You’ll understand why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle when you first see its verdant countryside, unfurling like a lush green carpet, from the window of your plane. But you’ll really understand the poetic name once you’re on the ground, exploring the hidden gems that make Ireland a magical jewel of a destination.
Many travelers don’t go beyond Dublin, and while the city is absolutely a must-visit, Ireland offers so much more. It’s a country whose cultural heritage and traditions are as rich as its landscapes are diverse. From visiting rolling sheep-dotted hills to lively centuries-old towns, sunny beaches to vertigo-inducing cliffs, ancient castles and churches to, well, more castles and churches, there’s so much to do and see on a tour of Ireland.
Language: English is Ireland’s main language, and all native Irish people can speak English. However, you’ll see some signs and place names in Irish Gaelic.
Getting around: The easiest, most reliable way to get around Ireland is via public transportation, and the island is small enough that few journeys last more than three hours or so. (That’s the length of the train ride between Dublin and Cork, for instance.) While Ireland’s bus network is more extensive than its rail network, train travel is generally faster.
Phrases to know: “What’s the craic?” (pronounced crack) is how the Irish ask, “What’s up?” You’ll hear the word “craic” a lot, as it can refer to everything from music to good conversation. When you’re at a pub, ask for a “pint of gat”—that is, a pint of Guinness. And to toast the new friends you’ll undoubtedly make in Ireland—whether you’re a solo traveler or part of an educational tour—say, “Sláinte!” (pronounced slawn-cha), or “health.”
Thanks to its mild, temperate climate, the best time to visit Ireland is, well, any time! Rain is common year-round, but days below freezing are as rare as those that’ll have you wishing for air conditioning. Still, there are certain times of year when a trip to Ireland is particularly special.
Packing for a trip to Ireland means preparing for the unpredictable. But, as experienced travelers always say: There’s no bad weather, just bad preparation.
One trip isn’t enough to experience all that Ireland has to offer. But our travelers have a few recommendations for can't-miss things to do and places to visit in Ireland.
Irish cuisine isn’t just Guinness and fish and chips! Ireland might not have the same culinary reputation as, say, France or Italy, but with the country’s thriving farm- and sea-to-table movement and a rich tradition of hearty meals, you won’t go hungry. The best restaurants in Dublin, especially, will make you rethink your preconceived ideas about Irish food.
You can bring home more than memories from your trip to Ireland. These special souvenirs will remind you (and your loved ones) of the Emerald Isle.