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

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

Ned Bond, trekker


traveling the world on a tight budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how do you begin?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example 1: French Polynesia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sample Budget for French Polynesia
How to travel to tahiti budget

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

Example 2: Australia

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

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

award chart for tahiti flights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compare that to bus fares via Greyhound:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sample Budget for Australia
How to travel to australia budget

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

***

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

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

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

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

 

 

Advertisements

Why Terrorism Won’t Stop Me From Travelling

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

Jungles in Indonesia (Hannah Stein)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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


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

Horseshoe Beach, Bermuda

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

Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia

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

Honopu Beach, Maui, Hawaii

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

Pansy Island, Mozambique

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

Honopu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

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

Temea Beach, Moorea, French Polynesia

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

El Nido Beach, Palawan, Philippines

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

Long Beach, Koh Phi Phi Island, Thailand

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

Whitehaven Beach, Queensland, Australia

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

Until then, keep dreaming…

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

Love love love this lady!  – Ned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

“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.

https://i2.wp.com/img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/scalefit_970_noupscale/5877a5741700002e00fde3b1.jpeg

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.

AlesiaBelaya via Getty Images

 

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

ekipaj via Getty Images

 

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?

Rosita So Image

 

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.

efesenko

 

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

Kirillm via Getty Images

 

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

A good snapshot stops a moment from running away

 

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

5. Latvia

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

Angel Villalba via Getty Images

 

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

Sven Zacek via Getty Images

 

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

Rihards via Getty Images

 

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

Federica Gentile via Getty Images

 

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

6. Ecuador

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

DC_Colombia via Getty Images

 

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.

Maremagnum via Getty Images

 

The Chimborazo volcano is the highest mountain in Ecuador.

John & Lisa Merrill via Getty Images

 

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

Luis Davilla via Getty Images

 

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

7. Samoa

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

Michael Runkel / robertharding via Getty Images

 

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

Tim Jordan Photography via Getty Images

 

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

Michael Runkel via Getty Images

 

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

David Kirkland / Design Pics via Getty Images

 

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

8. Uruguay

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

Richard I’Anson via Getty Images

 

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

MIGUEL ROJO via Getty Images

 

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.

fotoquique via Getty Images

 

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

Mr.Lomein via Getty Images

 

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.

Digital Vision. via Getty Images

 

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

pilesasmiles via Getty Images

 

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

Daniel Osterkamp via Getty Images

 

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

Adrian Carr via Getty Images

 

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

10. Guatemala

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

SimonDannhauer via Getty Images

 

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

Ben Pipe Photography via Getty Images

 

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

SimonDannhauer via Getty Images

 

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

Laura Grier via Getty Images

 

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

11. Papua New Guinea

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

David Kirkland / Design Pics via Getty Images

 

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

David Kirkland / Design Pics via Getty Images

 

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

Michael Runkel / robertharding via Getty Images

 

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.

Jeff Rotman via Getty Images

 

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

12. Newfoundland, Canada

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

Thomas Kitchin & Victoria Hurst / Design Pics via Getty Images

 

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

David Doubilet via Getty Images

 

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

valleyboi63 via Getty Images

 

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

CHare Photography

 

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

13. Romania

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

RossHelen via Getty Images

 

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

Walter Bibikow via Getty Images

 

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

Christian Adams via Getty Images

 

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.

danieldiaconu

 

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.

elmvilla via Getty Images

 

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

chrisinthai via Getty Images

 

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.

wiratgasem via Getty Images

 

Terraced rice fields overlook a village in Mu Cang Chai.

VuCongDanh via Getty Images

 

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

15. Azerbaijan

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

railelectropower via Getty Images

 

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

JTB Photo via Getty Images

 

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

Mark Harris via Getty Images

 

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

habrda via Getty Images

 

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.)

Matthew Williams-Ellis / robertharding via Getty Images

 

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

Getty Images

 

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.

sonsam

 

A tour boat on the Ljubljanica River in Ljubljana.

RossHelen via Getty Images

 

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

17. The Seychelles

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

Jon Arnold via Getty Images

 

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

SimonDannhauer via Getty Images

 

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

dibrova via Getty Images

 

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.

FilippoBacci via Getty Images

 

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

 

 

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

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


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

IceHotel Jukkasjarvi, Sweden

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

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

Bambu Indah Glass Floor UdangHouse , Bali

glassfloor bali.jpg

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

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

Hotel Kakslauttanen, Finland

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

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

Giraffe Manor, Kenya

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

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

Conrad Hilton, Maldives

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

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

Explora Patagonia, Chile

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

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

Manta Resort Floating Villa, Zanzibar

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

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

Costa Verde 727 Villa, Costa Rica

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

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

Jade Mountain, St Lucia

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

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

TreeHotel MirrorCube Treehouse, Sweden

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

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

 

 

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?

 

 

7 Remote Islands That REALLY Want You To Move There

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

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

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

island-wallpaper-odd

 


PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

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

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

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

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

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

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

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

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

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

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

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

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

PHOTO: VIA @CJG_1.

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

PHOTO: VIA @CJG_1.

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

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

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

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

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

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

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

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

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

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

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

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

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES.

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

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

 

 

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!   😦


shutterstock-130521821.jpg

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.

gettyimages-607677636.jpg

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.

shutterstock-168177275.jpg

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.

gettyimages-510754696.jpg

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.

7678713750-c7c4ddb789-o.jpg

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.

2704229925-6069f24cd6-b.jpg

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.

gettyimages-452604826.jpg

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 quirkiest holiday houses to rent around the world – revealed

Thanks to Mail Online Travel for these amazing rental ideas.

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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).

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 50 Most Beautiful Places in the World

Where are your top trek destinations?

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


Cappadocia, Turkey

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

Salar de Uyuni: Daniel Campos, Bolivia

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

Mù Cang Chải: Vietnam

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

Benagil Sea Cave: Algarve, Portugal

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

Snæfellsjökull: Iceland

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

Palawan Island: The Philippines

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

Venice, Italy

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

Ashikaga Flower Park: Ashikaga, Japan

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

Brecon Beacons National Park: Wales

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

Namib Desert: Namibia

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

Milford Sound: New Zealand

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

Kolukkumalai Tea Estate: Munnar, India

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

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: Abu Dhabi, UAE

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

Bryce Canyon: Bryce, Utah

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

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

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

Pyramids of Giza: El Giza, Egypt

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

Okavango Delta: Botswana

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

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Gallery Stock

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

Arashiyama: Kyoto, Japan

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

Grand Prismatic Spring: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

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

Serengeti National Park: Tanzania

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

Grand Canyon National Park: Arizona, USA

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

The Arctic Circle

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

Great Wall of China: Beijing, China

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

Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley): Alaska

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

Isle of Skye: Scotland

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

Bromo Volcano: East Java, Indonesia

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

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Alamy

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

Galápagos Islands: Ecuador

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

Petra, Jordan

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

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

Keukenhof Park, Holland: The Netherlands

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

Machu Picchu: Peru

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

The Great Barrier Reef: Queensland, Australia

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

Moravian Fields: Czech Republic

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

Socotra, Yemen

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

Bagan (formerly Pagan): Myanmar

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

Lavender fields: Provence, France

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

Oia: Santorini, Greece

Alamy

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

Slope Point: South Island, New Zealand

Alamy

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

Lake Louise: Alberta, Canada

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

Valle de Cocora: Quindío, Colombia

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

Pamukkale: Denizli, Turkey

Alamy

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

Torres del Paine National Park: Patagonia, Chile

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

Wulingyuan Scenic Area: Zhangjiajie, China

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

Angkor Wat: Siem Reap, Cambodia

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

Redwood National Park: California

Alamy

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

Na’Pali Coast: Kauai, Hawaii

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

Halong Bay: Vietnam

Alamy

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

Painted Cliffs: Maria Island, Tasmania

Alamy

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

Jodhpur (“Blue City”): Rajasthan, India

Gallery Stock

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.

 

 

Surf’s Up!

These stunning underwater snaps of surfers carving up the waves will take your breath away.

The beautiful pictures were taken from the bottom of the bright blue crystal-clear ocean and show surfers above as they paddle out and ride waves on the water’s surface.

The images were taken by photographer Ben Thouard off the coast of Tahiti in French Polynesia.

Thanks to Mail Online Travel again. 🙂


The beautiful pictures were taken from the bottom of the bright blue crystal-clear ocean off the coast of Tahiti in French Polynesia

These stunning underwater snaps of surfers carving up the waves will take your breath away

The photographer looks up on surfers as they paddle out and ride waves on the water's surface

Ben, 30, said: ‘When you dive under the wave and look up at the surfing passing by, you enter into a different world.

‘It’s a whole new perspective that the ocean is offering you – it’s mesmerising and fascinating.

‘The feeling of being underwater and looking at the wave breaking and the surfer passing through is amazing. 

Photographer Ben Thouard describes the opportunity to snap surfers from below as 'mesmerising and fascinating'
The photographer says of the experience:  'It's a whole new perspective that the ocean is offering you'
The water off the coast of Tahiti is known for being particularly clear, offering the perfect opportunity for underwater photography

‘In Tahiti the water clarity is unbelievable, which is a great opportunity for underwater shots.

‘You want the surface of the water to be very glassy, so you can see through from the water below.

‘There are only a few days per year when the water is that clear and that glassy, so these pictures are the result of a long quest – you need to be in the right place at the right time, with the right surfer.

The collection of stunning underwater shots are described by the photographer as the 'result of a long quest'
Every moment of the daredevil surfers riding the waves off the coast of Tahiti is captured by by the photographer
From below, the water and surface shimmers as though it was glass, offering a unique perspective

‘What people don’t realise when they look at the pictures is the power that the wave generates – it’s not easy to place yourself in that situation and get good pictures. It’s enthralling but challenging.

‘The wave is really powerful, and breaks on a few inches of water over the sharp coral reef – you always run the risk of getting caught by the wave, which could be dangerous.

‘But the feeling of seeing the perfect frame lining up through your lens is the best feeling ever – it’s unreal.’

While enjoying the opportunity to get the special set, Thouard acknowledges 'you always run the risk of getting caught by the wave, which could be dangerous'
Photographer Ben Thouard comes up for some air, before plunging back to the bottom of the ocean to snap away

Photographer Ben Thouard comes up for some air, before plunging back to the bottom of the ocean to snap away

The unique perspective of the surfers and rolling water gives the photographs an other-worldly feel 

The result of his quest for the perfect photo set is described as 'the best feeling in the world' by Ben Thouard

 

 

The Simple Bear Necessities

This is the cutest!

British Airways documented Pooh the teddy bear’s extraordinary journey home to an eight-month-old boy after being left behind 4,600 miles from his home in West Yorkshire. Little Woody Cranmer was devastated after leaving his small cuddly toy thousands of miles away in Argentina. The beloved plush had been passed down from the toddler’s father Scott, who was given Pooh as a baby. The British Airways team took pictures of Pooh’s journey home and made them into a book for little Woody to keep. 

Thanks to the good ol’ Mail Online for such an adorable tale.  🙂        – Ned


These adorable pictures show the moment a baby boy, who was devastated after leaving his beloved cuddly teddy bear 4,600 miles away in Argentina, was reunited with his toy.

When Woody Cranmer left his treasured teddy ‘Pooh’ in Buenos Aires, the eight-month-old thought he would never see his lovable companion again.

The toy had been passed down from his father Scott, 30, from Wakefield, who was given Pooh as a baby.

These adorable pictures show the moment Woody Cranmer was reunited with his beloved teddy bear after leaving him in Argentina

These adorable pictures show the moment Woody Cranmer was reunited with his beloved teddy bear after leaving him in Argentina

British Airways team behind the find took pictures of Pooh's journey home and made them into a book for Woody to keep

British Airways team behind the find took pictures of Pooh’s journey home and made them into a book for Woody to keep

During his 4,600 mile journey home to Leeds Bradford, Pooh the bear met with British Airways staff

During his 4,600 mile journey home to Leeds Bradford, Pooh the bear met with British Airways staff

The small bear was given lots of free goodies

The small bear was given lots of free goodies

Once the family realised he had gone missing during their trip last month they took to social media to try and find their furry family member.

And thankfully within days, Mr P Bear – now the owner of a gold executive club card – was located by the British Airways team and flown back to Leeds Bradford Airport, West Yorkshire, to be reunited with his anxious family.

Cranmer said: ‘I know to some people it’s only a silly teddy, but Pooh has been part of my life for the last 30 years.

‘When Woody was born, it was a huge thing to pass Pooh into Woody’s care. We were so worried when we lost Pooh while we were visiting Woody’s grandfather in Buenos Aires.

‘We were eternally grateful to British Airways for finding him and returning him to my little boy.

‘They go everywhere together and they’re inseparable when it comes time to go to bed.’

Pooh travelled 4,600 miles home alone to be reunited with his family after getting lost in Argentina during a holiday last month

Pooh travelled 4,600 miles home alone to be reunited with his family after getting lost in Argentina during a holiday last month

Once the family realised Pooh had gone missing they took to social media to try and find their furry family member - but little did they know, he was helping staff in Argentina. Here's Pooh inspecting one of BA's jet engines 

Once the family realised Pooh had gone missing they took to social media to try and find their furry family member – but little did they know, he was helping staff in Argentina. Here’s Pooh inspecting one of BA’s jet engines

The toy had been passed down from his father Scott (left) from Wakefield, who was given Pooh the small teddy bear as a baby

The toy had been passed down from his father Scott (left) from Wakefield, who was given Pooh the small teddy bear as a baby

Mr P Bear was flown back to Leeds Bradford Airport, West Yorks, to be reunited with his anxious family

Mr P Bear was flown back to Leeds Bradford Airport, West Yorks, to be reunited with his anxious family

The bear - who is now the owner of a gold executive club card - was located by the British Airways team

The bear – who is now the owner of a gold executive club card – was located by the British Airways team

The team behind the find even took pictures of Pooh’s journey and made them into a book for Woody to keep as a very special memento.

Cranmer added: ‘He has had a great adventure and we’re so happy he’s finally landed back home. We’ll have a great book to show Woody when he’s older.

‘I’d just like to thank everyone for their help in getting him home. Everyone has been superb.’

Pooh the bear helped out on the check in desks during his time in Argentina

Pooh the bear helped out on the check in desks during his time in Argentina

Pooh pictured at the gate before boarding his 15 hour flight home this week

Pooh pictured at the gate before boarding his 15 hour flight home this week

London beats New York, Paris and Rome as it’s named TripAdvisor’s No1 destination in the WORLD

It’s official: The UK capital beats off all the competition for top spot in global travel rated by the world’s fussiest trekkers. The full article below from the Mail Online Travel.


  • The UK capital improves on its sixth-place finish in 2015 to take the spoils
  • Istanbul, Turkey, takes second place, with Marrakech, Morocco, in third
  • TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards based on reviews and opinions 

Move over New York, Paris and Rome – London has been named the best destination on the planet by TripAdvisor.

It took the No1 spot, up from sixth in 2015, in the review site’s Travellers’ Choice Awards 2016, which is based on millions of reviews and opinions from TripAdvisor users. Paris came fourth, Rome seventh and New York ninth.

Award winners were determined using an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for hotels, restaurants and attractions in destinations worldwide, gathered over a 12-month period, as well as traveller booking interest on TripAdvisor.

London has been crowned the world's number one destination in The TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice awards for destinations

London has been crowned the world’s number one destination in The TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards for destinations

London has jumped five places up from its sixth place finish in 2015 

London has jumped five places up from its sixth place finish in 2015

The win for London comes at a time when the city and the rest of the UK is poised to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday in April and throughout the summer.

‘This is the first time since 2012 that London has topped our world award rankings, proving that the capital’s tourism industry is still reaping the benefits of the Games’ legacy,’ said James Kay, TripAdvisor spokesperson.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, added: ‘London is undoubtedly the cultural capital of the world thanks to our iconic attractions, buzzing entertainment scene and amazing museums and galleries.

THE WORLDWIDE AND UK WINNERS ARE…

The top 10 Travellers’ Choice Destinations in the world:

  • London, United Kingdom
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Marrakech, Morocco
  • Paris, France
  • Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Rome, Italy
  • Hanoi, Vietnam
  • New York City, United States
  • Ubud, Indonesia

The top 10 Travellers’ Choice Destinations in the the UK:

  • London
  • Edinburgh
  • Liverpool
  • Llandudno
  • Blackpool
  • Torquay
  • York
  • Bath
  • Glasgow
  • Manchester
Istanbul in Turkey was named as the second best destination in the world for 2016

Istanbul in Turkey was named as the second best destination in the world for 2016

The enchantment of Marrakech in Morocco helped it take the third spot in the top ten list

The enchantment of Marrakech in Morocco helped it take the third spot in the top ten list

The algorithm took into account the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for hotels, restaurants and attractions, with Paris bagging fourth place

The algorithm took into account the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for hotels, restaurants and attractions, with Paris bagging fourth place

‘Coupled with our abundance of top-notch hotels and restaurants offering every type of cuisine one’s taste buds could desire, it is no wonder that London has been named the best travel destination in the world. 

‘It is an incredibly dynamic city, with something for everyone and we look forward to welcoming even more visitors to our wonderful metropolis.‎’

Of the top ten best rated world destinations, Siem Reap offers the cheapest hotel value with average bookable room rates on TripAdvisor at £50 a night.

Of the top ten best rated world destinations, Siem Reap, in fourth spot, offers the cheapest hotel value

Of the top ten best rated world destinations, Siem Reap, in fourth spot, offers the cheapest hotel value

Prague came home fifth in the list, known for its Old Town Square and colorful baroque buildings

Prague came home fifth in the list, known for its Old Town Square and colorful baroque buildings

Rome, Italy, remains as popular as ever with tourists, particularly the Colosseum in the heart of the city

Rome remains as popular as ever with tourists, particularly the Colosseum in the heart of the city

When it comes to the UK winners, despite London taking the top spot, this year the north comes up trumps overall as seven out of ten destinations are located north of the midlands.

Edinburgh, Liverpool, Llandudno and Blackpool take second, third, fourth and fifth place respectively, York comes in at seventh and Glasgow and Manchester rank ninth and tenth respectively.

Among the top ten UK destinations, Blackpool offers the cheapest hotel rooms with the average bookable hotel rate on TripAdvisor for 2016 at £66 – less than half the price of a comparable hotel room in London.

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture and secured eighth place on the list

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture and secured eighth place on the list

It is unsurprising to see New York City make the list, still popular with tourists all over the globe, coming in ninth position

It is unsurprising to see New York City make the list, still popular with tourists all over the globe, coming in ninth position

Ubub in Bali, Indonesia, sneaked the final spot in the top ten, the rainforests being just one beautiful feature

Ubub in Bali, Indonesia, sneaked the final spot in the top ten, the rainforests being just one beautiful feature

 Ned’s tip: If you want an authentic Moroccan experience in Tangier, head down to the old port of Tangier and stay at one of Le Royal Hotels & Resorts beautiful five star hotels: the gorgeous Hotel El Minzah or the sumptuous Grand Hotel Villa de France, both flagships of the Le Royal Hotels & Resorts Division of Sir Nadhmi Auchi’s General Mediterranean Holding.  

Lonely Planet’s Top 10 to Visit in 2016

Botswana ranks Number 1 in LP’s 2016 list; it’s somewhere I have trekked several times and I must admit it never disappoints.  I particularly love the stunning Duba Plains, the Tsodilo Hills – Botswana’s first World Heritage site – and the mysterious disappearing Lake Ngami.  Stable and prosperous, Botswana has blossomed since independence from Britain in 1966. It is Africa’s longest continuous democracy and one of the world’s biggest diamond producers. Currency is the Pula.

Brian Jackman wrote a great piece in the Telegraph a couple of years back if you want to learn more on the Okavango Delta here.

Ned


1. Botswana

Democratic, progressive, enlightened – but above all, invigoratingly wild. The story of Botswana’s journey from poverty to become one of Africa’s most stable, thriving societies is inspirational; the country celebrates 50 years of independence in 2016 and there’s a lot for it to shout about, not least the way it has balanced economic growth with protecting its natural riches. Prepare for a severe case of slack-jawed-with-awe syndrome when you visit.

In 2016 Botswana will celebrate its 50th year of independence. So what, you may say. What’s there to shout about? Well, quite a lot really. Not least the longest continuous multi-party democracy on the continent, a progressive social outlook (Botswana was one of the first countries to offer free antiretroviral drugs to its citizens in 2002), minimal corruption, a healthy and enlightened tourism industry and a fast-growing economy since independence. The country’s journey from abject poverty in 1966 to become one of Africa’s most stable and thriving societies is hugely inspiring and, no doubt, deserves a proverbial pat on the back.

But that’s not all. Botswana is a unique destination: an unusual combination of desert and delta that draws an immense concentration of wildlife. It is wild, pristine and expansive. Seventeen percent of the country is dedicated to national parks, many of them spreading into the vast Transfrontier parks of Kavango-Zambezi and Kgalagadi. This dedication to conserving some of the world’s last remaining wildernesses was finally recognised in 2014 when the jewel in Botswana’s conservation crown, the Okavango Delta, became Unesco’s 1000th World Heritage Site. Despite this embarrassment of accolades, Botswana remains off the radar for most people. The impression is: it’s too difficult to get to, it doesn’t cater for families. But we’re here to tell you that’s all nonsense. Go now! Go by plane, car or mokoro (canoe). Go in the green season or the dry season – it’s all great. Go to Vumbura Plains Camp or Jao Camp with tons of cash for the trip of a lifetime or go on a budget to community projects like Tsabong Camel Park and Moremi Gorge. Go as a honeymooning couple to gaze over the dreamy Zibandianja Lagoon in Linyanti or as an adventure junkie to ride horseback through Mashatu Game Reserve. Go as a wildlife enthusiast and track elephants in the mini-Serengeti of Savuti or meerkats on the Makgadikgadi Pans. Go alone to take your guiding qualifications at Okavango Guiding School or with the kids to experience Ker & Downey’s award-winning family safari (Safari Awards 2015). Whatever you do and whenever you go, you won’t regret it. Trust us on this one.

Life-changing experience

Botswana is so full of life-changing experiences it would be easier to list the things that aren’t remarkable. Here is a real wilderness that puts you in touch with palpable primitive thrills and fears, whether it’s being poled by an African gondolier in a mokoro past pods of sunbathing hippos in the Okavango Delta; or feeling the spirit of the first men in the thousand-year-old rock art in the Tsodilo Hills; or in the eerie beauty of Kubu Island’s ancient baobabs backlit by incandescent constellations in a vast night sky.

Current craze

So called ‘car park pimping’. Thanks to a 30% tax on alcohol and new licensing hours enforcing club closures at 2am, Gaborone’s club scene has moved outdoors and hijacked suburban car parks. Here the party continues around makeshift DJ decks with experienced clubbers equipped with personal cool boxes and camping chairs.

Trending topics

Direct flights. For years the government has been clamouring for direct international flights, and the relocation of De Beers’ sales office from London to Gaborone (handling about US$6.5-billion worth of rough diamond sales annually) in 2013 has undoubtedly added new pressure. Gaborone’s airport and runway have recently been upgraded and similar upgrades are planned for Maun and Kasane. With all the action people are hoping the long-awaited day may come within the next 6 to 12 months.  – Paula Hardy

2. Japan

Japan. It might be number two in this year’s rankings, but it’s always number one for travellers in search of an otherworldly experience. Nowhere else on earth exemplifies that dog-eared ‘modern yet ancient’ cliche like the land of the rising sun. Tokyo’s successful bid to host the Olympics in 2020 has raised the temperature of a feverish city amid a blur of new development, but beyond the suburbs Japan remains as elegant and enticing as its graceful wooden temples.

Even if you’ve never been to Japan, you probably already know that it ranks number one in the world for that quintessential not-in-Kansas-anymore travel experience. Its cities are expertly crafted odes to futurism where the trains whirr by in the blink of an eye and the towers of metal and glass are bathed in neon light. The countryside, too, feels otherworldly, with all-continents-in-one landscapes that blend alpine peaks with shimmering shores. And everywhere in between are prim wooden temples – the constant reminder that a well of deep-seated traditions hides just beneath the country’s enticing veneer of perfection.

Although Japan didn’t secure the Olympic bid for 2016, it was resoundingly successful with its application for Tokyo in 2020. And Olympic fever is already apparent in the capital as the city executes an elaborate feat of urban planning that will create a brand new shopping district, an entirely new Olympic village, and – most interestingly – move the much-venerated Tsukiji fish market (which sees over US$20 million in seafood sales each day) to a sparkling new facility that is set to swing open its doors at the end of this year. As everyone’s radioactive paranoia is finally put to rest by honouring five years since the fateful 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and with the government’s continued efforts to devalue the Japanese yen, there’s no better time to experience the country that pays such vivid tribute to manic modernity and hallowed history.

Life-changing experience

One of the world’s most famous pilgrimage routes after the Camino de Santiago is Japan’s Kumano Kodo near Osaka. For over a millennium devotees of every ilk – be it farmer or emperor – would walk betwixt hidden Oji shrines and forests of haunting trees to reach the three grand worshipping complexes of Kumano. There are a handful of different paths that extend like spokes around the Kii peninsula, but the goal is united in the act of spiritual penance performed by hikers as they rigorously trek. The preferred route – and also the oldest – is Nakahechi, which starts in the west and travels 30km to the shrines. Unesco officially recognised the network of trails in 2004, and over the last 12 years the walk has seen a steady increase in foreign tourists.

Current craze

Animal cafes. Yes, cat cafes are so 2009, and have proliferated across the globe, but in Japan – the genesis country – animal cafes have reached new heights: hobnob with goats, sip tea with a turtle, pose for selfies with owls, and do whisky shots while watching penguins.

Random facts

  • There are over 5.5 million vending machines in Japan selling everything from umbrellas and cigarettes to canned bread and hot noodles.
  • Japan’s birth rate has plummeted so significantly that adult nappies (diapers) outsell babies’ nappies, which are also sold in vending machines.
  • It is estimated that more paper is used for manga comics than for toilet paper in Japan. (Surprise: both are sold in vending machines as well.)

Most bizarre sight

Cafes where you can tickle owls? Vending machines that sell canned bread? Dentists that help patients accentuate their snaggle-teeth? Take your pick!  – Brandon Presser

3. USA

The ‘best idea’ America ever had turns 100 next year – the National Park Service, which oversees the country’s 59 national parks and hundreds of historic landmarks, celebrates a centenary of safeguarding Yosemite, Yellowstone, Badlands, Zion, and the rest. So lace up your hiking boots and set foot in the miraculously well-managed 340,000 sq km network of surreal and spectacular landscapes it defends, from earth-rending canyons to alligator-infested swamplands to belching geysers. It’s a national triumph.

Yellowstone, the Badlands, Zion, Shenandoah… Even their names evoke lands of Tolkienesque make-believe. Places where trolls and dragons roam, and magic happens. Step beyond the gates of America’s national parks, and you’ll soon be thinking old JRR should have broadened the scope of his imagination. Geysers spurt hundreds of feet high, massive canyons split the horizon in two, herds of bison graze in stunning valleys, and giant tree trunks, as ancient as Rome’s Colosseum, disappear into the sky. These are some of the most spectacular and surreal landscapes on the planet, and the fact that they are looking much the same as they did at the birth of this land-grabbing, highway-loving nation, is frankly a miracle. In 2016, the National Park Service (NPS), the government body which protects and maintains America’s 59 national parks and hundreds of historic landmarks, is turning 100 years old, and like any great host, this old-timer has been busting a gut to ensure the parks are at their best for the centenary.

It was historian Wallace Stegner who called the national parks ‘the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.’ These are the country’s national treasures; as hallowed and revered as India’s golden temples or the castles and cathedrals of Europe. Since its inception the NPS – most recognisable in the wide-brimmed figure of the park ranger – has been busy clearing litter, fighting fires, protecting wildlife, and providing information on everything from the habitat of the American black bear to the geology of Utah’s sandstone arches.

This centenary is an occasion that will be marked not by cake and balloons, but by the fruition of billions of dollars of investment and ambitious initiatives that will prepare the NPS for a second century. These range from the physical: clearing trails, improving accessibility, and installing the latest technology, to the inspirational: hosting ‘discovery’ events, involving thousands of young people in volunteer programs, and promoting enjoyment of the parks to urban communities.

It’s serious work. Serious work that has the most wondrous end: discovery of the national parks themselves. Yosemite’s mighty granite cliffs and fairy-tale waterfalls, Zion’s claustrophobic slot canyons, the steamy swamps of the Everglades, howling wolves, soaring condors, glittering glaciers… There are 340,000 sq km (84.4 million acres) to choose from. As you lace up the hiking boots, just remember to give your thanks to those hard-working folk at the NPS.

Life-changing experience

The world’s third-largest nation is a road-tripping paradise. As you take to highways travelled by Thelma and Louise and Bonnie and Clyde, watch the landscape morph from prairie to desert to breathtaking ocean road. On the way, goofy roadside attractions, small-town diners and curious locals are the added spice for the great American road trip.

Trending topics

The election. In 2016, America’s first African-American president will step down. As nationwide protests change the way Americans think about politics, this election year promises raging debate, as well as the usual flag flying and amusing (or just plain rude) bumper stickers. Will history be made again with the inauguration of America’s first female president?  – Dora Whitaker

4. Palau

Handballed between various foreign powers for centuries, Pacific pipsqueak Palau is charting its own path through the uncertain waters of national independence. While the US still plays Big Daddy, Palau is its own master. In 2014 President Remengesau was named a ‘Champion of the Earth’ by the United Nations for strengthening the economic and environmental independence of Palau and creating a 100% marine sanctuary of its oceans. His message: ‘The environment is our economy. The economy is our environment.’

Collected behind a 110km barrier reef, more than 200 largely unspoilt limestone and volcanic islands – a mere eight are inhabited – are blanketed in tropical and mangrove forest and surrounded by waters teeming with marine life. Fairly constant temperatures and rainfall mean any time of the year is good to visit, although it becomes more typhoon-prone in the back half of the calendar.

Palau has as much to fear from rising sea levels and environmental degradation as any other Pacific nation, but it’s tackling those fears head-on, and is leading conservation efforts in the region. Such progressive thinking makes these islands a haven for diving and snorkelling (among the best in the world) as well as kayaking, sailing and wildlife watching. The secret is out in East Asia already, which means Palau is looking to limit the number of tourists it can host at a time.

Life-changing experience

Cutely dubbed an ‘underwater Serengeti’, Palau’s waters are stunningly diverse and it’s unquestionably one of the most magical underwater destinations in the world. Divers and snorkellers enjoy hundreds of species of fish and coral, sharks, dolphins, dugongs and turtles, all attracted by the confluence of nutritive currents that meets in this corner of the Pacific vastness.

If you prefer to stay above sea level, take an ocean kayak through the uninhabited archipelago of the Rock Islands. Almost alien in its beauty, it’s made up of 445 limestone formations swaddled with verdant green and fringed by reefs. Nearly 400 species of coral, the world’s highest concentration of marine lakes, the remains of now-vanished human habitation and the continuing discovery of new and endemic species led Unesco to list this as a World Heritage Site.

Current craze

In 1944, the Japanese and Americans fought for three desperate months for control of the island of Peleliu’s important airfield. The tragic result was over 10,000 Japanese and 2,000 American casualties, and an island paradise littered with wreckage. Today, many of the rusted tanks, planes, small arms and (highly dangerous) unexploded ordnance that attest to the ferocity of the struggle remain. Tourists, carefully shepherded by expert guides, are increasingly being drawn to this fascinating site, where you can even enter the cave networks left by the Japanese defenders, and find everyday artefacts left behind. This isn’t as ghoulish as it may sound: many of the visitors are here to pay respect to fallen relatives, and moves are afoot to preserve the site for its outstanding historical significance.

Trending topics

A 400% year-on-year increase in visitors from China in February 2015 put some noses out of joint in Palau and resulted in a reduction in flights scheduled from China. Palau’s pristine environment makes it a popular destination for the Chinese, Korean and Japanese jet set, but locals have complained about a lack of environmental awareness threatening their precious assets.

Most bizarre sight

Jellyfish Lake is an otherworldly lagoon on the uninhabited limestone Rock Island of Eil Malk. Millions of an endemic sub-species of golden jellyfish drift across the marine lake in an east-west migratory pattern that’s repeated every day. Such is the sensitivity of the lake that visitors must obtain a permit, but snorkelling with these harmless, highly photogenic jellyfish is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  –  Tasmin Waby

5. Latvia

Latvia is shining for its silver anniversary. Celebrating 25 years of freedom from its Soviet fetters, little Latvia is poised to take centre stage after more than two decades of playing catch-up with many of its European brethren. And the title of ‘most improved’ is rightfully deserved for casting aside the dismal shadow of Communism and resuscitating centuries-old traditions that have long made this Baltic treasure shine.

Hundreds of crumbling castles and manor houses – from medieval to Rococo – hide in the nation’s dense forests of pine, and today many of these estates have been lavishly transformed into inns and museums. In fact an entire week could be spent in the countryside connecting the stars of this constellation.

Food, too, has come a long way from sweaty pork and potatoes. A fleet of (new) New Nordic chefs are catapulting local flavours to such artisanal heights that they would truly give Copenhagen a run for its money if Michelin were paying them more attention.

And as the country’s rural population continues to dwindle, Riga, the capital, further bolsters its importance throughout both the country and the region, especially after receiving a generous infusion of EU funds during its reign as European Capital of Culture in 2014. Much of the money was earmarked for infrastructure improvements and major renovations to important civic structures like the former KGB headquarters (now a fascinating museum), and the clutch of coveted Art Nouveau façades, of which the city has over 700 – one of the largest collections in the world.

Life-changing experience

Cast modesty aside and indulge in Latvia’s most Latvian tradition, the pirts – a hot birch sauna. A traditional pirts is run by a sauna master who cares for her naked attendees while performing choreographed branch beatings that draw on ancient pagan traditions. Herbs and wildflowers swish in the air to raise the humidity in the chamber for a series of sweltering 15-minute sessions before you exit the sauna to jump in a nearby body of water (lake, pond or sea). Nibbles and tipples, like smoked fish and beer, are intermixed for good measure, in what is largely the best way to swap the latest gossip with locals.

Random facts

  • It’s believed that the Christmas tree originated in Latvia. In 1510 a fraternity of drunken bachelors hauled a pine tree into Riga’s town square, covered it in flowers and set it on fire. A commemorative plaque marks the spot where the burning tree once stood.
  • A Latvian named Arvĩds Blũmentãls was the inspiration for Crocodile Dundee. Originally from a town in western Latvia called Dundaga, he moved to Australia after the WWII, where he hunted reptiles and dug for opals.
  • Technically the Latvian language has no word for ‘mountain’; the same word is used for ‘hill’ and ‘mountain’. No wonder, since Latvia’s highest point, Gaiziņkalns, is only 312m high.

Most bizarre sight

Gauja National Park may be known as a pine-studded preserve filled with medieval ruins, but it also holds some of the most eccentric relics from the Soviet era. Don’t miss the 1200m cement bobsled track built near Sigulda as the training course for the Soviet Olympic team, and check out the top-secret nuclear fallout shelter buried under a convalescence home in Lĩgatne. The bunker was of high strategic importance during the Cold War and the rooms covered in untouched switchboards and Soviet propaganda will undoubtedly perk the antenna of any Bond enthusiast.  – Brandon Presser

6. Australia

Unless you’re from New Zealand or Papua New Guinea, Australia can seem a long way from anywhere. Getting here usually involves folding yourself into a plane for 24 hours. But with 2016 shaping up as a definitive year for several of Australia’s key wilderness areas, it’ll be 24 hours well spent. In fact, with the weak Australian dollar, anything you spend here this year will be value for money. Petrol prices are heading south too: perfect timing for your great Australian road trip.

Environmentally, battle lines are being drawn near the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, where a string of proposed mining ports will require the dredging and dumping of millions of tonnes of seafloor. In Tasmania, the peace accord between pro- and anti-logging forces has been torn up by the new state government, keen to unlock old-growth forest for export. Now is the time to experience these astounding wilderness areas before compromises are made.

More positively, increasing numbers of Aboriginal land rights claims are being recognised here, including recent claims over Queensland’s Fraser Island and a huge tract of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. Indigenous tourism is booming, with new Aboriginal tour companies such as Ngurrangga Tours in Karratha and Bungoolee Tours in the Kimberley offering authentic cultural experiences. Contemporary Aboriginal art remains an Australian cultural high-water mark, as evidenced by the fab new Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts & Culture Centre in Katherine.

Life-changing experience

Australia does a roaring trade in Unesco World Heritage wilderness areas: the 2300km-long Great Barrier Reef; the blood-red rocks of Uluru and Kata Tjuta; the 15,800 sq km Tasmanian Wilderness Area; the seething jungle of Kakadu National Park… Given the cross-continental distances involved, you mightn’t see them all – but what they have in common is a humbling sense of awe at first sight.

Current craze

Food vans and small bars. Battling innumerable fast food joints in Australian cities, the current clog of takeaway food vans – serving everything from burgers to barramundi curry – is constantly expanding. Afterwards, sip a craft beer at the latest alleyway speakeasy around the corner.

Trending topics

Real estate is the national addiction. Australians love talking about it, building it, buying it, looking at it on TV and (most of all) making money selling it. When the GFC jumped up and bit everybody in 2008, world real estate prices tumbled – but not in Australia. A glorious mining boom was in full swing: Australians just kept on buying pricey houses, driving the market skywards. Now – having reached a tipping point where the median house price is more than five times the median annual household income – Australian house prices are among the least affordable on the planet Will the bubble burst?

Random facts

  • Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world (behind Russia, Canada, the USA, China and Brazil).
  • When the British landed in 1788, Australia comprised more than 500 different Aboriginal nations, with distinct languages and territories.
  • Since the inception of the Man Booker Prize for literature in 1969, four Australians have won: Peter Carey (twice), Thomas Keneally, DBC Pierre and Richard Flanagan.
  • Since Europeans arrived in Australia, 27 native mammal, 23 bird and 78 frog species are believed to have become extinct.

Most bizarre sight

Emerging from the haze in the far-flung Oodnadatta Track in the central Australian desert is the Mutonia Sculpture Park – a kooky roadside installation featuring several large aeroplanes welded together with their tails buried in the ground to form ‘Planehenge’.  – Charles Rawlings-Way

7. Poland

If any country in Europe can boast superpowers, it’s Poland. The nation defied a recession that brought the rest of Europe to its knees, and visitor numbers continue to climb. Sceptics said Poland’s luck would wane after the country co-hosted the Euro 2012 football championship. Instead, Wrocław is poised for stardom as a European Capital of Culture, makeovers are adding lustre to lesser-known cities, and wildlife tourism is on the rise. Clearly 2016 is the year to put the icing on the cake – or perhaps, the swirl of śmietana in the beetroot soup.

Wrocław, the historical capital of Silesia, already had plenty of reasons to preen. Its Old Town Hall, with gothic turrets firing off a custard-coloured exterior, is one of Poland’s most beautiful buildings. And among beer gardens and soaring bell towers, Wrocław harbours a show-stopping 114m-long painting, the Panorama Racławicka. Highlights of the city’s stint as one of 2016’s European Capitals of Culture will be an artist-in-residence programme to promote artists across borders and world music days that combine influences across 50 different countries.

Kraków too will sparkle this year for World Youth Day, when the Pope touches down to kick off a calendar of celebrations and activism. In a country nearly 90% Roman Catholic, the turnout in picturesque Kraków is sure to be record-breaking.

And while budget airlines have long spidered their way across Poland, access is even easier with British Airways flying London to Kraków, Wizz Air opening routes to Szczecin and Katowice, and Finnair launching one to Gdańsk. Any lingering condescension about how well this post-Soviet country is muddling along will vanish as quickly as a shot of tangy wiśniówka (cherry vodka).

Life-changing experience

Plummet 135m into the Wieliczka Salt Mine for an unforgettable underground adventure. In this yawning Unesco-listed grotto, carvings grace walls and chandeliers drip from ceilings – all of them made out of salt. Other subterranean sights offer a glimpse into some of Poland’s most colourful myths. Beneath Kraków’s Wawel Hill lies the rumoured lair of a slain dragon, while in the chalk tunnels of Chełm you’ll learn of a legendary white bear, now the city’s emblem.

Hundreds of bison lumber through Białowieża Forest – though we’d wager the first one you spot will grace the label on a bottle of Poland’s legendary bisongrass vodka, Żubrówka. Unesco-listed Bialowieża is the last remaining expanse of the vast forest that once spread across the European plain. The 141,885-hectare forest (which extends into neighbouring Belarus) is home to around 900 bison, more than half of which are in the Polish reserve. The forest is also prowled by elk, wolves and lynx.

Weekenders looking beyond well-loved Warsaw and Kraków are now spoilt for choice. Increasing visitor numbers mean that Łódź, with its 19th-century mansions and cafe-strewn Piotrkowska Street, is abuzz with redevelopment. Meanwhile Szczecin continues to add polish to its Old Town and is now luring golfers to nearby Binowo Park.

Trending topics

Poland’s heavy-metal scene elicits headbanging or howls of dismay, depending on whom you ask. Some of Poland’s heaviest artists have risen to global acclaim, in particular Behemoth, who loudly protest Poland’s religious majority in between bouts of imperious black metal. To some, they are champions of a new, more secular Poland; to many, they’re the terror of the nation. Wherever you fall in the debate, you’ll never associate Poland with folk dancing again.

Most bizarre sight

Wrocław’s gnomes commemorate the1980s thanks to Orange Alternative movement, an anti-Communist group known for its absurdist style of protest – including graffiti and gnome-hat demonstrations. Today more than 300 gnome statues wave from street corners and twirl their beards beneath window panes. Gnomes with canes and wheelchairs have been added to the elfin army, to draw attention to the challenges faced by people in Wrocław with disabilities.  – Anita Isalska

8. Uruguay

Squished between South America’s two titans, Brazil and Argentina, this small country packs a big punch. What it lacks in size, Uruguay makes up for in peacefulness, hospitality and personality. While its two boisterous neighbours lurch from one crisis to the next, Uruguay stands out as a haven of political stability, good governance and prosperity – it’s not dubbed ‘the Switzerland of America’ for nothing. Uruguayans may seem shy and low-key, but they pride themselves on having constructed one of the continent’s most progressive societies – without civil conflict.

After two centuries living in the shadow of its neighbours, Uruguay is now eager to promote its identity and assets as more than just a side trip from nearby Buenos Aires. In 2016, it’s expected that the number of foreign visitors will reach the 3 million mark. But what is it that these holidaymakers come for?

Take Montevideo, which must be the safest capital in South America. When it comes to quality of life, Montevideo is unrivalled on the continent. It’s small enough to get around, but big enough to have some great architecture and a superb restaurant scene. The beach-lined seafront is easily navigated by bike, as is the Old Town, with its array of grand 19th-century neoclassical buildings.

An hour’s drive away lies gaucho (cowboy) country. Here, undulating pampas are dotted with working estancias (cattle ranches), many of which serve as guesthouses. For great nightlife and sexy beaches, head to Punta del Este, a modern resort city on the Atlantic coast full of beautiful people. But if you’re weary of high-rise buildings and cocktail bars, venture further east to Cabo Polonio and Punta del Diablo. These fabulously remote fishing-surfing villages peppered with colourful wooden cabins are seeing an influx of visitors, drawn by the bohemian vibes, empty beaches, shifting sand dunes, seal colonies and superb waves. Need some cultural sustenance? The gorgeous town of Colonia del Sacramento delivers the perfect blend of authenticity and tourism development. A Unesco World Heritage site, this ancient Portuguese stronghold, with its cobblestoned alleyways, postcolonial ruins, art galleries and elegant B&Bs, has enough to keep visitors happy for days.

Life-changing experience

Uruguayans are the masters of the asado barbecue (but don’t tell the Argentines and Brazilians!). One of the best and most atmospheric places to sample Uruguayan beef is the Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo. This 19th-century wrought-iron market hall shelters a gaggle of steakhouses. Pull up a stool at any of the parrillas (steakhouses) and watch the weighty slabs of meat being cooked over hot coals on a grill, then sink your teeth into a tasty morcilla (blood sausage) – memorable! Saturday lunchtime, when the market is crammed with locals, is the best time to visit.

Random facts

  • Uruguayans consume even more maté (a strong green tea) than Argentines and Paraguayans – which is saying a lot.
  • The 29th of each month is Gnocchi Day, when most restaurants serve gnocchi. This tradition dates back to tough economic times when these potato dumplings were the only thing people could afford to cook at the end of the month.
  • Marijuana is produced and sold legally. Home growers are allowed to keep up to six cannabis plants per household.

Most bizarre sight

In Punta del Este, you can’t miss La Mano de Punta del Este (The Hand). This quirky iron and cement sculpture by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal was created for an art contest in 1982 and has been a ‘Punta’ fixture ever since. It’s unsurprisingly selfie-friendly – thousands of visitors pose in front of its large digits, with the beach in the background.  – Jean-Bernard Carillet

9. Greenland

Our world is ever warmer, ever more crowded, and ever more plugged-in. So there’s something wildly refreshing about a place that’s about 80% ice covered, boasts the world’s lowest population density, and has cellular coverage so poor that many rely on satellite phones. Come to see the midnight sun on the glaciers, sail among breaching whales, ride across the tundra on a dogsled, watch the Northern Lights dance across the ice sheet.

In March 2016 Greenland (technically a territory of Denmark rather than an independent country, although one with a great deal of autonomy) will host the Arctic Winter Games, the largest event of its kind ever. Competitions range from snowshoeing to native games like pole-pushing (think reverse tug-of-war with a tree trunk). There will also be a cultural festival with song, dance and food. If you’re going to visit Greenland, this is the time to go. Luckily for you, it is easier than ever to access. It’s a quick four-hour flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s main airport. And now there are also seasonal and yearly flights from Reykjavík in Iceland to Nuuk, Ilulissat, Kangerlussuaq, Kulusuk and Narsarsuaq.

Life-changing experience

Witness icebergs the size of the Empire State Building calving in the Ilulissat Icefjord, home to the northern hemisphere’s most productive glacier. The town of Ilulissat, next to the glacier, is known as ‘the iceberg capital of the world’, and offers a huge number of iceberg-watching adventures. Kayak through the fjord’s navy blue waters, soar above the glacier in a fixed-wing plane, or hike along the icy cliffs with a pair of crampons strapped to your shoes.

From September to April, Greenland becomes one of the world’s prime places to see the aurora borealis, nature’s own laser light show. Though you can see the eerie green sine waves from anywhere in the country, for a true once-in-a-lifetime experience join a dogsledding expedition to the interior, where you can pitch a tent on the ice sheet and watch the sky in delicious solitude.

Current craze

Eating local. Yeah, yeah, so calling yourself a locavore is trendy everywhere from Peoria to Little Whinging these days. But Greenland is an Arctic island with little agriculture and no ground transportation. So cooking and eating local here is hardcore. A new generation of young chefs, some of whom have trained abroad in Denmark or elsewhere, are taking on the challenge and making meals with the delicious, albeit limited, local ingredients. Think juniper-poached musk-ox fillets, razorbill with crowberries, kelp salad studded with reindeer bacon, bellflower gelée atop local honey ice cream.

Trending topics

Though Greenland sits atop substantial uranium deposits, the mining of radioactive materials was illegal for a quarter century. Then, in 2013, uranium mining was approved by the government in a close and hotly debated vote. Now the country must decide whether to move forward. Some decry the environmental hazards and potential destruction of Greenland’s way of life, while others say the mining of uranium and other substances is the key to Greenland’s financial woes

Random facts

  • The iceberg that took down the Titanic most likely came from Ilulissat Icefjord in western Greenland, where it began as a snowflake 15,000 years earlier.
  • Greenland’s first brewery invented ‘ice beer’ – beer brewed with water from melted icebergs.
  • There are no roads between towns and settlements in Greenland. Locals and visitors must travel by plane, boat, snowmobile or sled.  – Emily Matchar

10. Fiji

After an uncertain decade following the coup of Commodore ‘Frank’ Bainimarama in 2006, and the constitutional crisis of 2009, Fiji has reverted to its peaceful and pleasure-loving self. In late 2014, Bainimarama finally made good on the promise to hold democratic elections, winning the prime ministership and restoring something of constitutional normality (albeit to a situation he had played an important part in creating).

The 2016 upgrade of the Nadi International Airport should increase capacity and make the transition to paradise a little smoother. Fiji’s international carrier, Fiji Airways, thinks your Fiji experience should begin as soon as you get on board a flight. Those smiles from the cabin crew are just the beginning.

Always blessed by natural beauty and the kind of climate that makes clothes seem a tiresome necessity, today there is a palpable and unprecedented vitality and confidence to Fiji. Whether your bent is idling in a resort, putting your body on the line sampling the latest extreme sport, or the more classic island delights of diving, sailing and angling, 2016 will be the year to soak up all Fiji has to offer.

Life-changing experience

It’s hard to visit Fiji without being serenaded by warm and welcoming singers brandishing guitars or ukuleles. There will be singing at the airport, at your hotel, and even on local buses. But for a real peek into this very traditional culture’s everyday life, get to a village church on a Sunday. Dress modestly (ask locals for advice on what’s appropriate) and have your spirits raised by the voices of a community singing traditional songs in harmony.

Floating in the turquoise waters of the Mamanuca islands is a two-storey pizzeria and bars servicing surfers, divers, sailors and holidaymakers. Swim up and order your wood-fired margherita, lounge on a day bed listening to the surround-sound music, and then ‘cannonball’ back into the spectacular ocean below. Kids are catered for (though did we mention it is completely surrounded by sea?) and prices for the day are all-inclusive. Cloud 9 is a 40-minute speedboat ride from Viti Levu, or a short hop from Musket Cove Island Resort.

Nothing will bring out your inner Attenborough like diving Fiji’s Somosomo Strait off the island of Taveuni. Crowned the ‘soft coral capital of the world’, Rainbow Reef is famous for its marine life, and the luminescent Great White Wall, a vertical drop-off reached by a tubular swim-through, is covered in soft white coral that looks like glimmering snow. The islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni also boast bird watching and forest hiking for the nature-loving land lubber.

Current craze

Just when you thought the human talent for frivolous invention had exhausted all potential for new ‘sports’, along comes flyboarding. Essentially a jet-propelled, hand-controlled hoverboard, the flyboard allows you to skim above the waves, shoot high into the air, plunge into the swell, then do it all again! Try it at Bounty Island.

Trending topics

Music from the African New World has taken root on the Fijian islands. What started in imitation of the original US and Jamaican styles has evolved into distinctive local variants: artists such as E.3 & Cracker (hip hop), 1stribe (reggae) and Kula Kei Uluivuya or KKU (pop) still pay homage to their musical roots, but reflect the experiences of Polynesians today.

Most bizarre sight

Vilavilairevo (fire walking) was originally performed only by the Sawau tribe of Beqa, an island off Viti Levu’s southern coast, but now you’ll probably catch a performance anywhere in Fiji. Traditionally, strict taboos dictated the men’s behaviour leading up to the ceremony and it was believed adherence to these protected them from burns.  – Tasmin Waby

 

 

Nat Geo’s Best Trips 2016

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

                                                                                Ned


Côte d’Or, Burgundy, France

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

Photograph by Günter Gräfenhain, SIME

 

Expensive experiences, cheaper alternatives

The world’s most iconic travel experiences don’t usually come cheap – but sometimes there are real alternatives. Here is an some ideas for the budget-conscious, and expert advice on whether it’s actually worth paying the price for some of these bucket-list classics.

1. Orient Express vs InterRail pass, Europe

The plush Venice Simplon Orient-Express exudes an irresistible romance – it’s all that wood panelling and polished brass. But it’s not cheap: the classic six-day Paris-Istanbul train jaunt costs GB£11,000 per person. An InterRail Pass to cover the same stretch costs from GB£161 (five days travel in ten); upgrade to a First Class version for £386 for a glimmer of glamour.

Worth the saving? Undoubtedly. But if you win the lottery…

2. Harbour Bridge Climb vs Pylon Lookout, Sydney, Australia

The Old Coathanger offers the best views of Sydney harbour – for all budgets. The more hair-raising choice sees you suited up and strapped to the outer rim of the arch to climb to its 134m zenith. The alternative is to climb the 200 steps of the bridge’s South East Pylon for 87m-high budget views.

Worth the saving? Only want a panorama? Pick the pylon (A$11); the Bridge Climb (A$198-298) provides an adrenalin-boosting (but wallet-wilting) outlook.

3. Galápagos Islands vs Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

Isla de la Plata is known as the ‘Poor Man’s Galápagos’. It’s certainly easier and cheaper to access – just 27km off the Ecuadorian mainland, while the Galápagos is 1000km. Species here include whales, sea lions and birds, including boobies, frigatebirds and waved albatross; Galápagos faves such as giant tortoise and penguins are absent.

Worth the saving? A Plata day-trip (around US$35) is fine, but is no match. An eight-night Galápagos cruise costs from US$1500 plus flights – but find the cash if you can.

4. Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, vs Mt Kenya, Kenya

Africa’s highest mountain, 5895m Kilimanjaro, steals the thunder of runner-up Mount Kenya (5199m). Both are challenging volcano climbs, with rainforest, strange plants and shrinking glaciers. Kenya has more wildlife and fewer people; it’s also cheaper, due to lower fees and the shorter duration needed for a climb (from four days). Kili’s main trails are chocker, and fees soon mount – factor on at least six days of US$70-a-day Conservation Fee, US$50-a-day camp fee, guides, food…but it remains the ultimate challenge.

Worth the saving? Yes: Kenya’s a satisfying ascent – it just lacks the bragging rights.

5. Nile cruiser vs felucca, Egypt

The Nile is busy with boats, from floating five-star hotels that can cost US$200 a night, to traditional lateen-sailed feluccas (more like US$12). Modern ships move faster and offer amenities from air-con to bars and spas – in short, comfort. Feluccas have a deck, no cabins and no bathrooms, and must amble with the wind, but offer a more authentic feel.

Worth the saving? Yes, if you’re not precious about loos.

Ned’s Tip: if you have got the budget, spend some time at Le Royal Sharm el Sheikh Holiday Resort – just fab-u-lous!

6. Gorilla tracking vs chimp trekking, Uganda

Tracking mountain gorillas in Bwindi is a bucket list stuff, but comes at a price: US$500 for a sweaty slog and an hour in the great apes’ presence. To encounter chimps costs from US$30 at Toro-Semliki, although better sightings are in Kibale; here, fees are US$150 for a three-hour hike or US$220 for a Habituation Experience – where you spend all day watching the chimps forage, feed and breed.

Worth the saving? Few are disappointed by gorilla trekking, but do consider alternatives: there’s much more to Uganda.

7. Sabi Sand Game Reserve vs Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger is the most egalitarian safari spot. Entry costs R204 (US$23) a day, you can drive your own 2WD on its excellent roads and pitch a tent in its well-equipped campsites (R200 a night). You can also see Africa’s Big Five while you’re at it. Adjacent private game reserves, such as Sabi Sand, have the same wildlife, but also intimate, luxurious lodges, expert guides, activities such as night drives and bigger prices – think R3000 per person per night.

Worth the saving? Yes. Game viewing in Kruger is great – but remember that a good guide can transform a safari.

8. Glacier walk vs heli-hike, Fox & Franz Joseph, New Zealand

There are many ways to meet South Island’s mighty glaciers. You can hike up green valleys to the terminal faces of Fox or Franz Joseph (around NZ$50), or spend a bit more to strap on crampons and walk on the lower glacier (NZ$115). However, the most impressive ice-caves and crevasses are higher up; it costs NZ$400 to reach them by helicopter and hike across this shifting world of white.

Worth the saving? No, splurge – for the chopper ride and more extraordinary ice.

9. Sambadrome vs blocos, Rio Carnival, Brazil

The world’s biggest street party can command a hefty price-tag. To watch the main Samba Parade you need a ticket for the Sambadrome. Options range from grandstand space to luxury boxes; for all but the cheapest you’ll pay upwards of US$125. To counter increasing commercialisation, blocos – neighbourhood parties – have risen in popularity; to join in, buy a T-shirt (around US$10) and shake your bootie with the locals.

Worth the saving? Ideally, do both. Book early for best-value Sambadrome seats.

10. Yacht cruise vs Bateau Bus, Monaco

The pricey principality is the ultimate place to loll on a yacht with a cocktail and a celeb. But mooring alone can cost €1200 a day. A teensy taste of the high-life requires just €2 (and some imagination) – buy a ticket for the Bateau Bus ferry across the highfalutin’ harbour.

Worth the saving? Yes, for the views back to the world you can’t afford…

9 Holiday Spots that are Better (and Cheaper) than the Places You Really Wanted to Go

Thanks to the Money Traveller for this article.


These less-travelled locales offer many of the perks of the big-name hotspots with fewer tourists. Even better, because they’re less popular, they’re often more affordable.

La Paz, Mexico

Design Pics Inc/Alamy – On the water off Espiritu Santo Island

INSTEAD OF: Los Cabos
WHY HERE? La Paz is located on the Sea of Cortez on the Baja Peninsula, and it has the same laid-back vibe as California’s West Coast beach cities. The landscape is spectacular, from the marine-mammal-rich waters to a desert worthy of an Ansel Adams photo. The culinary scene is growing too, with enough upscale restaurants to rival those in Los Cabos, 87 miles (and a $25 shuttle ride) away. One caveat: Go before mid-July. Even the locals flee the August heat.
Average summer hotel rate: $117 vs. $257 in Los Cabos

La Paz, Mexico: Where to Stay & What to Do

Aurora Photos/Alamy – Fruit for sale on Tecelote Beach

STAY: A simple room at Hotel Perla, a 1940s landmark with bay views on the Malecón (boardwalk), goes for $75 a night. If you want amenities such as daily room service and an infinity pool, try the Costa Baja Resort & Spa (from $243), which runs 45%-off specials when you book more than 90 days in advance. Overall, the average double-occupancy hotel room in La Paz is $117, less than half what it costs in Los Cabos.
DO: Sign up for a day dive with PADI diving center Cortez Club ($140). Nearby Los Islotes is known for its sea lion colony; you might even spot schools of hammerhead sharks at Marisla Seamount. If snorkeling is more your speed, bring your gear to the turquoise waters and sandy coves of Balandra, 15 minutes from downtown.La Paz offers an increasingly diverse menu of restaurants, from daring fusion to old-school Mexican street food, says editor Tomas Zyber of BajaInsider.com. Get a table for two at Las Tres Vírgenes, where dinner—wood-fire-grilled octopus and expertly prepared steaks—paired with wine costs under $100, Zyber notes. For cheap eats, line up with locals at Chino Tacos (dinner, $4 per person) on Antonio Navarro Street at the corner of Belisario Dominguez. Try the tacos al pastor (spit-grilled pork with cilantro, onions, and pineapple), carne asada, or spicy chorizo.

Dublin

Mikel Bilbao/Firstlight – The Temple Bar in the city’s cultural corner

INSTEAD OF: London
WHY HERE? Looking for some foreign culture but don’t want to brave a second language? There’s always London. But since it’s the most visited city in Europe, you’ll also find some of the continent’s most expensive hotels there (average cost: $268 a night). And then there’s Dublin. With its small-city feel and Irish charm, the capital is as easy to drink in as a smooth pint of Guinness. Best of all: The dollar is even stronger against the euro (up 23%) in the past year than it is vs. the pound (13%).

Dublin: Where to Stay & What to Do

Firstlight – The perfect Irish pairing: shellfish and Guiness

STAY: The hip new Dean Hotel (from $138), located downtown, is capped by a beautiful rooftop restaurant. If you don’t mind a 20-minute walk or a cab ride to the city center, opt for a private room ($80) at the Generato Dublin, a design-forward hostel housed in a former Irish folk-dancing hall, located across the River Liffey in Smithfield.
DO: The Irish will tell you that their literary legacy is every bit as distinguished as the Brits’, and they’ve got the names (Yeats, Beckett, Wilde) to make a case. If you’re in Dublin on June 16, you’ll be lucky enough to see the entire city celebrate native son James Joyce, who set his classic novel Ulysses here on that day.You can celebrate a different kind of artistry in the Creative Quarter—South William, Drury, Wicklow, and Exchequer streets—home to many boutiques and a great place to find authentic keepsakes. “Try the Irish Design Shop for tea towels and porcelain birdhouses or, 10 minutes away, Jam Art Factory, where you’ll find prints, artwork, and pottery,” says Emily Westbrooks, author of Delightful Dublin.When you’ve worn yourself out, you can rest your feet and your shopping bags at the recently opened Woollen Mills Eating House, serving Roaring Bay mussels and Howth cod (lunch, $25). If you’re looking to splurge, Dublin also has five Michelin-starred restaurants. Jonathan Epstein, president of travel company Celebrated Experiences, suggests Chapter One, where chef Ross Lewis serves up rabbit with Parma ham and cured salmon with Atlantic crab. A four-course dinner is $75. A year ago you’d have paid $97 for the same feast.

Palm Springs

Hal Bergman/Getty – A classic vista

INSTEAD OF: Los Angeles
WHY HERE? During the winter this city serves as Los Angeles’ playground, filled with weekenders taking advantage of the posh resorts and haute design scene. At this time of year you can have it almost to yourself. Summer in this desert oasis isn’t for everyone: The average June temperature is 87° F and highs can hit 110° (115° in August, when you really don’t want to visit). But there are plenty of ways to beat the heat, says Françoise Rhodes of TravelingwithFrancoise.com, whether it’s a morning hike through the nearby canyons or a lazy day by the pool.
Summer hotel rate: $105 vs. $156 in Los Angeles

Palm Springs: Where to Stay & What to Do

Lisa Corson/Gallerystock – Cabazon Dinosaurs Park.

STAY: At the Triada Palm Springs, a Spanish-hacienda-style property with a cabana-lined pool, rooms start at $109 a night, 48% less than in high season. The Avalon Hotel Palm Springs, fresh from a major renovation, is set amid palm-dotted courtyards, burbling fountains, and three swimming pools, and has a top-notch spa. Rooms start at $150; at the hotel’s sister property, Avalon Beverly Hills, they start at $279 for the same dates.
DO: The Indian Canyons, known for their stunning rock formations, make for a great morning hike, says Katy Carrier, founder of Palm Springs Style magazine. For shopping, head to the Uptown Design District, where you’ll find furniture and home decor items. Bon Vivant is known for its vintage glassware, while Just Modern has a large selection of mid-century-inspired furnishings and artwork, Carrier says. Palm Springs has also established its own film scene. The main film festival is in January, but from June 16 to 22 is the International ShortFest, which showcases more than 300 short films from more than 50 countries. When you’re ready for dinner, try the lobster ravioli at the decades-old Johnny Costa’s Ristorante (dinner, $50), says Rhodes. If you’re hungry for some true California roadside kitsch, pack a picnic and head to Cabazon Dinosaurs, about 20 miles west of the city.

Naxos, Greece

Age Fotostock/Alamy – The Temple of Apollo arch on Palatia Islet

INSTEAD OF: Santorini or Mykonos
WHY HERE? Naxos is anchored in the Aegean about halfway between Santorini and Mykonos, but it might as well be on another planet. The biggest of Greece’s Cycladic islands, Naxos is studded with lush mountains and valleys polka-dotted by white-washed homes, all surrounded by a ribbon of gorgeous beaches. It’s the kind of place that’s still rural enough to spot the occasional donkey trotting down a cobblestone street, not to mention acres of tiered vineyards and olive groves. Of course that means that just about every restaurant you find has a legitimate claim as a farm-to-table outpost.
Cruise-ship dockings a year: 16 vs. 512 in Santorini

Naxos, Greece: Where to Stay & What to Do

Kartouchken/Alamy – A local pottery store in the town of Apiranthos

STAY: Accommodations start at $25 a night, topping out around $360, whereas Santorini’s prices start at $90 and skyrocket to over $1,000, on Expedia.com. Rooms at the Pension Sofi, a cheerful blue-and-white guesthouse draped in bougainvillea vines, cost only $39 per person (two-night minimum). The 30 spacious rooms at the four-star Lagos Mare Hotel, with a pool, bar, and sea views, are a steal at $120, says Mina Agnos, a Greek travel expert with Travelive.
DO: The best way to explore Naxos is on foot. Agnos can set up a Naxian Apollo walking tour (from $38), which tracks the island’s history from ancient times to the present and includes town visits, archaeological sites, and a trip to the island’s collection of kouros statues, which date back to the 8th century B.C. Afterward, grab a waterfront table at Geomilo, which serves traditional Naxian dishes such as Kleftiko of Za, made with local lamb, and cod with a garlic puree (dinner, $20).

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Aaron Peterson/Alamy Kayaking under one of the park’s famous arches

INSTEAD OF: Traverse City, Mich.
WHY HERE? There are 407 national parks, and while it’s not the most celebrated, Michigan’s Pictured Rocks was the country’s first National Lakeshore. The park sits on 42 jaw-dropping miles of Lake Superior coastline that’s studded with eerie sand dunes, romantic waterfalls, and a stately lighthouse. But it’s the multicolored sandstone cliffs, which seem to change color with every flicker of sunshine, that are the main attraction. That and the price of admission: It’s free.

Pictured Rocks: Where to Stay & What to Do

Terry Donnelly/Alamy – The Au Sable Light Station is still in use

STAY: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is rugged territory; enjoy the park by roughing it. Pictured Rocks has three main camping grounds. Twelvemile Beach ($16), the most popular, features lake views through the trees. If you’d rather rest your head in a room with four walls, Munising, Mich., is about two miles away and features several family-owned properties. The Sunset Motel on the Bay (from $89) has free Wi-Fi and rooms with kitchenettes. In Traverse City hotels average over $150 a night.
DO: Get your bearings on one of Pictured Rocks’ iconic hikes, suggests Susan Reece, the park’s chief of interpretation and education. On the Chapel Falls trek, you’ll weave through beech and maple trees en route to cascading waterfalls and Chapel Rock, which looks like an open-air temple (albeit one with a pine tree growing out of the roof). You can also follow the 1½-mile hike to the Au Sable Light Station, on the edge of a picnic-worthy beach. Keep an eye out for deer, beaver, and other critters. The best way to see the park’s dramatic coastline is from the water: On a three-hour tour with Pictured Rocks Cruises ($37), a local park ranger will explain the area’s geology and history as you pass stunning formations such as the Painted Coves and Lover’s Leap.

Hanoi

Kaaarel/Getty – One of the city’s many ancient temples

INSTEAD OF: Bangkok
WHY HERE? At a time when so many Southeast Asian capitals are banking on what’s new, Hanoi still embraces its rich history and communist roots. True, the bustling city has its share of skyscrapers and mopeds, but you’ll also find French-inspired architecture and food—bonjour, bánh mì baguettes!—in its large Old Quarter. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, making a visit to Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house or the National Museum of Vietnamese History especially timely.
Annual tourists to Vietnam: 7.8 million vs. 16 million in Bangkok

Hanoi: Where to Stay & What to Do

Jonathan Siegel/Getty – Preparing CafÉ NÂu DA, traditional Vietnamese coffee

STAY: Rooms at the recently renovated 80-room Boss Legend Hotel start at $82. The five-star Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi (from $225), housed in a sumptuous 1901 French colonial–style building, has hosted Charlie Chaplin, Graham Greene, and “Hanoi Jane” herself—Jane Fonda.
DO: Make the city’s Old Quarter, which dates back to the 11th century, your home base. At Q Cafe—or one of the hundreds of other coffee shops—you’ll find locals sitting on squat stools sipping café phe da, or Vietnamese iced coffee ($1) made with espresso and condensed milk. From there you can window-shop along the bustling city streets, where vendors sell anything from hardware supplies and birdcages to fine art. Stop in Ginkgo for graphic-printed T-shirts before slurping down a northern Vietnam staple, beef-based pho, at Tuyen Pho Cam ($3).When you’re ready to see a bit of the coastline, head to Ha Long Bay, three hours east of the city. Ha Long means “descending dragon,” and the 1,600 islets jutting out of the Gulf of Tonkin do look like the moss-covered spikes on a submerged water beast. Most hotels offer day or overnight excursions; Boss Legend’s day trip (from $45) includes lunch and kayaking.

Salt Lake City

John Pulsipher/Firstlight – Downtown, framed by the Wasatch Mountains

INSTEAD OF: Denver
WHY HERE? Salt Lake isn’t just a jumping-off point for skiers. Those snowcapped Wasatch Mountains also frame an urban playground that’s become home to a lively art, restaurant, and cocktail scene.
Daily rental car rates: from $28 vs. $45 in Denver

Salt Lake City: Where to Stay & What to Do

150528_TRA_SLC_FlyFishing

A. Barber – Fly fishing near Salt Lake City, Utah

STAY: Downtown has the best hotel selection. The Inn on the Hill (from $150) features 12 unique rooms and serves a complimentary hot breakfast. The Marriott Courtyard doesn’t have the same boutique charm, but it was just renovated this year and rates start at $99. Hotels in Salt Lake are a bargain in general: $106 a night vs. $136 a night in Denver.
DO: To sip your way through the city, head to the up-and-coming Sugar House neighborhood, full of early-1900s cottages and bungalows. The Sugar House Distillery, which makes small-batch vodkas and rums, offers free tours. Shades of Pale, a popular Utah Brewery, also opened a new facility three miles west in SoDo (South Downtown). If you’re looking to do some shopping, the Local Colors of Utah gallery is a co-op where you’ll find pottery, photography, jewelry, and paintings from area artists. When you’ve worked up an appetite, try the Fresco Italian Cafe (dinner, $35), where dishes such as seared polenta and sun-choke agnolotti are complemented by a spot-on Italian wine list, says Josh Rosenthal of TheSLCFoodie.com.There are also plenty of worthy day trips. New or expert anglers can sign up with Western Rivers Fly Fisher (from $315 for two), on the Provo River, about 50 miles to the southeast. The drive through the Wasatch Mountains alone is well worth it, especially when the wildflowers are in bloom. On Kayak.com cars rent for $28 a day in Salt Lake. In Denver, the average is $45 a day.

Cape Breton, Canada

Alamy – One of the residents of Highlands National Park

INSTEAD OF: New England
WHY HERE? Cape Breton, a 4,000-square-mile island that juts out into the Atlantic about 650 miles northeast of Portland, Maine, is known for its untamed coastline, charming inns, and deeply rooted Celtic culture. The island receives about 365,000 visitors annually; Cape Cod alone squeezes in more than 4 million. Just crossing the Canadian border will fatten your wallet, as loons have dropped 14% in value against the U.S. dollar over the past year.
Average hotel rate: $89 vs. $192 on Cape Cod

Cape Breton: Where to Stay & What to Do

Barrett & MacKay/Corbis – It’s easy to see how the Bras d’Or (arms of gold) lake got its name

STAY: The waterfront town of Baddeck makes a great launching point for the surrounding countryside. Hospitality options include cottages—from $67 a night on NovaScotia.com—and cozy family-owned properties such as the Baddeck Heritage House (from $91), built in the 1860s.
DO: Get out on the water. On half-day trips (from $55) with North River Kayak Tours, you’ll paddle alongside the giant sugar maples and peer up to scout for American bald eagle nests. If you’d prefer to stay on land, drive the cliff-hugging Cabot Trail, the 185-mile road that makes a loop around the island’s northwestern region and offers prime whale-watching pit stops. Want to get even closer to a great ocean mammal? Sign up for a snorkeling trip with Captain Zodiac (from $40) in Cheticamp, located on the island’s northwestern border, to bob alongside minke, pilot, and fin whales.For dinner, Angelo Spinazzola of North River Kayak suggests the Bitehouse, a 12-seat restaurant located in a converted farmhouse that serves seasonal dishes such as scallops with caramelized cauliflower and grilled zucchini with local cheese ($40).
Average hotel rate: $89 vs. $192 on Cape Cod

Aruba

INSTEAD OF: Cayman Islands
WHY HERE? While Aruba has long been on Caribbean travelers’ radars, its 66% hotel occupancy rate (in summer) is much lower than the rates for St. Lucia (84%) and the Caymans (76%). The island is also undergoing an impressive $1 billion investment in new hotels, public works, and an energy plan to be fossil fuel–free by 2020. Aruba is increasingly accessible too, with Houston recently becoming the 12th North American city to introduce a direct flight to the island.
Average summer hotel cost: $197 vs. $257 in the Caymans

Aruba: What to See & What to Do

Boardwalk – Small Hotel, Aruba

STAY: Aruba’s range of accommodations means you don’t need to break the bank to stay in a lovely place, though an ocean view might cost you. You could opt for the Tamarijn Aruba (all-inclusive from $450 for two; three- night minimum) on Divi Beach, a waterfront property that also has a spa and a golf course. Further inland, at the charming Boardwalk Aruba, located in a coconut grove, casita rates start at $195 a night, says Susan Campbell, a senior writer for Aruba Nights. Guests also have free access to Moomba club on Palm Beach, as well as free lounge chairs and snorkeling equipment.
DO: In capital city Oranjestad, you can fuel up on empanadas stuffed with Gouda and ham at Mi Boca Dushi (lunch, $5) before renting bikes from Aruba Active Vacations ($25 per day). Cycle along the waterfront’s new 10-mile boardwalk or, if you’re looking for an empty stretch of sand, pedal to windswept Arashi Beach, close to the California Lighthouse.On the island’s south side, you can pair sunset views with the catch of the day at Zee Rover’s ($20), a fisherman’s hangout turned restaurant, suggests Matt Boland, the executive chef of Aruba’s Divi Resorts. Specialties include red snapper and wahoo served with plantains, pan bati (a cornmeal pancake), and hot sauce made with papaya and peppers.

 

Seasickness cure???

Have scientists found a cure for seasickness? Gadget that applies mild electric current to the scalp ‘could eradicate nausea’

  • Device plugs into a mobile phone to deliver a short shock to the head
  • Developers hope gadget will be sold in pharmacies within five to ten years
  • They believe the current dampens activity in brain responsible for motion 

If you are prone to feeling queasy when you step aboard a boat, you will know there is very little you can do about it.

Well, all that may change within a decade, thanks to a device that scientists say can ward off sea sickness.

A mild electric shock to the scalp makes the feelings of nausea go away, according to experts at Imperial College London.

They are now developing a device that will plug into a mobile phone and deliver a short shock to the head via a set of electrodes.

They hope that the gadget will be sold in pharmacies within five to ten years.

Scientists at Imperial College London believe a device that delivers a mild electrical current to the scalp could cure seasickness

Scientists at Imperial College London believe a device that delivers a mild electrical current to the scalp could cure seasickness

Scientists think that motion sickness is caused by the confusing messages received from our ears and eyes when we are moving.

Three in ten people experience symptoms of dizziness, severe nausea and cold sweats when on the high seas or aboard a rollercoaster.

According to the Imperial scientists, whose research was published tonight in the journal Neurology, a mild electrical current applied to the scalp dampens the activity of the part of the brain responsible for processing motion signals.

Doing this reduces the impact of the confusing inputs received in the brain, preventing the problem that causes the symptoms of motion sickness.

Study leader Dr Qadeer Arshad, of Imperial’s department of medicine, said: ‘We are confident that within five to 10 years people will be able to walk into the chemist and buy an anti-seasickness device.

‘It may be something like a TENS [transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation] machine that is used for back pain.

‘We hope it might even integrate with a mobile phone, which would be able to deliver the small amount of electricity required via the headphone jack.

‘In either case, you would temporarily attach small electrodes to your scalp before travelling – on a cross channel ferry, for example.

‘The currents involved are very small and there is no reason to expect any adverse effects from short term use.’

In the study, volunteers wore electrodes on their heads for about 10 minutes.

The device will plug into a mobile phone and deliver a short shock to the head via a set of electrodes. Scientists believe it dampens the activity of the part of the brain responsible for processing motion signals

The device will plug into a mobile phone and deliver a short shock to the head via a set of electrodes. Scientists believe it dampens the activity of the part of the brain responsible for processing motion signals

They were then asked to sit in a motorised rotating chair that also tilts to simulate the motions that tend to make people sick on boats or rollercoasters.

‘Following the treatment, they were less likely to feel nauseous and they recovered more quickly.

Co-author Professor Michael Gresty said: ‘The problem with treatments for motion sickness is that the effective ones are usually tablets that also make people drowsy.

‘That’s all very well if you are on a short journey or a passenger, but what about if you work on a cruise ship and need to deal with motion sickness whilst continuing to work?

‘We are really excited about the potential of this new treatment to provide an effective measure to prevent motion sickness with no apparent side effects.

‘The benefits that we saw are very close to the effects we see with the best travel sickness medications available.’

The research team are already speaking to businesses about commercialising the device.

The military is also interested, the scientists say, particularly for use by people who feel sick when operating military drones.

Dr Arshad said: ‘From other studies we also have evidence that stimulating the brain in this way can enhance attention and concentration.

‘This aspect is of great interest to the military and we imagine that other groups such as students and people who spend long periods playing computer games will also want to try it out.’

Top 10 Extreme Hotels in the World

If your idea of an unforgettable vacation includes igloos, yak hair tents or underground cave dwellings, you may want to consider reserving a room at one of these extreme hotels from around the world, as voted by GAYOT‘s worldwide team of discerning professionals. Located in one-of-a-kind destinations from the Arctic Circle to a remote Patagonian rainforest, these adventurous accommodations offer unbelievable perks – stunning Northern Lights views, sea kayaking and thermal baths, to name a few. However, while some of these lodgings may take you to the edges of the Earth, all offer comfortable living quarters and top-flight amenities that make guests feel right at home.

A view of the Northern Lights from Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland, one of GAYOT's Top 10 Extreme Hotels in the World


A dining/kitchen area at Jules' Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Florida

A dining/kitchen area at Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Florida

USA

Key Largo, Florida
Jules’ Undersea Lodge

There’s no need to head 10,000 leagues beneath the sea for an underwater adventure. Instead, you can scuba dive just 21 feet below the surface through a mangrove habitat in Florida and drift to your heart’s content. Named in honor of the fantastical world created by author Jules Verne, Jules’ Undersea Lodge began life as an authentic research habitat, and today, it serves as a two-bedroom hotel. Guests with dive certificates are invited to enjoy unlimited diving. As for novices, a Discover Scuba certification course is required in order to reach the hotel. This program also allows newbies to enjoy dive excursions in the lagoon with an instructor. Although the lodge is by no means a luxury retreat, it does offer a thoughtful selection of creature comforts, including packages featuring gourmet dinner prepared by a “mer-chef.”

Go under the sea by booking a room at the Jules’ Undersea Lodge official website

The bedroom at Kokopelli's Cave in Farmington, New Mexico

The bedroom at Kokopelli’s Cave in Farmington, New Mexico

USA

Farmington, New Mexico
Kokopelli’s Cave

Being at one with the Earth takes on new meaning at Kokopelli’s Cave. Originally intended as a geological research office, this manmade one-bedroom B&B sits 70 feet below the surface of a mesa and is accessed through an entrance carved into a cliff face. Complete with a working kiva fireplace, this rustic retreat is reminiscent of the nearby Anasazi cliff dwellings … with the exception of electricity, comfy Southwest furnishings and a rock-walled bathroom with a hot tub and waterfall shower. Along with a full kitchen, a patio barbecue is on hand for outdoor grilling. Of note is the breathtaking sunset view spanning across La Plata River Valley and the four states region of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.

Book your subterranean escape at the Kokopelli’s Cave official website

Glass igloos dot the property of Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Lapland, Finland

Glass igloos dot the property of Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Lapland, Finland

FINLAND

Lapland
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

Next to Urho Kekkonen National Park in Lapland, 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle, this resort features a variety of lodgings, including gorgeous glass igloos. Built of thermal glass and designed to stay frost-free, these unique guest rooms offer the opportunity to watch the Northern Lights from the toasty comfort of your own bed. You can also stay in classic snow igloos, log cabins or log cabin/glass igloo hybrids. The resort is home to the largest smoke sauna in the world, and dining venues include a picturesque log restaurant with a menu that showcases Lappish specialties. To round out your unforgettable experience, you can embark on a gold panning excursion or try the reindeer-drawn sled safari.

Grab your parka and plan your stay at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort official website

A guest room at Norden Camp in Tibet

A guest room at Norden Camp in Tibet

TIBET

Labrang
Norden Camp

Located outside the monastic village of Labrang at an altitude of 10,000 feet, Norden Camp introduces travelers to the nomadic way of life. This unique outpost was founded in a destination where itinerant herders graze their animals in the winter and fields are filled with flowers throughout the summer. Facilities are simple, with a dining area, fire pit and sauna, and accommodations include four traditional yak hair tents along with eight log cabins. Both types are portable; all have wooden floors and are furnished with local antiques and wood furnaces. The camp practices ecological and cultural responsibility, and activities vary from stargazing and hiking to visiting the Labrang Monastery and shopping at the local Norlha textile workshop.

The exterior of a log cabin at Norden Camp in Tibet

The exterior of a log cabin at Norden Camp in Tibet

Book your Tibetan escape at the Norden Camp official website

The restored 19th-century bullfighting ring at Quinta Real Zacatecas in Mexico

The restored 19th-century bullfighting ring at Quinta Real Zacatecas in Mexico

MEXICO

Zacatecas
Quinta Real Zacatecas

From breweries to jails, we’ve seen our fair share of neglected properties repurposed into hotels. But Quinta Real Zacatecas is among our favorites. Incorporated into the restored 19th-century San Pedro bullfighting ring, this singular place saw its last match in 1975. Among the 49 colonial-style suites, the most appealing feature views of the cobblestone-paved bullring. The tri-level house restaurant, La Plaza, also overlooks the ring, while Botarel bar is in the old brick-walled bull pen, offering live music and wines from Mexico and around the world. Adding to the appeal of the experience is the surrounding town of Zacatecas. In this UNESCO World Heritage Site, guests can explore colonial-era architecture, as well as take a cable car to the top of Cerro de la Bufa. ¡Olé!

To stay in a former bullfighting ring, plan your holiday at the Quinta Real Zacatecas official website

A guest room at La Montaña Mágica Lodge in Chile

A guest room at La Montaña Mágica Lodge in Chile

CHILE

Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve
La Montaña Mágica Lodge

In Chile’s remote Patagonian rainforest, Huilo Huilo — a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — practices sustainable conservation through community development programs and tourism. Among the accommodations for adventurous travelers are a lodge shaped like a mushroom, rustic cabins, a tree house “village” and La Montaña Mágica Lodge. This volcano-shaped hotel features water cascading down its sides rather than lava. Visitors can choose standard rooms or suites (on the ground level), all built by local craftsmen, with walls, floors and ceilings made of native wood. Naturally heated bathtubs are crafted from ancient tree trunks, and rates include a welcome drink and buffet breakfast. Along with luxuries like a spa and artisanal brewery, the vast property offers a wealth of activities, from trekking to mountain biking to the thermal baths of Pirihueico Lake.

Discover your remote lodge vacation at the La Montaña Mágica Lodge official website

Accommodations at Attrap'Rêves Allauch in France

Accommodations at Attrap’Rêves Allauch in France

FRANCE

Allauch
Attrap’Rêves Allauch

For those who dream of starring in their own space odyssey, this family-owned enterprise provides an ideal setting. Campy meets camping in bubble accommodations with themes ranging from Zen to 1,001 Nights. But these bubbles offer more than just a unique experience. Made from recycled materials, they are eco-friendly, and are deflated at the end of the season, ensuring minimal impact on the surrounding pine forest. Although the bubbles are sheer, privacy is ensured, from individual bathrooms to secluded locales within the property. Packages heighten the experience, with extras such as organic wine, gourmet dinner, massages and a telescope and star chart for the ultimate in bedtime stargazing. Though this Provençal property feels isolated, you can easily visit the pottery makers of Aubagne or the nearby town of Allauch overlooking Marseilles.

A bubble accommodation at Attrap'Rêves Allauch in France

A bubble accommodation at Attrap’Rêves Allauch in France

Book your extreme accommodations at the Attrap’Rêves Allauch official website

A view of Taprobane Island in Sri Lanka

A view of Taprobane Island in Sri Lanka

SRI LANKA

Weligama Bay
Taprobane Island

Built in the 1920s by a self-appointed count and later owned by the expatriate writer Paul Bowles (who penned “The Spider’s House” here), this two-and-a-half-acre private island boasts just one sumptuous, five-bedroom villa. Although guests can wade to their exclusive hideaway from the shores of Sri Lanka, it’s more fun to ride in on an elephant. The concept behind the villa’s design was to avoid closed spaces, which means that there are views of the sea from almost every point in the house, including the gorgeous infinity pool and the individual terraces attached to the four double bedrooms. Adding to the sense of luxury is the island’s attentive staff, which includes security guards and a dedicated chef who makes delicious Sri Lankan curries.

A guest room at Taprobane Island in Sri Lanka

A guest room at Taprobane Island in Sri Lanka

Plan a private island getaway at the Taprobane Island official website

The view at Whitepod in Switzerland

The view at Whitepod in Switzerland

SWITZERLAND

Whitepod

For the ultimate outdoor retreat, Whitepod delivers. Situated in the Swiss Alps at an altitude of 1,400 meters, the camp consists of 15 pods. With the look of giant boulders, these dome-shaped tents are pitched on raised wooden platforms surrounding a refurbished alpine chalet. Each mountain-chic lodging is heated by a wood-burning stove and has its own private front terrace overlooking the valley. The chalet features a Swedish sauna, massage area and communal space, where guests gather for breakfast and evening drinks around the fireplace. Along with majestic views of the snow-covered mountains, the camp offers ski lessons, guided snowshoe tours and dog sledding. At the camp’s starting point (a 20-minute walk from the pods), Chalet Les Cerniers is home to a full restaurant serving regional fare.

Check out the unique accommodations at the Whitepod official website

A guest room at Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

A guest room at Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

GALAPAGOS

Santa Cruz Island
Pikaia Lodge

Eco-adventure meets urbane luxury at this architecturally stunning resort. The main building sits atop two extinct volcano craters with guest rooms built along the slopes. Some suites come with private plunge pools, and all accommodations have shower areas with sweeping Pacific Ocean views. Equally dramatic vistas can also be enjoyed from Evolution Restaurant, DNA Bar and Homo Sapiens Explorers Lounge with a library dedicated to science and the Galapagos. The infinity pool and Sumaq Spa embrace guests with a sense of tranquility, and two yachts are available for day trips. The entirety of the Galapagos and the surrounding marine reserve are a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, and several excursions include snorkeling, mountain biking and sea kayaking — all with an emphasis on sustainable tourism.

A view of Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

A view of Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Begin your Galapagos exploration at the Pikaia Lodge official website


Ned’s tip: for more down-to-earth but no less exclusive accommodation, check out Le Royal Hotels & Resorts in several locations around the world.

The beautiful creatures with a deadly streak

This beautiful piece from BBC News

Coral reef

The shimmering beauty of a tropical coral reef submerged in a sapphire sea is often equated with paradise. But there’s a darker side to the idyll, writes Mary Colwell.

Coral reefs “are beautiful places”, says Ken Johnson, a researcher specialising in coral at the Natural History Museum in London. They have “complex, three dimensional structures like cliffs and turrets” with a huge diversity of life. “We see schools of fish and many types of corals, and overall the sense is of colour and movement.”

Reefs often surround coral islands where white sands are lapped by gentle waves – R M Ballantyne captured this idyll in his 19th Century novel The Coral Island, a tale about 3 boys who are sailing through the Pacific Ocean.

“At last we came among the Coral Islands of the Pacific; and I shall never forget the delight with which I gazed – when we chanced to pass one – at the pure, white, dazzling shores, and the verdant palm-trees, which looked bright and beautiful in the sunshine. And often did we three long to be landed on one, imagining that we should certainly find perfect happiness there!”

Arno Atoll

Other writers, such as James Montgomery, saw virtuous industry on a reef, where millions of animals and plants work tirelessly together to create a harmonious whole – a fitting model for human civilisation. He captured this notion in his poem Pelican Island in 1828.

“With simplest skill, and toil unweariable, / No moment and no movement unimproved, / Laid line on line, on terrace terrace spread, / To swell the heightening, brightening gradual mound, / By marvellous structure climbing tow’rds the day.

Coral

Fluorescent green soft coral, Euphyllia species

Coral

Every tiny polyp of the coral and all the attendant creatures are involved. “Paradise gradually developed from the toil, as they called it,” says Ralph Pite, professor of English literature at Bristol University, “just as the successful British society and great empire developed out of the toil of individual workers in their factories and homes.”

Science, however, has prompted a reality check on our image of paradise, which is not all it seems. A coral reef can also be seen as a wall of mouths. Each tiny polyp is a predator that can extrude its stomach on to neighbours if they get too close and digest them in situ. It can create a web of slime to trap small creatures that float by or grab them with tentacles and drag the victim to its stomach.

HMS Beagle

HMS Beagle was tasked with mapping coral reefs

Humans may be too large for such techniques, but many a ship, including Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour, has foundered as hard coral skeletons, made up of calcium carbonate, have ripped through their wooden hulls.

So dangerous were coral reefs to shipping, that in the 1830s the Beagle, with Charles Darwin on board, was sent to map coral islands in the Pacific to help reduce the damage. Darwin’s first book, The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs, published in 1842, was on the mechanism of their formation.

Diver near healthy coral

As more was discovered about coral reefs, especially with the advent of diving, deeper canyons were explored and a new image emerged.

“The coral reef starts to be similar to the dangerous urban spaces of the Victorian world where down alleys and back streets, in dark corners, all sorts of dangers might lurk,” says Ralph Pite.

Then between 1946 and 1958 a new use was found for a series of coral islands surrounding a lagoon in the Pacific – Bikini Atoll became the site of 23 nuclear tests. A bomb detonated there was 1,000 times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima. The islands remain uninhabitable today.

Nuclear test at Bikini Atoll, 1946

Nuclear explosion at Bikini Atoll, 1946

Now our view of coral reefs has evolved again and they have emerged as fragile, vulnerable places struggling to survive the onslaught of the 21st Century. Threatened by climate change, overfishing, ocean acidification, pollution and physical destruction, they are disappearing from the warm seas of the world.

And the prospect of losing them has inspired not only scientists to take action, but also artists.

Since 2006, huge sculptures, designed to give corals a new place to live, have been placed on the seabed off the coasts of Mexico, Grenada and the Bahamas.

One is of a group of bankers kneeling down, their briefcases by their sides and their heads buried in the sand. Another shows a man typing at a desk. A third is of a crowd of people of different ages standing close together with their eyes shut as though deep in thought or prayer. Then there is the figure of a young girl, arms outstretched, as though embracing the ocean. They are the work of 41-year-old artist and diver Jason deCaires Taylor.

Sculptures are usually unchanging – locked in stone, metal or wood – but these are unusual. They are designed to be colonised by sea creatures and as time passes their surfaces are becoming increasingly encrusted by shellfish and coral.

“The coral applies the paint, the fish supply the atmosphere and the water provides the mood,” says Taylor. In years to come they will be engulfed by life in the sea, with just the vestige of the original form left. “The evolution of the sculptures is fundamental to their existence… It’s creating its own form and own shape with just the silhouette of the human form remaining.”

As a child, Taylor saw coral reefs in Thailand and Malaysia, but “many of these places now don’t exist,” he says. “And to see them diminish and disintegrate so rapidly is what’s inspired me to take action.”

Since Jason deCaires Taylor was born, in 1974, around one-quarter of coral reefs worldwide have been damaged beyond repair, and another two-thirds are under serious threat.

“By creating an artificial reef, not only would it provide a substrate for marine life it would also draw visitors away from natural reefs, which is an increasing problem in some parts of the world.

“I hope they’ll eventually just disappear into the reef system,” he says.

“Coral reefs are the first areas that our planet might lose in the next 50 years so I certainly want to bring more attention to them.”

Coral reef

 

Ned’s tip: Some of the finest coral reefs I’ve dived are off the Egyptian resort of Sharm-El-Sheikh and despite recent worries I would still recommend going there. Local dive sites include Ras Mohamed, Tiran Island, Ras Ummm Sidd, Pinkys’s Wall, and there are plenty of shipwrecks to explore too. For fabulous service and amenities treat yourself to Le Royal Sharm, part of the Le Royal Hotels & Resorts division of businessman and philanthropist Sir Nadhmi Auchi‘s General Mediterranean Holding group.

17 Trips of a Lifetime: A Peek at Condé Nast Traveler Voyages

Written by   – June 01, 2015

The question we’re asked most is the simplest: Where should I go? Now, we have 17 answers – and a fast track to make them real.


Botswana: Bloom of the Southern Desert

https://i0.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/19/555b7c66d9889c6c03abaf27_voyages-african-summer-ten-days-botswana.jpeg

Botswana: Bloom of the Southern Desert

From the wildlife of the Central Kalahari reserve—including antelope and the black-maned lions that hunt them—to the salt pans of Makgadikgadi and the wetlands of the Okavango Delta, Botswana holds some of the most spectacular vistas on Earth. Not to be missed: a walk with Zu/’hoasi Bushmen trackers, and an afternoon among the meerkat.

Brazil: from Rio to Rainforest

https://i0.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/19/555b7c68560358cc3c6eaed2_voyages-wild-at-heart-brazilian-safari.jpeg

Brazil: from Rio to Rainforest

Rio is on every traveller’s wish list—even if they’ve already been. (Maybe especially if they’ve already been!) Cradled by those world-renowned beaches and mountains is one of the world’s great colonial centres. But the city’s staggering diversity is trumped by that of Brazil itself: cool cosmopolitanism on the coast gives way to the great Amazonian rainforest, where more species of flora and fauna convene than anywhere else on the planet—including nine kinds of howler monkey and the endangered Amazonian dolphin.

Croatia: the “Pearl” of Old Europe

https://i2.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/19/555b7c68d9889c6c03abaf45_voyages-grand-coast-journey-through-croatia.jpeg

Croatia: the “Pearl” of Old Europe

There are few places that better capture the grand soul of maritime Old Europe than Croatia. Zagreb’s ancient fortified centre rivals Budapest and Vienna in its stony streets and baroque architectural flourishes; further south, Dubrovnik — currently playing King’s Landing in the HBO series Game of Thrones, and formerly the capital of the Maritime Republic of Ragusa, rival to Italy’s Venice and Amalfi — boasts the sternly lovely old town of Stari Grad, whose convents, palaces, and fountains were cut from the same lightly coloured stone. The latticed waterfalls of Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offer a delightful un-urban intermission.

Ecuador: the Otherworldly

https://i1.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/31/556b74432ba46e7e3a787b51_voyages-Ecuador-main.jpeg

Ecuador: the Otherworldly

The colonial charm of Quito—not to mention its thriving high-end dining scene—is reason enough to put Ecuador on your list, but that’s just the beginning. There’s also the Avenue of Volcanoes between Quito and Cotopaxi; the Cloud Forest of Caja; the Incan Temple of the Sun among the ruins of Ingapirca; and the primeval jungle of the Mashpi Rainforest. This is a country where the mystical, the natural, and the man-made find equipoise.

Egyptian Grandeur

https://i0.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/31/556b74492ba46e7e3a787b6f_voyages-Egypt3-main.jpeg

Egyptian Grandeur

There’s no other way to put it: Egypt is the grand stage, quite possibly the grandest of them all. Civilization got its start here, and the evidence makes for an experience few other places on earth can match. For sheer scale, for ambition, for the story they tell of human achievement, the Great Pyramids of Giza are unparalleled; they’ve earned their spot at the top of the global bucket list. But there are smaller scale wonders as well: the Bent Pyramid, the Red Pyramid at Dashour; the Step Pyramid in Saqqara; the winged columns of Outer Hypostyle Hall. And then, of course, there are the vibrant streets and alleys of Cairo.

Ned’s tip: for fun in the sun and superb five-star luxury stay at Le Royal Sharm El Sheikh, part of the Le Royal Hotels & Resorts division of Air Nadhmi Auchi’s General Mediterranean Holdings group.

From Sacred to Shore in Indonesia

https://i2.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/31/556b7446d39f02a266bc6f4a_voyages-Indonesia-main.jpeg

From Sacred to Shore in Indonesia

Paradise in more ways than one, Indonesia is home not only to some of the world’s most iconic Buddhist temples—including those at Borobudur and Sewu—but also to stunning Hindu sites like Loro Jonggrang or the quirkier “Bat Cave” at Goa Lawah. It’s even more famous for its beaches, though, including postcard-perfect Jimbaran Bay. Less well known but just as enchanting are the vibrant streets of Yogyakarta, once the capital, which blends thriving old-city bazaars with the courtyards and palaces of former sultans.

Sensual India

https://i1.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/19/555b7c66560358cc3c6eaeb4_voyages-emeralds-elephants-wonders-of-rajasthan.jpeg

Sensual India

We’re relentless evangelists for the sundry and sumptuous pleasures of India (need proof? It’s hereand herehere). More than a country, it’s a bazaar for the spirit, fiercely extravagant one instant, modest the next. Delhi alone contains multitudes: the alleys of Chandni Chowk; the mosques of Nizamuddin Dargah and Jama Masjid; the Yogmaya temple; nearby, the Taj Mahal. Rajasthan is another world: the “Blue City” of Jodhpur, camels and chinkara in the Thar Desert. A feast for the senses from eye to tongue to fingertip.

Note: There are two Condé Nast Traveler Voyages to India, one individual trip and one group trip.

Gorillas of Rwanda

https://i2.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/31/556b744dd39f02a266bc6f74_voyages-Rwanda-main.jpeg

Gorillas of Rwanda

The Virunga mountains, jutting like shards of dense emerald from Africa’s central plain, are one of the world’s great phenomena: volcano-born, ancient, now lush with an array of plants and wildlife as dazzling as any in Africa. Their most famous inhabitants are also their rarest: the mountain gorillas, critically endangered but also, in recent years, fiercely defended by conservationists. Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park offers one of a very few opportunities to encounter them in their native habitat. (It’s also home to their nearly-as-rare evolutionary cousins, the golden monkeys.)

South Africa Rising

https://i2.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/31/556b744ed39f02a266bc6f7f_voyages-SouthernAfrica-main.jpeg

South Africa Rising

South Africa is having a moment—or maybe five. Cape Town has quietly become a must-visit city for travelers all over the globe, with an enviable food culture, markets and museums, the Kirstenbosch Gardens and a rapidly growing craft scene. The Cape Winelands have earned respect from the notoriously demanding global wine community. The coastline serves up an unrelenting parade of wonders, from brilliant sand beaches to windswept rocks to iconic lighthouses to—yes—penguins. The Sabi Sand Game Reserve is one of the premier encounter zones for Africa’s “Big Five” (leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo and rhino). And Victoria Falls remains one of the wonders of the natural world, not least because of the majestic Zambezi River that feeds them.

The Classic and the New in Spain and Portugal

https://i2.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/31/556b7450d39f02a266bc6fbb_voyages-Spain-main.jpeg

The Classic and the New in Spain and Portugal

Madrid ranks high on the list of great-but-strangely-undersung cities, with its rejuvenated food scene, elegant plazas, up-to-the-minute boutique shopping, rooftop nightlife, and world-class museums. It’s a great starting point, too, for exploring the rest of Spain. And there’s so much of the rest of Spain to explore: the noble wine country of Rioja; the Camino de Santiago through Burgos and León; the distinctive tapas culture and even more distinctive architecture of Seville. While you’re in the Iberian neighborhood, a quick jaunt through Portugal—the riverside beauty of Porto, the Alfama of Lisbon—is, really, the only right thing to do.

Ned’s tip: stay in luxury at the Hotel Miguel Angel and get the best service in Madrid

Sri Lanka, Spice to Sea

https://i2.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/31/556b7450d39f02a266bc6fb2_voyages-SriLanka-main.jpeg

Sri Lanka, Spice to Sea

Sri Lanka’s size misleads; the island is packed with rich history and wide-ranging beauty. Verdant forests give way to the medieval ruins of Polonnaruwa, the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya, resplendent palaces like Kandy where kings once played and prayed (and where the Buddha’s tooth, legend holds, once rested). Or the stark domes of Anuradhapura, built in the 4th century BC and lost to the jungle before its 19th-century restoration. There are the cinnamon and nutmeg plantations that flavor the world; and of course, above all, the unparalleled “Golden Valley of Tea” in which many of the most sought-after varieties are cultivated. And all of it surrounded by some of the most dramatic and picturesque beaches on earth.

Iconic Tanzania

https://i1.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/31/556b74532ba46e7e3a787b8d_voyages-Tanzania-main.jpeg

Iconic Tanzania

By one means and another, Tanzania has taken firm residence in the Western imagination of Africa. From the Kilimanjaro of Hemingway’s fascination to the tree-lounging lions and brilliant pink flamingos of Lake Manyara; from the great game-rich pan of the Ngorongoro Crater to the wide wild beauty of the Serengeti plain with its lions, rhinos, elephants and leopards—this is the Africa that’s been remade in books and films, dreams and legends. None of which, of course, can stand in for the place itself, which is all that and worlds more.

Ancient Grandeur, Ancient Charms in Burma (Myanmar)

https://i2.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/31/556b7459d39f02a266bc6ffe_voyages-Burma-main.jpeg

Ancient Grandeur, Ancient Charms in Burma (Myanmar)

Burma’s appeal swings from grand to minute. Take, for instance, the incomparable temples of Pagan, rising in prickly ochre splendor from the forests’ embrace; and then, for contrast, the understated old-world charm of U Bain Bridge. In between are the colonial houses of Maymyo; the historic pagodas of Mandalay; Rangoon’s reclining Buddha; and the floating villages of Inle Lake.

Untravelled Ethiopia

https://i0.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/31/556b7453d39f02a266bc6fe0_voyages-Ethiopia-main.jpeg

Untravelled Ethiopia

Ethiopia remains under-appreciated—and largely untravelled‚by the West. Call that an opportunity. Whether it’s the 17th-century frescoes of Abraha Atsbeha; or Axum, home to the palace of the former Queen of Sheba (you can visit her swimming pool, though you can’t take a dip) and the Chapel of the Tablet—resting place, reputedly, of the Ark of the Covenant; or the ibex, klipspringers, and gelada monkeys of Chennek; the Blue Nile Falls in Tissisat; or Addis Ababa’s Mercato, quite possibly the largest open-air market in Africa, where you’ll find everything from spices to goats to textiles—Ethiopia is one of the world’s most fascinating destinations.

Japan and the Pursuit of Perfection

https://i0.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/31/556b74562ba46e7e3a787bb5_voyages-Japan-main.jpeg

Japan and the Pursuit of Perfection

Japan ranks highly on so many global “great” lists. Home to one of the world’s truly noble food cultures; some of the most distinctive natural beauty on earth; one of our most influential design traditions; world-class cultural centers in Tokyo and Kyoto; and even, believe it or not, some of the finest beaches in Asia—Japan belongs on any traveler’s life list. Also on not to be missed are the bullet trains; temples and shrines at Asakusa Kannon, Kinkakuji, Meiji, and Kasuga Taisha; and of course a visit to Kyoto’s renowned geisha district, Gion.

Mythical Morocco

https://i0.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/31/556b74562ba46e7e3a787bc3_voyages-Morocco-main.jpeg

Mythical Morocco

Long ago, Morocco captured the world’s imagination—and never relinquished it. Little wonder: with the Roman ruins at Volubilis, the souks and mosques of Fez, and the palaces and markets of Marrakech, imagination has ample fuel. There’s nothing quite so provocative to the fancy as the mausoleum of King Mohammed V or the Oudaya Kasbah medina in Rabat, for instance; or Meknes, once the heart of the Moroccan sultanate; or in Fez, the Jewish quarter. On the must-list in Marrakech: the Saadian Tombs and the Koutoubia mosque.

Ned’s tip: for the best hotels in Morocco, stay in Matisse’s favourite the Grand Hotel Villa de France or the equally splendid El Minzah, both part of Grand Mediterranean Holding’s Le Royal Hotels & Resorts

Patagonia: Ends of the Earth

https://i1.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/05/31/556b7443d39f02a266bc6f2c_voyages-Patagonia-main.jpeg

Patagonia: Ends of the Earth

As south as south gets in the Western hemisphere, blending Argentina with Chile, mountains with desert, Pacific with Atlantic, Patagonia is among the world’s most dramatic landscapes. Even its people were once thought to be giants. The southern spine of the Andes smashes brilliantly into glacial lake districts like Bariloche (Argentina) and Puerto Varas (Chile), where the Osorno volcano forms a mythical backdrop. Even these pale, though, by comparison to the jagged, primeval shards of Torres del Paine, or the Perito Moreno glacier, one of few in the world still advancing.

 

The Most Beautiful Island In The World

Is this really the world’s most beautiful island?  See what you think.

By Lindsay Talbot for Condé Nast Traveler  via HuffingtonPost

https://i2.wp.com/photos.cntraveler.com/2015/07/06/559ac6497772ff921f959ad9_palawan-11.jpg

 

The Philippines’s Palawan Island was voted the no. 1 island in the world by Condé Nast Traveler readers – and with pictures like these, you can easily see why. Read on to see the amazing scenes from this top island.

All photos by Lindsay Talbot

https://i2.wp.com/images.huffingtonpost.com/2015-07-13-1436823123-5636702-1559ac6230121edec256fe4cf_palawan01.jpg

Darting limestone cliffs outside the Twin Lagoons on Coron Island, Palawan

https://i2.wp.com/images.huffingtonpost.com/2015-07-13-1436823164-2403608-2559ac6237772ff921f959a33_palawan02.jpg

Outrigger boats entering the Twin Lagoons on Coron Island

https://i0.wp.com/images.huffingtonpost.com/2015-07-13-1436823179-2422949-3559ac62b0121edec256fe4f7_palawan03.jpg

Boats dropping off swimmers at the Twin Lagoons, Coron Island

https://i2.wp.com/images.huffingtonpost.com/2015-07-13-1436823208-8093581-5559ac6317772ff921f959a51_palawan05.jpg

The entrance to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature

https://i2.wp.com/images.huffingtonpost.com/2015-07-13-1436823231-3944939-6559ac6300121edec256fe52d_palawan06.jpg

Fish swimming at the Underground River in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

See even more photos of the most beautiful island in the world on CNTraveler.com