Pools are a timeless feature that has been used on residential properties for several decades. As a common product that is used in backyards, they are known to offer plenty of fun for all ages. When you're looking to enjoy the feature, there are a few advantages that come with owning a pool.

Cool Off in the Summer

The summer season is known to have record-breaking temperatures, which can make it difficult to spend time outside in the heat. You can cool off during the summer months by taking a dip in the pool where you can swim, play games, and avoid feeling cooped up indoors.

Entertain

When you want to host parties or entertain your guests, a swimming pool is an ideal item to use to allow your family members and friends to have a fun time while visiting your home. You can welcome your loved ones to play volleyball or wade in the water while hosting an outdoor barbecue. You'll also have an easy way of throwing a birthday party or a celebration that is centered around the pool during certain months of the year.

Improve Your Backyard

You can improve the visual appeal of your backyard with a pool that works as the focal point of the setting and improves the aesthetics of the space. You'll have the freedom to create a custom pool that complements the architecture of your home and looks contemporary with its design. You'll get to explore different options by visiting the website of the contractor. Consider adding rock formations to the pool or a waterfall, which will create a lush outdoor oasis that feels like an escape. The pool can also make the property easier to sell by allowing it to stand out on the market once you list it.

Improve Your Health

Owning a pool can allow you to improve your health by staying fit with the exercise that it will provide. Enjoy swimming laps, which will increase your stamina and make it easy to maintain a healthy weight. Aquatic exercises can also be performed by non-swimmers who live on the property. Swimming and wading in the pool can also improve your sleep each night because it can cause fatigue by reducing your body temperature. You can rest better at night and alleviate different types of sleep apnea.

Pools offer plenty of entertainment and enjoyment for both children and adults. By installing the product, both you and your family will enjoy a higher quality of life.

  flickr // paradisecoastie georgikeith

Published in United Kingdom

Reno's big sister Las Vegas may get all the attention, however that doesn't mean visitors to Nevada should skip Reno. The city and surrounding area has plenty to offer -- besides just gambling -- without the overwhelming crowds of Vegas. Consider these offbeat sights and activities when planning your Reno vacation:

Be A Kingpin at The National Bowling Stadium

Offbeat Reno, Nevada: The National Bowling Stadium

This 78-lane bowling megaplex is a testament to how much the citizens of Reno love the sport. The National Bowling Stadium is the largest bowling alley in the world and as such plays host to all the big bowling tournaments. It was also used in the filming of the bowling comedy classic Kingpin. Go on by and test your skills at the "Taj Mahal of Tenpins."

Get Your Adventure On

Go karts, mini golf and the Ultimate Rush, oh my! Grand Adventure Land is a miniature amusement park located at the Grand Sierra Resort but open to the public, not just guests of the resort. The highlight of the park is a ride called the Ultimate Rush, a crazy combination of hang-gliding and sky-diving that is sure to get your adrenaline pumping!

Read More     Reno Has More to Offer Than Just Casinos

Visit the Birthplace of Denim

Levi's 501 denim blue jeans

Levi's denim jeans are an American icon known around the world and they got their start in Reno, Nevada. First designed by Jacob Davis using Levi's denim, the two patented the idea in 1871 and the rest is history. Although Davis' original factory no longer exists, a plaque commemorating this historic event can be found at 233 N Virginia Street.

Visit the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame

I bet you didn't even know this one existed, eh? Neither did I before passing through Reno on a road trip with my off-road addict of a best friend. Turns out the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame is located downtown inside of the National Automobile Museum, making it a great destination for all sorts of motor enthusiasts. The amount of stuff inside will amaze you! Definitely a must visit and a great way to pass an hour or two.

Offbeat Reno: The National Automobile Museum

The Offbeat Festival

2015 marks the first year of the Reno Offbeat Arts & Music Festival. This four-day festival is designed to highlight the burgeoning offbeat art, music and food not just in Reno, but found throughout all of Nevada. It will take place November 5th - 8th, 2015 throughout downtown Reno. Details and full lineup have yet to be announced, however you can find out more on the Reno Offbeat Festival web site.

  Bonus: Visit the Bunny Ranch

Offbeat Reno: The original Bunny Ranch

This infamous brothel gained nationwide attention after the HBO behind-the-scenes special about brothel life, Cathouse. Needless to say this is not a family outing, but for all you solo travelers out there eager for a unique experience, this is for you. Expect the night to cost you a couple hundred dollars, however it is possible to spend several thousand here, if budget is of no concern.

See More       Offbeat Travel Guides   United States Travel Ideas

  flickr   //   darronb   kenlund   bburky_   brewbooks   josefff

Published in United States

Good coffee. Stylish street art. Grunge music. The Space Needle. Seattle street-fashion. These are all things you find in Seattle that might not surprise you. But the city is also friendly, eclectic, and sometimes even a bit eccentric — which means that it is a veritable hotbed of offbeat sights and activities. The next time you find yourself in Seattle, rather than sticking to the boring and predictable tourist route, head on over and check out these unique and offbeat destinations:

The Official Bad Art Museum of Art

OBAMA: The Official Bad Art Museum of Art, a one-of-a-kind offbeat destination in Seattle, Washington

Also known as OBAMA, I was lured in the by promise of good food, good music and bad art at The Official Bad Art Museum of Art. What a winning combination! The "museum" isn't as big as I'd imagined, but it was way more entertaining! Located inside of Cafe Racer, come eager for a bite to eat or to down a beer or cocktail as your peruse their collection of tasteless artwork. It's perfect for killing a half an hour or to use as a meeting place.

The Haunted Vending Machine

Sitting alone on one Seattle street corner and looking decidedly out of place is a beat-up, old vending machine that appears to have been there since the 1950s. Although it has in fact only been here for a few years, no one knows where it comes from or who keeps it stocked.

I thirstily approached it only to find that the buttons reveal no clue as to the contents of the machine. After inserting my 75 cents, I hit the fourth button and was rewarded with an Orange Fanta. Wow, I didn't even know that came in cans. To play the soda lottery yourself and see what the spirits give you, head on over to John & Broadway.

The Pinball Museum

The Pinball Museum in Seattle, Washington, just one of the city's many offbeat sights

Always a fan of crazy and kooky museums, it didn't take any convincing to get me inside the Seattle Pinball Museum. Turns out this place is so much fun that it has no right being called a "museum"— it is in fact an arcade. But, it's one that is complete with vintage games from the 1960s to the 2010s. Apparently they continually rotate through their inventory too, so you never know exactly what goodies from your childhood are waiting inside.

Greenwood Space Travel Supply

Full of knick-knacks, souvenirs, apparel and obvious scientific necessities such as a can of Chaos, a bottled quart of "Uncertainty" and the obligatory Black Hole Starter Kit, I was blown away by Greenwood Space Travel Supply. Not only is it cool and quirky, but by shopping here customers are supporting The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas (formerly 826 Seattle,) a charity working for over a decade to actively improving the writing abilities of children.

The Fremont Troll

The Fremont Troll, just one of Seattle's many offbeat sights

Undeniably Seattle's most well-known offbeat attraction, the Fremont Troll has been lurking underneath the George Washington Memorial Bridge towards north Seattle since 1990. Apparently, it won an art competition and has since become an attraction for out-of-town visitors. It was definitely worthy of the five-minute stop and photo, as well as a mandatory climb up.

See More       Offbeat Travel Guides   United States Archive

  flickr   //   dancentury   natematias   rotron

Published in United States

San Diego is one of California's most entertaining cities. It can be exciting or relaxing, fun or mischievous, but always an enjoyable and delicious time. While many people come here for the weather and beaches, there is much more to San Diego than shoreline. Check out these offbeat sights and activities to make your next trip to "the Plymouth of the West."

The Whaley House in San Diego, the Most Haunted House in America

Experience "The Most Haunted House In America"

Never heard of the Whaley House? Neither had I. Turns out this place has a history to it, and was in fact named "the most haunted house in America" in 2005 by Life magazine. Built back in 1857, the Whaley House was much more than just a mansion. It was the theatre, county courthouse and general store. Unfortunately for the Whaleys, however, many of them lost or took their lives in this same house. Sightings of their ghosts are still reported.

The Cuban Cigar Factory in San Diego, California

Visit A Cuban Cigar Factory

Don't worry, it's perfectly legal. The Cuban Cigar Factory uses Cuban tobacco grown in Honduras, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic combined with traditional Cuban methods and expert rollers from Cuba to produce their cigars. It's even possible to watch the masters at work, which means you don't have to be a cigar connoisseur to enjoy a brief visit here.

Lucha Libre restaurant in San Diego, California

Wrestle Your Lunch

What makes good food even better? When you throw in a crazy, quirky environment that overloads your eyes and mind as much as your taste buds. This my friends is Lucha Libre, the most offbeat eatery in all of San Diego. As you may have guessed from the name, this delectable diner has a strong Mexican wrestling theme. In fact they even offer a discount for patrons who dine wearing their favorite lucha mask. Beyond on the flair however are tacos that deliver a smackdown. Definitely the best taco shop in all of San Diego. (Go for the Tap Me Out taco.)

Offbeat Brewing in San Diego, California

Taste-Test Some Offbeat Beer

Be honest, who doesn't like a good craft beer? Offbeat Brewing is known for producing top-notch craft ales and just happens to be located in Escondido, in the northern suburbs of San Diego. The founder and brewmaster left Stone Brewing Company to start Offbeat Brewing in 2011. Since then Offbeat has made a name for themselves throughout not just California but also with craft beer enthusiasts throughout the States. Last year while I took a tour through their brewery and sampled their entire line in the tasting room afterward. The winner? Hands-down it's Bear Arms Brown Ale, one of my favorite beers of all time.

Stumble Into A Secret Speakeasy

For a tasty cocktail simply text the number on the website to make a reservation at Noble Experiment, San Diego's secret speakeasy. Just please don't post about your visit to social media.

Tijuana, Mexico

Bonus: Tijuana!

This Mexican metropolis is located just a short drive or bus ride to the south and is perfect for a day-trip. Eat some delicious food, do some shopping or just soak up the glorious Mexican culture.

Eager to take your trip? Well my final piece of advice is to make sure a book a cheap San Diego hotel and use the money you save exploring these offbeat activities.

See More       Offbeat Travel Guides   United States Travel Ideas

  flickr //   josepha   jeffc5000   quitepeculiar   Dan K   omaromar

Published in United States

So you're passing through the fabled New York City but you only have 48 hours in the Big Apple. How can you make the most of this glorified layover? For starters, by booking a cheap NYC hotel and spending as little time in it as possible. New York City is expensive and there is a never-ending supply of new places to explore, things to experience, and of course food to eat. So save some money by not splurging on a hotel; you will want that extra cash elsewhere.

The city itself contains five boroughs and covers a whopping 305 square miles. Residents who have lived here for years can still consistently find new things to see, do, and eat. However, for guests on a quick trip, these are the sights, activities, and foods that you should not miss.

What to See and Do

A visit to Lower Manhattan is a must. Here you can see the Statue of Liberty, walk down Wall Street and past the New York Stock Exchange, even take a sobering glance at the World Trade Center Site.

This is Wall Street. Welcome to New York City baby. Nothing but wolves here!

Moving north to Midtown are Central Park and Times Square, both of which are very popular with tourists. (In other words, very crowded.) However, an obligatory short stop at both is a must for all first-timers to New York City. If visiting the park as a couple, consider taking a romantic horse-drawn carriage tour through Central Park.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Odditourium at Times Square, NYC

The city is also home to tons of theatres, art galleries, and museums. Just off Times Square is the Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Odditourium, which I believe vaguely falls into that last category. This "museum" (and I use that term loosely) is a great offbeat destination and an entertaining way to kill an hour. You cannot even begin to imagine what you will find inside—and I won't ruin it for you by spoiling it.

More offbeat sights and activities in NYC

The Beekman Tower in New York City, an example of some of NYC's unique and stylish architecture
The Beekman Tower

The city that never sleeps has an overwhelming amount of impressive and historic architecture. Set aside three hours and take a walking architecture tour of NYC, perfect for photographers, history buffs, and of course architecture enthusiasts. Or just wander around freely by yourself—you never know what you will find!

The Flatiron Building in New York City, one of NYC's most iconic buildings
The Flatiron Building

What To Eat

Pizza. New York style pizza is known around the entire world. It's time you investigate firsthand and find out why. Although the battle for the best pizza joint in the Big Apple is a war that will never be won, it is certainly a fun one to partake it by eating your way through town.

Nothing beats New York style pizza!

There is only so much pizza that you can eat in 48 hours though, so try to limit yourself to New York's best known pizza spots. Head out to Brooklyn for Lombardi's, famously known as America's first pizzeria (since 1905) and the birthplace of the New York style dish. Other notables include: Di Fara Pizza (also in Brooklyn, since 1965), Patsy's Pizzeria in East Harlem (since 1933), and Denino's out in Staten Island (since 1937).

  Have any additions to this list?

  flickr //   Thomas Hawk   dpbirds   Maciek Lulko   Thomas Hawk   Garrett Ziegler

Published in United States

People all over the world know two things that London has in abundance: amazing street art and crappy weather. While I cannot help you with the latter, I can show you where to find some magnificent street art -- as well as several other offbeat sights and activities that should not be missed next time you are in London. It's time to dive on into the offbeat and off the beaten path side of London!

Wet The Whistle

First things first. You've escaped the airport and dropped your bags off at the hotel room. Now what? It's time for a drink! Walk right past that hotel bar though, that's not where you want to be. Find a nice, quirky watering hole and go mingle with some locals. My personal favorite is the Phoenix Artist Bar -- and if you don't already want to visit there just based off hearing the name then please, just stop reading now, because this guide is clearly not for you.

Phoenix is becoming less-and-less "hidden" every month but that doesn't make it any less offbeat. The bar is frequented by those in the theatre industry and is in fact a private club. However non-members can get in by presenting a theatre ticket. The interior is stocked full of theatre memorabilia and their upbeat atmosphere will make you quickly feel right at home. Other offbeat options include Cellar Door and the aptly named Happiness Forgets.

Whirld Cinema in London, England

Catch A Show

London has no shortage of theatres and shows, however my personal favorite is the Whirled Cinema. From the outside the building appears to be an abandoned but inside it is the most lavish 60-person theatre that you've ever seen. They also have a small bar where you can order cocktails or a pizza to make your movie more enjoyable. Good luck finding the place though!

Learn About Loos

Toilets have become all the rage in recent years, with more and more countries opening up toilet restaurants. London even has a toilet coffee shop. However in order to truly appreciate these necessities of daily life, it helps to learn how far they have come over the years. London Loo Tour is an hour-and-a-half long walking tour that traces the history of toilets all the way up to now. You'll never look at the loo the same way after!

Eltham Palace in London, England

Picnic At A Historic Garden

Located in southeast London, the 19 acre garden surrounding Eltham Palace is arguably the best garden -- and best-kept green secret -- in all of London. Here visitors can escape the chaos and noise of the city without ever actually leaving the city. The entire property is considered a three-in-one getaway: visitors can relax in the park, marvel in the majestry that is Eltham Palace (which dates back to the 1300s), and even tour the 1930s Art Deco house also located there.

Street art in Aldgate, London, England

What About The Street Art?

Last but not least is London's street art scene. Head on over to Brick Lane and the surrounding areas to find some of the city's best street art, including several well-known works by Banksy and other prolific artists. Further north are the neighborhoods of Dalston and Hackney, both of which not only have plenty of street art but also an abundance of vintage stores, boutique cafes, quirky coffee shops and other independent businesses that will make it easy to pass the day away.

More HoliDaze Offbeat Travel Guides

What other offbeat London sights and activities would you recommend?

See More       Offbeat Travel Guides   London Travel Guides

  flickr   //   itsbruce   duncanh1   ben124

Published in England

Houston is one of the largest cities in Texas, and as with all big metropolises, there are so many things to do there that it can often be overwhelming to visitors. It is for that exact reason that I have recently been writing so many articles on all the amazing sights and restaurants in Houston, Texas. Now I proudly present the best summer activities to beat the Houston heat and humidity while still having a great trip.

Take A Dip In The Cool, Cool Water

What better way to cool off during the summer than by going for a swim. Houston has no shortage of public pools, however the real place to visit is Wet 'n' Wild SplashTown. They are home to acres upon acres of water slides, rides and pools. Plus if you are traveling as a family then this is one destination that every kid is guaranteed to love, regardless of their age.

Houston Astros game at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas

Catch A Sports Game

Houston is home to several professional teams, including the Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, and the Houston Texans. Baseball is the sport of summer and football season starts in September, so depending on when visitors will be in town dictates which sports will be in session. Luckily, either way the best deals on tickets to both games and musical performances can always be found with TiqIQ.

Enjoy A Night Out

Once the sun goes down and the temperature cools, outside dining becomes much more enjoyable than it is during the daytime heat. Restaurants like Boheme, The Tasting Room at King's Harbor and Batanga have made a name for themselves thanks to their delicious food and perfect outdoor ambience. The latter two are especially nice for a romantic night out. However, my personal favorite is Cottonwood, which is known for their sprawling patio, impeccable food and refreshing craft beer selections.

The Free Press Summer Fest in Houston, Texas

Go To A Music Festival

Houston summers and the Free Press Summer Fest go hand-in-hand. This annual music festival is held every June and has quickly become one of the largest annual music festivals in the nation. Performers such as Bassnectar, Deftones, and The Naked And Famous have performed here in years past and the 2015 lineup, although not yet announced, is expected to be one of the best thus far. Although you may still find yourself out in the sun during the day, you'll be having too much fun to worry about the heat.

Escape The City

Sometimes it is necessary to escape the urban jungle, even if only for a quick day-trip or one night getaway. Thankfully there are plenty of refreshing parks within the vicinity of north Houston's suburbs. Lake Houston Wilderness Park is the closest option but Sam Houston National Forest is by far the most rewarding. Both parks offer camping and hiking, however Sam Houston covers a sprawling 160,000 acres, as opposed to Lake Houston's 5,000 acres.

If you have any questions on what to do in Houston this summer, please leave a comment below and I'll get back to you.

View the Houston Travel Archives for much more!

  Hipmunk has published a large number of my city guides to destinations around the world on their site. Check them out for more!

  flickr   //   clockwerks   in_rainbows69

Published in United States

Having spent the last 2 years working with no break, we decided it was high time for a bit of R'n'R! So we packed up a suit case and headed for Hurghada, a lovely town situated on the Red Sea just a 4-hour drive from Luxor.

You can fly there but I find it more fun to take a car as the roads along the way are something special :)

We left Luxor at sunrise bleary-eyed with two very excited children in tow! As we made our way out of Luxor we saw the hot air balloons taking off from their launch site on the West Bank. It is amazing how many balloons there are now...I remember the days when we only had one or two!

As we headed down towards Qena it amazed me how much the landscape changed from the stretches of Lush green running along the River Nile to the desert wastelands that we found ourselves heading towards.

Red Sea adventures in Luxor, Egypt
Mountains 10 miles outside of Luxor

We passed through the city of Qena, home to Dendara Temple and was stunded at the difference between Luxor and Qena.

Here the street seemed cleaner with roads just for the public cars. Once outside Qena we continued are journey on towards Hurghada.

Half way through our journey the landscape changed again with the mountains closing in around us the rock faces all jaggered with an almost menacing look about them it was like being in a different world completely with what I can only describe as desolate beauty.

Red Sea adventures in Egypt

Red Sea adventures in Egypt

The feeling as you travel through here is the sense that there is still so much to be discovered hidden in the mountainous rock that surrounds you as you drive through.

It amazed me to see the Bedouin people still living within these mountains people walking along the roads seemingly on the road to no ware! We passed a Bedouin woman carrying water on her head while leading her donkey, with her thick black clothing and a long head scarf made of the same material. I couldn't understand it as there I was sweating in a light cotton shirt and trousers in an air conditioned car, while outside it must have been 42°C and she was dressed like it was winter!! I guess there is method in this madness.

What was just as amazing about her was when the wind got up you could make out the amazing colours of another dress beneath the black very different in deed from the woman of Luxor.

As we came out of the desert we sighted our first glims of the beautiful Red Sea in Safaga we knew then we only had 45 minutes before we reached our destination!

As we entered in to Hurghada you can see all round the amazing hotel complexes lining the beaches, it was only then we realized we had no idea where are hotel was or how to get there!!

After asking 6 taxi drivers and made 20 wrong turns the pyramid entrance of our hotel came in to view and at last our holiday (even if only for 4 days!) could begin.

Are hotel was the Sonesta Pharaohs Hotel 5* All Inclusive and from the onset it looking impressive.

Red Sea adventures in Egypt
Reception area of our hotel

Once we checked in we made our way to our chalet and as we walked wondered why they had golf carts taking people around it was only once we found are chalet that we realised why!

Red Sea adventures in Egypt
Ok I'm Lost!!

When we booked the hotel they describe them selves has having everything within walking distance which is true to a point. You have to not mind a 10 minute walk from the main building to your room bearing in mind that the main building houses all the restaurants and entertainment! The beach was another 5 minute walk from our room but if you where staying in the main building you would defiantly need the golf cart!

Red Sea adventures in Egypt
The pool area

Not to be deflated as lets face it we are still on holiday we quickly changed and headed to the beach.

One of the many things I love about Egypt is the Red Sea it is stunning and you don't have to go on the trips to see the wild life, all you need is a good pair of goggles!

Unfortunately to get in the Sea you needed to walk down a pier so the children couldn't go in the water by themselves, but we didn't mind as the sea was amazing with roped off coral areas that if you had your google you could see the amazing aquatic life swimming about.

In all the years I have lived in Egypt I have never caught the sun so decided on a low factor as didn't see the point in anything higher!

Never ever EVER underestimate the power of the Egyptian sun yes you have guessed it I was just a little sun burnt after only 2 hours in the sun!! Be warned all you sun worshipers out there if you are intending to come and stay on the Red Sea make sure you pack SPF-50!!!

Red Sea adventures in Egypt
Remember the SPF50 or you may look like this!!!!

Yes that is lotion to stop the burning!!

In the evening time we saw to my injuries!! and headed up to dinner. This was lovely plenty of choice for all. The house wine is not bad either and it is great that the children can go and help themselves. We didn't get to watch the show that night as after the travelling we decided on bed.

The next day we stayed half the day by the pool and the rest down on the beach. Now for an all inclusive hotel they sure do like to try and sell you something which started to get on my nerves.

There was no fresh juice unless you paid for it and in the afternoon went around with trays of ice cream for the children which when we said oh yes please ended up saying no thank you as it wasn't for free!

Red Sea adventures in Egypt

The cleaning staff did an amazing job and left this on our bed which of course Saffy found wonderful! ;)

The worst came that night, it was advertised Mexcian night and the cocktail of the evening was mohito I love them so thought we would have one after dinner. The barman told me to sit down and he would bring the drinks over, on their arrival the drinks looked nothing like what I ordered plus he put down the bill!!! it was at this point i spat the dummy! and called for the manager.

Please if any hotel owners are reading this remember if you are going to advertise all inclusive make sure your hotel is all inclusive as for the rest of our stay I was so stressed out I didn't know what to ask for and what not to just in case in cost something!!

The animation team worked very hard and my two loved the Micheal Jackson night they put on I can't remember to much as was taking red wine for medicinal purposes !

Red Sea adventures in Egypt
My two before the show!

On the last day we spent it by the sea me covered from head to toe to keep the sun off! with camera at the ready below are just some of the amazing bits of wild life that we found on our trip.

Red Sea adventures in Egypt
Butterfly fish

Red Sea adventures in Egypt
This guy followed us around for the whole holiday!

Red Sea adventures in Egypt

Until I went to Hurghada I never really appreciated the phrase swimming with the jellies! but these guys are every where it is a little disturbing at first as being taught from a young age that jelly fish sting I was amazed that these didn't I am sure they do have a sting but was touched by loads of them and came out fine!

Red Sea adventures in Egypt

The fish amazed me he/she was swimming close to surface of the water making it a great picture moment ! I have no idea what it is but it is beautiful.

Red Sea adventures in Egypt

We found lots of star fish to under the pier.

On our way home we came across a shopping mall with a proper supermarket!! I know amazing !! you have to live in Luxor to understand the importance of a real super market! lol

We stocked up on provisions and made our way home.

Even though our hotel choice was all wrong and they need to take it from a 5* to (at the most 4*) we had an amazing time in Hurghada and will be back again next time I going to go swimming with the dolphins!

It is so totally different from the hustle and bustle of Luxor all you have is the sea and sun you can go out if you wish or stay in your resort the choice is yours.

On our return journey home we watched the sun go down over the Theban Mountains making me appreciate how wonderful my home really is.

Red Sea adventures in Egypt

Published in Egypt

Bolivia was my first experience of South America where I enjoyed three months of Spanish lessons, a homestay, volunteering and exploring the country. It remains one of my most memorable travel experiences to this day.

Bolivia is a thought-provoking and unique country, with friendly locals who will share a smile with you despite the daily hardships they endure in the poorest country in South America.

Time permitted, don’t leave Bolivia without experiencing the following highlights of this fascinating country:

1. Learn Spanish

Being able to speak the local language not only simplifies the logistical aspects of travelling through Bolivia but it enhances local interaction opportunities. Whether you need a few days to brush up on a language you haven’t used for a while or as in my case, a month to learn your first foreign language, the university town of Sucre is a popular destination for travellers who want to unpack their rucksack. Many of the Spanish schools offer homestays which provide a great opportunity for travellers to immerse themselves into the local culture and extra activities such as salsa lessons, cooking classes and volleyball are a helpful way to meet other travellers.

If your aptitude for learning languages is as poor as mine, remember three key things:
Locals appreciate the effort you are making and the attempt to have a conversation with broken and grammatically incorrect Spanish can be a great source of entertainment for both parties
There is a direct correlation between the amount of alcohol you drink and your ability to speak Spanish to the locals
When all else fails, charades is still a universally recognised form of communication

Salar de Uyuni is Bolivia’s number one tourist attraction and the world’s largest salt flat
Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat

2. Create an Optical Illusion on the Salt Flats

The Salar de Uyuni is Bolivia’s number one attraction and the world’s largest salt flat provides the opportunity for endless photographic fun. The 12,000 square kilometre area is so flat and extensive that there is no sense of depth, creating an optical illusion that is every traveller’s ‘must take’ photo of Bolivia. As you approach the salt flat all objects surrounding you become potential props for your photo – shoes, guidebooks, bottles, corkscrews, body parts – anything!

  Looking for more unique and offbeat destinations/activities?     Offbeat Travel Guides

3. Buy a Stick of Dynamite

Potosi is one of the highest towns in the world with an altitude of more than 4,000 metres and is dominated by the Cerro Rico Mountain, from which mined silver once made Potosi one of the biggest cities in the Americas. To better understand Potosi’s turbulent past head underground on a mine tour.

All tours start at the Miners Market, where you will be kitted out for your visit underground and purchase gifts for the miners from a grid of shops selling dynamite, clothing, equipment, coca leaves and food and drink.

Visiting the mine itself can create conflicting emotions as igniting a stick of dynamite before heading underground provides a distraction from the tragic reality that is Potosi. The mines are haunted by thousands of mine-related deaths, and even in today’s modern world manual processes, outdated equipment and toxic gases contribute to a miner’s life expectancy of just 35 years. It’s a sad reality when miners choose an almost guaranteed short life to support their families.

Before your claustrophobia takes over you, take a moment to turn off your headlamp and discover the true meaning of darkness!

Panoramic shot of La Paz, the capital of Bolivia and highest capital city in the world
La Paz, the capital of Bolivia and highest capital city in the world

4. Find Your Altitude Limit

Not only is it difficult to avoid the high altitude in Bolivia it’s also difficult to predict the impact it will have on you. Altitude sickness doesn’t discriminate. I came across young, fit and healthy athletes who could not continue hikes they would normally complete with ease and watched overweight smokers effortlessly run past.

On my first day in Bolivia, I left my hotel for a short walk in La Paz. Within one block I was short of breath, embarrassed at what I thought was an incredibly bad fitness level. Despite living in Sucre for two months, I still struggled on a bike ride one weekend, and had splitting headaches when I reached 5,000 metres on the trip from Tupiza to Uyuni.

The altitude is what makes Bolivia unique, combatting it is an integral part of being there and it’s like the weather in the UK – it’s always a great conversation starter!

5. Give Something Back

Taking the time to volunteer in Bolivia is a great way to give something back to the local community you are visiting, better understand the local culture, improve your Spanish skills and make local friends. But be warned – you may experience a range of conflicting emotions. I spent a month volunteering at a day care centre in a small village near Sucre. It was my first volunteer experience and one of the most heart-warming, heart-breaking, thought-provoking, rewarding and disturbing months of my life.

The merit of volunteering in developing countries is a topic that is always guaranteed to create heated debates amongst travellers. Are the genuine good intentions of travellers doing more harm than good? Is the money donated to the organisation actually being used by the organisation? Are volunteers taking away jobs from locals? My side on this debate continues to flip back and forth with the more I learn and from my own personal experiences.

Of all the emotions I felt whilst volunteering in Bolivia, rewarding was the strongest and I hope that providing an extra pair of hands to three over-worked and exhausted carers made my presence a help more than a burden for them.

Volunteering in Bolivia can be rewarding for both sides. Just keep your eyes and mind open...

  flickr // davidalmeida jancbeck

Published in Bolivia

I have been to the Philippines several times and each time I enjoy it more than the last. This last trip I went to Bohol, specifically, Panglao Island. I spent a great time on the beach where every morning I woke up and had a 20 meter walk to the surf. There is nothing like taking a dip in cool water first thing in the morning.

If you have never spent time in the Philippines you have to go. There are so many islands and things to do/see. The people are great, the food is good -- with the exception of Balut -- and the scenery is fabulous.

Bohol, Philippines

Every time I go I try to see someplace new and with so many islands it will be a lot time before I run out of new things to see.

Bohol has a lot to offer. There are endangered species such as the Philippine Tarsier, a little primate that has a tendency to commit suicide when it gets stressed, The Chocolate Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dolphin watching, scuba and snorkeling, zip lining and adventure trekking and the Bohol Bee Farm an organic farm, hotel and restaurant.

Bohol, Philippines

Asia and the Pacific islands have some great beaches and islands and the Philippines are no different. Spend a week or more and you will be like me and fall in love with this place. Accommodations are plentiful. Everything from backpacker digs to upscale resorts can be found on White Beach, Alona Beach and the other popular beaches.

Bohol, Philippines

How To Get To Bohol & Panglao Island

For now you have to take a quick 1-hour flight from Manila to Tagbilaran City on the main island of Bohol and 30 minutes by car to Panglao Island. They have already broke ground for a new airport on Panglao Island that I was told will be in operation by 2014.

Things To See/Do In Bohol

Tarsier Sanctuary
Dolphin Watching
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
The Bohol Bee Farm
The Coconut Farm Restaurant
Chocolate Hills
Raja Sikatuna National Park
Extreme Adventure Tour
Numerous Water Falls, Old Churches, Watch Towers, White sand beaches and more.

Bohol, Philippines

Spend the day and rent a boat to go scuba diving, rent a motor bike and cruise around the Island or just lay out on the beach. But you need to go.

Published in Philippines

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