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Destination Tips

The D-Day Beaches of Normandy: Combining History and Natural Beauty in Western France

France

The D-Day beaches are one of the most popular day trips from Paris, especially for Americans, Brits and Canadians whose parents or grandparents fought the Germans in World War II.

The historic significance of these beaches hasn’t lessened, even nearly 80 years after Operation Overload, which was the invasion of Western Europe by the Allied Nations on 6 June 1944. On that day, over 135,000 troops landed in Normandy, unifying against the Germans. The Allied Nations (Britain, Canada and the U.S.) were each allocated a number of beaches to invade, which were codenamed:

  • Utah Beach (U.S.)
  • Omaha Beach (U.S.)
  • Juno Beach (Canada)
  • Gold Beach (Britain)
  • Sword Beach (Britain)

When visiting the Normandy coast these days, it’s almost inconceivable that one of the most important and magnificent operations against the Germans happened here, an accomplishment that would later lead to the successful victory against Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Today, you’ll pass by rolling hills, quaint little seaside towns, surrounded by lush green farmland and cattle fields. The beaches themselves are beautiful and tranquil, and it is hard to imagine that thousands of soldiers lost their lives here.

However, you cannot escape the memories of D-Day when visiting this part of France – war memorials and monuments mark where the Allies landed, there are remains of bunkers and gun emplacements left by the Germans, and most importantly, there is the Normandy American Cemetery, where 9,387 American soldiers are buried.

If you are visiting to honor family members who fought or lost their lives there, you may want to try to visit on 6 June, when a number of D-Day anniversary memorials are held.

The easiest way to visit the area is with a tour, which usually includes all the beaches plus the Memorial Church in Caen (see below for details). Here is an overview of the main sights you shouldn’t miss when visiting the D-Day beaches, including all five beaches, which still carry the names given by the Allies in preparation of the operation.

The Caen Memorial

The Caen Memorial is the best place to start your tour of the D-Day beaches. The museum was recently renovated, and in addition to detailed information on D-Day and World War II, it has plenty of material on The Battle Of Normandy, The Cold War and the search for peace.

Utah Beach

The museum at this beach, the Utah Beach Landing Museum, is housed in the remains of a German bunker. Many say that this is the best D-Day museum in the area. In the nearby village of Sainte-Mère-Eglise is the Airborne Museum, which details the aerial operations.

Arromanches Mulberry

Pointe du Hoc

Pointe Du Hoc is the highest point between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, with a 100 feet (30 meter) cliff overlooking the English Channel. The German army had fortified this area with gun pits, bunkers, artillery and concrete casemates. Pointe du Hoc was captured by 225 U.S. rangers on D-Day after scaling the cliffs, and has become a symbol of courage of the American troops. It is one of the most significant memorials along the D-Day coast.

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach was the stretch of beach with the most intense battles. Memorials and statues line the beach.

This is probably where you will be spending the most time of all beaches. The American Cemetery is located right above the beach, and there are two museums: the Omaha Beach Memorial Museum, which showcases personal items of soldiers, weapons and uniforms, and the Omaha D-Day Museum which details the landing on Omaha Beach.

The Gun Battery in Longues-sur-Mer between Omaha Beach and Gold Beach has a number of bunkers which were Hitler’s most important points of defense.

Gold Beach

The Gold Beach invasion was led by the British, and the most important museum here is the America Gold Beach Museum and exhibits details of the landing here as well as the three-engine Fokker America’s first airmail flight from the United States to France.

Arromanches 14

Juno Beach

Juno Beach, where the invasion was under Canada’s lead, has the Juno Beach Centre, which outlines the significant role Canada played in the D-Day invasion. Nearby Bény-sur-Mer is home to the Canadian cemetery.

Sword Beach

Sword Beach is the easternmost of the five D-Day beaches. The operation here happened under British leadership, and there is a museum, the Merville Gun Battery, which details the British Airborne Operations.

The nearby Ranville War cemetery is home to 2,235 graves, most of which belong to the 6th Airborne Division.

The American Cemetery

The American Cemetery is one of the largest American war cemeteries and was the first one on European soil established during World War II. With 9,387 lives lost on D-Day and the consequent ensuing operations, it makes visitors realize the magnitude and true scale of this operation and the lives lost during it.

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

How to visit the D Day beaches from Paris

Paris City Vision offers a guided tour of the D-Day beaches from Paris. The trip includes, in addition to the beaches, the Caen Memorial Church, the memorial service, and a delicious lunch. You’ll leave Paris at 7am and will return around 9pm. The advantage of taking a tour is not only that it’ll bring you to all places of interest, but it also includes a knowledgeable guide who will provide background information and historical details.

You can also visit the beaches via public transportation – take the train from Paris to Caen and then hop on the local bus that connects the beaches, but be aware that buses aren’t running very often and trying to fit in all beaches, the Memorial and the American cemetery in one day would be quite a challenge.

Photo credit: All photos used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Arromanches Mulberry by Archangel12; (2) Arromanches 14 by Barry Skeates; (3) Normandy American Cemtery by Larry Uren

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Five Epic European Road Trips

southern iceland dani car

Everybody loves a good road trip, and Europe has more scenic roads than you could cover in a lifetime. Majestic castles in Austria, half-timbered houses in Germany, rolling green hills in England, Alpine landscapes in Switzerland, majestic fjords in Norway, and vineyards lining the country roads as you are driving in France – these are just some of the things that lift my heart and keeps me driving.

If I had to pick just five, this would be the list of my favorite road tips in Europe:fiat 500 & san gimignano

1. The Amalfi Coast | Italy

The Amalfi coast in the south of Italy is the country’s most beautiful stretch of coastline, where quaint terraced villages are spread through the hillsides stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea are around every corner. The coast route follows the shoreline from Sorrento in the north to Salerno in the south. Your hearts will pound as you hug the road past steep cliffs, and soar when you pass the many vineyards where you may wish to stop and spend a few days. The four main towns on the Amalfi Coast are Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, and stops in all of them are essential!

Best time for a road trip: March to May, when Spring is in full bloom and the summer tourist season has not yet begun.
Recommended number of days: 2 to 4 days
Level of difficulty: It is a beautiful drive, but challenging. Drivers should be confident on winding, narrow roads.

Cinque Terre coast1

2. The Highlands | Scotland

Scotland’s Highlands are unlike anywhere in the world and a Highland road trip covers some of the most spectacular places in the UK. I recommend a loop, starting your trip in Glasgow and finishing in Edinburgh, heading north through the mountains and locks that make the Highlands so famous, and then heading back down to the Scottish capital. Start in Glasgow and head to Loch Lomond before continuing north to the small outpost of Fort William from there. Here you can hike the mighty Ben Nevis, the highest mountain of the British Isles, or head west towards Mallaig with a stop at the picturesque Loch Shiel. From Mallaig, take the car ferry over to the Isle of Skye, and head back to the mainland via the Skye Bridge. Fro here it is a short drive to fairytale-esque Eileen Donan Castle.eileen donan castle scotlandDepending on how much time you have left, I recommend driving further north to the fishing town of Ullapool and the little village of Lochinver, with its white-sand beaches. Otherwise drive straight east towards Fort Augustus, which is the perfect base to explore Loch Ness. Drive along the Loch to the quaint town of Inverness and take the scenic route via Pitlochry to Edinburgh, and you will see most of the iconic Scottish landmarks like the Lochs, Whiskey distilleries and Highland cows.

Best time for a road trip: April – September
Recommended number of days: 5 to 7 days
Level of difficulty: Roads are narrow and driving is on the left – drivers should be experienced and confident.

Scotland highlands sheep

3. The Romantic Road | Germany

The Romantic Road in the south of Germany offers some of the most stunning scenery of the country. Driving from Würzburg to the foothills of the Alps near Neuschwanstein Castle, you will pass sweeping views, ancient cathedrals and castles, castles, castles. You will drive through the pretty Tauber Valley before you arrive in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which dates back to the 13th century with medieval streets and thick city walls – doubtlessly the pearl of the Romantic Road! Other highlights include the gorgeous town of Nördlingen, Augsburg with its stunning cathedral, Hohenschwangau with its jaw-droppingly beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle and the nearby historic town of Füssen. If you have more time, you can drive up to Munich from here and end your road trip in one of Germany’s most traditional cities. Don’t forget to pack your lederhosen!

Best time for a road trip: Spring or summer, but fall is also a beautiful time to visit.
Recommended number of days: 5 to 7 days
Level of difficulty: The road is fairly easy to navigate, though it can get narrow at times.

road to the bavarian alps

4. France beyond Paris | France

This road trip is the ideal way to combine a trip to Paris with an additional few days to explore the idyllic French countryside. I would recommend starting in Paris and driving through Chartres, Le Mans, Rennes, Caen, Rouen and then circling back to Paris. Just outside of the city, stop in Versailles to see Napoleon’s remarkable palace, and then move on to Chartres, home to a UNESCO World Heritage cathedral, before exploring Renne, which still has plenty of well-maintained wood-edifice buildings typical for that area of France. North of Rennes is the spectacular Le Mont-St.-Michel, a rocky island set in the English Channel, just off the coast, that is almost entirely inhabited by the medieval Benedictine Abbey and church – not to be missed! Rouen is home to the extraordinary cathedral made famous by Monet’s painting, and makes for a fabulous last stop on this French road trip.

Best time for a road trip: Between April and October
Recommended number of days:4 to 5
Level of difficulty: All roads on this trip are easy to navigate.

paris chez marie cafe

5. Dublin – Kilkenny – Cork – Galway | Southern Ireland

Southern Ireland has some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, especially along the coast. Our Southern Ireland road trip starts in Dublin and brings you to Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick and Galway, and ends back in Dublin. This road trip is the perfect way to get to know the culture, landscape and history of Ireland, passing impressive castles as well as picturesque Irish villages. Some of the highlights of this road trip are County Kerry, which has a rugged coastline and tall mountains, and is especially famous for the Ring of Kerry, a circular road that follows a trace of coastline of mountainous fingers jutting out into the ocean. The infamous Cliffs of Moher, which tower 700 feet above the ocean, are another highlight of this trip.

Best time for a road trip: Between March and October
Recommended number of days: 5 to 7 days
Level of difficulty: Left side driving and narrow roads. Not for novices.

Cliffs & cottages

 

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Eastern Tibet, the Swiss-Alps in Asia

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The best thing about Tibet is that, each region is different and unique. Eastern Tibet exhibits some distinct characteristics and this place is entirely different from the other parts of Tibet. The climate is strikingly unique, the geography is interesting and the biodiversity is rich and intriguing. Tibet always oozes a divine vibe and the areas in the eastern part add to the appeal. The green landscape is stunning and every frame needs to be captured. This is a treat for travellers and they will never forget what they see here during their Tibet tour. A pride of Tibet and a remarkable landmark for all of Asia, Eastern Tibet can be rightly called the “Swiss-Alps of Asia”.

The locals show a distinct lifestyle and they dress up very uniquely. They keep their hair long and colourful braids are worn by them. The sheepskin cloak is a very interesting garment and it makes their overall appearance intriguing. Eastern Tibet can be described in many ways and it truly shows the true celebration of life.

Nyingchi – Topography, climate and biodiversity

Tibet’s southeast area has an important landmark and Nyingchi City deserves special mention. Three famous mountain ranges are located here and quite naturally it became Tibet’s Switzerland. The mountains, the chilly climate and the overall vibe of Nyingchi make it stunning. Life has prospered in this fertile land and the sun has been very kind to the people of this area. The water of the lake is crystal clear and the green mountains are perfect to support different forms of life. Himalaya combines with Tangula to form a colossal dragon and the Henduan range joins the two in the eastern part. Nyingchi had a primitive forest and that is preserved well. It is kind of a natural museum, which stores and preserves various life forms. The region has a connection with ancient civilizations and various signs prove that.

Nyingchi is situated in the lower parts of Yarlung Tsangpo River. Nyingchi Prefecture is 3,000m above sea level and the lowest spot has an elevation of just 900m. The landscape is absolutely gorgeous and the wet weather is exclusive to this place. Major townships have come up here, due to the fertile areas and some scenic economic zones have developed. Bayi Town is quite popular and it has come up on Biyang River’s bank. The area developed quite fast and it became the political as well as economic hub. The government officials have taken significant steps to protect the biodiversity of this place and Nyingchi is the place, where live thrives.

Must-visit Places in Nyingchi

  • Draksum-tso – Tibet has many amazing spots, but Drakum-tso is the most scenic of them all. A beautiful lake in Gongbogyamda County, which is almost 120km from the famous Bayi Town. In the year of 1997, the lake got international recognition and it became a hotspot for international tourism. This alpine lake falls in the steep mid-upper regions of bar River, which is Niyang River’s largest tributary. Located at a height of 3,538m and covering 25.9 sq km, the deepest region is 60m. The breathtaking scenery calls tourists from all over and many trips are available to Draksum-tso. The ice supply is ample here and glaciers move freely in the background of green forests. Rare wildlife is found here and it includes musk deer, leopard, bharal, etc. This is a sacred lake and many festivals are held near the lake.

  • World King Cypress – According to folklore, the oldest religion of the world is Bon and World King Cypress has seen its birth. This cypress occupies a height of 50m and the diameter is around 5.8m. The tree is ages old and the pilgrims consider it holy. The trees in the nearby area are preserved very well and Tibetan people have taken many steps to protect this area. Some other cypress-trees surround the main area and the region’s elevation is 3,040m.  A legendary person named Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche is connected with this tree and he founded the ancient Bon religion.

  • Nyingchi peach blossom festival – Tibetan people know how to celebrate the arrival of spring and they do that in style. Snow covers most region of Tibet and peach flowers engulf Nyingchi. Nature is truly amazing at this time between February and March. Tibet goes in a celebratory mood and the rich culture heritage prevails here. Nyingchi peach blossom festival is organized by local residents and some enthusiastic tourists also take part in this extravaganza. The rose-colored peach blossoms can be enjoyed and the pastoral scenery is a true delight for the eyes. Visitors can also explore the rural areas and watch exhilarating horsemanship performances.

  • YarlungTsangpo Grand CanyonTibet has a little bit of everything and nature has gifted this place with open hands. Having a dangerous death of about 5,000 meters, YarlungTsangpo Grand Canyon is longer and higher than Grand Canyon. If you are coming to visit, this attraction can’t be missed. The mountains are snowy and green and the peaks often touch the clouds. The area is marked by unusual biodiversity, amazing mountain belts and some mysterious cultures. This region experiences a variable climate and the rainfall is sufficient enough to support the plant and animals life.
  • Mount NamjagbarwaThis is arguably the most gorgeous mountain situated in China. Nyingchi Prefecture boasts of this high peak and the height of 7,782m is awe-inspiring. The Himalayas fall on its eastern side and surrounds the Yarlung Tsangpo River from both sides. The beautiful valley called “Namche barwa” is the deepest one in the world, exhibiting a trench of 5,000m. Mount Namjagbarwa is perfect for photography and accommodation facilities are easily available here.

  • Midui Glacier – Mountains to lakes and glaciers, Tibet is indeed an intriguing place. China has several glaciers, but Midui Glacier falls among the top 6. Situated in the bustling Yipu Town, 100km away for, Bome, the ice basin attracts visitors from all parts of the globe. Snow avalanches are common here and it features forests, villages, temples, etc. The highway that connects Tibet and Sichuan is located close by, so transportation facilities are outstanding. The biological diversification of Midui Glacer is one of its key characteristics.

  • Niyang River – last but not the least is Niyang River of Lhasa. Beautiful is the perfect word to describe this river, which comes as a tributary of Yarlung Tsangpo Valley. The aquatic power of Niyang is tremendous and the drop height is 2,273 m. It extends to an area of 307.5 km and goes towards the western region of the Mira range. Niyang River features many scenic spots, but Rock Pillar deserves special mention. The local people have great respect for it and it became a tourist spot quite rapidly.

Tibet can give a feeling of heaven on Earth and Easter Tibet is truly magical. Experience life here and visit the major attractions to have an unforgettable vacation for your wonderful Tibet travel.

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If social media apps were cities…

Welcome to Vegas

These days, it feels like most of what I think about is traveling and social media. The two are now so intrinsically entwined that it’s seemingly hard to have one without the other. It’s not just during and after my travels that I use social media, however, but researching places and finding recommendations beforehand is incredibly useful too.

Social media can sometimes feel like a never-ending sea to splash around in, but it’s also fascinating to see which apps sink or swim over the years (remember Myspace?). Even for my blog too, I’ve recently been discovering that social media apps can be beneficial to a website and increase its popularity. My Instagram following has grown drastically over the past 12 months, and I am addicted to Snapchat (follow me: mariposa2711).koh tao officeBut with all this in mind, I wanted to find a way to connect traveling and social media even more, by matching the most popular social media apps to a major city. Let me know in the comments which city you think is matched with each app, but here are my picks.

Instagram = London, England

London is packed with beautiful people, fantastic attractions, great cuisine, and a vibrant nightlife. And what do you find on Instagram? Gorgeous models, arty black and white shots of tourist attractions, pictures of scrumptious meals, and epic selfies at the clubs and bars. London is Instagram through and through.london portobello road buildings

Facebook = New York, USA

The busiest metropolis in the world is NYC: the city that never sleeps. This too is Facebook. The most popular app on the planet is an endless barrage of humorous observations, political rants, pictures of babies and puppies, links to interesting blog posts, and so much more. Like NYC, Facebook is full of opportunity, enjoyment and a place where you can never get bored.manhattan from top of the rock

Snapchat = Austin, USA

A city on the rise and a personal favorite of mine, Austin in Texas is one of America’s biggest areas for tech growth, as well as having an influx of young, talented people. Similarly, anyone who is anyone is on Snapchat. The social media app is new, exciting, and now has around 150 million daily active users. Like Austin, if you want to get on the bandwagon with Snapchat, then get on now.austin congress ave bridge

Pinterest = Paris, France

Pinterest is often said to be used by brides-to-be planning their wedding or honeymoon, so what better place to match it with than Paris? The city of love is so picturesque and has beauty at every turn. Likewise, Pinterest is full of the best of the best, a place to collate beauty and show off all sorts of pretty things. The two would make a great couple.paris louvre

Twitter = Las Vegas, USA

Last, but not least, is Twitter. A social media app that is about brief messages, a place to shout about things you love and hate, and where it looks fun for a little bit, but then you’re happy that you’re only here for a little while. Likewise, Las Vegas is an intense city where you might regret something you did, and if the amount of tweet-then-delete occurrences is anything to go by, then Twitter is the perfect match.The Strip, Las Vegas

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Four Festivals You Can’t Miss In Sydney This Summer

KFOG Kaboom Fireworks

While the northern hemisphere is bundling up and enjoying the first snow of the season, Australia and the rest of the southern hemisphere is gearing up for Christmas BBQs and beach days – summer is here! And there’s no better place to visit Sydney than during the summer months – not only can you enjoy the coast, the beaches, sidewalk cafes and al fresco dining, outdoor movies and markets, but there are also a number of extraordinary summer festivals that make a visit during the summer months even more memorable.

If you are visiting Sydney this summer, here are my top four recommendations for festivals you should try to experience – and for a more comprehensive list, check out this guide to Sydney Summer Events.

Sydney Festival 010

Sydney Festival (January)

For almost the entire month, Sydney is having a massive celebration of culture, arts and entertainment, transforming the city with grand performances: free concerts, burlesque, dances and theater. For the 2017 Sydney Festival (7-29 January), there is an Australian Cirque Du Soleil, the Symphony Under The Stars, loads of art installations, a ferrython, and so much more. The best thing: many of the events during the festival are free! Check out the complete list of events for the 2017 Sydney Festival here.

Vivid

Sydney Mardi Gras

Sydney Mardi Gras is the world’s biggest Pride Celebration: hundreds of thousands of people travel to Sydney to celebrate LGBTQ culture and diversity, and visitors hail not only from Australia, but also other parts of the world. Be prepared for a colorful parade with over 100 floats and over 8,000 (!) participants, over 300,000 spectators, dancing in the streets, Bondi Beach Drag Races, the big Harbor Party and many other post-parade parties. The 2017 Mardi Gras Parade takes place on 4 March.

Sydney Mardi gras

New Year’s Eve

Sydney is among the first cities in the world to ring in the New Year, and the city makes sure to start it with a bang! The spectacular fireworks display over the Harbour Bridge is world-famous. There are a number of vantage points to watch the fireworks from, such as Robertson Park, Waverton Park or North Head, to name just a few. Of course you can also join one of the many ticketed events or a New Year’s Eve cruise, granting you incredible views right from the water, and making sure you ring in the New Year in style.

New Year's Fireworks Sydney 2012

Chinese New Year

Yes, New Year’s Eve is a big deal in Sydney, but so is the Chinese New Year a few weeks later. More than 1 million visitors enjoy the celebrations, making it one of the biggest Lunar New Year festivals outside of Asia. In 2017, the Chinese New Year Festival takes place from 27 January to 12 February, celebrating the start of the Year Of The Rooster with music and nightly entertainment, dragon boat races and performances from over 1,000 participants. Those include martial arts, traditional dance and folklore dance, and from 27 to 29 January, Sydney’s most famous landmarks will be lit in red as part of the festivities.

Chinese New Year Sydney

Photo credit: All images used under Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Sydney Festival by Distan Bach ; (2) Sydney  slr_the_quack  (3) Sydney Mardi Gras by KMJ Photography; (4) New Year’s Eve by Sacha Fernandez ; (5) Chinese New Year by Ashley Ringrose
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Five of The Top Destinations to Visit During December

october thailand long tail boats

Holiday season is almost upon us in every sense of the word. With so much excitement building and preparations to be made some people just want to get away from it all.  There are many great destinations to visit during the month of December and some excellent skiing holidays to choose from.  All those pretty snow scenes would definitely have the avid ski lover gathering up those skis and poles to pack for the snowy climes.Zugspitze view & clouds

Visit the Caribbean for Winter Sunshine

This is the number one paradise of choice with the world’s most beautiful unspoiled beaches, the best hotels, villas and restaurants.  Saint Barth comes highly recommended with one of its highlights being the venue for one of the world’s most thrilling yacht races. It is a hotspot for the super-rich and celebrities from across the globe and especially during December when they need to unwind from hectic schedules.isla mujeres beach mexico

Guatemala

Guatemala comes highly recommended and number two on the top list of destinations to visit during December. It is a beautiful and colourful country. It borders Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador. It boasts astonishingly beautiful coasts both on the Pacific and Caribbean sides. It has amazing volcanic landscapes and very pretty towns and as December has the sunniest and driest days this is the best time of year to visit.Antigua Street & Arch

Things to Do in India in December

December in Konark is home to classical Indian arts and culture. Here one can enjoy a celebration of classical dances hosted by an annual dance festival. Jammu and Kashmir which are known for their nature walks, parks and views during the summer months’ play host to one of the best skiing and paragliding destinations in December in India. India comes in at number three of the best locations worldwide to visit during December.indian family in hampi

South-East Asia, a Top Winter Delight

Cambodia and Laos have the perfect climate during December. Why visit while the weather is hot and wet – wait until it is perfect and embrace beautiful colonial towns buzzing with amazing places to eat and drink. They are both large countries with plenty of space to get away from the crowds and have some peaceful alone time in gorgeous surroundings. It may take some extra planning but nowadays with international money transfers it is always easy to top up while away from home. This destination is rated number four in the world’s top destinations for December.vientiane temple

Prague’s Old Town for December

There is nowhere prettier to be found in December than Prague. Those gorgeous ancient streets look like something right out of a fairy tale, and even come with a real castle. Prague is extremely cold in December but is well equipped with lots of cosy restaurants and rich cuisine. At number 5 Prague must be added to the list.mdina cathedral door

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Golf Destination Travel: Danang, Vietnam

danang-golf-club2

Danang is the third largest city in terms of urban population in Vietnam and remains one of the most important ports in the country.  Located in central Vietnam, Danang is known for its lovely beaches and interesting history, as a French colonial port.  New hotels and restaurants are emerging all the time and the street food has to be seen to be believed, it’s delicious.  Danang makes a good base for day trips in this region of Vietnam and more importantly, a great base for sampling the nearby selection of golf courses.  Below, we have some of the best Danang golf courses, which are must-play when staying in this region of Vietnam.laguna-lang-co-golf-club

Ba Na Hills Golf Club is a mountainous design, created by Luke Donald.  It’s the first golf course to be designed by the English golfer, not just in Asia but the world and can be found near the cable car station, in the foothills of Bana Hills.  Managed by IMG, the layout of Ba Na Hills Golf Club is spread through several valleys and features plenty of elevation changes, throughout the 18-holes.  The higher points of the course provide great views of the valleys below and large trees and streams are prominent on many of the holes.  Playing at over 7,800 yards, the course is quite long and is enjoyable and challenging in equal measure, for players of abilities.  The back nine holes are perhaps the more testing and come complete with many blind shots and doglegs.  The greens are not as undulated as one would expect, giving the style of the rest of the golf course and this allows them to be attacked, with good pin positions throughout the 18 holes.  With a modern clubhouse, driving range, putting green, pro shop, restaurant and flood lights, allowing late night play, Ba Na Hills is a great Danang golf course.

Another quality Danang golf course, which should not be missed, is BRG Da Nang Golf Resort.  This golf course is designed by Greg Norman and was opened in 2010, to great acclaim, as it went on to win a number of awards.  It was voted best golf courses in Asia, by readers of Asian Golf Monthly on three occasions between 2011 and 2013.  Constructed on the sandy soil of Danang beach, the course is steeped in history, as this was the sight of the first American landing during the war in the 1960’s.  This is a true links-style golf course and has mother nature to thank for its layout, as much as Greg Norman.  The undulating greens, make good approach play crucial and the fairways are framed by long needle pines, so anything off the fairway, can lead to a difficult second shot, off the sand and needles.  Large, natural waste areas have been cut from the sand dunes and the wind can also be a factor here, making club selection tricky.  If the links courses of Scotland are your thing, you are sure to revel in playing at BRG Da Nang Golf Resort, it’s a truly excellent golf course.montgomerie-danang

A 90-minute drive from Danang, is the Nick Faldo designed, Laguna Lang Co Golf Club.  Opened in 2012, the par-71 course is suitable for beginners and experienced golfers alike, measuring 6,958 from the back tees and 5,263 from the front tees.  Nestled in a picturesque area, between the beach and the mountains, the backdrop to the course is a delight, with ocean and mountain views across the course.  The 18 holes weave their way between the natural streams, trees, paddy fields, imposing rocks and alongside the beach itself.  There is a great variety of holes, each offering something different and man-made influences have been kept down to a minimum, which adds something a little special to the course.  Laguna Lang Co Golf Club also includes the Banyan Tree Resort and they combine to make this on of the great Danang golf courses.

When discussing the top Danang golf courses, one which always makes the list, is the Montgomerie Links.  This course was designed by famous European golfer, Colin Montgomerie and was voted as being Vietnam’s best championship course, in 2013.  As the name suggests, this is a links-style golf course and if it was not for the warmer temperatures, you could easily believe you were playing in Scotland or Ireland, it really is that good.  Rolling fairways and huge greens are the key features to this testing and exciting golf course, with thick rough and deep bunkers being the major hazards.  The only difference from a traditional links course, are the natural lakes and streams which are situated throughout but these add a local feel to the course and do not detract from it in any way.  When considering where to play golf in Danang, the Montgomerie Links should be at the top of your itinerary.danang-golf-club2

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The cultural attraction of Havana

street-art-cuba

Cuba is like nowhere else. Thanks to the long trade embargo with the United States the Caribbean island nation has been stuck in its own unique time warp. For better or worse this has given the country a uniquely timeless flavour that endures to this day. As the relationship with its larger neighbor finally starts to thaw, now is the best time to visit and experience this unique country before everything changes.

Havana

Nowhere are Cuba’s contradictions more apparent than in its Capital Havana. The most evocative of all the cities in the Caribbean, Havana has a special dichotomous allure. It is also the best place to experience Cuba’s richly complex and proud culture.

The wealth of different treasures found just below the city’s often shabby façade reward discovery, and before the island turns into another typical holiday destination you should take a chance to experience it for yourself.

One of the most striking this for first-time visitors in Havana is how grand the city is. Despite the obvious signs of neglect, the city boasts impressive boulevards, resplendent city squares and striking colonial architecture all around. Combine this Spanish colonial grandeur with the ever-present 50s muscle cars, erstwhile Americana, and Caribbean verve and you have one of the world’s genuinely unique cities.

Walk along the Malecón

Havana’s most famous thoroughfare the Malecón (or the Avenida de Maceo to give it its official name) is a five-mile-long sea-front road. As popular with locals as it is visitors, the Malecón is one of the best places to people spot and take in the Cuban capital’s atmosphere. Thanks to years of disuse many of the buildings along its length have fallen into ruin, giving you a fascinating glimpse into the history and struggles of the city, yet it remains as alive and vibrant as ever. The street is one of the safest in the city and is seeing improvements as Cuba continues to open itself up to western visitors. Make sure and visit at sunset, as the views across the water are worth it.cuba

Image by neiljs used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

While more famous for its music, Art plays a vibrant and vital role in the country’s cultural life. One of the best places to experience Cuban art is at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Found in the beautiful surroundings of Centro Asturianas, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes contains the finest examples of Cuban art as well as many international pieces from the colonial period and beyond.

La Fábrica de Arte Cubano

A multidisciplinary cultural/community hub, there is always things going on at the La Fábrica de Arte Cubano. Located in an old renovated government-owned factory, the FAC is always a buzz of life with everything from folk dancing, photography exhibitions, painting, and all manner of other cultural goings-on.cuba2

Image by Anton Novoselov, used under Creative Commons license CC by 2.0

331 Art Space

Another artistic space, Studio 331 offers a small slice of Cuban art as the studio of three young local painters Frank Mujica, Alex Hernandez and Adrian Fernandez. Found in a recently refurbished colonial-era mansion, the aim of the space is to bring attention to contemporary Cuban art and has a range of paintings available to buy.

Fusterlandia

Fusterlandia is the nickname of the seaside village of Jaimanitas on the outskirts of the Cuban capital. It gained this moniker due to the artistic endeavors of local artist Jose Fuster. Originally found in his home of Casa de Fuster, these murals and 3D pieces of art are now found across the village offering visitors a rare way to experience Cuba’s artistic side. You can also still visit Fuster’s original studio for yourself.

 

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Exploring the Hidden Parts of Israel With Guided Tours

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Seeing places like Old Jerusalem and Masada is essential to visiting Israel. But read on to see how guided tours in Israel can take you off the beaten track!

Hidden Gems Uncovered By an Informed Expert

If you want to really discover the depths of a place, isn’t the best idea to go with someone who knows the area well?  It thus makes sense that, while traveling to Israel, you will find the best opportunities to discover new and different activities when you travel with a guide. If you wish to truly understand and explore this marvelous country, then putting yourself into the hands of a well-informed expert truly is the best way to do so.

negev desert trek israelGuided tours in Israel that are off the beaten track give you new understanding of this country’s rich culture and heritage, as well as the wonderful people who inhabit it. Read on to see why a guided tour will allow you to get the most out of your travels!

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Getting Off the Beaten Path – How Guided Tours Can Assist You

Israel is full of beautiful and wonderful sites that are well known to many people all over the world, such as the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee, the winding streets of Old Jerusalem, and many other beautiful historic sites with deep religious and cultural background.
jerusalem market1However, the things that you may not have heard of in Israel are the places where you can make new memories and capture the spirit of adventure. But how can a guided tour in Israel lead you off the beaten path? What places will you see, and what benefit will your tour guide offer?dani ein gedi

The Value is in the Details

Your tour guide is obviously more familiar with the area than you are: he lives there! So trusting in him to lead you and your group through the streets that he knows well will give you an opportunity to see Israel as you could never see it when traveling alone!
israel golden roofsYou will be introduced to a new culture, a new way of life, and you can be guaranteed to have the best experience because your guide can bring you to the sites that he knows are best!israel national trail druze kunefeFrom large things, like how you spend your day, to small things such as where you will eat or in what part of the city you’ll find a hotel, your guide can offer you the best options. It is in these details that the value of a tour guide is seen. Guided tours in Israel can take you off the beaten path that is frequented by tourists and give you the ability to see Israel in a new and enchanting light that you may not have expected!timna park mushroom

Where a Guided Tour in Israel Can Take You

Imagine visiting the famous grottoes of Rosh Hanikra, but from a completely different perspective. Kayaking instead of taking the cable car is a fantastic and little-known way to see this beautiful site.  A guided tour in Israel will take you off the beaten track to the ancient wine route that dates back over 2000 years where you can see the process and taste the result.
rosh hanikra israelLearn more about Bedouin culture in the Negev at the Sidreh-Lakiya Weaving, or hike your way through the Black Canyon within the Yehudiya Forest Nature Reserve. These ‘off the beaten track’ adventures are available to you with guided tours in Israel, and can create the adventure of a lifetime.israel camelYour visit to Israel should be one that you remember forever. Add these hidden sites to your travel plans by choosing a guided tour in Israel and see things that are off the beaten track, thus creating for yourself an adventure-filled trip that will never be forgotten.acco israel

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Explore America’s Beauty with an off the Beaten Track Adventure

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America is one of the most stunning, diverse and breathtaking continents in the entire world. Great lakes, canyons, desert, swamps, mountain ranges and electric cities are just a handful of what there is to explore. This makes it the ultimate adventure destination. Often, when people visit the States they will fly in to the major cities, which can be fantastic, but often the most amazing experiences are found off the beaten track and in the lesser explored areas of this great country.

The Ultimate Road Trip

It is the dream of many people to do the ultimate American road trip from coast to coast, but sadly not many people get to experience this. A group of friends, the open road, great music and a breathtaking and varied backdrop is the perfect setting for an unforgettable and eye opening adventure. This is not your typical holiday and a break from the norm, and it is always the off the beaten track expeditions which are the most exciting and create the most stories.

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Must See Places

There are many highlights to see in America, with a few being absolute musts for those wanting to break the norm. Southern gems such as Nashville, Mississippi and New Orleans provide breathtaking scenery along with a distinctive atmosphere, whilst The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also a must and be sure to take your camera.

St Louis CathedralThe Grand Canyon in California will be the top of many people’s lists and for good reason, but be sure to head into Las Vegas for some fun and games. Yosemite National Park cannot be missed, and a drive through the desert will have you reminiscing about all the great Western films. Driving along the Pacific Coast will give you amazing views and an eclectic mix of brilliant cities and perfect beaches which many visitors miss. Deadwood in South Dakota is a charming town where you get easy access to amazing places such as the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park.Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas

Small Group Adventure Tours

All of this only scratches the surface of what you will find on an American road trip off the beaten path. To ensure you do not miss a thing, it may be in your best interest to use holiday companies like TrekAmerica to plan your trip. These companies organise brilliant small group adventure tours that uncover the best hidden gems in all of America. Additionally, many of these companies can also arrange fantastic activities such as horse riding, white water rafting, mountain biking and more.Monument Valley horseback ridingAmerica is a land of awe-inspiring natural beauty. This landscape is also incredibly diverse, making it an incredible place to explore both in the major cities and everywhere in between. An adventure off the beaten path in America is sure to be an astonishing, fun and life changing experience and a trip out of the ordinary.

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