat.

Day two: Valletta

 

One thing I would say is that you should give Valletta at least one full day to explore (though, we prefer a more chilled two-day trip). That being said, if you’re short on time, you can easily pack in the main sights in Valletta in one day; especially if there are other spots on our itinerary to visit Malta that you just don’t want to miss.

For a morning galavant, head for a stroll around the Grand Harbour area where you’ll get some fantastic views across the bay. Plus, you’ll be easily able to partner up a trip to Fort St. Angelo that has historically protected the city. You’ll need to factor in around 2-hours to fully explore the fort; so plan ahead and arrive nice and early.

For dinner, book a table at Rampila; you won’t be disappointed, especially on their terrace. We had the traditional Maltese Aljotta broth for the first course and loved it! 

Day three: Mdina

Nowhere is ever really that far in Malta, which means it’s a great island to traverse and stay at all the Maltese gems. That being said, don’t feel the pressure to keep moving hotels or accommodation each night, you can easily do day trips to all the spots in Malta and stay anchored in one hotel for the whole trip. It’s entirely up to you.

Anyway, where was I… Mdina!

Okay, so Mdina is probably my favourite city in all of Malta and one spot you can’t miss for a day trip. It’s around a 25-minute drive from Valletta and totally easy to visit by car, taxi or tour depending on what you’d like.

Once you’ve headed through the iconic Mdina Gate, be sure to visit the iconic cathedral that overlooks the whole city. It’s stunning and the Baroque architecture dates back years!

That being said, if you fancy going back further in history, get yourself over to Domus Romana; a Roman house that was built around two thousand years ago! It’s a relatively small museum which means it’s a perfect 30-minute visit.

Oh, and don’t forget to grab some of the world-renowned Mdina Glass. It’s so beautiful and you’ll find it all over the city.

Getting hungry? Get yourself over to Grotto Tavern, their gnocchi is so delicious and the restaurant is so unique within a grotto itself.

Day four: Western coastline and beaches

After three days of city-living, it’s time to take in some more of that gorgeous coastline of Malta. So, pack your swimming gear, slap on that sunblock and get ready for a snooze on the sand.

But first, head over to the Blue Grotto, which’s around a 25-minute drive from Valletta (and 15-minutes from Mdina). Once here, you’ll need to get yourself on one of the small boats that’ll whisk you right within the Blue Grotto itself. That being said, if you’re not fancying the boat ride, head to the ‘panorama’ viewing area that’s perfect at sunset.

The views are stunning.

Afterwards, for a little time in the surf, head over to Golden Bay that’s north of the Blue Grotto. It’s a popular spot for sun-seekers and the kind of place that’s great for a morning dip (or evening stroll).

The views are stunning.

Afterwards, for a little time in the surf, head over to Golden Bay that’s north of the Blue Grotto. It’s a popular spot for sun-seekers and the kind of place that’s great for a morning dip (or evening stroll).

If it’s a dip you’re after, pop over to St. Peter’s Pool that’s on the coastline near Marsaxlokk. Here, you’ll get to have a little paddle in the gorgeous Mediterranean waters and bask in those views across southern Malta. Just be sure to watch out for choppy waters and only go for a swim if it’s safe to do so.

Now, we found it best to rent a car for coastal days. Though, if you don’t drive, fret not; there are oodles of different touring companies that you can book and include on your itinerary to visit Malta. 

 

Day five: Hiking around near Popeye Village

 

It’s not every day that you can say you’ve rambled across an island, but it’s quite achievable in Malta, especially from Għadira Bay to Popeye Village.

After a morning dip at Għadira, pop on your hiking shoes and head off for a ramble around the area.

The walk itself won’t take you long at all (though, you can take in some detours). We checked out the Red Tower that’s just shy of the bay itself (around a 40-minute hike).  It dates back to 1649 and is lovely to see, especially for views.

After heading to the west coast, get yourself over to the totally quaint and picturesque Popeye Village. It’s the historic film set for Popeye’s film that was shot back in the 1980s.

It’s well worth a gander for an hour or so and totally worth including on your itinerary to visit Malta; even if you haven’t seen the film.

Finally, for a great view of Popeye Village, head along the coastline road opposite the bay. The views across the cove is gorgeous from here and you’ll get a great view of Popeye Village itself. 

 

Day 6: Gozo

Just shy of the northern shores of Malta, Gozo is a smaller island that’s totally worth the short ferry ride to explore! In fact, it’s a perfect day trip when visiting Malta.

 

Departing from Cirkewwa, you’ll get across to Mgarr Harbour in no time at all. From here, you’ll get to explore all across Gozo and take in some key spots along the way!

One spot you have to visit is Il-Madonna ta’ Pinu, a basilica and shrine that’s as beautiful as they come. Although the basilica isn’t as old as some other sites across Malta and Gozo, it’s still just as iconic.

 

Afterwards, pull out your swimming gear and drive over to the Blue Hole for a dip! It’s a natural swimming pool that sits just shy of the collapsed Azure Window and is well worth seeing as you follow our itinerary to visit Malta.

 

Oh, and don’t forget to grab a bite at The Boathouse in Xlendi Bay.

 

This is the kinda spot that’ll satisfy any seafood craving; especially with their mouth-watering fresh lobster!!!

 

Day 7: Mosta

 

Before departing Malta, there’s one final (and totally lovely) spot to visit. Mosta!

Only around 20-minutes from central Valletta, Mosta is perfect to see on your final day along your itinerary to visit Malta. Even if you’ve only got a few hours before your flight, be sure to take a gander.

Now, one of the things that make this city so special is the Rotunda of Mosta; a massive basilica that’s actually based on the Pantheon in Italy.

Once you arrive, you’ll soon see why it’s such a special spot, especially with it housing one of the largest, unsupported domes in the whole world!

If you’ve still got time, take a wander over to the Ta’ Bistra Catacombs that’s just shy of the city centre. You’ll get to see a heap of historic catacombs that are pretty unique to visit.

 

 

 

 

 

19 Beautiful Islands In Greece You Have To Visit

Greece is one of those countries that you’ll never get bored of visiting. With thousands of little islands and the gorgeous mainland, it’s a place that just gets better with every trip. That’s what makes a trip to some of the most beautiful islands in Greece a necessity.

With stunning islands like Kefalonia, to the big (and gorgeous) islands like Crete – each one has its own particular charm, mountains of yummy Greek food to devour, and plenty of stunning beaches to take a dip.

Oh yeah, and if you’re looking for someone to carry your luggage whilst you’re there, just pop me a message! I’m already itching to go back. Ha! 🤣

Take a look of 19 of the very best and beautiful islands in Greece you should visit this year. You’ll love it!

1.) Santorini

 

Yeah, I know… I’m probably starting with the most obvious of Greek islands, but with good reason. I’m pretty sure Santorini is the most famous and possibly the most beautiful islands in Greece.

With its clifftop villages and amazing views, it’s one of the unique Greek Islands that has been massively shaped by a volcanic eruption a few thousand years ago. Legend has it that the island is actually the home of Atlantis which was devoured by the sea quite a few millennia ago.

Whatever the case, you’re going to love it. Make sure to try some of the tasty dishes on the island and explore some of the prettiest sites to see once you’ve arrived.

2.) Mykonos

Mykonos is a stunner of a place, especially with all the little coves and quaint towns (that are soooo picturesque).

Make sure to wander around the cobbled streets of Mykonos Town, head over to Delos Island on a Kaiki (small boat) and visit the monastery of Panagia Tourliani. Oh yeah, don’t forget to see the island’s famous windmills too! They’re gorgeous at sunset.

For a tasty bite, head over to M-eating for some of their freshly caught sea bass. It really is one of the beautiful islands in Greece you should explore.

3.) Corfu

Perched on the west side of Greece, Corfu is one of the larger northerly islands you should definitely visit.

Now, there’s a common misconception that Corfu is all about package holidays and boozy lads nights out. This couldn’t be further from the truth for the majority of the island. Yes, there are a few areas that cater to the party crowd but the vast majority of the island is so gorgeous and the ideal spot for us travellers to explore.

Make sure to visit the dramatic Cape Drastis, visit the Vlacherna Monastery and see the stunning canal d’Amour.

4.) Crete

Crete is, without a doubt, the largest of the beautiful islands in Greece you should visit.

The best thing about Crete is that there’s so much to see, meaning you can easily justify a week or two just on the island itself. Heck, go for a month if you want!

Whilst you’re exploring the island, head over to Spinalonga Island to see the historic fort, take a boat to the isolated Greek village of Loutro and ramble around Balos Lagoon. You’ll get some epic views.

 

5.) Rhodes

Rhodes was the first ever Greek island I’d ever visited… and what an introduction it was. whilst you’re there, hop over to the village of Lindos, see the Acropolis and the medieval sites within the old town itself.

For some of the tastiest dishes, pop into Ta Kardasia if you’re hankering for some authentic Greek food. They make the best moussaka in all of Rhodes.

6.) Amorgos

Part of the Cyclades island group, Amorgos is one of those islands that’s a little off-the-beaten-track, especially compared to places like Santorini.

The best thing about Amorgos is that you can literally spend your trip on ‘island time’, chilling out, gorging on the fresh seafood that arrives every morning and seeing the stunning sites like; Hozoviotissa, the monastery on the cliffs.

For the best appaki chicken, head over to Chora and the restaurant of TranzisToRaki. Just make sure to arrive early, or be prepared to wait for a table. This place does get busy with locals and visitors alike.

7.) Zakynthos

Perched within the Ionian Sea, Zakynthos is one stunning island to visit. With places like Navagio Beach, the Blue Caves and Porto Limnionas, you’ll be spoilt for choice in places to explore.

Of course, most of us travellers to the island will definitely want to see Navagio Beach, meaning there’ll be lots of boat tours to get to the beach itself.

The waters really are stunningly blue and you’ll get some of the best views you could wish for. As a popular spot, expect it to get a little crowded but it’s a must-see spot whilst you’re on the island.

Don’t forget to visit the nearby Marathonisi Island, too.

8.) Kefalonia

Another gorgeous spot in the Ionian Sea, Kefalonia is one of the beautiful islands in Greece you should definitely visit.

Make sure to visit the historic hilly capital of Argostoli, explore the stunning Melissani Cave and visit Myrtos Beach too.

Although you’re not allowed to swim in Melissani Cave, you can still take a boat tour of this stunning place.

It has to be seen to be believed.

9.) Lefkada

Lefkada is one of only a handful of beautiful islands in Greece that is reachable from the mainland by road. Nestled just off the coast and connected by a bridge and causeway, it’s a really special island to visit especially after exploring the gorgeous spots in mainland Greece. You’ll find it’s quite a bit quieter (with visitors) than lots of the other Greek islands, too.

Spend your days taking a well-earned dip at Porto Katsiki and gorge on all the food at Basilico Restaurant (in Nidri) who cook the best-grilled calamari.

10.) Paros

Nestled in the Aegean Sea, Paros Island is about 80 km north of Santorini. Spend some time in the Old Port of Naoussa, take a dip at Kolymbithres Beach and gorge at the Markakis Restaurant (in Piso Livadi).

You really won’t find a more authentic Greek taverna.

11.) Andros

Andros is quite a mountainous and dramatic island you will want to visit. With a whole heap of mountain ranges and rugged coastal villages, you’ll definitely find Andros a throwback to times gone by. For a gorgeous, sandy beach, head to Agios Petros. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to explore some historical sites make sure to visit the Monastery of Panachrantos.

Also, if you want to feed your inner explorer spirit – pop down to the dramatic Cave Foros. It really is a stunner.

12.) Milos

Pretty close to Crete, Milos is a stunning little volcanic island that really reminds me of Santorini – especially with the dramatic covers and cliffs.

One of my favourite spots, especially for a little chill time is Firopotamos. It’s a great place for a dip. For dinner with a view, pop into Ergina Restuarant. You won’t be disappointed.

13.) Antipaxos

Antipaxos is a tiny little island with only around 20 people living on it, so expect a warm welcome! One of the easiest ways to get to Antipaxos is from Paxos Island itself (which is about 2km away) which is a pretty easy ride as long as you can rent a boat.

Now, the island really is tiny, so you might want to consider a visit for a day trip, especially in the summer months when the beaches and scenery are just too good to miss.

14.) Syros

Syros is a popular little island for city dwellers in Athens to head to for a little break and it’s easy to know why. This is a gorgeous island to explore. Wander around the narrow streets of Hermoupolis, see the pretty Apollon Theatre and head to Allou Yialou for some typical island food.

15.) Inouses

Inouses island is only about 3 km from mainland Turkey and is tiny in comparison to islands like Crete but that shouldn’t stop you visiting. The island is totally beautiful! You can even rent a boat and skipper and visit Pasas for a day trip too.

Just make sure to take lots of supplies like water and grub. It’s great for a little getaway.

16.) Lesbos

Lesbos is one of the beautiful islands in Greece you have to make time for. I mean, where else can you explore Molivos Castle, see a petrified forest and visit an Ouzo distillery (in Plomari).

For a pretty place to eat (with tasty food), head to Tropicana (in Molyvos) where they serve the best-roasted lamb and plums.  You’ll love it.

17.) Skiathos

Skiathos is one of the smaller Greek islands that’s great to visit for a relaxing break. After spending your days relaxing on Lalaria Beach, pop over to Il Kastro to watch the sunset and gorge on all the delicious Greek food in one of the hundreds of little tavernas.

The Windmill Restaurant (in Skiathos Town) is stunning if you’re looking for a special dining experience.

18.) Kea

Often forgotten by many visitors to Greece, Kea is a charming little island that’ll whisk you away to a more down-to-earth and local experience.

Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Lion of Kea. Don’t worry though, he’s made of stone! 🦁

19.) Symi

The colourful house of Symi is as picturesque as they come and easily up there as one of the beautiful islands in Greece to visit.

Quite a bit away from the white-washed houses of Santorini, Symi is a colourful affair filled with oodles of charm that I know you’ll love.

Taking In The Sunrise On The Top of Masada & Dead Sea

The Sunrise On The Top of Masada & Dead Sea

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF MASADA

 

I love a historical destination with a great story, and that’s exactly what Masada provides. Masada’s legacy is shared primarily through details  provided by Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, the commander of the Jewish forces during the First Jewish-Roman War from 66-73 AD who made it his mission to share Masada’s tragic ending.

Visiting Masada, the ancient fortress built atop a mountain plateau in modern day Israel, is a life-changing experience. No caveats necessary.

There’s simply nothing like visiting an ancient mountaintop fortress that overlooks the Dead Sea. It doesn’t feel real. But because of its isolation and the arid desert climate, the fortress once occupied by King Herod is a remarkably well-preserved relic of humanity’s ancient past, one you can climb to on the same paths used by visiting dignitaries and invading Roman troops.

Masada was most likely built between 37 and 31 BC by Herod the Great. While Josephus’ writings claim Hasmonean king Alexander Janeus built the site decades earlier, there is no architectural evidence that any type of construction was built earlier than Herod’s fortress. Herod ordered the development of the fortress because its geographical position made it a terrific strategic location for him. Masada sits on a plateau that is part of a cliff jetting more than 1,300 feet into the air. Around Masada are smaller but difficult to navigate cliffs with only three narrow paths leading to its gates. From the fortress Herod would be able to see enemies approaching from long distances, and the limited access served as an additional level of protection.

 

Two events defined Masada between 66 and 74 AD: the Great Revolt and the Siege of Masada. Prior to 66 AD Masada was controlled by the Romans, as it had been since Herod the Great ruled there. The Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans was led by Eleazar Ben Yair and the Sicarii. The Sicarii were a group of Jewish extremists who fled from Jerusalem and ultimately settled at Masada after taking possession of it following the Great Revolt. More and more of the Sicarii relocated to Masada in the years after the revolt as they were run out of Jerusalem due to ongoing conflicts with other Jewish groups.

 

By 72 AD, Masada had become the last Sicarii stronghold in the region and home to almost 1,000 people. With plans to take the fortress back, the Romans constructed a wall and built camps around Masada; they also built a ramp and a tower with a battering ram to breach the walls. As it became clear that the Romans siege would succeed and the Sicarii would be either enslaved or killed, Eleazar Ben Yair delivered speeches to his people and convinced them it would be better to die in honor than it would be to surrender and live in shame and humiliation. Judaism prohibits suicide, and so a small number of people were selected to murder almost the entire community, ensuring only one final volunteer would have to commit suicide. When the Romans arrived, they found the Sicarii destroyed everything except for food, which presumably they intentionally saved to prove they died not of starvation but because they chose to sacrifice themselves. According to Josephus in The War of the Jews, VII:

“[The Romans] were at a loss to conjecture what had happened here, encountering the mass of slain. Instead of exulting as over enemies, they admired the nobility of their resolve and the contempt of death display by so many carrying it, unwavering, into execution.”

Not all stories have a happy ending.

Masada’s history since the Siege has been far quieter with significantly less bloodshed. The Romans stayed there only through the 2nd century AD, after which time a Byzantine monastery was founded in the 5th century and abandoned just two centuries later. Masada was rediscovered in the 19th century, with explorations and excavations marking much of the last 100 years. Today, Masada is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

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THE DEAD SEA

The Dead Sea, known in Hebrew as Yam Ha-Melakh (the Sea of Salt) is the lowest point on earth, surrounded by the stunning landscape of the Negev Desert. The shores of the Dead Sea are the lowest point on the surface of the earth, and the saline water of the lake give lead to the name because no fish can survive in the salty waters. The other result of the salty water is their renowned health and healing properties and the unique feature that one can float naturally in them.

The Dead Sea represents the lowest elevation  on Earth; it stands more than 1,400 feet below sea level. Herod the Great once used it as a health destination, as the salt and minerals from the water carry some solid health benefits. To this day many people flock to its shores to float, cover themselves in mud, or simply admire it. Those shores are a little harder to reach each year; they have been receding for decades, which is causing an environmental impact on the surrounding region. This is in part due to large sinkholes that have formed in its vicinity, which impacts the rate at which groundwater is replaced by freshwater—freshwater is a primary factor in the receding shorelines. While plans are in place to restore the balance, success is not guaranteed. Not far from the Dead Sea are the Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found; although you likely won’t stop and won’t have the chance to visit them, most tours will point them out as you drive past them.

Experiencing the Dead Sea is pretty straightforward. In some ways it’s a lot like visiting a beach; you can pick a spot with a chair or two, unload your belongings, and head into the water. From there, it’s a swim unlike any other you may have taken before. As soon as I waded into the water I could feel the salt water pushing my body up, and it took some effort to keep my feet on the sea floor. Once Adam and I were waist-deep, we submerged a bit and really felt the water’s efforts to force us into a floating position. I love to swim; I have dived into the warm waters off the coast of Bermuda and Florida’s Tarpon Springs, and I have cannonballed into the icy Southern Ocean in Antarctica. Floating in the Dead Sea was nothing like those experiences. The water was exceptionally hot—almost uncomfortable as we stood ankle-deep and started our walk out to deeper sections—and it’s not really designed for swimming. Given how it pushes you up to the surface, it’s best to just let the water do what it does best and force you into a relaxing floating position. We were happy to enjoy the sensation for a little while, smiling as we heard similar exclamations and observations from fellow travelers around us. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is a great way to end a day trip in Israel!

 

The Happiest and Healthiest Beach Towns in America

News flash: Being near the beach is good for you (says science!). But, according to a report, some beach towns might actually be better for your health than others. Gallup-Sharecare polled more than 337,000 people across the country on their life satisfaction—from physical well-being to the amount of time they spend worrying—and it seems saltwater therapy might actually pay off (plus a margarita every now and then—that helps, too!). Of the top 25 cities with the highest well-being, 10 of them are on the coast. See which beach towns made the cut:

10. Crestview – Fort Walton Beach Destin, Florida 

7 Destinations in Europe You Wouldn’t Think to Visit (but Really Should)

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As one of the most accessible and beloved parts of the world, Europe is home to plenty bucket list–worthy places. History will draw you to ancient cities like Rome, Athens, and Lisbon, while culinary feats on nearly every corner call from Paris and London. And we can’t forget the rolling, robust lands of Ireland and Scotland. It could take a lifetime to fully immerse yourself in every destination.

While these iconic stops are definitely worth your attention, there are others that might not have as much search traffic, but can give you a whole new perspective on a place and its people. These little-known wonders — most of which are not-so-far from larger metropolitan areas — will add depth and dimension to your getaway, offering a unique opportunity to see and experience something beyond the usual circuit.

Below, seven underappreciated European gems you need to know about.

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Scotland’s Outer Hebrides

Scotland’s Skye and the Hebrides snagged the seventh spot in this year’s World’s Best Islands in Europe ranking, but the former is arguably the most popular with travelers. Take a ferry ride beyond the Isle of Skye to explore what’s considered to be one of Europe’s last natural habits, the Outer Hebrides. This collection of islands — the largest being the Isles of Lewis, Harris, and North and South Uist — offers a full immersion into Celtic history, heritage, and charm.

You can hear locals speaking or singing in Gaelic, marvel at medieval churches, and see Neolithic standing stones up close. On Harris, where tweed fabric was originally woven, local artisans continue to craft capes, bags, and more traditional goods with the makings of an excellent souvenir. To visit, carve out your own schedule or book one of the many the tours that explore this region. This 11-day, 10-night optionthis link opens in a new tab from CIE Tours International includes whiskey tasting, beach hopping, and more. Depending on the season, you’ll want to pack layers, as summers can be ideal beach weather, but winters are often unforgiving.

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Sardinia, Italy

The expansive island of Sardinia is just an hour-long flight away from Rome. If you’ve ever been to the Algarve on Portugal’s southern coast, you might recognize the jagged — and breathtaking — landscape that defines Sardinia’s 1,200 miles of coastline, blending beaches into mountains. There are two special qualities that set this destination apart from others: its Bronze Age stone ruins that look like beehives and its microclimate. Thanks to the headland behind Santa Margherita di Pula, which shields the coast from cold north winds, this region has 300 days of sunshine. Though it’s lovely to visit from March through December, June and July will give you the warmest ocean temperatures. For a luxe, beachfront stay, book the Forte Village Resortthis link opens in a new tab in Santa Margherita di Pula.

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Thessaloniki, Greece

On your next trip to Greece, hop on an hour-long flight from Athens to spend a few days in the country’s “second city,” Thessaloniki. This Northern port offers plenty for history lovers, but it’s also got a modern liveliness to it. You can wander through ruins from the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans — thanks to its numerous occupations — and then make your way to Valaoritou Street for stylish cocktail bars and plenty of music. Since the heart of the city was entirely rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1917, the 20th-century architecture of this area will feel far away from the traditional Greek vibe. The city is also popular with locals because the beaches are also less crowded than on the islands. Don’t miss White Tower, Roman Forum, and the cobblestone streets of the historic quarter, Ano Polithis link opens in a new tab.

Belgrade, Serbia

If you’ve already experienced the bath scene in Budapest, danced ’til dawn at the infamous five-story club in Prague, and ordered just-one-more cocktail while admiring the moonlit sea in Dubrovnik, set your sights on a lesser-known party destination: Belgrade. The capital of Serbia is becoming quite the watering hole for young travelers who, thanks to its many teeming bars and restaurants (and coffee shops to wake you up when morning comes). Here, you can experience splavovi — splav, for short — floating lounges anchored along the Danube and Sava rivers, each featuring a different musical genre. These tend to rage every night of the week, but if you need a break, make sure to see Beogradska Tvrđava, the historical fortress representing the city’s part in the Ottoman, Serbian, Austrian, Byzantine and Roman empires.

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Vicenza, Italy

You’ve heard of Venice and Verona, but a short 30- to 40-minute train ride from either of these known Italian destinations is Vicenza. Within the country’s northeastern Veneto region, you’ll be amazed by how little foot traffic this beautiful town hosts. It’s most known for its unique buildings, specifically those of 16th-century architect Palladio. If you enjoy spending hours winding through halls of art, you’ll find yourself sipping cappuccinos in between visits to the Basilica Palladiana and the Palazzo Chiericati. You might even catch a movie at the Teatro Olimpico, an outdoor theater that’s indoors. As a bonus? You can add “wandered through a UNESCO World Heritage Site” to your checklist, since the longstanding value and importance of the architecture in this town earned it a nod. If your budget allows, consider staying for a long weekend where you can talk about the beauty you’ve witnessed over wine al fresco at the Villa Valmarana Ai Nanithis link opens in a new tab.

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Ljubljana, Slovenia

Though small in size, Slovenia is big on personality, led by its diverse and robust capital, Ljubljana. As a college town, you might find a younger crowd here, but they bring plenty of outdoor cafes along the river. Here you can stroll through plenty of green patches, most notably Tivoli Parkthis link opens in a new tab (not to be confused with the amusement park in Copenhagen). As a true melting pot squished between Italy, Croatia, and Austria, the food scene has recently become one of Europe’s most intriguing. Don’t miss the tasting menu at Strelecthis link opens in a new tab and the pastries at Zvezdathis link opens in a new tab. When you’re in town, book your stay at the Intercontinental Ljubljanathis link opens in a new tab and ask for a top floor in this 20-story high hotel, so you can wake up to one of the city’s best views.

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Vence, France

It’s hard not to fall for the refined charisma of France — from the quaint, streetside cafes of Paris to the glittering grape vines of Bordeaux. But if you want to go off the grid? Head 45 minutes east of Cannes to find Vence, a small commune in the hills of the Alpes Maritimes. You might want to speak French, or at least attempt, when you pull into to this town, which is known for its landscape and the luxury destination spa at the Chateau Saint-Martin & Spathis link opens in a new tab. You may also want to pack your watercolor palette, as inspiration struck for many an artist — Picasso and Matisse, namely — in this idyllic Côte D’Azur perch.

The USA’s 13 Coolest College Towns (Did Yours Make the List?)

Back to school is seriously cool in these scholarly destinations. With food, nightlife, and art scenes that are anything but elementary, these 13 spots are the best college towns in the U.S. to visit this fall.

  

  1. Eugene, Oregon

Nike gives Eugene serious athletic cache—just look at the fashion-statement uniforms the Oregon Ducks unveil every season or the state-of-the-art sporting facilities on campus. It’s also where frat-bro favorite Animal House was filmed and home to New Max’s Tavern, the inspiration for Homer’s famed hangout Moe’s Tavern on The Simpsons. Willamette Street is lined with art galleries like White Lotus, which showcases Asian works, and Sattva Gallery, where local artists display handcrafted ceramics and jewelry. Bonus: Portland is only a two-hour drive away.

 

      

2. Athens, Georgia

Athens is an incubator for artists and rock musicians—R.E.M and the B-52’s got their start here—and it oozes southern charm with its historic Georgian mansions in the Five Points neighborhood. Two music venues are the heart of the nightlife scene: 40 Watts Club, the legendary spot for big-name acts; and Georgia Theatre, which reopened in 2011 after a fire (the Grammy Award-winning and local group Zach Brown Band donated $250,000 to bring it back to life). Fun fact: Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia doubles as a pet cemetery; every English bulldog mascot since 1956 is entombed in wall mausoleum near Gate 9.

   

3. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis may not have the distinct curb appeal of LA, NYC, or Boston, but the major city does have a pretty sick Frank Gehry-designed landmark that earns them major bragging rights. The Weisman Art Museum, a monolithic stainless steel page out of the famed architect’s book, sits on a bluff over the Mississippi, sprawling out on the U of M campus. Follow the college crowd and at some point or another, you’ll wind up in Dinkytown (yes, that’s its actual name) – a tiny neighborhood overflowing with restaurants (look past the chains for eclectic indies like the Kitty Cat Klub), bars, specialty stores and theaters.

 

     

4. Santa Cruz, California

Massive swells, redwood-filled forests, an abundant haze of “medical” marijuana—it’s easy to see the appeal of Santa Cruz. Along with miles of misty beaches and endless bike trails that run through the nearby mountains, the city has killer microbrew and coffee scenes. Two standouts: the organic suds at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, in the Swift Street Courtyard, and single-origin promoter Verve Coffee Roasters, which has locations scattered around town.

  

5. Madison, Wisconsin

Madison’s historic downtown is perfectly situated on an isthmus flanked by the Mendota and Monona lakes, with the 1,200-acre Arboretum and various biking trails nearby. But make no mistake, Madtown is a tailgaters paradise (game day favorite: fried cheese curds). Ask a Wisconsin grad about his alma matter and he’ll tell you the following: the Kollege Klubon Saturdays, Dotty’s for the Melting Pot burger, and the Terrace at Memorial Union for snapshot-worthy water views.

  

6. Bozeman, Montana

Who would have guessed that one of America’s coolest college towns is the middle of cow-country Montana? Bozeman, home to Montana State University, has been drawing more and more visitors north. In summer, there’s world-class fishing at the nearby Madison and Yellowstone rivers; come winter, snow junkies flock to Bridger and Big Sky resorts. The town itself has a laid-back college vibe, with bistros, galleries and watering holes like Molly Brown bar, a note-perfect dive in the “bar-muda triangle.”

            

7. Ithaca, NY

Ithaca may weed out a few (hundred) prospective students each year with the promise of a brutal winter and somewhat middle-of-nowhere locale (it’s 4+ hours from NYC), but the picturesque city is a hell of a lot more than blizzard country. First and foremost, Ithaca topples the scenic scale with rolling hillsides, more than 150 cascading waterfalls (hence all the “Ithaca is GORGES!” merch) and winding trails. Extremely walkable, and home to a generous handful of breweries and wineries, the town also maintains a young crowd, with a population that’s more than 50 percent college kiddos thanks to Ithaca College and a place you probably haven’t heard of–Cornell.

        

8. Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Chapel Hill might have the strongest foodie cred of any college town in the country. Here, sports bar nachos and divey burger joints take a back seat to James Beard-nominated chefs like Andrea Reusing, whose Asian-inflected Lantern sources from local farms; and the Pig, a nose-to-tail Carolina-style barbecue joint that’s perennially packed. Beyond food, there are plenty more diversions, from the Carolina Basketball Museum to the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

   

9. Charlottesville, Virginia

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819 and his legacy lives on, from the grand 18th-century buildings to the secret societies like Seven and Z. In addition to a surprisingly cool art scene ⎯ check out art collective C’ville Arts⎯ lively restaurants (we love the rustic-chic C and O ) and the open-air pavilion on the Downtown Mall, one of the country’s emerging wine regions is right outside of town, shadowed by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

 

10. Burlington, Vermont

Burlington’s granola roots run deep. This is the place Ben and Jerry bestowed their psychedelic flavors on the world, and where a generation of LSD-charged roadies discovered Phish. These days an organic food movement and highly acclaimed craft beer scene have taken hold in and around UVM. See it firsthand at the City Market, where local purveyors hawk everything from freshly brewed kombucha to high-point ciders to pasture-raised pork.

  

11. Oxford, Mississippi

Home to William Faulkner’s 19th-century estate Rowan Oak, the storied paperback palace Square Books, and chef John Currence’s destination Cajun spot City Grocery, Oxford is the quintessential Southern small town. The magnolia-lined streets have added luxury boutiques and new-wave restaurants in recent years, but original treasures remain ⎯ Neilson’s, for instance, is the oldest department store in the South. The hotel of choice: the Z, a classic B&B run by two twenty-something Ole Miss-alum sisters. Don’t miss their breakfast cheddar biscuits.

12. Williamsburg, Virginia

Cheesy historical reenactments have long defined Williamsburg, but a growing arts district is giving the town of William & Mary College a polished new edge. Don’t miss the Sculpture Gallery, a public art initiative that features 21 pieces from East Coast artists, including terra cotta works by Barbara Kobylinska, and Century Art Gallery, a showcase for contemporary paintings inside a 1920 Sears Roebuck house. And if you do happen to enjoy colonial history, visit the Jamestown Settlement, eat at one of the many 18th-century-style taverns, or take a tour of the Berkeley Plantation.

  

13. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Football season in Ann Arbor is no joke—just ask the University of Michigan team, who basically acquire star status every September. For non-collegiates and non-sportifs, life is still pretty swell with post-grad job prospects at big name companies like Google AdWords and Toyota making the town a comfy locale for former co-eds. Plus, pair all that with a bustling downtown–say hello to a multitude of late-night bites and plenty of beer at local faves like Ashley’s—and residential charm courtesy of tree-lined streets and Ann Arbor just about has it all.

 

Israel Small but Outstanding

 

“If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more ‎violence. If the Jews put ‎down their weapons ‎today, there would be no ‎more Israel’‎”

Israel, a small country of outstanding beauty, is so many different things:

It is a bridge between Africa, Asia & Europe, It has pulsating urban life, breathtaking nature, an abundance of plant & animal species, Thousands of years of fascinating history, a rainbow of cultures and traditions.

Israel offers an energizing experience with a vibrant cultural scene, and is proud to be an innovative leader in science & High-Tech.

Sounds too much? you’ll believe it when you see it.

10 Ways to Stay in Shape While Traveling

By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA

Marketing/Media Writer, Strategist and Consultant

Ahhh… vacation, the time for you to kick up your feet, pick up a drink, and take off your top (to tan in your bikini, pervs). But while we’re relaxing and imbibing in drink after frozen drink, we tend to forget about our waistlines. The excuse I most often use is a simple, but clear “who cares? I’m on vacation!” which can be translated to, “Yes, I will have that third margarita and don’t you judge me.” But just past that incredible excuse lays my conscience and that old thing called, the truth. And the truth always knows that the extra 1,000 calories you’re taking in a day won’t magically disappear just because you’re on vacation.

Two of my greatest passions are fitness and travel. They’re an amalgam that most don’t mix, but I’m here to tell you that you CAN stay in shape and enjoy your vacation even more by adding in some activity and exercise. Try to shoot for accomplishing 50 percent of what you would normally do. Fifty percent is better than nothing!

Here Are 10 Ways to Stay in Shape on Vacation:

1. Go For a Run to Explore a New City: Take out a map…or don’t! One of my favorite ways to explore a new city is by going out for a run. You end up seeing parts of a city you normally wouldn’t. Pop in some good music or take in the sounds of the city. Before you go out, always remember to check the safe areas of town.

2. Plan an Athletic Activity: Overwhelmed by a big city and not enough time? Plan an athletic activity to take in the sights. Look for a bike tour or walk tour of your destination. Some cities even have free tours!

3. Pack Snacks / Plan ahead: It’s easy to fall off of your eating plan when the only things available are croissants and bagels. While you can’t plan ahead for every meal, you can bring some snacks to help you in times of need. Some of my personal favorites are apples, bananas, almonds, walnuts, Jay Robb protein bars and Jay Robb protein shakes. And when faced with the tough choice of what cocktail to choose, try to choose a low-sugar drink. For my guide to alcohol and exercise, click here.

4. Pack Equipment: If you bring it with you in your suitcase, there is a good chance you’ll use it! Pack some resistance bands with you. They’re lightweight and don’t take up much room. You can use them on the plane, in the airport, or in your hotel room. I once had a 12-hour layover in the Barcelona airport. My friend and I used the time to workout… in our jeans… in the airport. No excuses, my friends!

5. Workout DVD: DVD’s are a great way to stay on a workout plan while you’re traveling. You only need a 6×6 space and a DVD player. You can get your workout in right at your hotel so you don’t have to worry about finding a place to workout.

6. Use Your Hotel Room: Hotel rooms offer space and sometimes some equipment! Try doing dips on the bathtub, decline push-ups with your feet on the bed, or squats while holding an iron (preferably, not plugged in!).

7. Walk to Dinner: …or anywhere else for that matter! It’s easy to hop in a cab, but if you walk to your destination, you’ll be kind to your body and your wallet!

8. Hit the Water: If you’re visiting a location by the water, get on in! Look into swimming, wakeboarding, waterskiing, sailing or anything that gets you moving! You’ll be having so much fun playing your sport that you won’t notice all of those calories you just burned. Awesome!

9. Spark Some Competition: Traveling with a friend or lover? Turn fitness into a game! The person that runs farther or faster, does the most waterskiing runs, or stays on their mountain bike the longest wins! And the loser? They get to buy dinner / drinks that night!

10. Find a CrossFit Gym: For those of you that love intensity and don’t want to go a week without a WOD (it’s ok, you can raise your hand. Mine’s raised!), then look no further than the local CrossFit gym. CrossFitters around the world love meeting other CrossFitters… because after all, CrossFit is a cult, right? By dropping into a class while you’re on vacation, you’ll meet the locals and get a good workout in! Maybe they’ll teach you where to get some Paleo friendly meals or where the best local pub is (It is vacation!) You’ll get a great workout in and make some new friends!

I’m not just a fan of travel and of fitness, I’m an advocate for it. Travel is about going outside your comfort zones, meeting new people, learning things about yourself, experiencing new adventures, and truly living. So on your next journey, create your own endorphin high, meet the locals, and enjoy coming home with tons of memories and a whittled waistline

 

 

 

 

10 Most Beautiful Villages in Europe

Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA

Consultant, Strategist, and Writer

From the Alps to the Mediterranean, these frozen-in-time European villages will make you appreciate the beauty of taking it slow. Reaching some of these European beauties requires extra effort, yet the rewards are dazzling. Your eyes will thank you.

Hallstatt, Austria

The storybook town of Hallstatt in central Austria enjoys a gorgeous setting on the bank of the Hallstätter See, between the pristine lake and a lush mountain that rises dramatically from the water’s edge. A history of salt mining dating back thousands of years has translated into enduring prosperity for the town, which is most evident in the beautiful square ringed with ivy-covered buildings.

Manarola, Italy

Manarola is a small town, a frazione of the comune (municipality) of Riomaggiore, in the province of La Spezia, Liguria, northern Italy. It is the second smallest of the famous Cinque Terre towns frequented by tourists.

Bibury, England

The hilly Cotswold region is a designated “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” in southwestern England, and one of its loveliest villages is Bibury, where verdant meadows abut ancient stone cottages with steep pitched roofs. The River Coln, which bisects the village, teems with trout, but the most scenic area is Arlington Row, a lane of sepia-hued cottages built in the 17th century to house weavers from the nearby Arlington Mill.

Colmar, France

French and German influences commingle in this well-preserved Alsatian village, where local bakeries sell both croissants and kugelhopf, and restaurants specialize in foie gras and sauerkraut (or choucroute). A range of architectural styles, from German Gothic to French Neo-Baroque, can be spotted in the old town, which was spared destruction during World War II—thanks in part to the historical beauty of its cobblestoned lanes, quiet canals, and half-timbered houses.

Reine, Norway

North of the Arctic Circle, Reine is a pretty fishing village in the Lofoten archipelago, an area of starkly beautiful Nordic wilderness, where sapphire bays punctuate fjords and mountains. Many of the bright red fishermen’s cabins (called rorbuer) have been converted into comfortable cottages for visitors that offer direct access to the Norwegian Sea. Settle in for a front-row view of the night sky and its mesmerizing entertainment, from summer’s midnight sun to winter’s northern lights.

Pučiśća, Croatia

The buses and cruises that stop along Croatia’s sunny Dalmatian coast unleash tourists eager to experience the charms of Dubrovnik and the ancient island village of Hvar. Fewer visitors find their way to Pučiśća on the island of Brač. The reward is a seaside village with outsize appeal: white-stone villas with terracotta roofs, narrow cobblestoned alleys, and a stone-paved square. Bask in its relative solitude and the many prime spots for swimming in the turquoise Adriatic Sea.

Telč, Czech Republic

Residents of Telč, a small town in south Moravia, were once quite competitive about the beauty of their homes, as is evident today on the elongated main square, where one building is lovelier than the next. The Baroque- and Renaissance-style façades, featuring high gables painted in pale pastels, now support small shops and cafés. A grand Renaissance-era château and large fish-filled ponds surround the square.

Cong, Ireland

Encircled by streams, the picturesque village of Cong straddles the border between County Mayo and Galway—a region of lakes and vibrantly green meadows dotted with grazing sheep. Cong counts numerous stone bridges, the ruins of a medieval abbey, the occasional thatched-roof cottage, and Ashford Castle, a grand Victorian estate that has been converted into a romantic luxury hotel.

Gruyères, Switzerland

Gruyères is famous for its namesake cheese, whose mild, nutty flavor melts so well in fondue. But few are familiar with the town itself, a medieval hamlet in the upper valley of the Saane River in western Switzerland. A wide, stone-paved street leads up to the magnificent 13th-century Gruyères Castle, with its imposing fortifications and expansive views of the surrounding Alpine foothills.

Bled, Slovenia

This small Alpine town in northwestern Slovenia rings the shore of Lake Bled, whose glacial blue waters surround a tiny island and its small Baroque church. After a two-hour stroll around the lake, hike to the medieval hilltop castle for panoramic views or recharge with a slice of the local specialty: kremšnita, a sugar-topped pastry filled with cream and custard that has been served for decades at the Hotel Park.