Category Archives: Travel

A Romantic Trip to Cleveland

For most people Cleveland is firmly off the radar when it comes to romantic holiday destinations, but, for those willing to give the city a chance, there are a number of excellent attractions that are perfect for couples.

The city’s West Side Market is a well-known culinary attraction and a good place to start our romantic adventure. Wandering through its aisles of fresh and cooked-food stalls is a hugely satisfying experience for food enthusiasts and it’s made even better by the market’s historic setting

If the weather’s nice outside, buy some food at the market and have a romantic picnic at Edgewater Park, which is just a few minutes away by car. This park is set on Lake Erie and offers great views of the city skyline.

One neighborhood that couples should make a point to visit while in Cleveland is University Circle. Here visitors will find tree-lined streets, historic houses and a host of attractions suitable for couples.

The Cleveland Botanical Garden is in the neighborhood and is the place to go for a romantic stroll. Once visitors are done exploring its ten acres of manicured gardens they can visit the garden’s glasshouse, which has sections devoted to both the Costa Rican rainforest and the Madagascar spiny desert.

Art lovers, meanwhile, will be pleased to know that University Circle hosts both the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA).

The Cleveland Museum of Art should be travelers’ first stop, as it is the larger of the two museums and houses a collection of more than 40,000 pieces that spans several centuries and continents. The museum’s huge endowment has allowed it to collect some truly exemplary pieces and keep the admission free at the same time.

Nearby, MOCA has only just moved into its new, visually striking home, which was designed by acclaimed architect Farshid Moussavi. MOCA, however, is a non-collecting institution, which means that its appeal to visitors is dependent upon the exhibitions it hosts. Of course, there are a number of rotating exhibitions that often feature prominent artists from around the United States and some up-and-comers from the Cleveland Area, but be sure to look at the schedule in advance.

Another high-culture activity in University Circle is the Cleveland Orchestra. Founded in 1918, the Cleveland Orchestra is a member of the “Big Five” club of the nation’s premier symphony orchestras. Playing out of the stately Severance Hall, a night out at the orchestra can be incredibly fun and romantic. Dressing up in suits and cocktail dresses and enjoying wine over intermission, what’s not to like?

To get the most of their trip to Cleveland, couples should consider staying at the Glidden House Hotel. This stunning boutique hotel is situated right in the heart of University Circle, just across the street from the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and its early 20th century architecture harkens back to a time when travel was more glamorous and much less arduous.

The Glidden House Hotel is also perfect for couples looking to tie the knot, as the hotel hosts a number of events and weddings. Just imagine the scene, as a handsome couple expresses their unadulterated love underneath a gazebo on the hotel’s well-kept grounds before retiring into the gothic-style mansion for a banquet with friends and family.

Those wishing to venture outside of Cleveland – honeymoon perhaps? – can check out some of the many wineries in Ashtabula and Lake Counties, which are both just east of the city. The areas around the towns Madison and Geneva-On-The-Lake are particularly scenic.

Travel Guide to Kathmandu and its Attractions

Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal is a haven for tourists. The moment you step off the plane you’ll feel you are in another world altogether. The sights, sounds and smells are a prelude to the excitement, adventure, and exhilaration that await you in this enchanting city.

Kathmandu has attracted tourists ever since Nepal first opened its doors to foreigners in the 1950’s. The first visitors were the mountaineers who came here with dreams to conquer the highest peaks in the world including Mt. Everest. Gradually it became a haven for the hippies who flocked here in the 1960’s and 70s in search of the ultimate Shangri-la at the end of the trail.

Visitors to Kathmandu seek enlightenment in the heart of nature, in the serene Buddhist monasteries, and in the magnificent Hindu temples. It is believed that once upon a time, the number of temples in Kathmandu equaled the houses of the people who lived in the city. Gradual urbanization, however, took over, yet even now you can find a medieval temple tucked away in almost every street in Kathmandu.

Today, tourism is a major industry in the city and indeed in Nepal. Look around and you will find a host of swish shops, Internet cafes, swanky restaurants and hotels jostling for space with the palaces and temples. Visit the stretch from Durbar Square to Thamel, the haven for trekkers and backpackers, and you will be amazed to see the number of people who have converged here from across the globe to experience the intoxication of the city.

Away from the tourist hotspots, a heritage walk of Kathmandu will reveal its amazing cultural and artistic legacy. Temples resplendent in marigolds, courtyards full of drying chillis and rice, and tiny workshops unchanged since the Middle Ages, will transcend you to another era, to another time, when life was less complex, pleasures more simple, people more warm, and beauty more abundant.

Things To See

Kathmandu, with its hundreds of palaces, shrines, temples and statues dotting the narrow streets, resembles an open air museum. It is then little wonder that the city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Standing in complete contrast are a bewildering number of casinos, nightclubs, hotels, restaurants, and bars. The peaceful co-existence of two diametrically opposite worlds under a handful of sky is what draws people to the beautiful city protected by the majestic Himalayas.

Thamel: Thamel is the tourist hub of Kathmandu. A stroll through the meandering alleys can be an intoxicating experience. Here, pedestrians jostle for space with rickshaws, cows, bikes all next to the bazaars piled high with spices and silks. The narrow streets from here lead to Kathmandu’s main tourist attraction, the Durbar Square cluttered with remarkable Newari temples and palaces.

National Museum: Located at Chhauni near Swayambhunath, the museum houses an impressive collection of ancient artifacts, statues, paubha scroll paintings, medieval weaponry and relics of the earthquake of 1934. The museum opens daily from 9.30 AM to 3.30 PM, except on Sundays, Mondays and government holidays.

Changu Narayan Temple: Dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu, this beautiful temple, embellished with exquisite wood and stone carvings, has one of the finest and oldest specimens of pagoda architecture.

Chobhar: Situated nine-kilometers southwest of Kathmandu, this place is a must visit for nature enthusiasts. There is a famous gorge here from where the water of the valley drains through. There is also a small but postcard-perfect temple of Adinath on the hilltop from where you can take in the panoramic views of the snow-capped mountain peaks.

Dakshinkali Temple: The temple is dedicated to one of the most important Hindu goddesses. It is an important pilgrim spot for the Hindus who visit it in large numbers for offering prayers and sacrifices. The place has been developed as a picnic spot.

Heritage Walk: The Heritage Walk enables you to explore some of the lesser visited though equally fascinating historic sites in Kathmandu. The walk starts at Teku, south of old Kathmandu and weaves its way to Wonder Narayan, a 17th century temple dedicated to the Hindu deity, Lord Vishnu. After a stop at Hyumat Tole, proceed to Kusah Bahi, a Buddhist courtyard built in 1754. The next stop is the Narayan Dewal, a beautiful temple dating back to 1865. You will see Tukan Baha, built in the 14th century as a replica of the Swayambhu stupa. Walk to the Ram temple at the Ramchandra Dewal and then reach Jaisi Dewal, a huge Shiva temple built in 1688. Stroll to Kohiti where you can study the Buddhist and Hindu sculptures in this sunken water fountain. You will also pass by Chikan Mugaland and Atko Narayan Dewal. The Walk also takes you to the namesake of the city, the Kasthamandap pavilion. The final destination is the Bhimsen Dewal, built in 1655 and dedicated to the main deity of local traders.

Festivals and Events

Nepal’s colorful heritage finds rich reflection in its festivals and events. The festival calendar begins with the celebration of the Tibetan New Year in January/February. The celebrations are marked by processions at Bodhnath and Buddhist ceremonies at Swayambhunath and Jawlakhel near Patan. February also sees the celebrations of Shivratri, a festival dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. Colorful celebrations take place at the Pashupatinath Temple.

Holi, a festival of colors, is celebrated in March while April/May is the time for the month-long chariot festival to honor Machhendranath, the god of rain. Buddha Jayanti, or Lord Buddha’s birthday is celebrated with enthusiasm at Swayambhunath, Bodhnath, and Jawlakhel in Patan in May/June. Hindus stage the colorful Indra yatra, or chariot processions with masked dances and animal sacrifices to honor Indra, the god of war and weather. Tihar, or the Nepalese version of Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated in October/November.

Five Days in Japan

With just five days in Japan, it’s time to hustle. The wealth of offerings means there’s no shortage of customizable itineraries, but one that allows a look into both the traditional history and modern oddities of Japan is Osaka-Kyoto-Nara-Tokyo. This route is also a good compromise for those who want a balance between urban and outdoor settings as well as modern sites to temper the overwhelming number of temples and shrines.

Day 1: Get accustomed in Osaka

Osaka is excellent starting point to a Japanese adventure. The city is busy but safe, and although the train lines are complicated, the streets are not. The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Noodle Museum is a fun, family-friendly adventure, and visitors can even make a cup of instant ramen with freeze-dried toppings of their choosing to take home. In the afternoon, it’s time for some culture in the form of Osaka Castle, which now operates as a museum and is especially breathtaking in cherry blossom season, and Shitenno-ji, a Buddhist temple built in 593.

Dotonburi is the best neighborhood for nightlife. Tons of bars, some barely big enough for the bar and six stools, crowd the streets. Fill up on takoyaki (grilled octopus balls) while wandering up and down the streets and mentally mapping out which bars to hit.

Day 2: Temples, shrines and palaces in Kyoto

Kyoto’s long and varied history can be seen at the plethora of shrines and temples dotting the city, and that’s just the tip. The Golden Temple, Kinkaku-ji, and Silver Temple, Ginkaku-ji, are two must-sees, as is the ridiculously impressive Imperial Palace. Palace tours require advance booking, but just walking around the park is enough to bliss out.

Day 3: Deer and more temples in Nara

Nara is a quick, sweet day trip. The town’s famed deer in Nara Park are ready to make friends with visitors who buy bags of biscuits from vendors. From there, the paths are well-marked, and travelers can pick and choose from a plethora of sites. Todai-ji, a Buddhist temple, looms over visitors, a marked reminder of Nara’s past as Japan’s first permanent capital. Kasuga Taisha is a color-soaked Shinto shrine, and Yoshikien Gardens feature three distinct Japanese gardens. It’s not necessary to put much planning into a day in Nara: with its organized paths and easy-going vibe, it’s ideal to just wander, sit and wander some more.

Days 4 and 5: A race around Tokyo

At last, it’s time to enjoy Tokyo with the added bonus of having kind of figured out the train lines in Osaka. Those who take the night bus (rather than the bullet train) will arrive in Tokyo just in time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in Tokyo Station and a gander around the neighborhood before heading over to the Imperial Palace, which opens at 9 a.m. Try to arrive a few minutes beforehand to get an advantage on the tour groups. The palace is home to the Imperial Family, and is surrounded by huge park-like grounds, most of which visitors are free to explore.

The last day in Tokyo starts with, yes, another temple. Sensu-ji is Tokyo’s largest and lies in the district of Asakusa. The bustling district features a large open-air market leading up to the shrine that sells everything from homemade snacks to children’s toys. This is the time to splurge, as many shops sell kabuki prints, silks, original art, food and more. After shopping and paying respects, follow the shouts of servers to the restaurants that line the nearby narrow roads. And after that, a walk around the surrounding, much quieter blocks is a good way to start winding down after a whirlwind trip. If your legs are up for it, spend the last yen on Sun Road, a covered street containing tons of shops and a used electronics bazaar, and is part of the incredibly popular Kichijoji neighborhood.

Modern Art in Berlin and Historic Sights in Munich

Germany is one of the most pleasant travel destinations in all of Europe and no cities encapsulate what Germany is all about more than Berlin and Frankfurt. Berlin showcases the hipness and creativity of modern-day Germany, while Munich is a living museum of the historical and cultural charms of the German past.

Also, just because the two cities are on opposite sides of the country doesn’t mean that one can’t visit both in a single trip, as Munich to Berlin by train can be done in as little as six hours.

Modern Art in Berlin

It was only 20 years ago that Berlin was a city divided and the Berlin Wall stood between West Berlin and the Soviet-dominated East Berlin. When the wall came down in 1989 the two cities merged and became one of the world’s most eclectic capitals.

Though the contrast between the two sides is less clear today, the area formerly encompassing East Berlin has long been a haven for artists and bohemians looking to live affordably and harness the city’s creative vibe.

One place to see Berlin’s creative vitality on full display is the neighborhood of Mitte. Formerly a district in East Berlin, Mitte is now at the direct center of the unified Berlin and is home to the majority of the city’s preeminent art galleries.

Dittrich & Schlechtriem is a relatively new entrant onto the gallery scene, having opened in 2011, but the gallery is already making a big name for itself. Staffed by super hip artists and art lovers, this gallery prides itself in showcasing exhibitions from top, young local talent.

Nearby, the Carlier Gebauer gallery has been a stalwart on the Berlin art scene since 1991. Hosting only the most acclaimed local artists, both established and emerging, in its three exhibition rooms, the galley has earned its place as one of the city’s top galleries.

Another inspiring gallery in Mitte is the Johann König gallery, where movers and shakers from across the German art world come to see incredible contemporary art exhibitions. No true art aficionado should miss it, as it’s considered to be one of the world’s most influential galleries.

Historic Sights in Munich

Munich is the capital of the southern German state of Bavaria and it has an entirely different feel to it than Berlin. Instead of modern art museums and hip nightclubs, visitors to Munich can expect to find historic architecture, charming plazas and grand churches.

Marienplatz is a square at the center of Munich and is a good place from which to start exploring the city’s attractions, as two of the city’s chief attractions are located right on the square: the New Town Hall and the Old Town Hall.

Constructed in the late 19th century by architect Georg von Hauberrisser, the New Town Hall was built in a Gothic architectural style and forms an imposing sight, as its spire rises almost 260 feet above Marienplatz. Nearby is the building it replaced, the Old Town Hall. Also built in the Gothic architectural style, but in the 16th century, the Old Town Hall is much more modest than the New Town Hall, but is nevertheless beautiful to behold.

Another historic attraction in the city center is the Frauenkirche, which is Munich’s principal cathedral and features heavily in postcards of the city. The church’s towers, at 325 feet, dominate the skyline of Munich and the city even has a law that forbids buildings from obstructing views of the 15th century cathedral.

At one time Marienplatz was also home to Munich’s farmer’s market, but now that honor goes to Viktualienmarkt, which is only one block to the southeast. Open every day except Sunday, the market is home to 140 stalls that sell everything from flowers and produce to cooked gourmet foods. Stick around to enjoys it beer garden for a true Munich experience.

Great Choices for a Weekend Break in England and Wales

The title pretty much says it all – if you’re hoping to get away for the weekend somewhere in England or Wales, there are plenty of options available to you. Let’s jump right in with some of the best luxury hotels in the English and Welsh countryside!

A luxury country stay at Nash Hall in Powys

This former threshing barn dates way back, all the way back to the 1600s, in fact. It has since been rather beautifully restored (you’ll be pleased to hear), and has a number of great little pieces such as its very own games room and a proper vintage jukebox.

It is very close to the great Offa’s Dyke Path, so it makes for a fab starting point for any exploration of the area and of Hay-on-Wye. So get to Nash Hall to get your country chic on.

The Hotel and Extreme Academy in Cornwall

If you’re looking to take to the water and try your hand at some surfing, get yourselves down to Cornwall and stay at this hotel just above Watergate Bay, a two-mile long stretch of golden sands famous for its surfing opportunities.

The hotel is nice enough, and all bookings include breakfast, but it’s its in-house Extreme Academy that the place really shines – you can experience surfing, body boarding, kite surfing, wave skiing and even traction kiting. Fantastic!

Stoke Place in Buckinghamshire

Stoke Place is a traditional country house with a modern twist, offering up the best of four-star luxury to its guests. Its extensive gardens were designed by the famous Lancelot “Capability” Brown, and its 39 bedrooms are all tastefully decorated.

But for a truly unique experience come during its Black Widow’s Ball. With fancy dress, a transvestite tarot reader and a midnight feast, this Hammer Horror event must be experienced to be believed.

White Horses in Gwynedd

There are actually a few different places to stay in Portmeirion, in Gwynedd, North Wales, from a converted castle to the original hotel and a whole host of different cottages, but our favorite would definitely be the White Horses, a former fisherman’s cottage.

A Grade II listed building, White Horses is situated on the Portmeirion quayside, sitting directly over the water. You can even fish from the garden if you so please!

Ellenborough Park in Gloucestershire

Just outside of Cheltenham, this is the perfect place for any guy or gal who likes to place the odd flutter on the horses. A manor built in the 15th Century, Ellenborough Park gives off a real country living feel, but is in fact just ten minutes from Cheltenham town center!

 

The World’s Sexiest Travel Destinations

The world is full of beautiful places, many with enchanting stories to tell. But what can be said about the spots that sparkle with hedonistic promise throughout the day and come charging to life after sundown? You know what I mean: the inventive party cocktails, spectacular scenery and sun-kissed bodies a plenty. Yes, one can visit Paris for fashion, the Mayan ruins for their fascinating historical value or New York City for its pulsating energy. But when it comes to all that sizzles with a capital “S” these sexy locations are hard to beat:

1. Marrakech, Morroco

Marrakech has enjoyed a positive evolution in the last few years; from a historic destination –with a rather seedy nighttime environment — to a classy and upscale community of jetsetters. Only a few hours from the fabled Sahara Desert, visitors can indulge in the curious duality of this landmark Moroccan destination: traditional marketplaces, mosques, and beautiful landscapes on one side and a modern array of dazzling restaurants, bars and clubs on the other. Be prepared to pay for your revelry, as with this rise in popularity comes an exponential increase in the consumption of alcohol and other decadent goodies.

2. Hvar, Croatia

Don’t let the picturesque rolling hills and calm, clear waters fool you: Hvar’s glamorous clientele and vibrant nightlife is said to rival that of the infamous Ibiza. This lovely island gem – arguably the most enchanting on the Adriatic Sea – features breathtaking beaches, charming medieval streets, an immense seafront promenade and a slew of trendy nightspots designed to make you drink and dance until you drop – preferably on that Croatian cutie you were eyeing all night.

3. South Beach, Florida

With its pastel-colored façades, iconic neon signs, beach-body sun worshippers and a legendary nightlife scene, South Beach reigns supreme as the party capital on western side of the Atlantic. Celebrities, trendsetters, and curious onlookers alike flock to this beachfront community to live the “vida loca” on a grander scale. Spend your days frolicking on the palm tree-lined beaches then shop for colorful suggestive garments only found in Miami. When darkness falls, leave your modesty at home, dress to impress, and prepare for wild nights at any (or all) of the fashionista hangouts around town.

4. Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Although not as lively as its famous neighbor Cancún, Playa del Carmen has a sensual appeal all its own. Located at the center of the gorgeous Mayan Riviera, this lovely coastal resort boasts an inviting tropical beach atmosphere complete with fire shows and moonlight serenades. Although the clubs are large and festive like in other parts of Mexico, the local bars are seductive and quiet enough to allow you to engage in friendly conversation while sipping on native tropical cocktails.

5. Anguilla, Caribbean

Anguilla is made up of 33 magnificent beaches bordering the Caribbean coastline. There is never an overload of tourists or a big “party scene” and casinos are strictly forbidden. So what is the allure you might ask yourself? For starters, you can take a naughty skinny-dip in the pristine but secluded waters or gyrate your hips to the hypnotic steel drum music playing live at the best local bars. And if you happen to find yourself alone in this fantasy-like environment maybe you’ll get lucky and have the opportunity to engage in some heavy-duty stargazing – of the Hollywood variety that is.

 

Best Vacation Islands in the Caribbean

Magnificent surroundings, turquoise blue water, palm trees, sandy beaches, exotic food and diverse cultures all come to mind when one dreams of escaping to the Caribbean isles. With over 7,000 islands to choose from, each one with its own unique charms, it can be a daunting task trying to plan the perfect Caribbean holiday. But that’s what we’re here for! So take a look at our list of the Caribbean’s best vacation islands.

1. U.S. Virgin Islands

The US Virgin Islands, only 1,000 miles away from the city of Miami, are something akin to 50 floating emeralds in a sapphire sea. Because they are part of the United States, the islands have somewhat of an American feel, but they nonetheless remain quintessentially Caribbean.

There are three main islands, all located within easy travel distance from each other. St. Croix, the easternmost island is also the largest and covered in green, rolling hills. St. Thomas hosts the capital city of Charlotte Amalie, and offers 13 miles of sandy beaches along its irregular coastline. Then there is St. John, the smallest of the three, most of which is covered by national park.

The US Virgin Islands has the busiest cruise port in the Caribbean and stellar shopping facilities on both St. Croix and St. Thomas. Liquor, tobacco, jewelry, native arts and crafts, fine art, leather goods, the list goes on. St. Thomas particularly is one of the best duty free shopping destinations in the Caribbean. There is no sales tax up to $1,200 per family member when you shop in the US Virgin Islands!

The islands are also great location for activities like hiking, turtle watching, snorkeling, scuba diving and water sports.

2. Turks and Caicos

Imagine 224 miles of beaches! That’s what you’ll find in Turks and Caicos! This coral reef-laden island paradise is known throughout the region for its unspoiled natural beauty. Providenciales, also called Provo, is the most popular among the many islands with tourists. However, if you prefer a quieter island, head over to Grand Turk and discover its charming old town and colonial past.

The Turks and Caicos are considered to be some of the world’s top destinations for scuba diving. Both islands have abundant coral reef, and thanks to the many dive shops it’s easy for both novices and experienced divers to get out on the water.

Shopping addicts will also love the Turks and Caicos with its array of designer watches, gold jewelry, local art and casual-island wear on display.

For nighttime entertainment, head over to Osprey Beach Hotel in Grand Turk for ripsaw music on Wednesdays and Sundays or to Grace Bay Club for a beautiful sunset around a beachfront fire pit.

3. St Kitts

St. Kitts was once known as ‘The Mother Colony’, the first permanent English settlement in the Caribbean. Today the island is covered in tea plantations with the locals still practicing decidedly British traditions like afternoon tea. One of the island’s prime attractions is the Brimstone Hill Fortress, which stands 800 feet high and offers stunning views of the mountainous island and its beaches.

Visitors looking for more of the island’s rich colonial history can visit the Romney Manor Plantation, which was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Likewise they can also visit the capital city of Basseterre to check out its many colonial-era buildings.

It’s not all history on St Kitts, the island has plenty of water activities too. Deep sea fishing, sailing, diving and windsurfing are all possible in the area. Check out Pinney’s Beach, the most happening spot on the island!

4. Sint Maarten/Saint Martin

Sint Maarten is an island that is divided into two halves, a French northern half and a Dutch southern half. At less than 100 square kilometers, it is one of the smallest islands in the world to be divided amongst two nations.

There is a border between the two sides, though checks are infrequent. The principal airport on the island is the Princess Juliana Airport, located on the Dutch side of the island. The airport is an attraction in itself because of its wild landing approach, which sees jets flying above a nearby beach and beachgoers just before hitting the runway.

The French side of the island is called Saint Martin. Known for its nude beaches and naturist lifestyle destinations, it is also noted for its delicious cuisine and luxury shopping. Its capital and largest city, with just under 6,000 people, is Marigot.

The Dutch side of the island is called Sint Maarten. Its capital and largest city, with only 1,300 people, is Philipsburg. Mostly famous for its vibrant nightlife, casinos and rum-based alcoholic beverages, it serves as a popular port of call for visiting cruise liners.

5. Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles that was formerly a colony of both Britain and France. At only 600 square kilometers and 170,000 people, Saint Lucia is one of the world’s smallest independent countries.

It’s a beautiful, volcanic island that is covered in lush green rainforest. Its most famous landmarks are the Pitons, two peaks that jut straight up from the sea and are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One fun way for visitors to really explore the island is to hike to the peaks of these mountains with local tour guides.

The capital and largest city of Saint Lucia is Castries. The city has 60,000 people and is the point of disembarkation for most cruise ship passengers who visit the island. Marigot Bay is another city in Saint Lucia and is home to what many say is the most beautiful bay in the entire Caribbean!

Saint Lucia is a popular island for vacationers because of its hiking, diving, snorkeling and numerous beaches. Special note to Jazz music lovers, the St. Lucia Jazz festival is held in early May and is a great time to visit the island!

Exploring the Texas Hill Country

Just north of San Antonio and west of Austin, the Texas Hill Country is one of the state’s most pleasant surprises, as its rolling green hills, wineries, orchards and charming towns present a scene that doesn’t altogether resemble the stereotypical image of Texas as a dusty, Southwestern state. Visit in the spring to see wild flowers like the Texas bluebonnet – the state flower of Texas – infuse some color into the hillsides.

Most travelers will start their trips from either San Antonio or Austin, and driving around the region visiting quaint communities like Fredericksburg and Kerrville and stopping to enjoy the beautiful countryside at places like Lake Travis is a great way to experience Hill Country. Reservation services like Gastehaus Schmidt make it easy to stay awhile and book bed and breakfasts or country inns in communities across the Hill Country region.

Let’s start our exploration in the town of Medina, which is just northwest of San Antonio, where we’ll stop in at the Love Creek Orchard for a tour of the apple orchard. Tours are only $5 and visitors can buy some apple pie and other apple-related products to have a wonderful picnic lunch on the scenic orchard grounds.

Another scenic stop in Hill Country is the Pedernales Cellers Winery just outside of Fredericksburg. Open every day, the winery invites visitors to taste its excellent wine and enjoy the property’s 145 acres of rolling vineyards.

Back in Fredericksburg, travelers can learn a little about Texas history, as it’s the hometown of two of the state’s greatest persons: President Lyndon B Johnson and Admiral Nimitz. The town’s National Museum of the Pacific War presents some interesting facts on the admiral, while LBJ has his own state park with an informative visitor center and some great natural scenery.

Directly north of Fredericksburg is the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, which is a great place for hiking or rock climbing on its stunning pink-granite rock dome. Only experienced climbers should attempt to scale the rock face, and even they should register their climbing routes in advance with the state park office.

Continue north from Enchanted Rock and travelers will quickly reach the small town of Llano. While there’s not too much to do in this small town, don’t miss the opportunity to try some good ol’ Texas barbecue at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. The bbq alone is worth the drive!

The last place we’ll mention on our little tour of Hill Country is Lake Travis, which is situated near Austin on the eastern end of the region. On the weekends the lake is a popular spot for partying Austinites who gravitate to its shores to rent party boats and jet skis. But visit during the week and travelers will instead discover a quiet and beautiful lake with plenty of camp sites and recreational opportunities.

 

Amazing Travel Desinations in India

When travelers think of India they could conjure up any number of images, but they most likely still think of it as a uniform destination – as if traveling to one part of India were the same as traveling to another. In reality, though, India is a vast country and its many different regions have entirely different feels when it comes to culture, cuisine and landscape.

Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Agra is the most significant city in India from a tourism perspective for a single reason: the Taj Mahal. Built in the 17th century to serve as a mausoleum for the wife of a Mughal emperor, the Taj Mahal is an exemplary piece of Islamic architecture and one of the world’s most iconic sights. It’s rare that a sight like the Taj Mahal lives up to the expectations that tourists have for it, but the Taj Mahal not only matches those expectations but blows them away. Visit just before sunrise when the crowds are at their smallest and watch the sun rise over the building for the full effect.

Most luxury India holidays tend to stick to the “Golden Triangle” region of Delhi, Agra and Jaisalmer, and while those are all great destinations – with Agra and Jaisalmer two of the best in the country – there’s no reason not to venture out a little further.

Amritsar, Punjab

Amritsar, in Punjab and only a few kilometers from the Pakistani city of Lahore, is in the heart of Sikh country. Its Golden Temple – Harimandir Sahib – is the holiest site in the Sikh religion and each year it receives even more visitors than the Taj Mahal! People of all faith are welcome to visit the temple to mingle with the worshipping Sikhs and take in the atmosphere. One cool way to experience the Golden Temple is to spend the night at its dorm accommodations. Available free of charge to pilgrims and tourists, the temple offers basic accommodations in about as serene a setting as it gets.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Andaman and the Nicobar Islands, more than 1,000 kilometers east of the Indian mainland, have a very different feel than the rest of India, as crowded, hectic cities give way to pristine tropical islands with white-sand beaches and rainforest. Travelers can either fly or sail to Port Blair, the islands’ chief settlement, and from there it’s a matter of ferries and speedboats to see the outlying islands.

Darjeeling, West Bengal

Darjeeling, of The Darjeeling Limited fame, is a hill station situated in the foothills of the Himalayas at an elevation of 6,700 feet. It was founded by the British when they colonized India to serve as a summertime escape from the stifling heat of nearby Calcutta (now Kolkata). Though the Brits are long gone, they’ve left their colonial-era architecture and a heap of tea plantations in their place. The classic Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is the best way to reach the town, as it offers some pretty excellent views of the snow-capped Himalayas in the distance.

Goa

Goa is a definite break from the traditional feel of India, as in lieu of temples and cultural charms Goa is more famous for beaches crowded with European backpackers and drug-fueled all-night raves. As one would expect, Goa is a bit of an acquired taste. But for travelers looking for a Southeast-Asian style beach holiday in an even more exotic locale, it’s a good option. Unlike many of the other destinations on this list, Goa is an entire Indian state. But it is the smallest state and it is very easy to move around within the state.

Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Jaisalmer is a small outpost in the west of Rajasthan, only a few kilometers from the border with Pakistan. Its hilltop fortress welcomes visitors to explore its palaces, twisting lanes and shops. Visitors can stay in guest houses inside the fortress walls and eat their meals at rooftop restaurants, which often have spectacular views over the fort’s walls of the Thar Desert and its sand dunes which literally surround the city in all directions.

Kerala

Kerala is another entry on this list that’s a whole state, as most travelers who visit don’t confine themselves to just one city or town. Instead the real exploration takes place in the backwaters – a network of rivers and canals – that wind their way through the state. Here house boats make their way on the gentle waters and past the tea fields and spice plantations that line the green, picturesque hills, and offer tourists an altogether uniquely Kerala experience.

Mumbai, Maharashtra

Mumbai is India’s largest city –one of the world’s largest too – and is the country’s center of fashion, finance and entertainment (Bollywood). In India, Mumbai is as big as it gets and the city’s wealth and sense of unbridled excitement contrasts fascinatingly with the extreme poverty and slums that are unavoidable in a large Indian city. If this is where Indians go to make it, it’s also where dreams of Indian success stories go to die, but for tourists it’s an interesting glimpse into the making of one of the world’s next great cities.

Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, is situated in a valley surrounded by the Himalayan Mountains and has long been one of the country’s famed tourist destinations. The region’s picturesque beauty is undeniable – in Bollywood films the region regularly substitutes for the Swiss Alps – but a decade of strife over the status of Kashmir has dampened the tourism trade a bit. Those who do come, however, can spend their days lounging on houseboats on Dal Lake and taking in views of the Himalayas from the city’s famed Mughal gardens.

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Varanasi is perhaps the most fantastical city in all of India. Holy men traipse along the streets, only a few miles away from where Buddhism was born, and the ghats are teeming with life – and death. Ghats are the name given to the areas of rivers that are accessible via steps from the city. In the case of Varanasi, the river is the holy Ganges, and there are an awful lot of ghats. Each one has its own purpose; some are simple like for bathing or washing clothes, while others have more spiritual purposes like ritual bathing or cremation. The “burning ghats of Varanasi,” as they’re known, see bodies of the newly departed placed in their waters and set on fire. At times visiting the city can be an overwhelming experience, but it’s an experience nonetheless.

Cycling from Vienna to Budapest via Bratislava

Vienna and Budapest are linked by a continuous cycle route which broadly follows the curves of the Danube. The journey is around 250 kilometers (155 miles), a distance that can be navigated alone or with the help of various companies.

The route is a little different to the driving route outlined in our travel article on driving from Vienna to Budapest. From Vienna, pedal directly east to cross the border into Slovakia. Vienna and Bratislava are the closest capital cities in the world, and traffic-free cycle paths connect them throughout the 70km (43 mile) distance.

The Vienna-Bratislava route begins on Lassalstrasse (“Lassal Street”), beside Prater Metro station. Just round the corner is a friendly, independent bike shop, Pedal Power, where you can hire bikes, buy maps and ask for advice. The cycling is straightforward, following the north bank of the Danube for 45km before crossing the river at the town of Hainburg. Hainburg’s city gates are a mighty portcullis-framed slab of medieval fortification, and the city is a perfect place to wipe one’s forehead and grab something to eat. From Hainburg the rest of the route follows the Danube’s south bank. It finishes in spectacular style with a crossing of Bratislava’s bizarre “UFO Bridge” which channels you into the center of the Slovak capital.

From Bratislava, continue along ‘Eurovelo 6’, part of a Europe-wide initiative to sew together the entire continent with safe, secluded cycle routes. This passes through Győr, then reaches Komárno, a Slovak-Hungarian border town split between the two countries by the water of the Danube. Komárno has places to eat and sleep, and a complex system of fortifications, including a fifteenth century fortress that was attacked by the Ottomans and served as a temporary training camp and prison during WW2. From Komárno, Route 6 loops north to Esztergom and back south to finish in Budapest.