Both residing on the same piece of land, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland share similarities and differences that seem to evade many tourists. The two countries have different political climates, different currencies, and even different cultures, but they share a sense of Irish friendliness, stunning landscapes, and possession of some of the most beautiful landmarks on the planet.
No matter what kind of traveler you are, you’ll find breathtaking scenery, generous hospitality, and amazing experiences both in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Keep reading to find out what you have to do before you leave these two amazing countries.
10 Ireland: Sleep In A Real Castle
Ireland is a land brimming with a fascinating history. What better way to pay tribute to the past than stay in one of the real castles still standing today? There are several castles you can actually stay in (although they might cost you a small fortune), as well as those you can just visit for the day.
Ashford Castle in County Mayo, for example, was voted the Best Hotel in the World according to Journalist on the Run. Even if staying in a castle sets you back a few euros, it’s worth it just to feel like royalty for a night!
9 Northern Ireland: Check Out The Titanic Museum
The city of Belfast has a few claims to fame, but the most popular is gifting the world the most famous ship of all: the Titanic. Visit the Titanic Museum (which is shaped like a ship being built in the original Harland & Wolff shipyards) for the very best Titanic experience of your life.
Inside the museum, you’ll come across informative and interactive exhibits detailing the history of the ship and the events leading up to its sinking. You’ll also see a recreation of the grand staircase which you might recognize from the James Cameron movie.
8 Ireland: Witness The Sunset Behind The Cliffs Of Moher
One of the most famous landmarks in all of Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher are a must on any Irish itinerary. While these stunning cliffs are incredible to witness any time of the day, they are especially breathtaking at sunset.
You can take a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher from the capital city of Dublin, or you can make your way there with a rented car. Driving throughout the Irish countryside is actually easier than you might think, as many of the roads are windy and slow.
7 Northern Ireland: Drive The Causeway Coast
Giant’s Causeway is one of the most famous natural sites, not just in Northern Ireland, but in the entire world. These dramatic rock formations will stun you to silence, but there’s plenty more to see in the vicinity. That’s why you should add the entire Causeway Coast to your Northern Ireland bucket list.
Along the coastal route, you’ll come across the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge stretching between clifftops. It’s the most famous bridge in the country, and definitely not for the faint of heart. The Old Bushmill’s Distillery is also in the area, as is the historic Dunluce Castle.
6 Ireland: Kayak In The Dark
Kayaking is fun at the best of times, but for a unique experience, head to Lough Hyne in West Cork. Here, they offer night kayaking, which is one of the most unforgettable things you’ll ever do. The sessions run pretty steadily during the summer and should definitely be on your itinerary.
Lough Hyne is a beautiful lake and a Marine Nature Reserve, so there’s a good chance that you’ll spot some pretty interesting plants and creatures during your session. And if you can’t see them in the dark, you might hear them stirring!
5 Northern Ireland: Escape To Rathlin Island
For those who are sick of the crowds that tend to accumulate in major tourist destinations, Rathlin Island is the answer. Home to only 150 locals, according to National Geographic, the island is the perfect place to escape the fast pace of life. Visit for a few days or a few hours—it’s totally up to you.
Many people choose to explore the remote island either by foot or bike, but either way, it’s a peaceful experience. Your only job is to soak up the spectacular sights both on the land and out to sea.
4 Ireland: Ride A Horse In The Countryside
Ireland is one of the most beautiful places in the world to ride a horse. Not only does it allow you to take the time out to admire the picturesque green scenery surrounding you, but it’s a pastime that has been practiced in the country since its earliest days. It doesn’t get much more authentic than exploring the Emerald Isle on horseback.
Among the destinations that are ideal for horseback riding in Ireland are the rolling hills of County Wicklow or the magnificent Dingle Peninsula. The Planet D reveals that every county in Ireland will have its own stables, so you can ride wherever your heart takes you.
3 Northern Ireland: Travel Back In Time In The Ulster American Folk Park
Northern Ireland has a rich and fascinating history, and one of the best ways to learn all about it is to visit the open-air Ulster American Folk Park. The theme of the museum is Irish emigration, which has affected many Irish families over the centuries.
Inside the museum, you’ll get to visit both the Old World and the New World, separated by a recreation of an immigrant ship. The guides are costumed so you’ll really feel like you’ve landed in the past and are watching history take place before your eyes.
2 Ireland: Visit Skellig Michael
Northern Ireland may boast filming locations from the famous Game of Thrones TV show, but the Republic can top it: Skellig Michael served as the backdrop for The Force Awakens installment of Star Wars. But that’s not the only reason why you should visit.
Skellig Michael is home to a monastery that dates all the way back to the 6th century. The huts have been preserved extremely well and have an air of magic about them. You’ll need to hop on a boat to visit the landmark, but it’s worth the effort.
1 Northern Ireland: Browse Through St. George’s Market
There are several notable markets in Northern Ireland. If you only have time to see one, check out St. George’s in Belfast. Open every Friday through Sunday, the market is home to an array of stalls selling just about everything you could think of.
The specific stalls vary according to the day, so keep that in mind when planning your trip. On Fridays, you’ll find antiques, books, and clothes, as well as fruit and vegetable. Saturdays are all about crafts, food, and live entertainment. Sunday shines a light on artisanal products.