Istanbul is a city of contrasts: ancient and modern, palatial but also rag-a-muffin, steeped in history, traditional, yet innovative. It all works together somehow, creating an eclectic place unlike anywhere else. History buffs will think they’ve died and gone to heaven; among the many ancient sites open to the public are the Basilica Cistern, dating back to 532 CE. The underground site, which originally held water for the Great Palace, is surreal with its 336 columns, including two featuring the head of Medusa on their bases. More must-sees are the Egyptian Obelisk, Serpentine Column, Constantine Column, remains from the original Hippodrome, one of the largest chariot race grounds of the Byzantine Empire, dating back to 330 CE. The 600-year-old Grand Bazaar and Spice Market should also be on your list, along with the Sultan Ahmed (Blue Mosque), built in 1616, with its striking blue Iznik Tiles covering the walls.
Take a cruise down the Bosphorus, also known as the Strait of Istanbul, the narrow body of water separating the Asian and European continents. You’ll feast your eyes on palaces, restored Ottoman villas, and waterside homes of Istanbul’s power brokers.
Scrub Island, British Virgin Islands
How does a villa on a rugged cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea sound? Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina on the east end of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands offers all that and more. At the serene 1-square-kilometre private-island resort you have access to two private beaches, three on-site restaurants, the Spa, and a 55-slip marina. Its Donovan’s Beach is where you’ll find the water action – stand-up paddleboards, snorkelling and a water trampoline. Or for more privacy, take a short walk or catch a ride to the secluded North Beach, a 305 metre stretch of spun sugar sand. Here, you can relax on a chaise lounge perched on your own personal platform among lush foliage with unobstructed views of the Caribbean.
Madeira Islands, Portugal
No doubt Lisbon and Porto get all the buzz, but there’s plenty more to Portugal. The Madeira Islands, an archipelago 1207 kilometres southwest of Lisbon in the Atlantic Ocean, has ancient volcanic cliffs that rise dramatically from the sea and dominate the landscape. There are six unique climate zones, each with its own beautiful flora and fauna; it’s not surprising that Madeira is often compared to Hawaii. Madeira has bragging rights when it comes to cuisine, hiking, fishing and its old-world charm. You can experience fine wines, mountain hiking, or city culture – or easily all three in one day.