Posts Tagged With: top 10

Top 10 Things to do in Scandanavia

These are the top 10 things to do in Scandinavia according to about.com/travel

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1) Watch the Northern Lights in Norway

The Northern Lights are definitely one of Scandinavia’s best attractions. Tromso in Norway is the best place in Scandinavia to watch the Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis. This display of light in the sky can be seen only in polar regions. The effect is caused by particles from the solar wind getting trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field. The lights “turn on” when particles crash with the atmosphere, which results in a showing of colored flames.

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2) Find Denmark’s Greatest Castles

Finding the best castles in Denmark can be hard for first-time visitors, but this guide will quickly lead you to the biggest and greatest. Explore the castles and learn more about Scandinavian kings and queens in Royalty in Scandinavia

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3) Relax in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

Scandinavia’s top attractions also includes the geysers, especially the Blue Lagoon near Iceland‘s capital Reykjavik. Visit one of the many hot thermal pools which are always pleasantly warm, whatever the weather. Reykjaviks thermal pools are open from early morning until late in the evening. If you like this experience, you simply have to visit the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik, so take a look at The Blue Lagoon in Iceland!

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4) Take a unique guided tour in Stockholm

Sweden’s capital Stockholm is one of Scandinavia’s top attractions by itself. This city offers so many interesting sights and history that travelers often find the best way to explore this city is a guided tour, with many photo opportunities. Stockholm offers all kinds of guided tours, but the most interesting and wonderfully unique can be found in Top Guided Tours in Stockholm!

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5) Visit the Danish Royal Gardens near Copenhagen (Denmark)

These wonderful gardens in Denmark offer peace and quiet for everyone and let you get away from the busy city life for a while. During the Baroque period, French design had a strong influence on Danish castle gardens and gives them their special flair. These quiet retreats should definitely be a part of your trip if you are planning to visit the Copenhagen area.

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6) Go Skiing in Norway

Winter attractions in Scandinavia? Yes, right here. For your winter vacation, this is a must. Famous from the 1994 Winter Olympics, Norway’s Lillehammer area is known for the spectacular local ski terrain and the many local winter sports activities. Find out about the 6 major ski resorts in Norway. Learn more about Norway’s top ski resorts or, go cross-country skiing in Scandinavia!

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7) Explore Sandy Beaches in Scandinavia

If you’re visiting in the summer, explore the beautiful sandy beaches in Scandinavia! With the weather in Scandinavia, the best time for a summer visit to Scandinavian beaches is late June through late August. Here’s how you can find a great beach area near your destination.

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8) Go Whale Watching in Norway & Iceland

In Scandinavia, whale watching is very popular among tourists, and many travelers choose to go whale watching on a whale safari during their vacation in Norway or Iceland. Adventurous travelers can even sign up for special whale safaris offering to let you swim with the whales – find out more about Whale Watching in Scandinavia!

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9) Do the Walking Tour: Stockholm’s Djurgarden

Djurgarden is one of Scandinavia’s top attractions for many travelers. Take a stroll across Djurgarden, which is Stockholms popular island with parks, events, and activities. Djurgarden is the number one recreational area in Stockholm, especially for travelers, and has over 10 million visitors each year! This walking tour offers great views and sights of Stockholm.

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10) Visit Legoland in Billund, Denmark

The famous Danish theme park Legoland in Billund is great fun! 340 billion pieces of Lego and many rides can provide entertainment for days! Every building, boat, train and car is constructed from millions of Lego blocks in amazing detail. Outdoor and indoor activities!

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Top 10 Things to Do in Africa

Here are the top 10 things you must do in Africa according to about.com/travel

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1) Go on a Safari

“Safari” means “to journey” in Swahili, and indeed going on a wildlife safari is one of the main reasons people travel to Africa. East and Southern Africa are the most popular safari destinations. In East Africa you can see the “Big Five“, witness the great annual migration of millions of wildebeest in a hot-air balloon, and also track gorillas. In Southern Africa you have the opportunity to see the “Big Five” and much more, on foot and from the water. The top 10 places in Africa to go on a safari are Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Gabon.

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2) Relax on a Beach

North Africa‘s beach resorts have attracted European sun seekers to their shores for decades. But if you want to escape the crowds, head further south. Africa’s East coast offers the beach lover everything from budget huts on the idyllic Indian ocean in Zanzibar, to ultra-luxurious private islands in the Seychelles. Africa’s west coast is lined with thousands of miles of palm-fringed beaches. The currents make swimming a little challenging at times, but the surfing is fantastic. In South Africa you can even bump into penguins on the beach and dive with sharks. Africa’s many lakes are also fringed with golden sands, check out Lake Malawi, a paradise for beach lovers.

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3) Hike a Mountain

Africa offers wonderful hiking and trekking opportunities, the obvious targets for mountain lovers are Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya and the Atlas Mountains. But South Africa’s Drakensberg Mountains are an absolute delight for a half day hike, or a 5 day trek. Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains and Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains are lesser known, but offer up several of Africa’s highest peaks. If you don’t feel the urge to conquer a mountain top but love to walk, excellent hikes include Zambia’s famous walking safaris in South Luangwa National Park, and a multi-day hike along South Africa’s breathtaking Wild Coast.

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4) Explore on Two Wheels

Cycling vacations in Africa are becoming very popular. Of course its eco-friendly, and a great way to immerse yourself in rural Africa. Riding a bike does not put up the same economic and social barriers as driving around in a car. Biking also lets you see, hear, and experience Africa at its own pace. Whether you want the thrill of a cross-continent cycling adventure, or you just want to spend half a day exploring Cape Town, there’s an African bike tour that’s perfect for you. More About: Cycling tours in Africa

Motorcycle Tours — Whether you’re interested in riding through the Sahara Desert, a motorcycle safari in Tanzania, or enjoying South African coastline on a Triumph — it’s all possible. More About: Motorcycle Tours in Africa.

 

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5) Volunteer and Make a Difference

Volunteering in Africa lets you scratch below the surface and gain an appreciation of a culture very different from your own. Spending time teaching, working and living alongside a community also leads to a deeper understanding about yourself, what you take for granted and what you should appreciate back home. It’s a great way to experience Africa at a level beyond a consumer or voyeur. There are lots of options to volunteer for a few days, a week, or 6 months in Africa, that can all be added on to your vacation. Africa does not lack labor, and unemployment is extremely high, so expect to pay a program fee for your experience.

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6) Get Historical

The evolution of man starts in Africa and Oldupai (Olduvai) Gorge in Tanzania is a great destination for anyone interested in our bi-pedal ancestors. A few million years later, the San in southern Africa were adorning caves with magnificent paintings. The Egyptians were already terribly civilized 5,000 years ago, and busy building monuments and tombs which still stand today. During medieval times, the great cities of Fez, Marrakech and Timbuktu were in their prime, and can still be enjoyed today. The slave-trade left its mark on the coast of both East and West Africa, while Coptic Christians were carving churches out of mountains in Ethiopia. Africa has a fascinating history.

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7) Be Wildly Adventurous

You could argue that any trip to Africa is an adventure, but there’s plenty more where that came from. Victoria Falls prides itself on being the extreme adventure capital of Africa. Where else can you bungee off a bridge, swim up to the edge of the world’s largest waterfall, micro-light over the Falls, white-water raft down some of the wildest rapids on earth, and then call it a day by having a beer and lifting your glass to a pod of hippos and crocs living in the Zambezi river? Elsewhere, the Sahara desert offers fabulous motorcycle adventures, as well as sand-boarding. Surfing is legendary along South Africa’s many bays, just watch out for those diving with Great Whites below you.

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8) Shop in Local Markets and Bazaars

Visiting markets and bazaars in Africa, is a wonderful way to see local artisans at work and get a good insight into a country’s culture, food, smells and sounds. Markets and bazaars also provide fantastic photo opportunities. Get your bargaining skills on and you’ll discover how much fun it is to buy your tourist trinkets. By shopping in markets and stores around town you also help the local economy. Whether you’re immersing yourself in the medina of Fes in Morocco, checking out the latest high-life CD’s in Accra‘s Makola market, or getting sandals made at a Maasai cattle auction in Tanzania, you’ll love the experience.

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9) Take a Culinary Tour

Culinary tours to Africa offer up a tasty combination of culture and history. In Africa most culinary tours concentrate on Morocco and South Africa. Unfortunately I can’t find any offers of a culinary tours to Ethiopia, or I would be there right now.  Culinary tours usually involve some hands on cooking, dining at fine restaurants, wine tasting and shopping for ingredients at local markets. Sounds great doesn’t it?

Whatever country you are visiting in Africa do try the local food. Even street food is safe as long as you stick to the cooked items, just avoid the salad! In rural areas, ask if you can help pound and prepare for a basic meal, it will be a great experience.

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10) Attend a Festival

With thousands of ethnic groups in Africa, each celebrating their own rites of passage, religious festivals, and local harvests there’s generally music and food being shared on any given night of any given week. But as a tourist (and outsider), it’s not always easy to gain access, or even know about what’s happening where. Luckily, there are several large festivals and cultural events that happen annually, where you can enjoy film, poetry, drama, and of course music, in an organized setting. If sports is more your “thing”, then definitely try to watch a local soccer match.

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Editor’s Top 10 Picks

Here are my personal top 10 places I would like to see and revisit all over the world:

 

1) Tuscany, Italy

Something about this place draws me in. I can picture myself eating exquisite Italian food alfresco and drinking a glass of wine from the vineyards. Hands down, this is my most favorite place I would like to visit.

2) Accra Beach Hotel, Christ Church Parish, Barbados

I have been to Barbados before and I stayed at the Accra Beach Hotel, and personally, that was the best vacation of my life. It brings back so many memories, of walking along the boardwalk, relaxing in the pink and white grain sand, friendly locals, being able to swim up to the bar and have a drink, and singing quite off-pitch at the karaoke bar at the hotel.

3) Andes Mountains, Peru

The views here are spectacular. I am very adventurous so I was thrilled when I was able to ride a horse up the mountain on a very narrow path, one foot to your left were cactus’ and one foot to your right was over a 200 foot cliff, and the picture above is the lake we had to cross with our horses to go up the mountain

4) Cape Cod: Provincetown, Hyannis, Martha’s Vineyard 

I go to Cape Cod every summer and Provincetown, Hyannis, and Martha’s Vineyard are my favorite places to visit. My family and I spend a majority of our time in Hyannis mostly because of the town with the cute shops and a variety of restaurants, and we also go parasailing there. Provincetown is one of my new favorites because of its lively atmosphere and town. There we usually go whale watching and explore around the town. Martha’s Vineyard we save for the last couple of days where we just relax and enjoy the beach and the gingerbread-like houses in Oak Bluffs. And we usually like to rent a moped for the day and ride around Edgartown and stop off at Gay Head Cliffs (Aquinnah) for breathtaking views of the ocean.

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5) Santorini, Greece

My favorite thing about Greece are the white houses and the blue accents and how it looks so clean and fresh. I can picture myself walking around exploring the food markets and gazing at the sunset.

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6) Mont St. Michel, France

After talking about this in one of the blogs, I fell in love with this place. It reminds me of that castle in the movie “Tangled” (a Disney movie). The architecture looks very romantic and gothic at the same time, it is enchanting to look at.

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7) Phuket, Thailand

There is something mystical about Phuket, Thailand. It reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean, and the rock formations are captivating!

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8) Ta Phrom Temple, Cambodia

I was fascinated by the ancient temple in Cambodia ever since it was featured on the Travel Channel. It is so mysterious yet captivating.

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9) Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Bora Bora seems like the place where you can relax and get rid of all your stress and troubles. With the white sandy beaches, picturesque landscape, and interesting architecture, this is the best Caribbean vacation.

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10) Leavenworth, Washington

In the spirit of Christmas, Leavenworth is a town that I have always wanted to visit since I was little, with the entire town decked out in Christmas lights, horse-drawn sleigh rides through the snow, and the weekends there are like a Dr. Seuss tale, with the townsfolk joining hands at 4:30 around the gazebo for the lighting of the tree and some good old-fashioned caroling.

 

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Best Places To Hunt For Buried Treasure

If you are the type of person that likes to stay away from tourist traps, then this article is for you! This is a list of the best places to hunt for buried treasure according to lonelyplanet.com

1) Opal mining, Coober Pedy, Australia

Outback adventure and the chance to strike it rich: can you dig it? The good folk of Cooper Pedy can… and have done, ever since opal was first discovered there in 1915. Named from the local aboriginal term ‘kupa-piti’ (meaning ‘whitefella in a hole’), this far-flung town is known as the opal capital of the world; it’s also famous for its underground homes, excavated to escape the desert sizzle. While hardcore miners need a government permit, anyone is allowed to fossick – in local parlance, ‘noodle’ – through the town’s many mine dumps. Don’t let the whimsical verb fool you: many a noodler has hit paydirt.

Before going it alone, try a sanctioned noodle at Tom’s Working Opal Mine (www.tomsworkingopalmine.com.au) or Old Timers’ Mine (www.oldtimersmine.com).

2) Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Home to a huge, mysterious hole nicknamed the Money Pit, this otherwise unremarkable island is the destination for those answering the call of booty. First discovered in 1795, the cryptic Pit is the site of the world’s longest-running treasure hunt… although just which treasure is being hunted remains the cause of frenzied debate. Rumoured riches hidden within the hole (which supposedly runs at least 60m deep) include Captain Kidd’s stash, the lost jewels of Marie Antoinette, documents proving the ‘real’ identity of Shakespeare (Francis Bacon, FYI) and the holy grail of treasure seekers, the, erm, Holy Grail. Beware the booby traps!

Oak Island is privately owned, and permission is required before setting off to solve the mystery of the Pit. Start here for legends and links: www.oakislandtreasure.co.uk.

3) Geocaching, Las Vegas, USA

Cache-ING! Looking for loot in Las Vegas? Forget fruit machines and bank breaking: these days, thousands of Sin City visitors are forgoing gambling for geocaching. A real-life treasure hunt that relies on GPS and cryptic clues, geocaching is more likely to yield a Kinder Egg than that of the nest variety, but that hasn’t stopped five million enthusiasts worldwide. Vegas has become a must-do for the high-tech hobbyists, with more than 2400 stashes hidden in and around the city, including scores on the Strip, in the surrounding desert and in spooky spots for ‘haunted’ night caching.

Head to www.nevadageocaching.com and www.geocaching.com for the lowdown on what lies beneath.

4) Gold Detecting, Papau New Guinea

There’s gold in them thar hills… and on them thar islands… and under that thar sea. Papua New Guinea is absolutely awash with the shiny stuff, and while much of it falls into the hands of multinational mining companies, there’s no reason the budding prospector can’t have a pick or a pan as well. Gold fever peaked in the 20th century, with nuggets the ‘size of goose eggs’ attracting feverish prospectors, including a certain Mr Errol Flynn. These days, PNG’s rough-and-tumble landscape (social and geographic) make joining an organised tour a better idea than striking out on your own. They’re not cheap, but with a potential ‘Eureka!’ moment lurking beneath every step, who cares?

PNG Gold Tours offer fully escorted, two-week gold-hunting trips to Misma Island, an area renowned for rich alluvial deposits. Visit www.pnggoldtours.com.

5) Digging for Dinos, Australia

Thrilled by theropods? Is ‘muttaburrasaurus’ more than just an amusing tongue-twister to you? Then it’s a fair bet that joining a dinosaur dig is your idea of the ultimate treasure hunt. And where better to pander to your inner palaeontologist than outback Winton, home to Australia’s largest horde of dino bones? The not-for-profit organisation Australian Age of Dinosaurs holds tri-annual Dinosaur Discovery Weeks, giving enthusasauruses the chance to excavate, plaster and prep fossils buried for the last 95 million years. No experience is necessary, but only 13 spots per dig are available. Book quickly: they’ll be gone before you can say ‘Diamantinasaurus matildae’.

Digs run between July and September. Find out more and reserve your spot at australianageofdinosaurs.com/aa-dig-a-dino.php.

6) Roman Coins, English Countryside

Either togas suffered from a lack of pockets or departing Romans hadn’t time to stop at a currency exchange, because England is absolutely aglitter with ancient currency. And it’s yours for the picking. Amateur archaeologists and quaint folk with metal detectors have been responsible for massive finds across the island; in 2010, an NHS chef uncovered a pot filled with 52,000 coins dated between AD 253 and 293, the largest such hoard ever discovered. Coins have been unearthed as far north as Northumberland and west of Exeter. Study up, be sure to get landowners’ permission and you too could hold history in your hands!

Contact the National Council for Metal Detecting for information on detector hire, regional clubs and valuing your treasure: www.ncmd.co.uk.

7) Norman Island, British Virgin Islands

Peg-legs, black spots, West County accents: if there was a map showing the home of every pirate cliché known to fancy-dressers, Norman Island would be marked with an X. Not shivering your timbers? Perhaps its fictional name, Treasure Island, will make you go ‘aaaaargh’. The inspiration behind Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale of mutiny and booty, Norman Island today is a haven for snorkellers and nature lovers (no shoulder-parrots spotted… yet). But rumours of undiscovered doubloons hidden in The Caves – a series of aptly murky watery caverns – attract rum-hoisters convinced the island remains home to ‘plenty of prizes and plenty of duff!’.

Norman Island is a short boat trip from Tortola, the biggest and most populated of the BVIs. Tortola is reached via ferries or flights out of various Caribbean hubs. See www.normanisland.com.

8) Artic Amethysts, Kola Peninsula, Russia

Far above the Arctic Circle, all that glitters is not ice: western Russia’s extreme north sparkles with the purple slivers of the prized amethyst. The rugged Kola Peninsula – a mineralogist’s dream with its hundreds of rare rock and metal species – is home to the windswept, amethyst-rich Tersky Coast. Unlike gold, the amethyst is surprisingly easy to find if you know where to look (Tersky’s Korabl Cape – ‘Ship Cape’ – is a great place to start): simply look for the purple clumps. In addition to its beauty, amethyst has a legendary quality which may come in handy in these frozen, vodka-loving lands: it’s believed to protect its bearer from drunkenness.

While spotting amethysts is simple enough, getting around Kola Peninsula is not. Consider joining a mineralogical tour with the South Kola group (www.kolaklub.com/southkola/mne.htm) or Kola Travel (http://kolatravel.com/mineralogical_holidays.htm).

9) Fossil Gawking, Gobi Dessert, Mongolia

To the hurried eye, the vast Gobi Desert looks like 1.3 million square-kilometres of dusty nothing. But stop, stoop and focus: the Gobi is one of the world’s richest fossil depositories, with many ancient (as in,100-million-years-ancient) remains lying only centimetres from the surface. It was here the first dinosaur eggs were discovered; other major excavated finds include rare mid-evolutionary birds and some of the world’s best-preserved mammal fossils. Hunting hotspots include the Flaming Hills of Bayanzag and Altan Uul (‘Golden Mountain’). You’re not supposed to take your finds home with you – they’re rightfully considered national treasures – but here, especially, the thrill is in the chase.

Independent (not package) tours can be hard to stumble across, but not impossible. Many guesthouses in Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar can help get your expedition underway.

10) Wreck Diving, Florida, USA

It may be known as the ‘Sunshine State’, but many of Florida’s richest attractions haven’t seen the light of day in centuries. Thought to be home to more sunken treasure than any other state in the USA, Florida’s blue waters may be hiding more than US$200 million worth of loot. Now home to Disneyworld and pampered retirees, the state was once a notorious pirate haven (even Blackbeard dropped anchor here), and its hurricanes sent countless Spanish galleons to Davy Jones’ locker. Check local legalities before you wriggle into your wettie, and never dive alone in Florida’s oft-treacherous waters: those wrecks are down there for a reason.

The website www.treasuresites.com/indexn.htm is a treasure trove itself, with super-detailed listings of potentially enriching (and legal) wreck-dive spots across Florida.

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Travelling through South East Asia

10 Things You Must Do in South East Asia according to aminearlythereyet.com

1) The Temples of Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia

You cannot come to south-east Asia and not visit these world famous temples in Siem Reap. Beautiful architectural design on a mind blowing scale, you’ll need at least 3 full days to explore the major temples. The sense of history and the grandeur of a lost civilization is incredible. Sunset at the phenomenal Angkor Wat temple is not to be missed.

2) Buy a motor boat and cruise Vietnam

No other country in Asia has so many motorbikes! Ride down the truly amazing coastal roads of the famous Highway 1 and the less visited central highlands. With some of the best scenery in south east Asia, what better way to experience it then to ride at your own leisure through unspoilt countryside, villages and rice terraces.

An excellent motor bike infrastructure exists throughout the whole country. With spares and repair shops in every town and high quality 2nd hand bikes to be had. Make sure you are covered by your travel insurance and are experienced and confident enough to enjoy the ride.

3) Dance all night at the Full Moon party, Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand

Backpacking in SE Asia would simply not be complete without getting your boogie on at the full moon party. World class sound systems, entertainment, and enough UV paint for a lifetime! Even if your not a party animal, there’s still plenty of fun to be had at probably the best party in the world.

4) Drink beer Lao watching the sun go down in Luang Prabang

Sleepy Luang Prabang, the jewel of the Mekong. Dripping with ex-French colonial charm; it’s the perfect a place to unwind with an ice cold Beer Lao (Possibly the best beer in Asia?). As well as the famous laid back Lao attitude, their favourite beer is also seen as a national institution.

5) Stay on Koh Rong Island, Cambodia

Blue sky, white sand, warm clear sea, Koh Rong Island is true paradise. If you want time alone with your book or to top up your tan you cannot get a more perfect place. Situated a two hour boat ride from Sihnoukville, Koh Rong Island is quiet, secluded and ideal for some peaceful solitude.

6) Try Muay Thai Boxing, in Thailand

Eaten too much Pad Thai? Drunk a few too many whiskey buckets?

If you want to get fit, learn a new skill or simply learn to kick ass, then this is definitely something worth doing in Thailand. There are schools all over the country that cater for all levels, from total novice to seasoned pro. It’s physically gruelling, but great if you want to get back into shape after going too crazy at the full moon party.

7) Relax in a hammock beside the Mekong River, at 4000 islands (Si Phan Don) Laos

Picture it. Can it get any better? Swinging in a hammock, head in a good book, total peace and quiet, listening to sound of the Mekong river below… Grab a cold Beer Lao and enjoy the an amazing sunset over the river.

8) Visit Maya Island, Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

To get to Maya Island, first you must arrive on Koh Phi Phi. It’s much smaller and than Thailand’s other islands, but is home to some great bars and restaurants, beach parties and impressive fire shows. Maya island is unspoilt beauty at it’s best.

It became popular over night when the film ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo Di Caprio was filmed there. The only way to get there is by boat, about an hour from Koh Phi Phi. Totally undeveloped; with no hotels or go-go bars in sight! Lets hope it stays like that.

9) Drink Bai Hoi in Hanoi, Vietnam

Pull up a little plastic stool with the locals and sink a few glasses of ‘Bai Hoi’. The Vietnamese have adopted a Czech brewing process to create an excellent beer that’s brewed daily. It’s light, very cheap and extremely drinkable.

10) Do a Thai cookery course

Undoubtedly one of the best cuisines in the world, and probably one of the best things about Thailand. Spicy papaya salad, massaman curry, pad thai; sooo many delicious options to choose from! Gain new culinary skills and take some of the country home with you. Impress everyone with your new mouth watering recipes.

 

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Top 10 Regions for 2013

These are the top 10 regions for 2013 according to lonelyplanet.com

1) Corsica, France

Best for: activites, events, food

Mixing the cultures of Italy and France yet fiercely Corsican, the French Mediterranean island of Corsica has a furious beauty. It is this epic beauty combined with its challenging topography that make it a spectacular choice to host the historic centenary of the initial stages of the Tour de France. Race organisers wanted the hundredth Tour to start in an enchanting location, and decided Corsica was the place; this will be the first time the race has braved its challenges.

2) The Negev, Israel

Best for: adventure, activities, off the beaten track

For decades the Negev was regarded as nothing but a desolate desert. But today, this region is a giant greenhouse of development. Think eco-villages, spa resorts and even wineries. In the next few years a new international airport at Timna is scheduled to open, followed by a high-speed railway to Eilat and more hotels. Time is running out to experience the desert as nature intended.

3) Mustang, Nepal

Best for: activities, off the beaten track, culture

The completion of a road connecting Mustang to China in the north and the rest of Nepal to the south will make all the difference to this remote region. Lo Manthang, or Mustang as it’s usually called, has been dubbed ‘little Tibet’ or ‘the last forbidden kingdom’; though politically part of Nepal, in language, culture, climate and geography, it’s Tibet. Until 1992 nobody from outside was allowed in; for a while after that it was opened up to a few hundred a year, and these days anyone can enter, though the pricey trekking permit keeps the numbers down. Expect that to change.

4) The Yukon, Canada

Best for: activities, adventure, off the beaten track

This vast and thinly populated wilderness has a grandeur and beauty that can only be properly appreciated in person. But while few places in the world today are so unchanged over the course of time, change has started coming fast to the Yukon. In 2013 it is still one of the least densely populated regions on the planet (there’s almost 14.2 sq km/5.5 sq miles for each hardy local) but its tremendous mineral wealth is drawing new residents in a reprise of the fabled Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. Climate change means that parts of the far north are actually dissolving into the Arctic Ocean and the glacier-clad parks are undergoing profound change.

5) Chachapoyas & Kuelap, Peru

Best for: adventure, culture, off the beaten track

Nestled in the northern Peruvian Andes, the placid mountain city of Chachapoyas is small, quiet and a pain in the neck to reach. But this charming agricultural centre sits amid some of the country’s most incredible cultural and natural treasures, including an entire river valley’s worth of pre-Inca ruins, the funerary site of Karajía, and one of the world’s tallest waterfalls. The glorious isolation isn’t going to last for long. For the past half-dozen years, the Peruvian government has been quietly paving roads and improving other infrastructure to make the area more visitor-friendly.

6) The Gulf Coast, USA

Best for: activities, family, value for money

An area that has become synonymous with the words ‘oil spill’ doesn’t sound like it’d be a vacation must-do. But a lot has happened since a deep-water drilling operation off the coast of Louisiana went fatally awry in 2010. The Gulf Coast – never a place to take disaster lying down – has rebounded. Rolling sand dunes once again sparkle and seasonal travellers are once again enjoying the Gulf’s tepid waters, not to mention its tender locally caught fish. The ‘Redneck Riviera’ is edging back to its best.
 
7) Carinthia, Austria
 
Best for: activities, family, value for money
 

With belts tightening across Europe, the Alps are fast becoming the exclusive preserve of the champagne set… but lesser mortals will find plenty to love about Carinthia. With ski resorts nestled on every mountain top, Carinthia is best known outside Austria for uncrowded slopes and après-ski where you don’t have to take out a second mortgage just to buy a beer. Backing onto Italy and Slovenia, the region dilutes the Austrian efficiency with Mediterranean laissez-faire. So where are the crowds? Check out Carinthia now, while peace and quiet reigns; it won’t stay like this forever.

8) Palawan, The Philippines

Best for: off the beaten track, adventure, culture

Palawan incorporates thousands of sparkling, rugged islands and is fringed by 2000km of pristine coastline. So far Palawan’s natural marvels have only been sampled by plucky backpackers. Not for much longer. The trail these pioneers have blazed is set to explode, with regional airlines waking up to Palawan’s potential and clambering to schedule direct flights to the capital. Throw in the mushrooming growth of style-conscious boutique hotels normally found in places like Ko Samui or Bali, and you can feel that Palawan is ready to hit the big-time in 2013.

9) Inland Sea, Japan

Best for: culture, activities, off the beaten track

Tokyo, Kyoto, Mt Fuji… the islands of the Seto Inland Sea? You’d be forgiven if the name of this vast stretch of water in Japan’s west doesn’t ring any bells. With the exception of Miyajima, with its oft-photographed vermillion ‘floating’ torii (shrine gate), most of the Inland Sea islands aren’t on the usual international-tourist hit list. Fair enough. They’re out of the way, and there’s just so much to do in Tokyo. But those who make the effort are rewarded. Many of the islands in this roughly 400km-long waterway offer the chance to experience a Japan without all the bells, whistles and bullet trains.

10) Campania, Italy

Best for: culture, family, food

Campania is home to Italy’s most sumptuous stretch of coastline (the Amalfi Coast), one of its most mind-blowing and ebullient cities (Naples), the menacing beauty of Mt Vesuvius, and the frozen-in-lava ancient Roman city of Pompeii. This year it is receiving an enormous injection of cash as part of its role in hosting the UN’s fourth Universal Forum of Cultures from April to July. Events will include art exhibitions from all five continents, music, cinema, dance, street artists and theatre, circus acts, food markets and workshops.

 

 

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Top 10 Winter Destinations in Europe

These are the top 10 winter destinations in Europe according to lonelyplanet.com

1) Rovaniemi, Finland

Fistfuls of Christmas clichés characterise Rovaniemi, the ‘official’ terrestrial residence of Santa Claus. Everyone’s favourite bearded man hangs out in an atmospheric Arctic Circle grotto, and it’s free to visit him (but photos are another story). Snow and reindeer add festive spirit, while the Arktikum museum gives insights into life at these latitudes.

Tip: Finnish thermometers have more numbers below 0°C than above, so pack serious winter clothing.

2) Christmas Markets, Germany and Austria

December sees these romantic historic markets pop up all over Germany and other Central European nations. Expect cute stalls selling everything from gingerbread to sleigh bells and plenty of good cheer, toasted with a glass of warming glühwein.

Tip: Famous markets in Cologne, Vienna and Munich draw the tourist crowds, but seeking out ones in smaller towns is rewarding.

3) Abisco, Sweden

Almost as far north as you can get in Europe on a train, Abisko in Lapland is for lovers of serious winter. The sun doesn’t rise for several weeks in December and January but that darkness makes it one of the world’s best places to view the majestic aurora borealis. Other attractions include cross-country skiing along national park trails and husky mushing.

Tip: Stop off at nearby Kiruna to see the famous Icehotel.

4) Athens, Greece

It’s a real downer trying to Photoshop 500 people out of your would-be-prizewinning Parthenon photo, but in winter it’s not an issue. All summer stresses – crowding, tourist pricing, intense heat, queues, air pollution – more or less disappear. It’s the best time to explore the country’s ancient heritage and get to experience local culture.

Tip: By all means do some island-hopping, but most accommodations close in winter.

5. Copenhagen, Denmark

 

For fairytale European winter, it’s hard to beat the home of Hans Christian Andersen. Forget the over-hyped Little Mermaid and head to the city’s cosy bars and cafes to watch snow flurrying outside. In the heart of town, the 19th-century Tivoli amusement park is a romantic, kitsch delight around Christmastime, with heartwarming illuminations and body-warming mugs of glögg.

Tip: Splash out on a meal at Noma, considered by many to be the world’s best restaurant (reservations can fill quickly, so try to book several months in advance).

6. Budapest, Hungary

Couples skating hand-in-hand, breath cloudy in the frosty air – there’s nowhere better for it than the Hungarian capital’s picturesque central park Városligeti Műjégpálya, with its enormous outdoor rink. Feeling chilly afterwards? Budapest is famous for its ornate thermal baths.

Tip: At night seek out a ‘ruin pub’ – an atmospheric drinking venue artfully created in a once-abandoned building.

7. Jasna, Slovakia

Slovakia offers high-quality skiing at affordable prices. Accommodation and food are reasonable too, and there’s a friendliness that’s missing from some of the snootier Alpine slopes. Jasná is the best Slovakian resort, with long descents flanked by snow-laden spruce trees, set in the ruggedly lovely Tatras Mountains.

Tip: Flights direct to Slovakia can be pricey, so don’t make this your entry point to Europe.

8 Andalucia, Spain

Parts of Andalucía are further south than the African coast so expect mild temperatures in winter. Accommodation is cheap, and crowds are smaller at standout attractions like Granada’s Alhambra or Seville’s cathedral. Plus tapas and nightlife in the cities are as enticing as ever.

Tip: Head to the Sierra Nevada near Granada if you want snowsport action.

9. Transylvania, Romania

You can’t visit Dracula’s lair on a sunny day with lambs bleating in the fields, right? Try steel-grey skies, bare trees and a smattering of snow. Braşov and Sighişoara, two hours apart by rail, are gorgeous medieval towns with various connections to Vlad Ţepeş, the historical Dracula, though it’s doubtful that he ever set foot in his so-called castle.

Tip: Bram Stoker never visited Romania, so don’t expect many parallels with the book or films.

10) Venice, Italy

Hauntingly beautiful and rather weird, Venice’s Carnevale in February is a European highlight. Elaborate costumes and spooky masks bring the canal city’s colourful history to life. Costumed dances are pricey affairs, but you can have a ball enjoying the free events with a mask bought on the street, but be prepared for epic crowding.

Tip: Book accommodation ahead. Day-tripping in and out on a train will lower costs considerably.

 

 

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Top 10 Ocean Views

According to National Geographic (www.nationalgeographic.com) , below are the Top 10 Ocean Views in the world. While some of  you are abroad or plan on going abroad to some of these countries, be sure you go check them out. We love pictures, so be sure to take plenty!

 Top 10 Ocean Views

10. Mirador Escénico, San Carlos, Mexico

This scenic lookout, four miles from San Carlos, gives a peerless view over the Gulf of California, dramatic Tetakawi—a volcanic hill jutting out of the sea—and the secluded coves of Playa Piedras Pintas. Mirador is also a world-class vantage point for spotting wildlife, including dolphins, pelicans, and whales.
Planning: A good way to explore the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortes) is to rent a kayak or fishing boat in San Carlos. The best sailing and fishing weather occurs from November through May. www.visitmexico.com

9. Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaii

A guided mule train down a near-vertical, three-mile trail in the Kalaupapa National Historical Park is the usual way to reach this hideaway, sheltered by the world’s highest sea cliffs, which plunge 3,315 feet into the Pacific. In the 19th century, the cliffs served as a natural barrier for a leper colony. Although the colony closed in 1969, some residents choose to remain here.
Planning: Advance reservations are necessary, as a maximum of 18 mules a day are allowed along the trail. The park is closed on Sundays. Visitors need permits. www.muleride.com, www.gohawaii.com

8. Cape Leeuwin, Australia

At Australia’s southwesternmost tip—where the Indian Ocean collides with what Australians call the Southern Ocean—Cape Leeuwin lighthouse safeguards one of the world’s busiest and most treacherous shipping lanes. In summer, you can enjoy views of endless water; in winter, you feel the full force of the oceans crashing against the cape.
Planning: Regular tours of the lighthouse precinct run throughout the day. The outlook is most dramatic in winter; whales are visible from June through December. www.westernaustralia.com

7. Sur to Aija, Oman

At the town of Sur, on Oman’s northeast coast, you can soak up the view across the creek to Aija, a village of low, pastel-colored dwellings and ornate merchants’ houses surrounded by rocky beaches. Fishermen’s dhows bob on the water and several small boatyards still build these traditional sailboats.
Planning: Sur is about 90 miles along the coast from Muscat. The view is best at high tide. www.omantourism.gov.om

 6. Látrabjarg, Iceland

Iceland´s most remote region, the Westfjords, is home to one of the world´s greatest bird cliffs and its largest razorbill colony. At Europe´s westernmost point, the 1,457-foot-high, 8.7-mile-long Látrabjarg cliff also entrances its visitors with misty views over white-sand beaches and Snæfellsjökull glacier in the distance.
Planning: Látrabjarg is accessible by car, approximately 37 miles from the village of Patreksfjörður via road 612. www.westfjords.is, www.nat.is, www.visiticeland.com

  5. St. John’s Head, Hoy, Orkneys, Scotland

Near the northern tip of the island of Hoy, St. John’s Head is Britain’s highest vertical sea cliff. Thanks to the fierce swell and tide, just reaching its base is a serious undertaking. For less courageous types, the best viewpoint is from the Scrabster-to-Stromness ferry, which leaves up to three times daily.
Planning: The best time to view the cliff is on a summer evening when sunset turns it an ardent red. The ferry trip also provides views of the Old Man of Hoy, a 450-foot-high seastack. www.hoyorkney.com

4. Son Marroig, Mallorca, Spain

Tired of Viennese court life and enamored of the scenery around Son Marroig, on Mallorca’s north coast, Austria’s Archduke Ludwig Salvatore (1847–1915) bought a property here with sweeping vistas over the Na Foradada (“pierced rock”) peninsula, which has a gaping 59-foot hole at its center.
Planning: For the best views of the peninsula, ask at the museum for permission to walk the two-mile-long path toward Na Foradada. www.illesbalears.es

3. Sagres Bay, Portugal

For a whiff of historical romance and swashbuckling adventure, few outlooks outclass the one at Sagres, mainland Europe’s most southwesterly community. In the 15th century, Prince Henry the Navigator came here to found his School of Navigation to train sailors and cartographers, in order to fulfill his quest to expand the known world’s frontiers and open a sea route to India.
Planning: The best way to explore Sagres Bay and Cape St. Vincent is by car or on foot, as there is no public transportation. www.sagres.net

2. Dun Aengus, Aran Islands, Ireland

One of Europe’s most splendid cliff forts, consisting of stone walls built in three semicircles, Dun Aengus sits atop an unclimbable sea cliff rising 328 feet out of the ocean. The innermost court affords superb views over the island of Inishmore and the distant Connemara coast.
Planning: Reachable by ferry from Doolin, County Clare, and Rossaveal, County Galway, Aran’s main settlement is Kilronan. www.aranisland.info

1. Coast Road, Western Sahara

One of the Paris–Dakar Rally’s remotest legs, this artery cleaves seemingly endless sands and a rocky Atlantic coast. While the terrain initially appears monotonous, the tarmac road is far from featureless, passing glassy lagoons and palm-fringed oases.
Planning: To avoid unexploded mines, drive off-road only with a local guide. Although camel-borne nomads outnumber vacationers, Western Sahara draws intrepid deep-sea anglers and kite- and sand-surfers. www.mbendi.com, www.africatravelling.net

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