Photo by Mathew Schwartz
Photo by Mathew Schwartz

Outside of Europe: Top 5 countries to visit

by Jessica Zen
Stripes Europe

While stationed in Europe you should certainly take advantage of traveling the continent, visiting various countries and learning about their cultures and history. While Europe has so much to offer, have you considered using this opportunity as a springboard to get to other fabulous countries on different continents? Here are five countries with a vast amount of culture, history and experiences to be had that are located outside of Europe.

Vietnam

This Asian country has a little bit of everything, from staggering natural beauty to crowded cities. To experience a hyperactive pace, visit lively Hanoi, one of the world’s most ancient capitals. The Old and French Quarters are two of the main neighborhoods where you’ll find lots of cheap local beer and fantastic street food. For a true taste of Vietnamese culture, go to the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, which dates back to the 11th century. Another great activity to attend is the Hanoi Weekend Night Market, which is bursting with things to see and endless food vendors with items like bun thang, pho and bun cha.

If the big city isn’t for you, consider visiting Mỹ Sơn. Built by the kings of Champa between the fourth and 13th century AD, this area is a cluster of abandoned Hindu temple ruins dedicated to worshipping Shiva. Once a burial place for Cham royalty and national heroes with over 70 temples, it is now an UNESCO world heritage site.

Thailand

Phuket, Thailand’s biggest island and a tropic lover’s dream, has fine white sand beaches and swaying palm trees. Patong Beach has the densest concentration of bars and clubs and attracts the party crowd. Kata Beach is great for surfers, young travelers and families, with its less wild nightlife. Kamala Beach has a relaxed feel and attracts people looking for a quiet escape. Nai Harn Beach is best for nature lovers as the area is not crowded with buildings. The best part about visiting these gorgeous beaches? It won’t break the bank!

To take in some Thai culture, visit Pattaya, home of the Sanctuary of Truth at Rachvate Cape. This religious building is over 22,765 square feet and doesn’t have a single nail to hold it in place! The front faces the sea as a welcome to visitors and a four-faced Brahma sits peacefully on the gable. Inside boasts various religious sculptures from traditional Buddhist and Hindu motifs. The sanctuary was designed to reflect the ancient vision of earth, knowledge and Eastern philosophy.

United Arab Emirates

The city of Dubai boasts more “World’s Largest” titles than most. Here you’ll find the world’s largest indoor snow park, Ski Dubai. Located in the Mall of the Emirates, you can ski, snowboard, toboggan, zip line and see penguins in this eternal winter. For free entertainment, head to The Dubai Fountain. The world’s largest choreographed fountain system is located on the man-made Burj Kjalifa Lake in downtown Dubai. With 6,600 lights, 50 colored projectors and water shooting up to 500 feet, it is truly spectacular.

Not far from Dubai is another bustling city, Abu Dhabi. Here you’ll find the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a masterpiece of Islamic architecture that personifies the Islamic message of peace, tolerance and diversity. A variety of post-modern architectural designs were used to create this religious building between 1996-2007. It covers over 30 acres and holds a whopping 40,000 worshippers!

Indonesia

Indonesia is home to the Borobudur Buddhist Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. This magnificent ninth century temple was built during the reign of Sailendra Dynasty and combines elements of Indonesian indigenous cult worship and the Buddhist concept of Nirvana. With a mere nine stacked platforms, 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues, it’s nothing short of a stone monstrosity.

For an outdoor adventure, head to Mount Bromo, an active volcano that is part of Tengger Semeru National Park. It stands at 7,641 feet and you can often see plumes of smoke puff from the top. The volcano sits in the middle of a plain called the “Sea of Sand,” which is a protected nature reserve. This area has rolling plateaus with valleys, scenic lakes and numerous marked trails to wander through.

Morocco

An easy country to visit outside of Europe is Morocco, particularly the city of Fes, which is potentially home to the largest car-free urban area in the world. Fes el Bali is the world’s largest surviving medieval city and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is comprised of thousands of narrow alleyways, shops, stalls, mosques and schools, which make the area moderately difficult to navigate. It’s worth the challenge though, because here you’ll find the world’s oldest university, University of Al-Karaouine. To take the guesswork out of your visit to the medina, look into hiring a local guide.

To get away from the city, book a private glamping (glamourous camping) trip with Sahara Luxury Camps (www.saharaluxurycamps.com). They’ll pick you up anywhere in Morocco and bring you to a luxury or royal camp in the desert. Here you’ll be pampered with all the comforts of a luxury hotel and get to experience the Sahara Desert on camelback and have the opportunity to go sandboarding. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, as you’ll see spectacular sunrises and sunsets, sleep under the the sparkling stars that seem to be scattered to the edge of the universe and marvel at the beauty the desert has to offer.

Don’t limit yourself to only traveling within Europe during your tour. Expand your search for the greatest vacation by considering a few more outside-of-Europe destinations. Would you prefer a beach getaway or riding a camel through the desert? Perhaps you want to ski indoors or learn about another culture? No matter what you decide, extend your search outside of Europe and get ready for the trip of a lifetime!

 

 

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