Break from Routine: 4 Vacation Spots That are Not Just BeachesIn our popular American media, vacation has one main function: to relax. Images of reclining on a sun-drenched hammock with a daiquiri in hand while taking in the view of the French Riviera is the postcard picture that has been stamped into our minds. We see beach havens as the pinnacle of reprieve from our daily routines. While nobody doubts the positive effects of more vitamin D than we get from the cubicles of our lives, the fact is that lounging around doing nothing is usually fun for about one day, if that.
In truth, people going on vacation would get very bored very quickly by a beach for a week. People are different, and while plenty may appreciate that tropical paradise, there are other ways to escape the mundane. Some people choose adventure, some choose historical exploration and others may choose somewhere that offers a culture that is vastly different from their own. In honor of people who want to experience something more during their getaway, here are four vacations spots that do not revolve around a beach.
Travel to India
Who Should Visit: History Fanatics, Culture Seekers
Is a Travel Visa Required Beforehand: Yes
Currency Conversion Rate: 1 United States Dollar = 68.62 Indian Rupee
India is a country with limitless possibilities for people wanting to expand out of their comfort zone. Home to one of the two largest populations (along with China), India is diverse with its religions, cultures and history that weave into everyday life. As with every country, it offers unique sites and experiences that will pull you out of the day-to-day routine.
History has shaped India into a rare gem in and of itself. If you're looking for windows into the past, Jaipur is an excellent start to your visit. As the capital of the state of Rajasthan, Jaipur is home to City Palace, which has hosted royal families of the region from 1732 to their descendants of the present day, though many rooms are now museums showcasing weaponry, textiles, artwork and other beauties through the time. Close by, the Amer Fort holds classical architectural splendor, including "The Hall of Mirrors," a room built with carefully placed stones and glass that reflect light shined on it in the dark. If you're looking for an adventurous way to see the city of Jaipur, hot air balloon tours are also available in the city to give you a bird's eye view of the incredible beauty.
As the religious diversity is vast in India, those looking for cultural festivals have plenty from which to choose. A particularly popular festival of India is Holi, a Hindu holiday in which celebrators seek to overcome the struggles inside themselves, old foes are sought out for forgiveness, and bright colors of dust are thrown at one another in celebration of the coming of spring. Vesak, the observance of the birthday of Buddha, is an important holiday celebrated by India's Buddhists and some Hindus. The flag of Buddha is raised at the many temples throughout the country; people place flowers and candles at the feet of important teachers of the religion, and, in many places, people release birds or insects as a symbol of liberation from the entrapments we create for ourselves. With holidays spanning across many religions, there seems always to be a festival nearby.
No matter when you go, India is certain to offer a new world of memories to bring back. If you are traveling with an American passport, you will need a tourist visa before you board your plane. You will also want to exchange currency before leaving so that you can have some on hand should anything require it between stepping off of the plane and getting to a place that currency can be exchanged. You will also want to make certain that whichever device you have designated as the official picture taking machine has plenty of space for the sights you'll see throughout your trip.
Travel to Indonesia
Who Should Visit: Adventure Explorers, Nature Reverers
Is a Travel Visa Required Beforehand: No Visa Required for Up to 30 Days
Currency Conversion Rate: 1 United States Dollar = 14,377.01 Indonesian Rupiah
The archipelago of Indonesia will most certainly offer a day or two at a beach if you do want to visit. With the amazing inland landscapes of the many islands, the breathtaking views from the foothills and the chances to explore carefully protected nature reserves, however, a day of sand and water may not even cross your mind.
For the adventurous travelers. There are beautiful views that you can find with just a little bit of hiking. Possibly the most famous of which is the large temple of Borobudur, a scene that has become the image of both Indonesia and Buddhism. Borobudur is recognized as the largest Buddhist monument and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Along with a walk around the massive, 9th-century wonder, you will also find a view of forests and rice fields that you may never have known you wanted to see. Komodo Natural Park hosts Padar Island, which will excite both those looking for adventure and those looking for nature with amazing landscapes that serve as home to the legendary Komodo Dragon.
For those who are looking to get even closer to nature, the expansive island chain offers a myriad of opportunities. If you're looking for a water activity that involves more exposure to something other than sitting on a towel in the sand, Kakaban Island offers a lake of stingless jellyfish with which you can swim. In the Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, visitors can see the Telaga Biru Lake, which turns colors of bright blue, vivid teal or deep red depending on the state of the algae. Host to many different ecosystems and environments, Indonesia offers treks that range from beginner to seasoned expert. Outings offer amazing views and a brush with local wildlife found nowhere else in the world.
American passport holders will not need a visa for trips of 30 days or less. Longer trips require a tourist visa before you travel. Accommodations are around nearly every excursion you want to visit, and local guides are always on hand to help with any trails or tours that you feel more comfortable having an expert accompany you on.
Travel to Kenya
Who Should Visit: Wildlife Enthusiasts, Thrill Chasers
Is a Visa Required Beforehand: Visa Is Required for Travelers Age 17 and Over
Currency Conversion Rate: 1 United States Dollar = 100.40 Kenyan Shilling
Perhaps best known to tourists for its expansive national parks and wildlife services, Kenya offers sightseers a chance to get close to the animals you've only seen in magazines and movies. While this, alone, is enough to make millions of people a year send their passport off for a Kenyan visa, the vast lands with a plethora of challenges entice extreme athletes and daredevils for a visit with views that only those brave enough to face large jumps, rough terrain and high altitudes will see.
For those wanting to see the famous wildlife of Kenya (as well as those that they have never heard of), there is no want for national parks. Tsavo National Park, one of the largest parks, hosts a multitude of safari options, including day safaris, lodging safaris and camping safaris. The park splits into two regions, Tsavo East National Park (which is recommended by the park's official webpage for photographers hoping to catch the rare beauty that Kenya has to offer) and Tsavo West National Park. With environments ranging from green woodlands to the dry savannahs, the park has incredible opportunity to experience all types of ecosystems within its boundaries. In Hell's Gate National Park, visitors have a chance to see the big cats famous to Kenya, such as lions, leopards and cheetahs, while being close to the capital city of Nairobi. Though smaller, the park has much to offer, such as sightseeing, camping and mountain climbing, making it an ideal location to spend a few days alone.
For those who long for the excitement of an extreme lifestyle, options are also numerous. Recently, skydiving has become a large part of the Kenyan tourist experience, with tandem dives available for the more reserved and single dives for the more adventurous. Dives can last up to one minute. One option will let you land safely on the sands of the Diani Beach, making the beach trip the conclusion to an amazing adrenaline rush instead of a lazy day in the sun. In a couple of parks (including Hell's Gate National Park), motorcycle and biking are allowed. Mount Elgon offers opportunities for intense mountain climbing, as well as exploring the many surrounding forests and caves. For experts with the best equipment, Mount Kenya is the ultimate challenge, though it is suggested that anybody who is planning the journey to be in good health and employ the services of a reputable guide company.
Visas are required for any visitor that is over 16 years of age. Hotel accommodations are available around all of the most popular tourist destinations. When traveling to wildlife parks, it's important to listen to all instructions and read any information about what to do should there be an emergency. Many people visit Kenya with little to no incidents, however, and only bring back experiences that there can never experience anywhere else.
Travel to Croatia
Who Should Visit: Architecture Admirers, Archaeology Buffs
Is a Visa Required Beforehand: No
Currency Conversion Rate: 1 United States Dollar = 6.35 Croatian Kuna
Like Indonesia, Croatia has no shortage of beach opportunities, sharing a coastline with the Adriatic Sea. Also like Indonesia, Croatia has so much to offer that the sea will seem like no more than a perfect backdrop to an impossibly beautiful country. The country's claim to artifacts from its earliest roots offer those fascinated with archaeology plenty to peruse. The Roman Era architecture will captivate anybody with interest in historic buildings and cities.
The Vindija Cave is home to the discovery of one of the largest groups of Neanderthal remains found. The city of Krapina hosts a large museum to the Neanderthal species after findings of the ancient hominid was discovered close by in the late 1800s. Though the original findings are locked away, the museum explores the ever-growing understanding of our ancient ancestors and how we evolved from our earliest days as Homo sapien. Nearby, the Andautonija Archaeological Park holds the remains of an ancient Roman settlement on the road between Poetovia and Siscia. Tours that focus on the ancient sites of Croatia are available to those that want to spend time learning as much as they can about the ancient days of a country so rich in history.
For those with an eye for architecture, Croatia has limitless sights. As the ancient Greeks and Romans lived and built their lives in the modern borders of the country, the remaining buildings are truly an awe-inspiring sight. The Euphrasian Basilica, built in 553 A.D., has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and holds mosaics dating back to the 6th century. In the old city of Dubrovnik, you can walk down the tiny, walled streets and up staircases between houses that have stood since the late 1600s. Also in Dubrovnik is the Franciscan Monastery with a small museum dedicated to the pharmacy and a still-operating apothecary.
Visas are not required for American visitors to Croatia. Accommodations are not only easy to find but offer fantastic views of a gorgeous country. Some of the sites have a small fee attached, so be sure to include this in your budget. You will not regret the decision to visit this coastal country, and even though its bright blue waters make for a stunning background, the beach will most certainly not be missed when you explore what Croatia has to offer.
While a beach destination is always a fun day trip, it offers only one possible mode of escape. After working many days of long hours, your vacation should be an experience that will place itself in your memory for years to come. When booking your tickets and searching for hotel prices, you should ask yourself what you can do for the entire length of your stay. With these four countries, you may find that there aren't enough days in a week to see every beautiful, interesting and educational item on your to-do list.