Middle East

The World’s Most Amazing Swimming Holes

Technically, a “swimming hole” is any deep place for swimming in a stream, lake or river. But for this post — where are share our picks for the world’s best, coolest and most picturesque swimming holes — Spot Cool Stuff’s travel editors decided on a more ridged set of criteria:

First, we considered only swimming spots that were inside some sort of hole in the earth. That is, our swimming holes had to be substantially surrounded by rock. So somewhere like Idaho’s Redfish Lake, which a popular travel magazine named as one of their best swimming holes, wouldn’t count for us because, really, it’s just a regular lake.

Second, we decided to count only naturally occurring swimming holes. Sadly, this eliminated a very cool hidden swimming spot in Mexico that was created by a giant bomb — check back for our post on that later.

Finally, we only considered swimming holes that offered temperate waters. Because, well, we are cold water wimps. Spain’s wonderful, meadow-surrounded Playa del Gulpiyuri is unfortunately ruled out of contention on this count.

So what swimming holes made the cut? Read on . . . .

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Travel to Game of Thrones Filming Locations

The HBO epic fantasy of Game of Thrones has taken the world by storm on television, intriguing many to venture to these exotic locations that provide the show with an authentic feel.

The sets, locations and environment are as much of a character in the show as are the Lannisters and Starks. These relatively remote locations are becoming tourist spots and vacation destinations that will have you immersed in the Game of Thrones world, but beware, winter is coming.

Here are the more prominent locations where the show has been filmed:

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The Best Oktoberfest Celebrations
(Outside of Europe)

Have you ever been to a raucous wedding reception that turned into an epic party? Exactly 202 years ago this October, the German Prince Ludwig the First married Princess Therese and afterwards hosted exactly such a celebration. It was so memorable that the attendees wanted to relive it every year. That desire spawned the annual alcohol-filled party known today as Oktoberfest.

Happily for lovers of celebrations and beer, Oktoberfest has very much spread beyond Germany in the last two centuries. Here is Spot Cool Stuff’s roundup of a few great places to enjoy the occasion outside of Europe. These Oktoberfests span the globe and are attended by revelers across the spectrum of race, religion and political affiliation. We see it as proof that one of man’s most universal and fundamental desires is to have fun — while guzzling beer and wearing lederhosen.

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Infographic: 10 Places To See Before They’re Gone

Spot Cool Stuff has a love of vintage travel guidebooks, the older the better. In one our finds, a guidebook to Afghanistan written in the late 1800s, the authors described the Buddha statues around of the town of Bamiyan as an over-crowded tourist trap. Contrast that with the whole of the last three decades, during which absolutely nowhere in Afghanistan could remotely qualify as an “over-crowded tourist trap.” That, sadly, includes the Bamiyan Buddha statues—they were mostly destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

The point being: Things change. A place that’s uninviting now might become completely pleasant in the future. A great travel destination now could not be so much later.

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Jordan’s New, Ancient Eco-Resort
spot cool stuff TRAVEL

With enough money, modern technology and piped-in water anyone can build a luxury resort in the middle of a desert. (Exhibit #1: Las Vegas.) But building a luxury resort in the middle of the desert in a completely environmentally sustainable way—that’s a challenge. Yet Oppenheim, an architecture firm based in (of all places) the desert-deprived state of Florida, managed exactly that with their design for an eco-resort in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert.

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Go Skiing (But Not On Snow)

While skiing the dunes, sand will get inside your clothes. And it will go to places you very much would rather it wouldn’t

Ski bums, do not despair when the weather warms at your travel destination. Though the snow may vanish, your opportunity to partake in downhill skiing and boarding needn’t.

Here’s a Spot Cool Stuff look at three non-snow ski surfaces and where to enjoy them:

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Beirut’s Best Boutique Hotels

Even before Lebanon gained independence from France in 1943, those in-the-know referred to Beirut as “the Paris of the Middle East.” Wealthy travelers flocked there for the high culture, the exquisite shopping and the trendy restaurants. Then a brutal civil war ignited in 1975. That lingered until 1990. In the intervening 15 years much of the country’s cultural and historical sites were destroyed.

Happily, since the end of the war Lebanon has been (mostly) at peace and Beirut has undertaken a massive and aggressive rebuilding project to restore the city to its once-prominent position. Travel to Beirut today and you’ll once again see the companions with Paris.

That resurgence of Beirut has brought with it a resurgence of Beirut hotels, from modest budget accommodations to waterfront resorts. Here’s a review of the three best boutique lodging options:

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The World’s Best Candy Stores

This store is as close as you can get to a real-life Willy Wonka experience without wrangling some umpa lumpas and opening a shop yourself

Travelers with a sweet tooth weakness, do not proceed any further in this post. What follows is Spot Cool Stuff’s selection of the 6 most interesting-looking, diabetes-inducing candy stores. A trip to any one for these shops (well, except for the last one) is likely to result in a sugar overdose. Ye be warned.

Note: These are all primarily candy stores. We’ve reviewed our favorite chocolate stores in a separate post.

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