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Posts in ‘Things to do at beaches’

Spain For Thrill-Seekers

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Spain has more to offer other than churches, beaches, food and festivals.  It has plenty of adventure activities to take your breath away and get the adrenalin pumping. These alternatives take you up in the sky or to the bottom of the sea.

isango! has put together 5 adventure activities of Spain that will make your Spanish experience a highly memorable one.

Western Water Park Magaluf, Mallorca
This wet Wild West themed park will challenge the daredevil in you.  It also has rides and slides for children of all ages so no one gets left out.  Some of the slides are really heart-stopping like the Kamikaze slide that drops you a sheer 30 metres or the Tornado, a knuckle-whitening whirling twisting rush of water.  The Crazy Racer and the Huracan are just as fierce and awe inspiring.

Western Water Park

There is also a mini theme park, Kids Waterland.  Just as thrilling as the slides, are the daily high diving shows.  The divers take off from 30 metre heights and display their skills with perfectly synchronised combined dives involving two, three and more divers at a time.

Deep Sea Fishing, Fuerteventura
The thrill of landing a legendary shimmering silvery marlin or swordfish is hard to describe or rival.  The island of Gran Canaria, especially Fuerteventura, are superb deep-sea fishing waters.  There are an enormous variety of fish to catch.

With the aid of multi-lingual instructors, you are sure to experience the excitement when your fishing line goes taut and you battle the fish at the end of your line.  In keeping with the sporting etiquette, you return the defeated fish to the sea.

Gran Canaria Adventure Tour – Jeep and Camel Safari
Changing gears you can indulge in one of the most exciting means of exploring Gran Canaria.  This ruggedly beautiful volcanic island hides a lot of its beauty, which can only be seen and experienced by going on a combined Jeep and Camel Safari tour.

Camello2 Gran Canaria

The powerful open-topped 4×4 jeeps and towering camels will carry you over rocky mountain tracks to the famous Masplomas Dunes, the lovely little village of Cercado Espino and up to the picturesque highlands of Soria.  The stunning views of the Pico de las Nieves, the Presa de las Niñas and the Ayacata will be the highlights of your adventure.

Scenic Helicopter Tour over Gran Canaria
Another fantastic way to see the Gran Canaria is by helicopter.  Even as you lift off, you understand why an aerial view of this incredibly beautiful island is the best way to see it.  As the stunning diversity of Gran Canaria’s natural features unfurl below, you will appreciate its magical properties.

The rugged volcanic landscapes have many moods and facets that can only be appreciated from the air.  The glorious golden beaches, picturesque villages, twisting, mysterious ravines and the grandeur of the Maspalomas sand dunes will simply take your breath away.

Aguamar Water Park, Ibiza
The Aguamar Water Park on Ibiza is the one attraction that rivals the rave parties and beaches for attention and attendance.  It is the largest on the island and has an exciting range of water slides and other features to either cool you off or set the blood racing.

Located just 10 minutes from Ibiza Town, the Aguamar Water Park has loads of slides for every age.  Some are gentle and slow while others have tight twists and scream-causing turns.  The five fabulous and popular ones are the Kamikazee, the Black Hole, the Spiral, Rio Ventura and the Spiro Tubo.  When you are done riding the slides there are a lot of restaurants to choose from and shady spaces to enjoy a picnic lunch.

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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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4 Reasons Why Barcelona Is Great To Visit In Summers

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Every summer there comes that time when you have to decide where to spend your vacation. Most often the decision making is compounded by what to do. The ‘where’ and the ‘what’ can often cause head scratching. This is where Barcelona scores on every level.

Let’s see now. The weather is warm in summer and just right. There are miles of soft sandy beaches; a hectic nightlife fuelled by a huge variety of bars, discotheques and clubs; entertainment in the form of concerts and fiestas; unbeatable cuisine – Catalan and international; natural beauty with a gorgeous coastline and nearby craggy mountains; an extraordinarily rich culture seen on every street and in museums. There is plenty more, of course, but above all there is endless sunshine!

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Without attempting to push any particular itinerary, here is an outline that encapsulates what you can see and do in Barcelona in the summer!

Beaches
If you are looking to just lay back, get a tan, not do much and release those work-related tensions then the beaches of Barcelona are just the ticket. There are five notable ones with individual characteristics.

Barceloneta Beach is the closest to the city centre with attractive beach shacks serving great cuisine. Nova Icària, is the prettiest and most popular beach with plenty of good restaurants. Marberlla is famed for its free-spirited and nude bathers. It has plenty of eateries and drinking places and easily accessible from the city. Sant Sebastià, the oldest, has calm waters and a long golden stretch of soft sand. Bogatell Beach is the most central. It is populated by the athletic and fitness types who can be found pounding the paved jogging paths and volleyball courts.

Antonio Gaudí
Honestly, this man is synonymous with Barcelona. His works dominate the skyline, are architectural benchmarks and epitomise the city’s Catalan heritage and style in a spectacularly original way. He has done everything from parks to churches. Seven among his brilliant creations have been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

Barcelona Twitter Parc Guell

His works are worth visiting just to see what a brilliant and creatively unfettered mind he had. Some of Gaudí’s creations are the Casa Vicens (a private residence); La Sagrada Familia Basilica (his definitive work, which is still incomplete); Park Güell (his creative and spatial genius is evident here); Casa Batlló (displays Gaudí’s fascination with nature’s shapes) and Casa Milà (aka La Pedrera, is his most innovative, daring and religiously inspired work).

History
Barcelona can seem like a gleaming futuristic city but it has plenty of history. Many remnants of its past are still in well-preserved condition and can be seen all over the city. The best and most convenient place to see examples of Barcelona’s past are in the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter). The heart of the city, this area has buildings dating to Roman and Medieval times. The beautiful narrow winding picturesque streets are worth wandering through. Highlights of the Quarter are the remains of the squared Roman Wall near Tapineria, Avinguda de la Catedral and Plaça Nova to the west, Carrer de la Palla to the south and El Call, the medieval Jewish quarter.

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Just an hour’s travel out of Barcelona is the magnificent Montserrat Basilica and monastery. The Basilica is where the famed Montserrat Boy’s Choir (l’Escolania) sing every day at 1pm. Across the Basilica and underground is an extraordinary museum with a superb collection of paintings by the likes of El Greco, Caravaggio, Sisley, Picasso and Dalí and valuable artefacts and items from ancient Egypt.

Entertainment
When your day of sightseeing or beachcombing is done the evening and night beckons and there is plenty to fill those hours. There is entertainment and leisure to suit all tastes and budgets.

You can have dinner while taking in a Flamenco show at one of the several notable tableaux. Barcelona is absolutely crammed with a variety of pretty and traditional tapas bars where you can treat your palette and sip on some excellent wine or beer.

La Ramba, one of the most famous and interesting boulevards in Europe is a super place to spend the night hours. This pedestrian only avenue is packed with buskers, living statues, mimes, artists and salespeople selling everything from lottery tickets to jewellery. There are plenty of bars and restaurants.

Barcelona has everything to give you that satisfied feeling of having had a real good holiday.

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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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Fun things-to-do in Ibiza

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When the Phoenicians came to Ibiza around 654 BC, they sensed something of the island’s nature and named it Ibossim and dedicated it to their god of music and dance, Bes.  Since the middle of the 20th century it has lived up to its ancient name.

Young people, in their thousands, come from all over the world to gyrate and groove to the insistent pounding of electronic music genres like trance, rave, techno and house.  Ibiza’s fame as the party capital of the world is confirmed by night clubs that can take in over 12,000 dancing guests and 40 DJs.  Starting at midday these parties go on all night.

Ibiza

Flashing strobe lights aside, Ibiza town and the surrounding area is absolutely gorgeous.  You can either rent a cycle or a scooter to discover this amazing island at your own pace and off the beaten track.  Several portions of Ibiza including the Old Town are UNESCO World Heritage listed sites.  Some of these sites include the Phoenician settlement at Sa Caleta and the Ses Feixes Wetlands.  A stroll through the Old Town reveals why it was chosen.

Despite the numerous fabulous beaches on Ibiza, the Aguamar Water Park is one of the island’s most popular attractions.  A family destination, the Water Park offers a number of pools and bars and an excellent cafeteria.

On the historic side there is quite a bit to see in Ibiza.  For instance there is the 14th century Ibiza Cathedral, an excellent study in Gothic architecture.  Inside, the walls are covered with some fine religious art.  You can visit the well-preserved Phoenician tombs in an ancient burial ground.  The hypogeal (burial caves) contain over 3,000 tombs and are remarkable as they have been cut deep into the hillside.   There is also an on-site museum that contains amulets and other artwork that were found in the tombs.

Just 6 kilometres to the south lies Ibiza’s quiet island cousin, Formentera.  This is a really flat island and the sea can be seen from anywhere on it.  It is world famous for its pristine white beaches.  While most people come for the beaches, its crystal clear blue waters are ideal for snorkelling and sailing.  Cycling is a popular way to get around its 19 kilometre length.

formentera ibiza

Formentera also has a few pre-historic Stone Age sites and an ancient Roman road.  It is also famed for its beach restaurants that serve seafood platters, grilled fish and paella, which are among the best in the islands.

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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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Exploring the Solomon Islands

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Solomon Islands

To paraphrase the poet, ‘if there is a heaven, this is it, this is it, this is it!

When you approach the Solomon Islands by air or even by ship all your senses are stunned by the sheer beauty of these gems sprinkled across 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) of the Southwest Pacific Ocean. They comprise of about 992 green isles that total up to 28,400 square kilometres.

One usually gets there by air. The airport in the capital city, Honiara is on the island of Guadalcanal. Thereafter to get around to the other islands you have to do it by boat, which can be quite exhilarating and an adventure itself.

The Solomons are home to just over half a million people. You are not going to see too many of them though as they are scattered all over the place with many of them quite isolated from other folks. They speak 74 local languages (according to Ethnologue, Languages of the World).  Don’t bother trying to count.

The beaches are simply superb and seem to be a product of your dreams. The surf is pretty good all year. Silvery soft sands fringed by green trees that contrast with the blue of the sea are enough to get you thinking about never going back home.

The beach-based activities are a-plenty – swimming, snorkelling, diving, kayaking, fishing, island-cruising and of course surfing. The great part about indulging in these activities is that there is hardly anybody around to cramp your style.

Another great option (my favourite) is to lie in a hammock on the beach and watch the sunsets. But then this is what you want right? None of that hectic, got-to-do-something-all-the-time stuff. These isles are meant to be enjoyed with the ‘lazy quotient’ in plenty.  

Away from the beaches the islands have lush green valleys and forested mountains that provide breathtaking views of the seas around and the tiny, picturesque villages. If you like trekking and sweating it out (the Solomon Islands are extremely humid all year round) then you should go bushwalking. There are movie perfect waterfalls, caves, sheer ridges with single tracks to enchant you en route.

The islands are home to several volcanoes. Most of them are dormant with two Tinakula and Kavachi sort-of active. Everyone will tell you that Tinakula is due for a blow. They are worth taking the walk to look at.

While accommodation and facilities can be terrifically erratic – flush toilets are a premium – you could enjoy the pleasures of a ‘village stay’ to experience the ancient lifestyle of the Solomon Island tribes.

Some Local Insights

The boat services are erratic and can involve waiting. There are not too many hotels, resorts or guest houses. The infrastructure is pretty much non-existent. The Solomon Islands suffer from accessibility difficulties. Many of them are uninhabited too.

Many of the beaches are privately owned and you need permission from owners or families to lie around or surf at them. The Solomon Islands are still largely owned by the various tribes who are governed by a whole set of local customs and traditions. It can be rather tiresome too as you very often need permissions from local chiefs, police and even the visitors bureau.

Things are improving all the time and are no reason not to visit the Solomon Islands. Who said that paradise had to be perfect?  At any rate the experiences and magic of the place will wipe away any memories of inconveniences. Your heart will see to that.
 

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Top 5 Things to do in Rio de Janeiro

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With a city so full of culture and a location filled with beauty, it’s hard to narrow down what you should do in Rio de Janeiro.  That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 things for you to consider on your holiday, whether you’re looking to relax, party, explore, or all three!

Ipanema
Whether you’re looking for some leisure time in the sun, or a shopping excursion, the neighborhood of Ipanema is the perfect place to unwind after a long day exploring in Rio De Janeiro. The beautiful beach unfolds displaying people enjoying the sun in all different ways. If you’re looking to nap in the sun, surf and play in the water, or have a friendly game of volleyball, you’ll have company in whatever you choose to do. The locals are known for being as beautiful as they are friendly, and with what seems like endless supplies of beer and the traditional cachaça, you might want to become a local yourself.
ipanema-beach
Once you get off the beach, there’s streets upon streets of trendy shopping, and since Ipanema is known for being one of the most expensive places to live, these stores are top of the line. If you’re a bargain hunter or looking for something more unique, fear not–on Sundays they hold a “Hippie Fair”, which is a market proudly displaying homemade crafts, clothing, and souvenirs. Also on Sundays, the roadway closest to the beach is closed to motor vehicles allowing visitors and residents alike to enjoy an open area for jogging, roller blading, skateboarding, or however else they choose to get out and enjoy the town!

Copacabana
copacabana The first thing I think of when I hear “Copacabana” is, unfortunately, the Barry Manilow song. Don’t worry though, there’s much much more to the name.  Most recognizably, the southern area of Brazil, home to a beach community that’s as beautiful as it is famous. Attracting the best looking beach-goers, Copacabana is a perfect spot for unashamedly people-watching. Although many people assume that Copacabana and Ipanema are similar, they have their distinctive features. While Ipanema is known more for being a sexy, young, lively, and high end atmosphere, Copacabana holds similar values but proves to be a little less ritzy for those who want to enjoy the local culture in a more laid-back fashion.

Another amazing feature of this area is the promenade. Spread over four kilometers and housing endless restaurants, bars, shops, and clubs, this strip has also hosted numerous concerts. One of the most noteworthy being the New Years Eve Rod Stewart concert garnering 3.5 million, making it the largest concert crowd ever.

Rio de Janeiro has a specifically laid back lifestyle, and if you’re looking for a beach area to enjoy the sunset and a drink, no place is more appropriate than Copacabana.

Carnival
Held 46 days before Easter and traditionally being seen as a way to indulge in some crazy behavior before the start of Lent, Carnival is known as Brazil’s biggest party, and why wouldn’t you want to attend?  Carnival is four days and four nights of partying, dancing, drinking, and parades. Most importantly, the Samba parades, which feature shows and competitions of numerous Rio Samba schools. Often with preparations starting months in advance to impress the judges and spectators, this is no ordinary street parade, and definitely recommended as a must-see during Carnival. All regions are brought together for this parade, not only increasing competition but also displaying a wide variety of costumes, techniques, and design of their parade.

carnival After watching such talent through the streets, you won’t have to be just a spectator for long. Another great event of Carnival are the numerous Balls that you are able to purchase tickets to.  There is samba dancing all night, and if you’re feeling up to the challenge of meeting the high standards for Carnival costumes, you can dress up and become truly immersed in the culture.

The Balls and the Parades are just two of the many events that express the vibe of extravagant glamour, but no matter which events you choose to see, they’re guaranteed to blow you away. It is said that Carnival accounts for 70% of the annual tourism and 80% of the annual beer consumption, so if you’re looking for a good way to party like a local, Carnival is something you shouldn’t miss.

Corcovado
This mountain that lies west of the city, is so spectacular that it is still visible from miles away. However this is not just another mountain gracing Rio de Janeiro’s geography, it is also topped at the peak by a thirty-eight meter statue of Jesus, known as Cristo Rendenter. The homage to religion portrays this statue of Christ with open arms, which is a symbol of peace representing the local culture and their religious values.

corcovado The peak of the mountain and the base of the statue is accessible on a narrow path if you’re driving, or you can opt for the Corcovado Rack Railway. When you reach the top, you then need to ascend to the very top via the 223 stairs, also available are elevators and escalators if you’d rather preserve your energy.

Religious or not, this is an attraction that is popular for a reason. Whether you know it from the appearances it made in the Twilight films, or because you want to see one of the “New” seven wonders of the world, Corcovado is a moving way to appreciate natural beauty. The view from the peak looking out on the city and surrounding area is just as breathtaking as the inspirational view looking up at the statue from sea level.

Sugar Loaf Mountain
sugar-loaf-cable-car 396 meters high, Sugar Loaf mountain towers above the Atlantic Ocean on the beautiful coast of Rio de Janeiro. In history, it was seen as a landmark to travelers as the entrance to the Guanabara Bay, today however it gives tourists endless amounts of spectacular views of the surrounding city.  Although it is similar to Corcovado in how it overlooks Rio, visitors to Sugar Loaf can experience the glass enclosed cable cars which bring them to the peak of the mountain offering an even more unique aspect to this experience. At the top there are souvenir and refreshment booths so you can both relax, and browse some of the shops before returning to sea level.

For all you explorers out there, hiking is an option, but it is highly discouraged as the trails are rugged and extreme. If you do choose to hike however, it is encouraged to buy a one way ticket before you ascend so that you can take the cable cars on the way down – hiking down the steep granite exterior is more dangerous than you’re trip up.

There is no doubt that Rio de Janeiro is graced with beautiful geography.  Mountains like Sugar Loaf let you look down on the beaches you may have been laying out on the previous day, and allow you to appreciate the beauty of the city.

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By Land, Sea and Air: The Best Things to do in Cairns, Australia

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CairnsCairns, Australia is a magnificent fusion of sea, land and air. Its close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest make it a fantastic destination for travellers from all over the world. There are plenty of things to do and after travelling to Cairns and being swept off my feet by its beauty, I’ve realised that the best way to get the most out of your trip to Cairns is by designating time for activities on land, in water and in the air.

Land

Cairns is nearby some of the most majestic rainforests in the world. Daintree Rainforest is the world’s oldest surviving rainforest and the largest continuous stretch of rainforest in Australia. Having said that, it only takes up about 0.1% of Australia’s land mass, yet is home to 30% of the country’s frog, reptile and marsupial population. Daintree is part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site, in particular because some of the oldest species of plants grow here including 7 families of ancient fern. Daintree is also unique in that its dense tropic forest ends on the very edge of white sandy beaches leading to crystalline sea water. If you are interested in exploring this exotic and ancient rainforest, we offer a Cape Tribulation & Daintree Rainforest Tour From Cairns that takes visitors on a life changing trip through the primordial forest.

For those animal lovers out there, a trip to Cairns offers several opportunities to come into close contact with some of the strangest creatures in the world. The Cairns Zoo presents the unique opportunity to explore the zoo at night and meet its nocturnal residents. Late-night visitors are treated to a true Aussie barbeque and then led by torch through the dark zoo. It’s a spooky adventure that I would do again in a heartbeat. I even got to pet a koala, which made my night.

Petting a Koala

For those who want to see animals in the daylight, there are plenty of ways to do that too. The Rainforestation Nature Park is an excellent option because it combines exploration of the rainforest with Australia’s largest Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary. Rainforestation is part of a 100 acre World Heritage Park and offers visitors truly unique activities such as riding an army duck through murky rivers under the canopy of one of the most beautiful rainforests in the world. While I was there I held a koala, threw a boomerang (I ran away instead of trying to catch it when it came hurtling back at me) and tried my best to play the didgeridoo.

If you happen to have an unappeasable desire to see some crocodiles up close and personal, then head over to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure. At Hartley’s, you get the opportunity to see the terrifying head shake and death roll of some of the largest crocodiles you’ll ever see. You also get the chance to hold a crocodile (I opted to take a picture kissing the nose of a baby croc…of course, his mouth was rubber banded shut so it wasn’t the scary ordeal that it sounds like it could be.) You can also go to the Snake Show and discover some of the most deadly snakes in the world, including the Australian Brown Snake, one of which slithered by my foot while hiking in the outback on a separate trip to Australia. I highly recommend seeing one at the Snake Show instead… Crocodile

Sea

Underwater World
Of course, what Cairns is best known for is its location right on the Great Barrier Reef. Visitors from all over the world come to swim with the thousands of tropical fish, explore the islands just off the coast from Cairns and cultivate their tan in the hot Australian sun. The number one thing to do, at least in my opinion, is to explore the aquamarine depths of the reef. It is an entirely foreign aquatic world down there, just waiting to be explored. There are plenty of ways to get to the reef, one of which is by a Quicksilver Catamaran which boasts an impressive Underwater Observatory and acts a platform from which you can go snorkelling. The observatory is perfect for those wanting to see all of the brightly-coloured fish without getting wet (some of my friends staying on the boat and actually watched us swim up to the window of the observatory).

For those wanting to dive a bit deeper into the good ol’ ocean blue, diving expeditions are the ways to go. Whether you are diving at night, diving with sharks or just plain old diving, the experience is sure to be one you will never forget. Inky blue water below, turquoise water above and thousands of fish all around comprise the traditional dive. If you want to stay out on the water for longer than an afternoon, 3 and 4-day Diving and Marine Life Cruises are available. They are essentially aquatic hotels that allow you to get the most out what is sure to be a surreal diving experience. Boat

If you are simply looking for a romantic and relaxed time on the water, Cairns is the perfect place to be. There are a number of Evening Dinner Cruises that are perfect for a dreamy night with your beloved. Gaze at the mangroves that line the water as you sip on champagne, let the delicious food and gentle rocking of the boat lull you into contentment and gaze at the stars in the arms of your sweetie on the deck. It certainly will be a delightful evening not soon forgotten.

Of course, not all of the things to do in Cairns are stress-free. Thrill seekers can get their adrenaline pumping on a Tully River Rafting Excursion. The tour takes you on an incredibly fun white water rafting excursion through the rainforest. It’s led by expert guides and concludes with a delicious meal cooked on the ‘barbie’.

Air

Who doesn’t dream about flying every once in awhile? To be honest, I can’t imagine a prettier place to fly over than the emerald jungles and hypnotic turquoise waters of Cairns.

Plane

Now, there are two main ways of seeing Cairns from above. The first is with a Scenic Flight that takes you from the wild rainforests to the white cays and aquamarine ocean. The flight will take you over the Great Dividing Range in the rainforest near Cairns. You may feel like you are flying through a scene from Jurassic Park (I know I did). The rainforests really do look as ancient as they are. From the sky above the rainforest, you will travel to the coast. It is a surreal experience, looking out at the reef from your plane and seeing the shimmering colours of the coral refracted by the water above them. For those who, after seeing the water, need to be in the water, there are also flights that will then stop and allow you to go Snorkelling at Sandy Cay.

Another, more leisurely way to explore the sky space above Cairns is via Hot Air Balloon . Of course, in true Aussie fashion, the balloon flight isn’t entirely relaxed. While up in the balloon, you will get to experience a balloon chase, which is essentially exactly what it sounds like: Your balloon will chase another balloon across wide open country and vice versa. It’s a very fun time and not stressful in the slightest, but it does add a bit of pace to the otherwise lovely, leisurely and scenic flight.

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Follow The Inbetweeners to Crete.

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inbetweenersThe Inbetweeners Movie has hit the cinemas!
The gang has graduated and they are going on their first lads-holiday in Crete. The first reviews agree that you can expect a film not too different from the successful television series: the jokes are simultaneously funny and cringing. The boys are looking for girls, there are alcohol fuelled antics aplenty. Among the discussions about the reputation of British youngsters abroad, The Sun has still given the Inbetweeners Movie four stars and The Telegraph deems it hilarious …

Obviously there is plenty to do on Crete than the activities depicted in the film -  if you feel inspired to soak up the Greek sun, why don’t you consider these options:

elafonissi_6613_4

Visit the Elafonissi Island, a little bit of paradise on earth. It is popular among Greek vacationers but remains largely secret for the throngs of tourists. Spend a day on the beach or go on a cruise and visit seaside villages. However, we wouldn’t blame you for lounging on the white beach or go for a leisurely swim in the Mediterranean waters.

spinalonga_heraklion_6464_1

Cruise to the infamous Spinalonga Island: previously Turks and the Venetians occupied the island and the fortress on the island was converted into a leper colony in 1903. These days you can take a boat to the pebbled beaches and spend a day swimming and diving, the tour includes a lovely BBQ lunch too.

aghios-nikolaos_heraklion_6402_1

You can shop til you drop in the local coastal town of Agios Nikolaos and Kritsa, a mountain village. Agios Nikolaos has a lovely high street with boutiques, as well as a market where you can browse for homemade handicrafts or fresh fruits, local honey and herbs. Krista is the place for handicraft shops and art stores for unique souvenirs. Also handy: there will be an English-speaking escort on hand to help with communication.

For more tours on Crete, visit the isango website.

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