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Is Leh on your bucket list? It should be.

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When people think of the Himalayas they don’t often think of India. However if mountains are your thing the Ladakh region in the Indian Himalayas is well worth exploring!

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Flying in to the town of Leh at 3500m altitude you’ll need a few days to acclimatize before embarking on any serious adventures. This will give you a good chance to wander around town and explore the wonderful street markets, bars and take in the unbelievable views of snow capped mountains.

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Leh Palace, a host of nearby monasteries (definitely recommend a visit to Shey Monastery) and a short but steep trek up to Shanti Stupa are all well worth checking out..

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In the main street you’ll find loads of tour operators to book a trip into the mountains. An overnight trek out to nearby Rumbak Village where a local family will likely take you in for a milk tea is an awesome experience!

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Or for the more adventurous head higher into the mountains in search of the elusive snow leopards. White water rafting and mountain biking are also very popular and easy to find a tour operator to accommodate.

So if considering a trip to the Himalaya’s don’t leave Leh off your list. It’s a magical part of Northern India.

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Explore Rio (part 2) – Other Top Sites.

Whilst Sugarloaf Mountain may be my favourite experience in Rio, there’s still plenty of other places to explore. I can remember the moment I fell in love with Rio de Janeiro. Or more clearly, the moment leading up to it. Where everything fell into place, and I just knew.

Here’s three other spots well worth your time. 

Christ the Redeemer (or Cristo Redentor)

Another iconic of Rio, Cristo Redentor is worth the trip. As it can be crowded, it’s well worth the effort to get to the station a bit early so you have your pick of the seats. It will be tempting and natural to want to take the seats on the left, as they face up. However, sit on the right-hand side of the train. The left side has a lot of foliage, whilst the right side gives you a spectacular view of the city. 

Personally, I didn’t feel any type of personal enlightenment or fulfilment that others feel, however it was still great to see. We took a few classic photos, such as the arms outstretched. For me, the view of the city was worth the price of admission. We could see all of Rio, including the Bay, beaches and lakes.

Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas

This lake is a massive lagoon and has it all, allowing you to choose from a range of different activities. Go for a run, cycle around the lagoon another day, go for a row on the water. The walk affords many views, including of sugarloaf mountain (I know, I like it). I spent 10 days in Rio, and time at the lagoon was a daily activity. Some days I was able to cycling around the lake, other times it was good for a light stroll at sunset, a way to unpack and unwind after a day of exploring. 

Mosteiro de Sao Bento

The entrance is hidden away in a side street, so it may take a while to find. Take the elevator to the entrance above. What’s unique about this monastery, and the reason you should visit, is the interior. The entire interior is decorated in gold. For me, there was definitely a feeling of awe that something like this would be constructed, including the intricacies of the carvings. 

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Taking a Step Back in Time

Ever wondered what it feels like to take a step back in time? 

Of course, your adventurous heart has. 

While obviously not possible, there is a place that exists that seems to be untouched by the hands of time. Located in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo, lies a couple of alleyways brimming with life.

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The official name for these alleys is Omoide Yokocho or Yakitori Alley. It also goes by the name of Memory Lane due to it practically being left untouched in the bustling city. With a few yen spare, one can grab some yakitori from one of the many vendors that inhabit the alleys, or you can grab some sake to quench your thirst, which also brings us to another name it is called.

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Memory Lane is also known as “Piss Alley” due to it being a hotspot for workers to grab an after-work drink. Sometimes they will get a little more than they bargained for and will pass out somewhere around the alley, but don’t mind them, they are just unwinding after a hard day’s work.

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The atmosphere of Memory Lane is unreal and is a treat for all your senses. The smell of the yakitori being cooked is incredibly pleasant and seeing the smoke rise up through the alley makes you feel like you are in a Studio Ghibli film.

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I highly recommend anyone travelling to Tokyo to check Omoide Yokocho out and explore the bustling alleys as it truly does feel like stepping back in time 

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Exploring Rotorua: My Top Tips.

You could be mistaken for thinking a trip to New Zealand consists of mostly seeing rolling green hills, rugged coastlines, and sheep! However, there is a world of adrenaline-fuelled things to do which isn’t just walking and sight-seeing, or following in the footsteps of Gandalf and his Hobbit friends. 

Recently, I travelled to New Zealand to explore Rotorua, located in the North Island – a three-hour leisurely drive from Auckland International airport. You could easily spend a week, even longer, and still not run out of fun things to do. Forget Queenstown, Rotorua truly is the home of adventure tourism. Of course, it’s not always go-go-go! There are plenty of things for those of you who like to keep two feet firmly planted on terra firma.

If you only have a day or two, there’s no way you will manage to squeeze in all the fun things to do and see, so here are my top picks of things that shouldn’t be missed (in no particular order)

For the less adventurous

Rail Cruising
19 minutes from the heart of Rotorua’s CBD is one tourist activity that you can do, even if it’s raining (and it rains in New Zealand, a lot!) RailCruising allows up to four people to self-drive, 4-seater railway vehicles across some of the most spectacular country. On a clear day, you can see as far away as Mt Tawera. The entire trip takes you approximately an hour and a half along a 19-kilometre track. It’s great fun and suitable for all ages. At $76 for adults, it’s on the pricy side but it’s well worth it.

Kerosene Creek
This is one of natures’ wonders that you won’t want to miss and best of all, it’s free. It’s a lovely spot to take a dip off the beaten path. It was once a hidden gem that only locals used to know about but with the invention of social media and TripAdvisor, it seems to be quite the place to visit. The water is lovely and warm, although due to bacteria levels, it’s highly advised not to avoid putting your head under the water! It has a slightly pungent smell to it, thus the name Kerosene Creek, but it’s such a unique experience. Just head south on Waiotapu Road 35 kilometers south of Rotorua.

Whakarewarewa Forest

More than 5600 hectares of forest awaits you to enjoy and explore at your leisure. There are some fantastic tracks to explore by foot, mountain bike or horse. Take a treewalk across the tops of giant redwoods, try your hand at orienteering or explore tramping tracks that have spectacular vistas. There’s the national downhill for experienced and advanced mountainbikers, but for me, I just enjoyed the breathing in the smell of nature and being dwarfed by the giant redwoods. Entry is free and there’s a gift shop for visitors who want to take home souvenirs. Be sure to make sure you are prepared properly if you are taking on a longer tramping route and let people know where you are planning to go and when you’ll be back. It is a vast area and people do get lost. Stick to the tracks and take a map, you should be fine!

For more information on visiting Whakarewarewa Forest visit the official website.

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@misselishagraeff

Blue and Green Lakes

Almost side by side, these two Rotorua Lakes should be on the must-see. It’s easy to see why they are named by their colours. The Blue Lake gets blustery on a windy day and the water can be quite cold, but it’s crystal clear and is a favourite spot for locals to waterski and jetski. There’s also a relatively easy walking track starting at the North East end of the lake, along the way there are some great views of both lakes at the same time.

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Sarah Crawford Photography. Instagram @sarahcrawfordphotography

Rotorua Government Gardens
An iconic spot to explore, the Government Gardens has historical importance to local Maori people and it was the site of many battles. The Maoris gifted 50 acres of scrub-covered geothermal area with several therapeutic pools to the crown and over the years its has been transformed into a spa bathhouse, garden and Tudor style swimming pool called the Blue Baths.

For the more adventurous

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@misselishagraeff

Skyline Rotorua

There’s so much to do and see here that you could easily spend a whole day. Drink in the picturesque views as you ascend Mt.Ngongotaha in Rotorua’s iconic Skyline Gondolas. Once at the top you are spoilt for activities. Take on the winding tracks on luge carts on through Redwood Forest. If that’s not enough to get your blood pumping, head for the Zoom Ziplines which catapult you through the sky at up to 80kph or dare to face your fears as you are swooped through the sky on the Skyswing. I’m always up for an adventure, so my partner and I tried out the luge, and what I discovered is quite shocking! I’m actually a complete nana when it comes to driving. The tracks are a lot faster and steeper than they look, so with three levels of tracks, I voted to stay on the scenic track, which gives you a license to go at a snail-like pace. We also did the zipline. After an adrenaline-fuelled day, a girl can really work up an appetite, so we stayed for dinner at the award-winning buffet at Stratosfare. They should probably charge you by weight. The dessert section was literally to die for. If you’re ever in Rotorua I highly recommend it.

For more information visit the official website.

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Adventure Playground Rotorua
Book a quad bike tour or take yourself on a self-drive tour in an ATV buggy. This is the eptiome of coolness. After a safety briefing and herbing around in a training paddock, you’re ready to go off-road. Choose from 30 minute or hour-long tours, you can even take turns at driving (conditions apply), but what a buzz ploughing through New Zealand bush.

For more information visit the website

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@misselishagraeff

Velocity Valley

If Skyline Rotorua seems a little too tame and you need something even more over the top, you can’t miss out on Velocity Valley. Try out the only pedal-power monorail racer in the world. The Shweeb Racer is more fun if you have a friend to race. They only go as fast as what your legs can pedal, and it’s hard work. It might sound like a bit more exercise than what you’re up for. Velocity Valley is also where you’ll find FreeFall Xtreme, where you get to experience the thrills of skydiving with winds speeds up to 220kmph, without having to leap out of a plane. Bungy jumping, freestyle airbag (essentially leaping bikes over dirt ramps and landing on an airbag), Agrojet jetboating are also available.

For more information visit the website

Rotorua is a fun destination, but it can get very expensive if you want to do everything. If you’re on a tight budget, I would highly recommend going to Whakarewarewa Forest, that’s free! Visit Skyline Rotorua and do a luge ride (that includes your trip to the top in the Gondolas) and visit the Blue Lake. You could easy spend $200 a day as a couple. Be sure to check out Groupon New Zealand you may be able to save some money.

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Sarah Crawford Photography. Instagram @sarahcrawfordphotography

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50 Must know Travel Tips for Japan.

Thinking about travelling to Japan? Don’t hesitate, it’s a great destination. Full of the absolutely new and the incredibly old. Big cities like Tokyo can be expensive, so make sure you have cash reserves. If you can, search out the traditional and authentic. It helps if you have a local who can speak the language fluently, and is ‘in the know’ as far as customs and taboos go. It’s easy for Westerners to innocently offend or make an embarrassing blunder, simply because they don’t know the local culture.. (but then, that’s true everywhere!) We were lucky. Our guide was a Japanese friend, who took us to lunch in a 600 year old Tokyo restaurant. Not another tourist in sight. we knelt at a small table with a large metal pot hanging over a raging furnace below. Every table in the restaurant (about five, it was tiny), sat above this furnace. So the meal was cooked by your hostess, at the table. It was an incredible, traditional meal and experience, which we would never have enjoyed without local knowledge.

Lost Le Blanc has a terrific video on 50 MUST know JAPAN Travel Tips. We say it’s all good advice.


Dubai on a budget.

Dubai has become one of the world’s major air hubs. It’s certainly a stopover from Australia to Europe and vice versa. It’s airport is enormous. It’s city is super modern, sleek and expensive. So when’s the best time to travel there? Where do you go once you’re there to discover the best products and deals? Where’s the best place to stay? Lost LeBlanc knows Dubai well and shares his knowhow in this great video.

Do you like Dubai? How often have you been?

Dubai for affordable travellers.

Hawaii’s Spectacular Sunrises

One of the great joys of hiking and camping is that you are usually perfectly placed to witness a magnificent sunrise. (or sunset!)  Fold back the tent and lie there marvelling at the grandeur of it all. Which brings us to the 50th US State. Hawaii. A tropical gem in the middle of the Pacific, approximately halfway between the continental US and Australia.

Sunrise seems to be extra special when seen through the silhouette of palm trees, or from the top of a wind swept peak. Hawaii has plenty of both. Immerse yourself and be in awe of the beauty that is an Hawaiian sunrise.

 

Sunrise over Hanapepe Bay

 

An exhilarating Sunrise on top of Haleakala

 

Sunset view on Kauai

 

Sunrise over Kauai Golf Course

 

                                     all images credit Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTS)/ Tor Johnson

 

National Geographic Handpicks Thala Beach Reserve

As you can probably guess joining the ranks of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World is no mean feat. Far North Queensland’s Thala Beach Nature Reserve is the latest member of this very exclusive ‘club’.

The National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection are all properties with an outstanding commitment to sustainability and to protecting cultural and natural heritage. They are also located in some of the world’s most treasured and fragile environments from African savannah to Arctic tundra.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve This Magnificent Life
(Image supplied by Thala Beach Nature Reserve)

Surrounded by spectacular reef and rainforest and with green credentials second to none, Thala Beach Nature Reserve seems a natural (no pun intended) for membership. The vetting process, however, is rigorous and based on four principles: protection of natural heritage, protection of cultural heritage, support for local communities, and environmentally friendly practices.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve This Magnificent Life
(Image supplied by Thala Beach Nature Reserve)

For over ten years, Thala has achieved Advanced Eco-certification and Green Travel Leader status (Ecotourism Australia) through responsible and sustainable practices and environmental sensitivity. Traditionally, guests from Australia, Europe and the USA who are trying to minimise their holiday environmental footprint

Thala Beach Nature Reserve This Magnificent Life
(Image supplied by Thala Beach Nature Reserve)

Rather than simply a collection of luxury resorts, the National Geographic Unique Lodges member lodges offer extraordinary experiences, allowing guests the opportunity to connect with the environment in remarkable ways. Alongside Australia’s other members Capella Lodge, Lizard Island, Longitude 131 and Southern Ocean Lodge, Thala connects guests with their pristine surrounds, diverse wildlife and habitats.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve
(Image supplied by Thala Beach Nature Reserve)

Wedged between two UNESCO World Heritage areas of Wet Tropics Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, Thala’s guests can star gaze, take on a Coconut Odyssey as well as guided nature walks through the 145 acres of varying habitats and eco-systems. From learning about bush tucker and ancient cultural traditions with the elders of the local aboriginal community to full-day birding expeditions the lodge offers guests countless ways to immerse themselves in the environment.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve This Magnificent Life
(Image supplied by Thala Beach Nature Reserve)

Eighty-three eco-designed, tree house style bungalows are set on 58 hectares of native rainforest with a spectacular beach just moments away. Some bungalows are positioned to capture views out to the Coral Sea and a chance to see local Ospreys, Bryde’s Whales or rare Australian Snub Fin Dolphins.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve’s owner, Rob Prettejohn says, “When visitors stay with us they contribute to preserving this wonderful and rare place. We are thrilled to now be a member of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World and to be a part of a culture that embraces the very same values that we at Thala treasure.” With “visits to the Great Barrier Reef and guided walks in our ancient Gondwanan rainforests, guess have a combination of experiences available nowhere else in the world.”

How to do the Swiss Alps.

Iz Harris is a travel journalist and producer based in Washington DC. She is the host and creator behind Eater’s show, Travel, Eat, Repeat and a full-time vlogger on Youtube. She, her husband, and their two small children spend most of the year traveling the globe and documenting it to share. They recently spent 7 days exploring the Swiss Alps as a family. This is a great video with terrific advice if you’re planning a trip to Switzerland, especially the Jungfrau region.

Have you travelled to Switzerland? In particular the Jungfrau region? What did you think? Would you go again, or is once enough? Let us know.

The year’s almost over. Where have you been so far?

Hey, it’s nearly end of year.  2018 is hurtling to a close. Where have you been? No where? What’s going on? Get off the couch and book a holiday, book a flight or just buy a plane ticket to somewhere else. You’re running out of time. Need some great ideas? Erik Conover had 7 great ideas with his vid on  The 7 INCREDIBLE Travel Destinations of 2018. Watch it and get motivated.