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Non-Traditional Vacation Spots Worldwide.jpgVacations are something we all need, regardless of the time of year. If you're a seasoned traveler though, there are certain spots that are notoriously overhyped or overrated. If you're looking for a summer trip away from the crowds to recharge, here are a few places off-the-beaten path to consider.

 

St. John Island, US Virgin Islands

 

An island the US bought from the Danish in 1917, St. John remains a destination that doesn't get nearly as much publicity as other beach getaways such as Hawaii. This is an excellent location to unwind, as there are amazing sandy strips, local food, trails and upscale lodging.

 

Galapagos Islands

 

Although the first thing that comes to mind when you picture the Galapagos are the turtles bearing the same moniker, the Islands offer much more than that. A whopping 97.5% of the land mass is a nature reserve with no hotels on site, so the stay there is a place to enjoy the outdoors at their finest. With a staggering diversity of wildlife, Charles Darwin and his "On the Origin of Species" were inspired by the flora and fauna of the Galapagos.

 

Saba Island, Netherlands Antilles

 

A relatively less-known destination, Saba is a place with increasing popularity, but its small size and tiny population have kept it mainly under the radar. Hotels have amazing views and its mountainous terrain makes for a relaxing atmosphere where one can unwind. Enjoy snorkeling and diving if you love the water and marine life.

 

Forgotten Coast, Florida

 

A still somewhat undeveloped part of Florida in the Panhandle by the Gulf of Mexico, the Forgotten Coast is aptly named since it offers relatively untouched wildlife, strange rock formations and a chance to enjoy peaceful lodging. It is one of the few places in the continental United States that remains relatively undiscovered by travelers - for now.

 

Gustavia, Saint Barthélemy Island

 

This island is currently a French colony in the Caribbean, offering well-known beauty and stunning flora and fauna, but also interesting architecture with French and Swedish influences. You can enjoy good nightlife in St. Barts, and it remains a sought-after destination because it is only accessible by ferry or plane.

 

The Maldives

 

The Maldives are the lowest-situated country in the world, consisting of thousands of islands surrounded by shallow, crystal-clear waves. They are threatened by extinction because of the rising water levels, slowly lapping up their beautiful sands and sending them to the bottom of the ocean. Prognosis states that in about 10 years the islands will be gone for good, so now is the perfect time for a visit.

 

Havasu Falls, Arizona

 

Located near iconic Route 66 lies a 65-mile road called "Indian 18," leading to the Hualapai Hilltop in the Grand Canyon. A mere 10 minutes walk from there is Havasupai Village and Havasu Falls, which are a truly breathtaking sight of turquoise waters that contrast beautifully with the surrounding reddish rock walls.

 

Guest Post by Vacation Lodgings.

32088_126877973988910_6590046_n.jpgThe giddiness of warm weather makes people do strange things, and when joined amass, you never know what kind of crazy festivals abound. If you're looking for a fun way to celebrate the blue skies and cheery weather, we have some unique ideas for you whether you like animals, food, bodily functions or a combination of the bunch.


La Desirade Goat Festival- Guadeloupe


Once a marketplace to sell kid goats, the Désirade Festival in Guadeloupe takes place in early April. Famous for its goat swimsuit competition, vote for the best looking furry friend as they don bathing suits, sunglasses and other accessories and strut their stuff down the beach in a peculiar fashion show of sorts.


World Championship Cow Chip Throwing Contest- USA


Looking to get weird a little closer to home? Beaver, Oklahoma is the cow chip capital of the world, which yes, means dried cow dung. Every April, they embark on their annual throwing contest to see who can chuck the cow chips the furthest, similar to a javelin toss. Foreign dignitaries are in attendance and guests can purchase souvenir boxes of dried poop. Exactly what you wanted for your birthday this year, huh?


Pulilan Carabao Festival- Philippines


Carabaos are water buffalo, the national animal and work horse of the Philippines. Mid-May, the animals are paraded around the town of Pulilan to honor the patron saint decked out in elaborate, colorful costumes and flower garlands after being lovingly oiled up and shaved for the occasion. To ensure good health for the year to come, farmers have carabao cart races and crop growing competitions and there are games for the children.


Cheese-Rolling Festival at Cooper's Hill- UK


Held in Gloucestershire as a celebration of the Spring Bank Holiday, festival-goers roll a giant log of 7-9 lb Double Gloucester cheese down a huge hill chasing after it. The cheese gets up to a speed of 70 mph and the first person to reach the finish line at the bottom wins, entitling them to a victory climb back up the hill (shirtless) to return the cheese to its ceremonial creator, symbolic of the harvest.

Flowers at Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Flowers at Brooklyn Botanical Garden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The best botanical gardens across the world create an organically formed art exhibit. Stressed? Take a walk. Reconnect with nature. Stop to smell the roses. Flowers provide a serene calming from the array of colors to the scents and sounds of the birds and trees. Spend some time marveling at the sensuous flora and fauna and all your problems will seem a lot more trivial.


Brooklyn Botanical Garden


Sometimes beauty can be found in the most unlikely places, like the backyard of the concrete jungle of New York City, so far removed from the city, you may even forget you're there. This 52-acre display is located in the heart of Brooklyn and is home to over 12,000 species of plants. There is also a Bonsai Museum on premises, and the not to be missed Cherry Esplanade's blossoming cherry trees. Look around for rabbits and turtles that call these gardens their home.


Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens


The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens is an 83-acre expanse in Coral Gables, Florida. Arguably the best collection of tropical plants in the U.S., the Fairchild is home to over 500 species of palm trees, cycads, vines, fruit trees, and more. In addition to being a beautiful tourist attraction, the Fairchild is also a pioneer in research and conservation of the plants it houses. Interesting attractions here include the Richard H. Simons Rainforest and the annual International Mango Festival, held in July.


Jardin Botanique du Montreal


Winters in Montreal can be harsh, but that is no problem for the 22,000 plant species at the Jardin Botanique du Montreal. This garden blends indoor and outdoor collections that are equally captivating, making it a great place to visit no matter the weather. The 185 acres include an outdoor arboretum, an indoor insectarium with 160,000 specimens, Chinese and Japanese-style gardens, and the First Nations Garden, where guides explain traditional cultivation of crops like corn and squash. The Chinese Dream Lake Garden is a truly unique sight, modeled after gardens from the Ming dynasty. The materials needed to build this garden were shipped directly from Shanghai and took 50 Chinese craftsmen six months to assemble.


Reid's Palace


The botanical garden in Madeira, Portugal, is a one-of-a-kind place. The gardens are the grounds of the Reid's Palace hotel, a famous luxury hotel that sits on cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. An already naturally beautiful vista is made even more so by the 10 acres of semi-tropical plant life that surrounds the hotel. Portugal's climate makes this garden burst with color year-round and the trees come from all over the world, including Brazil, Japan, Australia, and Africa. There for admiration are flowering shrubs such as hibiscus, mimosa, wisteria, and more. The "Garden of the Atlantic" also hosts tango lessons in the bar at the hotel every Saturday.


Botanischer Garten


The Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem is the official German name of Berlin's botanical garden. Possibly one of the most important gardens in the world, the Berlin garden houses around 3 million specimens. Today it is operated as part of the Free University of Berlin. The Cactus Pavilion boasts many different types of flowering cactuses, and the Pavilion Victoria features orchids, carnivorous plants, and a giant white water lily. The Great Pavilion is the largest glass house in the world, housing many tropical plants, including giant bamboo. The Berlin gardens are a fantastic display of exotic plants from all corners of the Earth that is definitely worth a visit.


Singapore Botanical Gardens


The Singapore Botanical Gardens is the only botanical garden in the world that is open every day from 5 a.m. to midnight and is free to visitors, with the exception of the National Orchid Garden. The Singapore gardens are spread across 183 acres, featuring beautiful plants among lakes, waterfalls, and even restaurants. The main attraction is the 60,000 orchids. There is also a tropical rainforest, older than the garden itself, a ginger garden, and many other flowering beauties.


By Jessica Dysart, Contributing Author

When the sun comes out, the days are long and the possibilities for adventure and fun seemingly endless, summer festivals are guar
English: Dust Storm in Black Rock Desert

English: Dust Storm in Black Rock Desert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

anteed for a one-of-a-kind experience. Whether food, music, art, culture or film is your poison of choice, these are some of the best street fests for epicureans of all interests.

The Burning Man- Black Rock Desert, Nevada

For survivalists and culture-fiends alike, Nevada's own Burning Man is one of the most eccentric and infamous summer festivals. Centered on self-expression and self-sufficiency, Burning Man goers form a community across the Black Rock Desert during the eight day event. Attracting upwards of 48,000 participants each year, it is a rich amalgam of art, community and the cultivation of lasting friendships. This year's art theme is "Fertility 2.0," with many artworks interpreting the abstract theme. The Burning Man holds strong as one of the best summer festivals of the Southwest, although getting there is a bit elusive. The

Cayman Cookout- Cayman Islands

If venturing down to the Caribbean appeals to you during the warm summer months, be sure to check out the Cayman Island's own annual cookout. The festival is packed world-renowned chefs, decadent dishes, and to-die-for wine pairing that will make any traveler salivate at the sight. Not only will festival goers be able to enjoy delicious food, but they will also be able to partake in local activities like catamaran rides and swimming in crystal clear water post-feast. 2013's festival is set to include star chef Anthony Bourdain -- what's stopping you?

Lollapalooza- Chicago, Illinois

Since its inception in 1991, Lollapalooza has been hailed as one of the best summer festivals for music. Featuring mainstream and underground acts alike, the annual event draws huge crowds to the heart of Chicago's Grant Park, offering patrons a wide variety of artists to see and enjoy during the three-day festival. This year's lineup includes headliners like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Black Keys, as well as rising stars Passion Pit and Fun.

Amsterdam Film Festival- Amsterdam, Netherlands

Venture to the Netherlands to experience a one-of-a-kind celebration of film, full of independent film makers and creative visionaries, each and every summer. Showing over 90 movies from across the globe, the Amsterdam Film Festival is certainly one of the best summer festivals for cinema-lovers. Although this year's festival has already transpired, 2013's festival is already in the works, promising its patrons a memorable experience full of artistic expression.

By Lindsay Shoemake, Contributing Author
 

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