Driving the backroads (as here, in Dartmoor, England) yields surprises by the mile. Photo by Cameron Hewitt

It’s easy to travel through Europe without a car, but there are times when I enjoy the freedom of having my own wheels. I don’t drive in big cities, but having a car can be the best — and, sometimes, only — way to get off the beaten path. When exploring small towns or the countryside, I connect the dots with a rental car.

Last spring, for example, a great little car helped me get around the whitewashed hill towns of southern Spain and the beach towns of...

Parterres edged with hedges. Photos by Yvonne Michie Horn

Hands down, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile wins as the city’s most visitor-trod street. And well it should be. To walk its length is to follow in the footsteps — most likely the carriage rumblings — of the kings and queens who for five centuries made the journey between the formidable castle-fortress that dominates the Old Town skyline to Holyrood Palace.

Since the 16th century, Holyrood has served as the Scots’ official royal residence. Today, Queen...

Visitors exploring the colorful medina in Essaouira. Photo by Randy Keck
This is part one of a three part series. Read part two here. Read part three here.

In April 2019 I ventured to exotic Morocco with the hope of finding a balance between discovering its historic, cultural and natural world attractions and finding the on-the-ground pulse of the country today.

I found a land of contradictions, often difficult if not impossible to define. Moroccans today appear to live with a tug-of-war of values between the often polar-opposite, if not...


Lake Nicaragua contains about 400 islands, some of which are active volcanoes. Since the lake was severed from the Pacific Ocean by a belt of volcanic cones, unique freshwater species of swordfish have evolved.

A Sherman tank guards the approach to the Utah Beach Landing Museum in Normandy, France.

With the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings coming this June, most Americans visiting France's D-Day sites will focus on Omaha Beach -- where thousands died on June 6, 1944. But if you're planning to visit Normandy this year, don't miss the other American landing site -- Utah.

Utah Beach, added as a landing site late in D-Day planning, proved critical. This was where two U.S. paratrooper units (the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions)...

At Basque-style tapas bars, pintxos are already laid out, so you can simply point to or grab what you want.

When it comes to eating in Spain, I love gathering around the table or bar for tapas -- a parade of small dishes served family style. I never tire of them. The experience is like an edible scavenger hunt, where I collect small portions of seafood, salads, meat-filled pastries and deep-fried tasties and piece them together for a light evening meal.

My tapas memories are vivid: In the heart of Spain's Andalucía region, on a warm summer evening, I elbow up to a...

A short hike up to Bled Castle rewards visitors with sweeping views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Tiny, overlooked Slovenia is one of Europe's most unexpectedly charming destinations with spectacular natural beauty, a fascinating recent history, and a spirit of adventure -- yet much of it is still off the typical tourist path. Here, in the land where the Adriatic meets the Alps, lies a romantic getaway that once entertained emperors and presidents -- Lake Bled.

Nestled up against the northeast side of the rugged Julian Alps near the Austrian border...

Namafjall, along the Ring Road that circles Iceland, is one of the island’s most accessible and impressive geothermal areas.

Iceland, formed long ago by volcanoes, is known for its otherworldly landscape, with steaming fields and percolating mud. The volcanic activity produces naturally heated water, which Icelanders have cleverly harnessed for thermal baths and pools. Geothermal experiences -- visual and physical -- are worth seeking out on a visit here.

Wandering through the colorful terrain is a classic Icelandic treat. The most visited geothermal sight is Geysir, home to the world's first-...