Friday, 14 April 2017

Best Things to Do in Cusco in 2017

First time to Cusco, Peru? Read the ultimate guide to Cusco and surroundings featuring the best points of interest in the city, the Sacred Valley and the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu of course, but also some nice restaurants where to eat some great Cusco food and some places where to experience Cusco nightlife. Plus some practical information on the weather and the local airports.
Cusco, Peru


Cuzco (commonly spelled Cusco) is a city in southeastern Peru: it was the capital of the Inca Empire before the Spanish conquest.
It is an incredible place, located in a valley right in the heart of the Peruvian Andes, at 11,200 feet of altitude: Cusco truly takes your breath away, both literally and emotionally.
Surrounded by unspoilt nature and full of history, Cusco combines Spanish cultural tradition and a taste bringing back to the pre-Columbian civilizations.

The Peruvian city represents a strategic point to explore some must-see attractions in the area: the breathtaking Sacred Valley of the Incas and the Inca Trail leading to Macchu Picchu, one of the most important achaeological sites in the world.

Things to Do in Cusco

You should consider staying in Cusco for 2 or 3 days, both to visit this astonishing city (UNESCO world heritage site since 1983) and get used to the altitude, if you are planning to visit Machu Picchu.
You can have a look at our page on Cusco hotels to view our top deals and select the place that best suits you.

Below, you will find an overview of the best Cusco points of interest and attractions you cannot miss.

1. Plaza de Armas

The lively and fascinating Plaza de Armas is undoubtedly the heart of the city. Known during the Inca Empire as Huacaypata or Aucaypata, this square was the fulcrum of the capital activities.
Today, the Baroque style dominates the majestic square, where the colonial architecture and the Inca walls embrace in a powerful and extraordinary mix.
Stone pathways, colorful gardens and baroque arcades characterize this place, dominated by the famous Cusco Cathedral and La Compañía de Jesús church.

2. Cusco Cathedral

The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin, generally known as Cusco Cathedral, was built in 1560 and is today the main office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cusco.
Erected on the ancient Inca temple of Kiswarkancha, it presents sumptuous interiors with gold and silver altars.
The numerous statues and paintings mix the colonial catholic culture and the indigenous tradition. The cathedral is flanked with 2 other smaller churches, the Iglesia de la Sagrada Familia (the Sacred Family church) and the Iglesia del Triunfo, the first Christian church in Cusco.
It is possible to visit the cathedral every day from 10 am to 6 pm; the ticket is 25 soles (about $9). The entrance is from the Sacred Family Church, on the left of the cathedral's facade.

The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin in Cusco, commonly known as Cusco Cathedral

3. San Pedro Market

It is actually the lively local grocery market, but it is a must-see place, since it gives the opportunity to get in close contact with local people, habits and everyday life.
This huge and colorful market is 10 minutes' walk from Plaza de Armas and it is open every day. Thousands of (sometimes weird) products and types of food will overwhelm you: animal heads and tails, herbal remedies, dragon blood (a red beverage coming from a tree), fruit juice stands, varieties of bread, vegetables, fruit, potatoes and tubers, purple corns, cheese.

4. Inca Museum

It is the best museum in Cusco focusing on Inca history and culture, from the beginning to the Spanish conquest. Here you can admire a collection of metal and gold artworks, pottery, textiles, jewelry, mummies and the famous Inca carved and colorful wooden cups, the queros.
Located not far from Plaza de Armas, in the Spanish Admiral's House, this wonderful colonial building, restored after 1950's earthquake, with its sculptures and architecture is further worth the visit.
The museum is open from Monday to Friday, 8-18, and Saturdays and holidays, 9-16. The ticket is $10.
Among other museums in Cusco, we also recommend the Museo de Arte Precolombino (Pre-Columbian Art Museum) and the Museo Casa Concha, that displays Machu Picchu artifacts.

5. Sacred Valley and Inca Trail 

The Sacred Valley extends around the Urubamba River from Cusco to Machu Picchu.
It encloses some of the most fascinating villages and archaeological sites of the area, such as Sacsayhuaman, Pisac and Ollantaytambo, and, of course, Machu Picchu.
Inca trail is one of the most famous treks in the world. This incredible hike leads to Machu Picchu by walking. There are 3 overlapping trails: Mollepata (the longest), Classic, and One Day.
The trail runs along the sacred valley through stone paths, walls, stairways, galleries, gorges, cliffs, waterways, Inca ruins and tropical jungles. To walk to the conquest of this valley and to the discovery of Machu Picchu is something magical and unforgettable. Remember that this is not a picnic and that you must not underestimate the altitude.
Of course, you have to accurately arrange your journey in advance, contacting a specialized agency that ensures you the best organization, equipment, guides, porters and cooks. In fact, no more than 500 people a day can enter the Inca trail, so you have to book your permit ticket at least 6 months before.
In February the Inca trail is closed for maintenance.

The Inca trail to Machu Picchu

6. Machu Picchu

Macchu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas, is a perfectly preserved Inca ruin site at 7,970 feet of elevation. It is a dreamy place surrounded by an incredible landscape of pristine vegetation and clouds.
Located 50 miles northwest of Cusco, the easiest way to get there is by train to Aguas Caliente, from here by bus to Ollantaytambo, and then by short bus to Machu Picchu (one day round trip is possible).
You should organize your trip before leaving to Peru, or ask a reliable local travel agency.
If you want to experience the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, the Classic trail starts from the surroundings of Aguas Caliente, at mile 51 (km 82) or 55 from Cusco. In this case you have to consider at least 3 or 4 days for your trip, since you have to trek 25 miles for about 6,500 feet in altitude.
As soon as the view on the site opens, you will suddenly regenerate.

From Cusco to Machu Picchu


Cusco Food

Food in Cusco can be really delicious. There are some typical and very particular dishes, such as cuy (roasted guinea pigs), alpaca steaks and frog soup.
You can also opt for more traditional food, as quinoa soups with vegetables and chicken, chifa (Chinese food with Peruvian ingredients), lomo saltado (sauteed steak with onions and peppers), aji de gallina (chicken wings), papa rellena (stuffed potatoes).
You will appreciate the different types of potatoes and tubers, roasted corns, tasty soups and sauces, and the juicy tropical fruit.
Around Plaza de Armas there are many restaurants where to taste some great local and international food (pizza, pasta, steak), and you will be not disappointed.

Some fresh Cusco food in a market

Cusco Weather and Temperature

If you plan to visit Peru, remember that it is located in the Southern hemisphere and the seasons are opposite. September, October, November and December have generally good weather and nice temperatures.
The rainy season includes December, January, February and March, where January is the wettest month.
The drier period is that from May to September, where June is the driest month.
Throughout the year the average temperature is between 1° (33,8° F) and 23° C (69,8° F). November is generally the warmest month and July the coolest.
So, the best time to plan your visit to Cusco is probably during winter months, from June to mid-September.
If you want to avoid the crowd, you could plan your trip in May or late September.

Flights to Cusco

The best way to reach Cusco is flying from Lima.
Lima modern International Jorge Chavez Airport is linked to the most important cities in the world. Non-stop flights leave from New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, London, Madrid.
The 4 main Peruvian airlines connect Lima and Cusco every day. Cusco airport (Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport) is 3 miles southeast of downtown. To get to the city center you have to take your hotel shuttle van or a taxi.

Time in Cusco

Cusco time zone depends, of course, on where you are around the world.
Look at the following chart of the time difference from Cusco (you can check the complete list here):

USA:
Los Angeles: - 2 hours
San Francisco: - 2
Seattle: - 2
Washington DC: + 1 hour
Ney York: + 1
Miami: + 1

CANADA:
Toronto: + 1 hour
Vancouver: - 2

EUROPE:
London: + 6 hours
Rome: + 7
Berlin: + 7

AUSTRALIA:
Perth: + 13 hours
Canberra: + 15
Sydney: + 15

NEW ZEALAND:
Wellington: + 17 hours
Auckland: + 17

Why You Should Visit Cusco

If you love to travel and look for strong emotions, no doubt you have to put Cusco in your bucket list.
The indigenous and Spanish soul of this city, the extraordinary nature of its surrounding landscapes, the charm of its history and archaeological sites, where time has stopped, will enchant you.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Best Spas, Beauty Salons & Moroccan Baths in Dubai

You will be happy to know that Dubai is home to some of the best spas in the world. So, if you find yourself in the city, whether it is for pleasure or for a business trip, take some time to get pampered in some of her finests beauty and wellness salons. 
Find out the 10 best places to visit for a spa in Dubai!
Find out the best affordable spas in Dubai.
                                                      Image by Mohsen ghaemi (Own work) 

Dubai is lively, hectic and sometimes stressful.
But it can also be a magic city, where time can stop: this is what happens as soon as you enter one of the numerous spas and Moroccan baths in Dubai.
Whether you are a workaholic or a tourist in search for peace and relax, tiredness and thoughts will stay out of the door.
Once in, you will be welcomed by nice and professional staff in elegant and even sumptuous environments, where they will pamper and treat you like a king or a queen.

We list here 10 of the best spas in Dubai where you can enjoy a rich variety of services and body treatments that will help you to reach a complete peace of body and mind.

Talise Ottoman Spa

Located within the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel, it is one of the biggest and most luxurious spas in Dubai, characterized by the majesty of the Arabic architecture, the golden mosaics, arches and turquoise doors. With its thalassoptherapy and hydrotherapy pools, saunas, snow rooms, flotation tanks, its spectacular Turkish bath (or hammam) and a variety of body and facial treatments and massages, it ensures pure relax and relief in a magnificent context.

Assawan Spa and Health Club

This dreamy spa on the 18th floor of the Burj Al Arab offers the most modern treatments and equipment in a fairy-tale magnificent environment.
Here you will enjoy pools, Jacuzzi, saunas, steam rooms and some of the best Oriental hammams in Dubai. After your treatments, you can experience the incredible panoramic view from the Amphitheater with balcony.

The best spas in Dubai are often within the top hotels in the city.

One&Only Royal Mirage Spa

It is situated within the splendid Royal Mirage Resort, in an embrace of skyscrapers and "a thousand and one night" gardens where past and present meet. This luxurious spa provides an amount of beauty treatments, scrubs and body exfoliation, body massages, its exclusive signature body experience, and, of course, traditional Oriental hammams in a relaxing and caring atmosphere, where both body and mind will be relieved. This spa has opted for separate ladies and gentlemen’s operating hours. It also offers packages for couples.

Anjana Spa at Rixos The Palm Dubai

Located in the Rixos The Palm, Dubai, at the tip of The Palm Jumeirah’s crescent, this spa offers a splendid context where to find peace of mind. Beside beauty treatments such as hairdressing, manicure, pedicure and waxing, here you can fully relax enjoying a selection of massages (hot stone massages, Bali ones), the traditional Turkish bath, steam rooms, saunas, jacuzzis and the ice fountain, all surrounded by rich Oriental mosaics and colorful marble.
It provides also packages for couples.

Saray Spa

Entering this place you will experience both an intimate and welcoming spa, and the tallest hotel in the world, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai. Feelings and emotions will increase as soon as you try the spas's offers in a fine and elegant Arabian ambience: prize-awarded hydrotherapy treatments, revitalizing scrubs and massages, body and facial royalty-like services, the traditional hammam. Offering different targeted treatments to both men and women, this spa also provides a couples' suite to enjoy at best their honeymoon.

Cordon Spa

If you take an offer package at Cordon Spa (Sky Gardens, Park Avenue), they will pick you up directly from your hotel and spoil you with a number of relaxing treatments. Enjoy the hammam, the whirlpool, the sauna and steam rooms. Sip a welcome drink, relax your body and mind with an aromatic Oriental bath, a scrub, and a massage session.

Anjana Spa at the Hotel Rixos The Palm in Dubai

Yas Beauty Spa

This welcoming spa, in downtown Dubai, provides many beauty services, like hair and nail treatments, manicure, pedicure, different types of massages, pools, Jacuzzi, saunas, steam rooms, Turkish and Oriental hammams and couple massage services in a caring and pampering environment.

Tips & Toes

Located in Business Bay, it ranges from more affordable to royal treatments.
You can experience different types of hammams, from the Moroccan hammam (the Moroccan bath based on the tradition of the black soap body exfoliation), to the Moroccan bath with mineral clay; from the classical Turkish Hammam to the Imperial Ritual (with the use of honey and wraps for a princess-like silky skin). Moreover, you can have nail and hair treatments, skin care services, body and facial massages in an elegant and welcoming environment.

SenSasia

Like other places, SenSasia offers both beauty salon and spa services. Spread in 4 locations (The Village, Palm Jumeirah, Emirates Golf Club and Downtown Dubai) and specialized in pampering its clients, it offers scrubs, body exfoliation, and a wide range of massages in the Asian tradition.

Lime Spa

If you are looking for a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of the city, where to relax and take care of yourself, the Lime Spa within the Desert Palm Per Aquum Hotel is the perfect place. Located half an hour from Downtown Dubai, this haven of peace surrounded by polo fields and horses offers organic skin care treatments, intuitive massages, steam rooms, saunas, ice room, plunge pools, couples' treatment room, heated beds and chromotherapy showers.

Whether you are in Dubai for business or pleasure, to experience a spa in the Arabic city is a must. Of course, you should be prepared to invest some money, but it is definitely worthwhile.
Scrubs, massages and treatments will relieve not only your body, but also your soul.
All you have to do now is to choose the best offers and deals in one of the spas in Dubai, according to your needs, and enjoy your fairy-tale moment.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Amsterdam

After an overview of the best vegan places in Amsterdam, we offer here a guide to the best vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants in the Dutch capital. The choice is a bit wider compared to the vegan option and among the numerous restaurants, lunch-rooms and cafes we are listing some of the most popular and best reviewed places where you can get some great vegetarian food. (It goes without saying that Amsterdam hotels as well adapted and began to offer more and more vegetarian options within their menus).

Enjoy some great vegetarian food in one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Amsterdam

1. De Bolohed

It is a charming vegetarian restaurant with terrace, located along the Prinsengracht Canal.
It offers a wide variety of high-quality organic food based on ethnic and vegan dishes.
Prices can be quite high.
Where: Prinsengracht 60-62 (Jordaan district, near the Anne Frank House).
When: every day from 11 am to 9:30 pm.

2. Golden Temple

It is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the city. It offers a wide choice of great food.
Besides not-only-ethnic vegetarian dishes, the restaurant specializes in crudites.
Prices are quite high.
Where: Utrechtsestraat 126 (Staadsdeel Zuid).
When: every day from 5 pm to 11 pm.

3. De Waaghals

Located in the vibrant De Pijp district, it offers fine and strictly organic food.
Once a month, the restaurant proposes a typical dish of a specific country.
Where: Frans Halsstraat 29.
When: every day from 5 pm  to 9:30 pm.

4. Maritis Eetkamer

It is a very special restaurant. If you perceive an extremely homely atmosphere it is no coincidence: it is a living room restaurant, within a private home, where you will receive a warm welcome.
You will find great food and only local, organic and fair-trade products.
You need to make a reservation calling the number 020 7763864.
Where: Andreas Bonnstraat 34H.
When: from Tuesday to Saturday, from 6 pm to 12 am.

5. Betty's

It is a small restaurant lovingly run by a couple. It offers healthy and tasty dishes. Menu and prices are fixed.
Where: Rijnstraat 75, not far from the Museumplein.
When: Wednesday to Sunday, from 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm. Closed on the last Saturday of the month. You have to book in advance.

6. De Vliegende Schotel

It is one of the oldest vegetarian restaurants in the city. The environment is simple and welcoming. The kitchen is mostly vegan, but in some dishes cheese can be used.
Where: Admiraal de Ruijterweg 331 (Amsterdam West, Jordaan).
When: open every day from 12 pm to 9:30 pm.

7. De Hummus House

They are actually 2 reasonably priced restaurants that offer dishes with fresh ingredients, mainly based on hummus and pita.
Where: 1) Korte Leidsedwaarsstraat 62.
2) Sint Antoniesbreestraat 25C.

8. Maoz Vegetarian

It is a vegetarian and vegan-friendly fast food chain. There are 4 Maoz in Amsterdam's downtown area. Maoz' main dish is the falafel.
Where: 1) Leidsestraat 85.
2) Albert Cuypstraat 67.
3) Muntplein 1.
4) Damrak 40.
When: every day from 11 am.

Maoz is a vegetarian fast food chain in Amsterdam: great hummus and falafel

9. De Gouden Tent

It is a vegetarian takeaway where you can get falafel, hummus and salads.
Where: 1) Marie Heinekenplein 11, near Heineken Experience.
2) Ten Katestraat 97 (west of the city).
3) Zeilstraat 37 (south-west, quite far from the center).
When: every day, from 10 am to 7 pm.

10. Beter and Leuk

Perfect for your breakfast and your vegetarian or vegan-friendly lunch.
Where: Eerste Oosterparkstraat 91 (east central area).
When: Monday, 12 pm-5 pm; from Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am -5 pm; 11am -4 pm on Sunday.

Are you vegan or vegetarian? In Amsterdam you will find a wide choice of places and restaurants to satisfy your needs and enjoy your stay in the Dutch capital at best.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Being a Vegan Tourist in Amsterdam: Best Places to Eat

How much choice is there for a vegan visiting Amsterdam?

The Dutch capital offers many vegan-food opportunities to people who have decided to cut proteins and animal products out of their diet, despite a purely carnivorous tradition.

Whether you're looking for a place to have a healthy vegan breakfast, a cafe for a quick lunch, a vegan shop or a good vegan restaurant, in Amsterdam you can enjoy some excellent no-animal food in accordance with your eating beliefs. City's hotels too began to include more and more vegan options in their menus so to meet their guests' needs.

Here are some of the best vegan places in Amsterdam we have discovered for you.

Enjoying some good vegan food in Amsterdam

1. TerraZen Centre

Close to Dam square, this restaurant offers a wide range of vegan dishes with a basis of Caribbean and Japanese food.
The place is quite small; the environment is easy and welcoming, and it proposes home cooking ensuring the use of local organic products.
Prices can be high.
Where: 19 hs Sint Jacobstraat.
When: every day, from 12:30 pm to 10 pm.

2. Deshima

Located in the surroundings of the Rijksmuseum, Deshima is both a shop and a lunchroom that proposes high-quality strictly vegan products.
The specialties of the house are tempeh and shitake sushi, and their cakes of course.
Takeaway is possible.
Where: Weteringschans 65.
When: from Monday to Friday, 10 am-6 pm; Saturday, 10 am-5 pm.

3. Meatless District

It's a good and trendy vegan restaurant, also open for breakfast in the weekends.
It can be quite expensive.
Where: Bilderdijkstraat 65-67 (close to De Hallen center).
When: from Tuesday to Thursday, 12 pm-11 pm; from Friday to Sunday, 9 am-12 am.

4. De Peper

It is a very particular and creative place. It is not exactly a restaurant, but the result of a non-profit social project of vegan and organic cooking, within a cultural center (called OT 301).
There are no prices, but a donation between 7 and 10 euros should be made.
De Peper is entirely managed by volunteers in an alternative, welcoming and politically correct environment.
Where: Overtoom 301, not far from Vondelpark.
When: Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, 6 pm-1 am; Friday, 6 pm-3 am. You have to make a reservation the same day, calling the number 020 412 2954 from 1 pm to 4 pm.

Where to eat vegan in Amsterdam5. Mkz

In some way similar to De Peper, this alternative and cheap place is managed by a collective.
There is a prix fixe menu.
Where: Eerste Schinkelstraat 16 (close to Vondelpark).
When: on Thursday and Saturday, 7 pm-12 pm; Friday and Sunday, 12 pm-01 am. You have to make a reservation calling 020-6790712 from 2:30 pm to 6 pm.

6. Dophert

It is a vegan deli, perfect for a wonderful breakfast and a quick healthy lunch. Don't miss their cakes!
Where: Spaarndammerstraat 49 (a bit far from the city center).
When: on Sunday, 11 am-5:30 pm; on Wednesday, 10 am-5:30 pm; from Thursday to Saturday, 10 am-9 pm.

7. Koffie ende Koeck

This is a vegan cafe that offers good breakfasts and tasty vegan sandwiches for lunch. Cakes too are delicious.
Where: Haarlemmerweg 175, close to Westerpark.
When: from Tuesday to Friday, 9:30 am- 5:30 pm; Saturday, 10 am-5:30 pm.

Taste a sublime vegan sandwich at Koffie ende Koeck in Amsterdam

8. Vegabond

This cafeteria is another can't-miss place where to taste a very good vegan breakfast and a delicious snack for lunch.
It also sells organic vegan products. Its location on the canals is amazing.
Where: Leliegracht 16 (Grachtengordel).
When: from Monday to Saturday, 11 am-6 pm; Sunday, 12 pm-5 pm.

Being Vegan

Eating vegan can be an ethical choice, a way to turn to a healthy and natural diet, a real philosophy of life or sometimes a necessity (due to allergies or food intolerance).
The vegan and vegetarian culinary culture is spreading everywhere, and today to find places to meet this need is getting easier.

And in Amsterdam there is no lack of offers at all! You will be spoiled for choice and have the chance to always try new places.

P.S.: Stay tuned for a guide to the best vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants in Amsterdam!

Friday, 10 February 2017

What to Do in Florida & Best Places to Visit, Orlando Included

Florida is the ideal place to fulfill your dream holiday.
Suggesting what to see in Florida ain't easy: the answer is EVERYTHING!
Nice temperatures. Wonderful beaches. Amazing natural landscapes. Family-friendly theme parks (that kids will adore). Scientific, historic and art museums.
All these ingredients together make Florida the perfect holiday destination, no matter if you are traveling with your family, with your partner, with a group of friends or even on your own.

Having so many things to do in Florida, the only way is to choose on the basis of your tastes and interests, since you will be spoilt for choice.

We are going to provide here an overview with some of the coolest places to visit in Florida, from the South to the North.

What to do in Florida: relaxing on the beach at Fort Lauderdale.



Things to Do in South Florida

Some of the most important attractions of the whole country can be found here.

Miami and Miami Beach (connected by some bridges) are a must among the best places to visit in Florida (better not in summer though, due to heavy rain and the risk of hurricanes).

Miami is located at Florida's southeastern tip. The popular beaches are south, whereas the swamp area is west. The city is worth a visit. Go see downtown Miami along Flager Street and enjoy a tour on the panoramic Metromover, an elevated tube system over Miami downtown, in the middle of the skyscrapers.
Visit the Miami Art Museum, the Children's Museum, the Wynwood Art District and Vizcaya Villa Museum and Gardens.
Stop over the historic neighborhood of Coconut Grove, where jazz music reigns, and experience the colorful, lively and scented Little Haiti and Little Havana, that also hosts the Museum of Science. If you travel with your children, they will be happy to explore the famous Miami Zoo and Miami Sea Aquarium.

Have a look here if you decide to find a hotel in Miami.

Miami skyline, one of the best attractions in Florida


Key Biscayne, connected to Miami by the elevated Rickenbacker Causeway, is the first of the Atlantic barrier islands. Here you can find one of the most panoramic views of the area, from Cape Florida old lighthouse, and one of the most beautiful beaches in the surroundings, Crandon Beach.

Miami beach, located on a barrier island between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, offers 35 miles of wonderful coastline from South Beach to Sunny Isles.
If you are looking for relax and sun, palms, white sand, blue waters and nightlife, Miami Beach is the right place for you and offers a large choice of hotels.
South Beach is the most famous area, the place we dreamed of while watching Miami Vice.
You will admire the wonderful buildings along the Art Déco District, enjoy the landscape from South Pointe Park and experience the vitality of Ocean Drive's pubs, restaurants and nightclubs.

You cannot miss a tour of the tropical forests in the Everglades National Park. Located in the southernmost tip of Florida, this incredible swamp area, rich in fauna and vegetation, is worth a challenge with the mosquitoes (the best moment to visit it is between October and April).

Florida Keys and Key West

Florida Keys are an archipelago of 1700 tropical islands, south of Florida's tip, surrounded by the coral reef. It is a paradise for diving and snorkeling lovers.
Key West is the main city island, where Ernest Hemingway used to live (you can visit his home and the museum), and where you can find some of Florida best beaches.
Check out our Florida hotels in Key West.
Some islands are connected to the mainland by routes and bridges over the ocean, that will make you feel suspended on the water.

Key West beach

Attractions in Orlando, Central Florida

The city of Orlando is probably the best choice if you are traveling with your children and want to grant their wishes, since there are some of the best theme parks in the world.
Among the best attractions and things to do in Orlando, you should visit:
  • Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure)
  • the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • the water parks of Sea World
  • Aquatica and Discovery Cove, where you have the chance to swim with incredible marine creatures.
If science fascinates you, don't miss the Orlando Science Center. A can't-miss place for science and outer space fans is of course the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, located east of Orlando. Legoland, on the way from Orlando to Tampa (placed west of the country), is another paradise for children.

If you need a hotel in Orlando, that's our business :)

Things to Do in Tampa and Around

Tampa too is a family-friendly area. This city hosts the wonderful Florida Aquarium and the Lowry Park Zoo. Moreover, the Tampa Bay area boasts some of the best beaches, mainly those in Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Still focusing on Florida best beaches, going south of Tampa, there is the famous Naples Beach, whereas south of Orlando, Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale beaches are certainly a must if you want to experience the most beautiful seashores of the country.
For accomodations, take a look at our page.

What to do in Florida: relaxing on the beach at Fort Lauderdale

North Florida and Tallahassee

If you are in the northern area of the state, Destin Beach, on the Gulf of Mexico, is a must since it is considered one of the top 5 Florida beaches.
Tallahssee, in north central Florida, is the capital city and encloses places of interests such as the Museum of Florida History and St. Marks National Wildlife nature reserve.
We have a good selection of hotels in Tallahassee as well.

To Conclude...

As you can see, Florida provides attractions for all tastes and interests. You just have to find the right place for you and organise your holiday keeping in mind these top 5 things to do in Florida:
1. Choose and visit one of its main cities
2. Bask in the sun in one of its fantastic beaches
3. Enjoy the sunset
4. Visit one of the theme parks in Orlando at least, even if you are an adult. It is nice to become kids again, sometimes!
5. Have a tour in one of Florida natural reserves and meet its incredible vegetation and animals, such as alligators.

Sunset in Florida Keys Islands


Monday, 30 January 2017

Avatar Floating Mountains in Zhangjiajie National Park, China

Nature can offer unique emotions and the so called Floating Mountains, within the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China, have certainly this power.
Often hidden in an ocean of clouds and mist, these immense karstic pillars (literally thousands of monoliths) covered with vegetation, also known as Avatar Mountains, seem to challenge the gravity pull.
Whether you observe it from top-down or bottom-up, you will perceive a different spatio-temporal dimension.
From the top, you will feel suspended in the air.
From the bottom, you will feel surrounded by rocky giants almost touching the sky.

Avatar Mountains in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, in China

Avatar Film Location

If you have the perception to be in a movie, it is no coincidence. Generally known with their traditional names, these mountains were renamed after the worldwide success of James Cameron's movie Avatar, since they inspired the floating Hallelujah Mountains of Pandora. The most famous rocky pillar, previously called Southern Sky Column, was officially renamed Avatar Halleluyah Mountain.

Must-See Attractions

The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, the first national park in China and UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, is located in the south-central province of Hunan.
Together with Suoxiyu Nature Reserve, Tianzi Mountain Natural Reserve and Yangjiajie Nature Reserve, it is part of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area.

Yuanjiajie Scenic Area

If you want to get straight to the heart of the Avatar Mountains, the most scenic quartz-sandstone peaks are concentrated in the Yuanjiajie area. Located in the northern part of the park, you can easily access it from the entrance close to Wulingyuan village. This is the most popular and crowded place of the park.
Yuanjiajie is a mountain platform surrounded by breathtaking scenaries made of wildlife, astonishing nature, streams and waterfalls, canyons and all around something like 3000 stone peaks up to 400 meters high (1300 ft). But it is so wide that you can also find incredible spots away from the most crowded locations.

You can get there taking the Bailong Elevator (or Hundred Dragon Elevator), a 335 meter high glass elevator built along a rocky cliff, that offers stunning views on this surreal landscape of stone peaks, vegetation, clouds and sky. It can be very crowded and the wait can be very long.
Cable cars will bring you to the most panoramic and astonishing viewpoints, that you can usually reach also through walks of different levels.

Cable cars connecting the most panoramic viewpoints in the Floating Mountains


The First Bridge of the World is a natural stone bridge connecting 2 pillars, that, together with the circle path going around the mountain, makes you feel walking in the emptiness.

Backyard Garden offers a variety of landscapes: a flat garden on a platform rock surrounded by severe picks, intense vegetation, deep valleys and empty space all around. And then the famous Southern Sky Column, also called the Pillar Between Heaven and Earth (and it is clear why!), known now as Avatar Hallelujah Mountain. You can get there crossing a suspension bridge, close to the First Bridge of the World. When the white mist wraps the rocky part just under the top of this monolith, you perfectly understand why it inspired the movie's floating mountains.

Yellow Stone Stronghold (Huangshizhai) is another spot offering stunning sceneries, like the famous Five Fingers Peak, and an open view of the most breathtaking natural beauties of the whole Wulingyuan Scenic Area, such as Tianzi Mountain and Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.

Five Fingers Peak, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China


Golden Whip Stream Scenic Area is connected to Huangshi by a cable car. This valley offers wonderful natural landscapes. You will enjoy the stream, the waterfalls, the intense vegetation and the wildlife all embraced by the rocky monoliths.

From Yuanjiajie you can easily move to other amazing panoramic settings and places of interest close to the park's borders, such as Tianzi Mountain and Yangjiajie.
Yangjiajie, recently developed and less crowded than Yuanjiajie, can be reached by a cable car. These scenic areas offer not only steep mountains and rocky pillars of heaven, but also deep valleys, plain areas and extraordinary sights from the canyons and the mesas.

In the surroundings, Zhangjiajie Canyon hosts the scenic Glass Bridge, which is the longest and highest glass bridge in the world (you should check if it is open, if you want to visit it).
Tianmmen Mountain National Forest is also a must if you are visitng Zhangjiajie area.

The Glass Bridge in Zhangjiajie Canyon, the longest and highest in the world

How to Get There

The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is located in the south-central province of Hunan.
Zhangjiajie city is connected through inner flights and direct trains to the main tourist cities in China. This area was not easy to reach and visit, but due to its increasing popularity, transport routes are improving and developing, so as the accomodation facilities. It is certainly easier than before to plan your trip by yourself, even if it is probably better to find an organized tour.

Accomodation

You need some time to visit the park, the floating mountains and the surroundings. You can find good hotels both in downtown Zhangjiajie and in Wulingyuan village, which is very close to the entrance of the National Forest Park.
For your stay, we recommend one of our top hotels in the area, the Jinjiang Inn.

When to Visit the Avatar Mountains and the Park

Late spring and summer are good periods to go and visit the Zhangjiajie National Park and the Floating Mountains, especially if you look for warm weather and you'like to watch the show of the pillars in the mist.
Autumn is absolutely the best, being cooler and drier (and generally less crowded), and the foliage colors make the landscape even more breathtaking. It is better to avoid winter time.

We listed just a small number of the stunning sceneries you can enjoy in the Zhangjiajie area.
If you want to directly experience this incredible and almost unreal landscape, if you want to perceive a different spatio-temporal dimension, if you want to feel part of a science fiction movie in the real life, you must visit the floating Avatar mountains in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China and live your daydream.

Friday, 13 January 2017

The Best Beaches and Atolls in the Maldives

Close your eyes and imagine: the Maldives.
Let the picture of this tropical paradise create in your mind.
Feel the heat of the sun on your body.
Perceive the taste of exotic fruits, their sweetness and their juice.
Visualize the white sand, the turquoise water and the palm trees.
Dive in the sea, feel its warmth, swim among incredible marine creatures: colorful fish and corals.
Now open your eyes: it's time to make your dream come true.
Maldive best beaches

Maldives Best Beaches

Choosing the top beaches in the Maldives ain't easy: hundreds of atolls and islands make up this superlative archipelago which is commonly considered an authentic paradise on earth.
Nevertheless, we shall try and identify some of the most beautiful beaches there.
If you need a place to sleep, don't worry: we have over 160 hotels in the archipelago.
You can go to the specific section on our website or you can use the search box on the right-top of this page: then you will be able to filter the hotel results by price, star rating, zone and select the hotel that best suits your tastes.

1) North Malé Atoll

It is a very tourist and fully-equipped area, with many inhabited islands. Malé, the capital city, and the airport are located in the south part of this atoll: from here it is possible to organize excursions to the best beaches in the different islands.
Bandos and Kuda Bandos are well-known for their wonderful beaches.
The lagoon of Baros offers an incredible natural landscape.
Himmafushi is a lively small island with nice beaches and typical souvenir shops.
Gaamaadhoo, Loifushi and Thulusdhoo islands are considered the paradise of surfers.
The protected area of Banana Reef and Nassimo Thila are the perfect places for diving and snorkeling among corals and incredibly colorful fish.
At Manta Point you can have the chance to meet and observe various species of mantas.
If you are after a quiet and well-organized place, Huraa island is right for you then.
Gaafaru atoll, in the North, is a more isolated island, famous also for the presence of wrecked ships.

Blue waters in the Maldives atolls

2) South Malé Atoll

It is a wide blue lagoon embracing about 30 islands. Its popularity is increasing, but it is less known and crowded than North Malé. Here you can find both resorts and guest-houses, where you can enjoy a much more local experience.
Maafushi is the most popular island in the atoll and offers warm hospitality.
Kaani and White Shell are its most famous tourist beaches.
Guraidhoo Kandu is a must for snorkeling and diving lovers.
Biyadhoo beach, in the Biyadhoo island, is considered one of the most wonderful beaches of the area and can be reached from Maafushi for daily excursions. There is also a resort there.
The beaches of Fihalhohi island are astonishing: like Biyadhoo beach, you can get there from Maafushi for daily trips.
Oe Dhuni Finolhu beach is located in a deserted island: its dazzling white sand and blue water are worth an excursion (and a bath).
Fun island is a perfect place for your stay at reasonable prices. Its white sandy beach is surrounded by palm trees, while the sea offers clear waters and a nice coral reef to be explored.

3) Faaful Atoll

Mainly unpopulated, this atoll is the right place if you are looking for peace and pristine atmosphere. You will only find unspoiled nature, incredible marine fauna, white sand and amazing crystal-clear water.

4) Ari Atoll 

It is located in the west area of the archipelago. Its islands are all surrounded by the coral reef that makes this place perfect for snorkeling and diving. Ari atoll encloses some of the most wonderful islands and beaches of the archipelago.
The most tourist and equipped islands are Velidhu, Kudafolhudhoo, Maayafushi and Rangali.
Ukulhas, a well-served island, offers an incredible natural landscape and indeed some of the best Maldives beaches. A paradise for diving and snorkeling, you might have the chance to swim with huge marine turtles.
Rasdhoo is a small and traditional island, still well-equipped and organized. It is a real treasure for divers and snorkelers who want to see giant marine creatures (such as hammerhead sharks, mantas, dolphins and turtles) and to enjoy the incredibly colorful coral reef.
Thoddoo is an inhabited and peaceful island in the northern Ari atoll. Its natural landscape and long white sand beach make it one of the best Maldives beaches.

Swimming with turtles in the top beaches in the Maldives


5) Baa Atoll 

It is a must for snorkeling and diving fans: a natural paradise both underwater and on the surface that has been declared UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Here you can find some of the most heavenly beaches of the Maldives.

Fulhadhoo island's beach is considered one of the best beaches not only in the Maldives, but also in the world. All you can find is a fishing village, plenty of palms, white fine sand and blue waters. It is the perfect place to observe the coral reef and to swim with turtles and dolphins around the deserted islets in the surroundings.
Fehendhoo is a sparsely populated island with a small village and is surrounded just by green jungle, white sand and turquoise sea. It is the perfect place to feel away from civilization into contact with nature and marine creatures. There is a beach where bikini is allowed.
Finolhu Kanifushi island has a long strip of white sand that connects it to other small islands in the surroundings: it will be like walking on water.

6) Lhaviyani Atoll 

It includes some of the most beautiful and luxury islands and beaches of the Maldives.
Kanuhura beach (Kuredu Island), with its fine white sand, its  palms and paradisiac water, is one of the most famous.

Astonishing beaches in the Maldives archipelago - Kuredu island7) Shaviyani Atoll

Local beaches here are absolutely amazing. This atoll is located in the north part of the archipelago and it is one of the less tourist and most unspoiled areas of the Maldives.

Now that you have an idea of the top beaches in the Maldives, you only have to choose your perfect place, book your holiday and live your dream.

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