When in Lisbon, and you wish to capture great photos and rewarding walks that will take you back in time, then Alfama is your place to go. It is the oldest district in Lisbon, flanked by the city castle and the broad Tejo River. Its name comes from the Arabic word Al-hamma meaning springs or baths (most probably in reference to the number of hot springs found in the area).

Alfama is more like an old village within the busy and bustling city of Lisbon. Due to its dense bedrock foundation, it survived the destructive 1755 earthquake and has managed to restore its old-fashioned neighborhood, which allows visitors to take a step back in time. The narrow streets are reflective of the Muslim culture in which public spaces are not important. Facades are given little value but the house interiors are given greater importance. Aside from its narrow streets, the village is also known for its tiny squares, whitewashed houses, and beautiful churches.

Most of the old residents in this area have lived in the district for all their lives and they retain a very strong sense of community. They enjoy living in their houses and resting in wrought-iron balconies adorned with potted plants. Although there are houses weathered by time, some renovated buildings have mushroomed right below the castle as the city’s most unique and impressive hotels.

Alfama is also famous for its Fado bars. These are bars that play Fado. Literally meaning “fate”, Fado is a known music genre in Portugal. This type of music is famous for its mournful and nostalgic lyrics and tunes. The lyrics usually talk about the life of the poor or the sea. When in the area, you should visit one of these Fado houses and enjoy the district in its entirety.

January 14, 2010 at 5:30 pm | No comment


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Photo by: hmerinomx, Creative Commons

When it comes to tourism, the images usually associated with Mexico are the pristine beaches of Cancun and the colorful town fiestas of the interior. What visitors usually forget is that Mexico has a long and ancient history that dates as far back as before Columbus arrived in the Americas. Ancient history buffs and those who enjoy places with character, as Mexico does, offers a wide array of places that can rival even the best of Rome and Greece. One of these places is Mitla.

Mitla is the name that has been given to a site of archaeological interest located in the town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla. This town is in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. It receives its acclaim for having a number of well-tended and intact Mesoamerican buildings from the Pre-Columbian era. Actually, unlike most towns with ancient structures, Mitla is a functioning town in the present-day. The town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla has a population of just almost 8,000 and is located about 45 km from the state capital. The people in Mitla speak a Zapotec language variant. The visitor attractions of pre-Hispanic buildings are found at the town’s north end. Stone mosaics adorn these buildings, which have been an inspiration for some if the world’s most famous artists, including Frank Lloyd Wright.

Aside from the impressive buildings, Mitla also houses a small museum full of ancient artifacts. There is also a small outdoor market on Saturdays, where visitors can also buy indigenous products. There are also a number of “palenques” in the area. These are manual producers of mezcal, a drink that is produced from the heart of the agave plant. Have a drink for that authentic ancient Mexican experience!

January 14, 2010 at 2:34 pm | 2 comments

Rameswaram Temple

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Rameswaram Temple
Photo by: Creative Commons , Creative Commons

The temple at the core of the town of Rameswaram is called the Ramanathaswamy Temple. It is one of the most important temples in India being the second holiest place for Hindus after the Varanasi. Due to its importance, the town carries with it a carnival-like atmosphere due to the daily influx of domestic pilgrims and tourists from all walks of life. The presiding deity of this temple is in the Linga called Sri Ramanatha Swamy. The temple is also one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. It is said that the god Rama prayed to Shiva here to wash away the sin of Brahmahatya or killing of a Brahmin that he may have committed during his battle with Ravana, a demon king.

The Ramanathaswamy temple is a showpiece of South Indian architecture. Built during the twelfth century, it boasts a corridor that stretches 1,219 meters and is flanked with richly carved, 3.6-meter high granite pillars. There are around 1200 pillars in this corridor that is reputedly the longest in the world. The temple is also known for its twenty-two wells that is said to have waters that taste different from one another. Similar to other ancient South Indian temples, the temple in Rameswaram is surrounded by a high compound wall on all sides, with huge towers or Gopurams at the east and west, and gate towers at its northern and southern sides.

Another interesting part of the temple structure is the chess board-like section called Chokkattan Madapam. This is where the Utsva deities are kept and adorned during the Spring Festival or Vasntotsavam, and the Masi and Adi festivals as well.

It is a long drive to Rameswaram but the scenery during the drive and the experience at the destination is worth it. Rameswaram is connected to mainland India at Mandapam via the Indira Gandhi Bridge.

January 14, 2010 at 2:11 pm | No comment

Ski Portillo Chile

Ski Portillo Chile
Photo by: bojangle , Creative Commons

For the best ski resort to go to this winter season, considering Ski Portillo Chile or simply Portillo is deemed as a perfect spot for those skiers aiming for some quality skiing experience. One good reason why you should go and visit this ski resort is that this is the exact place where the 1996 Alpine Skiing World Championship was held. The place boasts of 23 ski trails and 12 lifts ideal for some ski actions and demos.

The best thing about Ski Portillo is that they offer beyond expectations, whether it is adventure, food, lodging, night life and more. For hotel accommodations, the place has three major hotels (Octogon Lodge, Hotel Portillo, and Inca Lodge) to choose from. Each hotel has varying rates, but regardless of the type of accommodation and rates you prefer, each one of them offers first class amenities for visitors, four meal servings, and complimentary use of other facilities the hotel offers. Indeed, the resort visit isn’t just meant for skiing alone, but also for other indoor and outdoor activities that await every person visiting the place.

Another great thing about Ski Portillo is the socialization factor. The Chilean atmosphere is ideal for social events, family gatherings, and parties. The ambience and entire setting paves the way for every guest to socialize and make friends in its real essence. If you’re coming to visit the place with your entire family, you will be welcomed with so many activities meant for every family member to enjoy. Some of the activities to take advantage are as follows, Kids camp for the young ones, ski school for children and adults alike, ski slopes, card games, and movie watching for everyone to enjoy.

Truly, the ski Portillo resort is both a combination of old and modern world elegance with guests only limited to 450 a week. With this kind of system, you will get loads of time to enjoy the entire place and might even want to come back for more visits in the future.

January 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm | 2 comments

Prasat Hin Phimai

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Prasat Hin Phimai
Photo by: FGMB, Creative Commons

During the rise of the Khemr rule, the capital was named Angkor Wat and much of Thailand is part of this vast empire. Great structures and temples are scattered around northeastern Thailand im a place called Isan today. This is the modern town of Korat.

The Prasat Hin Phimai is a striking structure built with magnificence and old world elegance. The temple somewhat resembles the ever famous Angkor Wat. The main difference between the two is that the central part of Angkor is an enormous mountain artificially made whereas the Phimai’s is a flat and smaller version of the sanctuary. The Phimai is also easier to explore compared to the huge Angkor.
The similarity of the floor plan and outward appearance of the two are remarkable. The interesting part is that while the Angkor Wat is dedicated to the Hindu deities, the Phimai is somewhat a Buddhist temple. The Phimai has 3 concentric enclosures which are rectangular in shape. The temple’s outer walls serve as the protection of the city and it measures 500 meters by one kilometer. In the temple, another middle rectangle shaped wall lies within an enclosure. Inside is a vast open space which will lead visitors to an inner sanctuary.

The Phimai is another man made wonder. The pieces of lintel are carefully made and comparable to those in Angkor Wat. The main sanctuary has also been restored to capture the former glory when it was newly made.

People who are interested in history and old world adventures will surely love this man made marvel. The Buddha which is protected with a naga can also be found inside. The towers of the temple is presumed to be the pattern and model used in building the Angkor Wat towers built years after the Phimai is erected.

No matter how many good praises and description is supplied, nothing beats it when you personally visit the place. The Phimai is a great visitor destination which you certainly have to visit when you go to Thailand.

January 14, 2010 at 1:17 pm | No comment

Prague Castle

Listed as one of the largest castles in the world and officially the largest medieval castle complex found in Europe, the Prague castle is an architectural wonder that has been part of a rich history dating back from the ninth century.

The Prague castle has already been through several fires and wars so many parts have been renovated. Nevertheless, the castle grounds still hold the wonders that have been formed through centuries of development.

Attractions You Should Not Miss

The Czech crown jewels are one of the prized possessions that are kept in the castle grounds. The Royal Apple and the St. Wenceslas crown are two of the prized possessions that are displayed and preserved for tourists to admire.

The Prague Castle is rich in the variety of architectural styles which makes it a haven for architecture enthusiasts. From Bohemian, Romanesque, and even Gothic influences, different shrines and architectural structures grace the castle grounds.

“The Story of Prague Castle” is a long tour held for tourists that you should not miss. It portrays the exhibits of paintings about the history of Prague, its developments, and its influences in the arts and in different styles that are still being celebrated at the moment.

What You Should Know

You are allowed to bring cameras to take snapshots along the tour but you will be prohibited to use tripods and flash for your camera. You will not be allowed to take pictures inside the permanent exhibitions and inside the convents.

The castle is open on summer and winter seasons however some attractions might be closed on certain seasons. The deer moat, the castle gardens, and the riding school terrace are only open during summertime in Prague which spans from April to September. The winter season in Prague spans from October until March; the complex is open from six in the morning until eleven in the evening.

Prague Famous Landmarks

January 14, 2010 at 12:16 pm | 1 comment

Monterey Aquarium

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Inside the Monterey Aquarium
Photo by: jimg944, Creative Commons

Monterey Bay Aquarium was founded in 1984 on the location of a former sardine cannery on the Pacific Ocean shoreline on Cannery Row in Monterey, California. Every year around 1.8 million visitors come to see the aquariums’ 35,000 plants and animals representing 623 marine species. The aquarium circulates ocean water being pumped from Monterey Bay.

The aquarium has several exhibits for public. However, there are two main must-see attractions at Monterey Bay Aquarium. First is the Ocean’s Edge Wing where visitors can view the coastal marine life in California. The centerpiece of Ocean’s Edge Wing is a viewing tank, which is 10-meter high and contains 1.3 million gallons. This is the first aquarium in the world that was able to grow live Giant Kelps. In order to grow California Giant Kelp, water movement is needed. The aquarium uses a wave machine located at the top of the tank. Giant Kelps absorb nutrients from the water surrounding it. Sunlight is allowed through the open top of the tank. Another exhibit worth seeing in the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the 4.5 million-liter tank located in the Outer Bay Wing. This tank showcases one of the largest singled-paned windows of the world. It is actually composed of 5 panes glued together seamlessly, which were successfully crafted by a Japanese company.

A visit to Monterey Bay Aquarium will allow people to view sea life exhibit including stingrays, jellyfish, and an 11-lb lobster, which is already more than 50 years old. There are also a number of other native marine species available for viewing above and below and above the waterline. The jellyfish are also being displayed in an aquarium called the Kreisel tank. This tank produces circular flow in order to support and suspend the jellyfish. Both children and old will surely enjoy seeing different creatures in the aquariums.

January 13, 2010 at 11:53 pm | No comment

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum in New York
Photo by: Fpinault, Creative Commons

For something built in the late ‘50s, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York has a futuristic design. Even in today’s ultra modern infrastructure, this building is still one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city.

A museum that houses painting and modern sculpture along Fifth Avenue, the Guggenheim Museum was completed in 1959. Its designer, Frank Lloyd Wright, was instructed to built a “temple of spirit, a monument!” by the curator and director of the museum Hilla Rebay. The architect’s inverted ziggurat design was in no way close to the typical chess board type structures that New York City seemed to flaunt at that time. While Wright was commissioned to design the building in 1943, it was only until 1956 that the actual construction began.

Many believe that this is the single most important creation of Wright. Its design makes good use of space, an ode to modernism that only a great architect can envision. The spiral ramp that seemed to climb to the domed skylight is an attraction all its own, especially for first time museum visitors. This building could not have been any better to house some of the city’s contemporary art. The design, however, was not only made for aesthetic purposes, it also allows for a distinctive presentation of exhibits – not to mention that visitors can move easily through the large main exhibits.

Within the collections in the museum are modern paintings and unique sculptures. This museum arguably has the most interesting art gallery and it’s definitely a must to enter this unmistakable structure when you are in New York. Beyond the main gallery is an annex that houses yet more art treasures for art enthusiasts. Whether you are an art purist or simply like to marvel at architectural masterpiece, a day tour is worth your effort.

January 13, 2010 at 8:24 pm | 1 comment

Algarve Coast

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Algarve Coastline
Photo by: graphiclunarkid, Creative Commons

Algarve is undoubtedly one of the most famous visitor destinations in Portugal. Lying along the southernmost region of the country, it is known for its coastline that stretches over 100 miles, with strips of golden, fine sands. Anyone who loves the beach, warm weather, and the sight of massive rock formations in the midst of dramatic cliff faces will enjoy this paradise in the south.

The undeniable beauty of the Algarve Coast is the main reason why during the summer, the economy in the region is skyrockets. The population doubles during summer as the number of visitors flock to enjoy all the benefits offered along the coast. If you prefer non-water related activities, you can opt to get a different perspective of the place and go on a cruise instead. Along the coastline, you may discover unspoilt beaches with crystalline, welcoming waters that you may find hard to say no to. They also have diving spots for people seeking for a different kind of adventure in the tranquility of the ocean.

This region is not only famous for its calm and warm sea; it is also visited for their fishing villages and fish markets. Visitors love the wonderful experience walking through their narrow streets and enjoying the sight of whitewashed houses with their famous Moorish-inspired chimneys. They also love savoring their fresh seafood menus served in every local restaurant and bar around the area. The locals here are very friendly and are always willing to help visitors to get to know more about their culture.

The region does not only harvest fish though, they also produce abundant crops like oranges, carob beans, almonds, and figs that visitors and citizens alike love to feast on.

For those with land-locked legs, there are still a number of things you can enjoy in Algarve like play a round of golf or visit historical structures like churches and museums. The fun and sparkling Algarvrian night life is something you should not miss. All in all, this place is a haven for visitors and you should see it for yourself one of these days.

January 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm | No comment


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Ghent, Belgium
Photo by:
D3 San Francisco
, Creative Commons

Situated between Brussels and Bruges, the city of Ghent is another charming city in the country of Belgium. Like Bruges, it also boasts of a few choice pieces of medieval architecture. Ghent offers a lot of interesting things that you can’t find anywhere else in the Belgian landscape.

Situated in between the rivers Scheldt and Lys, Ghent started out as a settlement in the middle ages before slowly progressing as one of the largest and most popular cities in the European continent. It holds many old landmarks such as the Saint Bavo Cathedral, the most famous tourist destination in this quaint Belgian city. Spend a couple of hours in the Cathedral and soak in the history of this marbled cathedral. The 13th-century crypt, which used to be the original church, and the famous “Mystic Lamb” by Jan van Eyck are must-sees in this architectural gem. Many recommend joining a tour for a more enriching experience inside St. Bavo Cathedral. Aside from the St. Bavo, you can also check out the Gravensteen, a castle originating from the Middle Ages. Just like the Cathedral, Gravensteen is a site laden with a rich history. Translated as the “Castle of the Count”, this 13th-century castle has served as a courthouse, factory and even a dungeon for prisoners before it was renovated in 1885. Although most of the castle has been refurbished, it is still a place worth checking out. The city authorities have transformed the interior of the castle to showcase a collection of medieval weaponry and torture implements.

After a long day in Ghent, you can sit back and enjoy their interesting cuisine. On Thursdays, the city holds a meat-free day called Veggiedag. This is your chance to taste some vegetarian cuisine in a country famous for its hearty beef stews and soups. Another interesting culinary treat is the mastel, the Belgian counterpart of a bagel. Many call it Saint Hubert bread because of the culinary tradition that surrounds it. It is said that, on the feast day of Saint Hubert, bakers flock to the church to have their mastel blessed before selling it.

Because the center of Ghent is a car-free area, it is recommended to leave your cars in a Park &Ride zone and take the trains or trams. But, to fully absorb the culture of this amazing Belgian city, a leisurely walk around Ghent is the best way to go.

January 13, 2010 at 5:10 pm | No comment

Emperor Penguin

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Emperor Penguin in Antarctica
Photo by: ianduffy , Creative Commons

As you think of the places to go to for your extreme weather expedition, find time to visit the Emperor Penguins in Antarctica. Many tourists often visit this magnificent animal since they freely roam in this continent. It is much more fascinating to see them in their natural habitat instead of seeing them locked up in aquariums and zoos in your local area.

As you may already know from watching documentaries about these penguins, the lady penguin lays only a single egg in a year and then she leaves it to the male penguin to incubate it until the egg hatches. Make it a point to contact the local office in Antarctica to learn when eggs are estimated to hatch so you can witness for yourself how magical it is to see thousands of penguins in one place.

Your trip to see the Emperor Penguin in Antarctica is such an unforgettable experience that you may even find it difficult to put in words why you have to always carry your camera wherever you go. See just how fluid they swim in the water and how funny they walk on ice since your photographs can capture thses remarkable moments.

This is the reason why tourists who have already visited this place will recommend Antarctica over and over. One piece of information that often gets passed from one tourist to another is the mating pattern of the Emperor Penguin in Antarctica. The males will commit to just one female penguin for the rest of his life. Filled with curiosity, tourist will surely share wonderful pictures of this place! Since they are accustomed to people and let them get close, beware for they have been known to snap with their sharp beaks.

January 13, 2010 at 2:52 pm | 1 comment

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Museo Nacional de Antropología Entrance
Photo by: kornemuz, Creative Commons

The reputation of Mexico as the usual American college student’s spring break destination may be justified. However, Mexico shouldn’t be known for the reason alone. True, world-class resorts and beaches adorn the coasts of Cancun and Acapulco, but there are also other attractions in this culturally- rich country. Ancient towns filled with Mayan and Aztec structures are sure to fascinate visitors interested in ancient civilizations. If you can’t get enough of these primeval attractions while in the city, make sure that you pay a visit to the Museo Nacional de Antropología or the National Museum of Anthropology.

The MNA is the national museum of Mexico. It is the main attraction of Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park, in the streets of Paseo de la Reforma and Calle Mahatma Gandhi. You will find yourself be amazed by the artifacts of archaeological and anthropological significance that the museum hosts. Relics of the country’s pre-Columbian heritage are proudly displayed, examples of which are the Piedra del Sol and the statue of Xochipilli which dates as far back as 16th century.

It would take more than a day to marvel at each of the museum’s 23 exhibit rooms spread over almost 8 hectares of prime city center land. The museum has been opened since 1964 and has since then hosted Mexico’s most noteworthy exhibits such as Olmec giant stone heads, the stone of the Sun, Mayan civilization treasures, Chichen Itza’s Sacred Cenote, and ethnological exhibits of rural Mexican life. A model of the layout for the former Aztec capital named Tenochtitlan, where part of the modern-day Mexico City now stands, is also housed in the museum.

Visiting exhibits have also been hosted by the museum, mainly focusing on the great civilizations of the past. Persia, Egypt, Greece, Spain, and China have been the subjects of past visiting exhibits. Try visiting and you might have the chance to view one of them.

January 13, 2010 at 12:19 pm | 5 comments

Wat Traimit

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Golden Buddha
Photo by: lensbug.chandru, Creative Commons

Embarking on a journey to Bangkok, Thailand can be compelling and unforgettable, and can double as a leisure trip and spiritual voyage. Moreover, a trip to Thailand will never be complete without seeing one of its national treasures, which is no other than the Golden Buddha that’s housed by Wat Traimit (Golden Buddha Temple). The Golden Buddha in solid gold has a weight of about five-and-a-half tons.

As Thailand is home to so many temples with Buddhas, the question that crops up is why the Golden Buddha specifically found in Wat Traimit which is a stone’s throw from the Hualampong Railway Station (and also some markets) has a special significance. That it is made of gold and is outsized at almost five meters in height are but some of the obvious reasons. It’s actually one of the world’s biggest golden icons.

Visitors looking for a respite from the hustle-bustle of the daily grind will find the Wat Traimit (Golden Buddha Temple) and its gracefully seated Buddha a one-of-a-kind experience. Even as it evokes serenity, it casts a powerful impact, and gleaning interesting historical facts makes the experience doubly significant.

The story goes that during the Burmese invasion of the city, the Golden Buddha’s value was concealed with plaster. Still encased as time passed, the Golden Buddha’s real nature was discovered by chance. While being transported to a new temple in Bangkok sometime during the 1950s, it slipped from a hoisting equipment and became all muddied. The temple lore goes that a monk who had this dream of a statue with divine element visited the place where the Buddha was placed and discovered through a crack in the plaster that it was a statue made of gold. The 13th century Buddhist temple is definitely worth seeing, and is among the few that lets sightseers view the Buddha idols.

Bangkok Famous Landmarks

January 13, 2010 at 12:08 pm | 1 comment

Kroller-Muller Museum

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Kroller-Muller Museum, Netherlands
Photo by: Tizzle , Creative Commons

Kroller-Muller Museum is found in the Hoge Veluwe National Park in Netherlands. The museum opens from 10:00am to 5:00pm from Tuesdays through Sundays except for Mondays and New Years Day. The entrance fee for adults is 12 Euros per person and 6 Euros for children ages 12 and below and if they are younger then 6, they can come in for free.

The museum was designed by a Belgian architect named Henry van de Velde from 1937 to 1938. The museum formally opened in 1938 .Helene Kroller-Muller then displayed and assembled her collection of different art works from 1908 to 1935 and decided to donate the whole museum to the state of Netherlands. The museum was named after her. An extension to the building and renovation was created between 1975 and 1977 by W.G Quist. He carefully designed the place to perfectly match the original layout and landscape. The original design was made out of light brown bricks; he decided to transform the wall into stone and glass.

If you are an art fan, you will surely appreciate this art museum. The museum is known to be the second largest museum in the world that possesses paintings from the very famous painter Vincent Van Gogh. Aside from Van Gogh you will also see the art works of Piet Mondrian, Odilon Redon, George Pierre Seurat, Paul Gauguin, George Braque, Lucas Cranach, Pablo Picasso and many more.

Kroller-Muller Museum is also famous for its large garden sculptures. The forest park area is more than seventy five acres big. The garden reflects a concept of symbiosis between art, nature and architecture. The collection contains both modern and contemporary sculptures. The collection includes the work of Henry Moore, Mark Di Suvero, Lucio Fontana, Auguste Rodin, Jean Dubuffet, Fritz Wotruba, Joep van Lieshout, Claes Oldenburg and many more

January 13, 2010 at 11:53 am | No comment

Grand Tetons

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Grand Tetons
Photo by: Will Hale, Creative Commons

Snow capped mountain with rocky trails never ceases to challenge even the most seasoned climber. But if you like to take the challenge, then head on to Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park where the magnificent mountain range awaits you, including the mountain with the highest peak – the Grand Teton.

American mountaineering has found a classic destination in one of the most recognizable mountain range the world over. In fact, some climbers have conquered its peak more than once, using different routes. This only goes to show that Grand Teton elicits respect and awe from climbers every time they set foot in its snow covered slopes. Its peak measures at 13,775 feet. This is one of the reasons why international events and competitions as well as special winter activities are usually held here.

This national park in northwest Wyoming is a destination at par with the best destinations in the rest of the world. Aside from its majestic mountains, visitors can revel in its pristine lakes and flourishing wildlife. The jagged mountain range that towers over the valley replete with glacial lakes makes for breathtaking scenery that never fails to attract close to four million visitors each year.

Park updates can be obtained from the Public Affairs Office. Here visitors can get essential information regarding the park as well as safety alerts and special events. Those who wish to stay there for days would find a number of lodges and resorts to choose from.

While there is dispute over how the mountain got its name. Common belief has it that the name means “large teat” in French, coined probably by the French Canadian members of the first expeditions. Some disagree, saying that the mountain was named after the Native American tribe Teton Sioux. Whichever statement is true, one this is for sure: Grand Teton will continue to draw enthusiasts all over the world.

January 12, 2010 at 8:24 pm | 2 comments

Lake District of Argentina

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Lake District of Argentina
Photo by: Brian Holsclaw , Creative Commons

The Lake District of Argentina stretches from the town of Junin de los Andes in the north to Cholila in the south. As the name suggests, this region has around twenty lakes where the largest is Nahuel Huapi on the shores of Bariloche.

Almost all nature-oriented activities are offered in the towns located in the Lake District. Visitors can go trekking, skiing, kayaking, rock climbing, and fishing. Fishing is especially popular among tourists who go there to for the ultimate Patagonia fishing experience. This is one of Argentina’s most popular tourist destinations with thousands of visitors coming every year.

The towns scattered around the Lake District provide travelers with many options for accommodations and adventures in addition to arranging expeditions for fishing and hiking in the mountains. The largest town is Neuquen. It acts as a hub for transportation in and out of the region. At the town’s outskirts are paleontological sites and wineries. For those who are into outdoor activities, it is best to set up camp in Bariloche. It is also the starting point for those who wish to go further to southern Patagonia and Chile. Backpackers often flock to El Bolson. Nature lovers will feel right at home here as vegetarian foods, sweets, and jams are made from local produce. The lakeside villages of Villa Traful and San Martin de los Andes are also worthy of a quick visit. The northern part of Chos Malal offers visitors the chance to explore volcanoes, lagoons, and hot springs.

Locals visit the Lake District in July and August for skiing holidays, while January is the top month for aquatic activities in the lakes and hiking in the mountains.

January 12, 2010 at 5:29 pm | No comment

Skocjan Caves

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Skocjan Caves
Photo by:
Rochester Scouser
, Creative Commons

If you’re into exploring caves, then you should check out the Skocjan Caves in the Karst region of south western Slovenia. This system of limestone caves is in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites which means it is a place maintained by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

As a natural geological site, it exudes exceptional natural beauty as well as a very good example of an ongoing natural occurring geological phenomenon.

The Skocjan Caves is made up of several limestone caves, collapsed dolines or sinkholes, underground passages, deep caves, and a number of waterfalls. These caves are well known as a site where one can study the karstic phenomena and Karst topography.

The study of Karst topography is the study of a landscape that has been shaped through the dissolution of layers of carbonate rock, such as limestone or dolomite.

The Skocjan Caves contains five kilometers or about three miles of underground passages. It also contains caves that are about 200 meters or about 656 feet deep.

The Reka River is a river in Slovenia that disappears through the Velika Dolina where the water goes underground through the Skocjan Caves then out the Adriatic Sea. During the rainy season when the river is full of water, the sight of it disappearing through the end of the Velika Dolina is a sight to behold, as well as a sight that would make one’s skin crawl.

The areas in the region of the Skocjan Caves are very rich in archaeology. There have been indications that the place was inhabited since for more then ten thousand years. About three thousand years ago, the caves were a very important pilgrimage site in Europe.

The natural beauty of the place together with the rich archaeological significance of the region makes the Skocjan Caves the place to visit.

January 12, 2010 at 5:16 pm | 1 comment

Basilica Notre Dame de la Paix

Basilica Notre Dame de la Paix
Photo by: stefanmeisel, Creative Commons

Basilica Notre Dame de la Paix, also known as Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yammousoukro is one of the greatest prides of the Ivory Coast. It is considered as the tallest and largest church in the whole world. The basilica is specifically located at Yammousoukro, Ivory Coast. Its construction started in 1985 and was finished 4 years later. It cost $300 million to complete the basilica.

The president of Ivory Coast, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, wanted to venerate himself through the construction of the largest church in the world at his birthplace, Yammousoukro. The president was depicted in a stained glass offering a gift to Jesus with his apostles. Pope John Paul II consecrated the church on September 10, 1990. However, the basilica is not used as the main church of the city. The bishop of the Diocese of Yamoussoukro stays at the not so far Cathedral of Saint Augustine and this place also serves as the main worship place for the people in the area. There exists two other buildings beside the basilica. One serves as a rectory, the other serves as a papal villa. However, the pope visited the basilica only once.

The Basilica Notre Dame de la Paix is designed after Rome’s Basilica of Saint Peter. Its architect, Pierre Fakhoury, and builder, the French company Dumez, designed and built the cross on top to be larger than the dome underneath it. Its height of 158 meters and area of 30,000 square meters gave it the title as the largest church in the world. It has an astounding seating capacity of 7,000 people and an additional standing room capacity of 11,000 people. Fine marble from Italy and stained glass from France are the main construction materials that caused a great deal of controversy. Many groups questioned on how such a great building made from expensive materials could be constructed in such a poor African city.

January 12, 2010 at 3:04 am | No comment

Fiji Islands

Fiji Islands
Photo by: slm, Creative Commons

Mention the Fiji Islands and what easily comes to mind is an idyllic tropical paradise that couples visit to embark on their honeymoon. Fiji Islands, a gem in the South Pacific, also beckons adventurers, families or solo travelers who want to commune with nature or enjoy water sports.

The former British colony which is comprised of over 330 islands never fails to mesmerize people who are drawn to the untainted beauty of a lush setting. Indeed, there are so many interesting things to see and do in Fiji. The archipelago is teeming with natural attractions ranging from awesome coral reefs and rainforests to diverse wildlife. The Fiji Islands also offer travelers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to soak up history and experience a unique culture. There are quaint colonial towns, pagan temples, ancient ruins, and extraordinary thatched roof dwellings making up a picturesque village that you may find quite interesting.

Travelers who want to experience a bit of everything in one trip may opt for a guided tour, which will enable them to go sightseeing and explore the most scenic spots. If you have young members of the family in tow, you may choose to visit the Mamanuca Islands off the Nadi coast. A lovely cruise will let you see a multitude of small islands and delightful activities such as watching dolphins. Frolicking in any of Fiji Islands’ beautiful beaches will also add to your memorable moments in Fiji. If you’re with a group of friends who love marine parks and rainforests, you’d enjoy a visit to the Taveuni Island where the Bouma National Park – with its tropical rain forest – may be found. If island hopping is your cup of tea, exploring Yawa Islands’ coral and volcanic isles can be an enthralling experience. Whether you go on an underwater adventure, aerial sightseeing, or land exploration, Fiji Islands will not disappoint.

January 11, 2010 at 11:36 pm | 4 comments

Otavalo Market

Otavalo Market
Photo by: feserc, Creative Commons

Otavalo market is a must-see destination when visiting Ecuador. A lot of hand-made goods can be purchased here, perfect for souvenirs and unique home decorations. The town of Otavalo is just two hours away from Quito. It is situated in a valley surrounded by Cotacachi, Mojanda and Imbabura volcanoes. The scenery around the town is picturesque as they are enriched with a mixture of Indian and Spanish cultures.

For many tourists, it is advisable to visit Otavalo on Saturdays as there are great buys compared to other days of the week. Locals specialize in the production of hand-woven woolen goods, wooden handicrafts, paintings and many hand-made products. During Spanish colonization of Otavalo, the Indian communities were taught to make quality textiles for export in European countries. As they are freed from the colonizers, the Indian communities continued the production of textiles for their own profit. The Otavalo market is famous for these colorful textiles along with other beautiful handicrafts.

When visiting the Otavalo market, it is advisable to have an overnight stay in the town before Saturday. More stores are open on Saturdays then any other day of the week. Early morning of Saturday is the best time to visit the market as there are few shoppers around, therefore, haggling of prices will be easy. Make sure to bring cash because credit cards are not accepted in many stores.

Products that can be found in Otavalo market include colorful textiles, woodcarvings, paintings, jewelries, hats, toys and many more. There are also food stores around selling authentic cuisines. Best buys can be found on the side streets of Poncho Plaza as this is where the artisan’s market is located. When going shopping, wear comfortable clothes and shoes as well as a hat; don’t forget to bring a camera because the market is visually attractive with its colorful products. Above all, enjoy your shopping holiday!

January 11, 2010 at 11:27 pm | 1 comment

Old Havana

Old Havana
Photo by:
, Creative Commons

If you want to travel back in time to an earlier destination, a trip in an old city would do. Old Havana in Cuba is a breath-taking place, composed of various old infrastructures. The city of Havana originated during the year 1519, along with the prosperity of Galleon trade. The city is located near the bay, so the treasures of Spanish Galleon ships were continuously brought in there. Because of this, the city prospered and many infrastructures were built in neoclassic and baroque style. These structures have been well, preserved making Old Havana a trip to the ancient world.

Old Havana is famous for its old fortresses, churches and buildings which are as follows:

* There are four old fortresses which still stand nowadays. These are the Castillo Los Tres Reyes Del Morro, La Cabaña, San Salvador de la Punta and Castillo de la Real Fuerza. La Cabaña is the most famous above all because of its magnificent structure.

* There are two historical churches that are popular among tourists, the Cathedral de San Cristobal and San Francisco de la Habana Basilica. The two churches are built between 17th and 18th century in baroque style of architecture.

* The Plaza de Armas is an open space or square built initially for military ceremonies. Currently, this is where tourists stay for a wide view of the old city.

* The Gran Teatro de la Habana, also known as the Great Theater of Havana, is well-known for the performances of National Opera and National Ballet of Cuba.

* The Museum of the Revolution is famous for its artifacts from the rich history of Havana.

Old Havana was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1982 because of the city’s preservation of ancient structures. Tour buses are now available for tourists in order to have a look on every old buildings of the city. Various tour companies are around offering trips from place to place; this is convenient rather than exploring the city alone. Appreciate history and have a time travel like vacation at Old Havana.

January 11, 2010 at 11:24 pm | 1 comment

Dalmatian Coast

Dalmatian Coast
Photo by: Owner , Creative Commons

If you haven’t gone to the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia, you’re missing out on a lot of fun. This place is fast becoming a famous tourist destination in Europe. The great thing about Dalmatia is that you can choose to go on a trendy getaway, or you can choose to go to an isolated vacation spot away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Whichever vacation you choose, you are guaranteed to have a grand time.

What makes this coastal city special? Here is a list of some of the places to visit in Dalmatia, wherever you decide to visit, South, Central, or North – Dalmatia has many attractions:

Southern Dalmatia

1. The Baska Voda – This is a resort on the Southern Part of Dalmatia coastline known for its beautiful beaches and excellent climate. Many visitors find this place one of the best in Croatia.

2. Vis Island – This is one place with a lot of beaches that belong to the category: secluded vacation spot. Vis island is in a remote and outlying location, which makes it an ideal spot for tourists yearning to get away from the cares of work.

Central Dalmatia

1. Brac Island – If you’re heading to the Central District of Dalmatia, make sure not to miss beaches on Brac Island, which lies between the Adriatic and Mediterranean Sea’s. Beaches with the likes of Supetar, Postira, Rata, and Bol.

2. The Vodice – This place was once a fishing haven. Today, it is one of the most visited destinations in Central Dalmatia.

Northern Dalmatia

1. Dugi Otok – This is one of the least developed land mass in the town of Dalmatia, perfect for those who prefer seclusion in order to wind down and relax.

2. Kornati Islands National Park – An archipelago off the Croatioan coast, going here would require you to have your own boat or a rental to transport you to the National Park. It is ideal for large groups, reunions, and excursions.

January 11, 2010 at 11:11 pm | 3 comments

Aitutaki Island

Aitutaki Island
Photo by:
g-hat , Creative Commons

If you’re searching for the most beautiful island lagoon in the world, look no further then Aitutaki in Cook Islands which is considered one of the world’s renowned bodies of water with spectacular islets and coral reefs underneath. This fascinating island is nestled in the center of the South Pacific Ocean with open points to the neighboring mainland. But perhaps the most interesting fact of all triggering interest to prospective visitors is the Aitutaki Island being featured in Survivor Cook Islands television program. Aitutaki Island has been shown to the whole world thru Survivor making it more famous to a lot of people in all parts of the world.

There are many good reasons why Aitutaki Island is a must visit place in Cook Islands and part of those reasons are listed below:

1. The pristine beaches are yours for the taking – You may have gone to many different places where beaches are the main attractions. But wait until you get to Aitutaki Island and see for yourself what untouched, natural, and pristine is really all about. The beaches in this island are excellent for scuba diving and other marine activities you may have in mind. Indeed, this is one swimming and relaxation haven perfect for vacationers wanting to get out of the busy world even for just a few fleeting days.

2. Fascinating atoll and islets – This island has a lot of different islets and coral reefs that makes swimming and diving more pleasurable. If you want to get a close look of what’s underneath the blue crystal waters, then you shouldn’t let scuba diving activity come to pass.

3. Many different accommodations and spa options – And, these are all within arm’s reach. Hotels range from 5 stars to beach huts, so you’ll have a wide variety of choices when it comes to inns and lodges. Food, flea markets, and night life are other enjoyable activities to experience in Aitutaki Island.

January 11, 2010 at 10:56 pm | No comment

Vatnajokull Glacier

Vatnajokull Glacier
Photo by: ezioman, Creative Commons

Iceland is famous for its natural wonders including its humongous glaciers. The largest of which is the Vatnajokull Glacier situated in the southeast part of the country. This glacier is considered the largest in the continent by volume. Its average thickness is 400 meters and can reach up to a maximum thickness of 1000 meters. It has an approximate area of 8100 km2. Several active volcanoes are underneath this large glacier’s ice cap. The most active of these volcanoes is the Grimsvotn volcano which has just erupted in November 2004. Tuyas or steep-sided volcanoes were formed because of these volcanic eruptions. Hvannadalshnjukur, Iceland’s highest peak is found on the Vatnajokull Glacier. It rises to an astounding 2110 meters above sea level. The glaciers landscape includes plateaus, valleys and canyons.

In the past years, Vatnajokull Glacier has started to decrease in size. This may be due to some environmental concerns like climate change and the continuous volcanic activity.

Tourists can choose from a wide variety of activities on the ice. There are activities like ice climbing, snowmobile riding, trekking, and sailing. You don’t have to be an experienced climber to hike the glacier. Professional climbers will assist you and ensure your safety. Tourists can cruise between the giant glaciers and icebergs floating on the sea. One can go all over the glacier with an experienced guide while riding a snowcat or jeep. Humpbacks and Blue Whales, if you are lucky, are present in the place. You can also enjoy watching dolphins.

Fishing in the nearby village is also a big attraction in the place. There is so much to see in Vatnajokull Glacier like the hot springs in ice caves and the cavern system below the glacier. Vatnajokull Glacier is famous not only because of its enormous size. It is also well-known for the fun-filled activities and the breathtaking sights you can experience and witness at the same time.

January 11, 2010 at 10:24 pm | No comment

Devils Tower

Devils tower 400
Devil’s Tower at sunrise.
Photo by: backpackphotography, Creative Commons

It’s quite intriguing that the first national monument in the United States is not made by the hands of men. In fact, this towering natural landmark means more to the American Indians than it is to the forefathers who established the colonies.

Bears Lodge, as others would often refer to it, is believed by American Indians as a sacred site. Knowing its significance, then President Theodore Roosevelt designated it as a national monument in 1906. That’s the Devils Tower as we know it today.

One might wonder why it was called as such. In truth, the landmark was supposed to be called as Devil’s Tower. But the apostrophe was inadvertently omitted when the proclamation was published. With no luck editing this clerical error, the name stands to this day. Rising over a thousand, it overlooks the Belle Fourche River. Its top is actually the size of a football field. Erosion has made it possible for people to view the tower’s magnificence. With more than 1,300 acres of vast area surrounding the area, it’s no wonder flora and fauna abound. Woodlands and pine forests cover much of the park while wildlife creatures roam around its grasslands.

If you are planning to take the Tower Walk – trekking the Devils Tower trail with a ranger – be sure to wear a good pair of walking shoes. It would also help if you could bring drinking water along the way.

Climate here is usually mild, but trails are not maintained during winter season. However, visitors can go for cross-country skiing during the cold months. Those who are into rock climbing or simply wish to spend some time at the top of the tower can do so by registering first at the visitor’s center. But because this is considered as a sacred site by American Indians, a voluntary climbing closure is implemented in the month of June.

January 11, 2010 at 8:24 pm | 2 comments