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Sampling The Delights of New Mexico

Across the country, there are few states that offer as much natural beauty and charm as New Mexico. While shows like Breaking Bad and its spinoff Better Call Saul have focused their attention on the state’s vast arid deserts and sleepy suburbs, you have to see it to understand how grievously they do it a disservice. New Mexico is home to some of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the world, with breathtaking views that could give The Grand Canyon a run for its money. With some of the country’s most glorious national parks and two UNESCO World Heritage sites, there’s a damned good reason why they call it the land of enchantment.

Here are a few suggestions for enjoying this beautiful and diverse state.

Take a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque

Image by Flickr

 

There are few experiences that give you the unique and thrilling perspective of a balloon ride and Albuquerque balloon rides are a great way to view the diverse terrain New Mexico’s largest city. As the world slowly shrinks away beneath you, and you float into the Heavens it’s an incredibly meaningful experience alone or a moment of unparalleled romance if you’re riding with a partner. You’re sure to be awed by the silvery flourishes of the Rio Grande glistening in the sun and marvel at the magnificent Sandia Mountains.

 

Walk in the footsteps of the Pueblo peoples at Chaco canyon

Chaco Culture represents the synergy of ancient culture and national heritage about as well as any of the country’s best National Parks. Wandering through the remains of the ancient buildings at Chaco Canyon (the construction of which began in the mid-800s), the scale and complexity of the architecture is awe inspiring and humbling. Chaco’s unique architecture is uncommon for its time, because it was built according to a plan that pre-dates modern high rise apartment blocks.

When intact, the structures of Chaco consisted of hundreds of rooms, stacked several stories high. In fact right up until the 19th century, the buildings at Chaco held the record for being the largest in North America.

 

Be awed by the Bisti / De-Na-Zin badlands

Image by Max Pixel

 

If you love to travel off the beaten track, then prepare to be dazzled by one of the most unique and beautiful locations on the planet. When you enter the 41,170 acres of this undiscovered treasure near to the Chaco National Park, looks like you’ve stepped off a spaceship onto the terrain of some vast and mysterious new planet.

Its geology is as diverse as it is stunning, alternating between grasslands and wondrously bizarre rock formations in a landscape of white, gray and red.

 

Plunge into the mystery of the Carlsbad caverns

When sulphuric acid dissolved in the limestone beneath the Chihuahuan desert, it resulted in these astonishing underground rock formations. A range of guided tours are available which are well worth considering, however we’d still recommend coming back just to meander at your own pace in the cool depths, marvelling at the incredible beauty and diversity of the caverns.

 

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Enjoy The Beach Holiday Of Your Dreams In The Cayman Islands

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When you ask someone to identify what their view of the perfect vacation is, they’re likely to tell you about rolling white sand beaches, a beautiful crystalline ocean and plenty of activities for the family to do around that. Who could blame them? In the pursuit of a career at home, or in inner-city living, the drabness can affect you after a while and leave you positively dreaming of a seaside escape.

If you’re looking for a holiday like this, you should place visiting the Cayman Islands at the head of your list. The Cayman Islands are a British overseas territory and is host to a plethora of wonderful attractions under the sun. Known for its scuba diving and snorkelling offerings, the Cayman Islands can satisfy and beach-lounger and aquatic adventurer alike. These Caribbean islands have everything you need to flourish, gain that coveted tan you’re seeking, and give you that perfect Island getaway in the security and safety of a beautiful resort.

But what else do the Cayman Islands have to offer? What can you do aside from lounging on the beach, which is amazing to do for the first few days of your holiday, but might need spicing up after a little while?

 

Grand Cayman

First of all, you should visit the largest and most populous out of the Cayman Islands, aptly named ‘Grand Cayman’. Grand Cayman is home to the ‘Seven Mile Beach,’ a heavenly expanse of sand that, despite what the name suggests is only 5.5 miles.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would hold that against the beach though because what it might miss in those extra 1.5 miles, it makes up for in resounding beauty and fun to be had. The things to do at Seven Mile Beach are numerous. Bars such as the Royal Palms can help you relax and unwind with like-minded holidaymakers, while the Stingrays hosted at Stingray City allow you to experience a sealife form that many rarely get to come face-to-face with.

No matter the age, ability or demeanour of your family, on Seven Mile Beach you’re sure to smile the whole way round.

 

Flickr

 

Mermaid Statue

If you’re looking for a hint of magic during your stay, the Mermaid Statue situated around half an hour from the East End of Georgetown will give you the opportunity to scuba dive and see the beautiful bronze statue herself.  Standing at an impressive 600-pounds and a whopping nine-feet tall, this is truly a sight to see. It’s likely that you’ll be stunned at the move-like magic of witnessing her in person, so be sure to arrange a viewing immediately!

There has been plenty written about how the aspiring tourist should go for more cultural holidays; ones focused on celebrating high-art, high cuisine and high historical narratives. This is fine, but sometimes you just need an undeniably fun and beautiful beach resort adventure, and the Cayman Islands provide that. However, that isn’t all they offer, as the Cayman Islands have a rich history just waiting to be exposed if you scratch under the surface. Be sure you do, and you’re sure to fall in love with this magical place.

 

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Your July Travel Guide Is Here

** This post contains affiliate links. I will be compensated when you make a purchase. Thank you.

 

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A Gaijin Friendly Guide to Tokyo

Tokyo is one of the most spectacular cities in the world. It’s the city of bullet trains, skyscrapers, fashion, street food and fun, where the traditional meets the contemporary and the bizarre meets the brilliant.

 

It’s also notoriously difficult to navigate for tourists.

While in many ways it’s a city at the bleeding edge of business, technology and couture there’s an almost impenetrable sense of etiquette and complex tradition that can bamboozle most gaijin (foreigners). In this kind of culture it’s important to know the right way to behave and the most tourist-friendly places to visit to help you get the most out of your visit without falling afoul of the difficulties some tourists tend to encounter.

 

Image credit

 

Cheap flights to Tokyo are getting easier to come by, so a Japanese holiday may well be more affordable and accessible than you’d previously thought. Before you start packing, though, here are some useful tips for a gaijin in Tokyo.

  • A little Japanese goes a long way. Most Japanese people haven’t spoken English since their schooldays. Showing some willingness to attempt their language will be very ingratiating.
  • Remember that ‘gaijin’ is not an insult, it’s a far more nuanced version of the English ‘foreigner’. If someone refers to you this way, smile and be polite. Chances are they’re not trying to offend you.
  • Learn the local etiquette. There’s WAY too much to learn here but always removing your shoes before going indoors, purifying yourself on the way to a shrine, never blowing your nose in public, never pointing with chopsticks and never ever tipping your waiter (it’s considered an insult) are a good place to start.

 

A note for vegetarians and vegans

It’s surprisingly hard to subsist on a plant-based diet in Tokyo. While you’ll find plenty of items on your menu that seem perfectly safe but beware of dashi, a fish stock that finds its way into most soups and sauces. Vegetarianism and veganism are unusual concepts to many asian cultures so be sure to explicitly mention that you don’t eat meat of fish including dashi.

 

Essential locations

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There’s so much to see and do in Tokyo it’s difficult to know where to begin. Shinjuku is no doubt at the top of your list and the thriving skyscraper lined district really is spectacular to behold with its ultra-chic department stores and legendary nightlife but this district really is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

You should also make these essential stops on your itinerary. All of them encounter tourists on a regular basis so will likely be friendly and welcoming (so long as you observe the customs and etiquette).

  • The Imperial Palace– A must for anyone with an interest in Japanese history. The walled palace is surrounded by walls and moats and is lined with beautiful 17th century parks.
  • Senso-ji Temple– The city’s most famous temple is thronged by shops selling traditional handmade carvings, masks and kimonos. Built in 645 AD its appearance has remained unchanged despite it having been rebuilt numerous times. While the pagoda itself is currently closed for renovations it reopens to tourists in September 2017.
  • Ueno Park– The quintessential Japanese park, Ueno is a gorgeous oasis in the bustling centre of Tokyo. The cherry blossom lined gravel paths lead to a huge range of attractions including the reed fringed Shinobazu pond with its Bentendo temple, 17th century Toshogu Shrine and the Tokyo National Museum.

 

Image by Pixabay

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Up to 25% Memorial Day Sale! Find Inspiration and Tips for your Memorial Weekend Travels with Tours4Fun.com!

Posted in tour, tourism, tourist attractions, tours, Tours4Fun, travel
on May 20, 2017

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What to See Around District V in Budapest

Budapest is a very beautiful city in the central part of Europe. And most old cities in Europe, it is segregated in districts. During my recent vacation in Budapest, Hungary, my friend and I decided to stay in District V due to the many attractions we could visit on foot.

District V or the Belváros & Lipótváros  area (inner city).  In this district, you can find the following places of interests that are sure magnets for visitors. And if the weather permits, most of them can be reached on foot coming from St. Stephen’s Basilica as your main focal point.

New Main Street – Új Fő Utca

This is a pedestrianised street in the inner city of Budapest. It has terraced cafes and restaurants that is free from motorists. So, visitors and locals can enjoy a lively break in one of the bistros or cafes or take a seat in the many installed benches along the stretch if the Main Street.

The Main Street stretches from Kalvin Ter all the way to Szabadsag Ter.

Parliament

This imposing architecture with Gothic and Neo Classical design stretches between the Margaret and Chain Bridges. It is located in the Kossuth Ter, right in front of the Danube bank.

You can visit the interior of the Parliament but be ready for a long queue! Check with your travel operator for timings and ticket rates.

St. Stephen’s Basilica

I am blessed to be able to stay in District V of Budapest and have a good view of the St. Stephen’s Basilica right from my apartment room.

It is located right in front of the Szt. István Ter and is very near the Arany Janos Metro stop.

It is free to go inside and marvel at the very beautiful interior. You can go up the cupola and view Budapest from the top. You can also visit and check the mummified right hand of St. Stephen, the first King of Hungary.

Most of the things you can see inside are free but going to the cupola has a fee. Check with your local tour operator for the timings and ticket rates.

There is a specified timing for visitors to check the St. Stephen’s Basilica. Please, refer to the website of St. Stephen’s Basilica when it is open for tourists (http://en.bazilika.biz/)

Hungarian Academy of Sciences

This is one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the whole of Hungary. It is located near the bank of the Danube River and few steps away from the Chain Bridge. The academy is used for the propagation of Science studies, spreading the scientific findings, representing Hungarian’s Science and supporting the research and development of Science and its associated fields of study.

Shoes in the Danube bank Memorial

I missed to see this place due to the lack of time and hot weather during our visit. I would love to visit this and will surely include in next time.

The shoes are made of bronze and have been installed as a memorial to the victims of the Arrow Cross Militiamen during WWII.

Gresham Palace

The opulent looking Gresham Palace is a classic example of an Art Nouveau kind of architectural design. It is grand and true to its form of opulence too. It houses the expensive and luxurious Four Seasons Hotel.  It is located in front of the River Danube bank and close to the Széchenyi Square and the eastern end of the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.

Cafe Gerbeaud

Cafe Gerbeaud is one of the greatest and traditional coffeehouses in Europe. It is located in Vörösmarty Ter. This is one of the famous coffee house and confectioner all over the world and has another branch in Tokyo, Japan.

Széchenyi Chain Bridge

This is a famous bridge in Europe. It spans the River Danube, connecting the Buda and Pest side of Hungary’s old city of Budapest.

It is a walkable bridge with a walkway for pedestrians to cross.

Vaci Street

This is the famous tourist pedestrian streets in Budapest. It has plenty of pubs, bars, restaurants, and high end shops carrying branded merchandise. It is certainly a luxurious lure to the unknowing tourists. It’s nice to pass by, probably order a cup of coffee and then get going.

József Eötvös monument

He is a Hungarian author and a statesman. He is a well known Hungarian novelist who penned The Village Notary. The monument is erected near the foot of the Chain Bridge near the Sofitel and Intercontinental Hotels in the Pest side.

Great Market Hall (or Central Market Hall)

This is the largest indoor market in Budapest. It houses plenty of shops from paprika to tasty sausages to embroidered fabrics and even souvenirs.

It is located at the end of the Vaci Street.

Elizabeth Bridge

This is one of the newest bridges installed in Budapest, at the narrowest part of the Danube River. 

István Széchenyi monument

István Széchenyi was a Hungarian politician, historian and a writer. The monument erected in honour of István Széchenyi is located at István Széchenyi Ter near the traffic light.

Vigado Concert Hall

The Vigado Concert Hall is one of the largest concert halls in Budapest. It is home to the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble. 

Kossuth Memorial

This is a public memorial in honour of the Hungarian Regent-President Lajos Kossuth in front of the Hungarian Parliament Building near the Danube River bank.

Monument to the victims of the German occupation

This is located in Freedom Square. It is erected to honour the victims of the German occupation during WWII. This is a controversial monument though.

(All photos in this post are owned by ©riatravelbug.com/ria cervantes)

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Essential Tips For Aurora Borealis Hunters

As you probably know, the Northen Lights are a beautiful natural light show in the sky that you can see in some locations in the world during the winter. It’s caused by solar flares hitting the Earth’s magnetic field and getting energized. Then when they cool back down, they give off the light that you see in the sky.

But as the Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon seeing it is not guaranteed. Check out these top tips to make sure you know how to experience the aurora borealis
and maximize your chances of seeing the ‘dancing lights’.

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Regions

So the first thing you need to know if you are hunting the Aurora Borealis is that in you need to be in what they call the Auroral Oval. This is the position on the globe where the Earth’s magnetic field is strongest, and so you are likely to see more of the Northern Lights. There are quite a few countries that are included in the Auroral Oval. But be aware that for many of them, you will only be able to see the Northern Lights in a particular part of the country. Usually, the furthermost Northern areas.

In Finland, Norway, Sweden you will need to be in the Arctic Lapland area to experience the Aurora Borealis. In Canada, the Arctic North is the place to see this phenomenon. Try locations like the Northwestern Territories and the Yukon.

If you choose to visit Greenland in the winter, you will be able to see the Northern Lights all over the country.

Remember that if you are travelling to these countries from Dubai, you will need a Schengen Visa. Check out my post for tips on how to apply.

Light

The next tip you need if you want to see the Northern Lights is that you will need to wait for it to be dark. You cannot see the Aurora Borealis in the sky while the sun is up. This isn’t such a problem though as many of these countries get dark pretty early at around 4 pm in winter time. This gives you plenty of time to take an organized tour or just head outside to see if you can see the lights.

Many people get worried that a full moon will cause them problems in seeing the Aurora Borealis. But unless the Northen Lights are really weak, or the full moon is behind the lights, this really shouldn’t be an issue.

Accommodation

A brilliant tip is to book accommodation that allows you to see the Aurora Borealis while staying warm and dry inside. You can book a glass igloo called the Aurora Dome or a see-through plastic bubble. Imagine lying in bed wrapped up warm and seeing the amazing lights dance across the sky. If you want to be outside but still like the idea of being warm, why not make sure that your accommodation has a hot tub?


Solar Maximum

Another tip that will help your chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis is to do a bit of research into the science of it. The Northern Lights are known to be most visible just before, during and just after a solar maximum.

A solar maximum is the time when the sun is most active, and more sunspots are produced, which causes more flares, which means more lights. However, new research is showing that the Northern Lights are particularly active as the solar maximum falls. This is good news for Aurora Borealis hunters as this is the current stage of the sun cycle we are in.
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