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.

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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

 

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.

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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

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

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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

 

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/

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…

 

 

Weather Photographer of the Year 2016

Cataclysmic lightning and swirling tornadoes: these stunning images represent some of the world’s most dramatic weather events.

All finalists in the Weather Photographer of the Year 2016 competition – a brand new contest judged by The Royal Meteorological Society and The Royal Photographic Society – certainly put the UK’s recent thunderstorms down a few notches.

More than 800 photographs were submitted earlier this year, with winners across various categories announced last weekend at the Royal Meteorological Society’s Amateur Meteorologists’ Conference in Reading. 

Overall Weather Photographer of the Year 2016 was awarded to Tim Moxon for Tornado on Show. Mr Moxon said this was “one of the most photogenic tornadoes of the year”, snapped near the town of Wray, Colorado.

In first place for the over 16s category was Ben Cherry’s Sprite Lightning photograph. Judge Michael Pritchard praised him for “making the most of circumstance and having the serendipity to capture a very rare form of lightning”.

In the under 16s, James Bailey scooped the top prize for his image Hailstorm and Rainbow over the Seas of Covehithe. And as for the public’s favourite, more than 2,500 voters handed the accolade to Paul Kingston’s Storms Cumbria image.

I must say, some of the best I think are from the UK; thanks to the Mail Online for the extraordinary pics.  Polishing up my long lens now..!  – Ned


Overall Winner: An apocalyptic tornado near the town of Wray, Colorado, taken by Tim Moxon. He said: 'We were among a number of people, including those you see in the shot, nervously enjoying the epic display nature put on for us'

Overall Winner: An apocalyptic tornado near the town of Wray, Colorado, taken by Tim Moxon. He said: ‘We were among a number of people, including those you see in the shot, nervously enjoying the epic display nature put on for us’

First Place in Over 16s: Ben Cherry, who took this in Punta Banco, Costa Rica, says 'I set up the frame to include the pulsing storm and the milky way as I liked the contrast - then this sprite strike illuminated the sky and my jaw dropped'

First Place in Over 16s: Ben Cherry, who took this in Punta Banco, Costa Rica, says ‘I set up the frame to include the pulsing storm and the milky way as I liked the contrast – then this sprite strike illuminated the sky and my jaw dropped’

Froth: In the under 16s, James Bailey scooped the top prize for his image Hailstorm and Rainbow over the Seas of Covehithe 

Froth: In the under 16s, James Bailey scooped the top prize for his image Hailstorm and Rainbow over the Seas of Covehithe

Public's Favourite: Paul Kingston's Storms Cumbria. He said: 'The image I captured shows the inner harbour wall at Whitehaven, Cumbria, being hit by a monstrous wave, dwarfing the surrounding man-made structures'

Public’s Favourite: Paul Kingston’s Storms Cumbria. He said: ‘The image I captured shows the inner harbour wall at Whitehaven, Cumbria, being hit by a monstrous wave, dwarfing the surrounding man-made structures’

Battle: A clash between two storm cells in New Mexico in June 2014, each with its own rotating updraft, taken by Camelia Czuchnicki, who remarked 'it's the rarity of such scenes that keep drawing me back to the US Plains each year'

Battle: A clash between two storm cells in New Mexico in June 2014, each with its own rotating updraft, taken by Camelia Czuchnicki, who remarked ‘it’s the rarity of such scenes that keep drawing me back to the US Plains each year’

Nebraska storm: Stephen Lansdell's Mama Factory - the photographer and self-described 'storm chaser' said 'this  was so beautiful taking on many forms during its life and ending with one of the most spectacular shows I have ever witnessed'

Nebraska storm: Stephen Lansdell’s Mama Factory – the photographer and self-described ‘storm chaser’ said ‘this was so beautiful taking on many forms during its life and ending with one of the most spectacular shows I have ever witnessed’

UFO over Caucasus: This image was taken by Dmitry Demin from the cable car to Mount Cheget Kabardino-Balkaria, Russia

UFO over Caucasus: This image was taken by Dmitry Demin from the cable car to Mount Cheget Kabardino-Balkaria, Russia

Goldfish of the sky: According to photographer Alan Tough 'in early February 2016, unusually cold Arctic stratospheric air reached down as far as the UK, which triggered sightings of these rare and beautiful Polar Stratospheric  Clouds'

Goldfish of the sky: According to photographer Alan Tough ‘in early February 2016, unusually cold Arctic stratospheric air reached down as far as the UK, which triggered sightings of these rare and beautiful Polar Stratospheric Clouds’

Nick of time: Paul Andrew, who took this dramatic photo at California's Mono Lake, said 'over the space of about 90 minutes I photographed the unfolding scene, only just making it back to the safety of the car as the heavens opened'

Nick of time: Paul Andrew, who took this dramatic photo at California’s Mono Lake, said ‘over the space of about 90 minutes I photographed the unfolding scene, only just making it back to the safety of the car as the heavens opened’

Paula Davies says of her delicate feathery image, which was taken from a car windscreen in North Yorkshire: 'I was attracted by the colours resulting from the low early morning sun'

Paula Davies says of her delicate feathery image, which was taken from a car windscreen in North Yorkshire: ‘I was attracted by the colours resulting from the low early morning sun’

Another image from Camelia Czuchnicki, who explains: 'This low precipitation supercell formed late in the day over Broken Bow in  Nebraska in May 2013 - a stunning spectacle which we photographed for over an hour'

Another image from Camelia Czuchnicki, who explains: ‘This low precipitation supercell formed late in the day over Broken Bow in Nebraska in May 2013 – a stunning spectacle which we photographed for over an hour’

The Guanabura oil tanker being hit by lightning, taken by Graham Newman. He says: 'Shortly after taking the shot, the lightning cell closed on my position on the beach and I grabbed up my equipment and ran for my life'

The Guanabura oil tanker being hit by lightning, taken by Graham Newman. He says: ‘Shortly after taking the shot, the lightning cell closed on my position on the beach and I grabbed up my equipment and ran for my life’

Shrouded peak: Stephen Burt's Matterhorn Banner Cloud, taken in Switzerland on May 26, 2014, from the Gornergrat glacier

Shrouded peak: Stephen Burt’s Matterhorn Banner Cloud, taken in Switzerland on May 26, 2014, from the Gornergrat glacier

Ice sculpture on Plynlimon: Unbelievably, this hill resides in  Northern Ceredigion, Mid Wales. Photographer Allan Macdougall comments: 'This stile and wire fence became a thing of beauty with the glowing translucent fluting of the ice'

Ice sculpture on Plynlimon: Unbelievably, this hill resides in Northern Ceredigion, Mid Wales. Photographer Allan Macdougall comments: ‘This stile and wire fence became a thing of beauty with the glowing translucent fluting of the ice’

Photographer Mat Robinson reveals: 'This was  between Tadcaster and York, away from the A64, with the sweep of the road acting as a perfect guide for the eye towards the centre of the storm'

Photographer Mat Robinson reveals: ‘This was between Tadcaster and York, away from the A64, with the sweep of the road acting as a perfect guide for the eye towards the centre of the storm’

Apparition: Steve M Smith took this photo in North Wales. He says: 'On the hills we were shrouded until late morning when a clear way emerged along the ridge towards Foel Fras in the Carneddau'

Apparition: Steve M Smith took this photo in North Wales. He says: ‘On the hills we were shrouded until late morning when a clear way emerged along the ridge towards Foel Fras in the Carneddau’

Mat Robinson says of his shot: 'I live in Sheffield and each year I challenge myself to be the first Peak District photographer to catch the new snow - this was the third successful attempt'

Mat Robinson says of his shot: ‘I live in Sheffield and each year I challenge myself to be the first Peak District photographer to catch the new snow – this was the third successful attempt’

Other-worldly: Scientist Michal Krzysztofowicz, who works for the British Antarctic Survey  in Antarctica, says 'this solar phenomenon was caused by diamond dust, where ice particles  cause the light to refract into a halo'

Other-worldly: Scientist Michal Krzysztofowicz, who works for the British Antarctic Survey in Antarctica, says ‘this solar phenomenon was caused by diamond dust, where ice particles cause the light to refract into a halo’

Ice cool megaliths

Icebergs: huge, cool, majestic, mysterious… and mighty dangerous.  Ever seen one?  I haven’t yet, though it’s defo on my bucket list.

The following photos from MailOnline Travel have really got me fired up to go to Antarctica.  There are a number of specialist tour operators to go with but Polar-Latitudes are probably one of the best: any company describing its business as “adventure travel” is good to go in my world!

Breaking from land and bobbing in the ocean for centuries upon centuries, icebergs are surely one of nature’s most beautiful masterpieces.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of them crack off glaciers and slide into the sea from the northern and southernmost tips of the globe. Only ten per cent of an iceberg is visible from above the surface of the water; the rest of its mass lies beneath it.

Formed from snowflakes settling into land and being compressed over time before breaking away in lumps, some defiant icebergs started their lives more than 30,000 years ago.

Polar-Latitudes glaciologist Robert Gilmore, who heads a pilgrimage to Antarctica every year, tells MailOnline Travel: “They melt incredibly slowly. And they move slowly too – two knots at most depending on the current.

“Icebergs vary hugely in appearance: the darker streaks found in some can be a result of icy water that fills the crevasses and later refreezes. The bluish icebergs are older and more compact, so they don’t refract light – it’s an optical illusion of sorts.”

Enjoy these stunning images with me.

                                                       Ned


Icebergs melt on a midsummer night at Jökulsárlón in Iceland, looming over crystal-clear water, under a tempestous sky

Icebergs melt on a midsummer night at Jökulsárlón in Iceland, looming over crystal-clear water, under a tempestuous sky

Only ten per cent of an iceberg is visible from above the surface of the water, the rest of its mass lies beneath it, as seen here in Ralph A. Clevenger's Antarctic photo

Only ten per cent of an iceberg is visible from above the surface of the water, the rest of its mass lies beneath it, as seen here in Ralph A. Clevenger’s Antarctic photo

Whipped into grooved peaks by Greenland's stormy weather, this iceberg looks worthy of a carefully carved sculpture

Whipped into grooved peaks by Greenland’s stormy weather, this iceberg looks worthy of a carefully carved sculpture

A colony of chinstrap penguins turns this ancient ice formation into a fun park, photographed in the Scotia Sea, Antarctica

A colony of chinstrap penguins turns this ancient ice formation into a fun park, photographed in the Scotia Sea, Antarctica

This heavily textured Perito Moreno glacier is found at the Los Glaciares National Park in the Santa Cruz province, Argentina

This heavily textured Perito Moreno glacier is found at the Los Glaciares National Park in the Santa Cruz province, Argentina

Each year, hundreds of thousands of icebergs crack off glaciers and slide into the sea from the northern and southernmost tops of the globe, this one's exact location is unknown

Each year, hundreds of thousands of icebergs crack off glaciers and slide into the sea from the northern and southernmost tops of the globe; this one’s exact location is unknown

Icebergs vary hugely in appearance - the darker streaks found in some can be a result of ice water that fills the crevasses and later refreezes. Pictured, a bald eagle finds its perch in Alaska    Formed from snowflakes settling into land and being compressed over time before breaking away in lumps, some defiant icebergs started their lives more than 30,000 years ago

Icebergs vary hugely in appearance – the darker streaks found in some can be a result of ice water that fills the crevasses and later refreezes. Pictured, a bald eagle finds its perch in Alaska

While in Antarctica, photographer Alex Cornell captured this rare phenomenon - a flipped iceberg caused by an imbalance in its frozen body

While in Antarctica, photographer Alex Cornell captured this rare phenomenon – a flipped iceberg caused by an imbalance in its frozen body

Penguins gather in Antartica's Iceberg Alley, a region of stunningly ancient glaciers located in the western Weddell Sea

Penguins gather in Antartica’s Iceberg Alley, a region of stunningly ancient glaciers located in the western Weddell Sea

Glaciologist Robert Gilmore tells MailOnline Travel: 'They melt incredibly slowly - and they move slowly too, two knots at most depending on the current.' Pictured, an Antarctic tabular iceberg that has degraded and is falling apart

Glaciologist Robert Gilmore tells MailOnline Travel: ‘They melt incredibly slowly – and they move slowly too, two knots at most depending on the current.’ Pictured, an Antarctic tabular iceberg that has degraded and is falling apart

A dry dock formation, its melting ice sculpted by waves and floating in calm seas around the Gerlache Passage, Antarctica

A dry dock formation, its melting ice sculpted by waves and floating in calm seas around the Gerlache Passage, Antarctica

Large old icebergs contain centuries of windblown sediment and minerals, visible as layers when they roll over, as seen in this image from the U.S. Antarctic Program

Large old icebergs contain centuries of windblown sediment and minerals, visible as layers when they roll over, as seen in this image from the U.S. Antarctic Program

A comparatively modest iceberg floating near the face of Jakobshavn in Isfjord,  Ilulissat, Greenland during the summer

A comparatively modest iceberg floating near the face of Jakobshavn in Isfjord, Ilulissat, Greenland during the summer

A jutting iceberg, location unknown, its vast moulded peaks viewed from both above and below the silvery clear water

A jutting iceberg, location unknown, its vast moulded peaks viewed from both above and below the silvery clear water

A brief scene of magic unfolded here when the sun came out and mist was rising from Ilulissat Icefjord, the sea mouth of Sermeq Kujalleq - the most productive glacier in the Northern Hemisphere

A brief scene of magic unfolded here when the sun came out and mist was rising from Ilulissat Icefjord, the sea mouth of Sermeq Kujalleq – the most productive glacier in the Northern Hemisphere

An iceberg resting atop  the glassy Jökulsárlón  glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park

An iceberg resting atop the glassy Jökulsárlón glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park

An iceberg at Alaska's Inside Passage - the seemingly bluish icebergs are older and more compact, so they don't refract light, forming an optical illusion

An iceberg at Alaska’s Inside Passage – the seemingly bluish icebergs are older and more compact, so they don’t refract light, forming an optical illusion

Tablet glaciers reach into the distance in Antarctica, in the circumpolar current just north of the South Shetland Islands

Tablet glaciers reach into the distance in Antarctica, in the circumpolar current just north of the South Shetland Islands

For more Antarctic ideas go to http://polar-latitudes.com/adventure-options

The world’s most unusual places to stay

An underwater hotel room, a suite on the side of the cliff and a tree house with the best view of the sea: MailOnline Travel reveals some gorgeously quirky places to lay your hat for a night or two.


For many holidaymakers, there is nothing more important than a room with a spectacular view.

It could be a plush suite in a skyscraper hotel, a treehouse in the middle of nowhere or even a room beneath the surface of the sea. 

In an age where tourists are on the hunt for snaps that are worthy of Instagram or Facebook, the more unique it is, the better.

These jaw-dropping destinations have been named the most unusual places to stay by London-based travel agency Exsus.

They include Africa’s first underwater hotel room – 13ft below the surface of the Indian Ocean, north of Zanzibar – where guests can admire marine life from the comfort of their bed.

And for adrenaline junkies, only the Natura Vive Skylodge Adventure Suite will do. Guests must climb a 400ft cliff face to reach the suite, which is on the side of one of Peru’s highest peaks.

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The best for sleeping with the fishes: Manta Resort on Pemba Island

Africa’s first underwater hotel room is 13ft below the surface of the Indian Ocean, north of Zanzibar

Africa’s first underwater hotel room is 13ft below the surface of the Indian Ocean, north of Zanzibar

Visit http://www.themantaresort.com/information/pemba-island/

The best for daredevils: Natura Vive’s Skylodge Adventure Suite

To climb into Natura Vive's Skylodge Adventure Suite in Peru, daredevil guests must scale a 400ft cliff face

To climb into Natura Vive’s Skylodge Adventure Suite in Peru, daredevil guests must scale a 400ft cliff face

Check out http://naturavive.com/web/

The best for getting back to nature: Phinda Forest Lodge

Guests can spot the big five, dolphins and turtles at this lodge at the Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa

Guests can spot the big five, dolphins and turtles at this lodge at the Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa

Visit www.phindagamereserve.com/

The best for sleeping in a cave: Gamirasu Cave Hotel

Located near Urgup, Turkey, some of the 35-room hotel's doors and windows are more than 500 years old

Located near Urgup, Turkey, some of the 35-room hotel’s doors and windows are more than 500 years old

Take a look at this Trip Advisor winner: http://www.gamirasu.com/https://static.tacdn.com/img2/tc/rdTopLaurel_LL_TM.jpg

The best for watching the Northern Lights: Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel

Less than an hour from Reykjavík, guests can watch the natural phenomenon from a heated outdoor pool

Less than an hour from Reykjavík, guests can watch the natural phenomenon from a heated outdoor pool

Check out this multi-award-winning hotel’s site: http://ioniceland.is/

The best for adventure seekers: Fogo Island Inn

This contemporary hotel is located on rocky terrain on Fogo Island off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada

This contemporary hotel is located on rocky terrain on Fogo Island off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada

For lots of information on this highly unusual destination visit www.fogoislandinn.ca/

The best for waking up on a boat: Belmond Road to Mandalay

Belmond's Road to Mandalay takes up to 82 passengers on a luxurious river cruise in Myanmar

Belmond’s Road to Mandalay takes up to 82 passengers on a luxurious river cruise in Myanmar

Check out http://www.belmond.com/road-to-mandalay-myanmar/

The best for sleeping in a tree: Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses

These houses are 30ft above ground with views of dramatic mountains and the Pacific coast in New Zealand

These houses are 30ft above ground with views of dramatic mountains and the Pacific coast in New Zealand

For more info on this unique accommodation visit http://www.hapukulodge.com/kaikoura/tree-houses

The best for an alternative caravan: Uyuni Vintage Airstreams

This deluxe caravan on Bolivia's Uyuni Salt Flats comes with a private chef and guide to show you around

This deluxe caravan on Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats comes with a private chef and guide to show you around

To find out more about these über-cool Airstreams check out http://www.exsus.com/destinations/south-america/bolivia/uyuni-salt-flats/uyuni-vintage-airstreams

 

And for even more exciting and unusual trips visit the team at Exsus.

 

 

 

 

The 50 Most Beautiful Places in the World

Where are your top trek destinations?

Pinpointing every breathtaking place on the planet could take a lifetime, but the guys in the know at CN Traveler think that these 50 otherworldly landscapes and awe-inspiring natural wonders need to move to the very top of your travel bucket list.  (All images from Getty unless otherwise indicated)


Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, an area in Turkey where entire cities have been carved into rock, is pretty incredible on its own. But whenever hot-air balloons pepper the sky, its beauty level simply skyrockets.

Salar de Uyuni: Daniel Campos, Bolivia

The reflective surface of the world’s largest salt mine is like something from the imagination of Salvador Dali—although we’re happy it actually exists in real life.

Mù Cang Chải: Vietnam

Mù Cang Chải manages to be one of the most breathtaking spots in Vietnam, with terraced rice fields and mountainous landscapes.

Benagil Sea Cave: Algarve, Portugal

The southern coast of Portugal is lined with exquisite beaches and caves, including the famous Benagil Sea Cave (skylight included).

Snæfellsjökull: Iceland

Iceland’s Snæfellsjökull glacier, complete with ice caves and craters, has appeared in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and the film Batman Begins.

Palawan Island: The Philippines

With its limestone cliffs and pristine lagoons, it’s easy to see why Palawan was voted the best island in the world by our readers.

Venice, Italy

Of all the amazing cities in Italy, there is something truly enchanting about the sunlit canals of Venice.

Ashikaga Flower Park: Ashikaga, Japan

Ashikaga’s wisteria trees bloom brilliantly for a few weeks every spring, turning the park into a vision of pastel pinks and purples.

Brecon Beacons National Park: Wales

Brecon Beacons offers access to rolling hills, Medieval castles, and romantic waterfalls. Plus it’s arguably the best place to stargaze in the UK.

Namib Desert: Namibia

Red sand dunes and skeletal trees make Namibia the closest thing we have to Mars on Earth. The Namib Desert was also the filming location for Mad Max: Fury Road.

Milford Sound: New Zealand

New Zealand is no stranger to breathtaking landscapes. Case in point: Milford Sound, a mountainous fjord where you can live out all of your Lord of the Rings fantasies.

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate: Munnar, India

Situated more than 8,000 feet above sea level, Kolukkumalai is the highest tea estate in the world—and easily the most beautiful.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: Abu Dhabi, UAE

Although the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has only been around for less than a decade, its regal architecture has already made it the crown jewel of Abu Dhabi—and one of the largest mosques in the world.

Bryce Canyon: Bryce, Utah

Bryce Canyon’s layered red and orange rock pillars, known as hoodoos, make it a can’t-miss destination for campers and shutterbugs alike.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

You might know them better as the Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride, but this seaside wonder is actually located just south of Galway. Inconceivable!

Pyramids of Giza: El Giza, Egypt

Giza’s three great pyramids are mysterious marvels of architecture. We may never know whether or not they were built by mutants.

Okavango Delta: Botswana

The lush Okavango Delta is like a real-world Eden, where cheetahs, zebras, buffalo, and rhinos roam freely.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Gallery Stock

A striking natural setting makes Rio de Janeiro one of the most beautiful cities in the world, all overlooked by the equally stunning Christ the Redeemer statue.

Arashiyama: Kyoto, Japan

The serene beauty of the bamboo forest in the Arashiyama district is a wonderful site to behold. No wonder it’s one of Pinterest’s most beloved places.

Grand Prismatic Spring: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

As its name suggests, the largest hot spring in the United States is essentially a rainbow ring of vibrant colors.

Serengeti National Park: Tanzania

Tanzania’s portion of the Serengeti is the ideal location for an African adventure.

Grand Canyon National Park: Arizona, USA

There’s a reason why more than 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon every year: It’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but a lot easier to access than Mount Everest or the Great Barrier Reef.

The Arctic Circle

Whether you’re spotting the Northern Lights in Sweden or glaciers off the coast of Greenland, the Arctic Circle is a new kind of hidden paradise.

Great Wall of China: Beijing, China

It’s over 12,000 miles long, thousands of years old, and can be seen from space—no wonder the Great Wall nabbed a spot on this list.

Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley): Alaska

Despite controversies over name changes and a shrinking elevation, Denali’s beauty is worth braving the extreme low temperatures.

Isle of Skye: Scotland

With fairy pools and bright green hills, the magical Isle of Skye is the stuff dreams are made of (regardless of whether you’ve binge-watched Outlander yet).

Bromo Volcano: East Java, Indonesia

Mount Bromo is perhaps the most well-known volcano in East Java’s Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, thanks to its accessibility and epic sunrise views.

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Alamy

While it may not be the first place you’d pick for a vacation abroad, Samarkand is a standout with intricately tiled buildings and colorfully dressed locals. It also has a rich history as a Silk Road stopping point.

Galápagos Islands: Ecuador

This volcanic archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is world-renowned for its idyllic snorkeling spots and diverse array of wildlife (including the always delightful blue-footed boobies, pictured).

Petra, Jordan

The ancient city of Petra may be renowned for the buildings carved directly into the sides of cliffs, but its real claim to fame is being the (fictional) home of the Holy Grail.

Ned’s tip: For the best of the best in Jordan, pamper yourself at the 5 star Hotel Le Royal – Amman.

Keukenhof Park, Holland: The Netherlands

Holland is known around the world for its rainbow-hued fields of tulips, especially those located in and around Keukenhof. Millions of bulbs are planted in the park each year—visit in mid-April to see the flowers during their peak season.

Machu Picchu: Peru

Machu Picchu’s panoramic views and intricate (and a tad mysterious) stone walls more than validate the site’s worldwide fame.

The Great Barrier Reef: Queensland, Australia

Although the largest living thing on Earth can be seen from space, the best vantage point belongs to the avid snorkelers and scuba divers who visit each year.

Moravian Fields: Czech Republic

It’s more believable to think the Moravian Fields are the product of an oil painter’s genius brushstrokes, but these pastel-colored hills are very much a reality.

Socotra, Yemen

Socotra kind of looks like it was transported to Earth from a distant planet. The UFO-like dragon’s blood trees are the island’s most notable feature.

Bagan (formerly Pagan): Myanmar

Bagan’s ancient city skyline is like nothing else in the world, with ochre stupas and temples rising above the surrounding forests.

Lavender fields: Provence, France

The seemingly endless stretches of lavender fields make Provence one of the prettiest (and best-smelling) places in France.

Oia: Santorini, Greece

Alamy

Santorini is officially one of the best islands in the world—and one of the most picturesque. The small village of Oia is particularly captivating, with its whitewashed buildings and bright blue roofs.

Slope Point: South Island, New Zealand

Alamy

The next time you want to complain about the wind messing up your hair, just consider the trees of Slope Point, which have been permanently twisted and windblown by intense Antarctic gusts.

Lake Louise: Alberta, Canada

As is the case with most glacial lakes, Lake Louise is surrounded by rugged mountains and filled with clear, vibrant water.

Valle de Cocora: Quindío, Colombia

In case you were wondering where to find the world’s tallest palm trees (palma de cera), you needn’t look further. The lithe trees are even more incredible set against the backdrop of misty green hills and sharp mountains.

Pamukkale: Denizli, Turkey

Alamy

The stacked pools in Pamukkale are usually surrounded by snow and frozen waterfalls, but the blue waters are hot and open to bathers. You’ll never be satisfied with your hotel’s infinity pool again.

Torres del Paine National Park: Patagonia, Chile

Torres del Paine is like a microcosm of all the things that make Patagonia such a spectacular place: sky-high mountains, blue icebergs, and mythical lakes.

Wulingyuan Scenic Area: Zhangjiajie, China

Scenic might be an understatement in this case. This 100-square-mile attraction contains thousands of sandstone pillars that are nature’s version of skyscrapers—some even stretch taller than the Empire State Building’s midpoint.

Angkor Wat: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Some popular tourist attractions are worth braving the potential crowds for, and Angkor Wat is at the top of that list. No matter how many Asian temples you’ve seen, this one will always be the grandest and most breathtaking.

Redwood National Park: California

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Standing in the middle of California’s Redwood National Park is a humbling experience to be sure, especially when you look straight up at the 2,000-year-old, 300-feet-tall natural giants.

Na’Pali Coast: Kauai, Hawaii

Kauai boasts one of the world’s most insanely beautiful coastlines, which makes you work a bit to soak up its wonders—Na’Pali can only be seen from a helicopter, catamaran, or rather grueling hike.

Halong Bay: Vietnam

Alamy

Halong Bay, located in northeast Vietnam, is beloved for its blue waters and spread of limestone islands, all occupied by tropical trees and wildlife.

Painted Cliffs: Maria Island, Tasmania

Alamy

Tasmania’s Maria Island is a motherlode of fascinating geology, including the swirling, Triassic-era limestone of the Painted Cliffs.

Jodhpur (“Blue City”): Rajasthan, India

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Jodhpur is an ancient city with plenty to offer modern travellers, like bustling bazaars, incense-scented air, and delightfully Smurf-like buildings as far as you can see.

 

 

10 Places Telling Tourists to Stay Home

Tourism can provide an incredible economic boost, sure, but some locales say it can also be harmful to the environment and negatively impact local populations. With such considerations in mind, several destinations around the world have proposed—or put into place—measures restricting the annual number of visitors.  Thanks to CN Traveler for this info.


Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

Getty

A picturesque group of five villages along the Ligurian Sea, Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s most popular sites. Italian officials, however, have recently announced their plans to cap the number of people who are allowed to visit, citing environmental concerns. Though 2.5 million travelers visited Cinque Terre in 2015, the number will be restricted to 1.5 million per year going forward.

Barcelona

Barcelona Gaudi

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Barcelona mayor Ada Colau made headlines in June 2015 when she discussed implementing an entry cap on the Spanish city. In order to keep Barcelona from reaching its “saturation limit,” Colau’s administration is developing plans to balance the tourism sector’s interests with those of local residents; potentially putting a city-wide freeze on the development of new hotels and creating a preventative policy before things “get out of hand.”

Bhutan

Himalayas Bhutan

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High on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan prides itself on “low volume, high-value” tourism. All foreign visitors—except those holding Indian, Maldivian, or Bangladeshi passports—must get a visa and book their holiday through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator. Visitors must also pay, in advance, the “minimum daily package” (either $200 or $250 a day, depending on the month) set by the Royal Government of Bhutan, via money transfer to the Tourism Council of Bhutan. This fee covers your accommodation, all meals, guides, internal transport, and a sustainable tourism royalty that goes toward free education, health care, and poverty alleviation. Only 133,480 international and regional tourists visited Bhutan in 2014.

Iceland

Iceland's beauty

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Roughly 970,000 people visited Iceland in 2014—three times the country’s population, and a 24 percent increase over 2013. The trend continues: As of May 2015, the number of visitors had increased 76 percent over the same period in 2014. Currently, the Icelandic Tourist Board and the Icelandic Tourism Research Centre are researching how “full” a site can get before detracting from the experience. “We have to realize that we can’t just build up natural sites endlessly,” Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, director general of the Icelandic Tourist Board, said in 2014. “We can’t just endlessly receive more and more people at any particular tourist site and live under the assumption that we are offering the type of experience that people have paid for.”

Galápagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

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Some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, these 19 islands—which inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution—host approximately 9,000 species on land and in their surrounding waters. By 2007, residents and tourists had put such a burden on the ecosystems that the United Nations listed the destination as an endangered heritage site. Today, 97 percent of the land area is designated as part of the national park, and tourism is carefully monitored so that there is no further impact on the islands’ health or wildlife. Tourists can only travel to specific visitor sites, and must adhere to these 14 rules, including accompaniment by a licensed Galápagos National Park Guide. The U.N. removed the Galápagos from its “in danger” list in 2010.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

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Although visitors were once allowed to wander this 15th-century site freely, new measures encouraged by UNESCO are intended to clamp down on the number of tourists visiting one of Peru’s premier destinations. As part of a $43.7-million reconceptualization expected to be completed by 2019, all foreign visitors will have to hire a guide, follow one of three designated routes through the complex, and be subjected to time limits in order to prevent bottlenecking. In 2014, some 1.2 million tourists visited the 12-acre Incan citadel, surpassing the daily limit of 2,500 agreed to by Peru and UNESCO. The ancient site was added to UNESCO’s “endangered” list in January 2016.

Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island

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Located 370 miles off mainland Australia, this seven-square-mile island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982 for its rare flora, fauna, and marine life. In surrounding waters, there are more than 400 species of fish and 90 species of coral. Also considered one of the cleanest places on Earth, approximately 75 percent of the island’s original vegetation remains undisturbed. With just 350 full-time residents and a limit of 400 visitors on the island at any given time, there are ample spaces to call your own.

Antarctica

Antarctica

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By 2009, a surge in visits led to a ratification of the Antarctic Treaty. Among other things, signatories agreed to barring cruise ships with more than 500 passengers from landing sites; restricting landings to one vessel at a time (per site); and limiting passengers on shore to 100 at a time. Today, visitors to the pristine environment must travel through operators and organizers who have been approved by their appropriate national authorities, and can expect that their time—whether on shore or simply sailing by—will be strictly monitored.

The Seychelles

Seychelles

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An archipelago of 115 islands off the East African coast, the Seychelles have become massively popular for both “regular” tourists and royalty—yes, this is where William and Kate spent their honeymoon. Though tourism is the Seychelles’ biggest industry, its minister of tourism and culture, Alain St. Ange, said in April 2015 that work is underway to curb the number of annual visitors in order to protect its future. “We don’t want to demean the value of the Seychelles. We’re reaching 250,000 people, six times the number of people who live there.”

Mount Everest

Mount Everest

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With mounting calls to reduce the number of teams and climbers attempting to summit the world’s highest peak, the Nepalese government had taken steps in the right direction before the 2015 climbing season was officially shuttered following the Nepal earthquake. Among the measures were an increased fee for foreign climbers from $10,000 to $11,000, and the establishment of a liaison office at base camp to verify experience, health, and climbing conditions. Next up? An emphasis on forming smaller climbing teams so that “traffic jams” up the routes can be avoided.

 

 

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn’t Know Existed

More gorgeousness from at Thrillist Travel.

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Iguassu Falls | Curioso/Shutterstock

Anyone who’s watched more than two episodes of The Twilight Zone — or read the angry comments when we named the most beautiful place in every state — knows that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Undaunted, we proceeded to tell you about all the beautiful places you didn’t know existed in California and New York and even in Nevada, because believe it or not, there actually is beauty there outside of a strip club.

But enough about America, there’s a whole big world out there; and it’s full of stunning scenery that you’ve probably never laid eyes on — until now. Here are 20 of the most spectacular places on the planet.

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Abraham Lake

Alberta, Canada
Ever wonder what happens when freezing water traps methane bubbles created by bacteria feeding off dead matter on the sea bottom? Welcome to Abraham Lake. Here, those bubbles of methane (undetectable in your standard, non-frozen lake) create pockets that resemble millions of orbs trapped in the ice. Just don’t light up while you’re snowmobiling; if the ice cracks and those bubbles burst, methane is highly flammable.

Abraham Lake

LaiQuocAnh/Shutterstock

Cueva de los Cristales

Chihuahua, Mexico
Don’t feel bad for not knowing about this “Cave of Crystals” — until 2000, nobody had heard of it. That year, two brothers mining for silver drilled here and accidentally uncovered an epic cavern filled with translucent, 30ft crystals, some of which are nearly half-a-million years old. If you can stomach a 20-minute van ride through a mine shaft, you’ll be greeted by triple-digit temperatures and 90% humidity thanks to the magma field that flows a mile under your feet.

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Flickr/Julierohloff

Dean’s Blue Hole

Long Island, Bahamas
There are some spectacular beaches in the Caribbean. And some other-world crazy cenotes in Mexico. Dean’s Blue Hole combines the two — albeit underwater — and is the largest blue hole in world. Although honestly, the white sand beach and limestone walls that surround the hole could make this list as well, they’re equally as stunning. That said, descend past the initial 60ft bottleneck and Dean’s Blue Hole opens into one of the largest underwater cenotes in the world, complete with turquoise water, seahorses, and tropical fish (it’s a hotspot for tarpon and snapper). Clear visibility and no current make it a place as scenic below the surface as above.

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FLICKR/CHAFONSO

Crystal Mill

Marble, CO
OK, OK, so we couldn’t resist throwing at least one US spot on the list. About an hour outside of Aspen, and an eight-hour hike from the nearest road, there’s a ghost town at the base of the Rocky Mountains. And the lone remnant of that ghost town is this old mill. If you visit in the fall, the combination of golden leaves, blue sky, and white snowcapped peaks might be the most unexpectedly beautiful vista in the American West.

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Laura grier

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Iguazu Falls

Misiones Province, Argentina
Iguazu Falls aren’t that obscure, but they’re probably just another one on your mental list of big waterfalls to visit some day, up there with Niagara and Victoria. Which sells them WAY short. This isn’t so much a waterfall but a venerable city of waterfalls — 250 of them stretching nearly two miles — that dumps 53,000 cubic feet of water PER SECOND. Throw in the fact that they’re located in a gorgeous South American rainforest, and you’ve pretty much got one of the most impressive feats of nature on the planet.

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Aleksei Sarkisov/Shutterstock

Lençóis Maranhenses

Maranhao, Brazil
The name literally means “bedsheets of Maranhao,” the state in Northeastern Brazil where these coastal dunes sway over 600 square miles of shoreline. The dunes are formed when the Parnaíba and Preguiças Rivers bring sand from the country’s interior to the ocean, and then the ocean currents — aided by northeasterly winds that blow inland — send that sand back to the shore. Though the area might look like a desert, temporary lagoons spring up in between the dunes during rainy season and often double as exceptional fishing holes.

Cavernas de Marmol (Marble Cathedral)

Lake General Carrera, Chile
What happens when you take a Patagonian peninsula made completely of marble and surround it with a massive glacial lake? Weird, swirling marble caves that change color, that’s what! These only-accessible-by-boat caves near the Chile-Argentina border reflect the color of the water that flows through them, shining turquoise in the spring and deep blue in the summer. The reflections also change the appearance of the patterns in the marble; meaning, if you visit the caves at different times of year you’ll have a completely different experience. Then again, after the 1,000-mile drive from Santiago and lengthy boat ride, once might be enough.

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Wata51/Shutterstock

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Forest of Knives (Tsingy Forest)

Madagascar
The name might sound like the setting for Halloween 12: Michael Does Madagascar but the surreal beauty of this limestone forest is anything but horror-inducing. Quite the opposite. Here, slabs of rock stab upward 200ft in the air, mixing with trees to create a literal forest made of leaves and jagged peaks. Climbing here is the main attraction but be warned, it can be dangerous: slip and you could find yourself with a Ginsu-like gash.

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Dennis van der Water/Shutterstock

Seven-Coloured Earth of Chamarel

Chamarel, Mauritius
One of the problems with rainbows, other than the fact that there’s never a pot of gold at the end of them, is that as soon as you try to Instagram one… POOF!… it’s gone. If only rainbows were made out of sand that could withstand thousands of years of rain and erosion. Well, guess what rainbow lovers, meet the Seven-Coloured Earth of Chamarel! These rainbow dunes in Mauritius are formed by sand of seven distinct colors — red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple, and yellow. Even cooler: pick the sand up, put it in a bottle, mix it up — eventually it’ll resettle into the same seven distinct layers. Every time.

Seven-Coloured Earth of Chamarel, Mauritius

Andrea Murphy

Deadvlei

Hardap, Namibia
It’s hard to believe when standing under an oppressive sun in the middle of 1,300ft-tall sand dunes that this valley was once a lush forest fed by the Tsauchab River. That, of course, was 900 years ago. Since then, the area has become so parched that the remaining trees didn’t even have enough water to decompose, and now sit as charred relics. Add rusted sand and a deep-blue sky, and this is one of the most colorfully desolate places on the planet.

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The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Deception Island

Antarctica
Hiking to the top of an active volcano is cool, but you know what’s really badass? Sailing into one. Tough to do in most places, but not Antarctica; this active volcano (which last erupted in 1992) in the South Shetland Islands has a horseshoe-shaped caldera, and ships can sail right up to its smoldering beaches. As you cruise around the volcanic bay, you’ll see both snow and ash covering the lava formations amidst the steam.

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Yongyut Kumsri/Shutterstock

Lemaire Channel

Antarctica
This seven-mile-long, mile-wide channel between the mountains on Booth Island and the Antarctic peninsula was originally nicknamed the “Kodak Channel” because it was so photogenic. Although today, it would probably be “Instagram Channel.” Either way, you want to catch it when the entrance isn’t blocked by ice and the boat can make the trip inside.

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The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Red Seabeach

Pinjin, China
Even if you don’t hit this wetland in September, when the seepweeds mature from green to bright red, the 16-mile marsh is still one of the most beautiful spots in China to glimpse birds and wildlife. But if you are there in September, you’re in for a treat. The red fields attract flocks of over 200 species of birds as they migrate from Asia to Australia, and you can nod approvingly at them all from wooden bridges built over the water.

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

FLICKR/THEGLOBALPANORAMA

Sea of Stars

Vaadhoo Island, Maldives
There are more than a few bioluminescent bays in the world, where a species of phytoplankton known as dinoflagellates glow/illuminate the water when an influx of oxygen disturbs their cell membrane. This one on Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives stands out, however, because the bright-blue light appears to be reflecting the stars over this island.

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PawelG Photo/Shutterstock

El Nido

Philippines
El Nido is classically known as the gateway to the Philippines’ Bacuit Archipelago and, according to (urban?) legend, was Alex Garland’s inspiration when he wrote The Beach. Although, yes, Leo’s adventure was set in Thailand, the limestone cliffs, bright-green foliage, and turquoise waters here apparently make it hard to distinguish between the two. Also, just so you know: a trip to El Nido requires a seven-hour bus ride.

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The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Lord Howe Island

Australia
There’s a reason you haven’t heard of this island 375 miles off New South Wales: there’s no cellphone coverage. Which means as beautiful as it is, nobody can go all selfie-stick/Instagram crazy while they’re there; they’re forced instead to do something novel like appreciate the wildlife. Wildlife that, because of the island’s perpetual isolation, includes birds, insects, and plant species that don’t exist anywhere else in the world.

The island also sits near Earth’s most southerly coral reef, making for world-class diving and snorkeling. Which is even better considering you don’t have to share — only 400 visitors are allowed on the island at any given time.

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Ashley Whitworth/Shutterstock

Homebush Bay

Sydney, Australia
An otherwise unremarkable residential bay in Sydney makes this list not for its water, but for the ship that sits near the coastline. Built during World War I, the SS Ayrfield ran supplies to American troops in the Pacific during World War II before an oil company bought it in the 1950s and stationed it in the middle of this bay. Then nature took over. Now, it’s a man-made island filled with trees and wildlife, and one of the most decrepitly beautiful sights in the world. A work of art almost unto itself.

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The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Chapel of Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe

Le Puy-en-Velay, France
Talk about wonders of the world; even with today’s technology, imagine how hard it would be to build ANYTHING on top of a small pointy rock? Now imagine building a stone cathedral in 962, without cranes, hydraulics, or anything other than actual people hauling stones up 268 stairs. Sounds fun, right? But the result is this beauty, built atop a basalt needle with a sweeping view of the city below.

The Most Beautiful Places in the World You Didn\'t Know Existed

Oscity/Shutterstock

Crystal Cave at Skaftafell

Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland
Blue ice is more than just the GOOD ice pack the nurse gives you when you sprain your ankle. It’s a brilliant, aqua-colored geologic formation that results when air bubbles are compressed out of ice over time. And it is in abundance in this cave at Vatnajokull National Park. Don’t let the 22ft shoreline entryway fool you; the cave tapers down to as few as 4ft, and will crack and pop when you walk inside. That doesn’t mean it’s about to collapse, though; it’s just the sound of glacial movement against the volcanic island.

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Picos de Europas

Spain
While the Alps and the Pyrenees get all the attention, this tiny range near the northern coast of Spain is equally as beautiful. The range only stretches about 26 miles (and its highest peak, Macizo Central or Macizo de los Urrieles, is barely 8,000ft tall), but when it comes to skiing and snowshoeing away from the masses, it’s a tough location to beat. And thanks in part to an abundance of wildflowers and Spanish brown bears, it’s one of the prettiest places in Europe to spot exotic wildlife in the summer.

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A Heartfelt Post for Valentine’s Day! <3

Hey there all you romantics: I spotted this piece in the Mail Online Travel – just perfect for Feb 14th.
Check it out… ❤ ❤ ❤

Ned


It appears that love is not just in the air, but also hidden in natural wonders all over the planet. 

From peaceful atolls, vibrant islands and rocky cliffs there are heart-shapes surprises to be discovered among the landscape. 

Sir Richard Branson is even a fan of the phenomenon, forking out for a heart-shaped island resort in Australia.

Romantics may wish to spend a day exploring Croatia’s perfectly shaped paradise, Galesnjak, which received international fame after it was captured by a Google Earth satellite in 2009. 

Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora. There are flights available for tours and couples can even tie the knot on the stunning island.

Here are some of the most spectacular natural wonders – that are sure to capture your heart.

Heart of the ocean: If you are lucky enough to get a helicopter ride over Australia's Great Barrier Reef you should look out for Heart Reef, in Hardy Reef, which is a stunning composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart 

Heart of the ocean: If you are lucky enough to get a helicopter ride over Australia’s Great Barrier Reef you should look out for Heart Reef, in Hardy Reef, which is a stunning composition of coral that has naturally formed into the shape of a heart

Sir Richard Branson owns the tranquil Makepeace Island off Australia's Sunshine Coast. The secluded sanctuary offers 20 explorers the chance to stay in luxury villas with access to a lagoon pool and island bar

Sir Richard Branson owns the tranquil Makepeace Island off Australia’s Sunshine Coast. The secluded sanctuary offers 20 explorers the chance to stay in luxury villas with access to a lagoon pool and island bar

At sunset the silhouette of this heart-shaped hole in the rocky cliffs of Calanques de Piana on Corsica Island, France, is breathtaking

At sunset the silhouette of this heart-shaped hole in the rocky cliffs of Calanques de Piana on Corsica Island, France, is breathtaking

Contrasting against the lush green mountain, this bright turquoise heart-shaped lake is located near Ala-Kul Lake, Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan

Contrasting against the lush green mountain, this bright turquoise heart-shaped lake is located near Ala-Kul Lake, Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan

This large formation of vegetation in New Caledonia is called the Coeur or Heart of Voh. It was made famous in a photograph taken in 1990 and published a few years later on the book cover Earth from Heaven, by French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand

This large formation of vegetation in New Caledonia is called the Coeur or Heart of Voh. It was made famous in a photograph taken in 1990 and published a few years later on the book cover Earth from Heaven, by French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Heart Island in Galesnjak, Croatia, first gained worldwide recognition in 2009 when Google Earth captured its unique shape with this satellite image. Galesnjak is uninhabited and does not have any tourist facilities, but visitors can travel by boat for a day with their loved one

Heart Island in Galesnjak, Croatia, first gained worldwide recognition in 2009 when Google Earth captured its unique shape with this satellite image. Galesnjak is uninhabited and does not have any tourist facilities, but visitors can travel by boat for a day with their loved one

Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora, with flights available to tour or tie the knot on the stunning island 

Travellers can also visit Tupai, a tiny atoll located just north of Bora Bora, with flights available to tour or tie the knot on the stunning island

In Germany there is a heart-shaped island in Kleine Muritz Lake, perfect for lovers wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the world

In Germany there is a heart-shaped island in Kleine Muritz Lake, perfect for lovers wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the world

At the foot of Dunsinane Hill in Perthshire, Scotland, surrounded by fields, is a cute heart-shaped pond

At the foot of Dunsinane Hill in Perthshire, Scotland, surrounded by fields, is a cute heart-shaped pond

Those travelling by boat may not be able to fully appreciate this small heart-shaped island in Germany located where the Ruhr River joins the Kemnade reservoir, as it is best viewed from above

Those travelling by boat may not be able to fully appreciate this small heart-shaped island in Germany located where the Ruhr River joins the Kemnade reservoir, as it is best viewed from above

Have the ultimate romantic retreat on Tavarua Island in Fiji. The 29-acre island is surrounded by a stunning coral reef

Have the ultimate romantic retreat on Tavarua Island in Fiji. The 29-acre island is surrounded by a stunning coral reef

Located in the Bavarian Alps, this beautiful heart-shaped islands sits on Germany’s Lake Walchensee

Located in the Bavarian Alps, this beautiful heart-shaped islands sits on Germany’s Lake Walchensee

Those flying above the British Columbia landscape in Canada can catch a glimpse of this unusually carved lake

Those flying above the British Columbia landscape in Canada can catch a glimpse of this unusually carved lake

In 2013 it was rumoured that Angelina Jolie bought the heart-shaped Petra Island near New York as a 50th birthday gift for partner Brad Pitt but this was later disputed 

In 2013 it was rumoured that Angelina Jolie bought the heart-shaped Petra Island near New York as a 50th birthday gift for partner Brad Pitt but this was later disputed

 

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    This scenic property in Pas-de-Calais, Louches, France, comes with its own heart-shaped lake - ideal for romantic strolls

    This scenic property in Pas-de-Calais, Louches, France, comes with its own heart-shaped lake – ideal for romantic strolls

    Those who venture up Austrian Alps should look out for a glimpse of this heart-shaped glacier lake during the trip

    Those who venture up Austrian Alps should look out for a glimpse of this heart-shaped glacier lake during the trip

    Water in this reservoir in Goldried, High Tauern National Park, Austria, is collected in the shape of a heart

    Water in this reservoir in Goldried, High Tauern National Park, Austria, is collected in the shape of a heart

    Lake Pupuke is a heart-shaped freshwater lake occupying a volcanic crater between the suburbs of Takapuna and Milford on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand 

    Lake Pupuke is a heart-shaped freshwater lake occupying a volcanic crater between the suburbs of Takapuna and Milford on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand

     

 

Top 30 autumn escapes

Source: Independent

No worries here: there’s something to suit every pocket with these 30 great-value destinations.  Been to most of them on my travels so if you have an questions drop me a message…

– Nick

Prague has layers of history

Prague has layers of history

Best for Budget Travellers

Prague

Take one of the many free walking tours of the city of 100 spires, wander the old town admiring the baroque architecture and visit the popular astronomical clock with its hourly free show. Both food and drink are keenly priced, as is nightlife. Karlovy Lazne is the biggest club in central Europe with a different type of music on each of its five storeys.

Get there: lowcostholidays.ie has two-night packages from €156pp in November. Or try czech-inn.com for luxury hostel accommodation.

More info: prague.eu

If you like this, try: Budapest

Lisbon

Lisbon’s a relaxed city with great cafes, pretty architecture and decent shopping. If the weather is clement, there are terrific beaches within easy reach of the city at Cascais and Estoril, otherwise just stroll around, listen to Fado music, admire the beautiful tiles for which Lisbon is famous and enjoy some excellent food and some of the good value wines for which Portugal is well known.

Get there: Independent Travel has 5-star breaks from €239pp in November.

More info: visitlisboa.com

If you like this, try: Porto

Warsaw

Destroyed in WW2, Warsaw’s Old Town has been fully restored and the city is known for great museums, particularly those exploring the history of Poland’s Jewish community. You can make the day-trip to Auschwitz from Warsaw. Warsaw has palaces, and gardens, and great nightlife too.

Get there: Travel Republic (travelrepublic.ie) has three-night breaks in November, including flights and 4-star hotel, from €320pp.

More info: warsawtour.pl

If you like this, try: Bratislava

Budapest

Visit the Jewish quarter, and the Cave Church on Gellert Hill overlooking the city for the best views, and wander what is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Check out one of the city’s famed baths, and if you are young enough (under 25, we suggest) get a ticket for a Sparty bath party in the Schechenyi baths, which take place until the end of October. Not for the faint-hearted. Or the prudish.

Get there: ebookers.ie has two-night city breaks in a 3-star hotel in November from €122. aventurahostelbudapest.com offers luxury hostel accommodation.

More info: budapest.com

If you like this, try: Berlin

Riga

The capital of Latvia is known as the pearl of the Baltics, and there’s a medieval old town to explore plus Art Nouveau architecture, museums, boat tours along the Daugava river and some smart shopping if budgets permit. Good value for eating, drinking and accommodation.

Get there: Club Travel (clubtravel.ie) has a three-night city break in Riga, staying in a 4-star hotel departing October 30 from €170pp.

More info: liveriga.com

Best for Families

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Rome

The Italian capital is brilliant for families – but hold your visit until the kids have some idea about the Romans and who they were. Autumn is the perfect time to visit, temperature-wise, and this is one city where a hop-on hop-off bus tour is worthwhile. Rome is never quiet, so be prepared for long queues at the Vatican unless you pre-book and pay a premium. Children of a certain age will love the smutty ancient graffiti at the Colosseum, and consider a day-trip to Pompeii if you have time.

Get there: Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies to Rome from €43.99 each way, while Cassidy Travel (cassidytravel.ie) has a 4-star city break from €260pp in December.

More info: rome.info

Ideal family break: Rome

Ideal family break: Rome

If you like this, try: Athens for an equally spectacular history fix.

Paris

Everyone gets a thrill from seeing the familiar landmarks of Paris up close and personal, and teenagers will love the shopping opportunities and flea markets. Keep the troops onside by diluting the churches and galleries with gourmet treats along the way – Maison Berthillon on the Ile Saint Louis serves a spectacular range of ice-cream in all the usual flavours, with oddities such as foie gras and Earl Grey tea for the more adventurous. Frozen fans and younger children might prefer Disneyland Paris.

Get there: Budget Travel (budgettravel.ie) has a 3-star city break including flights from €242pp, based on an October 15 departure.

More info: en.parisinfo.com

If you like this, try: London, with a day trip to Legoland (legoland.co.uk) at Windsor.

New York

A trip to New York is one that even the most jaded and anti-social of teenagers will leap at. With the exchange rate as cruel as it is these days, plan to include some activities that don’t cost anything. New York is one of the best cities in the world to explore on foot; try the Highline linear park, and the walk into Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge at night. Galleries can be expensive (though do consider the small and perfectly formed Frick) but MOMA is free on Fridays between 4 and 8pm. At the Bronx Zoo you pay what you want on Wednesdays.

Get there: Tour America (touramerica.ie) has direct flights and three nights at the Fitzpatrick Grand Central Hotel from €899pp based on two people sharing a November 21 departure.

More info: nycgo.com

If you like this, try: Chicago, for art and architecture fans.

Berlin

Berlin. Photo: Deposit

Berlin. Photo: Deposit

Berlin’s museums are among the best in Europe, and a three-day museum pass will get you admission to all the museums on Museum Island for three consecutive days for €24 for adults and €12 for children. Apart from great sightseeing, the city also has lots of fantastic playgrounds, for when the culture becomes overwhelming. Good vintage shopping for teens.

Get there: Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) and Ryanair (ryanair.com) fly direct to Berlin. Check out airbnb.ie or generator.hostels.com for affordable options if travelling with teens – accommodation starts from €17.50 in the hostel in the central Mitte area which is good for cool shopping.

More info: visitberlin.de

If you like this, try: Amsterdam

Reykjavik

Iceland is one of the new success stories of European tourism, and Reykjavik is welcoming to families, with high-chairs in most restaurants and a family friendly vibe. There are 18 splash-and-play thermal pools in the capital, and you can go whale-watching on a boat trip from the city’s old harbour, or try on Viking costumes at one of the city museums. In winter, go skating on Tjornin Lake and explore the Christmas Village. It’s expensive though, so plan carefully to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Read more: WOW Air announces direct fares to Iceland from €69pp

Get there: WOW air (wowair.ie) flies direct from Dublin to Reykjavik until October 22. Wallace Travel(wallacetravelgroup.ie) has packages from €519pp plus tax.

More info: visitreykjavik.is

If you like this, try: Stockholm

Best for Couples

Marrakech

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Marrakech

If you’ve never been to Morocco, then a trip to Marrakech is a real eye-opener as it’s nothing like any European city. Visit a hammam, stroll through the medina in the evening for a fix of Gnawa musicians and dancers, snake charmers and storytellers, and eat at one of the city’s rooftop restaurants. The beautiful Jardin Majorelle, associated with Yves Saint Laurent, took 40 years to create and is a must for anyone interested in horticulture. Be sure to stay in a riad to get the real flavour of the city.

Get there: Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies direct to Marrakech. Riad al Moussika (riyad-al-moussika.com) offers a blend of Moorish and Art Deco styles from €230.

More info: visitmorocco.com

If you like this, try: Istanbul for more minarets.

Edinburgh

Walk the Royal Mile, explore Edinburgh Castle, climb the 287 steps of the Victorian Gothic Scott monument at dusk, sample some of Scotland’s new craft whiskies, climb Arthur’s Seat (that’s the hill that features in the tearjerker movie, One Day) and stroll along The Shore, before hitting some of the city’s great bars and restaurants. Phew! Bring winter woollies, though, as Edinburgh can get really cold.

Get there: Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies to Edinburgh. The 5-star Chester Residence has romantic packages from £95pp/€130.

More info: thisisedinburgh.com

If you like this, try: Nice, for warmer walking.

Venice

Venice. Photo: Deposit

Venice. Photo: Deposit

A cluster of 117 islands linked by canals and bridges, Venice regularly makes it onto all those lists of most romantic destinations for good reason. The city is a world heritage site, and it’s perfect for lovers of art and architecture. In the past, Venice fell down on the food front, and there are still plenty of over-priced tourist traps – so plan ahead to ensure that you eat well. And be prepared to walk. A lot.

Get there: Independent Travel  has Aer Lingus flights plus seven nights at a 3-star hotel from €997pp, departing October 17.

More info: venice-tourism.com

If you like this, try: St. Petersburg

Dubrovnik

Walk the walls of the old town, and if the weather is good take a ferry to one of the islands, Lokrum or Lopud, where there is good swimming. Take the cable car up the hill for spectacular views at either sunrise or sunset. Chi-chi shopping and good but pricey restaurants; venture away from the main streets for better value and more interesting food. Dubrovnik doubles as King’s Landing in Game of Thrones, so be prepared for many of your fellow tourists to be fans of the series.

Get there: Travel Department (traveldepartment.ie) has seven-night city breaks to Dubrovnik including flights and 3-star hotel from €659pps.

More info: tzdubrovnik.hr

If you like this, try: Talinn. Estonia’s capital has a walled and cobbled old town too.

Vienna

Head to Vienna for a civilised weekend and explore the city’s baroque architecture, the palaces and museums, and the Spanish riding school. Take in an opera if you plan ahead, and don’t miss out on the café society for which the city is famous. Chocolate cake and strudel at Café Mozart in the Sacher hotel come highly recommended.

Get there: Going to press, GoHop.ie had five nights in the Arion Cityhotel & Appartements on a room-only basis from €296pp, departing October.

More info: vienna.info

If you like this, try: Bruges

Best for Foodies

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

Rene Redzepi of Noma has revolutionised the way we think about food in the 21st century and is directly responsible for the appearance of wild and foraged ingredients on menus around the world. Even if you can’t get a table at his place – bookings open approximately two months ahead of time – there’s a slew of bright young chefs in the city, including some Noma alumni, all of whom are listed on Noma’s website noma.dk. Try Christian Puglisi’s Relae or Manfreds & Vin for example.

Get there: lowcostholidays.ie had a two-night break for two people from November 6-8 including flights and the 4-star First Hotel from €322pp.

More info: visitcopenhagen.com

If you like this, try: Oslo, for more good Scandi-style food… and sky-high prices.

Lyon

Foodies are spoilt for choice in France’s gastronomic capital. Les Halles de Lyon is the market associated with culinary legend, Paul Bocuse. There are 60-odd stalls, each more tempting than the last. Remember to check in a bag for the return journey so you can bring home some fabulous cheeses, as you won’t get them through security at the airport otherwise, and book tables at La Mere Brazier, Le Bec and one of the city’s famous traditional bouchons. Pack bigger trousers for the return journey.

Get there: Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies to Lyon in October from €123. Rooms at the 5-star Cour des Loges (courdesloges.com) from €203.

More info: en.lyon-france.com

If you like this, try: Bordeaux, for more great food. And wine.

Istanbul

Mosques and palaces, art and architecture, the former capital of the Ottoman empire has all that but is also gaining a reputation as a must-visit city for foodies. Ansel Mullins and Yigal Schleifer run food company Istanbul Eats, offering tours around the culinary backstreets for visitors in search of something more authentic than a doner kebab.

Get there: Turkish Airlines (turkishairlines.com) fly twice daily from Dublin, with fares from around €265 return. Try booking.com for hotel deals.

More info: goturkey.com

If you like this, try: Beirut, to see where Ottolenghi gets his inspiration.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian is home to three of Spain’s seven 3-star Michelin restaurants, including Arzak and Mugaritz, the sixth-best restaurant in the world, according to the San Pellegrino list. You can eat very well, and less extravagantly, at one of the city’s many pintxo (tapas) restaurants, and the quality of the food across the board is outstanding. sansebastianfood.com offers culinary-focused tours.

Get there: Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies to Bilbao, or you can fly to Biarritz. The lovely Hotel Maria Cristina offers a one-night pintxo passport from €324pps including accommodation.

More info: sansebastianturismo.com

If you like this, try: Barcelona, for more inspiring modern Spanish food.

Florence

Of course Florence is over-run with tourists, and has more than its fair share of over-priced and mediocre restaurants to cater for them. But do your research and you will eat very well in the city at places such as Mario’s Trattoria on Via Rosina, where you should ask for a table in the basement and sit with the locals in a room that doubles as a shrine to the local football team. What to order? Bistecca fiorentina of course. Restaurateur Ronan Ryan, who knows a thing or two about Italian food, recommends Cibreo.

Get there: Club Travel (clubtravel.ie) has city breaks to Florence in November from €261pp.

More info: firenzeturismo.it

If you like this: The Northern Italian towns of Modena, Parma and Bologna are gastronomic heaven.

Best for Christmas Markets

The "Heimat der Heinzel" Christmas market in Cologne's old town. Photo: Cologne Tourism

Cologne

Beginning in late November, the Cologne Christmas market is among the best in Europe. Split into seven separate markets, the four main locations are at Cologne Cathedral, the Alter Markt, the Neumarkt and on Rudolfplatz At the cathedral market, there is an enormous Christmas tree and over 160 decorated huts. Even The Grinch would struggle not to be touched by the sense of festive cheer throughout the city square.

Get there: ebookers.ie has a two-night city break in November with Ryanair flights and 3-star accommodation from €275pp.

More info: cologne-tourism.com

If you like this, try: Munich

Strasbourg

Strasbourg’s Christmas market has been voted the best in Europe, so even though there are no direct flights from Ireland, it is worth the extra effort for aficionados to get there. The first Christkindelsmarik was held in 1570, and the tradition has continued ever since. The market now takes place over 11 locations across the city, with over 300 chalets selling everything from arts and crafts to food and typical Alsatian Christmas decorations. This year’s market takes place from November 27 to December 31.

Get there: Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies to Frankfurt Hahn. Check skyscanner.com for flight deals, at the time of writing there were deals from €249 return in late November.

More info: tourisme-alsace.com

If you like this, try: Lille

Madrid

Madrid goes to town with its Christmas lights and decorations, and different designers and artists are given the honour of planning each year’s theme. Madrid’s Christmas market takes place in the Plaza Mayor, the portico-lined square in the heart of Hapsburg Madrid. The square is filled with a vast array of stalls offering decorations, Christmas trees, crafts, artisan food products, candles and jewellery as well as many stalls devoted to antiques and collectibles. Besides the stalls, there is a carousel and fairground rides. Churros with hot chocolate is the sustenance of choice for market shoppers and, when a rest is needed, there are bus tours of the city to admire the decorations.

Get there: Travel Department (traveldepartment.ie) has three-night city breaks to Madrid from €299pp.

More info: turismomadrid.es

If you like this, try: Barcelona

Read more: Europe’s Top 10 Christmas markets 2015

Stockholm

The Christmas market has been held in Stortorget in the Old Town since 1915, and the little red stalls sell warm “glögg”, gingerbread, cheese, candy and crafts. The Swedish do Christmas really well, and there’s plenty on offer whether your taste in decorations leans towards the traditional or the contemporary. This year’s market runs from November 22 to December 23.

Get there: SAS (flysas.com) flies to Stockholm. Club Travel (clubtravel.ie) has city breaks from €198pps in December.

More info: visitstockholm.com

If you like this, try: Gothenburg

Brussels

The Christmas Market in Brussels takes over a 2km stretch of the city centre around Grand Place, Bourse, Place Sainte Catherine and Marche aux Poissons. The Winter Wonder theme appeals to both adults and children, with fantastic lighting displays and a Ferris wheel and ice-skating for when you’ve had enough of the shopping. This year the market runs from November 27 to January 3.

Get there: Clickandgo.com has 5-star city breaks with Aer Lingus flights from €289pp in November.

More info: visitbrussels.be

If you like this, try: Krakow

Best for shopping

Dubai marina

Dubai marina

Dubai

Label junkies will think they have died and gone to heaven in Dubai, where shopping is the order of the day. Don’t expect too much in the way of culture, but you’ll eat and drink well and come back laden like it’s 2006 all over again. Mall of the Emirates is a good place to start.

Get there: Tropical Sky (tropicalsky.ie) has four-night city breaks to Dubai including flights and accommodation at the 4-star Movenpick Hotel Jumeirah Lakes Towers from €649pp.

More info: visitdubai.com

If you like this, try: Abu Dhabi

Boston

Christmas shopping trips to the US have lost their lustre in recent years, as the exchange rate has become distinctly unfriendly. That said, Boston is always a great city to visit for culture and food, the tours of Harvard by students are worthwhile, and the shops are good at coming up with excuses for sales and discounts for no apparent reason at all. Wrentham Village is the best for outlet shopping.

Get there: American Sky (americansky.ie) has three-night breaks with accommodation at the 3-star Midtown Hotel from €629pp this winter.

More info: bostonusa.com

If you like this, try: New York

London

London

London

The appeal of London shopping is big for fashionistas, because the selection is far greater than it is at home, even if the prices will seem eye-wateringly high once the current punishing exchange rate is applied. Selfridges is a fashion mecca with something for everyone, but try the smaller boutiques of Shoreditch and Bethnal Green for a more esoteric retail experience. The Dover Street Market is always worth visiting, and although you’ll find most chains have opened here, Anthropologie still hasn’t made it to Ireland.

Get there: Think about staying in a luxury hostel to keep more money for shopping. Generator (generatorhostels.com) is near St.Pancras with overnight rates from £10.50.

More info: visitlondon.com

If you like this, try: Manchester

Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s Nine Streets area, in the heart of the canal district and just a couple of minutes’ walk from Dam Square, is fantastic for shopping, with designer boutiques, art galleries, jewellers, and specialist stores catering to every interest. There are plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants too, which always makes the shopping a more pleasant experience.

Get there: Ryanair (ryanair.com) has launched a new Dublin-Amsterdam service for winter. The smart boutique suite hotel miauw.com has rooms starting at €169 per night.

More info: amsterdam.info

If you like this try: Antwerp, for edgy clothes shopping

Milan

Milan does high-end fashion like nowhere else, so it is the city of choice for people who take their designer clothes very seriously indeed. For those on more restricted budgets, the city is surrounded by a number of outlets, stocking designers from Marni to Blumarine, see wheremilan.com for details. Bus services are available from the city centre.

Get there: Independent Travel  has three-night, 4-star breaks in Milan from €229pp in November 26.

More info: tourism.milan.it

If you like this, try: Florence

NB: All prices subject to availability/change.

 

 

Nat Geo’s Best Trips 2016

So here are National Geographic Magazine’s top travel picks for 2016 – enjoy!

                                                                                Ned


Côte d’Or, Burgundy, France

https://i1.wp.com/images.nationalgeographic.com/wpf/media-live/photos/000/923/cache/bow-burgundy-france-landscape_92364_600x450.jpg

Photograph by Günter Gräfenhain, SIME

 

The item EVERYONE should pack, why brewing tea could save your life if you’re lost and how to blend in while visiting dangerous countries: SAS hero Andy McNab’s top travel tips

Oh-so-useful article via Travel Mail – my thanks to hero Andy McNab           Ned


  • Andy McNab served with the legendary SAS unit for nine years
  • He was trained to make it out alive from every possible hostile environment
  • His next expedition is to the South Pole – to raise money for the #ReadingJourney Appeal 

Even the best-planned holidays can have their pitfalls.

Tourists can inadvertently find themselves lost in a wilderness, facing a dangerous animal or harassed by locals.

Here former SAS hero Andy McNab reveals his top tips for staying safe while abroad. And who better to give out advice? After all, Mr McNab served with the legendary covert special forces unit for nine years and has expert survival knowledge, having been trained to make it out alive from every possible hostile environment.

He reveals the handy item everyone should pack, what to do in the event of your plane being hijacked – and why making a cup of tea is the best move if you get lost.

Former SAS hero Andy McNab reveals his top tips for staying safe while abroad

Former SAS hero Andy McNab reveals his top tips for staying safe while abroad

The essential item everyone should pack

Everyone should pack an Uzi tactical pen – check online. It is a brilliant self-defence weapon, you can take it through security and you can use it to fill in the landing card.

The best way of dealing with angry immigration officers in the US

Smile and comply. They have the ultimate power. The only way for you to get what you want out of it is to behave and do what they want. Having said that, there’s a great flight to JFK out of London City which clears US immigration at Shannon, then you don’t have to worry about it.

Mr McNab recommends packing an Uzi pen when travelling - if only to fill out the landing card
What to do if your plane is hijacked

Whenever you have the opportunity you should fight. You have no control of what they are going to do or what will happen, so start from the perspective that you are dead anyway, so anything else is a bonus.

The essential position to take up if your plane nosedives

I’d curl up in a ball, facing the other way, with my back to the front of the aircraft. That is what you do on military flights. And in parachute terms, ‘accept the landing’.

You should always try and fight hijackers who take over your plane, says Mr McNab, if you have the opportunity

How to cope if your wanderlust drives you to visit a notorious dangerous country such as Somalia or Afghanistan

Why on earth are you going there? The only reason you should go there is for money, if you are working, or are going to profit from it. If you are going to get an experience, you might just get a bigger experience than you bargained for! If you do go, ensure that you are prepared for a pretty long stay, just in case. It isn’t adventurous to go, it’s stupid.

Iran is ‘opening up’ – but is it really advisable to visit?

Go skiing! Just outside of Tehran is the most amazing ski resort. If you are into art, the Persian stuff is incredible.

Slope style: Mr McNab recommends the skiing in Iran (pictured)

Why you should become the ‘grey man’ in a hostile atmosphere abroad

First of all, knowledge is essential in a hostile environment. Where are the dangerous areas? Know where to avoid. Never present yourself as a threat. Make sure you are always the humble one, the grey man. It is very aggressive to confront someone and get eye contact. Stay insignificant.

Wear what the locals are wearing. In the Western hemisphere, that’s jeans, trainers and so on, but perhaps not the Cartier Tank watch or your iPhone 6S dangling off your belt.

If you’re in a country where people haven’t got stuff, don’t show that you have got it. Bling doesn’t impress, bling attracts in all the wrong ways.

If you stand out because you are ethnically distinct somewhere, try to look like a traveller not a tourist, i.e more switched on, streetwise, with more knowledge of where you are.

Drinking in bars abroad can be fun – but can also be intimidating if they’re full of rowdy. Avoidance is the best solution

Don’t go there! And if you have to, avoid eye contact and smile. Have your beer and then leave!

The best way to disappear if you think you’re being followed

First of all confirm you are being followed. Anyone following you around three corners is clearly up to no good. It is an unnatural route for anyone. The best way to disappear is to go into a building that has multiple exits. Go into a department store, full of people and exits. You can go in and get out another side and get out of danger. Or, if you think you are being followed on public transport, as in the films, get on the Tube and then jump off again at the last minute. The downside of this though is that they will realize that you know you are being followed.

Why running is the best thing to do in the event of a terrorist attack at your resort

You pick up everything you love – i.e your family – and leave everything else, and run. What human beings do, which is weird, is freeze, like animals in the headlights. We find it very hard to believe something bad is happening as it’s alien, so we look, question what we are seeing and don’t want to appear stupid by overreacting. The instinct to get out quickly isn’t there, but if you think something bad is happening, get away from it.

If a dangerous animal comes looking for a fight, why fighting back might be your best option

'If you come up against a bear with the hump, you are done for anyway, so you might as well have a crack and see what happens,' says Mr McNab

It is all about fight or flight. At a moment like that, there is no right or wrong way. You are working against something you have no control of, i.e the animal. It’s down to you to decide whether or not to fight it and see what happens, or run, and see what happens! Only you know what you are capable of, and possibly what the animal you are facing is capable of. If you come up against a bear with the hump, you are done for anyway, so you might as well have a crack and see what happens. It’s only the end when you’re not breathing!

How to stay toasty in the coldest of environments

If you get stranded you can do without food, it’s avoiding being wet and cold that is important. It’s all about kit. I’m about to leave on a South Pole trip, and the technical kit is amazing. Having said that, the disposable handwarmers that you can get on the high street are brilliant. I’ll be taking loads of them! They are also good for warming up batteries in phones and GPS devices when they stop working.

Keeping cool in the hottest of climates

People don’t drink enough. If you come from a temperate climate you don’t realize that by the time you feel thirsty, it’s usually too late. You need to be drinking litres of water, until your urine is clear, then you know you’ve got enough water in you. Then keep on going. Keep out of the sun and cover your head, obviously.

Why brewing up and calming down is key to surviving if you get lost far from civilisation

Taking stock: Calming down and having a cup of tea might just save your life if you get lost far from civilisation

The first thing if you are lost, anywhere, is to stop. Stop where you are, take a breath and don’t panic. If you listen to stories of people who are lost, you hear that they have been running from one point to another, trying to remember their route, and in their desperation, getting more confused.

If you stop, you calm down and sort yourself out. In the jungle in the SAS, if you were lost, you stopped, made a brew, worked out where you were and worked out where you needed to go. It’s desperate panic that gets people into really big trouble.

Conscious thought on where you’ve been, how you might be able to get back there is the only thing you need. If you are in those environments, you need the basic knowledge of knowing the compass points and navigating by the sun. You may well have a GPS with you, but what about when the battery goes dead? Ultimately, if you have an idea where the coast is, and it is east, then if you head east by the sun, eventually you’ll get there!

The other advice is if you find a watercourse, follow it downstream. Eventually where there is water there will be irrigation, vegetation and habitation.

What if an earthquake, tsunami or hurricane strikes while you’re on holiday?

We all know when they are about to happen. Don’t go to wherever they are forecast. And if you find yourself there, get somewhere that isn’t going to get blown away. Get underground if it’s a hurricane. In an earthquake stay where you are. And in a tsunami, get to high ground. One thing that happens before a tsunami is that all the wildlife disappears. If the cats and dogs have gone and the birds have stopped singing, follow them.

The most important next-steps if a cruise ship leaves you behind on a desert island

Finding water, food and shelter, in that order. Then you can worry about making your distress signals.

Touring jungles are great experiences – but the insects can nip enjoyment in the bud. Here’s how to cope

Make sure you cover up when visiting jungles, says Mr McNab

I did lots of jungle time in the SAS, without a doubt it is the best environment to be in because you’ve got lots of water, lots of shelter and lots of food, and it’s hot! The best way to take advantage of that is always to be covered up. The less skin that is exposed for the insects to bite, the less chance of disease and discomfort.

If you have got a mosquito repellent, the higher the percentage of Deet the better. The army stuff basically melts plastic it’s so strong, and that is great. Not great if you’re wearing a plastic watch though.

What to do if you find yourself all at sea

Ultimately, if you are lost at sea you need to know the cardinal points. You need to know how to sail, you need to have an idea of where you are, you need to be able to navigate. You have got food, you have got rehydration because you’ve got fluid from the fish and birds you are eating. It’s just a matter of knowing which way to go. Again if you know landfall is west, then you need to know which way is west, obviously!

McNAB’S EXTRAORDINARY CAREER

Andy McNab has lived an extraordinary life. As a young soldier he waged war against the IRA in the streets and fields of South Armagh. As a member of 22 SAS he was at the centre of covert operations for nine years – on five continents.

During the Gulf War he commanded Bravo Two Zero, a patrol that, in the words of his commanding officer, ‘will remain in regimental history for ever’. Awarded both the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and Military Medal (MM) during his military career, McNab was the British Army’s most highly decorated serving soldier when he finally left the SAS.

Source: www.andymcnab.co.uk 

  • Detonator by Andy McNab is out now