Monthly Archives: October 2014

Fly Geyser, Nevada. Photo by community.klipsch.com

Six amazing places in nature that you should try and visit

Now and then we witness sights that take our breath away. From natural wonders like the glowing blue waters of the Maldives, to the accidentally man made fiery pit in Turkmenistan that has been burning constantly for the last 40 years. Here is a list of six strange sights from around the world that will cause you to do a double-take.

The glowing blue waters of the Maldives

In the Maldives, visitors can witness the phenomenal natural wonder of bio-luminescent phytoplankton, which at dusk can create blue beaches. The bioluminescent blue glow is created by millions of phytoplanktons in the ocean which contain luciferase, a chemical that glows in the dark when agitated – such as when a wave breaks on a beach.

The bioluminescent phytoplankton in the Maldives that glow blue at night. Photo by boredpanda.com

The bioluminescent phytoplankton in the Maldives that glow blue at night. Photo by boredpanda.com

The blue glowing beaches are best seen on moonless nights. Simply walk along the beach or enjoy a night time dip to swim through the glowing ocean of stars. Some Maldives resorts offer night dives where divers can swim through the glowing beam of light, but this amazing natural wonder doesn’t happen daily. Those who have been lucky enough to see the sea glow blue have described it as beautiful and enchanting.

The Maldives bioluminescent phytoplankton on Rangali Island. Photo by boredpanda.com

The Maldives bioluminescent phytoplankton on Rangali Island. Photo by boredpanda.com

Fly Geyser, Nevada

Fly Geyser is a man-made geothermal geyser reaching around five feet high in Washoe County, Nevada. It sits on a seven-foot mound and was created accidentally when drilling took place in 1964 in an attempt to find sources of geothermal energy.

Fly Geyser, Nevada. Photo by community.klipsch.com

Fly Geyser, Nevada. Photo by community.klipsch.com

Although people are not entirely sure why the geyser occurred, it was most likely due to the well being left unplugged, leading to the accumulation of dissolved minerals which rose to the surface and created the mound on which the geyser sits. Plumes of hot water continuously spew up to five feet in the air, which fills the numerous surrounding terraces with pools of water.

The man made Fly Geyser in Nevada. Photo by myfuturetrips.com

The man made Fly Geyser in Nevada. Photo by myfuturetrips.com

It is the brilliant green and red colouring caused by thermophilic algae which makes the geyser so remarkable. Nestled on a patch of private land in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, the Fly Ranch Geyser is one of the state’s coolest attractions. Fly Geyser is located on the private Fly Ranch in Hualapai Flat, half a kilometre from State Route 34. The only access is a dirt road, but the geyser is large enough to be seen from the road.

Lake Retba, Africa

Lake Retba lies north of the Cap Vert peninsula of Senegal, some 30km north-east of the capital Dakar in Northwest Africa. It is named for its pink waters caused by dunaliella salina algae, and is known for its high salt content, which is up to 40% in some areas.

The astounding pink waters of Lake Retba, Africa. Photo by callixto.com

The astounding pink waters of Lake Retba, Africa. Photo by callixto.com

Magenta coloured samphire bushes flourish in the white sand banks, and the sand dunes are terra-cotta-coloured to add to the lakes splendour. Like the Dead Sea the lake is sufficiently buoyant that enable people to float easily. Fish have adapted to the high salt content of the lake, having evolved ways to pump out extra salt and keep their water levels balanced, but the fish are considerably smaller than they would be if they lived in a normal environment – this is known as salt water fish dwarfism.

Lake Retba, Africa. Photo by 4hdwallpapers.com

Lake Retba, Africa. Photo by 4hdwallpapers.com

The lake is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a narrow corridor of dunes and is named for its pink waters, caused by dunaliella salina algae. The algae produces a red pigment to assist in absorbing light. The color is particularly visible during the dry season between November and June, and is less visible during the rainy season between July and October.

The Door to Hell, Turkmenistan

This giant hole in the Karakum Desert has been burning for over 40 years. Named by locals as ‘The Door to Hell,’ the crater in Turkmenistan was created in 1971 by Soviet geologists drilling at the site who then tapped into a cavern filled with natural gas. The ground underneath the rig collapsed and left a hole with a diameter of 70 metres.

The Door to Hell, Turkmenistan. Photo by sometimesinteresting.com

The Door to Hell, Turkmenistan. Photo by sometimesinteresting.com

The team was afraid the hole would release poisonous gases and harm the nearby town so they decided to burn it off. They hoped it would die out after a few days, but more than four decades later the crater is still ablaze.

Hundreds of tourists flock to visit the fiery pit in Turkmenistan in Central Asia each year, and the country’s government is now looking to turn it into a key destination for adventure tourists. Thrill seekers can stand right on the edge of the crate, which, despite the danger, is not fenced off and can reach temperatures of more than 50 degrees. The surrounding sandy soil can crumble away, so visitors are advised to be extremely cautious while visiting the pit of fire.

Zhangye Danxia Landform, China

With its rolling hills, rocky peaks and multitude of colours, this site looks like no other place on earth. The spectacular lunar landscape can be found at the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park in Gansu Province, China. Like one giant red, orange and yellow-hued paint spattered artwork, the park offers breathtaking views that blaze with colour.

Zhangye Danxia Landform, Rainbow Mountains in China. Photo by blogspot.com

Zhangye Danxia Landform, Rainbow Mountains in China. Photo by blogspot.com

The unusual colouration in the rocks is the result of red sandstone and mineral deposits being laid down over 24 million years ago. It is composed of precipitous cliffs, most of which are several hundred meters high. Standing in the plains and by riversides, all of these cliffs are smooth and sharp looking grand and magnificent, vigorous and virile. Even the low pinnacles look powerful.

Across the Danxia landform zone, a kaleidoscope of numerous red rocky outcrops resemble weird and wonderful shapes like castles, cones, towers, as well as humans, creatures, birds and beasts. They are as vivid and organized as the Millennium Castle and, especially with their peaks peeping through the mist and clouds, produce mirage-like scenery of fantastic mountains and pavilions.

The incredible Zhangye Danxia Landform is a must see. Photo via wordsofpictures

The incredible Zhangye Danxia Landform is a must see. Photo via wordsofpictures

Geologists believe that Danxia topography is formed as a result of movement in the earth’s crust. This makes the layers of rock appear in different colors, textures, shapes, sizes, and patterns. The combination of differences in density and erosion creates towering peaks, cave holes and stone halls. Experts say the landform is the result of red sandstone and other rocks undergoing metamorphic processes for millions of years, which makes this sight one worth seeing.

Blue Grotto, Croatia

This grotto is one of the best known natural beauty spots on the Adriatic, and is a popular show cave because of the glowing blue light that appears at certain times of day. The natural entrance to the cave, located on its southern side, is said to resemble a vault on the ceiling of a grotto. It is through this submarine-like opening on the ceiling of the cave that sunlight enters creating an iridescent blue glowing effect all around the cave.

The beauiful blue cave in Croatia. Photo by blogcdn.com

The beauiful blue cave in Croatia. Photo by blogcdn.com

The Blue Grotto or Blue Cave is a water-logged sea cave located in a small bay called Balun, on the east side of the island of Biševo and just over eight kilometers from Komiža in the Croatian Adriatic. It is situated in the central Dalmatian archipelago, 5 km south-west of the island of Vis.

The cave was formed by the action of the waves as sea water eroded the limestone rock of which the whole island of Biševo is composed. Depending on the season, the ideal moment to visit the cave is between 11am and noon. At this time of day the sunlight reflects through the water coming from the white floor of the cave which bathes the grotto in aquamarine light.

Blue Grotto, Croatia. Photo by navigator.com

Blue Grotto, Croatia. Photo by navigator.com

The cave receives more than 10,000 tourist visits every year, and tourist boats often include a visit to another similar cave on the island, the Zelena špilja, also known as The Green Grotto, which is bigger in size and appears to be of an emerald-green tone due to a similar effect.

San Esteben, the Gulf of California, Mexico

7 of the best places to watch the sunset

As the bright and vivid yellow light begins to fade over the horizon, slowly dimming and becoming a sombre orange glow, darkness descends across the land, signalling the end of the day.

The flora close and the fauna sleep, the stars dimly twinkle in the sky and the moon casts a pale light over the world. The eve of twilight, the sunset, can be a beautiful thing to watch, but where in the world do you find the best places to watch them?

Best places to watch the sunset: Finland

Finland. Photo by Annie Griffiths

Finland. Photo by Annie Griffiths

Finland is the land of the midnight sun, and during summer nature provides 24 hours of sunlight, giving you one of the longest sunsets to watch in the world. But the drawback here is the lack of sun during winter, when the cold harsh days and nights bring no warmth, nor light. For the extended time you are allowed to view a magnificent sunset and bask in its warmth, the longer nights also invite the cold and darkness.

Flint Hills, Kansas State, US

Flint Hills, Kansas State, US. Photo by Lana Lind via Pinterest

Flint Hills, Kansas State, US. Photo by Lana Lind via Pinterest

Historically known as Bluestem Pastures or Blue Stem Hills, the region in southeast Kansas lends its name from the abundant flint eroded from the underground bedrock that lies near the surface. The vibrant colourful grasslands and fields full of wheat and sunflowers add emphasis to the fading sunlight as it touches the flora and slowly draws back as a curtain of pale moonlight overtakes the Flint Hills.

French Polynesia

French Polynesia. Photo by Aaron Huey

French Polynesia. Photo by Aaron Huey

From the balcony of your villa, along one of the many jetties or on the warm sandy beaches, in seclusion and peace you can watch the sun fade over the horizon, as the colour of the ocean shifts from a deep blue to various shades of orange, yellow or even pink, before setting for the day. The coral and wildlife are not as easily seen skimming underneath the water at night as during the day. The tiki torches begin to light and burn to try and retain the warmth of the island as the night cools down and unwinds.

Kingdom of Cambodia

Kingdom of Cambodia. Photo by Annie Griffiths

Kingdom of Cambodia. Photo by Annie Griffiths

One of the greatest views you could experience is a sunset over the fabled Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, a symbol of pride for the nation. Watch the sun slowly descend over the temples peaks and watching its parchment coloured reflection on the waters of the nearby lake, it doesn’t get much better than this.

 Phoenix Islands

Phoenix Islands, the Republic of Kiribati

Phoenix Islands, the Republic of Kiribati

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean lie the Phoenix Islands, eight atolls and two submerged coral reefs east of the Gilbert Islands. The group of islands is uninhabited except for a few families on Kanton, so you’re sure to enjoy peace and quiet with a lack of tourism here. For miles across the horizon you’ll find only water, giving you the greatest view from sun-up to sun-down.

San Esteban

San Esteben, the Gulf of California, Mexico

San Esteban, the Gulf of California, Mexico

A small island in the Gulf of California, Mexico, from the shores where the weather is warm and the heat is dry, you’ll find an orange sunset that slowly descends into the ocean and the cold-blooded wildlife that came out to soak up the heat disappear. A primarily arid desert and grassland island, San Esteban is a very heated area and rain falls only seasonally, making the sunset views a lot clearer and undisturbed, perfect for any professional or amateur photographer.

Santorini Island

Santorini island, Greece. Photo by Hy Lạp

Santorini island, Greece. Photo by Hy Lạp

Holiday destination resort or beachside view, Santorini has some of the most amazing sunset views you can find anywhere. The whitewashed walls and Cliffside views offer a unique and inviting atmosphere, coupled with the sunset view from the poolside its one you’re sure not to miss. As the sun sets the nightlife begins and there’s plenty to do and see even after the sun goes down, so never think for a minute that the adventure ends once the light leaves.

The Thai jungle is rugged, uncomprimising and amazing. Photo via lonelyplanet

Bangkok to Chang Mai: Following the Death Railway

In the deep heart of Thailand’s thick jungle, where tigers hunt, killer snakes crawl and bird eating spiders lurk lies something much more sinister, The Death Railway. While this name might sound like the title of B grade horror film it is not to be taken lightly, it earned the name from the thousands of men that died in its construction. Nestled in the dense jungles of South East Asia this railway stands as a grim testament to the capacity of men’s cruelty and the inhumanity of war.

 

After taking Singapore from the English forces in 1942 the Japanese needed a way to transport materials quickly from North to South without using the sea; as the allied forces were gaining control of the sea channels.

The Thai jungle is rugged, uncomprimising and amazing. Photo via lonelyplanet

The Thai jungle is rugged, uncomprimising and amazing. Photo via lonelyplanet

They needed to build this track quickly to be able to continue their push south. To complete this monumental task were 60,000 Allied prisoners of war captured after taking Singapore and the 180,000 labourers from other Asian countries. They built the 400km railway in about fifteen months. In this short time, disease, cruel conditions, starvation, accidents, executions and sheer exhaustion killed 16,000 of the Allied troops and 90,000 of the Asian labourer force, forever marking the land as a place of despair.

Following the Death Railway and retracing history

While today there is only a small part of this train line which is in use, you can follow a path through Thailand that these men would have gone, not only to understand a grim chapter in human history but to see amazing rainforest, experience Thai culture and have an in depth South East Asian adventure.

The working conditions were extreme and cruel. Photo via www.dailymail.co.uk

The working conditions were extreme and cruel. Photo via www.dailymail.co.uk

As mentioned before you cannot catch the train along this entirety of the actual path but you can experience a ride on the actual tracks at a small section from Kanchanaburi. This can be done as a trip over a few days or even as a day trip out of Bangkok. There are many options to travel from Bangkok to Kanchanburi and from there you can catch a pleasantly dingy train on “the Death Railway”.
The trip has been described as hot and sweaty, as the train is old there is no air conditioning and it will probably be quite crowded. In some ways this is more appropriate so that you can understand the conditions the men who worked on the track suffered through, it is estimated a man died for every slat that holds the train line up.

Heading north and further into the jungle

If you decide to keep heading north to follow in these men’s footsteps you can go back to Bangkok and take an overnight train to Chiang Mai. Catching trains in Thailand is cheap and easy, this particular ride will probably take about 15 hours.

Train is the way to go in Thailand. Phot via www.flickr.com

Train is the way to go in Thailand. Phot via www.flickr.com

The bonus is for most Western travellers even a first class “sleeper” could be considered quite cheap, so it can easily end up being quite a comfortable yet affordable ride. If you want to make the most of your trip and travel during the day the views are quite amazing as the train goes through some of the thickest jungle Thailand has to offer and as you reach Chiang Mai in the North the mountain views are dynamic.
If you decide to take the road north slowly, something highly recommended, there are some must see places.

Exploring the beautiful Sukhothai

One of Thailand’s many ancient gems takes its place in the form of Sukhothai. This ancient city was founded in the 13th century and became the kingdoms first capital; this is an extremely influential city in that the kingdom it presided over instituted much of contemporary Thai culture and their future physical borders. This UNESCO World Heritage Site covers a fair bit of ground so if you’re feeling fit one of the better ways to get around is by bike.

The Chiang Mai mountains are a spectacular sight Photo via www.flickr.com

The Chiang Mai mountains are a spectacular sight Photo via www.flickr.com

While in Sukhothai a great place to stay is the At Home Sukhothai Hostel. In this part of Thailand there are a plethora of highly affordable extremely comfortable hostels and At Home is one of the best rated. This hostel can be found at YHA 184/1 Wichian-chamnong Rd., Muang District, Sukhothai, Thailand.
To get to Sukhothai catch a train from Bangkok to Phitsanulok, from here you can catch a bus to Sukhothai.

Finding your way through Umphang

If you really want to get away from the usual tourist traps and you fancy yourself as a bit of a mountaineer, try the remote village of Umphang. This unassuming little village is great if you really want to get a taste of rural Thai life. As well as this you can partake in a trek to see the Thi Lo Su Waterfall, these breathtaking waterfalls cover the forested cliffs creating an otherworldly beauty. In this part of Thailand there is an emphasis on ecotourism. This is the right area if you’re looking for guilt free elephant rides, as there are conservation parks in the area you can easily get to.

The waterfalls of Umphang are well worth the trek. Photo via www.flickr.com

The waterfalls of Umphang are well worth the trek. Photo via www.flickr.com

A good place to stay in Umphang is the Umphang hill resort; an affordable place to stay that offers private rooms, rooms for groups and 10 person dormitories. As well as this they are connected with many of the local activities and are eager to help you do what you came to do whether it be rafting, an elephant tour, caving or trekking. They can be found at 59 M00 6, T. Umphang, A. Umphang Tak Umphang, Thailand 63110
Getting in and out of Umphang can be a little difficult; the easiest way from Sukhothai is to catch a bus to Mae Sot. From here there are a number of buses going to and from Umphang.
Back in Mae Sot the easiest way to get to Chiang Mai is via one of the many direct buses that leave daily.
The jungle grows thick and fast over the past making it easy to forget what happened, especially in the generally festive setting of Thailand. As you travel north it’s wise to remember what path you’re following and to have respect for the people who gave everything in carving it out.

The view of ZhangJiaJie National Park

Exploring the ZhangJiaJie National Park in China

As the sun rises over the Avatar Mountains and touches the lowlands, the morning dew that blankets the vibrant green grass begins to warm and vanish. The fog nestled in the valleys silently fades away and the lush forest and lakes are revealed and welcome you to your destination. In the early morning hours we see life begin as a crawl and slowly accelerate to a smooth beat and pace as the wildlife waken and flora bloom, people come to snap photos and observe the beauty of the ZhangjiaJie National Park.

The view of ZhangJiaJie National Park

The view of ZhangJiaJie National Park

The park is known for its exquisite forests, odd-shaped peaks and rocks, limestone caves and breath-taking views. As one of China’s most beautiful natural reserves, ZhangJiaJie has wonderful hiking trails and astounding views. The ‘Avatar Hallelujah Mountains’ were named in honour of the James Cameron 2009 film of the same name, and were used as inspiration by the film director for scenes in the movie. With a number of tourist attractions and routes to visit the National Park has something for everyone.

The Avatar Hallelujah Mountains, aptly named. Photo via khooll

The Avatar Hallelujah Mountains, aptly named. Photo via khooll

When to go

The National Park is open in every season and can be visited at any time, however we do suggest you bring extra layers of clothes if you plan on exploring during the winter, the mountains get cold and cheaper hotels don’t have heaters. If you plan to visit in the winter months, prepare to deal with mountains blanketed by snow and lakes that have been frosted over, but we encourage hikers to visit for the challenge as it offers a different kind of beauty.

The waters of Baofeng Lake run through the entire valley. Photo by Karl von Moller via Flickr

The waters of Baofeng Lake run through the entire valley. Photo by Karl von Moller via Flickr

June and July are heavy rain seasons for the Park and fog becomes more common, however the Summer climate is warmer and the foliage a more vibrant green. The Park is busiest during early October because of China’s National Holiday, and it would be best to reserve a room in advance.

Where to stay

If you plan on visiting the National Park, your best bet is to stay in Wulingyuan instead of ZhangJiaJie city, the town is only 5 minutes away from the gates but coming from the city it’s a 50 minute drive by hire car, which can be much more costly for accommodation and hire.

The city is full of culture and traditional architecture. Photo via ww.flickr.com

The city is full of culture and traditional architecture. Photo via ww.flickr.com

There are also hostels inside the national park up near the mountains if you plan to explore for several days so there’s no need to come back every day. You’ll be able to stay overnight and continue your journey and save time on frequent visits.

We recommend giving yourself 2-3 days to explore the national park and a day for return and flight departure.

Take a gut wrenching gondola ride to get the best view. Photo via www.flickr.com

Take a gut wrenching gondola ride to get the best view. Photo via www.flickr.com

What to do

In addition to the park, the city of Zhangjiejae offers hikes across monuments, temples and guided tours of old town and historical landmarks. Near the Puguang temple you’ll find Old Town, which shows the culture and history of Zhangjiajie and is a testament to the old ways, the architecture and cultural themes.

Known as the Heavens gate, this natural monument is an imposing natural wonder. Photo via www.flickr.com

Known as the Heavens gate, this natural monument is an imposing natural wonder. Photo via www.flickr.com

The numerous temples and monuments make for great vacation photos and offer information about the surrounding area’s rich history and provide a cultural experience you won’t be treated to anywhere else. We recommend making a donation when visiting the Tujia Minority Museum, the staff are too polite to mention the donations box but the money goes back into the museum.

Have a spiritual experience at the silent temple of Zhangjiajie. Photo by Trey Ratcliff

Have a spiritual experience at the silent temple of Zhangjiajie. Photo by Trey Ratcliff

How to get there

Inside the park you’ll find free shuttle buses throughout the area that run in both directions so you can get on/off at a stop and go back to where you were with ease. There are also buses waiting outside the exits that will take you to the railway station in the city for when you’re homebound via flights.

The Tianzishan mountain offers a scenic hiking experience. Photo by cattan2011 via Flickr

The Tianzishan mountain offers a scenic hiking experience. Photo by cattan2011 via Flickr

 

The Blanket Bay Lodge. Photo by blanketbay

Staying at the Blanket Bay Lodge in New Zealand

The New Zealand Southern Alps contain some of the most vivid and breathtaking scenery in the whole world. From the jagged, snow-capped peaks to the deep blue waters of the glacial lakes, it’s easy to see how this region is such a draw for tourists.

The Blanket Bay Lodge. Photo by blanketbay

The Blanket Bay Lodge. Photo by blanketbay

Queenstown in particular has been given much acclaim as a holiday destination. Named the adventure capital of the Southern Hemisphere, it lies on the shoreline of the glacial Lake Wakatipu and is a popular destination all year round.

However, those who are wishing to explore a path less well-worn might prefer to venture to the lakes northern shore to the less frequented, but equally beautiful township of Blanket Bay, Glenorchy.

The views from Lake Wakatipu are incredible

The view walking outside the lodge in the morning. Photo by bluecockatoo

The view walking outside the lodge in the morning. Photo by bluecockatoo

There, you’ll find the Blanket Bay Lodge, acclaimed as the best luxury lodge in all of New Zealand. The views from the lodge give you a private seat right on the shore of Lake Wakatipu over the deep blue waters and surrounding mountain peaks.

One of the rooms of the Blanket Bay Lodge.

One of the rooms of the Blanket Bay Lodge.

Each morning you’ll wake up to the sight of sunlight tickling the mountaintops and low-hanging clouds rising with the heat of the coming day. In the winter, you’ll be surrounded by pure white snow and the summer days will be bright and covered with greenery. The best time of year to go is entirely up to you as there are plenty of great activities for both summer and winter, so the onus is on you to create your own ultimate holiday experience.

Blanket Bay Lodge by night. Photo by blanketbay

Blanket Bay Lodge by night. Photo by blanketbay

There’s loads to do there so take your pick

There is a wide range of activities available in Glenorchy, Queenstown and the surrounding areas available all year round and able to suit almost any taste.

Skiing

During the winter months, the mountains surrounding Blanket Bay are covered with snow. This makes for some prime skiing and there are plenty of slopes nearby if you want to venture out to the nearby lodges and hit the powder. Alternatively, if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can hire a helicopter from Harris Mountains Heliski to fly you up the top of a slope for some heli-skiing.

Skiing off of a helicopter in New Zealand. Photo via vacationidea

Skiing off of a helicopter in New Zealand. Photo via vacationidea

Hiking

There’s going to be a lot of high-octane activities to do in Queenstown, however, it’s also a good idea to slow things down a bit and take in the majestic scenery around you. You can stroll along Blanket Bay’s lakefront, or if you wish to get a bit more rustic, you can venture into the Mount Aspiring or Fiordland national parks for four day long hiking tours. The way you undertake these hikes is entirely up to you, and the Lodge can arrange a guide to take you through the rougher terrain.

Bungee Jumping

This area isn’t known as the adventure capital of the Southern Hemisphere for nothing. The high elevation of the surrounding peaks makes for prime bungee jumping territory and that makes you spoilt for choice. You can choose to visit the world’s first commercial bungee jumping site, or four other jumps each with varying levels of extremity.

Bungee jumping in NZ, would you do it. Photo via lodgings

Bungee jumping in NZ, would you do it. Photo via lodgings

Shotover Jet

Just past Queenstown at the nearby Shotover River, you can take a jetboat ride that traverses the shallow waters at extremely high speeds. It’s an exhilarating ride that takes things to the extreme by shooting extremely close to the jagged rock walls of the Shotover Canyon.

The serene atmosphere here is calming.

The serene atmosphere here is calming.

White Water Rafting

If getting splashed on the jet boat didn’t sate your appetite for water based action, you can take things to the next level by hoping in a raft and tackling the wild mountain rapids. Be warned though, white water rafting is a physically gruelling activity and some of the New Zealand rivers are more unforgiving than most.

Milford Sound

One of the absolute must-sees of New Zealand’s south island is the fjord Milford Sound. Its stunning natural landscape is a sight to behold as waterfalls tumble down mountainsides straight into the ocean. It’s a few hours away from Glenorchy, but there are day trips by coach running from Queenstown, whereby you’ll embark on a near two hour cruise upon arriving at the Sound. The day tours through Great Sights New Zealand start at $226 for adults.

The beautiful MIlford Sounds in New Zealand. Photo via markclintonphoto

The beautiful MIlford Sounds in New Zealand. Photo via markclintonphoto

Heli-Fishing

If the idea of regular old fishing doesn’t appeal to you, then you’re in luck. The lodge is able to arrange a helicopter trip that will be able to give you access to remote rivers and streams that are impossible to get to by road. The pilots possess insider knowledge of the landscape, ensuring that you’ll be taken to the best fishing spots.

It’s easy to get to and the drive is beautiful

Blanket Bay is a 45 minute drive north of Queenstown. Selected flight fly direct to Queenstown airport, otherwise you can get a transfer flight from Christchurch, or even take the extra time to drive it.

Enjoy lunch while overlooking the snowcapped mountains. Photo by Sharon Ngu

Enjoy lunch while overlooking the snowcapped mountains. Photo by Sharon Ngu

Contact

You can get in contact with the Blanket Bay Resort though the following:
Phone: +64 3 441 0115
Email: information@blanketbay.com
Physical Address: Rapid 4191, Glenorchy, New Zealand

Lake Gjende viewed from Besseggen ridge, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

What you need to know about Hiking Besseggen Ridge in Norway

Adventure doesn’t always have to be caves and white water rapids. Arguably the most common form of adventure travel would be hiking.

Some might consider hiking dull, but in terms of getting to see vast mountainous vistas or densely packed jungle overgrowth there is nothing better than putting on your hiking shoes and hitting the bush track. But of course there are some tracks which are visually much more impressive than others.

Hiking Besseggen Ridge in Norway

The Besseggen Ridge of Norway is found within the Jotunheimen National Park which is around 300km north of Oslo. Jotunheimen means ‘home of the giants’ in Norwegian, and it is easy to see why. There are massive mountain ranges in every direction and giant lakes snake their way between them, showing off incredibly deep blues.

Lake Gjende viewed from Besseggen ridge, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

Lake Gjende viewed from Besseggen ridge, Jotunheimen national park, Norway

In terms of hiking, Jotunheimen is renowned as having one of the most spectacular hiking trails. A fairly demanding hike, this one will take you around 8 hours to complete and doesn’t require any technical skills. However nobody can deny that the scenery makes the hike well worth the effort.

Most people will start their journey in Oslo

The beautiful city of Oslo. Photo via tourists360

The beautiful city of Oslo. Photo via tourists360

By starting off in Oslo you can see everything that Norway has to offer. Oslo is a city filled with history and culture, one not to be missed. If you can, make sure to catch a show at the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, which is home to some amazing talent. The building itself is also amazing in its construction and is worth seeing even if you can’t catch a show.

After admiring the city, hire a car and make your way up North on the E6. This will take you past Hamar, a beautiful town located right on the shore of Lake Mjosa. If you can we suggest stopping off for the day here so that you have the strength for the final journey to Besseggen Ridge.

The city of Hamar located on the shore of Lake Mjosa. Photo via wikimedia

The city of Hamar located on the shore of Lake Mjosa. Photo via wikimedia

After finishing off your drive and arriving in Jotunheimen, take a minute to enjoy what has to be one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.

The real fun starts when you begin the hiking

A rainbow arcs over Gjende Lake. Photo by Steffen Sauder

A rainbow arcs over Gjende Lake. Photo by Steffen Sauder

Your first stop is going to be the Memurubu hut; this is a charming little place that has an incredible view out over the mountain ranges and acts as your first marker.

The trail continues by making its way up the hills for around 13km. This section isn’t too bad, with only a moderate slope there shouldn’t be any issue with making your way up. When you get to the top there will be a rocky plateau that gazes out over Gjende Lake, the most impressive and undoubtedly the most beautiful of the Jotunheimen lakes.

At this point you are around 1700m above sea level, so naturally it can get pretty cold, even if it isn’t windy (which is also quite possible). This also marks one of the hardest parts of the trek, being the most narrow and steep section. However this part is fairly short, so make sure to push yourself and get to the top because it offers a great vantage point to witness the full extent and majesty of the National Park.

Make sure that you are prepared for a long walk. Photo via summitpost

Make sure that you are prepared for a long walk. Photo via summitpost

At this point the track starts going downhill fairly fast and after a short time you will find yourself at the Southern Shore of Lake Bessvatnet. This Lake is tiny compared to Gjende, but is still a beautiful sight to see.

At this point it is worth taking a break and having lunch as this marks the halfway point to your journey. At this point the rest of your hike will be relaxed; it’s mostly flat ground snaking through the hills until the final stretch of track which is a short but very steep descent to Memurubu where you can catch a ferry back to your starting point.

Make sure that you are prepared for this incredible journey

The Gjende Lake and stretching mountain landscape. Photo via whitelinehotels

The Gjende Lake and stretching mountain landscape. Photo via whitelinehotels

The final point to remember is that this is a hike. It isn’t just a scenic walk, this will test you physically and you need to have the right equipment. At the very least make sure that you buy some hiking shoes and have a plentiful supply of fresh water.

It’s also an idea to bring a hat, wet weather gear and a jumper in case the weather turns on you. Also bring some local currency, as you will have to pay for a ticket to get back on the ferry, which is a vital part of the hike trip.

Incredible Stalactites formed over millions of years. Photo via Nature Pictures

Exploring the Blue Cave in Brazil

Brazil is a country that is constantly moving. With one of the fastest growing economies on the planet and as the world’s largest producer of coffee, it’s not hard to imagine that this place hardly sleeps.

Rio de Janeiro is your best stop for partying; you can be sure that the nights can stretch on and on while you hop from one club to another. But really nightlife alone shouldn’t be enough for those exploring Brazil. The country contains some incredible natural scenery and none is more spectacular than the Blue Cave.

The cave was first discovered in 1924 by a native South American and since then there have been numerous discoveries of ancient animal skeletons, such as that of the saber-toothed tiger. But it is the clear blue water of the caves lake and its astonishing depth that has amazed travellers from all corners of the globe and for very good reason.

The Blue Cave is not for the faint of heart

The Cave floor of the Blue Cave in Brazil. Photo via Laura Verbrugge

The Cave floor of the Blue Cave in Brazil. Photo via Laura Verbrugge

Like many caves the Blue cave can be a bit hard to get too. Not only is it in a fairly remote area of Brazil, but it also has to be hiked to off of a major road. However this is not necessarily a bad thing, the scenery along the way is of incredible natural beauty. Waterfalls and lush vegetation line the walking trail and will certainly keep you entertained on the trip over.

Incredible Stalactites formed over millions of years. Photo via Nature Pictures

Incredible Stalactites formed over millions of years. Photo via Nature Pictures

But be warned, if you want to experience the full majesty of the cave then you’d better have experience in rock climbing and scuba diving. The way down to the best spot of the cave is only accessed via abseiling 100 meters down to the cave floor.

Once you are down you can stand at the edge of the lake and admire the clear blue water, or you can explore more and go diving.

The light streaming in from the cave ceiling of the Blue Cave. Photo via Margaret Holmberg

The light streaming in from the cave ceiling of the Blue Cave. Photo via Margaret Holmberg

This is where things can get pretty dangerous. Cave diving is by no means a simple activity, if you don’t have experience with diving then don’t risk it. With a lack of open air and sometimes oppressively tight diving corridors, you need to be sure that you keep your cool.

The Blue Cave is perhaps one of the simpler cave diving locations, with a large amount of open space and light which floods in from holes in the top of the cavern, you can see far into the water. This is further helped by the large amount of magnesium in the water, which creates a clear blue environment for divers to see in.

Expect to be amazed when you get under the water

The abseilling and scuba diving within the blue cave. Photo via ba-bamail

The abseilling and scuba diving within the blue cave. Photo via ba-bamail

It’s reported that you can see all the way down to the bottom of the lake floor (around 90 metres) which means that you can get an incredible view of all of the rock formations which litter the way down. Some of the rock forms can be as massive as 20 meters, whereas others can look like the stalactites that are on the cave ceiling.

It’s suggested that animal bones left from prehistoric times can still be found at the floor of the lake. Given that the cave is largely protected from any type of wind activity it’s likely that the bones would lie fairly close to the surface, making them even easier to find.

Stay in or around Bonito for best access to the cave

The entrance to the Blue Cave. Photo via Eda Lemos

The entrance to the Blue Cave. Photo via Eda Lemos

The Zagaia Eco-Resort Hotel is an awesome place to stay in Bonito, which is close to the cave itself. From Bonito it is very easy to organise a trip out the cave, as well as plan other activities. If you came for adventure than Bonito is sure to impress, being surrounded by natural wonders there is never a shortage of places to go and see.

Another incredible view of the Blue Lake cave in Brazil. Photo via yyinbrazil

Another incredible view of the Blue Lake cave in Brazil. Photo via yyinbrazil

The Abismo de Anhumas is another great cave to explore, with tours letting you rappel and snorkel throughout the cave system.

You should also be aware that the best time to travel to the cave is around December to February, when the great light streaming through the water will enhance your diving experience.

The Butchard Gardens, Canada. Photo via district8perinatal

Where to find the Best Botanical Gardens in the World

Botanical Gardens have become a touchstone between different countries and cultures throughout history, and that isn’t about to change. More and more people are seeking out botanical gardens both at home and abroad. We’ve come up with this list on where to find the best botanical gardens in the world, near or far.

Royal Botanic Gardens, United Kingdom

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew has a wide array of colourful plants. Image via UNESCO

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew has a wide array of colourful plants. Image via UNESCO

The United Kingdom’s Royal Botanic Gardens boast many incredible achievements. Founded in 1759, the Gardens boast the world’s largest collection of living plants, and their collection includes palms, ferns, cacti and carnivorous plants.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Australia

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Australia, showing off the beautiful Aussie gum trees. Photo via medstude

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Australia, showing off the beautiful Aussie gum trees. Photo via medstude

Sydney’s famous Royal Botanic Gardens was founded in 1816, and is the oldest scientific institution in Australia. It boasts 1.2 million preserved specimens, dating back to 1770. The Royal Botanic Gardens are best known for the gardens focusing on native Australian and South Pacific plants.

Butchard Gardens, Canada

The Butchard Gardens, Canada. Photo via district8perinatal

The Butchard Gardens, Canada. Photo via district8perinatal

The Butchard Gardens are found in Canada’s British Columbia, and were founded over a century ago when Jennie Butchard converted her husband’s abandoned limestone quarry into a sunken garden. Over the years, more gardens were added, detailing the travels of the Butchards.

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, South Africa

The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, with Witpootjie waterfall in the backdrop. Photo via Adele on pinterest

The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, with Witpootjie waterfall in the backdrop. Photo via Adele on pinterest

South Africa’s Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden makes this list because of the incredible diversity of both the plants and the local fauna that make their home around the gardens. The centrepiece of the gardens is the Witpoortjie Falls, where native eagles build their nests.

Denver Botanic Gardens, USA

The Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo via wikimedia

The Denver Botanic Gardens. Photo via wikimedia

The Denver Botanic Gardens in Colorado, are internationally acclaimed, and has some of the most incredible examples of rock gardening in the world – with more than 500 tons of rock found around the gardens. With green initiatives in place, many of the gardens are self-sustaining year-round.

A lone sea turtle swimming in the reef. Photo by University of Denver, flickr

Short guide to scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system on the planet, located off the coast of Queensland in Australia. There are 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands, which take up an area of 344,400 square kilometres.

The Great Barrier Reef is so massive that it can be seen from space! In 1981 the Reef was selected as a World Heritage Site and has since been labelled as one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World. But of course being underwater it can be difficult getting to see this entire incredible reef. So to help out our readers, we have assembled a short guide to scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef.

Clownfish in coral at the Great Barrier Reef. Photo by KmrksY, flickr

Clownfish in coral at the Great Barrier Reef. Photo by KmrksY, flickr

If you can’t already, the first thing item on your list is learning how to dive

Be warned, to get full scuba training in Australia you need to invest at least 2 days with classroom and pool training sessions. These classes will give you PADI or SSI Open Water Diving Certification, meaning that you can legally go scuba diving in the open ocean.

The ‘Learn to Dive’ Contiki tour is a great way to get your full scuba licence and then see the full extent of the Barrier Reef. Over a five day period this tour gives you the two days of scuba training needed before three days of diving in nine of the best scuba spots in the reef. This tour actually features a live aboard boat so that you can be on the water for as long as possible, experiencing the full majesty of the open ocean and reef systems.

The colourful underwater world in the GBR. Photo by john@aus, flickr

The colourful underwater world in the GBR. Photo by john@aus, flickr

In terms of diving without a licence there are a few options. Understandably a lot of diving companies don’t have great options for those without diving licences. Most companies will have snorkelling options, which are still a great way to see the flora and fauna, however there are a few beginner spots which you can access.

The Agincourt reef is considered one of the best diving spots

If you decide to travel through the reef using a private boat then you might want to read up on the best places to dive.

The Agincourt reef is a great beginner diving spot, with shallow reef beds that stretch more than 3,000kms; this spot features thousands of colourful corals of all sizes. This spot can be dived by scuba or snorkel so it is open to all.

An aerial view of the amazing reef. Photo by Ippei & Janine Naoi, flickr

An aerial view of the amazing reef. Photo by Ippei & Janine Naoi, flickr

A more advanced diving spot, the Ribbon Reef is located on the Northern end of the Barrier Reef. This reef has a lower sea floor, so scuba is more of a necessity but the experience is well worth it. Ribbon Reef has a large number of different species of fish which use the protected reef beds for breeding. As well there is an incredible abundance of coral formations.

The most advanced diving reef and arguably the most stunning, the Osprey Reef is home to an incredible diversity of fauna species. This reef can be a little dangerous due to the large number of shark species which primarily use the reef for feeding. But don’t be too worried, the shark species in Osprey feed on fish alone, none of the sharks get big enough to be bothered by taking on a human.

A lone sea turtle swimming in the reef. Photo by University of Denver, flickr

A lone sea turtle swimming in the reef. Photo by University of Denver, flickr

Best time to go, where to stay and how to get there

We suggest travelling from June to November while the weather is mild. If you go during the wet season of Queensland the water can get a bit choppy which restricts vision while underwater it can create adverse diving conditions.

Coral reef and sand cay. Photo by Ippei & Janine Naoi, flickr

Coral reef and sand cay. Photo by Ippei & Janine Naoi, flickr

We also suggest staying in Cairns. It is a great base to get to the diving schools littered around the city and has a decent enough nightlife scene to keep you entertained. We would suggest the Salt House for your alcoholic adventures; this bar offers excellent bar food and cocktails made to order for a reasonable price. To stay, we would suggest the Cairns Aquarius as an inexpensive but more than adequate rooming solution.

Bright coral in Eddy Reef, GBR. Photo by Paul from www.castaways.com.au, flickr

Bright coral in Eddy Reef, GBR. Photo by Paul from www.castaways.com.au, flickr

You can catch a plane to the Cairns airport, only a short distance from Cairns city. If you are travelling from an international location your best bet is probably to get a transfer from the Sydney International Airport, as Cairns only takes in domestic flights.

The Gokyo valley in the Everest Region. Photo via worldwanderingkiwi

What to do in Kathmandu? Where should you stay?

Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu is one of the world’s must-go destinations for wayward travellers looking to experience the vibrancy of Asia’s urban landscape. The city is located at the base of the mighty Himalayan mountain range, making it base camp for many a mountaineer looking to set out and conquer those hazardous peaks.

Of course it’s not just the mountains that makes visiting Kathmandu worthwhile. If you care to venture forth into the city, you’ll find a treasure trove of sights to see and activities to undertake, all the while exposing yourself to the hustle and bustle of the local culture.

Kathmandu Durbar Square is a lively place mixed with locals and tourists

Kathmandu Durbar Square is a lively place mixed with locals and tourists

Kathmandu itself is a noisy city, a cramped environment full of people and goods and constantly alive with activity. Simply walking down the street can be quite a chaotic experience; looking up at the thick stands of electrical wire hanging from building to building while you’re harangued by street merchants selling their wares. That’s not to mention the mopeds weaving in and out of traffic with little to no regard for pedestrians, or even cars squeezing down alleyways barely wide enough for them to fit, blaring their horns at everything in their path as they go. Kathmandu is certainly a noisy city, but that noise is the beating heart of a people and culture.

The best places to stay Boudhanath Stupa

The Boudhanath Stupa is one of the holiest and most recognisable sites in Kathmandu. Photo via wikimedia

The Boudhanath Stupa is one of the holiest and most recognisable sites in Kathmandu. Photo via wikimedia

Sharply contrasting the chaos and bustle of the rest of Kathmandu, the Boudhanath Stupa is an oasis of calm and tranquillity in this otherwise busy city. The stupa is one of the holiest and most recognisable sites in the city, it being a combination of Buddhist and Tibetan cultures. While you’re visiting, you’ll be able to see people practicing their religion which can be rather fascinating. However, you should keep in mind one rule while visiting, and that is to always walk through the temple in a clockwise direction as it’s seen to be bad luck not to.

The best time of day to go would be either late afternoon or early morning. These times mean you can avoid the rush of tourists, and if you’re lucky in the mornings you can see the Buddhist monks undertaking their morning prayers.

Thamel

Tham market hub is an interesting place to stroll around and browse local stalls. Photo by Amir, flickr

Tham market hub is an interesting place to stroll around and browse local stalls. Photo by Amir, flickr

Alternatively, you can choose to take the bull by the horns and dive straight into the chaos of Thamel, the market hub of Kathmandu. For explorers willing to tackle the throng of people, there is a wealth of different things to enjoy. The markets offer up all kinds of different delights, from souvenirs, knockoffs of souvenirs, local food and goods. The place is a labyrinth of sights, smells and experiences and if all of that starts to get to you, there’s always the option of visiting the tranquil Garden of Dreams nearby for a respite.
Some interesting things to do while you are there

Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most important Hindu place or worship. Photo via ThUiOenVEMI

Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most important Hindu place or worship. Photo via ThUiOenVEMI

The Pashupatinath temple is another of Kathmandu’s holy sites, except instead of Buddhism, the temple is Nepal’s most important Hindu place of worship. Although non-Hindu’s are not permitted within the temple itself, there’s nevertheless much to see. You can behold the exterior of the temple which is constructed in the pagoda style of architecture and sits on the banks of the Bagmati River and is surrounded by smaller temples frequented by Hindu holy men, known as Sadhus. There are also traders that sell souvenirs such as incense, conch shells and marigolds. Or, if you’re feeling particularly curious, you can venture down to the Bagmati and bear witness to one of the frequent cremations that occur there. It’s a tradition that’s very important to these people even if it might seem a touch morbid from a Westerner’s viewpoint. Just watch out for the smoke.

The Everest Region

The Gokyo valley in the Everest Region. Photo via worldwanderingkiwi

The Gokyo valley in the Everest Region. Photo via worldwanderingkiwi

Of course, there is one reason so many tourists flock to Nepal every year and that reason is the Everest region. Nepal is home 8 of the world’s 14 mountain peaks that reach over 8000 feet (the other 6 of which are also part of the Himalayas). From Kathmandu, the only way to reach the Everest region is by a 30 minute flight in a small plane to Lukla airport, and from there you’ll have to trek for two days to Namche Bazaar, the main town of the Everest region. If you want to proceed to Everest base camp, it’ll be another week’s trekking after that. Well, climbing the Himalayas was never supposed to be easy.

Shambaling Boutique Hotel

The Shambaling boutique Hotel. Photo via bstatic

The Shambaling boutique Hotel. Photo via bstatic

After all off that adventuring in and around Kathmandu, you’re going to need someplace to lay your weary head. The Shambaling Boutique hotel is just a 10 minute walk from the Boudhanath Stupa and built in a renovated Tibetan style house. The hotel’s design closely follows many Tibetan asthetics and every floor represents the Kalachakra elements of earth, fire, water and sky.

Hanmer Hot Springs in New Zealand. photo via newzealand

21 of the World’s Most Beautiful Hot Springs

Thermal baths are one of the most amazing natural wonders you can encounter while travelling. Soaking in the relaxing hot waters is something everyone should try at least once. So, we’ve listed 21 of the world’s most beautiful thermal baths for you to check out.

World’s most beautiful hot springs: Hanmer Springs, New Zealand

Hanmer Hot Springs in New Zealand. photo via newzealand

Hanmer Hot Springs in New Zealand. photo via newzealand

The Hanmer Springs resort began with a single fenced pool way back in the 1850s. Since then, a whole array of pools and baths has been added to the facility. It’s expertly furnished surroundings make it look like a public water park, there’s even a few water slides, but all of the water in the park is 100% sourced from natural thermal hot springs. Hanmer Springs is located on NZ’s South Island, just a 90 minute drive north of Christchurch.

Landbrotalaug Iceland

Landbrotalaug, Iceland. Photo by ooh_food via flickr

Landbrotalaug, Iceland. Photo by ooh_food via flickr


Contrasting the previous entry in aesthetics is Landbrotalaug. It’s a very interesting hot spring and about as natural as you can get, as it’s literally a hole in the ground wide enough to fit one person.
The spring is located on the south of Snæfellsnes and is only one minutes walk from the main road. To get there, you need to drive north along Road 1 from Reykjavík, through the town of Borgarnes, turn left onto Road 54 for about 40 kms and turn in to the road leading to Stóra-Hraun. Drive for about 1.3 km and you have reached Landbrotalaug.

Grutas de Tolantongo, Hidalgo

Grutas de Tolantongo, man made and natural springs. Photo via songoftheroad

Grutas de Tolantongo, man made and natural springs. Photo via songoftheroad

Mexico’s Grutas de Tolantongo is a rather remarkable assemblage of natural and man-made hot springs. Along with the usual spas and pools, there is actually a cave from where the hot springs flow. So not only is there a cave of thermal water, but there is an actual hot spring river flowing from the cave. You can get there from San Antonio, where there are plenty of public buses to and from the hot springs.

Glenwood Hot Springs

Glenwood Hot Springs, largest natural hot spring

Glenwood Hot Springs, largest natural hot spring

Glenwood Springs has the honour of being home to the world’s largest natural hot spring pool. It’s claimed that the Glenwood Springs pool delivers three and a half million gallons of hot water every day. If that wasn’t enough, there is a luxurious resort built around it.
Glenwood Springs is in Colarado in the US and is easy to get to from Denver.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

Banff Upper Hot Springs. Photo via pleiadesmassage

Banff Upper Hot Springs. Photo via pleiadesmassage

The Banff hot springs are located amongst the Canadian Rockies, making it a great place to unwind after a day of skiing or snowboarding. The hot spring is listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places and was discovered in 1884. Located in the Banff National Park, the resort is just a short drive from Calgary.

Cottonwood Hot Springs

The cottonwood Hot Springs in Colorado. Photo by Scott Albright via flickr

The cottonwood Hot Springs in Colorado. Photo by Scott Albright via flickr

Another hot spring located in Colorado, the Cottonwood boasts a more rustic aesthetic with creek side cabins and lodges to stay in. The springs here are gravity fed and are renowned for their medicinal and therapeutic value.

Cottonwood Hot Springs are located on 18999 Country Road 306, just north of Buena Vista Colorado.

Spence Hot Springs

Spence Hot Springs in the Jemez Mountains. Photo by Greg Medendorp via Flickr

Spence Hot Springs in the Jemez Mountains. Photo by Greg Medendorp via Flickr

The Spence Hot Springs on the Jemez Mountains are another example of naturally occurring hot springs. The springs themselves are two pools of hot water located on the side of a hill. They give an amazing view of the surrounding mountains and are quite popular with families.

Located in New Mexico, the springs are about a two hour drive out of Albuquerque.

Chena Hot Springs Resort

Chena Hot Springs Resort. Photo via flickr

Chena Hot Springs Resort. Photo via flickr

Thermal springs are often best enjoyed in a cold environment, so it makes sense that Alaska’s most developed hot springs resort would be a popular attraction. Not only do you get to enjoy the delights of the hot water, but in winter, they can also be a prime viewing spot for Aurora Borealis.
The springs are 60 miles out of Fairbanks, but the tranquillity makes the trip well worthwhile.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs

Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Colorado. Photo by CW George via Flickr

Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Colorado. Photo by CW George via Flickr

Strawberry Park combines a hot spring resort with a rustic mountain retreat. The pools are fed by a hot spring river and there a range of options including tents and cabins for accommodation.
You can get to Strawberry Park by driving north from Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The resort can provide shuttles to and from the town due to limited parking at the resort.

Esalen Hot Springs

Esalen Hot Springs. Photo by Nate Bolt via Flickr

Esalen Hot Springs. Photo by Nate Bolt via Flickr

The Esalen Hot Springs have perhaps a unique claim as being one of the only hot springs that can boast clear ocean views. Located on the Californian coast near Big Sur, the springs here sit on a steep hill overlooking the Pacific.

La Gruta Hot Springs, Guanajuato

La Gruta Hot Springs, Guanajuato. Photo via Punk Travels

La Gruta Hot Springs, Guanajuato. Photo via Punk Travels

Most Mexican hot springs flow out of caves and caverns and La Gruta is no exception. Boasting three different outdoor pools of varying degrees, the hottest of which is accessed by a long stone tunnel of water that empties out into a dome shaped cave. The springs are located in the town of Guanajuato.

Shizuoka Japan

Shizuoka Springs in Japan. Photo via pinimg

Shizuoka Springs in Japan. Photo via pinimg

Japan is famous for its plethora of natural hot springs. Given regions of the country are rife with small bath-houses that are fed by thermal springs, so travellers are spoilt for choice. The Shizuoka region has plenty to choose from. The region is to the southwest of Tokyo, adjacent to the Fuji region, making it easy to get to.

Australia Mataranka Hot Springs, Northern Territory

Mataranka Hot Springs, Australia. Photo via nomaddreaming

Mataranka Hot Springs, Australia. Photo via nomaddreaming

The sunburnt environment of the outback is generally not thought of as a place where hot springs flow, nevertheless there is one. These springs are located near the Mataranka Cabins and Camping site, which is itself a few hours’ drive south of Darwin.

Pamukkale, Turkey

The springs at Pamukkale Turkey. Photo via traveljunkiediary.jpg

The springs at Pamukkale Turkey. Photo via traveljunkiediary.jpg

The springs at Pamukkale in Turkey are probably the most stunning of the naturally formed hot springs on this list. The pools are arranged into terraces that are made of travertine, which is a hardened sedimentary rock deposited by water from the hot springs.
Pamukkale is a short distance away from the township of Denizli in south-western Turkey.

Bath, England

The Hot Springs or Baths in Bath, England. Photo by Grand Parc via Flickr

The Hot Springs or Baths in Bath, England. Photo by Grand Parc via Flickr

Bath in England is both the only place in the UK where you can bathe in thermal waters and is also the only city that is listed as a World Heritage site. The main draw of Bath is the majestic Roman Baths that are over 2000 years old where visitors can catch a glimpse of the history of Bath.

Oodaira Hot Spring, Yamagata

Oodaira Hot Spring, Yamagata. Photo via japanspecialist

Oodaira Hot Spring, Yamagata. Photo via japanspecialist

These springs are located deep within the mountains of Japan, making them ideal for those looking to experience all that Japan’s wilderness has to offer.

Hot Springs Cove Tofino, Canada

Hot Springs Cove Tofino. Photo via dcstudentadventures

Hot Springs Cove Tofino. Photo via dcstudentadventures

Visiting the hot springs cove in Tofino is not a journey you can make by accident. Located on the west coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island, the trip is quite an arduous one. Once you make it all the way to Tofino, you’ll then need to book a day trip to the cove, which also consists of a 20 minute plane trip to access the remote area.

Shirahone Hot Springs, Japan

Shirahone Hot Springs, Japan. Photo via japan-guide

Shirahone Hot Springs, Japan. Photo via japan-guide

The Shirahone or “white bone” hot spring is a small resort town lying in the Northern Japanese Alps. The springs get their name from the milky white water that lies within them, which is caused by deposits of magnesium and calcium sediment.

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone. Photo via wikimedia

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone. Photo via wikimedia

The resort in Mammoth Hot Springs is the only resort in Yellowstone that is able to be accessed by car during the winter months. These carbonate-depositing springs are the largest in the world and are a popular destination.

Arenal Hot Springs, Costa Rica

Arenal Hot Springs, Costa Rica. Photo via costaricavacationdeals.jpg

Arenal Hot Springs, Costa Rica. Photo via costaricavacationdeals.jpg

The Arenal region in Costa Rica consists of a range of different hot springs sites thanks to volcanic geo-thermal activity in the region. There’s close to 40 different spas and resorts near Arenal Lake, all of which provide great views of the imposing Arenal Volcano, which is thankfully extinct. Travelling to the Arenal Hot Springs is a three and a half hour drive from San Jose.

Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano Japan

Monkeys like the springs as well, Jigokudani Monkey Park. Photo via merleshop

Monkeys like the springs as well, Jigokudani Monkey Park. Photo via merleshop

Finally, we have the Jigokudani Monkey Park. This site is so popular because it is a prime location to watch troops of Japanese macaque bathe in the hot springs. As well as tourists, it also attracts plenty of naturalists, to observe how the monkeys behave in their natural habitat. It’s approximately three and a half hours travel from Tokyo via train, bus or car.

The Foro Romano, such magnificent ruins cannot be missed

10 Free Things to do in Rome

As many tourists have discovered Italy has many wondrous sights on offer. But of course there is a payoff to such rich history and culture: expense. That dreaded word that the average tourist shudders about. Europe has a habit of chewing through income like a fat kid going through chocolate cakes.

But of course there has to be a way around expenses and indeed we can now take you through a personal, handpicked selection of the best 10 free things to do in Rome.

Free Things to do in Rome: The Trevi Fountain

The magnificent Trevi Fountain. Photo via gloholiday

The magnificent Trevi Fountain. Photo via gloholiday

Undoubtedly the most magnificent water feature in Europe, the Trevi Fountain is one of the most detailed and well-designed architectural pieces of the ancient past. Being out in the open air you can swing by the Piazza di Trevi anytime to see this incredible sight. Construction of the fountain started in 1732 and was completed in 1762, being made of marble and travertine, a type of limestone. The fountain was originally supplied by the Aqua Virgo, a 22km long aqueduct that used to feed drinking water to the people of Rome.

Assuming you are staying further away from the center of Rome the best way to access the Trevi Fountain is to walk from the nearby train station. Getting off at Barberini station lets you easily walk the 400 metres to the Trevi.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon from the front is stunning at night. Photo by Oliver K.

The Pantheon from the front is stunning at night. Photo by Oliver K.

If you are more of a history buff you can easily walk through the Pantheon, a temple dedicated to all of the Roman Gods. The ancient Romans after defeating an empire, would offer the Gods of the defeated culture a home within Rome thus adopting them. As such Rome continued to add to its Polytheistic beliefs. The Pantheon was thus constructed as a temple in which any God could be worshipped, a contrast to the typical one God one temple system that Rome often used.

The Pantheon was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus. Constructed of granite amongst other materials, the massive dome of the temple is still one of the world’s largest unreinforced concrete domes

The Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus and some of the surrounding ruins. Photo via wikimedia1

The Circus Maximus and some of the surrounding ruins. Photo via wikimedia

Many overlook the Circus Maximus as just a dustbowl; however it is an important historical site to be seen. Ruins of ancient Rome dot the site and you can walk up the hill to get a closer look if you feel a little adventurous.

The Circus Maximus was used as a racing stadium during ancient times. Chariot races were held often, being sponsored by wealthy Roman citizens striving to become a part of the Senate. Being able to hold 150,000 spectators, the chariot races were fast and often brutal, crashes and deaths of riders and horses was commonplace.

Piazza della Repubblica

The Piazza della Repubblica at night-time. Photo via worldviator

The Piazza della Repubblica at night-time. Photo via worldviator

The Piazza della Repubblica is a beautifully constructed, massive piazza in the centre of Rome. From a distance this Piazza looks just like a massive, very well decorated roundabout and indeed if you just pass through that’s all you can see. But the fast moving traffic of Rome is not the way to sight see, you have to get out and start walking.

The architecture of the Piazza is a testament to the beauty of Rome. Arches support the numerous hotels that make up the Piazza, with the ground floor being littered with fashion retailers and restaurants which cater to the cities most wealthy.

To get to the Piazza you can easily catch a train to Repubblica station. From the Piazza you can actually walk the 1km to the Colosseum.

Arco di Constantino

Arco di Constantino, the craftsmanship is incredible. Photo via ilpozzo

Arco di Constantino, the craftsmanship is incredible. Photo via ilpozzo

Located right near the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine is a massive ancient Roman celebration of the civic and military victories of Emperor Constantine. The most dominant reliefs on the arch are those that celebrate Constantine’s military victory over Maxentius, a former emperor of Rome. This is widely celebrated as Constantine was seen as a saving force for the Roman Empire, which had begun to decline in its prestige due to poor rule.

The fresco’s which cover the arch are of an exceptional detail, making it quite easy to become immersed within the story being told. We would suggest reading up on the history of Constantine and his political leadership, as it makes seeing the sites of Rome much more fulfilling.

You can access the arch by walking from the Colosseum, accessed by the metro system.

Villa Borghese Gardens

The Temple of Aesculapius in the Borghese Gardens. Photo via go-today

The Temple of Aesculapius in the Borghese Gardens. Photo via go-today

The Borghese gardens are a stunning entrance to the incredible architecture and workmanship which is on show within the gallery of the Borghese Villa. Unfortunately you have to pay to see these magnificent works of art, but with the showing off of the best of Bernini it is a must see.

The Borghese Gardens are like walking into a different world, the lush green grass and trees are only more highlighted by the incredible white marble statues which line the pathways in every direction. There are gardens dedicated to fruits off to the side of the Borghese villa, but the true masterpiece is the 19th Century ‘Temple of Aesculapius’ built overlooking a lake, this shrine is captured within massive trees and makes for the best photography you can experience whilst in Rome.

Foro Romano

The Foro Romano, such magnificent ruins cannot be missed

The Foro Romano, such magnificent ruins cannot be missed

Everybody should visit the ancient Roman forum. Being the centrepiece of ancient civilisation, Rome had some of the most exquisite architectural achievements that mankind has produced and the ruins of the forum of Rome certainly prove this. Looking through the ruins you can get a sense of the might that must have been Rome, massive granite columns broken down over centuries can give you a clear picture of the empire that was.
To access the forum just walk over from the Colosseum, it is only around 200m.

The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps is a tourist hotspot. Photo via travelpod

The Spanish Steps is a tourist hotspot. Photo via travelpod

One of the more famous stairways in the world, the Spanish Steps is a sure thing to see whilst in Rome. Located within the Piazza di Spagna, the Spanish Steps are surrounded by the culture of Italy.

At the top lies the Trinta dei Monti Church, a late renaissance piece which can be accessed without fee. Currently restoration works are being held, which might stop you from getting in.

At the bottom of the steps lies the remainder of the Piazza di Spagna, an area now dominated by luxury brands and an absolute pile of tourists. Be warned of pickpocketing as it commonplace, however if you are careful you should have no problems.
Take the metro to Spanga and it is a short walk to the Spanish Steps.

Castel Sant’ Angelo

The Castel Sant Angelo at night. Photo via wikimedia

The Castel Sant Angelo at night. Photo via wikimedia

The Castel Sant’ Angelo is an incredible site to see whilst in Rome and serves as a great gateway to enter the Vatican. The Castel Sant’ Angelo was commissioned by Emperor Hadrian, arguably one of the most famous Roman emperors. During ancient times the Castel was the tallest building in Rome. The Tiber River flows just before the Castel making the view from the top of the Castel that much more breath taking.

The Castel is most notable for its Baroque additions of statues holding aloft depictions of Jesus Christ. The Castel acted as the tomb for many Roman emperors, however during later times much of the tombs that had remained where destroyed and their contents looted.
To get to the Castel you can catch the metro to Lepanto station and walk over. It should only take you 15 minutes from the station.

The Vatican

The breathtaking beauty inside the Vatican. Photo by Patrick

The breathtaking beauty inside the Vatican. Photo by Patrick

Of course some would argue that the Vatican is outside of the city of Rome being its own state, but really, when in Rome go to the Vatican. Religion aside the Vatican houses some of the most spectacular architecture in all of the Italian area. Obelisks from Egypt as well as incredible areas like St. Peter’s Square showcase the extent to which the Vatican and its message have spread through the world.

Much of the architecture has its roots with some of the most famous architects in human history, Bernini and Michelangelo being the two biggest names.

If you have the time, explore the Vatican as there are so many sites to see within its walls.
To get there just walk across from Rome, use Castel Sant’ Angelo as a guideline for your journey.