The terms Ulster, Northern Ireland, "the six counties," and "the North" are used interchangeably in Ireland for this small, ruggedly beautiful, and historically troubled land. The fact that nobody knows quite what to call it is appropriate given the seemingly endless struggle that has gone on for the soul of this place.
For many years, visitors to Ireland avoided the North, for obvious reasons. In fact, the vast majority of Irish people have never crossed the border into Ulster, and that's a pity. This is a colorful, exciting region, with vibrant towns and a countryside of breathtaking beauty. The way the locals treat you may come as a surprise -- in fact, we'll go out on a limb and say that rural Northern Ireland is, in many ways, friendlier to visitors than the Republic. In part because of its relatively low tourism numbers, you'll find you are very welcome here, whereas, in the southern counties, the overwhelming flow of visitors has taken a toll on that famous Irish faílte.
Belfast and Derry, the North's only cities of any size, are both quite manageable, with complex political situations and grand historical monuments. But the main draw here is the magnificent, absolutely stunning countryside: the cool greens of the Glens of Antrim, the rugged Mourne Mountains, and the famously craggy coastline culminating in the lunar Giant's Causeway.