Northern Ireland is an underrated and often overlooked region that usually surprises visitors with its memorable scenery and friendly people. While it shares an island with the Republic of Ireland, when you cross into Northern Ireland, you're crossing an international border into the United Kingdom (where you change stamps, phone cards, and money). With a population just a bit larger than that of Phoenix, Northern Ireland is small enough to have one phone book for the entire province. Its coast boasts the alligator-skin volcanic geology of the Giant's Causeway and the lush Glens of Antrim, while its interior is dominated by rolling hills of pastoral serenity and Lough Neagh, the UK's biggest lake.
At a Glance
▲▲ Portrush and the Antrim Coast Unpretentious beach resort of arcades and amusement park rides, a stone's throw from the geologic wonderland of the Giant's Causeway, dramatic cliff-edge ruins of Dunluce Castle, and exhilarating Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
▲▲ Belfast No-nonsense industrial revolution metropolis, with stirring sectarian political murals, grandly domed City Hall, sprawling Ulster Folk Park and Transport Museum, and the charming nearby Victorian seaside retreat of Bangor.
▲ Derry Seventeenth-century British settlement ringed by stout town walls — infamous as the powder keg that ignited Ireland's tragic modern "Troubles" — with an insightful city history museum and access to the rugged beauty of County Donegal.