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From The Editors Travel

A Travel Guide to Paris

Apart from wanting to hear my stories, I know a lot of my readers here also looking for some good advice. This is why from time to time, I share other blogs that have helped me out a lot as well. I recently discovered INSIDR while I was looking for a clear guide on getting a tax refund from the EU. Their article that shared shopping hacks was really useful because I found out when the sales seasons are in France and got an easy guide to getting my tax refund. I found a lot more information than I intended to get and I’m sure my shopping experience in Paris will be a lot better!

I stumbled upon a complete guide to shopping for shoes in Paris. This is certainly a big temptation for any women. They gave complete recommendations from casual brands to luxurious brands. They recommend Galeries Lafayette as a one-stop shopping solution. We can find shoes, lingeries, even foods in one place. It is a good solution if you don’t have much time to spend to go around. They even offer a macaron class in English. This will be a lot more stories to tell, more than just trying these best macarons in town.

If you are a beauty product enthusiast, you would know that French beauty products have a great reputation! If you’re in Paris, you should seize the moment to go shopping for them! You’ll find INSIDR’s recommendations for the best French beauty products so you won’t get totally lost while you’re hunting for it, and even the best place to do the shopping! For example, in Pharmacie Monge, you can find a wide range of products with the best price, and you can directly get a tax refund there.

Now about the food, they’ve shared countless recommendations and a complete guide of restaurants in Paris, I don’t even know where to start! From a romantic place to have dinner to street food that you can get in Paris, you can get all the information there. You can even find recommendations for gluten-free restaurants and vegan restaurants in Paris. Of course, you would have to try all the typical French foods, like escargot, oysters, and truffles. The other thing that you just can’t forget when you’re in France: the pastries, all of the pastries! You can find all of the best pastries in Paris recommended by INSIDR and for sure, you won’t regret it. Try the best croissants and other delicacies while you’re there!

Another thing I want to share is how much I’ve discovered about going around Paris at night.

INSIDR wrote in length about all the different activities at night that we can do to spend time in the city. Of course, there’s nothing wrong about sitting in a restaurant for dinner and some wine but I’m the type of person who needs to be doing something all the time, and even more so while I’m on a vacation! Paris Red Light District looks like an interesting area, and I loved reading about the Moulin Rouge.

INSIDR’s articles painted a really different picture from what I’ve heard. Their article on the history of the iconic cabaret also described the show and the dinners they have. I wish I could experience it for myself someday. This certainly looks like one of the best among many shows that we can enjoy in Paris. After watching some shows, we can enjoy the night by going to one of the hidden cocktails bars that we can find in Paris.

I also discovered some local brands that sell beautiful French souvenirs In their guide, they even gave some different variations of gifts, from affordable ones that we can get in the supermarket, to the original and more luxurious original made in France products. We can also get some of the typical French food products in Lafayette Gourmet, which is very practical because they basically have everything already. We can even get some of the best French beauty products for our loved ones! I really think you guys should check them out because they write not only for one type of audience but for everyone.

They also have extremely comprehensive guides to different cities in Europe like London and Barcelona. They share a lot about where to stay, what to do, and even what to eat!


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From The Editors Travel

Ten Most Unbelievable Places that Actually Exist!

Here’s a compilation of the world’s top ten most unbelievable places that really do exist. Believe it!

Hallerbos – The Blue Forest, (Belgium)

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Largely located in the Halle municipality in Flemish Brabant, Belgium, the Hallerbos, also known as the Blue Forest, is a 552-acre forested area that is as beautiful, or as dull, or perhaps as unassuming as any other forest throughout the year.

Except spring, when for a few weeks, the forest takes on a hue that gives it a dreamlike quality, transforming it into a place that seems straight out of a fairytale.

Come spring, and the place gets overwhelmed with an explosion of bluebells that carpets the forest floor for as far as the eye can see.

It is the best time of the year to visit the place and it does attract quite a few visitors.

The Bastei (Saxon, Switzerland)

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Towering 636 feet above the Elbe River, the Batei is a series rock formations that served as ideal fortresses because of their strategically dominant location – in terms of elevation and unhindered views of the surrounding landscape.

The Batei was the perfect protection for the 11th-century Neurathen Castle, the ruins of which is a tourist attraction, today.

Well, as it turned out, the Bastei was not as impregnable as it was thought to be at the time, having got destroyed by an army in the late fifteenth century.

Perched on a labyrinth of sandstone pillars, the ruins are not only a great historic attraction but also a fantastic vantage point to enjoy the magnificent views of the surrounding forest and capture those unforgettable moments in your camera.

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe (Kassel, Germany)

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A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013, the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is the second largest hillside waterpark in Europe, its origins dating back to the late 17th century.

Some 92,000 gallons of water flow through centuries-old pneumatic pipes, to keep the waterpark alive and kicking.

Looking up from the base of the 350-meter cascade, the castle on top appears to be straddling the waterfall, as it dominates the entire park – a one of a kind place, indeed.

Atlantic Ocean Road (Norway)

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While most of us, if not all, may have taken the scenic route at some point or the other in our lives, not many of us have had the privilege to travel the Atlantic Ocean Road, which takes the thrill of a scenic drive to a whole new level.

This 8.3-kilometer winding road traverses an archipelago of sparsely populated islands and skerries (small rocky islands too small to support human habitation), linking them together as it passes through some of the most awe-inspiring scenery you can ever hope to see.

Despite the road’s elevation and the high bridges – eight of them in all – the water will still crash over the asphalt, or whatever it is the road is made of, during rough weather, which is not a frequent occurrence in the region, thankfully.

As dangerous as it sounds, and probably is, it may be the ideal setting for thrill seekers – a blessing in disguise, really.

For them, what better time to travel the Atlantic Ocean Road than when waves and spray are crashing all around you as you pass through, soaking up the beauty, literally.

Deppu, Japan

 

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A hyperactive hotbed of geothermal activity, the entire city of Deppu, on the Japanese island of Kyushu, is bubbling with hot springs everywhere. Huge steam clouds rise above the city’s rooftops giving the impression that the city is burning, especially when looked at from afar.

Water temperatures in these deep blue and orange colored springs can range from 50 to 99 degree Celsius, making them too hot to take a dip in.

However, the mineral-rich hot water from these springs, believed to have medicinal properties, is piped into homes, restaurants and other public places.

Lac Rose – The Pink Lake, Senegal

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Located some 30 km north-east of Dakar, Senegal, Lake Retba or Lac Rose, which means Pink Lake, owes its name to its pink waters caused by Dunaliella salina algae.

The lake is also known for its high salinity, as high as 40 percent in some areas. Locals work 6-7 hours a day mining the lake’s salt. To protect themselves from the salty waters of the lake, which is known to cause tissue damage, they apply shea butter as a protective layer on their skin.

The pinkness of the waters is more defined during the dry season which lasts from November through June as compared to the rainy season (July to October) when the color is less obvious.

Magenta colored samphire bushes flourish in the white sandbanks, and the sand dunes are terra-cotta-colored.

Fingal’s Cave (Staffa, Scotland)

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Located on the island of Staffa – an uninhabited rocky outcrop in the Scottish Hebrides – is Fingal’s Cave, known for its uniquely patterned basalt rock columns that were formed as a result of a huge subterranean explosion millions of years ago.

Back in the late 18th century, visiting Fingal’s Cave was the thing to do – it was like a fashion statement of the time.

German composer Felix Mendelssohn, who visited the cave on a paddle steamer in August 1829 as a 20-year-old, was so impressed by the natural acoustics of this unique creation of Mother Nature that it inspired him to compose the famous “Hebrides Overture” in 1832.

English painter William Turner is another famous personality, among several others, whose work was inspired by the Fingal’s Cave experience.

Fly Geyser (Washoe, Nevada, USA)

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Located on a private stretch of land in Washoe County, Nevada, the Fly Geyser is a geothermal geyser, unlike any other, you may have seen.

Well, it does spout water like geysers are supposed to do, but what really makes it spectacularly unique are its strikingly vivid colors.

You may be surprised to know that the Fly Geyser is not the work of nature but, in fact, the handiwork of man – as inadvertent as it may have been.

In 1964, a team of researchers exploring geothermal sources in the area dug a well and left it unplugged, or perhaps didn’t cap it well enough, before leaving.

The well gave an outlet to subterranean minerals that rose up the well and accumulated into a mound of myriad colors. The Fly Geyser has been regularly spouting water jets ever since.

It is indeed an awesome sight to behold – a single piece of beauty in the middle of the Nevada wilderness.

Check out the video of this unbelievable place that really exists.

Hanging Temples of Hengshan (Tsang Shi Province, China)

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Precariously clinging to a cliff wall, 75 meters above the ground, the Hanging Temple of Hengshan is located in China’s Shanxi Province, some 65 kilometers from the nearest city of Datong.

A place of great historical significance and one of the main tourist attractions today, this amazing temple of 40 interconnected rooms was built more than 1,500 years ago during the Northern Wei Dynasty.

So dangerous is the location of the Hanging Temples of Hengshan that it was ranked among the world’s top ten most dangerous buildings by Times magazine in 2010.

Pamukkale, Turkey

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Pamukkale – Turkish for “Cotton Castle” – is located in the Menderes River valley in Turkey’s Denizli Province.

This surreal landscape is known for its hot springs and its huge white terraces, a result of a carbonate mineral called travertine, left behind by water flowing over the area.

Almost all transport to and from Pamukkale is via the nearby city of Denizli which has a large and active bus terminal, train station as well as airport.

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From The Editors Travel

Explore Tulum, Mexico: The Pre-Columbian Mayan Walled City

Perched atop a 12-meter-high cliff on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, is the ancient Mayan city of Tulum.

This Mexican city’s unique combination of white powdery sand beaches, hippy art vibe, ancient Mayan ruins, scuba adventures, Cenotes (natural underground reservoirs of water) and great food make it an excellent holiday destination.

As a tourist, there are two ways, really, two enjoy this wonderful city: budget permitting, you can opt for the high-end beach scene, or, alternatively, you can make the most of the more pocket-friendly authentic Mexican experience

A night at one of the beach hotels, where people generally stay for a week, or so, before they pack off to where they came from, is likely to put you behind by $200 – definitely not a workable option for hippy and digital nomads, who like to stay in places for weeks or months.

The beach scene does, however, have some lower cost choices as well, such as camping but due to the high demand, you may need to book a year in advance, at least.

The Beach Scene
The Beach Scene

Fortunately, downtown Tulum, which is just a 2-km bike ride away from the beach scene, is a great option if you are a budget traveler.
In addition to being easy on the finances, the place offers an authentic Mexican experience, which is quite charming, in that it makes you feel like you are living in a small Mexican village.

You will find a liveable hippy art scene in downtown Tulum at prices that make sense. Because you are staying longer, you’d want to make friends and connections which are almost impossible when people are coming and going so frequently at the beach scene.

The real hippies and nomads mostly prefer to live the downtown Mexican experience because that’s where you’ll find good quality food, live music, reasonable accommodations, and more – all at affordable prices. Just walk or bike around at night and you will see what it’s all about.

The best way to get around Tulum is on a bike. So, rent one, if it is not already included with your accommodation because you’ll want to be able to pop over to the beach when desired and explore the old world Mexican village as well.

The Mexican experience and the hippy art vibe combine well to make for a good time, especially when you can pop over to the beach and kite surf, body surf or join a formal party as circumstances arise.

If you are looking for some scuba adventure, be prepared to shell out around $350 for two reef dives and four cave dives, including equipment charges. Alternatively, you can go for the cheaper $220 option which includes two reef dives plus two Cenote dives with equipment.

Prices may vary based on the season but walking into one of the mini dive centers may provide even lower rates. It’s getting harder every year in Mexico to dive without showing a certification.

The Tulum ruins are a must-see and you can walk or pedal the few kilometers to the site north of downtown.

Or, you can take a Colectivo – a white minivan that says Colectivo on the front – to the ruins for about a dollar.

The same trip in a taxi, should you decide on that option, will cost you $8 one way.

Make sure to go first thing in the morning if you are looking to avoid the crowds, or choose the hottest part of the day when tourists are lazing under umbrellas, and don’t forget to wear your sunblock.

The Tulum ruins occupy a relatively small area, roughly measuring 380 meters by 65 meters, fortified by a protective wall on the landward side.

The Tulum Walls
The Tulum Walls

Once you are done exploring the magnificent ruins, exit the site from the south side – that’s your right side as you face the sea – and keep walking south until you reach a dirt road on your left that will lead you straight to one of the most amazing beaches in the world.

Rent a scooter for about 20 dollars for the day, which includes insurance, and do the loop around the island, stopping when you see anything interesting. Just follow the road as it curves along the beach, clockwise or counterclockwise around the island. It’s almost impossible to get lost.

The round trip is less than an hour but you are likely to find fun stuff along the way and take a bunch of pictures.

When you are in Tulum, definitely go see Chichen Itza. Make sure to get a trip that includes the Cenote and the colonial town – both are worth your while. It’s about 45 dollars per person.

A Cenote is, basically, a natural sinkhole or underground river that has developed naturally over millions of years. You can take amazing pictures, swim in many of them and scuba dive in some of them.

You can also see the Gran Cenote which is a $5 taxi ride from downtown Tulum plus an entry fee of about 10$ per person.

Gran Cenote
Gran Cenote

Tulum Attractions and Activities

  • Playa Ruinas
  • Tulum Art Club
  • Tulum Jungle Gym
  • Pyramid El Castillo (The Castle)
  • Temple of the Frescoes
  • Casa de la Cultura de Tulum
  • ProKiteTulum Kiteboarding Center
  • Pepe Soho Photography
  • Gran Cenote: Limestone cenote & cavern with snorkeling areas, equipment rentals & boardwalks.
  • Tulum Bike Tours: Tour service offering scenic bike adventures through the Yucatan’s cultural & archaeological sites.
  • Interpretation Center of Nature and Culture Maya
  • Laguna de Kaan Luum
  • Galeria La Llorona
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From The Editors Top 5 Travel

Valletta, Malta: Top Five Attractions

Located in the southern Mediterranean, Valletta is the capital of the island nation of Malta – one of the world’s smallest countries.

Fortified by massive walls and deep moats, Valletta’s history dates back to the Great Siege of 1565 when the star-shaped Fort St. Elmo was conquered and destroyed by the invading Ottomans.

After the war was eventually won with the help of Sicilian reinforcements, the Grand Master, Jean de Valette, made it his mission to build a new fortified city on the Sciberras Peninsula.

With the passage of time, further extensions and fortifications were added to the city by the Knights of St. John, and even today, the imposing fort and its strategic location on the headland of the peninsula does not cease to captivate the imaginations of visitors.

A section of the fortress is dedicated to the War Museum, which extensively covers the history of Malta with its fascinating exhibits, ranging from the 16th century to the 20th century.

Valletta was one of the first cities in Europe that was officially conceptualized on a drawing board. With generous funds made available by the Vatican, as well as by both Spain and France, no expenses were spared in its construction.

Ravaged by fierce wars and brutal invasions, Malta’s best option to ensure order and peace for its inhabitants was to become part of the mighty British Empire.

In 1814, a few years after the occupation of the island by Napoleon’s all-conquering army, Malta officially became a colony of the crown.

The Lower and Upper Barrakka Gardens are perfect examples of the colonial influence on this tiny island nation and its capital.

Despite the considerable damage suffered during the Second World War, when the city was heavily pounded by Nazi bombs, the townscape of Valletta is still a fascinating sight to behold.

Here are some of the top attractions of this small, yet fascinating, southern Mediterranean capital.

St. John’s Co-Cathedral

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Commissioned in 1572 by Grand Master Jean de la Cassiere, and designed by the Maltese military architect Girolamo (Glormu) Cassar, St. John’s Co-Cathedral was built by the Knights of Malta between 1573 and 1578.

A fine specimen of Baroque architecture in Europe, St. John’s is one of the world’s great cathedrals.

The somewhat strange title of co-cathedral stems from the fact that the church was designated a cathedral on the orders of Popious VII in 1816 and given the same privileges as the Bishop seat in Mdina.

Funded by the profits made from attacks on Muslim trading ships, the cathedral’s grand interior was largely designed by Mattia Preti, a Calabrian artist, and Knight.

The eight chapels built along the side of the cathedral relate to the various “langues” (regions) of the Knights of Malta who belonged to different European countries.

The flooring throughout the cathedral is intricately inlaid with some 400 marble tombstones in a variety of colors.

Grand Master’s Palace

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Another work of genius by the great architect Girolamo (Glormu) Cassar, the Grand Master’s Palace has served as the administrative heart of Malta for nearly three and a half centuries.

Built in 1571, the palace was the official seat of the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitallers of St John and also served as the Governor’s palace during the British colonial era.

Today, the Grand Master’s Palace is the official seat of the President of the Maltese Republic and home to the country’s House of Representatives.

One of the main attractions of the palace is the Council Chamber with its resplendent wooden ceiling and extraordinary Gobelin tapestries, gifted by the Spanish Grand Master Ramon Perellos y Rocaful.

The Supreme Council Hall frescoes by Mattia Perez d’Aleccio, highlighting the country’s Great Siege, is another must-see within this extraordinary palace.

The palace also boasts a historic collection of weaponry and armor – indicators to the island’s military past and its famous religious order of the Knights of St. John.

National Museum of Archaeology

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The Auberge de Provence, which houses the National Museum of Archaeology, is one of the first and most important buildings to be erected in the Maltese capital.

The building was inaugurated as the National Museum in 1958 by the then Minister of Education, Agatha Barbara, originally housing the archaeological collection on the ground floor and fine arts on the first floor.

However, in 1974, the fine arts collection was moved to the newly established National Museum of Fine Arts in the Admiralty House building, while the National Museum was renamed the National Museum of Archaeology and dedicated exclusively to archaeological exhibits.

In 1998, the museum was refurbished and modernized and the exhibits were placed in climate-controlled displays, at par with the current conservation standards.

Some of the not-to-be-missed exhibits of the museum include:

  • The exquisite 5000-year-old statuette of the ‘Sleeping Lady’.
  • The mysterious ‘Fat Statues’ unearthed from the Neolithic temples.
  • The ‘embracing couple’, the sole Neolithic figure so far discovered that depicts human emotion.
  • The roofed temple miniature, a stone model representing the former state of the Neolithic temples.

Upper Barrakka Gardens

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Situated next to the Castille Palace, the magnificent Upper Barrakka Gardens is a space of peace and shade in the heart of the Maltese capital, offering amazing views of the Grand Harbour below, the cities of Senglea, Vittoriosa and Kalkara as well as the Breakwater.

Built atop a bastion – the highest point in Valletta – the gardens date back to the 17th century when it served as a private space for the Knights.

Today, the place is a major tourist attraction, with its myriad flowers and trees; statues and monuments and, of course, the breathtaking panoramas the place affords.

Financed by the Bailiff Fra Flaminio Balbiano, the gardens originally served as an exercise ground for the Knights of the Langue of Italy.

The gardens are connected to the Grand Harbour below by the 38-meter-high Barrakka Lift.

A number of smaller creeks, branching out of the harbor, boast numerous marinas with enough docks for thousands of yachts.

Located all along the harbor’s horseshoe edge are the densely populated little towns of Vittoriosa, Cospicua, Senglea, Marsa, and Paola.

The first three of these towns (Vittoriosa, Cospicua, Senglea) are popularly known as the “Three Cities” because of their historical significance. They were the original settlements of the knights, with numerous monuments from the time – including auberges of the knights, grand Baroque churches, and strategic military forts – bearing silent testimony to their glorious history.

Grand Harbor

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Valletta’s Grand Harbor, also known as the Port of Valletta, is essentially a natural harbor, the importance of which can be determined from the city’s fortified surroundings, as well as its commercial activity.

In times gone by, the strategic location of this huge harbor was of great military significance for the Knights of St. John.

With the harbor protected by massive fortifications on three sides, the Order of St. John could concentrate its entire might in defending the sea entrance to the harbor, made easy by the fact that it afforded ample space for Maltese battleships to dock.

Today, the harbor is essentially a hub of commercial activity with large merchant vessels, ocean liners, and cruise ships constantly moving in and out.

A number of smaller creeks branching out of the harbor boast a number of marinas with enough docks for thousands of yachts.

Located all along the harbour’s horseshoe edge are the densely populated little towns of Vittoriosa, Cospicua, Senglea, Marsa and Paola, with the first three known as the “Three Cities” because of their historical significance; in that they were the original settlements of the knights, with numerous monuments from the time, including auberges of the knights, grand Baroque churches, and strategic military forts, standing as a fitting testament.

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From The Editors Travel

Exotic Egypt and the Magnificent Nile

Located mostly in North Africa, a portion of this transcontinental country also extends to Asia where it shares borders with Israel and the Gaza Strip, while on the African side, the country is bordered by Libya to the west and by Sudan to the south.

One of the world’s leading tour and travel destinations, Egypt has much to offer in terms of history, culture, adventure, cuisine, and more.

From the luxurious resorts of Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada to the awe-inspiring monuments of Aswan and Luxor and to the Mediterranean grandeur of Alexandria, Egypt is truly an extraordinary blend of the present and its mesmerizing past.

Home to more than two-thirds of the world’s monuments, this exotic and mystic land of the Pharaohs is virtually an open-air museum, with its greatest asset being its warm and friendly people.

Throughout the centuries, Egypt has been a sparkling oasis of accomplishment in the vast Saharan expanse, attracting conquerors, adventurers, poets and mystics alike.

Cairo –City of a Thousand Minarets

Home to some ten million people, this vibrant metropolis is Egypt’s largest city, as well as its capital, split into two by the gently flowing Nile.

There is no better example than Cairo, where the past and present have combined so gloriously to make it one of the most popular destinations among world travelers.

Luxurious hotels, modern high-rises, high-end shops, restaurants and coffee houses conveniently merge with the historic old town and Islamic Cairo, right up to the pyramids of the ancient capitals of Memphis and Giza.

This Saharan city is abuzz with activity 24×7; where you will get to hear the calls of the ‘muezzin’ five times a day from the city’s countless mosques and minarets, summoning the believers to offer their obligatory prayers; where your senses will be overwhelmed by the scents of spices and perfume as you browse through the exotic bazaars; and where you will travel back centuries in time as you gaze at the great pyramids of Giza.

Start your sightseeing from one of Egypt’s oldest churches and still the center of Coptic worship in Old Cairo – the Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church, also known as the Hanging Church.

Here in Old Cairo, built by Coptic Christians and once known as Babylon, you will also see the Ben Ezra Synagogue, also referred to as El-Geniza Synagogue or Synagogue of the Levantines.

Local folklore has it that this Hebrew place of worship sits on the location where baby Moses was found by Bithiah, the daughter of a Pharoah – portrayed as Seti the First’s sister in the Cecil B DeMille epic, “The Ten Commandments.”

While in the old town, make it a point to visit the St. Sergius Monastery, as well, believed to be the final abode of the holy family as they escaped King Herod.

Islamic Cairo, the medieval heart of the city located around the Citadel of Cairo and the old walled city, is famous for its numerous mosques and minarets as well its Islamic schools, tombs, rustic eateries and Islamic era fortifications.

Islamic Cairo
Islamic Cairo

Take a walking tour of this Islamic part of town and enjoy the old world ambience the place has to offer along with its magnificent attractions such as the Alabaster Mosque, one of Cairo’s oldest and most famous, built in the 1830s and 1840s by Muhammad Ali Pasha in memory of his oldest son Tusun Pasha, who died in 1816.

This imposing alabaster-adorned mosque sits on the Citadel’s highest point and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city.

The Al-Azhar Mosque is another must-see Islamic place of worship, built in the 10th century under the auspices of the Fatimid Dynasty’s fourth Caliph, Abu Tamim Maad al-Muizz li-Dinillah (953 to 975).

Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Historic Cairo,” the Saladin Citadel sits atop Mokattam Hill in Islamic Cairo. Once an Islamic fortification, the place is, today, a preserved site of mosques and museums and a great place to visit while in that neck of the woods.

End your tour of Islamic Cairo at the great bazaar of Khan Al-Khalili, which boasts more than a thousand stalls and shops selling all kinds of goods, mostly directed at attracting the tourist dollar, although it’s a favorite with the locals, as well.

Saladin Citadel
Saladin Citadel

All through the market, you will find plenty of restaurants and street food stalls as well as traditional coffee houses where you can enjoy a smoke or two of “Shisha,” or “Hookah.”

And as they say, your tour of Cairo can’t be complete without a look at Tutankhamun’s stunning treasures at the Egyptian Museum, in addition to a vast collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities.

End your day of sightseeing with a relaxing dinner aboard one of the floating restaurants on the Nile, with most of them offering live entertainment, including the famous belly dancing.

Set aside one full day for the awesome sights that await you at Memphis and Giza.

Built-in 2816 B.C. by Pharaoh Zoser and his chief architect Imhotep, the Sakkara step pyramid in Memphis served as mausoleums for the Pharaohs of the time. It is one of the world’s oldest surviving pyramids.

While you may have seen them many a time from afar, because it’s a sight that you can’t avoid for long in Cairo, be prepared for the stunning visual impact of Giza’s pyramids up close – especially the Great Pyramid of Giza dominating the other two smaller ones on its flanks.

Adjacent to the three pyramids is the iconic face of the magnificent Sphinx, featuring the face of a man – believed to bear resemblance to Pharaoh Khafra – and the body of a lion. Carved from a single gigantic piece of limestone, this human-faced lion, or lion-bodied human, has sat there for centuries as if guarding the Giza pyramids.

Aswan

Having seen most of what Cairo had to offer, it’s time now to take a short one-and-a-half-hour flight to Egypt’s southernmost city Aswan – the starting point of your 3-night upstream cruise along the Nile.

However, before you embark on your Nile adventure, it would be a good idea to first check out the sights and sounds of this historic city, which occupies one of the most picturesque parts of the Nile, featuring palm-fringed islands and an armada of white-sailed feluccas – a traditional wooden sailboat.

The City of Aswan
The City of Aswan

Your Aswan sightseeing must include visits to the Aswan High Dam, built between 1960 and 70, followed by a tour of the Philae temple complex – which includes ruins of the 4th-century columned Temple of Isis.

Also, check out the Temple of Khnum on Elephantine Island before you end your sightseeing with a scenic ride aboard a felucca to the botanical gardens located on Isis Island in the middle of the river.

Nile Cruise

If money is not a constraint, The Nile Dolphin would be an ideal choice of cruiser for its elegance and comfort, superior onboard cuisine, great entertainment and high level of service from a friendly crew.

With a maximum passenger limit of only 130, spread over three decks, the Nile Dolphin features 170 square-foot cabins, all boasting French balconies, great Italian-inspired design, TVs, mini-refrigerators and, of course, air-conditioning.

The public areas of the ship are no less stunning, what with a spacious lobby, a souvenir shop, reading room, library, an evening lounge with live entertainment, a gym, spa, beauty salon and a wonderful covered sun deck, with a bar, pool, and a Jacuzzi, and a magnificent restaurant that can seat all 130 passengers under one roof.

The Nile Dolphin
The Nile Dolphin

Kom Ombo, the first stop of your Nile cruise, is famous for its temple dedicated to the crocodile-headed Sobek and the falcon-headed Horus.

After exploring the temple on foot, return to the ship for lunch as you sail on to Edfu, where a short carriage-ride will take you to the temple of Horus (the Falcon God) – one of the best-preserved temples in all of Egypt.

Return to the ship for a festive dinner followed by onboard parties, belly dancing as you sail on to Luxor.

Built on both banks of the Nile, great Luxor consists of the town itself and the village of Karnak on the east bank and the villages and tombs of the Valley of the Kings and Queens on the west bank.

Your sightseeing will begin at the Valley of the Kings, where tombs of the Pharaohs were dug deep into the desert, centuries ago. Here, 64 of Egypt’s Pharaohs were buried, including famous names such as Ramses II and the only tomb found undisturbed – that of the teenage King Tutankhamun.

The Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings

After some free time allowing you to venture down into one of the tombs, your tour will take you to the Valley of the Queen, where, rising in a series of terraces, looms a spectacular sight – the fabulous temple of Queen Hathor.

In the afternoon, visit the east bank’s magnificent Luxor and Karnak temples, built mostly by the great Pharaoh Amenhotep III.

The Luxor temple is connected to the Karnak temple by way of Avenue of the Sphinxes. Of the original 730 human-headed, lion-bodied beasts, 58 still remain.

The Temple of Karnak is a spectacular complex of sanctuary, pylons and obelisks, highlighted by the Great Hypostyle Hall constructed around 134 lotus-blossomed pillars.

After a leisurely breakfast, bid your lovely crew goodbye as you transfer to the airport for the short one-hour flight to Cairo, where you will spend the final night.

The balance of the day is free to explore on your own, shop for those last minute souvenirs or relax in the comfort of your hotel as you pack your memories away and prepare for your flights back home.

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From The Editors Travel

Marseilles, France: Top 10 Attractions

Located in the south of France, Marseilles is the oldest city in France and its largest commercial harbor on the Mediterranean coast.

This multi-cultural, multi-ethnic city is the country’s third largest after Paris and Lyon in terms of metropolitan area and the second largest population-wise.

In the Middle Ages, the city’s main harbor was used by the crusaders to embark on their journey to Jerusalem. It rivaled those of the maritime republics of Genoa, Pisa, and Venice.

In 1720, half the city’s population perished in the plague because of the reluctance of local traders to impose quarantine on infected ships that came to port.

Marseilles may have once had the reputation of being a little dangerous and somewhat free and easy but today it is a magnificent coastal city and an excellent Mediterranean destination.

Marseilles Attractions

Notre-Dame-De-La-Garde

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In a breathtaking hilltop location, this spectacular church stands on the summit of Marseille as its most important landmark, visible from afar.

The site was used in ancient times as an observation point, and during the Middle Ages, was the location of a pilgrimage chapel.

Today, the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde is a beacon for the faithful, with an enormous gilded Madonna crowning the belfry.

Built in 1853-1864, the church features an opulent Neo-Byzantine-style interior of light and dark marble arches supporting gilded mosaic cupolas.

After seeing the interior, visitors can spend time on the splendid terrace.

Offering a marvelous view, the panorama extends from the red rooftops of Marseilles’ buildings and the old harbor, all the way to the Frioul Islands in the Mediterranean Sea.

Vieux Port (Old Harbor)

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The Vieux Port represents the birthplace of Marseilles.

Surrounded by serene blue waters, the Old Port is located in the west of Marseilles near the Canebière Boulevard.

The lively waterfront is a focal point for tourists, and many say that this area is the best place to find authentic bouillabaisse, the flavorful seafood stew that is a specialty of Marseille.

Once an important commercial port, the Vieux Port is now used primarily by fishing boats and sports craft.

MuCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée)

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A stunning complex of three different sites, this expansive museum features a wealth of discoveries.

The newest part of the museum is built on the former J4 Pier by the architect Rudy Ricciotti.

This section addresses themes such as the invention of gods, the treasures of the spice route, the visions of Jerusalem, and the seven wonders of the world.

The second stage of the museum is located in the vaulted rooms of the Fort Saint-Jean, a historic monument that dates back to the 12th century.

The Fort Saint-Jean also has spectacular Mediterranean gardens accessible by a suspended footbridge over the sea.

The third site is the Conservation Center (located in the Belle de Mai quarter), which offers a behind-the-scenes look into the work of the museum.

Château d’If

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A short ferry ride away from the port of Marseilles, the Château d’If is located on the Ile d’If in the Frioul Islands archipelago, a nature conservation area that includes the tiny islands of If, Pomègues, Ratonneau, and Tiboulen.

The scenery is spectacular with protected coves, turquoise waters, pristine beaches, sandy creeks, and impressive limestone cliffs.

In this beautiful location, the Château d’If was built as a fortress by King François I in the 16th century. Soon after, the fortress was converted into a prison.

Musée d’Histoire de Marseille (History Museum)

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In Le Panier quarter, just a few steps away from the Vieux Port, the Musée d’Histoire de Marseille tells the story of Marseilles from its Gallo-Greek origins through the Middle Ages to the present day.

Fitting for the oldest city in France, this museum offers an impressive collection of historical artifacts, covering 2,600 years of history.

The museum also has a park, the Jardin des Vestiges, which is an open-air museum for an excavation site. In the gardens, visitors can see the ruins of the ancient port of Massalia from the third-century BC.

Cathédrale de la Major

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Beside the sea on a terrace in the northwest of the Le Panier quarter, the Cathédrale de la Major of Marseille boasts a picturesque location fitting of this port city.

The mighty cathedral stands high above the port installations, with its impressive domed towers-the highest rising 16 meters.

Constructed between 1852 and 1893 using a mixture of white and green limestone, the Cathedral blends Romanesque and Byzantine styles to a harmonious effect.

The interior is richly decorated with marble and mosaic; in the crypt lie the tombs of the Bishops of Marseilles.

With a length of 141 meters, the Cathédrale de la Major is the largest ecclesiastical building created in the 19th century.

Le Panier (Old Town)

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Located on a hillside above the Vieux Port, this colorful neighborhood is the historic center and cultural heart of Marseille.

Le Panier is Marseille’s oldest quarter, inhabited since antiquity when the ancient Greeks settled here in 600 BC.

You’ll find plenty of authentic Algerian cuisine, local artisan boutiques, gourmet food shops, and art galleries.

This quarter is also a residential neighborhood, and the typical houses with shuttered window and lines of laundry provide evidence of the families who live there.

Visitors may begin a walking tour on the north side of the Vieux Port harbor basin at the Quai du Port and then walk up La Canebière, a vibrant boulevard that is abuzz with activity.

The quarter has several important monuments such as the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), which was built in the second half of the 17th century based on a Genoese architectural model.

Other landmarks include the Cathédrale de la Major and the Vieille Charité, which has a museum with interesting contemporary art exhibits.

Calanques National Park

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The Parc National des Calanques offers the splendor of nature just 15 kilometers away from Marseilles on the way to the tiny fishing village of Cassis.

Located where the Mediterranean meets the Massif des Calanques mountains, the unique landscape is distinguished by majestic limestone rock walls with fjord-like coves.

The peaceful coves are filled with calm pools of saltwater that flows to and from the sea.

Visitors are dazzled by the water’s mesmerizing turquoise color as well as by the diverse plant species and rare wildlife, including the peregrine falcon.

Outdoor sports enthusiasts will find many things to do at Calanques National Park, such as swimming, kayaking, rock climbing, and hiking.

An excellent system of trails allows visitors to appreciate the pristine environment and gorgeous coastal views.

The largest Calanques, Port-Miou, En-Vau, and Port-Pin, can be reached by car or by ferry from Marseilles. It is also possible to take a guided boat tour or arrange a private boat trip.

Basilique Saint-Victor

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Dedicated to the martyr Saint Victor, this house of worship once belonged to an abbey founded in the 5th century.

The foundations of the church date back to Early Christian and Carolingian times, although the turreted towers are from the 11th and 14th century.

In the crypt, there is the original catacomb chapel and the Grotto of Saint Victor.

The basilica also has a 13th-century Black Madonna.

Vieille Charité

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The Vieille Charité is located on the Place des Moulins that lies at the highest point in Le Panier.

The building was created in 1640 when the Marseille Town Council decided to give the poor local inhabitants a decent place to reside, in compliance with a royal policy of “enclosing the poor.”

In 1749, a three-floor public hospital with four wings was added to the building.

There is a chapel at the center courtyard of the hospital complex.

Built from 1679 to 1707, the chapel is a wonderful example of Italian baroque architecture.

The facade of the Vieille Charité is more modern, dating from 1863.

Since 1986, the Vieille Charité building has been used to host scientific and cultural events and to house a museum, the Centre de la Vieille Charité

(Courtesy: Planetware, Google)

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From The Editors Travel

Alaska: The Perfect Ecotourism Destination

What is Ecotourism?

Environment-friendly travel practices – or ecotourism as most of us know it – is all about sustainable travel, a concept that picked up back in the 1980s.

In recent times, though, the term ‘ecotourism’ has been referred to with many different expressions, including responsible travel, nature travel, green travel, ethical travel and the likes.

We may choose to call it by any name that strikes our fancy but the fact remains that ecotourism is, basically, about respecting nature and while we are free to enjoy and appreciate it, we must ensure that we do not contribute towards its degradation in any way, whatsoever.

It is our moral obligation to help preserve the gifts that nature has bestowed us with, particularly when we travel to protected areas, so that future generations are not deprived of the pleasures of these natural wonders, relatively untouched by human interference.

In addition to preserving and protecting the natural resources of these destinations, the concept also demands the empowerment and well-being of local communities in order to sustain eco-friendly travel.

As greenglobaltravel.com rightly notes:

“In order to be considered truly eco-friendly, ecotourism must make a positive impact on both the ECOlogy and ECOnomy of a given destination.”

According to ecotourism.org, those involved in implementing and promoting ecotourism activities are expected to adhere to the following guidelines.

  • “Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts.”
  • “Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.”
  • “Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.”
  • “Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.”
  • “Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.”
  • “Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates.”
  • “Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.”
  • “Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.”

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines ecotourism as “environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features—both past and present) that promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations.”

During an interview with Greenglobaltravel.com’s Bret Love in 2014, when Dr. Martha Honey, author of the book “Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise?” was asked what had changed in ecotourism over the last two decades, she said:

“It hasn’t lost or changed its core values, which are essentially that tourism should be done in a way that’s beneficial to environmental conservation and local communities and respectful of local cultures. I believe it’s educational, beneficial and enjoyable for the traveler.”

She further said: “All sorts of things have come out of these tenets: The Slow Food movement, organic agriculture, travel philanthropy, concern about human trafficking and child sexual abuse, fair trade, carbon offsets and animal welfare are all branches on the original tree.”

ALASKA

Situated on the edge of the Arctic on the northern tip of the American continent, and often referred to as “The Great Land,” Alaska is a dream ecotourism destination for nature and wildlife lovers who are also responsible travelers dedicated to adhering to the tenets of eco-friendly travel.

A land of snow-capped peaks, glaciers and vast expanses of tundra, Alaska is home to a wide range of protected wildlife species, including the grizzly bear, moose, caribou, humpback and blue whales, sea otter, sea lion and others – some of which are otherwise threatened or endangered elsewhere.

Ketchikan

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Let’s begin our tour of this 49th American State from the small town of Ketchikan, founded by the Tlingit Indians and located some 526 nautical miles north of Vancouver.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the town’s economy was dependent on salmon and timber; however, today this picturesque town relies on tourism.

While in Ketchikan, visit Creek Street – a wooden construction on posts along the Ketchikan Creek full of elegant shops and restaurants but never far from nature. Bald eagles hunting for fish in the waters of the creek are a common sight.

A short funicular ride will take you up to the Cape Fox Lodge, a place of tranquillity offering breathtaking panoramas of the small Ketchikan harbor, Ketchikan Creek and the Tongass National Forest.

The place may have come a long way from the time of the native Indians but their proud history and culture have not been forgotten – the Totem Heritage Center, home to America’s largest collection of totem poles, is a testament to that.

The center is dedicated to the conservation of several Indian villages and features traditional arts and craft of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples.

Juneau

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Juneau, the capital city of Alaska since 1906, is located across the channel from Douglas Island at the base of Mount Juneau.

With no road links to the outside world, you can only fly or sail to this wonderful Alaskan town.

Because it’s the seat of government, almost half the residents here are officials but almost always it’s the tourists who reign supreme, dictating the life and pace of the city.

Take a Mount Roberts Tramway gondola and travel 550 meters up the mountain of the same name, enjoying the increasingly spectacular views of the city, the harbor dotted with cruise ships, the Gastineau Channel, the Chilkat mountains and the inside passage, as the spacious and speedy gondola climbs higher and higher.

While in Juneau, don’t miss the chance to go whale watching. A small boat will take you to where mostly humpbacks are found in groups of up to 10-15. These 15-meter-long 30-ton animals with broad tail fins visit the Alaskan coast during summertime, which is the best time to watch these gentle giants of the sea.

Mendenhall Glacier

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The 19-kilometer long and 2-kilometer-wide Mendenhall Glacier travels from the Juneau ice field to the Mendenhall Valley.

Watch and photograph the awe-inspiring sight of water from the melting ice plunge into the lake below.

Unfortunately, more and more of the glacier is being lost every year due to global warming and, sometimes, unusually hot summers speeding up the process. In 2004 alone, some 183 meters of the glacier was lost.

Skagway

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Founded by steamship captain William Moore after the discovery of gold in the Klondike area of Alaska in 1890, Skagway, the northernmost port city of the inside passage, served as the gateway to the goldfields.

The population which had increased to 20,000 because of the gold rush dwindled to around 500 when the gold ran out a few years later.

Today, it’s primarily a tourist destination with visitors crowding the jewelry and souvenir shops of the town’s historic streets.

Visit the Brothel Museum from the gold rush era and check out the rooms and clothing on display. This is the place where months of hard-earned money often changed hands in a single night back in the days.

Take a trip up White Pass on a narrow-gauge railway called the White Pass Scenic Railway. As in the old days, tickets are checked as the train travels slowly up to the pass, passing through some of the most pristine and scenic landscapes you have ever seen.

Glacier Bay

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Around four thousand years ago, during the Little Ice Age, Glacier Bay was completely covered by ice and glaciers.

Today, the glaciers are situated within the arms of the bay, stretching about 100 kilometers to the north.

These rivers of ice are constantly moving towards the sea, continuously changing shape and eventually breaking up to form floating masses of ice, or icebergs.

Today, there’s not much left of the gigantic glaciers that once graced the Glacier Bay – thanks to global warming.

Seward

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Seward is a perennially ice-free natural harbor located in a scenic setting between Resurrection Bay and Mount Marathon and surrounded by green mountains.

Originally discovered by the Russians in 1793, the city was named after William Seward after the American politician bought Alaska from the Russians in 1867 for a sum of $7 million.

The state-of-the-art Alaska Sealife Center on the shores of Resurrection Bay is an impressive combination of an oceanarium, research center and museum – a truly fascinating window into the underwater world of Alaska.

It was founded in 1998, primarily to understand and maintain the marine ecosystem of Alaska through research, rehabilitation, conservation, and public education.

The life cycle of the region’s dominant fish – the Pacific salmon – is well featured in the “Alaska’s Pacific Salmon” section of the center.

Harding Icefield Trail

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About six kilometers north of Seward, extending high above the Gulf of Alaska is the Harding Icefield Trail.

Although, the ice flows from the thirty-two glaciers of the Kenai Fjords National Park are melting faster than ever before, this is still a huge natural wonder – a remote world of ice and snow and wilderness far from civilization.

Anchorage

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Driving to Anchorage through the Seward highway is a different kind of thrill in itself.

The highway crosses the Kenai Peninsula, passing through some amazing country blessed with divine beauty, including glassy lakes, rushing rivers, green hills and the dramatic Chugach Mountains.

Anchorage is a modern metropolis in the Alaskan wilderness. It is not only the 49th state’s largest city but also its economic and cultural hub.

Originally called Ship Creek, after its namesake river, the name was soon changed to Anchorage, and fittingly so, because it was a site where ships could easily anchor.

The Anchorage Museum is a fine modern building, home to an impressive collection of Alaska’s wildlife exhibits alongside old boats and fishing equipment and the wooden huts from the gold rush era.

Life-size puppets, masks, weapons and original clothing of Native Indians are also on display here.

Another must-see Anchorage attraction is the Alaska Native Heritage Center located in a small forest outside the city limits.

Here replica buildings around a small lake represent the cultures of the indigenous peoples of the region.

The descendants of five native groups explain their traditional lifestyle to visitors, showing them hunting techniques and allowing them to explore the buildings in detail to understand their construction methods.

Another must-see attraction in Anchorage is the popular Saturday Market where traders and craftsmen sell souvenirs, clothing, kitchen utensils, etc. in the open air in makeshift stalls they erect every Saturday at the crack of dawn.

In the nearby river, you will notice a lot of seaplane activity, and understandably so, because seaplanes are the only practical way of traveling to remote areas of the region.

For those interested in aviation and aircraft, the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum located on Lake Hood offers an impressive collection of Alaska’s iconic transport. Almost all of the exhibits are backed by explanations and photographs.

Opened in 1969, the Alaska Zoo features the region’s wildlife, including polar bears, Alaskan grizzlies, sea eagles, seals, fox, moose as well as several other species. It is, indeed, a great place to check out the Alaskan wildlife because not many will get to see all of them in their natural habitats.

The Portage Valley Recreation Area, encompassing the Portage Lake and a glacier of the same name at the eastern limit of the fjord, is a great day trip to make from Anchorage. The place offers some of the most awe-inspiring scenic beauty you can ever hope to see.

At the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, watch and photograph moose and bison in their natural habitat from behind a safety fence that protects humans from beasts – or is it the other way around?

Some of the other visit-worthy Alaskan destinations

Kodiak Island: Kodiak Island is famous for the Baranov Museum, Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church, Traditional Tribal Dancers, the salmon run in summer and the natural beauty all around this great location.

Talkeetna: Mountaineers consider the town of Talkeetna as the gateway to Mount McKinley. The place is also known for its Denali National Park and Preserve.

Mount McKinley: Surrounded by sub-arctic wilderness, Mount McKinley is the highest mountain in North America, best seen from the air.

Fairbanks: Fairbanks is Alaska’s second largest city. It’s the gateway to the Arctic region. Some of the main attractions of the city are the Golden Heart Park, Pioneer Park – a theme park and history museum in one, Riverboat Discovery trip along the Chena River.

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From The Editors Travel

Tehran – The City of 72 Nations

The Islamic Republic of Iran, located in western Asia, boasts one of the world’s oldest civilizations.

Home to more than 80 million people, Iran is the second largest country in the Middle East, surrounded by Iraq, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

The capital of Iran is Tehran, and with a population of about 15 million in the metropolitan area, it is also the country’s most populous and largest city, as well as its leading economic and cultural center.

Known for its notorious traffic, the first impression that newcomers to the city get is that of total chaos and no respect for traffic laws.
However, after you have spent a day or two, you will realize that there is a method to the madness and that Tehranis are experts at keeping things moving.

Tehran Attractions

Golestan Palace

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One of the oldest royal complexes in the capital, the Golestan Palace, which literally means the palace of flowers, is located in a lush garden with beautiful fountains.

Now a major tourist attraction, especially for those interested in Persian art and history, the complex boasts several structures, including palaces, museums, and halls.

Constructed during the Safavid era, the palace underwent renovations during the Qajar rule and became the royal residence of the Qajar ruling family.

Emarat e Badgir, or the building of wind-catchers, is one of the outstanding buildings in the palace complex built during the reign of Fath Ali Shah, undergoing major renovations under Nasser ed Din Shah. The building comprises four wind towers adorned with blue, green and yellow glazed tiles and a golden cupola.

Under the Qajar dynasty, Golestan Palace came to be regarded as the center of Persian art and architecture, which is evident in the exquisite tile and plasterworks, paintings and other works of art, wood carvings and lattice windows.

The Talar e Salam (Salam Hall) is where the kings greeted visiting foreign dignitaries. The hall is resplendent in the finest of plaster and mirror works and beautiful mosaic flooring.

Other structures within the place complex include:

  • Takht e Marmar (Marble Throne)
  • Talar e Brelian (Brilliant Hall)
  • Talar e Aineh (Mirror Hall)
  • Talar e Almas (Diamond Hall)
  • Shams el Emareh (Edifice of the Sun)
  • Museum of Gifts
  • Abyaz Palace
  • Museum Hall
  • Talar e Adj (Ivory Hall)
  • Talar e Zoruf (Containers Hall)
  • Khalvat e Karim Khani (Karim Khani Nook)
  • Howz Khaneh (Pond House)

The Milad Tower (Borj e Milād)

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The Milad Tower – Borj e Milād in Farsi – is the sixth tallest tower in the world and one of the capital’s most popular attractions for both locals and tourists alike.

The base of this multi-purpose tower incorporates four floors of shops selling souvenirs, finest Persian carpets and rugs, Iranian handicrafts, food and there’s also a sherbet house that serves a variety of traditional Iranian drinks (sherbet).

The concrete shaft of the tower is serviced by six elevators on three sides with an emergency staircase on the fourth.

The twelve floors of the 25,000-ton steelhead of the tower boast a revolving restaurant, a VIP restaurant, a cafeteria, a public art gallery, a refuge zone in case of fire, telecommunication floors, an open observation deck, a closed observation deck and a skydome.

Some of the other features of the Milad Tower include a library, a commercial transaction center, an exhibition hall, an equestrian club a huge car park, and more.

Azadi Tower (Borj e Āzādi)

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The Azadi Tower, or the Freedom Tower, located in the center of Azadi Square, is one of the most iconic structures in Tehran marking the west entrance to the city.

Built-in 1971 under the auspices of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the 45-meter-high marble-clad tower celebrates 2,500 years of Persian civilization.

Designed by architect Hossein Amanat, the tower is an interesting blend of traditional Iranian architecture and the contemporary western architectural styles of the 1960s.

The tower forms part of the Azadi Cultural Complex which includes a park with some interesting sculptures as well as the underground Azadi Museum, housing gold, and enamel pieces, painted pottery, marble and paintings, each representing a particular period in country’s long and rich history.

Carpet Museum of Iran

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The Carpet Museum of Iran, located in the north-west of Laleh Park in Tehran, was founded by the last Empress (Shahbanu) of Iran, Farah Pahlavi in 1977.

The exterior façade of the museum complex, designed to resemble a carpet weaving loom, also serves the purpose of keeping the building cool by casting shadows on the exterior walls.

The museum boasts two exhibition galleries on two levels covering an area of 3,400 square meters.

While the ground floor is dedicated to permanent exhibits of Persian carpets, the upper level is used for temporary exhibitions.

At any given time there are nearly 150 amazing carpets and rugs dating from the 17th century to the present times.

The museum also boasts a library with a collection of over 7,000 books.

Sa’dabad Complex

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Built by the Qajar and Pahlavi rulers, the 300 hectare Sa’dabad Complex encompasses more than 180 hectares of natural forest, museums and galleries.

Here are some of the must-see attractions in the complex:

  • Mellat Museum – The White House
  • Museum of Natural History – The Special House
  • Shahvand House – The Green House
  • Museum of Fine Arts – The Black House
  • Museum of Anthropology – House of Shams
  • Museum of Glassware and Handicrafts – House of Ashraf
  • Museum of Artistic Creatures – House of Farideh Ghotbi
  • The Behzad Museum – First House of Reza Pahlavi
  • Museum of Treasure – Second House of Reza Pahlavi
  • Akbar Museum – House of Leila

Some of the other top attractions in Tehran area:

Niavaran Complex – Opulent palace complex in bucolic surrounds featuring majestic residences, museums, libraries, landscaped gardens & art

Eram Amusement Park – Amusement park, zoo, circus, and park

Tehran Zoological Garden – Founded in 1992, this classic zoo features tigers, leopards, bears, monkeys, apes, birds & snakes

Abgineh Museum of Tehran – Glassware and Ceramic Museum

Negarestan Garden – Garden, architecture, palace, and museum

Museum of the Qasr Prison – Formerly referred to as the Qasr Prison, it was one of the oldest political prisons in Iran, now a museum complex

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art – Modernist subterranean museum with an important collection of modern & contemporary artwork

Reza Abbasi Museum – Museum with a collection of traditional Iranian art dating from 2000 BCE to the early 1900s CE

Malik National Museum of Iran – Grand facility with calligraphy manuscripts & books, plus exhibits of paintings, coins & artifacts

Marble Palace – The Marble Palace is one of the historic buildings and royal residences in Tehran, Iran. It is located in the city center, but the location was a quiet quarter of Tehran when the palace was erected

Tochal – Tochal is a mountain and ski resort located on the Alborz mountain range, adjacent to the metropolitan area of Tehran in northern Iran. It includes a 12-kilometer-long ridge. Its highest peak, also called Tochal, is at an elevation of 3,933 meters
Jamshidieh Park – Former private garden, now a park with a pond & waterfall, hiking trails & picnic areas

Laleh Park – A large recreation area with beautiful green areas adjacent to Keshavarz Boulevard

Chitgar Lake – Chitgar Lake is an artificial and recreational lake located to the north of Chitgar

Tabiat Bridge – Nature Bridge, a 270-m. the footbridge between 2 parks, features 3 levels with cafes & seating areas

Iran Wildlife and Nature Museum – Dar Abad

(Source: Wikipedia)

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From The Editors Travel

Bolivia – The Hidden Jewel of South America

Surrounded by Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile, Bolivia is a relatively undeveloped country in western-central South America.

However, what this landlocked country lacks in riches and glamour, it makes up for with its wealth of national treasures that shine through its infinite salt plains, free-roaming alpacas in the high altiplanos, tropical lowlands, picture-postcard islands, tranquil lakes, rushing rivers, rugged ravines and extreme adventures.

Bolivia is like the unpolished diamond that may be rough around the edges but has a brilliant core, and the best way to explore this diverse and bewildering nation is to start from its administrative capital, La Paz, high up on the Bolivian Plateau –the highest world capital at 12,000 feet above sea-level.

The first thing that hits you as you exit the airport is the breathlessness and the dizziness that comes with the thin air at such high altitudes. Suddenly, your luggage starts to feel that much heavier, your breathing becomes labored and you get tired in no time.

Generally, Diamox and rehydrating drinks are recommended to prevent or reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness.

While in La Paz, look beyond the city’s unassuming architecture and lifestyle to find the real jewels the city has to offer.

The Spanish colonialists may have been the cause of much destruction here, but a lot of what you see in Bolivian cities were shaped and polished by these Conquistadors.

Plaza Murillo

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Located in La Paz’s old town Casco Viejo, Plaza Murillo is a public square surrounded by iconic buildings, including the National Congress of Bolivia, the Presidential Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.

Plaza San Francisco

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While Bolivia is not completely impervious to 21st-century comforts, it remains a land of unshakeable traditions, with many Bolivians proudly holding on to their Quechua, Aymara, and Inca heritage.

Indigenous women still wear the colorful clothing of the highlands, and the best place to observe them is Plaza San Francisco – a convenient meeting point in the heart of the city.

While at this famous plaza, do visit the late 18th-century San Francisco basilica, dedicated to Francis of Assisi. The excellent art museum housed within the church boasts a precious collection of historic paintings.

Museo Nacional de Arte

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Not too far from Plaza Murillo is the Museo Nacional de Arte (National Museum of Art), housed in a well-preserved Spanish colonial mansion dating back to 1775.

The place boasts an impressive collection of colonial-era works of art as well as artwork from post-modern and abstract artists.

While the museum features works from many artists, one name that stands out among the rest is Marina Núñez del Prado, the first female Bolivian to make a name for herself in sculpting, which until then was a male-dominated area of expertise.

Witches’ Market

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For a cultural experience of a different variety, visit the Witches’ Market where the ever-superstitious locals buy their mummified llama fetuses, herbal concoctions, carved amulets, medicinal plants and other stuff used in Bolivian rituals.

Mirador Laikakota

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Visit the Mirador Laikacota to see how clusters of houses in the city’s outer suburbs cling to the steep mountainsides, spilling out in the valley below.

Here, You will get your first glimpse of the rugged peaks and the surrounding valley, silently urging you to leave the hustle and bustle of La Paz behind to explore Bolivia’s natural treasures that await you beyond.

Valle de la Luna

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About ten kilometers from downtown La Paz, you will find the Valle de la Luna, named for its moon-like landscape, chiseled by the forces of nature.

Make your way up or around the naturally cleaved stones, which come in all shapes and sizes, and marvel at the rugged beauty of the place.

Titicaca Lake

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Another jewel in the Department of La Paz crown is the Tiwanaku Cultural Heritage Site, dating back some two and a half millennia.

However, it’s the nearby Titicaca Lake that really does all the sparkling. One of the world’s highest navigable lakes, the Titicaca straddles the Peruvian border and, being merely half a day’s bus ride from La Paz, it makes for a convenient day trip.

The freezing waters of the lake are not only dotted with breathtaking natural islands, but also man-made floating islands of reed, home to hundreds of the indigenous Uru people – one of the oldest surviving cultures on the planet.

They make handicrafts and sell them to visitors to eke out a living on the lake. You can buy some to carry back as souvenirs should something strike your fancy. However, just watching them enjoy the simple pleasures of life is a treat in itself.

Salar de Uyuni

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Fly south to Salar de Uyuni for a truly out-of-this-world experience on 4,000 square miles of salt plains, stretching out as far as the eye can see. It is one of the flattest places on the planet.

As you skim across the polished surface of this seemingly endless expanse of salt flats on your 4×4, you will come across glistening salt lakes and steamy hot springs, while the few scattered highpoints shimmer on the horizon like desert mirages.

Enjoy a unique experience in one of the hotels made almost entirely out of salt before you head back to civilization.

Potosi

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Potosi – the gateway to Salar de Uyuni – is a friendly, welcoming place where you can mingle with the locals to get an idea of their culture and way of life.

Walk over the roof of the San Francisco Convent and marvel at the sea of terracotta roofs below and the distant Cerro Rico beyond.

Cerro Rico, which means “Rich Hill,” was once abundant with silver and tin deposits, which provided the fortune needed to establish the constitutional capital Sucre, some three hours away by car.

Sucre’s whitewashed colonial buildings and fountains have earned it the nickname “Ciudad Blanca,” or the “White City.

Killi Killi Lookout

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Round of you Bolivian sojourn back in La Paz, but before you fly out head over to the Killi Killi lookout for some lasting memories of the snow-capped peaks of Illimani Mountain, which, according to local legend, is there to protect this city in the clouds.

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From The Editors Travel

HONG KONG – PEARL OF THE ORIENT

Hong Kong is not only about a dazzling skyline and futuristic architecture; it’s perhaps the perfect fusion of east and west, modern yet traditional, with exquisite parks and bonsai gardens, incense-filled temples, a great culinary and nightlife scene, fun day trips to nearby islands, street markets full of antiques and all sorts of stuff, and much more.

Transport

In the past, when you flew into Hong Kong, the plane skimmed the Kowloon rooftops seemingly headed toward a hill, before it turned in the nick of time to make a scary but spectacular landing on a runway that stretched out into the harbor, giving the impression that you were touching down on water.

Fortunately or unfortunately the Kai Tak Airport is closed. So, you will be flying into the Hong Kong International Airport, also known as the Chek Lap Kok (CLK) Airport named after the island it’s built on.

It’s an amazing airport – a world-class modern and efficient facility with some incredible amenities, including a Michelin-starred eatery and, believe it or not, a nine-hole golf course.

Also, attached to the CLK is the Regal Airport Hotel – a top-class property with a gym, a spa, and six restaurants.

Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport

Alright, so now that you have landed in Hong Kong, what’s the best way to get into town?

The cheapest and the fastest option at your disposal is the Airport Express – a dedicated high-speed rail link that transfers you straight to Tsim Sha Tsui in the heart of Kowloon or the Central on Hong Kong Island, and all that the trip will take from you is HK$100 and 24 minutes of your time.

As soon as you arrive in Hong Kong, we recommend you buy an Octopus card, the city’s electronic stored value smart card.

The multi-purpose card can be used on the MTR (Mass Transit Railway), buses, ferries, and trams as well as McDonald’s, Starbucks, vending machines, parking meters and even convenient stores and shops.

Buy a three-day Airport Express Octopus card as soon as you land and get three days of unlimited travel on the MTR, including your trip from the airport to town and back. For HK$220, it’s a pretty decent deal.

Hong Kong’s MTR is among the best subway systems in the world, covering Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and parts of the new territories, as well.

Your other transportation option around the city is the taxi wherever you may be in Hong Kong. What’s unique about Hong Kong taxis is that they are color-coded according to the area they are dedicated to.

Red-taxis are everywhere as they cover all the urban areas, except the south side of Lantau Island and Tung Chung Road. Green taxis serve the new territories, while blue taxis operate only on Lantau Island, barring Discover Bay.

The airport and Hong Kong Disneyland are covered by all taxis.

While the MTR and taxis are excellent options to zip around the city, do find the time to jump on a Star Ferry boat across the harbor for the sheer joy of the experience. The 11-minute crossing will cost you only 25 US cents but the breathtaking views of Hong Kong will be a priceless experience.

Food

You will not be blamed if you get the impression that nobody in Hong Kong eats at home. While it may not be completely true, eating out is definitely a big part of life in Hong Kong, what with restaurants, food courts, snack shacks, food stalls, and markets all over the place – about 30,000 of them.

Tim Ho Wan serves some of the best dim sums in all of Hong Kong and you will not find a cheaper Michelin-starred restaurant in the whole wide world.

The city also boasts the cheapest McDonalds in the world, and the best part is they serve breakfast any time of the day.

 Tim Ho Wan (arguably, the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world)
Tim Ho Wan (arguably, the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world)

Money

The Hong Kong dollar is linked to the US dollar, which basically means you will always get a fixed rate of exchange for your US currency – US$1 always equals HK$7.82.

The chip and pin system is not used in Hong Kong for credit card transactions. You’ll be asked to sign the charge slip for all CC transactions in excess of HK$200 and it will be compared to the signature on the back of your card, the old-fashioned way, and you will not be asked to produce any ID – your credit card is identification enough.

When you pay with your credit card you’ll be handed the terminal where you can choose to pay in HK dollars or the currency of your country. It’s recommended that you pay in HK$ as you will end up paying 3-4 percent more if you go for your local currency option.
However, it’s always good to carry some cash on you – just in case.

Tipping is not a common practice in Hong Kong and visitors are not expected to do it. In some cases where it does happen, a ten percent charge will be automatically added to your bill.

If you are paying taxi fare, simply round up to the nearest dollar.

Shopping

Hong Kong is, arguably, the best shopping destination in the world with shopping malls, department stores, and street markets. If you have a couple of hours you can smash through any shopping list without having to cover a lot of distance.

Top Shopping Locations

  • Central, Hong Kong Island: With some of the top boutiques and large shopping malls, Hong Kong’s business district is the place to go to if budget is not a constraint
  • Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island: The Causeway Bay on the Hong Kong Island is one shopping district that has everything for all budgets, including high-end malls and designer outlets, medium-priced boutiques, affordable department stores, and bargain street markets.
  • Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon: Tsim Sha Tsui is a happening luxury shopping and recreational area, with high-end shops, nightclubs, and restaurants.
  • Mong Kok, Kowloon: The Mong Kok shopping area is full of traditional markets, small shops, and food stalls.
  • Sham Shui Po, Kowloon: Now, this place is a delight for gadget junkies, what with stores selling all kinds of electronic and computer products at competitive prices.
  • Temple Street Night Market: This night market is spread over several blocks where clothes, purses, souvenirs and all kinds of knick-knacks are sold.

Causeway shopping district
Causeway shopping district

Recommended Malls

  • Pacific Place, Hong Kong Island: Here you will find some of the best high-end stores as well as moderately priced ones.
  • Festival Walk, Kowloon: This is a multi-level complex for shopping, dining, and leisure activities suitable for all budgets and all shopping styles.
  • Landmark, Hong Kong Island:  Landmark boasts many of world’s most prestigious brands and some of the finest restaurants – all under one roof. However, if economy and budget are your concerns, then this is not the place for you.
  • Harbour City, Kowloon: The Harbour City is the largest shopping mall in Hong Kong and is a must-visit-spot offering great shopping, dining, entertainment, and sightseeing.
  • Times Square, Hong Kong Island: One of the busiest malls in Hong Kong, The Times Square on HK Island boasts very high to moderately priced American, European and Japanese stores.

Victoria Peak

Now that we have covered the basics, let’s get down to some serious sightseeing, and what better place to kick-off the adventure than Victoria Peak!

So, let’s head straight to the Peak Tram to start our steep seven-minute journey to the highest peak in Hong Kong at 552 meters.

On reaching the top you’ll be stunned by the vast views of Victoria Harbour below and towering skyscrapers almost everywhere you see, with Kowloon off in the distance on the mainland.

You can pay and go up to the sky terrace for a better vantage point, but the free views from the peak are breathtaking enough.

A short walk away from the complex you’ll find lesser crowds and you can enjoy the views in relative solitude.

View from Victoria Peak
View from Victoria Peak

Victoria Harbor

For a ground-level view of Victoria Harbor, visit the place at sunset and watch the sky change colors and enjoy the views of Hong Kong from a different perspective.

Central Plaza

And while we are talking about views and vantage points, the 46th-floor Skydeck at the Central Plaza building would be nothing less than a sin to miss. The place affords 360-degree views of Hong Kong and there’s hardly ever any crowd – so, you have the place to yourself, and the best part is that it’s free!

Symphony of Lights

The Symphony of Lights is another event that you’re just not supposed to miss, come what may.

This sweeping light and sound show, a daily event organized by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, dazzles hundreds of spectators watching from the waterfront on both sides of the harbor.

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Watch the skyscrapers sparkle in the night with blinking lights and laser beams synchronized with five different themes, including “Awakening,” “Energy,” “Heritage,” “Partnership” and “Celebration.”

While you can watch the show from both the Kowloon and Hong Kong Island side of the harbor, we would recommend the Kowloon waterfront simply because of a better view of the other side where most of the skyscrapers are located. Or, better still watch the action from a moving vantage point on a sightseeing ferry.

Nan Lian Garden

Like most parks in Hong Kong, the Nan Lian Garden across the Chi Lin Nunnery is a tranquil place that soothes your nerves no end, as you stroll through the garden with soft music playing in the background, birds chirping in the trees, beautiful flowers all around, colourful fish swimming in the clear waters and a golden pagoda in the middle of a lake.

Chi Lin Nunnery

Once you are done enjoying the offerings of the garden, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to hop across to the Chi Lin Nunnery, a Buddhist temple complex dating back to the 1930s. You’ll be surprised to learn that the entire wooden structure was built without the use of a single nail.

Noon Day Gun

This daily noontime ceremony, at a site on Hong Kong Island near the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, involves the firing of naval cannon.

It’s a short ceremony in which a uniformed guard marches up to a bell, rings it, and then marches up the steps to the mounted gun and fires the artillery piece in a puff of smoke and deafening sound.

Firing of the Noonday Gun
Firing of the Noonday Gun

Double Decker Trams

Ride through the streets of Hong Kong on one of the city’s earliest transportation systems and enjoy the urban views from a fabulous vantage point. You can even charter your own party tram and enjoy the ride with music and drinks.

Lascar Row

If you are a souvenir hunter, then Lascar Row is the place you’d want to go to. You can either shop at outlets that sell some really expensive antiques or browse through the many street-side tables where you’ll find all sorts of trinkets and other antique items that may strike your fancy.

Man Mo Temple

This magical temple filled with incense, which can be somewhat overpowering, is dedicated to the God of Literature Man Tai and the God of War Man Cheong and dates back to 1847. It was believed that worshipping the two gods would help students do well in the civil examinations of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Lantau Island

Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha)
Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha)

Let’s go out of the city a bit now and get a little closer to nature on Lantau Island. You can take the aerial tramway to the island where some great attractions await you, including the Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha, more commonly known as the Big Buddha.
If you want a clear frontal view of this giant sitting Buddha, visit in the afternoon when the Buddha is not silhouetted against the sunshine, as it is in the mornings.

HK Museum of History

If you fancy museums and history, be sure to visit the Hong Kong Museum of History in Tsim Sha Tsui, which highlights the city’s history and cultural heritage. While you may be required to pay for viewing the temporary exhibits, the permanent ones are free of any charge.

The Hong Kong Park

The Hong Kong Park is another unbelievably calming experience within all the hustle and bustle of the city, with streams and waterfalls and swaying palm trees and chirping birds all around in the walkthrough aviary which boasts more than 600 birds.