The Vintage House Review: A Luxury Escape In The Heart of the Douro Valley, Portugal

The Vintage House Review: A Luxury Escape In The Heart of the Douro Valley, Portugal

The Douro Valley immediately shot to the top of our travel bucket list the moment we decided to celebrate our six-year anniversary in Portugal. Luckily, this spectacular wine region did not disappoint.     From the rolling green hills to the rushing Douro River to the lush vineyards and olive groves, the Douro Valley is easily one of the most romantic places we’ve visited. Top it all off with spectacular wines from family-run wineries and mouthwatering local cuisine, and it’s hardly any wonder why we’re already dreaming of a return visit. For such a magical destination, it only makes sense to splurge on a memorable and luxurious hotel to match. And in the Douro Valley, there is simply no comparison to The Vintage House.   The Vintage House: A Luxury Hotel In The Douro Valley, Portugal     The Vintage House is a five-star boutique hotel just steps from the famed Pinhao Train Station. Located in what was once an 18th-century wine estate, The Vintage House is all elegance and style. From luxury bedding to sophisticated furnishings, you’ll find all the amenities you would expect from a five-star hotel. The true highlights of the rooms are the private terraces, each with unparalleled views of the Douro River. There’s nothing quite like sipping a cup of coffee in between wine tastings on your personal terrace while soaking in the outstanding views of the Douro Valley all around.     The Vintage House also boasts a lovely pool with panoramic river views, which looks particularly scenic when lit up at night. We didn’t get to spend time at the pool, but...
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia: What To Know Before You Go

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia: What To Know Before You Go

If you’re planning a road trip through Croatia, then chances are Plitvice Lakes National Park is high on your bucket list. This fairytale setting of aquamarine water, dazzling waterfalls, colorful dragonflies and scenic woodlands is one of Croatia’s most renowned tourist attractions—clearly for a good reason.     You’ll have to share the picture-perfect scenery with heaps of other visitors, (Plitvice Lakes National Park sees some 1.2 million tourists each year) but don’t let this deter you. Nearly every turn along the wooden trail is more beautiful than the last, revealing waterfalls of all shapes and sizes that plummet into sparkling, crystal-clear pools below.                                 If you’re ready for the ultimate trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park, here’s what to know before you go: Navigating Plitvice Lakes National Park   Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprised of a series of 16 terraced lakes; the cascading lakes are grouped into the 12 upper lakes and four lower lakes, with some 90 waterfalls along the way. Convenient wooden walking trails make exploring the park simple and accessible. Avid hikers can opt to adventure further into the park along well-marked dirt paths.   You’ll want at least three hours to do Plitvice Lakes justice, though you’ll likely find that’s not quite enough to walk around both the lower and upper falls. We parked at Entrance 1, walked around the lower falls, then took the ferry to the upper falls where we walked a bit more before returning to Entrance 1 via the...
5 Must Visit Places In The Philippines

5 Must Visit Places In The Philippines

The Philippines is one of those places we will always look back on with the sweetest memories. This place is the real deal: from the picture-perfect beaches to the phenomenal locals and the dishes that will make you drool, the Philippines has it all.   We hopped over to this chain of Islands to celebrate one of our anniversaries while we were living in Taiwan and loved every minute we got to spend in this country. There is so much to do! We ended up concentrating our time on a handful of spectacular places that should be at the top of everyone’s Asia Bucket-List.   Here our 5 favorite choices you should consider when planning your Philippines travel packages: 5 Must Visit Places In The Philippines     1. Boracay Boracay is hardly 4,000 sq. miles in area, but jams as much beauty and charm as is possible into every square inch. Along the West Coast, you’ll find White Beach. True to its name, this coastline has the crystal white sand and turquoise waters that fill our dreams. To the East Side, you’ll find the perfect conditions for water sports of all kinds. Finally, if you want a break from all of the commotion, the Northern Diniwid Beach is much more relaxed.   If you’re of the adventurous type, you can take part in one of Boracay’s most popular activities: cliff diving at Ariel’s Point! There’s heights to jump off of to suit every level of daredevil among you. You can also partake in kayaking, stand up paddleboarding or snorkeling here.   In 2013, Travel & Leisure readers voted...
3 Reasons Why You Should Visit Mt. Haleakala During The Day

3 Reasons Why You Should Visit Mt. Haleakala During The Day

Mt. Haleakala, located in the Haleakala National Park, Maui, is one of the most stunning areas of Hawaii. If you’re planning on traveling to Maui, this is one place you just simply can’t miss. This National Park is mostly known for its terrific sunrise at Mt. Haleakala, but if early mornings and crowds aren’t your jam, then you should venture through this volcanic region during the day. Valley Isle Excursions offers Central Maui and Haleakala daytime tours that include the best of the national park and stunning Upcountry Maui. From historic Maui towns to fragrant gardens to a historic pond that’s been used by Hawaiians for centuries, this experience with Valley Isle is an authentic look at one of our favorite places in all of Hawaii. Here are a few more reasons why this is one experience you don’t want to miss in Maui:     3 Reasons Why You Should Visit Mt. Haleakala During The Day 1. Some Of The Most Incredible Views On Maui While seeing the sunrise at Mt. Haleakala is a stellar experience, it does only last a few minutes, and you’ll have to drive through the dark to get there. Unless you stay for a while to experience Mt. Haleakala in its morning glory, you’re going to miss some of the most spectacular sights in all of Maui. You can opt to drive up the winding mountain or hike. While you will have to use a level of caution in driving, as with any mountain roads, Mt. Haleakala is perfectly safe to drive up, although you may experience a bit of nausea. Of course...
Exploring Portugal’s Mesmerizing Minho Region

Exploring Portugal’s Mesmerizing Minho Region

  Many travelers to Portugal only make it as far north as the lovely—but increasingly touristy—city of Porto. However, continue a bit farther, and you’ll arrive at Portugal’s mesmerizing Minho region. This often overlooked destination is characterized by lush mountains, rolling vineyards, charming towns and sweeping beaches.     Though our stay in the Minho was short, the spots we did visit were some of our favorite on our entire road trip. In fact, we added one city to our ongoing “I could live here list.” Whether you’re planning a similar road trip through Portugal or you’re just looking for a semi off-the-beaten-track spot for your next European adventure, here are a few things to love about the often overlooked Minho region:   Highlights of The Minho, Portugal From the birthplace of Portugal to the home of Vinho Verde to some of the country’s most verdant landscapes, the Minho region offers a little something for everyone. Here’s a look at our top picks: Guimarães     Considered the birthplace of Portugal, it was here that revered King D Alfonso Henriques was born and later declared Portugal’s independence. Visit the medieval Castle of Guimarães to see Alfonso’s birthplace, also the site of many key battles in Portugal’s early history.     While you’re there, you won’t want to miss the Historic Center of Guimarães, a UNESCO World Heritage Site revered for its beauty and preservation. We recommend grabbing lunch amongst the gothic buildings in the lovely Largo da Oliveira, then taking the time to amble through the many winding alleyways.     Guimarães is a favorite day trip from Porto,...
The 5 Most Postcard Worthy Travel Destinations

The 5 Most Postcard Worthy Travel Destinations

  Have you ever seen a postcard picture of a destination and thought, “Does it really look like that?” We’ve all seen those picture-perfect landscapes, the ones we drool over on Pinterest and hastily save to our “Bucket-list” board. But which destinations top the list as the most worthy to become travel postcards?   1. Santorini, Greece   Our vote for number one is Santorini, Greece. The white washed buildings with dazzling aqua roofs overlooking the Aegean Sea can send any wanderluster into a doozy in moments. This is one of those places where you can just perch on a balcony, sipping on wine, and forget about the world for hours on end.   2. Taj Mahal, India   Of course we would include this one in the list. You’ve probably seen the Taj Mahal on a thousand different postcards and rolled your eyes thinking it can’t be that great. But if you’ve ever seen the Taj Mahal in person, you know a different story. This ancient architectural wonder is so famous for a reason. It will take your breath away from the moment you gaze up at its larger-than-life marble walls.   3. Douro Valley, Portugal       Douro Valley, Portugal is fresh on our minds, as it was our most recent adventure. We can tell you from firsthand experience, that this postcard worthy landscape is truly all it’s cracked up to be. Something about these rolling hills, as far as the eye can see, does something incredible to your soul. Not to mention, the exceptional wine and hospitable locals.   4. Lapland, Finland   Seeing the...
The Highlights of Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Highlights of Dubrovnik, Croatia

If you’re planning a visit to Croatia, then chances are Dubrovnik has a spot on your travel itinerary. Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Dubrovnik offers stunning views, picture-perfect beaches, fascinating medieval architecture and plenty of adventure activities. Dubrovnik is also home to many locations used to film Game of Thrones, attracting quite a few travelers whose sole purpose of visiting is to see the real-life settings behind the hit T.V. show. Given its fame, beauty and UNESCO World Heritage status, it’s hardly a surprise that Dubrovnik also gets tons of tourists, especially within the Old Town. To be honest, knowing very little about Croatia prior to our road trip, I was shocked by just how touristy the city felt. Dubrovnik is still well worth the visit, but try to avoid peak season and know you’ll likely be sharing the views with many other tour groups.     The Start To Our Croatia Road Trip   After picking up the rental car in Split, Dubrovnik was the first destination on our road trip itinerary. The drive from Split to Dubrovnik is gorgeous, much of it hugging the coastline. Keep your passport handy, because you’ll even get to pass through Bosnia for a few miles!       Our rental car was courtesy of Nova Rent A Car, and we could not have been happier. The car was brand new and super easy to drive throughout Croatia and Slovenia. If you’re visiting these two countries, you really want to have your own wheels. The most breathtaking spots were driving through the countryside (lots...
Carmo’s Boutique Hotel: A Small Luxury Hotel In Portugal’s Most Spectacular Region

Carmo’s Boutique Hotel: A Small Luxury Hotel In Portugal’s Most Spectacular Region

  It’s no secret that, given our travel lifestyle, we’ve stayed in countless hotels, hostels, resorts and apartments of all shapes, sizes and prices around the world. Throughout this time, we’ve learned that our favorite kind of accommodation is the small luxury hotel. The type of place that’s more like a friend’s guesthouse than a business—accommodation where you feel right at home (albeit more often than not at a much more stylish and luxurious home.) These small and personal hotels always go down as the most memorable, actually enhancing our travel experiences rather than just serving as a place to fall asleep at the end of a long day. Carmo’s Boutique Hotel in Ponte de Lima, Portugal, is exactly this kind of place (and more.) The family-run luxury hotel is not only uniquely gorgeous in every way, but it’s also conveniently located in one of our favorite spots in Portugal, the Minho region. If you’re looking for a memorable, off-the-beaten-track Portuguese experience, this is it. Here’s a closer look at why we love Carmo’s Boutique Hotel and the Minho region so much:   Carmo’s Boutique Hotel: A Small Luxury Hotel Of The World   It doesn’t take long to realize why Carmo’s consistently wins awards for being one of the world’s best small luxury hotels. Located down a quiet country road surrounded by rolling hills, you might drive right past Carmo’s if you didn’t know to look for it. Once inside, the hotel grounds begin to unfold into a quiet oasis of gardens and vineyards.     Carmo’s Boutique Hotel has just fifteen suites and two ultra-glamorous tents. You’ll...
Polar Diving – Next-level Diving Destinations and Tips

Polar Diving – Next-level Diving Destinations and Tips

It’s true of just about any hobby, sport, profession, or other pursuit – you’re never going to truly grow unless you’re willing to step out of your comfort level. For experienced divers, that means finding new locations with new challenges and rewards – and nothing offers more new diving challenges or rewards than a plunge into the waters of the world’s Polar Regions. New challenges As an experienced diver you’ll already be familiar with the more common risks – the currents, equipment faults, and so on. However, polar dives add on a couple more elements that require some extra caution. Decompression events First, decompression chambers are few and far between. Larger cruise ships (as opposed to smaller sailing vessels and yachts) will have medical aid aboard, but they’re not going to be equipped to handle a decompression event. Depending on your location, the necessary facilities (and crisis-equipped medical facilities in general) may be hours, or even days away. So if you feel the overwhelming urge to stunt deep dive, fight it, because you’re not only putting yourself in danger, but your guides will also be at risk as they attempt to aid you. You’ll find that most Arctic and Antarctic cruise dives set a limit of around 20 metres (60 feet). Ice Ice has a habit of shifting around when on water. Ice bergs can seem fairly dependable and solid, especially when you’re viewing their massive beneath-the-water bodies, but all ice bergs present the risk of rolling. Ice sheets can sometimes present the illusion that they’re fairly stable, they make up the landscape of portions of the Polar Regions,...
A Must-Try Douro Valley Wine Tour in Portugal

A Must-Try Douro Valley Wine Tour in Portugal

    The Douro Valley makes a dramatic first impression. With its rolling green hills, a mighty river and lush vineyards and olive groves, it’s hard to imagine a better backdrop for sipping fine ports and table wines.     While the Douro Valley isn’t necessarily a secret, the destination doesn’t see nearly as many tourists as other famed wine regions such as Bordeaux or Napa. Drive just a few minutes outside of the main town of Pinhão, and you’ll encounter picturesque towns devoid of any tourists, seemingly pulled straight out of a storybook.     Even with its sleepy charm, you won’t have any trouble discovering spectacular vistas, delectable cuisine and memorable wines—if you know where to go.   Enter: Jorge Barefoot Wine & Tours     It’s no secret that we love wine and food tours. From Hong Kong to Paris to Boston, we’ve had quite a few incredible foodie experiences. But of them all, our Wine and Olive Oil Tour with Jorge easily tops out as most memorable—for all the right reasons. The best wineries in the Douro Valley are spread out, and most require advanced reservations for a tasting. We wanted to discover top table wines, but we also wanted to do it in a way that would let us get to know the winemakers and ideally find undiscovered wines from small but passionate producers. Jorge Barefoot Wine & Tours was the perfect solution. We set up a private, full-day tour, meeting from our apartment in Provezende, then set out on what would be the highlight of Portuguese adventure.   An Introduction To Winemaking In...