Taj Mahal Location

Most of us know that the Taj Mahal is located in India, but where exactly it is located at? The Taj Mahal, aslo known as the Temple of Love is located in Agra, a historic town within Uttar Pradesh, a northern Indian State. Agra was once the capital of the Mughal Empire and now it holds one of the most beautiful structure in the world.

This lovely temple lies within a majestic garden along the River Yamuna. To reach the Taj Mahal from the city of New Delhi, the capital of India, travel south for 201 km (125 miles). From New Delhi, you can either fly to Agra or travel by rail and road. Don’t hestitate to ask around because most Indians know exactly where this beauty lies.

December 22, 2011 at 3:19 pm | 1 comment

St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow

St. Basil's Cathedral
View of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, Russia
Photo by: JackVersloot, Creative Commons

St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, was built by Ivan the Terrible between 1555 and 1561. According to legend, the builder of this cathedral was blinded so that such a beautiful structure could never be built again. The cathedral is vividly colorful and contains redbrick towers that add to its beauty. The church’s design consists of nine chapels, each mounted with its individual dome that marks the assault on the city of Kazan.

The design of St. Basil’s Cathedral provides strong religious symbolism and is based on architectural designs found in Jerusalem. Eight of the domes make a circular formation around the ninth dome, which looks like a star when viewed from the top. There is a deep contrast between the interior and the exterior of the St. Basil’s Cathedral. The interior contains modest decorations and the corridors are narrow, leaving little space for seating worshippers.

Several times throughout its history, this cathedral has suffered damage due to fires, looting, and other incidents. In one legend, the French ruler Napoleon even wanted to take St. Basil’s Cathedral back to France with him, but due to the lack of such technology, he ordered his army to destroy it so that no one else could occupy it. His army had prepared to attack the church and had also lit up the gunpowder, but a mysterious rain shower prevented any explosions from occurring.

July 12, 2011 at 4:18 am | 36 comments

Tarangire National Park


Tarangire National Park in Tanzania
Photo by: Noel Feans, Creative Commons

The sixth largest national park in Africa is called the Tarangire National Park. The park owns a large collection of baobab trees. It may not be as well known as the other parks up north- the Tarangire National Park is one of Africa’s secret yet not so secret spots in the northern safari circuit- one in fact of the most underrated greats in Africa.

It was named after a nearby river called Tarangire. It has the same attractions as the parks up-north- the only difference is that this place is not usually as crowded as the other ones. Going here would be a good chance for research, recreational activities and soul-searching. In here, you are bound to intertwine with the spirits of the earth as you roam around every tree, every vine and every root in the jungle – it is bound to be a very exciting adventure.

A lot of migratory animals aim to reside here during the dry season. You can see groups and herds of animals like 600 elephants followed by zebras, buffalos and oryxes who ventured from the Maasai to the Tarangire in search for water. There are also a few lions prowling around and looking for unsuspecting preys around the jungle. Some of the other animals that you may see here are antelopes, warthogs, hippos, cheetahs, leopards, foxes, jackals and waterbucks.

Like in any part of Africa, this part is also known for its avian diversity. There lives here a variety of birds beaming with wonderful colors. Some examples of these are the Yellow-collared lovebirds, various types of storks, herons, kingfishers and the paradise whyder.

February 15, 2010 at 2:12 pm | 2 comments

Guadalajara


Guadalajara, Mexico
Photo by: pdbreen, Creative Commons

If you are currently looking for an exotic destination to visit and you want to try something fun and exciting, then book now to Guadalajara, Mexico. It is an exciting city that attracts tourists from all over the world. The best possible description of Guadalajara is a mixture of traditional Mexico with a modern feel to it.

One destination you may want to discover is the Plaza Tapatia, from the old structures, it will definitely take you back in time. Other possible attractions to experience could be the street performers like the mariachi bands performing for passer bys or enjoy free concerts in an open park by the State Band of Jalisco.

Something to do while in Guadalajara are visiting the zoo, where the children will be entertained. Besides the zoo, your children may want to experience the theme park with mid-sized roller coasters. On one hand, if your child is into science, check out the Planetarium or if they are into history, visit the Historic Center for a tour. Or if they really want pure fun and excitement then go to water parks where your children could spend their day and be captivated by the water sports/activities. At the water parks, your entire family can spend time on hot springs and adrenaline-pumping adventure at the water slides.

The best way to end your night could be in the clubs situated around the city. With good food, good drinks, good vibe and ambiance, it is the perfect getaway for those who are tired of their day’s activities in the city. Here are some bars/nightclubs/discos you may want to try:
• Bariachi
• Caballo Negro
• Copacabana
• Copenhagen77
• El Piano

It will be further advisable if you could study little Spanish to help you converse with the locals to make things easier if you are bargaining at the market or just simply purchasing any goods. This is a perfect place to stay because you are surrounded by picturesque scenery that can only be found in Guadalajara, Mexico.

February 10, 2010 at 3:25 am | 2 comments

Hatshepsut Temple


Hatshepsut Temple in Egypt
Photo by: Andrew®, Creative Commons

The temple of Hatshepsut or Deir el Bahri has served as a trace of the major events that happened during the Hatshepsut’s reign. The Hatshepsut temple was built just next to the Mortuary Temple. The temple got damaged big time due to the rock sliding. It however was resorted during the year 1998.

Hatshepsut in English means the Foremost of noble ladies. The Hatshepsut is said to be the fifth ancient Egyptian ruler of the 18th century dynasty in Egypt. The Hatshepsut is considered to be one of the most popular and successful rulers and has a tenure longer than any other women in the entire Egyptian dynasty. Data tell us that the Hatshepsut was the only daughter of Thutmosis I. She was a Pharaoh in other words the strongest lady ruler in Egypt and that was the reason she was pictured in her mortuary temple and other monuments. It is said that the Hatshepsut ruled the place and the kingdom for twenty two years, and when she died she was buried in the Valley of Kings under the supervision of Thutmosis III.

Once her rule was over, her successors defaced all the temples and monuments and very specifically removed her name and replaced it with their own. People say that it is still a mystery, if Thutmosis III out of personal rage and anger ordered to deface her name and figure. However, archeological evidence tells us that her face was defaced almost after 20 years of her death. So it is quite a possibility that some ruler amongst the successor had a long time grudge with the Hatshepsut.

January 31, 2010 at 4:02 pm | 4 comments

Luxor Temple


Luxor Temple in Egypt
Photo by: watchsmart, Creative Commons

Luxor is a town cum city which is located in the southern Egypt and is called the capital of Luxor governorate. Almost thousands of tourists visit the site every year and contribute a lot to the economy of the town. It has some great historic monuments. The temple of Luxor fulfills the purpose for suitable set of rituals and festivals. The Luxor temple is considered to be the center of attraction in the entire town. A lot of festivals are celebrated in this temple. The most common one is the festival of Opet.

The temple was built by Amenhotep III and Ramesse II. The history of the temple is very interesting and exciting. It is said that during the 18th dynasty the festival were celebrated as a reconciliation of the human aspect of the ruler. During this time the festival used to last for 11 days. However, by the end f 20th century the festival celebration days went up to 27 days which is almost close to a month. More than 11,000 bread slices, close to eighty five cakes and 385 jars of beer was distributed amongst the local town people. The entire town was only into modes of fun and celebration. A procession of the images was carried out & used to be taken to the temple. Herds of crown could be seen dancing, singing and having fun while the procession was carried out. The Luxor temp is a must to see site, if you plan your tip to Egypt. One can hire a well trained guide who can help you show the temple and enrich your experience with his in depth knowledge of the history.

January 25, 2010 at 4:02 pm | 8 comments

Sugarloaf Mountain


Sugarloaf Mountain in Brazil
Photo by: Rodrigo_Soldon, Creative Commons

The Sugarloaf Mountain is a place located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The mountain is the heights peak in the entire sea covered area. It protrudes into the Atlantic Ocean and has a total height of 1,299 feet above the sea level. It got its name sugarloaf as it resembles the original shape of a huge pile or a heap of sugar that has just come out of a sugar refinery. Some school of thoughts as says that the name is a derivation of a ‘high hill’. The Ariel view of the mountain is also breathtaking.

The mountain is a monolith and is made up of granite and quartz. The most interesting thing from the visitor’s point of view is the glass trolley or cable car that can take almost 75 passengers between the peaks of Pao de Acucar and Cara de Cao in every 20 mins. Originally the cable car was laid and built in the year 1912, however, was rebuilt in 1972 and 197. The view from the glass cable is magnificent.

Another best outdoor activity that the tourist indulge into is rock climbing. It is a very common sight to watch the rock climber climb the Babylon Mountain and the Urca’s mountain. It is said that both the peaks together form the largest urban climbing areas in the world. The Sugar Mountains have such an attraction in them that they have even appeared in the some of the Hollywood movies. The famous of all is the James bond released in the year 1979.

January 20, 2010 at 1:29 am | 4 comments

Cesky Krumlov


Cesky Krumlov town in Czech Republic
Photo by: midweekpost, Creative Commons

Cesky Krumlov is a small town located in the south Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. The place is most popularly known for its architecture and art of the significant old town. Old Cesky Krumlov is a part of the UNESCO, world heritage site. The construction of the city as well as the castle started in the late thirteen century. In the year 1302 the city and the castle was possessed by the House of Rosenberg. A lot of architecture of the old city and the castle dates back from the 14th century to the 17th centuries. One side of the old town is within the rabbit’s foot turns of the river.

Once the World War I got over the city of Krumlov belonged to upper Austria which was a part of the Republic of German Austria. Also during the war zone and era the town became a part of the Czechoslovakia. Between the year 1938 and 1945 it was made a part of the Nazi Germany and Sudetenland. During the II world War the town was restored to Czechoslovakia. The town faced massive floods during the year 2002 due to the Vltava River.The Cesky is a very large town as compared to the standard towns. Statistics say that it is the second largest in the Czech Republic. Inside the town one can see large gardens, huge and long bridges with a big gap in the rock upon and the castle itself. Some of the famous sights to visit in the town are the gothic church call the Church St. Vitus, the Baroque theater the famous museum and some old monasteries.

January 20, 2010 at 1:10 am | No comment

Sphinx


Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela
Photo by: Andrew®, Creative Commons

The Sphinx is a mythological animal shaped figure which is portrayed as a recumbent lion that has a human head. The sphinx got its name and origin from in sculpture form, from the old kingdom of Egypt, which the old Greeks used to apply their names when compared to the female monster, which again was a Greek mythological figure. The old and ancient sphinx image pictures as a sitting lioness that has a human head. Only occasionally the lion has a head of the falcon or hawk. This tradition was originally started by the Egyptians, but later was taken over by many other cultures. Then it was a very common site to see a picture of the lion body with the head of any other animal other than the lion.

It is very interesting to know that the main purpose of the sphinx was to guard the temple doors. And such sculptures could be very easily found in the royal tombs as well as religious temples. In fact the first sphinx depicted Hetepheres II of the 4th dynasty and lasted from 2723 to 2563 BC. As per records the largest and the most known sphinx can be seen the great Sphinx of Giza, which is located at the Giza plateau on the bank of river Nile. Researchers’ till date have not been able to find out the exact construction date. However, the head of the sphinx is said to be that of the greatest and the strongest ruler called the Hatshepsut.

January 19, 2010 at 5:15 pm | 5 comments

Valley of the Queens


Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela
Photo by: Mohd Tarmizi, Creative Commons

The valley of queens is a special place in the Egypt where the wives of the Egypt rulers were buried during the ancient times. The Valleys of Queens in Arabic is called the Wadi el melikat. The older name of this place was Ta-set- Neferu which meant the place of the children of the Egypt ruler in English. During the 18th, 19th and the 20th century many young princess and prince were also buried in this place. The Egyptian rulers however were buried in the valley of Kings. Every notable family member was buried in his or her respective tombs that further were maintained by the mortuary priests. These priests would every day prayer and perform rituals for the deceased identity. The valley of Queens is very close to the Valley of the Kings.

This land was especially chosen for this purpose as it is very barren, isolated and away from the main town. The 18th dynasty kings did not choose to be buried in pyramids, however wanted to be placed in rock cut tombs. The valley together holds more than 70 tombs and many of them look stylish and decorative.

The valley of queens as well as the valley of kings is a must to visit place if you are in the town of Luxor. Every single tomb speaks a story of its own, engulfing many mysteries’ in it. The entire air about the place is different. A lot of visitors have said once you visit the valley, it seems you have formed connection with the other world.

January 19, 2010 at 5:09 pm | 4 comments

Great Wall of China Fortresses

People have built fortresses for thousands of years for many reasons. Originally, the word was “fortis” which is Latin for “strong”, and facere which is Latin for “to make”. The Great Wall in China has hundreds of fortresses built along the wall. The fortresses were used for protection or defense against attack.

Army installations are called a “fort.” They are usually a city within a city and are not as strong or fortified as the forts along the wall and on the battle field. Many forts, or walls, were used as a symbolic function showing the independence of the city it surrounded.

Fortresses are located all along the Great Wall. Some are just 50 meters apart. They were built for protection, as lookouts, and as a place for solders to fight against the enemy. The towers were also used as places to watch over the entire area and send signals. The fortresses provide places for solders to retreat to for safety. Stairways were built so to confuse someone climbing them. The stairs cannot be seen from outside the tower.

The east end of the Great Wall is a preserved portion of the wall that tourists still enjoy. This fortress is known as the First Pass Under Heaven. It is where the wall meets the Pacific Ocean at the Bohai Sea. Its nickname is Old Dragon’s Head. It is located 300 km east of Beijing and linked via the Jingshen Expressway.

This fortress was a defense against tribes from Nanchuria. This pass is the narrow passage between the Northeast and Central east region of China. Both Northern Qi Dynasty and Tang Dynasty built passes. In 1381, a general by the name of Xu Da built Shanhaiguan pass under the Ming Dynasty. The Shanhaiguan pass is so named because of its position between the mountain and the sea.

General Qi Jiguang built a fortress under the Ming Dynasty for the military city around Shanhaiguan east, south, and north of the pass. It was one of the strongest forts in China and is a pass in the Great Wall today.

The pass of Shanhaiguan fortress is built in a square. The walls are 14 meters high and 7 meters thick. A wide moat surrounds the east, south, and north sides with drawbridges. In the middle stands a tall bell tower. It is a beautiful tower that still stands today.

The towers and fortresses were used by troops to send smoke signals by day and men carried torches along the wall by night. Wood and straw mixed with wolf dung, produced a thick black smoke for sending signals from one tower to another. One column of smoke meant an attack by less than 500 was imminent. Two columns of smoke was the signal that an attack of less than 3,000 was imminent. Four columns meant an attack of 10,000.

The main three fortresses build along the Great Wall are the Chia-yu-kuan in the west, the Chu-yung-kuan near Peking, and Shan-hai-kuan at the east end of the wall. The Ming dynasty built the Chia-yu-kuan to mark the end of the Kansu corridor between mountains to the south and the northern deserts.
The Chia-yu-kuan fort was built in 1372 by troops under General Feng Sheng and is just 40 miles north of Peking. It is an important fortress because of its location through the mountains between the capital, the river valleys and land beyond.

The last fort build along the Great Wall is the Shan-Hai-kuan which guards the costal strip from Manchuria to Korea. The word “Shan-Hai-kuan” means Mountain-Sear Barrier where the road narrows. This fort is 260 miles east of Peking and is well known by its large arched gate. The inscription on the gate is “First Pass Under Heaven”.

After the fifteenth century, the forts were no longer used for attack or defense but as signal towers.

December 15, 2009 at 7:40 pm | No comment

Great Wall of China Construction

The entire wall was built over 2,000 years. It is hard to think about that length of time and the continuing effort that resulted in something as complex as the Great Wall. In 656 B.C., the Chu State wall, called “The Rectangle Wall”, was built to protect the Chus from enemy neighbors that meant them harm. Tourists still visit this portion of the wall in the Henan province.

When China was separated into states, each state built parts of the wall to protect their borders from enemy forces until 221 B.C. During the Qin Dynasty, the wall started taking shape as the Great Wall of today.

Qin Shi Huang was the first to unify China as one state. He too built a wall to defend against his enemies. He built a large defense barricade. One million soldiers and laborers worked on the project that took nine years. Some of the old walls were incorporated into Chu’s wall. The Great Wall went from northern China from Mongolia. Much of this wall has fallen and disappeared. It was further north than the wall we see today.

The Han Dynasty in 206 B.C. to A.D. 24 was at war with the Huns and extended the wall using part of the old walls and extending it 10,000 kilometers into western China, the modern Gansu province. It was during these years that they saw the wall grow the longest. It was up to 6,213 miles into western China, modern Gansu province.

In A.D. 386-581, during four dynasties, 621 miles were added to the wall. This was the Northern Wei part of the wall in the Shanxi province. The Eastern Wei added 47 additional miles. The Northern Qi saw the longest extension of the wall since Qin and Han, 932 miles. Northern Zhou dynasty ruler Emperor Jingdi refurbished the wall in 579.

During the Ming Dynasty, the Great Wall was very important for defense. Emperor Yanzhang refurbished the wall during his reign. His son Zhu Di was one of his generals to repair the existing wall and build forts and watchtowers. The wall was used to keep Mongols from the north from invading Beijing. The wall was fortified for the next 200 years and covered 4,536 miles.

Today, the Ming portion is what remains. It is from Shanhai Pass in Hebei province and ends in the west at Jiayuguan Pass in Gansu province at the edge of the Gobi Desert. There is little to see in the last 310 miles. The wall has broken down.

The wall has gaps as wide as 50 miles from determination. These sections are mostly in the mountains.

Even though much of the wall has crumbled, it is still one of the world’s greatest attractions. Not all the recorded history is known to be the truth. Some points like the miles built in which year is up for debate. Some dispute the total number of miles the wall covers. Still, there is no argument when someone says it is the greatest attraction in the world and will likely remain that way. It is a marvelous engineering accomplishment.

December 15, 2009 at 7:39 pm | No comment

Ellora Caves in Aurangabad

Ellora Caves
Ellora Caves in Aurangabad, India
Photo by: markhillary, Creative Commons

Ellora Caves, an archeological site situated 19 miles from the city of Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. It is listed as one of the world heritage site by UNSECO. It is the finest example of rock cave temple in India with 34 caves in total. It is believed that these caves were built by the rulers of the Rashtrakuta dynasty. They are carved into the sides of a basaltic hill. These structures were carved between 350 AD and 700 AD, representing three faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. There are 12 caves in the southern part of the site which belong to Buddhism, 17 caves in the center which belong to Hinduism and 5 caves in the north which belong to Jainism.

Buddhist caves: The caves 1 to 12 are made for Buddhism, built during 550-750 AD. These caves are decorated with striking sculptures and murals of Lord Buddha. The cave number 12 is a significant cave known for its three stories structure.

Hindu caves: The caves 13 to 29 are made for Hinduism, built during 600-875 AD. These caves are completely filled with sculpture of “Apsaras” (beautiful woman), gods and goddesses. Cave number 16 should not be missed as it has a Kailash temple which is known to be the largest monolith structure of the world.

Jain caves: After passing through the Hindu caves, there comes the Jain caves (from 30-34) built between 800 AD and 1000 AD. These caves even comprise of various images of lord and mythological paintings.

An impressive thing to observe is the 15 feet statue of Buddha seated in two story structure of stupa with all the grace. It took about five centuries to complete the structure made with 200,000 tones of rock which is a splendid achievement by human. In the year 1819, John Smith, a British officer discovered these caves while he was on a hunting expedition.

The nearest airport to reach Ellora Caves is Chikalthana airport, which is 127 km away. The city of Aurangabad is also well provided by number of buses and train ways as well. These caves are open from morning 9:00 am to 5:00 pm in the evening, from Tuesdays to Sundays.
Ellora Caves boasts an unimaginable and detailed work of art with ancient temples and monasteries which will definitely win our hearts especially for those who are very interested in ancient history.

June 15, 2009 at 6:53 pm | 6 comments

Fatehpur Sikri, West of Agra

Fatehpur Sikri
Fatehpur Sikri in India
Photo by: foxypar4, Creative Commons

Fatehpur Sikri is a royal city situated 40 miles west of Agra, Uttar Pradesh, northern part of India. It is listed as one of the world’s heritage site by UNESCO due to its unique features and it is one of the major destinations in India. This city served as the capital of the Mughal Empire during 15th century. This glorious city was planned by Akbar, the great emperor of Mughal dynasty. The name Fateh is originated from Arabic which means “victory” and Sikri means “thanks to god” and the city came into significance when Akbar the Great made it as head quarters and built a majestic fort. But this city was abandoned due to the scarcity of water in the town.

There are number of buildings in Fatehpur Sikri built mostly with red stone. The compound has small palaces which were built for specific purposes.

Naubat Khana: it is the drum house situated near the entrance where important arrivals are announced.
Diwan-i-Am: it is the hall for public audience which is found in most of the Mughal buildings with large open space.
Diwan-i-Khas: it is hall of private audience and it is famous for its decorated pillar consisting of 36 elegantly carved brackets made in Gujarati style.
Raja Birbal’s house: it is the house of Akbar’s favorite minister who is renowned for his intelligence.
Marium-uz-Zamani: this is built around courtyard for complete privacy made in Gujarati style.
Panch Mahal: it is a five storied impressive structure which has 176 carved columns on the ground floor. It is the most fascinating building in Fatehpur Sikri.
Buland Darwaza: it is a huge gateway to Jama Masjid which is a fantastic piece of architecture and it is termed as “gate of magnificence”.
Jama Masjid: it is a mosque where Muslims follow prayers everyday.
Tomb of Salim Chisti: it is the white marble encased tomb of Salim Chisti who was Sufi saint and also the person who was very honored by the great Akbar.

The city of Fatehpur Sikri is only 40 kilometers from Agra which is well connected by air lines connecting all important cities of India. It even has good transport facilities through bus and train as well along with hiring taxis. It is open from sunrise to sunset. The entrance fee varies for the tourist from different countries and for children below is absolutely free.

The architecture of Fatehpur Sikri has its unique character composed with Indo-Muslim style and perhaps one can experience the aura of its magnificent edifices by visiting these kinds of extra ordinary places.

June 15, 2009 at 4:54 pm | No comment

Jantar Mantar Observatory in Jaipur

Jantar Mantar Observatory
Picture of Jantar Mantar
Photo by: mckaysavage, Creative Commons

The Jantar Mantar is an observatory located in Jaipur City, state of Rajasthan, India.

The Jantar Mantar was built by Jai Singh II (emperor of the Amber dynasty) in between the years 1727 and 1734. There are a total of five Jantar Mantar observatories of the same style built by the emperor at different places. Among the five constructions, the Jantar Mantar observatory at Jaipur is considered as the biggest of the five. In the year 1948, the Jantar Mantar observatory was stated as the National Monument.

The name “Yantra” actual word Jantar means “an instrument” and “Mantra” means “principle”, the people of Rajasthan pronounce the word “Ya” in place of “Ja”.

The Jantar Mantar was built with marble, several stones and bronze sheets; the placement of these materials is very accurate. The Jantar Mantar observatory is also known as “time machine”. It contains 14 numerical devices which are used in time measurement, approaching eclipses, discovering new planets, present condition of the planets and predicting about the outer space altitudes.

Among the devices inside the Jantar Mantar, the biggest instrument is the “Samrat Jantar”, which is about 90 feet high and faced at 27 degree latitudes to Jaipur city. The Shadow of Samrat Mantar is plotted in such a way that the time can be calculated based on the instrument. The Samrat Yantra (sundial) is also the world’s biggest sundial which calculates the accurate time of Jaipur city every two seconds. In addition there is a small dome on the top of the Samrat Jantar which predicts the seasons and eclipses.

In the present days, the Jantar Mantar observatory is a great tourist spot, the people of this city still use the Jantar Mantar for the prediction of weathers. The Jantar Mantar is also filmed in many national and international films and has become a great spot for shooting films.

Traveling to Jantar Mantar observatory
The Jantar Mantar opens at 9:00am in the morning and closes 4:30pm in the evening.
Jaipur being the capital city of Rajasthan state and also second largest tourist spot in India is well connected with all the parts of the country. In addition there are several bus services from all the parts of Rajasthan state. People traveling there can choose their means of transport according to their interest.

June 15, 2009 at 2:58 pm | 1 comment

Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies

Banff National Park is located in the Canadian Rockies in Canada and it is said to be the oldest national park in the country as it was established in 1885. The national park covers a total area of 6,641 square kilometers and has a huge terrain of mountains, glaciers, ice fields and dense forest as well as alpine landscapes. The ice field of the Banff National Park extends and connects to another national park called the Jasper National Park. It also has some neighboring national parks to its west called the Yoho National Park. Another one towards the south is the Kootenay National Park and the one towards its east is Kananaskis Park. Out of all the national parks in the locality, the main commercial park is the Banff which also includes the Banff town in the Bow River Valley.

During the earlier days, a lot of hotels were opened in the locality and huge amounts of money were spent in attracting tourists to the park and the town. It was in 1960 when the Banff National Park was open throughout the year and almost five million visitors paid a visit to the park. Today, the Banff National Park is one of the most visited parks in the world. However, one of the biggest dangers that it is facing today is the unbalance in its ecosystem. A lot of research and study was conducted to identify measures that could help in the preservation of its ecosystem.

View of Banff National Park from the Summit of Sulphur Mountain
View of Banff National Park from the summit of Sulphur Mountain
Photo by: Amateria1121, Creative Commons
Moraine Lake at Banff National Park
Moraine Lake at Banff National Park
Photo by: Satoru Kikuchi, Creative Commons
Castle Mountain in Banff National Park
Castle Mountain in Banff National Park
Photo by: Kmf164, Creative Commons

May 4, 2009 at 3:56 pm | 5 comments

Portofino, a Small Italian Fishing Village

Portofino is a small village along the banks of the Italian River that is famous for its fishing opportunities and picturesque qualities. The charming and old-fashioned town has become a popular spot for the rich and the prominent. Many Hollywood stars come to Portofino for fun and relaxation. The town has high cliffs that are lined by trees. The combination of the ocean view, the warm sunny weather, and the delicious food help make Portofino a perfect holiday spot.

Both the administration division, called the Commune, and the Resorts are situated in the province of Genoa. The village has a lot of small harbors and it is one of the more attractive Mediterranean ports in the region.

Panorama of Portofino from Castello Brown
Panorama view of Portofino, Italy taken from Castello Brown
Photo by: Andi Buchner, Creative Commons

One can travel to Portofino through numerous ways. One can take a train, fly into Genoa and then either take a taxi ride by road or opt for a sea taxi. The city is a true travel destination and offers a variety of activities for the visitors. Visitors can indulge in shopping opportunities, beautiful sightseeing, water games and the famous Italian dining. Some of the common places for sightseeing include Castello Brown, San Giorgio Church and the famous lighthouse. Castello Brown is a castle that sits on a hill a bit above the village. It has a garden that gives a beautiful view of Portofino and the sea.

Portofino Lighthouse
The Portofino Ligthouse
Photo by: Umberto Fistarol, Creative Commons
Portofino's Small Harbour
Portofino’s small harbour
Photo by: Stan Shebs, Creative Commons

May 4, 2009 at 1:01 am | 1 comment

The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg

Old Hermitage and small Hermitage from the River Neva in 2007The State Hermitage Museum is one of the largest museums in the world. It has over three million pieces of artwork in it. The museum is situated along the Palace Embankment in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The museum has such a large collection of art that it cannot all be put out on display at one time. The museum was built in 1764 and was made public in 1852. The huge collection of the State Hermitage Museum is spread out in six different buildings along the Palace Embankment. The most prominent and well known amongst them is the Winter Palace, which is currently the official residence of Russian tsars.

It is very interesting to know that the Hermitage Museum also has international branches which are located in Amsterdam, London, Las Vegas, and Ferrara, Italy. In fact, the State Hermitage Museum is even in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the world’s largest collection of paintings.

Some of the famous works in the State Hermitage Museum are the western art collections that include Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Poussin, Claude Lorrrian, Watteau, and Tiepolo. The museum also has a beautiful assortment of Faberge jewelry.

Even though the main museum was established in 1764, it has seen constant expansions every century. In the 19th century, relics of Greek and Scythian culture were added to the museum. Also, a large amount of gold was put on display, thus making it the world’s richest collection of gold. During the 20th century, private collections from several of the Russian tsars were added to the museum.

Official website of The State Hermitage Museum: http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/

May 4, 2009 at 12:20 am | 2 comments

Mecca, the Holiest City in Islam

Kaaba in Mecca
Pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba during the Hajj in Mecca
Photo by: Muhammad Mahdi Karim, Creative Commons

Mecca, also called Makkah, is a city in Saudi Arabia. It is the holiest city in Islam and is considered to be very sacred to Muslims. Muslims believe that it is very important to visit Mecca at least once in their lives. It is very interesting to note that almost three million Muslims pay visit to this city every year. Today Mecca is dealing with both positive and negative issues. It is still very popular for tourism, but it is having hard times dealing with infrastructure problems.

Mecca is the home of Masjid Al Haram. This is the world’s largest mosque. Initially, it was a place for trading during the 7th century. Also, till 1924, it was governed by the local sheriffs. After that, it saw a lot of modernization and growth in its size and structure. Today, it is ruled by the local municipality of Mecca by a Mayor who is directly appointed by the Government of Saudi Arabia.

The history of Mecca dates back to 2000 BC. Some people believe that Abraham built the Kaaba with his son, Ishmael. Over the years, this place had almost 360 idols. Mecca today has the biggest Mosque in the world. Every day, daily prayers are offered in it and another step is being taken by the government to renovate the entire place so that it can accommodate 900,000 people at a time. By Saudi law, non-Muslims are forbidden to enter Mecca, which is strictly enforced by the government.

April 27, 2009 at 4:22 pm | 18 comments

Kathmandu City

Kathmandu Durbar Square, God of Justice
Kathmandu Square, God of Justice

Kathmandu is the biggest city and the official capital of Nepal. It is located in Kathmandu Valley, which has two other cities called Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. One is the old city and the other is the new city of Kathmandu Valley. The language spoken in Nepal is Napali. Kathmandu city has a total population of 700,000 and it is the only developed and modern city in the entire Nepal.

The view from the Airport is so breathtaking as it is covered from hills all over and has untapped natural beauty and greenery all over. The main religion followed in Kathmandu is Hinduism. It is present in the center of the Himalayas and some of the peaks of the Himalayas are clearly visible.

Kathmandu has a very famous temple that is called Kaasthamandap, which was built in 1567 AD. It is also called Marusthal and is entirely made of wood. It is now rules by the government, but once, it was ruled by the royal house.

Swayambhunath and Boudhanath are two famous stupas within Kathmandu. It also has a famous Hindu shrine, called Pashupatinath. Kathmandu city, throughout the year, has honeymoon visitors visiting mostly from India. The city has a small thickly populated place where you will find monks in abundance. The city has seven most prominent groups of monuments that are rich in culture and heritage, which speak volumes about the city historic past. Durbar Square and Changu Narayan temple are very unique, which is worth a visit.

Kathmandu has some of the best five star hotels in the main city and gambling in the casino is legal.

April 27, 2009 at 2:47 pm | 10 comments

Niagara Falls between Canada & The United States

Niagara Falls
Picture of Niagara Falls from the official observation tower in USA

The Niagara Falls along the border of the United States and Canada is made up of three smaller falls – the Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The Horseshoe Falls, which is located on the Canadian side, is one often referred to as the most attractive of the three and is named for its unique horseshoe shape. The American Falls is a little less impressive than the Horseshoe Falls as it has almost nine times less water in it and that is way it is not very striking to see. The Bridal Veil Falls is even thinner than the American Falls, but the mist that surrounds it gives it a look of the veil of a newly wedded bride.

Niagara Falls panoramic view of American and Horseshoe Falls from Canada
Niagara Falls panorama view of American and Horseshoe Falls from Canada
Photo by: Sbittante, Creative Commons

The falls cover the international border between Ontario Province of Canada and the State of New York. The Niagara Falls is 27 km (17 miles) long from the north to the northwest of Buffalo, New York, and 120 km (75 miles) long from south to southeast of Ontario. Niagara Falls is known both for its beauty as well as the source of much hydraulic power. As such, balancing out both the commercial and industrial usage of the falls has proven very challenging for engineers.

Some of the main tourist attractions around the Niagara Falls include the Maid of the Mist (boat cruise), Journey Behind the Falls (platform and tunnels below the falls), Illumination of the Falls, Observation Tours and the Imax Theater that gives an educational tour of the falls. Most visitors come to Niagara Falls during the summer due to its daytime and evening attractions.

Official tourist website: http://www.niagarafallstourism.com/

Aerial overview of Niagar Falls
Aerial view of Niagara Falls at 3,500 feet above
Photo by: Duke, Creative Commons
American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls at Niagara Falls
American Falls on the right and Bridal Veil Falls on the left
Photo by: Paul Mannix, Creative Commons

April 25, 2009 at 2:47 am | 19 comments

Metropolitan Museum in New York City

Metropolitan Museum in New York
Picture of Metropolitan Museum in New York City, USA
Photo by: Fcb981, Creative Commons

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (also referred to as “The Met” Museum) is found in New York City. It is one of the largest art museums in the world. In total, this museum contains more than two million pieces of art which are divided into 19 different departments. It also has a smaller department in upper Manhattan which displays historic features of medieval art.

This museum has a collection of classical antiques, art of Ancient Egypt, paintings and sculptures of the European royals, and also American modern art. It offers exhibits of historic holdings from all of the continents and cultures, including African, Asian, Islamic and many more. It is also an encyclopedia for a full collection of musical instruments, weapons, armor, costumes and accessories from all parts of the world. The Met also has great collection of interiors right from the 1st century up until the modern age of interior design.

The making of the Metropolitan Museum is very unique. Many people from different areas and walks of life came together and began forming the museum in 1870. This group included leading businessmen, financiers, and known artists who had a notion of bringing the art and education in front of the American public. It was formally opened for the public in 1872.

The Metropolitan is known for its sleekness and rich color contrasts. The unique lighting effect adds an added touch to the polished monuments. Its architectural structure is Gothic and is governed by the local administration of New York. Tourists find this facility an ideal place for spending time with their family and friends.

Official Website: http://www.metmuseum.org/

Travel Info

Metropolitan Museum of Art Address:

1000 Fifth Avenue
at 82nd Street

Cost of Admission:

$20 Adults
$15 Senior (65 & older)
$10 Student
Free – Members
Free- Children under 12
(with adult)

Open Hours:

Tues-Thurs
9:30am – 5:30pm
Fri & Sat
9:30am – 9:00pm
Sunday
9:30am – 5:30pm

Closed Mondays – except Holiday Mondays

Ticket Info:

Admission includes Museum galleries, all special exhibitions, guided tours, gallery talks, family programs, and same-day visit to The Cloisters. To help cover the cost of special exhibitions, for which there is no additional charge or special ticketing, they ask that you pay the full suggested amount.

April 25, 2009 at 2:09 am | No comment

Siena in Tuscany

View of Red Title Roofs in Siena
Gorgeous view of the red title roofs in Siena of Tuscany, Italy
Photo by: jurvetson, Creative Commons

Siena, often spelled as “Sienna” is a city in Tuscany, Italy. Siena is the capital of province of sienna. Siena is the home for some medieval arts along with architectural treasures. Siena is declared as one of the historic centers listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also one of the best preserved medieval cities in Italy. Siena offers unlimited cultural sights and interests for tourists. Palio, a thrilling horse race is a unique event and the wines in old wine bars are very prominent in Siena.

History
Siena was one of the major cities in Europe during twelfth and fifteenth century. Siena dominated the trade routes between France and Rome, also maintained a richest Pre-medici bank of Italy. The prosperity of Siena came to an end when contagious disease broke out in May 1348 which was termed a “Black Death”. By the end of October 1348, two third of the population died due to the deathly plague. Siena was never fully recovered due to its politics which were always factional. The lack of ensuing development explains the preservation of Siena. After World War II, Siena gained its prosperity partly due to tourism and partly to the resurrection of the famous bank “Monte dei Paschi Di Siena”. The bank was founded in the year 1472, and was the largest employer in Italy. Today, Monte dei Paschi Di Siena is a sponsor for the cultural life with one of Italy’s strongest left wings council.

Highlights
The great attraction of Siena is its cityscape. A majestic Ensemble can be enjoyed without venturing into a single museum of Siena. The heart of Siena is the great scallop shaped Piazza del Campo which is incredible of all the Italian squares. The “PALIO” is a thrilling bareback horse race, an outstanding event conducted in Siena. Siena’s Duomo and Palazzo Pubblico are true examples to ensure the greatness of Italian Gothic architecture.

Visit Guidelines
The nearest international airports to Siena are Galileo Galilei international airport located in Pisa and Peretola airport located in Florence. Siena can be reached through train from both Florence and Pisa. The train station is located at the bottom of a long hill which is outside the city walls. I would suggest looking for a taxi or bus for travelers with luggage. Siena is linked to Florence through a freeway with narrow lanes and sharp bends.

There is legendary saying “All of our souls are written in our eyes”. One would definitely accept these words after visiting the mighty city of Italy “Siena”.

Cathedral of Siena
Picture of the Cathedral of Siena, Tuscany, Italy
Photo by: tiseb, Creative Commons
Piazza del Campo in Siena
Piazza del Campo in Sienna
Photo by: PhillipC, Creative Commons

April 22, 2009 at 4:36 pm | 24 comments

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, United States
Photo by: Eric Guinther, Creative Commons

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in the southeast region of New Mexico in the United States. It is open to the public every day of the year except December 25, but its most frequented day is July 4th every year. Tourists can enter through the natural entrance and hike by themselves to explore the cave or they can go through one of the other two entries. One entry is located in the Rattlesnake Springs Historic District and the other is in the Cacesern Historic District.

Jim White discovered the Carlsbad Caverns, and he gave some of the rooms their names, including the Big Room, King’s Palace, New Mexico Room, Papoose Room, Queen’s Chamber, and Green Lake Room. He also named other important formations, including Totem Pole, Giant Dome, Witch’s Finger, Bottomless Pit, Iceberg Rock, Fairyland, Temple of the Sun, and Rock of Ages. There are many natural and untapped features present in Carlsbad Caverns. There are several chambers in the cave that have white stalagmites which resembled angels to the room’s discoverers. There are also 17 different species of bats that live within the park.

The most famous part of this National Park is the show cave, which is open to the public and tourists can hike by themselves via the natural entrance. One can also take the elevator that goes to the Underground Lunchroom which is 230 meters (750 ft) beneath ground level.

Out of the entire park, almost two-third has been restored in terms of its habitat and no further change will be allowed under any circumstance.

Balloon Ballroom

Located in the ceiling above the main entrance hall, this small room was first accessed by tying a rope to a bunch of balloons and floating them up into the passage.

Bat Cave

A large, unadorned rocky passage connected to the main entrance corridor that was mined for bat guano in the early 20th century. The majority of the cave’s bat population lives in this portion of the cave.

Bell Cord Room

This room was named for a long, narrow stalactite coming through a hole in the ceiling that resembles the rope attached to a church bell. This room is located at the end of the Left Hand Tunnel.

Bifrost Room

Discovered in 1982, this area is located in the ceiling above Lake of the Clouds. Its name refers to a Norse myth about a world in the sky that was accessed from Earth by a rainbow. The room was given this name because of its location above the Lake of the Clouds and its colorful oxide-stained formations.

Big Room or The Hall of the Giants

This section is the largest chamber in Carlsbad Caverns with a floor space of 33,210 square meters (357,469 sq. ft).

Chocolate High

With a maze of small passages totaling nearly a mile in combined length, this area was discovered in 1993 above a mud-filled pit in the New Mexico Room known as Chocolate Drop.

Green Lake Room

The uppermost of the “Scenic Rooms,” this is named for a deep, malachite-colored pool in the corner of the room. In the 1940s, when the military was testing the feasibility of Carlsbad Caverns as an emergency fallout shelter, the Green Lake was used to look for ripples caused by a nuclear bomb test many miles away. None appeared.

Guadalupe Room

Discovered by a park ranger in 1966, this is the second largest room in Carlsbad Caverns. It is known for its dense collection of “soda straw” stalactites.

Hall of the White Giant

This hall is a large chamber containing a huge white stalagmite. Rangers regularly lead special wild cave tours to this location.

King’s Palace

The first of four chambers in a wing known as the “scenic rooms,” King’s Palace is named for a large castle-like formation in the center of the room.

Lake of the Clouds

This is the lowest known point in the cave. It is located in a side passage off the Left Hand Tunnel. It is named for its large lake containing globular, cloud-like rock formations that formed under water when the lake level was much higher.

Left Hand Tunnel

This tunnel is a long, straight passage marked by deep fissures in the floor. These fissures are not known to lead anywhere. The Left Hand Tunnel leads to the Lake of the Clouds and the Bell Cord Room.

Mystery Room

This room is a small area located in the lower part of the cave. It is named for a mysterious and unexplained noise heard only in this room.

New Mexico Room

Accessed by means of a short slope, the New Mexico Room is located adjacent to the Queen’s Chamber.

New Section

New discoveries are still being made in this section which is described as having fissures east of the White Giant formation. It also parallels the Bat Cave.

Papoose Room

This room is situated between the King’s Palace and Queen’s Chamber.

Queen’s Chamber

Widely regarded as the most beautiful and scenic area of the cave, this is the room where Jim White’s lantern went out while exploring the caverns. He was in the dark for over a half hour.

Spirit World

Located in the ceiling of the Big Room, this area is filled with white stalagmites that resembled angels to the room’s discoverers.

Talcum Passage

This is a room located in the Lower Cave where the floor is coated with gypsum dust.

The Rookery

As one of the larger rooms in Lower Cave, a large number of cave pearls are found in this area.

Underground Lunchroom

Located in the Big Room at the head of the Left Hand Tunnel, this section contains a cafeteria that was built in the 1950s. It is also where the elevators from the visitor center exit into the cave.

April 21, 2009 at 4:23 am | 23 comments

Dubrovnik Old City

Dubrovnik Old City
Picture of Dubrovnik Old City in Croatia
Photo by: Greenweasel, Creative Commons

Dubrovnik is called “The Pearl of the Adriatic” and is situated in the south end of Croatia on the Adriatic Sea. It is one of the most famous and well-known places for tourists to visit due to its historic Old Town. Dubrovnik Old City became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1979.

Dubrovnik has always been prominent in trade due to its location near the sea, which contributed to much of its wealth. During the Middle Ages, the city of Dubrovnik became a competitor and a rival to Venice. The city had many skilled laborers and money which helped contribute to its enormous growth during the 15th and the 16th centuries. The city was also a home for notable poets, painters, politicians, play writers and scholars.

Croatia is very proud to have a city like Dubrovnik. An interesting fact to know is that out of the best 15 luxurious hotels, 9 are located in Dubrovnik. Some prominent people call Dubrovnik their home, but it is also very attractive to tourists who visit this city from all around the world. One of the best ways to plan a holiday destination is to spend several days exploring the city and everything that it has to offer, including the Bell Tower, Roland’s Column, the Sponza Place, War Photo Limited, Pile Gate and several famous churches and museums. The airport is only 20 km away from the main part of the city, but it is also accessible by land and water.

Panorama View of Dubrovnik Old City, Croatia
Panorama view of Dubrovnik Old City, Croatia

April 21, 2009 at 3:38 am | 3 comments

Page 1 of 612345...Last »