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post Jun 1 2010, 07:59
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Caminos del Che

Argentina, Cuba and Bolivia working on three-country tourist "Che Trail"

Image via wordpress.com

By BRIDGET HUBER | May 27, 2010

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – In life, Ernesto "Che" Guevara fought to overthrow a corrupt, capitalist elite. In death, he is spawning his own tourism industry — soon to include a three-country "Che Trail."

Tourism officials in Argentina, Cuba and Bolivia are collaborating on a historic route that will allow Guevara buffs to retrace the footsteps of the Argentine medical student turned revolutionary in Cuba who was killed in a failed mission to foment an uprising in Bolivia.

Bolivia's vice minister of tourism, Marco Antonio Peredo, said Wednesday that the international "Caminos del Che" trail will include sites where Guevara was born, fought and died.

Officials say they are being sensitive to Guevara's legacy, long ago co-opted by T-shirt vendors the world over.

"We aren't looking to commodify him — he's not a product that's for sale," said Diego Conca, who coordinates Argentina's portion of the Che trail, inaugurated last year. "His journey transformed him, and we think that following this route can also be transformative for tourists."

Attractions in Argentina already include Guevara's birthplace of Rosario, his family's mate tea plantation in Misiones and other places where Guevara rode by motorcycle on his path to becoming a leftist revolutionary.

Guevara went to Cuba in 1956 to fight alongside the Castro brothers, and later led a small band of guerrillas in Bolivia, where he was captured and killed in 1967.

Bolivia's tourist route follows Guevara's path through the jungle to Higuera, the town where he was killed, and Valle Grande, where he was buried with six other fighters until 1997, when the bodies were exhumed and taken to Cuba.

Interest in Guevara has increased as Latin American countries celebrate the bicentennial of earlier revolutions that led to independence from Spain. Leftist administrations in Argentina and Bolivia also have broken down taboos associated with Guevara, who inspired both armed insurrection and state repression.

In Argentina's independence celebrations this week, President Cristina Fernandez hung a portrait of Guevara donated by Fidel and Raul Castro in the Gallery of Latin American Patriots in the executive mansion.

"People all over the world ask us for more information," Conca said. "Each month there's more interest, and now with Bolivia, we think there will be even more."

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post Jun 8 2010, 14:10
Post #42

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10 essential stops for Europe first-timers

Robert Reid
Lonely Planet Author

We’ve come a long way since the emergence of the 17th-century ‘Grand Tour,’ when wealthy Brits (mostly Brits) finished their education with a real year in the world, learning to fence in Paris, study art in Florence, climb the Swiss Alps, and complain about the service in Athens. Over time, the first-timer traveler’s trails across Europe have swayed back’n'forth, with changes ushered in by the advent of trains, Mark Twain’s ‘is he dead?’ jokes, and the rising or falling of an Iron Curtain or two.

So, what is the ‘Grand Tour’ version for summer 2010? The new Lonely Planet Discover Europe guide has one that gives a wide-eyed first-timer the 10 best of Europe’s cities in three weeks. (Of course, it’s OK to take longer.)


Two days isn’t a huge amount of time in a city with so much to do but you should still be able to see highlights like the Tower, Tate Modern, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace as well as attend a West End theatre show and enjoy the ethnic eateries of the East End.


A high-speed Channel Tunnel train takes you to the sights in Paris. Overlooking the avenues from the Arc de Triomphe, seeing the Louvre or Versailles and a beautiful church or two is the least you can do. Try lively Montmartre for dinner.


An overnight ride of the rails and you’re at your next stop, colourful Barcelona, where the organic Modernista architecture and Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia will wow you. Don’t miss the Catalan cooking. Your first flight of the trip moves you along to…


The Eternal City; they say a lifetime isn’t enough to know it. During two days sightseeing in Rome, choose from among the monumental attractions of the Colosseum, Vatican City, Pantheon, Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. Evenings you’ll be eating out in the centro storico and Trastevere.


Overnight on the train to the imperial city of Vienna (which ‘waits for you’ according to Billy Joel), where you’ll linger in a coffee house, watch the Lipizzaner stallions, wander the pedestrian shopping streets and see a performance at the Staatsoper.


Just three hours away, Budapest also has a lively cafe culture, plus a vibrant mix of old and new. Be sure to visit Castle Hill and take a soak in one of the city’s thermal baths.


A full day riding the rails brings you to the sights of Berlin, Europe’s most rapidly changing (and exciting) city; must-sees include all the Berlin Wall galleries, memorials and museums, plus new city sights like the Sony Centre and Filmmuseum. At night Kreuzberg is the alternative nightlife hub, while Prenzlauer Berg is more grown up.


You’ll have to board a plane in order to be dazzled by the marble streets and red roofs of Dubrovnik, Croatia. By all means, first walk the city walls; the views over the town and sea are great. Explore the rest of the old town and take a seat at a cafe or along one of the beaches.


The Greek capital is a treasure trove of ancient ruins with the magnificent buildings of the hill-top Acropolis heading the list. Below it stand more impressive remains, plus bustling flea markets and lively tavernas giving you a taste of more modern Athenian life.


Once you’ve touched down you’ve reached the edge of Europe, where east meets west. In Old İstanbul explore the Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace and Aya Sofya. Then shop and dine in modern Beyoğlu, centre of the city’s nightlife. A boat ride on the Bosphorus gives you the chance to step foot in Asia, looking back at the Europe you’ve just explored.

lonely planet

- ja sam bila u londonu, parizu, berlinu, budimpesti. svaki grad ima nesto posebno ali moglo bi se rec da mi je london na jednom visem nivou. ima sve, i iako sam rekla da se ne vracam tamo gdje sam bila, u londonu sam bila 2 puta i bilo mi je uvijek prejebeno. ima neku vibru posebnu. ljudi zive tamo pa nisu sve vidjeli sto london nudi. ogroman je i mocan. nocni zivot dramatican.. shopping, pubovi.. ma sve.

berlin je isto super, ali recimo nekako vise alternativa. tamo postoje kvartovi koji su skvotovi, izgrafitirani, ono, ludilo.. da ne povjerujes da si u srcu europe.. dosta je jeftiniji od londona, u svakom pogledu. nocni zivot isto vrh, tamo se fakat svaki dan dogadja masa toga.. recimo u berlin se ne bi turisticki vratila. jedino mozda na neki mocni event..

u budimpesti sam bila 3 dana, samo, nisam joj dala priliku. a i nije mi sjela na prvu.. treba se vratiti opet i probat.. ok bila sam mladja i samo mi je bilo bitno gdje su poc na pivo.. nish to, to se ne konta.

u parizu sam bila long long time ago.. eiffelov toranj je zakon i louvre.. malo toga se i sjecam. sjecam se da sam bila u disneylandu pored pariza i da je bilo super laugh.gif i sjecam se da se dobro papa, klopa vrhunska.. tamo se isto moram vratiti.

frend nam je bio u istambulu bas ove zime i rekao je da je to pod MORATI! ludilo ok grada - fuzija istoka i zapada - pici sve 100 na sat.

a dubrovnik - super sto ga je lonely planet smjestio tu. da nemamo starog grada mislim da ne bi bio tu... nismo pozanti po nicemu drugome. more nam je hrvatsko, hrana nam je ledova, cijene su nam boli glava, nocni zivot nula bodova. ne mogu bit objektivna naravno, ali ipak...
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post Jun 29 2010, 08:54
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Today's Ultimate Adventurers

Dave Hahn

Photograph by Michael Brown, First Ascent

Feat: Reaching the summit of Everest for the 12th time, setting a new record for non-Sherpa climber

Considered one of the best high-altitude mountain guides in the world, Dave Hahn added to that reputation in 2010 by reaching the top of Everest for the 12th time, extending his record for most summits by a non-Sherpa. It was all in a day’s work for Hahn, who happened to be guiding Leif Whittaker, the son of Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Everest. Hahn’s very impressive mountaineering resume also includes more than 250 successful summits of Mount Rainier, 19 more on Denali, and a record 26 trips to the top of Antarctica's Vinson Massif. All those summits together equal a lot of time spent in very thin air.

David de Rothschild

Photograph by PLASTIKI

Feat: Sailing from San Francisco to Sydney on a boat made of 12,000 recycled plastic bottles

Sailing across the Pacific Ocean seems like a strange expedition for a man who earned his reputation traversing the North and South Poles—and freely admits to getting seasick easily. But eco-adventurer David de Rothschild will go to great lengths to convey his message of environmental responsibility, which is why he and his crew are sailing from San Francisco to Sydney in a ship made entirely of post-consumer plastic bottles. Dubbed the Plastiki in homage to Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki, de Rothschild's ship sports solar panels, wind generators, and other renewable energy sources, making it one of the most eco-friendly vessels to ever set sail. Their 12,000-nautical-mile (19,312-kilometer) voyage includes stops at ecological hot spots, such as the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch. Follow his expedition at his blog.

In the Field: March 20, 2010, to July 2010 (Expected)

Lei Wang

Photograph by Justin Merle

Feat: Completing the Adventure Grand Slam by reaching the summit of Everest

By reaching the summit of Mount Everest on May 24, 2010, climber Lei Wang achieved something that very few adventurers can claim—she had completed the Adventure Grand Slam, which consists of climbing the Seven Summits and reaching both the North and South Poles. Growing up in China, Lei never dreamed she’d one day lead a life of adventure, but after completing her undergrad with a computer science degree, then adding an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School, she took a trip to Ecuador. While there, she climbed the 19,344-foot (5,896-meter) Cotopaxi, and the rest is history. Now she joins just nine others on the Adventure Grand Slam honor roll.

In the Field: Completed May 24, 2010

Lance Mackey

Photograph by Bob Hallinen, Landov

Feat: Dominating the Iditarod dog-sledding race for four consecutive wins

In Alaska, winning the Iditarod isn’t everything—it’s the only thing. For nearly four decades, the 1,100-mile-long (1,800-kilometer-long) race has forged itself a reputation as one of the most demanding endurance events on the planet. But over the past few years, it has been dominated by one man, Lance Mackey. In March 2010 Mackey claimed his fourth straight Iditarod title, setting a record for consecutive wins, and he remains the only man to win both the Iditarod and the 1,000-mile-long (1,600-kilometer-long) Yukon Quest in the same year, something that was previously thought impossible. Despite all of these feats, his biggest victory may have been in 2002, when he beat throat cancer. His dog teams all come from his aptly named Comeback Kennel.

In the Field: March 2010

Jordan Romero

Photograph by Team Romero, AP

Feat: Reaching the summit of Everest at 13, becoming the youngest to stand atop the rooftop of the world

On May 22, 2010, 13-year-old American Jordan Romero stepped onto the 29,029-foot (8,848-meter) summit of Mount Everest, becoming the youngest person to reach the highest point on the planet. Climbing from the north side of the mountain, he became an inspiration for young and old alike, but for the kid from California it was just one more step toward his ultimate goal: to become the youngest to climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents, collectively known as the Seven Summits. This fall, Romero will travel to Antarctica to complete his quest by climbing the 16,050-foot (4,892-meter) Vinson Massif.

In the Field: May 2010

Andrew Skurka

Photograph by Andrew Skurka

Feat: Skiing, hiking, and packrafting 4,700 miles (7,563 kilometers) of remote Alaskan and Canadian backcountry

Covering vast distances on foot is certainly nothing new for Andrew Skurka. At 29 years old, he has already hiked more than 25,000 miles (40,234 kilometers), including a 7,778-mile (12,517-kilometer) transcontinental trek across North America. But his latest expedition may be his most ambitious of all. In March 2010, Skurka set out from Kotzebue, Alaska, on a 4,700-mile-long (12,517-kilometer-long) journey that will see him crossing through six U.S. and two Canadian national parks. Along the way he’ll traverse both the Alaska and Brooks Mountain Ranges, two of the most remote and untouched wildernesses on the planet. If all goes according to plan, he’ll come full circle in October. Follow his blog posts here.

In the Field: March 15, 2010, to October 2010 (Expected)

Oh Eun-Sun

Photograph by Yonhap, AP

Feat: Becoming the first woman to conquer all 14 8,000-meter peaks

In climbing circles, bagging an 8,000-meter (26,247-foot) peak, such as Everest or K2, is considered quite an accomplishment, but summiting all 14 of the world's tallest mountains truly sets a mountaineer apart from the pack. Coming into 2010, the list of climbers who had completed that feat consisted only of men. That changed on April 27, 2010, when South Korean climber Oh Eun-Sun reached the summit of 26,545-foot (8,091-meter) Annapurna, located in central Nepal, and added her name to the climbing elite. (Some, including Spaniard Edurne Pasaban, who successfully summited all 14 peaks just days later, question whether Oh reached the true summit of Kangchenjunga in the Himalaya, as the photographic evidence is inconclusive. This climb remains disputed.)

In the Field: April 2010

Lewis Gordon Pugh

Photograph by Michael Walker

Feat: Completing the highest altitude long-distance swim ever in an attempt to raise awareness of global climate change

British swimmer and environmentalist Lewis Gordon Pugh traveled to the Himalaya in May 2010 to attempt a long-distance swim that many thought was impossible. On May 22, wearing just his customary Speedo, swimming cap, and goggles, Pugh plunged into the frigid waters of Lake Pumori, located not far from Mount Everest at 17,700 feet (5,400 meters), and swam one kilometer, setting a new record for the highest altitude long-distance swim. Best known for swimming across the geographic North Pole back in 2007, Pugh overcame altitude sickness—and what he called “the most frightening day” of his swimming career—to complete his task, which he hopes will help raise awareness for the shrinking Himalayan glaciers.

In the Field: May 2010

Roz Savage

Photograph courtesy Roz Savage

Feat: Becoming the first woman to row solo across the Pacific Ocean

On June 3, 2010, British ocean rower Roz Savage arrived in Papua New Guinea, completing the third and final stage of her solo row across the Pacific Ocean. The journey began back in 2008 when she set out from San Francisco and rowed the 2,324 miles (3,740 kilometers) to Hawaii in 100 days. In 2009, she returned for stage two, spending 104 days covering the 3,158 miles (5,082 kilometers) between Hawaii and Tarawa, a tiny island in the South Pacific. It took her just 45 days to row the final 2,248 miles (3,618 kilometers) between Tarawa and Papua New Guinea. By completing her journey, Savage became the first woman to row solo across the Pacific, while also campaigning regularly to protect the health of the world’s oceans.

In the Field: May 25, 2008, to June 3, 2010

Mark Beaumont

Photograph courtesy Mark Beaumont

Feat: Cycling the length of the Americas and climbing the highest mountains on two continents

In February 2010, Scottish cyclist Mark Beaumont completed an epic cycling journey that began in Anchorage, Alaska, and ended more than 13,000 miles (20,921 kilometers) later in Ushuaia, Argentina, at the very tip of South America. Along the way, he made time to get off his bike and climb Denali, the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet (6,194 meters). Later he topped out on 22,841-foot (6,962-meter) Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America. While this was certainly a long and challenging ride, it ranks as only the second longest in Beaumont’s illustrious cycling career: Back in 2007 he rode 18,297 miles (29,446 kilometers) around the world on his bike, completing that journey in just 194 days.

In the Field: May 29, 2009, to February 18, 2010

Jessica Watson

Photograph by Daniel Munoz, Reuters

Feat: Sailing solo nonstop around the world at 16, becoming the youngest to do so

While most teenagers struggle with homework, extracurricular activities, and trying to maintain a social life, 16-year-old Jessica Watson spent much of the past year navigating the high seas while battling massive storms and 30-foot (9-meter) swells. In October 2009 the Australian teen set out from Sydney aboard her ship, Ella’s Pink Lady, in an attempt to sail solo nonstop around the globe. When she returned in May 2010, just three days shy of her 17th birthday, she set a new mark for the youngest person to accomplish that feat. Watson was already a celebrity in her home country even before her return to Sydney Harbor. As a result, her arrival was quite the media event, with thousands lining the dock to welcome her home, while millions more watched on television.

Since competing her voyage, the World Speed Sailing Record Council has said that her route did not meet the necessary circumnavigation criteria. Rules and regulations aside, Watson did successfully sail solo, non-stop around the world. Fellow 16-year-old solo-sailing contender Abby Sunderland, who faced several set backs during her voyage, was not as fortunate: She was rescued in mid-June after her boat took a serious beating during storms in the Southern Ocean.

In the Field: October 18, 2009, to May 15, 2010

—by Kraig Becker

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post Jun 30 2010, 12:53
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trivago.co.uk report

The 10 best rated hostels in Europe
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Staying at a hostel doesn’t always mean having to sacrifice quality and comfort; there are many hostels across Europe whose service and standards easily rival the conditions of a four star hotel. Whether it’s a city stay in one of Europe’s capitals or a breath of fresh air in the countryside; from Spanish Valencia to the Swiss city of Interlaken, through Krakow and Dublin; trivago.co.uk has found the best hostels Europe has to offer.

Here are the ten best rated hostels in Europe, ranked in order according to the ratings given by travelers from the trivago travel community and other review sites.

1. Hostal Pizarro (Madrid)
This small hostel is located in the heart of Madrid in the Chueca district. This well-maintained building once served as a newspaper publishing house, and now holds seventeen guest rooms. The rooms can accommodate up to 3 beds and are brightly decorated with colourful lamps and bed sheets. Two modern lounges give visitors access to Internet and television, and guests can get to know each other here or simply relax a little before heading out for an evening on the town. The Chueca district is famous for its bars, pubs and clubs, and this makes Hostel Pizarro an excellent place from which to explore the city’s nightlife.

2. Superbude (Hamburg)
Superbude lies behind the golden facade of a former printing factory in Hamburg’s Hammerbrock district. Upon entering the building, guests are met with a warm, relaxed lounge and reception. The hostel features innovative design ideas, such as converted chairs made out of old beer crates and wooden pallets reupholstered as sofas, both of which reinforce the hostel’s trendy image. Six floors hold the hostel’s 74 double rooms and four-bed shared ‘stalls’ after which the hostel is named. A special highlight is the fact that each floor is decorated in a different colour. The hostel’s ‘Kitchen Club’, with its self-serve refrigerators, is a popular meeting space in the morning before guests begin their day. From Superbude, it’s only a short trip by public transport to the city’s biggest attractions, such as the Reeperbahn and hill district.

3. Home Backpackers (Valencia)

The Home Backpackers hostel is situated in the Barrio del Carmen, the historic heart of Valencia. It features bright, colourful, six-, eight-, twelve- or sixteen-bed rooms. The fully equipped guest kitchen gives visitors the option of preparing their own meals, and a two hundred foot terrace on the hostel’s roof offers a commanding view of the city’s rooftops. Guests can socialize and swap stories in the stylish lounge and Internet corner. With many tapas bars and pubs in the nearby area, there is no lack of choice for the evening’s entertainment.

4. The Secret Garden (Krakow)
The Secret Garden is a charming hostel located in the historic Kazimierz district of Krakow. The hotel’s namesake theme also applies to the design of the building, with guests sleeping in the ‘fruit wing’ or ‘herbs wing’. In line with this theme, rooms have names rather than numbers, and each room is decorated in a particular colour – for example, the green Mint Sorbet and Apple Pie rooms. The Secret Garden is a great place from which to begin exploring the Polish city of Krakow. The banks of the river and Wawel Castle are within easy reach, and the hostel also rents out bicycles for longer excursions. The purple-coloured lounge has full internet access and a wide selection of movies that play nightly.

5. Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof (Interlaken)
The Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof hostel in the Swiss canton of Bern offers a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and forests. The two hundred year old chalet was renovated over the course of a year and features 50 stylish rooms with up to seven beds. Some rooms have a panoramic view of the 4000-metre-high, snow covered mountains. Paragliding, rafting, bungee jumping and a rope park offer adventurous guests a chance to discover the wilder side of the Swiss Alps. In the evening, visitors can make use of the hostel’s music room, equipped with a piano and guitars, or alternatively socialize in the onsite bistro bar.

6. Czech Inn (Prague)
The Czech Inn design hostel in Prague is a stylishly restored building from the 19th Century. Specially chosen antique furniture serves to contrast between the traditional and modern elements of the house’s design. With its central location, the Czech Inn hostel is an ideal starting point for a sightseeing tour through the city and along the Vltava River. St. Vitus Cathedral and the Charles bridge are not to be missed, and the hostel’s staff have a list of recommendations for those with a little more time to spare. The hostel’s bar features cheap drinks and is a popular meeting place for Czech locals, giving visitors a great opportunity to get to know Prague’s inhabitants and try one of the Czech Republic’s famous beers.

7. JUFA Steinach am Brenner (Steinach)
The JUFA Steinach am Brenner hostel can be found on the outskirts of the Steinach village in Germany. Its rooms can accommodate between two and five beds each, and are quite spacious by hostel standards. The hostel features a well equipped gym and climbing wall – perfect for guests looking to push their limits – while table tennis and billiard tables are available for those seeking a more relaxed afternoon. Outside, the picturesque scenery of the Tyrol region is especially suited for hiking and mountain bike tours. During the summer, day trips to nearby Innsbruck or Italy are an excellent idea. In winter, guests can take advantage of the six ski lifts located right in front of the hostel to gain access to the 23 kilometres of downhill slopes of the Bergeralm mountains.

8. The Times Hostel (Dublin)
The Times Hostel is located in the trendy Temple Bar district of Dublin, near Trinity College and close to the town’s landmark Spire – a 120 metre high monument in the form of a metal needle. The hostel’s warmly decorated rooms are spacious and comfortable. The hostel’s staff organize a daily tour of the bustling Temple Bar district, giving guests an insider view of the city, and are an excellent source of helpful tips and information on the city and Irish culture. On weekends, they offer guided tours of local Irish pubs and nightlife. The pancake breakfast – a Sunday specialty – is the perfect remedy after a long night on the town.

9. Palmers Lodge (London)

The Palmers Lodge Hostel in Camden is located in an old Victorian building in London’s Swiss Cottage district. High ceilings and large windows, dark wood paneling and ornate parquet floors all bring to mind the former elegance of this magnificent building. The hostel offers 34 large rooms with up to 14 beds, and its proximity to bus and metro stations makes it very easy to get around the capital. There are many shops, pubs and restaurants in the vicinity, and if that isn’t enough, the hostel’s Chapel Bar has great local beers and music.

10. Ostello della Giovetu (Volterra)
The Ostello della Giovetu hostel is located on the outskirts of the town of Volterra, in a valley between the Era and Cecina rivers. Formerly a Franciscan convent from the 15th Century, this hostel has charm written all over it. The well restored rooms are modern, but small traces of the building’s historic legacy have been preserved. The monastery’s original arches and wall decorations exist alongside modern lighting and furniture, creating an interesting contrast between past and present. The hostel’s convenient location gives guests easy access to the whole of Tuscany – the cities of Pisa, Florence and Siena can all be reached in under an hour, and the sea is less than 30 minutes away.

travel daily news

- hosteli postaju sve bolji i bolji, i sve vise nalik na hotel - kako ponudom tako i cijenom!! pogotovo ako uzimas privatnu sobu dbl i trpl.
jos uvijek se moze spavati u domr-movima za 9,10,11 eur, to svakako. npr u centru londona hostel kosta za dvoje 50ak funti bez problema (!!) ... recimo u Frankfurtu sam nasla hotel 3* u cijenovnom rangu sa hostelima, centra grada.. pa kad vec moras platiti 25 eur nocenje onda rec radije platiti tamo gdje imas svoju banju i docuak, zar ne?? dublin isto - hostel 25 eur poc po osobi, bez banje/WC-a. ali centar centara..
jbg, evropa. skupa skupa skupa... ako se putuje u ekipi moze se puno bolje proc nego kad idu dvoje, pogotovo par (onda ti se bas i ne spavati u sobi sa jos 13 ljudi, da ti prde, smrde, hrcu, locu itd... ).
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post Jul 1 2010, 10:41
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Skyscanner research show flights cost a little if you go the long way

Save almost 40% by flying indirect

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Leading price comparison site Skyscanner has found that travellers can save as much as 40% on flight prices by flying indirect routes to their destination. The site intelligently searches for the best prices on both direct and indirect flights allowing users to easily compare the options and decide which is most important to them, price or time. For the budget conscious, savings of up to 37% can be made by selecting the indirect route option. For example:

Save £139 on flights to India
Flying with Gulf Air from London Heathrow to Delhi via Bahrain in October costs from £377, rather than direct with British Airways from £516. The indirect flights take only five hours longer each way and passengers can save up to 37%.

Save almost £200 on flights to Hong Kong
Save up to 29% on October flights from London Heathrow to Hong Kong by flying via Mumbai with Jet Airways from £485, compared to direct with Qantas prices from £682. The cheaper indirect flights add just over five hours to the journey time.

Visitors to Moscow in October can save £56 by flying indirect, adding only two hours - by choosing Lufthansa flights via Germany from £157, rather than the direct Aeroflot service from £213.

A previous Skyscanner study which asked whether users would be willing to take an indirect flight to save money found that more than three quarters of users would consider the indirect option, with 20% of those polled believing a stopover to be a bonus if they got to see another city.

Barry Smith, Skyscanner’s Business Development Director said: “In tightened financial times, finding a significant saving on flights can mean the difference between taking a holiday or not.”

Smith continued: “We recognise priorities differ from person to person and whilst flying direct is undoubtedly more convenient, the savings offered by some indirect routes can be very attractive for some of our customers.”

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post Jul 8 2010, 11:45
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Survey by online travel community, Thelma & Louise

Women dream of travel over love

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Women are prioritising travel above falling in love when it comes to unfulfilled life ambitions, according to a recent survey by online travel community, Thelma & Louise. The female-only website, which conducted the research as part of a major re-vamp, found that only 10 per cent of the women polled named “fall in love” as a life-long dream that they haven’t yet fulfilled, yet more than a third (37 per cent) cited “travel” as an ambition.

“Win the lottery” came top of the list with 57 per cent saying it was their number one fantasy, “travel” was in second place with 37 per cent and career aspirations came third with “get a dream job” receiving a 24 per cent share.

Interestingly, female students and women in the 18-24-year age range were the only groups who didn’t consider “winning the lottery” to be a top priority. They placed money behind their careers and having a family, and in the case of the students, travelling and even the physical goal of running a marathon.

“As a women’s travel website, we weren’t surprised to see that travel ranked highly in the list of life ambitions. Over the years, we’ve had members “trucking” through the US together, pairing up to follow China’s legendary Silk Road and even driving across the Sahara – all in the name of fulfilling a dream,” said Thelma & Louise co-founder Christine Davies.

“It goes to show just how important travel is to many women. Of course there are lots of people who fantasise about winning the lottery but it’s somewhat out of reach, whereas travel is very achievable. Thelma & Louise is encouraging women to discover the joy of travel, no matter what their age or circumstances. Whether they are using the website to seek inspiration and advice, to connect with old friends and make new ones, or to find a travel companion to go on an adventure with, Thelma & Louise can help make it happen.”

Finally, the survey showed that the female sense of adventure is alive and kicking, with 15 per cent of all the women polled and 29 per cent of the 18 – 24 year-olds polled selecting “an adventure holiday” as the getaway that appealed to them most.

The new-look Thelma & Louise website was launched on 8 July 2010.

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post Jul 15 2010, 13:08
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The Lonely Traveler

The lonely travels

Of a lonely soul

Isn't as hard as it seems at all

As you walk the lonely trail

Think of the time that tells the tail

The story of a fulfilled life

The story that will come true

Because nobody's really a lonely traveller

Not even you

by Venessa Marie

- ovo mi je uljepsalo dan.
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post Jul 21 2010, 09:29
Post #48

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Great European seaside escapes

Heather Dickson
Lonely Planet Author

The greatest seaside escapes are usually the ones that nobody else knows about: The ones down the mile-long sandy trail, the ones at the bottom of the rickety steps, the ones you inflate your dinghy and paddle out to. But even the most well-known places can feel intimate if you time it right. Plan a trip to one of these European seaside escapes in September or October (when the weather is still good and the crowds dwindle) and you’ll see just why we love them.

1. Cinque Terre, Italy: Rooted in antiquity, Cinque Terre’s five towns date from the early medieval period and barely anything about these five crazily constructed Ligurian villages has changed in over three centuries. Buildings aside, Cinque Terre’s most unique historical feature is the steeply terraced cliffs bisected by a complicated system of fields and gardens that has been shaped over the course of nearly two millennia. The most accessible village by car and the only Cinque Terre settlement to sport a tourist beach is Monterosso, which is the furthest west and least quintessential of the quintet (it was briefly ditched from the group in the 1940s). Guarding the only secure landing point on the Cinque Terre coast, Vernazza is the quaintest of the five villages. Its tiny harbour is framed by the Chiesa di Santa Margherita, while the ruins of an 11th-century castle look out to sea.

2. Santorini, Greece: Even the most jaded traveler succumbs to the spectacle of Santorini’s surreal landscape and dramatic sunsets. The startling sight of the submerged caldera, almost encircled by sheer lava-layered cliffs and topped by a dusting of towns, should not be missed. The village of Oia on the northern tip of the island offers excellent, unobstructed sunset viewing and the east side of the island has black-sand beaches at popular resorts such as Kamari and Perissa.

3. San Sebastian, Spain: The coast road from Bilbao to San Sebastián is a glorious journey past spectacular seascapes, with cove after cove stretching east and verdant fields suddenly ending where cliffs plunge into the sea. Casas rurales (village or farmstead accommodation) and camping grounds are plentiful and well signposted. The tiny hamlet of Elantxobe, with its colourful houses clasping to an almost sheer cliff face, is undeniably one of the most attractive spots along the entire coast. It’s impossible to lay eyes on San Sebastián and not fall madly in love. For its setting, form and attitude, Playa de la Concha is the equal of any city beach in Europe.

4. Corsica, France: Crowned by saw tooth peaks, mantled in forest cloaks of green oak, chestnut and pine, and shot through with rushing rivers and tumbling cascades, Corsica is one of the most dramatic, diverse and downright gorgeous islands in the Mediterranean. Fine stretches of sand can be found at Spérone and around the Golfe de Sant’Amanza. Best of all is the horseshoe bay of Rondinara and tree-fringed Palombaggia, which you’ll see gracing postcards all over Corsica. You couldn’t leave without exploring the waters around Bonifacio – thought by some scholars to have featured in Homer’s Odyssey. The largest (and most visited) island of the group, Île Lavezzi is known for its natural pools, deserted beaches and swimming holes.

5. Kvarner Gulf, Croatia: Protected by soaring mountains, covered with luxuriant forests, lined with beaches and dotted with islands, the Kvarner Gulf is home to four of our top Croatian beaches. At the southern end of Krk Island, Baška has the island’s most beautiful beach, a 2km-long crescent set below a dramatic, barren range of mountains. Cres Island is home to beaches and crystal-clear coves at Lubenice, accessible by a steep path through the underbrush, and Beli. Finally, Paradise Beach on Rab Island is a sandy stunner with shallow waters and the shade of pine trees.

6. Amalfi Coast, Italy: Stretching about 50km along the southern side of the Sorrentine Peninsula, the Amalfi is one of Europe’s most breathtaking. Cliffs terraced with scented lemon groves sheer down into sparkling seas; sherbet-hued villas cling precariously to unforgiving slopes while sea and sky merge in one vast blue horizon. The pearl in the pack, Positano is the coast’s most photogenic and expensive town. An early visitor, John Steinbeck wrote in 1953: ‘Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.’ More than 50 years on, his words still ring true.

7. Côte d’Azur, France: With its glistening seas and charming, tangled old-town streets foreigners have admired the Côte d’Azur for centuries. Also known as the French Riviera due to a string of influential sojourners from Queen Victoria to F. Scott Fitzgerald this lustrous stretch of shoreline is still attractive to those seeking mild winters and hedonistic lifestyles. But away from the spotlight of Cannes and St-Tropez, the coastal roads between Nice and Monaco offer some of the most spectacular scenery. The terracotta-roofed fishing port of Villefranche-Sur-Mer was a favourite with Jean Cocteau, who painted the frescoes in the 17th-century Chapelle St-Pierre. Steps split the steep cobblestone streets that weave through the old town. Beyond the port is a sandy beach offering picture-perfect views of the town.

8. Menorca, Spain: Menorca is the least overrun and most tranquil of the Balearics. The untouched beaches, coves and ravines around its coastline allow the more adventurous the occasional sense of discovery! The north coast is rugged and rocky, dotted with small and scenic coves. It’s less developed than the south and, with your own transport and a bit of legwork you’ll discover some of the Balearics’ best off-the-beaten-track beaches. Platja Cavalleria is a fabulous double-crescent, golden beach.

9. Curonian Spit, Lithuania: This 98km lick of sand is a wondrous mixture of dunes (some as high as 200m) and forest – the smell of pine will impart an otherworldly quality to your hammock time. Wilhelm von Humboldt believed that a trip to the Curonian Spit was essential nourishment for the soul, and Thomas Mann was also drawn to this timeless wonderland. It’s said that around 14 villages are buried under the endless, shifting dunes, making the Spit a kind of Baltic Sahara. The towering 52m ‘Great Dune’ is in Nida; to get there take the ferry from Klaipeda to Neringa (costs around €10 per car), then drive or cycle 50km.

10. England’s Victorian seaside towns: While England’s weather can’t compete with the Mediterranean there are two great seaside escapes just over an hour from London that can. An hour’s train ride east of London is the Victorian seaside town of Broadstairs. Charles Dickens wrote a few of his books in the cliff-top house overlooking Viking Bay. Grab an ice-cream at Morelli’s and wander down the broad stairs to the beach. An hour’s train ride south of London is Brighton, the most vibrant seaside resort in England. Brighton has embraced the outlandish ever since the Prince Regent built his party palace here in the 19th century.

“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside, oh I do like to be beside the sea”…Yes, indeed.

lonely planet
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post Aug 3 2010, 11:59
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Ten top towns in Europe you've never heard of

Done Venice, Paris and London? Ticked off Prague, Budapest, Berlin and Dubrovnik? It may be time to delve a little deeper on your next European adventure. Here are some of the best under-the-radar towns and cities you should know about, writes David Whitley.

1. Ohrid

Where? Macedonia.

Prized catch ... fishermen at work in Lake Ohrid, Macedonia. Lake Ohrid is sandwiched between Macedonia and Albania, almost forming a bowl in the middle of surrounding mountains. Photo: AFP

Lake Ohrid is sandwiched between Macedonia and Albania, almost forming a bowl in the middle of surrounding mountains. The lake is surrounded by pretty holiday villages and monasteries (noticeably more so on the Macedonian side than the Albanian) but the major town of Ohrid itself is the real treat.

It has always been a popular resort among eastern Europeans but the rest of the world is just cottoning on. It'd be easy enough to just enjoy the boat trips and beaches but head up into the forests and along the cliff tops and you find numerous photogenic forts and churches.

Ohrid is also fairly lively in the evening, as twilight promenades morph into a cafe-terrace eating and drinking culture where the volume inevitably ramps up.

Oh yes, and it is dirt cheap as well - don't expect to pay much more than $2 for a beer.

Local secret The beaches closest to Ohrid can get crowded - many locals prefer to head to those outside the Sveti Naum monastery on the south-western side of the lake, just across the Albanian border. It's quieter and has fabulous views of the town across the lake.

More information http://ohrid.com.mk/

2. Kutna Hora

Where? Czech Republic.

Made from monks ... Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic.. Photo: AFP

Often done as a day trip from Prague (it's only an hour away), Kutna Hora is worth a bit more time. It's a lot more laid-back than the Czech capital - and delightful to stroll around when the sun comes out.

You could happily spend a couple of days ambling by the river and through the squares, stopping every few hours for a hearty meal and a giant beer in a pub garden.

But it's the quirky attractions that give Kutna Hora an appeal beyond being pretty and having a cool gothic cathedral. The most famous of these is the Sedlec Ossuary - a chapel made almost entirely from the bones and skulls of monks.

There's also the Alchemy Museum inside the visitor information centre and an old silver mine. Both are odd but fascinating.

Top tip The train station is near the Sedlec Ossuary - four kilometres out of town - while the bus station is central. If visiting Kutna Hora as a day trip from Prague, you're better off taking the train in and the bus back or vice versa.

More information www.kutnahora.cz

3. Kuressaare

Where? Estonia

Well preserved ... Kuressaare in Estonia retains its charm. Photo: iStock

Estonia's Baltic Sea islands have long since been discovered by the Finns and Swedes, who pile over on the ferries, but the rest of the world is yet to catch on.

The biggest island - Saaremaa - mostly feels as though it is stuck in a time warp. It's an island with an independent character, where forests and windmills predominate.

Kuressaare, the main town on Saaremaa, is livelier and with good reason. It's a gloriously picturesque town dominated by a large, well-preserved castle dating from the 13th century. It's possible to hire a row boat and go splashing about in the moat around the castle.

Kuressaare is also a big spa town in which sleek, modern resorts are replacing the grim Eastern bloc sanatoriums.

Don't miss Turn up in July for the Castle Days festival. It's full of mediaeval pageantry, jousting tournaments and old-style feasting.

More information www.saaremaa.ee

4. Cetinje

Where? Montenegro.

Cetinje can be found high in the mountains of Montenegro and the views on the drive through them on the way from coastal Kotor are spellbinding at almost every turn. Photo: Andrew Bain/Lonely Planet

Montenegro's capital Podgorica doesn't match up to the beauty of the rest of the country. Most visitors stay on the coast but a day trip from there to Montenegro's former capital makes for a fabulous alternative to sunbathing.

Cetinje can be found high in the mountains and the views on the drive through them on the way from coastal Kotor are spellbinding at almost every turn.

Once there, you've got a small town crammed with palaces and mansions. Most of these have been turned into houses, embassies or schools but one particularly grand building houses the National Museum of Montenegro plus an art gallery.

The Cetinje Monastery is also popular, even if its True Cross and John the Baptist relics are of dubious origin.

Top tip Cetinje is a bit of a ghost town at night - accommodation and eating-out options are scarce. It's much better to base yourself at Kotor and make the drive through the mountains as a day trip.

More information www.montenegro.com

5. Keszthely

Where? Hungary.

Lake Heviz, near Keszthely in Hungary, is the largest thermal lake in Europe. Photo: Martin Moos/Lonely Planet

Outside of the Nordic countries, Lake Balaton is Europe's biggest lake. It has always been a popular holiday spot for central European tourists and is known colloquially as the Hungarian Sea.

Balaton is one of Europe's great bargain holiday spots - bed and breakfast accommodation for a family can cost a pittance outside the absolute peak of mid-August - and Keszthely is the best base.

It's the only town around the lake sizeable enough to have a life of its own outside the tourism sector and thus has most life to it. Highlights include the vast Festetics Palace and the Marzipan Museum, depending on your tastes.

It's a good spot for a family holiday because the water is fairly shallow for swimming and all manner of playgrounds and pedal boat-hire outfits surround the shoreline.

Don't miss Lake Heviz. Balaton isn't the only lake in the area and Heviz is unique - it's the largest thermal lake in Europe and an odd natural spa. It's only seven kilometres away - a flat cycle along a protected track if you hire a bike.

More information http://itthon.hu

6. Torun

Where? Poland.

Torun, Poland. Unlike much of the rest of Poland, Torun survived World War II unscathed - and that means plenty of red-brick churches and gothic buildings to admire. Photo: Robert Hillman

Perhaps most famous as the birthplace of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, Torun has had a tourism boost in recent years, with budget airline flights arriving in nearby Bydgoszcz.

The locals in this handsome port on the Vistula River like to play the Copernicus links to the hilt but it's the World Heritage-listed Old Town that really holds the appeal.

Unlike much of the rest of Poland, Torun survived World War II unscathed - and that means plenty of red-brick churches and gothic buildings to admire. The Old Town Market Square is one of the finest focal points in central Europe.

There are also plenty of quirky museums inside grandly decorated former merchant houses.

Don't miss The reason there's a Gingerbread Museum is that Torun is famous for making the stuff. There is no shortage of shops and cafes wanting to sell you some and it makes for a handy - and tasty - souvenir.

More information www.torun.pl

7. Compiegne

Where? France.

Compiegne, France. Less than an hour away from Paris by bus or train is the historic city of Compiegne. The town has one of France's most lavish palaces. Photo: Neil Setchfield/Lonely Planet

Less than an hour away from Paris by bus or train is the historic city of Compiegne. Joan of Arc was captured here in 1430 - two statues and a monument are devoted to her.

The forest to the north-east of the town centre is home to a railway clearing that, in 1918, became the top-secret site for the signing of the armistice ending World War I.

In June 1940, Adolf Hitler decided he wanted payback and made France surrender in exactly the same spot. The armistice carriage was dragged out of a museum and set up in the same way - albeit with the Germans in the victors' seats.

The carriage was later burnt in Germany but a replica sits in the clearing, along with a fascinating museum and war memorial. The town also has one of France's most lavish palaces - the Chateau de Compiegne. It was one of three royal seats (along with the better known Versailles and Fontainebleau). Its heyday was in the 19th century under Napoleon III, who used to host lavish parties there.

The opulently decorated chateau is open to the public, while the enormous park next to it is a great spot for walks, picnics and even horse trials.

Local secret
There are no official tours of the Haras National - the National Stud - but it's often possible to just stroll in through the gates on Rue de la Procession and watch thoroughbreds being put through their paces.

More information www.compiegne-tourisme.fr

8. Cluj-Napoca

Where? Romania.

Cluj-Napoca, Romania. It's as good a base as any for exploring the surrounding Transylvanian countryside, although Cluj is best known as a party town. Photo: Craig Pershouse/Lonely Planet

Cluj-Napoca (or just Cluj to its friends) is another city that has reaped the benefits of budget airline flights.

It's as good a base as any for exploring the surrounding Transylvanian countryside, although Cluj is best known as a party town. It has a large student population and one that doesn't place much stock on sleeping, by all accounts.

Once you've emerged bleary-eyed from one of the city's many underground nightclubs, there are plenty of museums in which to get a cultural fix.

The Ethnographic Museum and National History Museum of Transylvania are among the most worthy, while the Pharmaceutical Museum and the Emil Racovita Institute of Speleology are arguably the most intriguing.

The latter gives a clue to the key attraction for those who want more activity than dancing to blaring Europop all night - the nearby Apuseni mountains are riddled with caves. Caving trips of varying degrees of difficulty are thus hugely popular - as is good old-fashioned walking for adventurers who prefer to stay above the ground.

Top tip Turn up in May for the Festivinum Wine Festival and the whole party atmosphere ramps up a notch. And, of course, you get to taste many of Romania's somewhat underrated wines.

More information www.romaniatourism.com

9. Tampere

Where? Finland.

Tampere, Finland. Relics ... the Lenin Museum. This former industrial town has undergone a makeover in recent years. Photo: AFP

This former industrial town has undergone a makeover in recent years. A textbook example of this is the Finlayson Centre, formerly a giant cotton-mill complex and now an engaging home to cafes, bars and arts organisations.

The Finlayson Centre has always been ahead of its time - in the 19th century it was the first building in northern Europe to get electric lighting - and now it's a poster child for urban regeneration.

In its basement is the highlight - this is where the Spy Museum can be found. Visitors are presented with enormous dossiers on the history of spying and then let loose to fire laser guns at enemies, look for secret passageways behind maps and indulge in a bit of electronic espionage.

Tampere has a bit of a thing for odd museums. Other attractions are devoted to Finnish ice hockey players and characters from the Moomins children's books.

Don't miss The Lenin Museum borders on the obsessive but gives a great overview of the Soviet revolutionary's life and the time he spent in Tampere working up support. You can even see the couch he slept on.

More information www.gotampere.fi

10. Maribor

Where? Slovenia.

Top plonk ... Maribor in Slovenia boasts great wines. Photo: Martin Moos/Lonely Planet

Slovenia's second city is a lovely old town, packed with galleries, churches, cathedrals and engaging squares. But the real reason to pay a visit is that it is at the heart of Slovenia's wine industry.

Nearby wineries can be visited (expect an emphasis on whites - particularly rieslings - rather than reds) although the most staggering attraction for wine tourists can be found in the town itself.

The Vinag cellar under Svobode Square is known as the Wine Tabernacle. It covers two hectares and can hold up to 5.5 million litres of wine. Visits must be organised in advance but it sure beats the rack in your living room.

The wine industry also gives Maribor its oddest event. Every spring the Old Vine, which is recognised as the oldest on the planet by Guinness World Records, is ceremonially pruned by the town's official vine dresser.

There's plenty of pomp when this takes place in March but it can be visited at other times as part of the viticulture tour at Old Vine House.

Local secret Fontana Terme Maribor is an impressive spa complex, just two kilometres from the city. The thermal pools are popular with locals, although a sauna, solarium and massage centre are all on site.

More information

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post Aug 3 2010, 12:50
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TOP 10 European Train Trips

Norway's Flam Railway features a steep climb through fjord country.
Photograph by Morten Rakke, Visit Flam

By Randall H. Duckett
From the July/August 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler

Much of European train travel is about efficiency and comfort—punctually leaving and arriving and having a cozy seat or sleeper compartment in which to devour the latest issue of the Economist. But rail travel in the United Kingdom and on the Continent is also about experience: gaping out the window at Alpine glaciers, savoring gourmet cuisine in a restored last-century dining car. Accordingly, our ten favorite European trains don’t necessarily offer the fastest journeys—just the most memorable. All aboard!

1. Sweet Switzerland: The Chocolate Train

Route: Montreux to Broc, Switzerland
Duration: 9 hours, 45 minutes, roundtrip


This charming train running in summer and fall climbs from Montreux overlooking Lake Geneva to the medieval town of Gruyères, population 1,600, home to the cheese of the same name. Tour the cheese factory and the local castle, have lunch, then reboard the train and continue on to Broc. There you’ll bus to the Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory, tucked between Lake Gruyères and mountain peaks, for free samples, before making the return trip.

2. Tunnels Galore: The Bernina Express

Route: Chur, Switzerland, to Tirano, Italy
Duration: 4 hours, 14 minutes


This narrow-gauge, vertigo-inducing train takes on seven-percent inclines, a 360-degree spiral, 55 tunnels, and 196 bridges—reaching an apex of 7,391 feet and then descending 5,905 feet before coming to a stop. The word “express” refers to the availability of short-notice seat reservations, rather than the train’s velocity as it courses through the Alps south from Switzerland’s oldest town to a charming Italian town of just under 10,000 people. Part of the route is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

3. A Hotel on Wheels: Francisco de Goya

Route: Paris to Madrid
Duration: 13 hours, 30 minutes


Leave Paris in the evening, enjoy a three-course dinner and the increasingly rural scenery, slumber to the soothing rhythm of the rails, and wake the next day as you arrive in Madrid, rested and ready to tour the third-most-populous city in the European Union. Grand class includes a welcome drink, gourmet dinner, breakfast, and an in-room bathroom with shower.

4. Reliving the Age of Chivalry: The Castles of Britain

Route: Inverness, Scotland, to Gwynedd, Wales
Duration: 15 days


Discover the United Kingdom’s historic fortresses on this itinerary combining a two-week BritRail pass with the Great British Heritage pass. You’ll get entry to 580 attractions, as you hop off for local touring. Start in Inverness, Scotland, near Loch Ness, to tour Urquhart Castle. Continue south to Stirling Bridge, where William Wallace triumphed over the English in 1297, and on to Edinburgh Castle. English sights include Dover Castle, with its wartime tunnels. In Gwynedd, Wales, tour Caernarfon Castle, a World Heritage site where the investiture of Prince Charles was held.

5. The Epic Journey: Trans-Siberian Railway

Route: Moscow to Vladivostok, Russia
Duration: 19 days


This fabled route, an icon of Russian culture, crosses eight time zones to connect the Russian capital with a port on the Pacific Ocean. On board, poor mingle with rich, young with old, foreigners with locals. Social barriers disappear as passengers share a unique rail experience—and shots of $3-a-liter vodka. You can book a private car via a tour operator for added comfort; schedule any number of side excursions from trekking and scuba diving to city tours.

6. Waterworld: The Flam Railway

Route: Flam to Myrdal, Norway
Duration: 1 hour


A must-do on any tour of fjord country, the Flam Railway, rising from a village on the shores of Aurlandsfjord, mounts a steeper climb than any other non-cog, normal-gauge railroad in the world. In just 12 miles, the train climbs over 2,838 feet to reach the mountain plateau of Myrdal in under an hour. See the Rjoandefossen waterfall with a free drop of 459 feet, and the Kjosfossen waterfall, plunging 305 feet, where the train makes a photo stop during the summer.

7. Bavarian Bullet: InterCity-Express (ICE)

Route: Munich to Nuremberg, Germany
Duration: 1 hour


Want to go fast? This high-speed wonder zooms you between two historic Bavarian cities at speeds up to 199 miles an hour. “It’s amazing to watch the landscape change so quickly,” says Gillian Seely, a Boston resident who traveled widely by rail while living in Europe for 22 years. “The train is completely quiet inside,” she says. “Vibrations are barely enough to cause ripples in your strong German coffee.” In December, visit various German cities via the ICE rail network to take in traditional Christmas markets selling seasonal foods, handmade gifts, and gluhwein, a mulled spiced wine.

8. The Elegance of Yesteryear: Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Route: London to Venice
Duration: Two days, one night


Step aboard the VSOE, as the train is known, and the calendar turns back to the 1920s and ’30s, the golden age of rail on the Continent. The operator spent $16 million restoring 35 sleeping cars to their original art deco sophistication; passengers are expected to dress elegantly for dinner: at a minimum, suit and tie for men and the equivalent for women; black tie and gowns encouraged. Awake to the sight of the snowcapped Alps and learn the story behind each of the restored carriages.

9. Roughing it by Rail: Balkan Flexipass

Route: Belgrade, Serbia, to Bar, Montenegro
Duration: 10 hours, this leg


Explore the heart of the former Yugoslavia via a Balkan Flexipass (which offers unlimited travel for five, ten, or 15 days through Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey). Start in Belgrade, with its glitzy all-night club scene, hop off at any of various stops to shop or overnight, then board a later train to continue on to sleepy Bar, an ancient town influenced by various conquering cultures on the sun-swathed Adriatic. “Relax, and budget extra time for the inevitable delays,” says Chris Deliso, a travel writer who lives in Macedonia. “The trains are run-down, and the local characters you meet are salt-of-the-earth types.”

10. Luxury on Wheels: The Transylvanian Odyssey

Route: London to Istanbul, Turkey
Duration: 8 days (including stays in Budapest and Istanbul)


At the top of the food chain among European trains is the Danube Express, a private train with classical elegance, modern conveniences, and fine dining. On this route, which begins in Budapest after your flight from London, you penetrate the heart of Transylvania and enjoy a walking tour of the medieval town that was the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler. Eventually you approach Istanbul along the Bosporus, where the Topkapi Palace marks the skyline.


- obozavam vlakove. svugdje bi isla s vlakom da imam vremena. vozila sam se po europi (Hrvatska-Austria-Njemacka-Nizozemska) i vozila sam u ovom balkanskom (Bar-Beograd esencijalna tura). super je kako u europi vlakovi funkcioniraju. mozes uvijek i svugdje. samo su dosta skupi... iako jako dobri! i ovi ICE i drugi... oduvjek sam se htjela vozit transiberijskom linijom ali dok ja nadjem vremena taj ce vlak postat hotel 5* - ako vec i nije!
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post Aug 3 2010, 13:36
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10 Destinations NOT to Visit

by Terry Ward
Jul 8th 2010 03:03 PM

Catherine Price, author of 101 Places Not To See Before You Die, picks her 10 most overhyped tourist traps.

Ever felt overwhelmed by all those list-based travel books telling you where you should go, from the world's top nude beaches to the must visit foodie destinations? And then there's 1000 Places to See Before You Die-it's exhausting just thinking about it, never mind getting there. But New Yorker Catherine Price has turned the whole thing on its head with her new book 101 Places Not To See Before You Die, exposing the destinations and attractions that aren't worth your time or your tourist dollars. From a museum in China devoted to tap water to Disneyland Paris, Price doesn't hold back from explaining why you should steer clear. "But the book is not supposed to be anti-travel," she explains. "It's supposed to remind people that sometimes the travel experiences that are the worst in the moment are actually the stories you love telling later."

Here, Price gives us her top 10 overhyped destinations (in no particular order) and explains why they shouldn't be included on your travel checklist any time soon.

Four Corners

FOUR CORNERS is supposedly the exact spot where the perpendicular borders of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico intersect-the only place in the U.S. where four states allegedly come together. But Price says that recent studies prove that Four Corners is actually in the wrong spot. "The only thing you can do here is take photos of yourself with one limb in each state," says Price, whose book includes a photo of a dog with each paw doing just that. Considering all the beautiful natural attractions in this part of the U.S. (red rock canyons, rivers and Indian ruins), she says, you're better off spending your travel time elsewhere.

Any Hotel That Used to be a Prison

Touring a former prison during your travels? Why not, says Price. But the author draws the line at bedding down in a former bastion of suffering and misery. Case in point, the Karostas Cietums in Latvia, a Soviet-era military prison-turned-hotel that caters to guests who aren't disturbed by the facility's claim that more than 150 people have been shot there (the site was a detention facility until 1997). There are even special prison bunks for kids. "Guests" get the experience of being a prisoner for the night, complete with a good verbal lashing from hotel staff that tests their acting skills as prison guards. "Do I really need to pay to stay someplace where 150 people have been shot?" asks Price.

Manneken Pis, Brussels

Belgium's most famous statue is a naked little boy doing his business in the middle of a fountain in Brussels. Tourists descend in throngs to see this statue, located a few blocks from the city's Grand Place, for what Price considers to be a less than grand cultural outing. "It's a statue of a little boy peeing," she says, adding that she has a pencil sharpener souvenir of the statue (chocolate renditions are also available at souvenir shops throughout the country). "Manneken Pis translates into 'Little Pee Man,' so don't go expecting anything else," she says. In the true spirit of equality, there's also a statue of a little girl squatting to pee (Jeanneke Pis) in a nearby alley.

Beijing Museum of Tap Water

That's right, there's a museum in China's capital dedicated to that which flows freely from the taps-never mind that you can't actually drink the tap water here (the source of the water is ok, says Price, but it's the city's poorly maintained pipes that render it unsafe to drink). The museum is built on the site of Beijing's first water plant, which opened in 1910. Among the exhibits are a U.S.-made stethoscope-style instrument used to listen for leaks in pipes and a mini active tap water filtration system. "I love it that there is something as mundane as a museum dedicated to tap water," says Price, but that's not to say you should put it on your sightseeing list.

Ibiza on a Family Vacation

Ibiza is one of the beautiful group of Spanish islands called the Balearics in the western Mediterranean that's home to UNESCO World Heritage sites and dreamy beaches. But if you come here looking for wholesome entertainment on a family vacation, little Jack and Jane might be in for a far from G-rated eyeful. "Ibiza has long been known as the party capital of the world, drawing hordes of hormonally-fueled visitors each summer," says Price. The island is being pushed as a family destination, she says-an idea that has merit in the right context. "But the idea of taking your five-year-old to Ibiza and trying to get dinner at 10pm with all these people around you spraying themselves with foam and doing drugs," is far from a family-friendly feel, says Price.

Disneyland Paris

For Price, who has lived in Paris, the idea of traveling to Europe to visit the transatlantic version of the house of the mouse borders on sacrilege. "If you're an American traveling abroad, shouldn't you travel a bit farther than an amusement park which is so quintessentially American that is has an Aerosmith-themed roller coaster?" Even at home in the U.S., Price was never a Disney fan. "I have an early memory of a character breakfast where I hid under a table, and I remember seeing this Pinocchio nose coming at me," she says. "It was horrifying." And many people who come to the French version of the theme park expecting California or Florida temperatures, don't realize that it gets very cold in France in the winter. But her larger objection, of course, is philosophical. "If you're an American going to Europe, do not go back to America via Disneyland."

Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota

This former small town pharmacy that touts itself as being "home to the world's second largest jackalope" is probably better known to people who've never been to America than it is to most Americans. Signs touting Wall Drug have been placed everywhere, from Kenyan commuter trains to London buses. The emphasis is on kitsch, all the way-attractions include a mini Mount Rushmore statue on display and a well pumping out free ice water in the store's backyard. "It's the tautology of a tourist trap," says Price, "and is only worth visiting because of the signs that tell you it's worth visiting."

Luxor Las Vegas

Price deems the Luxor Las Vegas--a black glass hotel and casino on the strip modeled after the famous Egyptian pyramids-Sin City's least worthy attraction. "It's this massive, black pseudo-tomb that combines the despair of an existential crisis with the ambiance of a parking garage," she says, adding that while the building may appear rather glamorous from the outside, "inside everything is dark and smells like smoke." Certainly no place for Nefertiti. When in Vegas, Price advises, "stay in a hotel with more emphasis on daylight."

The Top of Mount Everest

Striving to summit the world's highest peak strikes Price as seriously uncreative. "You're putting your own life at risk, you're hiring sherpas and guides who put their lives at risk, and basically people have already done it before," she says. "I think there are a lot of things in this world that are personal challenges, and it's a personal challenge, but it's a cliché, too." Price admits she cannot relate to mankind's obsession with "being on top of things." Certainly there are other ways to seek out adventure, she says, than paying $65,000 to do something that's already been done.

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose

Winchester Mystery House, a Victorian mansion in San Jose, CA. designed by rifle heiress Sarah Winchester "gives a sense of what happens when a multi million-dollar fortune and a belief in the paranormal are combined in a woman with no architectural training," says Price. "There are stairs that lead to the ceiling, chimneys that stop a foot and a half short of the roof, cabinets that are actually passageways..." In 1884, a psychic told Winchester to appease angry spirits by building a house and from that day construction began and didn't stop until the heiress's death 38 years later. "The effect of all this-the gift shop, the mile-long tour through endless empty rooms, the near total lack of concrete facts-is to leave you feeling as if you just binged on McDonald's: full, and yet, surprisingly empty," writes Price in her book. With so many more worthy attractions in the Golden State, you can forgive yourself for giving the Winchester Mystery House a miss, she says.

Photo Credits: Four Corners - Getty Images; Prison Hotel - Lauren Manning, flickr; Manneken Pis - Alamy; Beijing Museum - tour-beijing.com; Ibiza - Alamy; Disneyland Paris - Alamy; Wall Drug - tkksummers, flickr; Luxor Las Vegas - MGM Resorts International; Mount Everest - STR, AFP / Getty Images; Winchester Mystery House - Harshlight, flickr

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post Aug 17 2010, 13:18
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Top 10 Eastern European getaways

For years Eastern Europe was the undiscovered half of the continent, where architectural gems, wonderful landscapes and buzzing cities saw only a fraction of the number of visitors heading to Western Europe. Things have changed, with Eastern Europe now drawing travelers by the trainload, but the diversity and appeal of the region’s highlights remain the same. Whether you’re discovering them for the first time or coming back for a second dose, you won’t be disappointed. Here are our top 10 Eastern European getaways.

1. Julian Alps, Slovenia: The Julian Alps – named in honour of Caesar himself – form Slovenia’s dramatic northwest frontier with Italy. Triglav National Park, established in 1924, includes almost all of the Alps lying within Slovenia. The centrepiece of the park is Mt Triglav and our favorite spot within the park? Well that must be Vršiè Pass. The scenery is incredible.

Julian Alps landscape north of Vrsic Pass.

2. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina: In the 1990s Sarajevo was on the edge of annihilation. Today it’s a cosy, vibrant capital whose humanity, wonderful cafe-scene, attractive contours and East-meets-West ambience are increasingly making it a favourite summer traveler destination. Meanwhile in winter it’s brilliantly handy for some of Europe’s best-value skiing.

Early morning overhead of Miljacka River in central Sarajevo.

3. Mljet Island, Croatia: Of all the Adriatic islands, Mljet (Meleda in Italian) may be the most seductive. Over 72% of the island is covered by forests and the rest is dotted by fields, vineyards and small villages. Most people visit the island on excursions from Korèula or Dubrovnik, but it's now possible to take the ferry from Dubrovnik and stay a few days for hiking, cycling and boating.

4. Orheiul Vechi, Moldova: The Orheiul Vechi Monastery Complex, carved into a massive limestone cliff in this wild, rocky, remote spot is unquestionably Moldova’s most fantastic sight. The Cave Monastery, which overlooks the gently meandering Rãut River, was dug by Orthodox monks in the 13th century.

5. Tallinn, Estonia: Today’s Tallinn fuses the medieval and the cutting edge to come up with an energetic new mood all of its own – an intoxicating mix of ancient church spires, glass-and-chrome skyscrapers, cosy wine cellars inside 15th-century basements, sun-filled town squares and bike paths to beaches and forests – with a few Soviet throwbacks for added spice.

The Viru Gate in Tallinn

The Town Hall Square ( Raekoja plats ) of Tallinn is dominated by the only surviving Gothic town hall in Northern Europe

6. Loket, Czech Republic: Nestled in a bend of the Ohøe River, Loket is a gorgeous place with a chocolate-box-style town square. Loket even scored a cameo role in the 2006 James Bond movie, Casino Royale. Most people visit Loket as a day trip from Karlovy Vary, but it’s also a sleepy place to ease off the travel accelerator for a few days.

Loket nad Ohri castle.

7. Torun, Poland: The first thing to strike you about Toruñ, south of Gdañsk, is its massive red-brick churches, looking more like fortresses than places of worship. The city is defined by its striking Gothic architecture, which gives its Old Town a distinctive appearance and its promotional slogan: gotyk na dotyk (Touch Gothic). The city has just the right balance between sightseeing and chilling.

Gnomes for sale near Torun.

8. Ždiar, Slovakia: Decorated timber cottages line long and narrow Ždiar, the only mountain settlement inhabited since the 16th century. Several sections of the village are historical reservations, including the Ždiar House Museum, a tiny place with colorful local costumes and furnishings. Cross over the main road from the museum and a green trail skirts the river through Monkova Valley for a 2½-hour hike loop.

Traditional timber house.

9. Riga, Latvia: Some call it ‘The Paris of the North’, others ‘The Second City That Never Sleeps’...we simply love it. For starters, the city has the largest and most impressive showing of art nouveau architecture in Europe. Nightmarish gargoyles and praying goddesses adorn over 750 buildings along the stately boulevards radiating out from Rīga’s castle core. The heart of the city – Old Town – is a fairy-tale kingdom of winding wobbly lanes and gingerbread trim that beats to the sound of a pumping discotheque.

City of Riga Information Centre.

10. Minsk, Belarus: Minsk will almost certainly surprise you. The capital of Belarus is, despite its thoroughly dreary sounding name, an amazingly progressive and modern place. Here fashionable cafes, wi-fi–enabled restaurants and crowded bars and nightclubs vie for your attention. Sushi bars and art galleries have taken up residence in a city centre totally remodelled to the tastes of Stalin. There are relatively few traditional sights in the city but myriad places of interest for anyone fascinated by the Soviet period, and plenty of cosmopolitan pursuits to keep you entertained come the evening.

People walking past Palace of the Republic.

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post Aug 23 2010, 09:32
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Essential backpacker trails

In an excerpt from Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences, we take to the trails that still inspire travel novices and seasoned veterans to hit the road.

1. Istanbul to Cairo, Middle East

İstanbul has a foot on two continents, making it an ideal launch pad for the Middle East. This route works its way down through Turkey and into Syria, with an evocative bazaar at Aleppo and the spectacular city of Damascus. Head down to Jordan, pausing to admire the ruins of Petra and to float in the Dead Sea. Regardless of your faith, detouring to Jerusalem makes for a religious experience, then chill out with some Red Sea snorkelling. You’ll need the relaxation to prepare for crowded Cairo, where a trip out to the pyramids is a requirement.

2. East Coast Australia

Many backpackers kick this trip off in Sydney, with its glammed up beaches and iconic bridge drawing their attention. Some might meander as far south as Melbourne, the so-called Paris of the Southern Hemisphere, with its cosmopolitan culture and European weather (its grey winter is infamous). But the more beaten-track trips north of Sydney, through hippy haven Byron Bay, which has awesome surf breaks. If you’re collecting capitals stop off at Brisbane, but most continue to tropical Cairns, a jumping-off point for cruising the Great Barrier Reef, the coral-jewelled necklace that makes the most stunning adornment to this coast.

3. Banana Pancake Trail

Most Southeast Asia trips start in Bangkok’s backpacker epicentre, Khao Sanh Rd, but hordes wander to the beaches of Ko Pha-Ngan or up-market Phuket. Many young travellers head to Cambodia’s Siem Reap to gape at the ancient civilisations of Angkor Wat, before heading to Ho Chi Minh City and working their way north along Vietnam’s coast to the majestic rock formations of Halong Bay. To get off the trail a little more head inland to Laos’ capital, Vientiane, or elephant trek in Khao Yai National Park. Bangkok and Singapore are both hubs for airlines so there are often cheap flights out of these cities to many other places in Asia.

Hang Hanh Street, backpacker nightlife zone.

No shortage of backpacker accommodation in Vang Vieng.

4. North Island to South Island, New Zealand

The trail begins in Auckland, where plenty of backpackers enjoy the party life, then heads down to Rotorua for the volcanic sights and hangi (traditional Maori feasting and performance). The route winds on through Lake Taupo, a good spot for skydiving and water sports. Then make for windy Wellington with its cafe culture and kooky Beehive (national parliament). From here you can hop across to the South Island for whale-watching in Kaikoura before heading for Queenstown, the base for exploring spectacular Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, or tearing up the scenic waterways in a jet-boat.

5. Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia

Once the route of the tsars, this 9289km stretch of track is becoming a backpacker must-do. The classic route starts on the coast in Vladivostok, rattling along to Moscow by way of the world’s deepest lake, Baikal, or stopping at Yekaterinburg, where the Romanov line of tsars came to a bloody end. The railway ends at magnificent Moscow with its gold-domed churches and austere Red Square, though it’s possible to go on to St Petersburg. For a less-travelled alternative, take the Trans-Mongolian from Beijing and explore the steppes of Mongolia before meeting the mainline just near Lake Baikal.

Souvenir stall at Slyudyanka station for passengers on the Trans-Siberian train.

6. Route 66, USA

Few roads say Americana like this legendary gravel. While the name ceased to be used in 1985, young adventurers still pick up its path to see the best of the USA. It begins in Chicago, where you can catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field; further on, see legendary blues in St Louis. Put your foot on the gas to hit Kansas, in the heartland of long flat plains. The road cuts through the Lone Star State of Texas, marking the halfway point with an epic junkyard sculpture. There’s more cow poking in New Mexico then it’s on to Arizona, boasting the longest uninterrupted stretch of the original route. California builds to the oasis of Los Angeles, with Hollywood and Rodeo Drive the climax of the trip.

Route 66 sign on highway near Amboy.

7. Cape Town to Cairo

Ewan McGregor rode a motorbike north to south over most of this course to discover it was a Long Way Down, but this intrepid journey can begin or end in Cape Town. If starting at the bottom, head north into Botswana, where you can cruise the rivers to spot elephants in the Chobe National Park. Bear up into Tanzania, known for catch-it-while-you-can snowcapped Mt Kilimanjaro, or listen to the thundering of wildebeest across Serengeti National Park. Enjoy the serenity now – some of Africa’s most difficult country lies ahead: Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan are all struggling with conflict. At the journey’s end, Cairo promises the pyramids and a bustling city.

8. Gringo Trail, Peru

This popular loop links the country’s biggest attractions. From upbeat capital Lima the trail traces the coast south to Paracas, where an excursion out to Islas Ballestas to spot penguins and sea lions is ideal. Toast Ica, Peru’s wine and pisco (grape liquor) capital, then move on to Nazca to fly over the enigmatic Nazca lines. You can ascend to Arequipa, the ‘white city’ of colonial architecture, and continue to Puno, Peru’s port on Lake Titicaca. Hop on a bus to Cuzco for the archaeological mecca of South America, then walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – or cheat and catch a train from Cuzco. From late May until early September, Machu Picchu’s high season, 2500 people arrive at the site – the maximum number allowed.

Tourist at Intipunku 'sun gate' with Machu Picchu in distance.

Trekkers resting after completing the Inca hike, Machu Picchu.

9. Europe by music festival

Don’t see Europe, hear it. Backpackers soak up the summer sun and sounds by driving a Kombi between their favourite gigs. The granddaddy of them all is the UK’s Glastonbury, which has hosted big name rock acts plus comedy, circus and theatre since 1971. Another old-timer is Denmark’s Roskilde, with a heavy-rocking slant, or get folked-up at Baltica, the international folk festival held in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Finland’s World Air Guitar Championships always stuns. The sweet End of the Road Festival, also in the UK, is a low-key wind down with country-folk featuring strongly.

Crowds sitting among rocks at the Glastonbury Festival - Glastonbury, Somerset, England

10. Silk Road

For centuries merchants have woven roads back and forth between China and Europe, each with their own secret path to transport silk, spices and other goods to markets faster. The modern road usually starts in China’s Xi’an, home to the Terracotta Army of the Qin dynasty. It heads on to Urumqi, in China’s wild west Xinjiang province, before splitting in two: one branch heading west into Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and another heading south to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. In northwestern China, Dunhuang is an essential stop on the Silk Road and is known for the Mogao Caves, which hold religious artefacts from all along the ancient trading route.

Women on Silk Road selling cloth.

lonely planet
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post Sep 1 2010, 10:14
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Chuck Dayton: The Sounds of Warming: Greenland Kayaking

08/30/10 - Chuck Dayton left private law practice as a young man to work for the fledgling Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) on improving environmental law at the legislature, with great success, especially in the 1971 and 1973 sessions. He, along with another MPIRG attorney, John Herman, soon formed the first environmental law practice firm in the state, and Chuck, now retired, still does substantive work on environmental issues for various concerns.

Deep in Uummannaq fjord, on the central west coast of Greenland, the silence is palpable, singing in ears that strain for sound and find none. There are no trees to sigh in the wind, and usually no wind in this land of 3,000-foot cliffs.

The only sounds are from ice.

Huge white sculptures, bigger than a suburban house, birthed by a nearby glacier, have floated into the steep-sided fjord where our group of ten kayakers are tented on the arctic heath. Dramatic gunshots and thunder bounce off steep rock walls, as gasses trapped thousands of years ago expand with warmth and crack the icebergs. Every few minutes, we look up to see a chunk of ice cascading into the sea, creating a wave that would be dangerous to a nearby kayaker. Air pockets in the broken bergy bits tinkle and fizz, while the remaining berg sways slowly into to its new equilibrium.

As we paddle our yellow kayaks near as we dare, dripping from melting bergs sounds like rain.

Standing beside the largest glacier outside of Antarctica, the Ilulissat, a huge river of ice, four miles wide, flowing more than twice as fast as in the 1990’s down from the two-mile high ice cap, the sound of running water, under the ice, is soft but ominous.

Ice is melting more quickly now and forming lakes on the ice cap, which drain through fissures to the bedrock, lubricating the faster flow of glaciers to the sea.

On the cover of its June 2010 issue, National Geographic called Greenland the “Ground Zero” of global warming. The acceleration of melting of the huge icecap has more than doubled from 2002 to 2009. That article and a website, James Balogs’s Extreme IceSurvey, ARE HERE. Balog’s speech to the TED conference at Oxford also conveys a dramatic picture of the melting Greenland ice cap and glaciers, and the implications for rising seas.

While National Geographic reports that some Greenlanders welcome the warming, the fishing town of Ummannaq, (our base of operations) which ships thousands of tons of halibut per year, is dismayed that the ice is so thin that winter fishing from dog sleds is drastically curtailed.

Despite the sobering knowledge of the climatic changes, our kayaking trip, led by Steve Piragis of Ely, was a unique and exciting adventure. Weather was mostly sunny (24 hours per day of sun at more than 300 miles above the Arctic Circle), and in the 60’s for highs, high 40’s for lows. Camping was pleasant in terrain much like that above timberline in the Rockies: no trees, bright flowers, lichen and ground cover underfoot, lots of rocks. It must have been like this in Minnesota just after the glaciers retreated. We hiked and kayaked in this stark and magnificent landscape, with views of neaby glaciers launching icebergs on their journey to the sea. Unlike Alaska, it rains very little and there is nothing here higher than us on the food chain. Native mussels, mushroom and cod supplemented our fare.

Paddling past the towering icebergs, their reflection mirrored by a calm sea, a clearly audible whooshing sound from miles away tells us that a fin whale, second largest being on the planet, is nearby. We are content that we have to look through bino, to get a good look.

Global warming is real in Greenland. You can hear it. You can see the shrinking glaciers, and the melt-water atop the massive ice cap, and you know that as it melts the seas will rise, with disastrous consequence.

Drip, drip, drip.

-- Chuck Dayton

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post Sep 14 2010, 14:36
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Problems and Solutions for the Ganges River

posted by: Jasmine Greene

Besides being a holy river for Hindus, the Ganges also provides water to millions of people in India. Unfortunately, billions of liters of human feces and other sewage is dumped into this river, threatening not only humans, but the natural ecosystem of the river. Fortunately, there are people in the Indian government and regular citizens looking to bring attention to this problem.

Most of the main pollution issues with the Ganges deals with improper sewage management. New Delhi alone produces 3.6 billion liters of sewage daily, with only half being treated effectively. Some of the tributaries of the Ganges, like Yamuna, have already become unusable since 70 percent of the pollution is caused from human excrement. While there are around 300 processing facilities in India, many are poorly managed and oft times treated waste is mixed in with untreated and then thrown back into the water. This kind of pollution can cause serious water-born diseases like severe diarrhea, a leading cause of death among children in India [Source: World Environment News ]. Besides the pollution, the river is facing other hardships. Due to the changing climate, scientists have stated that the Gangotri glacier, which provides up to 70 percent of the water of the Ganges during the summer months, is decreasing at a rate of 40 yards a year. By 2030, the glacier may be completely melted and the Ganges will become a more seasonal river largely dependent on monsoons. Not only would this put India in danger, the river provides water for 500 million in India alone, many other Asian countries depend on the river as their main water source [Source: The Boston Globe ]. Of course, climate change is already affecting the Ganges fresh water supply. Due to rising sea levels more salt water has begun flowing into the Ganges. This has been noted by the appearance of mangroves along the Ganges river belt, as well as an increase in of salt water fish in the river. According to Pranabes Sanyal, the eastern India representative of the National Coastal Zone Management Authority (NCZMA), the sea had extended as far as Kolkata 6,500 years ago, and he fears the same is happening now. Not only will the rising salinity affect drinking water, it will also This phenomenon is called salinate the groundwater and turn agricultural lands barren in neighbroing rural belts [Source: Reuters ]. Increase in salinity of the river would also lead to the extinction of one of the few freshwater dolphins. Currently the population stands at 2,000 though they numbers continue dropping due to actual poaching, accidental deaths by fishing nets [Source: Planet Green ].

Despite all of these issues that the government of India faces, one individual is attempting to bring worldwide attention to this problem. Rajendra Singh, also known as the Gandhi of Water, is planning to travel along the entire length of the Ganges, starting from the Goumouk glacier to the Bay of Bengal. He plans on documenting the entire travel to show the misuse and pollution of the river and come up with workable solutions. For Singh, the idea of a centralized water and sewage system might be too cost prohibitive for many rural parts of India. Instead he pushes for smaller solutions utilizing the necessary technology for rural and developing areas that focus on the needs of the river and people along it rather than profit [Source: Treehugger ]. The Indian government has also been slowly changing their attitude towards the river and recently canceled a hydropower plant along one of the Ganges tributaries, the Bhagirathi River. While the project would not have created a dam, the plant would divert 16 kilometers of river through pipes. Construction had been delayed for a year due to scientists AD Agarwal hunger strike and was finally shot down along with three other projects. The decision was made in part for religious reasons but was made mainly because it was impossible to prove the future viability of these plants. Changing precipitation and melting glaciers would effect the output of these plants and eventually render them useless. The Indian government, instead of allowing others to build along the river, have protected 135 km stretch from Gaumukh to Uttarkashias as an environmentally sensitive area [Source: Times of India ].

The Ganges river is not only a holy sanctuary for many Hindus, it is literally the lifeblood of Asia. Not only does the river provide drinking water to the people, it also waters the crop and offers food. Unfortunately, there is more than pollution that affects the Ganges, and if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed then the river will either become too salinated for normal use or disappear completely.

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post Sep 14 2010, 14:47
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Ideal Places to Watch the Sun Rise and Set

Photo by: VinceHuang

When you fill out your Matador community profile, we want to know: What’s your ideal place to watch the sun rise and set? Bob Riel introduces 8 ideas to get you started.

Mt. Sinai, Egypt

To catch the sunrise on Mt. Sinai, travelers first climb a rocky trail from 2:30 to 5am, alongside Bedouin tribesmen and their camels. Then they sit and wait for the dawn’s rays to pierce the darkness and illuminate a jagged, lunar-like landscape.

The sensation of being on Mt. Sinai as the sun appears in the morning sky is impossible to forget. Even if you’re not religious, you can envision Moses having a divine experience here.

After trekking back downhill, stop at St. Catherine's Monastery o see a direct descendant of the Bible’s burning bush.

Ganges River, Varanasi, India

Photo by: Paolo Bosonin

Varanasi is believed to be one of the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, with a past that stretches back 3,000 years.

Trudge its narrow, dirty streets in the predawn hours before emerging atop one of the ghats that line the sacred Ganges River to the sight of a vibrant sunrise and Hindu pilgrims bathing and praying at the water’s edge.

Alternatively, take in the scene from a rowboat that ferries visitors up and down the river.

Jimbaran Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Many Balinese beaches see lovely sunsets, but Jimbaran is unique because of the dozens of seafood shacks that line the sands and only open for dinner.

Each restaurant has chests of ice filled with freshly caught fish, from snapper and grouper to prawns and crabs. Once diners make a selection, the fish are cleaned, grilled, and served at a seaside table.

As you eat, you can sink your toes into the sand, listen to the waves, and watch as the sun sinks into the Indian Ocean. Afterwards, relax with a drink as the beach glows with the light of hundreds of candles, lit by the restaurants.

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Serengeti National Park in Tanzania works too, as the wildebeest visit both during their annual migration from July to October. Regardless of the country, the scenery is fabulous and you can combine sunset viewing with a safari experience.

Imagine spending late afternoon on a game drive, watching elephants, giraffes, gazelles, lions, and wildebeest, and then topping off the day with a deep orange sunset.

Photo by: colinjackson1972

Phnom Bakheng temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Phnom Bakheng is a Buddhist temple built in the late 9th century on a hillside outside what is now Siem Reap. Visitors to the Angkor Archaeological Park are enticed to the temple ruins for its sunset views.

The top of Bakheng is accessible via a steep staircase, and from there you can look down on the sacred site of Angkor Wat and out across the forested expanse of northern Cambodia as the sun sets in a splash of color.

Oia, Santorini, Greece

Every day, in late afternoon, travelers make their way to the western edge of the Greek island of Santorini.
There, in the small town of Oia, amidst whitewashed homes perched on the edge of a caldera, they stand along the road and sit with legs dangling from walls, waiting for the sun to disappear beneath the waves of the Aegean Sea.

The intense light of the Aegean produces a particularly dramatic sunset. So dramatic, in fact, that the tourist crowd invariably breaks out in applause.

Photo by: ianphilipmiller

Cape Town, South Africa

Often hailed as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Cape Town sits at the southwestern edge of Africa, backed by the flat-topped 3,500ft peak of Table Mountain.

For an extraordinary sunset experience, book a ride with one of the local boat companies that offer late-afternoon cruises. You’ll ply the waters near the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, gaze back at the majestic Table, and perhaps sip a glass of wine as the sun dips below the horizon.

Haleakala Volcano, Maui, Hawaii

Photo by: donabel and ewen

On the island of Maui, you can drive from sea level up to 10,000 feet in about two hours and end your journey near the peak of Haleakala. More than a million people make this journey annually, many of them in the predawn hours so they can watch the sun rise over Haleakala National Park.

Once it does, you can hike into Haleakala Crater. Or, hop a van up to the peak and mountain bike back down.

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post Oct 13 2010, 12:30
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Nature’s most spectacular attractions

1. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Sunrise near Isla de Pescadores with hexagonal salt crystallisation in foreground.

The startling white salt plain of Salar de Uyuni in southwest Bolivia is the world’s largest – containing an estimated 10 billion tonnes of salt and covering an area of 12,000 sq km. Located near the crest of the Andes, where the surrounding Altiplano burbles away with thermal activity and Ojos del Salar (Salt Eyes) leak upward-flowing tears from underground pools. This is mirage territory, where squinting into the shimmering distance merges the illusory soft edges.

Take a train or a bus to the nearby village of Uyuni. Excursions to the flats run frequently; four-day tours cost around US$100, excluding guide tips and park fees.

2. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Aerial of heart-shaped reef at Hardy Reef, near Whitsunday Islands.

The world’s largest marine park stretches more than 2300km along the clear, shallow waters off the northeast coast of Australia. An extraordinary variety of species thrive in its tropical waters, including 400 types of coral, 1500 species of fi sh and 400 types of mollusc. An armada of tour boats shuttles snorkellers and divers to and from shore, providing myriad services and tours. Witness whales on their annual migration, car-sized cod fish and eerie shipwrecks at this Unesco World Heritage site.

Live-aboard boat the Spirit of Freedom offers divers three-, four- and seven-day itineraries. At Cairns you’ll find lots of other options to explore the reef.

3. Atacama Desert & El Tatio Geysers, Chile

Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) in the Atacama Desert(2nd Region).

It’s believed that parts of Chile's Atacama Desert have never been touched by rain. The desert’s barren landscape is made up of a series of salt basins supporting virtually no vegetation. This dramatic landscape is also where you’ll find extinct volcanoes standing over an Inca village, a stunning flurry of flamingos in Laguna Chaxa and the highest geyser field in the world. Sitting 4267m above sea level, the El Tatio geysers are continually blowing off steam.

Accommodate yourself in desert luxury at Awasi Hotel; a two-night all-inclusive package costs from US$1000 per person.

El Tatio Geysers of the Atacama Desert.

4. Canadian Rockies, Canada

Lake Oesa in Canadian Rockies.

Straddling the British Colombia and Alberta state borders in the country’s west, the humongous Rockies region (about the size of England) comprises a string of four national parks: Banff , Jasper, Kooteney and Yoho. Nature started moulding the mountains, rivers, lakes, waterfalls and glaciers a mere 75 million years ago, but boy did she let it rip. Outdoorsy types can hike, bike, paddle, ride and climb among the stunning Unesco World Heritage–listed scenery, which is home to a glut of great wildlife, from moose and marmots to bears and birds.

Edmonton is the gateway to the mountains; a stunning 3½-hour drive (366km) west leads you to Jasper National Park, the largest Rocky Mountain park. See www.jaspercanadianrockies.com.

5. Milford Sound, New Zealnd

Rain forest near Milford Sound.

Echoes of Maori legend ricochet around the steep cliffs that rise sharply out of the seas of New Zealand‘s South Island. According to legend, the sheer valleys were cut by Tute Rakiwhanoa, who used a magical adze. In fact carved by rivers of ice, the sound – within Fiordland National Park – is indisputably enchanting, and forms part of the Unesco World Heritage list. Located at the end of the famed 53.5km Milford Track, the fjord makes a fitting finale for hikers, who are met by the towering Mitre Peak (1695m).

You can fly to Milford Sound from either Queenstown or Wanaka. Kayaking is a fantastic way to explore the sound; check out the original Rosco’s Milford Kayaks for information.

6. Grand Canyon, USA

Overhead of canyon from South Rim.

The Colorado River has been conscientiously carving out this world-famous landmark for around 6 million years. Located in the USA’s arid state of Arizona, the grand old dame stretches 446km long, cutting more than 1500m deep into ancient layers of rock and gaping up to 29km wide in parts. Go hiking among humbling red-rock spires, perch at a majestic lookout and search the skies for the endangered California condor, or roar along the Colorado River rapids that keep this impressive canyon company.

Toroweap Overlook is one of the most dramatic points in the Grand Canyon National Park; it’s in the undeveloped Tuweep section, where camping is free.

7. Salto Angel, Venezuela

Tourists viewing Angel Falls from lookout known as Mirador Laime.

The world’s highest waterfall, Salto Ángel (Angel Falls), crashes into a nameless tributary of the Río Caroni in Venezuela’s Parque Nacional Canaima. Falling from a great height of 978m, the fi ckle falls are best seen on a cloudless day (as a fl ight is involved) and in summer when the water is most voluminous. Known locally as Kerepakupai-meru, Salto Ángel was named after Jimmy Angel – a gold-hunting aviator who spotted them in the 1930s.

A chopper ride here is beyond words. Tariff s start at around US$600; check your flight options at www.salto-angel.com.

8. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Water cascading from a wide flat pool: one of the many waterfalls in the Plitvice Lakes National Park.

Croatia’s precious network of 16 lakes interlinked with waterfalls is acknowledged on the Unesco World Heritage list. The Plitvice Lakes are also known as the Devil’s Garden, which refers to the associated tale of the area being flooded by the Black Queen after a long drought and countless prayers. Limestone and travertine caves pock the surrounding landscape, with dense forests crowding around the rims of the upper lakes.

Snow lovers should visit any time from November to March; in December and January the lakes are frozen. The lakes are open daily all year from about 8am–7pm.

9. Lake District, England

Near Pattrerson, overlooking Lake Ullswater.

It’s no surprise that the northwest corner of England, called the Lake District, comprises multitudinous lakes. Add luxuriant green dales and bald modest mountains and you have some pleasant countryside indeed. The inspiration for Wordsworth’s worthy words in the 17th century, the region’s middle name is ‘romance’. Be prepared to hike into the hills and head closer to the clouds for some quiet time away from the visiting hordes.

The easiest access from London is by train. Handy information centres are located in Keswick, Ullswater and Bowness Bay; before you arrive check out www.lake-district.gov.uk.

10. Sossusvlei, Namibia

Red color of Sossusvlei sand dunes after sunrise.

In the heart of Namibia’s Namib Desert, soaring sandscapes are continuously rearranged by the wind. The world’s highest sand hills, up to 300m, are stacked here within the vast boundaries of the Namib-Naukluft Park – stretching 480km along the coast and deep inland. Presenting every shade of orange and umber, older dunes are saturated orange through years of iron oxidisation. A sea mist moistens the marshland to sustain the resident lizards and beetles.

The nearest place to stay is Sesriem camp site; an hour’s drive (60km) brings you to Sossuvlei. Visiting is only permitted between sunrise and sunset.

Source: Lonely Planet (zanimljivi komentari ispod clanka!)
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post Apr 27 2011, 13:30
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Brand new membership program, Wizz Xclusive Club
Wizz Air launches the first low fare discount club in Europe

Wizz Air, the low fare – low cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe announced that it has launched its brand new membership program, Wizz Xclusive Club on 31st March 2011.

Almost 50 thousand Wizz customers joined the Wizz Xclusice Club and benefited the club advantages by buying more than 74.500 segments so far. This means that in the first two weeks more than two customers joined the club per minute.

Wizz Xclusive Club members will get the following benefits:
1) Exclusive access to a pool of promotional tickets that can be cheaper by up to 10 EUR per one way flight than regular prices.
2) Instant access to discounted member fares will be granted to all members straight after joining the program.
3) Up to 9 passengers can be booked together with the Xclusive Club member on the same reservation and beneficiate from the discounted fares.
4) Wizz Xclusive Club members receive exclusive member-only promotional offers via email in case they sign up to the Wizz newsletter.

travel daily news

EasyJet and Ryanair misled customers

EasyJet has been forced to remove an advert claiming to offer business travellers the best deal after rival Ryanair proved its flights were cheaper.

Ryanair told advertising watchdogs that easyJet's claim "We charge you less" was misleading because it offered lower fares than easyJet on a number of routes.

The Advertising Standards Authority dismissed easyJet's argument that because Ryanair did not fly from the same main airports or offer business travellers an equivalent product its fares should not be compared to easyJet's.

The ASA said: "We considered that the ad did not make clear the nature of the comparison being made in the claim "We charge you less" and that, without further information, consumers would be unable to establish the circumstances in which easyJet was claiming to be cheaper than other flights for business travel.

"We considered that, because of this, consumers would not know which airlines had been included in the comparison, or whether it was a comparison with business class travel only or with economy class travel, and in the absence of further explanatory information, there was a likelihood that consumers would believe travel on all other airlines had been included in the price comparison."

However, the ASA also partially upheld a separate complaint against a Ryanair's ad which claimed to offer cheap winter sun flights after discovering that the destinations included in the promotion were at best luke warm in February and March.

"We noted the average daily sunshine hours of the destinations quoted ranged from three to six hours," said the ASA. "We noted the maximum temperatures of the destinations, were between 11°C and 14°C for the warmest three destinations; between 6 °C and 9 °C for most of the destinations and between 0 °C and 4 °C for the coldest destination.

"We considered that the average consumer would infer from the claim "Book to the sun now" and the image of the woman sunbathing, in a bikini, with a cocktail, that the promotion included fares to destinations warm enough to sunbathe in swimwear during the promotional period. Because we understood this was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading."

A second complaint over the airline's pricing was also upheld and Ryanair has been told not to repeat the claims.

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post Apr 27 2011, 13:39
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Best ‘middle of nowhere’ places

Want to get off the beaten path? Then here are 10 places that will stump most travel agents and reward you with original experiences. But remember, these are ‘no pain, no gain’ destinations so you’ll need to be prepared for long transit times there and back – and you won’t be able to recover at a five star hotel after a day of walking up 300m sand dunes or climbing an active volcano.

Concordia, Pakistan

image by *_*

To reach Concordia, the junction of the Baltoro, Godwin-Austen and Vigne Glaciers in Baltistan, northern Pakistan, you must walk for about 10 days, eventually arriving at the foot of K2, the world’s second-highest mountain. Easy ways in do not exist, and there are few places on earth where you can be buried so deep within a mountainscape. Described by the photographer Galen Rowell as the ‘throne room of the mountain gods’, Concordia is as starkly beautiful as it is remote. Its name was given by European explorers, who thought it looked like a spot in the European Alps.

K2 peak from Concordia, Baltoro Glacier.
by Grant Dixon, Lonely Planet Photographer

Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia

image by yosoynuts

Whether you call it the Empty Quarter (Rub al-Khali) or the Abode of Silence, the largest area of sand on earth is, well, rather empty. Covering an area of the Arabian Peninsula that’s larger than France, Belgium and the Netherlands combined, it also has sand dunes as high as the Eiffel Tower, rising to more than 300m in height and stretching for hundreds of kilometres. And while the Eiffel Tower remains firmly rooted in Parisian soil, these dunes can move up to 30m a year, pushed along by strong winds.

Rub'Al-Khali ( Empty Quarter ) borders the countries of Saudi Arabia, UAE ( United Arab Emirates ) and Oman
by Chris Mellor, Lonely Planet Photographer

Cape York, Australia

image by jwbenwell

Australia is renowned as a place of nowheres but even to Aussies, Cape York presents a remote and forbidding frontier. The northernmost tip in the country is reached along corrugated 4WD tracks that will rattle the teeth loose from your jaw. You’ll find the cape approximately 1000km from Cairns, which means days and days of driving, including crossing creeks inhabited by estuarine crocodiles. For your reward, you’ll find a rocky headland and, well, not much else. Now the only thing left to do is to turn around and clatter your way back.

Tip of Cape York
by Oliver Strewe, Lonely Planet Photographer

Enjoying Elliot Falls on the Cape York Peninsula
by Oliver Strewe, Lonely Planet Photographer

Quttinirpaaq National Park, Canada
Canada’s second-largest national park is probably also its least visited. Straddling the 80th parallel on Ellesmere Island, it reaches to North America’s northernmost point (Cape Columbia) and, for visitors, deep into their pockets – a charter flight in from the town of Resolute will set you back an immodest C$32,000. The park has no facilities, roads or even trees. What it does have are bears and bares: polar bears and beautiful, bare mountains. While here you may as well pay a visit to Grise Fiord, Canada’s most northerly town.

North Pole
The earth’s northernmost point is a place so far off the human radar that somebody turned it into the mythical home of Santa Claus – after all, who’d come here to prove the story wrong. Unlike the South Pole, there is no land at the North Pole. The few adventurers who come here do so by literally walking on water across the frozen Arctic Ocean. The ice cover fluctuates between nine million sq km in summer and 16 million sq km in winter, and is rarely more than 5m in depth; a disturbing thought when compared to the 3000mthick Antarctic ice shield.

Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile
The most famous loneliest person in literary history is Robinson Crusoe. As lonely as the man is the island that bears his name, 670km off the South American coast. It was here, in 1704, that Alexander Selkirk asked to be put ashore after a dispute with his ship’s captain. He lived here alone for four years, inspiring Daniel Defoe to create Robinson Crusoe. Today, around 500 people live on the Pacific island named for its very solitude. Few others come here; visitor numbers rarely top 100 in a year.

Looking over San Juan Bautista and Akademik Shuleykin - Isla Robinson Crusoe, Archipilego Juan Fernandex, Valparaiso
by Tony Wheeler, Lonely Planet Photographer

Nevado Mismi, Peru
The Amazon is the world’s most voluminous river but it wasn’t until a few years ago that anybody could truly pinpoint its headwaters. In 2001 a GPS-laden National Geographic survey team climbed high into the Andes of southern Peru, about 700km from Lima and 3000km from the Amazon’s mouth. Here, on a rock wall on the 5597m high mountain, Nevado Mismi, they identified a dribble of water as the river’s origin. If you’re intrepid enough to want to visit Nevado Mismi, begin in Arequipa and head for the village of Tuti; the walk in is not difficult.

Olkhon Island, Russia

image by xJasonRogersx

Travel on the Trans- Siberian Railway as it skirts Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest freshwater lake, and you appreciate the place’s remoteness – about 3½ days by train from Moscow, and three days from Beijing. Containing around 20% of the world’s fresh water, the lake also contains Olkhon Island near its midpoint. Around 72km long, Olkhon is Baikal’s largest island, and by some climatic quirk it’s said to get more sunny days than the Black Sea coast, even as the rest of the lake and its surrounds mope beneath heavy cloud.

Olkhon Island in Lake Baikal
by Peter Solness, Lonely Planet Photographer

Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia

image by Sputnik Mania

Want a sense of just how big Russia really is? Then picture this: Kamchatka Peninsula, drooping off its east coast, is closer to Los Angeles than Moscow. Among Russia’s least visited areas, the 1200km-long peninsula is also perhaps its most spectacular, a hyperactive geothermal land containing more than 200 volcanoes. The surrounding lava fields were used as testing grounds for Russia’s lunar vehicles. Once, it was a six-month journey to get here; today you can fly from Moscow, though it’s still an 11-hour flight, surely the longest domestic flight on the planet.

Traditional Siberian graves in the almost desolated town of Yakutia
by Mark Newman, Lonely Planet Photographer

Scotty’s Castle, USA

image by loop_oh

In the 1920s Chicago millionaire Albert Johnson was sold the ultimate snake oil – the idea that there was gold in California’s Death Valley. In the dry, scorching conditions the ailing Johnson found something more precious: improved health. So, he built a castle in the desert valley with the second-highest temperature on record. Today, the Spanish-style ranch 70km from the nearest Death Valley settlements looks like a folly, although it’s rather snug behind its sheepskin curtains and with its 1000- pipe theatre organ.

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