Exploring Seville, Spain – Part 3

Beyond the old quarter of Seville, there is a lot to explore in this great city. A major event occurred in Seville in 1929 which altered the city’s legacy and architecture and still adds interest and beauty nearly 100 years later. The event was the Ibero-American Exposition, a year-long world’s fair focusing on the ties between the Iberian peninsula and the Americas which left many landmarks in Seville. In addition, there are other interesting sections of the city that are a bit off the tourist path.

Plaza de España

One of the most beautiful parts of Seville, this Plaza is just a short distance south of the Gothic Cathedral and is part of the massive Maria Luisa Park. Built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 to showcase Spain’s industrial and technology exhibits, the half-circle plaza, adjacent building, ponds, fountains and tile works extending around the entire plaza are quite stunning.

A view of the Plaza de España which is a huge half-circle. In this building numerous documents and artifacts relating to Columbus’ voyages were on display during the Exhibition. Today, various government offices and university programs occupy most of the building.
The beautiful tile work extends around the perimeter railings of the Plaza.
All along the Plaza are alcoves representing the regions of Spain with their unique characteristics and historical events expressed in colorful tile.
Another example of one of the alcoves at the Plaza de España.
Many of the countries participating in the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929 built fabulous pavilions along the Guadalquivir River, some of which serve as embassies today.

Other Views of Seville

We took a “hop on, hop off” bus tour of Seville one afternoon and we were glad we did, this allowed us to get a glimpse of the city beyond the main tourist areas we’ve shared in previous posts. The tour had several different routes and a nighttime tour (at no additional cost) available as well.

The 17th century San Telmo Palace, formerly a university for navigators (Universidad de Mareantes), it also served as a royal residence and is now home to the regional government. It is adjacent to the Maria Luisa Park (which were considered the gardens of the palace).

After a great time in Seville, we next headed further south into the hill towns of Andalucia. Posts on our visit to this area will be coming shortly.

Exploring Seville, Spain – Part 2

In my first post on Seville, we explored its amazing Gothic cathedral, located in the heart of the old quarter of Seville. In this post we’ll explore some other nearby sights.

Real Alcázar

The Real Alcázar is right across the plaza from the Cathedral, making it convenient to visit at the same time. The Alcázar was (and still is) the home of the rulers of Seville and Spain. It dates back to Moorish times (11th and 12th centuries) and then continued to be a home for subsequent Christian monarchs including Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen during the time of Columbus. Later, 16th century kings remodeled and added rooms. The royal family of Spain still uses some of the upper floor rooms today.

Looking down at the Real Alcázar (located inside the crenellated walls) from the Cathedral’s tower.

Since Seville was a gateway to the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries (being just 50 miles from the Atlantic via the Guadalquivir River), the palace holds a major place in history as the site where plans were drawn up to explore the western hemisphere. The Alcázar has a long and complicated history, with many changes over the centuries.

The Patio de las Doncellas (Patio of the Maidens) with plasterwork by master craftsmen from Granada.
Ambassador’s Hall. It is believed that in this room Columbus was given his commission to explore the New World.
Admiral’s Hall, 16th century. Although this room may look plain, the course of world history changed here. Amerigo Vespucci and Magellan planned the first around-the-world travel here and the first map of the world was also drawn here.
The Alcázar‘s beautiful gardens are the last stop on your visit.

Santa Cruz

This is a neighborhood directly east of the Seville cathedral and was once a Jewish ghetto. It is worth walking through this area – restaurants, picturesque alleys, and beautiful architecture are the rewards for doing so.

One of the many beautiful little streets in Santa Cruz.
A little plaza (with orange trees!) in the Santa Cruz neighborhood.
The Hospital de los Venerables – a 17th century home for elderly priests, is located in Santa Cruz.

Torre del Oro

The “Tower of Gold” was one of two towers that stood beside the river to protect Seville from invaders. The 2nd tower across the river no longer stands. A chain could be raised across the river from the towers to stop ships from entering the harbor of Seville. The Torre del Oro is now the launch point for river cruises and “hop on – hop off” bus tours. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk along the Guadalquivir River from the Cathedral to the Torre del Oro.

Torre del Oro.
This scene of rowers in the Guadalquivir River reminded me of the Charles River in Cambridge (Boston) where you can see serious rowers almost any time of year.

5 Tips for Differently-Abled Travelers

In this post our frequent guest writer, Jesse Clark, provides travel tips for those who are differently-abled. This is a topic I have thought a lot about recently and her recommendations may help ease the challenges differently-abled people might face. Check out the links included, they contain useful resources. Her bio information is below. 

When you’re differently abled, traveling can seem intimidating. You might be eager to explore the world, but at the same time, you may worry that once you leave home, you won’t have access to the accommodations and support you need. But today, it’s becoming easier for differently-abled travelers to travel. With resources from The Independent Tourist, you’ll be able to plan your dream vacation. Plus, these tips will help you navigate everything from finding a place to stay to organizing your medical records!

Plan Carefully

Deciding where to go is your first task! Consider cities that have specifically taken steps to better support differently abled residents and tourists. Culture Trip states that cities like Berlin, Germany, Seattle, WA, Sydney, Australia, and Montreal, Canada have all made commitments to better serve differently abled visitors.

Protect Your Travel Documents

Everyone should pack a few key documents when they travel, especially when they go overseas. This is particularly important for differently-abled travelers – if you need to seek medical care or assistance when you’re far away from home, you’ll want to be able to hand over any healthcare paperwork you have that details your needs. You can also create a backup digital file for your documents.

As you digitize your paper records, you can also combine different documents into a single file for convenience. Just follow these quick steps to add content to your PDF document! You can add pages to PDFs with an online tool. You can even use a tool like this to reorder, delete, and rotate specific pages.

Accessible Accommodations

At home, you have all the tools and features you need to maneuver around safely – but what about when you’re traveling? It can take some time to find a hotel where you can stay comfortably, but with a little bit of research, you should be able to book accommodations where your needs will be met. Adaptive Living Guide recommends looking up promising hotels on reservations websites and then calling the hotels directly to ask questions about their services and accessibility features. Once you’ve asked about the specific services they offer, you can book the hotel that will best suit your needs.

Traveling Safely

Perhaps you’re going to take a road trip with your friend, and you already know that the vehicle you’ll be taking is outfitted for your needs. But what if you’re going to be flying? If you’re nervous about the flight, it’s understandable – flying can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. Upgraded Points recommends booking your flight with an airline that has strong protections for differently-abled travelers, getting to the airport early, and communicating clearly with the flight staff. The good news is that many airlines accommodate differently-abled travelers by allowing them to board the plane first and ensuring their needs are met to the best of the airline’s abilities.

Pack Smart

Don’t wait until the night before your trip to start packing! Make a comprehensive packing list ahead of time so that you don’t lose track of anything you need. You can include a few different categories, like clothing, toiletries, medications, and any medical aids or tools that you use on a daily basis. If you’re going overseas, keep your passport in an easily accessible compartment in your backpack.

When you’re booking your flight, you’ll want to double-check the airline’s baggage policies. Choose an airline with lenient baggage policies so that you won’t be charged for bringing extra luggage with you on the flight.

Traveling when you’re differently abled isn’t always easy. You might have to deal with some obstacles as you plan your trip. But with careful preparation, you can take to the skies and see the destinations you’ve always dreamed about. By following these tips, you’ll be able to map out your itinerary, digitize your paperwork, and stay safe while you’re enjoying your trip.

Want to get inspired for your next trip? Find the tips and recommendations you need from The Independent Tourist! Browse our website today to start planning your vacation.

Jesse Clark is a traveler, so she’s no stranger to experiencing wanderlust and that strong desire to travel. She’s already had enough experiences to last a lifetime, but she’s not stopping anytime soon. Find out more and contact her through soulful-travel.com.

Photo via Pexels

Exploring Seville, Spain – Part 1 (Seville Cathedral)

From Mérida, we drove south to Seville. Seville is one of the great cities of Spain and for that matter, one of the great cities of Europe. Seville sits primarily on the eastern bank of the Guadalquivir River which is drains into the Atlantic, just 80 km (50 miles) to the south. It has been a port city for centuries. It is a large city, with about 1.5 million people living in the greater metropolitan area. In spite of its size, the main tourist sites can be visited comfortably over a couple days. We will divide our tour of Seville into three posts. This first one will cover the marvelous cathedral.

Map of our car tour route. Seville is 193 km (120 miles) south of Merida.
Another beautiful evening in Seville along the Guadalquivir River, with the cathedral tower (La Giralda) in the distance (on the left) and the Torre del Oro on the bank of the river (upper right). Our apartment was on the west bank of the river (to the right of this photo), just about a 10 minute walk from the river and the old quarter of Seville.

Seville Cathedral

The Seville Cathedral is one of the great Gothic cathedrals in Europe, and in fact the largest in Europe. It was built on the site of a great mosque, of which the tower (La Giralda) and a courtyard (Patio de los Naranjos) are remnants. This is the where the tomb of Columbus is located. It is difficult to get a great exterior photo of this cathedral due to its size and somewhat cramped location in the old Jewish quarter (Santa Cruz) of Seville.

La Giralda (Bell Tower) dates back to 1198 and was part of the original mosque located here.
Tomb of Columbus in the Seville Cathedral – his coffin is held by representatives of the kingdoms of Castile, León, Aragón and Navarra.
A view of the La Giralda and the northwestern entrance of the Seville Cathedral, from the shady and cool Patio de los Naranjos.

Cathedral Rooftop Tour & La Giralda Tower

We took a tour of the Seville Cathedral rooftop (“Cubiertas”). We planned this tour in advance since tickets and tour times are limited and crowds can make for long lines. The tour was offered only in Spanish, but our tour guide was kind enough to give us a short summary in English after each stop. It was fun getting a more intimate experience with the cathedral than offered by just visiting the main hall. The rooftop tour was 20 Euro/person and the Cathedral & Tower entrance fees were 11 Euro/person as of March 2022. If I had to choose, I would just do the Cathedral & Tower, since the views are a bit better from the tower than the rooftop. The best European cathedral rooftops I have visited are Milan (Italy) and Chartres (France).

Unique views of the cathedral and its construction are provided on the rooftop tour.

The rooftop tour also included a short interior walk high above the main floor, for a view of the cathedral few people see.

La Giralda Tower

We also climbed La Giralda tower, dating from the 12th century. Rather than steps, there is a sloping ramp all the way to the top of the tower, making the ascent a bit easier.

In my next post, we’ll explore the beautiful Real Alcázar, a 14th century Moorish palace-fortress located right next to the cathedral.

Three Must-Visit Spots in Turkey for History Lovers

(Contributed Post from Samantha Dunn – Sam is a freelance writer who loves food and traveling. She has been a digital nomad exploring different countries for over a decade. She particularly loves the beach and enjoys trying new cuisines from each place she has visited.)

Post Featured Image Credit: Image by Şinasi Müldür from Pixabay

Turkey remains one of the most well-loved destinations for many tourists and one that is particularly great for history lovers. This is no surprise when you learn that the country has influences that range from Roman to Ottoman and Byzantine. Turkey undoubtedly has plenty of history to dive into and lots of top tourist attractions to visit with this in mind.

But what are the three must-visit spots in Turkey for the history-loving holidaymaker?

1. The Temple of Apollo

Photo by Caglar Araz on Unsplash

The Aegean Coast is certainly one of the top places to visit in Turkey and the Temple of Apollo at Didim shows why.

Located at the entrance to this stunning resort, the Temple of Apollo is a sight any history lover will never forget. Although there are actually a number of temples dedicated to this mythological god in the region, the one here is easily the most impressive. It was also one of the largest in the ancient world and its sheer scale takes the breath away even now.

Although the temple is ruined, the majesty of the columns and the serene grounds it sits on still provide plenty of interest. Once home to one of the most famous Oracles of ancient times, it also has a famous Medusa Head statue to admire – plus a purification well to gaze upon. Didim’s Temple of Apollo is also close to the ruins of Miletus and Priene for holidaymakers who want even more history to enjoy.

2. The Blue Mosque

Photo by Zayn Shah on Unsplash

Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, The Blue Mosque is a majestic sight and found in the city of Istanbul. Although there are plenty of other things which make Istanbul cool, this famous mosque is number one.

The beautiful tiled dome of the Blue Mosque, looking up from the floor.

Even from the outside, it is a stunning spectacle to behold. Finished in 1616, it features awe-inspiring domes and six beautifully designed minarets. It gets even better for history lovers inside, with 20,000 hand-painted blue tiles and a real sense of the past. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, the iconic domes are bathed in light come nighttime to magical effect.

3. Castle of St. Peter

From the boutique beach hotels to its lively feel, Bodrum has lots to offer any visitor. If you love your history though, the Castle of St. Peter is the main draw.

Another view of St. Peter’s Castle and the surrounding harbor of Bodrum – a very beautiful location.

It is certainly a top attraction in Turkey and comes with a fascinating backstory. Although it might now house Bodrum’s Museum of Underwater Archaeology, it was founded initially in the 15th century by the Knights Hospitaller. The castle itself sits on a prominent waterfront location in Bodrum and this means it offers superb views over the marina. There are four towers in the castle which are known as the English, French, Italian and German towers. This is because each tower was named after the nationality of the knights who built it.

There is no doubt that Turkey remains a great tourist destination and has something to offer everyone. This is especially true for history lovers and there are some amazing spots to take in around the country with this in mind. For more information on where to visit in Turkey or tips for traveling in other countries, check out the rest of our website today.

Mérida – Home to Some of the Finest Roman Ruins in Spain

Mérida is a bit of a well-kept secret from tourists and yet it has some amazing Roman and Moorish ruins. The town was founded by Augustus in 25 BC and was known as Augustus Emerita. Today, it’s a relatively small city (population of about 60,000) that feels smaller since much of the main town is walkable and most of the main sights are within the central part of the city. We were fortunate to find a lovely apartment just a block or so away from the main Roman ruins (we visited in March, and had most of the sights to ourselves). Check out this post for a map of Spain reference.

The Roman Theater in Mérida, still in use for classical drama.
Another view of the Roman Theater.
Detail of the Corinthian columns in the Roman Theater.
An entrance to the Amphitheater.
The Roman Amphitheater in Mérida, which sits next to the Theater.

Casa del Anfiteatro

Also next to the Roman Theater and Amphitheater is the Casa del Anfiteatro, which provides a glimpse into life of the Roman nobility. Baths, highly sophisticated plumbing systems, beautiful mosaics, and burial chambers are all on display at this excavated site.

The Temple of Diana (1st Century AD) was in the center of the Roman town of Augustus Emerita, about a ten-minute walk from the Theater and Amphitheater.

Other Roman Ruins Around Town

There are other Roman Ruins all over town just waiting to be explored.

Roman Bridge (Puente de Guadiana)

Alcazaba

One of the most fascinating sights in Mérida is the Alcazaba, one of Spain’s oldest Moorish buildings (AD 835), built over Roman ruins and right next to the Roman bridge (above). There are interpretive signs to help explain what life was like in the fortress.

This tunnel leads down to a still-functioning cistern in the Alcazaba.
Cistern in the Alcazaba – this cistern was part of a sophisticated plumbing system that brought water into the Alcazaba from the nearby river.

Los Milagros Aqueduct

Just outside central Mérida is Los Milagros Aqueduct, another reminder of Roman engineering skills and influence in this part of Spain. It dates from the 1st century AD and is part of a large park on the outskirts of Mérida.

This huge aqueduct is about a 20 minute walk from the Alcazaba.

Practical Matters

You can purchase a “Roman Ruins Circuit Ticket” for 16 Euro per person (as of March 2022) at the Theater which will get you into all the main sights. Well worth it. Our apartment, shown below, was fantastic – a very nice and accommodating owner, 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, well-equipped kitchen and right in the heart of town. However, as the owner says in his instructions, don’t follow Apple or Google Maps for the address – they took us to a dead-end street right below the apartment and we had to go up a different street to get to the apartment (we read his instructions afterwards!).

Our apartment was in a perfect location (3 floors with a garage (where the “AT” sign is) – “Casa Museo”) – right next to the Museum of Roman Art and the Roman Theater (all located to the right in this photo).

Cáceres, Spain – An Untouched Renaissance Town

From Trujillo we continued on our journey driving west a short distance to Cáceres (46 km or 28 miles) and then south to Mérida (62 km or 38 miles from Cáceres), for an overnight stay. In this post I will share a few images of Cáceres and in my next post we’ll cover Mérida, a treasure trove of Roman-era ruins.

Location of Cáceres and Mérida, southwest of Madrid.

Cáceres is a pretty large modern city (population of about 100,000) that has a well-preserved old Renaissance-era center (Ciudad Monumental), located just west of the Plaza Mayor. We found a parking garage about 10 minutes walking distance from the old town. It seemed that we were the only tourists visiting this interesting and quiet historical locale.

A view of the modern town of Cáceres from the tower of the Iglesia de Santa Maria
A view of the old town of Cáceres also taken from the tower of the Iglesia de Santa Maria.

Most of the old town’s structures date from the 15th and 16th centuries, and they, along with remnants of Moorish walls dating from the 12th century, are the heart of this Renaissance enclave that seems stuck in time.

The Iglesia de San Mateo, built between the 14th and 17th centuries, one of Cáceres’ oldest churches.
A view of the main nave in the Iglesia de Santa Maria. This Church also has an interesting Treasury that can be visited.
The amazing 16th century Retablo Mayor, a cedar wood altar depicting Biblical scenes in the Iglesia de Santa Maria.

A Few Other Sights Around Cáceres Old Town

Cáceres experienced an economic boom after Columbus’ discovery of the New World and lucky for us, the old town has held up well over the centuries. While there are not many major tourist sights (a few palaces, towers and churches), our main objective was to just wander the quaint streets a bit and enjoy the ambience.

The modern city of Cáceres has a growing reputation in the worlds of art and modern cuisine, making it worth a stop for many reasons.

Southern Spain – Guadalupe and Trujillo

The first two stops on our self-guided tour of southern Spain were Guadalupe, home of an important monastery and Trujillo, known as the home of Francisco Pizarro, conquistador of the Inca empire of Peru. Our interest in visiting Trujillo was not really about conquistadors, but more the well-preserved old town and castle.

The towns of Guadalupe and Trujillo are show in relation to Madrid. Guadalupe is 240 km (150) southwest of Madrid and Trujillo is 78 km (48 miles) west of Guadalupe.

Guadalupe

This little town is not really on the tourist map, but its glorious Monasterio de Guadalupe should be. The monastery was founded in 1340 and is right in the center of town (the town grew up around the monastery over the centuries). It was the most important monastery in Spain for four centuries. The monastery was a great center of learning, having one of the largest libraries in Spain, and home to schools of grammar and medicine. It was the site of the baptisms of some of the first native Caribbean people brought to Europe by Columbus. It has an amazing embroidery museum (I cannot fathom the hours spent in making these vestments), and an ancient texts museum, among other treasures. The only way to visit the monastery is with a guided tour (in Spanish only). It looks like a giant castle from the exterior and photos are difficult–from the outside due to its cramped location in town and the fact that photography is forbidden in much of the interior.

The Guadalupe town square and monastery. The circular font in front of the monastery is supposedly where the Caribbean natives were baptized.
There are over 90 large illustrated music and other books from the 15th and 16th centuries in one of the museum rooms in the monastery.
The beautiful Baroque style 17th century Sacristy in the Guadalupe Monastery. I had to take this photo quickly.
The cloisters at the Guadalupe Monastery.
Bronze baptismal font.

Trujillo

Trujillo is just 78 km (48 miles) west of Guadalupe, and we spent a night here in an old converted convent.

A view of Trujillo as we drove into town.
The courtyard of our 16th century Dominican Convent hotel, just below the center of the old town (Convento de Franciscanas Descalzas de San Antonio).

While the occasional tour bus makes its way into the main square, this is a pretty quiet town also. Trujillo has many historical structures, and as you wander the narrow little streets, signs on the buildings will give you some historical information.

Plaza Mayor de Trujillo, with a statue of Francisco Pizzaro in the center. The church is the 16th century Parish Church of San Martin de Tours.
Another view of the Plaza Mayor in Trujillo – historical municipal buildings and palaces line the Plaza.

We were able to wander into a few churches and climb their towers for great views and also visit the ramparts of the castle, which stands as a reminder of the battles for this land between the Moors and Christians during the 1200’s.

13th century castle walls built on the remains of an earlier Islamic fortress stand at the top of the hill overlooking Trujillo.
My wife and mother-in-law on the castle walls (foreground).
One of my favorite images from our trip.
Overlooking the old town of Trujillo and countryside from the castle.
A view of the castle from a church tower (I love to climb towers in Europe!).

There are also several 16th century palaces in Trujillo built with the wealth obtained from the conquering of the Americas. Many of the historical sites are open and charge a small entrance fee.

If you have the time, add a visit to Guadalupe and Trujillo to your Spain tourist experience! I love quiet, interesting, and almost undiscovered destinations like these.

I had to throw this image in. All along our route between Guadalupe and Trujillo we saw orange trees just loaded with fruit. We decided to try them. WOW – were these oranges BITTER! We found a few sweeter ones, but now we know why the oranges are just left to drop on the ground!

A Tour Through Southern Spain-Overview

Overview

This spring we decided to take our first international trip in over two years due to the pandemic. It felt so good to be out in the world again! The COVID situation is changing rapidly as I write this, but we found the actual travel to be very easy. We decided on southern Spain for several reasons: While we had toured northern Spain (and as far south as Toledo) a number of years ago, we had not previously visited some of the primary tourist destinations in southern Spain (such as Seville, Cordoba, and Granada). Also, Spain’s COVID travel restrictions as of this spring were a little less restrictive than other countries. Finally, we love Europe!

Our primary destinations were: Trujillo, Merida, Seville, Ronda, Gibraltar (U.K.), Granada, Córdoba, Conseugra, and Cuenca, with a number of other interesting stops along the way.

The Roman Temple of Diana in Merida.

Pandemic Travel

The biggest hassle was the paperwork required by the airlines (United and Lufthansa) prior to departure and return. We had to upload our vaccination cards and fill out questionnaires besides providing the typical passport information. All this information had to be approved by the airline prior to receiving boarding passes, but not more than 24 hours in advance. Frankly, it was easier just providing all the required documentation at the airport check-in counters. Spain required us to fill out a straightforward questionnaire and obtain a QR code ahead of time that we could show (upon arrival at the Madrid airport they just scanned the QR code and that was it, simple). Traveling back to the U.S. (at the time) required a negative COVID test which we were able to get at the Madrid airport prior to our departing return flight (test results were available in less than 30 minutes). Masks were required indoors in Spain, so we just kept our masks with us at all times, and also kept our vaccination cards with us in case anyone asked (which they didn’t).

We traveled in early March, a pretty good time to go. Tourist sites were not crowded, and the weather was generally pleasant (we had one rainy day and one stormy/windy day with Saharan sand covering our car with a fine layer of dust and turning the sky an orange hue).

Tourist Site Reservations

The only reservations we made ahead of time were for the Alhambra in Granada and the Cathedral/Rooftop Tour in Seville. There were no lines to speak of at either site, but we thought it would be smart to book ahead for these popular sites. Under normal travel conditions, reserving tickets for the Alhambra is a must.

A view of the Alhambra in Granada. In March, the mountains were covered in snow.

Logistics

As we typically do, we rented a car (through Avis this time) and are very glad we did. Having a car allows you to explore surprising little out-of-the-way villages or sights that would not be accessible otherwise. Examples include Alcalá la Real, Calatrava la Nueva and Alarcón – more to come on these little gems in later posts.

Alarcón castle – now a parador (hotel).

We covered about 1,600 miles during our two-week tour and didn’t need to drive more than about 3.5 hours in any given day. A map of our approximate route is shown below. We will break down the trip into segments for future posts.

Our approximate route through Southern Spain and Gibraltar. We covered a lot of ground over two weeks, but never felt rushed. We saw an amazing number of interesting sights and also enjoyed the varied landscape.

We stayed in lovely apartments in most destinations and found some great deals at the time – often not more than $100 US per night for 2+ bedrooms, kitchen, clothes washer and often 2 bathrooms (we had 4 people in our group). Our hosts were very prompt, friendly and welcoming.

Street entrance for our Granada apartment, in the old Albaicin quarter of the city.
Our bedroom in Granada, we loved the old architecture.

It felt GREAT to be “back on the road again”….keep a look out for more to come on this amazing adventure!

Finding the Perfect Retreat

In this post our guest writer, Jesse Clark, provides ideas for a relaxing retreat-type of vacation. Her bio information is below. 

Holidays and year-end work and school projects can be overwhelming, so much so that if you can squeeze in a quick self-care retreat at the beginning of a new year, it can work wonders on your mental and emotional health. When you’re scouting out locations, consider places where you might ultimately like to buy a vacation home and “test drive” the city or state on your quest for relaxation. Today, The Independent Tourist offers some tips and resources to help you on your way.

Southern Arizona

There’s a real sense of calm in the desert, and visiting in January, February, or March offers beautifully temperate daytime temps in the mid-50s and 60s. It’s also “spring” in the desert, which makes for beautiful hikes at Camelback, Santan, or Four Peaks. While you can certainly commune with nature, if you’d like a more traditional wellness retreat, consider any one of the city’s 5-star hotels with award-winning spas, or a hidden gem like CIVANA in the aptly-named Carefree, AZ. Wellness packages include a variety of options, including healthy vegan meals, yoga and meditation, spiritual wellness consultations, and traditional spa treatments and amenities.

Southern California

If you’re in the mood for a wellness beach trip, San Diego is home to pristine beaches, seaside dining, and historic landmarks. It’s also home to a 600-acre Japanese-style mountain retreat, the Golden Door. A true zen experience includes an array of class offerings, hiking trails and labyrinths, traditional spa treatments and offerings, and one-on-one coaching from renowned clinicians and personal wellness experts. While you’re in SoCal, consider a visit to Malibu’s famed Ranch, an exclusive, immersive experience that includes specialized eating and fitness regimens, and personalized experiences.

A trip to California doesn’t have to be exclusively for gardens and spas. If you’re in Los Angeles, you can catch a Dodgers game in the afternoon or evening. Simply choose your price point and select from your choice of great seats at great prices.

Southern Colorado

If you prefer the smell of pines and mountain air, the Crestone Mountain Zen Center in San Luis Valley, Colorado may be the right fit for your rejuvenation needs. This real-life Zen Buddhist monastery offers truly personalized plans intended to be wholly transformative. If you’d rather explore the solitude of nature treks, consider hiking through the Great Sand Dunes National Park, or explore Mesa Verde National Park. While Colorado weather can vary during the winter months, it also offers opportunities for invigorating snow sports like skiing and snowboarding.

International Destinations

If you really want an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and rest and recharge, Destination Deluxe recommends you consider an international trek. Explore the Bodhi Tree House in Costa Rica and find yourself at one with the jungle, or explore the mountains of Positano at Italy’s Dolce Vitality.  If you need a true detox, SHA Wellness Clinic in Alicante, Spain takes a holistic approach that includes stress and anxiety relief and unconventional therapies that are sure to please.

Taking a Permanent Vacation

You may very well fall in love with your wellness destination city and decide you’d like to take return trips on a regular basis. Buying a vacation property typically requires a 20% down payment, which can be steep for many homeowners. A home equity loan or second mortgage may be an option for making your vacay dreams become a reality. According to Bankrate, a mortgage lender can help you crunch your numbers, and a qualified real estate agent in your destination city of choice can help you find the perfect long-term retreat. You should also look into forming your own LLC if you’d like to get into the vacation rental business!

We all need an opportunity to rest, relax, and recharge, and having a vacation home in a beautiful city can be just what you need. You can likely rent out your property when it’s not in use, and be better suited to managing the stress of everyday life when you know you have a special escape that’s all your own.

Jesse Clark is a traveler, so she’s no stranger to experiencing wanderlust and that strong desire to travel. She’s already had enough experiences to last a lifetime, but she’s not stopping anytime soon. Find out more and contact her through soulful-travel.com. 

Featured image credit: Pixabay