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Hidden Gems: Beautiful European Vacation Spots With Almost No Tourists

Vacations are a wonderful thing, aren’t they? Sleeping in, rolling out of your plush hotel bed, exploring new places and trying new food, and all on your own time. Unless you happen to travel to a tourist-heavy destination, that is. 

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Some of the most beautiful places in the world become muddled with tourists which can really put a damper on your trip. Just try getting a photo of the Pyramids of Giza or the Great Wall of China without a horde of sightseers photobombing your picture. On top of that, more tourists mean longer lines and higher prices.

We’ve got some good news for you though. There are plenty of gorgeous destinations around the globe that are just waiting to be explored. Although these cities are often overlooked by travelers they have plenty to offer. From peaceful, romantic getaways to cultural and culinary excursions, these vacation spots have a little something to fit anyone’s tastes.

 

Debrecen, Hungary

When it comes to beautiful Hungarian destinations, Budapest is at the top of the list. Hungary’s capital city is jam-packed with so much famous art, rich history, and impressive architecture it’s no wonder they get all the tourist attention.

A little over 100 miles east of Budapest lies Hungary’s former capital, Debrecen. Although it’s it Hungary’s second-largest city, the tourist traffic remains remarkably low. Don’t let that fool you though. From the city’s Kossuth tér, home of the incredible Calvinist Great Church and Grand Hotel Aranybika, to the quaint shops and cafes in the Old Town, Debrecen has something for everyone.

 

Bern, Switzerland

Although it is the capital of Switzerland, travelers often just pass through Bern on their way to Zurich for a culture-packed getaway or Geneva for a ski trip in the Alps. There’s plenty to do and see in Bern, however.

When the temperatures rise in the summer, follow the locals down to the River Aere to cool off. There you can enjoy swimming, rafting, and paddleboarding in the warm Swiss sun.

Other things worth a visit include a hike to the top of the Gurten where you get to experience a picturesque view of the entire old city, Altstadt. Or if it’s a more relaxing vibe you’re in search of, take a stroll through the Museum of Fine Arts where rare works by Picasso and Paul Klee can be found.

 

Trondheim, Norway

Norway’s third-largest city, Trondheim, sits right on the edge of the fjord of the same name. Despite its size and the deceptively colorful structures lining the waterway, Trondheim has a population less than 200,000 people, making it a quiet, yet beautiful, vacation destination that is easy to navigate.

Aside from the vibrant, glistening scene found at the harbor of the city’s natural fjord, there is some lovely architecture to be discovered. One of the most famous is the stunning gothic church, Nidaros Cathedral which was built over the burial site of King Olav II, who became the patron saint of Norway.

For the ale-hounds out there or anyone who likes good times with good company, Trondheim also has several excellent microbreweries. If a pub crawl is your type of thing, we recommend starting at Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri.

 

Orange, France

When you think of France chances are, the first thing that comes to mind is Paris. Perhaps Nice or Lyon are on the list and deservedly so. These cities are full of wonderful food, culture, and breathtaking architecture. There’s plenty more to see in France than the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower though.

About 30 miles north of Avignon and it’s famous Papal Palace, sits the city of Orange. With significantly less tourist traffic, Orange is much easier to navigate than larger cities making it a wonderfully relaxed vacation spot.

Some of the city’s main attractions include the Orange Museum, set in a beautiful 17th-century mansion, and the towering Roman Theater, which was built in the first century C.E. Both are well worth a visit.

 

Ankara, Turkey

As far as Turkish cityscapes go, Istanbul typically gets all the attention. With its rich history serving as a focal point of several ancient empires, and so many historical remnants from cultures past, it’s no wonder Istanbul takes all the credit.

This city formerly known as Constantinople is not the only place deserving of a visit. Turkey’s capital city, Ankara is filled with art, history, and architecture minus all the tourists blocking the views.

Key stops include Antikabir the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first President of the Republic of Turkey and the Museum of the War of Independence. The Kocatepe and Hacı Bayram Mosques are also a must-see while in Ankara.


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Destinations

Most Outrageous Vacation Rental Homes

Out with the old and stale vacation rentals, I’ve found the most extreme and outrageous rental properties available today. Human nature is to be inquisitive and have a whimsical sense of imagination, so it’s in our nature to veer off the beaten path. We get…

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Out with the old and stale vacation rentals, I’ve found the most extreme and outrageous rental properties available today.

Human nature is to be inquisitive and have a whimsical sense of imagination, so it’s in our nature to veer off the beaten path. We get sick of the same old experiences after a while and for those of us who travel often, accommodations are all too similar.   Every hotel in the world feels and looks alike, all the way from bedding to décor. As humans, we crave change and new experiences, so it’s in our nature to search out something different. With the advent of shared economy websites like AirBnb.com and VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals By Owner) obscure and unique rental homes are much more readily available than ever before.

We’ve all rented homes for a vacation and were underwhelmed upon arrival.   Every time they were smaller, older, less modern or just plain off-putting. Why aren’t there any exciting properties to rent short term that will be memorable and unique? Well, I’m here to tell you that there are and I’ve found them. If you can imagine it, somebody has already built it and is renting it out; you just have to find it.   Here is my list of the craziest and most outrageous vacation rental homes for 2017.

 

larson house 

The Seashell House, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Holy crap, I feel like I’m walking into a cartoon. The Seashell House is literally made to resemble two gigantic seashells, one round and one tall. There is some incredible attention to detail as you stay in this ocean themed dream home, including conch shell faucets. The two-bedroom home is separated into the two shells, each with a king bed. The house has a private pool and golf cart to cruise around the island. Live like a character on SpongeBob SquarePants, in this seashell hallucination home. Starting at $250 a night and sleeps 4.

 

 treehouse

Secret Tree House, Atlanta, GA

This is AirBnb’s “most desirable listing worldwide,” so get in line, I’m sure this thing is booked out for a while. It obviously deserves the accolades, as it is extremely unique. Its close proximity to downtown Atlanta and secluded feel, this tree house isn’t the same you grew up with. There are no old comic books or baseball cards, but there are two rooms and a wild deck. Its dealer’s choice on where to sleep as the bed can be rolled out of the bedroom and onto the deck for a true nature experience. Starting at $350 a night and sleeps 2.

 

ma daily life 

Akasha, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

This alpine chateau is the winter wonderland many have dreamt about. With a ridiculous stream fed indoor pool, heated outdoor decks and a stone carved hot tub, visitors are sure to be blown away. Nestled in the mountains by Whistler ski resort, this rental home is built of cedar and has a copper roof. Perfect for winter or summer retreats, this four –bedroom home sleeps 12. Rates start at $2,600 a night.

 

curbed SF 

Silicon Valley Estate, Los Altos Hills, CA

This sprawling 11-acre estate has an incredible layout, perfect for social gatherings or work retreats. Boasting a private orchard, infinity pool and rooftop garden, and the home is made for the Coastal Elite. Beyonce even stayed here when she performed at last year’s Super Bowl halftime show. Come for the incredible views of San Francisco and stay for the ambiance. Starting at a mere $10,00 per night and sleeps 10.

 homedit

Thousand Waves, Maui, HI

Talk about paradise on Earth, Maui has it all, perfect weather, amazing views and this house. A huge 11,000 square foot home with wrap around pool and eight bedrooms, this house can accommodate an entire family. That is a family reunion I would attend. Sitting on the shore of Kahekili Beach, this home has everything for a beach vacation to never forget. Sleeping 12 and starting at $8, 400 a night.

 

These rental homes are out there and who knows what will pop up next on AirBnb? Keep the dream alive that I can someday stay in a pineapple under the sea like my main man Sponge Bob.

 

 

 Photos courtesy of LarsonHouse, anna&SpencerPhotography, madailylife, CurbedSF, homedit, islamujeres

Check full list here

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Destinations

The Most Beautiful Train Rides In America

America has some of the most beautiful scenery, and what better way to view it than a leisurely train ride. Why take the family on a vacation rushing from place to place, when the journey can be the vacation. Railway travel is the easiest, most pleasant,…

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America has some of the most beautiful scenery, and what better way to view it than a leisurely train ride. Why take the family on a vacation rushing from place to place, when the journey can be the vacation. Railway travel is the easiest, most pleasant, and surprisingly affordable way to enjoy some of the most magnificent scenery in the United States. Whether you want a quick jaunt through the countryside or a cross country odyssey, these train rides are the best rides in the nation. 

 

CASCADES

156 MILES – Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia

This ride through America’s Pacific Northwest does not disappoint. Traveling from Eugene to Seattle you will travel through magnificent evergreen forests. The train then travels along Puget sound, where on a clear day, passengers on the western facing side can view the majestic Olympic Mountains. 

 

CASS SCENIC RAILROAD

8 miles – Cass, West Virginia

They call West Virginia “almost heaven” because of it’s spectacular scenery. This quick trek is a fantastic way to soak it up. Original locomotives, once used to transport lumber to mining camps, now haul passengers up an 11% grade slope for an amazing view of the mountains below. At the top is the Whittaker Station, a restored logging camp. In October when the fall foliage is at it’s peak is the perfect time to visit.

 

CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR

2,438 miles – Chicago, Illinois to Emeryville, California 

Retrace the trail the pioneers took when they settled the American West on this 50 plus hour train ride. In Denver the train journeys through the towering Rocky Mountains, then into the red rocks of Utah, through Ruby Canyon, into the Sierra Mountains, through Donner Pass and then into San Francisco Bay.

 

 

WHITE PASS AND YUKON ROUTE

120 MILES – Skagway, Alaska

This round trip ride, on a narrow gauge railway built during the Klondike Gold Rush, will have you traveling along the side of sheer cliff drops. Departing from Skagway, you travel 3.000 feet up, past glaciers, mountain lakes and thunderous waterfalls. You can choose the original miner’s supply route to Carcross, Yukon stopping at a restored station house in Lake Bennett, or take the route past Bridal Veil Falls and Dead Horse Gulch to White Pass Summit.

 

CAPITOL CORRIDOR

168 miles – San Jose, California to Auburn, California

This train trip was designed to quickly transport Bay Area residents to the Capitol in Sacramento. This trip will have you speeding alongside the picturesque San Francisco Bay, through the industrial bays and waterways near Martinez, and into the majestic rolling hills of Northern California. 

 

CAPE COD CENTRAL RAILROAD

27 miles – Hyannis. Massachusetts to Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts

Ride through the cranberry bogs, salt marshes, oceanfront trails and adorable little towns of Massachusetts. There are two options for this train ride, the sightseeing tour with complete informational narration, or the dinner train where you will enjoy freshly prepared meals on board. Both options will have you journeying through areas of Cape Cod that can only be seen by train.

 

GRAND CANYON RAILWAY

 

130 miles – Williams, Arizona

 

On this round trip train ride you will fly right past all the vehicle traffic and travel directly to the Grand Canyon’s south rim. Departing from Williams you will enjoy dense pine forests, majestic desertscape and rich wildlife.

 

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS RAILROAD

32 or 44 miles – Bryson City, North Carolina

With your choice of two excursions, this train ride is an excellent way to take in some of America’s greatest wilderness. The Tuckasegee River Excursion takes passengers through 32 miles of lush green valleys, over historic bridges and into the quaint town of Dillsboro, where it stops for an hour and a half. The Nantahala Gorge Excursion journeys 44 miles along the Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers, over Fontana Lake and into the gorge. 

 

COAST STARLIGHT

1,377 miles – Los Angeles, California to Seattle, Washington

This train trips hits all the highlights of a classic American road trip, driving up the Pacific Coast. This ride let’s you enjoy the dramatic cliffs along the Pacific Coast Highway, Mount Shasta, San Francisco Bay, Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier and Puget Sound.

 

SUNSET LIMITED

1,995 miles – New Orleans, Louisiana to Los Angeles, California

Delight in the grand vistas of red rocks and cacti on one of the most scenic train routes in America. It begins in Louisiana’s bayou country and travels on through the expansive Southwestern deserts of West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. During the peak season you will find National Park guides on board who will explain the history and geography of the region. 

 

STRASBURG RAIL ROAD

9 miles – Strasburg, Pennsylvania

Take a quick trip through Amish Country, enjoying the rolling hills and expansive countryside. Once used to transport goods from the heart of Pennsylvania to the coast, restored to being a passenger train in the 1960’s, the first class and president’s trains are outfitted to look like Gilded Age luxury. 

 

EMPIRE BUILDER

2,206 miles – Chicago, Illinois to Seattle, Washington

Enjoy this 46 hour ride as it travels through Lewis and Clark’s expedition route. From your comfortable seat in the observation lounge experience the Great Plains in all their splendor, ride through a seven mile tunnel cut through the Cascade Mountains and spend 8 hours marveling at the Glacier National Park. 

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Destinations

Traveling Across All 7 Continents in a Wheelchair

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For many, traveling across all 7 continents is an ultimate goal. For Cory Lee who is also a traveler, however, it’s his most fervent wish. So, he found a way to reach his dream destinations.

A Traveler with Skeletal Muscle Atrophy

Lee has been using a wheelchair ever since he was 4 years old. Diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease that causes weakness and skeletal muscle atrophy, Lee was raised by his single mother who was a teacher. He says that he developed his love for traveling because of the numerous road trips they did together across the US.

Visiting Antarctica before Covid Travel Restrictions

Right before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee and his mother were able to visit the last continent on his list, Antarctica.

In his interview with “Good Morning America,” Lee shares that the trip “was surreal. There were icebergs, mountains of ice, penguins. It was everything you would imagine and more. I was moved to tears.”

Advice on Travel Essentials

When asked about how he got to execute those trips despite being in a wheelchair, Lee shares that traveling in a wheelchair requires systematic and extensive planning. He adds that his recent Antarctica trip was already booked 2 years prior. He said that each trip needed in-depth research of what various tour companies had to offer including the possible destinations he and his mother could go to and the transportation required to those places.

To help other travelers who may want to visit those destinations, Lee began writing a travel blog, “Curb Free by Cory Lee,” enlisting all the travel essentials based on his travel experiences.

He shares that, out of the 37 nations he visited, Morocco and Antarctica are his best choices. Lee mentions that he did not really have “high expectations of Morocco but the alleyways of Marrakesh, the snake charmers, it blew me away.”

Traveling on a Wheelchair

Lee insists that traveling while using a wheelchair is entirely possible. Doing in-depth research helps people discover the multitudinous conveniences that travel companies have to offer. To further encourage younger travelers to start their own dream destinations list, Lee launches his new children’s book entitled “Let’s Explore with Cor Cor.”

The book narrates the story of a young boy who travels the world using his power wheelchair. Lee asserts that children must not only learn about the different travel destinations but also about those who may be entirely different from them.

Lee’s book was released on 26 July which coincided with the 30th anniversary of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) which was successfully passed after he was born.

Limitless Possibilities

In closing, Lee shares that “traveling to all seven continents wasn’t something I was sure was going to be possible, but if you stay determined and keep a positive attitude, the opportunities are limitless.” Indeed, having a disability does not prevent anyone from reaching their goals. Travel restrictions are not solely based on the present quarantine measures practiced all around the world. They can include personal issues that may prevent easy mobility, as well. Nonetheless, Lee serves as a credible inspiration for everyone as he points out that nothing can really stop us if we persevere and continue to reach for our dreams—and our desired destinations.

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