Top Ten Travel Destinations for the Savvy and Cultured

There are so many places on earth, so choosing the top destinations is really up to personal preference. Depending on whether you like tropical places, or rainy locations, or camping, or hiking, there are so many options to choose from. Below are ten places throughout the world that may be exciting and interesting to visit.

1. Costa Rica

If bird watching is something that you would like to experience, Costa Rica is a must for your top ten travel destinations list. In 2009, Costa Rica obtained a new birding route and it has over 500 bird species. With all these birds, it is important that you remember either your favorite birding binocular or, at a minimum, your compact travel binocular or monocular. The landscape is a must-see for naturalists. With its rainforest canopies, tropical biological research facilities, and family – fun reserves, this place is incredible.

2. Seoul

The capital of South Korea is known for its glamorous cafes, glorious galleries, and great fashion. As of 2010, it was referred to as the World Design Capital. If you are interested in art and fashion, and glamorous scenery is your motivation for travel, this would be a great place to visit. It’s also renowned for cultural and shopping opportunities and you can take advantage of low prices for SLR cameras and lenses, for example, during the day while attending cultural performances during the evening. Korean cuisine is excellent and, if you’re not handy with the flat, metal, Korean-style chopsticks your host or hostess will likely graciously provide a spoon and fork for you.

3. Sri Lanka

If you desire a setting that is filled with animals, and natural beauty, then sightseeing in Sri Lanka must be on your to do list. For more than two decades Sri Lanka experienced low tourism, as the country was plagued by a civil war. But, with civil peace, the natural beauty has once again become evident. Whether you want to see gorgeous beaches near seaside villages, or monkeys swinging from trees; this is the place to be.

4. Copenhagen

If you are trying to go green, Copenhagen may be a good place to include in your top ten travel destinations list. Copenhagen residents have bicycles paths around the city and tourists can ride free bikes, revealing the attitude behind why this city is known as a very “green” place. Scandinavia has historically been a conscientious steward of its ecology without being strident about it and you’ll enjoy the easy-going atmosphere.

5. Antarctica

This continent should definitely be one of your top ten travel destinations. The tourist boom is posing a threat to the environment, so it is important to visit before the continent is closed to more casual visitors. If you want to view some amazing landscape, and have first class access to views of some of the world’s last remaining glaciers, then Antarctica is a must. If you’re interested in sharing awe-inspiring vacation pictures when you return, you can’t go wrong with the rare beauty of Antarctica.

6. Shanghai

China is an interesting place to visit. If you want to travel through Shanghai, then you can always use the Maglev, which is a train that can reach speeds of 430 km/hr. Getting to see this city, and what it is has to offer definitely earns this place a spot on the top ten travel destinations. Whether you want to see museums that showcase 5,000 years of history, enjoy the delicious soup dumpling that they have to offer, or experience massage with yoga, or Chinese acupressure, then Shanghai is a travel destination worth exploring.

7. Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California, is a city that many people have heard a variety of things about. For those who desire to explore museums, or go shopping in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles is the place for it. For those of us who have long aspired to meet someone famous, spending a day in Los Angeles is the one of the better things you can do to change your luck. You can also check out Venice beach if you want a more tropical setting, or Disneyland or Universal Studios if you are with the kids. Whatever the case, Los Angeles is a magnificent place to include as one of the top ten travel destinations.

8. Leipzig

If you want to visit a cultural destination, then Leipzig should be a destination to consider as part of your top ten travel destinations. With the numerous museums, you will be able to learn about German cultures and ways of life. The glorious churches, the magnificent buildings, and the parks and gardens make this city even more glamorous to explore. If you are a true history buff, then the Battle of Leipzig Monument may be a nice review. If visiting with a family, then the Leipzig Zoo will be a delightful destination. Whatever your interest, this is a nice German city that may be interesting and stimulating culturally.

9. Koh Kood

These luxurious islands in Thailand are for outdoorsy people who enjoy nature. Since more than half of Koh Kood is covered by tropical rainforests, and the seas offer crystal clear water accompanied by beautiful beaches, this is a tropical paradise. Whether you want to snorkel or scuba dive in the sparkling seas, or view the beautiful imagery of the sunset, or waterfalls, this island can be a breathtaking experience for beach lovers everywhere. You’ll regret it if you forget to bring your camera and travel binocular or monocular! Koh Kood certainly deserves a spot in your top ten travel destinations!

10. Mumbai

Have you ever wondered about the legendary Bollywood? You’ll want to include Mumbai in your list of the top ten travel destinations and here’s why. Mumbai is the capital of the film industry in India, and if you choose to visit this destination, you will get to indulge in some of the culture that goes along with this domain. In this dynamic city, you can even see the Taj Mahal resort, which is a must for history enthusiasts. If that’s not your area of interest, then there are always museums and art galleries to free your creative side. If you want to go shopping for the day, then there are a plethora of markets where you can shop for just about anything. How about visiting the famous tourist spot known as Powai Lake? This is a famous spot that attracts people from all over the world. But beware; the rumor is that the lake is infested with Crocodiles.

Yarra Valley: Melbourne’s Sweet And Sparkling Sensation

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when Melbourne is mentioned? FOOD! Yes, this Victorian City is screaming restaurants as its offers the best food choices with the ambiance of your choice from European to Asian. In accordance to enjoyment of the best food choices, indulge into the best wine in all variety there is.

In the outer suburbs of Melbourne lies the Yarra Valley which is the wine region that can be visited and explored in a one day wine tour. Included in the list of its famous wines are Chardonnay’s, Shiraz and Cabernets, Bianchet, and Mas Serrat to name a few. In order to experience the Yarra Valley Wine at its finest and understand how it came to be, plan a wine tour. Throughout the day, you’ll be guided by a real wine expert, experience cellar door tasting at Yering Station, Yering Farm, and Rochford Wines.

As you immersed yourself to one of the world’s primary grape-growing region, you’ll feel like you’re in the setting of the movie “A Walk in the Clouds”. Yarra Valley has Victoria’s earliest vineyards. The earliest being planted at Yering Station in 1838 and has spread rapidly until the 1870’s. There was a period of which dairy products became the primary focus so the wine production ceased in 1921. However, it regained its importance and replanting began in the late 1960’s. At present, the Yarra Valley is recognized by the world as a primary producer of world class wines in all varieties. It offers sparkling wines at its finest.

Imagine yourself learning from the experts of wines and the art of wine tasting with one of the world’s prominent producers of best wines. You can pick your preferred glass of wine and bring it to lunch and dine in a restaurant surrounded by the glorious valley with rolling hills nurtured by the Yarra River. That is what I call a learning experience in classic relaxation.

Have you ever thought about what makes a wine sparkle? And to top it off, how come aged wine tastes better? In Australia, winemakers aim to pick their grapes at 17 to 20 degrees brix in order to avoid high sugar levels. High sugar levels in grapes more often than not produces still wines as opposed to decreased levels of sugars. As the fermentation process ensues, the bubbles are produced by the amount of the carbon gas that the process creates. This actually causes weak glass bottles to burst even prior to opening. Also this carbonic gas makes that cork-popping a fun moment when opening a bottle of wine for celebration.

In the subject of aging wines, aged-wine tastes better only if it has that balance of grape tannins, acidity, and fruit. In other words, not all aged-wines taste better, but if a wine has the perfect combination of components, the process of aging makes it bolder and richer in taste, flavor, and scent. This basically creates the notion that aged-wine has the upper hand of the younger one. So the next time you were offered a wine, you’ll know what to choose after the wonderful Yarra Valley tour!

Rockport Massachusetts – A Sparkling Coastal Gem

Rockport, Massachusetts, known as the “Crown Jewel of the Massachusetts Coastline,” reflects the sparkle and charm of its generous, well-lit carets in the mirror-clear waters of its shoreline and beaches. Facing east is Front Beach, an active, popular spot on Sandy Bay. Off Thatcher Road you’ll find Long Beach-a well protected and lengthy stretch of inviting ocean-teased sand. Located on Beach Street between Main and Granite, Back Beach provides a breathtaking ocean view as you bask in the radiance of its near-white sunlight. Known for its quiet solitude, Cape Hedge Beach at South Street invites you to leave all else behind. A convenient walk from town, yet private and somewhat secluded, is Old Garden Beach-a rather small, intimate and welcoming retreat. For all those who cherish the benefits of reflexology, Pebble Beach (at the end of South Street) is completely covered with smooth, round pebbles and stones. Here, you can walk safely and healthfully, rejuvenated and renewed from the seaside stroll.

Thatcher Island’s Twin Lighthouses, built and first lit in 1789, stand tall as the longest surviving multiple lighthouses on the entire U.S. coastline. Built in 1835, the Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse announces the entrance to Rockport Harbor. Its stalwart beam can be sighted easily from the end of downtown Rockport’s Bearskin Neck. As in many historical seaside communities, lighthouses play major parts in both factual and legendary reports and accounts.

Rockport is home to many charming Bed & Breakfast / Inns. For example, as a guest at the Seven South Street Inn B&B, you’ll enjoy friendly, warm hospitality in a calm, relaxed atmosphere. At the Old Farm Inn located on Granite Street on Cape Ann’s rugged coastline, you’ll find yourself surrounded by five acres of lush green landscape enhanced by plentiful birch trees and flowers. Nearby is the breathtaking coastal terrain of Halibut Point State Park. Or, you may prefer The Inn on Cove Hill in the center of town. This historical site was built in the late 1700s and provides its guests with vivid memories of its colorful past.

Nestled on Pigeon Hill Street is one of Rockport’s major attractions-the Paper House, built in 1922 by Elis F. Stenman. A mechanical engineer and designer, Mr. Stenman’s paper house project began as a hobby. Although the paper was intended for insulation, the entire structure and its furniture were constructed of paper.

Located on Bearskin Neck, the well-known fishing shack has become one of the world’s most famous and easily recognizable structures, especially to artists and arts enthusiasts.

Artists and photographers are plentiful among Rockport residents, and many more visit frequently to capture the brilliant coastal color scheme enhanced by the crisp, pristine New England seaside sunlight. A stroll through town will delight art lovers, as galleries abound displaying works from a multitude of artistic schools and styles-all depicting the awesome splendor of this jewel-lined, charismatic coastline and community. Main Street is home to numerous galleries, including An Artful Touch, Anderson Gallery of Fine Art, Ken Knowles, Mercury, and Mosher. On Bearskin Neck, you’ll find the Kanegis, R. Lerch, and Muse galleries. Also located on Main Street is the Rockport Art Association, devoted to the preservation and development of the visual arts.

The new Shalin Liu Performance Center, named for its generous donor, will be the creative home to many excellent, exciting and innovative performances, including those of the highly acclaimed Rockport Chamber Music Festival, led by Artistic Director David Deveau since 1995. This new venue will facilitate new additions to the festival, such as a jazz series, world music performances, children’s concerts, and extended educational partnerships with local schools.

The story of the Windhover Center for the Performing Arts on Granite Street is truly one of artistic innovation. In 1967, Herbert and Ina Hahn bought the last remaining farm in Pigeon Cove, two miles north of Rockport. In less than a year, they transformed the land and buildings into a beautiful miniature New England village-a performing arts camp for teenage girls. The camp was named “Windhover,” the title of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins about a falcon airborne and hovering against the wind, symbolizing man’s soaring imagination and art’s spiritual quest. Windhover became a non-profit foundation in 1983, and in 1986 completed the transition from arts camp to performing arts center. Along with focusing on creating dance and dance/drama reflecting the community, Windhover Dance Company is devoted to re-constructing and performing the works of two pioneer choreographers in the field of modern dance-Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman.

Rockport restaurants, famous for their splendid waterfront views-especially at sunset-serve fabulous fresh seafood, as well as a varied menu to please many palates. The Greenery at Dock Square offers a gorgeous harbor view along with a versatile menu, excellent grilled fish and lobster, and delicious homemade desserts. At Brackett’s Oceanview Restaurant on Main Street you’ll choose from a large menu while enjoying the refreshing ocean breeze. Ellen’s Harborside, located on Historic T Wharf with its panoramic view of Rockport Harbor, serves highly acclaimed chowders and seafood, as well as Tender Pit BBQ Ribs. Also, along with your meal, Ellen’s is currently offering your favorite wines and spirits. (As history tells it, back in 1856, the “Hatchet Gang” organized by Hannah Jumper, a spinster and seamstress, ran the “demon rum” out of town. This event left Rockport a dry town until April, 2005, when a vote by Rockport residents overturned this 149-year-old “tradition.” At present, several Rockport restaurants are licensed to offer alcoholic beverages along with meals.)

Of course, after lingering over food and drink at seaside, you’ll want to stroll through town and browse in its many unique and enchanting shops. At Bearskin Neck Leathers you’ll be delighted with the large selection of fine leather goods, including jackets, handbags and footwear. Nearby is Earth’s Treasures, with an appealing display of international products such as handcrafted jewelry, Himalayan salt lamps, incense, candles, gemstones, books and CDs. Then, visit the Blue Gate Gardens on Main Street where the florist and greenhouse provide the very finest choice of plants and flowers.

The two main early industries of Rockport on Cape Ann were fishing and the stone quarry business. This rock-bound cape, once host to countless ship wrecks, now warmly welcomes visitors as its treasured guests-whether they arrive by land, by sea or hydroplane. You really must visit soon! Until then, this sparkling jewel glistens from the golden crown of its sunlit beaches, teasing you toward a taste of its rocky, rugged legends; smooth sifting sand; cool, soothing sea tides; and its own very special brand of New England coastal charm. General source: Rockport Chamber of Commerce (a division of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce): Travel Guide for Gloucester & Cape Ann, MA, 2006-2008.

Copyright 2008 – Ellen Gilmer