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.

Tokyo’s Best Restaurants

I’ve been to Japan about 3 times now, and I feel confident enough to say that Japan has some of the best foods in the world (in my humble opinion). Tokyo, Japan has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world. If that fact alone isn’t enough to convince you to visit for a culinary revelation, it should also be known that they are among some of the most diverse restaurants as well. If a trip to Tokyo, or anywhere in Japan for that matter, is in your future, make sure you write down the following restaurants to experience all that Tokyo has to offer.


Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa earned his culinary stripes in the countries of Italy, Switzerland, France, and of course, Japan. His unique skills are displayed in the experimental dishes served at his restaurant, with their biggest emphasis being environmental conservation. Through this, Chef Narisawa has created dishes like moss butter, soil soup, and water salad. This vastly unique dining experience is something that should be considered by anyone with an open mind, especially for those passionate about the environment.

Joël Robuchon

Aptly named after the world-renowned French chef, the cuisine is what you’d expect; exquisite modern French. Joël Robuchon offers a number of set menus featuring visually stunning dishes, as well as a la carte options to match. If you still crave some form of Japanese cuisine at the end of your meal, the restaurant also offers Kyoho graph mochi and almond ice cream for dessert.

Ginza Kojyu

One of Tokyo’s finest dining experiences with a quaint atmosphere, eating at Ginza Kojyu almost resembles a dinner party at a friend’s house. Offering kaiseki dining, servers prepare each dish right before your eyes, and even give detailed explanations before serving. The restaurant primarily focuses on traditional Japanese cuisine, and doesn’t require you to pay too hefty of a bill at the end of the meal.

For the entire blog and more, visit LeonardRaymundo.org!

Top 5 Travel Spots for Swimmers Around the World

The world we live in is made up of 71 percent water, which means there are lots of opportunities for great swimming. If you love water like I do, I’ve rounded up a collection of the top five travel spots in the world for swimmers.

  1. Red Beach, Santorini, Greece

Santorini is a crescent-shaped island at the heart of the Aegean Sea. Archaeologists say it was once a massive volcano, but it blew its top away during the Bronze Age, leaving behind a fascinating area with whitewashed buildings clinging to the edge of towering sea cliffs. The beaches here come in many colors including white, red, brown, and even black. It is arguably one of the most beautiful and famous beaches in Santorini. Positioned only a short distance away from the ancient Akrotiri, this small beach is so remarkable that visitors often stand at the headland to admire its unique landscape of black and red volcanic rocks.

  1. Linapacan Island, Palawan, Philippines

Not many people think of the Philippines for travel destinations, but my ethnic homeland happens to have some of the most beautiful waters in the world. Linapacan Island is an area in the Palawan municipality of the Philippines which has some of the clearest waters in the globe. The island is located between the Bacuit archipelago and Busuanga. In October 2013, it was listed among the “35 Clearest Waters in the World to Swim Before You Die.” Although it’s not a very easy place to get to, its captivating beauty is worth the effort. The road trip from Puerto Princesa to Dipnay in El Nido takes about six hours. From here, you will take a 45-minutes boat ride to Takling Island, one of the islands in Linapacan.

And if you plan on going, let me know as I’d love to go again too!

  1. Santa Monica Beach, California

Having lived in California, I can safely say that while there are many more idyllic waters in the world, none compares to Santa Monica’s cool factor. The long, broad expanse of this beach is distinct from other Southern California shorelines by the slew of activities you can enjoy here. Both the ocean and the sand are beautiful and clean, making it ideal for swimming, surfing, and beachcombing. The area is teeming with energy and is home to seafood restaurants, roller coasters, and old men angling for a catch. But that is not all. If you want a cool place to relax after a long, sunny day, the Bungalows and Fairmont Miramar Hotel offer great entertainment. The beach stretches for three and a half miles and provides ample room for summer crowds. It features manned lifeguard stations, restrooms, paved walkways, and plenty of restaurants.

  1. Blue Lagoon, Fiji

By now everyone should know Fiji, a cluster of 330 islands located in the South Pacific, is the ultimate paradise. This place is close to mystical. The water feels warm, and the extensive coral reefs are a bounty for snorkelers from all over the world. Although any spot in the Fiji is perfect for swimming, the most beautiful place is the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is part of the Yasawa Islands. It is an area where the water has a dark blue color, and the beaches are whiter, with an abundance of seahorses and starfish.

  1. Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro

A magnificent confluence of sea and land, the long, scalloped Copacabana beach extends for four kilometers, with a bustle of activity along its expanse: beach vendors advertising their wares, favela kids showing off their skill in soccer, and tourists and Cariocas (residents of Rio) queuing for caipirinhas at kiosks. From the beach, you can see the granite slabs surrounding the bay entrance. A short walk will take you to the restaurants and nightclubs, fashion and jewelry shops, and one of the greatest shopping centers in Rio. At both ends of Copacabana beach are historic forts. At the north end is Fort Duque de Caxias, built in 1779, and at the south end near Posto Seis is Fort Copacabana which was built in 1914. The Copacabana Beach is often referred to as the world’s most renowned beach. During the annual New Year’s Eve celebrations, Copacabana Beach hosts millions of revelers, and in most years, it has been the official locale of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. If you are looking for a great vacation, the Copacabana website is an excellent resource that lists accommodation ratings and rates, and dining options organized by cuisine and cost.
If you’re an avid swimmer looking for the best spots around the world, take a dive into these five places, and you won’t be disappointed.

The Best Destinations when Traveling Alone

There’s simply nothing like traveling by yourself. Whether you’re embarking on a new journey to discover yourself, or simply getting away to break up a monotonous day-to-day schedule, traveling on your own can open your eyes in a lot of ways. The theory of the “lonely traveler” is a common misconception. Any feelings of loneliness one may experience when traveling solo are typically due to lethargy. Getting out there to embrace everything your country of choice has to offer will be incredibly fulfilling, and a sure-fire way to meet new people. The following are just a few of my favorite places to visit for those exploring the world without a travel buddy.


Many people don’t think of Thailand first, but it is one of the most visually stunning countries in the world. Thailand is a popular spot for solo travelers searching for a more peaceful experience given the country’s Buddhist traditions. Because of its popularity, meeting fellow travelers is almost impossible to avoid. Combine that with Thailand’s notorious hospitality, and this destination becomes an instant bullet on anyone’s bucket list.

Khao Yai National Park is an absolute must-see attraction for people visiting Thailand. This enormous reservation of rainforests, grasslands, and mountain tops is home to migratory birds, elephants, bears, gibbons, and more, all of which can be seen on guided tours.


It may seem cliche, but seeing the Eiffel Tower is something all travelers should do at least once in their lifetime. With an abundance of museums, and cafes showcasing the delicious cuisine of France, solo travelers would be all too occupied in Paris to feel anything remotely similar to loneliness. If a city environment isn’t quite what you had in mind, the French countryside is great for avid hikers and backpackers.


Melbourne and Australia as a whole is known as one of the safest travel destinations in the world, and as an English-speaking country, you won’t come across many language barriers here. Another country with bustling cities, Australia also has a beautiful countryside where a huge variety of wildlife lives. However, a word of caution: many animals in this country tend to be poisonous or venomous.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is truly the capital of adventure among Central American countries. From surfing, to hiking, to ziplining through rainforests, a trip here would be met with warmth from locals, as it is one of the most peaceful countries in its region.


Perhaps my favorite location in the world, the Netherlands is a dream travel spot known for its bike riders, gorgeous architecture, gourmet cafes, and liberal social policies. The Netherlands is simply a solo traveler’s ideal destination. Possibly the most laid back country in Europe, the Dutch truly know how to let your worries go and enjoy the moment. Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Maastricht are among the most popular cities for tourists, and for good reason. 755 restaurants and 1,400 cafes and bars fill the country with culture, and make for great spots to meet locals, or others traveling abroad.

For more, visit LeonardRaymundo.org!