4 Mediterranean Islands You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of



4 Mediterranean Islands You’ve Never Heard Of

The Mediterranean islands are steeped in rich historydelicious food, and wondrous natural beauty. They comprise one of the world’s most unique biospheres and attract visitors from the world over. However, some islands are better known than others. The following four Mediterranean islands are well worth a spot on your bucket list, and you’ve probably never heard of them.

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Hvar, Croatia

Aerial photo of the island of Hvar
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Off Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast in the Adriatic Sea lies the island of Hvar. Hilltops are littered with pine forest, and olive groves and lavender fields overlook the pristine waters of the shore. Unlike a few of the more popular places in the Mediterranean, Hvar has a reputation for its lack of paparazzi and is therefore a popular destination for celebrities looking for quiet luxury.

The island has an ancient history with inhabitants on the islands since the Neolithic period. In later times, the location of the island made it a critical port for ships passing between Italy and the larger Mediterranean, allowing the island to flourish from trade. Its rich history isn’t far from reach as cobblestone squares and medieval architecture provide contrast to the wide selection of hotels, restaurants and nightlife.

Corsica, France

Photo of the coastline of Corsica
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The birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, Corsica sits between the Southeast coast of mainland France and the Western coast of the Italian peninsula. Due to its location, the island and its inhabitants have adopted cultural heritage from both countries, having been under the control of each throughout varying periods in history. Italian influences are seen in the Baroque churches, Tuscan influences in cuisine, and Genoese influences are seen in various fortresses. In the present day, Corsica is a territorial collectivity of France, granting it a higher degree of political autonomy.

Though two-thirds of the island consists of mountain ranges, the beauty of coastlines is renowned: white-sand beaches with pristine turquoise waters. The mix of geography makes it an ideal destination for lounging on the beach as much as adventurous hiking. However you choose to spend your days in Corsica, sampling the local cuisine is a must.

Corfu, Greece

Photo of a beach on Corfu
Credit: Balate Dorin/ Shutterstock

The Greek island of Corfu in the Ionian Sea is another Mediterranean locale with rich history extending to antiquity.  Then ancient Korkyra was a powerful force among the Greek city-states and was one of the few regions in Greece that was never captured by the Ottomans. It is this fact, along with later conquests by the French and British, that ensured Corfu remained steeped in Western tradition rather than Levantine tradition.

Byzantine churches, Greek temples and ancient ruins are scattered throughout the island. One of its crown jewels is the Old Town district, a UNESCO Heritage Site, where Renaissance, Baroque, and classical influences shine brightly. However, it’s far from the only site visit on the island with countless museums, historical buildings, and the waterfalls of Nymphs, all sharing the rich history and extensive beauty of the island.

Nisyros, Greece

Photo of buildings along the coast of Nisyros
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A hidden gem of the Greek coastline, Nisyros is a volcanic island in the Aegean Sea. The wealthy island presents a tantalizing juxtaposition of high art, natural beauty and culture.

Mountain villages overlook the pristine coastline, one of which (Emporio) is invisible from the sea, which allowed it to thrive when piracy plagued the Mediterranean. Artists and musicians in modern times have flocked to the island to take in its beauty, earning it the nickname of “island of the arts.” Furthermore, festivals, feasts and celebrations of the island’s longstanding Christian Orthodox faith attract pilgrims from around the country. Finally, the island’s active volcano is one of the most accessible in the world, a short drive from the major towns for any tourist to take in.

Adrift in Wonder

Photo of a sailboat on the water with mountains in the background
Credit: Anna Om/ Shutterstock

Whether you’re a gourmand, a person of leisure, or a passionate naturalist, the Mediterranean is a destination that you will not regret. If you’ve already visited the bigger names, don’t hesitate to venture off the beaten path.

Make a Pit Stop at These 5 Wacky Roadside Attractions



Make a Pit Stop at These 5 Wacky Roadside Attractions

The classic road trip is one of America’s quintessential summer activities. It calls for curated music, a well-stocked snack supply, and of course, ample stops at the wacky roadside attractions that decorate our nation’s highways. No summer road trip would be complete without a visit to these intriguing—and in some cases, downright odd—places that are just an interstate exit away.


Credit: Edwin Verin / Shutterstock.com

Where to see it: Alliance, Nebraska

Who needs a trip to the U.K. to see Stonehenge when Alliance, Nebraska, has something even better? This wacky monument is an homage to vintage American vehicles, all painted gray to look like the stones of the famous ancient site. The artist, Jim Reinders, enjoys experimenting with unusual and interesting concepts within his art installations. He wanted to copy Stonehenge after living in England for some time, and with that, Carhenge was born. Using 39 vehicles that assume the same proportions of Stonehenge, Carhenge is approximately 96 feet wide. Located off Highway 87, Carhenge attracts plenty of summer tourists each year. There is a gift shop in case you want a commemorative magnet or postcard to mark your visit to this wacky roadside attraction.

The Tree of Utah

Credit: 314pies / Instagram

Where to see it: Great Salt Lake Desert, Utah

Created by Swedish artist Karl Momen in the 1980s, you can find this large-scale art installation in the Great Salt Lake Desert of Utah, just off Interstate 80. About 25 miles north of the town of Wendover and halfway between the now abandoned railroad communities of Arinosa and Varro, the artists created the sculpture as an ode to life. The Tree of Utah is over 80 feet tall and can withstand desert winds up to 130 mph, tornados, or earthquakes. It is one of the most resilient art structures in the world.

Local highway patrol estimates that 2 million cars travel past the Tree of Utah annually. On average, five cars an hour stop to gaze at Momen’s construction and ponder the meaning of life. The Tree of Utah is made mainly of concrete but has six spheres coated with natural rock and minerals native to Utah. It’s said that Momen had a vision of it while driving across the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Sun Tunnels

Credit: dreamthecombine / Instagram

Where to see it: Great Salt Lake Desert, Utah

If you are up near Wendover, Utah, it’s worth the trip to head over to Nancy Holt’s tunnel art installation as well. These four large concrete tubes, completed in 1986, form an open-X shape on the dried Great Salt Lake bed. The 18-foot long concrete tunnels are tall enough that you will not need to duck when you go inside. These tunnels have holes of varying sizes drilled into them that replicate constellations and allow visitors to gaze at the heavens.

Holt’s focus on the changing degrees of light show different shadow forms inside the tunnels. This enables visitors to “bring the vast space of the desert back to human scale.” During the summer and winter solstices, check out the sunset on the horizon, centered through the tunnels. Holt’s work is considered one of the most defining installations of “land-art” and has largely defined her career.

Enchanted Highway

Credit: J24L / flickr

Where to see it: Southwestern North Dakota

A collection of large art installations dot the landscape of North Dakota, making the Enchanted Highway an ideal roadside attraction to add to your list. This stretch of highway features metal sculptures of local prairie animals. There are also nods to the local indigenous culture and history of the region. Visitors to this wacky roadside attraction can even enjoy an entire collection featuring Teddy Roosevelt, which has a horse-drawn carriage. Alternatively, check out the World’s Largest Tin Family made completely from empty oil drums. Head over to Highway 94 at Gladstone and enjoy over 30 miles of very unusual art.

Salvation Mountain

Credit: Decruyenaere / Wikimedia

Where to see it: Southern California

This unusual roadside attraction is in the remote desert of Southern California and located less than 100 miles from Palm Springs. Salvation Mountain is the life’s work of local resident Leonard Knight. Knight wanted to illustrate his love and devotion to his faith and wanted to make sure the world could see it. Murals, messages, and imagery that depict Christian Bible verses cover the mountain in colorful paint. Make sure you avoid visiting Salvation Mountain in the summertime, as temperatures in the region can exceed 100F. This attraction took Knight almost three decades to complete and has used over half a million gallons of paint.

With more than 4 million miles of roads and highways that crisscross the country, you are sure to be within driving distance of these quirky and unusual roadside attractions. So the next time you’re feeling a little worn or need something extraordinary to spark your imagination, stop by for a visit.

5 Oldest Cities in the United States



5 Oldest Cities in the United States

Compared to the long and expansive histories of Asia, Africa, or Europe, the story of America’s past can seem almost quaint. However, despite America’s relative youth, if you do a little digging, you can find a lot of great history all around you. Here are the five oldest cities in the United States and some important historical sites you can explore while you visit them.

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1. St. Augustine, Florida

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Founded: 1565

Founded on September 8, 1565, by Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez, St. Augustine is the first city founded by European settlers in North America and considered to be the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the United States (keep reading for more on that, however). After it was founded, St. Augustine served as the capital of Spanish Florida for 200 years until eventually it was ceded to the United States.

When you visit St. Augustine, make sure to include a visit to Castillo de San Marcos downtown. The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest and largest masonry fort in the United States, built in 1672 and constructed with a rare type of local sedimentary rock known as coquina.

2. Jamestown, Virginia

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Founded: 1607

Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in North America and the founding city of the colony of Virginia. The city was officially founded on May 14, 1607, and was initially named James Fort after the reigning English monarch King James.

While the settlement almost fell into ruin around the end of the Civil War, there have been extensive reconstruction efforts put in over the last 100 years. The reconstruction efforts were so successful that Jamestown was able to host Queen Elizabeth II in 2007 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city.

3. Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Founded: 1607

While Santa Fe, the oldest city west of the Mississippi, was founded a few short months after Jamestown in 1607, it has an even more impressive claim. The site of modern downtown Santa Fe was occupied by indigenous people when Santa Fe was founded. These people called the area home since 900 CE, making it one of the longest continuously-occupied sites in the United States—occupied longer than St. Augustine, though not officially recognized as a city for quite as long.

Santa Fe is both New Mexico’s oldest city and the oldest state capital in the country. It was under the control of Spain until Mexico declared its independence in 1810, and it became a part of the Texas Republic in 1836. The city joined the United States after the defeat of Mexico in the Mexican-American War of 1848.

Santa Fe is home to a stunning array of Spanish territorial architecture, which can be seen throughout the city. You can also visit the oldest standing church in America, the San Miguel Chapel, whose adobe walls were constructed in 1610.

4. Hampton, Virginia

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Founded: 1610

At first known as Cape Comfort by its English founders, Hampton was founded in 1610. Due to its easy access to Chesapeake Bay and the James River, it became an important military outpost for the United States soon after it was taken over during the American Revolution.

Hampton also holds the distinction of being one of the few cities to remain a part of the Union despite being in the Confederacy’s capital state of Virginia. This was a result of the Union’s continuous occupation of Fort Monroe throughout the Civil War. Fort Monroe is still open to visitors today.

5. Kecoughtan, Virginia

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Founded: 1610

Founded by citizens of nearby Jamestown, Kecoughtan was the place where the English settlers met the Native Americans who lived in the area. It was originally occupied by those Native Americans as a settlement known as Kikotan.

In 1609, English settlers built Fort Algernon near Kikotan and expelled the natives only months later, in July 1610. These actions were an unfortunate precursor to the tragic cycle of violence that would characterize the relationship between Native Americans and early American settlers. While the city was technically annexed in 1927 by nearby Newport News, the area is still around and available to visit.

Many other cities in America have long and exciting histories for you to discover. With a little bit of effort, you can explore amazing historical sites in places close to home.

The Surprising Stories Behind 5 State Nicknames



The Surprising Stories Behind 5 State Nicknames

For most Americans, we study U.S. history several times throughout our educational experience. And in most cases, sometime in elementary school, one year is entirely dedicated to learning about your state history. The first things you learn are the iconic associations for your state such as the state flower, bird, tree, and nickname. While most state nicknames are named after indigenous flowers, wildlife, or geographic features, the following states break the mold with head-scratching nicknames that need a story to explain how they came to be.

Indiana: The Hoosier State

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Unless you’re familiar with the classic sports movie Hoosiers or are a fan of Indiana University’s athletic teams, you’re probably scratching your head and asking “What’s a Hoosier?” There are countless explanations as to why the name “Hoosier” came to be, but a true Hoosier knows there’s only one that’s acceptable. Fun fact: A resident of Indiana is known as a Hoosier (don’t call them an “Indianian” unless you enjoy receiving annoyed looks). Back during the pioneer days, it was common for settlers to be spread out miles apart from each other. When a traveler would come upon a settlement and knock on the cabin door, the usual response was, “Who’s there?” in a local twang that sounded more like “Who’s yere?” Shortened down over time, it somehow became “Hoosier.”

Missouri: The Show-Me State

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You’ve probably heard that Missouri is called “The Show-Me State.” But what are they showing, and who is doing the showing? Missouri is yet another state with dueling explanations for its nickname, but the most popular is attributed to U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, who represented the state from 1897 to 1903. During his tenure, Vandiver gave a speech during a naval banquet, during which he stated, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Montana: The Treasure State

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When most people think about Montana, they’re probably more familiar with the phrase “Big Sky Country.” That’s a play on the book titled “Big Sky” by Alfred Bertram Guthrie, Jr. and references the endless horizons and unobstructed landscape views the state offers. But the 41st state in the U.S. is actually rich in minerals. Long before it became a destination for travelers seeking unspoiled nature, prospectors hoping to find gold and silver called the territory home in the 1800s. And they were successful—even sapphires have been found in Montana’s mountains. So, “The Treasure State” is actually a pretty apt name for this western land.

New Mexico: Land of Enchantment

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Of all the states in this article, New Mexico’s nickname is the youngest. “Land of Enchantment” was officially adopted as the state’s nickname in 1999. However, the earliest known use of this phrase began in 1935 as part of a tourism campaign to increase travel to the Four Corners state. In 1941, the state began printing license plates with the nickname. Anyone who’s visited this state knows that this nickname is well deserved: New Mexico is most popular for its scenic plateaus, mountains, and brilliant blue skies.

Wyoming: The Equality State

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This is probably one of the most interesting state nicknames. If you’re not well-versed in U.S. history, you might not think Wyoming is at the forefront of breaking barriers in women’s rights. But the 44th state was the first to grant women the right to vote. Wyoming passed this law in 1869 when it was still a territory, over 50 years before Congress would ratify the 19th Amendment, which gave select women the unfettered right to vote in 1920. Additionally, this state was also the first to allow women to hold public office and serve on juries. The first female governor in the U.S. was Wyoming’s own Nellie Tayloe Ross in 1924. She would later go on to serve as the first female Director of the United States Mint.

Honorable Mention – Tennessee: The Volunteer State

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Tennessee also has a unique nickname, so it deserves an honorable mention. If you’re a University of Tennessee fan, then this probably sounds familiar as their mascot is a Bluetick Coonhound named Smokey, yet they call themselves the Volunteers. While the first use of this nickname is fiercely debated even among state residents, everyone agrees that it’s well-earned. As far back as the War of 1812, Tennesseans were ready to take up arms and volunteer to make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country. However, most historians agree that this commendable nickname really became commonplace during the Mexican-American War in the 1840s as droves of Tennesseans headed south to Texas to fight in the war—including the legendary frontiersman and Tennessee native, Davy Crockett.

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