Reward Yourself: 4 Must-Visit Destinations
News Do you feel it's time for a cultural, relaxing or historical getaway? Here are four must-visit destinations.
1. Traditional meets trendy in Hong Kong
Many of Hong Kong’s popular attractions incorporate the region’s expansive skyline and beautiful harbor. Visitors are passionate about the charming Star Ferry boats, carrying passengers from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon. National Geographic rates the Star Ferry crossing as one of the “50 places of a lifetime.”
The journey to The Peak on the Peak Tram—the world’s steepest funicular railway—is just as exhilarating as the spectacular 360 degree panoramic view from the tower perched more than 1400 feet above sea level. Mingling with locals at the market or finding antique toys on Tai Yuen Street are some of the delights of the city of Wan Chai. Learn about famed Chinese medicine at The Blue House and dine at one of Hong Kong’s first pawn shops—now transformed into a restaurant. Hop on a tram for an inexpensive ride through neighborhoods. Visit the Blue Cluster, preserved tenements that contrast modern day sleek skyscrapers.
Set among lush mountain scenery, the Po Lin Monastery is home to the Tian Tan Buddha statue (known as the Big Buddha), which draws visitors from all over Asia. History meets Hollywood at The Avenue of Stars paying tribute to the names that helped expand Hong Kong’s movie industry. Maxim’s City Hall is a favorite choice for dim sum. Head to Chi Lin Nunnery in Diamond Hill, a peaceful and beautiful temple, for a landmark off the tourist trail.
2. Waikiki: Playground of the Pacific
Waikiki (known in Hawaiian as spouting waters) was once a vacation retreat for Hawaiian royalty, but all visitors feel like dignitaries sunning on the two miles of beaches, sipping a Mai Tai at sunset, shopping world-class stores, dining on regional cuisine and enjoying the perfect climate.
Head to the sprawling Kapiolani Park and hike to the 760-foot summit of Diamond Head, a volcanic crater that has been extinct for 150,000 years, for a breathtaking view of Waikiki Beach. Hop on the Waikiki Trolley to get to Diamond Head and more than 40 other sites throughout Oahu.
Learn to surf in Waikiki, the home of Duke Kahanamoku, known as the father of modern surfing and discover its rich history at the Honolulu Surfing Museum inside the Holiday Inn Resort Waikiki Beachcomber. Golfers will be impressed with the Ewa Beach Golf Club, a Robin Nelson designed course offering a double green at the second and 16th holes, the only of its kind on the island and just a short ride from Waikiki.
Other must sees include the nearby the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchy at Iolani Palace, the Bishop Museum which is home to everything Polynesian, the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Honolulu Zoo, the Waikiki Aquarium, Doris Duke’s Shangri La Center for Islamic Arts and Culture (advanced reservations required) and the nearby USS Arizona Memorial. No visit is complete without sampling Hawaii’s famed Shave Ice – snow-liked flavored ice.
Insider Tip: Climb Diamond Head early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid crowds. Wear sneakers! It’s not a tough climb, but the easier route is actually more scenic! — Debra Hazel, Waikiki visitor
3. London bridges traditional luxury and modern sophistication
Whether it’s a first or return visit to London, the traditional attractions –Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the British Museum -- never fail to captivate. Other perennial favorites include the National Gallery, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and the Globe Theatre. A boat ride on the Thames is a delightful way to see the sights.
For a more intimate experience, explore the Churchill War Rooms and the National Portrait Gallery, showcasing famous faces from the Middle Ages to the modern day. Visit Paddington Basin to see the Rolling Bridge curl up like a caterpillar into a piece of art.
But there’s more to London than history. Catch modern vibe by riding the giant London Eye, visit the spectacular Tate Modern on the banks of the Thames, and linger over the breathtaking view from The Shard – Europe’s tallest building.
Shop for deals at Portobello Market, the bohemian Spitafields Market or the Columbia Road flower market. No trip to London is complete without afternoon tea (Try one with a modern twist at the InterContinental London Park Lane) as well as a stop at a British Pub – many can be found in the Smithfield part of the city. Cap off a stay with a play in the legendary West End (half-price tickets are available at the TKTS booth, in the Clocktower Building in Leicester Square).
Insider’s Tip: The Gardens of Buckingham Palace will be opened to the public to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation from July 11 through 14.
4. Living it up in the Dead Sea
Perhaps no travel destination in the world offers experiences blending new and old, spiritual and exhilarating than Jordan. Unusually high salt content enables you to float effortlessly in the famous Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. After de-stressing in the soothing water, enjoy the wealth of nearby attractions ---beaches covered in brown, gold, green and even black sand, therapeutic spas and diving at Aqaba. Access Jordan’s longest stretch of private beach at 408 meters below sea level as a guest at the Crowne Plaza Jordan Dead Sea Resort & Spa.
A must visit is Petra (often described as the eighth wonder of the ancient world), a unique city established as early as 312 BC and carved into rock by the Nabataeans. Jordan’s capital Amman offers The Citadel and Archaeological Museum with its selection of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the remains of an Umayyad city and breathtaking views of the Roman amphitheater. For a once in a lifetime experience, spend time in the Wadi Rum desert at a Bedouin camp – catch a camel ride and taste traditional Bedouin food. Keep in mind, most North American travelers require a visa to visit Jordan.
Insider’s Tip: If you are planning to combine a visit to the Dead Sea with a diving trip to Aqaba, do the Dead Sea experience first. If you do it the other way around, the small cuts or grazes you may pick up from the coral reefs will soon let you know why this is the better option!