Subscribe to isango! RSS feed
World’s leading site for travel experiences - Tours, Activities, Shows, Excursions and more
Find amazing experiences Book before you go. Local rates. Handpicked suppliers Find out more >>
Home Blog Support Why isango!
call us +44 (0) 870 049 2331
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 ‘Uncategorized’

Paris to Versailles: Your Travel Guide

0

The town of  Versailles is just 20 kilometers away and to the west of the city center.  The trip from Paris to Versailles takes a little over half an hour.  The palace, including the gardens is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site.  The magnificence of Château de Versailles reflects its one time importance as the centre of French political power.  When Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles, from Paris in 1682, it became the symbol of opulence for over a century.

Versailles Tours

Its 2,300 rooms, scale and grandeur can be both stunning and overwhelming.  Every pillar, mirror, chair, ceiling and wall is a fantastic work of art.  Despite so much stunning beauty, the Hall of Mirrors, the State Apartments, the Opera House and the Chapel Royal stand out in pure, glittering splendor.

The Gardens of Versailles are a fitting compliment to the Palace and are landscaped in the classic French Garden style.  The gardens, immaculate lawns, flower beds, sculptures and fountains make the Palace of Versailles unique.

Getting There

By train:  The best, quickest and most convenient way to get to Versailles, from Paris, is by train.  There are numerous trains operating all over the main city. Versailles has three drop-off stations; none more than a 15 minute walk from the palais.  They are Versailles Rive Gauche, Versailles Rive Droite and Versailles Chantiers. The Versailles Rive Gauche station is the one closest to the Palace (5 minute walk), though the other two stations are not all that much further away (about 15 minute walk).

  • From Paris Montparnasse: Take Transilien N to Versailles Chantiers.  Takes 12 minutes to get you there.
  • From Paris Saint Lazare: Take Transilien L to Versailles Rive Droite. Takes 33 minutes to reach.  The walk to the palais is beautiful.
  • From Paris: RER C5 line to Versailles Rive Gauche (trains called VICK or VITY) and is about a 35 minute ride.

By bus:  Route 171 travels between Pont de Sèvres (at the end of Métro line 9) to Versailles. The bus journey from the station to the château takes approximately 30 min.  There are a wide and extensive range of buses and minibuses operated by private Paris tour operators.  They offer full and half day tours.

By motorbike or scooter:  This option is for the more independent and adventurous minded (Paris traffic is a bit of a challenge).  You can hire a two wheeler to get to and from Versailles.  The ride will take you through some scenic French countryside via the lovely Vois de Bologne and Parc St Cloud and takes between 40 minutes to an hour.

Getting In

The Palace of Versailles is one of the most popular and visited places in the world, which means that there are generally huge, winding queues to get in.  There is a wide selection of tour operators whose services help you skip those lines. There are half day and full day tours (guided and unguided) running from Paris.  Some are small, exclusive focused private tours.  Others include Parisian touristic spots as part of the package.

Then again you could buy your ticket, in advance, directly from the Château de Versailles website.  It costs a bit more than the usual entrance ticket but includes return railway and metro tickets; an audio-guided tour of the Chapel and Opera House, the King’s and Queen’s State Apartments, the Dauphin’s and the Mesdames’ Apartments, the Coach Museum and Trianons.

Once In

To avoid the crowds, start your visit at the main palace at 9am.  Move out and into the gardens and park by 10am.  Budget for a couple of hours at the gardens.    Take a brief time out for lunch.  If you are going on to the Trianon palaces and Marie-Antoinette’s hamlet, then do that post lunch till 4:30pm.

Timings

  • The Palace of Versailles is open from 9am to 5:30pm (6:30pm in high season).

Palace of Versailles

  • The Trianon palaces and Marie-Antoinette’s hamlet are open from noon to 5:30pm (6:30pm in high season).
  • The French gardens are open from 8am to 6pm (8:30pm in high season).

French Garden

The Palace is open every day except Monday.  We advise you to spend the whole day in order to get the best out of your visit to Versailles.

Best Times to Visit

Try to avoid weekends and Tuesdays as they are generally very crowded. Also the domain of Versailles is free on the first Sunday of every month from November to March so expect crowds on these days too.

Tickets

You can buy a consolidated ticket to all the sites or you can buy separate tickets to the Trianon Palaces and Marie-Antoinette’s hamlet.

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Simply Irresistible: Paris in Spring

0

When Robert Palmer sang “Simply Irresistible” he was referring to a beautiful woman.  You realise that the same is true of Paris with her charm, elegance, sophistication, beauty and attractiveness.  She is “Simply Irresistible” – especially in spring.

Paris in Spring

The weather is cool and pleasant, which makes promenading a pleasure.  The gardens are starting to bloom and the horse chestnut trees on the Champs Elysees will be a lush green.  The colours of the flowers are striking as they shake off winter’s hold and Paris’ legendary café culture is in full evidence as people lounge around enjoying the sunshine. Even the Parisian’s legendary surliness is missing.

Paris in spring is the perfect time to visit the city.  You can make the City of Light your own while enjoying everything she has to offer at reasonable and very affordable prices.  Just like the awakening city, the historical, cultural, artistic and gourmet faces of Paris spring to life.  We share and recommend some ideas on what you can do, see and where you should hangout.

Paris Tours

Parks and gardens

One of the main reasons why Paris is considered the most beautiful city in the world is her parks and gardens.  In spring this is particularly obvious.  There are Paris tours that focus only on them.  You could do them on your own.  Be sure to stop and admire; don’t rush it.  The Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg are the most well-known names.  But make sure to explore, enjoy and soak up some sun in the Jardin des Plantes, Albert Kahn Musée & Jardins, the Buttes-Chaumont: a romantic park with sweeping views over the entire city and Le Jardin Sauvage Saint-Vincent.  There are many others of course.

Festivals

Paris has always been a city of the arts.  Springtime is when she dons her artistic skirts to put on a series of art gallery exhibitions; screens film festivals; holds music concerts and hosts other international cultural events and shows.  The Cinéma du Réel throws the spotlight on international ethnographic and sociological films.  These films are screened at venues around the city.  The Annual Jazz Festival (early May to July) is an established and well-attended event.  The Villette Sonique is a brash youngster to the festival scene.  It is now an un-missable rock and electro event for music-mad people from around the world.  The festival puts on numerous free open air gigs at parks and halls around the city

Paris Boat Tours

This is another terrific spring time activity that has you outdoors and viewing this great city from a different angle.  One of the most romantic and leisurely ways is to take a slow boat (batobus) tour on the River Seine, Paris’ soul or the gorgeous, tree lined Canal St-Martin.  You could also glide across roughly 125 kilometres of canals and underground waterways that criss-cross the city and get up real close to the beautiful buildings that make Paris what she is.  You could do this by day, taking in the pleasant fresh air or at night while enjoying a great dinner and glass of wine.

Stroll Around – Be Spontaneous

Make your trip to Paris a pleasure and don’t be a slave to a rigidly planned business-like itinerary.  Mix up your visits to museums, churches and palaces with leisurely walks through this beautiful city.  Stroll or linger around Rue Mouffetard on a Sunday and see street accordion players, people singing in spontaneous chorus accompanied by joyous dancing.

Pick up a fresh baguette and some cheese and jambon to make a sandwich to munch on while strolling some boulevard or relaxing on a park bench.  Sip wine and watch the Eiffel Tower light up at sunset from the Pont des Arts.  Discover the beautiful mansions in and around the Marais.  Occasionally ignore the maps and official guides of tours in Paris and discover your own Paris.

Street Entertainment

Springtime in Paris brings out the street entertainers in droves.  You will see them almost everywhere.  Clowns, mime artists, living statues, acrobats, skaters, musicians, buskers and loads of other entertainers.  So stop and enjoy their antics and performances.  Some of the best places to catch them are at Pont St-Louis near Notre Dame Cathedral, place du Tertre in Montmartre, place Georges Pompidou in front of the Pompidou Centre and place Joachim du Bellay by the Fontaine des Innocents in the 1st arrondissement.

Join The Café Society

Paris’ famous café culture is best enjoyed in spring.  These places of inspiration for painters and writers are great places to hang out, people watch, have a coffee and a conversation.  With literally thousands of neighbourhood pavement cafés to choose from, do like the locals and sit down to soak up the ambience at such iconic locations as Montmartre, the Left Bank and Canal St-Martin.  Lunch prices are much lower than dinner so pick a nice restaurant and you could enjoy a delightful meal and excellent wine at 50% the dinner price.

Bienvenue à Paris

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Tips & Tricks to Beat Jet Lag!

0

We humans have been jetting around the world for near on a century but our bodies’ evolution has yet to catch up.  The disruption caused to the body’s normal schedule can be huge.  Dislocated sleep patterns can mess up the emotions and behavior of even the most even-tempered and veteran traveler.  When you cross several time zones during the course of your travel you will find yourself disoriented, yawning, drowsy, lethargic and weak.  You could even fall sick.

There are many remedies and tips to help you get your body clock to adjust to the new location. However, keep in mind that jet lag is like the common cold.  Everyone has a cure or a remedy but in the end you have to find one that works for you.  We hope our list will help you find it.

jet lag

Melatonin

This is a hormonal supplement that adjusts the body’s sleep-wake cycle.  Studies have shown that melatonin has great results in fighting jet lag or easing its effects.  If you are flying eastwards then take it for several days before you fly.  Check with your doctor before you do so.

Solar Therapy

Many experts suggest soaking up sun to ease jet lag.  The thinking is that light/dark cycles trigger our sleep patterns and work out internal clock. Get a good dose of sunlight after you land.  Exposure to sunlight will help to ease your jet lag and smooth the way into your new position on the planet because it usually helps to adjust the body clock to the new time zone.

Sleep it off

Sleep therapists advise getting as much sleep as possible.  When flying from west to east make sure you are fully rested the night before you travel.  It will help you to stay awake till the night time at your destination.  The same is true if you are travelling in the other direction.  Don’t make the mistake of taking a nap on the flight.

Alter Sleep Patterns

Making a few gradual adjustments to your sleep schedule before you take off goes a long way to warding off those jet lag blues.  What this does is get the body’s clock used to working on a different time pattern.  If you are going east start waking up, and going to sleep earlier.  If you are going west then do the reverse.  Do this over a period of several few days.  It could cause some inconvenience but the results are worth it, though.

Stay Hydrated

One of the contributors to jet lag is a quiet and comfort-giving one.  Air-conditioning!  The many hours you spend in the dry aircraft cabin will dehydrate you considerably and that can make the effects of jet lag worse and upset sleep patterns.  So drink plenty of water and avoid the coffee, tea, colas and alcohol on the flight.  Forgive me for being a spoilsport here but alcohol at high altitude intensifies dehydration.

Lavender Oil

Some small studies have shown that lavender oil works as sleep enhancer and a mild sedative putting one into a pretty good sleep. How effective it is on the majority of travelers is still a little unclear.  However, there is no harm in sprinkling a few drops on your pillow before trying to sleep.  At the very least it has a lovely aroma and will relax you.

Sleep Medications

There are quite a few sleep inducing prescription medications in the market.  Many have been found to be very helpful in fighting jet lag and its effects.  Remember you should never mix these drugs with alcohol.  Once again you must consult your doctor before consuming any of them.

Take It Easy

When you land at your destination don’t rush around.  Don’t plan meetings, business activities or strenuous sightseeing activities on landing.  Give your body at least a day or two to adjust to its new schedule.  Spend the first couple of days doing things nice and slow.  You will enjoy the rest of your holiday.

Your body is a pretty amazing and finely-tuned machine that operates on the “circadian rhythm.”  When that rhythm is thrown out of sync it is bound to cause problems.  While you will not conquer jet lag (or “circadian rhythm disorder”) give your system a little time to get back into its normal cycle.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Two Weeks In Australia!

0

Australia is a huge country and a continent.  For a traveller, any traveller there is so very much to do no matter what.  This is a cruel decision too because you cannot cover it all in a two week period.  So you have to pick and choose what to do in Australia and then the hard part is what to leave out.

Your best bet would be to decide two or three places to visit in Australia and then build your holiday activities around them. Don’t try to cram in too much on your two week trip to Australia.  You will end up being very unsatisfied.  Prioritise what you want to do and then make up your own itinerary.  We have only provided the broad brush strokes of this incredible country.  Our choices have barely scratched the surface, though we hope it helps you decide.

Factor in time spent getting to and from Australia and travel time between locations as distances are huge.

Australia

Sydney

Let’s start at Australia’s oldest and largest city.  You could spend several days in and around the place as there is plenty of the city and outdoors to explore here.  Tours in Sydney will include the beautiful and iconic Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, the Harbour and Circular Quay.  It’s also great experience to wander around the city with many things to see and do.  Sydney has numerous fabulous beaches.  The scenic Blue Mountains and its forested environs are not too far away either and can be toured in a day or so.

Sydney

The Gold Coast

Up north from Sydney on Australia’s east coast basks the Gold Coast.  Arguably Australia’s most hectic and happening city its amazing night life will engage you for a few days.  Besides the modernistic high rise skyline, the city also possesses several white-sand beaches and is a surfers’ paradise.  Just inland from the Gold Coast are hills covered by vast tracts of verdant forest.  The Springbook National Park encompasses thundering waterfalls and gigantic trees and an amazingly diverse amount of plants and animals.

Melbourne

No trip to Australia is complete without a visit to this wonderfully eclectic city, Melbourne.  It may not have Sydney’s historic and iconic type buildings.  However, it is a sports mad city, which is manifested in the fantastic stadiums and sporting arenas including The Melbourne Cricket Ground and Tennis Park.  It is a great shopping destination.  The restaurants are a gourmet’s delight.

When you are done with those, take a trip out to Phillip Island.  It has an impressive coastline populated by numerous sea bird gardens and nests.  It also has a famous blowhole where incoming waves rush into a sea cave below erupting in spectacular spouts.  Then there is the sunset Penguin Parade when thousands of Little Penguins make their way ashore and home every night to the world’s largest Little Penguin colony.

Melbourne at Night

Drive The Great Ocean Road

This is one road trip every visitor to Melbourne should take.  This 250 km or so stretch of road is one of the most scenically spectacular in Australia, indeed in the world.  Starting around Torquay south west of the city, The Great Ocean Road provides spectacular views and scenery. The sunsets and the iconic Twelve Apostles and London Bridge rocks are the most stunning part of the drive.  So terrific is the experience that it is often voted as being among Australia’s Top 10 Destinations.  This could take at least two or three days.

Uluru (Ayers Rock)

If the Sydney Opera House is iconic of modern man-made Australia then Uluru is testament to nature’s grandeur.  The spectacularly red, Uluru (better known as Ayers Rock) is located in Australia’s Northern Territories.  The world’s largest massive single rock stands majestically in the National Park along with the Kata Tjuta rock domes and is in the remote centre of the country.  It takes several days to get there and back but the scenic journey is well worth the time and effort.  Don’t climb the rock as it is sacred to the aboriginals and climbing is taboo for them.  It is also dangerous and rock gets very hot.

Brisbane

By day or night warm (climate and people), welcoming and trendy Brisbane is beautiful.  It is a growing and modern city that has managed to retain that marvelous Aussie laid-back character.  It has a fantastic café culture, superb dining options and classy culture best experienced in the South Bank area.  Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is Australia’s best zoo (and that is saying something) where you can meet and see koalas, platypuses, kangaroos, Tasmanian Devils and a whole collection of other beasts and birds.

shutterstock_224141668

Fraser Island

This indescribably beautiful piece of sand is one of nature’s masterpieces.  An island that is made up powdery soft sand beaches surrounding inland freshwater streams, lakes, rainforests and incredible coloured cliffs that rise up straight and proud.  They make a superb contrast to the green waters of the great Pacific Ocean. As if so much beauty was not enough, Mother Nature planted the unique and blue Lake McKenzie.  So pure are its waters that many creatures cannot drink or live in it.  This wonder of nature is just a few hours north of Brisbane and you could just wind up spending your entire vacation here.

Cairns

Considered the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, sits on Australia’s northern coast.  The city itself is small, beautiful, relaxed and surrounded by much beauty.  Just north of the city is another one of Australia’s marvels – the Daintree Rainforest. It is a place of remarkable reptilian, animal, plant and diversity.  Daintree accounts for 20% of Australia’s bird species.  Exploring and trekking through the area could well occupy another bunch of your vacation days.

The Great Barrier Reef

Many tours in Australia will include a visit to The Great Barrier Reef.  Someone once said that this fabulous creation of nature will change you.  And it is not hard to guess why.  Whether you view it from the air or close up snorkelling in its amazing blue waters and incredibly coloured coral world, The Great Barrier Reef grabs you by the throat and heart – never letting go.

Stretching for over 2,000 kms it is a wonder world of coral, visible even from space.  It is home to an immense diversity of marine life – fish, molluscs, birds, sea snakes, turtles, whales, dolphins, sharks, rays – and an entire underwater landscape of sea grass, mangrove, canyons, plateaus and deep oceanic gulfs.  It is what makes Australia unique and you may never leave.  However, put aside 4 to 5 days to experience this place.

The Great Barrier Reef

The Outback

Exploring the outback is the great quintessential Aussie experience.  You will discover just how vast and incredible this land and its awesome landscapes are.  An outback vacation involves camping under the stars, horse riding, camel ridingand campfire sing-alongs.  You will travel through vast stretches of desert land with scattered waterholes, rivers and gorges of the Flinders Ranges.  Doing this could easily take up 4 or 5 days of your holiday or you just might go “walkabout.”

Wine Tours

Now this a whole different world from we have been describing earlier.  Australia’s vintners and vineyards go back 150 years and more.  From Sydney to Perth you have wide choice of wine making regions and the heavenly juice of the grape.  So get on an air-conditioned coach and explore some of Australia’s popular wine-making regions of Hunter Valley,  Swan Valley,  Barossa Valley,  Yarra Valley, Margaret Valley.

Experience Aboriginal Culture

You just have to spend time exploring and experiencing the culture and rich and ancient heritage of Australia’s original inhabitants.  Forget the stereotype images and go deeper to  discover the Aboriginal culture, its close links with nature, the land and all the living creatures on it.  When you have spent time imbibing the world’s oldest living culture through its myths, storytelling, dream time, dance, music and learned a few bush survival skills you can truly say that you have experienced wondrous Australia.

australia

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Things To Do in Santorini – A Classic Greek Travel Destination

0

The classic and official name for this wonderful island is Thira (Thera), which basks in the Aegean Sea.  The island is the remnant of one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in history.  It left behind a beautiful rectangular lagoon surrounded by picturesque, multi-coloured, steep cliffs on three sides plunging down into the clear blue sea. The cliffs slope downward, dotted with dazzling white-walled cottages, into the Aegean Sea.  The lagoon is often populated by gleaming yachts at anchor, adding to its charm.

Tours in Greece

Magical Santorini has uniquely special natural features and characteristics, different from any other in the world.  It also has settlements and history dating back to one of man’s earliest civilizations.  This “crown jewel of Greece” has much to offer the visitor.  There are plenty of things to do in Santorini.

Exploring Santorini’s towns

Over the course of thousands of years Santorini’s villages and towns have evolved into some of the most beautiful in the world.  They comprise of white-walled Cycladic houses that hug the steeps cliffs, the subject of thousands of photographs.  Words just don’t come close to describing their beauty.  These traditional magical dwelling places will stay with you forever.

Emporio is located in the heart of the island and close to the beaches of Perivolos and Perissa.  Her highlights are the well preserved Kateli (castle) and the churches especially that of Panagia Mesiani.

Oia (pronounced EEE-ya) features on travel booklets and calendars around the world.  It is located on the northwest edge of the caldera and is an enchanting network of famous blue domes, narrow climbing streets, cave houses and small squares that pop up unexpectedly.  Oia is considered the oldest settlement on the island and offers breathtaking views of the sea and landscapes.  Walk down the steps from Oia and you find yourself in Ammoudi Bay and its gorgeous little harbor hemmed in by amazing red cliffs.

Fira, the capital, is a maze of white houses in the Cycladic architectural style built on the cliffs overlooking the lagoon.  It has a wonderful collection of bars, shops, cafés, restaurants and ice cream parlours.  It also has casual and laid back nightlife.  Two other villages worth exploring are Firostefani and Imerovigli.

Eating in Santorini

Without a shadow of a doubt the cuisine of Santorini alone is worth the travel.  Gorging on the many specialty dishes of the island is as integral to experiencing the island as exploring its historical sites.  Regarded as an outstanding gastronomical destination, there are a wide range of things to eat in Santorini made from distinctive local products from the sea and the land.  The local cherry tomatoes are the best you will ever taste, fava with kabourma (the white eggplant that can be eaten raw), pan-fired feta cheese with honey and superb Greek coffee frappe are just some of the specialties of this gorgeous island.

Eating in Santorini

As if the food is not enough to satisfy the soul many of the restaurants and tavernas are set in the most beautiful locations in the world.

Ancient Cities

Santorini’s magic goes back thousands of years to its fascinating Minoan roots.

Ancient Akrotiri

It is the best Minoan site outside Crete, that civilization’s home.  The archaeological excavations (still ongoing) display wonderfully intact 16th century BC multi-level buildings, streets, and squares with remains of walls standing as high as eight metres, once entombed in the solidified ash of the famous eruption of Thera.  Also visible are beautifully decorated homes, mansions and frescoes.  Wandering through Akrotiri is a journey back in time.

Ancient Thira

First settled by the Dorians around the 9th century BC, Thira has remnants of Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras. You will see Roman baths, an old agora and the famed Terrace of Festivals where ceremonies honoring Apollo were held.

Santorini’s Wine and Beer Pleasures

Santorini offers amazing culture, history and natural beauty but one of the fun aspects of visiting the island are its wine and beer.  Wine production on the island dates back to Roman times, and grew under the Venetians during the Middle Ages.

Vineyards in Santorini are peculiar to the island.  The grape vines are grown close to the ground to protect them from the strong winds that strike the island.  They are also trained to grow in a basket shape in order to make the most of the precious dew, which is the main source of irrigation.  At night there is plenty of humidity when dew covers the entire island.  If you are out at night you could get completely wet.

Visiting a winery or a brewery is a great way to imbibe some of the culture, history and at the same time some pretty interesting flavoured beverages.  Santorini’s wines are made from an indigenous and hardy grape variety, Assyrtiko, which has metallic and other unique features.  There are plenty of dry whites, roses and reds to sample at the island’s best wineries.

There is a local brewery that produces a several beers that are quickly gathering a large and enthusiastic gathering of beer lovers – in Greece and around the world – and is much sought after on the island itself.

Sunset Watching on Santorini

There are many, many people who hold that sunsets at Santorini are the best in the world and they are right.  Many actually come here just to experience it.  There are numerous spots to watch this solar phenomenon and each has its band of devotees.

Sunset in Santorini

Hundreds of people gather every evening around Oia Castle to watch the spectacular vision of the sun sinking into the sea.  However, there are other locations such as Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, the often overlooked Faros near ancient Akrotiri and Profitis.  Vlihada beach offers a fascinating sideshow with the cliffs changing colour during the sunset period.

Stay in a Cave House

Called yposkafo, these wonderful cave houses were originally built into the hillsides and cliffs to offer protection from the strong Aegean Sea winds.  They are wonderfully attractive and cosy.  Most of them have been turned into hotels and resorts. It is worth the cost to stay (even for a night) in one of these cave houses.  All of them offer spectacular views of the caldera and the sea.

Beaches

The activity of Santorini’s volcanic past has created some truly amazing and iconic beaches.  All of them are wonderfully different from each other.

Beaches in Santorini

Kamari Beach is a short distance from Fira on the east coast and has a large stretch of powdery black/grey sand.  You can just bask in the sun, jet ski or rent a kayak.  There are also many beachside restaurants, bars and shops.

At the end of the road, near Ancient Akrotiri sits Red Beach.  This red volcanic sand beach is worth the effort of getting there.  The views here are simply stunning especially the contrast of the red cliffs and the blue sea water.  Swimming here is great.

Other beaches are Perissa and Perivolos (black sand), the White Beach and Vlychada beach.

There are other things to do on Santorini and these just some that we have picked out for you.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Norway – The Perfect Summer Holiday Destination

0

norway tours

Norway is absolutely unspoiled and one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, indeed the world.  Shaped by ice and wind it is famous for its dramatic, rugged landscape, high craggy mountains, deep valleys, large waterfalls and the famed western fjords.  The astonishing northern lights regularly shimmer from above bathing the land with their ethereal glow.  The climate in Norway is influenced by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, making the summers really pleasant.

Norway is also home to some of the world’s largest and longest glaciers with many of them winding down valleys, miles from their breeding grounds in the ice fields.  It is also populated by steep rocky islands standing like sentinels.  The mountains rise up like the fortress towers of mythical Asgard.

Then there is the harsh yet magnificent Arctic region of Norway inhabited by the ancient indigenous Sami people living in their picturesque wooden villages.  The Sami still live in close harmony with the fascinating wildlife such as the polar bears, musk oxen and a whole host of other creatures.  Reindeer are still central to their existence and traditional way of life.  The creatures provide meat, fur and transportation.

Much of the country is unpopulated, which has been designated national parks.  This has led to Norway becoming one of the most exciting and diverse adventure-tourism destinations in the world.  There are whole lot of things you could do on a trip to Norway.

The fascinating diversity of geography of Norway means there are great opportunities for diving, glacier walking, reindeer sledding, kiting, snow scooter safaris, hang gliding, parachuting, kayaking, sledging, fishing, rafting and skiing.

tours norway

In addition to its beautiful natural aspects Norway has built some of the world’s most beautiful cities that are crammed with wonderful architectural gems – past and modern.  Seeing the towns and cities of Norway you are constantly reminded that the people here have an innate eye for beauty and flair for design.

One of the best places to see the intrinsic co-existence of natural beauty and man-made structures is in Oslo.  The medieval Akershus Fortress, the modernistic Oslo Opera House, the Maritime and Fram Museums are some of the buildings that exemplify this harmonious blend of the old and the new styles.  Another attractive place in the city is the Vigeland Sculpture Park and The Monolith.  This is a 14 metre tall column with sculpted human forms entwined from the top to the bottom.

The Oslo Fjörd is in itself a place of great beauty with picturesque summer houses on the numerous islands dotting the fjord.  Sightseeing cruises by day or evening or an Oslo City Hop-On Hop-off Bus Tour are some of the best ways to see this marvelous city.

Oslo Hop on Hop off Tour

Your Norway travels should take you to Tromsø regarded as “the Paris of the North” and Trondheim, Norway’s technology capital.  It is also the location of Scandinavia’s largest wooden palace.  Norway’s fourth largest city, Stavanger, dates back to the Middle Ages and mixes the new and old in a thousand different ways without contradiction.

Norway offers never-to-be-forgotten experiences.  It is a wonderful country to visit – especially in summer.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Snorkel and Swim with Dolphins in Australia!

0

The waters around Australia are remarkable for the fact that they are home to most of the 33 species of dolphins in the world, of which one or two are unique.  Some of them are permanent residents while others migrate to and from their Antarctic feeding grounds.  The most common and adaptable is the Bottlenose Dolphin, which lives in a variety of climates.  These adorable creatures can be found from Perth in the west, all the way round Australia to the Great Barrier Reef in the far north.

Swim with Dolphins in Australia Swim With Dolphins in Australia

 

Swimming with dolphins or even being in the same space as them is one of life’s most exhilarating experiences.  These deeply appealing, attractive, playful and highly intelligent creatures like interacting with humans.  Just the sight of their sleek silvery grey dorsal fins attached to shining torpedo shaped bodies leaping 15 to 18 feet out of the water is a fabulous experience that lasts a lifetime.

Depending on their own natural inclinations, moods and feeding cycles you may see mothers nursing calves; riding on the back of stingrays to hunt and catch their dinner; chasing octopus, squid, local species of bait fish; tossing catfish through the air or watch the males showing off for the females.  You may see a sea lion joining in the fun.  It’s the ultimate wildlife encounter!

The wonderful part to swimming with Dolphins in Australia is that the creatures are totally wild and not trained or domesticated in any manner.  So when they do approach you (and they will come incredibly close) it is because of their natural social and affable nature.  The tour operators function under strict environmental rules to minimize disturbance to both the dolphins and the marine environment.

Though the dolphins often come within hand’s reach it is not advisable to touch them lest we transmit disease of damage their skin layers.  Another strict ‘no-no’ is feeding these lovable creatures. In the first instance it would ruin the very real friendship based on curiosity and enjoyment rather than of temptation and inducement.  Therefore your pleasure at interacting with these fascinating animals in their natural environment will be of mutual respect and interest.

Dolphins are air-breathing, warm-blooded marine mammals that live close to the surface of the sea, which means that you get plenty of opportunity to enjoy their company without having to put on specialized gear or get expert training.  You don’t have to be a strong or Olympic swimmer or experienced snorkeler. The guide drives an aqua battery scooter that thrusts through the water and keeps to the surface most of the time.  All you have to do is to hang on to the belt of the person (or guide) in front and get towed.

Note: Swimming or snorkeling with wild dolphins is not suitable or recommended for children of 6 years or younger.

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

EASTER: Around the World

0

Church services, religious fervor, colorful street processions, bunnies, painted eggs and a festive family meal. These are some of the traditional things one expects at Easter.  However, each city or region around the world has its own Easter traditions, celebrations and events that are either unique or a little different from others.

Let’s look at some destinations around the world and their Easter styles.

New York

New Yorkers love nothing better than a party and a parade – the bigger the better!  And Easter has been always been a good reason for New York to put on a show.  Easter Sunday sees many thousands of people come out on to the streets to watch or participate in the Easter Parade and the Easter Bonnet Festival.  Participants dress up as bunnies, others in completely wacky hats and bonnets while others don outlandish costumes.  The music, the colour and the confetti turn the famous Fifth Avenue into one big carnival.  A host of other activities such as egg rolling take place.

Easter is also a good time to visit Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Bronx Zoo and the other iconic and world famous landmarks.  Other tourist must-sees are the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and Rockefeller Centre.

happy easter

You should also check out the several popular cultural tours that take you around to the locations where famous film and TV serials were shot.

The Greek Islands

Greece observes the Orthodox brand of Christianity, which follows the Julian calendar.  Easter here occurs later than that of the other churches.  Colorful processions wind through the streets during the Holy Week culminating in the churches packed with people attending midnight service on Holy Saturday.  Easter Sunday is a day of feasting on traditional mayeritsa (soup) and koukouretsi (a lamb dish).  Special lavishly decorated candles (labatha) are gifted to children.  Other essentials are decorated eggs, sweets, Easter bread and a variety of meats cooked in an oven or on an open spit.  Ouzo, local wines and other drinks flow freely.

The Greek mainland and its surrounding isles are the probably the oldest tourist destinations in the world.  Its astounding beauty is apparent from the moment you set eyes on the place.  Thousands of islands fringed by gorgeous white sandy beaches; pristine blue waters; rugged majestic mountains; dazzling white painted houses with many-hued rooftops; olive groves; idyllic villages and their bougainvillea lined streets sprawling across hillsides and spilling down to the sea will capture your heart and never let go.

Legendary names like Crete, Corfu, Rhodes, Lesbos, Mykonos and Athens speak of a magnificent past and promise a wonderful present.  Reminders like the Acropolis, the Parthenon and the Temple of Zeus are still evident everywhere you go.

Alghero, Sardinia

Alghero’s Catalan influences come to the fore during Easter.  The prayers and devotional songs are in Catalan.  Red is the predominant color of this period.  Red cloths drape the street lights and also the farols carried by the faithful and religious brotherhoods.  The wonderful town centre is the main location for the Holy Week ceremonies as is the Cathedral.  An interesting feature is the observance of silence during the processions.  The rituals hark back to the 1600s when Spain ruled the island.

Sardinia is the second largest Mediterranean island and the beautiful town of Alghero its prime jewel.  Ruled by the Spanish for over 300 years, a Catalan dialect is still predominantly spoken here.  The old quarter is called Little Barcelona (Barcelonetta).  A number of lovely white sandy beaches, like the San Giovanni Beach, spread themselves out just below the city walls.  Alghero is a town of many winding alleys and narrow streets.  It also has some excellent Gothic architectural attractions in the form of the Alghero Cathedral and the Palazzo d’Albis.  Close by are Capo Caccia and its fabulous limestone cliffs and underwater caves containing beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.  The foremost cave is Nereo’s Grotto.

Seville, Spain

Easter in Seville is also known as Semana Santa.  Hundreds of yellow-cloaked and pointed hooded ‘Nazarenos’ (penitents) slowly tread the streets in solemn processions.  Elaborately decorated floats with wooden statues of Jesus and Mary, dating back hundreds of years, accompanied by loud, noisy brass bands and faithful carrying aromatic and smoky candles are all part of a colourful and raucous pageantry you will never see elsewhere.  This time also marks the beginning of spring, so celebrations take place in the bars, cafes and farms all across the region.

Seville is a prime showpiece encapsulating Spain at its very best.  Seville is famous for its colour, flair and vibrancy.  Located on the banks of the pretty Guadalquivir River, the city was where Christopher Columbus launched his voyages.  The Romans, Moors/Arabs and Christians have left wonderful vestiges of their legacy.  Seville has merged them all into a magnificent uniqueness that can be seen in The Old Town, the Jewish Quarter, Santa Cruz, El Arenal and the Basalica de la Macarena.

Jerusalem, Israel

During the Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday, Jerusalem is packed with thousands of local and foreign Christians.  Pilgrims retrace the steps Christ took on the way to his crucifixion.  Known as the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering) it winds through narrow passageways from Lion’s Gate to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The solemn yet joyous services at the Holy Sepulchre on Easter Sunday are especially important as Christians believe that this is the place where Jesus was buried and later resurrected.  The faithful also gather for an Easter sunrise service at the Garden Tomb.

The Old City of Jerusalem is only 0.9 square kilometres in size but it attracts all the tourist attention.  Much of human history, culture, religion and conflicts have their roots in this tiny area.  The Old City is demarcated by the walls that Suleiman the Magnificent built in 1538.  Since 1981 the Old City is a World Heritage Site and is also on the World Heritage in Danger list.  Old Jerusalem is literally divided into four quarters – Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim.

Rome, Italy

The spiritual and administrative centre of the Roman Catholic Church, Rome hosts a number of traditional and religious events.  For two weeks there are processions and church services (some candlelit/torch lit) to mark the most important event in the Christian calendar.  The Good Friday processions are particularly poignant as actors enact the Passion of Christ leading up to Christ’s crucifixion.

The Pope is involved in many of the services.  On Easter morning he celebrates open air mass in St Peter’s Square.  After the mass he delivers the blessing known as the “Urbi et Orbi – to the City and to the World” from the balcony on the façade of Saint Peter’s.

The Eternal City or Rome is literally bursting at the seams with artistic and historic attractions.  As befitting the capital of an empire that was the largest and most powerful in the ancient world it is also one of the world’s most historic cities.  Landmarks from its ancient era are the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Castel St Angelo and Baths of Caracalla.  Other remarkable architectural sites are the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and the Spanish Steps. The Vatican attractions are St Peter’s Basilica and the fabulous artistic treasures in the Vatican Museums.  Among its many gardens the Villa Borghese and Villa Pamphili are outstanding.

Indonesia

The Holy Week and Easter is carried out literally by many Christians in parts of Indonesia.  Young men take great pride and honour in the imitating the agony and passion of Christ.  They allow themselves to be tied to a cross and haul it while enacting the Stations of the Cross.  During this period they carry statues through the streets of Larantuka on the lovely island of Flores and even other places.

The normally placid Larantuka comes alive as thousands of tourists from Indonesia and around the world arrive to view or participate in ‘Semana Santa’ celebrations. These customs were brought here by the Portugese missionaries in the 16th century.  Centuries old statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary are presented to worshippers after which they carefully stored away for the rest of the year.

Indonesia, the largest archipelago in the world, is made up 13,466 tropical islands.  Most of them are ringed by amazing white sand beaches.  It is as wide as the US and populated by more than 200 ethnic groups.  Its best known islands are Sumatra, Java, Bali, Kalimantan (Borneo), Sulawesi and the Spice Islands.

It has an incredible variety of landscapes ranging from rainforests and savannah grasslands to the snow peaks of West Papua.  The fauna and birds reflect this diversity with such creatures as the giant Komodo Lizard, the Orang Utan, the Java Rhino, the Sulawesi Anoa (dwarf buffalos), the colourful and talkative cockatoos, the bird of paradise and much more.  The waters around the islands are richly populated by an amazing variety of brilliantly coloured tropical fish and coral.

The UK and London

Easter celebrations in the UK are subdued and generally confined to family gatherings.  Chocolates eggs are hidden for kids to hunt and find.  In Preston, Lancashire an ancient traditional game of rolling real eggs down a hill is still played.  Traditional folk dancers – Morris dancers – perform in village squares adding colour and music to the quaint charm of the English village.  Churches are generally bedecked with flowers and other decorations for Easter Sunday celebrations.   Hot cross buns, Simnel cakes and marzipans are hot ticket items during the Easter period.  Trafalgar Square in London goes mad with live music and other entertainment items, which thousands attend.

The UK is one of the most visited countries in the world with millions of visitors turning up every year to experience its many historical locations and cultural offerings.  It is a country rich in tradition, iconic and world famous buildings, pretty picture postcard villages, charming towns, ancient mysterious Stonehenge and massive castles. It has great variety of natural beauty ranging from rugged coastlines, green patchwork fields, rolling hills, moors, ancient woodlands, fairy-tale rivers and canals.

Australia

Easter in the Land Down Under is a very laid back affair.  The festival comes when it is autumn in the Southern Hemisphere and starting to cool down.  It is a great time for the kids as there are Easter egg hunts, chocolate bilbies, fireworks and holidays. Sydney has the Royal Easter Show where the best farm and agricultural produce vie for attention with parades.  The Show is fueled by plenty of beer and wine.  Byron Bay has a music show, the Bluesfest, while Freemantle puts on the Freemantle Street Arts Festival featuring some of the best street art, music and outdoor theatre in the world.  If none of this does it for you there is always the beach.

Australia is one of the world’s greatest holiday destinations. It’s a country that can turn your vacation into an everyday adventure.  From the outback to the great cities; from tropical forests to the Great Barrier Reef; from picturesque green rolling hills to snow capped mountains – Australia has it all.  The Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House will compete with drives down the Great Ocean Road and into Yarra Valley for your attention and time.  Hot air ballooning or trekking up to Ayers Rock/Uluru or a heart-stopping ride in a boat down the Tully River are experiences you will treasure forever.

Dubai

This might come as some surprise but Dubai has an Easter tradition – of sorts.  The city of malls utilizes them to organize Easter displays.  Hotels too, join in on the act.  Giant Easter egg hunts and egg decorating, fake indoor snow slopes decked out with Easter decorations are staple activities.  Elaborate lunch buffets are put on for Easter by five star hotels.

Dubai is an ultra-modern, glitzy, city soaring up into the sky.  It is a designer city purpose built to cater to the needs and pleasures of a fast-moving, modern world.  Gleaming spires like the Burj Khalifa dedicated to commerce gaze down upon sedate dhows and narrow picturesque streets of the old Bastakiya district and its tall wind-towers, souks, minarets and the timelessness Creek.  Dubai offers only the best in entertainment, career opportunities, accommodation, food, business and shopping.

Now that we have given our list of the top 10 Easter travel destinations, start planning that much needed and well deserved break you have been dreaming of. The only question that remains is which travel destination you prefer? A religious and traditional European Easter experience or a relaxed beach paradise with a festival!

 

isango! wishes all the readers Happy Easter!

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Around Melbourne – Day Tours

0

Melbourne is a really wonderful city. It is the cultural hub, sports capital and artistic centre of Australia.  Its population diversity ensures that you get plenty of great food from all over the world.  Melbourne and its surroundings are packed with things – natural and human created – that delight the senses.  It is an exhilarating city with live music, exciting sporting events and other things happening all the time.

The place has so much to offer whether you are a resident of this architecturally appealing city or a visitor from another country.  There are plenty of great things to do in Melbourne and places to see within easy reach of Melbourne City Centre.  Once experienced, Melbourne never quite leaves you.

Ride the skies in a Hot Air Balloon

Melbourne at dawn is a marvellous picture with the morning sun lighting up the skyscrapers and putting a soft golden glow on the cityscape.  Melbourne is only one of a handful of cities in the world that permit Hot Air Ballooning over the city limits.  However, you could choose to go the other way and float over the gorgeous Yarra Valley.  The beautiful rolling hills and green vineyards below and the blue skies above make for an entirely breath-taking spectacle.

The Dandenong Mountains and Puffing Billy

Go east out of Melbourne and you will find yourself in the majestic Dandenong mountain range.  It is lovely area to spend the day, have a great meal and stroll through charming, picture postcard little villages. Besides their beauty, the Dandenongs are where you will find huge and soaring Mountain Ash trees.  It is a fabulous place of nature lovers.

The Dandenong Mountains is also the route of Puffing Billy, the famous narrow gauge railway train.  A ride from Belgrave Station to Gembrook is an experience both you and the kids will enjoy as you steam past breathtaking forest scenery.  You can also opt to have a meal on the train.

Drive The Great Ocean Road

This is one road trip every visitor to Melbourne should take.  This 250 km or so stretch of road is one of the most scenic in Australia, indeed in the world.  Starting around Torquay south west of the city, The Great Ocean Road provides spectacular views and scenery. The sunsets and the iconic Twelve Apostles rocks being the most stunning.  So terrific is the experience that it is often voted as being among Australia’s Top 10 Destinations.

Phillip Island

Phillip Island is just under two hours away from Melbourne.  It offers a wonderful mix and variety of options for the day tripper.  It has an impressive coastline and a famous blowhole where incoming waves rush into a sea cave below erupting in spectacular spout.  There is the Koala Conservation Centre, where you can see the cuddly little fellows up close and personal. Then there are the Seal Rocks, home to Australia’s largest seal colony.  The coast is also populated by numerous sea bird gardens and nests.

There are plenty of lunch options on the island.  You should hang around till sunset when the best treat of Phillip Island has to offer, occurs.  It is the Penguin Parade when thousands of Little Penguins make their way to shore every night at the home of the world’s largest Little Penguin colony.

Mornington Peninsula and Hot Springs

About two hours from Melbourne’s city centre is Mornington Peninsula and the Fingal Hot Springs.  This is a place to relax.  You can melt away the pressures and stress of modern life by wallowing in a number of outdoor pools and thermal springs.  You could spend half the day soaking in a Turkish steam bath and then have a relaxed lunch in scenic surroundings.  Not far away are the Red Hill Markets and its host of excellent craft shops.

The Many Charms of Melbourne City

Melbourne is a city of mixed attractions – modern, forward-looking and a futuristic world city.  It also possesses many charming alleys, streets and Victorian era buildings and markets.  Its numerous delightful side streets are filled with art galleries, shopping arcades, indie theatres, little eateries and bakeries.

You could take a walking or bike tour, guided by a passionate local and discover the arty and cultural side of the city and its fascinating architecture and parks.  Or simply take a Melbourne tour coach, sit back and enjoy its many splendors.

Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo or Healesville Sanctuary

Melbourne offers more than any other major city of the world in terms of wildlife attractions.  You could choose to visit Melbourne Zoo (4 kms north of the city centre), Healesville Sanctuary (an hour away) or Werribee Open Range Zoo (half an hour away).  All three have a large number of wildlife attractions native to Australia and from other parts of the world.

Melbourne zoo has gorillas, elephants, lions, meerkats and orang-utans. It also offers close up experiences with elephants and other animals.

Healesville Sanctuary is a bush setting filled with Australia’s recognisable and not so familiar wildlife including koalas, kangaroos, emus and dingoes.

Werribee Open Range Zoo is set in 225 hectares of open savannah.  Among other indigenous creatures it has some spectacular African wildlife. 

Yarra Valley Wine Tours

This is a more laid back activity that offers wonderful pleasures to the visual senses and the palette. A trip to Melbourne should include this activity.  Just an hour from Melbourne is the wine-producing region of the Yarra Valley.  The entire area is pristine, characterised by gorgeous views and stunning mountains.  It has a richly deserved reputation as one of the world’s great wine regions producing excellent Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wines.

The Macedon Range

The Macedon Mountains are a spectacularly beautiful range formed by volcanic activity many millions of years ago.  It houses the unique and amazing Hanging Rock, which is an attraction by itself.  You could spend the whole day happily exploring and playing in its caves and crevices.  The area offers wonderful spots for picnics or you could visit the many wineries in the region.

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Great White Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai and Cape Town, South Africa

0

Adrenaline Attack!  There is no other expression one can think of to describe the feelings and emotions that surge through you.  Suddenly that cage around you seems so fragile and the bars too far apart!  It is the only thing between you and one of the most fearsome carnivorous killers on the planet.  It’s a Great White Shark, you are in his habitat and he is hungry!

Shark cage diving is the closest thing to ‘near death’ that one voluntarily chooses to experience.  And there is no better place to get that particular buzz than in Gansbaai, South Africa.  With one of the densest populations, Gansbaai is inarguably the ‘great white shark capital of the world.’ Great White Shark Cage Diving in Gansbaai and Cape Town, South Africa is a MUST!

Great White Shark Cage Diving, south africa

Just 5 miles (8km) from the shore sits Dyer Island and the smaller Geyser Rock.  The shallow channel that these two form is known, around the world, as “Shark Alley.”  It is here that shark cage diving takes place.  The best times are from May to October.  During this period the water is warmer and also the time when the sharks hunt for seals.  Of course the Great Whites can be seen throughout the year.

One of the other reasons for the high population and presence of Great White Sharks in this area is the Cape Fur Seals, which occupy Dyer Island.  They are the prime source of food for the sharks.  Great Whites are surface feeders, so much of their feeding and other activity happens close to the surface, making for plenty of sightings.

Great Shark Cage Diving, south africa

To go shark cage diving is simple.  You don’t need any diving certificates just the desire and a stout heart.  The average dive takes 15 to 20 minutes.  You are almost certain to get a close up of one these awesome denizens of the sea.  An encounter will provide some of the most terrifically satisfying experiences you will ever have.

If getting scared to death is not your idea of a great time, then you can choose to stay on the boat.  Plenty of other shark varieties, besides the Great White, will put in an appearance.

You can choose to go out early in the morning between 6 am and 7 am for the best viewing as sharks are very active at this time.  The other option is to take the later trip (around 9 am to 10 am).

Gansbaai is also a great location for whale-watching.  Other wildlife species such as Cape Gannets, Cape Cormorants, Jackass Penguins, Southern Right Whales and dolphins are also likely to be sighted.

Shark cage diving is a once in a lifetime and unique experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS