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8 Ways Expats Are Making The Most Of Hamburg And Auckland

new york friends

Hamburg and Auckland both feature in the Economist’s 2017 top ten “most liveable” cities in the world, and have maintained their position from 2016.

But why?

What do these cities have to offer and how are expats benefiting? From the culture, and standard of healthcare, to the overall quality of life, this article explores what makes these cities so attractive to expats.

Hamburg is Germany’s second biggest city and is one of the country’s major hubs for industry, finance, and culture. Auckland is surrounded by natural beauty but is also the most densely populated city in New Zealand. The high regard for these cities among expats is no surprise as both New Zealand and Germany rank in the top 4 of the HSBC 2017 Expat Explorer Survey, with Germany leaping six places from 10th position in 2016.

Hamburg

1 Health and wellbeing

Moving to a new city can often mean being so busy that healthy eating and exercise get abandoned in favour of settling in. As with much of central Europe, Hamburg not only has good transport options, but is well prepared for walkers, joggers, and cyclists.

Thanks to a number of government schemes, cycling is one of the most common ways to get around Hamburg. While this is a great way for expats to get to know the local area, it also helps to build regular exercise into the daily routine without thinking about gym memberships during the first few weeks.

Red bikes

2 Location

A major port city in the north of the country, Hamburg is Germany’s second city and is a centre for industry, as well as being a major transport hub. It has been estimated that 30% of the population has a foreign background and represents over 180 nations. This diversity and thriving industry makes Hamburg a hugely attractive option for expats from all over the world.

As a port town, Hamburg is filled with scenic locations built around water. The Alster river splits and runs down either side of the city. The result is stunning views across hundreds of bridges, and more canals than Amsterdam and Venice combined. After being bombed during the Second World War, much of the city was rebuilt, lending it a wonderful blend of old and new architecture to complement the area’s natural beauty.

IMG_8045_web - Hamburg Binnenalster pano

3 Culture

Hamburg has a strong link to British expats. This is for many reasons, not least being occupied by British forces during the Second World War, who went on to develop a fondness for the city. This has only been strengthened by a musical connection with Britain, hosting a string of early concerts by the Beatles during the early 1960s.

Hamburg’s reputation for great entertainment continues today. With trains running through the night, the Reeperbahn entertainment district and its legendary festival, and a range of concerts and events, there is entertainment to be enjoyed all year round.

Expat culture is such that, while the German community are traditionally reserved, the expats in the city are diverse and welcoming towards arrivals from all over the world. This makes it an excellent location for new expats.

Standing still - Day 114/365

4 Quality of life

It is not surprising that Mercer’s 2017 Quality of Living rankings place Hamburg high on the list at number 19 out of 450 cities, well above London, which placed 40th. This is likely due to the combination of good healthcare, effective infrastructure and an attractive culture for expats means.

The metrics used to measure quality of life are varied and cover factors including education, health, housing, and the socio-cultural environment. While it might not be the first city expats think of when planning to move abroad, Hamburg’s impressive ranking suggests it is an ideal location for those looking to relocate.

Hamburg

Auckland

5 Healthcare

Ranked 41st by the World Health Organization (WHO), expats can feel assured that they are likely to receive high-quality healthcare in New Zealand. But, while New Zealand’s public health system is subsidized by the government, generally only citizens, residents, or people holding work visas that are valid for two years or more qualify. This means that new expats may find themselves paying out-of-pocket fees. So, expats may want to consider arranging international health insurance before traveling.

Auckland Sunset

6 Location

Auckland has many beaches, including Mission Bay and Takapuna Beach, which are very close to the main city centers. With such stunning natural surroundings, and typically warm weather, it is no surprise that Auckland has an outdoor-oriented population.

The balance between bustling city life and the serenity of rural living is a dilemma for many people across the world. Auckland solves this problem by offering both. With incredible natural scenery surrounding the city, you’re never far away from a stunning landscape, be it natural or man-made.

Urban sheep

7 Culture

One of the most charming things about Auckland is the cultural diversity. The city is relatively small, with a population of just 1.37million, but with 39 percent of the population born abroad, it is also one of the world’s most diverse cities. While this allows expats to enjoy the diversity of cultures, having so many European expats is likely to also help with the integration of new arrivals.

As well as the blend of influence coming from the British, Asian and European populations, New Zealand is proud of its deep-rooted Maori and Polynesian cultural traditions. It is unlikely that expats will be familiar with these cultures. But with frequent celebrations, expats can explore these rich traditions without feeling like an outsider.

Maori Warrior sculpture in Auckland (head)

8 Cuisine

As well as the lamb, seafood, and cheese that New Zealand is famous for, the range of food options in Auckland is incredibly diverse. Asian and European food is very popular and is usually reasonably priced. Auckland is known for its excellent restaurant scene, and eating your way around town is always a great way to get to know a city and all of its neighborhoods.

This allows expats the freedom to explore the cuisine of a range of cultures, while still being able to have a taste of home, without resorting to expensive imports.

Thanks to good infrastructure, strong economies and reliable healthcare, there is much to appeal to expats in both countries. This, combined with the many social and leisure activities, and spectacular blend of urban and natural surroundings, it’s easy to see why expats are making the most of both cities.

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Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Hamburg Bikes by Lukas Koster; (2) Hamburg Binnenalster by Alex Drop; (3) Standing Still by Nadine Heidrich; (4) Hamburg by Carsten Frenzl; (5) Auckland Sunset by Small; (6) Urban Sheep by Bernard Spragg; (7) Maori Sculpture by D Coetzee; (8) Nyonya Restaurant by Yann

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Five Epic Train Rides To Take Before You Die

Train Jaune Viaduct by A1AA1A on Wikicommons

If you’ve been reading this website for a while, you know that traveling by train is by far my favorite way to travel. My train trip around Europe in 2015 was one of the travel highlights of the year for me, riding the rails in Sri Lanka was what made the country so special for me, and even though I thought I might lose my life on the roller coaster ride that is a train trip in India, I still believe it was one of the most authentic travel experiences I had there.India train second class

And while I’ve taken train rides in places all over the world, all over Europe, in Thailand, in the U.S. and in Peru, to name just a few, there are still about a dozen amazing train journeys on this planet that I really want to take.

Today, I am sharing the five most epic train rides in the world with you – if you are, like me, a fan of train travel, you need to put these on your travel bucket list:

train ride to badulla with nine arches bridge tunnel

1 The Rocky Mountaineer, Canada

The Rocky Mountaineer train takes you from Vancouver on the Pacific Coast to Banff all the way in the Rocky Mountains.

The breathtaking mountain scenery is something you won’t ever forget: glaciers, lush green forests, and snow-covered peak await you on this luxury train, which includes gourmet meals created by executive chefs while marveling at the Rockies from oversized windows (in the SilverLeaf carriages) or even a glass-domed carriage (GoldLeaf). Highlights of a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer include Fraser Canyon’s Hell’s Gate, the wild waters of the Thompson River, an overnight stay in Kamloops, and vivid turquoise mountain lakes. Sometimes even bears can be spotted from the train, and train drivers often slow down when they spot bears near the train tracks, so that passengers have time to snap a photo.

2 The Ghan, Australia

Lovers of train journeys undoubtedly will have heard of The Ghan, Australia’s great train which takes you right across the Outback – in style! You can travel all the way from Darwin to Adelaide – covering nearly 2,000 miles in three days, while enjoying the luxury amenities on this remarkable train. The train stops in both Alice Springs and Katherine for four hours, giving passengers the option to do some sightseeing. Highlights include the tropical coast of the Northern Territory, the plains in the south, the incredible red colors of the outback as well as the red-hued rocks of the MacDonnell Ranges.

Indian train and Dani

3 The Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia

This epic train ride was actually the first one to pop up on my personal ‘train ride wish list’, covering 5,772 miles from Moscow in Russia to Vladivostok in Siberia. This train ride gives passenger an idea of how massive Russia and Siberia truly are, taking them for eight days through the changing landscapes of these countries. Highlights include Lake Baikal (the world’s largest freshwater lake), the stunning 3,227 feet long bridge over the River Ob, the dense Siberian forests and the Ural Mountains.

4 Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz, Switzerland

Taking the train through the Swiss Alps feels like you are being transported into a painting – the craggy mountain peaks, the lush green valleys, dotted with cows and sheep, and cute Alpine villages with wooden chalets… it doesn’t get any quainter than this! The seven hours on the Glacier Express from glitzy St Moritz to picturesque Zermatt go by in the blink of an eye while you’re trying to take in as much of all the postcard-worthy scenes around you. Highlights include the Oberalp Pass (at 6,706 feet the highest point of the ride), 91 tunnels, breathtaking mountain lakes, 291 bridges, and the 200 feet tall, six-arch Landwasser Viaduct.

sunset in the alps

5 West Highland Line, Scotland

See a theme here? Another train ride through the mountains! Apparently train journeys through the mountains are insanely beautiful, and the West Highland Line through Scotland is no exception. The trip starts in Glasgow but swaps the city-scape quickly for magnificent lochs (lakes), the Scottish Highlands, and remote wilderness, before reaching the town of Mallaig. Highlights include the Glenfinnan Viaduct (which was famously featured in the Harry Potter movies as the Hogwarts Express makes its way to Hogwarts), views of Ben Nevis (Scotland’s highest peak) and the stunning Loch Shield.

Loch Shiel, Scotland

Are you a fan of train travel? What’s the most memorable train ride you’ve ever taken?

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Top Five Destinations for Male and Female Solo Travelers

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A recent survey revealed the five most popular holiday destinations for solo travelers in their 30s and 40s. These are not your typical vacation destinations, but off-the-beaten places that aren’t on everybody’s travel wish list. These countries were also included in Traveller’s Top Ten Best Destinations of the Decade, which is saying something (and gives you even more travel inspiration, in case the five countries I’m introducing you to aren’t enough!)dani in machu picchu

Are you curious to see in which countries you may meet like-minded, adventurous single travelers your age? Without further ado – the top five destinations for solo travelers:Sri Lanka tours

1 Vietnam and Cambodia (60% female)

Vietnam and Cambodia are on top of the list for solo female travelers – and it’s easy to see why. Both countries are known for their stunning scenery, jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches, mouthwatering food and intriguing history and culture. If you only have time to explore one of those two countries, I’d recommend Vietnam – not just because the food is unbelievably tasty – because of how diverse the country is. You can hike in the bamboo forests in Sapa, take a street food tour in Hanoi, kayak through the limestone caves in Halong Bay, take a Vietnamese cooking class and spend the night on board a traditional junk boat before winding down your vacation on the beaches down south. There are many ways to have incredible Vietnam holidays – decide depending on how much time you have if you want to tour the entire country from north to south or if you want to focus on the northern or the southern part. Beach lovers will prefer the south, whereas cultural travelers and hikers will enjoy the north more.vietnamese curry cambodia

2 Sri Lanka (80% female)

I found it quite interesting that 80% of solo travelers in Sri Lanka are female, but looking back on my own Sri Lanka adventure, which I absolutely loved, I do remember quite a few adventurous solo female travelers throughout the country – and it’s easy to see why: Sri Lanka is small and compact, it’s easy to get around, and it is one of the most affordable countries I’ve ever been to. Add to that pretty boutique hotels, eight UNESCO World Heritage, the wildlife in Yala National Park, and of course women are intrigued to travel here!Sri Lanka

3 Peru (50% male / 50% female)

It seems that Peru is equally as popular with male travelers as it is with female travelers – and that’s probably thanks to its biggest tourist attraction: Machu Picchu! Hiking the Inca Trail is something almost everyone I know has on their bucket list, no matter what gender or sexual orientation, no matter their origin or their age. But let’s not forget that Peru is so much more than Machu Picchu – the Sacred Valley alone has enough other historic Inca sites to keep you busy for weeks, and climbing the 5000m high Rainbow Mountain has become an unmissable experience for most travelers. Other highlights include exploring the capital city of Lima, boarding a traditional Amazonian boat into the jungle, explore the charming city of Cuzco, and enjoy delicious Peruvian cuisine washed down with delicious Pisco Sours.Cuzco Peru

4 Myanmar (40% male)

Myanmar has seen a big boost in tourism over the past few years, especially since the political situation has improved and the country has begun to take a step forward in regards to technological advances and further development of its hospitality sector with the opening of new hotels, including luxury resorts to attract high-end travelers. The experiences you can have in Myanmar, like watching the sunrise over the temples of Bagan, or gliding down Inle Lake in a traditional wooden boat, marveling Shwegadon Pagoda or trekking across Green Hill Valley are some of the most memorable ones you’ll ever have, and you will cherish these memories for the rest of your life.luang prabang monks alms giving

5 Colombia (50% male/50% female)

When I traveled Colombia last year, I was surprised to see how many solo female travelers were brave enough to visit a country which is still often connected to its tumultuous past, which included drug cartels and kidnappings. However, these days, you’ll find luxury boutique hotels in the Spanish-colonial gem that is Cartagena, you can relax on the beaches along the Caribbean, or if you want to be really adventurous, trek five days through the Colombian Jungle to the ruins of the Lost City. It’s a country that is still off the main tourist trail, but offers such a wide range of things to do and places to see – I shared my 13 favorite travel moments in Colombia here.Colombia February 2016

Tell me: Which of these five destinations is on your travel wish list?

 

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The six senses of the body in relation to travel

siquijor beach with hammock philippines1

Sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, your five senses need to balance to achieve inner peace. The senses of the body are its way of telling you when you need to take a break. Sometimes all it takes to restore balance is a good night’s sleep, other times you may need much more. If you’re feeling like your inner balance could do with being re-tuned, why not take a look at this infographic and see if the luxurious Six Senses resorts would appeal for your next trip?

This infographic from Kenwood Travel & Six Senses explores the six senses of the body in relation to the unique experience you can have at the collection of resorts in Thailand, Vietnam, the Maldives, and Oman. The luxurious Six Senses resorts are a collection of five-star hotel resort spas in some of the globe’s most beautiful locations.


Infographic created byKenwood Travel

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The Countries with the Best Beaches to Visit

boracay sunset sky3

One of the best things about being able to travel – full or part time – has to be being able to visit some of the most beautiful and breath-taking stretches of coastline. From southern Africa to Uruguay, there are few things better than letting the sun kiss your skin while dipping your feet in crystal clear water. You’ll need to get prepared before setting foot on the beach, though. Besides the basic towel and sunscreen, it’s always a great feeling to embark on a fresh seaside adventure with a trendy new swimsuit, so why not have a look around online for a fresh new summer look? After this, you’re ready to go! But where? Here are three top picks from across the world.
dani san pancho

Eagle Beach – Aruba

Located in the Caribbean Sea just north of the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is a small island that is a constituent country of the Netherlands. The beach is known for its turquoise water, which is warm almost all year round. It’s a great option for people looking to escape the crowds as it’s far less crowded than the nearby Palm Beach; it’s also a ten minute drive away from the island’s capital, Oranjestad. Dominated by a two-kilometer stretch of bone white sand, dotted with divi-divi trees and numerous thatched umbrellas, Eagle Beach is one of the most idyllic places to swim and tan in the Caribbean.
cuba cayo jutias dani

Elafonissi Beach – Elafonissi, Greece

Perched on the southwestern side of Crete, Elafonissi is renowned for its pink and white beaches as well as clear shallow waters. With the Cretan mountains in the distance, there is hardly anything to complain about when it comes to the vista. The only thing that might put people off is the amount of tourists that crowd the beach in the summer, but you could get around this by getting up super early to catch the sunrise, or stick around later for the sunset. This sunset is one of the most beautiful you’ll see and, besides that, the beach itself offers almost a mile of gorgeous sand and interesting rock formations.
Dani Playa carricitos

Camp’s Bay Beach – Cape Town, South Africa

With the mountain and the town of Camps Bay behind it and the Atlantic ocean directly in front, Camps Bay Beach offers one of the most picturesque spots to soak up the sun. As a Blue Flag Beach, it is always clean and protected, with lifeguards monitoring the waters for sharks and struggling swimmers. It’s a popular spot with surfers, tourists, and sunbathers alike. It’s also fronted by a huge number of trendy bars and restaurants, so if you’d like to take a break from the sand and simply admire its beauty simple head up to Café Caprice and enjoy a cocktail. The beach and town are so beautiful that they were used as the setting for the virtual “perfect” town in an episode of the TV series Black Mirror.
iquique dani

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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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