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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!

Posts in ‘Relaxation & Romance’

Xel-Ha – No Ordinary Water Theme Park

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Xel-Ha is one of those brilliant accidents – where nature’s handiwork meets man’s creativity.  It is located on Mexico’s Caribbean coast and 75 miles (122km) south of gorgeous Cancun.  The drive to Xel-Ha is just an hour and a half down the coast from Cancun.  It is a wonderful, breath-taking scenic trip.

Named after the nearby Mayan archaeological site, the Xel-Ha theme park opened in 1984.  Since then, the popularity of its facilities and attractions has never flagged drawing people from all over the world.

The Xel-Ha park area is created by the ox-bow curve of the coast and peppered with numerous tiny islands.  The area is pockmarked with numerous caves and grottoes.  The incredibly blue waters are populated by innumerable varieties of fantastically coloured tropical fish and underwater plants.  The waters are a mix of fresh underwater springs and the ocean’s salty variety adding to its amazing allure.  It is without doubt the world’s largest and most beautiful natural aquarium.

The sea-side of the park is protected by a shark fence making it safe for snorkelling, scuba diving and swimming.  The top attraction in Xelh-Ha is the opportunity to swim and interact with the super-friendly dolphins. You can hug these endearing creatures, which are not averse to giving you kisses or a speed thrill by pushing you over the water on their snouts.

There are other thrills to be enjoyed at Xel-Ha.  For the daring there is the Trepachanga, a river crossing activity where you hang on tightly to one rope while trying to keep your balance on another.  Then there is the zip-bike ride that has you soaring over the jungle giving you a bird’s eye view while making your heart race.  Test your grit at the Stone of Courage as you jump off a rock into the crystal clear waters below.

The fun and adventure is topped off with a trip to the buffet tables for a mouth-watering breakfast and lunch.  The choices are huge – international cuisine, sea foods and Mexican foods.

Spending the day at Xel-Ha is an experience that will beat most others hands down.

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Visiting Cape Town in November

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Cape Town is located around the shores of Table Bay and the iconic Table Mountain in South Africa. Table Mountain has an amazing biodiversity with an estimated 2,200 species of plants, found nowhere else in the world. The region is proud to be apart of the World Heritage Site status. Nature has blessed the Cape Town area with land-based natural beauty of every kind, including abundant exotic fauna and flora. Even the sea shows off the city best here. Marine life reveals its dramatic side in the waters around the Cape.

All this natural wealth provides many opportunities for adventure/ sports enthusiasts and regular sightseers. The weather too, plays a large hand in the attractiveness of the Cape. November through March is summertime and the weather is known to be beautiful- ideal for holidaying and outdoor activities.

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In November, the gentle and cool southeasterly winds prevail, which make for perfect whale watching conditions. Probably the best shore-based place in the world for whale watching is the waters around Hermanus, a pretty little seaside town tucked in between the protective mountains and the sea. Whole pods of massive yet graceful Southern Right Whales often come within 20 metres of the shore.  A counter point to the awe-inspiring whales, is the antics of the loveable and delightful penguins crowding the shoreline and rocks.

The piece of land stretching south from Cape Town to Cape Point, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean is known as Cape Peninsula. The Cape Town is a wonderfully scenic region with a rich and unique biodiversity. Much of this area and its rare plants are protected by the Table Mountain National Park and Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.  A drive down the meandering and picturesque roads offers stunning views of the coastline. The charming fishing village of Hout Bay offers plenty of photogenic spots. You will see plenty of seals, ostriches, penguins and other wild life during the drive.

Table Mountain is also a majestic piece of real estate. Taking a hike up its slopes will bring you up close and personal to the wonderful wild plants and flowers along the way.  You only have to be reasonably fit to negotiate the climb.  From its summit the eye-popping vistas of the city, the Cape and the surrounding ‘fynbos’ will be a well-earned and fulfilling reward for your efforts.

The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is a jewel in the glittering tiara of Cape Town’s attractions. This wonderful place, neatly tucked away at the foot of Table Mountain, transforms into a musical paradise.  Every Sunday afternoon, from November till April, it becomes an outdoor concert venue with a wonderful line-up of South African musicians gracing the stage. This year will be the return of some old favourites as well as new acts like The Soil, Barbara Hendricks, the SA National Youth Orchestra, Jeremy Loops, Johnny Clegg and Goldfish.

You can take your picnic basket and a couple of wine bottles, spread your blanket on the magnificent lawns sloping towards the stage and get your groove on as the brilliant sun sets behind the mountains.

Some other great activity options you could indulge in are a speedy and hair-raising trip down South Africa’s first summer toboggan track at the Cool Running’s Park.  You could also roar across the trails of the beautiful Cape countryside on a powerful quad bike. Or else there are more sedate yet just as fulfilling activities like taking a wine tour through some scenic Cape Town wine-growing areas like Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch.

There is much that to recommend about Cape Town, but the place sells itself!

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Top 5 Cities For Shopping In The World

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Shopping is one of the great must-do activities for tourists no matter where in the world they go.  Something has to be bought as a keepsake to remind them of where they had been and also as a showpiece.

However, the shopping that we will be talking about is about other bands of the shopping spectrum – from the glamorous to the bargain varieties.  We will also try to give you a flavour of the experience that you will encounter in the top 5 shopping cities we have chosen here.

Milan

Milan is often associated with haute couture fashion and deservedly so.  However, she has much more eclectic offerings.  Scattered across different areas and amidst her brilliant Medieval and Renaissance architecture you will find a variety of shopping choices.  Some are speciality areas, while other areas stock a mix of fashions and products.

Some of the upmarket streets are Via Montenapoleone, Via della SpigaVia Sant’Andrea, Via Manzoni, Via Borgospesso and Via Santo Spirito.

The less wallet emptying shopping areas are Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle, Corso Buenos Aires, Via Torino and Corso di Porta Ticinese where you will find more casual styles.  Around the Navigli area are the second-hand stores, eccentric designers’ boutiques and a vintage market.

No matter where you are you will never be far from a café, to have an aperitif and rest from your shopping exertions.

MilanShopping

Dubai

Dubai’s original attraction for visitors was it’s shopping enhanced by the duty free tag.  The Emirate has evolved and moved into other business streams including the world of finance.  However, it is still the lure of huge glittering malls with over-the-top decor, entertainment features, discounts and a host of offerings will lighten any ones purse, that is draws visitors from all over the world.

What sets Dubai’s experience apart from other shopping destinations are its malls.  Some like the Ibn Battuta Mall, The Dubai Mall, Mercato Shopping Mall and Mall of the Emirates have acquired legendary status.  These vast complexes house the brand names of just about every fashion, retail, electronic, home appliance and other goods from around the world.  The magnificent decor, endless rows of attractively arranged stores will spoil you for choice.  Some malls, like the Gold Souk, specialise in one item – jewellery.

Besides the modern malls, Dubai is famous for its traditional souks.  There is the nasal bewildering Perfume Souk offering thousands of scents; the aromatic Spice Souk and the Antique Market with shops filled with Arabian pots, chests, daggers and Bedouin carvings.

So indulge yourself in this made-for-shoppers’ paradise where you will be sure to find some incredible bargains.

DubaiMall

Paris

Paris to some is considered the spiritual forerunner of shopping destinations. ‘Boutique’, ‘haute couture’ and ‘chic’ are French words that are intricately linked with fashion and spending your francs.  No one leaves “La Ville-Lumière” without plunging into its many and varied markets, galleries and shopping districts.  The wonderful aspects to shopping in Paris are the amazing range of choices that it offers. From the discreet Avenue Montaigne to the atmospheric Marais or the bustling, shoulder-rubbing flea market of Clignancourt.

Many of Paris’ shopping places are now iconic and representative of the goods sold.  For instance the Avenue Montaigne and Rue Saint Honoré is where you will find all the famous designers like Yves St Laurent and Gucci.  The wide and famous Avenue des Champs Elysées has a mix of shops and price ranges.

The Rue de Rennes offers a wide assortment of boutique clothing, accessories and shoe stores right next to the church of Saint Sulpice.  Boulevard Haussman is where Printems and Galeries Lafayettes are located.  These famous department stores are worlds unto themselves and sell cosmetics, fashion and home accessories.  Each floor has a theme. A complete contrast is the Les Puces de Saint-Ouen at Clignancourt. With over 3,000 stalls and shops you can get great bargains in antiques and find just about anything.

Paris shopping is a wonderful world of elegance, galleries, boutiques, old-fashioned toy shops and roadside stalls selling everything from luxury goods to books to antiques and more.

London

Cornhill, Bread Street, Poultry and Ironmonger Lane are names so redolent of the goods that were once sold on them.  That hoary London tradition continues with many markets still organised according to specialities and themes.  London has a very large number of shopping districts and we hope our selection will help you on your shopping spree.

Oxford Street is a good place to start.  It is London’s shopping heart. There are Hundreds of shops from designer to general retail outlets and they line both sides of the road.  It is here you will find famous department stores such as John Lewis, Debenhams and Selfridges. Not too far away is the elegant Regent and Jermyn Streets where you can browse through a wide choice of mid-range priced goods at London’s oldest and most famous stores.

Exclusive Bond Street and Mayfair are home to the best in luxury and designer brands where you just might bump into a celebrity or two. Not too far away is the street that is synonymous with fashion, the legendary Carnaby Street.  Hard by, yet a fashion world away is Covent Garden Market offering brash urban street wear, cosmetics, shoes and funky arts and crafts.

On King’s Road you get unique and trendy designer wear along with the regular brands and lovely cafés to rest your aching feet and tired credit card. Harrod’s is Knightsbridge’s most famous resident with nearby Brompton Road providing excellent shopping back up.  Saville Row, Notting Hill and Portobello Road Market are just a few of the other legendary shopping places.

In London you can easily spend the whole day shopping while sightseeing (or vice versa). 

LondonKingsRoad

New York City

In New York you can get anything, from the proverbial pin to an elephant.  The choice of shopping venues, stores, and streets is mind-boggling.  Every brand and chain store has a significant presence in the city.  For the beginner, occasional or diehard shopper New York is the city.

BJ’s, Costco, and Kmart stores are in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island. While Target stores can be found in Manhattan and Brooklyn.  The flagship stores of Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales and Henri Bendel are popular New York shopping stops.

Saks and Fifth Avenue are synonymous with each other.  The humungous Macy’s department store is large enough to get lost in and has a tempting choice of goods so vast you may never come out. Another 5th Avenue stalwart is Tiffany and Company the queen of jewellery with every gem bought presented to you in their trademark blue box.

Whether it is Macy’s famous window displays matched by those of Citarella’s “fish only” or the brightly lit pleasures of shopping malls; whether you are looking for the bargain of a lifetime or just browsing you will find decision making a wonderful yet difficult pleasure when shopping in New York.

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Sydney – Tops Down Under

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The city of Sydney and its suburbs are spread around of the world’s largest natural harbours.  Its near perfect characteristic curve is located on the south-east coast of Australia on the Tasman Sea.  It is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the world.  It is also one of the most beautiful.

It is a city that has it all – a boisterously interesting history; great natural features and a vibrant art, fashion and cultural scene.  It is the site of two of the world’s most famous and outstanding man-made structures in the world – the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.  To crown it all, it sits alongside miles and miles of fantastic golden sandy beaches, which are visited by some of the best surfing waves in the world.

SydneyBridge

For a visitor, Sydney has a bewildering choice of things to see and do.  Just touring the harbour area will take days.  There are other things to do as well though such as climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge  or taking a guided tour of the Opera House. This is a fascinating way to spend the day as you explore the unique design and engineering of the building, the Concert Hall and its acoustics.

Harbour cruises are a terrific way to experience the city because you get to visit Fort Denison, Taronga Zoo, Luna Park, Shark Island (so called for its shape), Darling Harbour and the Maritime Museum.  Night cruises across the harbour with a gourmet dinner are an exquisite experience too.

Once you have done the harbour you could make your way to the glorious shimmering sands of Bondi Beach.  A dip in Bondi’s clear blue waters alongside the beautiful people should be top of your list of things to do.  The other major attraction is the Royal National Park, known by Sydneysiders as the ‘Nasho’

 Sydney’s nightlife is enviable and must be sampled.  It is effervescent yet laid back in true Oz style.  Its bars, clubs, performing arts and other entertainment options are as diverse as its people and very often on the cutting edge.  But it’s the traditional beer and ‘tucker’ along with the warming friendliness and great charm of its people that sets this magnificent city apart from all others.  Whatever your style, sparkling Sydney is always entertaining.

SydneyNightlife

 Best Time To Visit

From a weather perspective the best time to visit Sydney is September to early December.  Other times to visit are February to April.  During both these periods, the weather is pleasant and the temperatures moderate.  December to February is the peak tourist months.

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Popular Australian Wine Tours

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Australian wines are now well-established around the world.  They compete for space with the best of European wines on the racks of bars, restaurants, and household tables.  It has taken a little while but the vintners and vineyards from Sydney to Perth and places in between have a large world-wide base of loyal tipplers.  Some of these wine producers have a history going back 150 years and more.

 Now that it’s spring down under hop on to one our comfortable air-conditioned coaches and come along with isango!  Get a tour of some of Australia’s most popular wine-making regions.  While on them you can pleasure your palette with a variety of heavenly wines.

Hunter Valley

The wonderfully lush green and picturesque countryside of Hunter Valley is just a two hour drive north from Sydney.  This is the oldest wine making region in Australia and home to more than 80 wineries including such renowned names as Lindemans, McWilliams, Rothbury, Hardy’s, Wyndham Estate and McGuigan. There are also several independent family-owned boutique wine makers like Tyrells and Draytons.

This tour not only takes you through picturesque Hunter Valley but also gets you a-behind-the-scenes view of wine making.  Since it is spring you will get the added visual pleasure of seeing the ‘budburst’ on the vines.

 Your expedition will involve 3 to 5 wine tastings when you sample up to 30 delicious premium wines.  You will also sit down to a gourmet lunch at one of Hunter Valley’s best restaurants.  The meal will feature fresh local grown produce.  Post lunch you will have a chance to indulge in postprandial snooze under a shady tree.

HunterValleyWine

 Swan Valley

Swan Valley is the oldest wine producing area of Western Australia.  It is just a 25 minute drive from the centre of Perth city but the best way to get there is to take a cruise up the Swan River on a wine tasting tour.  The tour incorporates the best of all worlds – a gentle cruise on a beautiful river, stunning scenery, plenty of fine wine and delicious food.

 Many of the wineries are award winners, producing a wide range of speciality whites, full-bodied reds and some of the world’s finest fortified wines.  This tour focuses on one of the best known and finest wine makers in Australia, Sandalford Wine Estate.  The house is one of the oldest and largest family owned winemakers.

 You get to see how they conjure up their liquid magic in a behind-the-scenes tour.  This is followed by a tasting of 6 varieties of their finest premium wines.  While sipping, choose your favourite wine to accompany your sumptuous two course lunch.  Fresh bread rolls, roasted free range chicken and Mediterranean salsa are just some of the treats on your lunch menu.

 The Swan Valley Cruise and Wine Tasting is such a memorable experience you may want to repeat it.

Barossa Valley

The Barossa Valley lies 60km Northeast of Adelaide.  It is a premier wine producing region of Australia.  This picturesque valley is distinguished by the vast acreage of vineyards.  It is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions and started by German settlers.

 It is famous for excellent red Shiraz and other varieties such as Reisling, Semillon, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon and several fortified wines.  It is also renowned for its over 80 Cellar doors and 160 wineries.  Some are still owned and run by the original families.  It is also famed for its food, cultural experience and the biennial Barossa Valley Vintage Festival.

 A Barossa Valley wine tasting tour is a must and the isango! tour covers five of the best world renowned names including the Wolf Blass, TeAro Estate, Kellermeister,  Pindarie and Saltram Wine Estate.  The tour also includes a delicious gourmet lunch at the Wolf Blass Visitor Centre with wonderful views of the spectacular Barossa Ranges.

This is a perfect tour for wine enthusiasts.

BarossaValleyWines

Yarra Valley

Just an hour from Melbourne is the wine-producing region of the Yarra Valley.  The entire area is pristine, dominated by gorgeous views and stunning mountains.  It has a richly deserved reputation as one of the world’s great wine and food regions.  The Yarra Valley has a relatively cool climate allowing for the production of excellent Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wines.

 Our tour is a special, guided one with an expert accompanying you to three top wineries – Yering Station, Yering Farm and Balgownie Estate.  You will learn how to swirl, sniff, slurp and then taste a wine.  You will also find out how they put the ‘bubbly’ into sparkling wines along with being able to sample them.

 In the Yarra Valley many of the wineries have world-class restaurants attached and Balgownie Estate is no different.  At the tasting you can make your wine selection and have it with an à la carte lunch at the restaurant.

 Your tour ends on a brilliant note with a visit to Domaine Chandon, who are the Australian producers for Moet & Chandon, the French Champagne company.  They also produce fine quality sparkling and cool-climate wines.

YarraValleyLandScape

Margaret Valley

It has been only 45 years since viticulture began in the Margaret Valley.  Yet its superb weather and other growing conditions have seen it become one of the great wine regions of the world.  The wines from here sit right next to the finest in the world.

Margaret Valley is conducive to producing Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Cabernet blends from here are valued because of their fruity and multi-layered flavours.  Many other varieties including Shiraz, Semillon blancs, Sangioves, Merlot, Verdelho and Viogniers are produced too.

Our Margaret Valley Wine Tours leave from Perth and visit four of the world’s best wineries.  Also part of this pleasurable experience is a two-course gourmet lunch at the Voyager Estate plus a barrel room wine-tasting session at Moss wood.

The superb wine tasting tour ends with a thoroughly sinful flourish. You stop off at the Margaret River Chocolate Factory where you can indulge yourself in rich chocolate.  This tour is a wonderful experience for the connoisseur and the novice.

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Ireland: Poetry In Everything

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Ireland inspires superlative, yet you will run out of them very quickly when trying to describe it.  It is an island whose beautiful countryside and long history have inspired more songs and poems than any other place on earth.  The green of this Emerald Isle is not just the colour of its landscape; it is an apt description of a jewel.

There is much to Ireland beyond her scenic wonders.  Ireland’s magic is also largely due to her history and culture.  It is a land of legends and mystery.  There is a story to every rock and glen and even more in the pubs!

Geography & Climate

Liffey River

Ireland has mountains running along most of its coast making a ring around a central plain and several lakes.  It has a number of rivers including the Liffey, Barrow, Boyne, Bann and Shannon which is the longest.  Ireland’s landscape has a range of moods such as wild Donegal, lonely Connemara and the soft, gentle hills of the southeast.  The western coast is famous for its rugged cliffs, islands and beaches.

Ireland has a relatively mild but very changeable climate because of the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, the Irish and the Celtic Seas.

Culture
Irish culture is broadly defined as being Gaelic but it is a combination of influences going back for more than 1200 years.  The Vikings, Normans, Welsh, English and Scots came, stayed and made significant imprints that are distinctively ‘Irish.’  Ireland has contributed mightily to the world but most extensively to literature, theatre and music.  Religion too has a strong sway on the Irish nation.  Thus, leading it to be called, “the island of saints and scholars.”

At almost any given time of the year, there are lively arts, theatre and music festivals in full swing – particularly in Dublin.  At almost every pub you will hear traditional (or “trad”) music full of upbeat jigs, clever lyrics and heart-tugging ballads.

Cities
Without exception Irish cities are beautiful.  They are packed with history, great architecture, pretty houses and winding cobblestoned streets making them sightseers’ and photographers’ treat.  Every city emits a lively atmosphere, has good food, warm, welcoming pubs and festivals aplenty.  The names themselves are poetry to the ears – Dublin, Cork, Kilkenny, Killarney, Galway, Sligo, Waterford, and of course Limerick.

Places to See

cliffs of moher ireland

Ireland has three World Heritage Sites: Brú na Boinne (superb Neolithic monuments), Skellig Michael and the Giant’s Causeway.  There are loads of other fabulous and fascinating locations to check out such as the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands and County Galway.  Ireland is awash (forgive the expression) with impressive forts and castles.  Bunratty Castle, the Rock of Cashel, Holy Cross Abbey and Blarney Castle are just some outstanding structures and historically important. One could go on and on…

Best Time To Visit
Weather-wise, summer of course is the best time to travel to Ireland.  Also because it is the theatre, fashion, arts and music festival season.  However, late spring and early autumn are also lovely times on the island – without the crowds.
Whatever time of year you visit, a must-drink pint of Guinness at a thatched roofed pub; some trad music floating through the air; postcard scenery and you will find the Ireland you came to experience.

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Iceland: Travel Guide

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Iceland: where landscapes teem with hot springs and geysers, where wildlife is as interesting as in many equatorial regions, and where modern cities and captivating natural scenery meet. It is also arguably the country with most misleading name on the planet (although it may be a toss-up with Greenland). It appears the folk tale that Iceland was named as such to keep people from invading its beautiful landscapes reigns somewhat true, as far as those landscapes are concerned.

Anyone who has visited Iceland is likely to say that their trip is highly ranked in a list of all their travels, and there is no better time to go than in the summer when temperatures vary between 8°C at night and 15°C during the daytime! We’ve outlined five of the most spectacular places to visit and things to do in Iceland this summer:

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon Blog

Hit the ground running as soon as you arrive in Iceland with a relaxing spa getaway at the Blue Lagoon! Sink into the reviving waters while wisps of steam dance on the surface, unwind under a soothing waterfall, or choose from a range of luxurious spa treatments. You can travel to the Blue Lagoon from the airport or from your hotel. There is no better way to combat the discomforts that come with international travel (jet lag, uncomfortable plane rides) than to soak your stresses away in Iceland’s famed geothermal hot springs at the Blue Lagoon Spa.

Golden Circle

Another must-do in Iceland is venturing along the Golden Circle rated as Iceland’s top attraction! This ever-popular sightseeing route showcases some of the most dramatic natural features of the ‘Land of Ice and Fire’ as well as important historic sites. Witness the majesty of Gullfoss waterfall and visit the geothermal areas of Geysir and Strokkur, where geysers and hot springs span across the landscape.

If you so desire (and we recommend it), you can even do Iceland in a Nutshell for a day on a visit to both the Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle!

Whale Watching

Whale Watching Blog

Although originally the only wildlife on land native to Iceland was the arctic fox, that is not the case with the sea life that fills the waters surrounding Iceland. Iceland whale watching is an incredibly popular pick for things to do while in this island country. Take an unforgettable boat ride on Faxaflói Bay and see whales, dolphins, and porpoises in their natural environment with a Whale Watching Tour, followed by a trip to the Blue Lagoon, because it is that good.

Reykjavik

What trip to any country is complete without a tour of its capital city? Iceland is no exception. Reykjavík city, also known, as “smoky bay”, is the world’s northernmost capital and is full of life at any time of the year! In order to get the most out of the city, we recommend taking the Reykjavik Sightseeing Tour. This tour is a detailed and comprehensive introduction to Reykjavik’s past and present and includes visits to the main landmarks.

Landmannalauger

Landmannalaugar blog

Lastly, explore the thrilling Wonders of Landmannalaugar on your trip to Iceland. Even in a country known worldwide for its beautiful scenery, the landscapes of Landmannalaugar are in a class of their own with the waterfalls, warm natural pools, and active volcanoes dotting the landscapes. Whether you are an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or a combination of the two, this is the tour for you!

Although Iceland is a fantastic country to visit year-round, there is no doubting that the weather in the summer provides a more pleasant atmosphere to enjoy all of the beauties offered to visitors by the natural landscapes that cover Iceland. Get going!

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4 Unusual Things To Do In Paris

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The usual path for most visitors to Paris is the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, with the Louvre, the Champs Élysées and the Eiffel Tower in between. While these are must-see and iconic sights there are other subtle and intriguing ways to see and experience the City of Lights. Such as…

Taking a Horse and Carriage Ride through Paris
It’s an absolutely regal experience! You feel like royalty riding in the beautiful polished open wooden carriage driven by a top-hatted, liveried guide handling the reins. The sound of the horse’s hooves clip-clopping along the streets of central Paris; people stopping to wave and photograph you along the way will transport you to a different world.

Horse Carriage Tour in Paris

That world is filled with the wonderful landmarks like the imposing Eiffel Tower and the grand and wonderful bridges of Pont Alexandre III and Pont de l’Alma. As you traverse the Avenue Montaigne and slowly ride past the Petit and Grand Palais’ and through the Champs de Mars you cannot help but feel a special affection for Paris!

The romanticism is heightened with a warm blanket covering your knees and a glass of bubbly champagne in your hand.

Taking a Wine Tasting Tour
Wine and Paris go together like bread and butter. Taking a wine tasting tour through this city combines two wonderful experiences – wine and unseen Paris. You will get an intimate feel that most visitors miss. Paris’ many bistros date back a long, long time and some of them are iconic. These traditional drinking and social gathering places with their tiled floors, wooden chairs, and old black and white photos on the wall will give a strong taste of what the real Paris is like.

Wine tasting

You lose your sense of time in the atmosphere in these surroundings. You almost feel history being played out when you walk past the Pantheon, or the 12th century Church of Saint Medard or the Church of Sainte Geneviève and its lovely stained glass windows. The wine and history are a heady combination!

Taking a Revolutionary Tour – Vive la Republic!
Paris, we all know, witnessed the creation of the modern ideal of government by the people. The birthing of these revolutionary concepts was long, often violent and bloody but led to significant and permanent changes in the world.

As you walk past the monuments and sites associated with the revolutionary period and the establishment of the Republics you cannot help but imagine those terrifying nights. The imposing Hotel Les Invalides, ransacked by the revolutionaries for guns and ammunition, which they then used to storm the Bastille, a symbol of oppression. The Conciergerie, Tuileries Palace and the Place de la Concorde will forever be connected with the beheadings of Marie Antointte, King Louis XVII and more than 2,000 others.

Paris at night

The most important site of all, of course, is the Assemblée Nationale, where the revolutionary parliament first held their deliberations and governed France.

Shopping For Antiques
You cannot come to Paris and leave without mementoes of your visit. Sadly most people end up buying cheap knock-offs of Eiffel Tower replicas and other touristy knick-knacks. What you should really do is check out the marvellous flea markets around Paris. The largest and most famous flea market in the world is the Les Puces de Saint-Ouen. It is also the world’s largest antique market.

Antiques

They are a shoppers’ and collectors’ paradise. You are very likely to pick up great bargains in antique furniture, art, decorative pieces, architectural elements, porcelain, vintage clothing, jewellery, bizarre items or anything else you can imagine. Or a treasure!

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Croatia – A Traveler’s Guide

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The Republic Of Croatia emerged in the late twentieth century from a tumultuous, violent and chaotic history.  Once part of the greater Republic of Yugoslavia, it has very quickly established its own authentic cultural and historic identity.  Croatia has that very rare quality.  It is a terrific mix of the ancient, medieval and modern with a good dollop of authenticity.

Geography
Croatia has a climate to die for, being Mediterranean in character and, moderated by the brilliant blue waters of the Adriatic Sea.  Thickly forested mountains and forests vie for attention with beaches, the sea and a thousand picturesque islands that cry out to be explored.  This treasure house has winding roads that go through the picture-postcard countryside and ancient pretty villages that haven’t changed in generations.

Places to See
Croatia has several fantastic national parks that are carefully protected. Plitvice Lakes National Park is a World Heritage Site.  These parks have spectacular scenery, achingly beautiful lakes, sparkling streams, musical waterfalls and are home to hundreds of bird species and numerous wild animals.

Plitvice

Croatia is wonderful but the southernmost county of Dubrovnik-Neretva is outstanding.  The region is an encapsulated and distilled version of all Croatia.  It has quiet villages; sheltered fishing hamlets; hidden coves; tiny secluded isles and some very, very beautiful and historic towns.

Dubrovnik, the county capital, known as the “pearl of the Adriatic” is a historic walled city and a World Heritage site.  The forts, gates, monuments, market places and 300 year old houses, still intact are a visitor’s delight.  The Renaissance era squares of the city are packed with historical gems like the 11th century Town Hall, the Sponza Palace, the Baroque Cathedral and its magnificent Treasury, the fortress-like Dominican Monastery and the Baroque Church of St Blaise.

Some of the most beautiful islands in the Adriatic Sea are just off Dubrovnik town.  Called the Elafiti Islands they can be reached (among other means) by taking a trip on an old time wooden Galleon.  Each island has its own unique attraction.  Kolocep has its carob and pine woods and neat citrus groves, while Sipan has medieval churches and the opulent summer palaces of Dubrovnik’s departed aristocracy.  Lopud is a bather’s dream with its bath-like waters and superb beaches.

Kor?ula Island is a short drive up the beautiful Adriatic Coast from Dubrovnik.  It has lovely forests, vineyards (wine tasting tours are popular here), colourful and lively markets, quaint timeless villages and sandy beaches.  It is easy to see why the ancient Greeks holidayed here.

Croatia small

Kor?ula has many superb Renaissance era architecture buildings.  The most notable is the 15th century Saint Mark’s Cathedral.  The island also has numerous Ancient Greek and Roman remains.  Korcula has unique folk traditions and festivals that show up in their dances, music and clothes.

Best time to travel
The ideal time to visit Croatia is between mid April to end September.  Croatia has managed to keep a check on mass tourism and there are plenty of budget options.

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5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Italy This Summer

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Summers might be a perfect time to sit and plan that vacation which is long overdue. While you are still thinking about where to head for that perfect holiday, why not give Italy a try? After all, there are few countries in the world that offer the kind of variety and diversity that Italy does, with its ancient history, majestic mountains, sumptuous cuisine and glittering coastlines.
Still undecided?  Let us help and give you 5 reasons on why Italy will be your best pick this summer.

 Venice Gondola Rides

Venice Hero Image
A Gondola ride is a must when in Venice. Take in the views and transcend to another era as you lie back on cushions and feel the rhythm and movement of intricate waterways. With a partner, nothing can be as romantic as cuddling up in the boat as it passes through the old Venetian towns. If you go solo, then all you would need is a nice, romantic novel.

Florence
If the heat is too overbearing, get indoors. With Brunelleschi’s masterpiece at the centre, a number of museums and monuments dominate the city. For art lovers, no European city can come close to Florence. Admire the vast art collection of Uffizi gallery or plan a visit to the Galleria dell’Accademia, renowned for being the home of the famous statue of David by Michelangelo.

Florence, Accademia Galary

You can also simply stand at the centre of the churches of San Lorenzo, Santo Spirito and the Cappella dei Pazzi, and feast your eyes by looking at the intricate frescoes painted by the Renaissance artists.
You will surely feel the chill in the heat, when you gaze at the vivid works of art.

For people who like to explore under the sun, head to the Cinque Terre, the five small ancient coastal villages, and see some of Italy’s finest scenery.

Pompeii

Pompeii Day
The recent movie Pompeii featuring Kit Harrington and Kiefer Sutherland brought the wrath of Mount Vesuvius live on screen. It took just one day – 24 August, 79 AD, for it to get buried for the next seventeen centuries, under the volcanic ashes of the fierce Mount Vesuvius. Visit the ruins and get a glimpse of the life led by the people of Pompeii before they were swallowed by the lava of Mount Vesuvius.

So, pick your sunglasses, an umbrella and explore the lost city. It is indeed a fulfilling summer retreat.

Rome

rome colosseum
One can be in loss of words while talking about this great city. Italy’s capital city is so vibrant that even if you spend months here, you will get the feeling that there is a nook or corner of the city which still remains unexplored. Its existence since time immemorial makes it unique and offers a diverse culture, a mélange of culinary wonders and a range of historical edifices like the mighty Colosseum, Vatican structures, Romanesque churches et al.

Tuscany

Tuscany
Leave the bustle of the city and escape to the glorious Tuscan countryside. Its quaint hill towns and lush vineyards, make it a popular summer destination. Also, it is in this season that you could be lucky enough to witness a series of local festivals, which are being celebrated through the ages.

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