3 Reasons You Need to Visit Bucharest Now

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3 Reasons You Need to Visit Bucharest Now

Bucharest, Romania’s capital and commercial hub, lies in the southern part of the country. Through a cycle of immigration and political transformations, the bustling international city has gained a rich cultural history and heritage, much of it on display through the lens of landmark architecture. It’s wide, tree-shaded boulevards are lined with homes and buildings in styles ranging from Belle Epoch to Neoclassical to Art Nouveau.

During the heyday of cultural freedom in the early 1900s, Bucharest was known as ‘Little Paris.’ The city’s iconic structure is the communist-era Palatul Parlamentului, or Palace of Parliament, a gargantuan government building. Meanwhile, the historic Lipscani district is home to high-energy nightlife, a scene that unfolds not far from the 15th-century Curtea Veche Palace, from which Prince Vlad III — “Vlad The Impaler” of Dracula lore — once ruled.

King Michael I Park (Herastrau Park)/Village Museum

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On the northern side of Bucharest, 400-acre King Michael I Park, formerly Herastrau Park, surrounds Lake Herastrau and stretches from the city’s Arch of Triumph monument to its iconic Baneasa Bridge. Boat rentals let park goers launch on the gentle Lake Herastrau, while tennis courts and fields allow for structured sports activities. In summer, there is even a quaint, old-fashioned fairground with rides and attractions. Also in summer, many terraced dining venues open by the lake for waterfront al fresco dining.

In another part of the park, the historic Village Museum takes up some 30 acres of lakefront, making it the largest outdoor museum in Europe. Founded by royal decree in 1936, the fascinating collection of 50 buildings represents the design history of rural Romanian architecture in the form of steep-roofed peasant homes, thatched barns, log cabins, churches, and watermills. The homes and structures were sourced from all over Romania, painstakingly taken apart, shipped to the museum, and faithfully rebuilt. The effect is the realistically recreated village setting visitors enjoy today. Throughout the year, the village hosts folk artisans demonstrating traditional skills in weaving, pottery, and other crafts, the results of which are for sale in the museum gift shop.

Lipscani District Nightlife

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Although traders, craftsmen, and merchants of many nationalities established businesses in this part of Bucharest from the beginning of the 1400s — among them Romanian, Austrian, Greek, Armenian, and Jewish — the area eventually became known as Lipscani due to the many German traders from Lipsca, or Leipzig. The city blocks of Lipscani are contained between the shore of the Dambovita River on one side and the thoroughfares Calea Victoriei, Blvd. Bratianu and Blvd. Regina Elisabeta.

The main artery, the street named Lipscani, has been the commercial center of Bucharest since the Middle Ages. Considered the ‘Old Town’ district, the neighborhood’s mix of architectural styles mirrors its early melting pot of cultures, including ornate buildings in Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical forms. Today, the area pulses not only with history, but with the vibrant, modern hum of scenesters frequenting galleries, cafes, shops, restaurants, and nightclubs.

The Palace of the Parliament

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From its hulking, remarkably ornate facade to the exquisitely detailed, elaborate interior, this parliamentary chamber is truly palatial. Romania’s seat of parliament, the Palace of the Parliament is astounding in scale. The building, with more than 1,000 rooms, is 275 feet tall and has a floor area of roughly 4 million square feet. The ostentatious, over-the-top structure was erected at the behest of Romania’s second and last communist leader, Nicolae Ceaușescu, who commanded the party from 1965 to 1989, the year of his death.

The monolithic building is the world’s second-largest administrative building, after the U.S. Pentagon. In addition to its 12 story height, the palace has eight underground levels, including a massive nuclear bunker. Of course, at the time of its construction, in 1984, the Cold War was in full swing, and the bunker was meant to shelter communist government officials. Materials sourced from and made in Romania were used exclusively to build and furnish the lavish palace, and the detailed work was done by the country’s top artists and artisans. Guided tours allow visitors through a small section of gilded rooms, huge halls, and opulent Senate quarters. On display throughout are crystal chandeliers, mosaics, oak paneling, marble, gold leaf, stained-glass windows and richly carpeted floors. For a sense of scope and scale, consider that the crystal chandelier in the Human Rights Hall weighs in at 2.5 tons.

3 Amazing Spanish Buildings You Need to See in Person

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3 Amazing Spanish Buildings You Need to See in Person

Mention Spanish architecture and the name Antoni Gaudí immediately springs to mind. He was responsible for iconic landmarks such as the incomplete La Sagrada Familia and colorful Park Güell. But from Santiago Calatrava to Jose Rafael Moneo, Spain was, and still is, the birthplace of many great architects. Since the Roman era people have been carving a spectacular architectural landscape the length and breadth of the country. They’ve been influenced by the Romanesque, Gothic, Mudéjar, and Baroque styles, among many artistic movements such as Catalan modernism and surrealism. The following three buildings have to been seen in person to fully appreciate them.

Casa Botines, León

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While Gaudí spent most of his working life decorating Catalunya, he did venture outside of the region on three occasions. In the heart of the city of León is his Neo-Gothic masterpiece called Casa Botines. For this mixed business and residential building, Gaudí wanted to honor the architectonic composition of the city and thus spent time studying the local cathedral, churches, and palaces. Work began in 1891 and it took just 10 months to complete. The beautiful exposed-stone building features an inclined roof and towers situated on all corners, which enhance the Gothic effect. It has 365 windows, one to represent each day of the year, and a statue of St. George slaying the dragon stands above the main entrance.

Museum exhibits spread throughout the floors of Casa Botines and showcase everything from the life of Gaudí to the history of the building and centuries-old art. See works by Ramon Casas i Carbó, Joaquín Sorolla, José Navarro Llorens and other Spanish painters.

City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia

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The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias is the late-20th century creation of Santiago Calatrava set around a man-made lake in the Turia Gardens. Described as a city within a city, it’s a collection of futuristic buildings that were used as an inspiration for Disney’s fantasy movie Tomorrowland. At the head of the complex is the Palau de les Artes Reina Sofia opera house, where panoramic elevators and stairways travel to platforms at varying heights. The L’Hemisfèric represents a giant eyeball that reflects in the pool and houses an IMAX theater and planetarium. Note the similarities between the structure of the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum and a whale skeleton. Running along the west side of the complex, the L’Umbracle features a sculpture park and landscaped gardens beneath modern arches.

If you fancy some energetic fun then rent a water bike to cruise across the lake and around the exterior of the buildings.

Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Barcelona

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There’s no shortage of fascinating churches in Barcelona, and Spain for that matter, and this one atop Mount Tibidabo is among the city’s finest. Often known simply as the Temple of Tibidabo, the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor dates back to 1902, although wasn’t finished until 1961. Barcelona local Enric Sagnier i Villavecchia designed the church and his son, Josep Maria Sagnier i Vidal, completed it. A Neo-Gothic church rises up from a Romanesque fortress-like platform and evokes reminders of Paris’s Sacré-Cœur basilica. Statues of the 12 Apostles stand on the towers that mark the church’s four corners and a bronze Jesus lords over the entire building. At the lower level, an allegory with the patron saints of Spain decorates an arched entrance. Inside, stained-glass windows portray Marian devotions, saints and scenes from the life of Jesus. Take the lift to the rooftop for splendid views over the city and Parc Natural de la Serra de Collserola.

5 earliest human settlements in North America

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5 earliest human settlements in North America

When did man first arrive in North America? We know through artifacts, cliff paintings and even written word that many indigenous peoples have walked these lands for centuries before European explorers and settlers began to gaze westward. But you might be surprised to find that even though all the countries in modern day North America can lay a claim to an impressive number of early human settlements, it’s really our neighbors to the south that monopolize the title for the oldest ones. It’s important to note that when discussing this topic, experts and archeologists include Central American countries in this list.

Tlapacoya

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Mexico, 1500 BCE

Tlapacoya is considered the oldest settlement in North America, although there isn’t a true consensus on just how old this archeological find could really be. While much of the pottery and artifacts found in the region date back as far as 1500 BCE, some archeologists have found human remains and artifacts that dated to over 24,000 BCE.

However, whether these remains are related to those of the Olmec, who lived in this region between 1500 to 300 BCE, is still a mystery. Most archeologists date Tlapacoya as a BCE settlement that began around 1500. But you’ll also find lists placing Tlapacoya at the top and with a date of 7500 BCE — even though that date isn’t substantiated with any evidence. More research and artifact dating is necessary to confirm if the older date is accurate.

Tepoztlán, San Jose Mogote, Chalcatzingo, Calixtlahuaca

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Mexico, 1500 BCE

Why have we grouped these four settlements together? Tepoztlán, San Jose Mogote, Chalcatzingo, and Calixtlahuaca are listed concurrently because they are all in Mexico and, through artifacts, date back to 1500 BCE. Tepoztlán is said to be the birthplace of the myth that gave rise to the Mesoamerican god Quetzalcoatl. Unlike many of the other settlements on this list, Tepoztlán is still an active town that’s home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thriving tourism industry.

San Jose Mogote was an important settlement for the Zapotec people during the Pre-Columbian era (before European influence). The settlement is viewed as the oldest permanent community in the Oaxaca Valley and one of the best examples of an agrarian community. The grounds demonstrate irrigation techniques, hieroglyphic writing, temples, defensive structures, and terracing.

Chalcatzingo is best known for its Olmec style of architecture and ornamentation. However, it was also important because it was a critical junction for trade routes between Guerrero, the Valley of Mexico, and the Gulf Lowlands. Calixtlahuaca served as a very important settlement during its time. The town was located in the fertile Toluca Valley and was best known as a strong corn production region. While it was once home to the Matlatzincas, it eventually became an Aztec stronghold.

Kaminaljuyu

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Guatemala, 1500 BCE

Mexico might be a major focus for pre-Columbian activity, but it’s not the only country that holds archeological importance. Kaminaljuyu is a major find for discovering how the Mayans once lived. While it’s not the most impressive or popular site for tourists, archeologists rank it as one of the most significant.

Sadly, much of the original settlement was demolished or built over by modern real estate developers. Worse still, many of the original structures were built with adobe, a material that doesn’t always hold up against the elements. So today, Kaminaljuyu is mostly a few mounds of raised earth in a protected park in Guatemala City.

Teopantecuanitlan

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Mexico, 1400 BCE

We’re back to Mexico with Teopantecuanitlan, an early settlement that is best remembered by archeologists because of its complex social structures given the date it was founded. The settlement is important because it demonstrates how influential the Olmec culture was outside of its region in present-day Veracruz.

Teopantecuanitlan is classified as a Mezcala culture, yet archeologists found numerous Olmec-style artifacts mixed in with the Mezcala ones. The prevailing theory is that the Teopantecuanitlan community in present-day Guerrero participated in trade that brought them into proximity with the Olmec, who primarily resided on the opposite side of Mexico.

Nakbe

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Guatemala, 1400 BCE

If your focus is the Mayans, Nakbe might be the place you need to visit. While Kaminaljuyu is technically older, Nakbe is better preserved and one of the largest early Mayan settlements. This settlement offers one of the clearest views into Mayan social hierarchy, with skulls found that included early forms of dentistry such as incisors inlaid with jade and even the common practice of head binding. Only the wealthy or better-off members of society would participate in these activities. The site is also an architectural gem, including common cultural designs like causeways, pyramids and limestone quarries to support construction.

It’s important to note that this article is a snapshot of the complex Mesoamerican history represented in the eight significant North American settlements listed. Each settlement could be covered in its own article, but our goal was to give you a quick overview of their significance within Mesoamerican pre-Columbian history and their associated cultures. So, we hope we sparked your curiosity! And you might wonder why the United States didn’t make the cut. It turns out that the earliest official settlement found in the U.S. is significantly younger than those we listed and is Cahokia in Illinois from 650 CE.

What was named the happiest country in 2019? Hint: It Definitely Not The U.S.

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What was named the happiest country in 2019?

Finland

48%

Sweden

33%

United States

2%

New Zealand

16%

Source: CNN | Date Updated: June 11, 2019

Learn More: While it’s obviously not an easy thing to nail down, the world’s happiest country is Finland, according to the World Happiness Report. The Finns must be doing something right, as this is the second year in a row that they’ve claimed the title. In fact, happiness seems to be common in the Nordic countries, as Denmark and Norway placed second and third, respectively. The rankings take into consideration factors such as income, trust, healthy life expectancy, generosity, social support, and freedom.

5 Great Places That Are Now Off Limits Because Of Tourism

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5

Places That Are Now Off Limits Thanks to Tourists

Over tourism is a problem in a lot of places around the globe. Natural places, especially, are susceptible as they can easily see negative human impacts. Some places simply aren’t built to handle so many people, and can be effectively ruined by our simple presence. Of course, littering is another big reason certain places are heavily impacted. Here are five places that are now off limits thanks to tourists.

Mt. Everest Base Camp, Tibet

Mt. Everest Base Camp, Tibet

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The Chinese base camp is accessible by car, and has been closed to tourists without hiking permits because of the increased amount of waste left by visitors. The Nepalese base camp is only accessible by a two-week hike, making it difficult to reach for a typical tourist. That’s why so many head to Tibet. Or that’s why they did, at least. Only 300 permits will be issued each year, and with the recent deaths of 11 climbers, it’s not unreasonable to think that number could be chopped down.

Boracay Island, Philippines

Boracay Island, Philippines

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While this island in the Philippines has reopened, it’s still undergoing restoration and is under the threat of closing once again. It closed in 2018 to visitors for about six months to recover from heavy tourism and utility issues like sewage running into the ocean from nearby hotels. It was used as a party island, essentially, since the 1980s, and saw 1.7 million visitors in a 10-month span in recent years, many of them from cruise ships passing through. It has strict new rules like “don’t vomit in public.” There are also bans on pets, grilling meat, fireworks after 9 p.m., casinos and single-use plastics.

Komodo Island, Indonesia

Komodo Island, Indonesia

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With the island’s famous inhabitants, the Komodo dragons, being stolen and sold on the black market in recent years, Indonesia’s Komodo Island has been closed to tourists through at least January 2020. Millions of visitors to an island that can’t handle that impact has also been an issue. Other islands that are part of Komodo National Park remain open.

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Maya Bay, Thailand

Maya Bay, Thailand

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Famous for being in Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Beach (2000), Thailand’s Maya Bay saw a massive increase in visitors after the film. Before, it only had some 100 people on its shores every day. By 2018, it was 5,000 a day. In June 2018, the country’s department of national parks, wildlife and plant conservation announced they would be closing the beach temporarily — maybe a couple of months. However, the damage was so severe that it’s still closed today, having been indefinitely off limits to visitors since October 2018. Authorities may not have a set reopen date but are working to determine the true capacity of the beach, which will make human impact more minimal.

Fjadrárgljúfur Canyon, Iceland

Fjadrárgljúfur Canyon, Iceland

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The most recent victim of overtourism is Iceland’s stunning Fjadrárgljúfur Canyon. Blame Justin Bieber. More than 1 million people visited the area since the pop star released a music video filmed there in 2015. The country itself has also received a massive uptick in visitors — up to 2.3 million in 2018 from 600,000 just eight years ago. With that in mind, Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson, the Minister of the Enviroment, said it is “a bit too simplistic to blame the entire situation on Justin Bieber.” But we’re going to anyway, because he added: “Rash behavior by one famous person can dramatically impact an entire area if the mass follows.” And it did. The canyon also requires only a half-mile or so of hiking to reach the panoramic views. Fences, signs and park rangers are in place to keep people out, but the number of people who try to go is still overwhelming.

Six Geography Facts That Will Change The Way You Look At The World

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As an avid explorer and Travel Trivia reader, you probably know a lot about the world. Well, this planet hides a few surprises. Here are six geography facts that will change the way you see the world.

Around 90% of the Planet’s Population Lives in the Northern Hemisphere

Around 90% of the Planet's Population Lives in the Northern Hemisphere

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When we think about where people live, we assume each hemisphere has a good number of residents. In reality, most of the world’s population is located in the Northern Hemisphere, leaving the Southern Hemisphere nearly uninhabited by this study’s standards. Around 90% of the people on the planet live in the Northern part of the world in countries such as the U.S. and China, making the rest of the world look a bit sparse.

Continents Shift at the Same Speed That Your Fingernails Grow

Continents Shift at the Same Speed That Your Fingernails Grow

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If you were awake during social studies class, you will remember that the planet’s tectonic plates are in a state of near-constant movement. This is how the earth went from having basically one big continent to having seven. For around 40 million years, the continents were in a slow phase, moving away from each other at a rate of about one millimeter per year. Then, about 200 million years ago, things got kicked into high gear and the plates began to move at 20 millimeters per year, which, scientists say, is equivalent to the speed at which fingernails grow.

Reno, Nevada, Is Farther West Than Los Angeles

Reno, Nevada, Is Farther West Than Los Angeles

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Los Angeles is typically seen as the West Coast city. It is right next to the ocean and it has all those beaches, so it would make sense for it to be farther west than a desert city like Reno, Nevada, right? Wrong! Reno is actually around 86 miles farther west than Los Angeles, due to the curve of California and the placement of the states.

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Asia Is Bigger Than the Moon

Asia Is Bigger Than the Moon

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Continuing on this same shocking track, the moon isn’t as big as it looks either. Still, though, it is around 27 percent of the size of Earth and has 14.6 million square miles of surface area. Although this seems like a lot, it is significantly less than the total surface area of Asia, which is 17.2 million square miles, meaning that Earth’s biggest continent is actually bigger than the moon.

Mount Everest Is Not the World’s Tallest Mountain

Mount Everest Is Not the World's Tallest Mountain

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If someone asks you “What is the tallest mountain in the world?” you will surely answer, “Why, Mount Everest, of course! Everyone knows that!” But sadly, you would be wrong. Technically, Mount Everest is the tallest mountain above sea level, but it isn’t the tallest in the world. This honor goes to Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Mauna Kea rises up 13,796 feet above sea level (compared to Everest’s 29,035 feet), but it also extends down an additional 19,700 feet below sea level, into the Pacific Ocean. To make this mountain even cooler, it is actually a volcano, whose last eruption was 4,600 years ago.

Alaska Is the Westernmost, Easternmost and Northernmost State in the U.S.

Alaska Is the Westernmost, Easternmost and Northernmost State in the U.S.

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This sounds impossible, but I assure you it is true. From looking at a map, it is pretty obvious that Alaska is the northernmost state in the country. What’s surprising? The Aleutian Islands between Russia and Alaska boast the westernmost point of the United States, but in what seems like some sort of geographical oxymoron, they are also home to the easternmost point of the U.S. too. An island called Semisopochnoi (which just so happens to be a collapsed volcano) has a spot that sits so far to the west (around ten miles west of the Prime Meridian) that it actually becomes easternmost spot in the U.S.

5 Of The Most Stunning Waterfalls In The World

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5 Most Stunning Waterfalls in the World

5

Most Stunning Waterfalls in the World

The power and beauty of waterfalls have inspired travelers for centuries. The most stunning of the bunch aren’t necessarily the biggest or the ones that boast the largest volume of water flow. Sometimes it’s the surroundings, graceful composition or incredible location that makes them worthy of a visit.

We scoured the globe and found five awesomely impressive waterfalls to add to your bucket list:

Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil

Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil

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The Iguazu Falls are nothing short of breathtaking. The tremendous collection of 275 cascades range from 60 to 82 meters tall, and they spread over two miles, making this the biggest waterfall system in the world. The 700-meter long Devil’s Throat is undoubtedly the most spectacular sight, funneling the Iguazu River’s water down its 82-meter drop.

Iguazu Falls is protected by National Parks in both Argentina and Brazil. Arrange a visa for both countries beforehand so you can see the falls from different perspectives.

Kuang Si Falls, Laos

Kuang Si Falls, Laos

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Nestled in the pristine jungle on the outskirts of Luang Prabang, Kuang Si Falls wins major points for location. It may not be the biggest in the world, but it made its way onto the list courtesy of its tranquil vibe and stunning cobalt-blue water.

Kuang Si Falls is composed of three distinct tiers that break off into multiple cascades and snake their way into several big rock pools. The welcoming water begs visitors to take a dip on a hot day. It’s chilly, but we bet that rope swing will encourage you to jump in.

Follow the dirt path, letting the sound of gushing water guide you to the waterfalls’ tallest point. The 50-foot crevasse gushes water that flows from an unseen origin, one hidden in the dense green canopy above. The curious will venture a bit farther and embark on the steep, 30-minute climb to reach the top of the falls. Your reward is viewing the source—a private oasis with shallow pools tucked in a jungle.

Plitvice Falls, Croatia

Plitvice Falls, Croatia

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A visit to this park should be a priority for any nature or outdoor lover. The Plitvice National Park, bordering Bosnia and Herzegovina, boasts 16 spectacular cascading lakes. Each body of water flows into the next as the sequence of lakes follows the water flow. The spilling over of these lakes creates some 90 waterfalls throughout the park. A vista more stunning than the last awaits around each turn, making it difficult to pinpoint a highlight. However, you have to see the giant, haphazard spillover of Veliki Slap (aka the Big Waterfall) and complete the trek to the viewpoint above.

Insider Tip: Break up your tour of this sprawling park into two days. Spend one day exploring the Upper Lakes section and the second exploring the Lower Lakes section. Both areas are walkable and it’s advised to take your time so you don’t miss an inch of its splendor.

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Yosemite Falls, California, U.S.A.

Yosemite Falls, California, U.S.A.

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At 739 meters, this plunging-tiered waterfall is the highest in California. Located in Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Falls is one of its greatest attractions. The Upper Yosemite Falls spouts water out of a stoic cliff face, letting it tuble down a staggering 440 meters. This section alone makes Yosemite Falls one of the tallest waterfalls in the U.S. The middle section drops another several hundred meters via a series of cascades. Finally, the Lower Yosemite Falls dives 90 meters into the base pool. You can reach the top of the falls with a strenuous hike. However, there are plenty of excellent viewpoints throughout the length of Yosemite Valley.

Insider Tip: Visit in late spring when the water flow is at its peak.

Victoria Falls, Zambia & Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls, Zambia & Zimbabwe

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In the 1800s, the local Kololo tribe named this mighty flow of water Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “The Smoke That Thunders.” This seems like the most fitting name for Victoria Falls, a cosmically powerfully waterfall fed by the Zambezi River, with clouds of spray that can be seen from miles away.

Victoria Falls is commonly referred to as the largest waterfall in the world in terms of combined width and height. It stretches nearly 2 kilometers along the Zambia-Zimbabwe border before plunging into a gorge more than 100 meters below. Facing the falls is another cliff of the same height, creating a fatally enticing entrance to Middle Earth.

Multiple viewing platforms create perfect vantage points for visitors and dramatic photo opportunities. Getting up close and personal with Victoria promises to be a spiritual experience.

Insider Tip: Victoria Falls can be viewed from both Zambia and Zimbabwe. We recommend posting up in the Zambian town of Livingston for cheaper accommodation, cheaper National Park entrance and multiple viewing platforms.

The 10 Happiest Countries In The World (Hint: The U.S. Is Not One Of Them)

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10 Happiest Countries in the World

10

Happiest Countries in the World

The United Nations recently released its World Happiness Report for 2019. The report took into account a number of factors, including social support, freedom, corruption and life expectancy. The results seem to prove that having a healthy work-life balance and a strong sense of community often lead to happiness. And since happy countries are great places to visit, you may want to put some of these countries on your bucket list. Here are the 10 happiest countries in the world.

Austria

Austria

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In 2019, Austria jumped two spots to finally make the top 10 list of happiest countries in the world. This may be due to the fact that Austrians are simply satisfied with their lives, according to the OECD Better Life Index. Getting outdoors, including hiking and skiing, is relatively easy since 62% of the country is covered by the Alps. And since Austria is firmly situated between many countries, Austrians have access to the rest of Europe on their dependable high-speed railways.

Canada

Canada

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Canadians are known to be some of the nicest people in the world, and it appears that nice people are also happy people. Although it fell from the seven spot, Canada remains in the top 10 with a population of friendly, hockey-loving residents. And with its growing population of immigrants, Canada is becoming a more culturally diverse country. When you add beautiful national parks, universal health care and an abundance of outdoor activities, Canada becomes more appealing by the second.

New Zealand

New Zealand

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Consistently ranked as one of the friendliest places in the world, New Zealand is also one of the happiest. Residents of New Zealand are notoriously laid-back, which helps them achieve a healthy work-life balance. It probably helps that New Zealand is an island paradise that contains an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities, like mountain-biking, skiing and hiking.

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Sweden

Sweden

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The long winters and cold climate doesn’t seem to be a happiness deterrent for the Swedes. Home to a mixed economy, the Swedish government plays a large role in controlling the country’s industries. While this does make taxes rather high, Swedes do benefit in a number of ways. From the average five weeks of paid vacation to 480 days of parental leave, the people of Sweden take advantage of some nice perks.

Switzerland

Switzerland

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The Swiss may have a reputation for staying neutral, but that doesn’t stop them from being happy. Or maybe they’re happy because of their neutrality? Switzerland hasn’t taken part in a war for 172 years, which means the country’s coffers haven’t been emptied for military expenses. And as a country renowned for its top-notch skiing and breathtaking vistas, it certainly must be a nice place to live. Best of all, with an average 35.2-hour work week, the Swiss have more time to get outside and enjoy life.

Netherlands

Netherlands

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The Netherlands’ high ranking in the happiness index may be attributed to a healthy work-life balance. Ranked number one in this category by the OECD Better Life Index, the Dutch people are the best at juggling commitments between work, family and personal life. Since almost everyone uses a bicycle to commute, the Dutch have endorphin-producing exercise ingrained into their everyday habits. Add in a low crime rate and a relaxed café culture, and it’s clear that living in the Netherlands has its perks.

Iceland

Iceland

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Iceland’s happiness doesn’t solely depend upon monetary success. In fact, the financial meltdown of 2008 didn’t hurt the overall happiness of Icelanders, even though many of them came upon hard times. Whether it’s because they’re descendants of Vikings, or because they get enough omega-3 from all the fish they eat, the people of Iceland are resilient. This trait, when paired with the country’s optimism, has created a tight-knit national community.

Norway

Norway

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As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Norway is quite well-off. Even though the country is known to be dark and cold, Norwegians have a surprisingly upbeat attitude about life. A common saying in Norway goes “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” which shows how a little positivity can go a long way.

Denmark

Denmark

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The Danish concept of hygge has recently taken the world by storm and is a notion that speaks volumes about the country’s culture. Roughly translated to “cozy,” hygge is a lifestyle trend abided by the people of Denmark. Indulging in a cup of hot cocoa after playing outside in the snow or curling up with a good book while rain pitter-patters on the roof — these moments of “intentional intimacy” define hygge, according to LiveScience. Have you ever heard that it’s the little things in life that make you happy? For the people of Denmark, this seems to be true.

Finland

Finland

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Ranked the happiest country in the world for two straight years, the people of Finland are quite content. And this happiness isn’t limited to the born-and-bred Finnish people. Finland’s immigrants also rank the happiest in the world. As the co-editor of the World Happiness Report, John Helliwell, said, “It’s not about Finnish DNA. It’s about the way life is lived.” Another Scandinavian country that places community and work-life balance at the forefront of its priorities, Finland’s equal society and supportive networks are chief in finding happiness.

3 Weird Facts About Alaska

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

3 Weird Facts About Alaska

The northernmost U.S. state certainly has a flair for quirkiness, but that’s what makes it all the more intriguing. From serious moose laws so bizarre you’ll think it’s a joke (it isn’t) to youth-inspired art that’s reached national fame, Alaska proudly preserves and protects its precious land.

Check out the three weirdest yet irresistibly endearing facts about Alaska.

You Must Let Sleeping Bears Lie – And It’s a Law That Moose Can’t Fly

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Literally. While Alaska takes great pains to protect their wildlife, especially their bears, bear hunting is legal in Alaska in both fall and spring. There are, however, some instances where disturbing a bear is not permitted. Like if you wake it up to take its picture. Yes, there is actually a law in Alaska that forbids anyone from waking up a snoozing bear for a photo op. While it may sound bizarre, we think this is rather considerate of Alaska to respect a bear’s need for sleep!

Along the same lines of odd wildlife protection laws, the ways in which people can interact with moose are also heavily scrutinized in Alaska. The weirdest moose laws prohibit pushing a moose out of an airplane, viewing a moose from a plane, and giving a moose alcohol. In case you were getting any ideas – don’t.

Alaska Produces Mutant Fruits & Vegetables

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You may not think of Alaska as a fertile place to plant a garden, but the prolonged sunlight hours in the summer result in some bizarrely large produce. In the Land of the Midnight Sun, fruits and veggies have been known to reach sizes of epic proportions thanks to roughly 20 hours of sun exposure in the summer months!

Growers show off their freakishly large spoils at the annual Alaska State Fair; a 138-pound cabbage, a 65-pound cantaloupe, a 35-pound broccoli, and pumpkins as tall as reindeer have all made appearances. This state fair has been known to boast some vegetables so big, they wind up in the Guinness Book of Records. Just ask Scott Robb, a local Alaskan grower who’s claimed five vegetable world records – one of which is that outlandishly-sized cabbage!

A 13-Year Old Designed the State Flag

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In the late 1920s, Alaska held a competition for children in 7th to 12th grade to design the state’s flag. Benny Benson, who was living in an orphanage at the time of the competition, entered his sketch in the contest along with 141 children. His design of a yellow Big Dipper and the North Star (representing Alaska as the northernmost state) against a navy-blue background (representing the sky and the locally-favored forget-me-not flower) clinched first place. He was awarded a $1,000 scholarship and a gold watch engraved with his flag’s design for his efforts. The flag flew for the first time on July 9, 1927, and has been flying ever since.

3 Stunning Palaces You Should See

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

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3 Stunning Palaces You Should See

More often than not the homes of emperors, heads of states, monarchs and other important dignitaries, palaces, are some of the world’s most spectacular works of architecture. Here’s three magnificent examples that you should definitely see in your lifetime. While the dignitaries may not reside there anymore, you can still experience the opulent lifestyles they once lived.

Alhambra, Spain

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Perched on a hilltop above the Andalusian city of Granada, the Alhambra is among Spain’s most exquisite Islamic monuments. Designed by the Nasrid sultans and built in the 1400s, it blends a fortress with Moorish palaces and landscaped gardens. Once the royal palace of Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada, it became the royal court of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I in 1492 and was later redeveloped by kings Charles I, Charles V and Philip V. Today this UNESCO-protected monument welcomes over 8,000 visitors on a daily basis.

With so much to see and understand it could be worth booking a guided tour of the Alhambra. There’s the exquisite Moorish-style courtyards and living quarters of the Nasrid Palaces. See the Renaissance Palace of Charles V, home to the thematic exhibitions of the Museum of the Alhambra. Inside the ruins of the Alcazaba citadel, the Torre de la Vela watchtower offers sublime views of Granada and the Sierra Nevada mountains. Wander amid the gardens of the Generalife summer palace, complete with Baroque courtyards, flowerbeds, fountains and ponds.

Plan your visit to the Alhambra.

Château de Chambord, France

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Blending medieval designs with classical Renaissance features, the Château de Chambord is arguably the finest example of French Renaissance architecture on the planet. King François I established the chateau in 1519 as a hunting lodge in the Loire Valley; however, he only stayed here for about 40 days. All-but abandoned for over a century, it wasn’t until the reign of Louis XIV that construction was completed. The sumptuous royal residence features over 400 rooms and 282 fireplaces. Of its 84 staircases, the double-helix staircase was allegedly inspired by Leonardo da Vinci.

Over 60 rooms are open to the public, spread throughout which is a permanent exhibition of 4,500 artifacts and art pieces. Don’t miss the bedchambers, 18th-century kitchens and vaults. The double helix staircase leads to the rooftop and a panoramic view of the cupolas, domes, turrets and surrounding woodland. Drive an electric boat around the chateau’s canal, watch a bird of prey show and attend a joust. Explore the formal gardens along 14 miles of trails on foot, by bike and via horse-drawn carriage rides.

Plan your visit to the Château de Chambord.

The Grand Palace, Thailand

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One of Bangkok’s most recognizable landmarks dates back to 1782, when King Rama I made the city Thailand’s capital and built his royal residence. Until 1925 The Grand Palace was the home of the Thai monarch, the royal court and government. Today it is a location for royal ceremonies, a place of worship and popular tourist attraction. The walled palace sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya River with a majestic fusion of Thai, Asian and European architectural styles.

Follow monks in red-colored robes to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), where worshippers pray at a revered Buddha statue. See opulent royal thrones in the Amarind Hall and Dusit Maha Prasat audience hall. The Boromabiman Hall displays French influences and the Chakri Maha Prasat Hall is a neoclassical royal residence. Don’t miss the model of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, the imposing Demon Guardians and the statue of Cheewok Komaraphat, who was the father of Thai herbal medicine.