When planning family trips, it's best to keep kids busy with activities from crafting and music lessons to hiking and swimming. (No one wants to hear, "Mom, I'm bored" while lounging beach side with a cocktail in hand.)
Travel is one of the most fun ways for a parent to share the cultures and natural wonders of the world. These destinations are safe for kiddos, catering to the picky eaters, adrenaline junkies, nature lovers, and beach bums too. Not only will kids be welcome, they'll find programs and excursions designed just for them on each of these global adventures.
While it may sound like a lazy beach vacay, this beautiful resort is on one of Hawaii's most exciting islands – and one of the world's top resorts for families. The resort offers tons of kid-friendly activities (think ukulele lessons and lei making) in-house. But families can also find breathtaking hikes, ziplines for the token daredevil, horseback riding and kayaking to name a few. For something more low key, splash in a two-tiered pool or the saltwater lagoon that meanders through the hotel's property. By nightfall, kids will definitely be ready to crash.
For the boy (and girl) scouts who are looking for a back-to-nature experience, this Thai getaway won't disappoint. Thailand is one of Asia's best destinations for kids. With a drive and boat ride to this hotel, they may start to feel a bit like Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Bamboo guest rooms float on top of the River Kwai and offer visitors a taste of Mon culture. It's a bit rustic (as in there are wick lamps instead of electricity. But don't worry, in-room bathrooms are a part of the deal). Kids love exploring the nearby jungles atop of a gentle elephant, or visiting natural wonders such as the Lawa Cave or the Sai Yok Waterfall. Get a few thrills without leaving River Kwai by river jumping or bamboo rafting — something to excite even the most adrenaline-seeking tweens.
Nicaragua makes for an affordable, and adventure-filled, Central American trip (and many parents are choosing it over the equally kid-friendly Costa Rica). Visitors won't see nearly as many expats and will get a great taste of the local culture, plus tons of hiking and swimming! In a bungalow at Morgan's Rock, guests are nestled in the treetops and have easy beach access. One of the more exciting excursions to make is to Ometepe Island, formed by two volcanoes, which can be reached by ferry. Explore ancient rock art and petroglyphs and brave the hike up the dormant Maderas Volcano. Parents will appreciate the beaches known for waves that are safe for first-time surfers, zip-line excursions, and an insider look at the lodge's sustainable farm where kids get to collect farm eggs and milk the cows for an awesome family breakfast!
A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is an incomparable adventure. While a flight to the Aussie coast may not be ideal for many faraway travelers with tiny tots, the experiences offered through resorts like One&Only can change a nervous parent's mind. If your bucket list includes snorkelling, sailing, kayaking, water skiing or a helicopter adventure above the reef (which is the largest living thing on Earth, mind you), then book a few tickets to Hayman Island. Of course One&Only also offers an entirely kid-centric program called KidsOnly full of excursions and meals from 9am to 6pm if parents need a break.
Camping and cruising may appeal to families that seek adventure on-the-go. Many of these trips welcome first-time campers and those who are especially interested in learning the lay of the land, whether that's in sunny California or rugged Maine. Nature lovers, budding botanists and eager explorers will get animal interactions, sparkling night skies and a new set of skills when signing up for one of these trips.
For North Easterners, this trip will make an exciting escape from the bustling city, but any visitors will be in awe of the natural beauty of the Appalachian Trail. Eager hikers can find programs like the Appalachian Mountain Club's Family Camps, which take families with kids as young as five years old around New Hampshire and Maine, near beautiful mountains and full of sleepaway camp-style fun. Expect canoeing, fishing, stream exploration and a classic campfire sing-a-long.
While this isn't exactly a family vacation, road trip style, there is so much kids can learn by a trip to this incredible archipelago. National Geographic is one of the few to organize a cruise to these islands near South America that is geared specifically at budding scientific minds. In the day, kids can snorkel in crystal blue waters and hike the shores among animals like giant tortoises and sea lions, all of which are completely unphased by the presence of humans. Parents will leave with zoologists and nature photographers on their hands.
This is a fabulous spot to dive into the world of camping as a family for the first time. Whether you're interested in nesting up in an unassuming lodge or setting up a tent under the stars, a trip to this natural Cali beauty guarantees great views and swimming. Several programs like Orange Torpedo and Oars set up multi-day whitewater rafting ventures, but there are hikes to take and plenty of beach lounging to be done as well. On Orange Torpedo's Klamath River Wild and Scenic trip, kids will get to swim in warm water and calm side creeks (the rapid on this trip is exciting, but never dangerous) and the guides will introduce anyone from five years old to the basics of both rafting and camping. These trips can also be as short as two or three days, ideal for any locals or those not wanting to commit to any extensive travel with kids.
This post was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on July 19th.
Of all the reasons to travel the world, “to see a staircase” likely doesn’t show up on many lists. But it may be time to reconsider. The globe is dotted with remarkable staircases that are breathtaking to look at and exhilarating to climb, and each makes for a quality destination in its own right. Here are just seven of some of the world’s most trek-worthy staircases.
Truly a team effort, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps project is the result of collaboration among neighbors around the intersection of 16th and Moraga in San Francisco. Work on the 163 mosaic paneled stairs started in 2003 under the leadership of artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher, and more than 500 neighbors contributed funds and/or labor to complete the project by August 2004. The stairs are now overseen by the San Francisco Parks Trust.
Despite its name, Bueren Mountain is no mountain at all. Instead, it’s a 374-step staircase in Liège, Belgium that was built in 1881 as a pathway for soldiers. The stairs are named after Vincent de Bueren, a 15th century aristocrat who reportedly defended the city of Liège from an affront by the Duke of Burgundy. Those who make it to the top will reap their reward in the form of stunning views of the city and the Meuse River. The stairwell is also an hour’s drive from popular Brussels.
Also known as the Stairway to Heaven, the Haiku Stairs on the island of Oahu are beloved by thrill seekers despite the fact that it’s technically illegal to climb them (at least not without a permit and a $1 million insurance policy). Installed during World War II and deemed off limits in the 1980s, the 3,922 steps rise to the summit of Puu Keahikahoe, from which those who sneak to the top can gaze out over the Koolau mountain range. Sadly, a powerful storm damaged the stairs earlier this year—they’re now more treacherous than ever, and their fate (along with that of the interlopers who climb them) hangs in the balance.
Photo: Flickr user Forgemind ArchiMedia
The Fort de Roovere, a 17th century Dutch fort surrounded by a moat, was originally classified as an island. But in recent years it found itself in need of an access bridge as part of a restoration project. In order to preserve as much of the island appearance as possible, an architectural firm designed the Moses Bridge Stairs, a “sunken” bridge that immerses pedestrians in the moat (without anybody getting wet). A dam sits at each end of the moat in order to ensure that water never spills onto the bridge.
Photo: Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons
Originally constructed in 1715 and renovated in 1930, the stairway was first built so that Santorini residents could climb to the summit of their island home. The stairway switchbacks from the sea to the city for a grand total of more than 4,000 feet (or 657 steps). A cable car was installed in 1979, but you’ll get a better workout if you walk (many tourists also choose to ride donkeys up or down). Rest your feet at any of Santorini’s budget-friendly hotels.
Photo: AnuskaCM via Wikimedia Commons
What better way to connect the small islet of Gaztelugatxe in Spanish Basque Country to the mainland than by creating a human-made bridge of stairs. More than 200 steps lead to a 10th century monastery on the upper portion of the islet, and those who traverse the rocky stairwell report feeling like they’re walking above the ocean (hence the staircase’s name). The church is closed in winter and the islet is packed with tourists in the summer, so the best time to visit is in the spring or fall.
Photo: Paebi via Wikimedia Commons
It’s a bridge; it’s a stair; it’s a bridge-stair! The suspension bridge (also dubbed “The Bridge-Stair at Traversinertobel”) spans the length of the Traversinertobel gorge, connecting two different elevations on either side of the abyss. There’s a difference of around 72 feet between both sides, so those brave enough to ascend the staircase will get a workout in addition to an adrenaline rush. The staircase is only an hour and a half’s drive to Zurich, so travelers can take in both urban culture and natural wonders in the same day.
This article was originally published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on December 10th.
Colorado is one of the best states in the USA to visit. Not only is it beautiful and historic, but it is also full of some of the nicest people in America. Although I still call Asia home, If I ever move back to America it would be somewhere in Colorado. Never been? Colorado is amazing, you have to visit! Here are seven unique and offbeat travel destinations to help get your Colorado vacation started:
$10-20/person depending kid/senior/adult
Official Web Site
With history dating back to the 1870s, the Old Hundred Gold Mine hit pay dirt just after the turn of the century when they began supplying gold bars to the Denver Mint for use in coining. However the ever-increasing yields from the mine were the begin of the end and before long it was officially "mined out".
All-in-all the tour lasts almost an hour. After getting loaded up (and bundled up, it is a little chilly underground) you board the railcars and proceed underground. There we explored a couple of the original veins with a guide who gave us a firsthand history lesson of both the mine and mining processes. But the scenery does not stop there; even outside of the mine shafts the backdrop of the local mountains is breathtaking. One neat part of the tour includes a view of the original miners' cabin, which if I remember correctly dates back to 1904. The thing is perched way up on the mountain and just barely is hanging on. As a matter-of-fact, when they first built the cabin they had to secure it to the nearby rock face with metal cables to prevent it from falling down the mountain. Wild!
And of course no tour of a gold mine would be complete without a stop at a real-life sluice box where you can take your turn at panning for gold, silver, and other semi-precious stones just like the gold-panners of the past did. And, yes, no worries: you get to keep whatever you.
Due to the local weather this tour only operates during the warm season, from May to October. And, as with any decent tour, there is also a gift shop selling all sorts of related souvenirs and trinkets as well as snacks and drinks. Check the official web site for more information on directions, rates, and operating hours.
$19-25/person depending kid/senior/adult
Official Web Site
Wow, where to start. Think amusement park combined with natural wonder and you might be headed in the right direction. Covering 360 acres and featuring nearly two dozen rides, shows, and attractions to keep you amused, it is hard to get in and out of this place in less than a couple hours -- but then again, why would you want to rush it.
The prime attraction and namesake of this park is the Royal Gorge and its sky high suspension bridge, one of the highest in the world. It was built in 1929 for only $350,000 but the cost today would exceed $15,000,000. You can walk or drive across it but I definitely recommend walking, as that allows you to better enjoy the scenery as well as take some fantastic pictures using the 360° view. There is also an aerial tram that is apparently the world's longest single-span tram.
After enjoying the view from above, you can also admire it from below by riding down the 45° incline railway. Seeing it from this angle really puts it all in perspective; the towering bridge you just walked across is nothing more than a thing string stretching across the canyon like the tight-wire of a circus performer.
But the sights don't stop there! You can explore the gorgeous countryside by taking a mule rule ride through the pines and evergreens or strolling the Wapiti Western Wildlife Park. There is one of those free-fall skycoasters and a plaza theatre, a Mountain Man Trading Post (not sure what that is actually, I skipped it), and even a mountaintop lodge for those wanting to stay overnight.
The park is open year-round but some of the attractions may be seasonal or weather-permitting. I'm sure the official web site provide you with up to date information.
$10/person, $5/kids ≤12 yrs
Official Web Site
Located just 30 miles northeast of Denver and covering a grand total of 720 acres and sheltering around 300 lions, tigers, leopards, mountain lions, bears, wolves, and other large carnivores, the Wild Animal Sanctuary of Colorado is the first sanctuary of its kind to create large acreage species-specific habitats for its rescued animals. Since 1980 the Wild Animal Sanctuary has responded to nearly 1,000 requests from private citizens and government agencies to rescue animals from across the United States and even in Mexico.
After breaking free of the Welcome Center & Gift Shop, with a guide book in hand, you'll be set free to wander. They have huge closed-off habitats surrounding the main complex but by far the best thing is the observation ramps and decks that stretch over the animals in the center of the park. Walking up ramps and along observation decks suspending above the animals you can get a birds-eye view of some of nature's most impressive and majestic mammals.
Each of the main observation decks was thoughtfully designed with picnic tables and chairs, as does the small garden area at the foot of the main ramp. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch, or if all else fails the gift shop does also sell a few drinks and snacks.
This is a great family expedition, absolutely perfect for the kiddos.
Beer? I like beer.
Fort Collins, Longmont, Boulder, Golden, & others
Colorado Brewers Guild
Craft beer is something that every real man should appreciate. It is something to be proud of, unlike that mass-produced swill that relies on a multi-million dollar advertising compaign to get you to buy their crap. It is said that pairing beer and cheese is akin to holding hands, whereas wine and cheese is like arm wrestling. If you are drinking a good craft beer then that is so very true. And if you are like me you'll be happy to learn that Colorado has a lot of microbrews, good microbrews. Colorado is one of the best states for craft beer lovers. As a matter-of-fact they have more breweries per capita than any other state in the USA. And for those that like the [ugh] mass-market beer, you probably already know that Colorado is where Coors proudly calls home. They even offer tours. I didn't go on one. Nothing fany about mass production. Craft breweries however are always cool and quirky!
Almost all of the larger cities have breweries. If in doubt just inquire in a local bar. I even found a restaurant in downtown Colorado Springs that has a glass-encased brewery right in its main dining room. The food was good and the beer was better. If you are in the area, definitely look up Phantom Canyon Brewing Company.
Have you been to any of the breweries in Colorado or tried any of the local beers? Share your thoughts and/or recommendations at the end of the article!
Entrees @ $15 - $20
Official Web Site
Forever immortalized by an episode of South Park, Casa Bonita offers an eating experience unlike any other and I just had to check it out for myself. True to the episode, this restaurant actually features shoot-em up gunfights, cliff divers, strolling mariachis, puppet shows, magicians, games, prizes, and more.
via Rob Lee
The restaurant is huge, covering over 50,000 sq ft and seating well over 1,000. Hell it has a 30-foot indoor waterfall. You pay for the show though with the cost of the food. Casa Bonita specializes in Mexican cuisine, but their menu is very limited and stereotypical. Everything except the kids meals is over-priced and none of what we ordered stood out or overly impressed us. But the sights, now that was a different story!
Kids will never want to leave this place, but even for adults it is worth at least one visit. Just one though.
Official Web Site
How can you beat free? You can't! So why not visit the Denver location of the US Mint and learn a little bit about the coin and currency we Americans use every single day.
Tours are fairly short, only about thirty minutes, but the the guides are very knowledgeable in all aspects of the Mint from the gold rush days up to its present day production of coins. There wasn't too much crazy stuff to see as far as the machinery that actually produces the coins, but there are some interesting displays and videos. And of course the mandatory gift shop.
via Ken Lund
However, there are a few warnings: first off, you must make a reservation online first or you will not be allowed entry. Additionally, don't plan on taking any pictures for obvious security reasons. And as security is just as tight as at the airport, don't bring with you what you do not need. Finally, there is no public parking. Not a big deal but noteworthy nonetheless.
Colorado has 54 "Fourteeners," otherwise known as mountains with peaks over 14,000 feet above sea level. One of the most well-known however is Pike's Peak. With a 19-mile paved road that winds and stretches all the way up to its 14,110 foot summit, it is no wonder this is the most visited mountain in North America.
Pike's Peak National Park is open year round, weather permitting. You can see it in the picture above (the red rocks in the picture are the Garden Of The Gods). Be warned, in addition to extreme winds, the temperatures at the 14,110 summit can easily be 40°F less than at the base, which is only at around 8,000 feet elevation. The road to the summit, although just recently fully paved (apparently the last stretch used to be gravel), still features on a couple guardrails, sheer drops, breathtaking views, and scenic view spots you can pull over to park and take pictures.
Do you find traditional hotels and resorts uninteresting when out on a vacation? Avid adventurists and nature lovers will say ‘yes’ to this question, and this attitude is the reason why the camping culture around the world is on rise. Camps help you to experience nature at close quarters. Be it on mountains, in deserts or be on beaches, camping is an ideal way of exploring the beauty of nature. India and its diverse geography offer a variety of camping sites where you can spend the night under a moonlit sky, sitting with your friends around a bonfire enjoying the beauty of nature. HoliDaze picks from the top camping sites in India include:
Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Rishikesh is a tourist place with deep spiritual connection where tons of adventures await. The place is one of the most sought after camping sites due to its awesome natural beauty and various adventure destinations. Living by the banks of the River Ganga is a great experience for anyone. July to September is the best time for enjoying camping in Rishikesh and perfect for adventure lovers.
Located in the Trans-Himalayan belt of Himachal Pradesh, Spiti Valley is described as “a world within a world” by the famous English poet Rudyard Kipling. Camping here gives you a wonderful opportunity to get close to nature and explore this stunning valley. Spiti Valley is also a well-known adventure destination amongst Indians but has yet to truly catch on with foreign tourists -- all the more reason to visit now, before it does! Camping here in May or June gives you relief from the heat of late summer.
Adventure lovers and campers gather in Mussoorie to enjoy the thrills of camping and return home with memorable experiences. You will feel like you are in a different world soaking in the splendid views of the white capped Himalayan peaks from the comfort of your camps. Mussoorie, also known as the gateway to Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines, is the favorite spot of trekkers due to its rugged terrains and scenic beauty. March to June is the ideal time for enjoying camping in Mussoorie.
Camping near to the Sam Sand Dunes in Jaisalmer gives you the opportunity to enjoy local Rajasthani food, cultural dances and more. The camps are lit by Mashaals and campfire to provide a truly royal feel of the bygone era. If you are yet not satisfied, watching stars at night from the deserts of golden city is an experience of a lifetime. You can also enjoy camel safaris in Jaisalmer. Needless to say, winter is the best season to enjoy camping here.
Camping is truly an exciting experience in the land of high passes. Enfolded by the arid mountains, Ladakh offers a variety of camping sites for campers of all types. The banks of Pangong and Tsomoriri lakes are ideal camping sites where you can explore the beauty of Ladakh. Of course some other travelers prefer camping in Markha Valley, another favorite destination among trekkers. July and August are the best months to enjoy camping in Ladakh.
Also dubbed as ‘the lake of moon’, Chandertal Lake is an ideal camping site. Located at an elevation of 4300m (14,107 ft) in Lahaul and Spiti Valley, Chandertal Lake offers you a great camping experience right in the lap of nature. A stay in the camps here will surely mesmerize you and bewilder your senses. However, altitude sickness may be an issue.
Known for its beautiful beaches, Goa offers campers a variety of camping sites. Spending a night at a camp on one of the Goa’s most popular camping locations allows you to experience the happening culture and nightlife of Goa. Agonda beach, Ashwem beach, and Anjuna beach are a few of the best camping sites here. You will get to experience something new with a beach party while camping in Goa. And be honest, who doesn't love beach parties?
Arguably the best way to enjoy the serenity of nature, camping is one of the best outdoor activities that anyone can enjoy without intense training or practice. It allows you to escape the city and modern life, and provides an opportunity to explore the unexplored countryside. The next time you are in India, be sure to take some time off the beaten tourist trail to enjoy a little camping.
Hawaii is rich in activities and attractions both cultural and geographic. It poses as one of the top tourist destinations in the US. You can also find great accommodations in many places such as the Bluegreen Resorts. Consider visiting the following locations if you are planning to tour the Hawaiian Islands.
Pearl Harbor is the biggest natural harbor within the State of Hawaii, initially referred to as “Pu’loa” by the ancient Hawaiians. Situated in Honolulu, the USS Memorial at Pearl Harbor is the top tourist destination in the Hawaiian Islands. You can visit here to see the nine historic sites where the WWII began for America. At the Pearl Harbor, you can get a movie ticket to watch a film that summarizes the history of this primeval site.
The name Waikiki means ‘sprouting waters’ and refers to the freshwater rivers that used to flow towards the ocean. It was at first a holiday destination for Hawaiian royalty but was later recognized by foreign visitors. The Beach town of Waikiki is decorated with a broad array of luxurious resorts and restaurants. In Waikiki Beach, you can see the Duke Kahanamoku Statue, the Waikiki Aquarium, and Honolulu Zoo.
The North Shore of Oahu is the geographic region between East Oahu’s Kahuku Point West Oahu’s Ka’ena Point. The North Shore of Oahu is widely acclaimed for its huge waves and impressive coastline that attracts surfers from all around the world during the Winter. Among the famous North Shore surf spots are Sunset Beach, Ehukai Beach, and Waimea Bay. Here you will also see the historic town Hale’iwa that is widely recognized for its art galleries, a surf museum, food trucks, and yoga studios.
The Na Pali Coastline is considered one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is rich in Hawaiian cultural history. The perfect way to explore this coastline is by use of an ocean vessel. You can also choose to study the coast through the Kalalau Trail by foot and experience the magnificent beaches, streams and natural waterfalls.
This is one of Hawaii’s most spectacular landscapes. As you are on the Road to Hana, you can get a glimpse of the Twin Falls, the Garden of Eden Arboretum, and Wai’anapanapa State Park. In Hana Town, you can check out the art galleries, farmers markets, and Hana Bay.
This is a secluded destination ideal for lovers of nature. It serves as a symbolic gesture of contemplation for those who have suffered from Hansen’s Disease. As you tour Kalaupapa, you can stop to experience the windward side of the peninsula.
This is Hawaii’s most renowned signpost. While at Diamond Head State Monument, you should take the short hike through old military bunkers. Remember to carry a flashlight as part of the trails goes through long dark tunnels.
The Haleakala National Park is perfect for camping and hiking trips. The summit area here offers a stunning view and landscape good for watching sunrise or sunset.
Sometimes referred to as the “Pineapple Isle”, it is a striking, privately owned island located in the Hawaiian archipelago. While in Lana’i, you can explore the beautiful garden of Keahikawelo, a landscape of rock towers, Sweetheart Rock, and the romantic Puu Pehe Beach. There are also some world-class golf resorts and scuba diving spots here.
To get the history of how the Hawaiian Islands were formed, visit the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Here, there are some volcanic lava fields, steam vents, old lava cave, the Kilauea’s Caldera and the Halema’uma’u Crater.
With all these breathtaking attractions, Hawaii is your destination of choice. It is fun to visit whether you are traveling alone or with your family.
Manali is a hill station, a paradise on earth located in Himachal Pradesh at an altitude of 6400 ft (approx) above sea level. The hill station is near to the Rohtang Pass which has been a trade route in the olden days and even today. It is one of the route to reach Ladakh, another destination which is very amazing.
Manali is located on the banks of river Beas and the best time to visit it is from March to July, as after that the weather can play devil at times. You can visualize lots of landslides in the later months. The winters are from November to January and during that time you can find lots of snow here. Snow can be seen on the mountains year-round, even in the summer. The Sollang Valley and Rohtang Pass are the best option during the summer.
Well I shall mention why I love this place because its not only wonderful to sit in the lap of nature and have amazing views of mountains and valley but you can also enjoy adventure sports like paragliding, skiing, river rafting and various other adventure trips. Its best to have at least 4-5 days free when visiting Manali. Here you can see lots of tourists but especially Indian tourists, as this is one of the favorites among local travelers.
The Green rating is high for this city as the steps taken by government are really appreciable here. Electricity generation is done here by a mere alteration in the river route and new construction is banned here.
SUMMARY OF MANALI, HIMACHAL PRADESH
Overall Rating: 4 1-2=Ignore 2-3=Can go 3.5-4.5=Must go 4.5-5=Dream destination
Comfort Rating: 4 1-2=Poor 2-3=Basic 3.5-4.5=Comfort 4.5-5=Luxury
To Do Activities: 4 1-2=Nothing 2-4=Interesting 4.5-5=Must do
Transport Options: 2 1-2=Single approach 2-4=Multiple 4.5-5=Well connected
Economic Rating: 3.5 1-2=Cheap 2-3=Economic 3.5-4=Midclass 4.5-5=Expensive
Cultural Rating: 3.5 1-2=Adverse to strangers 2-4=Comfortable 4.5-5=Mixed culture
Language Rating: 3.5 1-2=Local 2-4=Understand English 4.5-5=English very common
Safety Rating: 4 1-2=Not safe 2-4=Safe 4.5-5=Very safe
Unique Rating: 3.5 1-2=Nothing unique 2-4=Unique activities 4.5-5=Very unique
Green Rating: 4.5 1-2=Adverse to nature 2-4=Close to nature 4.5-5=Nature only
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Phuket is Thailand's largest island and an incredibly popular tourist destination. There is so much to see and do there that often visitors get overwhelmed and miss some of the best opportunities. From sports to excursions to local cuisine, there is plenty to do beyond the beaches. Truly Phuket is one destination that does not disappoint. Here is what not to miss during your next vacation to this beautiful island.
Thai food is one of the most well known -- and loved -- of all Asian cuisines. It can be found in countries around the world, however nothing quite beats the authentic taste that can only be found in Thailand. While in Phuket make sure to take a Thai cooking class. After a morning stop at the local market for fresh ingredients its off to the kitchen to begin learning the tricks of the trade. And the best part? At the end of the day you get to indulge in all the decadent dishes you have made.
If cooking isn't your thing or you just want food without the wait, trust the locals. One of their favorite places -- and mine now too -- is Bentley's Soup (or as it is known in Thai, โก้เบนซ์ เกาเหลาเลือดหมู). Not only is the food to die for but the restaurant is open until 2:30am, making it a perfect destination for those midnight munchies. Deciding what you want may be a bit difficult, as the menu is only in Thai, however, if all else fails, just point to what you want then get ready to leave full and happy.
Watching a Muay Thai match on television is nowhere near as exciting as seeing one in real life. Kickboxing is Thailand's preeminent sport and those guys really know how to fight. Unlike the often choreographed wrestling in the western world, Mauy Thai is known as "the art of eight limbs" and after witnessing a match firsthand you will understand why. There are matches every Friday night at Suwit Boxing Stadium, with the amateurs going first as they gradually work up to the main event.
For the best view of Phuket Town take a drive (or taxi) up to the Khao Rang Hill View Point. This is the perfect vantage point to practice your photography. Not only is the view spectacular but there are also several restaurants serving delicious food at great prices. It is also a popular destination for watching the sunset or indulging in a romantic dinner.
Koh Phi Phi first gained international attention after the release of The Beach, most of which was filmed on the island. Nowadays this small archipelago is on every tourists' list and as such there are no shortage of travel agencies willing to take you there. The islands are perfect for a day trip and offer amazing swimming or diving experiences.
India is not easy to define, because this vast land is as diverse geographically and demographically as it gets and there are rituals and the traditions that vary virtually from village to village. You will be surprised to know that are over a hundred major languages in addition to nearly two-thousand other minor languages in the country. So even if you are a linguist, you need to be a magician to be able to master all these languages.
The geographical difference among its different parts is also pretty apparent, as on one side you have the magnificent Himalaya, while on the other side it is surrounded by oceans and seas. Then there are deserts and alpine forests that are scattered across the country giving the traveler a terrible choice to decide what to include and what to leave out when he visits this wonderland. For the uninitiated, India is also the land of spirituality, with yoga being its most import to the western world. Let’s check out some major destinations:
Mizoram One of the sisters of the seven sister states, Mizoram with its rolling hills, meandering valleys, gurgling rivers and sparkling lakes is no less than a paradise for the nature lover. The state is dotted with no less than 21 mountain ranges of varying heights which are home to a wide range of animals and plants. The dress worn by the local population is also strikingly different from other parts of the country, and so is their food and culture. Even in this day and age they lead a lifestyle that is symbiotic, which is why you will find pristine greenery everywhere.
Nohkalikai Falls, Cherrapunji Waterfalls with their unfettered flow tends to free us of our man-made rules and urges us to be wild and be ourselves. When you visit Nohkalikai Falls, which is located near Cherrapunji, the wettest place in the world, you will understand what I am talking about. The falls is one of the tallest in the country and you will be left awestruck by the force with which the water cascades down the high cliffs. Nohkalikai Falls in the Khasi language translates to "Jump of KaLikai," and has a popular legend associated to it. It is believed that a local woman by the name of Kai after being struck by a family tragedy took her life by jumping off the cliff next to the falls.
Nubra Valley, Ladakh One of the most amazing valleys in India, Nubra lies to the northeast of Ladakh valley. The high altitude and the unique weather of the region are the cause of rare precipitation and scare vegetation seen here. But despite being a cold desert, the villages are irrigated and one will find heat, barley, peas, and mustard besides a good number of fruits and nuts, including blood apples.The unsurpassed beauty of the region and availability of a number of adventure sports are a few of the many reasons why visitors keep trickling into the valley.
StokKangri, Ladakh For the adventure fanatics who love mountains, StokKangri is just tailor made for you. With an elevation of 6,153m (20,182ft) it is the highest mountain in the Stok Range and is a prime attraction among the visitors who trickle in from across the world, not only to enjoy adventure sports, but just to take in the majestic view of the snow-draped mountains; however, if you come around late July and August, the summit peak may not be covered with snow, but the rest of the year it is.
The Tea Gardens of Munnar This hill station-cum-town is perched 1,600 metres above sea level and is famous for its rolling tea gardens which look incredibly beautiful; visitors should take a stroll through the tea gardens and feel the ambiance of the place. Believe you me; the moments will stay with for a long, long time. The flora and fauna of the region is thriving and you will get many subjects of interest to keep yourself busy!
Key Monastery This Tibetan Buddhist monastery is a prime example of Indian plurality and the celebration of the human spirit. Perched atop a hill at an altitude of 4,166 metres (13,668 ft) above sea level, the gompa is close to the famous Spiti River. Being the largest monastery in the Spiti Valley, it is an important center for religious training of the Lamas. The origin of the monastery dates back to circa 1008-1064 CE, when Dromtönis said to have founded it.
Andamans If you love water and water sports, Andaman’s should make your bucket list. This group of islands is positioned at the meeting point of the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea and is famous among travels across all ages. The vegetation is mainly dominated by tropical trees, with rainforest canopy being a common occurrence, and is composed of mixed flora. Among the popular animals, the saltwater crocodile takes the cake.
The cool highlands of Sri Lanka occupy the only part of the rainforests that is remaining in the entire country. It is the natural home of the highly threatened fauna and flora species, endemic Sri Lankanleopard, and the purple-faced languor. This region consists of three protected areas: Horton Plains National Park, Knuckles Range, and Peak Wilderness Sanctuary, which include Adam’s Peak. The highest point of the range is the Adam’s peak at 2243 metres above sea level. The peak is a Buddhist pilgrim’s center as they believe there is footprint of Lord Buddha.
Peak Wilderness Sanctuary is beautiful and many people come here to climbing Adam's Top. It is not Sri Lanka's most noteworthy mountain however is a principle site of journey due to the petrosomatoglyph that is as a foot shaped impression differently allocated to Buddha, Shiva or Adam. The primary course to the summit begins at Maskeliya and is vigorously "built" with steps. In the journey season the whole way is lined with restaurants. Generally the trip is finished at evening time to touch base in time for the day break which throws a huge shadow of the mountain over the fields underneath. This was our explanation behind going there and, given the colossal throngs of individuals additionally doing the trip, we didn't assemble much feeling for the characteristic benefits of the region we passed through!!
In any case, Sri Lanka is not all that vast unless you are especially intrigued by spotting Sri Lankan endemic winged creatures, Horton Fields won't reimburse an incredible arrangement as far as "sights". You may well appreciate getting away from the high temperature of lower elevations and the perspectives are charming enough, however not "tremendous" on a World equivalence scale – even the celebrated internationally "Planets End". Around these backwoods territories lie Sri Lanka's principle tea-creating areas and mountain resorts, for example, Nuwara Eliya. In reality, whilst the English chop down the woodland regions which today deliver tea, they likewise sanctioned a strategy which kept the chopping down of any backwoods over 5,000 feet. In the event that you are "doing" Sri Lanka you have to see this region and you should take in Horton Fields whilst you are there on the off chance that you have the vehicle.
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Of everything I've wanted to do in New Zealand, walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (TAC) has been at the top. Considered one of the best day walks in the country - if not the world - the hike is a steady climb between the peaks of one of New Zealand's most spectacular, unique environments: the volcanic slopes and craters of Mount Tongariro, and it's young, infantile and more volatile vent, Ngaurahoe (pronounced nara-ho-ee).
The recent weeks have been blighted with heavy rain and overcast skies, atypical of the summers this country is used to, so when my day off correlated with Amy's, and the promise of clear and fine conditions, we had little hesitation in deciding what we were going to do with ourselves.
Everyone I'd spoken to about the TAC recommended starting as early as possible, so we booked our campsite and shuttle, and made the three hour drive down to Tongariro National Park the evening before, past rolling fairytale hills and the vast blue waters of Lake Taupo. We spent the night at the Discovery Lodge, a site with an uninterrupted view of the massif, and further south to the grand peaks and ski fields of Mount Ruapehu.
Discovery lodge offered the earliest shuttle service available at 5:45am, though we decided the 6:15am start sounded a little less painful. The staff at the lodge made sure everyone was heading up with the necessary kit, gave helpful advice on pacing ourselves, before dropping us off at the beginning of the track for 6:30am in the morning mist. Within a few kilometres, the landscape began to change from the familiar heath and bracken moorland of the lower slopes, to strange, flat expanses of dark rock - old lava flows that had oozed during Mount Ngaurahoe's creation. Approaching the Mangateopopo Hut at the base of the ascent of the Devil's Staircase, the sun began to illuminate and clear the mist around us, and the imposing grand silhouette of Ngaurahoe began to emerge from the haze.
Before long, the sun had burned through the mist, giving us a completely clear conditions to start the ascent to the crossing itself. The climb up the Devil's Staircase itself was relatively easy, with steps built into the face of the scree, and we made it to the Mangateopopo Saddle before 9am. The Saddle sits between the rugged ridges and craters of Mount Tongariro and the perfectly conical textbook volcano of Ngaurahoe. A small sign advised walkers that the most recent major eruption of Ngaurahoe was just forty years ago, and what to do in the hopeless case of an eruption - run, basically, in the opposite direction to flying rocks. Far off in the distance, the snow-capped peak of Taranaki (Mount Egmont) poked out from above the clouds almost a hundred miles away, crystal clear against the blue of the sky.
As we'd made such good time, we decided to make the traverse to the craggy summit of Mount Tongariro. The temptation to ascend Ngaurahoe was definitely there, but the scree climb to the summit is infamously loose and dangerous during summer, so it is something I decided I would leave for next time and a winter ascent! The poled route over to the summit of Mount Tongariro was quite easy going and we managed to make it well short of the advised time, despite a biting wind picking up along the ridge of South Crater. The additional climb proved well worth the effort though, as Ruapehu became visible in the south, providing an unforgettable, majestic vista across the North Island's volcanic heart.
As we made our way back to the TAC track, the encouragement for an early start became justified: the pathway along the South Crater looked like a column of ants marching across the moonscape. Moving fast to beat the throngs of tourists, we clambered back down to the edge of the Red Crater, an ominous, somehow fearsome feature of deep red rock and dust, with fumeroles steaming from its surface. The landscape looked martian as we made our way around its edge, and down the scree to the equally surreal Emerald Lakes.
If the Red Crater is the dark, formidable side of this volcano, then the Emerald lakes are at the other end of the spectrum. The three pools of mineral-rich water glow with incandescent colours creating a beautiful other-worldly effect. The rock around them steams with geothermal activity, a reminder that this volcano is very much alive, breathing sulphurous breath from lungs deep within the rock.
By 11:30, we had begun the descent; a long, winding path of countless steps through fragile alpine scrub with beautiful views across to lake Rotoaira and the mighty Lake Taupo. The sacred Maori site of Ketetahi hot springs blasted clouds of steam to our left as we worked our way down to the valley floor, and after a few long hours of trudging through scrub and bush, we made it back to the car park and our shuttle bus tired and happy, completing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in a respectable 7 and a quarter hours!
The day was a truly incredible one, and Tongariro is a very special place. Be warned though, we saw it in the best conditions possible but they can soon turn. We saw far too many people up there in trainers, shorts and t-shirt, some without even food or water with them. At almost 2000m high, the crossing is definitely alpine and should not be taken lightly, as weather conditions can change at a moment's notice. Make sure you're prepared for anything!
We ended the day with a well-earned meal beside Lake Taupo: an amazing rack of lamb complemented by the stunning view of our day's conquests at the far shore.