5 Countries to Visit During Winter

Depending on whether or not you are trying to escape or embrace the colder temperatures, deciding where to travel during the winter months can be a tricky task. While the majority of vacationers seek warmer climates this time of year, visiting countries with equally winteresque landscapes can be an experience unlike most. Below are just a few countries to consider for those wanting to bask in the warm sun, and for those seeking a winter wonderland.


This one is for the snowmen (and women). Lithuania averages 23-35 degrees fahrenheit from the months of November to February, giving way for plenty of snow. The city of Vilnius, the country’s capital, is well known for its baroque architecture and cobblestone streets. Top this stunning scenery with a light dusting of snow, and Lithuania becomes what feels like the inside of a giant snow globe. One of the country’s many seasonal events, “Christmas in the Capital” hosts holiday performances at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, as well as the Three Kings Procession, a miniature parade comprised of biblical characters who provide well wishes to the country.

South Africa

Both for the sunbathers and lovers of wildlife, South Africa averages a mid-80 degrees fahrenheit in the winter months, as well as the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife organization; a conservative effort for the country’s biodiversity. Here, visitors can stay at the company’s resorts and campsites to see Africa’s native animals like lions, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and much more, making this a great vacation for families.

Puerto Rico

Another warmer destination for those that want to fly south for winter, Puerto Rico hosts one of Central America’s largest winter events known as the San Sebastian Street Fest in San Juan. Parades, food vendors, and a plethora of music combine to create a lively environment that goes well into the night. Not only is this party free, but the gathering of both locals and tourists allows all visitors to experience true Puerto Rican culture. Even the late, great Hunter S. Thompson remarked his experiences here in his famous piece The Rum Diary.


A true winter experience wouldn’t be complete without staying in a hotel made entirely of ice, would it? Just outside the city of Kiruna lies Sweden’s world famous Ice Hotel. This art exhibition is also a fully functional inn, but is only open during the winter months, as it is rebuilt every year after melting in the Spring. Sweden is also home to some of the best ski slopes in the world, with beautiful hotels to match. The Åre resort has 91 kilometers of slopes, with 32 chair lifts to navigate the enormous hills.


When consider South America for a winter vacation, one would assume heat is the primary objective. However, in Patagonia, Argentina, there is a different story. The Andes Mountains, one of the largest mountain ranges in the world, are truly a sight to be seen for lovers of snow and ice. The Los Glaciares National Park is home to even more icy giants, and the Llao Llao Hotel provides luxury lodging for those who wish to stay in this surprisingly chilly city.

From LeonardRaymundo.org


The Least Touristy Places to See in Europe

While seeing some of the most well known locations and landmarks in the world should be on everyone’s travel-related bucket list, avid, more experienced travelers rarely want to visit a place with enormous crowds.

Given the sheer number of popular destinations located in Europe, visiting any country within this continent may seem like a tourist trap. However, if you know where to look, you can find a number of roads less traveled. Below are a few spots to check out that rarely see hordes of people reminiscent of the zombies from World War Z.


It’s surprising that this neighboring country of Scandinavia is not visited more frequently given the sheer beauty of its capital Riga. With German architecture boasting some of the most colorful buildings you’ll ever see, the gardens filled with impossibly vibrant flowers are even more accentuated. As an added bonus, hotels and Airbnb’s here are often much cheaper than those within surrounding countries.

The Gauja National Park is another visually stunning Latvian destination that should be included on your European itinerary. Here, guests can see the natural beauty of local nature, take historical tours, ride horseback, kayak or raft, and much, much more.

Calabria, Italy

Visiting Italy to get away from the crowds may seem counterintuitive, but the town of Calabria (otherwise known as the “toe” of the boot) is often left unvisited due to the huge number of must-sees throughout other regions of the country. It is a gorgeous cliff-side city with some of the best beaches in Europe, the only downside being you are less likely to find an English-speaking local within its boundaries. But, the food and ambiance alone is enough to convince you to stay for at least a few days.

Salema, Portugal

This is a fishing village exposed to the Atlantic Ocean that is perfect for travelers that want to experience the reality of life in a quiet town. Salema is unlike its neighboring resorts that attract so many tourists. Its beaches and serene community are a nice break from the noise and liveliness contained within an all-inclusive. Visitors can relax on the sand, dine in local cafes, or hike along the cliffs while enjoying the silence accompanied with the quaint little village.

Lofoten, Norway

Located in the county of Nordland, Lofoten is a visually stunning district with one of the highest temperatures relative to latitude in the Arctic Circle thanks to the Gulf Stream. The amazing weather here is the icing on the several-tiered cake that includes scenic hiking and outdoorsy spots such as Trollfjord, the Lofotr Viking Museum, and an up-close-and-personal look at the country’s nature via the Røst Islands.

Check out LeonardRaymundo.org for more!

The Friendliest Countries in the World

Traveling to various parts around the world is something that everyone needs to experience in their lifetime. As I’ve discussed before, traveling is not only really fun, but the ultimate way to broaden your horizons and gain perspective in life. Though it is almost always an enjoyable experience visiting a country you’ve never been to, interacting with the locals is really what it’s all about.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to parts of the world where I have felt accepted and welcomed.  Below are a few countries I recommend where you are almost guaranteed to be greeted with open arms.


This should be a surprise to very few people. Ireland is renowned for its fun-loving locals who are regularly willing to include travelers in all of their activities. Taking pride in their breathtakingly scenic countryside, Ireland is honored to have visitors from all over the world. Aside from a thoroughly entertaining downtown Dublin, tourists can visit Cork where they can kiss the Blarney Stone and be blessed with the “gift of gab.”


This small coastal country bordering Spain recently saw a record number of tourists in 2015, reaching 10.18 million visitors, and is one of the most popular destinations for avid travelers in the world. Lined with stunning beaches, cliffs, and villages, Portugal sees ideal weather throughout the entire year. The only thing warmer than the temperatures are the locals. Due to the high quality of life, people here are well known for their openness toward visitors. Be sure to take advantage of the delicious Mediterranean cuisine, and music and dance festivals held throughout the year.


Popularized by the visually stunning movie The Sound of Music, Austria is much more than just breathtaking scenery. The towns and villages within this country host amazing architectural feats, as well as luxurious ski resorts that get you up close and personal with the Alps. Being the birthplace of a number of classical composers like Mozart, Joseph Haydn, and Franz Schubert, the nation regularly celebrates its culture in the form of parades and festivals. A smile and greeting when passing a stranger is commonplace here, so a warm feeling of welcomeness is sure to be included.


As one of the most economically thriving countries in North Africa, Morocco is a hotspot for tourists. The country’s Islamic roots offer an alluring culture, in addition to its stunning coastlines and fascinating cities. Finding your way around Morocco should be of little difficulty, as locals often enjoy guiding visitors throughout the country, and offering their famous Moroccan mint tea. Some of the more popular activities available include visiting historic mosques, embarking on adventure tours that involve camel rides, and experiencing the nightlife of Marrakech.

Sightseeing in Iceland is truly unlike any other experience. Green hills, volcanoes, geysers, and lakes can be found throughout, with locals taking pride in their country’s scenery. Visitors should expect to be welcomed in the utmost friendliest manner, as those residing in this beautiful country actively seek new friends. Invites to hiking trips, nights out, or even just friendly banter are regular occurrences here.

The Frustrations of Flying

Jetsetting sounds cool, but frequent travelers are all too familiar with the time-consuming, exasperating process that is boarding an airplane. It seems like having a nice, stress-free experience at an airport is almost impossible given the amount of rules and checks you go through before boarding your plane. The entire procedure can be stressful and exhausting, but preparing yourself in advance can make things easier, letting you focus on the good times you’re about to have at your destination.

A common dilemma most of us face is the time in which flights should be boarded. Do you attempt to be the first in line? Or, is it better to wait and join the last few boarders? There are a large number of airport amenities to take into consideration when deciding whether you should board now or later, which can be seen as a positive. Lounges, for example, are a great reason to hang back and enjoy a cocktail while your flight boards. Should you choose to wait however, you will most likely have much less space in overhead storage for your baggage; an inconvenience that can make any flight unenjoyable.

In-flight upgrades are rare. If you’re offered one, take it. The chances of that happening however, are fairly slim. Most airlines rarely offer upgrades, so if you are not at the gate in the event of them calling your name, you will be quickly passed on. Just one reason to perhaps skip the nearest airport lounge, however tempting the cocktails may be.

Delayed flights are perhaps the most frustrating events to take place when flying. Regardless of the reason, arriving at the airport and working your way through the TSA all in a reasonable time only to be told your flight will not be departing for several hours can drive any traveler mad. Unfortunately, this is one flying frustration that is out of your control, so long as you are not the direct cause for the delay (and I hope you’re not).

Depending on where you are traveling and how much you plan to bring, luggage can be another extremely tedious task that comes with flying. You are trusting all of your travel possessions to be safely and carefully transported to the destination you of your choice while it is completely out of your sight. Though that certainly can be seen as a convenience, the chances of losing or having your luggage damaged still remains. The worst part is that should your luggage be lost somewhere in the process of transporting it, most airlines very rarely reimburse you for their mistakes. I suggest packing light, and as minimal as possible.

Though the distance of your flight is entirely up to you, leaving one time zone and entering another can be disorienting, and certainly frustrating. Having to endure jet lag during the first few days of your trip can put a serious damper on your time away, and can even affect your overall health.

I’ll end this blog on a positive. As frustrating as flying may be, it really does open you up to a whole new world of experiences you wouldn’t have otherwise. You open your mind to new perspectives . So, in the few hours or so it may take to get on a plane, just know that the seeing the world is a privilege we should all be thankful for.

Norway for Newbies

So you’re headed to Norway – congratulations (and, I’m jealous)! If you’ve never been to this beautiful Nordic Country, there are some cultural and logistical factors you should familiarize yourself with before you visit. There’s a great amount of information on the internet out there, but I went and compiled a comprehensive list that breaks it all down really helps when planning the perfect trip. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top 5 things you need to know before visiting Norway.

#1: The main attraction is big. Really big.

TripAdvisor.com recently reported that, “…the main attraction in Norway is the country itself.” With Norway’s vast array of fjords, mountains, waterfalls, and islands, there’s a lot to take in. The fact of the matter is that you simply can’t see all of Norway in just a few days – it’s a big country. Another experience that many flock to Norway for is the “midnight sun,” which can be viewed in the mid-summer, anywhere north of Bodø.

TripAdvisor’s tip? “Slow down, take time to enjoy areas between the cities. Make flexible and generous schedules.” Noted.

#2: The weather is…weird.

Just like the United States, Norway’s weather varies upon the region you are visiting. Even though they are geographically positioned very north, they experience their own Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, too. To pack accordingly, map out your trip in advance and match your wardrobe and supplies to the areas you’ll be visiting.

A great tip from TripAdvisor’s knowledge of the Norwegian climate sums this up perfectly, especially if you are looking to visit the mountains. “The nordic sun can burn your skin even if it is not warm, particularly on snow fields, in the high mountains and near water surfaces. Bring sunglasses (UV-filter) and protect your nose and lips in the high mountains.”

#3: Norway is a rich country, but the views are free.

Even though Norway is considered one of the richest countries in the world, every single visitor or citizen has a right to enjoy and explore the great outdoors. TripAdvisor.com states,  “…everyone has right of access to wilderness (including beaches) even if privately owned.”

The best advice is to take advantage of the great appreciation for nature in Norway. People in Norway may have more money and spend more on personal expenses, but the less than 5 million citizens that live there enjoy their land and want visitors to enjoy it too.

#4: Restaurants are expensive, so get creative.

Sadly, taxes and tips are included on the checks at seemingly every restaurant you might want to go to, so visiting the local supermarkets and bakeries are your best bet for saving on food costs.

If you have a sudden craving for something quick and easy, there are plenty of pizzerias for locals and visitors to delight in.

#5: Norway is the happiest country in the world.

According to a recent study done annually by the United Nation, CBS.com reports that Norway has topped the list. Even with Norway given the top honors in the latest report, its Nordic counterparts round out the top of the list as well.

So, in theory, no matter where you go or what you do, you’re going to be really, super happy you did.

As with anything in life, it’s best to do your research before you pack up and head out. With Norway as your next travel destination, you’re in for something quite unique, with diverse experiences. Take your camera, but remember to soak it all in at the same time. There’s no place quite like it.

Best Destinations to Airbnb

Hopefully by now you’ve heard of the mega-giant online business known as Airbnb. Since its inception in 2008, Airbnb has become almost ubiquitous with travel accommodations. With a broad range of homes, apartments, condos, and even teepees and igloos available, vacationers can find the perfect abode that will meet their needs and enhance their traveling experience — especially since it allows them to live like the locals do.

But as enticing as it all sounds, keep in mind that there are good Airbnb spots, and very bad ones.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best, and coolest destinations to Airbnb:


No matter which part of the boot you end up in, there is an Airbnb waiting to give you rest — and maybe even take your breath away.

Take the Domus Civita for example. Located in a town with a population of 10 people, this eclectic, half-cave half-renovated villa is bound to be the perfect location for a secluded getaway.

Or, if you prefer to take in the views of the Italian countryside, consider booking the Trullo Aromatic Green, which boasts ancient architecture as well as the modern amenities we are accustomed to — such as WiFi, a flat-screen television, and a personal kitchen.


The city of New Delhi offers a plethora of attractions for visitors of all ages — from the peaceful Lodi Gardens to the stunning architecture and museums found in the sprawling downtown area. Therefore, it would only make sense to find lodging just as eclectic and exciting as one’s surroundings.

That is where the Lake View Room comes into play. This private room in Hauz Khas Village is composed entirely of glass panels, giving visitors access to South Delhi’s most stunning views by day and night. The room is also complete with opaque curtains — just in case privacy is a concern.


With its rich history and stunning landscapes, Chile is the perfect location for any adventurous couple. That is what makes the Valpo Romantic Suite so appealing to travelers — it boasts the classic, eclectic elements of the surrounding city while providing guests with the modern amenities they need to unwind after a long day of exploring.


Although this location may seem too close to home for some, the Golden State has plenty of eclectic Airbnb locations that will make guests feel like they are in another country entirely.

Take the Dome in the Desert for example. This geometric little house is located in the center of the desert in Joshua Tree, just two hours east of Los Angeles.

Although there may not be much to see in this region of the state, it is the perfect location for those who desire to get away from their usual responsibilities and unwind in the truest sense of the word.

Evidently, there are some intriguing places to Airbnb around the globe. So, before you set the destination for your next vacation, consider taking a look at what Airbnb has to offer first and planning your trip around whatever the area has to offer. You never know what you may find by taking this unorthodox approach!

Why You Should Visit British Columbia

While you are researching destinations for your next vacation, you may find yourself feeling torn between choosing a somewhat secluded location in the mountains and a getaway to a bustling city.

Although each has their own benefits and highlights, they are obviously vastly different, and it is very rare to find a single location that encompasses the elements of both location — that is, until you look northward.

Nestled along the western coast of Canada lies British Columbia, a province that is both mountainous and populous, boasting everything from mountain ranges to growing cities that make some visitors feel right at home.

With that in mind, let us discover why British Columbia should be the destination of your next getaway:

There are activities for everyone

It is not an exaggeration when one says that British Columbia offers a little bit of something for everyone. During a vacation that lasts just one week, visitors can hike through the scenic Yoho National Park, master the slopes at the renowned Whistler Blackcomb ski resort, and venture through the streets of vibrant Vancouver — which offers everything from shopping, tours through the historic district, and exciting nightlife.

The sights are stunning

From misty forests to breathtaking city skylines, British Columbia has a sight for everybody’s preference. However, their two most renowned views are their sunsets and, of course, the Northern Lights — though your likelihood of spotting the aurora borealis greatly depends on your location within the province.

The cultural history is rich and eclectic

Throughout the province, visitors will stumble upon countless museums and archaeological site displays that are dedicated to the rich Aboriginal culture. These various locations represent over 30 Nations in approximately 197 communities, thus offering a stark contrast to the modern art and architecture that can be found in the larger cities.

The food is delectable
Although there are common fast food and chain restaurants abound in the larger metropolitan areas, it is highly recommended that you try British Columbia’s authentic Canadian cuisine at least once during your stay. After all, with dishes like poutine and maple bacon peameal roast, you will not be sorry you tried something new.