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

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

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

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

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

HT: Worlds50BestBars

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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

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

                                                                                                                                                               – Ned


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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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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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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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A fascinating image of a building reflected from the River Danube

A fascinating image of a building reflected from the River Danube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

French workmen’s café accidentally gets Michelin star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How they compare…

Bouche à Oreille, Bourges

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

Bouche à Oreille, Boutervilliers

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

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

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

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

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Le Bouche à Oreille

A la carte:

Entrées

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

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

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

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

Main courses

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

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

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

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

Calf’s kidneys in jus  – €30 (£26)

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

Desserts

Crêpes flambéed in Grand Marnier €12 (£10)

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

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

 

Cappadocia, Turkey – Escher at his best

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


Goreme, Cappadocias

Goreme, Cappadocias

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

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

Goreme

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

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

Living as troglodytes

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

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

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

Paula in Goreme

Paula in Goreme

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

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

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Hot air balloning in Goreme

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

Goreme aerial

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

 

 

 

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

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

  – Ned


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

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

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PÁLL STEFÁNSSON At the Holuhraun eruption site last winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More photos from the book:

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

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

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AT HRAFNTINNUSKER Geothermal detail. Photo/Páll Stefánsson

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

January

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

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

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

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

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

February

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

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

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

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

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

March

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

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

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

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

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

April

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

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

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

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

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

May

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

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

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

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

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

June

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

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

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

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

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

July

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

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

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

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

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

August

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

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

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

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

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

September

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

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

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

There are other great options, too. You’ll find deserted beaches in a sun-drenched Corsica and can take a moment to appreciate the autumn foliage brightening up Beijing and the Great Wall of China. There’s also often an Indian Summer to make the most of in hazy San Francisco.

And it’s a thrilling month to go rafting in New Zealand, hiking in Mont Blanc, on safari in northern Kenya, or cruising around the Moselle Valley in Germany.

October

With Vietnam experiencing monsoon seasons in both the winter and the summer, October has the perfect conditions for a stunning escape to highlights such as Halong Bay (pictured)

With Vietnam experiencing monsoon seasons in both the winter and the summer, October has the perfect conditions for a stunning escape to highlights such as Halong Bay (pictured)

Top picks for October travel itineraries include Fiji, the Seychelles, Slovakia, Lyon, Bolivia, Costa Verde in Brazil, New Mexico, the Scottish Highlands, New York and Taiwan.

And with Vietnam experiencing monsoon seasons in both the winter and the summer, October has the perfect conditions for a stunning escape to highlights such as Halong Bay.

There’s more.

During this month ‘clear mountain views’ can be enjoyed on visits to Darjeeling in India and Bhutan and Lonely Planet also recommends Oman as it is blessed with ‘mellow weather’ and ‘a taste of old Arabia’.

November

Sun-seekers should make a break for Barbados (pictured), Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands in the tail end of the year before the crowds arrive

Sun-seekers should make a break for Barbados (pictured), Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands in the tail end of the year before the crowds arrive

Nicaragua, the Cayman Islands, the Simien mountains in Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Tokyo and Honshu, South Africa, Oregon, Nepal, Dunedin in New Zealand, Ruka in Finland and Hong Kong are attractive vacation destinations for November.

Sun-seekers, meanwhile, should make a break for Barbados, Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands in the tail end of the year before the other beach bums arrive.

And November is a temperate time to explore Rajasthan and the Golden Triangle and it’s cool enough to climb the Mayan ruins at Ruta May in Guatemala. Abu Dhabi might also be an option if you’re into Formula One or want to explore the new crop of museums opening there, which include the Louvre and the Guggenheim.

December

If you want to start the new year on a natural high head for Southern Patagonia, Chile, at the ends of the Earth where the vast landscapes are a hiking paradise

If you want to start the new year on a natural high head for Southern Patagonia, Chile, at the ends of the Earth where the vast landscapes are a hiking paradise

Why not spend Christmas overseas? Lonely Planet recommends St Vincent and the Grenadines, Australia’s Sapphire coast, the Andaman Islands, Laos, Senegal, San Sebastian, Micronesia and Tenerife in December.

And this month need not be dreary as there are winter wonderlands to discover in Arctic Sweden, Jasper in Canada, Breckenridge in the US or on the Glacier Express in Switzerland.

Fans of winter markets will be enthralled with Tallin in Estonia’s offerings, and Scotland and New Orleans are top destinations for a lively New Years’ Eve. Or if you want to start the new year on a natural high head for Morocco’s stunning Sahara desert or Southern Patagonia, Chile, at the ends of the Earth. These vast landscapes are a hiking paradise.

Book details:

ISBN: 9781786571939 Language: English
Authors: Sarah Baxter, Paul Bloomfeild
320 pages, 320 pp colour | Dimensions: 230mm x 270mm
Next edition due: Dec 2020

17 Epic Places You Never Thought To Travel, But Should

“Be a traveller, not a tourist, in 2017”, say HuffPost.

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Paris? Been there. London? Done that. No offense to those storied standbys, but 2017 is a time to break out of your travel bubble and try someplace you’ve never thought to visit before.

Travel teaches us invaluable lessons we can’t learn in school. It expands our worldview. It pushes us to be better, stronger, more empathetic human beings. And these 17 places, in no particular order, are where that magic is going to happen this year. Some of them can be experienced in the lap of luxury, while others are for only the most adventurous souls. But all of them have the potential to be the best trip you’ve ever taken.

1. South Korea

Don’t let its northern neighbour scare you off: South Korea is full of adventurous travellers’ delights like national parks, mountains and islandsSki resorts here are top-notch, as some are preparing to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. For a more urban feel, try Korean BBQ in Seoul or chill out in Busan, a coastal city.

Visuals Unlimited, Inc./Geoffrey Schmid via Getty Images

 

Seoraksan National Park is the proud site of South Korea’s third-highest mountai. It also features hot springs, temples and jagged rock formations.

Locals vacation on Jeju Island for its beaches, outdoor spas and spine-tingling lava tube tours.

cozyta via Getty Images

 

Changdeokgung Palace, a 15th-century royal villa in Seoul, is a UNESCO world heritage site. Builders expertly designed the complex to accommodate the uneven terrain at the foot of a mountain peak.

Sungjin Kim via Getty Images

 

Cable cars haul skiers at what is now Deogyusan Resort, where hot springs await after a day on the slopes.

2. Mauritius

Mauritius is delicious. This tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean offers up a low-key vibe and endless turquoise waters perfect for sports like wind and kitesurfing. You can also sample local rum and street food or explore churches, temples, mosques and lighthouses from Mauritius’ rich history as a colonial trade hub.

Sapsiwai via Getty Images

 

Le Morne Brabant is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site that serves as “an exceptional testimony to… resistance to slavery.” The mountain’s forbidding cliffs hid runaway slaves known as maroons, and their oral traditions live on.

Liese Mahieu via Getty Images

 

It doesn’t get better than this.

ullstein bild via Getty Images

 

This is the Seven Coloured Earths in Chamarel, where naturally occurring sands of different colours form unique striped dunes.

Bon Espoir Photography via Getty Images

 

Above is a shopping center in the capital of Port Louis. English, French, and Mauritian Creole are the most commonly spoken languages in Mauritius, while Hinduism and Christianity are the top two religions.

3. Kazakhstan

The world’s ninth-largest country is not just for Borat: Fans of architecture, city tours and wilderness explorations will feel right at home in this little-explored corner of the earth. Start in Almaty, the biggest city, for clothing markets and upscale restaurants. Then, venture out to the Tian Shan mountains and hike sacred forests where many modern fruit crops were first cultivated.

huseyintuncer via Getty Images

 

Astana has been called the “world’s weirdest capital city,” in part because it hardly existed 20 years ago. CNN reports the area was “an empty patch of land… best known as a former gulag prison camp for the wives of Soviet traitors” before it was declared the new capital in 1997, sparking the quick rise of a futuristic skyline.

Leonid Andronov via Getty Images

 

Almaty’s wooden Ascension Cathedral was constructed without nails between 1904 and 1907, and is one of the only buildings in the city to survive a 1911 earthquake. Used for state and public purposes after the Russian Revolution, it was returned to the Russian Orthodox church in the 1990s.

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Big Almaty Lake sits in the Tian Shan mountains. The western Tian Shan range stretches into China and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, in part for its biodiversity.

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The city of Aktau, a hub for the oil industry, sits on the Caspian Sea and is a popular spot among locals for swimming.

4. Cyprus

This lush Mediterranean island sat under the rule of many ancient empires, and it shows: A trip here might include visits to a Byzantine monastery, a mosque or the tombs of high-ranking Hellenistic and Roman officials, which are part of a larger UNESCO world heritage site. Oh, and did we mention the island’s postcard-perfect beaches?

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In the port town of Kyrenia, you can take a boat cruise to swimming and snorkeling spots or visit a castle for a charming bird’s-eye view of the harbor.

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Limassol, Cyprus’ second-biggest city (and still a quaint one at that), has a lively bar and restaurant scene.

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See remains of an ancient outdoor theater, villas and baths at Kourion, a former city-kingdom on the coast.

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Adorable Pissouri village is the place to go for horseback riding and pub-hopping. Don’t be fooled, though: The ocean and impeccable diving are still within reach.

5. Latvia

Did you know Latvia has white sand beaches? This Baltic Sea gem, formerly part of the Soviet Union, is full of little surprises and a slight Scandinavian flair. The capital, Riga, was named the European Capital of Culture in 2014, and roughly half of the country is made up of pristine, accessible natural ecosystems. Historical Old Towns, churches and castles abound.

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Riga’s town hall square features the iconic House of the Blackheads, which was built in 1334, destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in 1999.

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Above is the Gauja River, on the border between Estonia and Latvia. Its namesake national park holds more than 500 cultural and historical monuments.

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Not a bad place to spend a summer’s day! Latvia sits across the Baltic Sea from Stockholm, Sweden.

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Kemeri National Park features a variety of wetlands, including the Great Kemeri Bog, which can be traversed by boardwalk.

6. Ecuador

Perched between Colombia and Peru on the Pacific, Ecuador has everything: mountains, beaches, rainforest, volcanos, hot springs, and the famous wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Once part of the Inca Empire, this dramatically beautiful land is steeped in both pre-Colombian and Spanish colonial culture and is perfect for cheap travellerstrek-happy adventurers and history lovers ― after all, Quito’s sprawling UNESCO-tapped city center is the colonial jewel of South America. (Bonus: Ecuador is on the dollar, so there’s no need to exchange currency.)

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Above is a photo of Bartolome Island in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. The endemic species in this volcanic archipelago inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and both land and sea are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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The Chimborazo volcano is the highest mountain in Ecuador.

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The historic center of Cuenca is yet another of Ecuador’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The town still subscribes to the rigid planning guidelines with which it was founded in 1557.

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Quito’s Jesuit Church of the Society of Jesus, informally known as la Compañía, has enough gold leaf inside to wow the most jaded travellers. The stunning baroque church also has a charming number of hidden nods to the local culture, including symbols of suns that salute Inca history and indigenous faces and plants worked into the ornate interior designs.

7. Samoa

This island nation ― not be confused with its equally awesome neighbour, American Samoa ― includes 10 islands brimming with volcanoes, waterfalls, rainforests, swimming holes and beaches. Journeying to a natural ocean blowhole or diving deep into a cave pool is just the beginning. Down-to-earth travellers will enjoy its lack of fancy resorts, too.

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Swimmers hop into To Sua Ocean Trench, part of a larger area with natural rock pools and blowholes.

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Perfect water awaits you on Upolu Island’s southwest coast.

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Papapapaitai Falls is about as impressive as waterfalls get: This showstopper tumbles into a giant gorge. Continue down the Cross Island Road for more falls, swimming holes and picnic spots.

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Upolu Island has plenty of beachfront hotels and ecolodges to maximize your time on the warm white sand.

8. Uruguay

Uruguay doesn’t get as much attention as neighbouring Argentina and Brazil, but this polished, progressive paradise on the Atlantic has a pinch of European flair and is well worth a visit. Experience gaucho culture on a ranch of rolling hills, take to the surf at Punta del Diablo, or party the night away in the clubs at Punta del Este.

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Stroll the cosmopolitan streets of Montevideo, including the famous Plaza Independencia.

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The rambling, eccentric Casapueblo resort in Punta Ballena was built by late Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, who was inspired by the mud nests of native hornero birds.

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The resort town of Punta del Este is known as a place to party, but the public art deserves a hand, too.

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Uruguay’s interior hills are rich in gaucho culture. Book a rural lodge and explore the beautiful countryside on horseback.

9. Namibia

First-time visitors to Africa should start here, in the world’s oldest desert, to experience the thrill of feeling like the last tourist on Earth. Considering its vast selection of wildlifenational parks, shipwrecks and larger-than-life sand dunes, Namibia somehow remains awesomely uncrowded. Many cities and towns have a distinctly German feel ― complete with German restaurants and colonial architecture ― due to years under European rule.

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Zebras drink at a waterhole in Etosha National Park, which offers various epic safaris.

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Ludertiz, a confusingly colonial harbour town, includes an old Lutheran church and bustling village shops that make it feel like anywhere but Africa.

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The quiver tree, a common sight in Southern Namibia, stands tall in a nature park known as Giant’s Playground.

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Off-roaders sit ready to explore the desert’s massive sand dunes, which also make for a daring day hike.

10. Guatemala

Mayan ruins play a starring role in Guatemala. Deep in the jungle, Tikal National Park is a lush playground of plazas, temples and dwellings that are well over 1,000 years old. Equally gorgeous are Guatemala’s active volcanoes, cascading lagoons and the Caribbean-blue Lake Petén Itzá. Even with all these natural wonders, a historic hotel-museum tops the list of places to visit nationwide.

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From the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D., Mayans inhabited what is now Tikal National Park. Current residents include jaguars, howler monkeys and more than 60 species of bats.

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Parque Central is a popular outdoor gathering place in Antigua, a city in the highlands.

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At Lake Petén Itzá, the blue water is perfect for sunsets and swimming with the locals.

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Daredevils can hike or camp near a handful of active volcanos in Guatemala’s rugged wilderness, though be careful to do so at the right time of year.

11. Papua New Guinea

One look at the water should make it, ahem, clear that this is a paradise. The U.S. State Department cautions that due to crime, an organized tour booked through a travel agency is the best way to explore this stunningly diverse and practically untouched country. (There’s little luxury involved, but it’s a trip of a lifetime.) Try a trekking tour along the rugged, mountainous Kokoda Track or journey to a sing-sing festival, at which Papua New Guineans display their many unique tribal cultures through music and dance.

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White sand beaches and few interruptions are hallmarks of the New Ireland Province.

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Capital Port Moresby is beautiful from the air, though its crime rate calls for sensible precautions. Infrastructure is virtually non-existent outside PNG’s major cities ― another reason to book a tour rather than travelling on your own.

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Local tribes celebrate a sing-sing in the Highlands. Some 836 indigenous languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea, most by fewer than a thousand speakers each.

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Of course, Papua New Guinea boasts excellent snorkelling and diving.

12. Newfoundland, Canada

Why Newfoundland? Here, east coasters can kayak with icebergs without taking a long flight to Greenland or Alaska and beyond. Then there’s 18,000 miles of unspoiled coastline with some 200 walking trails, plus the 22 species of whales that pass through Newfoundland and Labrador between May and September. Add in dramatic, glacier-carved fjords, and this part of Canada is truly a dream for nature lovers who prefer their international travel over-easy.

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Icebergs arrive from the Arctic each spring to places like Trinity Bay, above. Check the map of “Iceberg Alley,” then book a boat or kayak or car to experience them up close.

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We really can’t get enough of Gros Morne National Park, which, in addition to cool neon jellyfish, contains towering fjords you can tour by boat.

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The Fort Amherst historical site in St. John’s honors Colonel William Amherst, who recaptured the area from the French in 1762.

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Fall in Newfoundland is not too shabby. This is the Humber River in autumn.

13. Romania

Dracula’s homeland oozes eeriness and intrigue: The country has emerged from its Communist past to the delight of travellers who come to explore its medieval towns and ornate castles, including the one where fiction’s scariest bloodsucker once lived. Beyond the charming cobblestone streets, you’ll find adventurous alpine hikes through the towering Carpathian Mountains and all-inclusive beach resorts on the Black Sea coast.

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The Black Church, with its interior walls adorned with Turkish carpets, is the star of Brasov, a popular medieval town at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains.

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Corvin Castle in Transylvania features about 50 rooms of medieval art. It’s known as the most impressive Gothic castle in the country.

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It can take all day to drive the hairpin turns of Transfagarasan Road, which connects the provinces of Transylvania and Walachia through the mountains. Thanks to a gentle gradient, you can even bike it if you dare.

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Bucharest, Romania’s capital, is known for high energy and good food. Socialist and Art Nouveau architecture coexist here, and the nightlife is some of Eastern Europe’s best.

14. Laos

Even backpackers who have “seen it all” in Thailand and Cambodia will be awestruck in Laos. Stunning waterfalls, soaring mountains and blazing green rice fields are best enjoyed at the Laotian locals’ decidedly slow pace of life. Take a break from zip-lining and cave kayaking to join a yoga retreat or help out on an organic farm. The cuisine ― think sticky rice, papaya salad and fresh fish ― is worth savoring, too.

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A hot air balloon flies over Vang Vieng, a jungle town and magnet for backpackers.

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Kuang Si Falls are a refreshing ― but cold! ― place to swim. Prepare for the hike in, and look out for hidden pools along the way.

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Terraced rice fields overlook a village in Mu Cang Chai.

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Buddha Park in Vientiane is probably the most stunning sculpture park you’ll ever see.

15. Azerbaijan

“Untapped” may be the best way to describe this coastal country between Iran and Russia. Start in the capital of Baku, whose Old City has UNESCO world heritage status as a rare example of ancient architecture. Then, move out to explore quaint rural villages at the base of the Great Caucasus mountains. Former Peace Corps volunteers have set up a network of local homestays to help visitors enjoy the country’s outer fringes, where paved roads are scarce but the land is lush.

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Baku mixes old architecture with glittering 21st-century towers on the Caspian Sea.

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The Government House is just one of many historic monuments to see in Baku.

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Baku also offers museums, theaters, libraries and an opera house. Treat yourself to a balcony room at the glimmering Four Seasons Hotel.

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High in the mountains, Xinaliq is home to friendly shepherds who can point you in the right direction for adventurous hikes.

16. Slovenia

Croatia’s been a hot travel destination for a few years now, but don’t overlook its charming neighbour to the north. The snowy peaks of the Julian Alps are the dramatic backdrop for Slovenia’s storybook Lake Bled, while outdoor restaurants line the riverwalk in the friendly capital city Ljubljana and the sprawling Postojna Cave is a dramatic diversion. (Pro tip: You’ll likely save a few dollars by flying into Venice, Italy, rather than Ljubljana ― it’s not far over the border.)

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The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation overlooks Ljubljana’s famous Triple Bridge, a lively spot at night.

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Above you’ll see Lake Bled in the summer. Swim or row in the crystal-clear lake, dine at Bled Castle perched high on a cliff, or stroll the equally Instagram-worthy Vintgar Gorge.

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A tour boat on the Ljubljanica River in Ljubljana.

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The town of Piran is a “luminescent pearl” on the Adriatic Sea.

17. The Seychelles

Will and Kate honeymooned here, so you know the views are fit for royalty. This collection of around 115 islands in the Indian Ocean is basically a beach-y theme park, with inlets of every size and type. It could take weeks to see them all. Thank goodness there are both private island villas and casual B&Bs to stay in.

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With its pink sand and smooth boulders, Anse Source D’Argent is regularly praised as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Get there early in the day before other fanatics arrive.

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The beaches at Beau Vallon are some of the most highly trafficked in the Seychelles, but they’re still pleasantly low-key.

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From above, Mahe Island’s jungle flora and coastal towns shine in all their glory. Aside from the usual lineup of tucked-away beaches, the island’s forested interior is a hiker’s paradise.

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St. Pierre is the teensy-tiny islet of your wildest dreams. Seriously.

 

 

FALL IN LOVE WITH LUXEMBOURG – A CITY FILLED WITH CAFÉS, CULTURE AND FINE CUISINE

Super informative piece on my adopted homeland from Keri at greatdestinationsradioshow

Luxembourg City, capital of the small European country that bears the same name, isn’t an obvious short break destination for most British travellers. In fact, if you’re over 45 years old, you’re more likely to know it because of the the radio station that was based there and beamed pop music across Britain every night in the 60’s and 70’s. Now it’s better known for hosting some of the big institutions of the European Union.

And the reason for that is clear. Luxembourg is at the heart of Western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France and Germany. All of those neighbours have influenced life here. The buildings appear similar to those in Northern France and the official languages are French, German and the native Luxembourgish, which my tour guide, Gaby Limpach-Theis used to greet me. It sounded like a cross between French and German.

Luxembourg City is the same size as Worcester or Wigan but the retail options and restaurants are what you’d expect to find in a major world capital. That’s because Luxembourg is a key player in many European institutions. It’s where the European Union started and today it’s home to the European Court of Justice. You’ll see the blue flag with yellow stars flying everywhere. The city is also a major financial centre and home to major multinationals like Amazon and Microsoft, who are based here because of the favourable tax regime.

Luxembourg is an unusual city because it effectively has two city centres. Gaby told me that both the modern cultural centre and the Old Town are both worth visiting. The newer area is called the Kirchberg and architects have really gone to town designing incredible buildings to house EU bodies, banks and the arts. The main pedestrianized shopping streets are in the Old Town and are on top of a sandstone promontory, a clue to the fortified history of the city. It’s got plenty of handsome old architecture and feels very familiar to a British visitor. Away from the high street shops, you’ll also find high-end boutiques and bars that, midweek, are filled with bankers.

Down the hill in the city centre, known as the ‘Low City,’ there are pretty historic districts called Ville Basse and Grund. You can walk down the steep steps or take a lift. This leafy area is sought after – the mustard and terracotta painted Georgian-era houses are very attractive.

The cobbled streets descend to the small river, the Alzette, which winds through the city at the bottom of this gorge. You can stroll along a terrace a few hundred feet above, clinging to the side of the hill, which runs along the formidable city wall. The wall is up to 50 feet high and is cut into the rocky side of the valley. It almost looks like it’s holding back the hill. This walk, known as Le Chemin de la Corniche, offers picture postcard views of the church spires, old forts and the new city on the adjacent hill. Gaby said writers have described it as ‘the most beautiful balcony in Europe’ because of the superb vista over a thousand years of history.

Simon the concierge at my hotel, Le Royal, recommended that I walked down to the valley to visit the Benedictines’ Abbey. They set up their base when they had to leave France following the revolution. “Between this church and the river you have the most amazing views of the old fort, the Vauban, St Michaels church and the upper part of the town,” he told me.

Luxembourg City was founded in 980 and its strategic location means that it’s been fought over on many occasions. There were once three thick city walls ribboning the capital, making the whole town effectively a fort and leading to the nickname ‘the Gibraltar of the North.’ Some of the 53 forts along those military defences have been razed, but what remains is still impressive and has been listed by UNESCO.

One of Luxembourg City’s biggest attractions is located here but it’s hidden from view. The Bock Casemates are a network of tunnels stretching 15 miles under the city. They were started in 1644 by engineers working for the Spaniards, the controlling power in Luxembourg at the time. This underground maze linked the military fortifications and also provided storage.

Bock Casemates

Cross the high Queen Duchess Charlotte bridge, which spans the valley and gorge, and you reach the newer town centre of Kirchberg. There’s another fort here with more underground tunnels dug by the Prussians when it was their turn in charge – I told you that Luxembourg has changed hands a lot! The former Fort Thüngen was in disrepair but has been restored as a museum charting the country’s history to 1900. There’s a real guillotine on show. Mind your fingers. It’s named the Musée Dräi Eechelen after the finials on its three turrets, which resemble acorns.

As you walk around the city you’ll notice cartoon pictures of a mermaid everywhere. This is local folklore character Melusine and there’s a statue to her down by the river, near the Abbey Neimënster. Gaby recounted the sad tale for me:

“Count Siegfried of the Ardennes, the founder of Luxembourg, saw a beautiful woman singing while he was out riding by the River Alzette. He asked her to become his wife and she accepted on one condition – he couldn’t see her on Saturdays. Years passed after they were married and he always respected her wish to be alone on that day. But eventually, he couldn’t resist the temptation to find out why. He took a quick glimpse through the keyhole of her bathroom and gasped in horror when he saw that she was a mermaid. She promptly disappeared into the river and he never saw her again.”

There’s another good statue story in the upper town. The Gëlle Fra, or Golden Lady, is a gilded statue on the top of a 60-foot tall granite obelisk. The Nazis removed the figure and it disappeared for years. “Workers found her hidden beneath the main stand of the national football stadium in 1980,” Gaby told me. “She was renovated and returned to the obelisk in 1985. She represents the freedom of Luxembourg.”

There’s quite a bit of public art around the city. The strangest I saw was on 32 Rue de l’Eau where there are holographic heads on 20-foot high poles. Their eyes follow you as you walk around!

Opposite the heads is the monarch’s city residence. Luxembourg’s royal family is led by the Grand Duke, a title used since 1815. You can tour the public areas of the palace and a flag flies when he’s in the building working. He normally lives in his second home, a palace in the countryside. Gaby explained: “In Luxembourg we have a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. Grand Duke Henri is not allowed to get mixed up in the work of the government.” The Grand Duke can’t get involved in politics but all [signed-up] residents are expected to. If you don’t vote, you get fined although over 75-year-olds are exempt.

You could easily spend a whole weekend exploring the various upper and lower levels of the Old Town, but you should try to fit in a visit to the Kirchberg – the newer part of the city. This district is filled with award-winning modern architecture, futuristic structures of steel and glass set between landscaped squares and plazas.

Thousands of people work for the EU here and alongside the convention centre you’ll find a small wooded area where there’s a tree for every EU nation. “There are 28 trees that were planted to represent the states of the European Union,” said Gaby. I found our tree. I wonder if they’ll have to chop it down when Britain leaves?

Luxembourg was the first city to hold the European Capital of Culture title for a second time and there’s a busy arts programme in the city. I went to meet Matthew Studdert-Kennedy, who used to plan the music at the Edinburgh Festival and moved to Luxembourg to oversee the programme at the Philharmonie, a striking, purpose-built opera house. “It seats 1,400 people, just the right size for this city, and it’s a wonderful shape, being both intimate and large at the same time,” said Matthew. “There’s always something that visitors might enjoy, from piano recitals to jazz to classical concerts. Artists want to come back here because the acoustics are so wonderful.”

Sometimes the Philharmonie screens movies accompanied by a live soundtrack played by the resident symphony orchestra. Recently they played along during a showing of 2001 – A Space Odyssey. “A lot of places are doing this now and it’s becoming very popular,” said Matthew, “especially as so many classics of the cinema have such great soundtracks.”

There’s another art space next door. Luxembourg’s Museum of Contemporary Art – the Mudam. The building is incredible. It was designed by the architect who helped renovate the Louvre and features a main hall with a 43m high interior space. “During the day there’s great light, even if it’s raining,” said the Mudam’s Anna Loporcaro. She told me that Luxembourg always has something for visitors to discover from their vibrant arts programme. “We change the exhibitions four times a year so there’s always something new to discover,” said Anna. “It’s a great way to bring people to Luxembourg and ensure they don’t just think of us as a banking place, but also a cultural place.”

Anna Loporcaro

The Mudam is not one of those fussy art venues where you walk around in silence. It’s open until 11pm on Wednesdays and you can call in for a drink at their large bar with a chill out area and enjoy some live music. They’ve set up long tables under a mock up of market stall awnings. It’s very relaxed.

Art and beautifully presented food can be found in one place back in the Old Town – a venue called Ca(fé)sino in the Casino Luxembourg. Nadine Clements told me that, contrary to its name, Casino Luxembourg has never been used for gambling – it’s always been a public meeting space. “It’s for photography, video, installations and all kinds of contemporary art,” explained Nadine.

It’s a popular lunch spot. The steak tartare – uncooked minced beef with raw egg, onions and pickles – is a speciality. You dine in an imposing hall with a high ceiling and long communal table. “You can sit next to people you don’t know and can start a conversation. It’s a nice way of dining,” said Nadine. While you eat, above your head is a neon sign formed in the shape of two sound waves fused together. This piece represents the sounds from the time of the casino’s opening in 1882 and its 1995 refurbishment.

Preparing steak tartare

Léa Linster is a well-known TV celebrity chef in Luxembourg and German-speaking countries. I went to meet her at her city centre bakery and café. While we chatted, a man came over asking for an autograph!

Léa Linster

Léa says Luxembourg really is a foodie place. “When I was a child people just talked about food. Even then, I found out how much food means to Luxembourg.” Léa runs a Michelin-starred restaurant and her signature dish is loin of lamb with a potato crust. I asked her what to expect on a typical Luxembourg menu. “I love bouneschlupp very much. It’s a green bean soup and you have it with bacon and sausage. We also have pike from the River Moselle as well as crayfish.”

Léa was awarded the Michelin star in 1987 but she says her best achievement was gaining a gold medal in a prestigious world chef competition. “I’m so far the only woman who has won the Bocuse d’Or prize.” This small country boast a number of Michelin restaurants. “We have ten in the country and two or three just in the city,” said Léa.

Lea’s Old Town bakery shop is devoted to madeleines – little shell-shaped cakes, a cross between a fairy cake and a biscuit. According to folklore, madeleines are named after a woman cook who had to deputise for the chef to the French king. She couldn’t find the correct cake tins so she collected beach shells to bake the cakes in. You’d probably fail your kitchen hygiene inspection if you tried that today!

Lea’s quite a character and I can see why she’s on telly. She certainly doesn’t feel the need to be modest about her creations. “My madeleines are the best in the world. Once you eat one, you’ll never forget it again. People come here from all over for them.”

Cakes and patisseries are beautiful presented in Luxembourg. Just around the corner, 28-year-old Cathy Goedert has recently opened a bakery. She was trained in Paris but wanted to come home. “It was always my dream to open a shop and it was easier to do this in Luxembourg,” she told me. Cathy sells culinary works of art, delicately decorated desserts, which look incredible and taste amazing. “We have around fifteen different pastries including eclairs, apple tarts and cheesecakes.”

Cathy Goedert

If you enjoy chocolate, then you’ll find plenty of products on offer in the city’s many impeccably presented cafes, but one business specialises. Nathalie Bonn set up The Chocolate House as a café and restaurant offering savoury meals as well as chocolate creations. She wanted chocoholics to be able to indulge alongside their friends who don’t have a sweet tooth. The place was packed at 3pm in the afternoon. She says she aims to create a unique chocolate moment for every individual taste, with chocolate blocks, spreads, cakes and fondues. But she’s famous for her flavoured chocolate lolly sticks that you dip into hot milk to make a rich drink. “I have sixty different flavours,” she told me. “The most popular are Bailey’s, cinnamon, Amaretto, macaroon and caramel. There are people who come here every day. They’re chocoholics!”

Nathalie Bonn

Nathalie’s chocolate creations make great gifts to take home. If you’d like something different, then try out the 100% Luxembourg Shop in the city centre, which showcases the country’s best products, including beer, wine and liqueurs, art work, handicrafts, ceramics and books. A popular purchase is another national emblem – the bird-shaped whistles called peckvillercher. They’re a traditional craft item formed from earthenware or glass and were used to attract customers to shops. You’ll also find plenty of clothing items in the country’s national colours – red, white and mid-blue.

Peckvillerchen demonstration!

So where can you stay in Luxembourg City? I was kindly accommodated at the Hôtel Le Royal, a 5-star property with spacious, comfortable, recently-refurbished rooms. It is in a perfect central location near the Old Town but, as manager Mr Scheffer told me, you’re not far from nature in this small city. “You can see woods from the roof of the hotel. You won’t find that in many capital cities,” he said.

Manager Philippe Scheffer

Three things stood out for me about the Royal. Every single corridor and public space had a pleasant aroma. They’ve created a bespoke fragrance for each area. They also had state-of-the-art Japanese loos installed, with fancy controls that will do lots of things including warming the seat! And the breakfast buffet was massive. I think they catered for every international or dietary need. Mr Scheffer explained: “In the hotel business there’s competition for who can create the best breakfast buffet. We have good cooks and understand different international clients and their needs.”

The hotel is used to helping fulfil their guests’ needs, no matter how unusual. Hotel concierge Simon, who’s worked at the Royal for 29 years, said he’s had some interesting requests during his time there. “I’ve organised a funeral and a wedding, but the toughest was a guest who requested 1,000 red roses just before midnight for his wife early the next morning. I called my colleague in Amsterdam, who went to the flower market and put 1,000 flowers in a taxi. It arrived next morning and the guest was very happy!”

I didn’t know what to expect of Luxembourg before I came and I was pleasantly surprised. I think it’s an interesting choice for a weekend break, whether you love fine dining or the arts or you just wandering through a pretty town whilst immersing yourself in history. There are plenty of green spaces and parkland and a summer trip would be perfect. It’s not cheap – you won’t find bargains in the shops but it is clean and if you’re a solo female traveller, a recent safety index rated Luxembourg first out of 200 cities. There are lots of good places to eat in Luxembourg City, as you’d expect in a major banking centre with all of those expense accounts.

You can fly from Gatwick or Stansted for as little a £20 with low cost carriers like Ryanair and Easyjet or use Flybe for the direct flight of just over 90 minutes from Manchester. Frequent buses make the 15-minute trip from the airport to the city centre and a new tram system should commence later this year.

For more information about Luxembourg take a look at the visitluxembourg.com website.

 

And for the best five star hotels around the world, check out Nadhmi Auchi’s Le Royal Hotels & Resorts.
Le Royal Luxembourg is a proud member of the Leading Hotels of the World and the acclaimed Golden Keys, the association of international hotel concierges.

 

4 Mottos Every Traveller Should Live By

I love always hearing tales and learning tips from other serial trekkers.  Huff Post‘s Will Caldwell is somewhat of a novice traveller, but I like this piece by him explaining what he’s picked up already.  – Ned


I’m into my fourth month traveling and wow, it’s been a wild ride. I started my solo trip feeling nervous, anxious, and a bit worried. For a first time solo traveler like myself, taking the step to travel solo was a big one.

I’d lived abroad before but didn’t feel that compared to a solo adventure. What traveling solo teaches you is nothing short of incredible. The places you see and the people you meet are what makes a trip remarkable. I’ve hiked through the Amalfi coast with new friends from Chile and sailed through the islands of Croatia with Aussies. People who travel solo realize they’re never really alone.

The nature of hostels around the world enables you to easily meet people. I’m not the most extroverted guy but solo traveling has made me more outgoing. Over breakfast or dinner, I’ll be the one asking people what they’re up. If it sounds cool, chances are I’ll be joining!

This approach has landed me on some out of this world adventures. In Andros, an island in Greece, I ended up on a five hour hike across the island with three French friends I had met that morning. The hike finished in a small town with one of the most serene beaches we had to ourselves. Experiences like that are the ones you can’t plan in a travel guide.

Over my past four months of travel, I’ve garnered a few mottos that I believe most travelers should live by. These mottos have led me on some of the best adventures and enabled me to see some of the coolest places not mention in your guide book. If you’re looking to take your travels to the next level, follow these four mottos:

Get Lost

Seriously, if you have been traveling and haven’t purposely gotten lost yet, you’re missing out. Getting lost has led me to some of the most amazing places. For one day, try not looking at a map or guide book and just go.

In Mykonos, I rented a ATV for the day. The shop owner suggested some sights to see but I tossed the map and just went. The island isn’t big and I knew I could get around the whole island in a few hours. After some time exploring, I ended up at a mountain top church. I was the only one there and had a view of the whole island. Who knows why others weren’t there— maybe it was the steep dirt roads that scared people away. All I knew was that the view was out of this world and I didn’t know where I was on a map.

Just Ask

This is a key to finding the hidden gems or to traveling on a budget. If you’re looking for a cool place the locals hit up, just ask with a smile. Chances are a waiter or shop owner has a spot they’re willing to share. If on a budget, ask if you can work to have the experience for free.

One of the coolest activities the island of Naxos offers is sailing. I love sailing, yet didn’t have the 200 euros it cost to sail. Instead, I decided to walk around the marina, asking if any of the boats needed a extra hand. The second boat I asked said, “What time can you be here tomorrow morning?”. Though I had to wash the decks after our daily trip, I wouldn’t call that work. Captain Fragiskos of Naxos Sailing let me crew for three days, as we took tourists around the islands hitting up caves to dive in and cliffs to jump off of! The funniest part, seeing the reaction of tourists when they learned they had a American co-captain.

Act Local

To take your travels to the next level, act like you live in the city you’re visiting. This will enable you to find the best places to eat and get the right prices. Even if I don’t know the local language, I’ll often act like I understand and use my fingers to point at what I want. This works especially well at markets where they often charge foreign tourists a few extra bucks.

Acting like a local came in handy during my time in Follonica, a coastal city in Italy. In this city, I visited some incredible fish markets that had fish coming in right off the boat. Though some of these markets were packed with tourists, by simply acting like I knew what I was doing, I received fair prices and some of the best fish I’ve ever eaten.

Don’t Plan

This may sound odd at first, but whenever you travel make sure you leave free time to explore what others recommend. During my travels, I plan ahead for a maximum of two weeks. In every city I visit, I try to have at least one day where I have nothing scheduled. This enables me to ask for a local’s recommendation and has led to some of my favorite adventures.

When I was in the Amalfi coast, I knew of some must hike trails, yet didn’t know I’d be able to rent my own boat to take to the island of Capri. On one of my days there, friends and I that I met the night before, rented a boat and drove it from Positano to Capri. Driving around Capri, we got to stop wherever we wanted which let us swim in some of the clearest waters I’ve seen, jump off cliffs that made my heart race, and eat where the locals feast.

 

As my adventure continues, these mottos keep me on my toes. They make landmarks more remarkable, make cities more exciting, and make traveling more cost effective. When you travel, pictures enable you to recall what you saw while unexpected experiences are what stay in your head. I won’t remember the exact time I was at the Pantheon, but I will remember the time I had to cut our boat’s anchor line off to free us from rocks. If you’re looking to start your next adventure or currently on one, utilize these mottos to see where the world takes you!

 

 

The TEN Most INCREDIBLE (And Unique) Design Hotels In The World…

Wow, wow and wow again: godsavethepoints impresario Gilbert Ott has found some awe-inspiring establishments to kick the new year off.  Prepare to book your flights people..!


Read at your own risk. Staying in hotels equally, if not more, inspiring than your destination may lead to extreme laziness, lack of tourism, excess alcohol consumption, increased pool time, outstanding food and a need to return to your destination, so that you can actually visit! These are the most inspiring hotels we’ve found anywhere in the world…

IceHotel Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

Located in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, The IceHotel is truly something to behold. No two experiences at the hotel are the same, due to the fact that the hotel completely melts every year. True art.

Year after year, a group of pure ice artisans form the IceHotel, offering guests literally one of the coolest places to sleep. If you’re going to stay in an ice hotel, make sure to grab a drink at the Svedka Bar to keep you warm. Prices start at around $325 a night.

Bambu Indah Glass Floor UdangHouse , Bali

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As far as instant awesome goes, setting up camp along the remote rivers and rice fields of Bali, only to find a glass bottom room in a private villa, certainly qualifies. There’s an unlimited mix of adventure, cuisine and serenity in one of the most sought-after places on earth.

By venturing to authentic Bali, your eyes aren’t the only thing to be rewarded, with rates for the gorgeous glass bottom Udang house starting at just $195 per night. Dang!

Hotel Kakslauttanen, Finland

These are not your average igloos. At the Hotel Kakslauttanen you’ll find yourself in a luxurious, all-glass igloo staring through an uninhibited view of the skies – oh and by the way, that view will also most likely include the Northern Lights…

Though it looks like a village of spaceships, this luxe winter hotel sells out well in advance, fetching rates that start at $900 per night. That’ll have you seeing stars in no time!

Giraffe Manor, Kenya

Tables of two often turn into tables of three, where free-roaming giraffes decide to join the party for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’re on safari without leaving your hotel room, this is your best bet.

You’ll find the utmost in sophistication inside and out, making Giraffe manor a perfect place to start or end a safari. Sadly the giraffes don’t pay for their share of the room and board, leaving you with a $1,000 a night hotel bill…

Conrad Hilton, Maldives

The Conrad Maldives is one of the few places where “sleeping with the fishes” is something you’d actually ask for. With water clearer than your swimming pool, you’ll find abundant light and fish everywhere you look. You can even eat some at the underwater restaurant…

Private villas, plunge pools and total peace, all sadly with a price, starting at $750 and moving on up, way, way up per night.

Explora Patagonia, Chile

Sure, it looks like a Bond villain’s lair nestled in the remote reaches of Patagonia, and (minus the bond villain part) it is. The Explora Patagonia is a home away from earth, nestled in the foothills of some of this planet’s most dramatic terrain.

To sleep in a room perched atop a waterfall, surrounded by glacial beauty, you’ll need to have a windfall of cash, with prices starting at $1,200 per night. Probably worth it though!

Manta Resort Floating Villa, Zanzibar

Just about everyone has thought about leaving the world behind. At the Floating Hotel in Zanzibar, you can literally do it, snagging your own private villa on top of a natural blue hole in a pristine ocean.

With an underwater bedroom, you won’t have to worry about peeking neighbors – apart from the tropical fish of course, which will surely be interested in all your activity. For the privilege of sleeping in your own ocean cottage, you’ll find prices reeling in $,1500 a night…

Costa Verde 727 Villa, Costa Rica

Those who absolutely cannot wait to get out of the thin aluminum tube that transports you to your destination might not be too excited by this Costa Rican gem, but for all the aviation geeks out there, this is the best form of plane crash in the world.

Like an episode of Lost, you’ll find yourself in the jungle, in a luxuriously tangled aircraft fuselage offering a private villa in the Rainforest. Very cool. You won’t need to be raining money to experience this aviation dream though, with rates starting at $260 per night for the whole plane. It’s a lot cheaper than flying!

Jade Mountain, St Lucia

A picture is worth a thousand words, and for a night at this breathtaking St. Lucia resort, that’s about how many dollars you’ll need to take one with this view. Unobstructed, untouched and otherworldly.

Unfortunately, I was serious: rates start at $1,185 per night. If it makes you feel better, almost every room features a personal infinity pool with these near priceless views…

TreeHotel MirrorCube Treehouse, Sweden

Some people never grow up; some wish they never did. Whichever side of the mirror you’re on, a stay in a luxury five star treehouse in pristine Swedish woods will do you right. Summer hiking, winter adventure, it’s hard to find a more unique place to spend a holiday…

The TreeHotel features six individually styled luxe “tree houses” including the Mirrorcube, a UFO and something called the Bird’s Nest. You’ll have to see it to believe it, and with prices starting at $500, you have a better chance than some of these other stunners…

 

 

An Old World Christmas in Bratislava, Slovakia

Bordering Austria, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic and Austria, Slovakia sits in a fascinating mix of cultures.

Here are 7 things I bet you didn’t know about Slovakia:-

  1. It joined the European Union in 2004 and the Eurozone on 1 January 2009
  2. It is also a member of the Schengen Area, NATO, the United Nations, the OECD, the WTO, CERN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Visegrád Group
  3. It is the world’s biggest per-capita car producer with over a million cars manufactured in the country in 2015 alone
  4. 90% of the population own their own homes
  5. The oldest surviving archaeological artefacts from Slovakia – found near Nové Mesto nad Váhom – date from 270,000 BC, in the Early Paleolithic era
  6. Slavic tribes settled in the territory of present-day Slovakia in the 5th century
  7. The Tatra mountain range is represented as one of the three hills on the coat of arms of Slovakia

HuffPost writer John Mariani gives us his own personal take on the Christmas scene in Bratislava.


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There’s no denying that Bratislava, Slovakia, is a convenient way stop between Vienna, Prague and Budapest, all far larger cities. But Bratislava shares with all those a legacy of cross-culturization, Baroque, Austro-Hungarian, Secessionist and Art Deco architecture and a devotion to large public squares that makes it an ideal two-day trip. And during the Christmas holidays the town lights up, makeshift markets are assembled, the spiced wines perfume the frigid air, hot pastries, and pretzels are displayed, and the townspeople take their time strolling through and enjoying it all in the car-free Old Town of the city.

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Over the centuries Austrians, Croats, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, Jews, and Serbs all brought their own cultures to Bratislava, which was the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary in the 18th century. As of World War I Slovakia was united with what is now the Czech Republic, as Czechoslovakia, and after occupation by the Germans in World War II, it was taken by Soviet troops and became part of the Soviet Union. On the outskirts of Bratislava you can still see the never-varying, tick-tacky box apartments the Soviets built by the thousands. In 1993 Slovakia and the Czech Republic separated amicably.

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Today the Old Town is marvelously restored. Its scrubbed-clean attached façades and tidy red roofs glow in the sun, its fountains flow, and you can still pass through Michael’s Gate that in the Middle Ages was part of the walled fortifications. The Gothic St. Michael’s Cathedral is remarkably well preserved, its rococo interior cleaned and well lighted.
The impressively rococo-baroque Grasakovic presidential palace dating to 1760, sprawls along Hodžovo Námestie, and there are 50 museums in the city, including the National Gallery in a huge castle perched above the city, originally Gothic but reconfigured in the baroque style.
The Old Town and shopping streets, and the Main Square of Halve Námestie fills up with the traditional Christmas markets. There is always music playing and a set-up ice rink, and the dozens of colorful stalls sell everything from tree ornaments and toys to Slovakian sausages and waffles.
By the way, English is widely spoken everywhere in Bratislava, especially among those under 35 years of age, who learn the language very early in grammar school. Russian was abandoned by most into the dustbin of the city’s history.

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Restaurants tend towards traditional Slovakian food, which is, shall we say, very hearty, similar to German, Austrian and Hungarian fare. One of the most charming spots, right on the Market Square, is Zylinder, whose charming Old World look of pea green ceiling beams, crystal chandeliers, cream-colored furniture and striped booths, along with outside tables that are ideal in good weather, is a complement to the refined style of cooking.
You might begin with a sampler of starters ($12) that include beef tartare, home-made jelly with shallot vinegar, duck liver pâté, and smoked specialties. I loved the rich, tangy sheep’s cheese soup with smoky bacon “demikát” ($4), and the bright red stuffed peppers that come with round bread dumplings the size of hockey pucks with which to soak up all the delicious tomato sauce ($9).

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Here the tafelspitz of boiled beef ($16.50) comes first as a marrow bone with grilled bread, followed by a hefty beef broth full of chopped vegetables and meat, then generous slabs of the juice-riddled boiled beef itself accompanied by creamed spinach, roasted Austrian grated potatoes, and a chive sauce with applesauce and horseradish.
Far more Old School is the curiously named Bratíslavská Reštaurácia Flagship, located within an old movie house set on two floors, with grand staircases and what used to be a stage and screen. It looks like a place where Quentin Tarantino would film a bloody fight scene for a movie set in eastern Europe. This is a huge room, always packed with patrons who come the housemade draft beers and for the rich cooking, like the pungent garlic soup served inside a sliced-open round loaf of bread ($3.75), whose interior mixes with the soup to form savory clumps. Sauerkraut soup ($2.25) was also good, and the goulash here is more soup than stew ($6). 2016-12-19-1482160238-7826339-BRATFALSGHIP.jpg
Order the three kinds of dumplings, served on a wooden board—a pirohy, stuffed like ravioli with potato, another a kind of spaetzle with sauerkraut, and the last egg noodles in a rich creamy bacon sauce ($12.50)—that easily feeds two or three people.
Everything at Flagship is unbelievably cheap, the young waiters extremely amiable and the service fast, as it should be in a café with so much history on its side—definitely a unique place and a must visit in Bratislava.
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Far more modern and quite out of the ordinary is Massimo (Dvořakovo Nábreẑie 4), which is set overlooking the Danube River. Back in 2005 owner-chef Massimo Atanasio decided Bratislava was ready for a first-rate, upscale Italian restaurant and he’s given the city a romantically lighted, glass-walled interior and bar —with outdoor tables in summer—with a backdrop of a photo of the Bay of Naples, where he was born. Here you’ll find modern and traditional cucina Italiana, starting off with very good bread and olive oil.
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There’s a carpaccio of beets with a cheese sauce drizzle ($14), and the misticanza of salad greens ($6.25) is very welcome after the heavy food of Slovakia; the housemade tagliatelle with black truffles and quail egg—“cooked to 63 degrees C”—(market price) will put you in mind of the best in Tuscany (right). Massimo also knows how to handle fish, demonstrated by a branzino fillet served atop bright carrot-ginger puree ($24). For dessert have the dense dark chocolate torta di caprese. And to top it off, Massimo carries a first-rate wine list with Italian and other European bottlings at fair mark-ups. Cocktails run a very genial $6.25.

 

 

 

Ski by day and party by night at Snowboxx: Inside the ultimate winter festival that won’t break the bank

Looks awesome!  😀


If you love festivals but dread the long winter months where you wallow in the depths of seasonal affected disorder while gaining at least a stone, a good solution would be to book a winter festival.

Ski festivals are growing in popularity and while Snowbombing in Mayrhofen is probably the most famous it is also fairly expensive.

If you want to get away without breaking the bank Snowboxx is a smaller and younger alternative, but word is spreading fast.

The festival used to take place in Andorra but is now settled in Avoriaz (pictured), which is part of France's huge Port du Soleil ski area

The festival used to take place in Andorra but is now settled in Avoriaz (pictured), which is part of France’s huge Port du Soleil ski area

The festival used to take place in Andorra but is now settled in Avoriaz (pictured), which is part of France’s huge Port du Soleil ski area

During Tammy’s visit to Snowboxx she enjoyed watching people playing a game of “human skittles”, which involved zorbing into inflatable skittles

Sigma whips the crowd into a frenzy on the main stage at Snowboxx in Avoriaz

Stormzy performs to a massive crowd at the 2016 Snowboxx event

Held each year in March it is perfectly situated at the end of the gloomy winter months and enjoys some of the best weather of the season to ensure that you top-up on the vitamin D as well as hit the slopes.

It’s not uncommon for people to don fancy dress on the slopes during Snowboxx and it’s fun to sunbathe in a deckchair and watch the random groups pass by over drinks.

Last season saw six brilliant days of sunshine, which made for enjoyable lunches on the piste and we spotted plenty of interesting goggle marks on the plane journey home.

Snowboxx is already the second largest winter festival in Europe and in 2016 signed acts such as Grandmaster Flash, Sigma, chart smashing Blonde and double Mobo award-winning rapper and MC Stomzy.

The mix of great skiing and music isn’t the only reason this has been a sell-out hit for the past two years running.

Last season's revellers enjoyed a pool party at the indoor aquatic paradise of Aquariaz

Last season’s revellers enjoyed a pool party at the indoor aquatic paradise of Aquariaz

Snowboxx is a great value festival in a stunning setting – and one that has a great snow record

It is also incredible value with packages starting from £339 including flights, resort transfer, self-catered accommodation, lift pass and festival ticket.

And if you think that for that price you sacrifice good skiing, think again.

The festival used to take place in Andorra but is now settled in Avoriaz, which is part of France’s huge Port du Soleil ski area. It encompasses 13 resorts and is only just over an hour’s drive from Geneva Airport.

The area is perfect for beginners and intermediates with 123 easy runs and 110 medium runs.

For the more adventurous Avoriaz also has one of the best snow parks in the world, with boxes, rails and scary jumps – though there are tiddlers to build your confidence up on.

Avoriaz itself is a purpose-built cliffside town in beautiful surroundings where the roads are made of snow and the only way to get around (other than ski) is by horse drawn carriage.

The smallish resort makes for a perfect festival village with each attraction in easy reach of the accommodation, lifts and bars.

The main stage highlights last season included electric performances by drum and bass duo Sigma and former Streets frontman DJ Mike Skinner.

Revellers were also able to enjoy a pool party at Aquariaz and drinks at the Igloo party, a purpose-built ice bar with DJs playing as the sun went down.

The views from Avoriaz are outstanding - and skiers and snowboarders are able to arrive in dramatic fashion from the valley floor, via a huge cable car

The views from Avoriaz are outstanding – and skiers and snowboarders are able to arrive in dramatic fashion from the valley floor, via a huge cable car

Avoriaz is a car-free zone. The transport options are walking, skiing, snowboarding - or horse and cart (pictured)

Avoriaz is a car-free zone. The transport options are walking, skiing, snowboarding – or horse and cart (pictured)

One evening we decided to stop off for drinks and watch people playing a game of ‘human skittles’, which involved zorbing into inflatable skittles.

Snowboxx offers a range of accommodation so if you’re not counting the pennies then the L’Amara five-star hotel comes with an outdoor hot tub, pool and spa to help you soothe those muscles after a long day on the slopes.

Be warned, though – the attractive price of the festival does attract its fair share of stag dos. So if it’s a peaceful week on the slopes with the family or the in-laws you’re after it might be better off looking elsewhere.

However, if you’re happy to ignore some laddish behaviour and enjoy some top music and great skiing for a very reasonable price then Snowboxx is definitely worth a visit.

TRAVEL FACTS

Snowboxx will be at Avoriaz from March 18 to 25, 2017. The line-up includes Basement Jaxx and Hannah Wants.

For more information about Snowboxx Festival visit www.snowboxx.com. For more information about Avoriaz visit www.avoriaz.com.

Equipment Rental in Avoriaz with Pierre & Vacances:

Book your skiing equipment with Pierre & Vacances in advance when you reserve your apartment and take advantage of exceptional savings of up to 40 per cent off shop prices. Child and adult packages are available for everyone from beginners to seasoned skiers; including boots, skis and poles or snowboard. Helmets are included for children.

Visit: www.pierreetvacances.com or call: 0870 0267 145 for more information.

Portes du Soleil lift passes: Adult 1 day – €51/£43 Children – €38/£32. Adult 6 day – €255 /£217 Children – €199/£169.

 

 

Thanks to the Daily Mail Travel guys for this feature

Ten Gorgeous (And Underrated) BUCKET LIST Destinations That Simply Don’t Look REAL…

Another great feature from Gilbert Ott and the GodSaveThePoints team.  It’s a great site with plenty of awesome travel tips and loads of great ways to save money for the serious traveller, but here’s something a bit different with some excellent “extraterrestrial” venues for the die-hard Star Wars fan like me* …malaysia-long-hair

* spot the wookiee anyone?!


Space travel is so “in” right now, but before you don your space suit in search of interstellar beauty, you’re gunna want to knock these unbelievable destinations (which don’t look real) off your bucket list. Here are ten exotic places down here on earth that will blow your mind…

Lake Natron, Tanzania

You’re not insane, this naturally hot spring in Africa is so “hot” it turned the water red.

Vatnajökull, Iceland

How about a city sized cave, made of pure glacier blue ice to spice up your winter travel?

Bromo Volcano, Java, Indonesia

Mars takes years to reach. In less than a days flight you can see terrain just like it in Java…

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone, Wyoming USA

Yep, those colors are totally real. Why? You can thank the pigmented Archaea.

Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

Ultimate adventure? A boat ride in luminescent cave with light from tiny micro creatures…

Hang Son Doong Caves, Vietnam

In what looks like the set of a Star Wars film, these Vietnamese caves literally look unreal.

Lencois Maranhenses Park, Brazil

If you think you’re seeing an endless sea of unique sand bars and water, you’re not wrong.

Namib Naukluft Park, Namibia

Why travel to Mars and risk getting stuck like Matt Damon when you could just go here?

Wulinyuang Vista, China

Though I wouldn’t try building an airport here, the views are breathtaking…

Farafra White Desert, Egypt

Sure, we’ve seen desert, but white desert, with crazy rock wonders?

 

 

An ‘Overview’ of Benjamin Grant’s Incredible Satellite Images of Earth

I featured this extraordinary project last year and have since had numerous comments and questions from fans of Benjamin Grant, asking when he will be releasing a book.  Well I’m delighted to announce that he just has: Overview is out now through Amphoto Books.  Thanks to CN Traveler for the feed – just awesome!   – Ned


Photos from space, from drones, from intrepid photographers hanging out of helicopters—in case you haven’t noticed, we love when we’re given a different perspective on the world we live in, zooming out to appreciate the shapes and colors we can’t quite grasp with two feet on the ground. Here, Benjamin Grant of the popular Daily Overview Instagram account shows a selection of the high-definition, stitched-together satellite photos included in his new coffee-table book.

Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant, Seville, Spain

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Photo by Microsoft Corp

The solar concentrator of the Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant contains 2,650 heliostat mirrors that focus the sun’s thermal energy to heat molten salt flowing through a 460-foot-tall central tower. The molten salt then moves from the tower to a storage tank, where it is used to produce steam and generate electricity. In total, the facility displaces approximately 30,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

Tulips, Lisse, Netherlands

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Photo by Microsoft Corp

Every spring, tulip fields in Lisse begin to bloom and are at their peak by late April. The Dutch produce a total of 4.3 billion tulip bulbs each year, of which 53 percent is grown into cut flowers. Of these, 1.3 billion are sold in the Netherlands and the remainder is exported.

Moab, Utah

Photo by DigitalGlobe Inc

Evaporation ponds are visible at the potash mine in Moab, Utah. The mine produces muriate of potash, a potassium-containing salt that is a major component in fertilizers. The salt is pumped to the surface from underground brines and dried in massive solar ponds that extend vibrantly across the landscape. The water is dyed a deep blue—darker water absorbs more sunlight and heat, so it cuts the amount of time it takes for the water to evaporate and the potash to crystallize.

Olives, Córdoba, Spain

Photo by Microsoft Corp

Olive tree groves cover the hills of Córdoba in the southern Andalusia region. Approximately 90 percent of all harvested olives are turned into oil; the remaining 10 percent are eaten as table olives. With rising temperatures and changing weather patterns, olive groves on high hills or slopes will probably suffer less, but groves on low altitude areas or plains may become totally unproductive.

Marabe Al Dhafra, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.

Photo by DigitalGlobe Inc

The villas of Marabe Al Dhafra in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates are home to approximately 2,000 people. Located in one of the hottest regions of the world, the record high temperature here is 120.6 degrees Fahrenheit (49.2°C).

Delray Beach, Florida

Photo by Microsoft Corp

Because many cities in Florida contain master-planned communities, often built on top of waterways in the latter half of the 20th century, there are a number of intricate designs that are only visible from above.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Texas

Photo by Microsoft Corp

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, stretching across 27 square miles, is the tenth-busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic, accommodating more than 64 million travelers each year.

Port of Singapore

Photo by DigitalGlobe Inc

Cargo ships and tankers—some weighing over 300,000 tons—wait outside the entry to the Port of Singapore. The facility is the world’s second-busiest port in terms of total tonnage, shipping a fifth of the world’s cargo containers and half of the world’s annual supply of crude oil.

Jacksonville Interchange, Florida

Photo by Microsoft Corp

A so-called “turbine interchange” connects two highways in Jacksonville, Florida, consisting of left-turning ramps sweeping around a center interchange, creating a spiral pattern of traffic.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Photo by DigitalGlobe Inc

Angkor Wat, the famed temple complex in Cambodia, is the largest religious monument in the world (first it was Hindu, then Buddhist). Constructed in the 12th century, the 8.8 million-square-foot site features a moat and forest that surround a massive temple at its center.

Gribbens Basin, Michigan

Photo by Microsoft Corp

The tailings—waste and by-products generated by mining operations—seen here were pumped into the Gribbens Basin, next to the Empire and Tilden iron ore mines in Negaunee, Michigan. Once the materials are pumped into the pond, they are mixed with water to create a sloppy form of mud known as slurry. The slurry is then pumped through magnetic separation chambers to extract usable ore and increase the mine’s total output. For a sense of scale, this photo shows approximately 1 square mile of the basin.

Nishinoshima, Japan

Courtesy Benjamin Grant

Nishinoshima is a volcanic island 584 miles south of Tokyo. Back in November 2013, the volcano began to erupt and continued to do so until August 2015. Over the course of the eruption, the area of the island grew in size from 0.02 to 0.89 square miles.

The Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia

Photo by DigitalGlobe Inc

Rub’ al Khali, or the Empty Quarter, is one of the largest sand deserts in the world. It covers 251,000 square miles, and includes parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. In the center of the desert there are a number of raised, hardened formations that were once the sites of shallow lakes, thousands of years ago. For a sense of scale, this photo shows approximately 135 square miles in Saudi Arabia, near the border with Oman.

Shadegan Lagoon, Iran

Photo by DigitalGlobe Inc

Dendritic drainage systems are seen around the Shadegan Lagoon by Musa Bay in Iran. The word ‘dendritic’ refers to the pools’ resemblance to the branches of a tree, and this pattern develops when streams move across relatively flat and uniform rocks, or over a surface that resists erosion.

 

 

 

 

 

The Best “Adventurous” Trips for Non-Adventurous People

Just because you don’t like climbing doesn’t mean you can’t go up tall mountains.

In theory, everybody wants to go ice climbing, camping in Antarctica and skydiving. In practice, not everybody has the courage (or desire) to jump off the tallest building in the world; falling from extremely high altitudes can be a petrifying experience.

Less adventurous people should not feel left out: tour operators know how they feel and have adapted. Visiting a natural wonder is possible with a helicopter; don’t risk dehydration or heatstroke by hiking the Grand Canyon in the summer.

This is also true for winter adventures – exploring the Alps while on a luxurious gondola may be more appealing to some than climbing the Matterhorn, a giant horn-looking mountain, with the highest fatality rate in the Alps: over 450 climbers have diedto date.

If you prefer a more balanced holiday, you can hike an active volcano for an adrenaline-pumping experience, followed by descending 400 feet to the bottom of the volcano’s magma chamber in an open cable lift. You won’t have to do anything but look and enjoy the moment.

Not everybody wants to get sweaty and tired when they head out to explore the outdoors. There is nothing wrong with making frequent stops to take photos and enjoy the scenery. If this is the case, go on a soft adventure tour where you’ll go on active adventures but will have plenty of leisure time.

Go on safari in Kenya

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You are witnessing wild animals in their natural habitat from the comfort of a car. Kenya is one of the premier destinations for this amazing experience. Known as one of the best country parks in country, Maasai Mara offers wide range of safaris – hot air balloons, walking, photographing. The best time to visit is between July and October because of the wildebeest migration, famous as the World Cup of Wildlife. Even if you go off season, the number of animals you’ll see – from zebras and giraffes to lions, elephants and leopards – is incredible.

Descend into a volcano in Iceland

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Who says you have to be a very courageous person to experience one of the most iconic volcanoes in the world? Thrihnukagigur in Iceland is a lot more accessible than you think. A tour offers you the chance to descend 400 feet to the bottom of the volcano’s magma chamber in an open cable lift. All you are required to do is walk about two miles each way, with a guide.

Sleep in a Cave in Turkey

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Staying at a unique hotel with breathtaking views of otherworldly landscapes is many vacationers’ dream that can easily become a reality. Some caves have been turned into luxurious hotels in Cappadocia, Turkey, while others are very basic. But they all have their own unique history and mystery. The adrenaline-seekers who don’t want to do much can stay in the deepest hotel room in the world – Sala Silvermine, Sweden – at 500 feet underground. A mine lift shaft will take you there.

Explore Ireland

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Walking in Ireland’s world-famous countryside is an adventure that will take your breath away but not because you’ll be tired. You’ll be surrounded by woodland paths, cliffs, lake shores, farmlands, and mountains. Visit Cong, which is nestled among some of the most picturesque forests and woodlands in the country, as well as along the stunning shores of Lough Corrib. Ashford Castle in Cong provides a serene and majestic backdrop.

Go on a river cruise

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Go on an adventure that will take you to a different city every day. On a river cruise, you probably won’t get sea-sick because there are no waves and you’ll always see land on the horizons, which is comforting. Travel along the stunning and major rivers in Europe, pass through Thailand, China, Myanmar and Vietnam along the Mekong River, or explore one of the most famous and exotic rivers in the world – the Amazon – all while being safe on a boat.

Experience the Alps from a gondola

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The infamous Matterhorn is one of the most difficult climbs in the world. But you can easily get up there with a cable car gondola. Enjoy a homely cheese fondue, accompanied by a refreshing drop of Valais wine, surrounded by spectacular vistas of Italy and Switzerland.

See the Grand Canyon in a helicopter

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The Grand Canyon is probably on every hiker and kayaker’s bucket list. See this natural wonder in a much less sweaty, wet and dangerous way – go on a 4.5-hour tour with the flight’s duration being more than an hour. You’ll see the stunning Hoover Dam, Grand Wash Cliffs, Grapevine Mesa and Grand Canyon West and land 4,000 feet below the rim for a champagne picnic.

Sleep under the Northern Lights in Finland

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Witnessing the unique Northern Lights up close is a bucket list experience. But you don’t have to camp in the snow to see the best of them. Consider glass igloos and log cabins with extraordinary views. They were designed so guests can enjoy the Aurora borealis in their full glory. The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland has 20 thermal glass igloos.

Travel through Europe on a train

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Go ahead then, and take the train. Choose the scenic route over the quick one, and make getting to your destination part of the vacation. Buy a Eurail Pass, save money and visit 28 countries in Europe. You’ll go to all the places everyone else does but in a hassle-free and comfortable way.  Relax and feel like you’re traveling through time – you’ll be thrilled by mountain summits, lavish landscapes, narrow and scary tunnels, as well as terrifyingly steep grades.

See Niagara Falls from a boat

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You can hike to them or plunge down a 100-foot waterfall at 60-90 miles per hour with a kayak, hitting a huge volume of water. Or you can go on a boat tour and see them just as close. Take Niagara Falls, for example. The legendary Maid of the Mist has been taking travelers up the river to the falls since 1848, which makes the boat tour not only the most popular but also among the oldest of Niagara Falls’ activities.

Explore the Galapagos Islands

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Exploring the Galapagos Islands feels more like being on an ecological walking tour. Nature-lovers will appreciate the unique wildlife. There are 19 major islands, which are often called a “living museum and showcase of evolution,” according to UNESCO. Cruises are the most popular choice to travel the Islands. Boats range from luxury to economy class.

Wander through Jigokudani Yaenkoen Park, Japan

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This is the only place in the world where monkeys bathe in hot springs. Ancient people called it the “Hell Valley” because of the very steep cliffs and the steam coming off the springs. Nowadays, you can get to the Monkey Park in two ways – by a 25-40 minute walk through the forest or a 10-15 minute walk from the nearest parking lot.

Tour the Arctic: Iceland, Greenland and Norway

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Witnessing the phenomenon of the Northern Lights is a must. You can avoid the aurora-chasing snowmobile and go on a bus tour. Cruise the fjords; you will always have a guide to stop at popular attractions along the way and learn about the local history. If you want to see the region’s amazing wildlife, the boat safari is the right choice.

Go on a train expedition through Australia

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Australia has been a very popular destination in recent years. See it a unique way: beginning in Darwin, this epic 4-day, 3-night, 9,773-mile tour will take you to some of the most remote yet captivating parts of the country. You won’t be bored on this trip as the panoramas are changing with every mile.

See incredible autumn foliage from a hot air balloon

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You don’t have to hike or camp for days to find clean air, panoramic views of bursting bright colors, beautiful countryside and miles of forests. Get on a hot air balloon and see awe-inspiring autumn foliage of phenomenal mixtures of yellow, red, gold and green. A lot of places in the U.S. offer this unique experience with unbeatable views.

 

Photos: Shutterstock

Source: http://www.theactivetimes.com/

The Most Dangerous Islands in the World

Photo and credit: HuffPost

In this day and age, people often think that they can travel anywhere as long as they have the time and money to spend.  They expand their horizons and visit places they know little about.  No destination is too far thanks to the many travel options and discounts out there.

Islands are especially popular among trekkers looking for an exotic and adventurous vacation, but threats can lurk behind their beauty: exploring them is sometimes just a very bad idea.

Technically, you can be at the wrong place at the wrong time anywhere; however, some places pose a much higher risk than others.  Certain islands are renowned for their deadly animals or dangerous viruses.  One place specifically is dangerous because natives start attacking potential visitors before they get a chance to set foot.

Travel notices are a good reference but they are generally issued only if there is a recurring dangerous problem in a foreign country.  They are designed simply to inform travellers and are not enforceable, sonyou can choose to ignore them or be extra cautious.

Shutterstock

Izu Islands, Japan

The seven Izu Islands are a group of islands in the Fuji Volcanic Belt that stretches north to south for about 280 miles and the stench of sulphur cannot be avoided or ignored because of the area’s volcanic nature.  Inhabitants were actually evacuated in 1953 and again in 2000 because the levels of gas were through the roof, and they were only allowed back in five years later!  Residents of Miyakejima, one of Japan’s Izu Islands, have to wear masks at all times.

Thinkstock

Saba, Netherlands

This Caribbean island in the Lesser Antilles chain is a special municipality of the Netherlands.  If you ever want to visit, make sure it’s during the winter as the area has been hit by more major storms since 1851 than any other place on earth.  Over 65 severe hurricanes have passed through the island according to the Caribbean Hurricane Network – one every 2.5 years!

WW2 in Color

Gruinard Island, Scotland

This tiny, oval-shaped Scottish island is just about 1.2 miles long by half a mile wide, but it’s one of the most dangerous places on the planet.  No one has settled on this British “Anthrax Island”: it used to be the testing ground for biological warfare during World War II and became so contaminated that it was deemed out-of-bounds for half a century.  Anthrax spores still remain in the soil.

Federal Highway Administration

Ramree Island, Burma

Ramree Island is home to thousands of saltwater crocodiles, which are the largest reptilian predator in the world.  They can weigh up to 2,000 pounds (900 kgs) and even a small one can kill a large human.  These crocodiles are not only deadly, but they are also aggressive and known to attack people who enter their natural habitat.  In fact, according to the Guinness Book of World Records the “Most Fatalities in a Crocodile Attack” took place at Ramree Island.  And if that is not enough, poisonous scorpions can be found everywhere as well as malaria-carrying mosquitoes.  Nice.

National Geographic Brasil

Ilha da Queimada, Brazil

Just 20 miles off the coast of São Paulo, Ilha da Queimada is an island ruled by animals.  Popularly known as Snake Island, it is home to thousands of the some of the most venomous snakes in the world, Golden Lancehead Vipers.  The Brazilian Navy has banned all civilians from the island, which is probably just as well: if you were to set foot on it, you could be lucky enough to find up to five snakes per square metre.

 

 

7 Remote Islands That REALLY Want You To Move There

Whether it’s the changing seasons, the impending election, or just itchy feet and a need to see the world, there are many reasons to harbour a dream of up and moving far away. If you have ever imagined giving island life a shot, you might be pleased to hear that Huffpost has found several isles out there where you might just make that dream a reality.

Faced with rapidly declining populations, islands around the world from the South Pacific to North Atlantic are actively recruiting people to come and settle. You could teach in Hawaii, work in New Zealand’s dairy industry, help out at a Canadian store or simply live out your Wicker Man fantasies in Scotland.

Below, discover seven islands that would love to have you (visa, of course, permitting).

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PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Inishturk, Ireland The prospect of a certain narcissistic businessman entering the White house has doubtless informed more than a few Americans’ searches for new homes. A warm Irish welcome awaits those who accept the island of Inishturk’s offer of refuge to Americans who are considering leaving the country if Donald Trump is elected president. The island, which is about nine miles off the coast of County Mayo, has seen its population plummet to just 58 people. An enticing video, cannily named Make Inishturk Great Again, introduces viewers to the charms of the island.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Inishturk, Ireland (continued) “I’ve heard there are quite a few people in America looking to move to Ireland and other countries if Donald Trump becomes president,” the island’s development officer, Mary Heanue, told Irish Central. “I’d like them to know that we’d love to see them consider moving over here. Although winters can be hard and it’s the kind of life that wouldn’t necessarily suit everyone, they’d find it very peaceful here and they’d soon find out there’s nowhere as nice in the world on a summer’s day than here.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Easdale, Scotland Just slightly more populated (it’s home to 70 people), the Scottish island of Easdale made its own video last year to try to encourage people to relocate. Named A Wild Community, the eight-minute film eschews politics in favor of focusing on the island’s gems: its stunning scenery, warm people, and, perhaps most charmingly, its stone-skimming championships.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Easdale, Scotland (continued) Off the west coast of Scotland, Easdale is the smallest permanently inhabited island of the Inner Hebrides. Having seen its community decline since the collapse of its slate-mining industry in the late 19th century, the island is appealing for young people looking to make a new start. Some, such as Edinburgh transplant Keren Cafferty, who spoke to The Guardian, see Easdale’s future as a self-sustaining island that offers an alternative, anti-consumerist model of life. It also has a little star quality: Florence + The Machine shot the video for “Queen Of Peace” there in 2015.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Cape Breton, Canada In August of this year, a general store on a small Canadian island became inundated with thousands of applications after its owners offered two acres of land and a job to anyone willing to move there. The Farmer’s Daughter Country Market in the village of Whycocomagh on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia launched an appeal for staff, saying it could not offer “big money,” but it did have “lots of land.”

Successful applicants willing to make the move would be provided with two acres on which to live, theirs to keep if they stay working at the store for more than five years. “We are an established business in the heart of Cape Breton, rich in jobs, land, and potential, but no people,” the Facebook advertisement read.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Cape Breton, Canada (continued) This is not the first time Cape Breton has taken an innovative approach to try to encourage new arrivals. Earlier this year, it launched a PR campaign encouraging Americans fearful of the possibility of a Trump presidency to move to the island.

PHOTO: VIA @CJG_1.

Tanera Mór, Scotland If you have a spare £1,950,000 ($2,490,000) you could have an entire Scottish island to yourself. That’s the hugely discounted price being asked for Tanera Mór, one of Scotland’s 17 Summer Isles, located off the northwest coast and thought to have been the inspiration behind cult movie The Wicker Man. Tanera Mór was the last inhabited island on the archipelago, but the final residents (and owners) moved to the mainland in 2013 and cut the island’s selling price by more than half a million pounds.

PHOTO: VIA @CJG_1.

Tanera Mór, Scotland (continued) With still no takers, the owners are now offering the option of dividing the 1.25-square-mile island into three lots, with the smallest going for just £430,000. Besides the movie connection, Tanera Mór is also famed as the only Scottish island to operate a year-round private postal service. The Summer Isles Post Office issues two stamps for mail leaving the island — a Tanera Mòr stamp for it to leave the isle to the mainland, and a Royal Mail one for the rest of journey. The island’s real estate listing also highlights its “coastline of approximately seven miles encompassing numerous cliffs, coves, and beaches; innumerable perfect picnic spots interspersed with fresh water lochans; and wonderful waters in which to swim, sail and fish.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Pitcairn, South Pacific You might be surprised to hear that the tiny South Pacific island — with its beaches, palm trees, and year-round sun — is having trouble attracting people to live there. But with a dwindling population of less than 50, Pitcairn is so keen to attract new residents, it will give you your own plot of land if you move there.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Pitcairn, South Pacific (continued) You would have to be fairly self-sufficient, however, as there are no jobs on offer, and you would also need to prove you possess some skills that would benefit the island. Pitcairn’s sole shop is open three times a week, and food from the nearest neighboring country, New Zealand — 3,000 miles away — has to be ordered three months in advance. Internet is available, though, and island representative Jacqui Christian says: “It is a special place, and it is beautiful seeing the stars without light pollution. There are the bluest waters you have ever seen.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

South Island, New Zealand More money burning a hole in your pocket? Head for New Zealand’s South Island, where $165,000 will get you a plot of land in the pretty town of Kaitangata. Life is good in Kaitangata, population 800, where youth unemployment totals two.

“Not two percent — just two unemployed young people,” Clutha district Mayor Bryan Cadogan told The Guardian this summer. Nevertheless, there are jobs that the town needs to fill, specifically in the admittedly unglamorous industries of dairy processing and freezing works.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

South Island, New Zealand (continued) If you think you’d be a good fit for one of the 1,000 vacant jobs (and can swing a New Zealand work visa) you can take advantage of a recruitment scheme that involves offering house and land packages for just NZ $230,000 ($165,000).The man organizing the effort is a dairy farmer named Evan Dick, who says: “This is an old-fashioned community, we don’t lock our houses, we let kids run free,” he said. “We have jobs, we have houses, but we don’t have people. We want to make this town vibrant again, we are waiting with open arms.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Hawaiian Islands, USA Rather stay closer to home and avoid work-visa hassle? Keep an eye on Hawaii, which has been facing a teacher shortage for years and so regularly launches recruitment drives to attract qualified teachers from the mainland. Earlier this year, the state’s appeal for teachers was picked up and spread widely across the web, with some suggesting Hawaii would “pay you $60,000 to work in paradise.” That’s not quite the reality, however, and the Hawaii State Department of Education was not too pleased at being bombarded with applications from people who were unqualified to teach.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

Hawaiian Islands, USA(continued) Donalyn Dela Cruz, Hawaii State Department of Education spokesperson, told NBC News: “Following a recent drive in April, false reporting and inaccurate blogging on social media led to a major influx of applications from people who just want to move to Hawaii. Many of these inquiries came from individuals who are not interested in teaching, but who just want to move to Hawaii under the false impression that the Department will pay for people to move here to live and work.”

Lesson: Check the fine print. It’s not always an easy ride to paradise.

 

 

12 Amazing Places Most Millennials Will Never See

The world is full of magical hidden wonders.  Need proof?  The talented team at Atlas Obscura spent the past five years working on a gorgeous, 480-page book that uncovers 600 of the strangest, most fascinating and downright bizarre places you’ve never heard of before.

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Huffington Post asked Atlas Obscura cofounder Dylan Thuras to pare down the tome to a list of a dozen mind-blowing spots that every millennial should visit.  From a UFO-shaped monument in the middle of the Balkans to a gigantic hole in Turkmenistan that has been on fire for nearly 50 years, prepare to be amazed and delighted by the curiosities he came back with — and pick up a copy of the new book for even more bucket-list inspiration.

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Photo: Christine Noh

Kjeragbolten, Kjerag Mountain, Norway
Looking like something from Middle Earth, Kjeragbolten is hidden in the Norwegian mountains: a rock stuck between two cliffs above a 984-meter deep abyss.  Brave visitors have been known to photograph themselves on the rock.

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Photo: Tim Whitby

The Gates of Hell, Derweze, Turkmenistan
If Atlas Obscura has a mascot, it might be the Gates of Hell.  This 200-foot hole in the desert was created in 1971 when a Soviet drilling rig fell into a massive natural cavern.  The scientists decided it was best to let the natural gas leaking from the hole burn itself off, so they lit it on fire.  It has been burning for 45 years.

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Photo: Clifford Norton

Buzludzha Monument, Kzanlak, Bulgaria
This huge UFO-shaped monument standing proudly at the top of a hill in the Balkan mountains was once a grand tribute to the Bulgarian Communist Party.  No more.  Once Bulgaria transitioned to democracy in the early 1990s, the monument was promptly abandoned.  It has stood since, falling further and further into disrepair, and is now a strange, hulking shell, stripped of its once-grand interior.  Graffiti on the front reads ‘Forget your past.’

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Photo: Martin Norris Travel Photography

Crystal Maiden, San Ignacio, Belize
Beautiful, horrifying, tragic, and fascinating, the Crystal Maiden is the calcified skeleton of a young woman who was sacrificed by the Maya around 700-900 AD.  Her body was left as an offering to the gods in a cave that was believed to be an entrance to the underworld; she was only 18 years old at the time of her death.  Over the last 1,200 years, her bones have formed a layer of crystals which sparkle in the light.

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Photo: Demerzel21

Kolmanskop Ghost Town, Luderitz, Namibia
Once a thriving diamond mine in the 1920s, it was home to a flapper-era theater, casino, and even bowling alley.  Of course, once a richer diamond mine was discovered, the town was abandoned and is now slowly being swallowed by the sand.

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Photo: MJ Photography

Stepwells Of India, Across Northern & Western India
These incredible architectural masterpieces call to mind M.C. Escher illustrations.  Hundreds of carved stone steps lead down to a reservoir and were built to serve as local sources of water.  A French traveller in 1864 described seeing a ‘vast sheet of water, covered with lotuses in flower, amid which thousands of aquatic birds are sporting.’  Built as early as 550 AD and through the medieval period, there are over 3,000 stepwells throughout India.

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Photo: Soulad

Wisteria Tunnel, Kitakyushu, Japan
Blooming from late April to mid May in the Kawachi Fuji Gardens near Kitakyushu, Japan, is an exquisite tunnel draped in flowers.  There are other flower tunnels in the world, but the Wisteria Tunnel in Japan is singular in its romantic beauty.

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Photo: Jaszmina Szendrey

Fingal’s Cave, Isle Of Staffa, Scotland
On the Scottish island of Staffa is an unusual sea cave, 270 feet deep, where the walls are perfect hexagonal columns.  Formed by ancient lava flows, the striking site has become something of an artistic inspiration: it is the basis of a famous piece of classical music by Mendelssohn, the name of a Pink Floyd song, and the location of a Matthew Barney ‘Cremaster’ video.

 

For more incredible destinations, visit Refinery29.

 

 

 

Unesco List of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Why Owambo dancing, Slovakian bagpipes and Saudis sharing coffee merit protection from UN agency

The Owambo women who organise a festival to celebrate omagongo – a fruit beverage – in northern Namibia, and Wititi folk dancers from Peru’s Colca Valley had cause for celebration. So too did Saudi coffee drinkers and bagpipe-playing Slovakians.

They all take part in 20 cultural practices deemed significant enough by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to be safeguarded as heritage to be preserved this week, writes the Independent.

Members of the Unesco committee responsible for “safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage” deemed that piping in Slovakia, with a history dating back to the 18th century, was sufficiently under threat to safeguard. While “bagpipe culture exists throughout Slovakia”, according to Unesco, few can still play the instrument.

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Owambo dancing in Namibia (Alamy )

“Communities are proud to have a bagpipe player perform at local events as the music invokes a sense of identity for the public,” said Unesco.

The organisation also highlighted the importance of the Kazakhstani art of improvisation known as “Aitys” or “Aitysh”. Shared by neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, it is a contest of poetic improvisation between two people, either spoken or sung to music. The lyricist displaying the most wit, rhythm and creativity wins.

Askar Zhiymbayev, First Secretary of the Kazakh Embassy in London, said: “Aitys is not only a cultural asset of Kazakhstan but also a cultural asset of humankind.”

The traditional Peruvian Wititi dance is characterised by colourful costumes and is performed annually on the Day of Wititi, on 14 July, in the Colca Valley of Arequipa, Southern Peru.

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Saudi men share coffee (Getty)

Peru’s Culture Minister, Diana Alvarez-Calderon, told Peruvian news agency Andina: “We want every Peruvian to enjoy this declaration… This proves us Peruvians know how to preserve our traditions and dances.”

Much attention focused on the choice of Unesco to include coffee drinking in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar on the list. Sharing a brew of the black stuff was, said the UN agency, a “symbol of generosity”.

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Slovakian bagpipes (UNESCO)

It said: “Serving Arabic coffee is an important aspect of hospitality in Arab societies. Traditionally prepared in front of house guests by men and women, it is also served by sheikhs and heads of tribes.”

Also recognised in Saudi was “Alardah Alnajdiyah” dance, drumming and poetry performed carrying swords.

 

 

9 wonders of the world set to vanish forever: How many have you ticked off?

Some of the planet’s greatest spots have made Unesco’s danger list of World Heritage Sites on the verge of disappearing.  This article from the Independent highlights to me just how fragile our earth is and how easily and stupidly we can lose the beauty of nature all around us.  Let’s PLEASE all work together to help save the world we claim is so precious to us!   😦


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According to Unesco, parts of Liverpool are an endangered World Heritage Site (Shutterstock)

This month, we learned that Spain was facing the prospect of becoming the first European Union member state to have a natural World Heritage Site make Unesco’s “danger list”.  The Doñana coastal wetlands in Andalucía – home to the endangered Iberian lynx – is said to be under threat from a mining and dredging plan, as well as 1,000 illegal wells in the area.

But it’s just one among a number of incredible sites the world over that, according to Unesco, could be lost forever.  Here are just a few World Heritage Sites in Unesco’s danger zone that you might need to scrub off the bucket list.

Everglades National Park, Florida

Florida’s Everglades add some wonderfully swampy mystery to the state’s man-made draws of nightclubs and theme parks. Encompassing 1.5 million acres of wetland, the Everglades are a sanctuary for rare, endangered, and threatened species including the Florida panther and the manatee. Unesco says nutrient pollution and reduced water inflows are contributing to loss of marine habitat and the decline of marine species, with vast conservation efforts now needed to stem the damage.

Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls

Jerusalem is a holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the Old City hosts an incredible 220 historic monuments, including major pilgrimage sites like the Dome of the Rock (the site of Abraham’s sacrifice) and the Wailing Wall. Unesco has said it is “deeply concerned” by what it calls “the persistence of the Israeli illegal excavations” around the Old City, which it says is damaging some historic sites. Unesco has also accused Israel of obstructing some restoration projects.

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The Old City of Jerusalem, with the Dome of the Rock at the back and the dome of the al-Aqsa mosque in the foreground (Getty)

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

Belize has plenty to show for itself – ancient Mayan ruins, top diving site the Great Blue Hole – but the latter is part of what is now an endangered system, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve. The largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere – think of it as the north’s answer to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which itself could be heading for the danger zone – it’s home to a number of threatened species, including marine turtles, manatees and the American marine crocodile.

Threats to the site include overharvesting of marine resources and proposed oil and gas exploration and exploitation. According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, 15 per cent of Belize’s gross domestic product comes from the reef – including about US$15 million from the commercial fishing industry and about $200 million from tourism. It suggests a more sustainable approach to managing the reef would benefit wildlife and people alike.

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An aerial view of the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize (Shutterstock)

Abu Mena, Egypt

This Christian holy city, a significant pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages, includes a church, basilicas, public buildings, streets, monasteries, houses and workshops, which were built over the tomb of the martyr Menas of Alexandria, one of Egypt’s best-known saints. Agricultural work in the area has led to a rise in groundwater, causing the site’s buildings to collapse or become unstable, with a number of underground cavities opening up. The local authorities have been forced to fill the cavities with sand to save the buildings, including the crypt of Abu Mena, which contains the tomb of the saint.

Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, Indonesia

Spanning 2.5 million hectares, the tropical rainforest heritage of the wild Indonesian island of Sumatra spreads across three national parks, and is a protected area home to a wide range of endangered animals and plants, including the endemic Sumatran orang-utan. The site also provides biogeographic evidence of the evolution of the island. But the extraordinary beauty of this untamed, tangled land is deemed at significant risk thanks to road development plans, alongside the illegal logging and poaching of animals – including elephants and tigers – facilitated by such road access.

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The critically endangered Sumatran orangutan (Getty)

Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery, Georgia

Two gems of Georgian architecture, these medieval wonders have been placed on the endangered list after a reconstruction project to restore them went against Unesco recommendations on maintaining authenticity. The ruins of 11th-century Bagrati Cathedral in Georgia’s third-largest city, Kutaisi, and the nearby Gelati Monastery, which is covered with magnificent mosaics and wall paintings, are prized for representing “the flowering of medieval architecture” in the country. Unesco says irreversible interventions at the site undermine the integrity of these priceless nuggets of history.

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Georgia’s Gelati monastery complex (DDohler/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Chan Chan Archaeological Zone, Peru

Chan Chan was the capital of the ancient Chimu Kingdom before they fell to the Incas, and is a huge adobe settlement split into nine citadels, with temples, plazas and cemeteries still discernible. But this amazing example of earthen architecture is at risk owing to extreme environmental events, including those caused by El Niño.

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Chan Chan is a pre-Inca settlement in Peru (Tyler Bell/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Rainforests of the Atsinanana, Madagascar

An island of weird and wonderful creatures, Madagascar separated from all other land masses more than 60 million years ago, where its plant and animal life evolved in complete isolation. But Madagascar’s unique biodiversity depends on the Rainforests of the Atsinanana, which comprise six national parks. Illegal logging and hunting of the area’s endangered lemur are prime problems with the site.

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Lemurs are being illegally hunted in Madagascar (Getty)

Maritime Mercantile City, Liverpool

Liverpool enjoys the dubious honour of being one of only two endangered Unesco sites in Europe (the other is the medieval monuments of Kosovo). Six areas of Liverpool city centre and its docklands constitute its World Heritage listing, documenting Liverpool’s development into one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries. The city played an important role in the growth of the British Empire and became the major port for the mass movement of people. However, Unesco warns redevelopment in the area – namely, the multi-billion Liverpool Waters “mixed use” waterfront quarter – will adversely alter the site.

The double-decker bus that thinks it’s a hotel

I’m pretty sure most of us have fallen asleep on the last bus home after a couple too many pints at the local pub.  But other than a few desperate moments during those rough journeys home along winding country lanes, I’ve never really been struck by the desire to spend the whole night sleeping on a bus.  Until now that is.

A couple transformed a double-decker bus into a hotel with a hot tub

Hop aboard. (Picture: North News)

One cool couple has taken a vintage ’60s London bus, added some snazzy features and transformed it into a fancy hotel suite – complete with a hot tub.

Susan Mosier and her husband Philip bought the bus for £5,000, and spent £100,000 turning it into a rent-able room.

Double-decker bus gets turned into a hotel

(Picture: North News)

They had to have the exterior stripped, rust removed and plumbing and electrics fitted, before they added in cosy furniture to make the vehicle a luxurious place to stay.

The bottom deck has been turned into a large bathroom, with a bathtub, a flat-screen TV and mood-lighting, while the top deck acts as the bedroom, complete with a double bed and a seating area with a sofa and coffee table.

Some of the bus’s original features have been left intact, including a few of the seats, ‘stop’ bells, signage and the steering wheel.

Double-decker bus gets turned into a hotel

(Picture: North News)

Outside, there’s a hot tub and a private garden.

Oh, and there’s wifi too.

Double-decker bus gets turned into a hotel

(Picture: North News)

The bus, dubbed Trafalgar Square, now sits on the grounds of the Mosiers’ hotel near Beamish, County Durham, and is best-suited for couples (as there’s not that much space for kids).

It costs £220 per night during the week, or £250 on a Friday or Saturday.

Double-decker bus gets turned into a hotel

(Picture: North News)

A little pricey, sure.  But it’s probably the only way you’ll get the ‘sleeping on a bus’ experience without dodging smelly drunks, missing your stop and ending up twenty miles from home..!

 

 

The quirkiest holiday houses to rent around the world – revealed

Thanks to Mail Online Travel for these amazing rental ideas.

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Renting a holiday home and getting away from your own base every now and then is something we all look forward to – so why settle for the mundane?

It is perfectly feasible, for example, to make for the Scottish Highlands and snooze in a converted bus with its own little touches of luxury, including a hot tub, for only £150 a night. 

Or, head further afield and dig deep into your pockets for a £971-a-night five-bedroom rental in Orlando, Florida, which boasts themed kids’ rooms that include an indoor treehouse, a bed in a boat and a mini space station. 

Alternatively, on New Zealand’s South Island, you can venture into the wilderness and stay with a partner in a ‘pod’ made entirely from glass, offering views of the stars like no other.

You can also hunker down in a Croatian lighthouse looking out across the Istrian Peninsula, a hobbit-like dome in Bali, or a 1600s house in Derbyshire with a nautical themed playhouse on the lawn.

Here are ten wacky abodes from around the world that you can temporarily call home, all available on TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals.

The Bus Stop, East Lothian, Scotland

Make for the Scottish Highlands and snooze in this surprisingly spacious converted bus with its own little touches of luxury 

Make for the Scottish Highlands and snooze in this surprisingly spacious converted bus with its own little touches of luxury

You’d be forgiven for thinking a bus would only come in useful for getting you to and from your holiday accommodation – but that’s not the case with this creative property in eastern Scotland.

With a wood-burning stove, barbeque and hot tub, The Bus Stop offers a little more luxury than your average morning commute.

This hand-crafted accommodation has glass ceilings and is set on a working farm with panoramic views of the Lammermuir Hills.

Two bedrooms (sleeps four) from £150 per night (three-night minimum stay).

PurePod Cabin, South Island, New Zealand 

On New Zealand's South Island, you can venture into the wilderness and stay with a partner in this entirely glass 'pod'

On New Zealand’s South Island, you can venture into the wilderness and stay with a partner in this entirely glass ‘pod’

Can nature and comfort coexist?

They can with this state-of-the-art living capsule on New Zealand’s South Island. A biofuel fire is combined with glass roofing, flooring and walls to give you the ultimate view of the wilderness.

The only downside: no curtains means it’s not ideal for long lie-ins.

One bedroom (sleeps two), from £311 per night.

Theme Home, Orlando, Florida 

You’d have to dig deep into your pockets to rent this £971-a-night five-bedroom house in Orlando, Florida, which boasts themed kid’s rooms including the one

A treehouse and nautical and astronautical-themed bedrooms make this property a kid’s dream.

Located in a resort only six miles from Disney World, this pad sleeps 18 people and has a pool with an adjoined hot tub.

Other quirks include a pool table designed to look like a New York taxi, and a private movie room decorated with plastic trees and grass.

Five bedrooms (sleeps 18), from £971 per night (three-night minimum stay).

Lighthouse Villa, Pula, Croatia 

This quaint Croatian lighthouse looks out across the Istrian Peninsula, runs on solar power and collects rainwater in a tank

This quaint Croatian lighthouse looks out across the Istrian Peninsula, runs on solar power and collects rainwater in a tank

It boasts a roomy interior capable of sleeping up to eight people        Although secluded, the lighthouse can be reached by a small rural road

With views across the Istrian Peninsula plus a lighthouse, this unusual home runs on solar power and collects rainwater in a tank.

Steeped in history, the first light here was ignited on August 8, 1883, and was operational until the 1970s.

While blissfully secluded, this three-bedroom hideout is easily reached by car via a small country road.

Three bedrooms (sleeps eight), from £160 per night (seven-night minimum stay).

WisDome Villa, Lombok, Indonesia

The striking domed villas of this mini-village on the Indonesian island of Lombok have bedrooms with round-shaped beds

The striking domed villas of this mini-village on the Indonesian island of Lombok have bedrooms with round-shaped beds

The striking domed villas of this mini-village on the Indonesian island of Lombok offer peace, tranquillity and beautiful sea views.

Each bedroom dome is built on two floors and has king-sized round-shaped beds.

Boat transfers to Bali are available, while the world-famous Gili islands lie just five minutes away.

Two bedrooms (sleeps six), from £336 per night (four-night minimum stay)

Treehouse, Watamu, Kenya 

This spiralling Kenyan property provides a 360-degree panorama that includes both the native forest and the Indian Ocean

The living area has a colourful stained-glass wall and the property is topped with a thatched roof.

Conveniently, both self-catering and full-board options are available.

Three bedrooms (sleeps six), from £314 per night (two-night minimum stay).

Hag Hill Hall, Chesterfield, Derbyshire 

This lavish home in Chesterfield dates back to the 1600s, has two big living areas, a dining hall, and can sleep up to 18 people

This lavish home in Chesterfield dates back to the 1600s, has two big living areas, a dining hall, and can sleep up to 18 people

Hag Hill Hall also features a children¿s play boat sitting in the garden       

With two hot tubs and a large indoor swimming pool as well as a wealth of antiques, this lavish home in Chesterfield dates back to the 1600s.

The vast abode, set on an expansive green lawn, has two big living areas, a dining hall, and can sleep up to 18 people.

Also featuring a children’s play boat in the garden, Hag Hill Hall is the ultimate playcation.

Eight bedrooms (sleeps 18), from £685 per night (three-night minimum stay).

Villa Torno, Lake Como, Italy 

This Lake Como villa blends historical and modern themes, and looks over one of the most famous landscapes in the world

This Lake Como villa blends historical and modern themes, and looks over one of the most famous landscapes in the world

        Epic views from every room in the house

With a host of Hollywood stars residing on its shores, Lake Como has always attracted those with highly refined tastes.

This villa is a masterpiece of design, blending historical and modern themes to create a home as stunning as its location.

Highlights include a large wooden sauna and epic views from every room in the house.

Four bedrooms (sleeps eight), from £882 per night (three-night minimum stay).

Mykonian Passion, Mykonos, Greece 

Colourful accents at the Mykonian Passion villa light up its white stone exterior, which is fronted by a 20m-long infinity pool

Colourful accents at the Mykonian Passion villa light up its white stone exterior, which is fronted by a 20m-long infinity pool

Winding steps and cave-like passageways give it a hobbit-like charm       

Thanks both to the sand and rocks that surround the 20m long infinity pool sitting in front, and to the elegant interior design features, Mykonian Passion is a home truly in tune with its surroundings.

Colourful accents light up the otherwise white stone exterior, while winding steps and cave-like passageways give it a special charm.

Surrounding the property are gardens, olive trees and cacti plants scattered among the rocks, from which guests can enjoy splendid views across the Aegean sea.

Four bedrooms (sleeps eight), from £797 per night (five-night minimum stay).

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’

The jaw-dropping images taken by a 16-year-old

Wow – what talent at such a young age!  This German youngster is surely set for great things.  Thanks to Travel Mail for the story…


He’s only 16 – yet his photographs look like they were taken by a seasoned professional.

Jannik Obenhoff has snapped mountainous scenery featuring snow-capped peaks, crystal-clear lakes and misty hills – and his images have an ethereal beauty that will make you catch your breath.

Many were taken by Obenhoff in Germany and Austria, but there are also snippets from the mountains of Italy.

It's impossible not to feel wanderlust when looking at the stunning landscapes like the one above, captured by 16-year-old photographer Jannik Obenhoff

It’s impossible not to feel wanderlust when looking at the stunning landscapes like the one above, captured by 16-year-old photographer Jannik Obenhoff

Many of these pictures were taken by the Munich-based photographer in Germany and Austria. Above, Obersee Lake

Obersee Lake

The Munich-based photographer started taking photographs, using just an iPod, when he was 13.    Above, Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchli, a restaurant tucked into the cliffs

Above right: Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchli, a restaurant tucked into the cliffs

Many of his images shared on Instagram give no locations. Above, a lake-side property that Obenhoff called his 'dreamhouse'

A lake-side property that Obenhoff called his ‘dreamhouse’

Obenhoff told MailOnline Travel: ‘I picked nature photography as my main theme because I really like the German landscape and the Alps, which are near where I live.’

He added: ‘My favorite place to photograph are the Alps.’

It’s the Stubai Alps region that have caught his eye in particular.

While his focus has so far been Germany and Austria, he hopes to visit Iceland, Canada, Greenland and China in the future.

Almost all of his photographs feature mountains or lakes. Above, the picturesque landscape near Hohenschwangau Castle

The picturesque landscape near Hohenschwangau Castle

Every single one of Obenhoff's pictures gets thousands of likes on Instagram. Above, Toblacher See, a popular camping spot in the Dolomites

Toblacher See, a popular camping spot in the Dolomites

While his focus has so far been Germany and Austria, he hopes to visit Iceland, Canada, Greenland and China in the future

The Munich-based photographer started taking photographs, using just an iPad, when he was 13.

He would then post these images on Instagram, where he quickly gained a big following.

Today, he takes photographs with a DSLR camera and has already amassed more than 329,000 followers on Instagram.

Although he’s still at school, the aspiring landscape photographer is already earning money through sponsorships on his page.

A rural sunrise in winter in an unknown spot    A swan on Lake Kochel

Above, a photograph that Obenhoff took while walking on Austria's longest swing bridge, the Holzgau Suspension Bridge

Austria’s longest swing bridge, the Holzgau Suspension Bridge

 People rarely feature in Obenhoff's photographs but occasionally his followers get little snippets of him and his friends
This little group of trees is actually one of the eight islands on Lake Eibsee in Germany. It's called Ludwigsinsel

Ludwigsinsel, one of the eight islands on Lake Eibsee in Germany

Obenhoff told MailOnline Travel: 'I picked nature photography as my main theme because I really like the German landscape and the Alps, which are near where I live'
Although he's still at school, the aspiring landscape photographer is already earning money through sponsorships on his Instagram page
 Above, the snow-capped peaks of the Dolomites reflected in the calm waters of Lake Dürrensee in South Tyrol, Italy

Lake Dürrensee in South Tyrol, Italy

Hallstatt in Austria in the winter    A misty dawn in the mountains

Above left: Hallstatt in Austria
A rare shooting star    The Ice Chapel, a breathtaking place at the bottom of the Watzmann
Above right: the breathtaking Ice Chapel at the bottom of the Watzmann

15 Places that Look Like they’re on Another Planet

We can’t help but fantasize about galaxies far, far away. Luckily, Earth is full of surreal and otherworldly places that are just a plane ride away—no warp speed required. Thanks to CN Traveler for some awesome shots.


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.

Lake Natron: Monduli, Tanzania

This salt lake sure is beautiful to look at, but its hellish 120-degree temperatures and dangerously low pH levels make it a less-than-ideal vacation spot. There is one major upside: The surplus of scarlet-hued algae attracts millions of flamingos, making the area one of the species’ major breeding grounds.

Glowworm Caves: Waitomo, New Zealand

Leave it to New Zealand to make even worms look beautiful. The Waitomo Caves hold thousands of bioluminescent larvae that leave long strings of mucus (sounds gross, looks dazzling) and glow like a subterranean Milky Way.

Namib Naukluft Park: Namibia

Red sand dunes and skeletal trees make Namibia the closest thing we have to Mars on Earth. (Getty)

Wulingyuan Scenic Area: Zhangjiajie, China

Scenic might be an understatement: 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. It’s no wonder this site was a major inspiration for the world of Pandora in Avatar.

Hang Son Doong: Vietnam

Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong, the largest cave in the world, could hold an entire city block of Manhattan—including 40-story skyscrapers. It has its own lush vegetation where sunlight filters in from sinkholes above, and clouds even form near the ceiling when moisture condenses there. In other words, it’s practically its own little world lurking under the earth’s surface. (Alamy)

Jökulsárlón: Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland

The glacial lake of Jökulsárlón and its frozen beach are considered a natural wonder of Iceland, with black volcanic sands providing a stark backdrop for the chunks of ice that wash ashore.

Socotra, Yemen

With UFO-like dragon’s blood trees as its most notable feature, the island of Socotra looks like it was transported to Earth from a distant planet. (Getty)

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.

Dos Ojos: Tulum, Mexico

This cavernous cenote with double entry points—hence the moniker “Two Eyes”—is so incredible it was featured in the IMAX flick Journey Into Amazing Caves and an episode of Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth. It’s perfect for snorkelers, experienced scuba divers, and daredevils willing to surface in the system’s bat cave.

Dallol, Ethiopia

A kind of geological wonderland of salt formations, acidic hot springs, and gas geysers, this visually stunning hydrothermal field vies for the title of world’s hottest spot with average summer highs reportedly hitting up to 114F°.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

The 13,800-foot climb from Hilo’s beaches to the moonscape at the summit of Mauna Kea isn’t for the faint of heart. It is one of the longest sustained climbs on Earth, but it’s worth it to view the world as a land above the clouds.

Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley): Chile

Have you ever dreamed of exploring the moon? A trip to Valle de la Luna in Chile’s Atacama Desert is a much shorter flight. Years of erosion have left behind jagged peaks, dry riverbeds, and a landscape startlingly similar to that of our favorite celestial body’s.

Lencois Maranhenses National Park: Brazil

The geography of Brazil’s Lencois Maranhenses National Park is like nothing else on Earth. The rainy season (around early June) fills every trough with water and the world becomes an M. C. Escher print: It is either a drowned desert or a sandy lake, depending on how the mind’s eye frames what it is seeing.

White Desert: Farafra, Egypt

The landscape of the White Desert can be deceiving: What first appears to be a cool, snowy landscape is actually a mind-bendingly hot region of western Egypt. The desert is known for its wind-shaped chalk rock formations, which often resemble giant mushroom clouds frozen in time.

 

 

Top 21 Under-the-Radar Destinations

From Canada’s Yukon wilderness to the mountaintops of India, these unconventional holiday destinations found by BBC Travel will lead you off the beaten path and on to an adventure all your own.


Fermanagh Lakelands, Northern Ireland (Credit: Gareth Mccormack/Getty)

Fermanagh Lakelands, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s answer to the Lake District is blissfully unhurried, although the G8 summit being held here this June may bring it fame. Fermanagh is about one-fifth water, and most of that belongs to fickle Lough Erne – a lake in two parts. Upper Lough Erne is a watery maze of more than 150 islands, often difficult to recognise as a lake between its reedy bays and meandering backwaters. Lower Lough Erne however is a more traditional open body of water.

Many of its islands have a sacred legacy – on Devenish Island there are the remains of an Augustinian monastery, including a superb 12th-century round tower, and on White Island, six enigmatic Celtic stone figures greet visitors. The stately homes of Castle Coole and Florence Court are later additions to the area’s historic mix. Fermanagh’s waterways are choice spots for trout- and salmon-fishing, or for exploring by motorboat and canoe. Be sure to take in the view from the top of the Cliffs of Magho – a limestone escarpment running along the south of Lower Lough Erne. (Gareth Mccormack/Getty)

Yukon, Canada (Credit: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty)

Yukon, Canada

The Yukon is where Canadians go when the rest of the country feels a little too crowded. Hugging the border with Alaska, this area of wilderness that is twice the size of the UK has fewer residents than Liechtenstein – once you’ve discounted the caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, lynx and bald eagles. Interest in this region surged during the Klondike gold rush of 1896, but it soon reverted to normal, leaving just a few reminders of Canada’s version of the Wild West, such as the old prospectors’ town of Dawson City, and Jack London’s novels Call of the Wild and White Fang . In the south of the territory is the Kluane National Park – its icefields, which spill over into Alaska, are the largest outside the polar regions. Road trips across the Yukon make for an adventure, whether you take the historic and well-paved Alaska Highway, or the more rough-and-ready Robert Campbell Highway or Dempster Highway. Off road, canoe and kayak trips open up the Yukon River to exploration. (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty)

Inchcolm Island, Firth of Forth, Scotland (Credit: Scott Campbell/Getty)

Inchcolm Island, Firth of Forth, Scotland

With its ruined abbey spread across a verdant sliver of land, Inchcolm looks every bit the remote Scottish island, though it’s easier to reach than most – located in the middle of the Firth of Forth, it’s a mere half-hour boat ride from Edinburgh. The trip’s well worth making, as Inchcolm, often dubbed the ‘Iona of the East’, possesses the best-preserved monastic complex in Scotland. Founded in 1123 by Augustine monks and dramatically sited over a sandy bay, it offers an intriguing glimpse of hermetic life – and from its tower, rather more complete views over the Firth. The site has served as a hauntingly realistic venue for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s performance of Macbeth. Beyond the abbey, the island merits a wander – it’s riddled with tunnels, lookouts and bunkers from its time as a garrison in both WWI and WWII. Nowadays its only permanent inhabitants are animals – look out for puffins and grey seals basking on rocks. (Scott Campbell/Getty)

Kiso Valley, Japan (Credit: Judy Bellah/Getty)

Kiso Valley, Japan

Two hundred years ago, the thickly wooded Kiso Valley was one of the main routes through central Japan. It’s more out of the way these days, with the happy result that it preserves a number of old post stations along the Nakasendo – the mountain road, celebrated in the work of woodblock print artists, that ran from Edo (modern Tokyo) to Kyoto. The most attractive of the stations is Tsumago, where modern development has been restricted and dark-wood, lattice-fronted houses line the car-free main street. An hour or two is enough to browse the tasteful souvenir shops, sit down in a traditional restaurant or visit the former rest stop for retainers of travelling samurai lords, with its moss garden. It’s worth extending your stay however to take the five-mile hike along the route of the Nakasendo, past farmland, forest and waterfalls, which connects Tsumago to the village of Magome – another time capsule. (Judy Bellah/Getty)

Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park, California (Credit: Mark Rakston/Getty)

Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park, California

What is it about California and trees? Not content with having the world’s tallest (coast redwoods) and oldest (bristlecone pines), the state is also home to the largest tree by volume – the giant sequoia, which grows only to its full size in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Many of these behemoths are found in the Yosemite National Park, but for more quality time with the trees, it’s best to head south to Sequoia National Park, which gets a quarter of Yosemite’s visitor numbers. Quieter still is King’s Canyon National Park, adjacent to and run jointly with Sequoia. Besides the giant sequoias – including the daddy of them all, the General Sherman Tree – the parks feature a cleft deeper than the Grand Canyon (King’s Canyon itself), mountain trails and stalactite-draped caves. At the eastern edge of Sequoia is 4,421m-high Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the US outside Alaska. (Mark Rakston/Getty)

Providence, Rhode Island, USA (Credit: Kenneth C Zirkel/Getty)

Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the US – more like an English county in its expanse. Its capital, Providence, has many of the attractions of Boston, an hour’s drive away, but in a city a quarter of its size. Ivy League member Brown University and the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) give the city a strong student influence, dignified campus buildings and the impressive RISD Museum of Art. Providence has the only downtown area in the US that is listed in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places and, up on College Hill, east of the Providence River, are leafy streets lined with 18th-century wood-framed houses. More colourful districts include Federal Hill, with its Italian restaurants and food shops, and Fox Point, home to a Portuguese community and increasing numbers of coffee shops and small galleries. Try to time your visit for one of the 10 or so weekends a year, between May and October, when 100 flaming braziers light up the city’s waterways during WaterFire. (Kenneth C Zirkel/Getty)

Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey (Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty)

Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey

A world away from cosmopolitan Istanbul or Turkey’s laid-back coastal resorts, little-visited Southeastern Anatolia deserves equal fame. Once the northern frontier of Mesopotamia (the ‘cradle of civilization’), the region encompasses an astonishing array of sites, reaching far back into human history. The recently excavated stone circles of Göbekli Tepe, for example, are thought to comprise the world’s oldest temple. Comparatively youthful at just a few millennia old are S ̧anlıurfa (‘the Prophet’s City’) – an ancient spiritual centre of mosques, shady courtyards and a labyrinthine bazaar – and the beehive houses of Harran. Equally captivating are Mardin, where golden stone houses look over sunbaked plains, and the colossal ancient statues that crowd a remote mountaintop at Nemrut Dag ̆ı. Several of these places are stops on the recently inaugurated Turkish section of Abraham’s Path, a 100-mile trail through sites linked to the prophet’s life, sleeping in homestays along the way. (Chris Hondros/Getty)

Arunachal Pradesh, India (Credit: AFP/Getty)

Arunachal Pradesh, India

Arunachal Pradesh, the ‘land of the dawn-lit mountains’, is surely high on any list of candidates for the mythical realm of Shangri-La. Sitting at a confluence of countries – India, Bhutan, Tibet and Burma – it has historically been inaccessible from any, an unknown place so remote that few of its thunderous Himalayan peaks have been named, let alone climbed. Now, however, easing travel restrictions and improved infrastructure ensure that this extraordinary place is ripe for exploring. Here, nature reserves teem with a diversity of wildlife unmatched in India, forests host delicately tattooed tribal peoples, and mountain valleys are dotted with majestic Buddhist monasteries, such as 400-year-old Tawang Gompa, one of the world’s largest. Be sure to visit the Mechuka Valley, a hitherto unexplored Buddhist realm amongst the towering, snow-draped mountains of the region’s remote west. Making the trip on the newly opened road is one of the most exciting adventures in India. (AFP/Getty)

Northwestern Tasmania, Australia (Credit: Universal Images Group/Getty)

Northwestern Tasmania, Australia

Long known for its apples, Australia’s island state of Tasmania is fast emerging as the country’s best destination for food, full stop. Its unspoilt countryside and pristine waters provide a bounty of lovingly-harvested local produce, much of it then served up within the state’s country-leading crop of restaurants. Tazzie’s northwest offers a choice of delicacies that’s hard to beat, from seafood and cider to chocolate, cheese and cool-climate wines. Amidst the rolling green hills of Deloraine you’ll find farms purveying cherries, raspberries and even organic salmon, while at laid-back King Island you can feast on bries, cheddars and pungent blue cheeses, plus crayfish and oysters from the surrounding ocean. Elsewhere, sample over 50 varieties of honey, including Tasmania’s creamy Leatherwood variety, at Chudleigh Honey Farm, or head to the vineyards and distilleries around scenic Barrington Lake for a glass of dry Pinot Noir or cider to wash it all down. (Universal Images Group/Getty)

Kosrae, Micronesia (Credit: Yvette Cardozo/Getty)

Kosrae, Micronesia

First of all, allow plenty of time to reach this island, whose nearest international connections are Honolulu and Guam. Kosrae (pronounced ‘ko-shrye’) is the easternmost of the 607 islands dotted across a million square miles of ocean that make up the Federated States of Micronesia. This isolation has at least one big bonus – the island is fringed with coral reefs that count as some of the most remarkable and undisturbed in the Pacific Ocean, sheltering groupers, lionfish and a host of other marine life. In summer, the visibility in the water can be an amazing 60 metres, enough to see the submerged remains of an American flying boat and a Japanese freighter sunk during WWII. The rainforest-covered interior and delightful beaches are also highlights of the island. The nearby islet of Lelu has jungle-covered ruins that look like a smaller version of the mysterious ‘lost city’ of Nan Madol, on the main Micronesian island of Pohnpei. (Yvette Cardozo/Getty)

Ávila, Spain (Credit: Javier Soriano/Getty)

Ávila, Spain

Pity the army that tried to take Ávila. Set on the cool, high plains of Castilla y León in central Spain, this historic bastion is a sight to behold. Thick, hulking walls loom 12 metres high in a crenellated ring around the city, interrupted only by a series of monumental embellishments: eight gates, dozens of towers and turrets in their thousands. Built in the 12th Century on top of the remains of earlier Roman and Muslim battlements, they rank among the best-preserved medieval walls in the world, and despite their age, can, in part, be walked along. Climb up for views over the snow-dusted mountains around Ávila, or the rooftops, spires and quiet medieval streets of this beautiful, deeply religious ‘city of saints and stones’. For the best view of the walls themselves, make for the plains around the city at night: you’ll see them snake like a golden ribbon through the undulating dark. (Javier Soriano/Getty)

Sylt, Germany (Credit: Patrik Stollarz/Getty)

Sylt, Germany

Sylt is no secret to German tourists, many of whom have been flocking here for years. It’s not hard to see why – this large anchor-shaped island in the North Sea combines wild romance with a distinctly civilised drinking and dining scene. Away from the glamorous excesses of its most popular corners, this is a place of quiet beauty, where red-thatched houses sit in flower-thick gardens and candy-striped lighthouses keep sentinel over green meadows and vast, shifting dunes. Head to the western coast for mile upon mile of secluded fine-sand beaches and dramatic surf, or wander east to the serene Wadden Sea, where gentle waters recede to reveal a natural haven of tidal mudflats. In the evening, tuck into local specialities at one of Sylt’s scores of eateries – from beach bistros to Michelin-starred restaurants, there’s no shortage of fine food. (Patrik Stollarz/Getty)

Meknès, Morocco (Credit: Abdelhak Senna/Getty)

Meknès, Morocco

While visitors pour into Marrakesh, Fez and Rabat, Meknès, the fourth and most modest of Morocco’s imperial cities is rather unfairly overlooked. With its maze of narrow streets, busy medina and wealth of grand buildings, it’s undoubtedly cut from the same beguiling cloth. Set amidst fertile plains below the Middle Atlas Mountains, Unesco-listed Meknès’s monuments include numerous palaces, 25 miles of historic walls, dozens of mosques (its nickname is ‘city of a hundred minarets’) and the vast, ornately-tiled Bab el-Mansour gate; located opposite Meknès’s lively medina, it’s the grandest in Morocco. Most of these date back to Meknès’s 17th and 18th Century glory days as the sultanate’s base. Nearby is a rather more ancient attraction: Volubilis, site of the largest Roman ruins in the country. With its partially restored buildings and beautiful, on-site mosaics, it’s unmissable. (Abdelhak Senna/Getty)

If you’re anywhere near the wonderful port of Tangiers, I can heartily recommend the stunning Grand Hotel Villa de France and gorgeous El Minzah – I’ve stayed at both. These historic properties are part of the Le Royal Hotels & Resorts group owned by Iraqi-born British businessman and philanthropist Sir Nadhmi Auchi.  – Ned

Byblos, Lebanon (Credit: Flickr/Getty)

Byblos, Lebanon

Though Byblos looks, at first glance, like simply a picturesque fishing harbour, beyond its shimmering waters you’ll also find a real historical heavyweight. This serene settlement north of Beirut has been around for a long time (some claim it’s the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world), during which it has featured in the Bible, been conquered by Crusaders and given the world the modern alphabet (courtesy of the sea-trading Phoenicians of the first millennium BC). Today, its many ages are well-represented in its patchwork of ruins, which include ancient temples and tombs and Neolithic houses. Three sites in particular steal the show: the reconstructed Roman amphitheatre, set on a cliff overlooking the sea; the imposing 12th-century Crusader castle, with its commanding views; and the beautifully restored medieval souq, where you can buy everything from antiques to fossils. That’s another few millennia ticked off, then. (Flickr/Getty)

Ned’s tip: for five star plus luxury and the best water park in the Med, treat yourself to Le Royal Hotels & Resorts – Beirut

Toruń, Poland (Credit: Janusz Leszczynski Photography/Getty)

Toruń, Poland

While WWII spelt devastation for many of Poland’s finest historic towns, Toruń – a walled medieval port on the Vistula river – miraculously escaped entirely intact. Today it continues, puzzlingly, to be overlooked, meaning that visitors have its wealth of glorious Gothic architecture largely to themselves. From towering churches to ornately decorated houses, the impressive red-brick buildings of its Unesco-listed old town form one of the best-preserved collections in northern Europe. Standouts include a light-filled cathedral that glitters with beautiful stained-glass windows, the medieval ruins of its castle and walls, and the 14th-century town hall – head up to its tower to enjoy sweeping views over the city. Directly below, the old town’s grand market square is a fine place to watch the world go by – grab a café table and sample Toruń’s signature snack of pierniki (gingerbread), famous country-wide. (Janusz Leszczynski Photography/Getty)

Jambiani Beach, Tanzania (Credit: Bruno Morandi/Getty)

Jambiani Beach, Tanzania

Even among Zanzibar’s embarrassment of powder-sand riches, Jambiani beach is a clear standout. Located on the island’s east coast, which is protected by offshore reefs, the beach is a long, palm-fringed sweep of fine coral sand sloping ever-so-gradually into a startlingly turquoise sea. This mesmerising landscape, one of the quietest places on the east coast, is also a good introduction to the age-old rhythms of rural Zanzibari life. Spread before the fishing village of Jambiani, a somnolent, sun-baked collection of coral and thatched houses, it’s animated by the daily routines of inhabitants. During the day, women gather seaweed and lay it in the sun to dry, ngalawa (outrigger canoes) bob in the shallows just offshore, and, at sunset, fishermen in dhows sail towards the reefs, the silhouettes of their triangular sails serrating the sky. Hitch a ride with one for unbeatable vistas of both beach and sea shimmering in the setting sun. (Bruno Morandi/Getty)

Arras, France (Credit: Philippe Huguen/Getty)

Arras, France

If the town of Arras in northeastern France rings any bells, it’s most likely to be for its position near the thick of frontline action in WWI. However, with its vertiginous belfry and colourful arcaded squares, the town exuberantly defies the expectations of its sombre history. Its two ancient market squares, the Grand Place and nearby Petite Place, are surrounded by a confectionery of Flemish-Spanish houses, pastel-hued, gaily decorated creations erected in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Together, their 350 or so columns form an arcade that’s unique in France. Petite Place is also the site of another focal point – the ornate city hall, whose Unesco-listed belfry shoots up 75m above Arras’s streets and offers heady views. Beneath the square is another site worth a visit: the historic souterrains (tunnels) that became British command posts, hospitals and barracks in WWI and which, each spring, blossom into a uniquely life-affirming garden. (Philippe Huguen/Getty)

Sãotomé and Príncipe (Credit: Tiago Petinga/Getty)

Sãotomé and Príncipe

São Toméans like to live life ‘leve leve’ (slowly and calmly) in this one-time Portuguese colony that was formed from two islands in the Atlantic, 150 miles from the African mainland and a six-hour flight from Lisbon. São Tomé Island is as tropical as can be – the equator passes through an islet off its south coast, and the volcanically formed interior shelters virgin rainforest and a huge variety of plant and bird species. Its smaller neighbour Príncipe is even more untouched. The islands produce some of the best cocoa and coffee in the world, and at lunchtime nothing can beat grilled fresh fish. Outside the modest capital, with its Portuguese-era buildings painted in ice-cream shades, there are beaches, hiking trails through the rugged landscape, and plantations. (Tiago Petinga/Getty)

Richmond, North Yorkshire, England (Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Richmond, North Yorkshire, England

There are more than 50 places called Richmond around the world, from a London borough to the state capital of Virginia, but the original can be found just outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park, in a prime spot on the River Swale. Since the days of the Normans, Richmond Castle has sat on a rocky outcrop above the river – one of the oldest stone fortresses in the country. The true heart of the town however is the straightforwardly named Market Place. Based on a charter from Elizabeth I, an outdoor market takes place here every Saturday (a farmers’ market on the third Saturday of the month) with a permanent indoor market off to one side. Cobbled streets fan out from the sloping, half-moon- shaped square, lined with handsome Georgian buildings and stone cottages, with glimpses of the dales beyond. (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Ikaria, Greece (Credit: Chris Christo/Getty)

Ikaria, Greece

If you’re after somewhere to eat, drink and unwind, look no further than Ikaria, a place so restorative that living to 100 years here is no big deal. No-one’s quite sure what accounts for residents’ exceptional longevity, but the sheer serenity of the place must have something to do with it (the hot springs probably help, too). A hilly isle in the northeast Aegean mostly bypassed by tourism, it’s strewn with crumbling ruins, secluded bays and tiny villages where residents gather to tell stories, play backgammon and drink. Vineyard-rich Ikaria’s a particularly fine place for this last pursuit, being the mythical birthplace of both Dionysus, god of wine, and of his favourite tipple. Enjoy its signature red over a plate of local produce in the cascading village of Karavostamo or in the easy-going port of Agios Kirykos. Summer is the best time to experience the joie de vivre of Greek island culture, when panigyria (all-night festivals) ring in saints’ days with feasting, drinking and dancing galore.(Chris Christo/Getty)

Trieste, Italy (Credit: AFP/Getty)

Trieste, Italy

If you had to choose one city to serve as the capital of Europe, Trieste might be the fairest choice. A piece of Italy largely surrounded by Slovenian territory, and which was once imperial Austria’s cosmopolitan main port, it lies at the crossroads of the continent’s Latin, Slavic and Germanic cultures. This is reflected in the city’s food habits, where panini and fritto misto (fried seafood) might be followed by beef brisket and horseradish. Triestini love their coffee just as much as Romans and Viennese do, and many of the cafés evoke more gilded times. The huge, pristine central square is an elegant triumph of Austro-Hungarian town planning, now ironically named the Square of Italian Unity. Beyond it is the Borgo Teresiano, a graceful 18th-century district that straddles Trieste’s very own Grand Canal, a mosaic-laden Serbian Orthodox church and a richly decorated neoclassical synagogue. The city also has literary note as the place where James Joyce lived for 10 years before the outbreak of WWI. (AFP/Getty)

The Village that Survived a War

I have a Bosnian friend.

Like many kids, I paid little attention to the news unless my folks showed concern.  I certainly didn’t take much heed back in the 90’s of some weird-sounding place called Sarajevo; or the debates over all the fighting and torture that apparently was going on over there.  But now as an adult – and thanks largely to my friend – that war-torn part of the world holds much more meaning  for me than when I was a youngster.

Although many people still view Bosnia with trepidation, its dramatic landscapes and singular history are making it an increasingly popular destination.  BBC Travel explores more.


https://i2.wp.com/www.catholicnewsagency.com/images/size680/Vrbanja_bridge_in_Sarajevo_Bosnia_and_Herzegovina_commemorating_Suada_Dilberovic_and_Olga_Sucic_Credit_jaimesilva_via_Flickr_CC_BY_NC_ND_20_CNA.jpg

Photo: Jaime Silva via Flickr

“This is the bridge where the war started,” said Mustafa as we crossed over the sparkling Miljacka River that divides the Bosnian city of Sarajevo.

I had walked over this bridge before, just to admire the view, but had not realised its significance: on the afternoon of 6 April 1992, this is where snipers mowed down two young women as they joined a peace march. Multi-ethnic strife disintegrated into full-blown war as Serbs laid siege to Sarajevo and began killing Muslims and Croats as they tried to carve out a Serb Republic.

The landscapes of the Dinaric Alps are dramatic and gorgeous (Credit: Credit: Boaz Rottem / Alamy)

The landscapes of the Dinaric Alps are dramatic and gorgeous (Credit: Credit: Boaz Rottem / Alamy)

It was just one more marker in a picturesque city engraved with many dark memories. And on this day, it was the starting point of my journey with a man, who like most Bosnians, has spent the two decades since the war reconstructing his peace.

Mustafa, my guide, was only 17 when the Bosnian War began, but he still defended his Sarajevo neighbourhood when Serbian forces began shelling his apartment building. A Bosniak, or Bosnian Muslim, he fought alongside the Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs of Sarajevo against Serbian nationalists who wanted to take over all these lands to create a Greater Serbia.

With his blue eyes, close-cropped hair and Balkan good looks, he could be his own action hero. He studied to be a dentist after the war, but the cost of setting up his practice was prohibitive. Instead, he became a tour guide who makes his living sharing the stories of war and the places of peace that his exquisite country has to offer.

Two old men chatting in Lukomir, the most remote village of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Credit: Credit: Roberto Nistri / Alamy)

Two old men chatting in Lukomir, the most remote village of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Credit: Roberto Nistri / Alamy)

We were headed 111km southeast of Sarajevo into the highlands to Lukomir, Bosnia’s highest and most remote village and a little window into the country’s past. Here, villagers still wear traditional hand-knitted clothing and tend their flocks as they have for centuries. The village was one of only two in these highlands that survived the razed-earth offensive of the Serbian forces, who destroyed 13 such villages in the region. Lukomir means “harbour of peace”– a name that has remained relevant in the historically contentious Balkan country.

It’s been 21 years since the end of the violence unleashed by the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, but the war remains a central theme for visitors and locals alike. Although many people still view the country with trepidation, its dramatic landscapes combined with its singular history are making it an increasingly popular destination.

In fact, Mustafa’s bright green T-shirt said it all: “Have you ever heard a boring person say, ‘Let’s go to Bosnia’?” it said on the front. On the back, the tongue-in-cheek response: “Exactly. Bosnia-Herzegovina: Are you brave enough?”

Mustafa was only 17 when the Bosnian War began - today he is a tour guide telling tales of peace (Credit: Credit: Tracy L Barnett)

Mustafa was only 17 when the Bosnian War began – today he is a tour guide telling tales of peace (Credit: Tracy L Barnett)

Mustafa is one of the collaborators of Green Visions, an innovative, community-based ecotourism company that created this T-shirt and promotes the idea behind it. Green Visions played a key role in the creation of the nearly 2,000km-long Via Dinarica since its first leg opened in 2010. This mega trail runs from Albania to Slovenia traversing the region’s principle range, the dramatic Dinaric Alps. I’d planned to hike a section of the trail to Lukomir, but due to weather and time restraints, we opted to drive instead.

Soon after leaving Sarajevo, Mustafa and I entered a pine and hardwood forest alive with wildflowers and dense, verdant growth. We passed through Babin Do, the Olympic ski resort where the United Nations had one of its bases during the war. In 1984, Mustafa told me, these were much happier times; the mountains near Sarajevo were the site of the Winter Olympics, including the massif that was our destination, Bjelašnica Mountain.

The landscape opened up to a green valley surrounded with rugged peaks. To our left, Mustafa pointed out Treskavica Mountain, his favourite place to go hiking before the war. A foggy mist hung over the magnificent peak’s crown. He recalled hiking up one winter day and playing football on the slick frozen surface of one of Bosnia’s many crystalline mountain lakes. He hasn’t been back since the war, he said, because that mountain, along with many others, is still mined with explosives. Green Visions is working with local mountaineering clubs and others to track which areas are still mined and which are safe, and these mountains are slowly becoming the domain of trekkers and other outdoor adventure enthusiasts once more.

As we wound our way up towards Bjelašnica Mountain, the landscape took on a timeless character. A light mist fell, and a shepherd with a pink umbrella minded his flock. Miles of rolling green pasture were marked with old stone fences. Land mines and military manoeuvres seemed an incongruous fantasy.

We stopped on a ridge top to look across the valley at the massive flanks of Bjelašnica. Thirteen villages dotted across this massif were burned down during the war, Mustafa told me; Lukomir and one other, Čuhovići, which lies behind it, were the only ones to survive. Their remoteness was their strength; the Bosnian army was able to stop the Serbs on their destructive march through the region before they reached Lukomir.

We seemed to be entering the clouds as we ascended, and finally, the tiny town emerged into view. A light scent of animal dung mixed with wood smoke pierced the cool air, and small stone-and-wood houses hugged the ground as if to hunch against the wind, their strange sharp roofs pointing heavenward. Most were covered with rusted metal sheets, used to extend the lives of the hand-hewn, cherrywood shingles.

Dwellings with metal sheet roofs - these roofs extend the lives of the hand-hewn, cherrywood shingles (Credit: Credit: Roberto Cornacchia / Alamy)

Dwellings with metal sheet roofs – these roofs extend the lives of the hand-hewn, cherrywood shingles (Credit: Roberto Cornacchia / Alamy)

Mustafa took me to meet a pair of the village elders – indeed they are all elders here, as the younger generations have gone away to the cities to seek jobs and a more modern way of life. Fewer than 20 people live here permanently now. Rahima, her weathered face beaming under a knotted scarf, invited us into her small home with a smile; she wore the loose, black wool trousers and colourful knitted socks traditional to this region. Her husband, Vejsil, rose to greet us; he wore a black beret and orange-and-green knitted socks. The sheepskin on the wall was a warm reminder of their shepherd past.

Rahima busied herself at her old cast-iron stove making traditional Bosnian coffee as she and Mustafa shared stories of their children. She and Vejsil told us about the winters there, when the deep snows render the village completely inaccessible for up to six months. For the last couple of years, they’ve gone down to spend winters with their children in Sarajevo. But for most of their lives, they had to put away food and supplies to last them for the whole winter. They told of the years during the war, when they were isolated for long stretches – times were hard, but now they content themselves with the gentle rhythms of village life.

Those who live in Lukomir content themselves with the gentle rhythms of village life (Credit: Credit: Alessandra Gaeta / Alamy)

Those who live in Lukomir content themselves with the gentle rhythms of village life (Credit: Alessandra Gaeta / Alamy)

Soon it was time for prayers, and Vejsil excused himself to wash and prepare. We bade our farewells and passed under the Arabic blessing inscribed on the lintel. Rahima gave us a sweetbread and homemade feta cheese for the road.

We climbed up to the precipice where stecci – tombstone monuments of the old Bosnian kingdom that were recognized this year as a Unesco World Heritage Site – have lain since medieval times. The tinkle of bells sounded in the distance as a shepherd tended his flock. The mists were beginning to clear and I got a glimpse of the green mountains on the other side of the precipice on which this precarious village is perched; it felt as if we had arrived at the end of the world.

Mustafa described to me the faraway vistas he has seen on blue-sky days, then grew quiet.

Admiring the vastness of the mountains near Lukomir (Credit: Credit: Roberto Nistri / Alamy)

Admiring the vastness of the mountains near Lukomir (Credit: Roberto Nistri / Alamy)

“Sometimes when the hikers are doing their thing, I’ll just come out here and watch the clouds go by – just for the pleasure of it,” he said. “This is my place of peace.”

 

A new trail is born

In 2010, Green Visions teamed up with the Montenegrin Center for Sustainable Tourism Initiatives to develop a corridor that connected Sutjeska National Park in Bosnia and Herzegovina with Durmitor National Park in Montenegro – and thus, the Via Dinarica was born.

Now the network of trails has grown to nearly 2,000km, stretching from Slovenia to Albania, and it’s been hailed as one of the world’s best new hikes by Outside Magazine, Wanderlust and The Guardian.

Now, with the trail on the global backpacker’s radar screen, more international trekkers have begun to materialize. In 2014, the Via Dinarica Alliance was created to link tour groups, adventure companies and other small regional businesses, which has fostered bonds between people of all ethnicities.

 

 

All the Fun of the Fair

Schueberfouer 2016, Luxembourg


You may already know that I am largely based out of Luxembourg, a tiny little country in the heart of Europe just 82km by 57km – the only Grand Duchy in the world!

Although controlled at some point by just about everyone in the vicinity, Luxembourg has actually been around for over a thousand years; its first recorded history was in 963 AD.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

One of the things I really look forward to every summer is the Schueberfouer, the annual funfair situated in the enormous open-air Glacis car park in the centre of town.  It was founded by John I of Luxembourg, better known as John the Blind, King of Bohemia and Count of Luxembourg, on 20th October 1340.  The founding document stated:

It will begin on the eve of the feast of St Bartholomew and will last a full eight days. 

Even today the fair remains linked to the traditional opening date of St Bartholomew’s day, 24th August, although it now goes on for nearly three weeks.

The name Schueberfouer is thought to originate from the name of the market place where it was first held, the Schuedbuerg – now the “Plateau du St Esprit” (Luxembourgish: Helleggeescht-Plateau), which today serves as the residence of the courts of justice of Luxembourg.  “Fouer” is the Luxembourgish word for “fair”.

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Photo: A Murphy

Another unconfirmed theory links the term “Schueber” to the old German word “Schober” (in English: barn), which would refer to the original agricultural role of the fair. Indeed, for almost 450 years, the fair was mainly a large and regionally very important market for everything from agricultural products and livestock to cloth, pottery and other household items.  There’s still a wide aisle that runs the whole back length of the fair where you can buy leather goods, kitchenware, tee-shirts, jewellery, toys and glass ornaments.  During the 18th century, shows and games were slowly introduced, but it was not until the early 20th century that a Ferris wheel and a rollercoaster first appeared.  Today you’ll find such devilish rides as the Catapult, the Wild Mouse and the supremely awesome Hangover Tower.

I have been to the Schueberfouer twice already this year and am bound to go again before I leave on my next trek to………(watch this space guys!)  The weather has been fantastic, the local Bofferding beer freely flowing, the Mettwurst and Teddy at the fairGromperekichelcher utterly delicious; and I even managed to throw a couple of mean darts and win a cuddly toy for the missus lol .  😀

 

ENJOY THE FUN GUYS!

                                                           Ned

Introducing Europe

There simply is no way to tour Europe and not be awestruck by its scenic beauty, epic history and dazzling artistic and culinary diversity.

Here’s a brief intro for all you Euro-virgins courtesy of Lonely Planet – with lots of links to help you get started.

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Beautiful Bruges (Belgium) by night

Cultural Heritage

Europe’s almost unmanageable wealth of attractions is its biggest single draw: the birthplace of democracy in Athens, the Renaissance art of Florence, the graceful canals of Venice, the Napoleonic splendour of Paris, and the multilayered historical and cultural canvas of London. Less obvious, but no less impressive attractions include Moorish palaces in Andalucía, the remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the World in Turkey, the majesty of meticulously restored Imperial palaces in Russia‘s former capital St Petersburg and the ongoing project of Gaudí’s La Sagrada Família in Barcelona.

Magnificent Menus

Once you’ve ticked off the great museums, panoramic vistas and energetic nightlife, what’s left? A chance to indulge in a culinary adventure to beat all others, that’s what! Who wouldn’t want to snack on pizza in Naples, souvlaki in Santorini or even haggis in Scotland? But did you also know that Britain has some of the best Indian restaurants in the world; that Turkey‘s doner kebab is a key part of contemporary German food culture; and that in the Netherlands you can gorge on an Indonesian rijsttafel (rice table)? Once again Europe’s diversity and global reach is its trump card.

Why I Love Europe

By Simon Richmond, Writer

You’re likely to feel a little overwhelmed, but once you dive into Europe, these fears will be replaced by wonder and fascination – plus something, perhaps, unexpected: a sense of connection. Very few, if any places in the world, remain untouched by European history, culture and influence. As continents go, Europe’s broad variety and excellent transport infrastructure – be it air or roads, or the old standby of the Grand Tour, rail – is hard to beat and is sure to push you on to new experiences and unexpected discoveries.

Glorious Scenery

There’s breathtaking natural scenery: rugged Scottish Highlands with glens and lochs; Norway‘s fabulous fjords, seemingly chipped to jagged perfection by giants; the vine-raked valleys of the Loire; and Cappadocia’s fairy-tale landscape. If you’re looking for beaches, a circuit of the Mediterranean’s northern coast reveals one gem after another. Or strike out to lesser known, yet beautiful coastal regions such as the Baltic and Black Seas. Mountain lovers should head to the Alps: they march across central Europe taking in France, Switzerland, Austria, northern Italy and tiny Liechtenstein.

Raise a Glass

Europe has some of the best nightlife in the world. Globally famous DJs keep the party going in London, Berlin and Paris, all of which also offer top-class entertainment, especially theatre and live music. Other key locations for high-energy nightlife include Moscow, Belgrade, Budapest and Madrid, while those hankering for something more cosy can add Dublin‘s pubs or Vienna’s cafes to their itinerary. Continue to party on the continent’s streets at a multiplicity of festivals and celebrations, from city parades attended by hundreds of thousands to intimate concerts in an ancient ampitheatre…

Ned’s tip: Don’t forget Lilliputian but lovely Luxembourg, not-so-boring Belgium and of course the general joys of Germany.

Faded beauty of a bygone jewel

When I was a kid I watched the old Agatha Christie whodunnit, Murder on the Orient Express – and ever since I’ve had a strange yearning to travel on the infamous Venice-Simplon.  Imagine my disappointment to come across this piece in MailOnline travel about one of their abandoned old trains.  Dutch photographer Brian Romeijn took some eerily haunting shots of it: rusty, dusty and rather sad…  😦


Haunting photos show decaying ‘Orient Express’ train that was once a symbol of luxury

An urban explorer has captured these remarkable photos of the decaying remains of a passenger train that was once one of the finest ways to travel.

With their glory days long gone, the train carriage and locomotive have been left to rot at a train yard in Belgium, where they have become a popular attraction for photographers and adventurers.

Rotterdam-based photographer Brian Romeijn, 40, snapped these eerie images, which show the abandoned train’s rusting exterior, torn seats, dust-covered windows and floors and compact engineer’s room.

The train carriage and locomotive have been left to rot at a train yard in Belgium, attracting urban explorers

The train carriage and locomotive have been left to rot at a train yard in Belgium, attracting urban explorers

Rotterdam-based photographer Brian Romeijn, 40, snapped these eerie images        His snaps show torn seats and dusty floors
It has gained a reputation among urban explorers as an old Orient Express train, but it is a former Belgian national train

It has gained a reputation among urban explorers as an old Orient Express train, but it is a former Belgian national train

It has gained a reputation among urban explorers as an old Orient Express train. Those trains were a symbol of luxury when they operated under that legendary name from 1883 to 2009.

But that suspicion is incorrect. The locomotive, according to www.seat61.com, is ‘the only survivor of three class 654s built in 1936 for the Oostende-Brussels-Cologne run, redeployed after WW2 to Brussels-Tournai’. 

After 126 years on the rails, the last train service operating under the Orient Express name was from Strasbourg to Vienna in December 2009, bringing an end to a celebrated history.

The Orient Express, when it started in 1883 – run by La Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits – was actually known as the Express d’Orient and ran between Paris and Istanbul.

It became the Orient Express in 1891 and by the 1930s operated scheduled services throughout Europe.

It’s not to be confused with the privately run Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

Very few Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits luxury carriages still exist. 

This snap shows the compact engineer's room, where equipment is rusting, gauges are still installed and wires are exposed

This snap shows the compact engineer’s room, where equipment is rusting, gauges are still installed and wires are exposed

Romeijn said the engineer's room was 'kind of claustrophobic and the noise of the engine must have been tremendous'

Romeijn said the engineer’s room was ‘kind of claustrophobic and the noise of the engine must have been tremendous’

The abandoned locomotive and carriage have become a popular attraction for photographers and adventurers

The abandoned locomotive and carriage have become a popular attraction for photographers and adventurers

After visiting the forgotten train in Belgium, Romeijn told MailOnline Travel: ‘I really could feel how it must have been used in its heyday.

Wealthy gentlemen with high hats are joined by ladies in beautiful dresses on their journey.

‘Also the area of the engineer was kind of claustrophobic. There is very little space inside and the noise of the engine must have been tremendous.’


You can buy some of Brian’s gorgeous urban art at http://www.werkaandemuur.nl/nl/beeldmaker/Brian-Romeijn/7863

Thrills and skills: 13 off-the-wall activities for adrenaline junkies

You’ve thrown yourself off a platform suspended 200m in the air with what amounts to a giant elastic band around your ankles; you’ve paddled down swirling rapids and maybe even jumped out of a helicopter to ski some of the world’s best powder – so what’s next?

You can always trust adrenaline junkies to keep pushing boundaries and testing the limits of the human heart rate (and maybe even the strength of your bowels) – so the guys at Lonely Planet have rounded up 13 brilliant and bizarre adventure activities to inspire your next blood-pumping escapade.

Go on, take the leap…


Guy Airboarding Pacific Ocean, Mountains in Backgr

Do you dare try this extreme water sport? © Justin Lewis / Getty Images

Flyboarding

The latest craze in water sports, flyboarding was brought into being by Frenchman Franky Zapata in 2012. It involves strapping your feet into a kind of skateboard jetski hybrid that fires out powerful jets of water, propelling you up into the air. There is also a jetpack version for sci-fi fans and adrenaline junkies alike. Popular destinations for flyboarding include Australia, Dubai and the USA.

‘It is strange to think that as I propel myself 40ft to 50ft up on two jets of water, I feel more in control in that moment than any other time. It’s an incredible experience.’ – Ben Merrell, pro hydroflight athlete

Oribi Gorge swing 2, Wild5Adventures_1

Take the leap – just don’t drop your selfie stick © Wild5Adventures

Gorge swings

Bungee jumping’s crazier cousin, gorge swinging will make you feel like Tarzan on some serious steroids. You can get your swing on over some awesome landscapes, from the Zambezi river (thezambeziswing.com) to South Africa’s Oribi Gorge (wild5adventures.co.za). Amid such stunning scenery you’ll soon forget about the imminent 160ft free fall… right?

PANTHER BEACH, CA - 2003: *** EXCLUSIVE *** Unicyclist Kris Holm at a sea stack in 2003 on Panther Beach, California. Instead of treating unicycling as part of a circus act, Vancouver resident Kris Holm has made the one-wheeled bike a totally different extreme sport. For twenty-three years his mono-wheeled adventures have taken him to the Great Wall of China and the wilds of California, but now 36-year old Kris is gearing up for his latest challenge; taking on two wheeled bikes in a competitive race. Participating in the BC Bike Race from Vancouver to Whistler in Canada, Kris will compete for seven days against the best the bicycle world has to offer. Averaging 18 miles a day as a solo rider, Kris will take on 500 other mountain bike enthusiasts in the hardcore race which bills itself as the "Ultimate Single-track Experience." (Photo by Nathan Hoover / Barcroft USA / Getty Images)

You can muni almost anywhere – if you can master the art of staying upright © Barcroft / Getty Images

Mountain unicycling

Take the usual equation of bike plus mountain, minus one wheel and you’ve got muni: mountain unicycling. From the rugged peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the lush landscapes of the Alps, anywhere you can mountain bike, you can muni – but it’s best to give this one a good deal of practice before hitting the harder runs. The International Unicycling Federation (unicycling.org) has lots of useful info for both newbies and pros.

‘Because there’s just something about a unicycle that makes people smile, I’ve never found a better way to connect with local people when I can’t speak their language.’ – Kris Holm (krisholm.com), the world’s leading mountain unicyclist

Inside the Volcano, photo credit Vilhelm Gunnarsson_1

Iceland’s Thrihnukagigur is your gateway to another world © Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Go inside a volcano

The Thrihnukagigur volcano in Iceland may be dormant but this journey to the centre of the earth is still pretty thrilling. After a 3km hike to the crater, to get to the ‘good bit’ you’ll still have to descend 120m into the opening via an open cable lift. Inside the Volcano (insidethevolcano.com) offer exclusive tours that’ll take you beneath the earth’s crust where you can admire the kaleidoscopic colours and unique rock formations of the volcano’s crater.

The Namib Desert, the oldest in the world, is reputed to house some of the largest sand dunes on this planet. Come conquer these constantly shifting and powerfully towering beauties by zooming down the sheer slip faces on a traditional Swakopmund sandboard or carve up the dune with style and skill on a snowboard adapted for sand.

The rush of surfing dunes is worth all the sand in strange places © Thomas Dressler / Getty Images

Sandboarding

Surfers and snowboarders – and all you other thrill seekers – ditch the waves and runs and head to the desert for an alternative boarding experience. Namibia’s Namib Desert offers the ultimate adventure playground, boasting some of the highest dunes in the world. Be sure to soak up the views of your epic surrounds at the summit, because once you’re whooshing down the dunes at speeds of up to 80mph, you may be a wee bit distracted.

‘Definitely worth all the sand in strange places, although unless you’re quite good you don’t get much speed standing up – you just fall down!’ – Lauren McInerney, Finance Manager at Lonely Planet

A first-time zip line rider is about to hit a curve on The Rattlesnake, which dips and twists and turns like a roller coaster, at Florida EcoSafaris at Forever Florida. (Marjie Lambert/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)

The Rattlesnake’s twists and turns are thrilling © Marjie Lambert / Miami Herald / Getty Images

Zip line roller coasters

Whizz along tracks that weave through rainforest and jungle scenery, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a gentle ride. You’ll be whipped around twists, slaloms and 360° loops, all whilst dangling at a dizzying height of up to 60m. The aptly named Treetop Crazy Rider (treetops.com.au) in Australia and the Rattlesnake (foreverflorida.com) in Florida, USA, beckon the brave with over 1600m of track between them.

Luke Hopkins entering Canyon Doors while stand up paddleboarding the lower Gauley River near Fayetteville, West Virginia.

You need more than a strong core to brave rapids on a SUP board © Trevor Clark / Getty Images

Whitewater SUP

If you’ve managed to successfully stand up paddleboard (SUP), well done! But why not take it a step further and test your skills pelting down some whitewater rapids? There’s also whitewater tubing and creeking (whitewater rafting in a kayak) for those who prefer to sit or recline whilst being jostled by river rapids. Yet to take off as a global phenomenon, whitewater SUP is still largely the domain of rivers in the USA.

‘It’s challenging; you’re standing up, your centre of gravity is raised, you’re having to use all your muscles and you also have to read the water. It’s about finding stillness in the chaos.’ – Nikki Gregg (nikkigregg.com), whitewater paddler and fitness guru

Man jumps into Devil's Pool at Victoria Falls. It looks like she will be swept over the waterfall but a thick lip of rock keeps people safe. Victoria Falls is nearly a mile wide and 360 feet deep and from the air, looks like the earth has been ripped in two. Zambia, Africa.

Could you muster up the courage to take a dip in the Devil’s Pool? © Yvette Cardozo / Getty Images

Swim the Devil’s Pool

As the name suggests, this ultimate infinity pool – situated on the edge of Victoria Falls – is anything but a relaxing dip. The trend is to launch yourself into the pool and let the current whisk you off to the edge of the falls where the lip of rock will catch you. The Devil’s Pool is only safe to swim in the dry season (mid-August to mid-January) and it’s recommended to go with a certified tour company. Tongabezi (tongabezi.com) offer five tours per day which include a tour of the pool’s access point, Livingstone Island, as well as a daring dip.

Auckland SkyWalk 2, photo credit skywalk.co.nz_1

Some travellers will do anything to get the best city views © skywalk.co.nz

High-altitude urban experiences

Adventure activities are often thought to be the remit of the great outdoors, but thrill seekers can get all their kicks without venturing to the sticks. Many cities offer high-altitude, adrenaline-pumping tours, from abseiling off famous buildings to walking around the outer edges of iconic skyscrapers attached to a safety wire.

New Zealand’s Auckland Sky Tower (skywalk.co.nz) and Toronto’s CN Tower (edgewalkcntower.ca) both offer tours around their heady heights. Alternatively, try abseiling 100m down Rotterdam’s Euromast (euromast.nl).

‘I cried real tears on the CN Tower EdgeWalk. But honestly, it was life changing and there’s not really much I’m scared of anymore.’ – Lauren Finney, US Magazine Editor at Lonely Planet

MALAGA, SPAIN - APRIL 01: Tourists walk along the 'El Caminito del Rey' (King's Little Path) footpath on April 1, 2015 in Malaga, Spain. 'El Caminito del Rey', which was built in 1905 and winds through the Gaitanes Gorge, reopened last weekend after a safer footpath was installed above the original. The path, known as the most dangerous footpath in the world, was closed after two fatal accidents in 1999 and 2000. The restoration started in 2011 and reportedly cost 5.5 million euros. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

The Caminito del Rey has had a much-needed facelift © David Ramos / Getty Images

Cliff walking

Dubbed the world’s deadliest hike, the Huashan mountain trail in China is not for the faint hearted. Tethered to a safety line on the rock face, hikers make their way across wooden planks and sheer cliff edge to reach one of the world’s most remote tea houses, over 2000m high. There are plenty of other (slightly) less pant-wetting paths around the world, like the Caminito del Rey in Spain, which underwent a hefty restoration in 2015.

Rickshaw Run, photo credit Mila Kiratzova_1

Head into the unknown on a two-week adventure across India © Mila Kiratzova

Rickshaw run

Think the Gumball rally, but on glorified go-karts. The Rickshaw Run is an epic pan-Indian adventure spanning 3500km. All you need is to get your hands on a rickshaw and book two weeks off work and you’re good to go… kind of. The Adventurists (theadventurists.com) can help with all the know-how you need to hit the road, including visa requirements, budgeting and tips for pimping your rickshaw.

‘The Rickshaw Run is a real old-school adventure. It’s two weeks of boredom-obliterating mayhem.’ – Mr Matt, Event Manager at The Adventurists

Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia, Australasia

Australia’s Lady Elliot Island is one of the best spots to try blowhole diving © Len Zell / Lonely Planet

Blowhole diving

Blowholes are naturally occurring sea caves that also have an opening at the surface of the ocean. Freedivers and scuba divers are drawn to these unusual geological formations not just for the epic ride – the current combined with the structure of the caves creates a surge that propels you through the cavern – but also for the unique wildlife that inhabits these environments. The best blowholes to dive can be found at Lady Elliot Island, Australia and The Corridor in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

*** EXCLUSIVE *** COLORADO, USA - JUNE 4: Brian, the photographer snaps an elaborate storm cloud formation on June 4, 2015 in Colorado, USA. FEARLESS photographer has dedicated his life to chasing storms after a tornado almost killed him on the way to his high school prom in 1993. Kansas native Brian Barnes, 39, was raised in the beating heart of North America's 'Tornado Alley' - and was also struck by lightning as a teenager. Taken by tour guide Brian in Colorado, these incredible pictures show giant supercell storms - one of the most powerful weather formations found over land. Also known as rotating thunderstorms, supercells can produce winds over 100mph and can uproot trees and obliterate buildings. Brian, who runs an extreme weather tour company, captured these images in June 2015, and was intimately acquainted with ferocious storms from a young age. PHOTOGRAPH BY Brian Barnes / Barcroft Media UK Office, London. T +44 845 370 2233 W www.barcroftmedia.com USA Office, New York City. T +1 212 796 2458 W www.barcroftusa.com Indian Office, Delhi. T +91 11 4053 2429 W www.barcroftindia.com (Photo credit should read Brian Barnes / Barcroft Media / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Are you wild enough to want to witness the perfect storm? © Barcroft Media / Getty Images

Storm chasing

Most people would run from a swirling vortex of doom, but not you. You head right into the middle of the action. Specialist tours can take groups safely into storm zones to see some immense weather such as tornadoes and supercell thunderstorms. Extreme weather-watchers flock to Tornado Alley in the American midwest for some of the most epic skyscapes.

‘The thrill of seeing large supercell structures, hundreds of bolts of lightning and possible tornadoes out in the open fields… there is nothing else like that feeling in the world!’ – Roger Hill, Silver LIning Tornado and Storm Chasing Tours (silverliningtours.com)

 

 

 

The best FREE tourist attractions around the world

It’s an old adage – the best things in life are free, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to some of the world’s most intriguing travel sights.

While most of the obvious tourist landmarks – the Statue of Liberty, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Taj Mahal – charge entry fees, many of the lesser-known hidden gems around the corner don’t.

Did you know, for example, that you can visit an uninhabited island in the Bahamas where you can swim with wild pigs, and not be charged a penny?

Or take free yoga classes in Dubai, and sample the best tea in China at a cost of… zero?

Lonely Planet has released a veritable travel bible of spots around the world where you can have great experiences on a shoestring, titled The Best Things in Life are Free. MailOnline Travel rounds up 15 of the most intriguing suggestions… 

The Bahamas: Pig Island

On a small uninhabited island in the Exuma region of the Bahamas, wild pigs paddle freely around, and they don't charge you for joining them - although edible gifts are welcome

On a small uninhabited island in the Exuma region of the Bahamas, wild pigs paddle freely around, and they don’t charge you for joining them – although edible gifts are welcome

This is the only place in the Caribbean where you can splash around with celebrities and not have to pay a dime, because these stars have no idea they’re famous. An overnight Instagram sensation, the pigs of this island in Exuma live in the wild and love a spot of swimming.

According to legend they were left there by sailors who had plans to return for a pork roast, but never did, leaving the pigs to turn feral.

Thailand: The Bangkokian Museum

This quaint folk museum in Bangkok consists of two old homes with rooms full of perfectly preserved personal belongings that date back a century

This quaint folk museum in Bangkok consists of two old homes with rooms full of perfectly preserved personal belongings that date back a century

The tiny Bangkokian is a hidden jewel in a city where most of its treasures are proudly on display.

This quaint folk museum consists of two old homes with rooms full of perfectly preserved personal belongings that date back a century.

It looks as if the owners stepped through the front door to pick up some noodles in 1935 and never came back.

China: The Măliándào Tea Market

Măliándào, where virtually all the tea in China can be seen, sniffed and sampled for free

Măliándào, where virtually all the tea in China can be seen, sniffed and sampled for free

If you’re someone who knows your pu-erh from your oolong, then you’ll get a kick from a trip to Măliándào, where virtually all the tea in China can be seen, sniffed and sampled.

It’s mainly aimed at wholesalers, but most vendors will give you a complimentary taste, and then you can sip plenty more brews in teashops.

You can get your hands on tea sets here as well, at potentially bargain prices.

Berlin: Badeschiff Swimming Barge

Badeschiff, an urban beach club built around a barge-turned-swimming pool in the Spree River

Badeschiff, an urban beach club built around a barge-turned-swimming pool in the Spree River

Summers in Berlin wouldn’t be the same without the Badeschiff, an urban beach club built around a river barge-turned-swimming pool and moored in the Spree River. 

Splash around in the daytime and stay to sip sunset cocktails with a great view of the fairy-tale-like bridge, Oberbaumbrücke. In winter, Badeschiff is all covered up and turned into a toasty sauna-cum-bar.

Singapore: Gardens by the Bay

Time your visit to the Gardens by the Bay for 7.45pm or 8.45pm to see the Supertrees twinkle and glow for the spectacular Garden Rhapsody light-and-sound show.

Time your visit to the Gardens by the Bay for 7.45pm or 8.45pm to see the Supertrees twinkle and glow for the spectacular Garden Rhapsody light-and-sound show.

This eco-fantasy land of space age bio-domes, hi-tech trees and whimsical sculptures really has to be seen to be believed.

Although the indoor conservatories and Supertree-top skyway are chargeable, arguably the coolest thing to see here is free: time your visit for 7.45pm or 8.45pm to see the Supertrees twinkle and glow for the spectacular Garden Rhapsody light-and-sound show.

Dubai: Free yoga

The voluntary Friends of Yoga organisation runs free yoga classes every day at 13 locations around the UAE

The voluntary Friends of Yoga organisation runs free yoga classes every day at 13 locations around the UAE

The augmented reality of life in Dubai’s air-conditioned cityscape may just leave you in need of some mental readjustment.

If so, consider stretching out to the voluntary Friends of Yoga organisation, which runs free yoga classes every day at 5.30am and 7.30pm at 13 locations around the UAE, including Deira Creek, Bur Dubai Creek, Zabeel Park, JLT Park and Internet City.

Dublin: The National Museum of Ireland

The National Museum of Ireland is home for four million objects of archaeology, decorative arts and natural history

The National Museum of Ireland is home for four million objects of archaeology, decorative arts and natural history

This mighty museum explores Ireland’s heritage via four million objects spread across four sites, three of which are in Dublin.

Archaeology is where you’ll explore prehistoric and Viking-era Ireland, Decorative Arts & History houses ancient weaponry, furniture, and silver, and Natural History has an Irish elk skeleton.

London: The More London Free Festival

This annual series of free events at the South Bank of the River Thames comprises of everything from live music and fringe theatre to movie showings and kid's entertainment

This annual series of free events at the South Bank of the River Thames comprises of everything from live music and fringe theatre to movie showings and kid’s entertainment

This annual series of free events hijacks the South Bank of the River Thames for four months of summer action.

It comprises everything from live music and fringe theatre performances to children’s entertainment and screenings of flicks in the Scoop – a 1000-seat concrete amphitheatre near Tower Bridge.

The big screen on site broadcasts major sporting events such as Wimbledon and the Tour de France.

Marrakesh: Djemaa el-Fna square

The Djemaa el-Fna square, where you'll find street theatre, snake charming and music, all in a plaza that used to be the site of public executions

The Djemaa el-Fna square, where you’ll find street theatre, snake charming and music, all in a plaza that used to be the site of public executions

Think of it as live-action channel-surfing: everywhere you look in the Djemaa el-Fna – Marrakesh’s main square and open-air theatre – you’ll discover drama already in progress.

Think street theatre, snake charming, and music, all in a plaza that used to be the site of public executions around AD 1050 – hence its name, which means ‘assembly of the dead’.

Sydney: The Sydney Harbour National Park

Most attractions at this 392-hectare national park that overlooks the Sydney Harbour will cost you nothing

Most attractions at this 392-hectare national park that overlooks the Sydney Harbour will cost you nothing

This 392-hectare park protects sections of Sydney’s foreshore and several islands within the harbour.

Most attractions are free, including the Bradleys Head amphitheatre, a popular lookout and a great picnic spot, and  the Grotto Point Aboriginal engraving site, where you can see old rock art.

New York: The Brooklyn Flea Market

At the Brooklyn Flea Market, you’ll find everything from records and 1930s posters to vintage clothing and antique collectables - and wandering round is free

At the Brooklyn Flea Market, you’ll find everything from records and 1930s posters to vintage clothing and antique collectables – and wandering round is free

When the weekend arrives, head to Brooklyn to experience one of the best markets in the whole city. More than 100 vendors ply their wares here, with plenty of treasures to ogle from the past and the present.

You’ll find everything from records to 1930s posters, vintage clothing, jewellery, homewares, artwork, antique collectables and craft items. Wandering round is free.

Check the website for locations, which change seasonally. Visit brooklynflea.com.

Paris: Château de Versailles’ Gardens

These spectacular gardens are divine, not as packed as the château itself,  and free for half the year

These spectacular gardens are divine, not as packed as the château itself, and free for half the year

While the château at Versailles is truly extraordinary, the crush of people inside can be hard to bear.

But the landscaped gardens – meticulously manicured, dotted with elegant statuary and exuberant fountains, and criss-crossed with paths (bikes can be rented) – are divine and free for half the year between November and March. Pack a picnic and distance those madding crowds.

Rio de Janeiro: Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach, where you can frolic in the waves, go surfing, take long walks or simply sit back and engage in the discreet art of people-watching

Ipanema Beach, where you can frolic in the waves, go surfing, take long walks or simply sit back and engage in the discreet art of people-watching

One of the best places to spend a sun-drenched day in Rio is out on Ipanema Beach. You can frolic in the waves, go surfing, take long walks or simply sit back and engage in the discreet art of people-watching.

You also needn’t leave the sands when hunger strikes, but you will need to open your wallet.

Barracas (beach stalls) sell everything from super cheap sandwiches to caipirinhas, and wandering vendors bring by cold drinks and snacks.

Tokyo: Yoyogi Park

On sunny weekends, all sorts gather to Tokyo's Yoyogi Park for picnics, Frisbee, drumming, dancing and free festivals

On sunny weekends, all sorts gather to Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park for picnics, Frisbee, drumming, dancing and free festivals

Of all Tokyo’s parks, this is arguably the most lively. The landscaping is haphazard, wild along the fringes, and there are no ‘keep off the grass’ signs here.

On sunny weekends, all sorts gather for picnics, Frisbee, drumming and dancing.

The plaza across the street hosts free festivals on weekends during summer, including many hosted by the city’s ethnic communities.

You can read more at http://www.lonelyplanet.com/

Travel Hacks: Travelling Europe for Cheap

Some useful advice from Will Tang at Going Awesome Places


Europe is one of those dream destinations that everyone has on their mind when they think about travel.  When I graduated, the idea of a Eurotrip was the only thing we considered but as you can imagine, we didn’t have a lot of money back then so we had to figure out how to do it on the cheap.  Even today, I’m sure the idea of a trip to Europe flashes dollar signs across your eyes.  So how do you get that trip of your dreams while keeping the costs manageable?  Let me breakdown a few tips that you’ll want to keep in mind as you start planning your itinerary.

Consider Different Parts of Europe

Bilbao Guggenheim: Image via Flickr by tchacky

Europe is a large continent that spans a lot of different countries.  While most of us will gravitate to Western Europe and big cities like London, Paris, and Rome, consider cities and countries that are cheaper to cut costs.

The reason why big cities are expensive is because there are a lot of people living there which drives up the standard of living for locals and because it’s heavily touristed, businesses know they can command a much higher price.  So one big tip is to incorporate lesser known, but not necessarily less interesting or beautiful places in Europe.  For instance, Bilbao, in northern Spain is somewhere that is not along the main tourist path but is one of those not-to-miss cities being the home of the titanium-clad Guggenheim and the successful mix of traditional Basque culture with modern design.

Book Smart Rooms

Airbnb Apartment

Besides transportation, the other big cost to any trip is going to be your accommodations so naturally, you’re going to want to see if you can save money here.  When you’re travelling Europe, there’s really no reason to splurge because you’re never going to be in your room beyond sleeping.  Whether you’re looking for a room in a big city or somewhere smaller like Yaiza, Bordeaux or Luxembourg, make sure you do your research and consider all of your options.

Hostels aren’t only for young backpackers.  There are plenty of private suite rooms available if you’re worried about sharing rooms with someone else.  An added benefit of hostels is that there are lots of people to get travel suggestions from and breakfast is often included.

Airbnb is becoming a popular option these days as well especially if your’e going to be in one place for multiple days.  You can find some great deals here if you’re travelling with a larger group and in prime locations as well.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

There are a ton of different ways to get around in Europe.  It all depends on how spread out your travels are and how fast you need to get from one place to another.

What I love about Europe is that there are so many low cost carrier airlines that often times, flying becomes cheaper than any other option.  I always make sure I check the list of airlines when I plan things out since not all search engines have every single one.  The only disadvantage of flying is that you end up spending extra money getting to and from the airport as well as the time wasted going through things like checking in, security, and boarding.

Depending on how you link things up, it may make sense to look at trains as a way to get around.  This is never a bad option because train stations are always central in cities and the network is so vast that it can take you anywhere you need to go.  If you’re considering trains, make sure you check out the Eurail passes that you can buy beforehand to save lots of money.

Recently, there’s been more tourist-friendly buses made available.  Megabus offers numerous routes within the UK with prices as low as £1.  Another unique option is a new venture called Busabout which provides hop-on and hop-off flexibility, perfect for the independent traveller.

Look for Deals

Iceland Northern Lights

If you’re flexibile in where you want to go, stay on top of travel deals that come up.  For instance, Iceland Air has been making a massive push for travel to Reykjavik, Iceland and they’ve been promoting budget-friendly prices from North America that also allow you to hop into Europe after you’re done your tour there.

How do you stay updated on deals?  Check my own deals page to get the latest promotions!

Timing is Everything

Last thing I’ll mention is that when you go in the year plays the biggest role out of anything and this applies to anywhere you go in the world.  Travelling when everyone else is going is both expensive and not as fun.  If you’re able to schedule your trip during low-season when prices are less inflated and businesses are pushing offers to attract travellers to come, you’re going to save a lot more money.

Pin It!

Planning a trip to Europe and want to save this for later?  Pin this onto your travel board.

Travel Hacks Europe For Cheap Pinterest

About Will Tang

http://2.gravatar.com/avatar/b482d5828d9ec58079126895f0bd3e90?s=60&d=retro&r=gWill is a travel blogger writing for Going Awesome Places. Since quitting his consulting job in 2012 he’s been travelling the world and along the way writing about his epic adventures and taking amazing photos. His true passion lies in telling stories, inspiring others to travel, writing detailed trip itineraries for others to follow and providing helpful tips and tricks to travel better. Also the founder behind Travel Blog Breakthrough and freelance writer for Hipmunk and currently working on the #‎HipmunkCityLove Project.

Brock finally gets to Luxembourg!

As this is about one of my “home” towns I thought I’d drop the feature in – just for a bit of nostalgia ofc!

Brock‘s another of the travel bloggers I like.  Took him 69 countries before he made it to little ol’ Lux so was curious to see what he made of it…

                               Ned


Luxembourg, I Finally Got You – Country #70

https://i1.wp.com/www.backpackwithbrock.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/IMG_5704-e1455738932644.jpg

I was trying for a few years to get to Luxembourg. Every time I headed to Europe I thought: ‘This time, I’m going to Luxembourg!’ Then I’d look at a map, and my calendar and would eventually be pulling my hair out because I once again wasn’t going to be able to work it into my itinerary.

Finally just over a year ago, as I was heading back to the continent and running out of ‘new’ countries to get to, I made Luxembourg a priority and found a route using my Eurail pass that would allow me to visit friends in Amsterdam and Zurich while stopping over in the Lux on the way.

Before my train pulled into the main station I had 69 countries under my belt making Luxembourg my 70th country! Whoa!

As per tradition, I celebrate when I achieve a multiple of five, so I recorded this little message to announce my arrival, and thank you all for joining and supporting me through so many countries.

Watch through to the end because honestly, the bloopers might just be the best damn part! (Filming yourself usually requires a few takes.)

And there you have it. Luxembourg has officially been visited. It honestly wasn’t what I expected (far better) and because of the rain during my stay, I didn’t get to see quite as much as I wanted, but I suspect I’ll be back – now that I know how to get there.

While I took the train, I also discovered you can fly pretty cheaply from London if you book far enough in advance.

Now, with over two-thirds of my 100 by 30 complete, it’s home stretch time and only two years to do it in! Brock better get a move on, right?

Is Luxembourg a place you have thought about visiting? Had you even heard of it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Special thanks to Luxembourg Tourism for helping to make this visit possible. As always, thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

Check out more of Brock’s posts at http://www.backpackwithbrock.com/blog-2/

 

 

How the Brits can fake an exotic holiday!

Oh this is just ripper folks:-

It’s that time of year when all your mates are jetting off to far-flung shores and seemingly can’t get through their hols without posting at least twenty selfies a day to FB, grinning inanely in front of some gorgeous minaret or sun-drenched coastline while you slave away in your stuffy office in the sad knowledge that you can barely afford a coach trip to Bognor*.

Well now you can wow your friends by pretending you’ve been somewhere exotic: UK-based phone company Three has come up with “the top places to trick your friends into thinking you’re abroad this summer with no need to even leave the country, in a newly commissioned list of ‘Top 10 UK Holiday Fake Spots’.

The list consists of 10 different locations spanning right across the UK – from the Scottish Highlands right down to the beaches of Cornwall – that bear an uncanny resemblance to foreign destinations. By visiting one of the sites, you’ll be able to up jazz up your social media feed and trick your friends into thinking you’ve jetted off somewhere exotic, without actually having set foot out of the UK.”

Selfie stick anyone..?!

                                            Ned


A sunny French  get-away? Nope, it's Cornwall's St Michael's Mount - just one of the UK's photogenic spots that can masquerade as a foreign destination

A sunny French get-away? Nope, it’s Cornwall’s St Michael’s Mount – just one of the UK’s photogenic spots that can masquerade as a foreign destination

The intended location in real life, the boast-worthy Mont St Michel, an island commune in Normandy, France

The intended location in real life, the boast-worthy Mont St Michel, an island commune in Normandy, France

Brighton's stately Pavilion (pictured) could, to the untrained eye, resemble India's sprawling Taj Mahal

Brighton’s stately Pavilion (pictured) could, to the untrained eye, resemble India’s sprawling Taj Mahal

The real deal: A white marble mausoleum on the south bank of India’s Yamuna river, which attracts seven to eight million tourists every year (Photo: A Murphy)

The Norfolk lavender fields (pictured) don't look too dissimilar to the highly-desirable Provence Vineyards of France

The Norfolk lavender fields (pictured) don’t look too dissimilar to the highly-desirable Provence Vineyards of France

The vineyards of Provence, where foodies and wine connoisseurs flock to enjoy the region's pricey delights 

The vineyards of Provence, where foodies and wine connoisseurs flock to enjoy the region’s pricey delights

Locations on the list include the Norfolk lavender fields, which don’t look too dissimilar from the highly-desirable Provence Vineyards of France.

And Camel Valley Vineyard, Cornwall, could pass, given the right angle, for the Loire Valley.

The pretty tourist town of Portmerion in Wales was suggested as a lookalike of Italy’s colourful Amalfi Coast.

And Brighton’s stately Pavilion could, to the untrained eye, resemble India’s sprawling Taj Mahal.

Danny Dixon, of Three, said: ‘It’s easy to forget about the immense amount of beauty – both natural and man-made – prevalent across the UK that, if set in a more glamorous holiday destination, would probably get a lot more social media love than it currently does.

‘The list we’ve created aims to celebrate some of these sites, while also providing people that aren’t able to get away this summer with a fun way of tricking friends into thinking they’ve jetted off abroad.’

Camel Valley Vineyard, Cornwall (pictured), could also masquerade as the Loire Valley in France

Camel Valley Vineyard, Cornwall (pictured), could also masquerade as the Loire Valley in France

The Loire Valley, otherwise known as 'the Garden of France' - a lush wine region located in the centre of the country

The Loire Valley, otherwise known as ‘the Garden of France’ – a lush wine region located in the centre of the country

The tourist town of Portmerion in Wales (pictured) - not  a far cry from Italy's colourful Amalfi Coast

The tourist town of Portmerion in Wales (pictured) – not a far cry from Italy’s colourful Amalfi Coast

In reality, the Amalfi is a stretch of coastline on the southern coast of the Salerno Gulf in Southern Italy

In reality, the Amalfi is a stretch of coastline on the southern coast of the Salerno Gulf in Southern Italy

The Top 10 list in full is:

UK location Abroad location
Camel Valley Vineyard, Cornwall Loire Valley, France
St Michaels Mount, Cornwall Mont St Michel, France
Norfolk Lavender Fields Provence Vineyards, France
Chinatown, Liverpool Shanghai, China
Portmerion, Wales Amalfi Coast, Italy
Brighton Pavilion, Brighton Taj Mahal, India
Wasdale Valley, Lake District Yosemite, USA
Cheddar Gorge, Somerset Mount Sunday, New Zealand
Achmelvich Beach, Scotland Porto Pomos, Cyprus
Pistyll Rhaeadr Waterfall, Wales Gylmur, Iceland

 

* Bognor Regis is a small seaside town on the south coast of England, renowned as one of the UK’s first holiday resorts

Join Me For A Quick Snapchat Tour Of Madrid

Matthew Karsten is Expert Vagabond, one of the top three travel bloggers by visit/Google Analytics  in 2015.  This is his own personal view of one of Europe’s most fun and varied cities.  – Ned


Madrid, Spain

Madrid Square

I’m totally addicted to Snapchat. The other day I walked to some of Madrid’s famous sites & shared the experience live from my phone. Here’s the result.

Are you on Snapchat? I was a little late to the party, thinking it was something for teenagers. But I was finally convinced after watching this video. It’s a powerful social media platform with a super-engaged fanbase. Plus it’s just a lot of fun!

It took a while to get the hang of, but now that I’ve been using it for a few months, it’s become one of my favorite social sharing tools.

Earlier this week I took to the streets with my iPhone to give followers a live look at the city of Madrid and a few of it’s popular tourist attractions.

LifeProof Case

LifeProof FRĒ Power Case

Exploring Madrid

If you’re already subscribed to my email newsletter, you’ll know that I’ve been hanging out in Madrid for the past 3 weeks to work on some blogging stuff and prepare for a big adventure in August.

Most of my days are spent in front of the computer, but I do make time to see tourist attractions in the city every so often.

Earlier this week I charged up my new LifeProof FRĒ Power Case to ensure my phone would have enough juice for all the Snapchatting, and left to explore Spain’s capital on foot.

The waterproof & shockproof case doubles my phone’s power with an integrated 2,600-mAh battery.

Gran Via

Gran Via

Puerta Del Sol

I began the tour at Plaza Puerta del Sol, the heart of the city. It’s kind of like what Times Square would be to New York. It’s one of the busiest areas of Madrid and a popular place for tourists to hang out by the fountains.

From there I strolled up the pedestrian walkway towards Calle Gran Via, stopping briefly inside a Jamón Ibérico shop. This delicious cured ham is very popular in Spain, and it’s impossible to miss the huge legs of ham hanging from ceilings and windows in these shops.

No visit to Spain is complete without massive ham consumption.

Gran Via

Who Needs a Shoe Shine?

Royal Palace

Next up was the Spanish Royal Palace. While it’s the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, they choose to live in a different palace nearby instead. The big one is only used for state dinners or special functions.

You can visit part of the palace for €11 and get a glimpse of royalty!

In my Snapchat story below, you’ll see giant frescos on the ceilings, massive chandeliers, and a whole room decorated in porcelain. This building is really quite impressive — it actually has over 3,400 rooms! Crazy.

Royal Palace

The Spanish Royal Palace

Tapas & Vermouth

Tapas are little appetizers like meats, cheeses, or fish on bread served with alcohol. Often with a plate of olives too. You can order some as a snack, or order many to make it a full on meal.

The best tapas bars are standing room only — a popular pastime for Spaniards.

Moving on from the Royal Palace, I walked down to a local bar called Los Gatos to share plates of delicious tapas and glasses of vermouth with a few travel blogger friends who were in town.

Maybe you’ve heard of them… check out the video below!

Snapchat

Follow Me On Snapchat! expertvagabond

Are You On SnapChat?

Don’t have Snapchat? That’s ok. I saved my Snap Story for you on YouTube. If you already use Snapchat, just open the app on your phone and take a photo of my yellow icon above to automatically follow me! Cool, right?

For tips on how to get the most out of SnapChat, make sure to check out The Hungry Partier’s SnapChat Guide.

Watch Video: Snapchat Tour Of Madrid

 

For added five star luxury in Spain’s capital, stay at the Hotel Miguel Angel (that’s Michaelangelo to you and me), part of the prestigious Le Royal Hotels & Resorts group.  – Ned

5 Places You Should Visit Before They Vanish

Our world is a vast and beautiful one, full of awe-inspiring landscapes. But Mother Nature is a cruel mistress and the powerful forces of erosion, rising seas, and the inevitable effects of tourism will render many of the current wonders of the world nearly unrecognizable in the next century. Here are five incredible locales around the world that you should visit immediately before they are lost to the passage of time and the savagery of climate change.

Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, and Lake Sherburne. Montana. USA. Numerous glaciers are visible in this image.

Ed Reschke

Venice, Italy

Beautiful view of famous Grand Canal in Venice, ItalyiSailorr/Getty

This iconic city, hovering over a lagoon, is sinking rapidly. The canals that make up the streets of Venice rise 2 mm every year, submerging relics of history and ravaging architecture. Experts warn that without intervention, this city on stilts will disappear back into the Atlantic at an even faster rate, consumed by the rising sea levels of melting polar ice caps. Come get your fill of the beautiful cathedrals and gracious gondolas of Venice before the sea reclaims it.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Back side of the ruins of Machu Picchu and the mountain of Huayna Picchu. HDR image.Getty Images/Vetta

These Incan ruins have drawn adventurous tourists into the mountains of South America to marvel at an outstanding piece of archaeology for centuries. The forces of natural erosion have been accelerated by tourism and this landmark faces severe impact from increasing foot traffic. The Peruvian government recently proposed a cable car that would have cut out much of the intense hike up to the ruins, making the site instantly accessible to millions. Concerns about the impact of this project have caused officials to suspend the effort, but the future of Machu Picchu remains uncertain. Climb the steps to this ancient site to marvel at a miracle of ancient ingenuity before it’s ruined.

Madagascar, Africa

Sunrise over Avenue of the baobabs, MadagascarGetty Images/iStockphoto

Massive deforestation has left the unique animal population of this island nation vulnerable to extinction. Huddled off the coast of Africa, Madagascar has lush expanses of rain forest that are home to thousands of unique animal species as well as some of the oldest trees in the world, the ancient Baobabs. Experience and explore the joys of this outdoor paradise before the forests and their raucous inhabitants fade from existence.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Scenic view of Glacier National Park.Jordan Siemens/Getty

Perhaps you’ve heard that the ice caps are melting? Nowhere is that more apparent in the United States than in Glacier National Park. Estimates indicate that the glaciers that are part of the majestic beauty of this national landmark will disappear entirely in the next two decades. Go pitch a tent and soak up the view before the intense sunshine of our carbon footprint destroys it for good.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is the worlds largest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching forGetty Images/Vetta

Hidden from view beneath the waves, The Great Barrier Reef has been rapidly dying off. Nearly fifty percent of this once massive sprawl of coral is gone, ravaged by pollution and disease. Strap on your scuba gear and visit soon, but practice eco-tourism to keep the reef from continued degradation.

 

 

Thanks to Kaz Weida for Parachute. Kaz is a parenting and food blogger who has been hunting down the best Salt Lake City has to offer for the last decade. She speaks fluent sarcasm and has a penchant for all things vintage. You can find her blogging at asweetlittlelife.com.

 

The Best Places to Visit in July

(So say the dudes at CN Traveler)


It’s the season for safaris in Botswana, whale shark swimming in Mexico, and memorable (and monumental) cultural events from Pamplona to St. Petersburg. These are the best places to visit in July, year after year.

Botswana’s Okavango Delta

The best months for going on a boat safari in the Okavango Delta are May through August, when water levels are at their highest and elephants, giraffes, leopards, and countless birds are most active. Camps like Duba Expedition arrange game “drives” by motorboat—and are all the more luxurious for being in the middle of nowhere.

visit-july-okavanga-delta-GettyImages-468023423

Getty

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Whale shark season runs from June through September, so if you’ve ever dreamed of swimming with the world’s largest fish, plan a trip to the Riviera Maya now.

Riviera Maya, Mexico

Getty

Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Yes, this is the busiest time of year in the national parks, but for good reason: The snow should finally be melted (or melting), filling Yellowstone and Grand Teton’s rivers for prime-time fly fishing, and bison should be on the move in late July.

Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Getty

Pamplona, Spain

For many, the fiesta of San Fermín (July 6–14 annually) can be summed up as the Running of the Bulls—a lifelong dream for some, a bullish (pun!) nightmare for others—through the old quarter of Pamplona. But the fest itself is a nine-day street party, starting with thousands filling City Hall Square for the inaugural chupinazo (rocket launch), and followed later in the week by a procession of 10- to 12-foot-tall papier-mâché figures—the “big heads” of big-deal people on parade.

Pamplona, Spain

Getty

St. Petersburg, Russia

The White Nights of St. Petersburg, Russia—those everlasting days when the sun lingers past midnight—begin in May, but it’s the final weeks in July, when fireworks fill the sky and the Stars of the White Nights (ballet and opera at Mariinksy Theatre, concerts, and more) finish their run when you’ll find us there.

St. Petersburg, Russia

Alamy

Mount Naeba, Japan

Japan’s three-day Fuji Rock Festival draws some 100,000 fans to the Naeba Ski Resort each July, along with big-deal bands and musicians like Wilco, Beck, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sigur Ros, and Ben Harper. It’s a three-day party in one of the most dramatic settings we can imagine for a guitar solo.

Mount Naeba, Japan

Getty

Salzburg, Austria

From late July through August, Salzburg honors its heritage with a grand classical celebration: The Salzburg Festival delivers everything from Mozart to modern chamber music, The Tempest to Don Giovanni.

Salzburg, Austria

Getty

 

 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

 

The Best Hikes in the World

Conde Nast Traveler have rounded up 13 of the best hiking trails around the world perfect for your next adventure. Time to lace up your boots and hit the trail…

(All the beautiful images are from Getty.)


West Coast Trail

The 47-mile West Coast Trail was created in 1906 to save shipwreck survivors along the rocky west coast of Vancouver Island. Now, the trail, open for hiking May 1 through September 30, is so popular it even has its own reservation system.

Kalalau Trail

The Kalalau Trail is the only way to access this rugged section of Kauai‘s coastline. Those who make the 11-mile hike are rewarded with access to the secluded Kalalau Beach.

Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc covers more than 100 miles and passes through three countries: Switzerland, Italy, and France. (The circuit is also home to the ultra-marathon event, Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, where the winner usually finishes in about 20 hours.)

Sentiero Azzuro

Everyone knows Cinque Terre for its stunning views and quaint seaside villages, but it’s also home to the Sentiero Azzuro (or literally “Blue Trail”) that connects the villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare.

Appalachian Trail

The 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia all the way to Maine, crossing through 14 states. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee (pictured here) is home to 71 miles of trail.

Mount Kilimanjaro

Even though it’s more than 19,000-feet tall, Mount Kilimanjaro is billed as the “world’s tallest walkable mountain,” and with good reason—the peak requires no technical mountaineering skills to summit.

Torres del Paine

Chile’s Torres del Paine might be one of the world’s most popular trekking destinations, but it still earns a spot on our list for its icy glaciers, snow-covered mountains, crystalline lakes, and beautiful valleys. The ultra-ambitious can hike the Full Circuit—crossing the entire park—in nine days.

Bibbulmun Track

The Bibbulmun Track stretches for more than 600 miles along Western Australia‘s coast. The track, known for its mellow terrain, is particularly beautiful during autumn.

The Narrows

The Narrows trail follows the Virgin River for 16 miles through southwestern Utah’s breathtaking Zion Canyon. You’ll get wet, sure, but we think you’ll agree—it’s worth it.

El Choro Inca Trail

While Machu Picchu Inca Trail gets most of the glory in South America, savvy travelers have started seeking out less-touristed routes. The four-day El Choro trek traverses a 15,000-foot pass.

Santa Cruz Trek

The 30-mile Santa Cruz trek is one of the most popular routes in the Peruvian Andes. Beginning in the charming Peruvian town of Huaraz, the trek crosses the 15,580-foot Punta Union Pass.

Tongariro Northern Circuit

The Tongariro Northern Circuit encircles Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand’s most active volcano. In addition to craters and lava pits, hikers can also take in the scenic Emerald Lakes.

Israel National Trail

The Israel National Trail winds its way 600 miles across Israel, from the Lebanese border all the way to the Red Sea in the south, passing through ancient Roman ruins (pictured) and Judean Mountains in the process.

 

The hauntingly beautiful abandoned buildings where time stands still

Eerie pictures taken by a French photographer showing decaying kitchens, derelict churches and stately manors being reclaimed by nature, have been stunningly captured in a beautiful Daily Mail Travel article I just had to include.   – Ned


These eerily beautiful images of abandoned places are the work of a fearless photographer who is travelling the world to capture stunning scenes inside derelict buildings. 

Romain Veillon, from Paris, has travelled across Europe and to countries in Africa and South America to photograph derelict buildings: everything from decaying houses, and decommissioned trains to abandoned casinos and empty prisons. The 32-year-old Parisian’s mesmerising pictures are featured in his first hardcover book, called Ask the Dust.

The urban explorer said he has been impressed by derelict places since he was a child, when he played in abandoned buildings near his grandparents’ houses.

Veillon told MailOnline Travel: ‘I always loved to go there and try to imagine what could have been their stories and how people used to live and work there.

‘With time I decided to try to capture the spirit and timeless atmosphere we can experience there, to show how time has stopped there and how decay and nature slowly take back possession of it.’

Veillon’s photos are featured in his first hardcover book, called Ask the Dust, and he hopes to visit abandoned buildings in Asia soon to add to his collection. He is highly secretive when it comes to the buildings he has photographed, choosing not to reveal most of the exact locations because he fears they would be ‘trashed’ by vandals.

Romain Veillon, from Paris, has travelled around the world to take photos of abandoned buildings, including this house in Belgium

Romain Veillon, from Paris, has travelled around the world to take photos of abandoned buildings, including this house in Belgium

The 32-year-old urban explorer snapped this image of a staircase in a crumbling building during his travels through Portugal

The 32-year-old urban explorer snapped this image of a staircase in a crumbling building during his travels through Portugal

While he visited Poland, Veillon toured an abandoned building where he took this photo of a dusty piano that has partially toppled over

While he visited Poland, Veillon toured an abandoned building where he took this photo of a dusty piano that has partially toppled over

In this old home in France, the ceiling and walls have started to fall apart and cave in, leaving debris all over the beds and floor 

In this old home in France, the ceiling and walls have started to fall apart and cave in, leaving debris all over the beds and floor

Veillon snapped photos of several abandoned buildings when he visited Romania, including this church that no longer has a roof

Veillon snapped photos of several abandoned buildings when he visited Romania, including this church that no longer has a roof

Although most of his photos were taken in European countries, Veillon has visited Namibia and Argentina (pictured: an estate in Italy)

Although most of his photos were taken in European countries, Veillon has visited Namibia and Argentina (pictured: an estate in Italy)

Although some visitors might find it creepy, this abandoned church in France was a peaceful location to photograph, said Veillon

Although some visitors might find it creepy, this abandoned church in France was a peaceful location to photograph, said Veillon

Impressive paintings adorn the crumbling walls of this property in Italy. Veillon prefers not to disclose the exact location of his photos

Impressive paintings adorn the crumbling walls of this property in Italy. Veillon prefers not to disclose the exact location of his photos

Veillon said he chooses to keep the locations a secret so they aren't ruined by vandals (pictured: a grand estate in France)

Veillon said he chooses to keep the locations a secret so they aren’t ruined by vandals (pictured: a grand estate in France)

Once a stately manor, this abandoned property in Scotland - with a fireplace and wood-panelled walls - has been reclaimed by nature

Once a stately manor, this abandoned property in Scotland – with a fireplace and wood-panelled walls – has been reclaimed by nature

Many of Veillon's photos have been taken in France, including this one at an abandoned building that is being overtaken by vines

Many of Veillon’s photos have been taken in France, including this one at an abandoned building that is being overtaken by vines

An old pram and wardrobe were left behind in this decaying house, which was photographed by Veillon during his time in Italy

An old pram and wardrobe were left behind in this decaying house, which was photographed by Veillon during his time in Italy

Veillon took this shot when he visited the derelict amphitheatre at the UFO-shaped Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria

Veillon took this shot when he visited the derelict amphitheatre at the UFO-shaped Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria

Veillon's work includes everything from photos of this abandoned house in Italy to decommissioned trains and a derelict casino 

Veillon’s work includes everything from photos of this abandoned house in Italy to decommissioned trains and a derelict casino

Vegetation has taken over this abandoned conservatory at a property in Belgium. Veillon's new book is called Ask the Dust

Vegetation has taken over this abandoned conservatory at a property in Belgium. Veillon’s new book is called Ask the Dust

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

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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.

 

 

Discover the New 7 Wonders of the World

Love travelling but sometimes worry you’ve missed something?

In 2001 the Swiss-based New7Wonders Foundation was established by a Swiss-born Canadian filmmaker, author and all-round adventurer named Bernard Weber. The purpose of this independent project was to contribute to the protection of the world’s man-made and natural heritage whilst promoting respect for earth’s beauty and diversity.

Although there have been many collations of ‘wonders of the world’, as a non-government funded initiative, New7Wonders is supported by licensing and commercial partnerships only and, to date, reports generating over US$5 billion worth of economic, tourism and national promotional value for the locations participating in its campaigns. Of this sizeable income, New7Wonders has pledged to dedicate 50% of surplus net revenue to the main New7Wonders Foundation cause – Global Memory, the documentation and 3D virtual recording of all New7Wonders.

The New7Wonders began by enlisting a panel of experts whose job it would be to generate a shortlist of 21 sites from 77 nominated by people from around the world. The 21 finalists were then put to public vote and the official winners of the New7Wonders of the World were eventually decided in 2007 by more than 100million votes – the criteria being that the sites should ‘represent global heritage throughout history’.

How many of these modern wonders of the world can you tick off your travel list?

This article courtesy of Holly Wadsworth-Hill for Mail Travel


Taj Mahal, India

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Located in Agra, also known as India’s ‘City of Love’.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as one of the New7Wonders of the World and a regular on the prescribed bucket-lists of many a qualified travel-writer. The exquisite white marble masterpiece that is the Taj Mahal more than earns its place as a must-see tourist attraction for many reasons.
The result of a beautiful love story, the Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world and its history has charmed generation after generation.
Built by the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in 1631, in memory of his loyal wife and soul mate Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is shrouded in fable – even its architect remains unknown, and yet it remains completely unforgettable for anyone who has the pleasure of visiting it.

Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Jordan’s fascinating story starts at the dawn of recorded history where ‘hunter-gatherer’ man learned to farm. Permanent settlements developed with the inhabitants fast becoming traders of gold, silks and spices between the sophisticated civilisations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. During biblical times, it was on Mt Nebo, overlooking the River Jordan that Moses first saw the ‘Promised Land’. The Persians then arrived, whilst Alexander the Great and his descendants ruled for 300 years, after which it became one of the Roman Empire’s richest and most fought-over provinces, before being incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.

Petra, the famous Treasury carved into the cliff, was once the magnificent capital of the Nabataean empire of King Aretas IV and is considered the jewel of Jordan. Architecturally fascinating, this ancient site is half built and half carved into the rocks – its maze of passages and hidden gorges, coupled with the fact that it has been inhabited since prehistoric times, make Petra a historians, and the inquisitive traveller’s, dream destination. Petra will take your breath away.

Check out other places to visit in Jordan here http://www.leroyal.com/giftcard/amman/attractionsdetails.asp?parCountry=1

Colosseum, Italy

Rome
The Colosseum is at the heart of the ‘Eternal City’ of Rome and has become an iconic part of Italy’s tourist industry.

Commissioned in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian, the Colosseum was eventually finished by his son, Titus, with latter enhancements by Domitian. One of the earliest and longest surviving examples of the Italian aptitude to combine splendour with pragmatism, the Colosseum was originally known as the Flavian amphitheatre and was designed to hold 55,000 spectators. With its bloody history and unimaginable size, the Colosseum is not only considered one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering of all time, it is also completely enthralling.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Chichen Itza, Mexico

An obvious addition the magnificent 7 if you ask us. So much is known and so much has been lost of the ancient Mayan civilisation that Chichen Itza continues to enthral modern day scholars and historians – not to mention your average holidaymaker looking for something different. Chichen Itza means ‘at the mouth of the well of the Itza’ and is a Mayan City on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, between Valladolid and Merida. The Maya were accomplished mathematicians and scientists with a sophisticated and established society, housing the recorded Maya and Toltec ideas of the world and the universe, Chichen Itza is an invaluable fragment of history that draws people from all around the world. It is not known why, in the 1400s, people fled Chichen Itza for the jungle, but what they left behind is a history lesson that one will never forget.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

The famous ruins of Machu Picchu, a 15th Century Inca site rising 7,000 ft above sea level, are nestled in and somewhat hidden on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley. A fairly recent geographical find, Machu Picchu was not discovered until 1911 and, although archaeologists have estimated that around 1200 people could have lived in the area, very little is actually known for certain about this Inca-built wonder. As with all the unknown, speculation and theory is rife, with some believing the site was home to Incan rulers and others thinking it was most likely a prison or defensive retreat.

We do know that Machu Picchu was built around 1450 and then abandoned by the Incans about a century later during the Spanish Conquest. On top of the mysterious history, Machu Picchu’s phenomenal and resilient architecture has also drawn visitors to witness the remarkable site first-hand.

Great Wall of China

Great Wall
Historically significant and architecturally amazing, the Great Wall of China dates back as far as the 7th Century BC but has been added to and strengthened many times since. Most notably the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty was responsible for the linking of several sections of the wall in 221BC when he formed the first 10,000 li Great Wall.

Most of what we know as the Great Wall today, originates from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and perhaps the best viewing spot in the whole of China is the Great Wall at Badaling where you can capture a long sprawling view of the wall in all its postcard-worthy glory.

Christ the Redeemer, Brazil

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ae/Christ_on_Corcovado_mountain.JPGChrist the Redeemer is the most recent of all the New7Wonders of the World, constructed between 1922 and 1931 as a prominent and now eminent symbol of Brazilian Christianity. It is a huge Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ, crafted by French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and French engineer Albert Caquot.

Christ the Redeemer overlooks the energetic city of Rio and is located at the peak of the 2,300 ft Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park. Most of us have seen the panoramic shots of Christ the Redeemer in magazines, holiday brochures, on television and the like but few will have the pleasure of seeing it first-hand and exploring this dynamic part of the world.

16 Picture-Perfect Small European Towns

Came across these cool trekkers through a music site: they’re a couple of classical musicians who perform in a symphony orchestra and in ALIAS Chamber Ensemble, and can be found on many recordings, both classical and popular. As they say, their schedules are extremely busy and their days are long; so when they travel they are looking for ways to leave their stress-filled stage lives behind and slow down the pace. “We like to explore out of the way, ‘undiscovered’ towns and sights.”zen and matt

They travel to Europe four or five times a year, focusing most of their time on Italy, England, and Ireland, with some excursions into Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

So my thanks and happy travelling to Zeneba Bowers and Matt Walker of Little Roads Europe


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Europe is full of small towns that look like they’re lifted right from a postcard rack: Sweeping vistas; cobblestone streets; thatched-roof cottages or terracotta-roofed villas; idyllic parks; quaint storefronts selling meats, cheeses, flowers, crafts; restaurants and pubs full of local flavor, in their cuisine and in their people. Some of these, like the villages that surround Italy’s Lake Como or dot the landscape in England’s Cotswolds, are dauntingly pricey and crushed with tourists during high season. However, there are many places, if you know where and when to look, that offer dining, shopping, and admissions to sights for very reasonable costs; lodging, too, is significantly less than you’d expect, especially in the off-season. Here are sixteen picture-perfect European towns that we’ve discovered over the years.

 

Hallstatt, Austria

1 HallstadtHallstatt is a tiny town – it has fewer than 1000 residents – sitting on the edge of a small lake surrounded on all sides by precipitous peaks. Above the town is a network of salt mines that have been in operation for centuries. (Also, there’s a bar up there.) Be sure not to miss the church with the Beinhaus (“bone house”), where, due to lack of space in the tiny cemetery, generations of deceased locals have had their skulls preserved on display, painted with their names and dates of death.

 

Pienza, Italy

Pienza's Duomo

The small Tuscan town of Pienza is famous for its cheese – pecorino di Pienza, a sheep’s milk cheese whose scent permeates the town. The town has a beautiful ‘balcony’, a large pedestrian walkway on the town wall overlooking the valley below and Monte Amiata in the distance. Pienza has a lot of great restaurants, including Trattoria la Fiorella and Osteria Baccus. It also has some very talented artisans with shops, including leather artist Valerio Trufelli and ceramic artist Linda Bai. Pienza evokes romance with its wine bars, beautiful sunset views,  and cobblestone streets with names like Street of the Kiss and Street of Love.

 

Bibury, England

House in Bibury

Tiny Bibury dates back to the 10th century, and features one of the most photographed streets in England: Arlington Row, a row of quaint stone cottages that date back to the 1300s. Today the village has a pub and a restaurant (both offer rooms), and a woolen mill. Stroll through the hamlet and admire the ivy-covered stone cottages, the lush English gardens, and the small pond in the park filled with white swans. If you like fresh fish, your lunch will never be fresher than when they pull your meal straight from the trout farm down the street.

 

Crookhaven, Ireland

Church of Saint Brendan the Navigator

This very cute little fishing town, Ireland’s most southerly village, is located on a thin peninsula in west County Cork. Surrounded by the sea and rolling green hills, Crookhaven boasts gorgeous views. There is an excellent gastro-pub here called the Crookhaven Inn; and next door you’ll find Jorg’s Goldsmith Studio, where goldsmith Jorg Uschkamp creates unique jewelry with precious metals and jewels. Just outside the town is the Protestant church of Saint Brendan the Navigator, built in 1717.

 

Orta San Giulio, Italy

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Orta San Giulio is perched on a hill that juts out into Lago Orta. It offers great views of Isola San Giulio, the only island in the lake, which houses an excellent restaurant and a convent. The convent is ringed by a shady, circular stone walkway, called “The Way of Silence”. Orta San Giulio has many great restaurants and a specialty chocolatier, as well as beautiful views of the lake.

 

Praiano, Italy

Praiano in miniature

Praiano in miniature

On the Amalfi Peninsula, next door to the much larger, pricier and more crowded Positano, Praiano is a quiet, picturesque cliffside town with many little nooks and crannies to explore. There is a walkway that leads to the water’s edge, where several restaurants cling to a rocky grotto and serve fish that were unloaded by the fishermen in the cove minutes before. The coastal road bisecting the town bustles with shops, bars, a fruit vendor and a butcher. Driving through the town one can also see a miniature model layout of Praiano tucked under a little overhanging rock on the side of the road.

 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

7 RothenburgIf you’re looking for the perfect medieval walled town, this is it. Visitors can walk atop the entire circumference (over two miles) of the city walls, stopping to admire the buildings, gardens, and countryside below. Aside from enjoying many German lagers without worrying about driving, activities in Rothenburg include the Night Watchman’s tour, offering an entertaining and educational slice of life; the Museum of Medieval Torture; and the Christmas market stores, where can be found beautiful German decorations as well as a museum outlining the history of Christmas traditions. If you’re there on a Wednesday night, head over to Mario’s which hosts the English Conversation Club, hosted by a man who calls himself Herman the German. The town is very crowded May-September and in December, but in other months you’ll have it all to yourself.

 

Certaldo Alto, Italy

Certaldo Alto

The modern sprawl of lower (“basso“) Certaldo belies the treasure that sits at the top of the hill. Take the long footpath, or ride the cable car (“funivia“) up to Certaldo Alto, and you’ll have stepped into a timeless, Renaissance storybook village. Explore the charming streets; see the artworks on display at the Church of Saints Tomaso and Prospero and at the Museum of Sacred Art; visit the Civic Museum at the Praetorian Palace, which includes a torture chamber and prison; and have a “cappuccino decorato” (decorated coffee) at the Caffetteria Artistica.

 

Montefioralle, Italy

Montefioralle doors

Tiny Montefioralle in Tuscany is known as the birthplace of Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer whose name inspired the name “America”. The door of his birth home displays two symbols of his family: their family insignia of the wasp, and the letter V. The hill town is quite small, with one circular cobblestone street that can be walked in about 10 minutes. Like many medieval villages, the stone houses here are all seamlessly connected. Montefioralle’s homes have some very beautiful and ornate doors, making for a charming stroll.

 

Doolin, Ireland

Doonagore Castle

A coastal town in County Clare on the Wild Atlantic Way, Doolin has a few pubs and is well known as a place to hear traditional Irish music, which can be heard nightly or weekly depending on the season. Doolin is also quite close to the famous Cliffs of Moher, and just outside Doolin is the evocative Doonagore Castle. Both Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher are popular tourist destinations, but if you visit in the off-season you can enjoy the music and the sights without the crowds. To experience the Cliffs of Moher completely alone, visit them at daybreak and enjoy your own private, stunning sunrise.

 

Vigoleno, Italy

Castle walls

A visit to this ancient and tiny castle town feels like a step back into the past. The castle fortifications and town buildings, some dating back as far as the 10th century, are largely intact. A walk within the castle walls takes just a few minutes, and discovers several shops, a bar, a hotel with a restaurant, and a tiny old church that is a popular location for weddings in the area. As of this writing the town has just five residents, and after you’ve seen the place you’ll want to add yourself to that population. Just outside the castle, overlooking the castle courtyard, is a very modest but excellent restaurant, La Scuola Vecchia. You can stay overnight in a B&B in this fairytale castle town, in a four-poster bed, for less than a budget hotel in Rome.

 

Monteriggioni, Italy

Monteriggioni

This hilltop castle town of Monteriggioni is visible for miles around. Visitors can walk the platforms around the high 12th-century walls and look out over the broad countryside. The wide town square has several restaurants and artisans’ shops, as well as the small but beautiful Church of Santa Maria. The Medieval Armor Museum has replicas of armor and weapons from the ages – you can even hold and try on some of them, to get a feel for what it was like to defend the ramparts 700 years ago. The town has a full-on medieval festival in mid-July, with costumed musicians and artisans plying their trade just like they did in the 1300s, offering all manner of crafts, foodstuffs, and entertainment.

 

Glastonbury, England

Glastonbury Tor

Glastonbury is a Mecca for many New-Age and pagan pilgrims, who regard various aspects of the town’s tangled history/mythology as sacred. The village is identified most with its links to the Arthurian Grail legend, as well as to tales of Joseph of Arimathea. It is marked by a large hill of mysterious origin, called the Glastonbury Tor. As is the case with many such pagan sites, early Christians built upon and co-opted these sacred places and attached their own legends to them, such as Glastonbury’s “Chalice Well”, a more than 2000-year-old natural spring purported to be a holy well with healing properties. The preponderance of all this history and legend gives Glastonbury a different feel from most other smallish English towns. Its commercial center, in addition to the usual pubs and gift shops, is full of book shops and art galleries highlighting the town’s mystical background. In the middle of town stands the the evocative ruins of the ancient (11th-14th century) Glastonbury Abbey, the supposed burial place of King Arthur and his Guinevere.

 

Barga, Italy

Rainbow over Barga

Set amidst the steep forest hillsides of Tuscany’s Garfagnana region, Barga is a fortified, walled city. Piled up on a hill, it is overlooked by its Romanesque Duomo, a cathedral dedicated to St. Christopher – if you get there at noon you’ll hear its ancient bells ring out and echo across the mist-covered valleys below. No cars are allowed within the old city walls; good shoes and good endurance are a must here, as the narrow cobbled streets are extremely steep. Barga hosts several festivals in the summer including a famous jazz festival.

 

Lyme Regis, England

Lyme Regis

The cute little port town of Lyme Regis is at the center of the “Jurassic Coast” of England, a stretch of coastline known for its rocky exposure of several geological eras spanning some 180 million years, and is therefore of great interest to purveyors of a lot of dinosaur stuff at the gift shops. Lyme Regis is one of those salty towns that is crowded during summer vacation times, but it is a lot of fun in the off-season. Many pubs with great local ales and ciders; shops that sell the same; and lots of places to buy artworks, goods, and foodstuffs from various artists and artisans. It is also the home of the Dinosaurland Fossil Museum, which is good for little kids and also grown-up kids.

 

 

Andechs, Germany

16 AndechsThe beer brewed by the monks of the Andechs Monastery is regarded as the best beer in Germany; after trying it, we have no cause to question this claim. This thousand-year-old  Benedictine monastery is still an active holy place and a pilgrimage destination. Positioned atop a small hill in the midst of the idyllic Bavarian countryside, the monastery includes a Baroque church and a bell tower topped with a distinctive “onion” dome. The monastery grounds comprise a village in itself, with a restaurant, several shops, and (naturally) a huge beer garden where visitors can enjoy the local foods and of course try the many varieties of masterful brews.

Forget Lonely Planet’s Greatest Wonders, these are the top 10 places to AVOID

A great little blog post here from The Mail on Sunday’s wonderfully cynical Travel Editor, Frank Barrett.


Lonely Planet has published its list of the world’s Greatest Wonders: this is my guide to ten of the world’s places not to bother with – a much more useful service in my opinion.

1. Empire State Building, New York (pictured): When it comes to tall buildings, my clearest advice is to stay away from them. They’re expensive, overcrowded and likely to bring on a nosebleed. The view from the ESB is OK but doesn’t justify the hassle and expense of seeing it. If you want a skyscraper view of Manhattan head up the Rockefeller Center.

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2. Eiffel Tower, Paris: If you really want to go up the Eiffel Tower, then walk up. At least as far as you are allowed. Unless you enjoy standing in queues at a high altitude, don’t even contemplate the final stage to the summit which involves endless waiting and tiny lifts. And if the weather is bad all you will see is mist.

3. The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen: This is Denmark’s major tourist attraction? I’ve seen bigger (and much more interesting) poodles.

4. Hollywood sign, Los Angeles: It’s a sign. It’s in Hollywood. And..?

5. Lands End, Cornwall: The end of the land. You have to pay to see this?

6. Great Wall of China, China: I’ve got a great wall in my garden but I’m not making a big fuss about it.

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7. Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney (pictured): Sydney has two big must-sees: its Opera House and its Bridge. I don’t know whether people from Sydney have been anywhere else in the world but lots of other cities have bridges. Newcastle upon Tyne has five of them.

8. Mona Lisa, Paris: Save three hours of your life and a wodge of cash: don’t bother fighting through the Louvre crowds to see what is effectively an average portrait of an unknown woman. Over-rated doesn’t begin to describe it.

9. Manneken Pis, Brussels: A statue of a small boy doing … what? Are you serious?

10. Bateau Mouche, Paris: Keep well away from tall buildings, caves … and boat excursions. Boat trips (like cave visits) have no clearly discernible time limit – they may take 20 minutes (doubtful) they may last five hours. And there’s nothing – absolutely nothing – you can do to escape…

 

 

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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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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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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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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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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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

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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

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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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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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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

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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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Spain’s Cursed Village of Witches

From Inka Piegsa-Quischotte at BBC Travel again – fascinating!


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Trazmos, Aragon, Spain (Credit: Credit: Teresa Esteban/Getty)

How does a tiny Spanish village of just 62 souls come to be excommunicated in its entirety and cursed with a spell so strong that only the Pope can lift it?

To find out more about this bizarre story of witchcraft, superstition, revenge, envy and power, I headed to the village of Trasmoz, nested in the foothills of the snow-covered Moncayo mountain range in Aragon. Trasmoz has centuries of witchcraft history, and I’d arranged to meet Lola Ruiz Diaz, a local modern-day witch, to learn the truth. As I waited for her in the freezing-cold hall of the half-ruined 12th-century Trasmoz Castle, perched on a hilltop above the village, I shivered in anticipation.

Once home to 10,000 inhabitants, Trazmos now has just 62 (Credit: Credit: Teresa Esteban/Getty)

Once home to 10,000 inhabitants, Trazmos now has just 62 (Credit: Teresa Esteban/Getty)

Ruiz, custodian of the castle, greeted me with a broad smile. She had grey hair, green eyes, chic clothes and a laptop under her arm – a far cry from the crystal balls, black candles and Tarot cards I’d been envisaging. The only things that seemed remotely witch-like about her outfit were her earrings – dangling small gold owls with little feathers attached – and the gold amulets around her neck.

“The whole saga of witchcraft in Trasmoz starts here, at this castle,” she explained. “During the 13th Century, the castle occupants dedicated their time to forging fake coins. And to keep the people of Trasmoz from investigating all that scraping and hammering, they spread a rumour that witches and sorcerers were rattling chains and forging cauldrons to boil magic potions at night. It worked, and Trasmoz was forever associated with witchcraft.”

In the 13th Century, Trasmoz castle was rumoured to be a haven for witchcraft and black magic (Credit: Credit: Juanje 2712/Wikipedia)

In the 13th Century, Trasmoz castle was rumoured to be a haven for witchcraft and black magic (Credit: Credit: Juanje 2712/Wikipedia)

Ruiz explained that at this time Trasmoz was a thriving community and powerful fiefdom, full of iron and silver mines and vast wood and water reserves. It was also lay territory, which meant it didn’t belong to the surrounding Catholic dominion of the Church, and by royal decree didn’t have to pay dues or taxes to the nearby monastery of Veruela – a fact that angered the Church. So when rumours of Trasmoz as a haven for witchcraft started to spread beyond the village boundaries, the abbot of Veruela seized his opportunity to punish the population, requesting that the archbishop of Tarazona, the biggest nearby town, excommunicate the entire village. This meant that they weren’t allowed to go to confession or take the holy sacraments at the Catholic church.

The wealthy community of Trasmoz, a mix of Jews, Christians and Arabs, didn’t repent  – which would have been the only way to remove the excommunication. The  disputes with Veruela continued for many years, finally coming to a head when the monastery started diverting water from the village instead of paying for it. In response, Pedro Manuel Ximenez de Urrea, the Lord of Trasmoz, took up arms against the monastery. But before an outright war could erupt, the matter was taken up by King Ferdinand II, who decided that Trasmoz’s actions were justified.

The abbot at Veruela Abbey excommunicated Tresmoz after hearing rumours of witchcraft (Credit: Credit: Emvallmitjana/Wikipedia)

The abbot at Veruela Abbey excommunicated Tresmoz after hearing rumours of witchcraft (Credit: Credit: Emvallmitjana/Wikipedia)

The Church never forgave the defeat, and – with the explicit permission of Pope Julius II – cast a curse over the village in 1511 by chanting psalm 108 of the Book of Psalms – the most powerful tool the Church possesses to pronounce a curse. They alleged that Pedro Manuel and the people of Trasmoz had been blinded by witchcraft, and since the curse was sanctioned by the Pope, only a Pope has the power to lift it. None have done so to this day.

The years that followed were not easy for Trasmoz. The castle burned to the ground in 1520 and remained in ruins for centuries. After the Jews were expelled from Spain in the 15th Century, Trasmoz fell into decline, from about 10,000 inhabitants to a population of just 62, only half of which live here permanently. The village today has no shops, no school and only one bar. Many houses are in disrepair and the streets are mostly empty.

The village of Trasmoz is surrounded the snow-capped Moncayo mountains (Credit: Credit: Miguel Ángel García/Flickr)

The village of Trasmoz is surrounded the snow-capped Moncayo mountains (Credit: Credit: Miguel Ángel García/Flickr)

Back in the castle, Ruiz led me down the steep steps of the tower, which has been restored to house a tiny witchcraft museum and a collection of black magic paraphernalia such as brooms, black crucifixes and cauldrons. Crossing the courtyard, we came to a platform dominated by a wrought-iron sculpture of a woman. “This is La Tia Casca, the last witch to be killed in Trasmoz, in 1860,” Ruiz said. “A deadly epidemic had broken out and neither cure nor explanation was found. So they blamed La Tia Casca, as she was thought to be strange and secretive. They rounded her up and threw her into a deep well, on top of which we are actually standing.”

La Tia Casca may have been the last witch to be killed in Trasmoz, but the tradition of witchcraft seems to be alive and well in the Spanish village. Every June, during the Feria de Brujeria festival, a market sells lotions and potions made from the healing and hallucinogenic herbs and plants that grow in the surrounding Moncayo mountains. Actors re-enact historical scenes, such as the rounding up and torture of presumed witches. And one lucky person gets named as the Witch of the Year. Ruiz, who lives permanently in Trasmoz, is the latest.

“What do you have to do to qualify as Witch of the Year?” I asked.

“Obviously, you have to have a knowledge of herbal medicine,” Ruiz replied, “but, most importantly, you have to be involved in the history and promotion of all things connected with Trasmoz. To be a witch today is a badge of honour.“

“Can you cast a spell?” I finally blurted out .

The half-ruined 12th-century Trasmoz Castle is perched on a hilltop above the village (Credit: Credit: Julio Alvarez German/Getty)

The half-ruined 12th-century Trasmoz Castle is perched on a hilltop above the village (Credit: Credit: Julio Alvarez German/Getty)

For the first time, Ruiz’s easy smile disappeared. Seconds later, it was back. “Casting a spell? No, but I make a special liquid from sage and rosemary that you splash around you. People tell me it lifts depression, and that their streak of misfortune comes to an end as soon as they started using the liquid. Of course,“ she added, ”you have to believe in it, otherwise it won’t work.”

It was getting late, and the sun had begun to set, casting the ragged ruins and restored tower of Trasmoz into relief as the light disappeared behind the peaks of the Moncayo mountains. With that view – and a tiny bottle of Diaz’s herbal concoction in my hand – it was easy to fall under the village’s magical spell. Perhaps there really was witchcraft here.

I‘d brought with me a few grains of rice and a little sachet of salt – both time-honoured remedies to ward off evil spirits. As I turned my back on the village, I threw them over my shoulder. Just in case.

 

 

Small is beautiful! Spain is so proud of its tapas that it wants the food style protected by Unesco

When it comes to Spanish food, tapas is perhaps the way of eating that carries its reputation across the world.

Consisting of small plates of food traditionally served on top of a cold beverage, tapas is intended to provide a nibble while protecting the drink from flies and insects.

But now the president of the Royal Academy of Gastronomy of Spain, Rafael Anson, is calling for UNESCO to declare the humble tapas an intangible cultural heritage.

An interesting little morsel from the Mail Online.

Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy wants Unesco protection for tapas as an intangible cultural heritage

Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy wants Unesco protection for tapas as an intangible cultural heritage

Anson told Spanish radio broadcaster Cadena Ser on April 14 that ‘Tapas are the very model of food’ according to The Local.

He said: ‘Pizza in itself is not intangible, but the concept of the Mediterranean diet, for example, is.

‘Tapas, too, are a way of eating.’

Anson added that the Spanish Ministry of Culture will make a formal presentation for tapas to be included but UNESCO is said to be ‘already looking into it’.

In order for tapas to be considered, it will have to fit a number of criterion, including that its cultural heritage status will contribute towards its visibility and awareness as well as its protection.

Academy president Rafael Anson called the snacks ‘the very model of food’ and said a formal presentation will be made

These will need to be included in the presentation alongside a formal definition of tapas.

However, in the Basque country and Navarre in northern Spain, there’s also a style food food similar to tapas called pintxos.

These small plate dishes are typically served skewered on toothpicks.

It’s not clear whether these will also be included in the official presentation to Unesco.

Spain currently has 15 items on Unesco‘s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, which includes fiesta of the patios in Cordova, Chant of the Sybil on Majorca and Silbo Gomero, the whistled language of the island of La Gomera (Canary Islands).

Alongside Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Morocco and Portugal, it’s also one of the countries where the Mediterranean diet is considered an intangible cultural heritage.


Ned’s tip: if you’re planning a visit to Madrid you won’t find better service than the Hotel Miguel Angel, part of Sir Nadhmi Auchi’s Le Royal Hotels & Resorts group.

 

 

Live the Jungle Book lifestyle with these spectacular treehouses

Stunning photography of even more stunning places to visit from Mail Online – I just had to just copy and paste this one!   – Ned


If there was ever a time to book into a spectacular treehouse and spend the night close to nature, now could be it – as Disney’s Jungle Book has hit the screens.

If you are craving a night with just the bare necessities, there are plenty of simple retreats offering guests the chance to fall asleep in nature’s arms. But there are also some more lavish options for those looking for something more comfortable.

Here MailOnline Travel shares some of the most incredible boutique treehouses around the world – perfect for living like Mowgli for the night.

The Jungle Book is out now, and tells the story of Mowgli, who is raised by wolves and is friends with Bagheera and Baloo the bear

The Jungle Book is out now, and tells the story of Mowgli, who is raised by wolves and is friends with Bagheera and Baloo the bear

If you are craving a night with just the bare necessities like Mowgli, there are simple retreats offering guests the chance to fall asleep in nature's arms.And for those who prefer luxury breaks in the woods, there are plenty of breathtaking options available

Watamu Guest House, Watamu, Kenya 

The stunning Watamu Treehouse has three bedrooms which all boast ensuite bathrooms, and guests can check in on a self-catering or full-board basis

Nestled high in the trees on a breathtaking stretch of Watamu beach in Kenya is the Watamu Treehouse.

The white, unusually-designed property looks like something from a fairytale, with its thatched roofs, mosaic glass inside and panoramic views of the Indian Ocean.

The stunning Watamu Treehouse has three bedrooms which all boast ensuite bathrooms, and guests can check in on a self-catering or full-board basis.

Prices for the paradisal retreat don’t come cheap at £253 per night on TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, but it could be worth it for the views alone.

The Buckland, Atlanta, US

Peter and Katie Bahouth bought the land in 2000 and spent six months designing and building the fairytale retreat, which they now rent out