The World’s 10 Best Bars, According To The People That Judge Them…

From Gilbert Ott at GodSaveThePoints – and who the trek am I to disagree?!  😉

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A martini is not just a martini. A Manhattan is not just a Manhattan. Mixology is the art of creating the perfect drink- from classic staples to cocktail trends yet to be realized. When it comes to this highly competitive pursuit, a few bars have separated themselves from the pack- offering other worldly service, bespoke liquors and recipes you’ll only find in house. Here are the world’s best cocktail bars- according to people who research and judge that kinda thing. Just don’t confuse them with the world’s best rooftop bars

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  1. The American Bar– London, UK
  2. The Dandelyan – London, UK
  3. The NoMad Bar– New York, USA
  4. The Connaught Bar– London, UK
  5. The Dead Rabbit– New York, USA
  6. The Clumsies– Athens, Greece
  7. Manhattan Bar– Singapore 
  8. Attaboy– New York, USA
  9. Bar Termini– London, UK
  10. Speak Low– Shanghai, China

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Ok let’s pause for a moment. Of all the bars in the world- the best five of them are only found in London or New York? Amazing! Cocktail culture in both cities is as historic as it is progressive, and while it’s shocking not to see any other cities in the top 5, it’s pretty impressive from both world class destinations. If your travel plans do not include London, New York, Athens, Shanghai or Singapore- fear not. The rest of the World’s To 50 Bars List includes other great cities and bars like Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City Miami, Oslo, Melbourne, Buenos Aires and more. You’ll just have to drink your way around the world. Is alcohol tourism a thing..?

HT: Worlds50BestBars

 

 

 

 

 

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From the tastiest coffee to the ultimate beaches

We all have different holiday objectives, but the wealth of choice can make decision-making overwhelming.

Fortunately, the travel experts at Lonely Planet have created a literary road map that details the best places to work through your bucket list in the form of a beautiful coffee table book called The Cities Book – A Journey Through The Best Cities In The World.

So, whether you’re looking for clubbing, culture or child-friendly travel, the book pin-points precisely where you’ll find it. Here’s a sneak preview of what the stunning compendium reveals.


Best for History

Istanbul 'stands at a crossroads of cultures, Eastern and Western' and is packed full of age-old sites, says Lonely Planet

Istanbul ‘stands at a crossroads of cultures, Eastern and Western’ and is packed full of age-old sites, says Lonely Planet

According to this new tome, Charleston in South Carolina is perfect for history buffs. It was founded in 1670 and many of its historic quarters ‘retain their colonial elegance’. Those keen on war history might be interested to learn that it’s where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired in 1861.

Istanbul is no less worthy-a trip. Formerly the capital of the Ottoman Empire, it ‘stands at a crossroads of cultures, Eastern and Western’ and is packed full of age-old sites.

Hiroshima, meanwhile, offers a particularly sobering and thought-provoking experience in the form of the Peace Memorial Park. The city was the target of the world’s first atomic bomb during WWII and the park is where visitors can ‘witness the devastating lessons of history’, Lonely Planet’s book explains.

Best for Architecture

Aesthetically pleasing: Barcelona is well-known for its impressive architecture, including the Palau de la Musica Catalana

Aesthetically pleasing: Barcelona is well-known for its impressive architecture, including the Palau de la Musica Catalana

There’s no shortage of places to enjoy impressive architecture, but this over-abundance can often leave travellers feeling spoiled for choice.

Fortunately, the new Lonely Planet book whittles it down to five favourites – the top being Barcelona.

‘There’s more to it than the wonderful, wonky buildings of Antoni Gaudi,’ it states. ‘Take Jean Nouvel’s priapic Agbar Tower or the fabulously flamboyant interior of the Palau de la Musica Catalana.’

It also cites Chicago, Rome, Istanbul and Mumbai as essential places to visit for beautiful builds.

Best for Families

Family ties: Thanks to several child-friendly museums, Chicago is the perfect destination for a family holiday 

Family ties: Thanks to several child-friendly museums, Chicago is the perfect destination for a family holiday

If there’s an entire clan embarking on your next foreign jaunt, Chicago is a top tip – thanks to ‘child-friendly museums and plenty of parks. Plus, it’s famous for baseball and deep-dish pizza – American childhood favourites’.

In Asia, rovers should head to Singapore, where ‘pram-friendly pavements, kid-friendly hospitality staff and world-class attractions’ dazzle youngsters.

Venice is also on the shortlist thanks to its complete lack of cars.

Best for Coffee

The perfect place for a caffeine hit: Ethiopia's sprawling capital, Addis Abada, tops the Lonely Planet list for coffee fans

The perfect place for a caffeine hit: Ethiopia’s sprawling capital, Addis Abada, tops the Lonely Planet list for coffee fans

Given that its the birthplace of coffee, it’s perhaps not surprising that Ethiopia’s sprawling capital, Addis Abada, tops the Lonely Planet list for those seeking the ultimate caffeine hit.

Melbourne isn’t far behind though, and has extra kudos because many global coffee chains have failed there.

The book also hails Rome as the ‘godfather of the stand-up espresso’, where most baristas have a decade of experience and serve their creations in style.

Best for Adventure

Those seeking adventure should head straight to Alaska's Anchorage, pictured, which 'mixes city streets with hiking trails'

Those seeking adventure should head straight to Alaska’s Anchorage, pictured, which ‘mixes city streets with hiking trails’

The great outdoors is a big place, but those seeking adventure should head straight to Alaska’s Anchorage, which ‘mixes city streets with hiking trails’.

Of particular note is Flattop Mountain, which ‘features a heart-pumping scramble to the summit’, while Chugach State Park offers ‘mountain-studded, immersive wilderness’.

Other open-air playgrounds include Kathmandu, Hobart, Rwanda’s Kigali and Bolivia’s La Paz.

Best for Nightlife

Party time: Belgrade 'parties like the sun won't ever rise with floating nightclubs, jazz acts in Brutalist tower blocks and clinking cocktail glasses set against faded, Neoclassical grandeur'

Party time: Belgrade ‘parties like the sun won’t ever rise with floating nightclubs, jazz acts in Brutalist tower blocks and clinking cocktail glasses set against faded, Neoclassical grandeur’

There are, of course, nightclubs all over the world.

But this book insists nocturnal party-goers should make a beeline for Belgrade, which ‘parties like the sun won’t ever rise with floating nightclubs, jazz acts in Brutalist tower blocks and clinking cocktail glasses set against faded, Neoclassical grandeur.’

If you’ve already done Serbia’s capital, then they also recommend visits to Berlin, New Orleans, Dublin and Rio de Janeiro.

Best for LGBT-friendly

Different strokes: A brightly-coloured Tel Aviv has long been a popular, comfortable place for LGBT tourists to visit  

Different strokes: A brightly-coloured Tel Aviv has long been a popular, comfortable place for LGBT tourists to visit

For people navigating the western world, its never been a better time to be a gay tourist.

The experts at Lonely Planet credit Toronto with hosting one of the globe’s biggest LGBT Pride festivals, which is well-deserved after being the first city in North America to legalise same-sex marriage.

That said, it has some fabulous competition in the form of Berlin, which has been Europe’s flourishing gay capital since the 1920s, New York, Tel Aviv and, of course, sexy Sao Paulo.

Best for Music

Rock on: For music fans, Lonely Planet highlights Austin, Texas, for its 'scores of venues and a palpable energy'

Rock on: For music fans, Lonely Planet highlights Austin, Texas, for its ‘scores of venues and a palpable energy’

There are some obvious destination points for music-lovers, ranging from Liverpool (the city that’s spawned the most UK Number 1s) to the birthplace of grunge: Seattle.

But Lonely Planet highlights Austin, Texas, for its ‘scores of venues and a palpable energy’, while specifically name-checking SXSW and Austin City Limits as festival highlights.

After the success of chart-topper Gangnam Style, it also recommends Seoul for its ‘K-pop hologram concerts’ and revived indie scene.

Best for Wine

Cheers to that! The capital of Georgia is hailed by Lonely Planet as the highlight of a country 'with wine-making at its heart'

Cheers to that! The capital of Georgia is hailed by Lonely Planet as the highlight of a country ‘with wine-making at its heart’

Enjoy sipping on a good glass of Malbec? Then you can thank the Argentinian region of Mendoza for that.

However, while that’s often a good geographical starting point, there are plenty of other places worth travelling for cork-popping, including Tbilisi. The famed capital of Georgia is hailed by Lonely Planet as the highlight of a country ‘with wine-making at its heart’.

Beyond that, there are several world-class wine-touring regions around Melbourne, including the Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Valley. Bordeaux and Cape Town also offer top-quality quaffing experiences.

Best for Skylines

Now that's a view: Hong Kong offers mind-blowing vistas - especially at Victoria Peak, where guests can see for miles

Now that’s a view: Hong Kong offers mind-blowing vistas – especially at Victoria Peak, where guests can see for miles

There’s no denying that New York wins the battle of the global skylines.

So, if you’ve already conquered Manhattan’s majestic view, then this book suggests a trip to Hong Kong for equally mind-blowing vistas. Specifically, try Victoria Peak, reached by taking the Peak Tram to the top.

If you’re in the UK, Edinburgh also makes the list thanks to its ‘dark and brooding skyline’. Shanghai and Seattle make the shortlist, too.

Best for Cycling

Get in lane: According to Lonely Planet, you can't find a better place for your next bicycle adventure than Copenhagen

Get in lane: According to Lonely Planet, you can’t find a better place for your next bicycle adventure than Copenhagen

There’s an old adage that says: have wheels, will travel.

And, according to Lonely Planet’s expert writers, you can’t find a better place for your bicycle adventure than Copenhagen, which they bill as the ‘poster child for cycle-friendly urban design’.

Stateside, Portland has long cultivated America’s biggest bike culture, which thrives despite the extreme weather.

Meanwhile, Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, ‘has laid miles of bike paths and introduced a bike-share scheme so many neighbourhoods are pleasant places to pedal’.

Best for Museums

Culture: Beijing has an 'incredible range of museums, from the bizarre to the Forbidden City's brilliant Palace Museum'

Culture: Beijing has an ‘incredible range of museums, from the bizarre to the Forbidden City’s brilliant Palace Museum’

If you’re familiar with London, you’ll already know that it’s well-known for boasting some of Europe’s best free museums, including the Natural History Museum and the V&A.

Elsewhere, this book recommends Beijing, due to its ‘incredible range of museums, from the bizarre watermelon museum to the Forbidden City’s brilliant Palace Museum, where China’s complex history is explored’.

Meanwhile, in Berlin, the best museums go one better and ‘have an island on the Spree river to themselves’.

Best for Festivals

Sounds good: Over in Colombia, each new year begins with the Cartagena International Music Festival

Sounds good: Over in Colombia, each new year begins with the Cartagena International Music Festival

With more choice than ever, holidaymakers can truly feast on festival options.

Lonely Planet suggests Austin‘s South By Southwest, which started in 1987 but has ‘evolved from an alt-rock get-together into a celebration of film, music, technology and general forward-looking fun’.

Over in Colombia, each new year begins with the Cartagena International Music Festival, which hosts classical musicians from across the globe. Edinburgh‘s annual summer festival, each August, is also a must-see.

Best for Food

Eat your heart out: Spain's San Sebastian scores major points for its pintxo bars, which can be found all over the old town

Eat your heart out: Spain’s San Sebastian scores major points for its pintxo bars, which can be found all over the old town

‘It may not have the most Michelin stars, but few cities have as strong a mid-range dining scene as Melbourne,’ the book asserts. ‘There’s great creativity at work among the global cuisines here.’

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Japan’s Tokyo also makes the grade. ‘From the most humble backstreet izakaya to the most artfully-presented sushi, it takes your tastebuds on a magical tour.’

Back in Europe, Spain’s San Sebastian scores major points for its pintxo bars, which can be found all over the old town.

Best for Beaches

Life's a beach: Cape Town is world-renowned for its golden sands, plus the iconic Table Mountain (pictured)

Life’s a beach: Cape Town is world-renowned for its golden sands, plus the iconic Table Mountain (pictured)

If you’re wanting surf and sands, head to Cape Town, which is world-renowned for its golden beaches. In particular, the wilder shores of Platboom are recommended.

The book also urges people to try Rio de Janeiro‘s ‘beach neighbourhoods of Ipanema and Copacabana, which are so well-known that songs have been written about them’.

Miami‘s beach is similarly suggested, in part for the art deco backdrop.

Best for Art Galleries

Art-lover's paradise: The Palazzo Vecchio and the Medici Chapels are essential sights to visit in Florence, pictured

Art-lover’s paradise: The Palazzo Vecchio and the Medici Chapels are essential sights to visit in Florence, pictured

Few places, if any, do art as well as Italy – which is why Florence is an absolute must for any art-lover’s itinerary.

The Palazzo Vecchio and the Medici Chapels are essential sights to visit, while the Uffizi Gallery serves-up Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael and da Vinci.

George Town in Malaysia, meanwhile, has ‘opened its walls to street artists, making this one of several cities with a strong, open-air art scene’. 

Best for Cool Neighbourhoods 

The place to be for hipsters: Berlin neighbourhoods Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain are trendy hangouts for cool kids

The place to be for hipsters: Berlin neighbourhoods Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain are trendy hangouts for cool kids

‘For 20 years or more Berlin has attracted creative types with its low rents,’ the book says. ‘That’s changing, but neighbourhoods such as Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain are still hip hangouts.’

Similarly, Lisbon is also a destination point for hipsters, especially in Alfama or Bairro Alto.

And, of course, New York‘s East Village is also a place to see – and, crucially, be seen.

Best for Wildlife

By the bay: San Francisco's guests will know that wild coyotes have returned to the city, while sea lions are regularly at Pier 39

By the bay: San Francisco’s guests will know that wild coyotes have returned to the city, while sea lions are regularly at Pier 39

With the Nairobi National Park stretching out for more than 100 square kilometres, it’s the perfect place to spot wild animals such as lions, tigers and rhinos.

Rio de Janeiro also boasts some impressive wildlife, with hundreds of bird species flying overhead.

If you’re travelling in September and October, head to Cape Town, which Humpback whales migrate past. ‘Jackass penguins, Cape fur seals chacma baboons and rock hyraxes happily live there all year round,’ the book says.

In America, those in San Francisco will notice that wild coyotes have returned to the city, while sea lions are regularly at Pier 39.


The Cities Book: A Journey Through The Best Cities In The World is out now. Published by Lonely Planet. 

 

Europe’s first underwater restaurant revealed

Wow – simply stunning! 

Designs for Europe¿s first underwater eatery have been revealed - and it¿s stunning

If you’ve got an appetite for dramatic, never-before-seen restaurants, look no further.

Designs for Europe’s first underwater eatery have been revealed – and it’s stunning. The concept is that of a half-sunken monolith where diners will be able to view the seabed through a 36ft-wide panoramic window.

Called ‘Under’, the restaurant has been designed by the imaginative Snohetta agency and will be located at the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline by the village of Baly.

Called ¿Under¿, the restaurant has been designed by the imaginative Snohetta agency and will be located at the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline by the village of Baly. Guests will have a view of the seabed through a 36ft window

It will also function as a research centre for marine life.

The structure, Snohetta says, will ‘surface to lie against the craggy shoreline. The structure will become a part of its marine environment, coming to rest directly on the sea bed five meters below the water’s surface’.

The structure, Snohetta says, will ¿surface to lie against the craggy shoreline. The structure will become a part of its marine environment, coming to rest directly on the sea bed five meters below the water¿s surface¿

Diners need have no fear of the walls caving in, because they’re a metre thick. And the structure, it’s hoped, will become a reef for mussels.

The restaurant has been designed to hold between 80 and 100 guests, who will be able to watch the wildlife on the seabed through a window that’s 36 feet wide and 13 feet high.

There will be three levels altogether, with a cloakroom on the first floor, a champagne bar on the next and the restaurant at the bottom, where food rustled up by Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen will be enjoyed.

Seafood is likely to be a key feature on the menu.

There will be three levels altogether, with a cloakroom on the first floor, a champagne bar on the next and the restaurant at the bottom, where food rustled up by Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen will be enjoyed

Outside opening hours, parts of the restaurant will be dedicated to marine biology research.

Snohetta explains that researchers will come to the building to study, among other things, whether wild fish can be trained with sound signals.

The design firm adds: ‘Through its architecture, menu and mission of informing the public about the biodiversity of the sea, Under will provide an under-water experience inspiring a sense of awe and delight, activating all the senses – both physical and intellectual.’

Outside opening hours, parts of the restaurant will be dedicated to marine biology research. Snohetta explains that researchers will come to the building to study, among other things, whether wild fish can be trained with sound signals

Construction on the restaurant is scheduled to start in February 2018. Estimated completion is February/March 2019.

Snohetta is currently working on a number of projects internationally including The French Laundry Kitchen expansion and Garden Renovation in Yountville, California, the Le Monde Headquarters in Paris and the Cornell University Executive Education Center and Hotel in New York.

Lux photographer wins award in international competition

A Luxembourg photographer has won the black and white category in this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year  competition.

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The prize-winning photograph taken by Eilo Elvinger, entitled “Polar Pas de Deux”. Picture credit: Eilo Elvinger

Eilo Elvinger, a freelance photographer from Luxembourg, received the first prize with her black and white photo, called “Polar Pas de Deux”.

The photo was ranked first in the black and white category of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, a photography competition organised by the Natural History Museum in London.

According to a report by The Guardian on 17 October, Elvinger shot the photo in Arctic Norway. The pictured polar bear and her cub were interested in Elvinger’s boat, from which they started licking water leaking from the ship’s kitchen.

The competition invites professional as well as amateur photographers worldwide to submit their nature and wildlife pictures. According to their website, the next competition entry period will start on Monday 23 October and run until Thursday 14 December.

Eilo Elvinger credit: Facebook Eilo Elvinger

 

How to Travel Anywhere in the World (From Start to Finish) for $1,000

This is a great post from Nomadic Matt.  I looked at some of the comments made by other trekkers and I’ve got to say I was disappointed by a couple: they moaned that the $1,000 spend is predicated on collecting points or air miles – ie travel hacking – but as Matt rightly points out, you will be earning these rewards every time you book, and if you’re canny you can get some amazing deals.  So don’t whinge about Matt’s starting premise – just get out there and enjoy travelling!        –  Ned

Ned Bond, trekker


traveling the world on a tight budget

Wouldn’t it be great to travel anywhere in the world for $1,000 or less? And I don’t mean just the cost of getting there. I mean your entire vacation from the time you step out your door to the time you get back. How great would it be to take a one- or two-week trip anywhere for that?

Decades upon decades of marketing by expensive hotels, cruises, and resorts has left us with the cultural notion that travel is expensive. Despite all the blogs, apps, websites, and Instagram accounts out there, too many people still don’t believe that travel can be cheap.

I get that. We’ve been conditioned by big brands and companies for ages to believe this repeated message, and it takes a while to shed that belief.

But we’re currently in a golden age of travel, thanks to cheap flights, travel hacking, and the sharing economy. We are seeing a revolution in travel that is allowing people to bypass the traditional travel gatekeepers of old — the ones who kept prices high — and travel frugally without sacrificing comfort.

It’s no longer a stark choice between cheap backpacker hostels and fancy resorts.

In fact, it’s actually really easy to travel well on a budget these days.

Today, I want to introduce the concept of the $1K trip. A thousand dollars can get you far — no matter where you want to go.

While there are many ways to travel cheaply, thanks to traveling hacking or extreme budgeting, this concept is about something more middle-of-the-road. It’s not about going away with no money or traveling on $10 or $20 a day. It’s for those of us in the middle, who have day-to-day jobs and want to travel more but always feel like we lack the resources to do so.

A thousand dollars is a lot of money, but it’s not an impossible amount of money for most of us. It’s saving $2.74 per day for a year. Most of us can save $2.74 a day.

So how do you begin?

First, flip the script. I know I’ve said this before, but if you wake up today and tell yourself, “I can’t travel because of X,” you’ll never look for ways to start traveling. You will only see roadblocks: bills, flight costs, car payments, other obligations, or whatever your “But…” is. I’m not trying to be patronizing — and I definitely recognize not everyone has the means or desire to travel — but you have to ask yourself in earnest, “How do I make travel a reality?”

You need to wake up tomorrow and say, “Yes, I can travel, too — and I am going to make it happen!”

Once you start believing it’s possible, you start looking for ways to make it possible. I’m not talking about that BS from The Secret, where you manifest a winning lottery ticket. I’m talking about thinking of the practical steps you can take from day one that will bring you closer to your travel goals.

Look at your day-to-day spending and the spending choices you make.

How much would you save if you bought a Brita filter instead of a daily bottle of water? Or gave up Starbucks, cooked more of your own food, and drank less alcohol? What if you gave up cable? Downgraded your phone plan? Walked to work? Sold your unneeded stuff on eBay?

Even if it takes you a year to save, it’s better to start today than tomorrow.

I always look at expenses and go, “I can have these new jeans or another fancy dinner — or I could have another week on the road.” I have friends who complain about not being able to travel then go buy $300 sunglasses. Not everyone can save a ton of money or even has the means to travel all the time, but with enough time and dedication, the majority of us can get somewhere. When I worked with Dianne during our case study program, she was a big casual spender but prioritizing travel in her mind helped her dramatically increase her savings.

Second, it’s important to remember that traveling on a limited budget requires planning.

For example, a few years ago I took a trip to London for $700. I knew I had ten days, didn’t care where I slept, and was content with drinking only a little, taking public transportation, and sticking to the free attractions. I only cared about eating and having fun with friends. Everything else was secondary. Knowing myself allowed me to make the most of my limited funds — and figure out how much I needed in the first place. I could plan the exact amount I needed to save because I had a rough idea of how much I would spend.

Break your trip down into small manageable goals. Don’t think about the 1,000 steps it takes to get to where you want to go. Think about the step right in front of you. What is ONE thing you can do today to get closer to your trip? What about the ONE thing you can do tomorrow?

Once a trip is broken down into smaller steps it becomes a lot more doable.

I want to use two example trips — a week in French Polynesia and two weeks in Australia — to illustrate the concept of the $1K vacation. (I’m picking expensive places so no one thinks I’m trying to cop out by using cheap destinations!) The same techniques I used to go to London for $700 are the same ones that apply to the trips below.

Example 1: French Polynesia

How to travel anywhere
OK, French Polynesia here we come! Well, French Polynesia is an expensive destination that has many rich residents and caters to higher-end tourists, and as such, even if you want to be basic and live like a local, you’ll find that prices for everything are at a premium.

But where there is a will, there is a way.

Flights
The cornerstone of budget travel is collecting points and miles, i.e., travel hacking. Reducing the cost of a flight to zero is the best way to reduce the cost of your trip. And, for any expensive destination, you will definitely need to travel hack. With flights running $1,600-1,950, French Polynesia under $1K is impossible without using miles to cover your expenses.

(Note: I won’t go into much detail in this post on how to get airline miles for your flight because that’s a whole other long post, which can be found here or here or here. I talk a lot about travel hacking on this website, and while the idea of collecting miles can be intimidating, it’s quite easy to do in relatively few months — even if you don’t fly a lot! For the purpose of this article, I’m going to assume you have or know how to get miles.)

To get to French Polynesia from the US, you can fly one of two airlines: Air France or Air Tahiti Nui (both have direct flights).

You can book Air France flights on any one of the below carriers. Here’s how many miles you’ll need:
award chart for tahiti flights

If you want to fly Air Tahiti Nui, you’d need this many miles:
award chart for tahiti flights

The only downside to using miles: award availability isn’t abundant on these flights. The above numbers are for “saver” awards (award tickets that need fewer miles) but sometimes only regular award tickets with higher mileage requirements are available, so you’ll need to keep that in mind.

Accommodation
Hotel award redemptions are often expensive in French Polynesia because the resorts are so luxurious. Therefore, I’d suggest lowering your overall accommodation costs by mixing up your stay with hotels, Airbnbs, or B&Bs. After all, you’re not going to French Polynesia without at least spending a night or two at a fancy resort, so we have to include at least a few nights there! Here are the typical award prices (you earn these points the same way you do as airline miles):

award chart for tahiti flights
(Note: Air Tahiti Nui offers a free ferry shuttle from the airport for anyone who isn’t staying at a fancy resort. Most guesthouses offer free transfers from where the shuttle drops you off.)

After a couple of nights redeeming hotel points for a fancy bungalow (if you have tons of hotel points, then by all means, keep staying for free!), I would switch to an Airbnb. Airbnb private rooms cost 4,000-6,000 XPF ($40-60 USD) per night, while an entire apartment (most come with pool access) will only cost you 6,000-9,900 XPF ($60-100 USD) per night. The only thing is, the Airbnbs are pretty much all located in and around the capital, so you’re not going to get too many luxurious beachfront places.

How this would apply elsewhere: Use a mix of points, hostels, Airbnbs, Couchsurfing, or even house sitting to lower your costs. More information can be found here.

Food
Food isn’t cheap in French Polynesia since most has to be expensively imported and those who visit tend to have money to burn. If you eat at the resorts and hotels, you’ll pay at least 2,500 XPF ($25) or more for a meal. At an upscale restaurant, expect to pay around 4,500 XPF ($45). A meal in a casual restaurant will cost around 2,200 XPF ($22 USD). A fast-food meal is about 1,000 XPF ($10) while a beer is around 600 XPF ($6 USD). However, by eating from the local snack bars on the road, you’ll only pay around 1,000 XPF ($10 USD) per day for food. If you plan on buying your own groceries, expect to spend at least 8,000-10,000 XPF ($80-100 USD) per week on food.

I’d avoid drinking, stick to as many local snack bars as possible, make picnic lunches, and eat out only at dinner to keep costs down.

How this would apply elsewhere: Drink less, eat local food, grocery shop, skip fancy restaurants, and avoid eating in touristy areas. More information can be found here.

Activities
Not surprisingly, activities in French Polynesia are not cheap either. Diving and other single-day water activities start at 11,000 XPF ($110 USD), with a two-tank dive costing 14,900-18,900 XPF ($150-190 USD). Surfing lessons, which generally last a few hours, cost around 13,000 XPF ($130 USD). Bike rentals are available almost anywhere and will cost 1,500-2,000 XPF ($15-20 USD) for a day. Whale-watching tours will cost around 11,500 XPF ($112 USD). I’d focus on one or two activities while here.

Sample Budget for French Polynesia
How to travel to tahiti budget

You could save more points, drink less, and even add more money to your food budget. Point is: French Polynesia suddenly became a lot more affordable! It’s pretty easy to go to French Polynesia for $1K. Using a mix of travel hacking, local restaurants, Airbnb, and doing only a few activities, you can visit here without sacrificing comfort.

Example 2: Australia

How to travel anywhere
Australia is often a place where budgets go to die — but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can still get you pretty far if you know a few tips and tricks. With your flight out of the way (see below), you would have $71 USD (88 AUD) per day ($1,000 divided by 14 days). You have to be a little bit more frugal than in French Polynesia but it’s doable.

Flights
First, I would use points for the flight the way I would for French Polynesia. That takes care of your flight, and even though award flights are not abundant, you can still find some availability. Here is a list of airlines — and the miles needed — to fly directly to Australia:

award chart for tahiti flights

In reality, saver award tickets for direct flights to Australia are hard to come by. They aren’t there often. You might be better off going indirectly. There are a lot of ways to get to Australia if you look at having a connection than going direct. I connected through Abu Dhabi, while a friend connected through Hong Kong, and another through Japan. I even had a friend fly via Chile once to save on miles.

Accommodation
Accommodation in Australia is pricey: even hostel dorms can be as high as 30-40 AUD ($24-32 USD) per night. Luckily, once you get out of the big cities, prices drop, and there are a lot of Couchsurfing hosts in the country. If that’s not your jam and you don’t want dorms, you can find rooms on Airbnb for 44-75 AUD ($35-60 USD) per day.

To keep your accommodation costs down, I would use a mix of hostels, Couchsurfing, and Airbnb. If you’re traveling in a group, Airbnb will allow you to really lower your per person costs the most. You can find entire apartments for as low as 164 AUD ($132 USD), and if you can squeeze 3-4 people into that, your per person price is only 41 AUD ($33 USD)! If you’re alone or a couple, then I would try to Couchsurf as much as possible (plus you get a kitchen too!)

How this would apply elsewhere: Use a mix of points, hostels, Airbnbs, Couchsurfing, or even house-sitting to lower your costs. More information can be found here.

Food
Food isn’t cheap in Australia, and keeping this cost down is going to be the hardest part of your trip. However, if you lower your food (and drink) expenses, you can stay under $1K. Most decent restaurant entrees cost at least 20 AUD ($16 USD). Grab-and-go places cost around 8-10 AUD ($6.50-8 USD) for sandwiches. Fast food is around 15 AUD ($12 USD) for a meal (burger, fries, soda). The best value foods are the Asian and Indian restaurants, where you can get a really filling meal for under 10 AUD ($8 USD).

The best way to reduce your costs is to cook as many meals as possible. If you do so, expect to pay 100 AUD ($80 USD) per week for groceries (pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foodstuffs). Moreover, with drinks running 8-15 AUD ($6.50-12 USD) each, I’d avoid drinking out if possible. Buy beer at the store.

How this would apply elsewhere: Drink less, eat local food, grocery shop, skip fancy restaurants, and avoid eating in touristy areas. More information can be found here.

Transportation
Traveling around the country is tough given the long distances. The easiest way to get around the country in such a short period of time is to fly. There are often some last-minute flight deals on Tiger Airlines and Virgin. But even regular fares are pretty good. For example, Brisbane to Cairns is only 107 AUD ($86 USD) and Melbourne to Sydney is only 67 AUD ($54 USD).

Compare that to bus fares via Greyhound:

  • Brisbane – Cairns: 320-374 AUD ($258-300 USD)
  • Melbourne – Sydney: 120 AUD ($96 USD)
  • Sydney – Cairns Unlimited Pass (i.e., the whole eastern coast, 44 stops): 429 AUD ($345 USD)

If you had more time and could stop often along the way, the unlimited pass would be better — but you don’t have that time, so cramming that $429 USD into two weeks doesn’t make sense.

I’d also consider ride-sharing via websites like Gumtree or Jayride, or hostel message boards. Lots of people rent vans and are always looking for people to split the cost of gas. You can also drive yourself. Camper van rentals start at 60 AUD ($48 USD) per day and can also double as places to sleep (thus saving more money). If you are traveling with friends, it’s smart to buy a used car or camper van (or rent a new one from one of the many rental companies) and split the cost of gas.

I’d probably take a few flights and then a few ride-shares. If I were in a group or liked driving, I’d rent a van to lower the cost per person. That way you save time on the long distances and still enjoy the country from the ground too! As much as I love driving across Australia, it’s better suited when you can break up the journey when you have more time.

Activities
Activities will really ruin your budget in Australia. For example, a one-day trip to the Great Barrier Reef can cost 230 AUD ($185 USD), while a two-night sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands can cost upwards of 540 AUD ($435 USD). A three-day trip to Uluru from Alice Springs is around 480 AUD ($386 USD). Luckily, there’s a bunch of free walking tours and activities in cities, but if you’re looking for that once-in-a-lifetime adventure, you’re going to pay for it!

To lower costs, I’d do a lot of solo hiking and trips, free walking tours, and one or two big-ticket items.

Sample Budget for Australia
How to travel to australia budget

Again, this is a sample budget and it takes a little more effort to watch the pennies in Australia, but it’s doable to travel there and not spend a lot of money. There are incredible free activities, cheap groceries, and ways to get around on a budget. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I am saying it’s not impossible.

***

When you travel like you live, you can visit anywhere. Taking an entire vacation for less than $1,000 is completely doable. Stop thinking about travel as this big, expensive thing and start thinking about it more practical terms. Think about the steps to make your trip happen. A thousand dollars isn’t nothing – and it may take a long time to save that amount – but it’s not the multiple thousands the media makes travel out to be!

“I don’t have the money to go” is a limiting belief.

When you start looking for ways to say yes, when you start breaking travel down step-by-step and look for ways to save, the world is truly your oyster.

Matt’s Addendum: After some feedback, I want to clarify something: Yes, this requires points and miles that have to be earned prior to your trip. However, since those can be earned without spending extra money, I don’t view that as an added cost since it doesn’t require to spend more money than you would to get them. Additionally, I picked two expensive destinations that require points and miles but if you were to go closer to home or to a cheaper place, the need for points would be far less. I recently saw a $450 R/T flight from the US to Thailand. At $50 a day, you could still go for 12 days, use no points, and not break the $1k barrier.

 

 

Five “Real Life” Game Of Thrones Filming Locations – Which Are Amazing Destinations…

Welcome back after the summer guys – and what a hectic one it’s been!  More of my trekventures anon, but meanwhile in celebration of the current enthralling series of Game of Thrones here’s some mouthwatering travel suggestions from old friend Gilbert at GodSaveThePoints.

                                                                                                                                                               – Ned


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If you haven’t been glued to your video device, obsessing over the violence, sex and deceit-filled blockbuster television show Game of Thrones, you’re in a stark minority (see what we did there?!). Game Of Thrones has swept the planet, but not just because of its intensely steamy scenes or treacherous plots, but also because of the ridiculously beautiful filming locations. Let’s take a look at a few GoT spots you’ll definitely want to add to the ole’ bucket list…

Vatnajökull, Iceland – A.K.A “Beyond The Wall”

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Actually, winter has already come. Vatnajökull is a a jaw dropping glacial heaven, with ice caves fit for any “wildling”. It’s reachable from Reykjavik, so be sure to get your own filming done on your next Iceland trip. On that note, you can visit for a mere $350 round trip en route to the US or Europe.

Bardenas Reales, Spain – A.K.A “The Dothraki Sea”

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If “endless” desert is your thing, do your best Dothraki soldier impression and run like a bull from nearby Pamplona to catch the stunning views and isolationist feelings of Bardenas Reales. You’ll find incredible sunsets, boutique hotels and one of the few deserts in Europe.

Dubrovnik, Croatia – A.K.A “Kings Landing” and “The Undying”

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Dubrovnik is incredible – far too nice for the likes of King Joffrey. Dubrovnik is not only the home to Kings Landing, the site of treachery, death and intrigue, but also to the fabled House of the Undying – in real life that is. The Minčeta Tower features in countless scenes, as does this amazing destination, which just so happens to be a trending destination in 2017.

County Down, Northern Ireland – A.K.A “Winterfell”

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Everyone just wishes they never left Winterfell, don’t they? Things aren’t too different in real life. Home to many of the world’s greatest golf courses, mountain peaks, sea breeze and of course, the infectiously charming people of Northern Ireland, County Down is one of the very best spots for your next trip. And yes, there really is a “Winterfell” castle: it’s called Castle Ward.

Ait Benhaddou, Morocco – A.K.A “Yunkai”

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Channel your inner Daenerys and unchain your desire to visit Morocco. Just a 3 hour day trip from Marakkech, Ait Behnhaddou is centuries old and largely untouched. Much like most of Morocco, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time; and since it’s 3 hours from the touristy areas, you may even get some uninhibited photos!

 

 

Ice hotel plus midnight sun makes for a very cool combo

The Mail on Sunday‘s Jeremy Head spent a night in Sweden’s Icehotel, 150 miles above the Arctic circle. Its new 365 facility operates an array of frozen bedrooms during both the winter and summer. Jeremy slept in a room with mermaid ice sculptures, and had a thrilling but somewhat restless night…

I spent last night in a fridge with two mermaids. I hoped we’d all get on, but they were cold as ice.

It wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve had, but it was certainly one of the coolest things I’ve done.

Sweden’s Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi is world-famous. Every winter they build a hotel from ice and snow filled with shimmering sculptures of ethereal creatures.

Jeremy spent a night in Sweden's Icehotel (pictured), 150 miles above the Arctic circle, which for the first year is now open during the summer and not just the winter

Jeremy spent a night in Sweden’s Icehotel (pictured), 150 miles above the Arctic circle, which for the first year is now open during the summer and not just the winter

At least it used to. My night in an Icehotel room took place in mid-summer.

They still build a new ice hotel each winter, but those clever Swedes have also added permanent ice suites and an ice bar.

They call this bit Icehotel 365. It’s just opened. Now you can sleep in an ice room, while outside there’s sunlight all night.

He slept in a room with mermaid ice sculptures (pictured), and had a chilly, thrilling but somewhat restless night

He slept in a room with mermaid ice sculptures (pictured), and had a chilly, thrilling but somewhat restless night

This being Sweden, it’s high-tech and environmentally friendly. I wandered around a chilly warehouse stacked with vast blocks of ice: 2,700 tons of it.

They harvest it in spring when it’s at its hardest and store it to build next winter’s hotel. The warehouse and Icehotel 365 are kept at -5C by solar energy, powered by panels on the warehouse roof.

I prepared for my night on ice with a sauna ritual. I thwacked myself with birch branches, washed with tar soap, sweated buckets, jumped in the icy river and wallowed in an outdoor hot tub.

Then I feasted on the special Ice Menu, which included smoky reindeer steak and arctic raspberry sorbet before I chilled in the Ice Bar. Even late at night, midsummer sunlight cascaded in through a window.

The resort also boasts an ice bar (pictured) in addition to a spa and a warm restaurant where guests can thaw out

The resort also boasts an ice bar (pictured) in addition to a spa and a warm restaurant where guests can thaw out

There are 20 rooms in the cold section of Icehotel 365, created by sculptors from around the world (there are also ‘warm’ rooms with heated stone floors). One of the 20 cold ones features a vast stag sculpture, another is full of huge jellyfish.

I picked up a thermal sleeping bag and headed to my room. It’s called Mermaid Fitness. Two 8ft mermaids with bulging biceps were ‘working out’ either side of my bed. Zipping the bag right up felt claustrophobic but it was freezing.

It took me a while to drop off. The air felt clammy and I was glad I’d brought a hat. After a restless night, I woke with a start next morning when someone brought in a cup of hot lingonberry juice.

The mermaids were still exercising. It didn’t look as if they’d even broken sweat.

 

 

The Best Places (and Time) to See the Northern Lights

As you may have read, my friend Max is going to be spending a few months up at the top of Norway – Tromsø in fact, 200 miles inside the arctic circle; and I’m looking forward to visiting him once he’s settled, to get an idea of what it’s like to spend winter in perpetual darkness and summer in perpetual light and (OF COURSE) to see the epic Northern Lights. So to whet your appetite, here’s a list of the top five places from which to experience the most remarkable natural phenomenon in the northern hemisphere.

This gorgeous auroral display over Sweden’s Abisko National Park was captured on Feb. 16, 2015 by photographer Chad Blakley (www.lightsoverlapland.com). Credit: Chad Blakley / http://www.lightsoverlapland.com

Photos don’t do the northern lights justice.

To fully appreciate the glory and grandeur of this celestial display, which is also known as the aurora borealis, you have to settle beneath the ever-changing lights and watch them curve and curl, slither and flicker.

“I was camping, just lying out in a field in a sleeping bag on a late September night and looking up at the stars,” said Terry Onsager, a physicist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. [Amazing Auroras: Stunning Northern Lights Photos]

The northern lights are more formally known as auroras, and are caused by interactions between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field. <a href="http://www.space.com/15213-northern-lights-aurora-guide-infographic.html">See how the northern lights work in this Space.com infographic</a>.

“All of a sudden, the most spectacular lights and swirls and rays just filled the sky, dancing and darting here and there,” Onsager told Space.com. “It was just unbelievable.”

Onsager had his aurora experience in northern Norway — one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights. You could follow in his footsteps, or blaze your own trail somewhere along the “auroral zone” that encircles Earth’s northern reaches. But you need to know when and where to go. For example, the summer of 2017 may be a good time for a vacation, but a better time to see auroras is actually between winter and spring.

Read on to find out when and where to see the northern lights, and what powers this dazzling display.

Slicing through the Yellowknife sky.

The northern lights are more formally known as auroras, and are caused by interactions between the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field. See how the northern lights work in this Space.com infographic.

Credit: Karl Tate, SPACE.com Contributor

If you’re planning an aurora-viewing trip, make sure not to schedule it in the middle of summer. You need darkness to see the northern lights, and places in the auroral zone have precious little of it during the summer months.

You also want clear skies. Winter and springtime are generally less cloudy than autumn in and around the northern auroral zone, so a trip between December and April makes sense, said Charles Deehr, a professor emeritus and aurora forecaster at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute. Ideally, time your trip to coincide with the new moon, and make sure to get away from city lights when it’s time to look up, he added.

“Dress warmly, plan to watch the sky between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time, although an active period can occur anytime during the dark hours,” Deehr wrote in the Geophysical Institute’s guide to aurora viewing, which has lots of great information. “Active periods are typically about 30 minutes long, and occur every two hours, if the activity is high. The aurora is a sporadic phenomenon, occurring randomly for short periods or perhaps not at all.”

You can get an idea of how active the northern lights are likely to be in your area by keeping tabs on a short-term aurora forecast, such as the one provided by the Geophysical Institute here: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast

And you can have an aurora experience without even leaving your house if you so choose. The Canadian Space Agency offers a live feed of the skies above Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories: http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/astronomy/auroramax/.

So where should you go? If you live in Europe, the easiest thing to do is head to the far northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland.

“In general, Scandinavia is set up,” Deehr told Space.com. “They’re in good shape for this.”

Northern Norway, especially the area around Tromso, is a particularly popular destination, he added. [Visit Tromso’s 2017 Northern Lights Info]

“There are a lot of tours, and a lot of English-speaking people who are willing to take you out,” Deehr said, adding that the scenery in the region is “fantastic.”

Or you could check out a number of other locations, such as northern Sweden’s Abisko National Park.

“Abisko has developed a reputation for being the No. 1 aurora-watching destination on the planet, due to the fact that it is located in a very special microclimate with less precipitation than any other location on Earth that is located within the aurora zone,” photographer Chad Blakley told Space.com via email. (The company Blakley co-founded, Lights Over Lapland, has been offering aurora tours in Abisko for more than five years.) [Lights Over Lapland’s 2017 Abisko Aurora Tours]

Iceland is also a good choice, Deehr said, as long as you make sure to set aside enough time to compensate for cloudy skies. (The island nation’s weather can be uncooperative.) [Iceland 2017 Northern Lights Tours]

Russia, by contrast, “is pretty much out,” Deehr said. While a decent swathe of the auroral zone lies in northern Russia, such areas are relatively hard to get to and lack the tourism infrastructure most travelers are after, he explained.

There are also plenty of options for good aurora viewing in North America. But you should probably steer clear of far eastern Canada, which tends to be quite cloudy, Deehr said.

“Between James Bay and the west coast of Alaska — anywhere along that auroral zone is a good place to be,” he said. (James Bay is the far southern portion of Canada’s huge Hudson Bay.) [Northern Tales Yukon 2017 Aurora Tours]

For example, he said, a northern lights trip could center on Yellowknife or Whitehorse, in the Canadian Yukon. Or a traveler could take a train across the auroral zone to the town of Churchill, on the western shore of Hudson Bay — an area famous for its polar bear population.

“It’s great, adventurous country,” Deehr said of the Canadian auroral region.

In Alaska, anywhere from Fairbanks north offers good viewing. In Fairbanks itself, residents see the northern lights on about eight of every 10 nights, Deehr said. [Alaska Tours’ 2017 Aurora Tours]

The northern lights result when charged particles streaming from the sun collide with molecules high up in Earth’s atmosphere, exciting these molecules and causing them to glow.

“It’s like the fluorescent lights in our offices — they’ve got current running through them that excites the atoms, and the atoms glow,” Onsager said.

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The auroras occur at high latitudes, unless a strong solar storm expands their reach. Credit: University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute / Charles Deehr

The different colors of the northern lights come from different molecules: Oxygen emits yellow, green and red light, while nitrogen is responsible for blue and purplish-red hues.

Earth’s magnetic field lines channel these solar particles toward the planet’s north and south magnetic poles, which explains why auroras — the aurora borealis and its southern counterpart, the aurora australis — are high-latitude phenomena.

Indeed, the aurora borealis is visible most nights, weather permitting, within a band several hundred miles wide that’s centered at about 66 degrees north — about the same latitude as the Arctic Circle.

This “standard” aurora is generated by the solar wind — the particles streaming constantly from the sun. But solar storms known as coronal mass ejections (CME) can ramp up the northern lights considerably and make them visible over much wider areas. Last year, for example, a CME allowed skywatchers as far south as Illinois and Ohio to get a glimpse. However, if you’re planning an aurora-viewing trip weeks or months in advance, you can’t count on any help from a solar storm and should therefore head to a destination somewhere near the northern ring. [The Sun’s Wrath: Worst Solar Storms in History]

The southern auroral ring lies above Antarctica and is very difficult for skywatchers, or anyone else, to get to. That’s why this article focuses on the northern lights — for reasons of practicality, not antipodean antipathy. (Southern Hemisphere dwellers take heart: The aurora australis can sometimes be viewed from New Zealand and Tasmania.)

Editor’s note: If you capture an amazing photo of the northern lights and would like to share it with Space.com and our news partners for a story or gallery, send images in to managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

This story from CNN, originally posted in April 2016, has been updated for 2017. 

 

 

 

The BEST Places To ACTUALLY See The Northern Lights

A shorter view from the trektastic Gilbert Ott at the newly-refurbished and excellent God Save the Points.


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Aurora Borealis, which is latin for “holy **** those lights look incredible”, or something along those lines, is a mesmerizing natural light phenomenon. Commonly known as the Northern Lights, they’ve become the obsession of countless travellers braving the weather, vying for a glimpse at the neon impressionist style light show sponsored by nature, swirling through the sky in ways that are hard to imagine without taking hallucinogenics. If you’re in search, here are your best bets to actually see them…

Abisko, Sweden…

Two words: ice hotel. Two more words: northern lights. For a variety of reasons, mainly extreme darkness and a very remote location, 75 miles from main civilization, you can find the dazzling displays on an almost nightly basis during peak season, which is end of September-March by the way.

Yellowknife, Canada

Who knew you didn’t have to visit Europe to hit the Aurora? Yellowknife, high up in Canada’s northwest territories is a booming spot for Aurora Borealis activity and there are parks catering solely to the winter magic. Limited flight connectivity may make for a longer journey than a direct flight to Iceland, but just head northwest and you’ll be there soon enough. It’s worth it.

Lapland, Finland…

The northernmost territory in Finland offers the perfect conditions for an encounter with the magic of the Northern Lights. If you’re loaded, spring for the Hotel Kakslauttanen which offers panoramic views of the sky from the comfort of bed, wherever you go you stand an amazing chance of a sighting…

Akrafjall, Iceland…

The only thing better than an amazing picture of the Aurora is getting an epic snow capped mountain or lighthouse in there. Western Iceland gets some of the clearest skies, which mean the very best sightings, and it’s just a mere 45 minutes outside of Reykjavik to many top spots. Live the dream near the city near the blinding northern lights…

Tromsø, Norway…

Tromsø is nothing short of epic. A thriving cultural town, incredible fjords off in the distance and some of the most vibrant light activity, even occasionally from within the city limits make for a magical getaway. Peak light activity is found between October and March, with March being the most popular. The good thing about Tromsø is that even if you miss the lights, you get an amazing destination anyway, but spend seven days there and you’re almost guaranteed.

 

 

 

Seven reasons to explore Norway’s incredible second city

Somewhere I’m not too familiar with is Scandinavia.  I’ve been to Stockholm and Copenhagen for long weekends – and very nice too –  but that’s about it: I’ve not seen Oslo, Gothenberg, Tromsø, Malmo or Aarhus for example, let alone Helsinki or Reykjavik, often considered part of this northern region.  So when Max, a student friend of mine, announced that he was spending his semester abroad in the north of Norway, I decided it was time I devoted more blog space to this interesting part of the world.

So keep reading for a series of scintillating Scandi specials.                                    


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Venture off on hiking trails through the pine woods of Bergen Credit: AP

Bergen has a great deal going for it. Norway’s second city is strikingly set on a convergence of fjords, backed by steeped, forested slopes. Fascinating and picturesque quarters wait to be explored – not only Bryggen, the famous old timber wharf with Unesco World Heritage Site status, but also residential neighbourhoods with photogenic, white-painted wooden houses lining quiet cobbled streets.

If it’s raining – and given that Bergen is statistically one of the wettest cities in Europe there’s a strong chance it will be – there are plenty of good museums and art galleries deserving of your time.

Historic wooden houses lining the quiet cobbled streets of Bergen

Historic wooden houses lining the quiet cobbled streets of Bergen Credit: Getty

1. Its historic wharf

Most cruise ships moor up at the mouth of the Vågen, the central harbour, a short walk to Bryggen. (If you’re travelling with Hurtigruten, its ships dock at a separate terminal, about 15 minutes away on foot).

Translating as The Wharf, Bryggen dates from the 12th century, though over the centuries it has been ravaged by fire. The 60 ochre- and tawny-coloured wooden buildings you see today are mostly around 300 years old, reconstructed after a particularly devastating fire in 1702.

Colourful houses by the harbour at night

Colourful houses by the harbour at night Credit: ©nstanev – stock.adobe.com

Bryggen’s charm lies behind its waterfront facades, in its dimly-lit, timber-floored alleys and enclosed upper-floor corridors. Look out for still-used winches hanging from gables, and statues – an angel, a farmer, a deer – representing the different passageways. Shops sell enticing but expensive Norwegian specialities, such as hand-knitted sweaters, reindeer skins and moose leather jackets.

German merchants of the Hanseatic League lived and held sway in Bryggen from the mid-14th century for the best part of 400 years, trading in dried fish and grain. Learn more in Bryggen’s Hanseatic Museum (NOK 160/£15; schøtstuene.no), a beautifully restored house that includes the palatial offices and living areas of the merchant and the far more basic quarters for apprentices, visiting farmers and fishermen. The ticket also covers admission to the nearby Schøtstuene, a set of elegant assembly rooms where the merchants met, ate and drank in orderly Germanic fashion.

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Credit: bergen-guide.com

2. Scenic mountain views

It’s a five-minute walk from Bryggen to the base of the Fløibanen funicular. Ideally you will have bought your one-way ticket online in advance (NOK 45/£4; floyen.no), to avoid what can be a long queue for tickets purchased at the funicular. The eight-minute ride deposits you near the top of Fløyen, one of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen. Weather permitting, the panoramic views over the city, harbour and fjords are sensational.

The view from Mount Floyen

The view from Mount Floyen Credit: Getty

3. Picturesque walks

Time permitting, you may want to venture off on hiking trails through the pine woods: the nearest beauty spot, Skomakerdiket lake, is about 10 minutes’ stroll from the top of the funicular. Back at the funicular, take the Tippetue path. It zigzags back down the mountain, after about 30 minutes ending up in a gorgeous part of the city – of steep, cobbled streets lined with immaculate old clapboard and terracotta-roofed houses, proudly sporting Norwegian flags and with pretty handkerchief-sized gardens.

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Tall Ships Race in Bergen seen from Tippetue. Credit: smugmug.com

4. Moreish cinnamon buns

Eating out in Bergen is eye-wateringly expensive. To keep costs down, have a giant reindeer hot dog (NOK 60/£5.50) from Trekroneren kiosk at Kong Oscars gate 1, back near the waterfront. Then grab a skillingsboller, a moreish cinnamon bun for which Bergen is famous, from one of the ubiquitous 7-Eleven shops.

Alternatively, head over to Pingvinen (The Penguin) at Vaskerelven 14 (pingvinen.no), a cosy and casual backstreet café/bar serving no-nonsense, traditional local dishes that are keenly priced by Norwegian standards. A satisfying plateful of plukkfisk – mash, white fish and bacon – costs NOK 169/£15.50.

Skillingsboller, Bergen's famous cinnamon bun

Skillingsboller, Bergen’s famous cinnamon bun Credit: Fred Mawer

5. Edvard Munch’s provocative artwork

A wide-ranging and beautifully presented collection of art is displayed in the KODE galleries (kodebergen.no), in buildings along one side of the octagonal Lille Lungegårdsvann lake. In KODE 3, make a beeline for the several rooms dedicated to Norway’s most celebrated artist, Edvard Munch, where you can take in moody and thought-provoking works from his Frieze of Life project. In KODE 4, don’t miss the fun and playful takes on Norwegian landscapes by Nikolai Astrup. KODE 1, focusing chiefly on craft and design, has just reopened after renovations. One ticket covering admission to all the galleries costs NOK 100/£9.

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Credit: edvardmunch.org

6. Norway’s greatest composer

Lovers of classical music should allow time to head out to Troldhaugen (griegmuseum.no; NOK 100/£9). The former home of Edvard Grieg, Norway’s greatest composer, occupies pretty grounds by a lake just south of Bergen. You can tour the late 19th-century wooden villa, furnished much as it was in when Grieg lived there until his death in 1907, and peer in to the lakeside hut where he did his composing.

To reach Troldhaugen under your own steam, take the Bergen Light Rail to Hop station (22 minutes from central Bergen), then walk (20 minutes). Or sign up for a bus tour departing from the tourist office at 11am, returning at 2.30pm: including admission and a piano recital in the turf-roofed concert hall, NOK 250/£23.

7. Bergen’s spectacular fish market

Before returning to your ship, you should definitely visit Bergen’s fish market, by the central harbour. It’s primarily pitched at tourists these days, but the displays of shellfish, smoked fish and even whale meat are impressive spectacles, and the stalls offer snacks and meals, with tables to eat at. Expect to pay around NOK 100/£9 for fish soup, and from NOK 130/£12 for a portion of fish and chips. The most appealing counters can be found in the covered hall, and stay open late.

Displays of shellfish, smoked fish and even whale meat are impressive spectacles at Bergen's fish market

Displays of shellfish, smoked fish and even whale meat are impressive spectacles at Bergen’s fish market Credit: Fred Mawer

Top tip

If planning on doing a lot of sightseeing, you may save by investing in the Bergen Card (en.visitbergen.com/bergen-card), which gives free or reduced-price admission to most attractions, and can be bought from the tourist office by the Fish Market. The 24-hour card costs NOK 240/£22, children 3-15 NOK 90/£8.

The Fløyen funicular railway

The Fløyen funicular railway Credit: Getty

 

Thanks to Fred Mawer at the Telegraph for this inspiration

 

 

Can you name the locations of these amazing views from plane windows?

Here’s a bit of summer fun from the Telegraph.  I got twelve – how many can you guess?  😉


Few sights are more impressive than planet Earth from a plane window. But how easily can you recognise cities, mountains and countries from the sky? We’ve devised the following quiz to put your knowledge to the test and mark what it is expected to be the busiest day in history for flights to and from UK airports (that’s July 21st).

For those that often find themselves wondering which town, lake or river they are flying over, there’s actually an app with the answers. Flyover Country provides information on points of interest below, and, so long as users input their flight path before takeoff, does not require the purchase of expensive Wi-Fi access.

Once you’re done answering our questions, you might want to try some of our other deviously difficult quizzes. We’ve looked at island outlines, the myths of air travelBritain’s seaside resortsobscure capitalscities from above, and the world’s most famous paintings, to name but a few.

(Answers at the bottom of the page!)

1.  Which Middle Eastern city, home to more than 1.3 million people, is this?

https://i0.wp.com/www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/Travel/2017/July/plane-view-3-large.jpg

  • Jeddah  –  Doha  –  Dubai  –  Abu Dhabi?

2.  This one’s easy – no clue required!

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/563c6050-c9fc-4d36-87e8-e1a5661010f2.jpg

  • Budapest  –  Paris  –  Prague  –  London?

3.  Which country is home to this iconic mountain?

https://i1.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/e2641f69-73b9-46f1-bc65-7e41628251f4.jpg

  • Japan  –  Ecuador  –  Chile  –  Tanzania?

4.  Which exotic destination is this?

https://i1.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/bcfccaf2-3370-410b-9dbe-e65dae61eeed.jpg

  • Maldives  –  Seychelles  – St Lucia  –  Fiji?

5.  This island is a little less exotic.  Can you name it?

https://i2.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/1c5c4571-4a1a-4539-807a-e4226f8a7d90.jpg

  • Skye  –  Isle of Man  –  Isle of Wight  –  Jersey?

6.  Which European city is this?

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/c444674b-2313-48de-8418-5528050503ff.jpg

  • Malaga  –  San Sebastian  –  Barcelona  –  Valencia?

7.  What country are we flying low over? 

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/98468428-c777-4172-86f4-654ee227d82f.jpg

  • Australia  –  France  –  Morocco  –  Oman?

8.  Do you recognise this US city?

https://i2.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/1c06a001-50c6-4823-9cbe-99172ba14548.jpg

  • Seattle  –  Houston  –  Las Vegas  –  Los Angeles?

9.  Where is this airport located?https://i2.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/6db35002-aca1-4907-a836-c416feff8d2c.jpg

  • Bali  –  Bermuda  –  Borneo  –  Barbados?

10.  Which country is this?

https://i2.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/c915c09a-588e-44bb-92f7-f262581898f7.jpg

  • Sweden  –  China  –  Mexico  –  Vietnam?

11.  There’s no mistaking this tourist hotspot: what is it?

https://i1.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/b7c37af7-2ae0-4a61-90f7-c3f6833923b2.jpg

  • Cape Town  –  Shanghai  –  Venice  –  Rome?

12.  Which city is this?

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/820d4b4c-7668-4a6a-874b-53081919ce4d.jpg

  • Miami  –  New Orleans  –  Baltimore  –  New York?

13.  Can you name this country?

https://i1.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/80208970-71e2-4236-be79-620b69b6193a.jpg

  • Russia  –  South Africa  –  Spain  –  New Zealand?

14.  Where’s this impressive bridge? https://i0.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/99a02e08-105c-48b6-8c23-1a6d29c46e1d.jpg

  • Scotland  –  San Francisco  –  Sydney  –  Hong Kong?

15.  And finally, which country is this? 

https://i2.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/a5dbde21-1feb-4b43-89f9-c27a892abf15/ecc34bd7-77f2-4cfc-8fb5-e55dafe8955d.jpg

  • Ethiopia  –  Iceland  –  Turkey  –  United States?

 

Answers

  1. Doha
  2. London
  3. Japan
  4. Maldives
  5. Isle of Wight
  6. Barcelona
  7. France
  8. Los Angeles
  9. Bermuda
  10. Vietnam
  11. Venice
  12. Miami
  13. New Zealand
  14. Hong Kong
  15. United States

 

 

 

 

Dawn is the new sunset: The most magical spots in the world to watch daybreak revealed

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Sunsets may grace the covers of many a travel brochure, but there’s a lot to be said for catching dawn instead. 

Firstly, as these breathtaking shots prove, sunrise provides arguably the best natural light with which to take photographs.

It’s also the only time of day at which you’ll be able to dodge tourists at the world’s most-visited landmarks, India’s Taj Mahal for example.

In cold climates such as Sweden, the sun rises for just a few hours during the dark winter, so morning is your only chance to witness the snowy landscape when it’s bright.

In Africa, daybreak is by far the best time to witness its wildlife on safari, and in other hot countries, it’s the opportune time to take a solitary hike before the sun gets too oppressive.

Read on for MailOnline Travel‘s most spectacular spots around the world to enjoy before everyone else wakes up. 

Twelve Apostles

Head off on a road trip along Australia’s Great Ocean Road and be sure to get a head start on the driving just as the sun comes up, captured here from the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park

Cappadocia mountains

Not many destinations in the world inspire such wanderlust as the Turkish Cappadocia mountains, best enjoyed from a hot air balloon at sunrise

Amboseli National Park

Kenya is another region where it pays to drag yourself from slumber in the early hours, in order to catch a morning dose of ‘golden hour’, seen here in the Amboseli National Park

Valparai

Valparai, a lesser known scenic spot in India’s Tamil Nadu region, is located 3,500 feet above sea level and is often shrouded in a gentle mist first thing in the morning

Lion's Head Cape Town

Cape Town, a sleepy city in the west of South Africa, is renowned as being one of the best vantage points in the world from which to witness the sun rise, seen here peeking around Lion’s Head

 Bunyeroo Valley

The magestic Bunyeroo Valley in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges looks particularly fine under the first morning light

Atlas Mountains

A tiny Moroccan village in Berber appears to be bathed in a bolt of liquid gold as the rest of the Atlas mountains loom grey in the background

Abisko National Park

During the winter months in the northernmost reaches of Sweden, the sun rises briefly in the morning to paint the sky red, seen here over the Abisko National Park, but quickly retreats. True daylight isn’t witnessed here until summer rolls around

Antarctic icebergs

In Antarctica, however, the opposite is true. From September until around April, the sun rises early over the icebergs and doesn’t dip away again until midnight. Even then, it never fully sets

Angkor Wat temple

It looks upon first glance like a raging fire emerging from behind Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple complex, but rather it’s a cloud lit up by the rising sun

Patagonian Andes

Patagonia sees a lot of dramatic weather over the epic landscape of the Andes, and this early morning rainbow is no exception

Tanda Tula, Kruger National Park

African safaris dotted around the continent typically take their guests on drives at the crack of dawn, as it’s the best time to witness wildlife. A pack of hyenas are seen here on the Tanda Tula grounds in the Kruger National Park

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Varanasi, a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is one of the most colourful parts of the country – its sunrises being no exception

Corfe Castle, Dorset

Alternatively, stay closer to home and admire English country scenes like this dawn view of Corfe Castle in Dorset

 

 

 

Grand designs: The striking images of buildings shortlisted for the 2017 Sony Photography Competition

Some buildings and structures are stunning to behold at first glance, while others reveal themselves as something special when they’re shown at a certain angle, as these incredible images demonstrate.

The pictures are all shortlisted and commended entries in the architecture category of the 2017 Sony World Photography Awards – the world’s largest photography competition.

They include sublime pictures of The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, multi-coloured doorways in Tokyo and Cayan Tower in Dubai Marina.

A picture taken in China, meanwhile, elevates a tangle of roads from the mundane to high art – the aerial angle turning them into a mesmerising pattern.

Another image  shows the famous London Aquatics Centre – a remarkable building that looks all the more striking thanks to photographer Katarzyna Young, who captured its ‘signature curves’ and bright hues in some style.

MailOnline Travel showcases images that will urge you to stop and look at the buildings around you in a different light. Images from the competition will be displayed at London’s Somerset House between April 21 and May 7, 2017 and the winners will be announced on April 20.

A reflection of the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, during sunset

A Manhattan sunset shot from Queens across the East River. This is ‘Part 2’ in a New York Trilogy that photographer Lars Sivars calls ‘NYC Light’

Yukihito Ono simply said of her entry: 'I found colorful doors in Tokyo'           This amazing image is of the Cayan Tower, Dubai Marina

Yukihito Ono simply said of her entry, left, ‘I found colorful doors in Tokyo’
The amazing image on the right is of the Cayan Tower, Dubai Marina

This picture taken in China elevates a tangle of roads from the mundane to high art – the aerial angle turning them into a mesmerising pattern

The London Aquatics Centre was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid in 2004 before London won the bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The photographer who took this image, Katarzyna Young, said of it: 'I tried to capture the signature curves of Zaha Hadid's architectural designs. My eye was also drawn to the vivid colour of the building's windows as well as on how the shadows and light define the structure'

The London Aquatics Centre was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid in 2004 before London won the bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The photographer who took this image, Katarzyna Young, said of it: ‘I tried to capture the signature curves of Zaha Hadid’s architectural designs. My eye was also drawn to the vivid colour of the building’s windows as well as on how the shadows and light define the structure’

Called 'Walking in the Light', this image by photographer Amri Arfianto captures a woman at The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi crossing through a keyhole-shaped patch of sunshine

Called ‘Walking in the Light’, this image by photographer Amri Arfianto captures a woman at The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi crossing through a keyhole-shaped patch of sunshine

This image shows the office building called Dockland in Hamburg, Germany, and was taken in summer of 2016

This image shows the office building called Dockland in Hamburg, Germany, and was taken in summer of 2016

UK photographer Tim Cornbill said of his photograph: 'Having just arrived in Berlin on a bright summer's day, my wife and I decided to take a morning walk along the River Spree. We soon came across a large concrete building, and I was immediately struck by its geometry and scale. Across the river, I positioned myself for a single point perspective and waited for the right moment to capture it. A couple came into the viewfinder and I noticed the cyclist out of the corner of my eye. I waited for them to move into the frame and hit the shutter to try and balance the composition'

This image shows the facade of the Bodegas Ysios wine cellar in Laguardia in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. The cellar building was designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. The building is designed to integrate into the hilly landscape of the Sierra de Cantabria

This image shows the facade of the Bodegas Ysios wine cellar in Laguardia in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. The cellar building was designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. The building is designed to integrate into the hilly landscape of the Sierra de Cantabria

Pictured left is the Square Colosseum building in Rome just after sunset. The photographer, Claudio Cantonetti, said: ‘The very difficult task has been to compose carefully and avoid the traffic’
Pictured right is Modena Cathedral in Italy. Consecrated in 1184, it is an important Romanesque building and a World Heritage Site

A fascinating image of a building reflected from the River Danube

A fascinating image of a building reflected from the River Danube

Urban life: A helipad in China next to row upon mesmerising row of highway traffic

Portuguese photographer Luis Pina said: 'This photo was taken on February 28, 2016, in the Stuttgart Library, in Germany. I really like this Library because it's like no other Library I've ever seen. I actually find that this modern and ethereal look helps one concentrate. This was my first set of photos with my new Sony A7RII and Sony Zeiss 16-35 f/4'Portuguese photographer Luis Pina said: ‘This photo was taken on February 28, 2016, in the Stuttgart Library, in Germany. I really like this Library because it’s like no other Library I’ve ever seen. I actually find that this modern and ethereal look helps one concentrate. This was my first set of photos with my new Sony A7RII and Sony Zeiss 16-35 f/4’

The Photographer, Adi Bulboaca, said of his shot: 'I had the chance to spend four days in the Silver Beach Hotel in November 2016, off the shore of Lake Balaton in Hungary. It's very much a summer resort, so I found myself out of season while working as a set photographer for a film. Built between 1978 and 1983, the hotel was designed by the brutalist architect Tillai Erno. All the rooms were obviously vacant, so I was able to snoop around and explore the entire resort to my heart's content. The place has a retro feel to it and a soothing patina that I hope I was able to capture. I was fascinated by how stark yet visually inviting this "anachronistic" hotel could be'

This image shows the stark facade of the Silver Beach Hotel, taken by Aldi Bulboaca

This image shows the stark facade of the Silver Beach Hotel, taken by Aldi Bulboaca

Here's Moscow looking like a city from the future, where photographer Ivan Turukhano caught a girl sitting by a window in a courtyard 

Here’s Moscow looking like a city from the future, where photographer Ivan Turukhano caught a girl sitting by a window in a courtyard

An industrial tank in Amsterdam looks like a work of art in this picture. The photographer said: ‘The shadows create a light and feather like abstract on this otherwise bold and heavy storage tank’

The need to accommodate Hong Kong’s dense population has created public housing with ‘unique and spectacular facades’, according to photographer Denise Y K Tsang

An interior shot of the Cameo cinema in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photographer Jimmy Reid said: ‘I love the classic feel of this cinema and the formation of the chairs is almost hypnotising to me’

This picture was taken in October 2016 in Berlin near the government headquarters. Photographer Volker Sander said: ‘I saw the straight and diagonal lines and I found that it was a good composition with the coloured squares inside’

The view from Switch House at Tate Modern towards the Shard in London

The Photographer said: 'Prostitution is legal in Greece and the authorities decided to stipulate that all brothels must have permits. There are different kinds of brothels. The upper class ones are called Studio. The difference from the normal brothels are the buildings - more discreet, the attitude of the prostitutes, more polite, and the price, obviously higher. A person welcomes the clients and once inside there is a waiting room where the girls available come out to show themselves. At this point the clients decide whether to stay or to leave. These brothels are recognizable by a pink light sign with the word Studio'

The Photographer said: ‘Prostitution is legal in Greece and the authorities decided to stipulate that all brothels must have permits. There are different kinds of brothels. The upper class ones are called Studio. The difference from the normal brothels are the buildings – more discreet, the attitude of the prostitutes, more polite, and the price, obviously higher. A person welcomes the clients and once inside there is a waiting room where the girls available come out to show themselves. At this point the clients decide whether to stay or to leave. These brothels are recognizable by a pink light sign with the word Studio’

Another picture of the Ysios winery in Laguardia, this time showing the detail in the roofing. The photo was taken on a hot Sunday morning in early September 2016

China, Fuling, Chongqing municipality – an area that has been transformed in recent years from rural to urban. Daily life there has been captured here by Julien Chatelin

An architecture detail of a building at Valletta old city, Malta, captured by Greek photographer Elias Joidos

The skies darken as a storm approaches Larung Gar in Sichuan, China, home to the Five Sciences Buddhism Academy

The skies darken as a storm approaches Larung Gar in Sichuan, China, home to the Five Sciences Buddhism Academy

Nearly 10,000 monks and nuns live in Larung Gar, pictured in this entry by Ming Keung Tam. In 2016, reports emerged from Tibet that there was a mass demolition drive in the unique town by the People's Republic of China

Nearly 10,000 monks and nuns live in Larung Gar, pictured in this entry by Ming Keung Tam. In 2016, reports emerged from Tibet that there was a mass demolition drive in the unique town by the People’s Republic of China

'During my visit to Rotterdam in October 2016 I saw these yellow cube houses and looked for a special perspective,' said photographer Martin Seraphin

‘During my visit to Rotterdam in October 2016 I saw these yellow cube houses and looked for a special perspective,’ said photographer Martin Seraphin

A mind-boggling picture of a skyscraper in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo

This eye-popping image shows the dense urbanisation of Hong Kong – it was taken by local Chak Kwong Man

 

 

 

Is it safe to travel? Use common sense, but don’t cower in fear

…And here’s another fine and inspiring piece from the much-respected John Lumpkin, freelance writer and Special Contributor to the Dallas News.  I admire his sentiment and totally concur: nothing will stop me from my trekking…!    – Ned


Photo: John Lumpkin

“See the pyramids along the Nile. Watch the sunrise from a tropic isle …” So opened a sweet song from the ’50s titled “You Belong to Me.” It continued, “See the market place in old Algier …”

Do those trips sound so dreamy today?

“Experienced travellers are pretty fatalistic about it,” Harvey Boysen, president of Gulliver’s Travel Service in Fort Worth, says. “It could happen in Dallas, Texas, San Bernardino, or Nice, France. You can’t go hide in a hole.”

But it’s understandable that political and religious violence outside the conventional theaters of war is a serious concern, not just in our time. Military historian Max Boot wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal that the current turmoil is actually a “third wave” of international terrorism since the late 1800s — including the bombings of a wagon on Wall Street in 1920 that took 38 lives, and another of an opera house in 1893 in Spain that killed 22.

Remember the scene in The Godfather: Part II? Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) attempted to engineer a mobster coup in fancy Havana hotels patronized by Americans and found himself in the midst of the Cuban Revolution on New Year’s Eve, 1958. In real life, that could have been a family in 2011 on a trip of a lifetime to Egypt’s pyramids in the midst of the Arab Spring.

On reflection, a more ordinary disruption to travel is Mother Nature. For that, it’s sometimes possible to make informed decisions. For example, would you travel to tropical venues if you are of childbearing age, because of the new threat of Zika?

Otherwise, there are situations you cannot anticipate. My wife’s cousin, Jim Biggerstaff of Denton, and his spouse, Lisa, tried twice on European river cruises. Flooding of Portugal’s Duro River left the ship in dock for the duration, but they already were en route and had to settle for the cruise company’s alternative, a winding bus trip along the same itinerary.

The Biggerstaffs’ Elba River cruise was canceled due to a drought, but that illustrates how such events have serendipitous benefits. Viking Cruises offered a full refund plus a $1,000 credit, so Jim and Lisa switched to the Danube and spent three extra days in Prague — “one of the most spectacular cities in Europe,” he says.

An earthquake prevented my wife, Eileen, and me from a much-anticipated trip to Chile, wrapped around an international conference that had to be moved elsewhere. We may not get back that way, although we have a Chilean landscape artist’s surreal work hanging in our home.

Years ago, when I worked in North Carolina and our two toddlers limited our travels, I was often told we had to see the “fall color” around Grandfather Mountain. We found a residential rental at peak season in mid-October, stocked the station wagon with groceries and started out from Raleigh, only to drive into flecks of unseasonal sleet and flurries west of Winston-Salem. By the time we slushed and slid into the mountain condo, there were 10 inches of wet snow, knocking virtually every golden and red leaf off the trees. We never saw the much-publicized foliage, but our family from Texas played in a white landscape not familiar to the little ones, and Eileen and I shared drinks in front of a blazing fireplace when the kids were down.

We are recently retired from full-time work of almost five decades and believe in the credo offered by a neighbour of Biggerstaff: Your fixed-income dollar is worth more now than it will be in 10 years and you are healthier than you likely will be by then.

The neighbour, retired General Electric executive Gary Bostick, also has other insight about travel problems: “If you want it to be like home, then you should stay at home.”

 

John Lumpkin is a freelance writer in Richardson. He served as a vice president of The Associated Press and director of the School of Journalism at Texas Christian University.

* * * *

Ned’s tip: If you’re travelling down the Nile like the old song, head to the Red Sea and stay at the gorgeous five star Le Royal – Sharm El Sheikh resort.

Why Terrorism Won’t Stop Me From Travelling

“Fear is how terrorists win.”  This is how Hannah Stein, Journalist, Blogger and Photographer for HuffPost Travel, starts her truly inspiring piece.  Go Hannah!

Jungles in Indonesia (Hannah Stein)

It seems like every other day I wake up to news stories about a new terrorist attack or some sort of moral injustice in the world. After the attacks in Berlin, Turkey, Brussels and all around the world since, my heart broke for all of the hurt and terror in the world, but it also broke because I realized that people were saying they no longer wanted to travel because of the potential threat. I understand that fear, but I can say that terrorism won’t stop me from travelling.

I studied abroad in Brussels and so it is somewhere very close to my heart. It’s where I discovered my love for travel and for other cultures and where I really began to learn things about myself I never knew before. Watching the tragedy unfold made me sick. I still have friends there who I of course was concerned about, but more to the point, I was sick to my stomach that once again there are people in this world who’s existence is to simply hurt and terrorize other innocent humans. The people who died and were injured were people just going about their daily lives. Going to work. Going on a business trip. Maybe even trying to visit loved ones. This kind of terrorism makes me furious, but it’s also not the point of this article.

Every time I travel somewhere more often than not the response I receive is to “stay safe” or ‘be careful.’

As terrorism has become increasingly more common, as sickening as it is to admit, there has become a collective belief that we should try and be extra safe, be really careful and to stop travelling to unknown places. I get it. It’s a scary time and we want to protect ourselves and protect our loved ones. We’ll do anything we can to make ourselves feel safe again, even if it’s not the most logical thing to do and even if, in reality, it won’t make any difference.

Every time I travel somewhere more often than not the response I receive is to “stay safe” or “be careful.” While I understand and appreciate the sentiment, the implication is that normally I’m not safe and I don’t take the necessary precautions to protect myself in my travels. I understand sometimes it’s something that’s just said, but the harsh reality is that no one is “safe” anymore.

Paris and Brussels are viewed as first world, very successful, wealthy cities and yet both have been victims to heinous acts of terrorism which has led to the deaths of dozens and dozens of people. I’m not trying to be morbid and I don’t want to scare anyone, but the reality is if you’re going to tell me to be safe when I travel to Bangkok, New York or even London, then by extension you need to tell me to be safe when I walk across the street to get a loaf of bread, or when I get on the U-Bahn to go to work. The sad truth is that it’s about being in the wrong place at the wrong time and this is one of many reasons why terrorism won’t stop me from travelling.

[Terrorists] win by making us change our lifestyles because of what might happen. They win when we choose to forego an opportunity because of the what ifs.

Paralyzing us and fear is how terrorists win. They win by making us change our lifestyles because of what might happen. They win when we choose to forego an opportunity because of the what ifs. They win every time someone says “stay safe.” When we think about them and are afraid they’re winning. I won’t let that fear change my life. I won’t miss amazing opportunities because that is exactly what they want. And, unfortunately, I’m no safer at home than I am in Kuala Lumpur, Mexico or Bali.

People have died from terrorism in Boston, in New York, in London, in Paris, in Brussels. Living in fear won’t make you safer and travelling somewhere different doesn’t make you more susceptible to an attack. There is so much good in the world and it’s important to remember that terrorists only make up a small percentage. There are kind-hearted and wonderful people in every country and by working to build bridges with these other cultures we’re spreading positivity, understanding and love rather than hate.

That’s the best way to combat terrorists. Work to understand other cultures and get to know the locals. Share stories, bond and be positive. Nothing good will come of fear and worry and it certainly isn’t going to make you any safer.

At the end of the day, your chances of being in a terrorist attack are minuscule and you’re more likely to end up being crushed by your TV than being killed or injured by a bomb. Don’t give into the fear and hate. Don’t stop experiencing new cultures and building bridges and understanding across continents, because that’s the best way we can win.

 

 

10 Secrets Your Pilot Has Always Wanted To Tell You

“This is your captain speaking.”  (Well, a Huff Post travel writer anyway 😉 )

We see flight attendants often, but pilots tend to be much more secluded. With so much airtime and so little face time, there are a few things they want to share with the masses.

So we asked commercial airline pilots who have their own aviation blogs to name the one thing they wish their “pax” – that’s airline speak for “passengers” – knew. Their responses, along with some shared by their friends, shed a whole new light on life in the cockpit.

1. Pilots don’t like cancelled flights, either.

“As passengers, one of the most aggravating situations is an extensive delay followed by the ultimate cancellation. We miss our friend’s wedding, our cruise, or our child’s baseball game. However, I wish passengers knew that when we cancel a flight, the flight crews miss their special events, too.”
― Karlene Petitt of Flight to Success

2.  You shouldn’t cut it too close when booking.

“Passengers plan a trip and fly up to the last minute before they need to be there or back at work. Then they get mad at airlines if there is a delay/cancellation.”
― Pilot who asked to remain anonymous

3. There’s an official definition of “on time” and it’s not what you think.

“ ‘On time’ for departure is pushing back from the gate at published departure time (and up to 14 minutes later). ‘On time’ for arrival is plus or minus 14 minutes.”
― Pilot who asked to remain anonymous

4. Turbulence can come out of nowhere…

“Pilots can avoid predicted or reported turbulence, but that hardly guarantees a smooth ride. The atmosphere is an ever-changing fluid, producing turbulence almost instantaneously. So ALWAYS keep your seatbelt on when seated.”
― Chris Manno of JetHead, who is also a pilot with American Airlines 

5. …But there’s a way to have less of it on your flight.

“If people are concerned about turbulence, they need to take early-morning flights for the smoothest air.”
― Laura Einsetler of Captain Laura

6. Flight durations aren’t set in stone.

“The length of a flight at the time someone books a ticket is based on historical data. The real length of a flight varies.”
― Pilot who asked to remain anonymous

7. Autopilot isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“It’s pilots who are flying your plane – human beings, not some high-tech autopilot. People have a vastly exaggerated notion of what cockpit automation actually does.”
― Patrick Smith of Ask the Pilot

8. Your pilot is no dummy.

“I wish people knew how much experience, training, education and requirements must be met before we are allowed to even fly these jets.”
― Laura Einsetler of Captain Laura

9. Cancellations could save your life.

“Pilots use their experience and best judgment to make that very hard choice to stay on the ground and cancel a flight. That choice is not made lightly and is always based on safety.”
― Karlene Petitt of Flight to Success

10. Looking around could save your life too.

“I wish passengers knew how many rows to their nearest exit. Most accidents are survivable if you get out.”
― Anne Fletcher

Destination Inspiration: Ten of the World’s Most Legendary, Gorgeous Beaches…

So reckons the extremely well-trekked Gilbert Ott, editor of Godsavethepoints – and I must say I’m finding it hard to disagree with him!


City breaks are cool, cultural holidays are fun, but it’s hard to beat an nice cold refreshing drink on a gorgeous sandy beach with the shades on. If you’ve been spinning the globe looking for the perfect place to spend your hard earned holiday cash, it’s tough to pass up these beaches, which are arguably ten of the most stunning you’ll find anywhere in the world…

Horseshoe Beach, Bermuda

Believe it or not, there really is an island where the sand is pink: it’s called Bermuda. This particular stretch of beach features a hidden cove where you find tourist free, untouched beauty.

Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia

If the beach is crowded, just hit the amazing sand bar a few feet out. Shallow water, rolling hills, white sand and all the glory of an Australian holiday. Sold.

Honopu Beach, Maui, Hawaii

Pink sand, girly. White sand, standard. Black sand? Very cool! Honopu beach, amongst many of Hawaii’s best beaches, features volcanic black sand, creating one of the most unique experiences in the world against crystal blue water….

Pansy Island, Mozambique

Want to escape the world? Well this is about as “secluded” as you can get, requiring a plane and then a boat to bring you to these remote islands, only a few of which are inhabited…

Honopu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

If black sand is a bit extreme for your taste, perhaps one of these remote, hike-worthy beaches protected by massive rock formations. It’s worth the “trek”…

Temea Beach, Moorea, French Polynesia

You know life is tough when you’re choosing between Moorea and Bora Bora. If you opt to go the Moorea route, you’ll definitely want to hit Temea Beach, featuring water with color so pristine it makes pools envious. There’s plenty of soft sand and rugged terrain as well…

El Nido Beach, Palawan, Philippines

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, probably worthy of enticing you to buy a $1000 plane ticket. El Nido beach is one of the most secluded, gorgeous beach areas, with lush greenery juxtaposing the surreal blue ocean and white sand. Simply paradise.

Long Beach, Koh Phi Phi Island, Thailand

Thailand’s beaches are so sought after the country is having to crack down on tourism. The Phi Phi Islands offer one of the most “Instagram” worthy settings. You’ll just want to arrive early to avoid the boats of people trying to get in on the amazing action. Unless you enjoy people…

Whitehaven Beach, Queensland, Australia

If there’s one thing to learn from this post, Queensland is worthy of a bucket list spot. With two beaches on the list (for obvious reasons shown above) you’ll find all the sand, snorkelling and surfing fun you could ever dream of.

Until then, keep dreaming…

What Are the Odds of Surviving a Plane Crash?

No I am definitely NOT trying to put you off your next trek: hopefully this will put your mind at rest – on the plane at least.  According to abcnews.com, experts reckon you’d have to fly every day for 55,000 years (lol) before experiencing a fatal crash; and the NTSB claims the survivability rate for that potential crash is a reassuringly high 95.7 percent.

So read on.  And …. relaaaaaaaax …….


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If you’re the kind of traveller whose nerves rattle along with the drinks cart every time your flight hits turbulence, you’re probably among the 40 percent of passengers who’ve experienced some fear at one time or another while flying.

But beyond imaging the worst-case scenarios, what are the chances of your plane actually crashing? How likely are you to survive?

The good news is that plane crashes remain extremely rare. Flying is still one of the safest methods of transportation. In fact, air experts say it’s more likely you’ll be involved in a crash driving to the airport than in one midflight.

“If you take one flight a day, you would on average need to fly every day for 55,000 years before being involved in a fatal crash,” M.I.T’s Sloan School Statistician Arnold Barnett told ABC News.

Around the world, the odds aren’t as good, but travellers would still need on average to take one flight a day for about 10,000 years before being involved in a fatal crash, Barnett said – adding that the mystery revolving around missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 has served to make people more anxious about something that is statistically in our favour.

“The mystery of the Malaysia plane [was] attracting the headlines and the cumulative effect of this quite naturally [made] people nervous,” Barnett said. “If you remind people of something dangerous, it worries them, even if it’s incredibly rare.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s comparison of accidental death risk on its website confirms that air travel featured relatively low among the list of alternative modes of transport. The DTT found Air carriers accounted for just 138 deaths a year among the general population, compared with 36,676 deaths by motor vehicle, 5,150 by large trucks and 3,112 by motorcycle over a five year average.

Actually, you are far more likely to die from poisoning (15,206 deaths a year), at work (5,800) or even being electrocuted (410) than in a plane accident, the agency’s research found.

But for those unlucky enough to be involved in the small percent of fatal air accidents, what are the odds of survival if your plane does crash?

The NTSB says that despite more people flying than ever, the accident rate for commercial flights has remained the same for the last two decades, and the survivability rate is a high 95.7 percent.

The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) has also examined the survivability of aircraft accidents worldwide, estimating that 90 percent are survivable (no passengers died) or “technically survivable,” where at least one occupant survives. Most of those fatalities were a result of impact and fire-related factors including smoke inhalation after impact.

The best option to maximize your chances of walking away from a plane crash is to sit up the rear end of the plane, according to crash test results conducted by scientists for Discovery TV last year.

While airplane manufacturer, Boeing, claims on its website that “One seat is as safe as another,” a study by Popular Mechanics, which looked at the survival numbers from every commercial jet crash in the U.S. from 1971, found those sitting near the plane’s tail were 40 percent likelier to survive than those in the first few rows.

Other tips that increase your chance of survival include bracing for impact (placing your head down and putting your hands over your head), while the FAA also advises to sit in an aisle within five rows away from an emergency exit and not to sleep during takeoff and landing, when the chances of a crash is highest.

Boeing also recommends paying attention to flight attendants and dressing appropriately (“skip the short skirts, shorts and skimpy T-shirts”) in the event of an emergency.

“Ultimately, it’s highly unlikely you will be in a crash,” said Barnett. “Whatever we find out about the Malaysian flight, this sort of thing is extraordinarily rare. You could take a flight every day in an average life span of 70-80 years and never run into trouble.”

 

 

 

Useful Tips For Solo Trekkers

I’d concur!  Loving this advice from the wonderful Sakesh Karanjit, Creative Writer, Blogger, Photographer, Guitarist and Contributor at HuffPost Travel

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With so many tips tipping around the internet. Kindly go through these tips if you are planning to take off for solo treks in Nepal.

Don’t be nervous

Trekking solo might be quite intimidating even for frequent adventurer. The first and best tip for any solo trekker would be don’t get nervous and boost yourself with so much confidence that you can go anywhere and do anything. Being confused and nervous will take you nowhere. You must have your destination however! And when accompanied by professional trekking guide, you will travel solo but never alone without worrying about anything.

Be like Local

When you walk down the streets, routes, or trails dress, act, eat and try to be like local people. You need to know what to wear, what you will be eating, and do proper research before going at a new region. If you are visiting monastery, temple or any local attraction, ask your trekking guide about do’s and don’ts. Always ask before taking a photograph. Respect the local culture, traditions and religious values. When you be like local, participate in local festivals you will enjoy your trip more and make it worthwhile experience.

Don’t get drunk

Getting drunk uncontrollably would be the last thing you would do while trekking solo. Not only it will dehydrate your body and make you more prone to altitude sickness, it also put you in unwanted situation. I am not telling that don’t celebrate. After the completion of trip, you can always drink responsibly and celebrate the success with trip organizing team.

Enjoy exploring new place

Immerse yourself truly in the new place. Enjoy walking across the hills, breathe fresh air, capture beautiful views of landscapes, meet new people, interact with them, get to know their lifestyle and don’t get afraid to try new things. Tick all your checklist without any regrets and discover yourself while exploring the new place.

Embrace the positivity

If you are solo trekker, you might be facing lots of negativity around. People may say you are loner, you don’t have friends, and even people close to you might not recommend you to go solo. But you need to convert all these negativity into positivity to do something that you wanted to do. You have to believe in yourself and make it happen with trekking guide from local trekking company. It is the smartest and best way to see the world around.

 

Photographer visits lost Mongolian tribe, captures stunning photos of their life and culture

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Human civilization has come a long way since the early days of our species. Rising out of caves and undeveloped lands, humans have built cities and homes that the early generations could never have imagined.

The widespread growth of globalization has made it harder for historic cultures to be preserved. This is what makes the Dukha people of Mongolia so fascinating and amazing. The nomadic tribe has lived in the same region for centuries. During that time, they developed a special relationship with the wild animals. In fact, this relationship is so amazing it will leave you in awe.

Fortunately for us, photographer Hamid Sardar-Afkhami recently visited this lost tribe and documented what he saw through a series of stunning photographs.

From http://shareably.net/: simply beautiful 😀   – Ned


Through their unique culture, the Dukha people have developed a unique relationship with neighboring reindeer. They use them as means of transportation over the treacherous terrain they call home.
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Children are taught how to train a reindeer at an early age.
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The reindeer are docile and gentle companions, even to the smallest of Dukha children.
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This young girl prepares to clean and bathe a reindeer baby.
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The Dukha are also known as the “Tsaatan,” a term that means “reindeer herder.”
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These days, there are only roughly 44 Dukha families left. This totals 200-400 people. The reindeer population is diminishing as well.
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The Dukha primarily survive off of the tourist industry. People visit and pay money for performances, crafts, and of course, reindeer rides.
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They don’t just train reindeer. They also train wolves!
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The Dukha hunt small woodland animals like rabbits. This earns them about two US dollars.
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The Dukha also train golden eagles to aid in their hunting.
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Eagle hunting is considered a privilege. Those who are able to do it are well respected by the tribe.
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The Dukha believe they have a spiritual connection with all animals.
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The connection allows them to feel at home in nature and maintain their culture despite the growing influence of the outside world.
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It’s breathtaking to see the Dukha tribe and their relationship with the natural world. The way they’ve preserved their way of life is just incredible.

 

 

Need for speed: where to find the world’s best wi-fi

Trekking has changed a ton since I embarked on my first great back-packing adventure to Asia fresh out of school. For a start, smartphones weren’t around: the mobile or “cell” was a luxury item for the well-to-do businessman back then; it weighed more, did less and cost a packet – no camera or music store and defo no handy app to help you find your way off the mountain, check the next train or simply ask for a beer.

Nowadays, I don’t think there are more than half a dozen people in the world who don’t have at least a basic tri-band!  But seriously, the phone has of course become an integral and essential part of your travel kit, along with a backup battery and charger and maybe a couple of spare memory cards.

But it needs something else to be fully functional: a network.  And we all expect that network to be free wherever possible now – don’t we?

Here is your guide to the best wi-fi currently available around the world from Philip Tang at Lonely PlanetNed

 

 


Net connectivity and travel have become increasingly entwined. An online connection has become a crucial part of how we navigate, research, connect and even work on the go. Wi-fi – open to all devices and often free – is the lifeblood of this connectivity.

To celebrate it, we decided to take a look how it has changed the places we visit, and to find the world’s weirdest, fastest and best wi-fi.

An online connection has become crucial to how many of us travel © DuKai photographer / Getty

An online connection has become crucial to how many of us travel © DuKai photographer / Getty

Dream landmarks with wi-fi

Awesome – you finally made it to your bucket list destination! But the internet has demands: ‘Pics or it didn’t happen’. On top of that, sharing video of your trip as it happens is more popular than ever, thanks to real-time services like Snapchat Live Story and spread to Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status. If you’ve got no service when you’re ready to broadcast, you’re out of luck.

Don’t worry though. These top picks of picturesque architectural wonders have outdoor wi-fi for immediate sharing ­– the Eiffel Tower and Cathédrale Notre Dame in Paris; the Taj Mahal in India; the Sydney Opera House in Australia; and Petra, the city carved out of stone in Jordan.

Wi-fi from . . . phone booths

Now that most people use their own phone and wi-fi device, what to with the hundreds of public telephone booths? In New York, public phones have been upgraded with ‘LinkNYC’ tablets for maps, browsing the net, and travel information. Fast free wi-fi will be offered at 7500 converted payphones (‘Links’) across the city, creating the largest network of high-speed hotspots in the world.

Similarly, many of those iconic red telephone boxes in the UK have been converted to phone repair shops and charging stations and will offer (tiny) mobile work spaces to rent, complete with power, a printer and wi-fi. In Australia, wi-fi access at converted phone booths comes at a price and only to certain customers.

Base camp tents at Mt Everest © Spaces Images

Base camp tents at Mt Everest © Spaces Images

World’s highest hookup

Saying ‘Guess where I am?’ live from Mount Everest in Nepal must earn even more bragging rights. If you’re on your way up, you’re in luck – wi-fi is being trialled at the base camp of the highest mountain on Earth to share your adventure with the world. Two notable runners up are Japan’s iconic Mt Fuji (which has hotspots dotted around it) and the sacred mountain of Girnar Hill, a well travelled Jain and Hindu pilgrimage site in India that has wi-fi on its walking trails.

Widest wi-fi options

Travel-friendly Japan shares the bandwidth bounty with visitors like no other country. Whether you’re zipping on a bullet train, in a club, or crane spotting along an icy ravine, Tokyo has consistently ranked in the top three of many lists for fastest wi-fi cities in the world in recent years. Tokyoites were early adopters of consuming most of their media on mobile devices, and they naturally expect blazing speeds. They have the infrastructure to back it up.

Local trains often provide wi-fi with a quick email signup, and the usual wi-fi suspects are here with cafes, restaurants, thousands of convenience stores, hostels and tourist offices all giving away free access. Prepaid SIM cards for travellers with gigabytes of data are little surprise but having them available at the ubiquitous convenience stores makes for another easy way to get online. If that wasn’t enough, tourists can access free wi-fi from hundreds of thousands of hotspots across the country through two free apps: Travel Japan wi-fi and Japan Connected free wi-fi produced by mobile providers.

You can rent devices like the MiFi to take wi-fi with you anywhere you go © Anna Lindqvist / Getty Images

You can rent devices like the MiFi to take wi-fi with you anywhere you go © Anna Lindqvist / Getty Images

Battery-powered portables

Tools like the ‘MiFi’ or ‘wi-fi egg’ (for its goose-egg dimensions) are rechargeable-battery operated devices that will give you (and your friends) wi-fi wherever you can get a mobile signal. That means internet on your laptop or tablet on a ferry ride, isolated ocean cliff or remote ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), if you really need it. You can pick up and drop off a wi-fi egg from international airports; and plenty of hosts of sharing economy accommodation, such as AirBnB, provide a wi-fi egg because they don’t have landline internet to offer.

These devices are also increasingly popular in Korea and China, and are now available in France, Canada and the USA. Plans can cover a whole region so, for example, you can rent the one device and never be without wi-fi for a big Europe trip.

The most innovative internet cafes

While internet cafes have edged into obscurity throughout much of the world (other than high-intensity gamer dens), Japan continues to find innovative ways to keep this category going. The country boasts large internet cafes that double as manga libraries where you can peruse the comic library by the hour while drinking unlimited free refreshments.

Another popular use is renting private computer booths to sleep in, lying on thin mats. There are even on-site showers for rent. You have to get in quick on weekends when revellers who miss the last train home crash in an internet booth.

Subway station at Canary Wharf in London © Bim / Getty Images

Subway station at Canary Wharf in London © Bim / Getty Images

Posting pics from planes and trains

A growing number of airlines offer free wi-fi on board, letting you plan last minute trip details and chat to neglected friends. Free wi-fi is available on flights by JAL, Emirates, JetBlue, Norwegian, Turkish Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Nok Air. Some airlines such as Air China and Qantas only offer wi-fi on domestic flights, and China Air doesn’t allow phones to be used at all. If you need to continue online, there is a cheeky app, WiFox, that maps wi-fi passwords used in airport lounges around the world.

Wi-fi is getting added to public transport around the world. The London Underground, Toronto and New York subway systems have free wi-fi, but only at the stations. Cities like Buenos Aires and Hong Kong have wi-fi access from the comfort of your train seat.

Connecting on the go dominates in Mexico. Most internet users connect via wi-fi, not through wired connections. Expect even more ‘WhatsAppeando’ (WhatsApp-ing) soon – plans are in the works to bring wi-fi to all but one line of Mexico City’s metro system. Unlike in other countries, the capital’s 4.5 million+ daily passengers will be hooked up with wi-fi everywhere – at the 175 stations, on the platforms, on board, and even snaking through tunnels.

Fastest public wi-fi in the USA and Europe

In 2016 it was pretty little Chattanooga that had faster public internet than anywhere from sea to shining sea, according to dospeedtest.com. The small city of old converted train depots and mountain roads has faster internet even than San Francisco or Washington DC! For visitors to Chattanooga, you get the benefits of mountain life with walkable sights and plenty of outdoor activities, but without having to give up GPS maps and other travel friendly benefits of world-class public wi-fi.

Similarly, Europe boasts a surprising winner in the wi-fi race – Riga, that Baltic country of Latvia‘s capital, whose population adds up to only about two million, has emerged as a dark horse internet powerhouse in a continent full of tech powerhouses like London, Stockholm and Berlin.

Seoul, South Korea © Mlenny / Getty Images

Seoul, South Korea © Mlenny / Getty Images

Fastest connection in the world

Finally, the stat you’ve been waiting for: Seoul, South Korea has the fastest internet speeds in the world, reaching nearly 1.5 Gbps (dospeedtest.com). That is nearly 50% faster than average speeds in the USA or Europe. Seoul’s internet is affordable too, meaning visitors will find abundant free wi-fi driven by the fast fiber optic connections.

 

 

The stunning shots that won a traveller the job of a lifetime

A lucky Irish traveller has won the job of her dreams – and a huge trophy – after beating 75,000 applicants to become the official Instagrammer for Royal Caribbean.

Ciara Flynn’s winning photograph of two young Buddhist monks has afforded her the chance to travel the oceans in complete luxury as the cruise ship’s social media photographer.

The budding shutterbug from Dublin, Republic of Ireland, will journey for three weeks across three oceans on three different ships this summer with all of her food, drink, accommodation, entertainment, flights and expenses covered by Royal Caribbean.

This capture of two monks in Kathmandu won Ms Flynn the job of a lifetime. She commented on the snap: 'I spent hours sat in a monastery at Kathmandu just watching these young monks before I shot this picture. Seeing them subtly switch between being children and monks gave me a glimpse into a different and fascinating culture'

This picture of two monks in Kathmandu won Ms Flynn the job of a lifetime. She commented on the snap: ‘I spent hours sat in a monastery at Kathmandu just watching these young monks before I shot this picture. Seeing them subtly switch between being children and monks gave me a glimpse into a different and fascinating culture’

Ms Flynn also submitted this shot of a street vendor in Colombia into the competition, which was entered by 75,000 applicants

Ms Flynn also submitted this shot of a street vendor in Colombia into the competition, which was entered by 75,000 applicants

She also submitted this snap of a volcano in Peru. After her win she said: 'Capturing the magic in the ordinary moments in life tells a much richer story than words ever could, so I'm thrilled to be able to get the chance to do this with Royal Caribbean'

She also submitted this snap of a volcano in Peru. After her win she said: ‘Capturing the magic in the ordinary moments in life tells a much richer story than words ever could, so I’m thrilled to be able to get the chance to do this with Royal Caribbean’

Ms Flynn, who earns a living working as a tour guide to fund her travels around the world, will also receive £3,000 cash prize.

Applicants were asked to post their most inspiring image on Instagram, with the hashtag #ExtraordinaryExplorer.

Although entries were limited to British and Irish candidates, it struck a chord with travellers all over the world, with almost 350,000 people worldwide posting to the hashtag, hoping that their image might be considered.

Ms Flynn’s adventure will take her to three continents with destination highlights including New York, the Caribbean, Asia and the Mediterranean.

She will be travelling on Ovation of the Seas from Beijing, Anthem of the Seas from New York and Freedom of the Seas in Barcelona.

The search to find someone to fulfil the Instagram 'Intern-Ship' was launched by Royal Caribbean in January. This image of a peaceful temple in Seoul was one of the shortlisted entries

The search to find someone to fulfil the Instagram ‘Intern-Ship’ was launched by Royal Caribbean in January. This image of a peaceful temple in Seoul was one of the shortlisted entries

This Instagram of Milford Sound in New Zealand, with the 5,540ft Mitre Peak shrouded in cloud, was also shortlisted

This Instagram of Milford Sound in New Zealand, with the 5,540ft Mitre Peak shrouded in cloud, was also shortlisted

City splendour: A shot of New Year¿s Eve in London      This snap of snowy Central Park in New York was shortlisted

City splendour: A shot of New Year’s Eve in London (left) and of a snowy Central Park in New York were also shortlisted


Ms Flynn said: ‘Becoming Royal Caribbean’s Extraordinary Explorer is the experience of a lifetime. I’ve always loved photography and have been doing it for as long as I can remember.

‘Capturing the magic in the ordinary moments in life tells a much richer story than words ever could, so I’m thrilled to be able to get the chance to do this with Royal Caribbean.’

She continued: ‘I spent hours sat in a monastery at Kathmandu just watching these young monks before I shot this picture [her winning entry]. Seeing them subtly switch between being children and monks gave me a glimpse into a different and fascinating culture. As a unique moment in time, I wanted to use Instagram to share it with the world.’

The search to find someone to fulfil the Instagram ‘Intern-Ship’ was launched by Royal Caribbean in January.

The campaign was the brainchild of Ben Bouldin, Royal Caribbean’s Managing Director UK and Ireland, and came in response to data showing that more and more people were using social media channels as inspiration when booking their holidays.

The budding shutterbug from Dublin, Republic of Ireland, will travel for three weeks across three oceans, on three different ships this summer with all of her food, drink, accommodation, entertainment, flights and expenses covered by Royal Caribbean

The budding shutterbug from Dublin, Republic of Ireland, will travel for three weeks across three oceans, on three different ships this summer with all of her food, drink, accommodation, entertainment, flights and expenses covered by Royal Caribbean

Ms Flynn, who earns a living working as a tour guide to fund her travels around the world, will also receive £3,000 cash prize      Ms Flynn said: 'Becoming Royal Caribbean's Extraordinary Explorer is the experience of a lifetime. I've always loved photography and have been doing it for as long as I can remember'

Bouldin said: ‘Our research revealed that social media has redefined the holiday market. Over half of 18-24-year-olds rely completely on channels such as Instagram when researching holidays and more than a third of people said that seeing their friends’ bragging posts from abroad had encouraged them to book a trip.’

A judging panel comprising travel blogger Johnny Ward; Travel Weekly Editor-in-Chief Lucy Huxley and Royal Caribbean’s Ben Bouldin sifted through the entries, and were huge fans of Ms Flynn’s winning entry. The shot was taken shortly before a trek to Mount Everest and provides a rare snapshot into the lives of two children half the world away.

Ben Bouldin, Royal Caribbean’s Managing Director, UK and Ireland, said: ‘Ciara’s entry was everything we were looking for when we launched our Instagram “Intern-ship”. Her image has strong visual appeal, originality and inspires viewers to jump out of the ordinary and explore the world.

‘Most importantly, it also captures a subtle but amazing moment that draws the viewer into her story.

‘We’re confident that throughout the “Intern-ship”, Ciara will be able to skillfully shoot similarly amazing moments on board our fleet, capturing the imaginations of the younger generation and inspiring them to consider cruising as their next big adventure.’

Thanks to Mail Online for the story

French workmen’s café accidentally gets Michelin star

So I love France but I’ve just discovered there’s defo a new little town for me to visit — Bourges, with its very own Michelin-starred resto (well, for a few hours at least).

Press all over the world are reporting that a humble little workmen’s bistro in the heart of the country was accidentally given the culinary world’s highest award when it was mistaken for a posh eatery with the same name near Paris.

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Customers looking for a fine dining experience were surprised when they turned up to find the cheap and cheerful cafe in Bourges, central France. Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)

Alarm bells started to ring at the café when it was suddenly overwhelmed with phone calls from gourmet diners wanting to book tables after it was awarded a Michelin star — by mistake, it later turned out.

Reporters, TV crews and prospective customers were astounded when they turned up at the Bouche à Oreille, in the small town of Bourges, to find a cheap and cheerful eatery with red and white polka dot plastic tablecloths. Many patrons wear high-visibility vests, it is often packed at lunchtime and the atmosphere is lively, with customers ordering beers at the bar.

It serves its regular clientèle of local tradesmen plain — if undeniably wholesome — dishes such as homemade lasagne or beef bourguignon.

The Michelin Guide soon phoned up to apologise, explaining that it had confused the café with a more refined establishment of the same name near Paris.

 

It was perhaps an understandable mistake, as their addresses are remarkably similar: one is on a street named Route de la Chapelle, the other on Impasse de la Chapelle.

Not only did the error bring the café publicity it had never enjoyed before, it also got the staff invited to a genuine Michelin-standard dinner at the other Bouche à Oreille, 100 miles away in Boutervilliers, near Paris.

This arguably more tastefully decorated establishment has linen tablecloths and carpets, and offers dishes such as lobster flan or confit of beef with black truffle.

The Michelin Guide 2017 is pictured in Paris, Thursday, Feb.9, 2017 in Paris. One restaurant was newly awarded with the prestigious 3 stars this year. 

The Michelin Guide 2017. One restaurant was newly awarded with the prestigious 3 stars this year. Credit: AP

Véronique Jacquet, the café owner who works behind the bar, said: “Suddenly, we were rushed off our feet. Reporters were coming in and then my son phoned me from Paris, where he lives. He almost died laughing. I had regulars and friends phoning up and asking why I hadn’t told them we’d won a Michelin star.”

Mme Jacquet’s cook, Penelope Salmon, said she had never dreamed of winning a Michelin star, but added: “I put my heart into my cooking.”

“This place is worth not just one but two stars!” a satisfied customer told French TV.

The listing was changed on the Michelin website, but not until two days later. Aymeric Dreux, the chef of the pricier restaurant, also took the mistake with good humour. “I phoned Madame Jacquet in Bourges,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “We had a good laugh about it and I invited her to come to the restaurant to sample what we do. If I’m in her neck of the woods, I’ll pop in for lunch and a beer at her place.”

How they compare…

Bouche à Oreille, Bourges

Fixed-price lunch menu €12.50 including a starter, often charcuterie and salad, and a dish of the day such as beef bourguignon, homemade lasagna, steak and chips. One day last week, the cook, Mrs Salmon, came up with fillet of pollock with paprika, garnished with a couple of mussels and generous helpings of boiled potatoes and lettuce. If you don’t want the full menu, a dish of the day will cost no more than €10.

Bouche à Oreille, Boutervilliers

The Michelin-starred restaurant also offers a fixed-price lunch menu for €48 (£41) including a glass of champagne. The menu changes regularly.

Entrées – Lobster flan with fricassée of gambas — or Confit of beef with poached egg, mousseline of Jerusalem artichokes

Main course – Skate wing in herb crust, salsify – or Calf’s head with glazed winter vegetables Cheese plate

Desserts – Pear and chocolate crisp, tiramisu-style – or White chocolate and coconut ‘exotique’ with mango

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Le Bouche à Oreille

A la carte:

Entrées

Carpaccio of scallops in thin pastry with leeks and black truffle – €38 (£32)

Butternut squash velouté with foie gras – €32 (£27)

Scrambled eggs with black truffle – €38 (£32)

Brittany lobster and crab, with radishes and mint, accompanied by beetroot and cress – €36 (£31)

Main courses

Brittany lobster with baby vegetables, sloe purée €52 (£44)

Confit of beef with poached egg, mousseline of Jerusalem artichokes – €44 (£38)

Skate wing in herb crust, winter vegetables, lobster bisque €50 (£43)

Roasted scallops – salsify with bacon and black truffle €50  (£43)

Calf’s kidneys in jus  – €30 (£26)

Confit of beef and black truffle, mousseline of Jerusalem artichokes €44 (38)

Desserts

Crêpes flambéed in Grand Marnier €12 (£10)

White chocolate and coconut ‘exotique’ with mango €14 (£12)

Pear and chocolate crisp, tiramisu-style – €14 (£12)

 

THE ALLURE OF DARK TOURISM

This piece by Lilly Lampe of the New Yorker got me thinking about travel from an entirely different perspective. I went to Thailand some time after the ’04 tsunami and the devastation it had caused was still evident.  Although I took lots of pictures, it really didn’t occur to me to take any of the aftermath of the destruction, and I have to say I wonder how some people can bring themselves to be so fascinated in others’ misfortune. Guess that’s human nature for you…

The collapsed Xuankou school buildings, part of a tour of ruins from the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, Sichuan, China. All photographs by Ambroise Tézenas / Courtesy Dewi Lewis Publishing

The French photographer Ambroise Tézenas was travelling in Sri Lanka when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami struck, killing more than thirty thousand people on the island within minutes. Four years later, he came across a newspaper article explaining that a train from the disaster, still sitting where the waves had deposited it in the Sri Lankan jungle, had become a tourist attraction. Tézenas was perplexed that anyone could casually visit the remnants of the horror that he had witnessed first-hand. From this disconnect, he found inspiration: he travelled around the world to sites of historic calamity—from Rwanda and Auschwitz to Chernobyl and Dealey Plaza—to document their afterlives as destinations of so-called “dark tourism.”

Rather than take advantage of press access, Tézenas set strict rules limiting himself to the average visitor’s experience. He took paid tours, spent limited time at each location, and shot only what members of the public could see. The resulting images, which are collected in the new book “I Was Here,” are complex interrogations—of how countries reckon with their past crimes, of the commodification of tragedy, and of the human impulse to look upon death and disaster. Amid the wreckage of the Wenchuan earthquake, a tour group gathers for a photo op. In the former Soviet border zone, young people play “escape from the U.S.S.R.” spy games. At Karostas Cietums, a military prison in Latvia, children over twelve years of age can stay overnight and “live the part of a prisoner.” “At the end,” Tézenas told me, these sites “leave the individual with not much to understand history.”

Still, Tézenas’s images belie the simple moralizing that’s often wielded against disaster tourism. He said that he “couldn’t help being moved” by many of the locations he visited, and his empathy extended to his fellow-sightseers. Through his lens, they come across not as callous voyeurs but as poignant foils to the macabre memorials. In a commemorative park in the border town of Maroun al-Ras, the site of a major battle in the 2006 Lebanon war, children play on a brightly painted jungle gym. In the ghost town of Chernobyl, saplings grow.

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Oświęcim, Poland

Chernobyl, Ukraine

The Iranian-built park in Maroun al-Ras, Lebanon

A sculpture of Lenin in Grūtas Park, near Vilnius, Lithuania

Karostas Cietums Military Prison, Karosta, Latvia

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The remains of the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, the site of a 1944 Nazi massacre

Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas

The Hezbollah-operated Mleeta Resistance Tourist Landmark, southern Lebanon

Mleeta Resistance Tourist Landmark, Mleeta, Lebanon

Genocide memorial site at Ntarama, Rwanda

Xiaoyudong Bridge, part of the Wenchuan earthquake ruins tour, Sichuan, China

 

Born in Paris, Ambroise Tézenas gained international recognition through his first book, Beijing, Theatre of the People, which won the European Publisher’s Award for Photography in 2006. Shortlisted for the Prix de Académie des Beaux-Arts and the Prix Pictet Prize, his work has been exhibited widely in Europe and features regularly in major international publications, including the New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker. His work is held in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France public collection. Ambroise Tézenas is represented by Galerie Mélanie Rio in France.

 

WHY I QUIT MY JOB TO TRAVEL THE WORLD

More funny stuff from The New Yorker’s Joe Veix…  😀



Veix---Daily-Shouts

PHOTOGRAPH BY PETER MARLOW / MAGNUM

On paper, my life seemed great. I had a dream job, a swanky apartment, and a loving girlfriend. But something was off. I couldn’t bear being chained to my desk in a stuffy office any longer. So I decided to quit and travel the world, bringing only my passport, a small backpack, and my enormous trust fund.

My co-workers were shocked. How could I so casually throw away everything I fought so hard to achieve? But I don’t expect everyone to “get” me. I’m a free spirit, whose father owns a South American rubber empire.

I set to work packing my bag and throwing out most of my possessions. Whatever didn’t bring me joy went straight in the trash. You don’t need to own a lot of “stuff” to be happy, especially when you can buy whatever you later realize that you need with your massive inheritance.

Then I reserved a business-class seat, sent a quick text message to my girlfriend telling her that I was leaving the country forever, and was off.

My first few months roaming the world were life-changing. Every day, I updated my Instagram with photos of my favorite sights: cones filled with scoops of glistening gelato; my hand lightly resting on a café table, near an early edition of “On the Road”; selfies of me hugging depressed tigers too stoned on sedatives to drown themselves. Still, I needed to see more. My wanderlust had turned me into a wanderslut.

As a citizen of the world, I rarely get lonely. Everywhere I go, I meet such diverse groups of people. In hostels, I’ve shared beers with friendly British and Australian twenty-somethings. In hotels, I’ve sipped wine with friendly British and Australian forty-somethings. We all became lifelong friends, despite the language barriers.

Once, outside the train station of a small fishing village, I met a humble man named Greebo who sold flowers and various cheap trinkets for a living. Unburdened by the trappings of modern life, his hospitality was unlike anything I’ve ever encountered in the States. Greebo was happy to open up to me about his life, as long as I kept buying roses. Intrigued by our easy chatter, some of his friends wandered over to join the conversation. All of our superficial differences soon melted away. Inside, we are just human beings, after all, exchanging a powerful global currency.

As I left town, I cast one final glance back at Greebo. One of his friends playfully tossed him to the ground and thumbed his eyes as the others snatched all the money I had given him. I couldn’t help but smile. It felt good to make a difference in the lives of these simple people.

Of course, this “no reservations” lifestyle isn’t for everyone. In many ways, it’s harder than the old corporate grind. Many stores don’t accept my Centurion card. Sometimes it’s difficult to get even one bar of cell service, which makes Instagramming more gelato a real struggle.

But don’t worry about me! Whenever I start to get homesick, I remember the old rat race and shudder. All those bleary-eyed suckers packed into the subway, going to their lousy jobs, wasting their whole lives to afford useless things like “rent” and “health insurance” and “student-loan payments.”

That lifestyle isn’t for me. Maybe I’m just a crazy dreamer who also gets a monthly no-strings-attached sixty thousand dollars deposited into my checking account, but I won’t be tied down so easily.

TRAVEL AS THERAPY: WHAT OTHER COUNTRIES CAN DO FOR YOU

From the New Yorker.  Funny.  😀


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Photograph by Steeve Iuncker / Agence VU / Redux

Too often when we travel we forget that the exotic settings – the vibrant culture, even the charming indigenous folks we meet along the way – are all just a backdrop for our personal transformations. In fact, foreign countries can help you recover from traumatic life events, shake you out of that weird malaise, or even escape from various legal issues. But it’s important to choose your destination wisely, as each nation has a different specialty.

For example, say you are . . .

Reeling from a Divorce*

You and the ashes of your life are going to Tuscany! Spending a summer making pasta by hand in the Italian countryside is scientifically proven to help you get over that failed marriage. At first, it may be painful, and you’ll put on some pounds from the pasta. But then, one day, while making macaroni, one by one, you’ll realize that you actually bullied your ex-husband a lot, and that a pantywaist like him could never have been your soul mate! That’s when you’ll meet Marciano, a lusty long-­haired man who loves you for who you are and needs a visa.

*Men’s version: Head to the Texas Panhandle to study the noble art of pit-smoked barbecue; meet Greg.

Reeling from a Second—and Much Nastier—Divorce from Marciano

Hmm. This one is trickier, but you could try Jamaica. You might not come home with the love of your life, but you’ll definitely get cornrows and bottomless conch fritters. And if you stay at Sandals it’s all included!

Not a Celebrated Novelist Yet, for Some Reason

It’s a well-known fact that the reason you can’t write that novel is because you’re sitting at your desk, and not in a Paris café staring at a fresh Moleskine and your third croissant. After bracing walks through the romantic arrondissements where stylish Parisians throw lit cigarettes at you because you dress like a parent at an amusement park, you should have just the spark you need to set the literary world ablaze. Creative juices still not flowing? Take a cue from Hemingway: get super-wasted every day.

Fired, Spectacularly, from Your Job

Though unfairly pigeonholed as a paradise for sex tourists, Thailand is also the perfect place to disappear after some kind of career-ending embarrassment. You’ll have plenty of time to plot your next move while beach hopping and periodically popping into internet cafés to post pictures of yourself in a sarong. Meanwhile, your former co­-workers will stop remembering you as the moron who called Homeland Security on the I.T. guy. They’ll remember you as that bald man in a sarong from your mom’s Facebook post: “LAST SEEN AT ‘FULL MOON PARTY’ IN KO PHANGAN. PLEASE HELP FIND MY DOUGIE!!”

Wanted for Murder

Head down to Mexico and live out your days in Margaritaville as a friendly beachfront-motel owner who cries when he’s drunk. Home to some of the world’s best tacos, this breathtakingly corrupt country also offers very favorable exchange rates, so if a neighbor gets nosy and you have to kill again, you can bribe your way out of it for next to nothing. Best of all, it’s so close! You can drive there straight from the first murder, and have your toes in the sand before anyone finds your business partner’s foot in the freezer…

For more great writing check out the New Yorker’s humour section.

For great escapes head to five star luxury at one of Le Royal Hotels & Resorts

Cappadocia, Turkey – Escher at his best

Dave and Deb from ThePlanetD shared this blog post from Paula at ContentedTraveller.  She and her husband Gordon went to this unusual part of the world – which is defo on my list but not been there yet.  Love the idea of seeing it from a balloon…  – Ned


Goreme, Cappadocias

Goreme, Cappadocias

My husband decided that he wanted to see a total eclipse of the sun, as you do. So he rang me at 7 in the morning and told me to ‘make it happen’. I went to work, took a quick look at the info on the computer and when he rang me between classes, I said Turkey, March 2006. He only gets away with telling me what to do if I see some benefit!

And that is how we ended up in Turkey. The eclipse is another story completely, and a good one, but as you don’t fly all the way from Australia for just a ‘moment’ – though an ethereally, mind blowing one at that – we decided to have a month over there.

Goreme

I have this desire to stay in unique areas and to choose unique accommodation that befits the area. Hence we arrived in Cappadocia in the centre of Turkey. The town we actually stayed in is called Goreme and is the epicentre of what are known as the ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations. These were formed purely from erosion. It is here that caves naturally developed and where the people originally chose to live, and many of the 2,500 people currently in Goreme still do. As the temperature here is very hot in the summer and very (read very) cold in the winter, the caves provided a natural insulation.

Our initial impression of Goreme was like arriving on a film set or in a futuristic Escher masterpiece. Absolutely out of my realm of experience, a total OMG moment, again and again.

Living as troglodytes

The accommodation I had organised was naturally a cave house. Well you know the saying, when in Rome. So when in Goreme, a cave house was the only option. We had to live as troglodytes. Now I thought that was a disparaging term, but it actually means ‘cave dwellers’. Our cave was warm and cosy, with traditional Goreme rugs adorning the walls, and remarkably comfortable with amazing views. Our initial impressions of Goreme were like arriving on a film set or a futuristic Escher masterpiece. Absolutely out of my realm of experience, a total OMG moment, again and again.

More significantly, though, it was the people of this region who, in sync with nature, utilised these amazing caves, and created the temples and massive underground cities. Goreme has been described as a honeycomb of caves, as it is. The history of Goreme starts with the Hittites and then was ‘maintained’ by the Greeks, then the Persians and then Byzantine Greeks. This necessitated the need for the people to be able to protect themselves and thus the caves and cave cities were a natural fortress. Each within its own escape routes, as well as means for keeping large communities, fed, clothed and warm with air shaft tunnels as well as fresh water accounted for. Makes you marvel at their ingenuity. Eventually, Christians arrived at Goreme escaping the purges and thus arose the monasteries that you see here today, which are still in excellent condition, considering.

Goreme is unique, and that is an understatement. Not only is the township made up of fairy chimneys and caves but also the subterranean cave cities going down 8 levels, carved from the soft volcanic sponge are well worth the visit. Eerie but intriguing, when you realise that so many people and all of their day to day needs needed to be addressed – underground. The ones we visited were at Neveshir and Derinkuyu and have been the backdrop of many movies. Such is the aesthetic of the location, yet in an Escher way, the entrances to the cities are difficult to spot by any marauders, or indeed by us.

Paula in Goreme

Paula in Goreme

The open air museum at Goreme is a massive monastic complex born from the arrival of the Christians fleeing Rome. Each with their own rock cut churches with highly adorned frescoes and has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1984.

The village of Goreme retains an authenticity not ruined by tourists. The local people are nothing if not gentle and welcoming, if not somewhat amused by travellers walking around with their mouths open in amazement. The food is authentic and very good, and a speciality is a local stew cooked in a claypot and then bought to the table and ceremoniously smashed in front of you. This is seriously good food, and the drinks he gave us certainly warded off the cold. The donkeys roam the streets, the carpet sellers freely give out the apple tea, the hookahs are set up and ready. This is so surreal that it defies description.

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Hot air balloning in Goreme

The hot air balloon ride over the Cappadocia region was a highlight for Gordon as the balloon pilot took them within a couple of metres of the cliffs and the cave openings so that they could watch the people having their breakfast. The panoramic vista of the entire region was intense. Meanwhile I chased the balloon through the fields, much to the amusement of the farmers. I am scared of heights, but not of running through unknown territory in the middle of the Anatolia region, with strange animals following me. Go figure!

Goreme aerial

Goreme in Cappadocia, is a place that needs to be on your ‘to do’ list. Escher would welcome you, as will the locals.

 

 

 

Photography: The wonderful sub-arctic light is his personal friend

Such a coooool piece from Iceland Magazine.  I haven’t done much trekking around Scandinavia, far less Iceland itself, but it has always appealed, particularly after seeing these stunning photographs…

  – Ned


SÓLHEIMAJÖKULL GLACIER An outlet glacier in the much larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier in South Iceland. Photo/Páll Stefánsson

There are only two photographers in Iceland who are household names. One of them is Páll Stefánsson, who has been travelling high and low around Iceland with his cameras since 1983. He shoots people, but mainly landscape.

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PÁLL STEFÁNSSON At the Holuhraun eruption site last winter

The wonderful sub-arctic light is Páll’s personal friend; it touches the mountain top whenever he wishes. Or maybe he is just a very patient man with the instinct of a hunter, knowing when and where to put down his tripod to capture the perfect moment.

Páll is a multiple winner of the Photographer of the Year award in Iceland and has received awards from Time, Life, and Europress.

Páll has published more than 30 books and shot more than 300 magazine covers. He is the editor and chief photographer for Iceland Review magazine but has also worked for The New York Times, Geo, UNICEF, Leica Cameras, Condé Nast Traveler, Hasselblad, UNESCO, and SONY, to name just a few.

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THE LANDMANNALAUGAR REGION The blue-green mountains are called Grænagil or Green Ravine and you can see why. Photo/Páll Stefánsson

Páll has just published his newest book. It’s called Iceland Exposed and is a grand photographic opus on Iceland with an introduction written by Haraldur Sigurðsson, a world-renowned volcanologist and the owner of the great Volcano Museum in the town of Stykkishólmur, west Iceland.

Included in the book are also a few short personal essays by Páll, or short stories from his travels around Iceland. Below is one, also featuring the other photographer whose name most Icelanders know.

SÓLHEIMAJÖKULL
The southernmost glacier in the country, called Sólheimajökull, is a glacial tongue that extends south from its big brother, Mýrdalsjökull. Between the Ring Road and the tongue runs a six-kilometer stretch from which you can catch a glimpse of Dyrhólaey, the southernmost point in the country.

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ICELAND EXPOSED Photographer Páll Stefánsson was born 1958 and is a legend in Icelandic photography.

The glaciers are retreating; Sólheimajökull is retreating the fastest. It has withdrawn a few kilometers since I first went there. And it’s never the same from one time to the next. In this glacier world the light intensifies, reflects off the white and black ice. There, the rainbow becomes strongest. I know. I’ve seen it, armed with my camera.

One autumn, I went there with my friend RAX, the photographer Ragnar Axelsson. I went up on the glacier, hypnotised by all the rainbows, the light. After hours of hard work, I came back down to find RAX sitting in the car. He played me his favourite song and it resonated in the stillness.

Happy, I told him about my victories, how I had beaten the light and the slippery ice far up on the glacier. Then darkness came. I had forgotten to take off my lens cap. I didn’t realise it until I unfastened the Linhof film camera with viewfinder on top, from the tripod. RAX’s song never became my favourite song. -PS

Iceland Exposed is published by Crymogea. You can order a copy here.

More photos from the book:

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LAKI LANGISJÓR Iceland’s most beautiful lake, end of discussion. Located in the south-central highlands. Photo/Páll Stefánsson

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UPPTYPPINGAR Tuff mountains located in the north-central highlands. Photo/Páll Stefánsson
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THE HOLUHRAUN ERUPTION The spectacular eruption in the northeast central highlands lasted 181 day, from August 2014 ti February 2015. Photo/Páll Stefánsson

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AT HRAFNTINNUSKER Geothermal detail. Photo/Páll Stefánsson

 

Your Morocco Travel Guide

Another great guide from Dave’n’Deb at ThePlanetD


Morocco is a fascinating multicultural country blended from African, Arab and European influences. It is our closest link to the continent of Africa and a diverse holiday destination. The country offers an incredible amount of history, culture, art and music along with a fascinating geographical landscape incorporating the Sahara desert, the snow capped Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic coastline. This Morocco travel guide will help you plan your next vacation.

Morocco-travel-guide-tips

Morocco Travel Guide: Fast Facts

  • Moroccan power voltage is 127/220 V 60 Hz; Power sockets C & E
  • The local currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD) and is around 9.50 MAD to 1 USD
  • In the north of Morocco, visitors will find the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, claimed by Morocco and considered by the Moroccan state to be “occupied territory.” In these two towns, the main currency is the euro.
  • Tipping is a way of life in Morocco; almost any service can warrant a tip so make sure to bring small bills.
  • Haggling is also a way of life in Morocco. NEVER pay the asking price, vendors often double or even triple the prices of an item to allow some wiggle room through the haggling process.
  • If you are not Muslim, you are not allowed in many of the mosques. Exceptions include the partially restored Almohad structure of Tin Mal in the High Atlas, the similarly disused Great Mosque at Smara in the Western Sahara, the courtyard of the sanctuary-mosque of Moulay Ismail in Meknes and the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.
  • Moroccan laws towards alcohol are quite liberal however drinking alcohol in public places is not recommended. During Ramandan, try to avoid drinking, eating or smoking in public during the hours of fasting.

Top Packing Tips for Morocco Travel

Morocco is about the size of France with coasts upon the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea and has an arid climate. The coastal regions generally have a Mediterranean climate, however as travellers move further inland the conditions can become more extreme and elevation can play a role in the changeable weather conditions. Morocco is also a Muslim country

  • Modesty is respected and travellers are expected to follow the country’s etiquette. In villages and small towns, and even in the medinas of large cities, many women still wear the veal and the street is seen as strictly the man’s domain. Women travellers should avoid wearing revealing clothes, like short shorts, low cut shirts or thin-strapped blouses.
  • Sarongs – I think we have sarongs in every packing list. From covering up when visiting mosques, being used as a towel or keeping cool on a hot night.
  • Pack loose clothing with breathable fabric – cover up with fabric you know will breathe, especially if you plan on heading into the Sahara desert or to one of the coastal regions. Tunics are a great option as they can be dressed up or down, are light weigtht and offer good coverage.
  • Footwear – Pack a pair of lightweight, durable and comfortable shoes. Moroccan streets can be dusty and unclean so if you are uncomfortable with the idea getting your little piggies dirty then opt for closed toe shoes instead of sandals/flip flops.
  • Kleenex / toilet paper – it is quite common that restaurant restrooms do not offer toilet paper to patrons, so make sure you are prepared. Also, don’t be surprised if you encounter squat toilets!

Top Things to do in Morocco

Adventure

  • Enjoy a Four-Wheeling Adventure – join the guides of Dunes Desert Exploration and take a three hour tour in the desert on your very own dune buggy or quad bike.
  • Surf’s up – Taghazout is a small fishing village 19 km north of the city of Agadir in the south west of Morocco and houses some of country’s best surf spots. It is nestled amongst a set of small bays just south of the legendary surf breaks of Anchor Point, Killers and Mysteries.
  • Snowboard – yes you heard right … Morocco is home of the Atlas Ranges and the tallest mountain in North Africa, Jebel Toubkel. Skiing and snowboarding is possible from late November to early March, with January and February being the most snow-sure months.

Culture

  • Go to a Hammam – A Hammam is a hot steam bath followed by a massage. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? It definitely can be quite the experience!
  • Shop until you drop – forget about malls, get lost walking through the the medias of Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier, Fes and Marakech. Take your time perusing the merchandise but make sure to haggle heavily to get the best price!
  • Visit Fes – Fes is the oldest city in the country and the Medina (or Fes el-Bali) is a World Heritage site. Fez is also famous for its leather products and most of it comes from the leather bazaar (souq). The souq is home to three ancient leather tanneries, the largest and oldest being the Chouara Tannery, which is almost a thousand years old.
  • Take a cooking course – learn how to cook traditional Morrocans dishes from a gourmet chef while enjoying great conversations, appetizers and tea.

Sights

  • Watch the sun rise on a Merzouga morning – to experience a desert sunrise is an unforgettable experience and the best place to do so is at the Merzouga sand dunes or Erg Chebbi
  • Take in the colours of the Dades Gorge – There is nothing in the world quite like the Dades Valley. The mineral rich Dades Gorge sparkles in many hues of blue and green as well as white and red.
  • Spend a day in Jemaa el Fna in Marrakech – one of the main cultural spaces in Marrakech, this square has become one of the symbols of the city. During the day it is home to juice stalls and snake charmers and as night falls is transformed into a food market where you can purchase some of the amazing culinary delights of Morocco.

 

 

WINE TIPS From YEARS Of Travelling Around The World …

… And Drinking Lots Of WINE!

By Gilbert Ott

Wine is fun whether you know a lot about it or virtually nothing, but the more you know the more exciting each pour becomes. I am most definitely not a sommelier, but I am absolutely an enthusiast with a good palate. Travel has played a large part in the never ending pursuit, adding so much enjoyment, rare experience and memory. Here are a few reflections accompanied by tips and ideas for people deciding whether it’s fun to know the finer points of what you’re tasting… or if it’s better just to get hammered.

Drink Regional Wine, Wherever You Go…

Don’t order Californian wine in Italy, just don’t. Prices and quality are largely best if you stick to continental wines of your destination, plus you occasionally get access to non distributed but sought after wines, which either don’t make their way to wherever you live, or are charged at a gigantic premium. There are so many fantastic new world regions producing incredible wine, that if you’re true fan, you’d be a fool not to try it for reference, at the very least. I tasted the most remarkably obscure and wonderful wine of my life in Manarola, Italy. I asked a local sommelier for something non distributed and received a white wine like nothing I’d experienced.

Stick To Bold Wines On Planes, Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Pairings…

Airlines are investing more than ever in their beverage programs, with Emirates rumored to have recently spent $500 million on theirs. If you’re lucky enough to travel in business or first class you’ll likely get to try some interesting stuff. Sample as many as you can, taking names of any that stand out, for fun comparison at home down the line. The differences can be fascinating. Pay attention to things like how long a bottle has been open and what temperature it’s being served. Pinot Noir’s are often best served ever so slightly chilled, while Bordeaux’s and bolder wines are best at room temperature. If your red wine is too cold, wait, or cup your hands around the glass. Also, be sure to ask your cabin crew for food pairings, they should know them!

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Work Your Way Around The World One Grape At A Time…

I drank wine for years before developing an understanding of the flavor profiles and unique characteristics of certain grapes and regions. Over the last few years I’ve stuck to one region or varietal at a time, perhaps for a month or two and now am more often than not spot on in blind tastings with knowledge of the grape and where it was grown. Try as many wines of the same grape or region as possible, when you feel like you “know it”, move to another. I also drink less and buy more expensive wine now, which really adds to the pleasure and terroir you can taste.

Do Vineyard Tours, They’re Often Set In Beautiful Places…

Australia, Cape Town, San Francisco, Vancouver, France (et al), Spain, Auckland, Italy, Portugal, Argentina, even Sofia, Bulgaria. All of these cities and countries feature incredible vineyards with unique processes of making wine, complete with complimentary gorgeous views. While at a vineyard you’ll find really easy setups to ship wine internationally at great rates. In Australia and New Zealand it can actually be much cheaper to export than to buy and take it back to the hotel. In all cases, definitely see if your credit card has any benefits (like free tastings) and see if there are any private guides who can get you into private vineyards for the most authentic stuff!

Drink The More Expensive Bottle First…

A lot of thought goes into proper enjoyment of a great wine. Before you open something meaningful be sure to research suggested decanting times, opening the bottle early enough and pouring it into something that gives it the surface area necessary to take on its best form. A great wine really, really does change as it gets air. On that note, a real rookie mistake is that people often open “the good stuff” after they’ve already had some drinks, when just like in the air, your taste buds and sense of smell are their weakest. Crack the good stuff first, if you go for another one just have something palatable.

Look For Wines “Grown, Produced And Bottled By”…

There are exceptions, but many of the finest wines would never let outside hands touch their grapes or decide how long to leave them in oak, steel or any of the other paramount decisions which shape the taste. At any price point you’ll often find the best and most passionate results from wines which are grown, produced and bottled by the same company. Since demand has skyrocketed many people grow wine grapes just to sell them and many “vintners” buy the grapes in bulk and then take it from there. Having total control over the whole process often leads to the best taste, so try to look for that on the back of a label if in doubt…

Try The Same Wine From Different Vintages…

It’s hard to explain tannins to people. The easiest way to explain how tannins and bottling change wine over time is just to try it. Find a wine you like and see if you can find an older vintage and a more recent vintage. Perhaps try a 2014 and a 2006, or something along that ratio of time. Without a doubt you’ll taste an interesting and enjoyable difference between the newer and older bottles, generally finding the older bottle to have a longer, more complex and in some cases smoother finish. This is particularly true with Barolo’s and Bordeaux’s, which are designed for age more than Californian or South African wine.

Bring A Bottle Home From Every Place You Go…

My cellar doesn’t have a very impressive price tag. There are no 1975 Petrus or other fabled wines in there, but its personal memories are priceless, as cheesy as that sounds. I have wines that mean far more to me than the price tag, and in the words of my father in law, I can almost taste the soil, sun or air that I remember so vividly from each place they were sourced. Most countries allow a duty and tariff free allowance of two regularly sized bottles per person, so be sure to never come home without a great memory ever again.

Get more great travel tips from Gilbert and the team at GodSaveThePoints

Nine travel resolutions and how to keep them

New year, new you, right? Well, maybe. If experience has taught us anything, it’s that bad habits are hard to break and most diets don’t last past January… but our wanderlust is here to stay.

These resolutions are not only achievable – they’re a joy to keep. So take your pick and make 2017 your best year of travel yet.

Dropping your bags in a new destination is a great feeling – especially when they weigh as much as you do © Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

Pack lighter

Next time you’re stuffing a pair of impractical shoes and a bumper-size shampoo into your bag, stop to consider the feelings of future you: the one sporting a sweaty back patch and a face riddled with regret. The “I’ll manage” attitude dissipates in a flurry of expletives as you drag your luggage up a broken escalator, straining your bicep and stubbing a toe in the process. Worth it? Not so much.

Stick to it: Downsize: restricting suitcase volume soon hinders overpackers. Prioritise: it’s OK to take three paperbacks if you’re willing to forgo the laptop. Enlist a ruthless packing buddy who won’t give in to the words ‘but I neeeeeed it!’.

Beautiful destinations don’t always equal beautiful pictures… but it helps © Jeff Schultz / Getty Images Beautiful destinations don’t always equal beautiful pictures… but it helps © Jeff Schultz / Getty Images

Take better pictures

Sick of returning home from a trip with thousands of hastily snapped images that you’ll never have the time to sift through and edit, let alone share? Whether you’re shooting for social media, an online portfolio or the family album, investing a little time and effort can take your creations from amateur to incredible.

Stick to it: Read up on how to take a decent smartphone snap; enrol on a photography course; join a photographer’s meetup while you’re on the road; or take a tour that combines travel and tuition.

‘I so regret going on that safari’ said no one ever © Buena Vista Images / Getty Images ‘I so regret going on that safari’ said no one ever © Buena Vista Images / Getty Images

Stop putting it off

Family, finances, your career… even fear. There are plenty of factors that prevent people from travelling – but when valid reasons become comfortable alternatives to taking a risk, it’s time for a reality check. You have one life on this planet. Stop making excuses and start making plans.

Stick to it: Whether you long for a round-the-world extravaganza or simply a weekend away, it’s not going to land on your lap. Identify your true barriers to travel and tackle them head on. Strapped for cash? Start saving. Option paralysis? Consult the experts. Worried what your boss will think? Propose a trip that will boost your résumé.

Lack of phone signal can be liberating on your travels © Jordan Siemens / Getty Images Lack of phone signal can be liberating on your travels © Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

Learn to unplug

See it, share it. Try it, tweet it. The impulse to reach for your smartphone can be near impossible to resist, even on the road – but just as technology seems to have rewired our brains to crave constant connection, travel can be the ultimate antidote.

Stick to it: Can’t go cold turkey? Minimise distractions by deleting email apps and disabling social media notifications. Rediscover the joy of writing postcards. Keep a travel journal. Go for a walk without the safety net of Google Maps… and see where you end up.

Do your bit to protect creatures like this © Betty Wiley / Getty Images Do your bit to protect creatures like this © Betty Wiley / Getty Images

Travel responsibly

As global tourist numbers continue to increase (1.2 billion international arrivals recorded in 2015 and counting, according to the UN), understanding the impact our travel choices have on the planet has never been more important. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to go green.

Stick to it: You know the drill: steer clear of plastic bottles; take public and overland transport where possible; choose ethical tour operators who respect wildlife and give back to local communities; reduce or offset your carbon emissions (calculate your footprint at carbonindependent.org).

You don’t need to travel far to recharge… but it helps © massimo colombo / Getty Images You don’t need to travel far to recharge… but it helps © massimo colombo / Getty Images

Use your time off wisely

It’s easy to fritter away precious paid leave on family events and close-to-home happenings, leaving little time for escapism. But this makes it tough to return to work feeling refreshed – and worse still, you’re no closer to seeing the world than you were last year.

Stick to it: Make no mistake: you earned your days off, so take them – every last one. Plan in advance; if you prefer regular short trips, get them booked in early. Capitalise on national holidays, adding a day or two either side for extra-long breaks. Alternatively, have that chat with your manager about using your leave in bulk for that three-week trip to Southeast Asia

Chances are you’ll fascinate the locals as much as they fascinate you © Matt Munro / Lonely Planet Chances are you’ll fascinate the locals as much as they fascinate you © Matt Munro / Lonely Planet

Engage with the locals

The dream: gaining true insight into ‘real’ local culture. The reality: befriending an international crew of fellow travellers on Facebook and coming home with an ‘authentic’ souvenir made in China.

Stick to it: Let’s face it: it can take years to unravel the complexities of foreign cultures. But there are ways to increase your chances of having a meaningful encounter. Brush up on your language skills; you’d be surprised how far ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can take you. With the sharing economy showing no signs of slowing down, it’s easier than ever to find homestays, cooking classes and local tour guides.

Durian: how bad can it be? Try it to find out! © Jim Purdum / Getty Images Durian: how bad can it be? Try it to find out! © Jim Purdum / Getty Images

Get out of your comfort zone

Travel is a simple yet effective way to shake up your status quo – but even seasoned adventurers can get stuck in a rut.

Stick to it: Make this year the year you mix up your travel style. Too shy to go solo? Dare to go it alone, or join a group tour for ready-made companions. Over planner? Tear up the itinerary and see what happens when you wing it. Stick to the mantra: ‘say yes more’.

You'll be surprised what you find when you look closely © David Hill / Getty Images You’ll be surprised what you find on your own doorstep © David Hill / Getty Images

Explore your own backyard

More confident sharing tips on the best restaurants in Bangkok or Bilbao than your nearest city? So often seduced by the lure of faraway places, we travel addicts often lose sight of the gems right under our noses.

Stick to it: Buy a guidebook to your local area to see your ‘hood from a visitor’s perspective, including the touristy attractions you’ve never made time for. Try out that new cafe or bar that you often overlook in favour of reliable old haunts. Heck, you could even start a blog about your area.

 

Thanks to Lonely Planet Deputy Editor Emma Sparks

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Life-Changing Story from Indonesia (That You Haven’t Heard)

Love love love this lady!  – Ned

The bestselling author shares, for the first time, the story of a healing encounter with a local woman in a remote fishing village, and how it continues to shape her life.

Here’s a story about a trip I took that changed my life, but not in the way I had planned.

Back in 2002, I went away by myself for ten days to a tiny fishing island in the middle of Indonesia. It was the farthest-away place I could find on the map, and all I wanted right then was to be as far removed as possible from all that I knew. My life was a mess. My life, in fact, looked like a dropped pie; everything was on the floor in pieces. I was going through a bad divorce, and in the process I was losing a husband, losing a house, losing money, losing friends, losing sleep, losing myself. So I took myself to this little island 10,000 miles from home, where I rented a small bamboo hut that cost a few dollars a day. My plan was to spend ten days in silence and isolation. I hoped that making myself small and quiet would heal me. I guess what I really wanted was to disappear, and this island seemed the perfect place for it. There was no Internet, and I had no access to a phone. Transportation consisted of fishing boats, or wooden carts pulled by skinny ponies. Here, surely, I could hide from the world.

Soon, I fell into a routine. Every day, I would walk twice around the perimeter of the entire island—once at dawn and again at dusk. While I walked, I would try to meditate, but usually I ended up arguing with myself, or ruminating over my life’s many failures as I fell apart into tears. As for the rest of the day, I believe I slept a lot. I was awfully depressed. I hadn’t brought any books with me to disappear into. I didn’t swim; I didn’t sunbathe; I barely ate. I just executed my two walks a day, and the rest of the time I hid in my hut and wished the sadness out of me.

There were a few other tourists on the island, but they were all romantic couples and they mostly ignored me—I was a skinny, hollow-eyed, solo woman who talked to herself and gave off a freaky vibe. The local fishermen also looked right through me whenever I walked by. Maybe I actually was vanishing from the material world. I certainly felt that way. But there was one woman who saw me—and that changed everything. She was a local fisherman’s wife, and she lived in a tiny shack on the other side of the island. Like all the locals, she was Muslim. She dressed modestly, with a head scarf. She seemed to be in her mid-thirties, though she had spent a lifetime in the sun so her age was hard to determine. She had a chubby little toddler who was always crawling about and playing at her feet.

The first morning I walked by her house, the woman looked up from her work in her scrubby subsistence garden and smiled at me. I smiled back, as best I could manage.

The author went to Indonesia seeking solitude, and discovered the healing power of connection instead. (Getty)

After that, she always seemed to be standing outside her house when I passed—once at dawn and again at dusk. After a while, it seemed like she was waiting for me to come by. She was my only point of human contact in the world, and her mere recognition of my existence made me feel slightly less lonely. Once, I glanced back at her, and I saw that she was still looking after me, her hand shading her eyes. She was keeping an eye on me, is what it felt like.

On my eighth night on the island, I got terribly sick. It could have been food poisoning, or contaminated drinking water—or maybe it was just that I had finally reached the bottom of my grief and everything bad was coming out of me at last. I was shaking and feverish, vomiting and scared. It was terrifying to be so isolated and so ill. Also, the generators weren’t working that night; there was no light. I remember crawling toward the bathroom in the darkness for the tenth time and wondering, Why did I come here, so far away from anyone who cares about me?

I stayed in bed all the next day, shaking and sweating and dehydrated. I had a dreadful thought that I might die on this island all alone, and that my mother would never know what happened to me.

That evening, after sundown, there was a knock on the door. On trembling legs, I walked and opened it. It was the woman from the other side of the island—the fisherman’s wife. She didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak Bahasa, but it was clear that she was checking on me and that she was worried. When she saw my condition, she looked even more worried. She put up a finger, like: Wait.

Less than an hour later, she was back. She brought me a plate of rice, some chopped-up herbs, and a jug of fresh water. She came into the shack and sat on the side of my bed while I ate every bite of this healing food. I started crying. She put her arm around me, and I folded myself into her as if she were my own mother—even though we were almost the same age. She stayed with me for about an hour, until I was composed. She didn’t say a word; she just sat with me, arms around me, as if to say: I see you. You exist. I will stay with you. I will make sure you are safe.

Only after she had departed did I have the clarity to piece together what must have happened. This stranger had come to find me because she’d noticed that I had missed both my morning and my evening walks, and she could clearly see: Something is not right with this one. And because this was her island—her territory—and because she knew I was alone, she took it upon herself to look after me. She, who had so little to share, made me her responsibility and took the risk of reaching out.

The distance I had traveled may have been vast (10,000 miles from home), but the distance she traveled was vaster (all the way across the island, to knock on a stranger’s door) and the kindness of her actions opened my heart to awe and amazement. And that’s when I realized that my entire impulse had been dead wrong. I needed the exact opposite of isolation; I needed connection. This stranger had seen my need, and she had offered fellowship. In so doing, she not only healed me but taught me these lessons: Be not solitary, and be not proud. See others, and allow yourself to be seen. Help others, and allow yourself to be helped. Make contact, and be open to kindness.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert at an event in 2014. (Getty)

When I returned home to the States, I was not so proud. I sought out human contact. I found people to talk to about my troubles. I shared my vulnerability and my sadness, and made new friends and built a new community as a result. I reached out for love and assistance—and ultimately that’s what made me okay again.

I have never told this story before, so why am I telling it now?

I tell this story because it occurred almost one year to the day after September 11, 2001. I was a New Yorker whose city had just been attacked. A bunch of people had warned me against going to Indonesia because they said that I—an American woman, traveling alone—would not be safe there. But I went to Indonesia anyhow, right into the heart of a small Islamic community, and there I met one of the kindest human beings I’ve ever known. She enveloped me in safety when I was most afraid, and she helped me to heal. She also modeled for me an example of how we are meant to look after each other in the world—a model that I have tried to live up to ever since.

I tell this story because I will never forget that woman’s face, and I dearly hope that she will never forget mine. Whenever I hear people getting panicked about the Islamic world, I think of her. It is my hope that I will always be her personal representation of the West—and that I showed her my humanity just as purely as she showed me hers.

I tell this story because it seems like everyone is so afraid of each other right now. Increasingly, my country (safe, powerful, privileged) is becoming a place filled with absolutely terrified people. The Land of the Brave has become The Land of the Very Anxious. We are retreating inside our own individual panic rooms and locking the door behind us. More and more we don’t go anywhere. Nor do we welcome anyone unknown into our midst. We don’t want to know that stranger, and we don’t want her knowing us.

To be sure, the world can be a scary place, and we all want to be safe, but here’s the thing—safety can never be found in isolation. Human warmth and openness will always be our only place of true safety. Be careful about hiding yourself away, because walls that are meant to be fortresses can quickly turn into prisons. Be careful about trying to become invisible or you may accidentally disappear. The very thing that you believe is protecting you may ultimately be endangering you—by making your life smaller, poorer, and more deeply saturated with fear.

I am not afraid of the world, but I am afraid of people who are afraid of the world. (Terrified people, after all, have a reputation for making terrible decisions.) I want to live in a society filled with people who are curious and concerned about each other rather than afraid of each other. I want to live in a world full of brave people who are willing to risk not only adventure but emotional intimacy. I want to live in a world full of explorers and generous souls rather than people who have voluntarily become prisoners of their own fortresses. I want to live in a world full of people who look into each other’s faces along the path of life and ask, Who are you, my friend, and how can we serve each other?

For that to happen, we must all be travelers—in the world, in our own communities, and even in our imaginations. We must risk that journey to the other side of the island, we must keep knocking on each other’s doors, and we must keep letting each other in.

 

 

The Holy Land as you’ve never seen it before

A series of 100-year-old images from the Holy Land have revealed a fascinating insight into rural life in the last ruling days of the Ottoman Empire.

The dramatic mountains and barren deserts surrounding Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Jordan have deep cultural significance for the different religions living in the area.

These black and white lantern slides from the Oregon State University Visual Instruction Department show the traditional houses, clothing and manual labour that were typical of the early 20th century.

But the various locations in the slides, including Nazareth, the Garden of Gethsemane and Mount of Olives, are all also written about in the bible as key sites of religious and historic importance. Nazareth for example is described in the New Testament as the childhood home of Jesus, and it has long been a popular centre for Christian pilgrimage.  Elsewhere, the city of Shechem is the home of the Samaritans, an ancient people who reject all of the Bible except the five books of Moses.

Appreciation to MailOnline for the pictures.

The ancient city of Shechem, lying between the twin mountains, Ebal and Gerizim is half-way between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea

The ancient city of Shechem, lying between the twin mountains, Ebal and Gerizim is half-way between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea

The summit of Mount Gerizim where Samaritans believe Abraham built his altar for the sacrifice of his son Isaac 

The summit of Mount Gerizim where Samaritans believe Abraham built his altar for the sacrifice of his son Isaac

The city of Shechem from the north. Shechem is the home of the ancient people, the Samaritans, who reject all of the Bible except the five books of Moses

The city of Shechem from the north. Shechem is the home of the ancient people, the Samaritans, who reject all of the Bible except the five books of Moses

The Cave of the Patriarchs, also known by Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham or the Ibrahimi Mosque, is a series of subterranean chambers located in the heart of the old city of Hebron in the Hebron Hills 

The Cave of the Patriarchs, also known by Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham or the Ibrahimi Mosque, is a series of subterranean chambers located in the heart of the old city of Hebron in the Hebron Hills

A few miles to the south of Bethel is the hill of Ramah, where it was written that Saul was anointed to be king of Israel 

A few miles to the south of Bethel is the hill of Ramah, where it was written that Saul was anointed to be king of Israel

Jerusalem from the summit of New Calvary hill. In the foreground is the northern wall of the city and the Damascus Gate

Jerusalem from the summit of New Calvary hill. In the foreground is the northern wall of the city and the Damascus Gate

The Garden of Gethsemane and Mount of Olives in Jerusalem - a range of hills with four summits to the east of the city 

The Garden of Gethsemane and Mount of Olives in Jerusalem – a range of hills with four summits to the east of the city

A view of Mount Gerizim from Mount Ebal, with the village of Askar at the foot of the mountain in the distance

A view of Mount Gerizim from Mount Ebal, with the village of Askar at the foot of the mountain in the distance

The Hill of Moreh from the south. In the foreground is the home of a farmer and his family - a one-room house that is built of clay

The Hill of Moreh from the south. In the foreground is the home of a farmer and his family – a one-room house that is built of clay

The New Calvary hill from the south. It is said that this was place of execution for criminals

The New Calvary hill from the south. It is said that this was place of execution for criminals

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Directly in front is the south eastern corner of the modern wall, which follows the course of the ancient wall

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Directly in front is the south eastern corner of the modern wall, which follows the course of the ancient wall

The village of Samaria from the minaret of the mosque, along the eastern slope of the Samaritan mountain 

The village of Samaria from the minaret of the mosque, along the eastern slope of the Samaritan mountain

On the north of Jerusalem, just outside the wall, is this hill called The New Calvary. This hill has been used as a Muslim burial-ground, and under the hill is a series of caves

On the north of Jerusalem, just outside the wall, is this hill called The New Calvary. This hill has been used as a Muslim burial-ground, and under the hill is a series of caves

Cedar trees in Lebanon. The demands of trade have left only a few groves of these trees remaining

Cedar trees in Lebanon. The demands of trade have left only a few groves of these trees remaining

A shepherd climbs the rocks on a hill which looks over the ancient town of Bethel from the south 

A shepherd climbs the rocks on a hill which looks over the ancient town of Bethel from the south

A Muslim school in Ramah, where a teacher, with a page of the Koran in his hand, reads to young pupils seated in a circle

A Muslim school in Ramah, where a teacher, with a page of the Koran in his hand, reads to young pupils seated in a circle

Directly west of Mount Hermon, and separated from it by a deep and wide ravine stands a mountain range which is known as Mount Lebanon range, pictured here.  These mountains run from 6000 to 8000 feet high, with two of the peaks a thousand feet higher

Directly west of Mount Hermon, and separated from it by a deep and wide ravine stands a mountain range which is known as Mount Lebanon range, pictured here.  These mountains run from 6000 to 8000 feet high, with two of the peaks a thousand feet higher

The largest of the three mountains on the east of the plain of Esdraelon, is Mount Gilboa, which is seen here from the summit of the Hill Moreh. In the middle is the village of Shunem 

The largest of the three mountains on the east of the plain of Esdraelon, is Mount Gilboa, which is seen here from the summit of the Hill Moreh. In the middle is the village of Shunem

Mount Hermon, as seen from one of the foothills on the north west. The view is in midsummer, when most of the snow on the summit has melted, swelling the little stream  in front 

Mount Hermon, as seen from one of the foothills on the north west. The view is in midsummer, when most of the snow on the summit has melted, swelling the little stream  in front

These two people, one on horseback, the other seated on a rock, are at the ruins of Bethsaida, looking towards the Mount of the Beatitudes 

These two people, one on horseback, the other seated on a rock, are at the ruins of Bethsaida, looking towards the Mount of the Beatitudes

Inside the Tomb in the Garden at New Calvary, where two Syrian girls from the English school are seated 

Inside the Tomb in the Garden at New Calvary, where two Syrian girls from the English school are seated

A view from Hill Moreh to the town of Nazareth in the distance, over the plains of Esdraelon 

A view from Hill Moreh to the town of Nazareth in the distance, over the plains of Esdraelon

“Where To Go When”: Lonely Planet reveals the best places to visit every month of the year

This handy book provides expert advice, activity ideas and inspiring photos on the best places to holiday every month.  Experts present trip ideas for everyone, whether you’re a fan of adventure, culture, history, nature, sightseeing and wildlife; and the 12-month calendar of suggestions helps travellers to avoid the crowds and get the most out of their chosen destination.

Lonely Planet’s Where to go When, the ultimate trip planner for every month of  the year, is a beautifully illustrated book that is both practical and inspiring. For every month of the year it presents 30 recommendations of destinations that are at their best during each month, whether due to their climate, or value, or simply because there’s a lot going on.

The suggestions feature every flavour of travel experience, from culture-rich city breaks and tropical beach holidays to adventurous road trips and wildlife-watching expeditions. Every corner of the planet is covered so you’ll find out when the best time to see mountain gorillas is or to go shopping in Paris.

The book is organised by month. At the start of each chapter a flowchart guides you through the options so readers can filter the recommendations according to their interests. Whether you’re into beaches, trying the local specialities or backpacking off the beaten path, there will suggestions for you. Diagrams also depict the climate, value for money and family friendliness of each suggestion in the month.

Read on for some of the monthly highlights.  (Photos courtesy of Mail Online)

January

What a way to start the year: Visit Dove Lake, which was formed by glaciation in Tasmania. Behind it sits Cradle Mountain

What a way to start the year: Visit Dove Lake, which was formed by glaciation in Tasmania. Behind it sits Cradle Mountain

The destinations that Lonely Planet recommends travellers head to in January include Uganda, Florida, Lanzarote, Switzerland, Sydney, Slovenia, Kerala in India, Grenada, Honshu in Japan, Guatemala and the Arctic Peninsula.

This month is also the time for nature fans to visit the southern Serengeti in Tanzania to watch thousands of grazing wildebeest or to explore the empty beaches and nature trails in full bloom in Australia’s Tasmania.

Other highlights this month include the Hay literary festival in Colombia, cruising through Myanmar under a balmy sun and taking in Vienna’s glamorous winter balls.

February

Follow in Santa's sleigh trails: A visit to Finnish lapland in February is the perfect time to see the spectacular aurora borealis

Follow in Santa’s sleigh trails: A visit to Finnish lapland in February is the perfect time to see the spectacular aurora borealis

For February, Ibiza, the Gambia, Michoacan in Mexico, the Indian Ocean, Cambodia, Singapore, Haiti, Venice and Quebec are among the top picks.

Lonely Planet also encourages travellers to embrace the chill in Iceland, Lapland and Andorra this month as conditions are ideal for hiking, skiing and to see the Northern Lights.

The weather, meanwhile, is glorious in Honduras, which offers affordable diving. And it’s carnival season in Rio de Janeiro – and the bodegas of Mendoza, Argentina, are open with enticing wine tours and tastings.

March

First splash of spring: Unwind in Tobago at the dreamy Pigeon Point Beach where even the palm trees are laid back

First splash of spring: Unwind in Tobago at the dreamy Pigeon Point Beach where even the palm trees are laid back

Sicily, Cyprus, South Africa, Tyrol in Austria, the Maldives, Chile, Costa Rica, Banff in Canada, Savannah in the US, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Trinidad and Tobago are among the most desirable destinations for March travellers.

Other picks include watching grey whales migrating off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, spotting Shere Khan big cats in Madhya Pradesh, India, or encountering Sichuan pandas in China during this month.

Creative event South by South West (SXSW), meanwhile, will add a crackling energy to Austin, US, in March and Iguazu Falls straddling Brazil and Argentina will be even more jaw-dropping than usual as the waterfall is in full flow at this time of year.

April

A spicy spring escape: Sun, sand and sea await discovery at Thailand's tropical beaches overlooking the Andaman Sea

A spicy spring escape: Sun, sand and sea await discovery at Thailand’s tropical beaches overlooking the Andaman Sea

For April escapes, the travel experts suggest Panama, the Phillippines, Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand, the Alps, the Lake District, Belize, Melbourne, Brussels, Nepal, St Lucia and Andalusia in Spain.

Cultured travellers can explore Jordan’s ancient attractions while camping in the desert at this mild time of year. It’s also an inspiring time to see the colourful flowers of sakura (cherry blossom) season in Japan.

Spring is also ideal for driving along California’s breath-taking, traffic-free coastal roads and to feel the heat on a thrilling beach break in Thailand during the nation’s new year celebrations, Lonely Planet says.

May

A nature lover's paradise, Montenegro has rivers, seas and slopes, ripe for exploration in mild May

A nature lover’s paradise, Montenegro has rivers, seas and slopes, ripe for exploration in mild May

May is an idyllic month for shoulder season travel with the Lonely Planet experts selecting Bermuda, Samoa, Morocco, Peru, Cornwall, North Island in New Zealand, Loire Valley in France, Israel, Prague, Cuba, Southern Namibia and the Amalfi coast in Italy as top picks.

The guide book has other picks for this month, too. A nature lover’s paradise, Montenegro has rivers, seas and slopes, ripe for exploration in mild May, while it’s also a good time to take advantage of the deserted beaches in Spain’s Galicia region before the other tourists arrive.

Other highlights of the month include hiking Ihlara Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey, sailing the fjords on the west coast of Norway and hitting the roads of northern Queensland for a picturesque tour.

June

Shutterbugs can make the most of the long summer days in Orkney, Scotland, and spend the summer solstice on the island

Shutterbugs can make the most of the long summer days in Orkney, Scotland, and spend the summer solstice on the island

Trip suggestions for June include Greenland, Jamaica, Iran, Sardinia, Cape Cod, Lisbon, Yosemite National Park, Bora Bora, the Canadian Rockies, South Luangwa National Park in Zambia and Rwanda.

And this month’s family friendly options include riding horses at Montana’s ranches, snorkelling at Ningaloo Reef in Australia and watching the turtles hatch in Borneo.

Shutterbugs, meanwhile, can make the most of the long summer days in Orkney and spend the summer solstice among the Scottish island’s historic attractions, while cultured holidaymakers can take in the Opera Festival in Verona this month.

July

Brazil's Pantanal wetland experiences its dry season during this month making it an ideal time to see an array of colourful animals, from toucans and macaws to elusive jaguars

Brazil’s Pantanal wetland experiences its dry season during this month making it an ideal time to see an array of colourful animals, from toucans and macaws to elusive jaguars

Ever fancied visiting Mongolia, the Baltic, Alaska, Japan, Zanzibar, the Himalayas, the Azores, Antigua or the Black Forest in Germany? Then July is the month to pencil it in.

And Brazil’s Pantanal wetland experiences its dry season during this month, making it an ideal time to see an array of colourful animals, from toucans and macaws to elusive jaguars.

It’s also a delightful month to explore the mountains of the Dolomites and during Australia’s winter you can take a cosy, wine-filled trip to Hunter Valley, travel the wild Atlantic way in Ireland or head for the beaches of the Ionian islands.

August

August is a gorgeous time to discover Umbria in Italy's rolling landscapes, medieval walled towns and rural retreats

August is a gorgeous time to discover Umbria in Italy’s rolling landscapes, medieval walled towns and rural retreats

Mid-summer options recommended by the Lonely Planet experts include Iceland, Zambia, Malawi, Sofia in Bulgaria, Ko Samui in Thailand, Berlin, Nova Scotia in Canada, Sweden, Ecuador, Champagne in France, Turkey and Papua New Guinea.

August is also a gorgeous time to discover the rolling landscapes, medieval walled towns and rural retreats of Umbria in Italy. Buenos Aires, meanwhile, is hosting its arts festival and the Cook Islands are looking their dreamy best this month.

And adventurous families should head to Pembrokeshire in Wales for surfing, cycling and mountaineering or go on a road trip around the Kimberly in Australia.

September

You can avoid the crowds by travelling in shoulder season where you'll find deserted beaches in a sun-drenched Corsica

You can avoid the crowds by travelling in shoulder season where you’ll find deserted beaches in a sun-drenched Corsica

The Silk Road in central Asia, Costa Brava, Tibet, Georgia, South Korea, the Cotswolds, South Africa, Provence, Arizona, Vermont and Sumatra and Java in Indonesia are all best enjoyed in September.

There are other great options, too. You’ll find deserted beaches in a sun-drenched Corsica and can take a moment to appreciate the autumn foliage brightening up Beijing and the Great Wall of China. There’s also often an Indian Summer to make the most of in hazy San Francisco.

And it’s a thrilling month to go rafting in New Zealand, hiking in Mont Blanc, on safari in northern Kenya, or cruising around the Moselle Valley in Germany.

October

With Vietnam experiencing monsoon seasons in both the winter and the summer, October has the perfect conditions for a stunning escape to highlights such as Halong Bay (pictured)

With Vietnam experiencing monsoon seasons in both the winter and the summer, October has the perfect conditions for a stunning escape to highlights such as Halong Bay (pictured)

Top picks for October travel itineraries include Fiji, the Seychelles, Slovakia, Lyon, Bolivia, Costa Verde in Brazil, New Mexico, the Scottish Highlands, New York and Taiwan.

And with Vietnam experiencing monsoon seasons in both the winter and the summer, October has the perfect conditions for a stunning escape to highlights such as Halong Bay.

There’s more.

During this month ‘clear mountain views’ can be enjoyed on visits to Darjeeling in India and Bhutan and Lonely Planet also recommends Oman as it is blessed with ‘mellow weather’ and ‘a taste of old Arabia’.

November

Sun-seekers should make a break for Barbados (pictured), Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands in the tail end of the year before the crowds arrive

Sun-seekers should make a break for Barbados (pictured), Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands in the tail end of the year before the crowds arrive

Nicaragua, the Cayman Islands, the Simien mountains in Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Tokyo and Honshu, South Africa, Oregon, Nepal, Dunedin in New Zealand, Ruka in Finland and Hong Kong are attractive vacation destinations for November.

Sun-seekers, meanwhile, should make a break for Barbados, Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands in the tail end of the year before the other beach bums arrive.

And November is a temperate time to explore Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle and it’s cool enough to climb the Mayan ruins at Ruta May in Guatemala. Abu Dhabi might also be an option if you’re into Formula One or want to explore the new crop of museums opening there, which include the Louvre and the Guggenheim.

December

If you want to start the new year on a natural high head for Southern Patagonia, Chile, at the ends of the Earth where the vast landscapes are a hiking paradise

If you want to start the new year on a natural high head for Southern Patagonia, Chile, at the ends of the Earth where the vast landscapes are a hiking paradise

Why not spend Christmas overseas? Lonely Planet recommends St Vincent and the Grenadines, Australia’s Sapphire coast, the Andaman Islands, Laos, Senegal, San Sebastian, Micronesia and Tenerife in December.

And this month need not be dreary as there are winter wonderlands to discover in Arctic Sweden, Jasper in Canada, Breckenridge in the US or on the Glacier Express in Switzerland.

Fans of winter markets will be enthralled with Tallin in Estonia’s offerings, and Scotland and New Orleans are top destinations for a lively New Years’ Eve. Or if you want to start the new year on a natural high head for Morocco’s stunning Sahara desert or Southern Patagonia, Chile, at the ends of the Earth. These vast landscapes are a hiking paradise.

Book details:

ISBN: 9781786571939 Language: English
Authors: Sarah Baxter, Paul Bloomfeild
320 pages, 320 pp colour | Dimensions: 230mm x 270mm
Next edition due: Dec 2020

17 Epic Places You Never Thought To Travel, But Should

“Be a traveller, not a tourist, in 2017”, say HuffPost.

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Paris? Been there. London? Done that. No offense to those storied standbys, but 2017 is a time to break out of your travel bubble and try someplace you’ve never thought to visit before.

Travel teaches us invaluable lessons we can’t learn in school. It expands our worldview. It pushes us to be better, stronger, more empathetic human beings. And these 17 places, in no particular order, are where that magic is going to happen this year. Some of them can be experienced in the lap of luxury, while others are for only the most adventurous souls. But all of them have the potential to be the best trip you’ve ever taken.

1. South Korea

Don’t let its northern neighbour scare you off: South Korea is full of adventurous travellers’ delights like national parks, mountains and islandsSki resorts here are top-notch, as some are preparing to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. For a more urban feel, try Korean BBQ in Seoul or chill out in Busan, a coastal city.

Visuals Unlimited, Inc./Geoffrey Schmid via Getty Images

 

Seoraksan National Park is the proud site of South Korea’s third-highest mountai. It also features hot springs, temples and jagged rock formations.

Locals vacation on Jeju Island for its beaches, outdoor spas and spine-tingling lava tube tours.

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Changdeokgung Palace, a 15th-century royal villa in Seoul, is a UNESCO world heritage site. Builders expertly designed the complex to accommodate the uneven terrain at the foot of a mountain peak.

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Cable cars haul skiers at what is now Deogyusan Resort, where hot springs await after a day on the slopes.

2. Mauritius

Mauritius is delicious. This tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean offers up a low-key vibe and endless turquoise waters perfect for sports like wind and kitesurfing. You can also sample local rum and street food or explore churches, temples, mosques and lighthouses from Mauritius’ rich history as a colonial trade hub.

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Le Morne Brabant is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site that serves as “an exceptional testimony to… resistance to slavery.” The mountain’s forbidding cliffs hid runaway slaves known as maroons, and their oral traditions live on.

Liese Mahieu via Getty Images

 

It doesn’t get better than this.

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This is the Seven Coloured Earths in Chamarel, where naturally occurring sands of different colours form unique striped dunes.

Bon Espoir Photography via Getty Images

 

Above is a shopping center in the capital of Port Louis. English, French, and Mauritian Creole are the most commonly spoken languages in Mauritius, while Hinduism and Christianity are the top two religions.

3. Kazakhstan

The world’s ninth-largest country is not just for Borat: Fans of architecture, city tours and wilderness explorations will feel right at home in this little-explored corner of the earth. Start in Almaty, the biggest city, for clothing markets and upscale restaurants. Then, venture out to the Tian Shan mountains and hike sacred forests where many modern fruit crops were first cultivated.

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Astana has been called the “world’s weirdest capital city,” in part because it hardly existed 20 years ago. CNN reports the area was “an empty patch of land… best known as a former gulag prison camp for the wives of Soviet traitors” before it was declared the new capital in 1997, sparking the quick rise of a futuristic skyline.

Leonid Andronov via Getty Images

 

Almaty’s wooden Ascension Cathedral was constructed without nails between 1904 and 1907, and is one of the only buildings in the city to survive a 1911 earthquake. Used for state and public purposes after the Russian Revolution, it was returned to the Russian Orthodox church in the 1990s.

AlesiaBelaya via Getty Images

 

Big Almaty Lake sits in the Tian Shan mountains. The western Tian Shan range stretches into China and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, in part for its biodiversity.

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The city of Aktau, a hub for the oil industry, sits on the Caspian Sea and is a popular spot among locals for swimming.

4. Cyprus

This lush Mediterranean island sat under the rule of many ancient empires, and it shows: A trip here might include visits to a Byzantine monastery, a mosque or the tombs of high-ranking Hellenistic and Roman officials, which are part of a larger UNESCO world heritage site. Oh, and did we mention the island’s postcard-perfect beaches?

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In the port town of Kyrenia, you can take a boat cruise to swimming and snorkeling spots or visit a castle for a charming bird’s-eye view of the harbor.

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Limassol, Cyprus’ second-biggest city (and still a quaint one at that), has a lively bar and restaurant scene.

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See remains of an ancient outdoor theater, villas and baths at Kourion, a former city-kingdom on the coast.

A good snapshot stops a moment from running away

 

Adorable Pissouri village is the place to go for horseback riding and pub-hopping. Don’t be fooled, though: The ocean and impeccable diving are still within reach.

5. Latvia

Did you know Latvia has white sand beaches? This Baltic Sea gem, formerly part of the Soviet Union, is full of little surprises and a slight Scandinavian flair. The capital, Riga, was named the European Capital of Culture in 2014, and roughly half of the country is made up of pristine, accessible natural ecosystems. Historical Old Towns, churches and castles abound.

Angel Villalba via Getty Images

 

Riga’s town hall square features the iconic House of the Blackheads, which was built in 1334, destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in 1999.

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Above is the Gauja River, on the border between Estonia and Latvia. Its namesake national park holds more than 500 cultural and historical monuments.

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Not a bad place to spend a summer’s day! Latvia sits across the Baltic Sea from Stockholm, Sweden.

Federica Gentile via Getty Images

 

Kemeri National Park features a variety of wetlands, including the Great Kemeri Bog, which can be traversed by boardwalk.

6. Ecuador

Perched between Colombia and Peru on the Pacific, Ecuador has everything: mountains, beaches, rainforest, volcanos, hot springs, and the famous wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Once part of the Inca Empire, this dramatically beautiful land is steeped in both pre-Colombian and Spanish colonial culture and is perfect for cheap travellerstrek-happy adventurers and history lovers ― after all, Quito’s sprawling UNESCO-tapped city center is the colonial jewel of South America. (Bonus: Ecuador is on the dollar, so there’s no need to exchange currency.)

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Above is a photo of Bartolome Island in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. The endemic species in this volcanic archipelago inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and both land and sea are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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The Chimborazo volcano is the highest mountain in Ecuador.

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The historic center of Cuenca is yet another of Ecuador’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The town still subscribes to the rigid planning guidelines with which it was founded in 1557.

Luis Davilla via Getty Images

 

Quito’s Jesuit Church of the Society of Jesus, informally known as la Compañía, has enough gold leaf inside to wow the most jaded travellers. The stunning baroque church also has a charming number of hidden nods to the local culture, including symbols of suns that salute Inca history and indigenous faces and plants worked into the ornate interior designs.

7. Samoa

This island nation ― not be confused with its equally awesome neighbour, American Samoa ― includes 10 islands brimming with volcanoes, waterfalls, rainforests, swimming holes and beaches. Journeying to a natural ocean blowhole or diving deep into a cave pool is just the beginning. Down-to-earth travellers will enjoy its lack of fancy resorts, too.

Michael Runkel / robertharding via Getty Images

 

Swimmers hop into To Sua Ocean Trench, part of a larger area with natural rock pools and blowholes.

Tim Jordan Photography via Getty Images

 

Perfect water awaits you on Upolu Island’s southwest coast.

Michael Runkel via Getty Images

 

Papapapaitai Falls is about as impressive as waterfalls get: This showstopper tumbles into a giant gorge. Continue down the Cross Island Road for more falls, swimming holes and picnic spots.

David Kirkland / Design Pics via Getty Images

 

Upolu Island has plenty of beachfront hotels and ecolodges to maximize your time on the warm white sand.

8. Uruguay

Uruguay doesn’t get as much attention as neighbouring Argentina and Brazil, but this polished, progressive paradise on the Atlantic has a pinch of European flair and is well worth a visit. Experience gaucho culture on a ranch of rolling hills, take to the surf at Punta del Diablo, or party the night away in the clubs at Punta del Este.

Richard I’Anson via Getty Images

 

Stroll the cosmopolitan streets of Montevideo, including the famous Plaza Independencia.

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The rambling, eccentric Casapueblo resort in Punta Ballena was built by late Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, who was inspired by the mud nests of native hornero birds.

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The resort town of Punta del Este is known as a place to party, but the public art deserves a hand, too.

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Uruguay’s interior hills are rich in gaucho culture. Book a rural lodge and explore the beautiful countryside on horseback.

9. Namibia

First-time visitors to Africa should start here, in the world’s oldest desert, to experience the thrill of feeling like the last tourist on Earth. Considering its vast selection of wildlifenational parks, shipwrecks and larger-than-life sand dunes, Namibia somehow remains awesomely uncrowded. Many cities and towns have a distinctly German feel ― complete with German restaurants and colonial architecture ― due to years under European rule.

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Zebras drink at a waterhole in Etosha National Park, which offers various epic safaris.

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Ludertiz, a confusingly colonial harbour town, includes an old Lutheran church and bustling village shops that make it feel like anywhere but Africa.

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The quiver tree, a common sight in Southern Namibia, stands tall in a nature park known as Giant’s Playground.

Adrian Carr via Getty Images

 

Off-roaders sit ready to explore the desert’s massive sand dunes, which also make for a daring day hike.

10. Guatemala

Mayan ruins play a starring role in Guatemala. Deep in the jungle, Tikal National Park is a lush playground of plazas, temples and dwellings that are well over 1,000 years old. Equally gorgeous are Guatemala’s active volcanoes, cascading lagoons and the Caribbean-blue Lake Petén Itzá. Even with all these natural wonders, a historic hotel-museum tops the list of places to visit nationwide.

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From the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D., Mayans inhabited what is now Tikal National Park. Current residents include jaguars, howler monkeys and more than 60 species of bats.

Ben Pipe Photography via Getty Images

 

Parque Central is a popular outdoor gathering place in Antigua, a city in the highlands.

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At Lake Petén Itzá, the blue water is perfect for sunsets and swimming with the locals.

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Daredevils can hike or camp near a handful of active volcanos in Guatemala’s rugged wilderness, though be careful to do so at the right time of year.

11. Papua New Guinea

One look at the water should make it, ahem, clear that this is a paradise. The U.S. State Department cautions that due to crime, an organized tour booked through a travel agency is the best way to explore this stunningly diverse and practically untouched country. (There’s little luxury involved, but it’s a trip of a lifetime.) Try a trekking tour along the rugged, mountainous Kokoda Track or journey to a sing-sing festival, at which Papua New Guineans display their many unique tribal cultures through music and dance.

David Kirkland / Design Pics via Getty Images

 

White sand beaches and few interruptions are hallmarks of the New Ireland Province.

David Kirkland / Design Pics via Getty Images

 

Capital Port Moresby is beautiful from the air, though its crime rate calls for sensible precautions. Infrastructure is virtually non-existent outside PNG’s major cities ― another reason to book a tour rather than travelling on your own.

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Local tribes celebrate a sing-sing in the Highlands. Some 836 indigenous languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea, most by fewer than a thousand speakers each.

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Of course, Papua New Guinea boasts excellent snorkelling and diving.

12. Newfoundland, Canada

Why Newfoundland? Here, east coasters can kayak with icebergs without taking a long flight to Greenland or Alaska and beyond. Then there’s 18,000 miles of unspoiled coastline with some 200 walking trails, plus the 22 species of whales that pass through Newfoundland and Labrador between May and September. Add in dramatic, glacier-carved fjords, and this part of Canada is truly a dream for nature lovers who prefer their international travel over-easy.

Thomas Kitchin & Victoria Hurst / Design Pics via Getty Images

 

Icebergs arrive from the Arctic each spring to places like Trinity Bay, above. Check the map of “Iceberg Alley,” then book a boat or kayak or car to experience them up close.

David Doubilet via Getty Images

 

We really can’t get enough of Gros Morne National Park, which, in addition to cool neon jellyfish, contains towering fjords you can tour by boat.

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The Fort Amherst historical site in St. John’s honors Colonel William Amherst, who recaptured the area from the French in 1762.

CHare Photography

 

Fall in Newfoundland is not too shabby. This is the Humber River in autumn.

13. Romania

Dracula’s homeland oozes eeriness and intrigue: The country has emerged from its Communist past to the delight of travellers who come to explore its medieval towns and ornate castles, including the one where fiction’s scariest bloodsucker once lived. Beyond the charming cobblestone streets, you’ll find adventurous alpine hikes through the towering Carpathian Mountains and all-inclusive beach resorts on the Black Sea coast.

RossHelen via Getty Images

 

The Black Church, with its interior walls adorned with Turkish carpets, is the star of Brasov, a popular medieval town at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains.

Walter Bibikow via Getty Images

 

Corvin Castle in Transylvania features about 50 rooms of medieval art. It’s known as the most impressive Gothic castle in the country.

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It can take all day to drive the hairpin turns of Transfagarasan Road, which connects the provinces of Transylvania and Walachia through the mountains. Thanks to a gentle gradient, you can even bike it if you dare.

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Bucharest, Romania’s capital, is known for high energy and good food. Socialist and Art Nouveau architecture coexist here, and the nightlife is some of Eastern Europe’s best.

14. Laos

Even backpackers who have “seen it all” in Thailand and Cambodia will be awestruck in Laos. Stunning waterfalls, soaring mountains and blazing green rice fields are best enjoyed at the Laotian locals’ decidedly slow pace of life. Take a break from zip-lining and cave kayaking to join a yoga retreat or help out on an organic farm. The cuisine ― think sticky rice, papaya salad and fresh fish ― is worth savoring, too.

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A hot air balloon flies over Vang Vieng, a jungle town and magnet for backpackers.

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Kuang Si Falls are a refreshing ― but cold! ― place to swim. Prepare for the hike in, and look out for hidden pools along the way.

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Terraced rice fields overlook a village in Mu Cang Chai.

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Buddha Park in Vientiane is probably the most stunning sculpture park you’ll ever see.

15. Azerbaijan

“Untapped” may be the best way to describe this coastal country between Iran and Russia. Start in the capital of Baku, whose Old City has UNESCO world heritage status as a rare example of ancient architecture. Then, move out to explore quaint rural villages at the base of the Great Caucasus mountains. Former Peace Corps volunteers have set up a network of local homestays to help visitors enjoy the country’s outer fringes, where paved roads are scarce but the land is lush.

railelectropower via Getty Images

 

Baku mixes old architecture with glittering 21st-century towers on the Caspian Sea.

JTB Photo via Getty Images

 

The Government House is just one of many historic monuments to see in Baku.

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Baku also offers museums, theaters, libraries and an opera house. Treat yourself to a balcony room at the glimmering Four Seasons Hotel.

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High in the mountains, Xinaliq is home to friendly shepherds who can point you in the right direction for adventurous hikes.

16. Slovenia

Croatia’s been a hot travel destination for a few years now, but don’t overlook its charming neighbour to the north. The snowy peaks of the Julian Alps are the dramatic backdrop for Slovenia’s storybook Lake Bled, while outdoor restaurants line the riverwalk in the friendly capital city Ljubljana and the sprawling Postojna Cave is a dramatic diversion. (Pro tip: You’ll likely save a few dollars by flying into Venice, Italy, rather than Ljubljana ― it’s not far over the border.)

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The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation overlooks Ljubljana’s famous Triple Bridge, a lively spot at night.

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Above you’ll see Lake Bled in the summer. Swim or row in the crystal-clear lake, dine at Bled Castle perched high on a cliff, or stroll the equally Instagram-worthy Vintgar Gorge.

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A tour boat on the Ljubljanica River in Ljubljana.

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The town of Piran is a “luminescent pearl” on the Adriatic Sea.

17. The Seychelles

Will and Kate honeymooned here, so you know the views are fit for royalty. This collection of around 115 islands in the Indian Ocean is basically a beach-y theme park, with inlets of every size and type. It could take weeks to see them all. Thank goodness there are both private island villas and casual B&Bs to stay in.

Jon Arnold via Getty Images

 

With its pink sand and smooth boulders, Anse Source D’Argent is regularly praised as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Get there early in the day before other fanatics arrive.

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The beaches at Beau Vallon are some of the most highly trafficked in the Seychelles, but they’re still pleasantly low-key.

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From above, Mahe Island’s jungle flora and coastal towns shine in all their glory. Aside from the usual lineup of tucked-away beaches, the island’s forested interior is a hiker’s paradise.

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St. Pierre is the teensy-tiny islet of your wildest dreams. Seriously.

 

 

FALL IN LOVE WITH LUXEMBOURG – A CITY FILLED WITH CAFÉS, CULTURE AND FINE CUISINE

Super informative piece on my adopted homeland from Keri at greatdestinationsradioshow

Luxembourg City, capital of the small European country that bears the same name, isn’t an obvious short break destination for most British travellers. In fact, if you’re over 45 years old, you’re more likely to know it because of the the radio station that was based there and beamed pop music across Britain every night in the 60’s and 70’s. Now it’s better known for hosting some of the big institutions of the European Union.

And the reason for that is clear. Luxembourg is at the heart of Western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France and Germany. All of those neighbours have influenced life here. The buildings appear similar to those in Northern France and the official languages are French, German and the native Luxembourgish, which my tour guide, Gaby Limpach-Theis used to greet me. It sounded like a cross between French and German.

Luxembourg City is the same size as Worcester or Wigan but the retail options and restaurants are what you’d expect to find in a major world capital. That’s because Luxembourg is a key player in many European institutions. It’s where the European Union started and today it’s home to the European Court of Justice. You’ll see the blue flag with yellow stars flying everywhere. The city is also a major financial centre and home to major multinationals like Amazon and Microsoft, who are based here because of the favourable tax regime.

Luxembourg is an unusual city because it effectively has two city centres. Gaby told me that both the modern cultural centre and the Old Town are both worth visiting. The newer area is called the Kirchberg and architects have really gone to town designing incredible buildings to house EU bodies, banks and the arts. The main pedestrianized shopping streets are in the Old Town and are on top of a sandstone promontory, a clue to the fortified history of the city. It’s got plenty of handsome old architecture and feels very familiar to a British visitor. Away from the high street shops, you’ll also find high-end boutiques and bars that, midweek, are filled with bankers.

Down the hill in the city centre, known as the ‘Low City,’ there are pretty historic districts called Ville Basse and Grund. You can walk down the steep steps or take a lift. This leafy area is sought after – the mustard and terracotta painted Georgian-era houses are very attractive.

The cobbled streets descend to the small river, the Alzette, which winds through the city at the bottom of this gorge. You can stroll along a terrace a few hundred feet above, clinging to the side of the hill, which runs along the formidable city wall. The wall is up to 50 feet high and is cut into the rocky side of the valley. It almost looks like it’s holding back the hill. This walk, known as Le Chemin de la Corniche, offers picture postcard views of the church spires, old forts and the new city on the adjacent hill. Gaby said writers have described it as ‘the most beautiful balcony in Europe’ because of the superb vista over a thousand years of history.

Simon the concierge at my hotel, Le Royal, recommended that I walked down to the valley to visit the Benedictines’ Abbey. They set up their base when they had to leave France following the revolution. “Between this church and the river you have the most amazing views of the old fort, the Vauban, St Michaels church and the upper part of the town,” he told me.

Luxembourg City was founded in 980 and its strategic location means that it’s been fought over on many occasions. There were once three thick city walls ribboning the capital, making the whole town effectively a fort and leading to the nickname ‘the Gibraltar of the North.’ Some of the 53 forts along those military defences have been razed, but what remains is still impressive and has been listed by UNESCO.

One of Luxembourg City’s biggest attractions is located here but it’s hidden from view. The Bock Casemates are a network of tunnels stretching 15 miles under the city. They were started in 1644 by engineers working for the Spaniards, the controlling power in Luxembourg at the time. This underground maze linked the military fortifications and also provided storage.

Bock Casemates

Cross the high Queen Duchess Charlotte bridge, which spans the valley and gorge, and you reach the newer town centre of Kirchberg. There’s another fort here with more underground tunnels dug by the Prussians when it was their turn in charge – I told you that Luxembourg has changed hands a lot! The former Fort Thüngen was in disrepair but has been restored as a museum charting the country’s history to 1900. There’s a real guillotine on show. Mind your fingers. It’s named the Musée Dräi Eechelen after the finials on its three turrets, which resemble acorns.

As you walk around the city you’ll notice cartoon pictures of a mermaid everywhere. This is local folklore character Melusine and there’s a statue to her down by the river, near the Abbey Neimënster. Gaby recounted the sad tale for me:

“Count Siegfried of the Ardennes, the founder of Luxembourg, saw a beautiful woman singing while he was out riding by the River Alzette. He asked her to become his wife and she accepted on one condition – he couldn’t see her on Saturdays. Years passed after they were married and he always respected her wish to be alone on that day. But eventually, he couldn’t resist the temptation to find out why. He took a quick glimpse through the keyhole of her bathroom and gasped in horror when he saw that she was a mermaid. She promptly disappeared into the river and he never saw her again.”

There’s another good statue story in the upper town. The Gëlle Fra, or Golden Lady, is a gilded statue on the top of a 60-foot tall granite obelisk. The Nazis removed the figure and it disappeared for years. “Workers found her hidden beneath the main stand of the national football stadium in 1980,” Gaby told me. “She was renovated and returned to the obelisk in 1985. She represents the freedom of Luxembourg.”

There’s quite a bit of public art around the city. The strangest I saw was on 32 Rue de l’Eau where there are holographic heads on 20-foot high poles. Their eyes follow you as you walk around!

Opposite the heads is the monarch’s city residence. Luxembourg’s royal family is led by the Grand Duke, a title used since 1815. You can tour the public areas of the palace and a flag flies when he’s in the building working. He normally lives in his second home, a palace in the countryside. Gaby explained: “In Luxembourg we have a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. Grand Duke Henri is not allowed to get mixed up in the work of the government.” The Grand Duke can’t get involved in politics but all [signed-up] residents are expected to. If you don’t vote, you get fined although over 75-year-olds are exempt.

You could easily spend a whole weekend exploring the various upper and lower levels of the Old Town, but you should try to fit in a visit to the Kirchberg – the newer part of the city. This district is filled with award-winning modern architecture, futuristic structures of steel and glass set between landscaped squares and plazas.

Thousands of people work for the EU here and alongside the convention centre you’ll find a small wooded area where there’s a tree for every EU nation. “There are 28 trees that were planted to represent the states of the European Union,” said Gaby. I found our tree. I wonder if they’ll have to chop it down when Britain leaves?

Luxembourg was the first city to hold the European Capital of Culture title for a second time and there’s a busy arts programme in the city. I went to meet Matthew Studdert-Kennedy, who used to plan the music at the Edinburgh Festival and moved to Luxembourg to oversee the programme at the Philharmonie, a striking, purpose-built opera house. “It seats 1,400 people, just the right size for this city, and it’s a wonderful shape, being both intimate and large at the same time,” said Matthew. “There’s always something that visitors might enjoy, from piano recitals to jazz to classical concerts. Artists want to come back here because the acoustics are so wonderful.”

Sometimes the Philharmonie screens movies accompanied by a live soundtrack played by the resident symphony orchestra. Recently they played along during a showing of 2001 – A Space Odyssey. “A lot of places are doing this now and it’s becoming very popular,” said Matthew, “especially as so many classics of the cinema have such great soundtracks.”

There’s another art space next door. Luxembourg’s Museum of Contemporary Art – the Mudam. The building is incredible. It was designed by the architect who helped renovate the Louvre and features a main hall with a 43m high interior space. “During the day there’s great light, even if it’s raining,” said the Mudam’s Anna Loporcaro. She told me that Luxembourg always has something for visitors to discover from their vibrant arts programme. “We change the exhibitions four times a year so there’s always something new to discover,” said Anna. “It’s a great way to bring people to Luxembourg and ensure they don’t just think of us as a banking place, but also a cultural place.”

Anna Loporcaro

The Mudam is not one of those fussy art venues where you walk around in silence. It’s open until 11pm on Wednesdays and you can call in for a drink at their large bar with a chill out area and enjoy some live music. They’ve set up long tables under a mock up of market stall awnings. It’s very relaxed.

Art and beautifully presented food can be found in one place back in the Old Town – a venue called Ca(fé)sino in the Casino Luxembourg. Nadine Clements told me that, contrary to its name, Casino Luxembourg has never been used for gambling – it’s always been a public meeting space. “It’s for photography, video, installations and all kinds of contemporary art,” explained Nadine.

It’s a popular lunch spot. The steak tartare – uncooked minced beef with raw egg, onions and pickles – is a speciality. You dine in an imposing hall with a high ceiling and long communal table. “You can sit next to people you don’t know and can start a conversation. It’s a nice way of dining,” said Nadine. While you eat, above your head is a neon sign formed in the shape of two sound waves fused together. This piece represents the sounds from the time of the casino’s opening in 1882 and its 1995 refurbishment.

Preparing steak tartare

Léa Linster is a well-known TV celebrity chef in Luxembourg and German-speaking countries. I went to meet her at her city centre bakery and café. While we chatted, a man came over asking for an autograph!

Léa Linster

Léa says Luxembourg really is a foodie place. “When I was a child people just talked about food. Even then, I found out how much food means to Luxembourg.” Léa runs a Michelin-starred restaurant and her signature dish is loin of lamb with a potato crust. I asked her what to expect on a typical Luxembourg menu. “I love bouneschlupp very much. It’s a green bean soup and you have it with bacon and sausage. We also have pike from the River Moselle as well as crayfish.”

Léa was awarded the Michelin star in 1987 but she says her best achievement was gaining a gold medal in a prestigious world chef competition. “I’m so far the only woman who has won the Bocuse d’Or prize.” This small country boast a number of Michelin restaurants. “We have ten in the country and two or three just in the city,” said Léa.

Lea’s Old Town bakery shop is devoted to madeleines – little shell-shaped cakes, a cross between a fairy cake and a biscuit. According to folklore, madeleines are named after a woman cook who had to deputise for the chef to the French king. She couldn’t find the correct cake tins so she collected beach shells to bake the cakes in. You’d probably fail your kitchen hygiene inspection if you tried that today!

Lea’s quite a character and I can see why she’s on telly. She certainly doesn’t feel the need to be modest about her creations. “My madeleines are the best in the world. Once you eat one, you’ll never forget it again. People come here from all over for them.”

Cakes and patisseries are beautiful presented in Luxembourg. Just around the corner, 28-year-old Cathy Goedert has recently opened a bakery. She was trained in Paris but wanted to come home. “It was always my dream to open a shop and it was easier to do this in Luxembourg,” she told me. Cathy sells culinary works of art, delicately decorated desserts, which look incredible and taste amazing. “We have around fifteen different pastries including eclairs, apple tarts and cheesecakes.”

Cathy Goedert

If you enjoy chocolate, then you’ll find plenty of products on offer in the city’s many impeccably presented cafes, but one business specialises. Nathalie Bonn set up The Chocolate House as a café and restaurant offering savoury meals as well as chocolate creations. She wanted chocoholics to be able to indulge alongside their friends who don’t have a sweet tooth. The place was packed at 3pm in the afternoon. She says she aims to create a unique chocolate moment for every individual taste, with chocolate blocks, spreads, cakes and fondues. But she’s famous for her flavoured chocolate lolly sticks that you dip into hot milk to make a rich drink. “I have sixty different flavours,” she told me. “The most popular are Bailey’s, cinnamon, Amaretto, macaroon and caramel. There are people who come here every day. They’re chocoholics!”

Nathalie Bonn

Nathalie’s chocolate creations make great gifts to take home. If you’d like something different, then try out the 100% Luxembourg Shop in the city centre, which showcases the country’s best products, including beer, wine and liqueurs, art work, handicrafts, ceramics and books. A popular purchase is another national emblem – the bird-shaped whistles called peckvillercher. They’re a traditional craft item formed from earthenware or glass and were used to attract customers to shops. You’ll also find plenty of clothing items in the country’s national colours – red, white and mid-blue.

Peckvillerchen demonstration!

So where can you stay in Luxembourg City? I was kindly accommodated at the Hôtel Le Royal, a 5-star property with spacious, comfortable, recently-refurbished rooms. It is in a perfect central location near the Old Town but, as manager Mr Scheffer told me, you’re not far from nature in this small city. “You can see woods from the roof of the hotel. You won’t find that in many capital cities,” he said.

Manager Philippe Scheffer

Three things stood out for me about the Royal. Every single corridor and public space had a pleasant aroma. They’ve created a bespoke fragrance for each area. They also had state-of-the-art Japanese loos installed, with fancy controls that will do lots of things including warming the seat! And the breakfast buffet was massive. I think they catered for every international or dietary need. Mr Scheffer explained: “In the hotel business there’s competition for who can create the best breakfast buffet. We have good cooks and understand different international clients and their needs.”

The hotel is used to helping fulfil their guests’ needs, no matter how unusual. Hotel concierge Simon, who’s worked at the Royal for 29 years, said he’s had some interesting requests during his time there. “I’ve organised a funeral and a wedding, but the toughest was a guest who requested 1,000 red roses just before midnight for his wife early the next morning. I called my colleague in Amsterdam, who went to the flower market and put 1,000 flowers in a taxi. It arrived next morning and the guest was very happy!”

I didn’t know what to expect of Luxembourg before I came and I was pleasantly surprised. I think it’s an interesting choice for a weekend break, whether you love fine dining or the arts or you just wandering through a pretty town whilst immersing yourself in history. There are plenty of green spaces and parkland and a summer trip would be perfect. It’s not cheap – you won’t find bargains in the shops but it is clean and if you’re a solo female traveller, a recent safety index rated Luxembourg first out of 200 cities. There are lots of good places to eat in Luxembourg City, as you’d expect in a major banking centre with all of those expense accounts.

You can fly from Gatwick or Stansted for as little a £20 with low cost carriers like Ryanair and Easyjet or use Flybe for the direct flight of just over 90 minutes from Manchester. Frequent buses make the 15-minute trip from the airport to the city centre and a new tram system should commence later this year.

For more information about Luxembourg take a look at the visitluxembourg.com website.

 

And for the best five star hotels around the world, check out Nadhmi Auchi’s Le Royal Hotels & Resorts.
Le Royal Luxembourg is a proud member of the Leading Hotels of the World and the acclaimed Golden Keys, the association of international hotel concierges.

 

Redhead emoji finally on the table after campaign for ginger equality

OMG I’m sorry guys – I know it’s got ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with james-silly-grintravel, trekking, photography or indeed anything I usually blog about, but as a bit of a ginga myself I simply HAD to include this one!  Telegraph Online, you’ve made my day!!

                        “Cry God for Harry, England and St George……….!”    – Ned


ginger-emojis

Fans of all-star Brits Prince Harry, Ed Sheeran and Ginger Spice Geri Halliwell/Horner could be celebrating soon, as Silicon Valley executives are discussing plans to introduce a redhead emoji into phones and computers worldwide.

Apple is hosting a Unicode Technical Committee meeting next week in San Fransisco, after persistent campaigning on social media from users asking for a redhead character.

“The lack of a redhead emoji has been the most frequent complaint from users in the past three months, said Jeremy Burge, founder of Emojipedia, an emoji website.

One way redheads could be selected

One way redheads could be selected CREDIT: EMOJIPEDIA

“This document aims to move the discussion forward on how this can be addressed,” he added.

Mr Burge, who tabled the proposal, said that there were many different ways of implementing the character, from a single “redhead person” on the keyboard, to allowing any emoji to have red hair.

Options for multiple redhead emoji with different skin tones

Options for multiple redhead emoji with different skin tones CREDIT: EMOJIPEDIA

Emoji have become much more diverse in recent years. Instead of just the basic yellow cartoons, users can now select a variety of skin tones and hair colours, while many now have male and female options.

But there is still no redhead option. An online petition demanding ginger emoji, organised in Scotland, has garnered 20,000 signatures. Redheads make up less than 2 per cent of the world’s population, but in Scotland, Wales and Ireland it is around 10 per cent.

emojis

  • Anyone wanting to “sponsor” a new emoji character has to put together a detailed written proposal and submit it to the Unicode Consortium.
  • Each proposal received will be evaluated initially by technical officers at Unicode.
  • Once a proposal passes this initial screening, it will be reviewed by the Unicode Technical Committee.
  • Sponsors may be required to revise their proposals several times before their character can be encoded. This can take two years or more.
  • Once the Unicode Consortium encodes an emoji character, it is up to “platform vendors” like Apple, Google and Microsoft to design their own interpretation of the character based on Unicode’s brief.
  • The new emoji will be released on phones and other platforms as part of normal software release cycles. This may take up to a year after a character has been encoded.

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Hugo Davies, a 21 year old redhead from East Sussex said: “Gingers always get a bit of a hard time, so it’s great if we get some positive recognition. I know I’ll use it.”

Redheads have hit the headlines recently, with Prince Harry announcing his relationship with Meghan Markle and Ed Sheeran poised to release a new album. Redhead actress Emma Stone is tipped for Oscar success after starring in the new film La La Land.

Last week, Labour MP Chris Bryant drew baffled looks from his peers when he wished speaker John Bercow a happy “Kiss a ginger day” during business questions in the House of Commons.

Apple already has six different skin tones, and over a dozen hair styles for its characters but has faced criticism on social media for not introducing a redhead.

One twitter user said “Oh great. Another emoji update and still no redhead emoji @AppleSupport I’m looking at you.”

Another tweeted: “I’m not being funny but why is there no redhead/ginger haired emoji?? Where’s the equality?!”

Keen users may have to wait a while longer for their wishes though, as Mr Burge told the Telegraph: “With Unicode 10.0 just months away from release, the redhead emoji would likely appear in 2018 at the earliest.”

Adding an emoji to a phone is not as simple as just designing one: standards must be agreed between different operators and applied uniformly to prevent confusion.

Emoji are sent over networks from phone to phone as Unicode symbols but represented on each phone as the cartoons we see, and different platforms, from iOS to Android, Facebook and WhatsApp all represent them differently.

Emoji have also been in the news after Lambeth council accidentally sent out council tax statements with crying face symbols next to the amounts due. The council apologised to residents after the evidence was put to them by the Telegraph.

 

😀  😀  😀  😀  😀  😀  😀

 

The 12 Best Travel Sites and Apps You Need Right Now

Planning just got WAY easier!

It’s a new year, which means it’s time to start organising your next life-changing trip. But with so many options to choose from and so little time to plan, you’re going to need some assistance.

Behold the 2017 update of 12 of our favourite travel sites and associated apps, popular with travel bloggers and backpackers alike, these handpicked by Suzy Strutner, Associate Lifestyle Editor at The Huffington Post.  They will take care of every part of the process, from finding the cheapest flight to planning your day-to-day activities, along with needs you didn’t even know you had. Check ’em out:

Sygic Travel

You’ll get (happily) lost in this mesmerizing map, which lays out attractions by city. Click on each one for a description and a list of tours you can book on the spot.

Rome2Rio

What’s the most efficient way to get from Wichita to Thailand? Whether by plane, train or city bus, Rome2Rio gives you every possible option for travel from point A to point B.

Utrip

Utrip is the personal concierge you’ve always wanted, but never wanted to pay for. Tell the site your destination, budget, and how much you care about factors like dining, history, shopping, and saving money. Then, watch it create a day-by-day itinerary tailored to your interests.

TripHobo

While Utrip excels at planning activities, TripHobo lets you plan flights and book hotels, along with suggestions for your day-by-day schedule. Use both sites to plan your trip to a T.

Foursquare

For those that prefer a more DIY approach to activity planning, Foursquare offers a way to find out what people love in a given town. Make your search as specific as you like — glass noodles on a patio in Miami, for example — and scroll through a neat, tidy list of user-generated photos and reviews. It’s like Yelp, without the page-long rants.

Momondo

Travel bloggers rave about this visually pleasing search engine, which sorts flights by price, travel time and bang for your buck, using all the toggling options you could ever want to find the best deal.

Roadtrippers

Looking to avoid another boring stop at McDonald’s on your drive? Plug in your road trip for an interactive map of restaurants, attractions, hotels, natural wonders and “weird stuff” along your route.

WeTravel

Getting flakey friends to commit to group trips can be tough. But they won’t be able to resist the pull of WeTravel, which lets you make a beautiful landing page for your trip with all the details. Send your link to potential travel buddies, then collect a deposit online to confirm that they’re coming along for the fun.

Google Flights

You just can’t list the best travel sites without mentioning the many perks of Google Flights. Perhaps its best feature is the explorable map, which shows flight prices from your home airport to destinations around the world. Take your pick!

SeatGuru

Never accidentally book a seat without a TV again: SeatGuru maps out every seat on your plane with details on each one’s entertainment options, legroom measurements and special considerations, like seats that fail to recline or are way too close to the lavatory.

FlightAware

This nifty airplane location tracker is most helpful for planning your trip to the airport: Search your flight number to see real-time delays, gate swaps and changes to your estimated arrival time. You can also track a friend’s flight before picking them up, or check a flight’s on-time record to avoid booking those with frequent delays.

TripIt

Like a personal assistant, TripIt keeps details for your flights, hotels, car rentals, restaurant reservations and other travel plans in one clean, convenient place, so you can access them with ease.

 

 

 

 

4 Mottos Every Traveller Should Live By

I love always hearing tales and learning tips from other serial trekkers.  Huff Post‘s Will Caldwell is somewhat of a novice traveller, but I like this piece by him explaining what he’s picked up already.  – Ned


I’m into my fourth month traveling and wow, it’s been a wild ride. I started my solo trip feeling nervous, anxious, and a bit worried. For a first time solo traveler like myself, taking the step to travel solo was a big one.

I’d lived abroad before but didn’t feel that compared to a solo adventure. What traveling solo teaches you is nothing short of incredible. The places you see and the people you meet are what makes a trip remarkable. I’ve hiked through the Amalfi coast with new friends from Chile and sailed through the islands of Croatia with Aussies. People who travel solo realize they’re never really alone.

The nature of hostels around the world enables you to easily meet people. I’m not the most extroverted guy but solo traveling has made me more outgoing. Over breakfast or dinner, I’ll be the one asking people what they’re up. If it sounds cool, chances are I’ll be joining!

This approach has landed me on some out of this world adventures. In Andros, an island in Greece, I ended up on a five hour hike across the island with three French friends I had met that morning. The hike finished in a small town with one of the most serene beaches we had to ourselves. Experiences like that are the ones you can’t plan in a travel guide.

Over my past four months of travel, I’ve garnered a few mottos that I believe most travelers should live by. These mottos have led me on some of the best adventures and enabled me to see some of the coolest places not mention in your guide book. If you’re looking to take your travels to the next level, follow these four mottos:

Get Lost

Seriously, if you have been traveling and haven’t purposely gotten lost yet, you’re missing out. Getting lost has led me to some of the most amazing places. For one day, try not looking at a map or guide book and just go.

In Mykonos, I rented a ATV for the day. The shop owner suggested some sights to see but I tossed the map and just went. The island isn’t big and I knew I could get around the whole island in a few hours. After some time exploring, I ended up at a mountain top church. I was the only one there and had a view of the whole island. Who knows why others weren’t there— maybe it was the steep dirt roads that scared people away. All I knew was that the view was out of this world and I didn’t know where I was on a map.

Just Ask

This is a key to finding the hidden gems or to traveling on a budget. If you’re looking for a cool place the locals hit up, just ask with a smile. Chances are a waiter or shop owner has a spot they’re willing to share. If on a budget, ask if you can work to have the experience for free.

One of the coolest activities the island of Naxos offers is sailing. I love sailing, yet didn’t have the 200 euros it cost to sail. Instead, I decided to walk around the marina, asking if any of the boats needed a extra hand. The second boat I asked said, “What time can you be here tomorrow morning?”. Though I had to wash the decks after our daily trip, I wouldn’t call that work. Captain Fragiskos of Naxos Sailing let me crew for three days, as we took tourists around the islands hitting up caves to dive in and cliffs to jump off of! The funniest part, seeing the reaction of tourists when they learned they had a American co-captain.

Act Local

To take your travels to the next level, act like you live in the city you’re visiting. This will enable you to find the best places to eat and get the right prices. Even if I don’t know the local language, I’ll often act like I understand and use my fingers to point at what I want. This works especially well at markets where they often charge foreign tourists a few extra bucks.

Acting like a local came in handy during my time in Follonica, a coastal city in Italy. In this city, I visited some incredible fish markets that had fish coming in right off the boat. Though some of these markets were packed with tourists, by simply acting like I knew what I was doing, I received fair prices and some of the best fish I’ve ever eaten.

Don’t Plan

This may sound odd at first, but whenever you travel make sure you leave free time to explore what others recommend. During my travels, I plan ahead for a maximum of two weeks. In every city I visit, I try to have at least one day where I have nothing scheduled. This enables me to ask for a local’s recommendation and has led to some of my favorite adventures.

When I was in the Amalfi coast, I knew of some must hike trails, yet didn’t know I’d be able to rent my own boat to take to the island of Capri. On one of my days there, friends and I that I met the night before, rented a boat and drove it from Positano to Capri. Driving around Capri, we got to stop wherever we wanted which let us swim in some of the clearest waters I’ve seen, jump off cliffs that made my heart race, and eat where the locals feast.

 

As my adventure continues, these mottos keep me on my toes. They make landmarks more remarkable, make cities more exciting, and make traveling more cost effective. When you travel, pictures enable you to recall what you saw while unexpected experiences are what stay in your head. I won’t remember the exact time I was at the Pantheon, but I will remember the time I had to cut our boat’s anchor line off to free us from rocks. If you’re looking to start your next adventure or currently on one, utilize these mottos to see where the world takes you!

 

 

The TEN Most INCREDIBLE (And Unique) Design Hotels In The World…

Wow, wow and wow again: godsavethepoints impresario Gilbert Ott has found some awe-inspiring establishments to kick the new year off.  Prepare to book your flights people..!


Read at your own risk. Staying in hotels equally, if not more, inspiring than your destination may lead to extreme laziness, lack of tourism, excess alcohol consumption, increased pool time, outstanding food and a need to return to your destination, so that you can actually visit! These are the most inspiring hotels we’ve found anywhere in the world…

IceHotel Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

Located in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, The IceHotel is truly something to behold. No two experiences at the hotel are the same, due to the fact that the hotel completely melts every year. True art.

Year after year, a group of pure ice artisans form the IceHotel, offering guests literally one of the coolest places to sleep. If you’re going to stay in an ice hotel, make sure to grab a drink at the Svedka Bar to keep you warm. Prices start at around $325 a night.

Bambu Indah Glass Floor UdangHouse , Bali

glassfloor bali.jpg

As far as instant awesome goes, setting up camp along the remote rivers and rice fields of Bali, only to find a glass bottom room in a private villa, certainly qualifies. There’s an unlimited mix of adventure, cuisine and serenity in one of the most sought-after places on earth.

By venturing to authentic Bali, your eyes aren’t the only thing to be rewarded, with rates for the gorgeous glass bottom Udang house starting at just $195 per night. Dang!

Hotel Kakslauttanen, Finland

These are not your average igloos. At the Hotel Kakslauttanen you’ll find yourself in a luxurious, all-glass igloo staring through an uninhibited view of the skies – oh and by the way, that view will also most likely include the Northern Lights…

Though it looks like a village of spaceships, this luxe winter hotel sells out well in advance, fetching rates that start at $900 per night. That’ll have you seeing stars in no time!

Giraffe Manor, Kenya

Tables of two often turn into tables of three, where free-roaming giraffes decide to join the party for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’re on safari without leaving your hotel room, this is your best bet.

You’ll find the utmost in sophistication inside and out, making Giraffe manor a perfect place to start or end a safari. Sadly the giraffes don’t pay for their share of the room and board, leaving you with a $1,000 a night hotel bill…

Conrad Hilton, Maldives

The Conrad Maldives is one of the few places where “sleeping with the fishes” is something you’d actually ask for. With water clearer than your swimming pool, you’ll find abundant light and fish everywhere you look. You can even eat some at the underwater restaurant…

Private villas, plunge pools and total peace, all sadly with a price, starting at $750 and moving on up, way, way up per night.

Explora Patagonia, Chile

Sure, it looks like a Bond villain’s lair nestled in the remote reaches of Patagonia, and (minus the bond villain part) it is. The Explora Patagonia is a home away from earth, nestled in the foothills of some of this planet’s most dramatic terrain.

To sleep in a room perched atop a waterfall, surrounded by glacial beauty, you’ll need to have a windfall of cash, with prices starting at $1,200 per night. Probably worth it though!

Manta Resort Floating Villa, Zanzibar

Just about everyone has thought about leaving the world behind. At the Floating Hotel in Zanzibar, you can literally do it, snagging your own private villa on top of a natural blue hole in a pristine ocean.

With an underwater bedroom, you won’t have to worry about peeking neighbors – apart from the tropical fish of course, which will surely be interested in all your activity. For the privilege of sleeping in your own ocean cottage, you’ll find prices reeling in $,1500 a night…

Costa Verde 727 Villa, Costa Rica

Those who absolutely cannot wait to get out of the thin aluminum tube that transports you to your destination might not be too excited by this Costa Rican gem, but for all the aviation geeks out there, this is the best form of plane crash in the world.

Like an episode of Lost, you’ll find yourself in the jungle, in a luxuriously tangled aircraft fuselage offering a private villa in the Rainforest. Very cool. You won’t need to be raining money to experience this aviation dream though, with rates starting at $260 per night for the whole plane. It’s a lot cheaper than flying!

Jade Mountain, St Lucia

A picture is worth a thousand words, and for a night at this breathtaking St. Lucia resort, that’s about how many dollars you’ll need to take one with this view. Unobstructed, untouched and otherworldly.

Unfortunately, I was serious: rates start at $1,185 per night. If it makes you feel better, almost every room features a personal infinity pool with these near priceless views…

TreeHotel MirrorCube Treehouse, Sweden

Some people never grow up; some wish they never did. Whichever side of the mirror you’re on, a stay in a luxury five star treehouse in pristine Swedish woods will do you right. Summer hiking, winter adventure, it’s hard to find a more unique place to spend a holiday…

The TreeHotel features six individually styled luxe “tree houses” including the Mirrorcube, a UFO and something called the Bird’s Nest. You’ll have to see it to believe it, and with prices starting at $500, you have a better chance than some of these other stunners…

 

 

An Old World Christmas in Bratislava, Slovakia

Bordering Austria, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic and Austria, Slovakia sits in a fascinating mix of cultures.

Here are 7 things I bet you didn’t know about Slovakia:-

  1. It joined the European Union in 2004 and the Eurozone on 1 January 2009
  2. It is also a member of the Schengen Area, NATO, the United Nations, the OECD, the WTO, CERN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Visegrád Group
  3. It is the world’s biggest per-capita car producer with over a million cars manufactured in the country in 2015 alone
  4. 90% of the population own their own homes
  5. The oldest surviving archaeological artefacts from Slovakia – found near Nové Mesto nad Váhom – date from 270,000 BC, in the Early Paleolithic era
  6. Slavic tribes settled in the territory of present-day Slovakia in the 5th century
  7. The Tatra mountain range is represented as one of the three hills on the coat of arms of Slovakia

HuffPost writer John Mariani gives us his own personal take on the Christmas scene in Bratislava.


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There’s no denying that Bratislava, Slovakia, is a convenient way stop between Vienna, Prague and Budapest, all far larger cities. But Bratislava shares with all those a legacy of cross-culturization, Baroque, Austro-Hungarian, Secessionist and Art Deco architecture and a devotion to large public squares that makes it an ideal two-day trip. And during the Christmas holidays the town lights up, makeshift markets are assembled, the spiced wines perfume the frigid air, hot pastries, and pretzels are displayed, and the townspeople take their time strolling through and enjoying it all in the car-free Old Town of the city.

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Over the centuries Austrians, Croats, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, Jews, and Serbs all brought their own cultures to Bratislava, which was the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary in the 18th century. As of World War I Slovakia was united with what is now the Czech Republic, as Czechoslovakia, and after occupation by the Germans in World War II, it was taken by Soviet troops and became part of the Soviet Union. On the outskirts of Bratislava you can still see the never-varying, tick-tacky box apartments the Soviets built by the thousands. In 1993 Slovakia and the Czech Republic separated amicably.

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Today the Old Town is marvelously restored. Its scrubbed-clean attached façades and tidy red roofs glow in the sun, its fountains flow, and you can still pass through Michael’s Gate that in the Middle Ages was part of the walled fortifications. The Gothic St. Michael’s Cathedral is remarkably well preserved, its rococo interior cleaned and well lighted.
The impressively rococo-baroque Grasakovic presidential palace dating to 1760, sprawls along Hodžovo Námestie, and there are 50 museums in the city, including the National Gallery in a huge castle perched above the city, originally Gothic but reconfigured in the baroque style.
The Old Town and shopping streets, and the Main Square of Halve Námestie fills up with the traditional Christmas markets. There is always music playing and a set-up ice rink, and the dozens of colorful stalls sell everything from tree ornaments and toys to Slovakian sausages and waffles.
By the way, English is widely spoken everywhere in Bratislava, especially among those under 35 years of age, who learn the language very early in grammar school. Russian was abandoned by most into the dustbin of the city’s history.

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Restaurants tend towards traditional Slovakian food, which is, shall we say, very hearty, similar to German, Austrian and Hungarian fare. One of the most charming spots, right on the Market Square, is Zylinder, whose charming Old World look of pea green ceiling beams, crystal chandeliers, cream-colored furniture and striped booths, along with outside tables that are ideal in good weather, is a complement to the refined style of cooking.
You might begin with a sampler of starters ($12) that include beef tartare, home-made jelly with shallot vinegar, duck liver pâté, and smoked specialties. I loved the rich, tangy sheep’s cheese soup with smoky bacon “demikát” ($4), and the bright red stuffed peppers that come with round bread dumplings the size of hockey pucks with which to soak up all the delicious tomato sauce ($9).

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Here the tafelspitz of boiled beef ($16.50) comes first as a marrow bone with grilled bread, followed by a hefty beef broth full of chopped vegetables and meat, then generous slabs of the juice-riddled boiled beef itself accompanied by creamed spinach, roasted Austrian grated potatoes, and a chive sauce with applesauce and horseradish.
Far more Old School is the curiously named Bratíslavská Reštaurácia Flagship, located within an old movie house set on two floors, with grand staircases and what used to be a stage and screen. It looks like a place where Quentin Tarantino would film a bloody fight scene for a movie set in eastern Europe. This is a huge room, always packed with patrons who come the housemade draft beers and for the rich cooking, like the pungent garlic soup served inside a sliced-open round loaf of bread ($3.75), whose interior mixes with the soup to form savory clumps. Sauerkraut soup ($2.25) was also good, and the goulash here is more soup than stew ($6). 2016-12-19-1482160238-7826339-BRATFALSGHIP.jpg
Order the three kinds of dumplings, served on a wooden board—a pirohy, stuffed like ravioli with potato, another a kind of spaetzle with sauerkraut, and the last egg noodles in a rich creamy bacon sauce ($12.50)—that easily feeds two or three people.
Everything at Flagship is unbelievably cheap, the young waiters extremely amiable and the service fast, as it should be in a café with so much history on its side—definitely a unique place and a must visit in Bratislava.
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Far more modern and quite out of the ordinary is Massimo (Dvořakovo Nábreẑie 4), which is set overlooking the Danube River. Back in 2005 owner-chef Massimo Atanasio decided Bratislava was ready for a first-rate, upscale Italian restaurant and he’s given the city a romantically lighted, glass-walled interior and bar —with outdoor tables in summer—with a backdrop of a photo of the Bay of Naples, where he was born. Here you’ll find modern and traditional cucina Italiana, starting off with very good bread and olive oil.
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There’s a carpaccio of beets with a cheese sauce drizzle ($14), and the misticanza of salad greens ($6.25) is very welcome after the heavy food of Slovakia; the housemade tagliatelle with black truffles and quail egg—“cooked to 63 degrees C”—(market price) will put you in mind of the best in Tuscany (right). Massimo also knows how to handle fish, demonstrated by a branzino fillet served atop bright carrot-ginger puree ($24). For dessert have the dense dark chocolate torta di caprese. And to top it off, Massimo carries a first-rate wine list with Italian and other European bottlings at fair mark-ups. Cocktails run a very genial $6.25.

 

 

 

The Unexpected Delights of Egypt by Keeping an Open Mind

I have been to many places in my life as a serial trekker; but I am a guy – and while I have met many girls who love travelling as much as I do, I still believe that the world is a safer place for me than it is for them.

This is a fascinating insight into one girl’s travels in Egypt, surely one of the most chauvinistic countries on the planet, but one where people are still people…

                                        Ned


By Catherine Oughtibridge

In a hotel lobby at the red sea resort of Hurgarda terrorists stabbed three tourists. At the Great Pyramids in Giza two policemen were shot dead. A few days earlier, gunmen had fired on Israeli tourists as they boarded a bus.

Maybe I should have been frightened.

Cairo, Egypt

Egypt is not like England. People discard litter on the streets. Boys cycle along potholed roads with trays of fresh pita breads balanced on their heads. They have satellite television and mobile internet and children steering donkeys down the highway.

There’s a mosque in every direction you look and five times a day you’re swallowed by the echoing layers of the call to prayer as they bounce off apartment blocks and chime together.

The air is thick; factories pour pollutants into the air that are outlawed in the European Union.

The traffic is reckless. There are few crossings, few rules and seat belts for backseat passengers are an optional extra. It was with genuine gratitude and relief I held hands with a friend to cross the road.

But I boarded a flight to Luxor alone. My friend and his family in Cairo had warned me to be careful in the south. The people, they said, would not be so nice. I thought of this warning a few days later when the owner of a roof-top café warned me that the people in Aswan weren’t like the people in Luxor. Be careful everyone else is dangerous. I leant back in my chair, felt the warmth of the sun on my face and sipped my coffee. We chatted a while.

It was a peaceful morning. An occasional felucca drifted along the Nile. Three men on the river bank pounded a boat’s rudder in some sort of repair job while children played at the water’s edge.

El Karnak, Luxor, Egypt

Maybe, for a young woman, who speaks three words of Arabic and whose face is the colour of printer paper, it’s not a good idea to befriend the locals. Lying about my family, saying they were waiting nearby, became the norm. My phone, with its Egyptian SIM and cheap mobile internet, was used with an uncharacteristic frequency to send reassuring texts, pictures, emails and instant messages back home. I wasn’t taking the risk that my mother would be worrying why she hadn’t heard from me.

But what about my actual experience?

Hathor Temple, Dendara, Egypt

Keeping an Open Mind Leads to the Unexpected Delights of Egypt

Like the temples with their powerful images of striding kings smiting their enemies on the outside, and the carvings of sweet calves trotting alongside their mothers on the inside, the Egyptian people are not to be understood through only the media’s outpouring of fear.

The students in Cairo were enthusiastic and encouraging in their futile attempts to teach me to belly dance. When I beat an Egyptian man at a game of pool, he pouted, laughed and took it with grace. And what about those pesky tomb guards in the Valley of the Kings, well they swapped their mint tea for a few squares of my chocolate and we chatted for a while about the disastrous state of tourism in Egypt and laughed at the improbability of Leicester City’s footballing success.

Meanwhile those tourists with tense shoulders and a bark of ‘la shok-run’ (no thank you), who refused to listen or appreciate the commerce and artistry around them, they saw only what they expected to see.

Which is sad, because the Egyptians are a fascinating people who want to hear stories of places like England. Places they’ll likely never afford to visit.

Donkey in market, Luxor, Egypt

It’s true, at times the uniqueness of being a solo European woman seemed overwhelming. Were the Egyptians more interested in my face than the obelisks and colossal statues? I’d expected the attraction to be to my purse, but only one man became grouchy about my refusal to get out my money in the three weeks I was there. Despite me being a tight-fisted Yorkshire lass.

Sometimes, the thought appeared in my mind that I should be more cautious. At the insistence of the train driver, I drove the little train that winds down from the Valley of the Kings. There were no other passengers. It was a short journey. I could have said no and sat in one of the carriages. However, when I searched his face for a motive, I realised he was probably just bored and wanted someone to talk to and entertain. We parked the train outside the ticket office, him smiling widely, me laughing.

He looked quite abashed as he asked for a selfie.

Luxor Temple, Luxor, Egypt

He wasn’t the only person wanting a photo with me. Groups of teenage girls, and their highly embarrassed and apologetic fathers, wanted me to smile at their smartphones. Each girl separately. I smiled. I laughed. I told the fathers it wasn’t a problem. It wasn’t.

After a long day at the Valley of the Kings, I climbed up on to the horse carriage, next to the guy who’d kindly brought me to the sites. Children ran out into the street to wave as we passed through their villages. Young men called out as you might expect, but so did their grandmothers.

We stopped at the local shop for chocolate and cartons of mango juice.

And when the road was clear, I got to take the reins.

 


 

Catherine Oughtibridge is a digital nomad, writer and professional doodler. She loves meeting people who courageously challenge their preconceptions and embrace a creative life. Connect with her at happenence.co.uk.

The Secret Lives of Off-Season Santas

I just LOVE this feature from the HuffPost – spread a little Christmas Cheer..!   – Nedag00176_

 


Santa Claus certainly has a presents at Christmas, but what does he do the rest of the year?

This question intrigued Miami Beach-based photographer Mary Beth Koeth.

“Being a total Santa skeptic in my younger years, I wanted to capture the real stories of the men behind the fuzzy white beards and sleek velvety duds,” she told The Huffington Post.

So, Koeth set out to create a series of stunning photos that offer glimpses into the lives of off-season Santas. Here are their answers, as told to Koeth.

Santa Joe waves goodbye to frigid winters and heads to a condo in Florida.

Joe Corcoran, also known as Santa Joe, is an Irish Catholic from the Bronx and is also the New York City Bloomingdales Santa. Several years back, Corcoran and his wife bought a condo in Oriole Gardens Retirement Community in Margate, Florida. Eighty of the units in the community are filled with his family and friends from back in the Bronx. He told Koeth: We all grew up with each other and want to grow old together.”

Santa Roy works at an investigative firm and picks up the banjo.

Roy Strohacker is a retired police officer. In 1984, he was named one of the top 10 law enforcement officers in the state of Florida. He currently operates his own investigative agency and has more than 40 years in the law enforcement and investigative field. In his spare time, Strohacker plays banjo with his son and sings with the Great American Dixie Band. He also collects American political memorabilia like old flags and Japanese swords and reads and translates Japanese.

Santa Lance rocks out in a band to beat the summertime blues.

Lance Willock, 77, is a former salesman from Peoria, Illinois. Music has always been his passion. He would run home from work on Fridays, dapper up, and meet with his band to entertain at one of the many local hotspots.

“I met my wife, Rosemary, while playing in a club. She never knew it was going to end up like this … in fact, she’d probably run the other way if she thought about it,” he told Koeth. Willock and Rosemary live in a retirement community in Stuart, Florida.

Santa John runs a Mensa chapter.

John Snyder, 67, is a Vietnam vet with a purple heart and was born and raised in Queens, New York.

“When I got out of the army, I wanted to be a playboy for a while before I settled down — to sow my wild oats so to speak. Well, I met my wife, fell for her and married her right away, so I had to give that all up,” he told Koeth.

John served as the president of Mensa, the largest and oldest high IQ society, for several years in South Florida. Snyder and his wife Theresa are both active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and currently reside in Kendall, Florida.

Santa Gregg does woodwork ― and also reminisces about his days as a former stripper (you read that right).

Gregg Henry is a carpenter at Michael Rybovich & Sons Boat Works in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

“I make big, expensive toys for very wealthy boys and girls,” he told Koeth.. His career in woodworking started 40 years ago.

“The only thing I haven’t done is coffin making. I don’t really have much interest in that,” he said. Many years ago, following a painful divorce, Henry spent two years being a male exotic dancer.

“My stage name was Grizzly Gregg because I had the beard and everything back then. I found that taking off your shoes is really hard to do when you’re standing up,” Henry said.

Santa Ernie just chills out in the summer with his partner of 23 years.

Ernie Tedrow is originally from Baltimore, Maryland. After his mother passed away, he moved to Orlando and started in the hotel business where he worked his way up to director of sales and marketing.

“One week a month I would travel. I’d fly to Chicago in the morning, pick up the client in a limousine, take them to Oprah’s restaurant for lunch, sign a half million dollar contract, take them back to the office, fly back and be home for dinner. I absolutely loved it,” he told Koeth..

Tedrow now lives in Tamarac, Florida with Everett, his partner of twenty-three years. He is a community association manager for condos and homeowner association in South Florida. “I figured, I’m fat, old, and bald … and I have a career!”

 

 

 

Egypt Travel Guide

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Egypt. The Land of the Pharaohs and one of the world’s greatest civilizations, with its temples, hieroglyphs, mummies and pyramids. It is filled with iconic landmarks and remarkable landscapes. It has a rich history, strong culture and it boasts world class diving, incredible beaches and exciting nightlife. Egypt really does have it all. This Egypt travel guide from Dave and Deb will help you plan your next vacation.

Fast Facts about Egypt Travel

  • Egyptian power voltage is 220 V 50Hz;  Plug C & F
  • The Egyptian currency is the Egyptian pound and is around 7 EGP to 1 USD
  • Egyptian laws towards alcohol are quite liberal, except for the month of Ramadan when alcohol is strictly forbidden
  • Egypt has a reasonably modern telephone service including three GSM mobile service providers: Mobinil, Vodafone and Etisalat. It is possible to purchase tourist mobile phone lines for your trip, which usually will cost around 30 EGP.
  • Random fact: More than 90% of Egypt consists of desert!

Top Packing Tips

Egypt has a hot desert climate that is generally dry. The most moderate temperatures can be found near the thin coastal strip in the north and November through March are considered the most comfortable months to travel. Although temperatures can reach up to 40 degree Celsius travelers must remember that Egypt is a rather conservative country and therefore it is wise to pack accordingly.

  • Avoid packing skirts or shorts – instead invest in a good pair of long pants made from a breathable fabric like linen.
  • Scarves or a light sweater – short sleeve tops and sleeveless tops are acceptable for women visiting tourist areas, however it is recommended that travelers carry around a scarf or light sweater to cover up when traveling to and from tourist destinations.
  • Protection from the sun – the sun can get extremely hot in the summer months so make sure to pack sunscreen, a sturdy had and a good pair of sunglasses.
  • Walking shoes – Egypt is a sightseeing country and travelers do a lot of walking. Make sure you bring a comfortable pair of shoes that you have already broken in and leave the flip flops at home.

Top Things to Do in Egypt

Adventure

  • 5 Egyptian Adventures You Don’t Want to Miss – from the Luxor Temple to the Valley of the Kings, the PlanetD has got you covered on the top Egyptian excursions.
  • Scuba dive in the Red Sea – Egypt has some of the best diving in the world where avid scuba divers can get up close and personal with hammerhead sharks, colorful coral and wrecks.

Culture

  • A Street Car named Alexandria – the pyramids and tombs aren’t the only ancient monuments in Egypt, the trolleys of Alexandria are one of the country’s historical treasures, dating back to 1860.

Sights

 

Ned’s tip: for the best fun in Egypt spend a few days at Le Royal Sharm el Sheikh Resort, – all part of Nadhmi Auchi’s wonderful Le Royal Hotels & Resorts

Jordan Travel Guide

From the wonderful Dave and Deb at theplanetd.

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The magnificent Petra and The Blue Mosque of Amman, The Arabian Desert and Wadi Rum, the stomping grounds of Lawrence of Arabia himself, T.E. Lawrence. The mysterious Dead Sea and Red Sea Coast. These are just some of the images that spring to mind when envisioning the Kingdom of Jordan. In fact, Jordan has something for every type of traveller. From high adventures like taking a hot air balloon over Wadi Rum or sleeping in the Desert having a Real Bedouin Experience to visiting the Kings auto museum. Maybe you can try Smoking Sheesha for the First time or witness the Roman Ruins of Jerash and of course you can’t miss visiting the ancient ruins of Petra. Visiting Jordan is an unforgettable experience and a definite addition to anyone’s bucket list. This Jordan travel guide will help you plan your next vacation.

Fast Facts about Jordan Travel

  • Jordanian power voltage is 230 V 50 Hz; Power sockets B, C, D, F, G & J
  • The local currency is the Jordanian dinar (JOD) and is around 0.70 JOD to 1 USD
  • Stonefish have a habit of lying half-submerged in the sand, so wear something on your feet if you’re walking into the sea. If stung by a stonefish, see a doctor immediately. Aqaba has an excellent hospital where cuts, bites and stings can be treated. Most importantly, it has decompression chambers for the ‘bends’.
  • June and July may be months to avoid. Ramadan will mean that many shops and restaurants are closed; Eid will mean that hotels will be fully booked.
  • Most of the ecotourism projects operating in Jordan’s Dana, Wadi Mujib and Ajlun nature reserves only operate between April and October.
  • It is recommended that given the current political situation, travellers stay away from the Syrian and Iraqi borders.

Top Packing Tips

Jordan may be a small country but it has a range of different climates; on  the same January day you could be throwing snowballs in Ajloun or topping up your tan on the Red Sea beaches. The best time to visit climate-wise is in spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November), when the daytime temperatures aren’t too extreme. Summer lasts from roughly June to September and temperatures in certain areas have been known to top 45°C while wintertime in some cities, like Amman, can experience chilly biting winds, showers and even snowfall. In short, the Jordan Valley and Gulf of Aqaba suffer the worst summer heat and humidity while the winters in the higher central and northern areas can be quite cold.

  • Dress conservatively. Jordan is a Muslim country, as a result women should be dressed conservatively (long pants, shirts with arms and shoulders covered) while men are recommended to keep their shoulders and legs covered. Many religious sites forbid shorts and sleeveless shirts for both sexes, so a light scarf is handy to wrap around the shoulders. Swimsuits are ok to wear at the beach or pool, but make sure to cover up before walking anywhere else.
  • Pack loose clothing with breathable fabric – cover up with fabric you know will breathe. Tunics are a great option as they can be dressed up or down, are light weight and offer good coverage. Linen layers are also a good option.
  • The protection basics – even if its cold and windy, doesn’t mean that you won’t get a sunburned, especially in places like Petra and/or Wadi Rum. Make sure to bring along sunscreen (SPF 30+), sunglasses and a hat.
  • Layer up – Bring a sweater or jacket for cold nights in the desert, and maybe even a scarf and gloves. This is particularly true for Petra as it can go from hot to cold in minutes depending on how much sun the area gets.
  • Footwear – Pack a pair of lightweight, durable and comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty! If you plan on heading over to Petra and Wadi Rum, make sure to pack a good pair of hiking boots.
  • Water bottle – Water is not potable in Jordan – do not drink or even brush your teeth with tap water. Consider taking a portable water bottle or a Steripen on your trip

Top Things to do in Jordan

Adventure

  • Explore the Lost City – Whether its during the day or the night, Petra wasn’t voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the world for nothing! It is definitely one of those places that really lives up to the hype.
  • Have a Lawrence of Arabia Moment in Wadi Rum – ride camels into the sunset in the Arabian Desert.
  • Go Canyoning – hike, swim, slide and abseil right down the centre of the Wadi Mujib gorge, which houses some of the most spectacular cliffs we’ve ever seen.
  • Float in the Dead Sea – The Dead Sea has a salt level of a whopping 33%. To give you an idea of the saline levels, the ocean has a salt concentration of only 3.8%. And that my friends is exactly why we humans have such an easy time floating in the Dead Sea.

Culture

  • Sleep in a Bedouin Camp – go back in time and camp under the stars: Captain’s Desert Camp is designed to replicate an authentic Bedouin camp.
  • See the Jewel of Petra – To us, the Monastery is the most impressive building of the entire complex. Reaching 50 metres into the air, it is also the largest in all of Petra.
  • Stay in Feynan Eco Lodge – Located in the Dana River Biosphere Reserve, it is a solar powered retreat offering peace and quiet while promoting conservation.

Sights

 

Read more at theplanetd

And For five-star luxury in Jordan, pamper yourself at Le Royal Amman, part of the Le Royal Hotels & Resorts division of the General Mediterranean Holding Group

FIVE Essential Tips to Make Holiday Travel STRESS FREE (And Maybe Even ENJOYABLE)…

According to Gilbert Ott at GodSaveThePoints, travel around the holidays is a lot like those singing game shows we all seem to be hooked on. There are some people who really are pros who make it look easy, there are lots of mediocre probably shoulda stayed home folks that get by, and then there are flocks of people who make the airport a living hell. Successful holiday travel means using every resource at your disposal to stay on top of security lanes, fast track yourself, find some peace and comfort and know when things are going to be delayed before anyone else…

Apps Are A Great Head Start…

Whatever airline you end up flying with, it’s a good idea to have their app. Airline apps pump out gate changes, flight delays, cancellations and rebooking options directly to your phone. Aside from the airline’s own app, we absolutely love TripItPro, which is like having a conductor effortlessly display everything you need from the start of your trip to the finish, even coordinating different reservations. GateGuru is another must have, which estimates security wait times, amongst great maps of the go to food spots and offerings in each terminal. If you’re unsure of your destination, Rome2Rio is also fantastic, showing you how to get from anywhere to anywhere, anywhere in the world. For more great apps, check out our post featuring… more great apps.

Monitor Sneaky Schedule Changes, Double Confirm Reservations…

If you book far in advance there’s a fair likelihood that the airline will move your flight to a different time. Sometimes it’s just a few minutes, but other times it can be hours. If it’s the latter, you’re entitled to call and ask about making some changes for free. The best way to monitor changes is to plug your reservation into CheckMyTrip.com in the days before your flight. Not only is it a great way to see that your reservation is confirmed correctly in the airline’s software, it will show any updated times, saving you from the stress, yelling and crying if you find out your flight left hours ago.

Save Time At Check In + Security Lanes…

You can save hours in security lanes by planning ahead, or paying a few bucks. Many airports sell fast track security passes to the general public, while others have special fast lanes for those who enroll in TSA PreCheck or are elite frequent flyers. If you are a frequent flyer, it never hurts to try to book your holiday travel with the airline you hold elite status, which allows faster check in, security and boarding for everyone in your reservation. If you don’t have any, it’s never to late to start

Sometimes First Class Is Only $20 More (Or Cheaper)…

Most holiday travelers are leisure travelers. The thing with leisure travelers is that they don’t even glance at the First Class column when booking a ticket. That’s a huge mistake. In some instances First Class can be sold cheaper than economy on packed flights, and in many instances, especially shorter flights it may only be the difference in $20 or so. That $20 would get you priority check in, fast track security and a comfy seat with some free booze and maybe even a warm cookie once you escape the chaos of the terminal. Just this week, for a couple days, economy to London cost more than business class.

Some Credit Cards Reimburse You For Delays…

Book with one credit card, get nothing during a delay or cancellation. Book with the other, get your new clothes, transportation and meals taken care of, on the house, just for being a loyal cardmember when things go wrong. We have a list of the best offerings, some of which kick in after only 3-4 hours of delay. When things go wrong and everyone is waiting in line for a hand out, you can just head to a cab and get everything you need, reimbursed with ease too. If you’re flying to or from the European Union, don’t forget that delays not due to weather over 3 hours should get you a refund up to $600!

 

 

Life before the Taliban: Fascinating pictures from Afghanistan in the 60s and 70s

Afghanistan in 1969 was a very different place from the terrorist-infested war-torn country it is today.

Fascinating images from Frenchman Francois Pommery, taken during visits there in 1969 and 1974, reveal a nation of mesmerising vistas and welcoming, friendly people, happy to talk to him and have their photographs taken.

Mr Pommery hitchhiked all the way from France to Afghanistan in 1969 to the rarely visited region of Nuristan, using a travel bursary he was given while studying in Nevers.

Mr Pommery returned to Afghanistan in 1974 with his wife and friends. This fascinating image, taken outside the Spinzar Hotel in Kabul, shows a woman wearing western clothes as she walks along the street

Kabul in 1974 was a friendly, bustling city. Mr Pommery said: 'We stayed one month. Nothing had changed [from our 1969 visit] apart from the fact that the king had been thrown out by the prime minister at that time, Maoud'

Two women in veils approach a horse and cart in Hérat - Afghanistan's third-largest city

Two women in veils approach a horse and cart in Hérat – Afghanistan’s third-largest city

Passing knowledge from generation to generation: A man shows a young boy how to use his weaving loom

A young boy pictured in Herat in 1974. The atmosphere on the sun-drenched street is relaxed and friendly

A young boy pictured in Herat in 1974. The atmosphere on the sun-drenched street is relaxed and friendly

A couple in the village of Waigal, in the Want District of Nuristan Province, in 1969

A couple in the village of Waigal, in the Want District of Nuristan Province, in 1969

A man and a woman in Waigal in 1969. Pommery said that the people he met were happy to pose for photographs

A man and a woman in Waigal in 1969. Pommery said that the people he met were happy to pose for photographs

Mr Pommery hitchhiked all the way from France to Afghanistan in 1969, using a travel bursary given to him as a student

Mr Pommery hitchhiked all the way from France to Afghanistan in 1969, using a travel bursary given to him as a student

The people of Nuristan (pictured) live at heights of up to 6,000 feet in wooden huts

The people of Nuristan (pictured) live at heights of up to 6,000 feet in wooden huts

Those who live in Nuristan (pictured) are said to be descended from Alexander the Great – and sometimes have blond hair and blue eyes

Those who live in Nuristan (pictured) are said to be descended from Alexander the Great – and sometimes have blond hair and blue eyes

‘In search of adventures, I decided to go there. I left France in July 1969 by hitch hiking. I had to walk for the last part of the trip as some valleys were only accessible by foot.’

The people of Nuristan are said to be descended from Alexander the Great and sometimes have blond hair and blue eyes.  They live in wooden huts at heights of up to 2,000 metres.

A local in Nuristan rests in the sun. The inaccessibility of the region didn't put Mr Pommery off

A local in Nuristan rests in the sun. The inaccessibility of the region didn’t put Mr Pommery off

Mr Pommery said: 'Friends had gone to Afghanistan in 1965 and mentioned a beautiful region, the Nuristan (pictured is a local girl from the region), where they had been bounced back as you need special permission to get there. In search of adventures, I decided to go there'

Mr Pommery said: ‘Friends had gone to Afghanistan in 1965 and mentioned a beautiful region, the Nuristan (pictured is a local girl from the region), where they had been bounced back as you need special permission to get there. In search of adventures, I decided to go there’

A glass-blower at work in the city of Herat. Mr Pommery said he was treated well where ever he went

A glass-blower at work in the city of Herat. Mr Pommery said he was treated well where ever he went

A repair workshop on a dusty road in Bamiyan. The scene is an idyllic one, with fresh fruit for sale and lush trees lining the route

A repair workshop on a dusty road in Bamiyan. The scene is an idyllic one, with fresh fruit for sale and lush trees lining the route

Houses in Kabul march up a dusty mountain. Mr Pommery revealed that he was welcomed on his first visit by a village chief in Nuristan who put him up in a house they reserved for travellers

Houses in Kabul march up a dusty mountain. Mr Pommery revealed that he was welcomed on his first visit by a village chief in Nuristan who put him up in a house they reserved for travellers

Meat hangs up in a butcher's shop in Herat, watched over by a man and a young boy

Meat hangs up in a butcher’s shop in Herat, watched over by a man and a young boy

But the inaccessibility of their homes didn’t put Mr Pommery off.

He said: ‘Nuristan was described as an inhospitable mountainous region, a risky place to go, but I didn’t find that at all.

‘The people were very welcoming. After a three-day walk I arrived in the village of Waigal with another Frenchman I had met on my way.

‘The village chief welcomed us and installed us in a place reserved for people travelling. We struggled to understand each other and had to draw what we wanted to say on our note books.’

The contrast between old and new modes of transport was stark

The contrast between old and new modes of transport was stark

A street in Kabul that looks homely and quaint, with home wares being sold from the pavement and cyclists pootling along the road

A street in Kabul that looks homely and quaint, with home wares being sold from the pavement and cyclists pootling along the road

Mr Pommery discovered a land of dramatic desert mountains and tranquil lakes

Mr Pommery discovered a land of dramatic desert mountains and tranquil lakes

On his second visit Mr Pommery went to Bamiyan to admire the Buddhas sculpted in the cliffs

On his second visit Mr Pommery went to Bamiyan to admire the Buddhas sculpted in the cliffs

The tallest Buddha in Bamiyan was 170 feet. The statues were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001

The tallest Buddha in Bamiyan was 170 feet. The statues were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001

This fascinating picture was taken by Mr Pommery from the head of one of the now-destroyed Buddhas

This fascinating picture was taken by Mr Pommery from the head of one of the now-destroyed Buddhas

A horse, covered in red balls, delves into a nosebag by the side of a road for a feed

A horse, covered in red balls, delves into a nosebag by the side of a road for a feed

The incredible Buddha statues in Bamiyan, viewed from a distance. The irrigated farmland contrasts hugely with the dusty rocks that surround it

The incredible Buddha statues in Bamiyan, viewed from a distance. The irrigated farmland contrasts hugely with the dusty rocks that surround it

A lake in Band-e Amir National Park glistens in the evening sun

A lake in Band-e Amir National Park glistens in the evening sun

The stunning Band-e Amir National Park - Afghanistan's first and a landscape that's home to six eye-catching lakes

The stunning Band-e Amir National Park – Afghanistan’s first and a landscape that’s home to six eye-catching lakes

The turmoil of modern Afghanistan is far removed from the peaceful scenes that Mr Pommery encountered

The turmoil of modern Afghanistan is far removed from the peaceful scenes that Mr Pommery encountered

A woman in a burka walks pasty rickety buildings in Herat in 1974

A woman in a burka walks pasty rickety buildings in Herat in 1974

Mr Pommery returned to the country in 1974 with his wife and friends, as tourists, but this time he upgraded his mode of transport from walking and hitch hiking to a Land Rover.

He said: ‘We stayed one month. Nothing had changed apart from the fact that the king had been thrown out by the prime minister at that time, Maoud.

‘This time we went to Bamyan to admire the Buddhas sculpted in the cliffs. The tallest was 170 feet.’

Mr Pommery stressed that he was always treated very well.  He said: ‘People called us the French doctors and asked us to treat injuries for which we could only apply ointments that we had in our bags.  And they loved posing for photographs.’

Mr Pommery said: 'People called us the French doctors and asked us to treat injuries for which we could only apply ointments that we had in our bags'

Mr Pommery said: ‘People called us the French doctors and asked us to treat injuries for which we could only apply ointments that we had in our bags’

The language barrier meant that Mr Pommery was forced to communicate by drawing in his notebook

The language barrier meant that Mr Pommery was forced to communicate by drawing in his notebook

A striking image of a young boy wearing a cap and a man, relaxing by a stone wall on the route to Bamiyan

A striking image of a young boy wearing a cap and a man, relaxing by a stone wall on the route to Bamiyan

A Kabul bus pulls over at a petrol station, along with a jumble of trucks and cars

A Kabul bus pulls over at a petrol station, along with a jumble of trucks and cars

A brightly painted Afghan truck in 1974 with a jet plane motif

A brightly painted Afghan truck in 1974 with a jet plane motif

A dried up riverbed snakes through Kabul, with locals using the bridge to hang rugs from 

A dried up riverbed snakes through Kabul, with locals using the bridge to hang rugs from

Adventurer: Mr Pommery himself, exploring a village in Nuristan in 1969

Adventurer: Mr Pommery himself, exploring a village in Nuristan in 1969

Mr Pommery's mode of transport for his return trip to Afghanistan in 1974

Mr Pommery’s mode of transport for his return trip to Afghanistan in 1974

Some roads in Afghanistan are long and lonely - and run through barren landscapes with little respite from the heat

Some roads in Afghanistan are long and lonely – and run through barren landscapes with little respite from the heat

Thanks to MailOnline for the story. You can see amazing photos from all of Francois Pommery’s travels on his website

National Geo brings out gorgeous new Greatest Landscapes book

Defo on my Christmas list this year!

National Geographic's Greatest Landscapes: Stunning Photographs that Inspire and Astonish showcases some of the most iconic landscapes in the society's archives

A field bursting with multicoloured flowers forms a kaleidoscopic pattern from above, fireflies create a flickering river of light among the trees and lush green grass covers impressive rock formations.

A fabulous new coffee table book, National Geographic’s Greatest Landscapes: Stunning Photographs that Inspire and Astonish, displays a breathtaking selection of photographs of the world’s most beautiful locations and showcases some of the most iconic landscapes in the society’s archives.

From stunning landscape scenes in San Francisco, Iceland and Namibia to wildlife shots of colourful fish and polar bears among melting ice, the book takes readers on a spectacular visual journey.

The images, paired with illuminating insights from celebrated photographers, shows our planet in all its majesty through moments frozen in time.

Here, MailOnline Travel reveals a selection of just a few of these stunning pictures.

San Francisco, California: A span of the Golden Gate Bridge peeks above low-hanging morning fog

San Francisco, California: A span of the Golden Gate Bridge peeks above low-hanging morning fog

Pitztal Galcier, Austria: A skier takes flight above an ice cave nearly 10,000 feet high in the Alps

Pitztal Galcier, Austria: A skier takes flight above an ice cave nearly 10,000 feet high in the Alps

Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia:  In Deadvlei, a camel thorn tree stands tall underneath a star-studded sky

Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia: In Deadvlei, a camel thorn tree stands tall underneath a star-studded sky

Carlsbad, California: Multicolored flowers form a kaleidoscopic field pattern

Carlsbad, California: Multicolored flowers form a kaleidoscopic field pattern

Stirlingshire, Scotland: Snow encrusts this small copice standing tall at the end of a white, wintry field

Stirlingshire, Scotland: Snow encrusts this small copice standing tall at the end of a white, wintry field

Iceland: Cold Icelandic waters catch the aurora borealis’s iridescence

Iceland: Cold Icelandic waters catch the aurora borealis’s iridescence

Isle of Skye, Scotland: Verdant grasses swathe the land around the tower of rock known as Castle Ewen

Isle of Skye, Scotland: Verdant grasses swathe the land around the tower of rock known as Castle Ewen

Shimotsuma, Japan:  Morning fog settles over a field of wildflowers

Shimotsuma, Japan: Morning fog settles over a field of wildflowers

Inyo National Forest, California:  Weathered twisting branches of an ancient bristlecone pine seem to dance

Inyo National Forest, California: Weathered twisting branches of an ancient bristlecone pine seem to dance

Okayama Prefecture, Japan:  Fireflies form blinking rivers of light in a still woodland

Okayama Prefecture, Japan: Fireflies form blinking rivers of light in a still woodland

Svalbard, Norway: A polar bear steps along Arctic pack ice

Svalbard, Norway: A polar bear steps along Arctic pack ice

Cortes Banks, Pacific Ocean: A sheepshead fish (foreground) and señorita fish swim through a kelp forest

Cortes Banks, Pacific Ocean: A sheepshead fish (foreground) and señorita fish swim through a kelp forest

You can purchase this gorgeous Christmas – or any time – gift at National Geographic’s online shop.

 

 

Never in Japan, always in the U.S and sometimes in Australia: Where Brits abroad should tip and how much to give

Finally, The Money Shop reveals all!


Tipping cultures constantly cause awkward moments for British holidaymakers.

Because etiquette varies so much from country to country, it can be extremely confusing working out how much to tip – and under what circumstances.

Luckily, help is at hand, because a new infographic lays out the answers, country by country. Read on to discover when and where service is expected to be rewarded.

Tipping cultures constantly cause awkward moments for British holidaymakers

Tipping cultures constantly cause awkward moments for British holidaymakers

Compulsory tipping

When visiting the below countries, it’s important to remember to tip your server, according to themoneyshop.com, which drew up the infographic.

USA: Tips are an essential part of many service workers’ incomes in America. Generally, the minimum wage is much lower as it’s expected it will be increased by tips, so tipping is viewed as a necessity, with 15-25 per cent considered as standard. Even a taxi fare will incur an extra 20 per cent for tips.

Canada: Canada’s tipping culture is similar to the USA’s. They are officially ‘optional’ but it is culturally expected. Unlike the USA though, service workers don’t rely on tips as they are paid a higher wage.

Portugal: Wages are often considerably lower than other European countries in Portugal, so 10 per cent tips are customary.

In some countries tipping will actually cause offence with your server

In some countries tipping will actually cause offence with your server

The polite tipper

Within these countries, tips are considered polite and a goodwill gesture, but are in no way expected.

Australia: Unlike the USA and Canada, Australia doesn’t have a consistent tipping culture. It will be appreciated when it happens (usually in restaurants and taxis) but it’s completely voluntary.

Thailand: As a general rule, tipping isn’t expected in Thailand. Tipping is more common in more expensive establishments in comparison with smaller businesses and poorer service staff who will appreciate a small tip.

Belgium: Although tipping is slightly more common in the south (French-speaking) parts of Belgium, service staff workers are generally well-paid and so tipping is uncommon.

Keep the purse strings tied

When visiting a country from the below list, leaving a tip may actually insult your server. It’s best to leave with a simple thank you to show your appreciation for great service.

Italy: Tips are often not expected as service is always included on bills. It may even be seen as offensive in some situations as it implies lower status.

Japan: Similarly to Italy, tips are not expected and may even cause embarrassment to your server. In the few situations where tipping is expected – usually for tour guides – it’s advised to put the tip in an envelope before giving it to the recipient with both hands.

Switzerland: All-inclusive bills that cover service were introduced over 35 years ago, meaning that tips have practically been abolished. It will not be expected for you to tip in Switzerland.

WHY KNOWING WHEN TO TIP IS IMPORTANT

Caroline Walton, Chief Customer Insight Officer at The Money Shop, said: ‘Having a good idea of the tipping culture of your holiday destinations means that you are better able to budget how much currency you’ll need.

‘Although tipping is largely voluntary, it is often expected from tourists in places like the USA and Canada which can be confusing. Keeping change in a separate purse or estimating how much you’ll need before you leave means you won’t be stuck when it comes to paying the final bill.’

Ski by day and party by night at Snowboxx: Inside the ultimate winter festival that won’t break the bank

Looks awesome!  😀


If you love festivals but dread the long winter months where you wallow in the depths of seasonal affected disorder while gaining at least a stone, a good solution would be to book a winter festival.

Ski festivals are growing in popularity and while Snowbombing in Mayrhofen is probably the most famous it is also fairly expensive.

If you want to get away without breaking the bank Snowboxx is a smaller and younger alternative, but word is spreading fast.

The festival used to take place in Andorra but is now settled in Avoriaz (pictured), which is part of France's huge Port du Soleil ski area

The festival used to take place in Andorra but is now settled in Avoriaz (pictured), which is part of France’s huge Port du Soleil ski area

The festival used to take place in Andorra but is now settled in Avoriaz (pictured), which is part of France’s huge Port du Soleil ski area

During Tammy’s visit to Snowboxx she enjoyed watching people playing a game of “human skittles”, which involved zorbing into inflatable skittles

Sigma whips the crowd into a frenzy on the main stage at Snowboxx in Avoriaz

Stormzy performs to a massive crowd at the 2016 Snowboxx event

Held each year in March it is perfectly situated at the end of the gloomy winter months and enjoys some of the best weather of the season to ensure that you top-up on the vitamin D as well as hit the slopes.

It’s not uncommon for people to don fancy dress on the slopes during Snowboxx and it’s fun to sunbathe in a deckchair and watch the random groups pass by over drinks.

Last season saw six brilliant days of sunshine, which made for enjoyable lunches on the piste and we spotted plenty of interesting goggle marks on the plane journey home.

Snowboxx is already the second largest winter festival in Europe and in 2016 signed acts such as Grandmaster Flash, Sigma, chart smashing Blonde and double Mobo award-winning rapper and MC Stomzy.

The mix of great skiing and music isn’t the only reason this has been a sell-out hit for the past two years running.

Last season's revellers enjoyed a pool party at the indoor aquatic paradise of Aquariaz

Last season’s revellers enjoyed a pool party at the indoor aquatic paradise of Aquariaz

Snowboxx is a great value festival in a stunning setting – and one that has a great snow record

It is also incredible value with packages starting from £339 including flights, resort transfer, self-catered accommodation, lift pass and festival ticket.

And if you think that for that price you sacrifice good skiing, think again.

The festival used to take place in Andorra but is now settled in Avoriaz, which is part of France’s huge Port du Soleil ski area. It encompasses 13 resorts and is only just over an hour’s drive from Geneva Airport.

The area is perfect for beginners and intermediates with 123 easy runs and 110 medium runs.

For the more adventurous Avoriaz also has one of the best snow parks in the world, with boxes, rails and scary jumps – though there are tiddlers to build your confidence up on.

Avoriaz itself is a purpose-built cliffside town in beautiful surroundings where the roads are made of snow and the only way to get around (other than ski) is by horse drawn carriage.

The smallish resort makes for a perfect festival village with each attraction in easy reach of the accommodation, lifts and bars.

The main stage highlights last season included electric performances by drum and bass duo Sigma and former Streets frontman DJ Mike Skinner.

Revellers were also able to enjoy a pool party at Aquariaz and drinks at the Igloo party, a purpose-built ice bar with DJs playing as the sun went down.

The views from Avoriaz are outstanding - and skiers and snowboarders are able to arrive in dramatic fashion from the valley floor, via a huge cable car

The views from Avoriaz are outstanding – and skiers and snowboarders are able to arrive in dramatic fashion from the valley floor, via a huge cable car

Avoriaz is a car-free zone. The transport options are walking, skiing, snowboarding - or horse and cart (pictured)

Avoriaz is a car-free zone. The transport options are walking, skiing, snowboarding – or horse and cart (pictured)

One evening we decided to stop off for drinks and watch people playing a game of ‘human skittles’, which involved zorbing into inflatable skittles.

Snowboxx offers a range of accommodation so if you’re not counting the pennies then the L’Amara five-star hotel comes with an outdoor hot tub, pool and spa to help you soothe those muscles after a long day on the slopes.

Be warned, though – the attractive price of the festival does attract its fair share of stag dos. So if it’s a peaceful week on the slopes with the family or the in-laws you’re after it might be better off looking elsewhere.

However, if you’re happy to ignore some laddish behaviour and enjoy some top music and great skiing for a very reasonable price then Snowboxx is definitely worth a visit.

TRAVEL FACTS

Snowboxx will be at Avoriaz from March 18 to 25, 2017. The line-up includes Basement Jaxx and Hannah Wants.

For more information about Snowboxx Festival visit www.snowboxx.com. For more information about Avoriaz visit www.avoriaz.com.

Equipment Rental in Avoriaz with Pierre & Vacances:

Book your skiing equipment with Pierre & Vacances in advance when you reserve your apartment and take advantage of exceptional savings of up to 40 per cent off shop prices. Child and adult packages are available for everyone from beginners to seasoned skiers; including boots, skis and poles or snowboard. Helmets are included for children.

Visit: www.pierreetvacances.com or call: 0870 0267 145 for more information.

Portes du Soleil lift passes: Adult 1 day – €51/£43 Children – €38/£32. Adult 6 day – €255 /£217 Children – €199/£169.

 

 

Thanks to the Daily Mail Travel guys for this feature

NINE Carry On ESSENTIALS No Traveller Should EVER Leave Home Without…

From GodSaveThePoints, founding editor Gilbert Ott’s choice of must-haves…


This is the part where I list wallet, phone, passport and you click away. Just kidding. One of the best ways to learn how to enjoy travel is to travel constantly and occasionally be faced with less than enjoyable experiences. Ok, maybe even some nightmare experiences. Never again. For maximum enjoyment, regardless of how many flights are cancelled or delayed these are ten things no traveller should ever leave home without…

Charger And/Or Universal Plug

Want to stress out and annoy people? Let your phone or laptop die. If you want to make friends and relax, you’ll want to bring a charger with you. Not only do most planes now offer USB ports to charge on board, you’ll be able to charge in the terminal. If you bring an international socket adaptor, you’ll be on top of things wherever your jet setter life takes you. God forbid the world go a day without a status update or Instagram snap!

Lip Balm Or Chapstick

Without sounding like a primadonna, lip balm is perhaps the most important thing for a happy plane journey. Air on planes lacks the quality and humidity of air outside of a flying metal tube, your throat gets dry, your lips get dry and you feel terrible, like really terrible. I love Carmex, which seems to be most effective in the pursuit of avoiding looking like Tom Hanks in Castaway.

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Eye Mask And Ear Buds

A flight involves dings, flashing lights, sound systems, opening window blinds and all sorts of things that sound like a night club, but even less fun than a night club. You have no control over the rowdy environment around you so you might as well control what’s on you. Never board a plane without an eye mask or ear buds, allowing you to create your own happy place, wherever you’re sitting.

A Change Of Clothes

No one thinks it will happen to them until it does. Airline loses your luggage and you’re stuck in two day old clothes which have weathered airports, airplanes and utter chaos. I once spent two days in ripped jeans without a change of clothes and wasn’t even surprised when people began to hand me spare change. Even if it’s basic, bring a change of clothes just in case that worst case scenario happens, which it does all the time.

Copy Of Itinerary + Passport

I know, I know, you probably have your itinerary on your phone, but sometimes apps require an internet or cell connection to pull it up and that just won’t cut it for immigration agents or the award winning smilers behind the airline desk. Immigration agents often want to see return travel before they add another stamp to your passport so have a copy of your itinerary handy. While you’re at it, make a copy of the photo page of your passport, it’s your only ticket to a speedy recovery if it’s ever lost or stolen abroad. It happens, all the time.

Comfy Headphones

Put on some Marvin Gaye and lose yourself, just not too much. Any jet setter in the making needs comfortable headphones. You see, after a few hours those cheap and cheerful buds start to become painful and no one wants to be in any more pain than they already are on board an airplane. Get some comfy in ear or over ear headphones that drown out sound and feel like a pillow and bring an extra cheap pair just in case one breaks…

Travel Toothbrush + Toothpaste

There’s beer breath, cheese breath and then there’s a whole new level of breath purgatory known as airplane breath, where your dried out throat and mouth mutinies. Save yourself and those around you by bringing a toothbrush and toothpaste to freshen up on the flight and after. If you haven’t been doing this, you now know why you have no friends.

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Plane Socks, Plane Shoes Or Both

Planes really are a strange form of reality television in themselves and I’m not trying to turn up the drama advocating changing your socks in public. Discretely changing into a comfy pair of slippers or socks however is brilliant. Bring a comfy loose pair of socks or slippers to help circulation and comfort on your flight, just make sure to shower beforehand so that no one suffers…

A Pen. Yes, A Pen.

Asking a cabin crew member for their favorite pen is like asking a mother lion to borrow their cub. It’s a bad idea and though it’s amusing for others to watch, I wouldn’t recommend it. Especially on international flights, bring your own pen and save yourself the hassle of begging, borrowing and dealing to fill out those little forms. You’ll thank me later.

 

 

You’re NOT As Far From AMAZING Travel As You Think…

Sometimes you come across a website that does it all – great tips, great blogs, great people.  GodSaveThePoints is one of those: I strongly suggest you sign up with these guys for the lowdown on great deals for airline tickets, hotels, points, miles, upgrades and much much more.

Here’s a great Beginner’s Guide with all the links you need.


You’re here because you’ve seen the stories, you’ve read the news and now you know there are opportunities to unlock some incredible travel experiences without spending an outrageous amount of money. Whether it’s just finding great flight and hotel deals, using miles to fly first class, getting upgrades, making travel more comfortable, or just getting what you’re owed when it goes wrong, we’ve got it all covered. We know that a lot of the terminology, concepts and ideas tossed around seems like a foreign language and it’s our goal to make you feel like a fluent speaker as possible. After all, we’ve experienced more than $100,000 worth of free flights and hotels in the last couple years just from doing every day things, some without leaving the house let alone traveling. These are tricks worth knowing. We have great starter posts in each category below, so scroll away!

Starter Tips For Collecting + Earning Miles

For an in depth guide, click HERE.

Starter Tips For Finding Cheap Flight Deals

Ten Gorgeous (And Underrated) BUCKET LIST Destinations That Simply Don’t Look REAL…

Another great feature from Gilbert Ott and the GodSaveThePoints team.  It’s a great site with plenty of awesome travel tips and loads of great ways to save money for the serious traveller, but here’s something a bit different with some excellent “extraterrestrial” venues for the die-hard Star Wars fan like me* …malaysia-long-hair

* spot the wookiee anyone?!


Space travel is so “in” right now, but before you don your space suit in search of interstellar beauty, you’re gunna want to knock these unbelievable destinations (which don’t look real) off your bucket list. Here are ten exotic places down here on earth that will blow your mind…

Lake Natron, Tanzania

You’re not insane, this naturally hot spring in Africa is so “hot” it turned the water red.

Vatnajökull, Iceland

How about a city sized cave, made of pure glacier blue ice to spice up your winter travel?

Bromo Volcano, Java, Indonesia

Mars takes years to reach. In less than a days flight you can see terrain just like it in Java…

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone, Wyoming USA

Yep, those colors are totally real. Why? You can thank the pigmented Archaea.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

Ultimate adventure? A boat ride in luminescent cave with light from tiny micro creatures…

Hang Son Doong Caves, Vietnam

In what looks like the set of a Star Wars film, these Vietnamese caves literally look unreal.

Lencois Maranhenses Park, Brazil

If you think you’re seeing an endless sea of unique sand bars and water, you’re not wrong.

Namib Naukluft Park, Namibia

Why travel to Mars and risk getting stuck like Matt Damon when you could just go here?

Wulinyuang Vista, China

Though I wouldn’t try building an airport here, the views are breathtaking…

Farafra White Desert, Egypt

Sure, we’ve seen desert, but white desert, with crazy rock wonders?

 

 

An ‘Overview’ of Benjamin Grant’s Incredible Satellite Images of Earth

I featured this extraordinary project last year and have since had numerous comments and questions from fans of Benjamin Grant, asking when he will be releasing a book.  Well I’m delighted to announce that he just has: Overview is out now through Amphoto Books.  Thanks to CN Traveler for the feed – just awesome!   – Ned


Photos from space, from drones, from intrepid photographers hanging out of helicopters—in case you haven’t noticed, we love when we’re given a different perspective on the world we live in, zooming out to appreciate the shapes and colors we can’t quite grasp with two feet on the ground. Here, Benjamin Grant of the popular Daily Overview Instagram account shows a selection of the high-definition, stitched-together satellite photos included in his new coffee-table book.

Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant, Seville, Spain

https://i2.wp.com/media.cntraveler.com/photos/5807cd48b5529ddf55125b91/master/w_1440,c_limit/03%20-%20Gemasolar%20Thermosolar%20Plant.jpg

Photo by Microsoft Corp

The solar concentrator of the Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant contains 2,650 heliostat mirrors that focus the sun’s thermal energy to heat molten salt flowing through a 460-foot-tall central tower. The molten salt then moves from the tower to a storage tank, where it is used to produce steam and generate electricity. In total, the facility displaces approximately 30,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

Tulips, Lisse, Netherlands

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Photo by Microsoft Corp

Every spring, tulip fields in Lisse begin to bloom and are at their peak by late April. The Dutch produce a total of 4.3 billion tulip bulbs each year, of which 53 percent is grown into cut flowers. Of these, 1.3 billion are sold in the Netherlands and the remainder is exported.

Moab, Utah

Photo by DigitalGlobe Inc

Evaporation ponds are visible at the potash mine in Moab, Utah. The mine produces muriate of potash, a potassium-containing salt that is a major component in fertilizers. The salt is pumped to the surface from underground brines and dried in massive solar ponds that extend vibrantly across the landscape. The water is dyed a deep blue—darker water absorbs more sunlight and heat, so it cuts the amount of time it takes for the water to evaporate and the potash to crystallize.

Olives, Córdoba, Spain

Photo by Microsoft Corp

Olive tree groves cover the hills of Córdoba in the southern Andalusia region. Approximately 90 percent of all harvested olives are turned into oil; the remaining 10 percent are eaten as table olives. With rising temperatures and changing weather patterns, olive groves on high hills or slopes will probably suffer less, but groves on low altitude areas or plains may become totally unproductive.

Marabe Al Dhafra, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.

Photo by DigitalGlobe Inc

The villas of Marabe Al Dhafra in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates are home to approximately 2,000 people. Located in one of the hottest regions of the world, the record high temperature here is 120.6 degrees Fahrenheit (49.2°C).

Delray Beach, Florida

Photo by Microsoft Corp

Because many cities in Florida contain master-planned communities, often built on top of waterways in the latter half of the 20th century, there are a number of intricate designs that are only visible from above.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Texas

Photo by Microsoft Corp

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, stretching across 27 square miles, is the tenth-busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic, accommodating more than 64 million travelers each year.

Port of Singapore

Photo by DigitalGlobe Inc

Cargo ships and tankers—some weighing over 300,000 tons—wait outside the entry to the Port of Singapore. The facility is the world’s second-busiest port in terms of total tonnage, shipping a fifth of the world’s cargo containers and half of the world’s annual supply of crude oil.

Jacksonville Interchange, Florida

Photo by Microsoft Corp

A so-called “turbine interchange” connects two highways in Jacksonville, Florida, consisting of left-turning ramps sweeping around a center interchange, creating a spiral pattern of traffic.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Photo by DigitalGlobe Inc

Angkor Wat, the famed temple complex in Cambodia, is the largest religious monument in the world (first it was Hindu, then Buddhist). Constructed in the 12th century, the 8.8 million-square-foot site features a moat and forest that surround a massive temple at its center.

Gribbens Basin, Michigan

Photo by Microsoft Corp

The tailings—waste and by-products generated by mining operations—seen here were pumped into the Gribbens Basin, next to the Empire and Tilden iron ore mines in Negaunee, Michigan. Once the materials are pumped into the pond, they are mixed with water to create a sloppy form of mud known as slurry. The slurry is then pumped through magnetic separation chambers to extract usable ore and increase the mine’s total output. For a sense of scale, this photo shows approximately 1 square mile of the basin.

Nishinoshima, Japan

Courtesy Benjamin Grant

Nishinoshima is a volcanic island 584 miles south of Tokyo. Back in November 2013, the volcano began to erupt and continued to do so until August 2015. Over the course of the eruption, the area of the island grew in size from 0.02 to 0.89 square miles.

The Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia

Photo by DigitalGlobe Inc

Rub’ al Khali, or the Empty Quarter, is one of the largest sand deserts in the world. It covers 251,000 square miles, and includes parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. In the center of the desert there are a number of raised, hardened formations that were once the sites of shallow lakes, thousands of years ago. For a sense of scale, this photo shows approximately 135 square miles in Saudi Arabia, near the border with Oman.

Shadegan Lagoon, Iran

Photo by DigitalGlobe Inc

Dendritic drainage systems are seen around the Shadegan Lagoon by Musa Bay in Iran. The word ‘dendritic’ refers to the pools’ resemblance to the branches of a tree, and this pattern develops when streams move across relatively flat and uniform rocks, or over a surface that resists erosion.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Make Your Travel Meaningful

Love this blog post by Dave and Deb, aka the Planet D.  They have leapt up a mighty 13 places in this quarter’s Top Travel Blogs – and deservedly so.  In this post, they discuss how they have always tried to enrich their trekking experiences – “Be it travelling responsibly, raising money for a cause, stopping at sanctuaries or projects, and interacting with the locals, there are many ways to enrich your travels while making your life and other people’s lives better.”


 

how-to-make-your-travels-meaningfulWhat is “meaningful” travel?

To us, meaningful travel is when travel enriches your life in some way. That could be done by focusing on making your own life better by discovering and learning new things about the world and yourself.  It can also be making the lives richer for the people you meet, the communities you visit and the environments you explore. Meaningful travel is about being aware of your footprint, and doing what you can to help the places that you visit.

When we started ThePlanetD.com we originally focused on changing our lives by cycling through Africa, but it evolved to helping others. We decided to ride for Plan Canada and raise funds and awareness for the “Because I am a girl campaign.” We stopped at projects along the way to see the work they did and share it with our readers. The trip may have started with us wanting to do something epic in our travels, but it evolved to become a trip about discovery, education and helping others.

We’ve found that the more we learn about the world and the cultures we visit the more it enriches our lives. The more you give back, the more you feel fulfilled. When volunteering or helping others you expect nothing in return, but it ends up giving you so much. It is the greatest feeling to know that you are making the world a better place in your own little way.

How travel can be meaningful?

There are so many ways to make travel meaningful. While the first thought that comes to mind is to volunteer or to give money, thinking responsibly can make your travels more meaningful too. When we travel, we try to support the local economy by hiring local guides. When we land in a destination, we search for people who run their own companies and have their own small business. Just as we like to shop small and support small business in Canada, the same can be said for our travels. Small business makes the world go round and by shopping at local markets, hiring local guides and eating at small family run restaurants, you will be helping the economy of the place you visit and create a more meaningful travel experience for yourself. We have remained friends with many of our guides and had a more authentic local experience by keeping our travels local and away from the resorts and packaged tours.

Hire local guides and make new friends!

Why meaningful travel is beneficial

Not only does it help the communities that you visit, it also helps you. We’ve always said that travel is the best education anyone could have. It breaks down barriers, and strips away prejudice. It opens people’s minds and when you come home, you pass on your thoughts, observations and feelings about the places you visit.

As Mark Twain said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

So much of meaningful travel helps with sustainability too. When you volunteer or help with conservation, it keeps communities or wildlife reserves from being exploited. So much of meaningful travel is simply about being aware of your environment and respecting customs and culture.

Things to remember when considering “meaningful” travel…

  • Think about your impact. How are you affecting the community you visit.
  • Will your traveling there enrich their lives?
  • Will you have the opportunity to experience the culture, nature, environment? Or will you be isolated and cut off from truly experiencing the destination?

Meaningful travel is not as daunting as people think

When it comes to adventure travel, we always say start with baby steps. The same can be said when it comes to making your travels meaningful. It may be as easy as asking a local person at your destination where you can volunteer for a day, or where you can visit children or donate money to a school or organization.

Once you take that first step, you’ll learn and discover more opportunities.

Visiting a local school

Our first foray into more meaningful travel happened in 2003 in Cambodia. We were sitting on a beach and a man asked us if we could come to his class to speak English to his students for an afternoon. He said that while he can speak English, it helps to have the students hear a proper accent. It was one of the most fulfilling things we had ever done and it kick started our desire to do something wherever we went. We learned so much that day. We were humbled, inspired and moved by their stories and struggles. They enriched our lives as much as we helped them with their English.

Ways to Make your Travels Meaningful

Travel for a cause

When we did the Mongol Rally, we drove across 2 continents for the Christina Nobel Foundation. A foundation based in Mongolia that houses and educates orphaned and abandoned children. When cycling the continent of Africa we raised funds and awareness for Plan Canada. By being in the destinations, we could stop at projects and see where our money was going and how funds were being used. It gave our cause more of a purpose to put a human face to the charity. When we saw that they were benefitting directly from the money raised, we felt motivated to help more.

Children learn at new computers in Mongolia

Visit a Charity

It’s easy to find a project to help or visit when you are traveling. Talk to the local people and ask them for advice. In Sri Lanka, we met a tuk tuk driver named Ajith who became our friend. As we got to know him, we visited a charity that he started on his own to donate shoes to local school children. They’d otherwise be going to school bare foot in the jungle, but he raised funds to get them shoes and keeps working tirelessly to help the local economy.

Tuk Tuk Driver Ajith presents shoes to children in Sri Lanka

Our guide Makau, in Kenya started a project to empower his own village. We visited his family and friends and he is working to bring water to his village, empower women and give them the means to go to school and he got them a cement maker to build a new school.

When we traveled with Intrepid Travel we always stopped to visit one of their projects. for the Intrepid Foundation. In China we visited a school that helps handicapped children. If you choose your tour company wisely and you’ll travel responsibly, be immersed in the local culture and even visit some of their charity projects if you choose.

Going Local 

Hire Local Guides and shop and stay locally. When we climbed to Mount Everest Base Camp, Mount Kilimanjaro, Gunung Batur, and Mount Kinabalu, we hired local guides after we arrived in the country. It’s a great way to contribute to the local economy and to support small business and we made good friends doing it. We still talk to our guides from Everest and Kili. Plus because we travelled with people from the area, they cared about their footprint, were respectful of culture, and filled with information for us to learn about the destination.

Local guides Deep and Sher in Nepal

Shop Local – Local artisans make their money through tourism. Instead of buying at duty free or at your resort, go to the market and buy local. It’s cheaper and it’s handmade and authentic. Plus you get to meet the people.

Other Ideas 

Cooking Courses – Food is the best way to experiences culture and a cooking course is an amazing way to meet locals and learn about their way of eating. We’ve done cooking courses in China, Morocco, Thailand, Italy, Spain and Jordan and nearly every one of them takes you to the market to buy your fresh ingredients. This helps you support the local economy and mingle with the locals. We then normally go back to a private home or kitchen to learn how to prepare. It’s then a feast to enjoy!

Dave learns to cook authentic Chinese cuisine in China

Yoga Retreats – Yoga is not only amazing for well being and fitness, it’s popular around the world! Our best retreats have been when finding ones once we arrive in our destination. We spent a month in India with a Swami we met on a beach for $2 a class! While others booked their retreats in North American paying thousands of dollars to take a course from a Western Instructor, we had an authentic experience and learned a lot about spirituality and culture in India while supporting a local business.

Wildlife Conservation

Elephant Sanctuaries, conservation areas and national parks are a way to add meaning to your travels meaningful.  When local people see that animals bring tourist dollars, they’ll stop over hunting and start conservation. In India, the tiger is nearly extinct, but now they’re working hard to bring it back and National Parks are being set aside to keep them safe. In Sri Lanka and Thailand there are elephant organizations that are helping elephants live in peace. We visited an elephant orphanage in Kenya where orphans are reintegrated back into the wild.

Festivals

An amazing way to get to know local culture and meet people is to attend a festival. We’ve had some of our most memorable travel experiences when attending a celebration. From the annual pilgrimage up Adams Peak in Sri Lanka, to Thaipusam in Malaysia and Holi in India, it has added new meaning to our travels. Festivals help us to understand the beliefs and religions of countries we visit and helps us make new friends and meet new people.

There are countless ways to make your travels more meaningful. All you have to do is take the first step. Think about what you love and how you want to help and you too will be having a more fulfilling travel experience.

What way do you make your travels more meaningful…?

 

 

* STOP PRESS – ATM SKIMMER ALERT!! *

I have heard about these but never actually seen one in action.  Big props and thanks to Ben Tedesco and to Johnny Jet for sharing.

Ben, who works for a security software company, was on vacation recently with his family in Vienna when he spotted this credit card skimmer – in the city centre would you believe!  Crooks use these devices to get your card’s personal information and they usually involve a camera (one can be spotted in this video) so that they can then create a duplicate card.

WATCH AND LEARN!https://youtu.be/ll4f0Wim4pM

 Check out this youtube video as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvs67ypiZAg

7 Brilliant Hotel Room Hacks that’ll Make Anywhere Feel Like Home

Love these – courtesy of Huff Post  😀


Smart travellers, listen up!

DragonImages via Getty Images

Hotel rooms can be wildly luxurious, but they lack the creature comforts of a familiar place. Sometimes we wish we could just skip the pricey room service and make a sandwich from our own fridge, instead.

Enter these brilliant hotel-room hacks, which allow you to make the space your own while also solving some pesky problems (ew, dry air!). Check in and check them out.

1. Clip curtains together with a clothes hanger to keep your room dark

Flight attendants swear by this trick to get a good night’s rest.

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The Krazy Coupon Lady

2. Use heavy-duty clothespins as toothbrush holders

That way, you won’t have to occupy one of the precious few drinking glasses.

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Suzanne Rowan Kelleher

3. Use a dryer sheet as air freshener

Apply this popular dorm-room trick, which works great for rooms that smell less than fresh, or simply for making them smell more luxurious than they are.

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Sophie C

4. Charge your phone with the TV

Fun fact: Many hotel TVs have handy USB ports in the back, where you can conveniently plug in a phone cord.

Klaus Vedfelt via Getty Images

5. Oh, and bring a power strip too

If you’re traveling with a group, it’s easy to run out of outlets quickly. Bring along a small, lightweight power strip to ensure everyone has space for their phones, hairdryers and laptops.

Prachob Champawong via Getty Images

6. Wrap up leftovers with a CLEAN shower cap

Turns out those free shower caps make great airtight covers for room service leftovers. Wrap ‘em up, and you’re good to go!

ShotShare via Getty Images

7. Turn your AC unit into a humidifier

Banish dry hotel-room air by wetting a towel and draping it near your air conditioning unit — you can use the ironing board for this — for a nice, soothing breeze. Ahh, just like home.

Jon Lovette via Getty Images

The Best “Adventurous” Trips for Non-Adventurous People

Just because you don’t like climbing doesn’t mean you can’t go up tall mountains.

In theory, everybody wants to go ice climbing, camping in Antarctica and skydiving. In practice, not everybody has the courage (or desire) to jump off the tallest building in the world; falling from extremely high altitudes can be a petrifying experience.

Less adventurous people should not feel left out: tour operators know how they feel and have adapted. Visiting a natural wonder is possible with a helicopter; don’t risk dehydration or heatstroke by hiking the Grand Canyon in the summer.

This is also true for winter adventures – exploring the Alps while on a luxurious gondola may be more appealing to some than climbing the Matterhorn, a giant horn-looking mountain, with the highest fatality rate in the Alps: over 450 climbers have diedto date.

If you prefer a more balanced holiday, you can hike an active volcano for an adrenaline-pumping experience, followed by descending 400 feet to the bottom of the volcano’s magma chamber in an open cable lift. You won’t have to do anything but look and enjoy the moment.

Not everybody wants to get sweaty and tired when they head out to explore the outdoors. There is nothing wrong with making frequent stops to take photos and enjoy the scenery. If this is the case, go on a soft adventure tour where you’ll go on active adventures but will have plenty of leisure time.

Go on safari in Kenya

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You are witnessing wild animals in their natural habitat from the comfort of a car. Kenya is one of the premier destinations for this amazing experience. Known as one of the best country parks in country, Maasai Mara offers wide range of safaris – hot air balloons, walking, photographing. The best time to visit is between July and October because of the wildebeest migration, famous as the World Cup of Wildlife. Even if you go off season, the number of animals you’ll see – from zebras and giraffes to lions, elephants and leopards – is incredible.

Descend into a volcano in Iceland

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Who says you have to be a very courageous person to experience one of the most iconic volcanoes in the world? Thrihnukagigur in Iceland is a lot more accessible than you think. A tour offers you the chance to descend 400 feet to the bottom of the volcano’s magma chamber in an open cable lift. All you are required to do is walk about two miles each way, with a guide.

Sleep in a Cave in Turkey

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Staying at a unique hotel with breathtaking views of otherworldly landscapes is many vacationers’ dream that can easily become a reality. Some caves have been turned into luxurious hotels in Cappadocia, Turkey, while others are very basic. But they all have their own unique history and mystery. The adrenaline-seekers who don’t want to do much can stay in the deepest hotel room in the world – Sala Silvermine, Sweden – at 500 feet underground. A mine lift shaft will take you there.

Explore Ireland

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Walking in Ireland’s world-famous countryside is an adventure that will take your breath away but not because you’ll be tired. You’ll be surrounded by woodland paths, cliffs, lake shores, farmlands, and mountains. Visit Cong, which is nestled among some of the most picturesque forests and woodlands in the country, as well as along the stunning shores of Lough Corrib. Ashford Castle in Cong provides a serene and majestic backdrop.

Go on a river cruise

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Go on an adventure that will take you to a different city every day. On a river cruise, you probably won’t get sea-sick because there are no waves and you’ll always see land on the horizons, which is comforting. Travel along the stunning and major rivers in Europe, pass through Thailand, China, Myanmar and Vietnam along the Mekong River, or explore one of the most famous and exotic rivers in the world – the Amazon – all while being safe on a boat.

Experience the Alps from a gondola

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The infamous Matterhorn is one of the most difficult climbs in the world. But you can easily get up there with a cable car gondola. Enjoy a homely cheese fondue, accompanied by a refreshing drop of Valais wine, surrounded by spectacular vistas of Italy and Switzerland.

See the Grand Canyon in a helicopter

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The Grand Canyon is probably on every hiker and kayaker’s bucket list. See this natural wonder in a much less sweaty, wet and dangerous way – go on a 4.5-hour tour with the flight’s duration being more than an hour. You’ll see the stunning Hoover Dam, Grand Wash Cliffs, Grapevine Mesa and Grand Canyon West and land 4,000 feet below the rim for a champagne picnic.

Sleep under the Northern Lights in Finland

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Witnessing the unique Northern Lights up close is a bucket list experience. But you don’t have to camp in the snow to see the best of them. Consider glass igloos and log cabins with extraordinary views. They were designed so guests can enjoy the Aurora borealis in their full glory. The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland has 20 thermal glass igloos.

Travel through Europe on a train

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Go ahead then, and take the train. Choose the scenic route over the quick one, and make getting to your destination part of the vacation. Buy a Eurail Pass, save money and visit 28 countries in Europe. You’ll go to all the places everyone else does but in a hassle-free and comfortable way.  Relax and feel like you’re traveling through time – you’ll be thrilled by mountain summits, lavish landscapes, narrow and scary tunnels, as well as terrifyingly steep grades.

See Niagara Falls from a boat

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You can hike to them or plunge down a 100-foot waterfall at 60-90 miles per hour with a kayak, hitting a huge volume of water. Or you can go on a boat tour and see them just as close. Take Niagara Falls, for example. The legendary Maid of the Mist has been taking travelers up the river to the falls since 1848, which makes the boat tour not only the most popular but also among the oldest of Niagara Falls’ activities.

Explore the Galapagos Islands

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Exploring the Galapagos Islands feels more like being on an ecological walking tour. Nature-lovers will appreciate the unique wildlife. There are 19 major islands, which are often called a “living museum and showcase of evolution,” according to UNESCO. Cruises are the most popular choice to travel the Islands. Boats range from luxury to economy class.

Wander through Jigokudani Yaenkoen Park, Japan

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This is the only place in the world where monkeys bathe in hot springs. Ancient people called it the “Hell Valley” because of the very steep cliffs and the steam coming off the springs. Nowadays, you can get to the Monkey Park in two ways – by a 25-40 minute walk through the forest or a 10-15 minute walk from the nearest parking lot.

Tour the Arctic: Iceland, Greenland and Norway

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Witnessing the phenomenon of the Northern Lights is a must. You can avoid the aurora-chasing snowmobile and go on a bus tour. Cruise the fjords; you will always have a guide to stop at popular attractions along the way and learn about the local history. If you want to see the region’s amazing wildlife, the boat safari is the right choice.

Go on a train expedition through Australia

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Australia has been a very popular destination in recent years. See it a unique way: beginning in Darwin, this epic 4-day, 3-night, 9,773-mile tour will take you to some of the most remote yet captivating parts of the country. You won’t be bored on this trip as the panoramas are changing with every mile.

See incredible autumn foliage from a hot air balloon

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You don’t have to hike or camp for days to find clean air, panoramic views of bursting bright colors, beautiful countryside and miles of forests. Get on a hot air balloon and see awe-inspiring autumn foliage of phenomenal mixtures of yellow, red, gold and green. A lot of places in the U.S. offer this unique experience with unbeatable views.

 

Photos: Shutterstock

Source: http://www.theactivetimes.com/

The Most Dangerous Islands in the World

Photo and credit: HuffPost

In this day and age, people often think that they can travel anywhere as long as they have the time and money to spend.  They expand their horizons and visit places they know little about.  No destination is too far thanks to the many travel options and discounts out there.

Islands are especially popular among trekkers looking for an exotic and adventurous vacation, but threats can lurk behind their beauty: exploring them is sometimes just a very bad idea.

Technically, you can be at the wrong place at the wrong time anywhere; however, some places pose a much higher risk than others.  Certain islands are renowned for their deadly animals or dangerous viruses.  One place specifically is dangerous because natives start attacking potential visitors before they get a chance to set foot.

Travel notices are a good reference but they are generally issued only if there is a recurring dangerous problem in a foreign country.  They are designed simply to inform travellers and are not enforceable, sonyou can choose to ignore them or be extra cautious.

Shutterstock

Izu Islands, Japan

The seven Izu Islands are a group of islands in the Fuji Volcanic Belt that stretches north to south for about 280 miles and the stench of sulphur cannot be avoided or ignored because of the area’s volcanic nature.  Inhabitants were actually evacuated in 1953 and again in 2000 because the levels of gas were through the roof, and they were only allowed back in five years later!  Residents of Miyakejima, one of Japan’s Izu Islands, have to wear masks at all times.

Thinkstock

Saba, Netherlands

This Caribbean island in the Lesser Antilles chain is a special municipality of the Netherlands.  If you ever want to visit, make sure it’s during the winter as the area has been hit by more major storms since 1851 than any other place on earth.  Over 65 severe hurricanes have passed through the island according to the Caribbean Hurricane Network – one every 2.5 years!

WW2 in Color

Gruinard Island, Scotland

This tiny, oval-shaped Scottish island is just about 1.2 miles long by half a mile wide, but it’s one of the most dangerous places on the planet.  No one has settled on this British “Anthrax Island”: it used to be the testing ground for biological warfare during World War II and became so contaminated that it was deemed out-of-bounds for half a century.  Anthrax spores still remain in the soil.

Federal Highway Administration

Ramree Island, Burma

Ramree Island is home to thousands of saltwater crocodiles, which are the largest reptilian predator in the world.  They can weigh up to 2,000 pounds (900 kgs) and even a small one can kill a large human.  These crocodiles are not only deadly, but they are also aggressive and known to attack people who enter their natural habitat.  In fact, according to the Guinness Book of World Records the “Most Fatalities in a Crocodile Attack” took place at Ramree Island.  And if that is not enough, poisonous scorpions can be found everywhere as well as malaria-carrying mosquitoes.  Nice.

National Geographic Brasil

Ilha da Queimada, Brazil

Just 20 miles off the coast of São Paulo, Ilha da Queimada is an island ruled by animals.  Popularly known as Snake Island, it is home to thousands of the some of the most venomous snakes in the world, Golden Lancehead Vipers.  The Brazilian Navy has banned all civilians from the island, which is probably just as well: if you were to set foot on it, you could be lucky enough to find up to five snakes per square metre.

 

 

7 Remote Islands That REALLY Want You To Move There

Whether it’s the changing seasons, the impending election, or just itchy feet and a need to see the world, there are many reasons to harbour a dream of up and moving far away. If you have ever imagined giving island life a shot, you might be pleased to hear that Huffpost has found several isles out there where you might just make that dream a reality.

Faced with rapidly declining populations, islands around the world from the South Pacific to North Atlantic are actively recruiting people to come and settle. You could teach in Hawaii, work in New Zealand’s dairy industry, help out at a Canadian store or simply live out your Wicker Man fantasies in Scotland.

Below, discover seven islands that would love to have you (visa, of course, permitting).

island-wallpaper-odd

 


PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Inishturk, Ireland The prospect of a certain narcissistic businessman entering the White house has doubtless informed more than a few Americans’ searches for new homes. A warm Irish welcome awaits those who accept the island of Inishturk’s offer of refuge to Americans who are considering leaving the country if Donald Trump is elected president. The island, which is about nine miles off the coast of County Mayo, has seen its population plummet to just 58 people. An enticing video, cannily named Make Inishturk Great Again, introduces viewers to the charms of the island.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Inishturk, Ireland (continued) “I’ve heard there are quite a few people in America looking to move to Ireland and other countries if Donald Trump becomes president,” the island’s development officer, Mary Heanue, told Irish Central. “I’d like them to know that we’d love to see them consider moving over here. Although winters can be hard and it’s the kind of life that wouldn’t necessarily suit everyone, they’d find it very peaceful here and they’d soon find out there’s nowhere as nice in the world on a summer’s day than here.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Easdale, Scotland Just slightly more populated (it’s home to 70 people), the Scottish island of Easdale made its own video last year to try to encourage people to relocate. Named A Wild Community, the eight-minute film eschews politics in favor of focusing on the island’s gems: its stunning scenery, warm people, and, perhaps most charmingly, its stone-skimming championships.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Easdale, Scotland (continued) Off the west coast of Scotland, Easdale is the smallest permanently inhabited island of the Inner Hebrides. Having seen its community decline since the collapse of its slate-mining industry in the late 19th century, the island is appealing for young people looking to make a new start. Some, such as Edinburgh transplant Keren Cafferty, who spoke to The Guardian, see Easdale’s future as a self-sustaining island that offers an alternative, anti-consumerist model of life. It also has a little star quality: Florence + The Machine shot the video for “Queen Of Peace” there in 2015.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Cape Breton, Canada In August of this year, a general store on a small Canadian island became inundated with thousands of applications after its owners offered two acres of land and a job to anyone willing to move there. The Farmer’s Daughter Country Market in the village of Whycocomagh on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia launched an appeal for staff, saying it could not offer “big money,” but it did have “lots of land.”

Successful applicants willing to make the move would be provided with two acres on which to live, theirs to keep if they stay working at the store for more than five years. “We are an established business in the heart of Cape Breton, rich in jobs, land, and potential, but no people,” the Facebook advertisement read.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Cape Breton, Canada (continued) This is not the first time Cape Breton has taken an innovative approach to try to encourage new arrivals. Earlier this year, it launched a PR campaign encouraging Americans fearful of the possibility of a Trump presidency to move to the island.

PHOTO: VIA @CJG_1.

Tanera Mór, Scotland If you have a spare £1,950,000 ($2,490,000) you could have an entire Scottish island to yourself. That’s the hugely discounted price being asked for Tanera Mór, one of Scotland’s 17 Summer Isles, located off the northwest coast and thought to have been the inspiration behind cult movie The Wicker Man. Tanera Mór was the last inhabited island on the archipelago, but the final residents (and owners) moved to the mainland in 2013 and cut the island’s selling price by more than half a million pounds.

PHOTO: VIA @CJG_1.

Tanera Mór, Scotland (continued) With still no takers, the owners are now offering the option of dividing the 1.25-square-mile island into three lots, with the smallest going for just £430,000. Besides the movie connection, Tanera Mór is also famed as the only Scottish island to operate a year-round private postal service. The Summer Isles Post Office issues two stamps for mail leaving the island — a Tanera Mòr stamp for it to leave the isle to the mainland, and a Royal Mail one for the rest of journey. The island’s real estate listing also highlights its “coastline of approximately seven miles encompassing numerous cliffs, coves, and beaches; innumerable perfect picnic spots interspersed with fresh water lochans; and wonderful waters in which to swim, sail and fish.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Pitcairn, South Pacific You might be surprised to hear that the tiny South Pacific island — with its beaches, palm trees, and year-round sun — is having trouble attracting people to live there. But with a dwindling population of less than 50, Pitcairn is so keen to attract new residents, it will give you your own plot of land if you move there.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Pitcairn, South Pacific (continued) You would have to be fairly self-sufficient, however, as there are no jobs on offer, and you would also need to prove you possess some skills that would benefit the island. Pitcairn’s sole shop is open three times a week, and food from the nearest neighboring country, New Zealand — 3,000 miles away — has to be ordered three months in advance. Internet is available, though, and island representative Jacqui Christian says: “It is a special place, and it is beautiful seeing the stars without light pollution. There are the bluest waters you have ever seen.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

South Island, New Zealand More money burning a hole in your pocket? Head for New Zealand’s South Island, where $165,000 will get you a plot of land in the pretty town of Kaitangata. Life is good in Kaitangata, population 800, where youth unemployment totals two.

“Not two percent — just two unemployed young people,” Clutha district Mayor Bryan Cadogan told The Guardian this summer. Nevertheless, there are jobs that the town needs to fill, specifically in the admittedly unglamorous industries of dairy processing and freezing works.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

South Island, New Zealand (continued) If you think you’d be a good fit for one of the 1,000 vacant jobs (and can swing a New Zealand work visa) you can take advantage of a recruitment scheme that involves offering house and land packages for just NZ $230,000 ($165,000).The man organizing the effort is a dairy farmer named Evan Dick, who says: “This is an old-fashioned community, we don’t lock our houses, we let kids run free,” he said. “We have jobs, we have houses, but we don’t have people. We want to make this town vibrant again, we are waiting with open arms.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Hawaiian Islands, USA Rather stay closer to home and avoid work-visa hassle? Keep an eye on Hawaii, which has been facing a teacher shortage for years and so regularly launches recruitment drives to attract qualified teachers from the mainland. Earlier this year, the state’s appeal for teachers was picked up and spread widely across the web, with some suggesting Hawaii would “pay you $60,000 to work in paradise.” That’s not quite the reality, however, and the Hawaii State Department of Education was not too pleased at being bombarded with applications from people who were unqualified to teach.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Hawaiian Islands, USA(continued) Donalyn Dela Cruz, Hawaii State Department of Education spokesperson, told NBC News: “Following a recent drive in April, false reporting and inaccurate blogging on social media led to a major influx of applications from people who just want to move to Hawaii. Many of these inquiries came from individuals who are not interested in teaching, but who just want to move to Hawaii under the false impression that the Department will pay for people to move here to live and work.”

Lesson: Check the fine print. It’s not always an easy ride to paradise.

 

 

12 Amazing Places Most Millennials Will Never See

The world is full of magical hidden wonders.  Need proof?  The talented team at Atlas Obscura spent the past five years working on a gorgeous, 480-page book that uncovers 600 of the strangest, most fascinating and downright bizarre places you’ve never heard of before.

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Huffington Post asked Atlas Obscura cofounder Dylan Thuras to pare down the tome to a list of a dozen mind-blowing spots that every millennial should visit.  From a UFO-shaped monument in the middle of the Balkans to a gigantic hole in Turkmenistan that has been on fire for nearly 50 years, prepare to be amazed and delighted by the curiosities he came back with — and pick up a copy of the new book for even more bucket-list inspiration.

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Photo: Christine Noh

Kjeragbolten, Kjerag Mountain, Norway
Looking like something from Middle Earth, Kjeragbolten is hidden in the Norwegian mountains: a rock stuck between two cliffs above a 984-meter deep abyss.  Brave visitors have been known to photograph themselves on the rock.

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Photo: Tim Whitby

The Gates of Hell, Derweze, Turkmenistan
If Atlas Obscura has a mascot, it might be the Gates of Hell.  This 200-foot hole in the desert was created in 1971 when a Soviet drilling rig fell into a massive natural cavern.  The scientists decided it was best to let the natural gas leaking from the hole burn itself off, so they lit it on fire.  It has been burning for 45 years.

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Photo: Clifford Norton

Buzludzha Monument, Kzanlak, Bulgaria
This huge UFO-shaped monument standing proudly at the top of a hill in the Balkan mountains was once a grand tribute to the Bulgarian Communist Party.  No more.  Once Bulgaria transitioned to democracy in the early 1990s, the monument was promptly abandoned.  It has stood since, falling further and further into disrepair, and is now a strange, hulking shell, stripped of its once-grand interior.  Graffiti on the front reads ‘Forget your past.’

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Photo: Martin Norris Travel Photography

Crystal Maiden, San Ignacio, Belize
Beautiful, horrifying, tragic, and fascinating, the Crystal Maiden is the calcified skeleton of a young woman who was sacrificed by the Maya around 700-900 AD.  Her body was left as an offering to the gods in a cave that was believed to be an entrance to the underworld; she was only 18 years old at the time of her death.  Over the last 1,200 years, her bones have formed a layer of crystals which sparkle in the light.

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Photo: Demerzel21

Kolmanskop Ghost Town, Luderitz, Namibia
Once a thriving diamond mine in the 1920s, it was home to a flapper-era theater, casino, and even bowling alley.  Of course, once a richer diamond mine was discovered, the town was abandoned and is now slowly being swallowed by the sand.

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Photo: MJ Photography

Stepwells Of India, Across Northern & Western India
These incredible architectural masterpieces call to mind M.C. Escher illustrations.  Hundreds of carved stone steps lead down to a reservoir and were built to serve as local sources of water.  A French traveller in 1864 described seeing a ‘vast sheet of water, covered with lotuses in flower, amid which thousands of aquatic birds are sporting.’  Built as early as 550 AD and through the medieval period, there are over 3,000 stepwells throughout India.

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Photo: Soulad

Wisteria Tunnel, Kitakyushu, Japan
Blooming from late April to mid May in the Kawachi Fuji Gardens near Kitakyushu, Japan, is an exquisite tunnel draped in flowers.  There are other flower tunnels in the world, but the Wisteria Tunnel in Japan is singular in its romantic beauty.

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Photo: Jaszmina Szendrey

Fingal’s Cave, Isle Of Staffa, Scotland
On the Scottish island of Staffa is an unusual sea cave, 270 feet deep, where the walls are perfect hexagonal columns.  Formed by ancient lava flows, the striking site has become something of an artistic inspiration: it is the basis of a famous piece of classical music by Mendelssohn, the name of a Pink Floyd song, and the location of a Matthew Barney ‘Cremaster’ video.

 

For more incredible destinations, visit Refinery29.

 

 

 

Unesco List of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Why Owambo dancing, Slovakian bagpipes and Saudis sharing coffee merit protection from UN agency

The Owambo women who organise a festival to celebrate omagongo – a fruit beverage – in northern Namibia, and Wititi folk dancers from Peru’s Colca Valley had cause for celebration. So too did Saudi coffee drinkers and bagpipe-playing Slovakians.

They all take part in 20 cultural practices deemed significant enough by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to be safeguarded as heritage to be preserved this week, writes the Independent.

Members of the Unesco committee responsible for “safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage” deemed that piping in Slovakia, with a history dating back to the 18th century, was sufficiently under threat to safeguard. While “bagpipe culture exists throughout Slovakia”, according to Unesco, few can still play the instrument.

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Owambo dancing in Namibia (Alamy )

“Communities are proud to have a bagpipe player perform at local events as the music invokes a sense of identity for the public,” said Unesco.

The organisation also highlighted the importance of the Kazakhstani art of improvisation known as “Aitys” or “Aitysh”. Shared by neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, it is a contest of poetic improvisation between two people, either spoken or sung to music. The lyricist displaying the most wit, rhythm and creativity wins.

Askar Zhiymbayev, First Secretary of the Kazakh Embassy in London, said: “Aitys is not only a cultural asset of Kazakhstan but also a cultural asset of humankind.”

The traditional Peruvian Wititi dance is characterised by colourful costumes and is performed annually on the Day of Wititi, on 14 July, in the Colca Valley of Arequipa, Southern Peru.

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Saudi men share coffee (Getty)

Peru’s Culture Minister, Diana Alvarez-Calderon, told Peruvian news agency Andina: “We want every Peruvian to enjoy this declaration… This proves us Peruvians know how to preserve our traditions and dances.”

Much attention focused on the choice of Unesco to include coffee drinking in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar on the list. Sharing a brew of the black stuff was, said the UN agency, a “symbol of generosity”.

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Slovakian bagpipes (UNESCO)

It said: “Serving Arabic coffee is an important aspect of hospitality in Arab societies. Traditionally prepared in front of house guests by men and women, it is also served by sheikhs and heads of tribes.”

Also recognised in Saudi was “Alardah Alnajdiyah” dance, drumming and poetry performed carrying swords.

 

 

9 wonders of the world set to vanish forever: How many have you ticked off?

Some of the planet’s greatest spots have made Unesco’s danger list of World Heritage Sites on the verge of disappearing.  This article from the Independent highlights to me just how fragile our earth is and how easily and stupidly we can lose the beauty of nature all around us.  Let’s PLEASE all work together to help save the world we claim is so precious to us!   😦


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According to Unesco, parts of Liverpool are an endangered World Heritage Site (Shutterstock)

This month, we learned that Spain was facing the prospect of becoming the first European Union member state to have a natural World Heritage Site make Unesco’s “danger list”.  The Doñana coastal wetlands in Andalucía – home to the endangered Iberian lynx – is said to be under threat from a mining and dredging plan, as well as 1,000 illegal wells in the area.

But it’s just one among a number of incredible sites the world over that, according to Unesco, could be lost forever.  Here are just a few World Heritage Sites in Unesco’s danger zone that you might need to scrub off the bucket list.

Everglades National Park, Florida

Florida’s Everglades add some wonderfully swampy mystery to the state’s man-made draws of nightclubs and theme parks. Encompassing 1.5 million acres of wetland, the Everglades are a sanctuary for rare, endangered, and threatened species including the Florida panther and the manatee. Unesco says nutrient pollution and reduced water inflows are contributing to loss of marine habitat and the decline of marine species, with vast conservation efforts now needed to stem the damage.

Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls

Jerusalem is a holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the Old City hosts an incredible 220 historic monuments, including major pilgrimage sites like the Dome of the Rock (the site of Abraham’s sacrifice) and the Wailing Wall. Unesco has said it is “deeply concerned” by what it calls “the persistence of the Israeli illegal excavations” around the Old City, which it says is damaging some historic sites. Unesco has also accused Israel of obstructing some restoration projects.

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The Old City of Jerusalem, with the Dome of the Rock at the back and the dome of the al-Aqsa mosque in the foreground (Getty)

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

Belize has plenty to show for itself – ancient Mayan ruins, top diving site the Great Blue Hole – but the latter is part of what is now an endangered system, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve. The largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere – think of it as the north’s answer to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which itself could be heading for the danger zone – it’s home to a number of threatened species, including marine turtles, manatees and the American marine crocodile.

Threats to the site include overharvesting of marine resources and proposed oil and gas exploration and exploitation. According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, 15 per cent of Belize’s gross domestic product comes from the reef – including about US$15 million from the commercial fishing industry and about $200 million from tourism. It suggests a more sustainable approach to managing the reef would benefit wildlife and people alike.

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An aerial view of the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize (Shutterstock)

Abu Mena, Egypt

This Christian holy city, a significant pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages, includes a church, basilicas, public buildings, streets, monasteries, houses and workshops, which were built over the tomb of the martyr Menas of Alexandria, one of Egypt’s best-known saints. Agricultural work in the area has led to a rise in groundwater, causing the site’s buildings to collapse or become unstable, with a number of underground cavities opening up. The local authorities have been forced to fill the cavities with sand to save the buildings, including the crypt of Abu Mena, which contains the tomb of the saint.

Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, Indonesia

Spanning 2.5 million hectares, the tropical rainforest heritage of the wild Indonesian island of Sumatra spreads across three national parks, and is a protected area home to a wide range of endangered animals and plants, including the endemic Sumatran orang-utan. The site also provides biogeographic evidence of the evolution of the island. But the extraordinary beauty of this untamed, tangled land is deemed at significant risk thanks to road development plans, alongside the illegal logging and poaching of animals – including elephants and tigers – facilitated by such road access.

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The critically endangered Sumatran orangutan (Getty)

Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery, Georgia

Two gems of Georgian architecture, these medieval wonders have been placed on the endangered list after a reconstruction project to restore them went against Unesco recommendations on maintaining authenticity. The ruins of 11th-century Bagrati Cathedral in Georgia’s third-largest city, Kutaisi, and the nearby Gelati Monastery, which is covered with magnificent mosaics and wall paintings, are prized for representing “the flowering of medieval architecture” in the country. Unesco says irreversible interventions at the site undermine the integrity of these priceless nuggets of history.

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Georgia’s Gelati monastery complex (DDohler/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Chan Chan Archaeological Zone, Peru

Chan Chan was the capital of the ancient Chimu Kingdom before they fell to the Incas, and is a huge adobe settlement split into nine citadels, with temples, plazas and cemeteries still discernible. But this amazing example of earthen architecture is at risk owing to extreme environmental events, including those caused by El Niño.

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Chan Chan is a pre-Inca settlement in Peru (Tyler Bell/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Rainforests of the Atsinanana, Madagascar

An island of weird and wonderful creatures, Madagascar separated from all other land masses more than 60 million years ago, where its plant and animal life evolved in complete isolation. But Madagascar’s unique biodiversity depends on the Rainforests of the Atsinanana, which comprise six national parks. Illegal logging and hunting of the area’s endangered lemur are prime problems with the site.

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Lemurs are being illegally hunted in Madagascar (Getty)

Maritime Mercantile City, Liverpool

Liverpool enjoys the dubious honour of being one of only two endangered Unesco sites in Europe (the other is the medieval monuments of Kosovo). Six areas of Liverpool city centre and its docklands constitute its World Heritage listing, documenting Liverpool’s development into one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries. The city played an important role in the growth of the British Empire and became the major port for the mass movement of people. However, Unesco warns redevelopment in the area – namely, the multi-billion Liverpool Waters “mixed use” waterfront quarter – will adversely alter the site.

TEN Amazing Travel Apps To Maximize Your Next TRIP (And Travel Like A PRO)…

Gilbert Ott from Godsavethepoints originally wrote this article for Conde Nast Traveler.  I love it, so I share it here…   – Ned


There’s an app for that!

But seriously, just about every frustration you’ve ever had during your travels can be solved with one of these amazing apps. From booking, to killing time in the terminal, snapping a selfie to clear immigration, a transit guide to get from anywhere from anywhere and so much more, these apps make the journey, the arrival, the destination and everything in between perfect…

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GateGuru- Security Wait Estimator, Gate Change And Delay Notifier, Airport Guide…

http://gateguru.com

For those who want to master air travel with ease, this is your one stop app. When in transit, you’ll get up to the minute notifications about security wait times, flight delays, gate changes, amenities and more. Aside from keeping you in the know, the app will give you a simple, easy guide to all the shops and restaurants in your terminal with reviews too.

ROME2Rio- Point To Point Guide To Get Anywhere, With Prices…

http://rome2rio.com

Whether you’re in Rome, Rio or any other wanderlust city around the world, this brilliant app will get you navigating like a pro and probably save you some money at the same time. This free resource allows you to type in any starting point and destination, showing you exactly how to get from Point A to Point B as quickly and economically as possible. Train, plane, bus, bike, it’s all there…

LOLA- Futuristic One Message Travel Agent

http://lolatravel.com

Lola is the future of travel booking, where you send simple messages like “I need a flight to London and a hotel” in a Facebook Messenger style conversation to a super travel agent. The app uses a combination of artificial intelligence based on your travel profile and a helpful real live person to book your travel perfectly ever time, keeping in mind your individual tastes. It’s simple, fast and easy and most importantly, done in one tap…

Hipmunk-  Easy Trip Inspiration, Planning And Deals…

http://hipmunk.com

If you need travel inspiration and perhaps a great deal to make it happen, Hipmunk is your go to. The app offers easy recommendations like “beach”, “city break”, “ski” or “live music” before finding you the best possible deals for your selection all around the world. They even throw in a link to book everything at the best prices. You can be as flexible as “anytime this year” or super precise. They’ll even alert you if prices on your bucket list trip drop, for free…

TripIt-  Super Trip Organizer With Up To The Minute Notifications

http://tripit.com

Most trips involve booking quite a few separate pieces and no one wants to be the one holding up the line looking through emails to find a confirmation number. Fortunately, TripIt organizes all your itineraries and confirmations in one place, in a beautiful dashboard just by forwarding them to an email address. Not only will everything be there, you’ll get notifications about where your gate is and directions to things like the rental car area. Pretty nifty.

LoungeBuddy – Instant Access To Airport VIP Lounges For Everyone

http://loungebuddy.com

Raise your hand if you love long layovers and delays? Thought so. Using this exciting app you can turn delay chaos into a relaxing visit to a swanky airport lounge instantly, even when flying economy. Trade in the crowded terminal for some complimentary drinks, food, wifi, comfy seating areas and in some instances, even a shower. It’s pretty awesome.

Mobile Passport- Breeze Through Immigration With A Selfie

http://mobilepassport.us

For the selfie obsessed and those who just can’t bear another paper form, or another hour waiting to get another passport stamp, this is a dream come true. Without having to pay for a trusted traveler program like Global Entry, users can process their United States Immigration from their phone, using a selfie snap and a few taps on the electronic customs form. Easy, and yes, very fast.

SeatGuru- Color Coded Guide To Getting The Best Seat In Any Cabin

http://seatguru.com

Not every seat is created equal and that’s especially true when flying economy. If you’d like to grab a few extra inches of legroom or at the very least, a seat further from the busy lavatory, you’re going to want to check SeatGuru. The app shows you a map of every airplane with a traffic light color coded guide to the best and worst seats. Sometimes you don’t even need to pay extra to grab one of the best seats, thanks to this insider info.

AirHelp- Flight Tracker That Gets You Money If Your Flight Is Delayed Or Cancelled…

http://airhelp.com

AirHelp is a really easy way to find out if any flight you’ve taken in the last three years is eligible for compensation. Governments around the world have cracked down on brutal flight delays, requiring up to $600 per person for a delay. If a flight you’ve taken is eligible (which you can sync your inbox to find out) they process the whole thing, dealing with the airline and getting you your refund, minus their 25% cut for all the legwork..

Google Translate- Speak To Anyone In Any Language With Instant Voice Translation

https://translate.google.com/

Konichiwa, Bonjour. Never fear getting lost in translation again wherever you are, thanks to Google Translate. The app which has been helping travelers interact in just about every language for years, just by speaking into your phone and instantly having it translated to a foreign language  is now “offline” allowing you to use it even without phone service or roaming charges. Muy bien!

Award Wallet- All Your Points And Miles Balances And Info In One Place

http://awardwallet.com

We all keep hearing about frequent flyer miles and how they’re going to unlock amazing free travel, but we can’t seem to even unlock our frequent flyer accounts, let alone remember which ones we have. Never again! Award Wallet organizes all of your loyalty programs and account balances in one place. The premium version even keeps track of all your logins and expiration dates to ensure you never miss a mile…

 

 

 

The apps and gadgets EVERY traveller should own

Snazzy lounge passes, free calls from any location, a gizmo to find your lost suitcase: the sheer number of apps and devices out there designed to make your life ‘easier’ is frankly sometimes overwhelming.  But weed out the very best of them – particularly when it comes to the chaos of travel – and you might just wonder how you ever managed without.

Travel expert and founder of advice blog GodSaveThePoints has joined forces with MailOnline Travel to reveal the apps that will effortlessly streamline your next trip: from getting you deals, enabling free international calls and even nabbing the best seat on the plane.


MailOnline Travel counts down the very best travel apps to save you time, effort and money

Planning a trip

For every place you end up, there are hundreds of ways to get there.

Rome2Rio is a nifty website and app that shows you all of them, calculating the fastest and cheapest route and neatly displaying your options – planes, buses, coaches, trains, cycle routes, taxis – and their prices.

Rome2Rio is a nifty website and app which displays all your options in getting from A to B, by type of transport, speed and cost

It doesn’t just show you how to get from airport A to airport B, it will find you all the connecting routes on either side, so you’ll know the best way to actually get to your hotel after you land.

Quite often, having all your options on the table like this will save you good money in the planning phase.

Cheap plane tickets

There are plenty of good price comparison websites out there for identifying the cheapest tickets, but we all know how fast the prices rise and fall.

That’s because cut-price fares all have expiration dates. So in many a case, blink and you’ll miss it.

Google Flights now lets you know if a cut-price offer is about to expire, so you can get it while it lasts

To address this, Google Flights has just added a new feature to its comparison engine, which alerts you as to when a good deal is about to vanish, with information like ‘this fare expires tomorrow and prices are likely to rise’.

Which puts an end to the ‘shall I  book now or wait’ conundrum.

Coupon codes without the hunt

This rather genius app, dubbed Honey, is an ‘extension’ for your internet browser, and it’s free.

The Honey extension sits on your browser and automatically searches for valid coupon codes based on the sites you are looking at

Once installed it trawls the web quietly in the background to search for any valid promotional codes you might be able to apply for when booking a flight, hotel, car-hire – anything.

If it finds one, it will ask your permission to add the discount automatically when you pay. Why on earth would you say no?

Nab the best seat

When it comes to flying economy, not all seats are created equal.

If you want an aisle seat that’s not close to the bathrooms, for example, or a few extra inches of legroom at an emergency exit seat, you’ll be able to locate it on SeatGuru.

SeatGuru lets you enter your flight number and then tells you where the highest and lowest rates seats are on that aircraft          It also gives you information about the entertainment system and even the meals you can expect to be served.
The site uses a traffic light coded guide to highlight the best and worst-rated seats on any aircraft, using just your flight number.

It also gives you information about the entertainment system and even the meals you can expect to be served.

A virtual travel folder

You’ve booked your flights, and probably your transport and connections. Sometimes rounding up all the tickets and confirmation codes in one place can be a fiddle.

Enter Tripit, an app that accumulates all these details for you and presents you with a sleek on-screen itinerary including all the information you’ll need.

Tripit takes all your confirmation emails and presents you with a sleek on-screen itinerary          It also stores your various reward accounts

All you have to do is forward your confirmation emails to the Tripit address and let it do the rest.

It also notifies you as to your departure gate, and provides directions on how to get there.

Track your flight

App In The Air integrates with Tripit to import all your flight details, and then tracks the planes and keeps you updated about their status, even if you don’t have internet coverage.

          It also presents you with your travel statistics

It also helps you manage your time at the airport, breaking down each flight into four stages: check in, boarding, take-off and landing time.

And just in case you care, it keeps a record of all the flights you’ve taken, airports you’ve frequented, and miles you’ve travelled.

Lounge access

Airports generally involve a lot of waiting around and spending money in the process.

LoungeBuddy is a website which allows you to purchase one-time passes to benefit-ridden lounges not usually available with an economy ticket

But you don’t have to have a business or first-class ticket to take advantage of snazzy lounges that offer unlimited food and drink, free Wi-Fi, and some nice peace and quiet.

LoungeBuddy is a website which allows you to purchase one-time passes, often for the same or less than a restaurant meal outside.

Locate your lost luggage

If you’ve ever had an airline lose your bags, you will know that feeling of panicked helplessness.

LugLoc is a device which lives in your suitcase and enables you to track it at all times from your phone using GPS

For the ultra-paranoid among us, you can buy peace of mind by investing in a GPS tracker like the LugLoc. This little gizmo, placed in your suitcase, will allow you to track its exact location from your phone. So you’ll know where to find it, even if the airline doesn’t appear to.

The device costs £55 ($70), and you’ll have to pay £3.80 ($5) per month to keep the service running.

Convert currencies

Converting currencies online is nothing new, but what if you find yourself without internet service? God forbid you turn to maths.

The XE Currency app displays trends         

XE Currency’s app functions even when you are offline by saving the last updated conversion rates.

A simple solution for a problem we’ve all had.

Decode foreign signs

The Google Translate app has long been helping travellers communicate their way through a language barrier, but there’s a lesser known feature now.

Hold up your camera to any foreign text, whether that’s a sign, a newspaper or a menu, and it will instantly translate it for you.

Call anywhere in the world free

Services like Skype are all very well but they have limits. You’ll need internet, for a start, and for the other Skype user to be online.

Rebtel is an app which offers free calls to and from anywhere in the world, without using data or Wi-Fi. Instead, it finds a way to route the dialling through local phone centres.

The service currently costs nothing, but by next year will be £0.78 ($1) per month.

Getting around

In a similar way to Rome2Rio, Citymapper is a journey planner, but designed more for when you arrive at your destination.

Citymapper is a journey planner which shows you a range of different transport options         

It’s much more detailed than Google Maps, giving you a range of transport options and prices at just a glance, plus real-time departures and disruption alerts – all of which makes finding your way around a foreign city a whole lot easier.

Splitting the tab

The first bill-splitting app specifically designed for travellers, Splittr simplifies the whole process of sharing costs.

          It also lets you mix currencies without you having to convert them yourself, and lets you dictate who is paying the lion's share if you aren't splitting bills equally.

You enter your individual expenses as you go, including who paid for what, and at the end of the trip, everyone knows where they stand.

It also lets you mix currencies without you having to convert them yourself, and lets you dictate who is paying the lion’s share if you aren’t splitting bills equally.

 

Dream job for a cold-blooded trekker?

An ice hotel in the Arctic Circle is advertising the perfect job for anyone who loves skygazing

Fancy working here? (Picture: Facebook/Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos)

If you favour donning your thermals and trekking through the snow, wrapping yourself in blankets and staring up at the night sky over packing in your nine-to-five and moving to the Caribbean, Metro may have found the perfect job for you.

Seriously.  This is the definition of a dream job.  As long as you don’t mind the cold…

The Arctic SnowHotel, located right in the Arctic Circle, is searching for a Northern Lights spotter.  Yup.  They’re advertising a job that mostly involves looking at one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

The position will require the Northern Lights spotter to, well, spot the Northern Lights.

They’ll need to analyse weather data to predict when the Aurora Borealis will be visible in the night skies, and let guests know when they’re most likely to see them.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: Facebook/Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos)

When the North Lights do appear, the spotter will need to alert the guests so they can come out and take a look.

They’ll also need to help out with the hotel’s Aurora Alarm Service, which gently wakes up guests when the Northern Lights appear.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: CEN)

Now the only thing holding us back a bit from quitting our jobs and applying for this one immediately is the fact that the hotel hasn’t revealed how much their Northern Lights spotter will be paid.  Maybe it’s dependent on how much experience you have looking at the sky.

What we do know, however, is that the successful applicant will get free accommodation in the hotel – in a room made of ice or a glass igloo – throughout the Aurora season, which runs from December to March.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: Facebook/Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos)

As well as getting paid to look at the sky, whoever gets hired for the position will get to enjoy all sorts of perks, including access to a snow sauna, outdoor hot tubs, and three fancy lakeside restaurants.

They’ll also be able to learn how to ice fish, make ice sculptures, and make snow shoes.  Fun.

Of course, this does all mean that if you fancy applying, you’ll need to be able to handle the cold.  Not only is it pretty nippy outside, but the rooms themselves are all kept at a temperature of between zero and minus five degrees celsius.  So you’ll need to pack some warm PJs.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: Facebook/Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos)

If this all sounds like your snow-covered dream, you can apply for the position by directly contacting the hotel.

If you’d prefer something a little warmer, we’d recommend going for the sausage expert job.  Sounds nice…

 

 

The double-decker bus that thinks it’s a hotel

I’m pretty sure most of us have fallen asleep on the last bus home after a couple too many pints at the local pub.  But other than a few desperate moments during those rough journeys home along winding country lanes, I’ve never really been struck by the desire to spend the whole night sleeping on a bus.  Until now that is.

A couple transformed a double-decker bus into a hotel with a hot tub

Hop aboard. (Picture: North News)

One cool couple has taken a vintage ’60s London bus, added some snazzy features and transformed it into a fancy hotel suite – complete with a hot tub.

Susan Mosier and her husband Philip bought the bus for £5,000, and spent £100,000 turning it into a rent-able room.

Double-decker bus gets turned into a hotel

(Picture: North News)

They had to have the exterior stripped, rust removed and plumbing and electrics fitted, before they added in cosy furniture to make the vehicle a luxurious place to stay.

The bottom deck has been turned into a large bathroom, with a bathtub, a flat-screen TV and mood-lighting, while the top deck acts as the bedroom, complete with a double bed and a seating area with a sofa and coffee table.

Some of the bus’s original features have been left intact, including a few of the seats, ‘stop’ bells, signage and the steering wheel.

Double-decker bus gets turned into a hotel

(Picture: North News)

Outside, there’s a hot tub and a private garden.

Oh, and there’s wifi too.

Double-decker bus gets turned into a hotel

(Picture: North News)

The bus, dubbed Trafalgar Square, now sits on the grounds of the Mosiers’ hotel near Beamish, County Durham, and is best-suited for couples (as there’s not that much space for kids).

It costs £220 per night during the week, or £250 on a Friday or Saturday.

Double-decker bus gets turned into a hotel

(Picture: North News)

A little pricey, sure.  But it’s probably the only way you’ll get the ‘sleeping on a bus’ experience without dodging smelly drunks, missing your stop and ending up twenty miles from home..!

 

 

Introducing – SLEEP ON AN AEROPLANE!!

Finally, someone’s invented the head hammock so you might finally get some damn sleep on the plane.  Sure, it looks ridiculous; but if it helps us finally get some decent shut-eye at 35,000 feet then we don’t really care!

The Nod Travel Pillow easily reached its Kickstarter $20,000 goal within a couple of weeks and then exceeded it by shedloads, raising over $300,000 to date!  Production is now underway and I for one am looking forward immensely to testing it out…

                                                                         Ned


Someone's invented a head-hammock so you can finally get some damn sleep on the plane

The dream is real (Picture: Rex)

Because, as we all know, those neck pillows are next to useless – also, don’t talk to me about people who wear them around the airport – and being endlessly jolted awake every time your chin hits your chest is really not fun.

If you’ve ever sat on a 12-hour flight, in darkness, willing yourself to sleep and thinking there must be a better way, then this is for you.

Life is like a neck pillow, comfortable for a little while, then finally uncomfortable without warning.

— Zachary Haube (@HOBBST3N) August 7, 2016

 

Introducing the NodPod, aka the head hammock and the answer to your prayers.

It recreates how you sleep in bed (with your head at a 90 degree angle) but in an upright position, so you can nap on the go. And there’s no risk of being jolted awake, or inadvertently head-butting your neighbour.

Maybe don’t wear it while driving though.

CREDIT: NodPod/Rex Shutterstock. Editorial use only Mandatory Credit: Photo by NodPod/REX/Shutterstock (5830015e) The NodPod travel sleep aid NodPod travel sleep aid - Aug 2016 WORDS: http://www.rexfeatures.com/nanolink/sne7 Many people this Summer will have experienced the drowsy head-nod associated with napping while travelling. However, a new head-hammock called the NodPod looks set to end your dozing woes. Kentucky-based Paula Blankenship says she created the U.S. patented NodPod after years and years of traveling for work and never being able to get good rest on long journeys, leaving you "tired and with aches and pains". YOUTUBE: https://youtu.be/9WKlCAGESRI

Also, wear a seatbelt. You know what? We don’t believe this car is moving (Picture: Rex)

The patented ‘Over The Top’ design keeps your head from falling forward, as well as left and right.

It works on all types of seats – planes, trains, automobiles and, yep, office chairs. And, don’t worry, the cord is designed so that it doesn’t obstruct the view the passenger behind you has of their TV screen (so you won’t be rudely awakened by the guy in 23C having an apoplectic fit).

The head hammock was created by Paula Blankenship from Kentucky, after years and years of sleepless travel for work.

Head-hammocks are the future of travel sleep

Why is she awake goddamn it? (Picture: Rex)

Check it out on Kickstarter now.  And then you too could achieve the impossible dream…

 

 

13 of the coolest capsule hotels around the world

This is an idea that’s really taking off: capsule hotels – for those on a bit of a budget, basically a bed with not a lot else.
Kinda minimalist.  Kinda cool.  Thanks to Metro for the feature.


13 of the coolest capsule hotels around the world
So pretty. (Picture: CityHub Amsterdam)

Size isn’t everything.

Sure, if you’re a chronic over-packer and like to spread out like a starfish on a giant hotel bed, a tiny room might not be your idea of the perfect holiday resting point.

But if you’re more of a minimalist, a capsule hotel is the dream.

Originally created in Japan, capsule hotels take the basic idea of ‘hey, I need somewhere to sleep’ and simplify it, getting rid of all the frills of your average hotel experience and stripping it back to just what you need: a small, sleek room with space for you to rest (and not much else).

But don’t imagine a tiny pod stripped of all colour and style. Today’s capsule hotels are sleek, stylish, and have all kinds of extras, seamlessly slotted into tiny spaces.

Behold, a few of the coolest capsule hotels around the world.

1. Anshin Oyado, Japan

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Aflo/REX/Shutterstock (5826515b) Capsule bedrooms 'Anshin Oyado' luxury capsule hotel, Tokyo, Japan - 07 Aug 2016 Anshin Oyado luxury capsule hotel located within 3-minutes of the busy Shinjuku station, Tokyo, Japan. The new take on the traditional Japanese capsule hotel offers larger capsules, free artificial hot springs & mist sauna, internet cafe and Wi-Fi. This hotel is male only and rates start at 5480 yen (54USD). Each of the hotel's 256 capsules is equipped with fire alarm, air conditioner, tablet computer and flat-screen TV. Public areas such as the hot springs bath, laundromat, clothing shop and snack and drinks vending machines are open 24 hours. The hotel's website is in Chinese, English, Korean and Japanese and welcomes male foreign travellers as well as Japanese businessmen who have missed their last train home.
(Picture: Aflo/REX/Shutterstock)

A new luxurious take on the capsule hotel, set up just three minutes from Shinjuku station in Tokyo.

This one’s a little fancier than the average. Each capsule room has an air conditioner, tablet computer, and a flat-screen TV provided inside (along with a cosy futon style bed, of course), and all guests can enjoy full use of free artificial hot springs and a misting sauna.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Aflo/REX/Shutterstock (5826515c) Capsule bedrooms 'Anshin Oyado' luxury capsule hotel, Tokyo, Japan - 07 Aug 2016 Anshin Oyado luxury capsule hotel located within 3-minutes of the busy Shinjuku station, Tokyo, Japan. The new take on the traditional Japanese capsule hotel offers larger capsules, free artificial hot springs & mist sauna, internet cafe and Wi-Fi. This hotel is male only and rates start at 5480 yen (54USD). Each of the hotel's 256 capsules is equipped with fire alarm, air conditioner, tablet computer and flat-screen TV. Public areas such as the hot springs bath, laundromat, clothing shop and snack and drinks vending machines are open 24 hours. The hotel's website is in Chinese, English, Korean and Japanese and welcomes male foreign travellers as well as Japanese businessmen who have missed their last train home.
(Picture: Aflo/REX/Shutterstock)

There’s also a laundromat, shop, and places to get snacks – all open 24 hours of the day.

 

2. Sleepbox, Moscow

coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: Sleepbox Moscow)

Sleepbox in Moscow is the best option for anyone who wants an entirely fuss-free stay. There are no gimmicks here. No arty stuff. No dust-ruffles.

Just sleek pods where you sleep and shared bathrooms.

coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: Sleepbox Moscow)

Simple.

 

3. Book and Bed, Tokyo

coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: Book and Bed Tokyo)

Okay, book-lovers. Behold your dream holiday destination.

Book and Bed is a bookshop-themed hotel in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighbourhood. It’s home to thousands of books for you to buy and read, and each capsule room (there are two sizes to choose from, ‘compact’ or ‘standard’) is tucked away within bookshelves.

coolest capsule hotels
(Picture: Book and Bed Tokyo)

The rooms themselves are pretty bare, with just a fu