Flung onto the foggy fringe of the Atlantic pond like a mossy millstone, Ireland drips with mystery, drawing you in for a closer look. The Irish culture — with its intricate art and mesmerizing music — is as intoxicating as a pint or two of Guinness. And today's Ireland is vibrant and cosmopolitan, yet warm and down to earth. You may not find the proverbial pot of gold, but you'll treasure your encounters with the Irish people, who've earned their worldwide reputation as witty, musical, moody romantics with a quick laugh and a ready smile. Come join them.
At a Glance
Republic of Ireland
▲▲▲ Dublin Bustling Irish capital, with fascinating tours (historical, musical, and literary), passionate rebel history (Kilmainham Gaol), treasured Dark Age gospels (Book of Kells), intricate Celtic artifacts (at the National Museum of Archaeology), and a rambunctious pub district (Temple Bar).
▲▲▲ Dingle Peninsula My favorite fishing village (Dingle town, a traditional Irish-music pub paradise), which serves as a launchpad for the gorgeous Slea Head loop drive (or bike ride), featuring striking scenery and a wealth of Celtic and early Christian sites.
▲▲▲ Aran Islands Three windswept, treeless limestone islands in the Atlantic, ringed by cliffs, crowned by striking ruins, and home to sparse villages of hardy fisherfolk.
▲▲ Boyne Valley and Trim Area just north of Dublin with the ancient pre-Celtic burial mounds of Brú na Bóinne, and the majestic Norman castle in Trim.
▲▲ Kilkenny and the Rock of Cashel Best two destinations in Ireland's interior: the medieval town of Kilkenny, with its narrow lanes, colorful facades, and stocky castle; and the Rock of Cashel, with its dramatic hilltop hodgepodge of church ruins overlooking the Plain of Tipperary.
▲▲ Kinsale and Cobh County Cork's two quaint harbor towns: Kinsale, beloved by foodies, fun for strolling, and guarded by squat Charles Fort; and the emigration hub of Cobh — the Titanic's last stop.
▲▲ Ring of Kerry Ireland's most famous scenic loop route: around Kerry's fairy-fort-filled peninsula, with options for an excursion to the hermitage island of Skellig Michael, and the colorful, tidy town of Kenmare as an ideal home base.
▲▲ County Clare and the Burren Ireland's rugged western fringe, with the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, stony prehistoric landscape of the Burren, cozy trad music crossroads of cozy Doolin, and friendly town of Ennis.
▲▲ Westport and Connemara Lushly green region with hilly Irish outback of cottages, lakes, and holy peaks, dotted with photogenic settlements such as Cong, Kylemore Abbey, and the leafy riverside town of Westport.
▲ Waterford and County Wexford Gritty historic port town with famous Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre, and a hinterland marked by early Norman invasions, with a 12-century lighthouse, famine ship replica, the Irish National Irish Heritage park, and the Kennedy ancestral homestead.
▲ Galway Energetic university city with a thriving pedestrian street scene and great people-watching pubs — and the west coast's best base for reaching the Burren, Aran Islands, and Connemara.
▲ Wicklow Mountains Remote-feeling region just south of Dublin that's home to the graceful Gardens of Powerscourt and the evocative monastic ruins of Glendalough.
▲ Donegal and the Northwest Far-flung section of the Republic with a ruggedly beautiful landscape, and a striking castle in the main town of Donegal.
▲▲ Antrim Coast Northern edge of the isle, boasting the geologic wonderland of the Giant's Causeway, Old Bushmills Distillery, cliff-edge ruins of Dunluce Castle, and exhilarating Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge — with the unpretentious beach resort of Portrush serving as a pleasant gateway to the region.
▲▲ Belfast No-nonsense capital of Northern Ireland with a walkable city center, stirring sectarian neighborhoods, the delightful riverside Titanic Quarter, and the charming nearby Victorian seaside retreat of Bangor.
▲ Derry Seventeenth-century British settlement encircled by stout town walls — and infamous as the powder keg that ignited Ireland's tragic modern "Troubles" — with an insightful city history museum that tells the tale.