Despite the worlds’ turmoil and strife witnessed on the 6 o’clock news, it’s still a playground. Maybe not as big of a playground as it once was, but if you know where some of the little-known places still exist where you can safely play to your heart’s content, it broadens the field.
There are countries that largely stick to themselves, enjoying the lifestyle they already have without the need or desire for more. You’re invited to visit, and you’ll be treated warmly, just don’t expect everything to be like home. Dive into their culture instead. In most countries, if locals see you’ve taken an interest in them, they’ll take more of an interest in you.
Just do your best at blending in and you’ll have the vacation of a lifetime. Leave your habits at home and go have fun.
Lake Balaton, Revfulop, Hungary
The largest lake in Central Europe, Lake Balaton, is 48 miles long and as wide as 9 miles in particular areas. The color of the lake more resembles an ocean with its spectrum of sea-foam green, turquoise, and finally jade as the water seemingly melts into the horizon.
The water gives a person’s skin a silky feel as if recently having moisturized. The relatively shallow bottom of only 20’ in the deepest part causes the heavy deposits of calcium and magnesium on the lake’s floor to mix with the water.
The northern side of the lake, because of volcanic soil and heavy rainfall, is covered with vineyards that produce some of the finest wines in the world.
The town of Revfulop, with its 1300 inhabitants is where you want to end up. As far as anyone can tell, the town was founded as early as 1211. There are shops and some nice private hotels and vacation rentals. The town’s residents strive to attract more European visitors by presenting a bed and bath type atmosphere and they are amazingly hospital to visitors.
There is a really nice beach, paved bicycle paths, and Lookout Tower where visitors can get a panoramic view of the entire area. The ancient downtown still has narrow cobblestone streets. It’ll be a challenge finding anyone who speaks English but sign language generally works fine, and this is one language they have learned quite well.
The Azores Islands (Autonomous Region of the Azores) – Sao Miguel
The Azores consists of 9 volcanic islands, all of them breathtakingly beautiful. The small chain of islands sits in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean but is considered a region of Portugal.
Sao Miguel is the largest and most populated of the islands and it’s where the President of the Autonomous Region of the Azores lives. Want to hike through the woods? No problem. Want to lay on a sandy beach? No problem. Want to hang out a lake? You guessed it. No problem.
The island is a mixture of contemporary life flavored with the spices of history. Cobblestone streets, ancient monuments, and turn of the century architecture are blended together with nice modern restaurants, nightclubs, plenty of shopping, and quaint seafood cafes with oceanic views.
There are hot springs on the island which blast boiling water high in the air. Pots of food are buried in the ground where they are cooked by the heat for traditional meat and vegetable dinners.
In Terra Nosta Park there is a thermal lake where visitors can relax in the hot water as well as breathe in the fresh air by the many streams and fields of wildflowers.
The island houses around 150,000 residents so this would by no means by a wilderness journey, per say, all though lots of wilderness is available. There are also things happening on the eight smaller islands so if something a bit more remote appeals to you, do an internet search and check those out.
Mongolia is a rugged country steeped deep in nomadic roots and culture. Landscapes, virtually untouched for centuries, await the adventurous traveler. Once under the rule of communism, Mongolia is emerging as a democracy with a promising future as mining, agriculture, and tourism are bringing in hefty profits for the country.
Parts of Mongolia are so remote that a person could travel an entire day and see no one. You will see an abundance of wildlife, crystal clear lakes, and sheep roaming the hillsides. Camping is a favorite pastime, even among locals.
There are places to go and experience the nomadic lifestyle by helping herd sheep, sleeping in a traditional felt yurt, and riding horses through the wilderness.
Mongolians are known as being extremely hospitable and friendly so whether you spend all of your time in one particular town such as the capital city of Ulaanbaatar with its 1.5 million inhabitants, or opt to travel around the entire country, you’re going to be treated very well. By the way, 1.5 million is half of the Mongolian population.
No matter where you go in the country, you’re going to have to start out in Ulaanbaatar so you should probably plan to spend at least a couple of days there. You’ll find modern restaurants and places to stay. Take some time to visit the Museum of Natural History, the Choijin Lama Monastery, Zaisan Hill, and Sukhbaatar Square. If shopping is on your itinerary, the highest quality cashmere in the world is produced in Mongolia, or try a camel hair sweater, they are said to be even better. Countless artifacts can also be purchased.
For your next vacation, dare to be different. Tell your friends where you are going and watch their stunned expressions. It’s a big world and there is so much more of it to see than what the typical travel agency generic get-away-excursions offer. Any of the three places just mentioned has something for everyone, but there are so many other relatively unknown places around the world which are equally as amazing. Don’t just have a vacation, have an adventure.