Few visitors prioritize Northern Ireland on their first visit, opting instead to explore the dramatic scenery of County Kerry or stop by major tourist attractions such as Blarney Castle near Cork. But Northern Ireland is unjustly overlooked: It offers many of the same draws that make the Republic of Ireland so popular. Dramatic coastal scenery? Check. Cozy, traditional Irish charm? Check. Impressive museums, cultural attractions, and cuisine? Check, check, and check.
It's true that there are long, boring stretches of highway, traffic jams, and a few unappealing urban areas, but those who can overlook those parts of this region will find their persistence rewarded. When it comes to natural beauty, The Causeway Coast in Antrim is Northern Ireland's crown jewel: The otherworldly volcanic formations at Giant's Causeway, rugged coastline, dramatic green cliffs, and vast expanse of blue ocean make for a setting that can rival any of the coastal scenery found to the south. There are plenty of intimate inns in this area as well, such as Bushmills Inn, with its roaring peat fires and appealing historic character.
For anyone interested in learning more about The Troubles of Ireland, both Belfast and Derry provide interesting insight into Ireland's violent past. In Derry -- where the infamous Bloody Sunday massacre occurred -- monuments such as the Peace Bridge and the iconic Hands Across the Divide sculpture symbolize the reconciliation between Protestant unionists and Catholic nationalists. In Belfast, the popular Black Cab tours show tourists political murals and sights relating to the Troubles. But there are plenty of non-Troubles-related cultural attractions as well -- most notably, the state-of-the-art Titantic Belfast museum, the historic Derry city walls, and the Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre.
Most visitors choose to stay in Belfast, Northern Ireland's largest city, or along the beautiful Causeway Coast in Antrim.