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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

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Unique Easter Traditions

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As Easter approaches we can’t help but wondering what are the world’s other traditions besides just dingy bunny costumes and store bought chocolates? Surely there must be some creativity and touches of folklore left out there in the world! So we went on a mission to find the most amusing, unique and flat out awesome Easter traditions.

1.) England

First off England. Yes London does engage in some of the traditional Easter customs like chocolate and bunnies, but the tradition of Maundy Thursday is the one you need to hear about. Traditionally Maundy Thursday (comes before Good Friday) was known when England’s royalty would wash the poor’s feet. This tradition changed in 1689, but instead started a new tradition where the monarch gives out money. Two purses are given out, a red and a white one. The red purse contains an allowance for clothing and provisions, while the white one contains unique Maundy coins. These coins come in either 4 pence (also known as a groat) 3 pence, 2 pence and 1 pence. Traditionally the amount of money given out corresponds with how many seniors recieve the purses and the monarch’s age. Last year the Queen was 84, so hence 84 recievers and 84 pence!

Maundy Coins

2.) Finland
Finland offer a very different and surprising tradition with Easter, that many would probably compare with the popular holiday Halloween. Legend has it that witches would fly over towns the Thursday before Easter and then would return Easter Sunday. The town people would attempt to scare the witches away with fires, which are now replaced today with fireworks that lead up to Easter Sunday. Besides just these fireworks, towns like Helsinki have other special traditions like Virpominen. Virpominen usually takes place the Thursday or Saturday before Easter. The tradition consists of little children dressing up as witches with soot on their faces, scarves on their heads and carrying broomsticks and coffee pots. Much like the holiday Halloween, the kids go from house to house asking for candy, in exchange for willow branches with ribbon tied around it.

finland-witches

3.) Prague

Although easily more identifiable with the classic signs of Easter, Prague still offers unique traditions indicative of their culture. Giant markets with wonderful stalls filled with crafts and tantalizing foods are set up, but the real jem of the holiday is easily the Easter egg. Although a traditional symbol for Easter, these eggs are much more elaborate. The eggs are pretty ubiquitous throughout Prague, although each egg is impeccable with unique designs. Besides just buying one of these eggs, you can also get your own egg personalized, with the woman in charge of the stall hand painting your name on the egg. If you’re there you should try to take a local folklore tour to learn even more about certain traditions unique only to Prague.

Prague Easter Eggs

4.) Czech Republic, Poland & Slovakia
Other countries like the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia indulge in uncommon Easter traditions. The two most popular are called Dyngus and Pomlazka (although these can differ depending exactly what part of Central and Eastern Europe you are in). The first of the two Dyngus, consists of men dousing young women with water, although in more recent times the dousing has been toned down to a light sprinkling. The water represents a year full of health and beauty and many girls will boast the next day of how many men came to douse her with water.

The other tradition known as Pomlazka revolves around young men lightly whipping the women with willow branches that usually have ribbon attached at the end of the branch. The men cut one, or sometimes a few, branches down and gently whip the women in order to guarantee fertility and a healthy year. The tradition revolves around the ideal that the life of the tree will be transferred into the girl once she is whipped by the branches.

Pamlozka

5.) Norway

Norway has an unusual event that occurs during Easter which involves crime novels. During the week of Easter, crime movies, novels and even unsolved murders featured on the side of milk box cartons run rampant through Norway. A theory on how this began was in 1923 when a publicity stunt featured advertisements that looked like news items dealing with crimes and murders appeared on the front of different newspapers. Many believed the PR stunt, which somehow led to a publishing house to start churning out crime novels. These became popular during the week of Easter when movie theatres, restaurants and cafes were mainly closed because of the holiday. Chocolate eggs, bunnies and chicks are still a popular way to celebrate Easter, but this crime tradition is certainly one of the cooler Easter customs we’ve found!

Norway Crime Novels

6.) France

To finish out this list of interesting Easter traditions we come to France and its ingenious use of disposing of the ubiqitious egg bringer (the Easter bunny himself) and following a more unusual and cooler route. The silencing of the bells or Les Cloches Volants started in the 12th century, where church bells were silenced starting Good Friday in acknowledgment of Jesus’s death. Legend goes that the bells fly to Rome to be with the Pope, and then return Easter Sunday where they bring chocolate eggs, bells and everything else. These chocolates are hidden around the house for children to find once they wake up on Sunday. Get in the Parisian Easter spirit with a chocolate cookin class in Paris and make your own pair of chocolate flying bells!

Chocolate Bells

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Top 10 Bucket list Travels

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Everyone has a personal Bucket list about what we want to achieve and accomplish in life. So we decided to share ours! We put together our ultimate travel bucket list, with our top 10 things we want, need and would seriously LOVE to do in our lives.

1.) The Blue Lagoon, Iceland
The Blue Lagoon is an amazing geothermal spa located in Iceland. Steamy, blue waters with an average temperature of 37-39 degrees Celsius (that’s 98-102 Fahrenheit) contain rich minerals like silica and sulphur that calm irritated skin and even help certain skin diseases like psoriasis. The site is a top tourist attraction in Iceland, and has been used as a unique, yet beautiful setting on many shows such as The Amazing Race and America’s Next Top Model.
blue-lagoon

2.) Bullfighting in Mexico City
Bullfighting is a long standing art form that has been practiced for centuries in such countries as Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Peru and the South of France. Although complaints have arisen lately due to violence and animal cruelty (yes we have a heart, we DO feel bad for the bulls even though this is on our bucket list), bullfighting is still a vital cultural aspect of many of these countries. If bullfighting does end up fading into the abyss, sadly, not for the bulls, but for the people of these countries, some of their history will without a doubt fade with it.

3.) V8 Driving Program, Australia
We’ll admit it, we have a need for speed (cheesy but TRUE!) With the V8 Driving Program not only do you learn about the race circuits at the famed Holden Performance Driving Centre, but you literally feel like a speed racer with the opportunity to drive and operate your own racecar. Amazing.

4.) Shark Cage Diving in Cape Town
Shark Cage Diving with great white sharks has become popular ever since the mid 1990′s and has been a great source of income for the fishing village of Gansbaai. The two islands located in Gansbaai are Dyer Island, which is a private nature reserve that is home to thousands of penguins. The other island, Geyser Rock, is home to cape fur seals, while the shallow channel between the two is known as “shark alley” and is occupied with mass great white sharks.

shark-cage-diving-hawaii
5.) Diving in Silfra, Iceland
Truly an amazing experience whether you’re an experienced diver or it’s your first time. Silfra is known for the large crack caused by the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Described by vistors as an underwater playground for water lovers, the park boasts beautiful blue waters, a mild current and one of the top visibility sites for divers in the world.

diving-in-silfra

6.) Amazon River Cruise
Exploring the famed second longest river in the world is truly worthy of its bucket list status. The Amazon is home to some of the most amazing wildlife and scenery that the world has to offer. There are 2,100 species of fish currently known in the Amazon River (including the piranha) with more species being discovered each year. Sea otters, scarlet macaws, toucans and jaguars are just some of the animals that call the Amazon River and Jungle home.

brazil-amazon-river-tour-clipper

7.) The Ollantaytambo Fortress in Peru
Located in the Ollantaytambo town in Southern Peru, the Ollantaytambo Fortress is an Inca archaeological site. Located 2,792 meters above sea level, the fortress was used as a royal estate for Emperor Pachacuti and then as a stronghold during the Spanish conquest of Peru. These days the Ollantaytambo Fortress serves as an important piece of Inca history and as a jumping off point for three day long hikes via the Inca Trail.

ollaytantboo-fortress

8.) Fox Glacier in New Zealand
The Fox Glacier located on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island provides a great hike in one of the world’s most unexpected places. Start off in New Zealand’s rain forest and make your way to a world of ice and secret passage ways on this 13 km long glacier, located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

9.) Dog Sledding in Jamaica
Located in Chukka Caribbean Adventures in Ochos Rios, this Jimmy Buffet sponsored (yes, MARGARITAVILLE Jimmy Buffet) company takes stray and rescue dogs and gives them a home and a life full of love and entertainment. Strap in and take a ride through the slender glass and warm air of Jamaica.

28a9f__jamaica-dogsled

10.)the Northern Lights, Iceland
Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful and loved wonders of the world, The Northern Lights are more then just an activity on a bucket list, they’re a beautiful act of nature that should be witnessed at least once in every persons life.

norway-northern-lights

We hope our bucket list inspires you to create or complete your own or even takes you to some of these wonderful places!

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Experiencing St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland

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Experiencing St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, giving you a great chance to get away for the weekend and experience an authentic St. Patrick’s Day, and other fantastic adventures that only Ireland has to offer.

1.) Cut Loose the Irish Way

The St. Patrick’s Day Festival:

The St. Patrick’s Day Fesitval is a great way to experience authentic Irish culture on such a special holiday. The festival takes place in Dublin and is known to last for around four days (this year it begins Friday March 16 and ends Monday March 19).

st-patricks-day-festival2

Some of the world’s best street performers and musicians can be found on Dublin’s streets during these four days. Also be on the look out for some great free concerts, with local and international bands, along with great theatre performances and even a Russian spectacular show.

The Guinness Brewery & Storehouse:

Another great way to celebrate Ireland and its fantastic pub culture is to partake in the Guinness Brewery & Storehouse experience, home to Ireland’s most beloved beer- the Guinness Draught. The brewery, located in Dublin since 1759, is a key contributor to Guinness’s 2 billion dollar a year revenue. The tour includes several floors to experience the history behind Guinness, with even a glass pint-shaped atrium tribute to the Guinness “black stuff”. Tours of the brewery usually finish up at the Gravity Bar, a bar with a 360 degree panoramic view of Dublin situated atop the famed storehouse.

800px-guinness_storehouse

2.) Get Your Irish Knowledge On!

Although you may know the origin and story of St. Patrick’s Day, other cultural and historical tales from Ireland are important and interesting ways to enhance your trip. There are many castles, monuments and sites to be seen that hold signifigant value to the Irish people, but the Tomb of Newgrange is certainly one of the coolest.

The Tomb of Newgrange:

The Tomb of Newgrange is one of the oldest historical sites in the world, dating back before Stonehenge and even the pyramids of Giza. Although called a tomb, there’s still no official account for what the site was used for, although many believe it was connected with burial rituals and the Winter Solstice. What IS known about the historical structure is that it dates all the way back to the Neolithic period and is considered Ireland’s greatest national monument.

799px-newgrange1

The tomb resembles a giant mound with alternate layers of stones and grass to make up the outter structure of the building. The tomb has three small rooms, which all connect to the one main room. Rock slabs line the walls of the tomb, along with a slab centered in the middle of the room, which the bones of the deceased are believed to be laid. The Neolithic abstract art of carved swirls and shapes only add to the mysterious beauty of the tomb.

3.) Find the Beauty of Ireland

Part of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day is by embracing the Irish culture and the beauty of Ireland. No better place can this be achieved than Ireland’s coast, which offers several mesmerizing landmarks and sites that will surely enhance and enrich your trip. Beautiful hills, valleys and look out points scatter the 120 mile long route known as the Causeway Coastal. Although the route has many stops, the most famous of them defintely belongs to the Giant Causeway.

The Giant Causeway:

Located in Northern Ireland in Antrim County The Giant Causeway is the biggest tourist attraction in all of Ireland. The Giant Causeway is primarily known for its basalt stepping stones and 40,000 chimney stack columns which slowly descend into the sea, giving it the title of the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The Causeway was created some 50 million years ago, when the Antrim coast was subjected to intense volcanic activity.

Many legends surround the Causeway, with the most popular focusing on the Irish warrior Finn McCool, who outwit and frightened his enemy Benandonner, who fled from McCool and destroyed the Causeway in his flight. The Giant Causeway can be seen as a jump off point for a truly exciting road trip all along Ireland’s coast, with many more memorable stops on the way.

giantscauseway1

The Glens of Antrim

The nine Glens of Atrim is more inland than the Giant Causeway, but is defintely worth the ride. The nine Glens of Atrim is named after the nine lords from the 13th century and is a prime example of beautiful green rolling hills and lush flowers that call Ireland home.

main-glenariff

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How to go green with your travels

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Traveling can sometimes be stressful. Between the airlines, living accommodations, sight-seeing (although ALWAYS easier with the help of isango!-duh) and all while being on a time crunch could drive any totally-sane-completely-in-touch-with-reality-happy-go-lucky-person, kind of frightfully mad. And to throw in the conscientious effort to go green, you scoff ‘Well it can’t be done!’ But I assure you my friend, it can be done AND will make your travels all the more better because of it.

TIP # 1 – Starting with the home

Going green when you’re traveling starts with the home. Make eco-friendly decisions that not only helps the enviornment out, but also yourself once you’ve returned home from your travels.

-Take the time out and call your local newspaper to stop their services for the X amount of days you’ll be away. This not only saves you the hassle of dealing with the armfuls of newspapers once you return, but saves the paper for someone who will actually be enjoying the local happenings.

- Turn your heat or air conditioning to the lowest possible setting. Why waste money or fossil fuels for no one?

- Pull out any chargers (especially cell phones!) that are not using to charge anything. When left plugged in, these end up eating tons of energy.

TIP # 2 – On to your travels!

So you’re trying to figure out how to get to your destination, which usually consists of looking up airline flights, but how could you possibly go green when it comes to flying? Well being green is even possible with the airlines now, if you know where to look.

- Do a little research and look into airlines with a green friendly policy.

- For example, airlines like Southwest and British Airlines both have green policies and recycle all waste left in cabins.

- Look into electronically checking into your flight, the less paper the better!

TIP # 3 – Arriving at your destination

Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll probably be tired and just want to get to where you’re staying, but keep in mind how you’re getting there!

- Book ahead with a mini van or bus that will take you and fellow travelers to your hotel or place of stay. This option is much cheaper than a cab, and much more eco-friendly.

-If you’re feeling adventurous try public transportation! For the first day this may be a bit much, but try to use your destination’s public transportation as much as possible. This will give you a real feel for the location, and will give you a great chance to interact with the locals and find out some things you never would have known!

-When using public transportation look into a discounted travel card to help give you access to any form of public transportation for even lower prices.

TIP # 3.5 – A quick note about your living accommodations!

If staying in a hotel read this quick tip to turn your suite into a green paradise!

- Let the concierge know you are eco-friendly and ask that your towels/sheets need not be changed every day. Many hotels will assume you want this feature if you don’t tell them otherwise. Let towels air-dry, and let’s be honest how often do you change your sheets at home? Yeah, that’s what we thought.

TIP # 4 – Now, really start enjoying your travels

There are so many ways to make the most out of your trip, all while staying green and eco-friendly!

- Think about what activities and tours you really want to participate in and if possible try to find it through a local business. This way you’re not only sustaining the local tourist trade within the community, but you’ll recieve a more intimiate feel and understanding of your location with a local tour guide.

- This green tip is even easier with isango! We provide local businesses from every corner of the globe in order to give you the best vacation ever with their knowledge and expertise.

-Lastly, think about tours in a different way. Instead of taking an all day driving tour, think outside the box while still being eco-friendly. Ride a camel or swim with the dolphins

So now that you’re green savvy and know it’s possible to have the best travel experience while being eco-friendly, go out and test your knowledge! Happy travels!

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