World’s Most Beautiful Flower Destinations (II)

Category: Travel Blog

World’s Most Beautiful Flower Destinations (II)

Few spaces are more peaceful and awe-inspiring than a beautiful garden. One feels calmer when surrounded by flowers, water features, fountains and the sound of nature.


Some of the world’s most beautiful flower destinations can be found from California up to Victoria, Canada. Each park is an ideal destination to visit to appreciate the beauty of a city. All offer wonderful walking trails for exercise among colorful flora and fauna.



World’s Most Beautiful Flower Destinations: Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve


In March and April, the hills come alive in bright orange, with delicate poppies.


Some call this reserve "March Miracle" depending on how much rain the area receives. Many times mid-April is the peak of the poppy display.


Other wildflowers include owl's clover, lupine, goldfield, cream cups, and coreopsis. The desert grassland produces a mosaic of color and fragrance each spring.


Located in the Mojave Desert Grassland habitat, the duration and intensity of colors and scents vary from year to year. There are eight miles of trails through the gentle rolling hills, including a paved section for wheelchair access, making the park a wonderful place to hike and explore. Benches located along the trails make good places to sit quietly and watch for singing meadowlarks, lizards zipping across the trail, gopher snakes and rattlesnakes. If you're lucky, you may spot a coyote or bobcat. Numerous burrows around the walking trails house mice, gophers, kangaroo rats, beetles, and scorpions.


Visit the onsite Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center at the Reserve to watch a short video to learn more about the reserve. There are wildlife and plant displays and a gift shop. It's open weekends from 9 am. to 5 p.m. beginning March 22nd, and then daily through April from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.



World’s Most Beautiful Flower Destinations: Huntington Gardens and Library


Located in San Marino, about 25 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, is a breathtaking 207-landscaped property of unique and exotic plant collections and botanical gardens. There are more than 14,000 different of varieties of plants showcased in more than 12 gardens. Forty gardeners, a curatorial staff and marathon 100 volunteers maintain the collection.


A must-visit is Liu Fang Yuan, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance. It's the largest Chinese Garden outside of China. This authentic 12-acre garden inspires the elegant harmony of the beauty of nature and learning. Architects and artisans from Suzhou, a Chinese city renowned worldwide for its ancient gardens, worked with Californian builders to produce a traditional Chinese landscape. Walking through its paths enriches the mind and spirit alike. Chinese architecture and rocks are placed around the water's edge to balance native California oaks. Aman-made lake, windows, bridges, and pavilions provide different views of the landscape.


Continue on your garden journey to explore Australian gardens, camellia gardens and an interactive children's garden.


The Japanese Gardens transport visitors to a tranquil and Zen-like oasis. Completed in 1912 and opened to the public in 1928, it features a drum and red moon bridge. Sit near koi-filled ponds and be sure to visit the bonsai collection.


The Conservatory appeals to families with its hands-on opportunities. Make a reservation to have a tea lunch or snack in the Rose Tea Room.


Tourist Attractions on the Mayan Riviera (II)

Tourist Attractions on the Mayan Riviera: Xel-Ha

Xel-Ha is one of the most magical spots of the Riviera Maya. It’s an amazing biological aquarium where the ocean combines with the freshwater currents of springs and underground rivers, creating a mesmerizing ecosystem. This amazing formation of nature is surrounded by thick jungle, caves, cenotes, and even a few small archaeological spots. The park is the perfect habitat for all types of flora, fauna, and aquatic life.


Tourist Attractions on the Mayan Riviera: Tulum

Farther down the coastline, Tulum historically attracted backpackers, throwback hippies and nature lovers who wanted to enjoy an off-grid vacation. Today, Tulum is still more boho than Cancun, with rustic restaurants and bars on the sand, yoga at sunrise, and soothing massages on the beach. No high rises or condo towers, (thanks to building restrictions), just rustic yet chic cafes and coffee houses. Tiny retreats line the streets that lead to the beach. Tulum caters to those in search of intimate settings, solitude and the desire to get closer to nature.


A huge coral reef, the largest in the northern hemisphere, protects the Riviera Mayan shoreline from crashing waves and dangerous undertows. It's teeming with tropical fish — an adventurer's paradise for divers and snorkelers.


Ancient Mayan ruins, from a powerful civilization long gone, are perched right on the coastal cliffs and along the shoreline. Even more ruins are tucked away safely in the rainforest, protected from the tropical storms and hurricanes that pass by from time to time. Inland and south of Tulum, the Sian Ka'an biosphere covers more than 2 million acres of national parks and reserves with lagoons, forests, pristine beaches, and an intricate network of underground caves and cenotes. Flamingos, tapirs, wild cats and dolphins call this their home. Seasonally, baby sea turtles shuffle through the sand towards the water— called home by the ocean.


Other Tourist Attractions on the Mayan Riviera

Other more laid back attractions include Coba, a small Mayan town in the midst of ancient ruins where you can actually tour a Mayan village. Akumal, once barely a dot on the map is growing up with resorts, restaurants and bars all perched on the Riviera Maya's dazzling white sand. Eco-resorts, all-inclusive resorts, villas, and even planned communities all want a piece of this paradise. 

Best Cities in Florida (II)

For centuries, Florida’s charms were hidden from most of its population. Only a few bold pioneers raised cattle or grew vegetables and citrus fruits in the jungle-like wilderness. It was only at the beginning of the 20th century, when the first railway lines were built, that tourists began to flock to the state, drawn by the mild climate and the beautiful beaches. We’ve highlighted the best cities in Florida, which you mustn’t miss during your travels through The Sunshine State:


4. Cape Coral (Best Cities in Florida)

Cape Coral is a relatively young city, but it is growing at an astonishing speed. It is divided up into four squares. One area is part of the Cape Harbor Yacht Community. The shops and restaurants invite guests to pop in for a look and enjoy a stroll around the town. Visitors can marvel at the yachts or charter one for themselves and go on a boat trip.

The founders of the city were the Rosen brothers. There are now many holiday homes, most with direct access to the water. Two bridges lead to the city of Fort Myers, which can be seen from Cape Coral and is well worth a visit. A large number of types of watersports and many other leisure activities attract holidaymakers to the sunny coast of Cape Coral every year.


5. Tallahassee (Best Cities in Florida)

Tallahassee is admittedly not the largest city in Florida but it is the capital nonetheless. There’s certainly plenty to see and do here. The main tourist attractions include the “Museum of History and Natural Science”, the new “Capitol Building”, or the “Fun Station”.

Today the old Capitol Building houses a hotel. When it comes to leisure time there are many parks, such as Wakulla Springs, as well as the horse ranches. Canoeing is also an option. On the famous Canopy Road the colonialists planted many oak trees.


6. Ocala (Best Cities in Florida)

The calm, unhurried town with its beautiful southern-style houses is a paradise for horse lovers. Arabian thoroughbred horses, among the best racing horses in the country, can be found grazing on the green pasture, which are characteristic of this region. Several large stud farms can be visited.

The Perfect Family Island Getaways (II)

4. Perfect Family Island Getaways: Hatteras Island, North Carolina — The gorgeous beaches and wild dunes are what attracts most visitors to Hatteras Island, a border island that is part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. There is a wide range of lodging available from luxury oceanfront rentals, cottages and hotels. In addition to being a Mecca for surfers, it is known as the "Blue Marlin Capital of the World" and sport fishing is a popular activity. Many people don't realize that the first English settlers in North America originally settled on Hatteras prior to moving to nearby Roanoke Island — a visit to The Lost Colony" is a fun family activity while staying on Hatteras. The Cape Hatteras lighthouse is the tallest traditional lighthouse in the United States and was famously moved inland a few years ago. It has now re-opened to the publicand should not be missed when visiting Hatteras.


5. Perfect Family Island Getaways: Kiawah, South Carolina — Renowned for its challenging golf courses, Kiawah Island is also a popular destination for families. With a wide range of accommodations on the island, there is something for everyone on Kiawah. The hard packed sand of the beaches make it one of the few places where you can ride a bike on the beach, something that kids of all ages will enjoy. Look for wildlife in the marshes including egrets, herons and cranes — you may even spot an alligator sunning itself along the bike path. Kiawah also offers a world-class tennis program for all ages. Historic Charleston, with all that it has to offer, is just a short drive away. When driving to Kiawah, do not miss a well hidden but important attraction — on John's Island, turn off to see the Angel Oak, the oldest tree in the United States. This gorgeous tree is well worth the short detour.


6. Perfect Family Island Getaways: Gasparilla Island, Florida— In the Gulf of Mexico, Gasparilla Island and its small village of Boca Grande is a vacation destination that is idyllic for families. The pure white sand beaches and the crystal clear, .Im water of the gulf are perfect for younger children who will enjoy searching for abundant sea shells, particularly sand dollars. Gasparilla is also a known for its tarpon fishing — there are numerous fishing charters available at the marina, many of which allow even quite young children their first fishing experience. The streets of Boca Grande are lined with gorgeous Banyan trees and the village is home to wonderful restaurants and charming boutiques. Children will love going to the Loose Caboose, an old train depot turned ice cream shop. The historic Gasparilla Inn and vacation rentals provide lodging on the island.


Best Cities to Visit in China (IV): Guilin

Best Cities to Visit in China: Guilin


Located in the southern province of Guangxi, Guilin is generally considered no more than a stopover on the way to more bucolic and scenic spots such as Yangshuo or the Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces. Despite the urban setting, however, it's still a fantastical place with its distinctive limestone hills emerging above city's otherwise faceless apartments blocks. 


Aside from its scenery, Guilin is most well known outside China through Amy Tan's description in The Joy Luck Club – during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), over one million refugees took shelter in the city and its caves; the Japanese finally took control of Guilin in 1944. Its name (Forest of Osmanthus) derives from the fragrant osmanthus trees that grow here. 


Best Cities to Visit in China: Guilin


If you have some time to spend while waiting for onward transportation, visit one of several parks and peaks in the area, such as Seven Stars Park (七星公园), Elephant Trunk Hill (象鼻山), Solitary Beauty Peak (独秀峰), Wave Subduing Hill (伏波山), or Folded Brocade Hill (叠彩山). There are also a few caves located here, though they tend to be somewhat cheesy.


One of the most popular ways to head south to Yangshuo is via river cruise, but take note – the boats are large and generally crowed; you won't necessarily see the best of the river scenery this way. Some hostels and hotels in Yangshuo can arrange smaller boat trips ahead of time, which may be preferable.


Best Cities to Visit in China: Guilin


If you want to read more about the sights and tourist attractions in Guilin or China in general, use the search bar on the top of this page or subscribe to our Blog and make sure you don't miss any of our updates!


Best Cities to Visit in China (III): Datong

Best Cities to Visit in China: Datong


A modern-day coal-mining town, Datong may not be the prettiest place you'll ever see, but its strategic importance over the centuries has left behind some major sights in the surrounding area, including the sublime Yungang Grottoes and the Hanging Monastery. 


Near China's northern frontier, Datong has long been a frontier town just inside the sweep of the Great Wall (which even doubled back in some centuries to protect southern and western access as well). As such, invaders from the north have occasionally moved in following an imperial collapse and made it their own. 


Best Cities to Visit in China: Datong


The most famous examples of this were the Tuoba, who arrived in the 4th century CE and ruled over the Northern Wei dynasty, and the Khitan, who arrived in 905 CE and ruled over the Liao dynasty (907 to 1125). 


The Khitan were a continuous threat to China's borders, and the Chinese finally conspired to form an alliance with another northern nation, the Jin, to drive them out once and for all. Once this happened, however, the Jin proceeded to drive out the Chinese as well and wound up ruling over an even larger part of north China than the Khitan ever had.


Best Cities to Visit in China: Datong


What's here? There's not much to see in town except for a gorgeous Nine Dragon Screen – all that remains of a Ming dynasty palace – and the two main temples: the Huayan Temple, which was built by the Khitan, and the smaller Shanhua Temple, which was renovated under the Jin. Most sightseeing is outside of town. Talk to CITS in the train station to arrange guided tours of the surrounding sights in English.


Best Cities to Visit in China – Datong


If you want to read more about the sights and tourist attractions in Datong or China in general, use the search bar on the top of this page or subscribe to our Blog and make sure you don't miss any of our updates!

Best Golf Clubs on Vancouver Island (II)

Vancouver Island is an ideal destination for golfers whether you want to test your skills to the limit or enjoy leisurely rounds mixed with sightseeing, exquisite cuisine and superb accommodations. It was voted the #1 Island in Canada and #6 in the world in Condo Nast Traveler magazine's 2012 readers' pot, and #1 Island in Canada and the Continental USA by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2012. Depending on the time of year, you might even see a whale to add to your golf tale.


6. Best Golf Clubs on Vancouver Island: Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa —the luxurious accommodations, with signature Heavenly Bed, vistas of rolling fairways, Mount Finlayson and Mount Baker, state-of-the-art Athletic Club, tennis courts, outdoor pool, hot tub, Santé Spa and world-class restaurants, may entice you to linger. Although, you won't want to miss Canada's first and only 36-hole Nicklaus-designed golf extravaganza. Whether you start with the more forgiving Valley Course, which rolls through terrain between 300 and 500 feet elevation above sea level, or the masterpiece Mountain Course, with dramatic elevation changes and other challenges — you'll revel in the magnificent vistas.


7. Best Golf Club ob Vancouver Island: Cowichan Valley

In the Cowichan Valley, some of BC's finest foods are produced, and it is home to nine wineries and a cidery. It is a wine and food enthusiasts' Mecca, as well as offering amazing golf. Stay awhile on the waterfront, buy crab on the dock, and fresh produce directly from organic farmers.


8. Best Golf Club on Vancouver Island: Arbutus Ridge Golf Course — weaves along the seaside community of Cobble Hill, and climbs a ridge to overlook the Satellite Channel. With a Four Star Golf Digest rating, and three of the most demanding finishing holes you'll find, it's not to be missed. Lick your wounds and the freshest of West Coast cuisine in the Satellite Bar &Grille.


9. Best Golf Club on Vancouver Island: Cowichan Golf & Country Club — Established in 1947 as one of the Island's finest nine-hole courses by legendary architect A.V. Macan, it expanded 10 18 in 1985. Meandering through a valley and mix of meadow and tree-lined holes, it presents plenty of challenge, beautiful scenery, top service and a lovely clubhouse.


10. Best Golf Club on Vancouver Island: Duncan Meadows Golf Club —A tantalizing blend of parkland and links-style holes, it has been labeled as "one of the top ten most underrated courses in all of Canada" by Score Golf Magazine. Flowing almost seamlessly into the landscape in the shadow of Mount Prevost, it is true to the area's heritage of respect for nature. The full-service Clubhouse includes Bunkers Bar and Grill and a recently renovated Golf Shop.


Book your next island golf getaway to Vancouver Island where you don't have to imagine where to place the clubhouse; it’s already there!


The World’s Most Unique Hotels (I)

Spend the night curled up like a hamster in a mound of straw beside your wheel or hunker down in an old prison with hardwood beds and spartan facilities. The trend for offbeat accommodation continues to grow. Travelers have become tired of the generic blandness of hotel rooms with their predictable layout and minibar. They demand something different. From luxury to deprivation, there is certainly plenty of variety in the unique hotel market. Let's take a look at a few of the more interesting options available around the world.



The World’s Most Unique Hotels: Kolarbyn Eco-lodge


The Swedes have made minimalism an art form, and this is seen nowhere more than at Kolarbyn Eco-lodge in the wilds of Skinnskatteberg, two hours from Stockholm. Deep in the forest beside a lake are a number of tiny huts so cleverly constructed you have to look twice to distinguish them from their leafy surroundings. It would not surprise you to see Bilbo Baggins emerge from a rustic entrance. Inspired by the old charcoal burner huts which used to dot these forests, they are super simple with just two beds and a fire.


Forget the wifi, there is no electricity. You even have to fetch your own water from the spring and cut your own wood for cooking. All sods of nutritious supplies are stored in a food but so you are able to create your own meals on the wood fires. These forests are filled with moose, beavers, birds and the occasional bear. Guides live on-site to offer a hand and take you through the forest.



The World’s Most Unique Hotels: Hotel Palafitte


For quite a different type of accommodation, but with similar levels of tranquility, try the Hotel Palafitte on Lake Neuchatel. The rooms of the 5-star boutique hotel are built out onto the lake on stilts, contemporary reminders of the earliest human shelters built here thousands of years ago. Bungalow-cum-boathouse, these beautifully simple rooms are completely private, yet open to the changing moods of the lake with alpine views of the Jura Mountains in the distance. Each apartment has its own balcony and ladder down into the lake, and the simple exterior houses state of the art technology with tablet PC control of all electrics and media devices and fingerprint scan keys. This is Switzerland after all.



The World’s Most Unique Hotels: The Gibbon Experience



For more adventurous accommodation, try zip lining into your treehouse after tramping through the virgin forests of the Bokeo Reserve in Laos. The Gibbon Experience tree houses are built high up in the sturdy trunks of the strangler fig trees. The veranda rooms are airy and open so guests can look out over the forest canopy of the reserve. Conservation group Animo runs the operations as part of their mission to protect these primary forests from logging. They have set up long zip lines over the forest for guests to view these unique ecosystems and hopefully glimpse the black-faced gibbons who live below.


Best Bath Houses & Pools in Budapest, Hungary (IV)

Best Bath Houses & Pools in Budapest, Hungary: Lukács Fürdö – Where the intellectuals once held court


Despite the soulless modern tile work, the Lukács bath house shows a faded elegance. Pools are surrounded by thick columns and the lovely green courtyard holds a statue of St. Luke and fat old plane trees. One wall is lined with plaques engraved with messages of gratitude from past bathers who have benefited from the medicinal water, which comes from springs directly below the ground and from a nearby karst cave which holds one of the world’s largest thermal water chambers. 


Located in Buda near the Margit Bridge, the Lukács has a long history beginning as early as the 12th century when the Knights Hospitaller founded a convent, monastery, and churches here. They built baths, using the thermal water to heal the sick. When the Turks arrived in the 16th century, however, the sulfate water was used mainly for making gunpowder and for milling. The yellow neo-Classical building was added in 1894 and also held two spa hotels. During the Communist era the Lukács was a favorite intellectual hangout, and its regulars still include journalists, artists, and musicians. 


Best Bath Houses & Pools in Budapest, Hungary: Lukács Fürdö – Where the intellectuals once held court


The bath house was partially renovated in 2007, and part of a brick tower from the Ottoman era is visible next to the round bath (the hottest one). There are two warm baths, a cold plunge pool, a sauna, and a steam room. Outside, there are three unusually-shaped open-air swimming pools (which are not hot) and a roof-top sunbathing area. A “drinking hall” is staffed by a white-coated attendant who fills thick glass mugs with the warm, sulfurous water for a few forints. 


Navigation: Enter from Frankel Leo út to purchase tickets. Pass through the courtyard, and enter the building on the left. There’s a row of box-like cabins, and upstairs there’s a coed-changing room with closet-sized cabins and aisles of lockers, which the attendant will lock for you (it is your responsibility to remember your locker number!).


The nicest time to visit is during the off-hours, since weekends can be downright packed, and the steam bath feels like an overcrowded meat locker. 


Best Bath Houses & Pools in Budapest, Hungary: Lukács Fürdö – How to get there


Bus: 6, 60, 86 (to Császar-Komjadi uszoda)

Tram: 4, 6 (to Margit híd), 17 (to Szent Lukács Gyógyfürdő)

HÉV to Margit híd

Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (VI)

Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Arabian Ranches Golf Club – Desert links, Dubai style


Out on the edge of the city in the Dubailand development, this striking modern course was designed by former Open champion Ian Baker-Finch in emulation of the desert-style courses found at places like Scottsdale, Arizona and Palm Springs, California. The par 72 course consists of 18 links-style holes set in the middle of natural desert – miss the fairway and you end up in the “sandy waste”, covered in indigenous shrubs and plant life. 


The Spanish colonial-style clubhouse is a nice place to hang out, with food and drink from Ranches restaurant and fine views over the course from the restaurant’s panoramic terrace.



Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Dhow Dinner Cruises – Dubai from the water


Touristy but fun, an evening dinner cruise up and down the Creek aboard a traditional Arabian dhow remains one of the most popular visitor attractions in the city, offering superlative night-time views over the old city. 


Dinner cruises usually last a couple of hours, departing at around 8pm from various points in either Deira or Bur Dubai, after which you’ll sail up and down the Creek, whilst some kind of Arabian or International-style buffet dinner, perhaps with a live musician or belly-dancer thrown in for good measure. 


Dinner cruises can cost anything from 100dh to 350dh depending on whom you go with. It’s usually easiest to book a cruise directly through your hotel, although they can also be booked through any of the city’s myriad tour operators including the reputable Arabian Adventures, or, usually slightly more cheaply, through operators such as Alpha Tours and Orient Tours. 


Other independent cruise operators include Rikks Cruises, which offers some of the cheapest cruises in town, and the more upmarket Al Mansour Dhow, operated by the Radisson Blu hotel. For a more modern alternative to the traditional dhow, Bateaux Dubai runs cruises in its state-of-the-art glass-sided modern boat, offering a touch more luxury than other operators, plus above-average food. .