There are thousands of unique sites and scenes around the world, each wonderful in their own way. However, I am constantly amazed at how many people travel without truly experiencing them. It is important to think outside the box when traveling; to find ways to really experience a new city or country. Here are some amazing travel experiences that will take your trip to the next level.
1. Snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos are well known for their amazing array of endemic species, a phenomenon that does not stop at waters edge. The animals that call the surrounding waters home are just as amazing and equally fearless. The best example of this is swimming with sea lions. Within minutes of first entering the water, I was surrounded by three playful sea lion pups, all eager to include me in their play. We swam together for several minutes before they dove into deeper waters looking for food. This incredible game of tag continued throughout the rest of my trip, finding new playmates at each dive location. Although visitors are not allowed to touch the animals, the sea lions don’t know that and sometimes come quite close to their new friends.
2. Afternoon prayer at the Blue Mosque. Istanbul is a fabulous mélange of western and eastern traditions. No where is this more evident than at its storied Blue Mosque. While millions of tourists visit the Mosque every year, only a fraction really experience the true mission of this beautiful site. The Islamic call to prayer occurs five times a day: at dawn, midday, about the middle of the afternoon, just after sunset, and at night fall about two hours after sunset. As a guest, you may observe the prayer service, so head to the Blue Mosque once you hear the call of the muezzin. The service is not long, but it affords a glimpse into the soul of this dynamic country.
3. Breakfast at Wat Arun. There are many unique experiences in Bangkok, but one of my favorites is climbing to the top of Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, on the banks of the Chao Phraya. Wat Arun is made up of five towers, or prangs, each marvelously decorated with bits of shell and broken porcelain. True to its name, this is one of the best locations to watch the sun rise in Bangkok. While not for the acrophobic, visitors are allowed to climb to the top of the central tower which affords amazing views of the river and city beyond.
4. Opera Date Night. Vienna is a busting city known for its cultural and culinary brilliance. These traditions in turn give the visitor a bevy of unique experiences, all of which are guaranteed to take your trip up a notch. My favorite activity in Vienna is to step back in time and attend a performance at the opera house, followed by coffee and cake at the Hotel Sacher.
The Wiener Staatsoper has a history dating back to the mid-19th century and is conveniently located in the center of Vienna. You can order tickets online before leaving home, or check for availability once you arrive. After the show, head next door to the world famous Hotel Sacher, home of the eponymous Sacher Torte, for a late-night snack.
This evening of 19th-century Austrian elegance will be one you and your significant other will always remember.
5. Sunset in Oia, Santorini. The Greek island of Santorini has cast a spell over millions of people worldwide. It may be because of its stunning views or for the famous blue domed churches found here. Regardless of the reason, this ethereal town is even more magical at sunset. To best appreciate the stunning views of the sun setting over the Aegean sea, find a nice terraced restaurant, order some late afternoon mezze and a glass of Santorini wine and just enjoy the spectacular show.