Daily Escape

Hagia Sophia

Photo by Gavin Hellier / Robert Harding Picture Library / Aurora Photos

Hagia Sophia

Istanbul, Turkey

At night, this marvelous mash-up of Byzantine and Islamic architecture stands at its mysterious best; it glows like the thousands of flickering candles which once illuminated the cavernous spaces and intricate Arabic tiles inside. Built in the year 537, the grand Hagia Sophia, called the Aya Sofya in Turkish, has seen the fall of Constantinople and the rise of Istanbul; it is now a museum and symbol of Istanbul’s unique identity as a fusion of Europe and Asia, Islam and Christianity.


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Positano, Italy
Positano, Italy

Positano, Italy

Italy’s Amalfi Coast is home to several towns -- and the village of Positano is arguably its star attraction. Situated on a steep, rocky slope, the town is dotted with colorful stucco buildings that enliven the Mediterranean scene. 960 1280

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Taktshang Monastery, Bhutan

Taktshang Monastery, Bhutan

At a dizzying 3,000 feet above Bhutan’s upper Paro Valley, Taktshang Monastery is the most famous Buddhist Himalayan monastery in the South Asian country. It was built in 1692, with subsequent restorations in 1958 and 2005. 960 1280

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Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

On a rocky hill above the German village of Hohenschwangau stands Neuschwanstein Castle. The 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace was commissioned by the king of the German state of Bavaria Ludwig II. At an elevation of 2,620 feet, the palace offers amazing views of the Alpine foothills to the south and hilly terrain to the north. 960 1280

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Bonifacio, Corsica, France

Bonifacio, Corsica, France

On the southwest tip of the French island of Corsica you’ll find Bonifacio. This ancient fortress town was established in the 12th century by the Republic of Genoa to thwart invasion by the Moors. Here’s a view of the Bonifacio fortress, perched on a limestone plateau overlooking the harbor of the same name. 960 1280

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Oia Village, Santorini, Greece

Oia Village, Santorini, Greece

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Holy Monastery of Varlaam, Greece

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Castellfollit de la Roca, Catalonia, Spain

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Dar Al Hajar, Yemen

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Al Deir Monastery, Petra, Jordan

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Xuankong Monastery, China

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Popa Taungkalat Monastery, Burma

Popa Taungkalat Monastery, Burma

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Hearst Castle, California

Hearst Castle, California

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Hanging Houses, Cuenca, Ecuador

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Alleged burial site of Vlad the Impaler
Snagov Monastery

Snagov Monastery

On a tiny islet, surrounded by a lake, stands Snagov Monastery. Vlad enthusiasts have been claiming since the 19th century that Vlad himself is buried inside this monastery, more than 300 miles from Bucharest. While there’s no definitive proof of it, it sure makes for an intriguing story. 960 1280

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Count Dracula Club

Count Dracula Club

Inside this 19th-century house in Bucharest, visitors encounter a Dracula-inspired restaurant with some, um, newfangled twists. Dine on menu options like “Count Dracula’s Beefsteak” and the “Van Helsing Plate,” in honor of Dracula’s biggest enemy. But beware -- someone might sneak up on you, and take a bite out of your tasty neck! 960 1280

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Brasov, Home to Dracula’s Castle

Brasov, Home to Dracula’s Castle

The medieval fortress, about 100 miles from Bucharest, was invaded by Vlad back in the day. Perched atop a 200-foot-tall rock, overlooking the village of Bran, Bran Castle yields panoramic views of the village below. 960 1280

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Poenari Fortress

Poenari Fortress

This weathered, cliff-side castle was Vlad’s main fortress. Built between the 13th and 14th centuries in south-central Romania by the rulers of Wallachia (a principality in what is now Romania), the castle was later abandoned and fell into ruin, until Vlad stepped in and oversaw its repairs. 960 1280

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Chindia Tower in Targoviste

Chindia Tower in Targoviste

This military tower, in the Romanian city of Targoviste, was built by Vlad in the 15th century. Construction began during Vlad’s second reign (his first reign had been interrupted by a political coup and subsequent exile). Vlad came back strong with Chindia Tower, which stands at more than 88 feet. 960 1280

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Vlad's Old Princely Court

Vlad's Old Princely Court

This place of residence, located in Bucharest’s historic center, was built during the rule of Vlad III. But don’t let its regal arches and (1 remaining) Corinthian column fool you; the princely court was also likely a house of horrors. Local lore has it that Vlad kept his political enemies in dungeons beneath the court’s grounds. 960 1280

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Sibiu, Where the Impaling Began

Sibiu, Where the Impaling Began

Vlad’s gory legend was born in the Transylvania city of Sibiu. In 1459, thousands of people were impaled in the city, at Vlad’s orders, on St. Bartholomew’s Day. Vlad’s victims included women and children, along with merchants and the local aristocracy. While some justify Vlad’s gruesome acts as a defense of nationalism (many of his victims were German Saxons), his detractors note that many of his victims were also from his native Wallachia. 960 1280

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Vlad's Birthplace, Sighisoara

Vlad's Birthplace, Sighisoara

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Borgo Pass

Borgo Pass

This high mountain pass, roughly 309 miles northwest of Bucharest, is actually known as the Tihuta Pass. Located in the Eastern Carpathian Mountains, the area was made famous by Bram Stoker’s Dracula -- in the novel, he rechristened the area, “Borgo Pass,” depicting it as the gateway to Count Dracula’s lair of horrors.

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Hotel Coroana de Aur

Hotel Coroana de Aur

Once you’ve checked out the Borgo Pass, settle down for the night at Hotel Coroana de Aur. The property comprises 109 rooms and 4 suites, with air-conditioning, mini-bars and free Wi-Fi among the amenities, making for a clean, streamlined environment to kick back and read up on Vlad and Dracula’s bloody exploits. 960 1280

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