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Trekking snowy peaks in Alaska, exploring the nature-filled Galapagos Islands, and uncovering some of Europe’s less-trodden idylls; unique summer vacations come in all shapes and sizes.

A unique summer vacation might also mean shining a fresh lens on more well-trodden paths, such as sipping wine at a vineyard perched on the slopes of Mount Etna in sultry Sicily or embarking on an underwater adventure in the warm Caribbean Sea.

From ticking off Iceland’s roaring waterfalls to viewing icebergs in Greenland, a summer vacation that is more extraordinary than ordinary awaits.

Explore Waterfalls in Iceland

Gullfoss Iceland, one of the most unique summer vacations

Gullfoss, Iceland

From vast glaciers to black-sand beaches, Iceland has some of the world’s most remarkable natural wonders, including thousands of spectacular waterfalls.

One of the most famous is the thundering Gullfoss, translating as “golden falls”, in the Hvítá river canyon. It’s around two hours from Reykjavik on the country’s popular Golden Circle tour and well worth the journey  from the capital, across landscapes shaped by fire and ice.

Gullfoss is a powerful, two-tier Icelandic waterfall that drops a total of 105 feet. However, it’s Gullfoss’s width that is most impressive, spanning over 500 feet around the canyon. Summer is the best time to visit when around 459 cubic feet of water flows into the Gullfossgjúfur canyon every second.

Majestic falls of Dynjandi, Iceland

Dynjandi Waterfall, Iceland

In the Westfjords, in the far northwest of Iceland near Ísafjörður, the beautiful Dynjandi waterfall is set near the picturesque Arnarfjordur fjord, home to a wealth of bird life. The 328-foot cascade starts at 98 feet wide at the top, extending to 196 feet at the bottom.

Read: Unique Vacation Ideas for Couples

Discover a UNESCO-listed Marine Park in Bonaire

Marine life in Bonaire Marine Park

Bonaire Marine Park

The Caribbean’s gorgeous beaches are complemented by the dazzling underwater world of coral reefs and sea creatures that thrive in the tropical ocean.

To experience this, head to Bonaire Marine Park, a 2,700-hectare landscape of mangroves, Caribbean coral reefs, and seagrass beds. There are more than 50 types of stony coral of all shapes and sizes and more than 350 reef fish species.

Elkhorn corals in Bonaire

Elkhorn corals

It’s easy to reach Bonaire Marine Park, which encompasses the sea around Bonaire and the smaller, uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire.

The reefs, home to elkhorn, brain, and fire corals, are home to parrotfish, reef perch, wrasses, and surgeonfish. Witness queen conch and green turtles on a snorkeling or scuba diving expedition from easy-going Kralendijk, the capital of Bonaire.

Couple snorkeling in Bonaire

Snorkeling in Bonaire

There are countless opportunities to snorkel in Bonaire, from walking into the sun-warmed water straight from the shore to joining a guided snorkel or scuba diving tour.

Mangroves in Lac Bay, Bonaire

Lac Bay, Bonaire

Kayaking, too, is a great way of experiencing the marine park, particularly in the emerald-green mangrove forests of Lac Bay in south Bonaire. Here, you might spot lobster, bay rays, queen conch, and baby seahorses, with the clear water naturally filtered by the abundance of seagrass.

Read: Top Things to Do in Bonaire

Walk in the Footsteps of Charles Darwin in the Galapagos Islands

Family looking at Galapagos tortoise

Galapagos

Unique summer vacations don’t get more enriching than the Galapagos, a volcanic archipelago lying around 600 miles off Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean.

The Galapagos Islands are home to an array of eye-popping wildlife that make the islands one of the best destinations in the world for an immersive, nature-filled getaway.

Exterior of Charles Darwin Research Station in Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Charles Darwin Research Station in Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Dig deep into the Galapagos’ flora and fauna at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. This scientific research base has an exhibition hall that details the station’s six decades of work, including the skeleton of a Bryde’s whale, and a photography exhibit.

Vicente Roca Point, Galapagos, one of the most unique summer vacations

Vicente Roca Point, Galapagos

You could explore the Galapagos via a zodiac ride in Vicente Roca Point, Isabela Island, to spot sea lions, penguins, fur seals, marine iguanas, sea turtles, and the flightless cormorant.

Galapagos, one of the most unique summer vacations

Blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos

One of the star attractions of the Galapagos is, of course, the blue-footed booby, named after their aquamarine-hued feet. You’re most likely to spot blue-footed boobies during their mating season, between June and August, with breeding grounds on several of the islands, including Santa Cruz and Isabela.

On Bartolome Island, you could walk to Pinnacle Rock—a volcanic rock shaped like a shark’s tooth that points toward the sky—at Playa Dorada. This glorious spot is also wonderful for snorkeling in the Galapagos, with sea turtles, stingrays, sharks, and red-lipped batfish inhabiting the area.

Sip Wines on the Slopes of Mt. Etna in Sicily

Crater of Mt. Etna in Sicily, Italy

Mt. Etna in Sicily, Italy

For a sizzling-hot unique summer getaway in Europe, consider a trip to Sicily to combine delicious gastronomy, Roman ruins, and beautiful Sicilian beaches.

In the northeast of Sicily, the world’s most active stratovolcano, Mt. Etna rises 6,400 feet, forming a jaw-dropping backdrop for the coastal Sicilian towns of Catania and Taormina. Beguiling towns and villages cling to the foot of the volcano, which features a landscape of lava caves, craters, and cinder cones.

People hiking Mt. Etna in Sicily, Italy

Mt. Etna in Sicily, Italy

Take in the warm summer breeze of Sicily as you climb a section of the volcano, with a vibrant display of wildflowers, orchards, and forests of beech, birch, pine, chestnut, and oak trees within Mount Etna Park. There’s more; 180 leafy wineries thrive in the mineral-rich volcanic soil, some as high as 3,600 feet above the sea.

Combine an uphill hike with some wine-tasting at Sicily’s most scenic wineries, with vineyards dotted around the north, east, and south slopes, including near the historic towns of Randazzo, Castiglione di Sicilia, and Milo.

Vineyard in Planeta Sciaranuova in Sicily, Italy

Planeta Sciaranuova in Sicily, Italy

Tour the nerello and carricante grapes at Planeta Sciaranuova, before enjoying a tantalizing tasting of four wines paired with local cheeses, bread, and olive oil.

Nerello grapes in Sicily

Nerello grapes

Nearby, at Cantine Patria winery, visitors can tour the vineyard and wine cellar, before sipping ruby-red Etna Rosso and the fresh citrus flavors of Etna Patria Rosé.

Explore Mayan Ruins near Tulum

Beautiful landscape of Tulum Mayan ruins

Tulum Mayan ruins, Mexico

There’s more to tropical Tulum than some of the best beaches in the Riviera Maya, including tons of ancient Mayan landmarks.

On the northern tip of Tulum, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, lies a cluster of well-preserved 12th- and 13th-century Mayan ruins forming the Tulum Archaeological Zone. It’s easy to cover the entire complex, once a wealthy trading port, ensconced within three fortified limestone walls, during a single visit.

Tulum Mexico, one of the most unique summer vacations

Tulum Mayan ruins, Mexico

Pick one of the five doors to enter the ramparts. Inside are structures once used as palaces, civic, and ceremonial buildings, including the Templo del Dios de Viento, named after the god of wind, perched on a rocky ledge.

Historic site of Tulum Mayan ruins

Tulum Mayan ruins, Mexico

The most imposing building is the Castillo, which stands at 39 feet on a clifftop, accessed via steep steps, next to the two-story Temple of the Frescoes, which contains beautiful murals and intricate stone carvings.

Ride the Historic Flåm Railway in Norway

View of Flåm Railway, Norway

Flåm Railway, Norway

At the end of the Aurlandsfjord, in the quaint town of Flåm, the joyous Flåm Railway is regarded as one of the world’s most spectacular railway journeys.

Flåm Railway was built between 1923 and 1940, with the route passing lush pastures, roaring waterfalls, a tranquil river, and hairpin mountain tunnels to reach Myrdal station.

Majestic waterfall of Kjosfossen, Norway

Kjosfossen, Norway

Step inside one of the train’s emerald-green carriages, with the color matching the thick pine forests in the surrounding landscape. Among the world’s steepest train routes, the journey takes around 60 minutes, including time to step off the train at Kjosfossen, a cascading 738-foot waterfall in Norway.

Soak up the falls’ cooling mist before continuing to Myrdal, 2,841 feet up the mountain. Tag on a visit to the Flåm Railway Museum in Flåm, too, to learn more about the train’s history and the railway’s construction.

Learn About Greenland’s Culture

Scenic landscape of Prins Christian Sund, Greenland

Prins Christian Sund, Greenland

One of the most unique summer vacations you’ll ever likely experience is in Greenland, thanks to its vast, cinematic landscape.

Witness the sapphire waters and razor-sharp mountains of Prins Christian Sund, named after Denmark’s King Christian VIII, in the south of Greenland.

Colorful waterfront of Qaqortoq, Greenland

Qaqortoq, Greenland

In Qaqortoq, on the southwest coast of Greenland, you could explore the country’s Norse culture at the Qaqortoq Museum, wander the chocolate box town, dotted with colorful houses, or visit hot springs.

Humpback whale spotted in Greenland

Humpback whale

Some of the best things to do in Greenland during summer include coastal hiking, kayaking, and whale watching, where you have the chance to spot minke, fin, and humpback whales feeding in the icy water.

Kayak in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Kenai Fjords National Park, one of the most unique summer vacations

Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

In Alaska, travelers can embark upon one of North America’s most unique summer vacations in Kenai Fjords National Park, a wilderness of glaciers, fjords, and forests.

During summer in Alaska, take in snow-dusted mountains reflecting in the sapphire water on a kayaking adventure as you paddle along the Kenai Peninsula coast.

Icy landscape of Aialik Glacier, Alaska

Aialik Glacier, Alaska

Stop in awe of the milk-white Aialik Glacier from the cool water of Aialik Bay, keeping your eyes peeled for Alaskan wildlife, including seals, whales, eagles, and porpoises.

During summer, as ice shifts, you might even catch glaciers calving, when huge chunks of ice break off and dramatically crash into the water.

Step Into the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland, one of the most unique summer vacations

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway lines a 33-mile stretch of the country’s windswept north coast, roughly an hour’s drive north of Belfast.

Legend has it that a giant named Finn McCool was building a bridge to stride across the Irish Sea to Scotland and face his lofty rival, Benandonner. One of the best places to visit in Ireland, this geological marvel is made up of 40,000 soaring polygonal-shaped basalt stacks that were, in fact, formed from a lava flow that cooled 50 to 60 million years ago.

Rock formations of Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Choose from one of four walking trails that crisscross this Unesco World Heritage Site, taking in the Grand Causeway, the largest of the three rocky outcrops. Pack binoculars to look for a myriad of seabirds, including razorbill, guillemot, fulmar, eider ducks, and kittiwake.

View from the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland

Carrick-a-Rede, Northern Ireland

After admiring the natural beauty that Ireland is known for, stop by the dizzying Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, connecting the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. The bridge spans 65 feet, 98 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, around a 15-minute drive east of the Giant’s Causeway.

Admire Denali

Beautiful landscape of Mt. Denali

Mt. Denali, Alaska

This subarctic, tundra-landscape of Denali National Park is an off-the-beaten-path destination that makes for a truly unique summer vacation.

The sky-piercing Mt. Denali looms 20,310 feet, making it the tallest mountain in North America. One of the best things to do in Denali National Park is go hiking, with routes lacing some of this six-million-acre nature reserve, where helicopter flights, horseback rides, fishing, and river rafting are also popular.

Denali, Alaska, one of the most unique summer vacations

Denali National Park, Alaska

With the air tinged with the scent of pine, set off on a guided, alpine trek to see glaciers, creeks, and snow-capped mountains in Alaska. If you’re up for the Mountain Vista trail, you could get a glimpse of Mt. Denali on a clear day.

If you prefer a less intense activity, opt for a more leisurely walk through Denali National Park’s boreal forests.

Caribou spotted in Alaska

Caribou in Alaska

There is an abundance of Alaskan wildlife to see in the park, including 169 bird species and 39 mammals. The most thrilling is, arguably, the grizzly bear. Caribou, wolves, dall sheep, red fox, and snowshoe hares add to the dazzling lineup of wildlife. Golden eagles, Canada jays, and gyrfalcons, the world’s largest species of falcon, can be spotted in the skies.

Stroll Through Enchanting Sintra near Lisbon in Portugal

Colorful landscape of Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

Lavish rose-tinted villas and whimsical castles make Sintra, a hillside town clinging to Portugal’s Serra de Sintra, a special place to visit on summer vacation.

One of the best day trips from Lisbon, Sintra is easily reached from the capital city. Among its show-stopping landmarks is the magnificent Sintra National Palace, a 10th-century Moorish castle. The palace stands out for its chalk-white facade, red rooftop, and two towering conical chimneys.

Yellow facade of National Palace of Pena in Sintra, Portugal

National Palace of Pena in Sintra, Portugal

Most intriguing is the ornate, mustard-yellow National Palace of Pena. This sprawling 19th-century hilltop palace was built in the Romantic style on the site of a former monastery. It’s surrounded by verdant, fern-lined paths and green woodlands and offers sublime views that stretch to the Atlantic Ocean.

Amazing architecture of Palacio de Monserrate

Palace of Monserrate in Sintra, Portugal

Stop by the Palace of Monserrate to admire its Moorish patterned plaster columns, Gothic arches, and extravagant gardens that have amassed a botanical collection from all over the world. One of the most beautiful places in Portugal, the palace once lured great poets, inspired by the grounds’ vast beauty, including English poet Lord Byron, who spent time at Monserrate during his grand tour of Europe.

Sintra’s winding streets are just as captivating as its grandiose palaces, with ancient churches, balconied houses, and tapas bars lining cobbled paths and quaint squares.

Unique summer vacations range from visiting fairytale hilltop towns in Europe to exploring North America’s wilder side, and a cruise gives you the chance of exploring multiple destinations in one getaway.

Galapagos, one of the most unique summer vacations

Galapagos

Discover Celebrity Cruises’ range of exciting summer escapes and book your next thrilling vacation.

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