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Whether you’re looking for a tropical escape or windswept remoteness, the following destinations are perfect for island-hopping. From there, your biggest challenge is choosing your favorite beach…
Inner and Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Despite their wild and remote image, getting around these archipelagos in western Scotland can be straightforward. A few of the most accessible islands include Skye, where the geologically diverse landscape includes lochs (lakes), forests, and glens (valley) and Islay, with its whiskey distilleries. Iona has white sandy beaches, and Lewis has mysterious standing stones. Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne runs services to 22 islands, most year-round. Visitors planning to travel extensively around the islands can purchase an Island-Hopping pass, which can save you some money. For example, one pass includes ferry rides from the mainland and to the islands of Skye, Harris, and Lewis, and back to the mainland. For car and passenger, the pass costs $30 per person in the summer ($28, or $56 total, in the winter). By comparison, the total price for a car and passenger making the same trip by buying single tickets would be $202 in the summer.
Ah, airport layovers. Few of us will ever actually look forward to them, but there are some airports where top-notch facilities make waiting for a connection much easier. Here’s a list… Read more
Traveling in Asia, or to an Asian community, this week? You’re in luck. The Lunar New Year, typically falling at the end of January or the end of February, is arguably the most festive and also the most interesting time of the year. Big events like lion dances and firecrackers aside, this is when communities everywhere come alive with cheer and tradition, with good wishes and ancient folklore at top of mind.
While it’s unlikely that anyone would expect a traveler to follow all the customs, we can’t think of a better way to get to know a destination’s culture. Plus, helping to usher in auspiciousness is a great way to delight a kind host or helpful friend. Here’s our guide to the general dos and don’ts – there’s naturally an overlap between the traditions of different ethnic groups and countries – as well as a gift guide for visits and meet-ups. Read more
Last month we gave you a pictorial run-down of 11 Otherworldly Snow and Ice Festivals Around the Globe. Now, in honor of the brave folks who are dealing with the snow and cold that’s cutting directly through the northeast, we bring you another slideshow that’s a little toastier: Fire Festivals from Around the World.
Included are festivals from Scotland, to Japan, to Guatemala. A few of these festivals are celebrated to mark the beginning of spring – such as Iran’s Sadeh festival, which honors fire and light over darkness. So settle in, warm up, and remind yourself: there are less than 40 days until the end of winter.
One of the joys of the ubiquitous Japanese konbini (convenience store) is the candy section and its myriad varieties of Kit Kat. In fact, you can find more than 200 flavors of the chocolate-covered wafer bar in Japan, and they go far beyond the basic chocolate kind you get here in the U.S.. Pear, strawberry cheese cake, potato, soy bean, pumpkin, green tea, corn, and wasabi are just a few of the 200 flavors that have appeared on Japan’s konbini shelves over the years, many as limited-edition or regional specials. Now, you can visit a dedicated Kit Kat store: the Kit Kat Chocolatory, located in the basement of the Seibu Department Store in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district, opened on January 17… Read more
Welcome to wave season! At the very end and beginning of every year, cruise lines roll out promotions for sailings through the next year – sometimes even two – in hopes of booking passengers early. The deals can take the form of steep discounts over 50 percent, 2-for-1 fares, onboard credits, free airfare, and other special packages. For you, this means that there’s no better time to go big – or at least dream about it. Here, we offer eight unbelievable cruises for the ultimate nautical adventure… Read more
This winter, there isn’t a more delicious way to warm up than with one of many specialty noodle soups across Asia. Tender, red-braised oxtail is the long-simmered star of Taiwan’s beef noodle staple (pictured above), with a dark broth fragrant with five-spice and bean paste. Best of all, a steaming bowl will only set you back by 150-180NT or $5-$6. For more photos of slurptastic noodle soups in Asia, plus the best restaurants to try them, keep reading here.
You may have heard about the political storm brewing over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the South China Sea. China has recently declared the airspace above these islands as part of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), meaning that they effectively control the airspace over this Japanese territory. If you’re planning a trip to China, you’re probably wondering what this means for your flight, which will likely pass through the disputed air space. The good news, if you are flying on a U.S. carrier at least, is not much. Read more
Winter predictably sees travelers heading to tropical islands for their vacations, but what about the cooler weather islands? There are a few advantages to heading someplace where you’ll be packing a sweater rather than a swimsuit: less crowds, better deals, and plenty of interesting things to do.
Here are a few of our favorite cold-weather island getaways.
Shetland Islands, Scotland
You’ll have to wrap up warm if you’re planning to visit Shetland in winter, but you may be rewarded with a sight of the Northern Lights; its far-north location makes it the best place in the British Isles to see them. Besides the aurora borealis, winter brings unique festivals, such as Up Helly Aa, a Viking fire festival held in Lerwick on the last weekend of January.
Hard to believe, but the movie Lost in Translation was released exactly 10 years ago today. For many, it was the first in-depth look at filmmaker Sofia Coppola’s work – and at the city where it’s set: Tokyo. If you have a trip to Japan on your wish list – or the movie in your Netflix queue – here’s a quick look at some of the film’s famous locations.
Park Hyatt Tokyo, Shinjuku
In the movie: This is the hotel where Charlotte and Bob stay, and much of the movie takes place.
What you can do there: Even if you don’t choose to stay in this luxury hotel (October rates start at $430 a night), make sure you hit up the 52nd-floor New York Bar for panoramic city views from the floor-to-ceiling windows ($23 cover charge after 8pm), or the New York Grill for Sunday morning jazz brunch ($70). Read more
As the city with the most Michelin rated restaurants in the world, Tokyo is an instant hit with most food lovers. But what if you’re looking for something a little more…unusual? The bustling Japanese metropolis doesn’t disappoint there either, with a plethora of themed restaurants perfect for the adventurous eater. At the following five places, it’s as much about the experience as the food itself, so it’s probably best not to show up expecting a gourmet feast (of course, if it’s top-notch ramen you’re after, that shouldn’t be too hard to find.)
1. Alice in Wonderland Cafe.
Fans of the Lewis Carroll story will love this quirky restaurant chain, which has several locations throughout Tokyo, and is popular with groups of young Japanese women. Servers come dressed in French maid-style Alice costumes, and the Wonderland-themed decor is unique to each restaurant (picture a Cheshire cat hovering over the doorway, or giant pages of Carroll’s novel plastered on the walls.) Meanwhile, as you sit there nibbling on pizza molded into the shape of the Cheshire cat’s tail, your Wonderland experience will be complete. Average Price: ¥3,500 (about $35.35) Read more
Angkor Wat, the Grand Canyon, the Blue Lagoon: just a few of the natural and man-made wonders many of us, if we’re lucky, get to experience during a lifetime of travel. In most cases, visiting them is as easy as just showing up. But what about the countless other jaw-dropping sites we’ll never get to see? Whether too remote, or frozen under ice, or sunk at the bottom of the ocean, here are a few “hidden” sites that no technological advancements – or wishful thinking – can ever bring us closer to.
Earlier this month, a team of scientists discovered a previously-unknown volcano, located deep under the Pacific, 1,000 miles off the coast of Japan. Confirmed as the largest volcano in the world (about a hundred times bigger than Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, which previously held the title), the rock mound, nicknamed Tamu Massif, would make for a pretty impressive sight – too bad its summit lies 4,500 feet below the ocean’s surface. Evidence shows that the 124-million-year-old volcano likely went dormant shortly after it formed, though that doesn’t bring us any closer to traversing its wide, craggy surface. Read more
To most of the world, ramen is the cheapest meal a college student can find. In Japan, ramen is practically a religion. Each restaurant prides itself on its broth and toppings, and ramen connoisseurs are picky about the thickness and curliness of the noodles, and the base of the broth – pork, salt, soy sauce, and miso are the most popular. Even so, some restaurants are universally loved. Here, we take a look at five great ramen restaurants you should stop by on your next trip to Japan.
1. Ramen Jiro
Foreign travelers often complain that Japanese portions are too small. Not at Tokyo-based Ramen Jiro. Here, bean sprouts, chashu (braised pork slices), and garlic come piled upon an ultra-fatty pork broth with noodles made from bread flour. Jirolians, as the shop’s fans are known, assure others the calorie splurge is worth it. Head to the original Minato location for lunch – it closes at 3pm. Price: ¥700 – ¥1100 (about $7.20–$11.30) Read more
Earlier this week, Japan announced that the Fukushima nuclear plant, which was hit by a tsunami in 2011 – and subsequently spewed radioactive chemicals into the environment – is opening up as a tourist attraction, complete with restaurants, souvenir shops, a tsunami-focused museum, and hotels. The idea is to educate future generations on the impact of the disaster, as well as support the local economy with new jobs. In reality, who, I wonder, will actually be going here?
Even without the context of the tsunami, it seems like a strange idea no matter how you slice it. I consider myself an open-minded traveler, but not in a million years would ‘nuclear plant’ ever cross my mind as a place I would want to spend my vacation. Four Seasons hotel, yes. White sandy beach, absolutely. But a themed resort on the edge of a steel-and-concrete labyrinth that still tests high for radiation levels? Er, no thanks. Read more
Like Japan itself, the country’s Keihanshin region (made up of Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe) is renowned for its cuisine, including Kobe beef and sashimi. But there are also some lesser-known local delicacies that are worth a taste. If you’re looking to experience the gourmet side of Keihanshin’s culture, here are five must-try dishes and the best cities in which to sample them. Read more
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