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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 ‘Sport & Adventure’

Morocco Travel Guide

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Morocco is every tourist’s dream. It is exotic, exciting and unpredictable.  It is a land of outstanding beauty – both the rugged and picture postcard kind – attracting adventure enthusiasts, seekers of the unusual, foodies and the regular ‘been there, seen it’ types.  Vast stretches of desert sands compete with the fabulous beaches on the Atlantic and Mediterranean, deep wooded valleys and orchards.  The tall craggy Atlas Mountains contrast beautifully with the green and flower bedecked Rif Mountains.  Morocco is also blessed with weather that is wide and varied.

Many of the sights, sounds and activities on offer are in or fairly close to Morocco’s cities.

Marrakech

To the Berbers Marrakech is the “Land of God” and it is easy to see why. The nearby Atlas Mountains dominate the skyline and the true Sahara is not far away.  To Europeans, Persians and Asians, it is still Morocco. Marrakech’s magic is its seamless blending and fusing of myriad influences and cultures.  For instance the elegant and towering Koutoubia Minaret, so symbolic of Marrakesh, it is a mix of Moorish and Andalusian architectural styles.  So are the 16th century Saadian Tombs, the Private Museum and Bahia Palace.

The raucous calls of food stall owners vie with the castanets of the water-sellers.  The attention-grabbing snake charmers, acrobats, dancers and other entertainers battle potion-sellers at the world famous Djemaa el Fna Square.  The aroma of spices wafts through the air along with scent of the mouth-watering street food that stays with you long after you have left the country.

The labyrinth souk alleyways are crammed with shops and stalls selling everything from hand-crafted Moroccan goods such as babouche slippers, woodworks, brass works, ironworks, bronze works, jewellery, kaftans, carpets, spices, and pottery. You will find the best leather, antiques and hand crafted gold jewellery.  Amidst all this, there are beautiful landscaped gardens filled with fruit trees and flowering shrubs.

saadin tombs

Agadir

Agadir is considered the gateway to the tall rugged Atlas Mountains, which are only a short distance away.  Tucked into their rocky folds is the breathtaking and untouched beauty of Paradise Valley.  The word Agadir in Berber means “wall enclosing a fortress or town”.  Part of the original fortress still remains at the top of the hill just outside the current city.

Agadir has gained a reputation of being a resort town with visitors from all over Europe descending upon it.  One of its major attractions is a fabulous 10km long beach/bay and a carefully planned waterfront promenade.  The weather is magnificent all year round and so is the surfing.  This in turn has spawned a large surfing community of schools and camps.  Agadir offers plenty of cafés, bars and live music and the evenings are great for unwinding after a hard days touring.

atlas mountains

Fez

If ever a place really deserved the adjective ‘legendary’ it is Fez!  More than 1200 years old it was the ancient capital of Morocco and is home to the world’s oldest university – Qarawiyyin.  Its ancient roots still exist in the walled city and the twisting, complex maze-like lanes of the medina Fez el-Bali.  Here goods are still transported by donkeys and handcarts adding to its timeless atmosphere.Fez has the best examples of ancient Islamic arts and architecture preserved in the 14th century Bou Inania Madersa (a college), two forts (Borj Nord and Borj Sud), the Merenid Tombs and the Moulay Idriss II tomb.

Fez

Tangier

Tangier is where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet.  This beautiful city, also known as White City, has been the playground of millionaires and the retreat of writers for over a century.  It exudes charm and sophistication aided by beautiful beaches and a vibrant beach café culture.

Tangier’s various cultural influences abound in its architecture and nightlife.  There are many excellent restaurants serving a wide range of cuisines, street cafés, attractive bars and interesting cabarets. The Grand Socco is a great market where you can get nearly everything you could think of and the surrounding Mendoubia Gardens are an inviting place to spend an afternoon.

Not far out of town are the Caves of Hercules.  It is supposed to be the place that the mythical hero rests while on his labours.

Tangier

Casablanca

Casablanca is a European city transplanted to North Africa.  The architecture is a mix between French Colonial and Moorish.  It is a very cosmopolitan and liberal place with French still widely spoken.  Originally built by Berber fishermen in the 10th century it has been visited and ruled by the Phoenicians, Romans, Portuguese and the French.

Casablanca is Morocco’s largest city and economic capital.  One of its most notable features is the Hassan II Mosque and its 210-metre minaret is the world’s tallest.  Another man-made marvel is the port, which is the largest artificial port in the world. With all of this and the mild Mediterranean climate Casablanca attracts visitors all year.

 

 

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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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5 Popular Backpacking Destinations For 2014

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With summer 2014 arriving to most of the globe it is time to pull out the knapsack, check the atlas and plan where in the world you will be spending your vacation.

We present to you, our picks for the top 5 destinations for backpacking around the world-

India
India is a really huge country.  With the world’s largest rail system and a vast road network (sometimes bumpy), getting around is not too difficult.  Accommodation, food and transportation are inexpensive.  Choosing where to go is a challenge.  You have the spectacular sandy beaches of Goa and Kerala; the sky scraping, snow-capped Himalayas; the thick forests of Central India and the Ghats; the deserts of Rajasthan and Ladakh.  The ancient cities of Delhi, Varanasi and Puri along with the forts and palaces of Rajasthan will vie for your attention.

Backpacking in India

India has a history and tradition of backpacking going back to the flower power era of the 1960s.

Thailand
Thailand is an exotic and exciting place to explore, especially for the novice backpacker.  On offer are hundreds of miles of pristine sand beaches, lush jungles populated with dazzling creatures, amazingly friendly and helpful locals and fantastic food.  The country’s culture has survived the onslaught of tourism and modernity.  There are still many quiet places where you can chill.  The place is crammed with amazing temples and exciting markets.  Transportation is cheap and the street food very safe.

The country is a well-trodden backpacker destination.  Backpacking Thailand is relatively easy, still inexpensive with amazing deals on offer – just bargain.  It also has a legendary nightlife.

Australia
Australia offers fantastic beauty and adventure.  It’s a very large (we’re talking continent-sized here) country and travel can be a challenge but worth the effort.  The geography ranges from the vast trackless outback, to the incredible Great Barrier Reef.  You can snowboard and ski within a few hours of a sun-kissed sandy beach.  There are strangely named picturesque small towns and very modern and fascinating cities.  You can trek through ancient rainforests or camel-trek the arid and startling Northern Territory.

Australia has a very competitive and inexpensive budget accommodation market where you can get good deals.  The rail network is not extensive and generally hugs the coast.  The best way to get around the country is by road but be prepared for long rides because most journeys take 10 to 20 hours.  You can save a lot of money by buying bus passes.

Indonesia
Indonesia is comprised of thousands of islands, most of which are uninhabited.  It is a really huge country and you will have to pick what all you wish to see. Most of the population is concentrated on Java and around the capital, Jakarta.   Once you get away from Jakarta you will find yourself in vast jungles, with ancient temples, mysterious lakes and hot springs.  There are lively and fiery volcanoes, stunning beaches and some of the best surfing.  The cities of Bogor, Bandung and Yogyakarta have to be visited to be believed.  Then of course, there is Bali and its gorgeous Hindu culture.

Backpacking

Travel is relatively inexpensive but can be a challenge.  The warm, friendly and hospitable people, the food and fantastic countryside will more than compensate for any difficulties you may have.

Brazil
This huge country is a wonder world filled with amazing sights.  It is blessed with naturally varied and rich landscape with thousands of miles of beaches and humungous tracts of rainforests fed by great rivers including the mighty Amazon.  This vast land has incredibly diverse climatic and cultural conditions.  The vibrant hedonistic cities of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Salvador are legendary for their party atmosphere and nightlife.

The main mode of getting around Brazil is by bus.  The buses are generally excellent and services frequent and good.

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Where To Go This Summer – Part II

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Scotland

The highlands, Glasgow in particular, will be putting its best foot forward and donning its party dress this summer.  This is a mountainous, heather covered land of mists, the Loch Ness Monster and other myths, kilts and football mad natives!  It has hundreds of miles of wild, beautiful windswept coastline.   It is a magical land famous for its whisky blended with plenty of history.  So much of Scotland’s treasures are accessible – for free.  Except the whisky!

Scotland Castles

There is so much action on the calendar that it is really difficult to decide what to see and do.  For instance…

The 2014 Commonwealth Games – Glasgow
The XXth Commonwealth Games will see the world’s top athletes compete over 11 days of competition from 23 July to 3 August.  The ancient city of Glasgow dominated by the impressive People’s Palace will host the largest ever athletic gathering of its kind for the first time in Scotland’s history.   This multi-sport event will see the likes of Usain Bolt giving off their very best during the Games.

Homecoming Scotland 2014
The first edition of 2009 Homecoming was marvelously successful.  Following on that success, Homecoming Scotland 2014 is designed to bring people of Scottish ancestry from all over the world back to the country.  It is also an open invitation to people from all over the world.  Homecoming will gain an added significance and poignancy this year because in September the Scottish people will vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum to decide if “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Edinburgh Fringe Festival
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival will be set against the backdrop of the Royal Mile, the Old Town, Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and ancient Parliament Hall.  For nigh on three weeks, this annual cultural festival will showcase artists of all hues as they perform and delight us with their creative and manic best.

The Ryder Cup

Scotland

After many a long year the Ryder Cup, that pinnacle of golf competition, pitting the best of Europe and the US will come back to Scotland.  The legendary home of golf will see the world’s best golfers swinging their clubs on the magnificent greens and fairways of the PGA Centenary Course in Perthshire where the Highlands and the Lowlands meet.

For all these reasons and more Scotland will be the centre of the world’s attention in the coming months!

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Where To Go This Summer – Part 1

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This summer, travel destinations will not be about temperatures – Celsius and Fahrenheit that is.  The locations for mega sporting events and entertainment will be the hot spots this year.  The biggest inspiration for travellers in 2014 will be sports!

From Golf to Football and the entire athletic spectrum, it is sports that will have folks packing their bags, booking their tickets and accommodation for such diverse lands as Brazil and Scotland.

Brazil
The ‘beautiful game’ has kicked off in one of the most beautiful countries of the world.  The 2014 edition of the FIFA World Cup has generated huge excitement across the globe.  It is not entirely because of the game either.  This is one terrific opportunity to combine passion for the sport and the chance to see Brazil.

Brazil article
The country has amazing beauty that includes huge tracts of forests, stunning white beaches populated by beautiful people, iconic mountains, thundering rivers and ultra-modern cities.  While the football matches will be played in 12 different stadia across the country it is two cities that stand out for their uniquely attractive features.

Rio de Janeiro
The very mention of the city’s name sets the blood racing and raises the pulse rate.  This huge metropolis is dominated by the iconic, gigantic mountain top statue of Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain.  They look down upon the marvellous Guanabara Bay and Botafogo region.

Every year the city goes mad to the throbbing beats of samba that drive the Carnival parade as it winds its way through the streets to the Sambadrome.  It’s possible to catch some of that ‘Carnival’ spirit, when not watching the football, at the Plataforma Samba Show. The show is famed for its brilliant costumes, infectious rhythm and dazzling footwork – its samba time all year round!

The World Cup Final will be played in Rio on 13th July.  The world will be watching and the city will surely put up a super show – footballing and otherwise.

Manaus
Manaus is the capital of the state of Amazonas and the furthest north of the host cities.  It sits on the confluence of the rivers Negro (Black) and Solimões (how the Amazon River is known in this part of Brazil).  The Encontro das Aguas is where the black waters of the Rio Negro meet the muddy yellow flow of the Rio Solimoes.  The two rivers flow side by side for more than 6 km, their waters divided as though by an invisible barrier.  This is one of the most remarkable sights in the world.

Victoria Regia Artcile
If that is not astounding enough there is the Victoria Regia.  This is an extraordinary giant floating lily for which Manaus is famous.   Another famous highlight of the city, man-made this time, is the fabulous Teatro Amazonas.  The dome of this architectural and cultural landmark is covered with 36,000 green, blue and yellow glazed ceramic and glass tiles, all of which were made in Alsace, France.

Four World Cup matches will be played at Manaus’ Estadio Amazonia.  Other than football, you could explore the nearby jungles of the Amazon with its amazing flora and fauna.  There are scenic river banks and serenely beautiful lakes where you could spend a lazy afternoon away from ‘it all.’

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Brazil is Wild, Wonderful and World Cup Mad

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This huge and vibrant country is a wonder world and just cannot help itself.  It is blessed with thousands of miles of beaches, humungous tracts of rainforests, historic and futuristic cities fed by great rivers. Then there are the people whose blood seems to be pumped by a machine called “party.”  Add to that the elixir of football and you have all the ingredients for a super carnival.

Great!  So you are going to Brazil to watch the FIFA World Cup football matches.  Remember that this exhilarating and beautiful game takes under two hours to unfold, which is simply wonderful from a sight-seeing perspective.  When not in a stadium cheering your team, you will have so much time at each city to taste the spicy and fabulous banquet that is Brazil.

For instance…

Full Day Tour of Rio
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most exciting cities to visit.  However, it is huge and doing it on your own will eat up your limited time.  So taking an organized full day tour of Rio, also called the Marvellous City, is a great time-saving sightseeing idea.  It will take you to all the main highlights of historic downtown Rio; including Cinelândia Square with its historical buildings, the Municipal Theater, the National Library, the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the famous Sambadrome.

Christ the Redeemer Brazil

You then go through the solid rainforest of Tijuca to get to Corcovado Mountain.  Taking the cable car up is a great introduction to the astounding Christ the Redeemer statue on top and the fabulous views of Copacabana Beach, Ipnema and Leblon.

All in all it is a great programme.

Walking Around Historic Rio
Take a walking tour through the historic Rio and you will get a totally different flavour of this often turbulent city.  Rio’s legacy is impressive and very much in evidence as you wander through its cobbled streets to see the lovely colonial Portuguese influence in the form of the Imperial Palace, the France-Brazil House and the Benedictine Monastery.  Other architectural gems include the Candelária Church, the Banco de Brasil and the Casa França-Brasil and the hugely impressive Arcos da Lapa, which were part of the aqueduct that brought water into Rio.

Imperial Palace Rio

This walking tour is a fascinating one that will forever change your perspective of Rio.

Guanabara Bay Cruise
Another terrific way to see Rio is to take a boat cruise out onto the beautiful and vast Guanabara Bay.  Slowing cruising on its blue waters, you will get a panoramic view of all Rio’s landmarks without the hustle and bustle. Sugar Loaf Mountain and Corcovado dominate an impressive skyline. Flocks of seabirds wheel over your head as you sit down to a delicious meal consisting of delicious Crab Cake and Fettuccine with Pomodoro or Fish with Shrimp Sauce and Risotto.

Guanabara Bay Cruise

Historical Salvador – Capital of Happiness
One of the oldest cities in the Americas, Salvador seems to be in continuous party mode.  It has earned its nickname, “Brazil’s capital of happiness” for the numerous street parties.  But just as attention-grabbing is the long, tumultuous and interesting historical side to this lovely coastal city.  The best part is most of its past is preserved in the music, cuisine and architecture.

Taking the historical tour will reveal many gems of Salvador’s chequered past such as the lively, narrow streets of Pelourinho and its pastel hued houses that are about 300 years old.  Salvador’s colonial heritage shows up in the Forte de São Pedro, the Barra Lighthouse, the church of São Francisco and a thousand homes, churches and monuments built since the 16th century help make up the greatest collection of Baroque architectural heritage in Latin America.

Salvador is proof that there is a whole lot to Brazil you never even imagined.

Bahia By Night
There is an overwhelming perception that Portuguese culture and influence is what makes up Brazilian culture.  That is not the whole picture.  It is the African-Brazilian cultural-mix that puts the pop, crackle and sexiness in to what we perceive of Brazil.  It is the influence of African associated cultural practices that are celebrated and define Salvador.

Imacon Color Scanner

The best time to experience this hedonistic and outrageously colour culture is at night.  The many different expressions of the culture can be experienced if you take this wonderful tour.  Watch capoeira (traditional slave battles), or beautiful performances of Candomblé, Maculelê, Puxada de Rede, Dança do Caboclo and Samba de Roda and you will get a much deeper sense of what drives Brazil and its people.

Manaus And The Amazon Rainforest
Take a break from all the cultural aspects of Brazil because there is a more natural and wilder side to the country.  The incredible Amazon Rainforest, with all its spectacular animals, birds, plants and rivers is enough to take you by the heart and never leave you.

Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon forest region, is the best jumping-off place to explore this fascinating side to Brazil.  Not far from the city is one of nature’s most remarkable sights – the confluence of the Negros and the Solimões rivers.  Their differently coloured waters, which don’t mix as if kept apart by an invisible barrier, are worth every effort to see.  You could get really adventurous and go deep into the jungle and experience the Brazilian Amazon and all its flora and fauna face-to-face.

Victoria Regia Manaus

Another terrific draw is the Victoria Regia.  This is an extraordinary giant floating lily for which Manaus is famous.  Its leaves are over fifteen feet in diameter with a submerged stalk that can grow to over 25 feet in length.  The flowers are white on the first night they open subsequently changing to pink.

With all this and exciting football to immerse yourself in, you are going to find it difficult to return home.

Desfrutar Brasil!  (Enjoy Brazil)

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Beat The Dubai Heat

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When summer comes around to the desert city of Dubai, it’s time to head for the shady and air-conditioned environs.  The day temperatures can soar to a skin-burning 47 to 50 degrees Celsius.  However, this city has come up with innumerable and clever ways to avoid or beat the heat so you can stay cool.

Here are some ideas and cool attractions that will help you relax and enjoy Dubai through its long summer months -

Wear light cotton clothes and go for the loose fit.  It may sound obvious but what you wear helps cope with the heat.  Also, when you have to go outside, wear sunglasses, apply sunscreen and carry a hat or cap.  Drink lots of water and increase the number of times you shower.  These are basic guidelines but a good start in staying cool.

However, it’s not all about getting into survival mode.  There are plenty of activities that can be fun while keeping cool.  You could hang out at one of Dubai’s many theme parks.

Water Park Dubai

One of the better known parks is the Wild Wadi Water Park right opposite the Burj Al Arab.  It has a variety of water slides and features catering for all ages, skills and levels of enthusiasm.  Other well-appointed ones are The Dolphin Bay, the Aquaventure Waterpark, Marine Animal Adventures and The Lost Chambers Aquarium.  Besides getting up close and friendly with the sharks and stingrays, these parks offer plenty of shade, cool spots and a choice of great food.  You could make a day out of a visit to any of these places.

If you really want to chill out, then Dubai has incredible recreations of polar landscapes- the Dubai Ice Rink and the Ski Dubai Snow Park.  The rink is located within the Dubai Mall.  Here you can learn, practice or hone your skating skills on an Olympic sized rink.  You can get classes or participate in disco sessions and show your stuff.  You can also take a break at other entertainment features, the many eateries or do some shopping, after all this is one of the world’s largest malls.

Another winter-imported wonderland in Dubai is the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East.  The Ski Dubai Snow Park is located within the fabulous Mall Of The Emirates and the temperatures are maintained below freezing point.  You can ski, toboggan, bobsled, frolic or indulge in snowball fights with friends and family.  There is a Giant Ball run, slides and a colony of Emperor Penguins.  There are even snowfalls to keep you in the mood and give you the full Monty winter experience.

Malls Dubai

Of course the biggest reason people come to Dubai is to shop.   Shopping (even if you don’t drop) is one of the best past-times in this emirate.  Dubai’s many dazzling malls offer more than just discounts.  You can stay cool in the shops, restaurants and entertainment centers within their premises.

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5 Must-dos While Visiting the Italian Dolomites

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The Italian Dolomites are one of the most fantastic mountains in the world.  Their sharp pointed pinnacles and steep pale stony cliffs plunge steeply down to green valleys, creating some of the most incredible landscapes in the world.  There are eighteen summits that extend beyond 3,000 metres in height with Marmolada being the highest.

The Dolomites (meaning ‘pale mountains’) are sturdy in contrast.  Rough crags, pinnacles and towers encircle magical green meadows, multi-coloured forests, fields and lakes.  These striking contrasts are at its best in Cortina – ‘the pearl of the Dolomites’.   The whole region has been designated a UN Heritage Centre.

Dolomites article

There are many reasons to visit the area.  Here are our picks on the most satisfying things you can do while touring the Dolomites.

Adventure Activities
The Dolomites are renowned for skiing, mountain climbing, hiking, base jumping, paragliding, hang gliding and free climbing.  The Alte Vie or ‘Alpine Trails’ are world famous and, in some instances, really challenging treks. These mountains are a rock climbers’ dream with different sorts of climbs for all – novices, skilled as well as the seriously professional types.

Soar like an eagle under a parachute or glider’s wings from one of the mountains and thrill to the feeling of weightlessness – and live your dream.  You will get a view which only a few others do – above the spectacular peaks of the Dolomites.

The Dolomite region is a skier’s heaven.  Short summers and long winters make it ideal for extended skiing seasons.  The most famous and best skiing town is Cortina d’Ampezzo.  The 1956 Winter Olympics were held there.

Visit The Tunnels And Galleries In The Dolomites
In the early 20th century the border between Germany, Austria and Italy passed through the Dolomites.  During World War I, it was the frontline.  Soldiers on both sides excavated several series of tunnels in the mountains in order to fire at each other and wrest control of the heights.

Hiding places in the Dolomites (World War I)

Hiding places in the dolomites

These tunnels and galleries contain the remnants and artefacts of that period till date.  You can explore and see the still preserved barrack rooms (complete with sleeping bunks and heating stoves), storerooms, machinegun emplacements and other war relics.

Take Cable Car/Ski Lift Rides
The experience of a cable car or ski lift ride in the Dolomites is unlike any other.  They provide spectacular views unequalled in the world.  Even in this picture postcard world, some locations stand out from the others.  Just to name three – Lagazuoi near Cortina, Pass Pordoi and Mont Seuc.  The Dolomites, with the light on them constantly changing, are a photographer’s delight.  Once viewed, the scenery from the lifts will be sure to drag you back.

The ‘queen of the Dolomites,’ Marmolada is the highest peak in the Dolomites.  The entire journey in getting up to the top is an experience not to be missed.  As your gently swaying cable car lifts you towards the peak and above the clouds, you feel like you have wandered into a movie set.  The views are awe-inspiring and on a clear day you can see Venice!

Tour The lakes
If the sight of peaks of this region leave you in awe, their counterparts, the placid clear waters among the Dolomites are just as captivating.  These numerous pools of magic are flanked by golf-course like meadows and groves of trees while reflecting the pale peaks rising above them.  The picturesque little towns and villages that sit on their banks add to their allure.

Lake Auronzo di Cadore is an outstanding example.  Its fairy-tale surroundings are further enhanced in winter when the waters totally freeze up to the point where polo is played on it.  Another serene and tranquil lake is Misurina which is worth a visit.  Lake Misurina is where the speed skating events were held during the 1956 Winter Olympics (it was the last time Olympic speed skating events were held on natural ice.)  The spectacular scenery of Lake Misurina features in most photos of the area.

Spend The Night In A Mountain Hut (Rifugio)
To round off your Dolomites adventure or make it even more memorable, you should stay at a traditional alpine hut.  You can really soak in the magical atmosphere of the mountainous landscape.  The long history of mountaineering in the Alps has seen the building of many huts (rifugios) along the trails and throughout the high Dolomite massifs.  These wonderful wooden or stone cabins are very often perched precariously on the rocks.  The vistas from here are extraordinary.  There is no greater feeling than the camaraderie of other walkers, sharing an excellent dinner, a good night’s sleep and a generous breakfast before you set off again.

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10 Things To Know About The Phi Phi Islands

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The Phi Phi Islands are the most iconic symbol of Thailand.  They are featured on nearly every poster promoting the country.  They are amazing pieces of rock with stretches of achingly beautiful white sandy beaches.  They are located just off Thailand’s western coast in the Malacca Straits and only 50kms south-east of Phuket.  For the vast majority of visitors, the islands are the main reason for going to Thailand.

Here are some interesting details about the Phi Phi (pronounced pee-pee) Islands.

  • There are six islands in all.  Most of them are just tall pieces of limestone rock sticking out of the fantastic blue waters of the sea and covered with scattered plants and shrubs.

Phi Phi Islands

Phi Phi Islands

  • The two largest islands are Ko Phi Phi Don and Ko Phi Phi Lee. Only Phi Phi Don is inhabited.  Ko in Thai means “island.” The name Phi Phi is Malay.  An interesting derivation for the name comes from the original name “Pulao Pi ah Pi,” which translates to “Fiery Tree” and refers to the local Grey Mangrove tree.
  • The islands first came to fame in 2000.  The beach of Maya bay was the setting for the movie The Beach.
  • The waters around Ko Phi Phi are fabulous for scuba diving and snorkelling.
  • The entire Phi Phi archipelago region is a protected area and part of the Thai marine National Park set up.  This has ensured that there is an abundant and varied marine life – and you don’t have to go far too out.  You can see large schools of multi-coloured fish swimming around your legs in the shallow water.
  • Ko Phi Phi Lee has many caves, one of which is world famous.  It is known as “Viking Cave.” The caves are the source of the thriving and profitable birds nest soup industry.

Maya Bay

Maya bay

  • The Phi Phi Islands were the earliest inhabited parts of Thailand.  Communities settled here as far back as pre-historic times. The local population is a good mix of Chinese, Thai and sea gypsies.  There are also Buddhists and Muslims, which means that there is always some festival being celebrated.
  • Longtail boat races and regular boat-launching ceremonies are held frequently, which are always colourful; a great time for music and traditional dancing.
  • The Phi Phi Islands have only two seasons – hot (January to April) and rainy (May to December).  The rain showers come in short but very heavy downpours.
  • Ko Phi Phi Don was devastated by the Christmas tsunami of 2004.  The restoration since then has been tremendous with the introduction of paved roads. The great thing, though, is that no motor vehicles are allowed.  Bicycling is the most popular and rewarding mode of transport.

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Football 2014 World Cup Venues – Brazil

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The 20th FIFA Wold Cup will be held in Brazil from the 12th of June till the 13th of July 2014.  It will be one of the largest and most spectacular events of the year.  Being Brazil, there is sure to be plenty of colour and excitement in this football mad nation.  There will be several new or redeveloped stadiums built specially for the World Cup in the twelve selected cities across the country.  The locations are spread out across this vast country stretching from the Amazon basin in the north to the banks of the River Guaiba in the south.

brazil wc

Here are the cities and what you can expect in and around them – besides football.

Sao Paulo – Areana De Sao Paulo

Capacity: 65,807
Climate: Highs of around 20ºC and chances of rain.

Fixtures: 12 June, Brazil v Croatia, 21:00; 19 June, Uruguay v England, 20:00; 23 June, Netherlands v Chile, 17:00; 26 June, South Korea v Belgium, 21:00; 1 July, Second-round, Winner Group F v Runner-up Group E, 17:00; 9 July , Semi-final, Winner Quarter-final 3 v Winner Quarter-final 4, 21:00.

Located on a plateau in the south-east, on the Atlantic coast, Sao Paulo is the financial and business hub of Brazil.  It has over 64 parks around the city, the largest and most symbolic of which is Ibirapuera Park, a beautiful leisure centre.  Sao Paulo is home to the fabulous Modern Art Museum.

Belo Horizonte – Estadio Mineirao

Capacity: 62,547
Climate: Dry and warm with temperatures around 25ºC most days.

Fixtures: 14 June, Colombia v Greece, 17:00; 21 June, Argentina v Iran, 17:00; 24 June, Costa Rica v England, 17:00; 17 June, Belgium v Algeria, 17:00; 28 June, Second-round, Winner Group A v Runner-up Group B, 17:00; 8 July, Semi-final, Winner Quarter-final 1 v Winner Quarter-final 2, 21:00.

Belo Horizonte (Beautiful Horizon) is surrounded by the Serra do Curral mountains, which are part of the Parque das Mangabeiras – a protected reserve.  An unusual tourist attraction is a street optical illusion at the Rua do Amendoim. When looking at the street from the side, it appears to slope upwards, when in fact it is a downward slope.  Thousands of visitors flock here every year, turn off their car engines and watch in astonishment as their vehicle starts rolling up the street.

Fortaleza – Estadio Castelao

Capacity: 64,846
Climate: Daily temperatures of 30ºC throughout the year, benefiting from sea breezes.

Fixtures: 14 June, Uruguay v Costa Rica, 20:00; 17 June, Brazil v Mexico, 20:00; 21 June, Germany v Ghana, 20:00 24 June, Greece v Ivory Coast, 21:00; 29 June, Second-round, Winner Group B v Runner-up Group A, 17:00; 4 July, Quarter-final, Winner Second-round 1 v Winner Second-round 2, 21:00.

A 'fortress' port on the north-east coast of Brazil, Fortaleza (Portuguese for ‘fortress') has 16 miles of beaches.  Its best known beach is the Praia do Futuro packed with restaurants serving up delicious regional cuisine.

Rio de Janeiro – Estadio Do Maracana

Capacity: 76,804
Climate: June and July are Rio's coolest months, with a peak typically 25ºC. Those months tend to be dry, but humidity remains fairly high all throughout the year.

Fixtures: 15 June, Argentina v Bosnia-Herzegovina, 23:00; 18 June, Spain v Chile, 20:00; 22 June, Belgium v Russia, 17:00; 25 June, Equador v France, 21:00; 28 June, Second-round, Winner Group C v Runner-up Group D, 21:00; 4 July, Quarter-final, Winner Second-round 5 v Winner Second-round 6, 17:00; 13 July, World Cup final, 20:00.

rio de janeiro stadium

Located on the Atlantic coast and home to the iconic Estacio Do Maracana, Rio is situated on the Guanabara Bay.  The statue of Cristo Redentor dominates the skyline and is perhaps the best-known of Rio de Janeiro’s tourist attractions.

Brasilia – Estadio Nacional

Capacity: 68,009
Climate: Dry and fairly warm. Temperatures tend to peak at 25ºC most days.

Fixtures: 15 June, Switzerland v Ecuador, 17:00; 19 June, Colombia v Ivory Coast, 17:00; 23 June, Cameroon v Brazil, 21:00; 26 June, Portugal v Ghana, 17:00; 30 June, Second-round, Winner Group E v Runner-up Group F, 17:00; 5 July, Quarter-final, Winner Second-round 7 v Winner Second-round 8, 17:00; 12 July, Third-place match, 21:00.

The capital of Brazil, it sits in the central highlands and is an ultra-modern city.  It has some amazing monuments, many of them tourist attractions located on the Eixo Monumental. Iconic buildings, designed by Oscar Niemeyer, such as the Palacio do Planalto (Presidential headquarters), the Supreme Federal Court and the National Congress with its two towers can be found in and around the area.  The Praca dos Tres Poderes connects the three buildings and is an attraction in itself, containing museums (the Brasilia History Museum, the Lucio Costa Space and the Oscar Niemeyer Space).  Other attractions are the sculptures, such as Os Candangos, the Marco de Brasilia and the enormous 286 metres high Flagpole.

Recife – Arena Pernambuco

Capacity: 44,248
Climate: Wet. It rains in Recife on average 224 days a year.  Temperatures tend to peak at 28ºC in June and July. Humidity is also usually high during these months.

Fixtures: 15 June, Ivory Coast v Japan, 02:00; 20 June, Italy v Costa Rica, 17:00; 23 June; Croatia v Mexico, 21:00; 26 June, United States v Germany, 17:00; 29 June, Second-round, Winner Group D v Runner-up Group C, 21:00.

Recife is located on the Atlantic coast and close to the equator amidst tropical forests.  Some of Recife’s most interesting sights are the 17th-century buildings of Dutch heritage. The Torre Malakoff, built in 1855, the Praca do Marco Zero, containing the “Rosa dos Ventos” floor mural by Cicero Dias and the new Centro de Artesanato (Handicraft Centre). A short walk away is the narrow Rua do Bom Jesus, formerly Rua dos Judeus, one of Recife’s main streets, adorned with its peculiar Dutch houses and art galleries. Other attractions include the Embaixada de Bonecos Gigantes (Embassy of Giant Dolls) and the Esculturas de Francisco Brennand Park on the port pier.

Salvador – Arena Fonte Nova

Capacity: 48,747
Climate: June and July are Salvador's coolest months, with peak temperatures at 26ºC.

Fixtures: 13 June, Spain v Netherlands, 20:00; 16 June, Germany v Portugal, 17:00 20 June, Switzerland v France, 20:00; 25 June, Bosnia-Herzegovina v Iran, 17:00; 1 July, Second-round, Winner Group H v Runner-up Group G, 21:00; 5 July, Quarter-final, Winner Second-round 3 v Winner Second-round 4, 21:00.

salvador

Salvador is the largest city on the north-east coast and the first area to be urbanized.  Pelourinho, the historic centre of Salvador, is just one of ten locations in Brazil to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It boasts of many fine monuments, 17th-century Portuguese colonial houses, churches, museums and art galleries such as the Fundacao Casa de Jorge Amado, Museu Abelardo Rodrigues and the Instituto de Artesanato Visconde de Maua. Known locally as “O Pelo”, Pelourinho is a pleasing mix of indigenous, European and African influences.

Cuiabá – Esatadio Pantanal

Capacity: 42,968
Climate: Hot. The temperatures in Cuiabá are consistently high in June and July, rising to daily highs of over 30ºC. High humidity and thunderstorms.

Fixtures: 13 June, Chile v Australia, 23:00; 17 June, Russia v South Korea, 23:00; 21 June, Nigeria v Bosnia-Herzegovina, 23:00; 24 June, Japan v Colombia, 21:00.

The chief attraction in Cuiabá is the Parque Mae Bonifacia on Avenida Miguel Sutil. The park has five paths running through it, five recreational areas complete with gym equipment. Its greenery is typical of the Cerrado (the vast tract of tropical savannah that covers most of the state of Mato Grosso) and it is home to animals that live in this habitat, such as the sagui monkey and a host of other small primates.

Curitiba – Estadio Da Baixada

Capacity: 41,456
Climate: Relatively cool and comfortable with the temperature usually peaking around 20ºC.

Fixtures: 16 June, Iran v Nigeria, 20:00; 20 June, Honduras v Ecuador, 23:00; 23 June, Australia v Spain, 17:00; 26 June, Algeria v Russia, 21:00.

Curitiba is one of the cooler cities in Brazil which even saw snow fall this year.  It has a charm of its own. Nowhere is this more evident than in the historic part of this town, with ‘pedestrian only’ Rua das Flores and the lively Largo da Ordem square – right in the colonial heart of the city.  One of the main tourist attractions is the Museu Oscar Niemeyer, a wonderfully imaginative eye-shaped building.

Manaus – Estadio Amazonia

Capacity: 42,374
Climate: Difficult. Tropical heat with tropical storms. Highs of 40ºC and thunderstorms.

Fixtures: 14 June, England v Italy, 23:00; 18 June, Cameroon v Croatia, 23:00; 22 June, United States v Portugal, 23:00; 25 June, Honduras v Switzerland, 21:00.

The capital of the state of Amazonas, Manaus is the furthest north of the host cities.

Confluence

The location of the city of Manaus is one of its most remarkable attractions: the confluence of the rivers Negro (Black) and Solimões (how the Amazon River is known in this part of Brazil).  The Encontro das Aguas is where the black waters of the Rio Negro meet the muddy yellow flow of the Rio Solimoes.  The two rivers flow side by side for more than 6 km, their waters divided as though by an invisible barrier.

The Teatro Amazonas is a symbol of the golden era of the city and is the city’s leading cultural and architectural landmark and easily recognisable, thanks to its dome, which is covered with 36,000 green, blue and yellow glazed ceramic and glass tiles, all of which were made in Alsace, France.

Natal – Estadio Das Dunas

Capacity: 42,086
Climate: Humidity is a major problem with an average of 97% humidity in the middle of June.

Fixtures: 13 June, Mexico v Cameroon, 17:00; 16 June, Ghana v United States, 23:00; 19 June, Japan v Greece, 23:00; 24 June, Italy v Uruguay, 17:00;

The unique and special attraction of Natal is its stunning dunes.  A fact reflected by the stadium’s name – Estadio das Dunas. Then there is the magical coastline, a delightful beach complete with cliffs, great surfing conditions, crystal-clear lakes, dolphins and sea turtles.

Porto Alegre – Estadio Beira-Rio

Capacity: 48,849
Climate: It can get chilly 10ºC at Porte Alegre in June and July with highs of 19ºC.

Fixtures: 15 June, France v Honduras, 20:00; 18 June, Australia v Netherlands, 17:00; 22 June, South Korea v Algeria, 20:00; 25 June, Nigeria v Argentina, 17:00; 30 June, Second-round, Winner Group G v Runner-up Group H, 21:00.

Porto Alegre sits on a huge freshwater lagoon called Lagoa dos Patos (Lagoon of the Ducks), which is 174 miles long.  From the subtropical climate to the cultural habits, Porto Alegre is fairly different from the other state capitals in Brazil. It was the destination of thousands of immigrants from Portugal and Italy – like many other cities in Brazil – but also from other European countries, particularly Germany and Poland.

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