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Destination Tips

5 Alternative Luxury Honeymoon Destinations

love sculpture

Being smitten with love needs to be expressed in an unforgettable honeymoon experience! That said, you can get to enjoy your honeymooning phase with your loved one by checking out these 5 alternative luxury honeymoon destinations that are sure to sweep away your feet with memories:

  1. Colombia

First on our list is the Republic of Colombia which lies in the north of South America. It is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, making it the perfect luxury honeymoon destination, not to mention it’s filled with a number of panoramic beaches and resorts.

If you are looking for the most romantic experience, the sandy Caribbean beaches and the Pacific’s thriving coastline will surely cap off your marital bliss with joy and excitement.

Colombia is home to cozy rest houses in mountainous places, breathtaking countryside, a view of the Amazon jungle, and also adventure-filled modern cities.

You can spend your honeymoon nights in Bogota enjoying alcoholic cocktails. You may also traverse the cobbled streets of the La Candelaria colonial quarter or visit the Gold Museum, Monserrate, Plaza Bolivar, and the 93 Park.

Another place worth visiting is Cartagena which is a port city in Colombia. There, you will have a luxurious stay at the panoramic views of domed rooftops in Iglesia de la Popa. You can spend your evenings riding horse-led carriages towards the festive seafood restaurants which serve sumptuous dishes. Also, don’t forget to visit Plaza Santo Domingo, Bazurto Market, the walled cities, and the Old Boots.

  1. Borneo

They say that Asia is one of the most romantic getaways to experience an unforgettable honeymoon destination. Borneo is undeniably one of those places that you’d want to spend your luxury honeymoon in. As an island of pristine and exotic wonders, Borneo is a rugged peninsula that will surely take your breath away. Among the honeymoon destinations that it has to offer are the following:

  • Towering peaks of Mount Kinabalu
  • Mineral baths at Poring
  • Jungle treks at Danum Valley
  • Beaches and snorkeling in Tanjung Aru
  • Kuching Cat museum for cat enthusiasts

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  1. Egypt

Spend your luxury honeymoon the ancient way by heading to Egypt for a wondrous experience with Millennium-old monuments, tombs, pyramids, and sand dunes.

One of the best places to visit is the Giza pyramid complex which is one of the oldest ancient wonders of the world. At the Giza pyramid complex, you will also get to explore the Great Sphinx, a limestone sculpture of the mythical creature with a lion’s body and a human’s head. Other Egyptian wonders that you can visit for your luxurious honeymoon are as follows:

  • Valley of the Kings in Necropolis
  • Temple ruins of Karnak
  • Submerged islands of Philae
  • Iconic Aswan dam
  • Biblical Mount Sinai
  • Ras Muhammad National Park

Egypt

  1. Iceland

Nothing beats a luxurious honeymoon when it is done in European style! Travel to your heart’s content when you spend your honeymoon vacation in Iceland. Get to experience classic boutique resorts where tours for volcanic hot springs, Northern lights, and geysers are included. What will be more romantic than cuddling in cold weather while watching the night skies dance with colorful Northern Lights?

Among the many romantic destinations and activities in Iceland are the following:

  • Geothermal spa in Blue Lagoon
  • Rugged volcano park in Thingvellir
  • Multi-section waterfalls in Gullfoss
  • Glacial geysers and hot springs in the Golden Circle
  • Active geysers that erupt from time to time

  1. Italy

Live out your lover’s fairytale dreams by spending a your romantic holiday in a luxury Tuscan villa, placed in one of the most romantic countries in the world. Located between Florence and Siena. Tuscany is famous for wonderful wine (Chianti) and ridiculously relaxed landscapes. This is a honeymoon for those looking to getaway and relax in the process.

Romantic things to do include:

  • Escaping to the Italy countryside and staying in a beautiful secluded villa.
  • Walking through the vineyards and of course wine tasting along the way.
  • Head out for a romantic candle lit diner at any of the endless resteraunts.
  • Take a stroll around the town and learn the rich medieval history, the birth place of Renaissance.

Riomaggiore village Cinque Terre Italy

What are you waiting for? Include these romantic honeymoon retreats in your wedding plans, and make sure to check out this short guide so you won’t miss out on anything!

Photo Credit: Egypt by Rab Lawrence via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing.

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Five Things You Have to Do on a Girls’ Getaway to Pigeon Forge

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Planning a girls’ weekend getaway is a lot of fun, but it turns out, it’s good for you too. Going on vacations with your girlfriends can strengthen bonds, and strong friendships have been linked to a lower instance of heart disease, fewer instances of depression, and even a decreased risk of premature death. Taking regular trips with your girlfriends can actually help you live longer!

It really doesn’t matter if you stay overnight or if you plan a weeklong vacay, you’ll still have a lot of fun and enjoy the benefits of vacationing with your close friends. Especially if Pigeon Forge is your destination and you make sure to do these five things.The Old Mill - Pigeon Forge (version 2)

Catch a Dinner Show

Going out to dinner is a great way to spend time with your girlfriends. Catching a show is a great way to spend time with your girlfriends too. Why not do both by catching a show?

Pigeon Forge has a wide variety of dinner shows that are sure to appeal to you and your crew. Just a few include:

  • Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Show features Gary Davis, the only four-time banjo champion in the entire country, horseback riders, and much more.
  • Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show will keep you laughing as you watch dancing, singing, and stunts on stage.
  • Pirates Voyage Dinner and Show takes place in its own arena with a 15-foot indoor lagoon complete with pirate ships where the show takes place.
  • Magic Beyond Belief Starring Darren Romeo features tricks from Siegfried and Roy’s protege, as well as animals like white tigers, Bengal tigers, and more.

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Stop at the Spa

No girls’ trip is complete without a trip to the spa! You’ve got nothing to worry about when you’re staying in Pigeon Forge. There are many different spas to choose from.

You can spend an hour or two getting your nails done, or you can plan an entire spa day. There are spa destinations in the mountains, as well as hotel spas, so you don’t have to go far to get that facial and massage. Consider getting your hair done at the spa before a night out on the town!Incredible Views at Pigeon Forge Cabin Rental

Do a Little Shopping

No girls’ trip is complete without a trip to the spa, but no trip is complete without at least a little shopping too! No matter what kind of shopping you like to do, you can bet Pigeon Forge has it.

Pigeon Forge outlet shopping is popular with residents and visitors alike because it’s a great way to find deals on your favorite brands, but don’t forget to check out some of the local stores that offer items you won’t find anywhere else.

If you’re looking for souvenirs and gifts, there’s no better place to stop than The Old Mill General Store. The Village Shops feature one-of-a-kind stores, like the Candle Cottage, and the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is the perfect place to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Have a cat-lover in the group? Make sure you stop by the Smoky Mountain Cat House!"Pigeon Forge, Tennesee, United States of America"

Take the Newfound Gap Smoky Mountains Pink Jeep Tour

If you’re looking for a little adventure and want to spend time in nature with your girlfriends, take the Newfound Gap Smoky Mountains Pink Jeep Tour.

Tour the Smoky Mountains in style in a pink jeep, traveling along winding paths, learning about the area at the same time. You will be able to stand in two states at the same time, and as your adventure concludes, you’ll be taken off road for an experience you will never forget.

Spend a Day at Dollywood

You don’t need the kids to enjoy a day at the theme park, especially when that theme park is Dollywood!

There are plenty of thrill rides to get your heart pumping at Dollywood, but there are many other things to do in the park that your girlfriends will love. Learn more about Dolly in the Chasing Rainbows museum, see eagles up-close-and-personal, or catch a show inside the park.

Depending on the time of year you decide to visit, you may be able to catch an annual celebration, like the Summer Celebration that enables you to stay in the park after dark, or Dollywood at Christmas Time.Sunday morning run in Pigeon ForgeIf you’re looking for a fun way to reconnect with your girlfriends, a trip to Pigeon Forge is a great idea, especially if you stay long enough to do all the things on this list!

Photo Credit: All photos used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) The Old Pigeon Forge Mill by Brent Moore; (2) Dixie Stampede by Richard Franklin; (3) Smoky Mountains Cabin by SmokyMountains.com; (4) Pigeon Forge Decorations by Olin Gilbert; (5) Dollywood by Joel
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Top 7 Things to Consider When Traveling to the UAE

dubai

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a popular tourist destination–and when many people think about traveling to the UAE, they’re really planning a trip to Dubai. One of the seven UAE states, Dubai has Western-style values and openness to tourists and expats, making it an ideal location for visitors. That said, if you’re going to visit the UAE, you’ll want to be prepared for the culture and recreation opportunities.

When you’re traveling in the UAE, there are a few important things you’ll want to consider. Here’s a few of our best tips to make your trip a great experience.

1. Theme Parks Galore

Dubai wants to be a destination for theme park visitors. The city has several major theme parks and will soon have the largest water park on Earth.Dubai

2. Yes, You Can Drink

Alcohol isn’t banned in the UAE. Dubai is well-known for a vibrant bar and nightclub scene. You can obtain a liquor license to buy alcohol if you need to, although many visitors focus on trying the happy hour specials at the local drinking establishments.

3. UAE Can Be Expensive

Although it’s definitely possible to budget as you travel through the UAE, you should keep in mind that the UAE is also very expensive and has a high standard of living in many places. Dubai, for instance, is popular with expats and is a major center of industry and global commerce. So traveling there is worth budgeting for.Dubai

4. It’s Not All Oil

If you’re expecting the UAE’s economy and culture to be 100 percent driven by the oil drilling industry, you’d be wrong. The UAE now has a fairly diverse economy and a vibrant culture. There’s so much to see and do when you visit.

5. The UAE Has Diverse Values And Culture

Historically, there are many different cultural influences in the UAE. You can see the best of Emirati culture on your trip to the UAE by taking in the museums, visiting mosques, and taking in the art scene. 

Think you’re visiting a conservative Muslim country? Think again. Although many areas of the UAE follow traditional Muslim values and the nation largely thinks of itself as conservative Muslim, you’ll find a more liberal culture in Dubai and a somewhat more liberal culture in Abu Dhabi. Each of the seven ’emirates,’ or states, have autonomy over their own affairs. So don’t be surprised if the culture around you is completely different as you travel through more than one emirate.Dubai

6. The Internet Is Censored

Like many countries around the world, the UAE censors internet use within the nation. Many websites aren’t available within the UAE and you’ll need a good VPN to access the internet content you want.

7. It’s Worth Slowing Down And Taking It In

With so much to see, the UAE is worth taking your time. You could easily spend several days in Dubai alone. Budget carefully, take in the culture and be open to learning. You’ll see how much the UAE offers for visitors and you’ll wish you could stay longer or visit again.Dubai

Photo Credit: Lead image via Pixabay. All other photos used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Dubai by Nacho Pintos; (2) Dubai by Julien Mattei; (3) Dubai by Dominuz; (4) Dubai Desert by Nacho Pintos
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Wonderful Adventures Near Honolulu Hawaii

Paradise

There is no shortage of amazing activities in and around the bustling Honolulu, Hawaii metropolitan area. Located on the diverse island of Oahu, this Hawaiian paradise has something for everyone. Whether you want to catch a sporting event or concert in the city, participate in an exhilarating outdoor adventure, or simply relax on the tranquil beaches, Honolulu has all of your travel dreams covered. Here are some key things to consider before you set sail on your Hawaiian adventure.

Waikiki Beach, 1994

WHERE TO STAY:

Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa: Wake up in this resort just steps from the welcoming waters of Waikiki Beach. The world-class spa boasts sweeping views of the azure waters, providing the perfect backdrop as you enjoy a customized massage, facial, and more. Each of the spacious guest rooms features a private lanai, allowing you to soak up the smells and sounds of this paradise. Click here to visit their website and book your stay.

Halekulani: This ultra-premium hotel delivers a luxurious experience every step of the way. The guest rooms are known for their soothing white decor that perfectly complements the sparkling waters just outside your room. Three restaurants and two lounges make it easy to never have to leave this oasis.

Waikiki sunset

‘Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach: This newly opened resort is conveniently located in the heart of Waikiki. This resort features a rooftop infinity pool, a dedicated pool area for children, and a 230,000-gallon oceanarium located in the lobby. Combine this with a modern fitness facility and two full-service restaurants and bars and you have everything that you need to enjoy a wonderful vacation.

WHAT TO DO:

Pearl Harbor: No trip to Honolulu is complete without a visit to the venerable Pearl Harbor. There are myriad memorials and attractions to explore at this historic site, including the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri. This moving destination is a must-see for any American.

Waikiki Aquarium: This charming seaside aquarium is easy walking distance from many of the hotels of Honolulu. Explore a variety of native Hawaiian sea life such as jellyfish, Hawaiian monk seals, and tropical fish. Children will delight in the hands-on interactive exhibits while adults will appreciate its stunning setting right along the ocean.

Diamond Head: Towering over the beaches of Waikiki and the city of Honolulu, it is hard to miss this iconic volcano. Outdoor recreational enthusiasts relish the opportunity to hike to the top of the crater. Once there, you are rewarded with sweeping views of the city and its coastline. Be sure to pack along lots of water.

Diamond Head Volcanic Cone, Honolulu (503265)

The Pualeilani Atrium Shops: Shop ‘til you drop at this vast collection of more than 60 retail shops. This shopping destination is centrally located at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa. As one of the premier hotels in Waikiki, it is no surprise that this resort offers an impressive collection of boutique shops. The open-air atrium is the perfect place to wander the stores as you soak up the lovely Hawaiian vibe.

Photo Credit: All photos used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Waikiki Beach by Alan Light; (2) Waikiki Sunset by Kanaka Rastamon; (3) Diamond Head by Robert Linsdell
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Alles was man über das ESTA Visum für die USA wissen muss

august new york city concrete jungle

Eine der Fragen, die mir von meinen Freunden in Deutschland oft gestellt wird, ist: Was für ein Visa brauche ich, um in die USA einzureisen? Die gute Nachricht ist, dass man mit einem deutschen Pass KEIN Visum benötigt, um die USA zu besuchen, denn Deutschland ist in ein Programm für visumfreies Reisen integriert.

Das gilt übrigens nicht nur für Deutschland, sondern für fast alle europäischen Länder, einschließlich aller drei deutschsprachigen Staaten (Schweiz, Österreich, Deutschland). Diese Länder sind einem automatischen elektronischen Reisegenehmigungsverfahren, das als ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) bekannt ist, zugehörig. Dieses Verfahren wurde 2009 von den Vereinigten Staaten als erweiterte Sicherheitsüberprüfung für Reisende in die USA eingeführt. Für Reisende hat das Programm den Vorteil, dass sie die USA ohne ein Visum besuchen können, sondern stattdessen unter dem Visa-Waiver-Programm.

Im Folgenden findet ihr alles, was ihr über das ESTA wissen müsst: Wer es braucht, wie man es bekommt, und welche Dokumente und Reiseinformationen man benötigt, um es zu beantragen.

american flag tombstone

ESTA oder Visum?

Visum USA oder ESTA? Für die Regierung der USA ist das ESTA eine Maßnahme, Reisende herauszufiltern, die eine Bedrohung für die Vereinigten Staaten und seine Bevölkerung darstellen könnten. Dazu werden die Daten aller ESTA-registrierten Reisenden vor Reiseantritt mit den amerikanischen Fahndungs- und Strafverfolgungslisten abgeglichen.

Für Bürger der Länder, die am ESTA-Programm teilnehmen, vereinfacht sich die Einreise in die USA, da diese nun nicht mehr den langwierigen Prozess eines Visumsantrages durchlaufen müssen, der einen Besuch einer U.S. Botschaft oder eines Konsulates bedarf. Das ESTA ist außerdem wesentlich preisgünstiger als ein Visum.

ACHTUNG: Wenn man für länger als 90 Tage in die USA einreisen möchte, muss man nach wie vor ein Visum beantragen, auch wenn man aus einem Land kommt, das am ESTA-Programm teilnimmt.

Wer benötigt ein ESTA?

Jeder Reisende, der die USA via Flugzeug oder per Schiff bereist, muss im Besitz eines gültigen ESTA-Visums sein. Dabei macht es keinen Unterschied, ob man die USA aus touristischen oder beruflichen Gründen bereist. Ohne das ESTA wird Reisenden die Einreise in die USA NICHT gestattet, und dabei gibt es keine Ausnahmeregelungen. Ohne das ESTA darf man nicht einmal mehr ins Flugzeug steigen – und die Fluglinien sind sehr streng, was diese Regel angeht.

Das ESTA-Visum wird für alle Reiseteilnehmer benötigt, Kinder eingeschlossen.

Wer in Deutschland residiert, jedoch keinen deutschen Pass hat, und aus einem Land stammt, dass NICHT in das ESTA Visa Waiver Programm integriert ist, muss nach wie vor ein Visum für die USA in der U.S. Botschaft oder im Konsulat beantragen. Nur Personen mit einem Reisepass für eines der Länder, die in das ESTA Programm integriert sind, sind berechtigt, ein ESTA Visum zu beantragen.

Welche Staaten gehören zum ESTA Programm?

Gegenwärtig sind 38 Länder in das ESTA Visa Waiver Programm integriert. Das schließt fast alle europäischen Länder ein, eine Anzahl asiatischer Länder, Australien und Neuseeland, sowie Chile als einzige Nation Südamerikas.

Die komplette Liste der Länder, die am ESTA Visa Waiver Programm teilnehmen, ist wie folgt:

  • Europa: Andorra, Austria, Belgien, Dänemark, Deutschland, Estland, Finnland, Frankreich, Griechenland, Irland, Island, Italien, Lettland, Liechtenstein, Lithauen, Luxemburg, Malta, Monaco, Niederlande, Norwegen, Portugal, San Marino, Slowakei, Slovenia, Spanien, Schweden, Schweiz, Tschechische Republik, Ungarn, Vereinigtes Königreich
  • Australien & Neuseeland
  • Chile
  • Folgende asiatische Länder: Brunei, Japan, Südkorea, Singapur, Taiwan

Grand Canyon

Wie man ein ESTA beantragt

Man muss das ESTA mindestens 72 Stunden vor der Einreise in die USA beantragen, aber es wird empfohlen, den Antrag auszufüllen, sobald man die Reise bucht, für den Fall, dass es eine Verzögerung bei der Bearbeitung des Antrages gibt.

Den ESTA Antrag auszufüllen, ist relativ einfach. Der gesamte Prozess wird online ausgeführt und sollte nicht länger als eine Viertelstunde dauern. Ehe man anfängt, den Antrag auszufüllen, sollte man sicherstellen, dass man alle benötigten Dokumente und Informationen zur Hand hat.

Was man benötigt, um das ESTA zu beantragen

  • Einen gültigen Reisepass
  • Kreditkarte, um das ESTA zu bezahlen
  • Persönliche Daten
  • Reisedaten (Adresse während des Aufenthalts in den Vereinigten Staaten – das kann Hotel / Airbnb, etc sein)

Zusätzlich müssen noch einige Fragen beantwortet werden, zum Beispiel über ansteckbare Krankheiten, die man hatte; Straftaten / Verurteilungen in der Vergangenheit; vorherige Besuche und Visa in den USA; Reisen in Länder, die auf der Beobachtungsliste der USA stehen: Irak, Lybien, Solmalia, Jemen, Syrien, Iran und Sudan).lufthansa A380 LAX

Braucht man ein ESTA wenn man auf Durchreise in ein anderes Land ist?

Ja, man benötigt auch ein ESTA, wenn man nur auf Durchreise in den USA ist – selbst wenn es sich dabei um zwei kurze Stunden handelt. Solange man auf irgend einem Weg in die USA einreist, muss man ein ESTA vorweisen können.

Wenn man einen Flug von Europa nach Südamerika findet, der über die USA geht, aber wesentlich günstiger ist al sein Direktflug, lohnt es sich in der Regel trotz des ESTAs über die USA zu fliegen. Das ESTA ist letztendlich nur eine Formalität.

Wie lange ist das ESTA gültig?

Das ESTA ist zwei Jahre gütig, und in dieser Zeit kann man eine unbeschränkte Anzahl von Reisen in die USA unternehmen, ohne jedes Mal ein neues ESTA zu beantragen – solange man sich an die Visumsbestimmungen hält (d.h. in der Regel 90 Tage für ein Touristenvisum nicht überschreitet).

Personen, die nicht regelmäßig in die USA reisen, aber schon einmal ein ESTA bekommen haben, sollten vor einer bevorstehenden USA Reise unbedingt prüfen, ob das alte ESTA noch gültig ist.

Ein ESTA verliert auch dann seine Gültigkeit, wenn ein Reisepass ausläuft oder man einen neuen Reisepass bekommt. In diesem Fall muss man ein neues ESTA beantragen, selbst wenn das alte ESTA noch gültig ist (jedoch registriert für die Nummer des alten Reisepasses).

Andere Umstände, die ein ESTA ungültig machen, sind: Namensänderung (z.B. nach einer Heirat), Geschlechtsumwandlung, neue Staatsbürgerschaft.

statue of liberty at sunset nyc

Kann man einen ESTA Antrag im Nachhinein ändern?

Ja, es ist problemlos möglich, online auf seinen bestehenden ESTA Antrag zuzugreifen und im Nachheinein bestimmte Daten zu ändern (z.B. E-Mail-Adresse; Telefonnummer; Flugdaten, Adresse während Ihres Aufenthalts in den Vereinigten Staaten).

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Travel on A Budget in South Africa with these Simple Tips

south Africa penguin

South Africa’s currency, the Rand, has seen a steady decline against the US Dollar over the past few years, meaning traveling to South Africa has become much cheaper. If planned in the right way, a trip to South Africa can be an incredible bargain now – even with a safari, which is usually pricey. Here are some tips to help you enjoy your South Africa Holiday whilst traveling on a budget.  

Drive yourself

Hiring a car in South Africa is definitely the best way to get around. Companies such as Europcar rental make it so easy for you to rent a car and enjoy your time taking a road trip around this beautiful country. It is also cost effective as you are not trying to navigate unreliable public transport or paying high prices for private tours. South Africa’s Garden Route is regarded as one of the most scenic road trips on the entire continent. If you’re traveling alone, check out BAZ bus, South Africa’s backpackers bus which runs between 40 destinations in the country.Addo Elephant Park, South Africa

Keep to a food budget

It can be expensive to eat out every day, and it definitely helps to have one meal in your hostel or vacation rental. Groceries are cheap, and you can have a good homemade breakfast each day before you head out. Visiting a grocery store is especially advised before doing a self-drive safari – the restaurants in the National Parks are overpriced, and you’re much better off packing picnic lunches. Then you can indulge in the delights of ice cream, street food and South African wine along the way as a treat.Vineyard in a glass

Choose guided game drives

Of course, during your trip you will want to enjoy an African safari – a bucket list item for many, for both the animals as well as the beautiful landscapes of South Africa. However, if you book all-inclusive packages at the national parks you will pay a premium rate that may not suit your budget. By staying outside Kruger or Addo National Parks and choosing day trips into the park in your own vehicle you will save a massive amount of cash for what will still be an amazing experience. Plan your trip wisely and you will get the most out of your visit for as little the cost. It is also cheaper to book your safari trips when you get to South Africa instead of booking it from the U.S. Check out these useful tips on how to safari in South Africa on a budget.Sunset giraffes

Pay for the big stuff

Some activities in South Africa come with a big price tag but are worth the money depending on your desires. So, if you are visiting with your heart set on Shark-cage diving in Gansbaai, bungee jump at Bloukrans Bridge or taking the cable car to the top of Table Mountain make sure to budget for this. South Africa has plenty of cool activities to offer, and on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, you don’t want to miss out on any of them.Lions Head and Table Mountain

Find budget accommodation

Decide which features you want in your accommodation before you book. There are plenty of options ranging from simple camping, hostels and self-catering apartments to hotels and lodges. Hostels are the cheapest option, but there are also great deals on vacation apartments and hotels – especially now thanks to the favorable exchange rate. If you’re planning to eat in some of your meals, make sure your hostel has a kitchen – or go for an Airbnb.Safari Tent Tlopi Tented Camp Marakele South Africa

South Africa has a reputation of being an expensive country – but with these tips, you can travel this fascinating country on a budget, and still feel like you’re not missing out on anything.

Clifton Hot Spot - South Africa
Have any tips to add? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Photo credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licsensing. (1) Elephants by Brian Snelson; (2) Stellenbosch vineyard by Neville Nel; (3) Giraffes in Kruger National Park by Sumarie Slabber; (4) Lions Head and Table Mountain by Jonathan Gill; (5) Safari Tent in South Africa by Amanda; (6) Clifton, South Africa by South Africa Tourism
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The Best Five Places In The World To See Big Cats In The Wild

Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Nort

Seeing big cats in the wild is the dream of every wildlife lover, but it is also something that only very few people in the world ever get to experience. Not only aren’t there many wild cats left in the wild, but the places where you can see them roam freely aren’t easy to reach – they are far away, mostly ‘off the beaten trail’, and expensive to get to.

And yet there is something so captivating and majestic about seeing especially the five largest big cats – tigers, lions, leopards and snow leopards, and jaguars (those are the ones that can roar) – and smaller ones like cheetahs and pumas (those are the ones that aren’t able to roar) in the wild, that wildlife lovers add it to their bucket lists.

Lion

Every year, the population of big cats in the wild shrinks, which makes seeing them in their natural habitat even more exclusive. If seeing big cats roam freely is on your bucket list, here the five best places in the world to see big cats in the wild:

1 Lions, Cheetahs and Leopards: Tanzania and Kenya

If you want to see as many different big cats as possible in one trip, Africa is the place for you. On the entire African continent, there are now fewer than 25,000 left – a rapidly disappearing population because of hunters and a rising human population claiming their land, and you have to visit a wildlife conservancy to hear lions roar in the wild, or even better, watch them hunt. Seeing lions is almost guaranteed on any African safari, which usually promise sightings of the Big Five (elephants, lions, leopards, rhinoceros, African buffalo).

Cheetah Seq2 007

Tanzania is the African country that has the largest numbers in terms of wildlife, especially if you want to see cheetahs, which are the world’s fastest mammal, with sprints that can reach up to 70 miles per hour (114km/h). There are about 200 of them in Serengeti National Park, more specifically in the Namiri Plains (Namiri means Big Cat in Swahili). In addition to cheetahs, Serengeti National Park is home to 3,000 lions, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot leopards there as well.

Another great place to see lions, leopards and cheetahs in Africa is Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, famous for its high population of wildlife and the fact that all of the ‘Big Five’ can be found here.

Like in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park just across the border, you can witness the Big Migration here between July and October, when 1.5 million wildebeest migrate through the Mara Region. During that time, lions can often be spotted preying for wildebeest along the shores of the Mara River and you often even get to see them take down their prey.

Lion Cub with Mother in the Serengeti

To get a photo like the one above, make sure to invest in some very good camera gear – if you don’t come equipped with super zoom lenses, your wildlife photos won’t look anything like this. A very good camera, a zoom lens with stabilization, and a fast memory card (to capture every single moment quickly) are key.

2 Tigers: India

The tiger is the most awe-inspiring big cat – the largest in the world, weighing up to 660 pounds (300 kilos). Today, less than 4,000 tigers still roam freely, making it the most endangered of all big cat species. The best places to spot one are India and Nepal, particularly India, where the regional subspecies, the Bengal Tiger, makes up for the largest number of remaining tigers in the wild: there are reportedly around 1,700 tigers on the subcontinent.

The state of Madhya Pradesh in Central India has not one but two tiger reserves: Kanha Tiger Reserve and Bandhavgarh National Park. The tiger density in Bandhavgarh National Park is one of the highest in the entire country, with about 50 tigers, which means that here tiger sightings are almost guaranteed. Kanha Tiger Reserve has less tigers, but sightings are almost 100% guaranteed on a safari here as well.

April to June are the best months for tiger safaris, and the more days you can spare, the higher your chances for tiger sightings.

For other places to see tigers in India, check out this CNN article.

Beautiful animal

3 South America: Jaguars in Brazil, Pumas in Chile

If you are traveling to South America, you can see two different big cats on your trip (if you are lucky, of course!) – jaguars in Brazil and pumas in Chile.

To see jaguars, which are the third largest cats after lions and tigers, you will have to travel to one of the most remote places in Brazil: The Pantanal.

The Brazilian Pantanal is the world’s largest inland wetland area, spanning an area estimated at between 54,000 and 75,000 square miles (140,000 and 195,000 square kilometers). It is located in the southwestern part of Brazil, reaching all the way into Bolivia and Paraguay. The two Brazilian states that make up the Pantanal are Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. For jaguar spotting, Mato Grosso wins by a large. Between July and September, during the dry season when water is low in the Cuiabá River, many jaguars come out to hunt during the day and enjoy chilling along the river. Excursions are usually done by boat, which allows for fantastic undisturbed wildlife watching. During the dry season, visitors report up to three jaguar sightings in a single day, and often you can witness a hunt firsthand!

Jaguar (Panthera onca) male back in the water

If you have time for another elusive wild cat, head down to Chile from here to see pumas in the wild. They are known to be extremely fast and can run as fast as 50 miles per hour. Not only that, they also can jump 18 feet (around 5.5 meters) in the air.

You can see pumas in the far south of Chile, in Patagonia. Torres del Paine National Park, named after the imposing Torres Del Paine massif, is where they live – but you can hardly ever see them without a guide who knows their favorite hangout spots, since pumas are very shy animals. The closest airport, Punta Arenas, is four hours south of here, which makes you aware of just how isolated this part of the world is.

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4 Snow Leopards: Northern India

To see snow leopards in the wild, you will have to make more of an effort than for any of the other big cats. Because of their low numbers (it is estimated that there are between 4,000 and 6,400 left), it is extremely rare to see them in their natural habitat, and your best chances are in Hemis National Park, a high-altitude National Park in the eastern Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir in Northern India. Hemis National Park is home to around 200 snow lions, but seeing them is not an easy task. It involves high-altitude camping where temperatures drop to -13Fahrenheit (-25 Celsius) at night and hour and hours of scanning the snowy slopes in hopes to spot the rare white coated cat, and for many lovers of big cats, a trip to see one represents the ultimate challenge. No motorized vehicles are allowed inside the park, which means the only way to get around is to trek, and due to the park’s remote location, it is quite difficult to get here – flights only connect Leh, the closest town (3 miles from the park) with larger cities such as Delhi, between June and September, but the best season to spot snow leopards is winter, between late January and March.

Since trying to see snow leopards in the wild is not an easy undertaking, I recommend you check out Bloomberg’s What to Know Before You Go Tracking Snow Leopards at 13,000 Feet.

Snow Leopard

5 Leopards: Sri Lanka

Seeing leopards in the wild was one of the highlights of my Sri Lanka trip for me, and I can highly recommend an open-jeep safari to anyone dreaming of a leopard encounter. The wild population of leopards here is estimated at 700 to 950 individuals – quite a large number considering the small size of the country. These amazing animals with their distinctive yellow coats, covered with dark spots, can reach up to almost 220 pounds (100 kg).

You have the best chance to see these majestic cats in the wild in Yala National Park, which is known to have the highest density of freely roaming leopards in the entire world. The closest town to the park is Tissamaharama, but there are several hotels right outside the park, and if you want to go all in you can stay in a luxury resort, the Wild Coast Tented Lodge, right inside the park. There are no fences or boundaries, allowing you to watch wildlife right from your breakfast table.

The best time of year to see leopards in Sri Lanka is between March to October when the water tables are getting low and many animals come out to the lakes to drink. Even though the odds to see leopards in the wild here are extremely high, it is advisable to plan in a couple of days so that you can go on safari more than once, increasing your chances to spot one or several of these beautiful cats.

Sri Lankan Leopard

Photo Credit: All photos used via Flickr’s Creative Commons program. Title photo of cheetahs by Derek Keats; Lion by Mario Micklisch;
Cheetahs in Mara, Tanzania by Nick Ward; Lion mother with cubs in Serengeti National Park by David Dennis; Indian Tiger by Brian Scott; Jaguar in Pantanal by Bernard Dupont; Puma in Chile by Murray Foubister; Snow Leopard by Nathan Rupert; Sri Lankan leopard by Shanaka Aravinda

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Top Six Greek Islands To Visit

sunset

Everyone has seen photos of the picture-perfect scenery that made the Greek Islands famous: whitewashed buildings in small, dreamy villages, views over the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean, secluded beaches, breathtaking sunsets over the sea. A trip to the Greek Islands, known for their stunning natural beauty, is a dream trip for many people. But did you know there are 230 inhabited islands in Greece? And different island groups, such as the Cyclades and the Dodecanese? So how do you decide which island(s) to visit? I compiled a list of the six best Greek Islands to visit, and I chose islands that you can easily visit during one single trip to Greece – so if you do have a couple of weeks to spare, I highly recommend an island hopping trip covering all six islands.

The showstopper: Santorini

If there’s one Greek island you’ve heard of, it is Santorini, the most famous of them all. You might be put of by the large number of tourists that visit Santorini every year, but remember: Santorini is popular for a reason. The white buildings with their bright blue roofs, perched onto hillsides with sweeping vistas over the Aegean Sea, are what this island is known for. Even though these days it is hard to find an untouched corner on the island, Santorini has been able to maintain its traditional Greek-ness.

Spend at least a couple of days here to take in the jaw-droppingly beautiful sunsets from Oia in the far north of the island, visit Fira, the capital, with its spectacular clifftop setting and delightful whitewashed buildings, stop at Red Beach with the remarkable backdrop of towering red rocks, and Eros Beach in the south to get away from the crowds.

How to get there: Santorini is a quick 30-min plane ride from Athens, but during high season, many European cities offer direct flights to Santorini. From Santorini, you can take a ferry to Naxos (about 1 hr 45 mins) or to Mykonos (about 2 – 2.5 hrs). You can find detailed information about all the ferry connections between the Greek islands here.

Where to stay: The best towns to stay in are the enchanting cliffside towns: Oia, Fira, Firostefani and Imerovigli. Be aware that the first two are especially popular and can get very crowded in the summer months. If you want a base away from the tourists, opt for the inland village of Pyrgos.

What to Know: Book your flights and ferry tickets as early as possible – both sell out during the summer months. A popular thing to do is to take a donkey ride up to the hilltop town of Fira, but be aware that these donkeys live in poor conditions.

The ‘happening place’: Mykonos

Santorini is the best place to start your Greek island hopping adventure, but Mykonos is an island that has a completely different feel. In short, Mykonos has it all – here you find beaches, party and traditional Greek life in the smaller villages that are scattered around the island.

In high season, this is Greece’s party island, but if you leave Mykonos Town, you can escape the crowds. Mykonos Town’s narrow cobbled alleys are best visited before noon, when most tourists are still in bed. That’s when you get to experience how truly charming this town still is, despite hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting the island every year. While Santorini is unbeatable when it comes to spectacular views, Mykonos wins when it comes to beaches. Kalo Livadi is the largest beach on the island, located on the south side, but only a 20-minute drive from Mikonos Town – the island is compact and easy to explore by car or scooter. Other beaches worth visiting are Ornos, Elia Beach, Agios Ioannis beach, Platis Gialos and Paraga Beach.

How to Get There: You can fly from Athens to Mykonos (40 mins), and during the summer months, many European cities offer direct flights as well. If you are island hopping, take the ferry from Santorini (2.5 hours). There are also daily ferry connections from Naxos (45 mins), Ios (1 hr 50 mins), Santorini (2 hrs 40 mins) and Crete (about 4 hrs 30 mins).

Where to stay: Mykonos Town is the happening place, but beware that in addition to all the tourists staying there, you’ll have to deal with the cruise ship crowds that arrive on a daily basis during high season. If crowds and noise into the wee hours of the morning aren’t your thing, you might want to stay on one of the beaches instead, for example Agios Stefanos or Ornos. Super Paradise and Elia are the most popular gay beaches. Ano Mera, a small village seven kilometers from Mykonos Town, is the best place to stay to get a true feel for traditional Greek island life.

What to know: If you’re looking for a good day-time party, head to Super Paradise Beach. If you’re not into partying, skip Mykonos in July and August.  Lonely Planet has an excellent guide to Mykonos for first-timers.

The perfect island for relaxing: Kos

Kos is located further southeast in the Aegean Sea, not far from the Turkish coast, and after Rhodes the second most popular of the Dodecanese island group. Kos is known for its stunning 112-kilometer-long coast line that boasts around 20 serene beaches. The most significant landmark on the island are the ruins of the Asklepion, which were healing temples in ancient Greece. Kos Town is the most touristy town on the island with plenty of bars, restaurants, shops and hotels, but the other villages on the island have places to stay and tavernas to drink and eat as well.

How to get there: There are regular flights from Athens to Kos, and during the summer months also direct connections to several European cities. If you want to island hop, there is a ferry service from Santorini to Kos (4.5 hours), but it only runs twice a week, so plan accordingly.

Where to stay: Kos is home to a number of beautiful little villages, such as Kardamena, Antimachia, Pyli, Marmari, Tingaki, Kefalos, Mastihari and Zia. It’s up to you if you want to stay on the coast or in one of the typical Greek villages in the center of the island. There are plenty of hotels all over the island, including several upscale all-inclusive resorts right by the ocean, such as the Akti Palace near Kardamena.

What to know: Kos is a relatively flat island, which makes it perfect for cycling. If you enjoy a good, scenic bike ride, this is your island!

The most traditional island: Naxos

If you are looking to experience authentic rural Greek life, you will adore Naxos. This island has gorgeous beaches, interesting ruins and ancient cities, and dozens of traditional villages – 46 to be precise. You can simply spend your days driving around the islands, stopping in one of the villages for a coffee or a beer, wander around the tranquil streets, marvel at the pristine stone churches and spend the rest of the day relaxing on a secluded beach. Not many visitors take the time to actually stop in the villages rather than just pass through them, which is why most of them still feel completely untouched by tourism.

How to get there: You can fly from Athens (40 mins) or arrive by ferry from Paros (25- 45 mins), Mykonos (45 mins), or Santorini (2 hrs).

Where to stay: Naxos, the main town, is a popular base for visitors, as are the western beaches, like Plaka, Agia Anna and Agios Prokopios.

What to know: Don’t miss Naxos’ Temple of Apollo: Portara. The giant marble gate and only remaining part of an unfinished temple of Apollo that dates back to 530 BC. Also worth visiting is the temple of Demeter just outside the village of Sangri which was builti n the 6th century BC. The village of Kinidaros has the best bakery on the island, Chalki has the best artisanal jam. At the Vallindras distillery in Halki you can try the local citron liquor kitron.

The best beach getaway: Milos

Milos’ claim to fame is the statue of Aphrodite, also known as the Venus De Milo, which can be found in the Louvre Museum. While the island might have lost its most famous inhabitant, it is still home to 70 (!) scenic beaches and a coastline that is swoon-worthy in many parts. Don’t miss the unique cliff structures at Sarakiniko Beach, the crystal clear waters at Kleftiko Beach, the narrow swimming hole at Papagragas Beach, Sikia Cave (only accessible from the sea) and the remote Agathia Beach. You can spend a week here visiting three beaches every day and still only see a small portion of the island’s diverse beach-scapes, which range from golden sand to black sand, from rocky to shell beaches, from long-stretched bays to tiny coves, from turquoise to cobalt blue waters. Milos is still a bit under the radar, which means you have to share these lovely beaches with considerably less visitors than some of the more famous neighboring islands.

How to get there: There are ferries between Milos and Santorini (2.5 hours), Milos and Folegandros (1 hour), Milos and Naxos (around 4 hours).

Where to stay: Adamas is the busiest settlement and port of Milos, with a nice promenade and many hotels and restaurants. Pollenia is a smaller fishing village, quieter than Adamas but still with many restaurants and amenities. Plaka offers a picture-perfect Greek village and the best sunsets on the island.

What to know: Don’t miss Paliochori (three beaches with colorful rock fromations and sea water that is heated by underwater mineral springs in various places), the distinctive white volcanic rock at Sarakiniko Beach, and the sea cave of Papagragas with its crystalline waters. The sunset in the quaint village of Plaka is often compared to Santorini’s famous sunsets. The villages of Klima and Tripitis are also worth a visit.

The hidden gem: Folegandros

Folegandros means ‘iron hard’ – and looking at this barren island where you find barely any trees it is easy to see where the name comes from. Folegandros is often compared to Santorini, because just like on the most popular Cycladian island, you find villages with whitewashed houses and bright blue doors here, and stunning vistas over the azure blue Mediterranean. The reason Folegandros isn’t overrun with tourists yet is that it is harder to get here – no direct flights, and ferries aren’t as frequent as on the more popular Greek islands. If solitude, an island off the tourist path, and traditional villages are what you are looking for, Folegandros is for you. Chora, the main village on the island, offers plenty of opportunities to just sit and watch the world go by – in one of the three squares, one of the many tavernas, or one of the many cafes. For a spectacular photo opportunity, head up to Panagia church for sunrise or sunset.

How to get there: Ferries run between Folegandros and Santorini (1 hour), Folegandros and Milos (between 1 hour and 2.5 hours), Folegandros and Mykonos (4-5 hrs), Folegandros and Naxos (4-5 hrs)

Where to stay: Chora, the main settlement on Folegandros, is the best place to stay because it has lots of bars, cafés and restaurants. The quieter port village of Karavostasis also has a few hotels and vacation rentals.

What to know: Don’t expect sandy beaches here – most of the beaches are rocky and pebbly, and reached by walking down rocky footpaths. Ambeli, Livadaki and Katergo shouldn’t be missed. Angali beach and bay is also worth a visit.

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A guide to Lanzarote’s lunar-type landscapes

lanzarote

As one of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote is most commonly associated with beach breaks in the sun, but there’s more to this island than just its coastline. If you love hiking and photography, head to the interior for at least a day to discover the island’s otherworldly landscapes.

Lanzarote is volcanic in origin and, as a result, boasts some weird and wonderful rock formations, as well as areas that look a lot like a lunar scene. The whole island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which makes this a great vacation for eco-conscious travelers as development here remains sustainable as it grows.

In this Lanzarote travel guide I am sharing Lanzarote beyond the beaches. If you want to escape the crowds, I recommend renting a car and driving around the island. If you want to encounter as few other tourists as possible, plan your trip in the off-season. That way you’ll get an even cheaper deal on your holiday, too.La Graciosa @ Islas Canarias

Where to see Lanzarote’s lunar landscape

Timanfaya National Park is undoubtedly where you’ll find Lanzarote’s most spectacular and unusual scenery. The area has been shaped by volcanic eruptions, the most recent of which occurred in the 19th century, and due to the low levels of rainfall it receives the landscape has changed little over the years.

This means you can see the dried-up lava flows and strange rock formations that were caused by the eruptions. There’s also little plant life – although the flora that does survive in the area is incredibly interesting – offering up uninterrupted views of the volcanoes and the martian-style landscape that spreads out in front of you.

Independent travelers should note, though, that in order to visit this area, you must be part of a guided tour. This has its benefits in that your leader will be able to tell you more about Lanzarote’s fiery history, as well as show you some amazing tricks using the geothermal energy stored in the ground – all things it would be hard to pick up on your own, anyway.Timanfaya National Park 14

Top sights in Timanfaya National Park

One of the most astounding things to see as you explore Timanfaya National Park is how the ground retains incredibly hot temperatures just beneath the surface. If you drop some dry twigs into a hole, they will instantly catch fire, while pouring water into a borehole will result in steam shooting out of the earth, much like a mini geyser.

This happens because just a few meters below the surface of the ground temperatures are between 400 and 600 degrees C!

To get a good overview of the landscape, head to the viewpoint at Montana Rajada. From here, you can see the rolling lava fields stretching all the way to the coast. Some of the shapes of the rocks are bizarre – you can easily imagine being on another planet as you look out over the desolate scene.

If you feel like getting active on your holiday in Lanzarote, consider joining one of the guided walks offered by the National Parks Service. The trail along the coast is one of the most fascinating, as this will allow you to see how Lanzarote’s shoreline has been shaped by the lava, which cooled and hardened upon hitting the sea creating all kinds of jagged and interesting rock formations. You can also simply walk the trails by yourself – it’s not required to join a guided walk. Just make sure to use sunscreen and pack water.Lanzarote-TimanfayaCurious about the other islands? Check out my complete guide to the most popular Canary Islands.

Photo Credit: Images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) La Graciosa by Landscapesandmore; (2) Timanfaya by Castgen; (3) Timanfaya by Tony Hisgett
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Top things to do in Arusha, Tanzania

corn field

Tanzania’s Arusha region is conveniently situated near to the iconic Serengeti National Park, one of Africa’s sacred gems.

It’s used by many as a starting point for those heading out to visit a host of Africa’s main attractions, such as Kilimanjaro and Meru.

However, the city itself has some sites of its own well worth exploring, and this article highlights the most interesting ones-whether you’re just passing through or if you’re planning on sticking around for a while.Mount Meru

Rent a bike

While this may not seem like the most exhilarating escapade on the face of it, a bike is the perfect mode of transport to navigate around Arusha, as it allows you to peacefully observe the many tribes that coexist in the region.

A bike ride around the villages- either by yourself or as part of a cultural Africa tour- can really broaden the mind and expand your knowledge of African tribal culture.Tanzania

Ngorongoro conservation area

National Park trips have traditionally been expensive to tourists visiting Africa but with safari vacation specialists like Tanzania Odyssey offering a range of packages to suit all budgets and tastes, a trip today won’t break the bank.

The Ngorongoro conservation is now cheaper to visit and far more accessible than ever before. The area serves as the ideal destination to experience breathtaking sunsets and sunrises while camping in the great outdoors.

Even if you’re visiting Arusha for a limited time, make a visit to Ngorongoro a priority.Road to Arusha

Tanzanite experience

Africa is famous for its diamond mines, and among the beautiful stones that can be found in this materially rich continent is tanzanite.

Many shops in Arusha sell tanzanite stone, which is sourced from the nearby Kilimanjaro area. However, the tanzanite experience offers a museum tour which allows you to discover more about the origins of this precious stone- a great educational trip.

Cultural heritage centre

This is your go-to place if you’re hoping to purchase gifts to take home to friends and family. The Cultural Heritage Centre boasts an array of exotic souvenirs in a relaxed atmosphere.

However, prices here can be slightly higher than elsewhere, so be sure not to pay over the odds for your purchases.mjc-100408-1666

National natural history museum

If you’re interested in archaeology, this is the perfect place to feed your passion. The Natural History Museum in Arusha is home to several artefacts and information regarding the evolution of the human race.

The museum is located in an old German fortified living compound which dates back to 1900, and it offers a truly unique experience.

Maasai women fair trade centre

The MWEDO (Maasai Women Development Organisation) was founded in order to support craft makers in Tanzania, who sell high-quality products to fund local education.

They currently run a series of projects in Arusha in a bid to develop the community for the benefit of its citizens, ensuring the local area remains a safe, warm and welcoming place to visit.Arusha, Tanzania

Photo Credit: (1) Mount Meru by Roman Boed; (2) Tanzania by Neiljs; (3) Road to Arusha by Ronald Woan; (4) Tanzanite Stone by Melanie Cook; (5) Maasai Woman in Arusha by Myjolnyr

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