Tuesday, December 17, 2019

How to Celebrate NYE in NYC

New Year's Eve is a defining moment in New York City, serving as a beacon for the world as people collectively reflect on the previous year and welcome the next. As more than one million visitors prepare to celebrate across the five boroughs, the City's hotels and attractions are ready to welcome the next decade in only-in-NYC fashion.

Below is a roundup of Times Square activities, hotel parties and New Year's Eve events throughout NYC that will emphasise the City's reputation as the most iconic destination to ring in the new year.

Times Square

While the iconic Ball Drop is certainly the centre of the festivities, visitors can celebrate the holiday days in advance of the event viewed around the world.

Seven-foot tall numbers "2" and "0" will be displayed in mid-December and available for a pre-NYE photoshoot in various Times Square Plazas until they are hoisted atop One Times Square as celebratory décor, the week leading up to the big event.

On December 28, from 12-1 pm, locals and travellers are invited to enjoy Good Riddance Day at the Broadway Plaza in Times Square where bad memories are eliminated via a giant shredder.

From December 1-29, visit the Wishing Wall in Times Square Plaza to share your hopes and dreams for 2020, which will be dropped as confetti when the clock strikes midnight. Electronic wishes can be submitted here or on social media using #ConfettiWish.

The nearly 6-ton ball, covered with 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles, is capable of lighting up the night from One Times Square, with more than 16 million different colours.

Dick Clark's New Year's Rocking Eve will broadcast the Times Square festivities globally with the help of performances by superstar performers (to be announced) and host Ryan Seacrest.

Global viewers can also visit TimesSquareNYC.org, NewYearsEve.nyc and TimesSquareBall.net to watch the annual event.

Can't-Miss Hotel Bashes

The Times Square Edition is celebrating its first New Year's Eve in five-star fashion with a three-party extravaganza including ticketed events at 701 West, The Paradise Club, and The Terrace Outdoor Rooftop and Gardens. Each celebration includes dinner, open bar, and a world-class DJ/live music. At 701 West and The Terrace, guests will have access to the hotel's outdoor porch with views of the Time Square ball drop.

The New York Marriott Marquis will celebrate by hosting a party with 360-degree views of the ball drop that includes a red-carpet entry, luxury dinner buffet & dessert bar, specialty cocktails, open bar, and VIP access to the patio overlooking Times Square.

The Moxy Times Square is ringing in the modern-day roaring 20's with a unique brand of fun with an event at the Magic Hour Rooftop. The "urban amusement park" is the largest indoor/outdoor all-season hotel rooftop bar in NYC and features five distinct areas including a lounge, outdoor garden, gallery entrance and outdoor putt-putt course with an adult carnival vibe.

The Peninsula New York's Salon de Ning will be transformed into a chic, dome-covered, penthouse where guests will enjoy a cocktail party with open bar, live music and plenty of dancing, as well as temporary popup Chalet de Ning.

The Pierre, A Taj Hotel, is ringing in 2020 with dual celebrations including two dinner parties featuring prix-fixe menus, live jazz music and midnight champagne toast at its signature restaurant, Perrine and a more casual celebration featuring dancing, open bar, raw bar, DJ and more at the Two E Lounge.

At Party on Park Avenue at the Loews Regency Hotel, guests will enjoy a night of glitz and glamor in a stylish suite on Manhattan's Upper East Side complete with a 3-hour open-bar cocktail reception, hors d'oeuvres and champagne toast at midnight.

The Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island , situated in the heart of protected woodlands, is hosting its annual New Year's Eve Gala with a "Roarin' 20's" theme this year in the picturesque Nicotra's Ballroom, complete with 10-piece band.

Festive Events

The only casino in New York City's five boroughs, Resorts World Casino, will celebrate at Bar360 with a night of concerts that includes a performance by Bronx native Judy Torres and a Black and White Ball hosted by Chef Garfield and Deejay Roy. Guests are also encouraged to explore the casinos 4,200 slot machines and 1,300 electronic table games.

Visitors are invited to ring in the New Year with Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams at the 40th edition of The New Year's Eve Fireworks Celebration at the historic Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park. The family-friendly event is a free, authentic way to celebrate with locals and travelers.

For a beautiful, unobstructed view of the NYC Skyline coupled with an extravagant fireworks display over the Hudson River, take a ride on Circle Lines New Year's Eve Cruise along the New York Harbor from 9 pm to 1 am. A DJ and midnight toast complete the event that is 21+ to drink, 18+ to enter.

2020 TCS NYC Marathon hopefuls and running enthusiasts are invited to participate in the most festive qualifying race of the year at the NYRR Midnight Run. Registered runners and plus ones will gather at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park for a four-mile race that starts at the stroke of midnight with a beautiful fireworks display.

In The Bronx, families can enjoy a visit to the Bronx zoo, where the Holiday Lights festivities will take place from 5-9 pm, or explore the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden, where model trains zip through a display of more than 175 NYC landmarks made out of plant parts, including One World Trade Center, Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty.

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year's Day Plunge is free with prior-registration and kicks off at 1 pm at the Stillwell Avenue boardwalk entrance. Participants are invited to enter the New York Aquarium complimentarily after the plunge to warm up.

Monday, December 16, 2019

How to explore every day with Lonely Planet's new book.

Lonely Planet's new book, Explore Every Day, features 365 daily prompts designed to refresh your life – including the following:

You can find this wonderful piece of street art in Melbourne. Where? (R Eime)
  • Admire the next piece of street art or graffiti you see as if it were hanging in an art gallery.
  • Think of one small environmental change you could make and act on it.
  • Buy a fruit or vegetable you’ve never eaten before.
  • Quick: name the first country that comes to mind. Find a film from that country and watch it. Write the review.
Have you seen this American film?
  • Spend one full minute really, truly feeling the weather.
  • Ascend to the highest point in your town (buildings count).
The highest point of which famous South Australian port? (R Eime)
  • Learn a word from your region’s indigenous culture or some local slang.
  • Breathe in for four seconds. Exhale for six.
  • Spend one full minute really, truly feeling the weather.
  • Empires were built – and destroyed – over the search for aromatic spices. Research where in your town you can find dozens available instantly (health-food and international stores often have large spice sections).
  • Give yourself a full 10-15 minutes to browse through and deeply inhale as many spices and herbs as you can. Choose one that tickles your fancy yet is totally unfamiliar to you and buy it (saving you the 200-year-long journey to attain it).
Can you name these spices? Have you smelled them? 
  • Find a recipe that incorporates the new spice and cook it.
  • Draw a map of your town. For extra credit: Find a willing partner, give yourselves three minutes each to draw, then compare results afterwards. What stood out for each of you?
  • Get dressed up and conduct a photo shoot with a friend.
Halloween is the perfect opportunity for a fun family portrait (Lithgow Mercury)
  • Which neighbourhood in your town is most different to your own? Spend an afternoon running errands there.
  • Many world-famous universities (UC Berkeley, Cambridge, the Sorbonne) offer free courses online. Sign up to one and learn Shakespeare, Roman history or opera.
  • Go on a mural walking tour. Describe your favourite mural.

Silo art is a big deal in rural Australia (Mike Osborne)

Reproduced with permission from Explore Every Day, © Lonely Planet 2019, www.lonelyplanet.com

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Summer sights at NSW's Lake Macquarie

Lake Macquarie is a hotspot for silly season hangouts, where visitors can enjoy the sand, sea, sun and so much more! Although known as a year-round destination, Lake Macquarie is in its prime during the warmer months. Only 90 minutes north of Sydney, it’s the perfect weekend destination for anyone looking for a festive season escape.

With plenty to see and do, it’s hard to know where to start, so here are some of the top spots to visit in Lake Macquarie this summer:

Santa’s Spot: Speers Point Park

On 8 December, catch the Lake Mac Carols in Speers Point Park and enjoy an evening of fireworks, entertainment and special guests (including the one and only Santa Claus!) in the countdown to Christmas. During the day, Speers Point Park will keep the kids entertained for hours with a top-notch variety playground – featuring a flying fox, water play and a bike circuit with two intersecting tracks. There’s even a huge fenced dog park for the fur baby that’s sure to get tails wagging!

Serene Spot: Gap Creek Falls

The Watagans Mountains are always a firm favourite for nature lovers, dotted with a myriad of walking trails, lookouts and campgrounds. Wander from the Gap Creek picnic area at the end of Bangalow Road through lush rainforest, past regal red cedars and a massive Illawarra flame tree, to the majestic Gap Creek Falls. Featuring a sheer 40-metre drop over a cliff face, the beauty of the falls will help you to reconnect with, and get back to nature.

Swim Spot: Belmont Baths

Belmont Baths is the perfect spot for a splash during a sunny weekend. Recently reopened at the end of last year after a $850,000 renovation, the Baths now feature a new jetty (perfect for practicing big splash bombs), a large, netted swimming area, a brand-new amenities block, change rooms and foreshore landscaping. If all that swimming gets your tummy rumbling, just a short walk down the road you’ll find Deck 56, known for its stunning lake views and fresh, delicious cuisine.

Secret Spot: Glenrock State Conservation Area

Escape to Glenrock State Conservation Area and enjoy your breathing space in this secret hideaway. This place is nature’s playground, and if you pay it a visit, you’ll soon understand why. Enjoy beach activities, bushwalking, mountain bike riding, hang gliding and horse-riding, all while feasting on spectacular coastal views along the way. Spanning over 500 hectares, this stunning landscape boasts headlands, beaches, rainforests and the picturesque Glenrock Lagoon.

Safe Spot: Caves Beach

Lake Macquarie’s iconic Caves Beach and its extensive network of sea caves and rock pools are ideal for low-tide exploration. Crawl through tight holes, hang out in shady caves or soak up the sunshine on the beach’s sandy shores. Home to the Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club, a kiosk, bathrooms, barbeques and picnic tables, it’s easy to see why Caves Beach is a firm family favourite.

Sensational Spot: Lake Macquarie Sand Islands

Is your idea of heaven bobbing around beautiful blue waters, hopping from one white sandy island to another? And no, this is not Fiji we are talking about – it’s lovely Lake Macquarie. The Lake Macquarie sand islands are a firm favourite with the locals and it’s easy to see why. Whether you explore by boat or choose to swim, just clock onto island time and get lost in the tranquillity.

It’s easy to see why Lake Macquarie is a favourite for family, friends, adventurers and anyone in between. To learn more about what’s going on in Lake Macquarie this silly season and find where to stay when you visit, please visit: http://www.visitlakemac.com.au

Samui On the Tip of Your Tongue

The Blue Fire Cooking School at Outrigger Koh Samui Beach Resort has proved very popular since opening last year. Guests learn to make mouth-watering Thai classics such as Som Tum (Thai papaya salad), Tom Yum Goong (spicy and sour prawn herb soup), and Tom Kha Gai (coconut chicken soup with lemongrass). Curry lovers can learn the art of Beef Massaman, Chicken Panaeng and Thai Green curry. Outrigger can also organise dining experiences at acclaimed local outlets such as Pepenero (Italian), The Social Samui (sunset bar & kitchen), Chi (cocktails), and Tamarind Spa. More: wedding.kohsamui@outrigger.co.th

Coral Care and Stargazing at Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort

Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort offers great and varied experiences for guests. Situated in a pristine southern atoll, there is little light pollution, so a guided stargazing cruise is a must. The resort has its own house reef and marine biologist, Amelia. Go snorkelling with her to discover sea life. If you don’t swim or snorkel, take the glass bottom semi sub to see underwater nature at its best. Afterwards, on land, Amelia explains to families about marine conservation such as coral rehabilitation, part of Outrigger’s OZONE initiative. The full Konotta activities guide is here.

Outrigger: The Gateway to Top 10 Ecotourism Activities in Mauritius

The range of ecotourism activities available from Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort is mind-boggling. Located in the green and spectacular ‘authentic’ south of Mauritius beside the Bel Ombre nature reserve, the resort's hosts recommend these top ten ecotourism activities. For man-made attractions, museums, golf, handicrafts, dining and discovering Mauritius’ rum, tea and sugar industries, there are many options. Here is a sample of cultural activities available from Outrigger Mauritius.

Blue Tree Water Park and Porto de Phuket Open Near Outrigger Phuket

The opening of Blue Tree Water Park (pictured) 15 minutes from Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort has added an amazing choice of daytime outdoor family activities for Outrigger guests. Other great local activities within a 15-minute car ride include Fun Friday Boat Avenue, Bangtao Night Market, and the Cherngtalay Night Market. Central is also developing a large-scale community mall named Porto de Phuket at the entrance area of Laguna Phuket. Within the resort, Outrigger offers no shortage of organised pool activities, badminton and tennis. Or let the kids express themselves at the Koh Kids Club. Adults meanwhile can enjoy Outrigger Signature Experiences such as cooking classes, vow renewals, batik making, fruit carving and more.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

10 reasons to holiday on Mykonos in 2020

From its whitewashed buildings, cobbled streets, world- famous sunsets, delicious seafood and lively local tavernas, to luxurious boutique accommodation, glamorous beach clubs and genuine Greek hospitality - there’s a raft of reasons to tick Mykonos - and the Myconian Collection - off your travel bucket list in 2020.

Here are 10 reasons to give you a taste of the magic of Mykonos…

1. Getting there is easy

Thanks to new direct flights from Sydney to Mykonos (via Doha) with Qatar Airways, Australian travellers can now start their Greek getaway in record time. Trade the Australian winter for a gorgeous Greek summer between June and August; or visit during May or September to ‘live like a local’ and avoid the crowds.

2. Food, glorious (Greek) food

Food is a serious business at the Myconian Collection Hotels & Resorts. Blending the skills of internationally trained executive chefs with fresh ingredients sourced exclusively for the hotels through time-honoured ties with farmers and fishermen nurtured by the hotel group’s founding family, the Daktylides.

The farm-to-table philosophy is alive and well in Mykonos. The Myconian Collection chefs are committed to encouraging guests to experience authentic Mykonos through its cuisine, including lamb and pork hand-reared on Daktylides family land, locally-grown herbs and vegetables, and the island’s best octopus, caught just for the Myconian Collection by one of the islands most iconic fisherman.

There are more than a dozen distinctive restaurants across the Myconian Collection portfolio of boutique hotels, many boasting spectacular ocean views. Must-visit restaurants for your 2020 bucket list include: Cabbanes at the Myconian Villa Collection; Panorama at Myconian Avaton, and Pavilion - Relais & Chateaux at the Myconian Utopia.

3. Explore ancient history

Offering a fascinating contrast to Mykonos’ cosmopolitan vibe, the nearby island of Delos - feted as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis - was once at the heart of ancient Greek life as a hub for religious pilgrims, trade and multiculturalism.

These days, Delos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to intriguing ruins which are a must-see when staying on Mykonos. Myconian Collection guests can join a day trip to Delos aboard a private yacht to explore the island’s statues, preserved houses and temples – all with the expert insights of an experienced tour guide.

4. Experience laidback luxury

Mykonos has become a magnet for cosmopolitan travellers who flock to enjoy the island’s unique brand of laidback luxury. Having evolved from its ‘party-island’ past, today Mykonos attracts couples, families and groups of friends attracted by the island’s blissful beaches, crystal clear waters, stunning sunsets, unique Greek hospitality, delectable dining and new breed of boutique hotel accommodation – such as the gorgeous guest-house style villas at the Myconian Villa Collection.

5. Hit the beach

From a privileged position above Elia Beach on the southern coastline of world-famous Mykonos reside five Myconian Collection properties: Myconian Utopia Resort Relais & Châteaux; Myconian Avaton Resort a member of Design Hotels; Myconian Villa Collection, Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Legend Collection; Myconian Imperial Resort and Royal Myconian Resort, both eminent members of the Leading Hotels of the World.

Guests can enjoy access to a pristine, private stretch of beach complete with bar service for snacks and creative cocktails - all served to your sunbed.

6. Join the jet-set

South of Elia Beach, live like the rich and famous on Mykonos’ stunning south coast, home to a chic, cosmopolitan crowd, luxury yachts galore, fabulous five-star dining and perfect people watching on the famous beaches of Psarou and Scorpios. Stay at the Myconian Ambassador Relais & Châteaux for panoramic views and easy access to Mykonos’ best-known beaches.

7. Get lost in the laneways of Mykonos Town

The labyrinth-like cobbled streets of Mykonos Town are made for getting lost. Designed to be chaotic in order to confuse pillaging pirates, it’s easy to lose a day or two meandering through boutiques, discovering tiny churches, lingering at local cafes, dining at traditional tavernas, exploring Little Venice, and watching the fishing boats come and go at Alefkandra harbour.

Boutique hotels for those who like to be closer to the action include: Myconian Kyma, a member of Design Hotels; Myconian Naia Luxury Suites, Preferred Hotels & Resorts, LXV Collection and the Myconian Korali Relais & Châteaux.

8. Genuine Greek hospitality

Authentic Greek hospitality is at the heart of the Myconian Collection, where guests are often personally welcomed by members of the founding Daktylides family in a tradition which began with the family’s first hotel back in 1979. Staff at the Myconian Collection’s nine boutique properties provide warm, discreet, attentive service and take the time to discover your preferences and personal experiences.

9. Sensational sunsets

It’s little wonder guests flock to the water’s edge to experience Mykonos’ stunning sunsets, and the Myconian Avaton enjoys a prime position. The hotel’s two-tier infinity pool lights up when the sun goes down, creating an alluring ambience for sharing post-sunset cocktails and canapes in serious style.

10. Serious specials – save now on 2020 stays

Book your Mykonos getaway to stay between May and October 2020 to enjoy a complimentary buffet breakfast, one complimentary Thalassotherapy spa treatment per person per stay, complimentary shared transfers and FREE Wi-Fi.

For more information, please visit: www.myconiancollection.com

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Where to travel 2020 - top 12 destinations revealed

G Adventures announces next year’s hottest destinations for adventure travel
From fascinating, emerging destinations and countries on the rebound, through to places where global events are making it more exciting to visit, the experts at G Adventures have analyzed their data and coupled it with travel trends to forecast the 12 hottest spots to visit in 2020.  

Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, says that as well as highlighting lesser known gems, this year's list includes a number of destinations where tourism can truly be a force for good for local people in the communities travellers visit. 

“In a world that's becoming increasingly divided, travel can be a vehicle and force for good to unite us as a global community. As pioneers of community tourism, our mission is to change people's lives through travel, going beyond the lives of our travellers to the locals we visit, particularly people who are marginalized. When we return from a transformative travel experience, we can then bring back what we learnt to make a difference in our own communities. That’s what we call the ripple effect,” says Poon Tip. 

G Adventures’ top 12 destinations for 2020 are as follows: 

  1. NEPAL - Travellers experiencing a mindful trip in the peaceful home of Buddha next year will find it hard to recall that 2020 marks five years since the April 2015 earthquake hit. The country has been busy rebuilding and is now encouraging tourism to return with the launch of its ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ campaign, which aims to attract two million visitors in the calendar year. G Adventures has experienced a 90% increase in travellers since 2017, and is offering a new Wellness Nepal tour which immerses travellers in local culture while they enjoy a blissful introduction to the place and its people. Priced from AUD$3,999pp* for a 13-day trip from Kathmandu return. 

  1. GEORGIA - It’s safe to say Georgian food and wine are both having a moment with the media spotlight highlighting delicacies such as khinkali (soup dumplings) and the country’s traditional winemaking process. G Adventures has witnessed a 44% increase in travellers over the past three years, and Georgia’s profile as an international tourism destination will continue to build with the UNWTO selecting the country to host its June 2020 board meeting. New budget flight routes through Europe will also help open up this emerging destination. An eight-day Best of Georgia & Armenia trip is priced from AUD$2,049pp, travelling from Yerevan, Armenia to Tbilisi, Georgia.   

  1. MADAGASCAR - This gem off the coast of southern Africa has continued to attract adventurous travellers with a 33% increase for G Adventures in the past three years. This has led the company to expand into Northern Madagascar for 2020, where travellers can spend time on Nosy Be, known as ‘lemur island’. There’s also a new Planeterra community tourism project - G Adventures non-profit partner - launching, which aids reforestation of the habitat around Ranohira for native species, such as the endangered lemurs. Pope Francis visited Madagascar this year where he expressed support for the creation of new jobs aimed at securing the country's rich biodiversity. An eight-day Northern Madagascar Explorer trip is priced from AUD$1,849pp travelling from Antsiranana to Nosy Be. 

  1. SRI LANKA - After a meteoric rise to become 2019's hottest travel destination with its kind people, rich culture and stunning shoreline, Sri Lanka’s tourism was heavily impacted following the Easter attacks last April. According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, arrivals fell 71% in May; the lowest number since the civil war ended a decade ago.  With all foreign advisories lifted, now is the perfect time for travellers to return to experience all Sri Lanka has to offer and to support this return, the government is offering a free online visa for travellers from 48 countries. A 14-day Sri Lanka Encompassed trip is priced from AUD$2,659pp travelling from Colombo to Mirissa.  

  1. IRELAND - 2020 is a leap year, so where better to visit than the country with its own leap-year tradition of reversing the traditional engagement proposal to having women asking for a hand in marriage! Additionally, Galway has been named as a European Capital of Culture for 2020, and G Adventures has a new National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures Iconic Ireland trip for those wanting to join the craic. Priced from AUD$3,799pp for a nine-day trip from Dublin return.  

  1. NICARAGUA - With its beautiful beaches, world-class surf and stunning classic colonial architecture, Nicaragua is back on its feet and ready to welcome tourists following a period of unrest, making this the perfect time to visit. G Adventures returns in November, just in time for the dry season which begins in December   . The Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism reports that during 2018 tourist numbers dropped 28% but now calm has returned the friendly locals are hopeful the tourists will follow. A 32-day 18-to-Thirtysomethings Central American Journey is priced from AUD$3,629pp travelling from Playa del Carmen, Mexico, to San Jose, Costa Rica. 

  1. BRAZIL - With a 10% increase in G Adventures travellers in the past year, the first increase in the past few years, Brazil appears to be firmly back on traveller’s hotlists. Rio de Janeiro has been named the World Capital of Architecture for 2020 by UNESCO, and G Adventures has a new National Geographic Journeys Explore Brazil trip launching next year. Priced from AUD$3,999pp for a nine-day trip from Rio de Janeiro return. 

  1. SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES - travellers looking for an instagrammable Caribbean holiday, with few tourists to photobomb their pictures, need look no further. G Adventures’ new sailing trip cruising the untouched islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is just the ticket. travellers will sail from hidden coves to secluded beaches in a comfortable catamaran, with time to snorkel some of the Caribbean's best sites and indulge in tasty local Creole cuisine. Priced from AUD$2,499pp for an eight-day Sailing Saint Lucia & The Grenadines trip from Rodney Bay return. 

  1. LAOS - Often overlooked on a Southeast Asia adventure, travellers on this G Adventures trip will arrive into the calmness of this small but perfectly formed country by boat, sailing the Mekong into the heart and soul of Laos. According to the Ministry of Tourism, traveller numbers to Laos for the first half of 2019 have increased five percent compared to the same time last year, and to encourage more tourism, as of June 2019 all international visitors to Laos are eligible to apply online for a single entry visa for a maximum stay of 30 days. A Classic Thailand and Laos Adventure is priced from AUD$1,969pp for a 14-day trip from Bangkok to Hanoi. 

  1. JAPAN - Appearing for a second year, Japan is on roll. Hot on the heels of hosting the Rugby World Cup this year and an iconic visit from the Fab Five, 2020 has them keeping busy hosting the Summer Olympics. G Adventures travellers to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ have been steadily increasing with an additional 23% growth in the past year.  With the launch of its new National Geographic Family Journeys programme, G Adventures is extending experiences to include children aged seven and up. A Japan Family Journey tour is priced from AUD$6,799 per adult and $6,519 per child for an 11-day trip from Tokyo return. 

  1. SOUTH AFRICA - It’ll be 30 years next year since Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and G Adventures has been experiencing double-digit growth in South Africa for the past few years. Their recent 2019 Rugby World Cup win is sure to bring fresh tourism interest as well.  As a result of increased footfall, and the opportunity to change more lives through travel, a new Planeterra project has been launched to help educate travellers about the Indigenous San culture. G Adventures is also launching a new National Geographic Family Journeys trip, the Southern Africa Family Journey, priced from AUD$5,299 per adult and $5,019 per child for an 11-day trip from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. 

  1. GREENLAND - Greenland hit the headlines earlier this year with search results doubling after President Trump claimed he wanted to buy it. See what attracted him to this pristine piece of the world aboard the G Expedition ship, as it traverses Greenland’s coast. A 15-day Arctic Highlights voyage from Longyearbyen to Reykjavík is priced from AUD$9,299pp. 

For more information or to book, head to your nearest travel agent or visit  www.gadventures.com.au.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Five Magnificent Ways to See the Northern Lights in Canada

The greatest light-show on earth, the aurora borealis, is taking centre stage in Canada as the winter months provide a perfect dark-sky canvas for their spell-binding display.  
This enchanting natural phenomenon, best witnessed between October and March, can be viewed from Canada's northern destinations, where cosy wilderness lodges provide the perfect setting for this magical performance. Or, for something a little different, consider these five unique ways to weave aurora viewing into an incredible winter wonderland experience.
  1. Fat biking under an aurora sky
Combine two of the most exhilarating experiences imaginable: pedal through snow and ice on bikes designed for the conditions. As you careen through the Narnia-like forest, pause for a break, and turn your eyes skyward to take in the splendour of the northern lights dancing and shimmering overhead. Catch this latest winter craze in two of Canada's best aurora viewing points, Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories.  Boreale Lodge in Yukon and Borealis Bike Tours in the Northwest Territories offer unforgettable fat biking experiences.
  1. See the northern lights – from the inside!
The only experience of its kind in North America, winter visitors to Yukon Territory may now view the northern lights from 36,000 feet in the air, taking off from Whitehorse with Aurora 360 from 23 – 27 January 2020. Once airborne, the pilot will follow a custom flight path, determined by a team of scientists to optimise aurora viewing potential. The full Aurora 360 package includes outstanding cuisine, an evening of Yukon First Nations stories and dance, scientific presentations and a special 'nature day' showcasing Yukon's unique land, water and sky. With only 70 seats available, Aurora 360 comes with serious bragging rights!
  1. A spiritual experience
Many cultural groups hold their own spiritual beliefs about the aurora borealis, involving everything from dragons to dancing souls. Some Inuit believe that the lights are the souls of the departed on their way to the afterlife, while others believe they are the souls of unborn children. Immerse yourself in Indigenous culture as you witness the rippling, whirling spectacle
at the Aurora Village in the Northwest Territories. You'll gain a deep understanding of Indigenous heritage as you feast on home-made soup, bannock, and delicious desserts, before relaxing in a traditional tee-pee to await the magical light show. 
  1. Step back in time
Get off the grid in one of Yukon's remote wilderness lodges, where you can combine crystal-clear aurora viewing with a spot of ice-fishing or snowmobiling. Want more? Step back in time in a prospector-style wall tent, formerly used by gold seekers and trappers, just 20 minutes outside the capital city of Whitehorse. Marvel at the ribbons of colour blazing overhead in the night sky, then warm up inside over a wood-fired barrel stove, a mug of hot chocolate, and home-made maple syrup taffy. 
  1. Understand the science behind the wonder
Nature's most spectacular phenomenon can be viewed 300 days per year in Churchill, due to its position directly under the aurora oval in Canada's central province of Manitoba. At the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC), take advantage of the 360-degree glass aurora dome and observation deck that offer ideal vantage points to marvel at the glowing streams of light as they cascade across the pitch-black sky like shimmering Christmas garlands. By day, participate in the Winter Skies: Aurora & Astronomy in Churchill program and learn all about this atmospheric wonder during expert-led presentations at this active research facility.
Air Canada offers direct flights to Vancouver from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, with connecting flights to the eastern provinces and northern territories.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Traditional safari experience in Tanzania’s Serengeti

African safaris are usually top of most people’s bucket list when it comes to wildlife viewing. And it’s no wonder when you consider the richness of this type of travel experience. However, travellers often struggle to decide on which type of safari to go on and where, with so many destinations and different options available.

Well, for those seeking a truly traditional, safari experience that pays tribute to the classic safari of old, Sanctuary Kichakani Serengeti Camp in Tanzania provides the perfect solution.

One of the newest properties is the Camp rotates between set locations across the Serengeti, offering guests an unrivalled, front-row experience of the movement of a million-plus wildebeest and zebra as they follow the fresh grasses across the Serengeti plains during the annual migration season.

Kichakani is a Swahili word meaning ‘in the bush’ and the Camp features ten luxury tents, which are packed up and moved along in a style evocative of the pioneering explorers of the 19th century, yet with all modern comforts.

An elegant and contemporary take on the classic camp style, five-star tents offer distinct and stylish accommodation under canvas. Handcrafted luggage, easy chairs and characterful cabinets and desks, have all been designed to be perfectly portable. Each tent has a personal attendant and a private wooden deck on which to enjoy a just-brewed cup of Tanzania’s finest coffee, while en suite bathrooms feature authentic bucket showers. And for more energetic guests, gym and yoga kits are provided for workouts in the natural and peaceful surroundings.

A central canopied main tent with lounge and dining areas also opens up completely on all sides offering incredible views out over the surrounding landscape. Here, the Chef and his team are skilled in preparing a range of international flavours, which can be enjoyed alongside kachumbari (traditional Tanzanian salsa), coconut beans, paprika, cinnamon and chilli from nearby Zanzibar. Evenings are spent gathered by the traditional fire pit exchanging stories under starry skies and listening to fascinating tales of wildlife encounters from the passionate guides.

Importantly, the sand-coloured canvas-constructed camp has also been designed to leave as little impact as possible on the environment, casting a lighter ecological shadow.

The Camp’s two set locations throughout the year are based on the migration path offering wildlife viewing from open plains, sweeping grasslands and rocky kopjes. The stars of this seasonal path are wildebeest, zebra, Thomson’s gazelles, and the predators that this migratory journey attracts. The Serengeti is known for having the Big Five; cheetahs are a highlight, along with wild dog, giraffe, waterbuck and impala.

Sanctuary Kichakani Serengeti Camp is located in the Southern Serengeti 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Fabulous new travel books in time for Christmas

by Laura Waters

What would move you to ditch your life and take off into the wild for six months? For Melbourne woman Laura Waters, it took the implosion of a toxic relationship and a crippling bout of anxiety. Armed with a compass, a paper map and as much food as she could carry, she set out to walk the untamed landscapes of New Zealand’s Te Araroa track, 3000 kilometres of raw, wild, mountainous trail winding from the top of the North Island to the frosty tip of the South Island.

But when her walking partner dropped out on the first day, she was faced with a choice: abandon the journey and retreat to the safety of home, or throw caution to the wind and continue on – alone. She chose to walk on.

For six months, she battled not only treacherous mountain ridges and river crossings, but also the demons of self-doubt and anxiety, and the shadow of an emotionally abusive relationship. At the end of Te Araroa (‘the long pathway’, as it is translated from Maori) it was the hard-earned insights into mental health, emotional wellbeing and fulfilling relationships – with others as well as with herself – that were Laura’s greatest accomplishments. She emerged ‘rewilded’, and it transformed her life.

The Definitive Bucket List
by Lee Atkinson

Spending the kids’ inheritance. Growing old disgracefully. Life begins at 50. You see these catchy phrases on bumper stickers, tea towels and even t-shirts, but all jokes aside, there is one thing we all know – no matter how old our driver’s license says we are, we all feel much younger at heart. And travel goes a long way in keeping you young. Inside this book you’ll find hundreds of holiday ideas across Australia and New Zealand, from luxury escapes to walking holidays, bike rides, train journeys, golfing trips, garden tours and unforgettable wildlife encounters. If you have time on your hands, if you have retired – or cut back on the working hours – and the kids are old enough to look after themselves (even if they haven’t yet left home), it’s the perfect time to travel, particularly while you’re still fit and active enough to enjoy it. After all, you’ve earned it.

Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2020

Each year, Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel lists start with nominations from Lonely Planet’s vast community of staff, writers, bloggers, publishing partners and more. The nominations are then whittled down by our panel of travel experts, who shortlist in line with criteria such its topicality, unique experiences and ‘wow’ factor.

Best in Travel 2020 is Lonely Planet’s 15th annual collection of the world’s hottest destinations and journeys for the year ahead. The best-selling, inspirational travel yearbook highlights the top 10 countries, cities, regions, and best-value destinations that Lonely Planet's experts recommend for 2020. This edition places particular emphasis on sustainable travel experiences— ensuring travellers will have a positive impact wherever they choose to go.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Discover historic Philippines

Tourism in the Philippines is currently booming, with more and more travellers seeking to discover its abundance of tropical islands, white sandy beaches and natural beauty. However, with more than 7,000 islands to discover, The Philippine Department of Tourism is reminding travellers to take time to explore the rich history of the Philippines, one which can be dated back for centuries.

Ms Norjamin Delos Reyes, Tourism Attaché at Philippine Department of Tourism Australia and New Zealand said,

“First colonised by the Spaniards for 333 years, the Philippines has a rich culture and a history which is long and varied.  Today, the Philippines has become a melting pot of various cultures and its historic landmarks have played a major part in the country’s booming tourism industry. Our history is something which almost everyone will find interesting and we want to encourage travellers to enjoy learning more about our past. Here are five historic spots for tourists to consider when visiting the Philippines.”

Rizal Park, Manila

Manila’s iconic central park consists of around 60 hectares of open lawns, ornamental gardens, ponds, paved walks and wooded areas, all dotted with monuments. From the historic Rizal Monument to the Central Lagoon, lined with busts of Filipino heroes and complete with a dancing musical fountain, the park is a fantastic place to take a stroll whatever time of the day. An open-air auditorium also plays host to a Filipino rock concert every Saturday, and a Classical concert every Sunday night.

Calle Crisologo, Vigan City

Calle Crisologo is a notable tourist attraction in the heritage city of Vigan, famous for its array of old stone houses and cobblestone streets, and a place where numerous calesas await. Visiting this old town will transport travellers back to the Filipino-Spanish colonial era with its abundance of Spanish-style houses which are a perfect representation of the simple yet elegant living of the Filipino-Spanish families from centuries ago.

The Ruins, Bacolod City

The Ruins is an ancestral mansion situated in Talisay, just outside of Bacolod City and is one of the key highlights of the city.  The grounds surrounding The Ruins are beautifully decorated with lanes, gardens and arches making it a popular venue for weddings and also making it one of the most famous and photographed destinations in the area. Touring The Ruins includes a look back through the rich and colourful history through the well renowned humorous tour guides.

Fort San Pedro, Cebu City

The Fort San Pedro is a military defence structure in Cebu built by the Spaniards under the command of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the first governor of Captaincy General of the Philippines.  The fort is now a historical park, open daily from 7.00am – 7.00pm and is also home to a museum that displays legacies of the Spanish government and well-preserved Spanish artefacts like documents, paintings, and sculptures.

Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila

A 16th-century citadel, Fort Santiago is a national landmark and a shrine to the hard-won freedom of the Philippines. The citadel was first built by Spanish navigator and governor Miguel López de Legazpi for the new established city of Manila in the Philippines. Along with a fascinating museum, within the fort grounds is an oasis of lovely manicured gardens, plazas and fountains leading to an arched gate and an idyllic lily pond.

For more information, visit Tourism Philippines at https://www.tourismphilippines.com.au/.  Follow Tourism Philippines on Facebook and Instagram.  #itsmorefuninthePhilippines #Philippines

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

India’s Lesser Known Destinations

Most people who travel to India often head to familiar destinations - ‘must visit’ places such as Delhi, Agra and Goa, but sometimes it’s the lesser-known destinations that offer a far greater cultural and less touristy experience.
So here are five places with names that are unfamiliar, but worthy of consideration on your next trip to the Indian Sub-Continent.

1 - Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh:

The cradle of a unique tribal group and with a balmy climate, Ziro is the peace seeker's paradise. Lying 115km from Itanagar, the capital city of Arunachal Pradesh, is a beautiful plateau and the headquarters of Lower Subansiri District. It is one of the oldest towns in Arunachal Pradesh, home to the Apa Tani tribe and famous for a valley full of verdant rice fields and the surrounding hills covered in bamboo and pine forests.

Named a World Heritage Site for its stunning natural beauty, Ziro Valley is headquartered in the Lower Subansiri District. This beautiful hill station is located on the Apatani Plateau, as Ziro is popularly known, at an altitude of 1,500m above sea level. The Apatanis, one of the major ethnic groups of the eastern Himalayas, have a distinct civilisation with systematic land use practices and rich traditional ecological knowledge of natural resources management, and conservation, acquired over the centuries through informal experimentation.

An imposing landscape of beautifully lush green forests, rivulets and elevated patches, famous for terraced paddy-fields-cum-pisciculture cultivation. This is how local people practice the unique system of poly-culture and water management in a valley used for wet-rice cultivation where fish are also reared. This is further supplemented with millet reared on elevated partition bunds between the rice plots. The systematic land-use pattern ensures a high level of biodiversity in the area and efficient conservation of crucial watersheds ensuring perennial streams flowing into the valley to meet the needs of the people. The agro-ecosystems are nourished by nutrient washout from the surrounding hill slopes.

The tribe is known for their colourful culture with various festivals, intricate handloom designs, skills in cane and bamboo crafts and vibrant traditional village councils called bulyañ. This has made Ziro Valley a great example of a living, cultural landscape where man and environment have harmoniously existed together in a state of interdependence even through changing times, such co-existence being nurtured by the traditional customs and spiritual belief systems.

The temperate climate during the summer makes it a favoured destination for a vacation. Ziro is relatively pleasant

throughout the year. However, September is the month to travel if you wish to attend the Ziro Music Festival, known as one of the best outdoor music festivals in India – the all day and all night festival runs for four consecutive days.

The local attractions around Ziro are the Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Hapoli, which is the centre of all the town's activities, Ziro Puto and Dolo Mando hillocks, and the Meghna Cave Temple. The Siddheshwarnath Temple, houses a natural shivalinga that was discovered only a decade ago.

Where to stay: the town has stretches of lush green grasslands everywhere, especially in the the Ziro Puto hillock. You may camp on these grasslands and just revel in its idyllic nature. You can either opt to camp through the official Ziro campsite or bring your own tent. There are local camping services available, which offer tents of different sizes and various other facilities.

What to eat: Bamboo chicken is a local dish that must be tried, along with their speciality rice beer.
2 - Theni, Tamil Nadu:

The natural beauty and cultural richness of Theni have prompted the moniker, ‘Earth’s Hidden Paradise’. The Theni district broke away from Madurai in 1996 and established the district headquarters in the town of Theni. It is one of the most verdant and beautiful parts of the state where rivers and creeks crisscross the district to facilitate rice, cotton and tea production.

The word ‘Theni’ is derived from the Tamil ‘Then’ meaning honey or nectar. It is a bustling centre for cotton trade and is a region full of significant religious shrines and small but beautiful temple.. Dedicated to the Goddess Ambica, Sri Gowmariamman Temple hosts a number of important festivals. The goddess is said to cure her devotees of measles and chickenpox. Sri Saneeswara Baghwan Temple, dedicated to Saturn, is also an important pilgrimage destination. Sri Arulmigu Balasubramanya Temple – Kartikeya is one of the important deities worshipped in South India. This temple, dedicated to the God in his child form, hosts a number of important festivals as well.

April is the month for festivals. The Chithirai Thiruvizha festival of Sri Gowmariamman Temple is a grand 8-day celebration held in May. Womenfolk wear yellow and red and cook sweet pongal (a rice/lentil dish) in earthen pots on open flames. Devotees go around the temple holding a fire pot as part of their obeisance. The Karagam dance and ritual ‘Kavadi’ lifting add to the fervency. The bullock cart races held during the Pongal days are a spectacular event. Like the rest of Tamil Nadu, Aadi Perkuku is a month-long celebration that showcases the best of family bonding and religious devotion in Theni. Tamil New Year (mid-April) is also a day for many cultural programmes and temple festivities.

Theni is great to visit any time of the year. The summers are not as hot as the rest of the state, thanks to the presence of abundant greenery and many rivers. Winters, however, are the best time to visit this part of Tamil Nadu. Winter monsoons ensure that the temperatures are mild and the waterfalls overflowing. Summer monsoons make the town humid and do not have quite the same effect. The Tamil months of Thai, Chithirai and Aadi are best for tourists wanting to visit the region to participate in the grand temple festivals held here.
3 - Patan, Gujarat:

Rani Ka Vav, the latest Indian entrant to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites is situated in Patan, making this destination one of the newest tourist hubs in India. Vanraj Chavda, the first of the Chavda dynasty, founded the ancient city of Anahilvada Patan.

This fortified, walled city was the capital of Gujarat for 650 years, from 746-1411, after the centre of power moved from Saurashtra around the same time that the separate kingdoms of the area were integrated into roughly what we today call Gujarat. It was ruled by a series of dynasties, and shone as a centre of trade, learning, and architectural achievements. It was also a thriving centre for Jainism, and the Solanki rulers commissioned a large number of Hindu and Jain temples, as well as other civic and religious constructions.

During the Vaghela rule towards the end of the 13th century, Ulugh Khan plundered the town and destroyed it completely. In 1411 the capital shifted to the newly founded Ahmedabad, leaving Patan just a shadow of its former glory. One of the positive effects of Muslim rule in Patan is the presence of some of the earliest Muslim buildings in Gujarat, built before the earliest constructions in Ahmedabad.

The ruins of the ancient city, with the famous Rani Ki Vav and Sahasralinga Talav, stand about 2km northwest of present-day Patan. In the bustling bazaar of this charismatic town, tucked away among the havelis (mansions) in the narrow pols (lanes) you will probably stumble upon rope or bidi (traditional cigarette) makers, working on their doorsteps. It is worth searching out the unique patola and mashru weavers, the snow-white Jain temples, as well as the Hemachandracharya Jain Gnan library of ancient Hindu and Jain texts.

Headi northwest outside the city walls to Anahilvada Patan, the ancient city that served as Gujarat’s capital for 650 years. Here you’ll find the 1,000-year-old Kali temple from where Kali Mata, the kuldevi (family goddess) of the Solanki dynasty, guards the town. Further north, you find the Sahasralinga Talav, literally ‘lake of a thousand lingas’ (symbols), which is finely constructed to channel water in from nearby Saraswati. On the edge of Rani Ki Vav, known as the ‘Queen’s stepwell’, you can descend into the cool air. Towards the water, the carved stone gods and consorts invite you into their world, the world of spirit and the sacred.
Getting there: Intercity buses from Ahmedabad to Patan take 3.5 hours, and 1 hour from Mehsana. Shared jeeps are slightly quicker but less comfortable. The train can take you as far as Mehsana, from where you'll need to catch a bus to Patan. The nearest airport is Ahmedabad.
4 - Hemis National Park, Jammu and Kashmir:

Hemis National Park is truly a beautiful place, located in the eastern Ladakh region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is considered the best place to see the snow leopard in the wild. The park has the distinction of being the largest national park in Southern Asia and derives its name from the Hemis Gompa, the largest and wealthiest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, just outside the northern boundary of Shang.

The park also has the distinction of being amongst the largest contiguously protected regions, second only to Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Six villages exist within the confines of the park. Rumbak, Kaya, Sku, Shingo, Urutse and Chilling are home to about 1,600 people, mostly pastoralists raising poultry, goats and sheep within the park.The villages are located on or adjacent to valley floors rising up to about 4,000k. The locals are mostly Buddhists although there is a monastery at Markha Village.

Established as a national park in 1987, the total area of the park is about 4,400sqkm and is known for its unique biodiversity. It is the protected home of endangered mammals such as leopards, Asiatic ibex, Tibetan wolves, Eurasian brown bears and red foxes. It is also home to small mammals like Himalayan marmots, mountain weasels and Himalayan mouse hares.

Lofty mountains and alpine forests of juniper and subalpine dry birch make it a treat for the eyes. The Stok Kangri peak is situated within the park. The confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers acts as the park’s boundary and includes the catchments of Markha, Sumdah, Rumbak and parts of the Zanskar Range. Camping and trekking are popular activities that can be enjoyed in the park.

The area is strictly reserved for the betterment of wildlife and biodiversity, and where activities like developmental, forestry, poaching, hunting and grazing on cultivation are not permitted.

The best time of the year to visit is between May and Mid-October. The nearest airport is Leh airport and is about 10km from the Hemis National Park. The nearest train line is at Jammu Tavi railway station, about 21km away. There is a daily bus service from Leh to Hemis as well as taxis. No hotels are available in or near Hemis National Park. Trekkers mainly visit the park, but the Hemis Monastery also provides accommodation to visitors. Nearby Leh also offers many resorts and hotels to suit your budget.
5 - Auli, Uttarakhand: 

Auli is one of the less-explored hill stations in India and a fairly new entrant on the tourist map. The resort is located in the Chamoli district in the Himalayan Mountains of Uttarakhand, a place that dates back to the 8th Century AD but is nowadays known as ‘The Skiing Destination of India’.

Located at 2,800m above sea level, Auli has numerous resorts where the slopes offer a panoramic view of many famous Himalayan peaks like Nanda Devi, Kamet, Mana Parvat, Kamat Kam and Dunagiri.

There is a natural beauty about the Auli region, dotted with apple orchards, old oaks, pine trees and deodars (Himalayan cedar trees). There are numerous treks in the hills of Garhwal Himalayas and spellbinding views of the snow-draped mountains. Many religious destinations are also scattered around Auli.

Skiers are naturally provided with pristine stretches of between 10 to 20km of snow-covered mountain slopes. There is also a descent of 500m from a ridge over a stretch of 3km. The forests on the slopes also seem to help the skiers by reducing the wind velocity.

In the months of February and March, Auli often hosts the National Winter Games.

In the evenings, activity shifts from the slopes to the bukhari-warmed huts and resorts (bukhari: a quaint, wood burning stove), listening to folklore and revelling in the local music of Garhwal in the oil-lamp-lit rooms or besides bonfires.

When to visit: Auli offers a perfect mix of adventure, entertainment and it becomes a skier’s paradise during the winter season. The period from late November to late March is generally considered ideal for skiers.

Getting there: the nearest airport is Dehradun, about 298km away and the nearest railhead is Rishikesh, about 235km away. Regular road services are available from Delhi, Dehradun, Rishikesh and Hardwar to Joshimath, 16km away. From Joshimath you can also hire jeeps to Auli.


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