The rhythmic crashing of waves on the shore … the smell of salt in the air … landscapes carved by wind, water, and time. While no two coastlines are alike, the ocean has tremendous power to soothe the soul and invigorate the spirit. Here are our favorite places to kick back along the coast.
10. Halong Bay, Vietnam
Halong Bay, appropriately named the Emerald Bay, boasts stunning scenery of craggy limestone pillars, draped in velvety vegetation, that seemingly rise from the water to give way to a quiet serenity. The stunning display of natural wonder here is equally as incredible as the historical preservation of the site.
Over 1,600 islands dot the bay—the majority of which are uninhabited. However, a few larger islands, including Cat Ba—Halong’s largest island—are home to developed towns and thriving tourism industries. The bay also hosts four floating villages—Cửa Vạn, Ba Hang, Cống Tàu and Vông Viêng—that utilize the water as a base for their homes.
Despite the large tourism industry and fishermen who utilize Halong Bay for their businesses, the area has remained in near pristine condition, which led to Halong Bay’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
Explore Halong Bay during …
Inside Vietnam—20-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
9. Cinque Terre & the Italian Riviera
Each part of the Italian Riviera offers visitors a different facet of coastal life—in Cinque Terre, terraced homes climb up the rugged landscape, while down along the water’s edge traditional fishing villages seem frozen in time. Portofino, on the other hand, is the Riviera’s hot-spot—yachts bob in its turquoise harbor while fancy boutiques beckon along the shore. Elsewhere, brightly colored houses line the small harbor of Santa Margherita Ligure—some featuring frescoes and trompe-l'oeil paintings. From sampling local specialties such as pesto and focaccia, to strolling Cinque Terra’s La Via dell’Amore (the Way of Love), a pedestrian walkway overlooking the sea, the Italian Riviera offers you countless ways to wind-down.
Explore Cinque Terre & the Italian Riviera during …
The Rivieras: France, Italy & the Isles—16-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
8. Turquoise Coast, Turkey
Turkey’s Turquoise Coast is the ruggedly beautiful stretch of Mediterranean coastline between Antalya and Fethiye. In a country already blessed with scenic beauty, this region is the most scenic of them all—which may be why Marc Antony is said to have given the entire Turquoise Coast to his lover, Cleopatra, as a wedding gift. With forested mountains plunging into a sea of jade waters, the Turquoise Coast is dotted with picturesque bays, pretty coves, and tranquil inlets. Adding to the allure are ancient cities perched on hilltops and Lycian tombs carved into the cliffs.
And while historians aren’t really buying the wedding gift story, few dispute that the Egyptian queen did indeed cruise along this scenic stretch of coastline with Marc Antony. At Manastir Bay, a remote inlet about an hour away from the Greco-Roman ruins of Lydea, there is a place known as “Cleopatra’s Baths.” Whether the famous Egyptian pharaoh actually bathed here or not, a languid float in these warm waters is an experience fit for a queen.
Explore the Turquoise Coast during …
New! Turkey’s Magical Hideaways—17-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
7. Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland
Stretching for 20 miles between Portrush and Ballycastle, the diverse landscapes of the Antrim Coast include glacial valleys, grassy cliffs, dense woods, and quaint villages. Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, is an undisputed highlight—an unforgettable landscape formed by volcanic eruptions dating back millions of years. Here, hexagonal basalt columns line the coast, forming natural stairs leading from igneous rock cliffs into the sea.
East of the Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge connects the mainland to a tiny island across a 65-foot-wide chasm. While the bridge is made of rope, it is also reinforced with steel cables, making it completely safe to cross—but nonetheless a vertigo-inducing feat for even the most surefooted traveler. It is roughly 100 feet high, and was originally constructed in the late 18th century by salmon fishermen. Those brave enough to cross are rewarded with expansive views of Rathlin Island—the northernmost point in Northern Ireland.
Explore the Antrim Coast during …
Irish Adventure: Belfast, Dublin & Northwest Counties—16-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
6. Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland
Home to Iceland’s first national park, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula boasts some of the country’s most stunning scenery. The terrain reaches from black sand beaches, up craggy sea cliffs, over moss-covered lava fields, and across craters until it reaches Snæfellsjökull, an active volcano capped with a glacier. The “King of the Icelandic Mountains,” Snæfellsjökull is the setting of Jules Vernes’ Journey to the Center of the Earth.
The peninsula is dotted with small fishing villages, the largest of which is charming Stykkisholmur. On the edge of town lies sacred Helgafell, a small hill topped with the ruins of a monastery built in 1184.
Explore the Snaefellsnes Peninsula during …
Untamed Iceland—12-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
5. Dubrovnik & the Dalmatian Coast, Croatia
Though relatively small in size, the exquisite walled city of Dubrovnik was a major player in world commerce during the 15th and 16th centuries, serving as the base for a fleet of trade ships that traversed the Mediterranean—and acquiring considerable wealth and political clout in the process. In the early 1990s, Dubrovnik’s fortunes shifted dramatically when it was besieged, shelled, and severely damaged during Croatia’s war for independence from Yugoslavia. But the city has been impeccably restored under UNESCO supervision. With its marble streets, baroque buildings, and iconic red-tiled roofs—visible both from atop its medieval walls and from the peak of Mount Srd in the distance—it is truly deserving of its reputation as the “Pearl of the Adriatic.”
Beyond Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast extends from Zadar in the north to the Montenegrin border in the south, encompassing the medieval cities of Split and Sibenik, and more than 1,000 islands—including Hvar and Korcula.
Explore Dubrovnik & the Dalmatian Coast during …
Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast & Greece—16-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
Enhanced! Crossroads of the Adriatic: Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia—18-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
Cruising the Adriatic: Croatia & Montenegro—15-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
4. Cape Town & the Cape Peninsula, South Africa
Originally a late-17th-century Dutch trading post, Cape Town is now South Africa's second largest city, and a hot spot for fine food, culture, scenic coastal beauty, and of course world-famous winelands. From the charming brick-paved streets, shops, and restaurants of Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, to the dramatic backdrop of Table Mountain—or the mesmerizing city views from its peak, and from aboard the cable car ride that takes you there—this area is filled with exciting locales, and stunning iconic natural landmarks.
Along the Cape Peninsula, the rocky coastline juts out into the Atlantic, providing dramatic views of Africa's southwestern tip. At the southern end of the peninsula, opposite Table Mountain, is the Cape of Good Hope, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans are said to meet. Along the eastern side of the peninsula known as False Bay, a series of inlets appropriately named Boulders Beach nurtures an impressively resilient colony of African Penguins, which from 1982 until today has grown from just two pairs of penguins to thousands.
Explore Cape Town & the Cape Peninsula during …
Cape Town & The Cape of Good Hope post-trip extension on Ultimate Africa: Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe Safari—17-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
Cape Town & The Cape of Good Hope post-trip extension on Southern Africa Safari & Lake Kariba Cruise: South Africa, Zimbabwe & Botswana—18-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
3. The Aegean Islands, Greece
Between the Aegean and Ionian seas, Greece boasts some 6,000 islands, around 240 of which are inhabited. Steeped in myth and legend, drenched in sunshine, and lapped by crystalline blue waters, these are just a few of our favorites:
Santorini: With its whitewashed Cycladic houses, black-sand beaches, and red pumice cliffs plunging into the Aegean, Santorini is Greece at its most postcard-perfect. Some even speculate that the island is part of mythical Atlantis, which the gods banished to the ocean floor. (In reality, the archipelago is all that remains of the island of Thera, which collapsed into a caldera following a massive volcanic eruption thousands of years ago.)
Mykonos: Known as “the island of the winds” due to its seasonal squalls, Mykonos is best known for its conical, wooden-roofed windmills. Built in 16th century, these quintessentially Cycladic structures were vital to the island’s agrarian economy. Today, they are entirely symbolic of Mykonian innovation, and serve as an elegant crown over the capital city of Chora.
Patmos: Patmos is a ruggedly beautiful Greek island abounding in ancient legend. According to myth, it originally lay on the sea floor, but so captivated Zeus that he asked his brother Poseidon if he could bring the island up to the surface and make it habitable. Patmos also served as exile for St. John the Evangelist, one of Jesus' twelve apostles, and this is where he penned the gospel that bears his name.
Explore the Aegean Islands during …
The Aegean Islands, Athens & Istanbul—16-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
New! Turkish Coastal Voyage: Greek Islands, Istanbul & Athens—15-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
The Aegean & Mediterranean: A Voyage from Athens to Jerusalem & the Greek Islands—12-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
2. Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Milford Sound rightfully earns the “Eighth Wonder of the World” title from Rudyard Kipling as the natural phenomenon winds for ten miles around towering mountains and rugged cliffs, which seemingly rise out of the tranquil waters. Milford Sound, located in Fiordland National Park on the South Island, opens up into the Tasman Sea. The sound, actually a fjord, was carved by retreating glaciers that left valleys to be filled in with water from the ocean.
Surrounding the fjord are cliffs that rise 3900 feet into the air, year-round waterfalls, and animal-like mountains. The Elephant, said to resemble the head of an elephant, and the Lion, known for its feline characteristics, both tower over the waterway at over 4000 feet tall, but the most commanding presence is the Mitre Peak. At over 5500 feet high, Mitre Peak is one of the world’s tallest peaks. These natural wonders can be enjoyed by boat, kayak, helicopter, or on foot. Follow 33 miles of the Milford Track on foot from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound. This trail provides a unique perspective of the landscape leading up to Milford Sound—travel through valleys, over mountain passes, and past waterfalls.
Explore Milford Sound during …
Enhanced! Pure New Zealand—17-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
New Zealand: Natural Wonders North & South—17-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
Enhanced! Australia & New Zealand: An Adventure Down Under—30-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure
Australia, New Zealand & Fiji—19-day Grand Circle Tour
1. The Chilean Fjords, Chile
From Darwin to Drake, the crystalline fjords of Chile have dazzled many of the world’s greatest explorers. With more fjords than all of Scandinavia, Chile is a dreamscape where sea life and stunning landscapes unfold around every bend. Peale’s dolphins leap from icy waters, as petrels, cormorants and albatrosses wing their way overhead. But the fauna can scarcely complete with the eye-catching glaciers and ice floes. From the Asia Fjord and the glowing blue beauty of the El Brujo glacier, to Glacier Alley, home to a half dozen ice shelfs named for European countries, visitors are surrounded by icy splendor. Some even say that navigating these channels by boat is like sailing through a light show, as the density of ice and moisture yield ever-shifting reflections.
Explore the Chilean Fjords during …
The Wilderness Beyond: Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego & the Chilean Fjords—15-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
Exploring South America: Rio, Buenos Aires, Patagonia & Chilean Fjord Cruise—19-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure
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