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.

Friday, 23 December 2016

The 10 Best Urban Beaches in Europe

Urban beaches are a current fashion, but also an opportunity to enjoy at the best a visit to the most important European cities in the summer time. They have nothing on the sea coastlines, neverthless they offer lawns and sandy areas, sun lounges and beach umbrellas, bars and restaurants, music and live events, and the chance to play sports right in the heart of the city center. That is, all you usually search for in a sea beach, only surrounded by typical urban environments.

PARIS

Paris Plages is the first "artificial" beach in Europe (2002): over 2,000 tons of sand with deckchairs and beach umbrellas, minipools, water sports, plus restaurants and snack bars where to have icecream or sip a drink relaxing in the sun. It is open in the evening as well, proposing cultural events and live music.
It stretches for 3 km along the Seine banks and is divided into 3 locations.
The most popular beach is located on the right bank of the river, between Pont Neuf and Pont de Sully.
The sandy beach, on the right bank, stretches along the so-called Voie Georges Pompidou.
La Villette, northeast, from the Rotonde de Ledoux to the Magasins Généraux on Rue de Crimee, offers mainly water sports.
Open 18 July – 21 August, from 8 am to midnight; free of charge, pets allowed. Swimming in the Seine is forbidden.

For accommodation, you can view our best deals in Paris: we have a selection with over 1600 hotels.

Paris Plages is one of the best urban beaches in Europe

BERLIN

Berlin urban beaches on the Spree river are generally free of charge, and open every day from April/May to September, also in the evening.
Strandbar Mitte (Bode Museum area) is the most popular one. It is the perfect place to have a drink admiring the city and the river banks.
BundesPresseStrand is an elegant area with a pool, wooden tables and deckchairs.
Traumstrand is a beautiful sandy beach close to the Hauptbahnhof.
Oststrand (east Berlin) is the largest beach in Berlin: 7,000 square meters offering all you expect from a sea beach.
Beach at the Box is a well-equipped sandy beach close to the Tiergarten (free entrance; free sun loungers after 25 € menu expense; reserved for gay people on Monday nights).

Check out where you can sleep in Berlin.

Strandbar Berlin

COPENHAGEN

There are 4 spots where to enjoy the shy sun of Copenhagen's Summer.
In Island Brygge Harbour Bath, located in the renovated industrial area, there are 5 swimming pools and 3 diving towers surrounded by the city's buildings. Relax and fun are ensured also in the evening.
Fiskeførvet Harbour Bath (free of charge) offers a children's pool, a swimming pool and a diving one.
Sluseholmen Harbour Bath (free) has 4 swimming pools and other sea-beach-like facilities.
Sveanemølle Beach (free) is an open sandy beach in the Østenbro district, on Svanemølle Bay: 4,000 square meters of family-friendly beach and jogging-lovers promenade.

Have look at our hotel deals in Copenhagen.

Copenhagen Harbour Bath Islands Brygge

LONDON

Feeling the sand in your toes in the heart of London? Yes, it is possible!
East Beach (Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford; adults, £2, children £1) is the most popular city beach in London. It is something in between an amusement park and a sandy beach fully equipped with 2 paddling pools, bars, restaurants and a volleyball court.
Camden Beach (free entry), on Round House's roof, is the perfect place where to enjoy the sun, play some sports and have a BBQ with friends.
Brixton Beach Boulevard (South London) is a bar surrounded by a beach, offering street food and music.
Brent Cross Beach (North London) at the Brent Cross Shopping Center, offers sand, pools and a theme park.
There is a sandy beach also within the Bishops Park (Fulham).
Enjoy the Urban London Beach at the London's Royal Docks in front of the Thames (entrance is free).

You can view all our London hotels on this page.

Camden Beach London

AMSTERDAM

NEMO (open from June to September, from 11 to 19) is the most popular among Amsterdam's urban beaches. It is located on the terrace roof of the Ship-Museum of Science designed by Renzo Piano. Located in the heart of the city, surrounded by the canals, it offers a fascinating view and many facilities, both for adults and for children, to enjoy your beach-within-the-city experience.
Amsterdam Roest (east Amsterdam) is a former industrial area that offers today a market and a sandy beach zone with bars and live music.
Blijburg Beach is an artificial island perfectly organized to make you feel on holiday swimming is allowed.
City Beach South is a trendy beach in the South (close to the RAI Congress Center). The terrace is covered during the winter.

For sleeping matters, check here!

NEMO Science Center in Amsterdam

VIENNA

From Vienna's urban beaches in the Danube Island you can observe the city from a different perspective, admiring the river and the buildings, sitting on a deck chair under a beach umbrella or refreshing in the floating swimming pool of the Badeschiff, a bar hosted in a boat.
Strandbar Herrmann, close to St. Sthephen's Cathedral, is a sandy beach located on the banks of the Danube canal, swarming with bars, restaurants and people during summer days and nights (open from April to October, from 10 to 2 am).
At City Beach, in Schwedenplatz, you can have a drink in front of the Danube, dipping your feet in the sand and listening to music.

Looking for the right hotel in town? We can help you with this :)

Donaukanal Vienna

PRAGUE

In the urban landscape of this fascinating city, Žluté lázně is the largest beach in Prague. Placed on the east bank of the Moldova River, this sandy area features a swimming pool, football and volleyball grounds, many bars and restaurants, and live music.

If you want to sleep in Prague, have a look at our best hotel offers in the Czech republic capital.

FLORENCE

And what about Italy? The most popular urban beach in Italy is in Florence.
Easy Living, on the river Arno banks, is a 10,000 square meters green lung with a sandy area right in the heart of this wonderful Renaissance city. Here local people and tourists can have a moment of peace resting on a deck chair, walking down the river, having something to drink or to eat in one of the numerous bars and restaurants. It is also possible to play football and volleyball with friends. In the evening don't miss a drink on the waterfront enjoying a musical background.

For accommodation, you can rely on a wide selection of hotels.

ROME

During the summer Tiberi Island, along the Tiber River, livens up giving the opportunity to relax down the river banks. This area offers bars, restaurants, live music and open-air theaters. In general, several initiatives and cultural activities develop during the summer along the river around the city.

The Italian capital offers over 1700 hotels to choose from.

Tiberi Island, Rome

MILAN

Milan proposes many places where to feel on holiday.
Milano Lido (for a fee), in the western part of the city, offers a sandy beach and a swimming pool, ensuring both relax and fun.
Milano Idroscalo, close to Linate Airport, is a big park around an artificial lake equipped with lawns, a beach, bathing waters, children playgrounds, areas for sport activities, picnic places and bars.
Experience is the huge park born after Expo 2015. It offers a family area, a sport area, a relax area and a pet paradise. Activated in 2016, stay tuned to discover if it will also liven up 2017 summer holidays!

Find your hotel and plan your visit to Milan.

Beside architecture, museums and cultural life, many European cities offer real beach life in the heart of the city. For local people zero-mile beaches represent the chance to be on holiday without going on holiday, to have a rest from the frenetic daily city life without moving. For tourists it's a way to enjoy beach life and relax staying in their favourite cultural European capital cities.

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Best Places to See the Northern Lights in the US

Imagine to be in a wide place, surrounded only by nature and an incredible silence.
No artificial lights around, just stars and natural darkness.
Imagine now the moment when the sun's and the earth's auras meet, dancing and singing together in a magic embrace of yellow, green, blue, red, purple and pink lights.
Enjoy Mother Nature while she begins her otherwordly show and lights up her magic fireworks.

You are likely experiencing an aurora borealis.

An aurora borealis, also referred to as a polar light or Northern Lights

Scientifically speaking, as the result of solar flares (explosions) and solar winds, highly-charged particles get into contact with the geomagnetic field and the earth's atmosphere, releasing energy and lightening up.
The closer to the poles you are, the more intense the phenomenon will be.

Emotionally speaking, an aurora, also known as polar light or Northern Lights, is an incredible magic show of nature you must experience once in a lifetime.

Where and When to See the Northern Lights in the USA

You don't need to go to the Arctic to enjoy the glory of the Northern Lights.
There are some places in the USA, located in the so-called Aurora Oval (a "ring" around the North Pole), which are north enough to offer the chance to appreciate this celestial display.
Sometimes, a polar light can also be enjoyed in the northermost states of the so-called "lower 48", the continental US states.

The period between September and April (and winter time in particular) is generally considered the best moment to see the Northern Lights, due to darkness and long nights.
The best time is from 10 pm to early morning. Careful though, as in winter you have to properly organize your trip since temperatures can get really cold.
However, there are many places where you can enjoy the show also in milder moments (early spring and autumn), avoiding so the cold winter months. Even if an aurora borealis is something generally unpredictbale, there are some forecast centers able to predict the likelihood of its occurrence (see
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/aurora-30-minute-forecast).

To best appreciate the Northern Lights, you should choose a location far away from artificial lights; you also need clear horizons (no forests around, lake areas are perfect), and of course clear and dark skies, with little or no moonlight. Better check updated forecast as well.
Choose a well-equipped and organized area, so you can enjoy daytime life and activities too.
Be ready to wake up in the middle of the night and, last, but not least, take your time (and your days), since the aurora borealis is very variable.

1. ALASKA (for aurora forecasts in Alaska see: www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast)
It is the perfect place within the Aurora Oval where you can have the chance to enjoy an aurora borealis.
There are many possibilities to watch the Northern Lights in Alaska.
Denali National Park and Preserve, away from civilization and light pollution, for instance, is one of the best locations. Its favourable environment allows to enjoy the incredible dancing colors of auroras beginning from the end of August. However, it is not the ideal place during winter months, since it can get really very cold.

Northern Lights Alaska

Fairbanks, located within the Aurora Oval, is probably the best destination to experience this magic phenomenon, any time.
Well-organized and equipped to host aurora seekers, this place offers comfortable options and plenty of excursions to the best locations organized by tour companies. Hotels here generally offer wake up call service when the Northern Lights are out: so, be ready to be woken up in the middle of the night... It is definitely something worth.

Recommended places for visitors in this area are also Chena Lake Recreation Area and Cleary Summit.

Brook Range is a mountain range, 200 miles north of Fairbanks and 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The area offers amazing opportunities to stay in contact with nature. Of course, in winter it can be incredibly cold.

2. MAINE
Close to the Canadian border and sourrounded by nature, this state's skies are silent, dark and north enough to host the Northern Ligths' shows.

One of the best places to watch them is the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge area (Aroostook County). September is a good time to enjoy the park and to observe wildlife, and to have the chance to see the colorful encounter of Sun and Earth in the surroundings, even if the phenomenon is more frequent during winter months.

In the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness, within the White Mountain National Forest area (bordering also the New Hampshire), the wonderful landscape, the wildlife and the sky are the magic context to wait for a polar light.

Acadia National Park is located along the rocky coast of this state. Its position, its natural beauties, its dark and often clear skies make it a perfect destination for star-gazing and aurora seekers. The lovely city of Bar Harbor, a couple of miles from Acadia, is a popular tourist destination, with a good number of hotels. If you are planning a holiday in this area, this is a good place for you, being fully organized to welcome tourists throughout the year.

Enjoy the Northern Lights in Maine, at the Acadia National Park


Also other New England states' skies, such as New Hampshire and Massachussets, can occasionally be painted by the aurora borealis.

3. MICHIGAN
Michigan is a sort of natural paradise on earth. Surrounded by forests and lakes, this state hosts many national parks and is the perfect place to visit throughout the year, well-known also for its fall color tours.

Michigan is also a must for aurora seekers. Close to Canada, its northermost areas provide many outstanding spots where you can admire this mystic show of Mother Nature. The best places are mainly in the Upper Peninsula area, bordering Lake Superior on the north: the Keweenaw Peninsula, along the coast, is secluded enough to hope to be in the right place at the right time and watch the colorful hug between sun and earth.

Michigan Upper Peninsula, one of the best places to enjoy the Northern Lights in Michigan

The surroundings of Marquette, a major port on Lake Superior, offer many isolated locations to enjoy the Northern Lights.

Isle Royale National Park, immersed in Lake Superior, offers an incredible landscape and great chances to see auroras. Closed from November to April, it is north enough to hopefully enjoy the light show during the night, avoiding the cold winter months. For any information you should contact the Houghton visitor center.

Headlands International Dark Sky Park is located along Lake Michigan and is one of the few parks of this kind in the US, where darkness ensures an incredible starred sky and hopefully also the unforgettable Northern Lights dance.

Ludington State Park's skies, between Lake Michigan and Amin Lake, have also recently displayed wonderful red and yellow Northern Lights.

4. MINNESOTA
Bordering on both Canada and Michigan, Minnesota offers wonderful natural landscapes and dark skies where you can get the chance to catch the dances of the Northern Lights.

Cook County is located at the northeastern tip of the region, along Lake Superior, and in the surroundings there are many isolated locations ideal for aurora-gazing.
In the wilderness of the mountain's peak, the light's show becomes, if possible, even more fascinating.
Enjoying the sky-gazing from a canoa in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is the best (you have to schedule your stay and ask for permits. You can check here).

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (east central Minnesota, close to the Twin Cities) represents a wonderful place where to explore the landscape and observe the wildlife and the colorful surprises of the clear skies.

Voyageurs National Park (on the Canadian border), immersed in a breathtaking and secluded natural context, offers a perfect location to experience all the gifts of nature.

Voyageurs National Park offers a perfect location to see the aurora borealis in Michigan


Duluth, a tourist major port city located on the westernmost point of the Great Lakes on the north shore of Lake Superior, offers many places in the surroundings where to watch the Northern Lights, such as the Boulder Lake area.

5. IDAHO
Idaho is an unexpected place where to go and admire auroras: really, you will be pleasantly surprised. Not far from the Canadian border, its northernmost pristine areas, such as Idaho Panhandle National Forest and Priest Lake, offer the perfect environment to the aurora seekers.

Cavana Priest Lake, Idaho

6. MONTANA
The Glacier National Park, located on the Canadian border, offers many daily activities in a wonderful natural context and in contact with wildlife throughout the year. At night, it magically becomes one of the best places in North America for admiring the Northern Lights show, mainly along its lakes.

Aurora borealis in Montana

7. COLORADO
Since the geomagnetic north pole is currently in Canada on the North American side, there is a real possibility to catch the aurora borealis' glimpse from Colorado.
Pawnee National Grassland has revealed to meet many conditions to make it possible: 35 miles east of Fort Collins, it is a huge area of pristine land with almost no light pollution.

8. PENNSYLVANIA
If you are looking for idyllic sky, Cherry Spring State Park is the perfect place for you: it has been recently named as an International "Dark Sky" Park by the International Dark Sky Association. In the last few years, Northern Lights at Cherry Spring State Park occurred also in summer and autumn.

Amazing starred sky in Pennsylvania

It is not easy to predict the Northern Lights and there are too many variables at stake.
To have the chance to see them, you should take your time and carefully plan your trip in the best period and place, according to forecasts and experience.
Sometimes it happens to be in the right place at the right moment, and you can be lucky enough to watch aurora displays from the balcony of your home in one of the lower 48 states.
Anyway, aurora borealis is something unimaginable. It's magic, it's a gift of the sun and the earth, a pure manifestation in nature of an otherwordly poetry.
And if you have the chance to witness it, you will take this imagine with you forever.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Elk Falls Colorado: Visit the Highest Waterfall near Denver

Do you think there are still places on earth that are unknown to most?
Well, the answer is yes.

It is the case of Elk Falls in Colorado, the highest waterfalls near Denver, that had remained inaccesible to the majority of people for long time.
These stunning 75 feet of falls are located at only 50 minutes from the city and have been part of Staunton State Park since 2013, when the park opened.
After the park creation, people could admire Elk Falls from a distant overlook; nowadays, thanks to two newly constructed trails, the waterfall can be experienced in a more intense way.
(image source: http://photos3.meetupstatic.com/photos/event/b/7/f/4/600_442067092.jpeg)

Reaching Elk Falls and Stauton State Park

Following north on Elk Creek Road for 1.5 miles you will find the park entrance.
The park is open all year from 8 am to 5 pm and a park pass is required for each day of your stay (it costs 7 $ a day). You can leave your car at the group picnic area.
Once you have parked, take a map at the main entrance and start your trip to Elk Falls (you can find a small guide and a general map here).

There are some hiker-only trails and many multi-use trails for hiking, biking and horse riding: all trails are very well signed, but you can ask park rangers and volunteers for any needs.

If you love nature, peace and the sound of the water falling down, you cannot miss the majestic show this area offers. You will enjoy a variety of landscapes and vegetation: meadows, dramatic rock formations, forests, streams and waterfalls.
On your hike you could even meet coyotes, red foxes, deers, hammingbirds and other wildlife.
Make sure you have always your camera with you.
You can enjoy the trail throughout the year with the proper measures in the different seasons: trekking poles and shoes traction devices, since you can find ice and snow on the trail, or snowshoes in case of heavy snow.
Astonishing colors will welcome you in fall, while the snow will accompain you during winter months.

Hiking on Elk Falls

Rated as moderate, the hike distance is about 12 miles round trip (from 4 to 6 hours).
The starting elevation is about 8200 feet and the elevation gain is approximately 900 feet.
Take Staunton Ranch Trail and, after a 3.3 mile hike in the forest, follow Bugling Elk Trail and reach Elk Falls Pond (it is possible to fish here, but a Colorado fishing license is required).

Take a rest admiring the landscape and the main inhabitants of the place: the marmots.
At this point, Lion's Back Trail directly leads to the breathtaking Elk Falls Overlook.
From Elk Falls Pond, the new Chimney Rock Trail connects to both Lion's Back Trail and the Elk Falls Trail that will bring you down to the formerly inaccessible base of Elk Falls.
Elk Falls Trail, in fact, has been recently opened and gives the visitors the chance to enjoy some of the best scenic views that were not accessible before.

Getting closer to the waterfalls you will first perceive the sound of the water falling on the rocks and then an incredible scene will open up. Before taking your way back, following the same trails, seat on a boulder, stay there for a while, watch, breath, and hear this awe-inspiring result of nature.

General behavior on Elk Falls

If you want to fully enjoy, you should follow some simple rules for your own safety and on the basis of the leave-no-trace principles so to minimize your impact on the environment.
  • Dress properly
  • Stay on the marked trails to help preserving the surrounding environment
  • Respect vegetation and wildlife
  • Take your trash
  • Keep your dog on a leash and clean up after it
  • Use the avalaible restrooms (in the parking areas) and if not possible, cover your waste in a hole at least 200 feet from streams and trails

Staunton State Park

The park, the newest state park in Colorado, stretches for over 3908 acres, about 40 miles southwest of Denver and around 6 miles west of Conifer. The city of Denver could certainly be the perfect starting point for visiting both the park and the waterfalls: you can view all our hotel offers in town here.

Created out of a gift by Francis H. Staunton, Staunton State Park opened on May 18, 2013 and today offers many recreational opportunities:
  • Hiking
  • Mountain biking
  • Horseback riding
  • Rock climbing: you can get your free downloadable climbing guide here http://www.fixedpin.com/collections/climbing/products/rock-climbing-staunton-state-park.
    It is not allowed to climb Lion's Head and the spectacular Elk Creek Spires, in order to protect them. Also, climbing can be prohibited during seasonal closure for nesting raptors.
  • Fishing: a Colorado fishing license is required and it is possible to fish at the Davis Ponds, Elk Falls Ponds and the streams. Swimming and boating are not allowed
  • Geocaching
  • Education programs: many educational activites are proposed for both adults and children (such as archery, wildlife photography or the Junior Ranger Program for children)
  • Birdwatching
  • Picnicking: there are picnic tables and BBQ grills close the the parking areas
  • Group picnicking: the site for group picknicking is for rent and available for reservation

General warnings

These areas can be very crowded, above all during holidays and weekends. Annual park passes can be puchased online.
Check the park website before leaving for your hike for alerts and winter information.
Camping is not allowed and it is not possible to stay overnight in the park. Hunting is also prohibited.

Friday, 4 November 2016

The Best Tattoo Shops & Parlors in Las Vegas (Artists Included)

Wondering what the hottest tattoo shops of Las Vegas are?

Here is a list mentioning some of the best rated places near the Las Vegas Strip where you can get a superlative tattoo at quite reasonable prices.
You should call to arrange an appointment. Also, agree on prices before starting the work and directly check if they take credit cards.

The 10 Best Tattoo Shops of Las Vegas

1. Pair-a-dice Tattoo (304 E Sahara Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89104, Downtown; open 7 days a week); website: http://www.pairadicetattoolv.com/
Located near the Strip, it is one of the oldest tattoo shops in Las Vegas. It represents an example of cleanness and professionality and it is very appreciated also by local people. Here you can choose among superb artists and a wide range of styles.

Are you traveling to Las Vegas? Find out the best tattoo shops in town!

2. Downtown Tattoo Las Vegas (1106 Fremont St Las Vegas, NV 89101, Downtown; open 7 days a week); website: http://downtowntattoolasvegas.com/
If you need some inspiration, just take a look around and be ready to get great ideas: tattoos pictures are everywhere on the walls. Even if the area is a bit shady, the place is a very bright open space, perfectly clean and welcoming. You will meet expert artists ready to make you feel comfortable and willing to help you out.

3. Atomic City Tattoo and Piercing (2310 Las Vegas Blvd Las Vegas, NV 89104, Strip North; closed on Sunday); website: http://atomiccitytattoos.com/
Even though sourroundings seem a bit sketchy, the shop is nice and clean, and the staff is very friendly. You will find high quality work at affordable prices by artist Johnny Vegas.

4. Studio 21 Tattoo Gallery (6020 W Flamingo Rd Ste B-2 Las Vegas, NV 89103; Westside); website: http://studio21tattoo.com/
Located one mile west of the Strip, this shop is open and bright. Its popular tattoo artists attract celebrities, locals and people all over the country and the world. Held by the Spencer family, the environment is familiar and friendly, but at the same time professionality is guaranteed.

Tattoist drawing a lotus flower in the Strip, Las Vegas5. Illuminati Tattoo and Piercing (3247 Sammy Davis Jr Dr Ste C, Las Vegas, NV 89109, Westside; open 7 days a week); website: http://vegas.tattooilluminati.com/
In a very comfortable, professional and clean environment you will find here different artists proposing different styles and techniques for all tastes.

6. Ironhorse Tattoos Piercings (700 E Naples Dr, Ste 106 Las Vegas, NV 89119, University, Eastside); http://www.ironhorseink.com/
Located nerby the UNLV, it is close to the south end of the Las Vegas Strip and open 7 days a week. Highly experienced artists work there assuring great professionality. Staff will make you feel comfortable and artists will make their best to realize your perfect tattoo. Their policy is such that they offer free touch ups for a year.

7. Skin Factory Tattoo and Body Piercing (3130 E Sunset Rd, Ste B Las Vegas, NV 89120, Southeast; open 7 days a week); website: https://www.skinfactorytattoo.com/
This place has all the characteristics you should find in a tattoo shop: it is clean, comfortable, customer-oriented and also it's approved by the Health Department. Here customer care and safety, artistic quality and honest prices meet.

8. West Coast Tattoo Parlor (9151 S Las Vegas Blvd, Ste 320, Las Vegas, NV 89123, Southeast; open 7 days a week); website: http://westcoasttattooparlor.com/
Located nearby the south end of the Strip, the place is very clean and welcoming. Staff at the front desk is very friendly and their artists are professional, talented and creative.

Fear and loathing in Las Vegas tattoo

9. Skin Design Tattoo (3963 Spring Mountain Rd Las Vegas, NV 89102, Chinatown; closed on Sunday); website: http://skindesigntattoos.com/
Established in 1999, it is considered one of the best tattoo shops in Las Vegas. The owner's work, Robert Pho, is appreciated all over the world. You will be surprised by the amount of awards the artists of this place won over the years.
The shop is modern and clean. They are also specialized in covering up previous tattoos and scars, and also in laser tattoo removal. If you think that tattoos are a form of art and culture, you have to visit this place.

10. Last Chance Tattoo Parlor (4265 S Arville St Las Vegas, NV 89103; open 7 days a week); website: http://www.lastchancetattoovegas.com/
Active since 2006, it has recently moved to a new location. The environment is clean, welcoming and professional and it hosts some of the best tattoo artists of the city. You have the chance to choose from thousands of designs, or their tattooists will be glad to design a custom piece for you.

Red Hot Flea tattoos

Tattoos shops within hotels

You can also find upscale boutique-style tattoo parlors in many famous hotels in the Strip. We mention here just a few:
The Hard Rock and Casino Hotel in Las Vegas

Want to Get a Tattoo in Las Vegas?

Tattoo industry in Las Vegas is an increasing element for the city's economy.
The most populated city of Nevada offers a large selection of tattoo shops and parlors, also attended by celebrities, and some of the world best tattoo artists to choose from.
So, if you want to get a tattoo, just come to Las Vegas and take home a permanent souvenir!

And remember: a tattoo is forever, so choose carefully and search for quality, cleanness and safety.

Beware cheap places, but be careful: expensive does not necessarily mean more professional.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Ethiopian Food in Portland: The 10 Best Restaurants

Are you in Portland, Oregon, and have a craving for Ethiopian food?
Lucky you! There are many yummy Ethiopian restaurants and spots here.

Let the true aroma of Ethiopian herbs, food and spices welcome you!
Get ready to unveil the 10 most famous Ethiopian restaurants in Portland, from North to South.

1. Gojo Ethiopian Restaurants (915 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211 Northeast Portland, King)
Closed on Monday, the restaurant is open also for lunch. The prices range from $11 to $30. Platters are rich, served with plentiful injera bread (the typical spongy unleavened flat bread).
Beside the meat menu, you have many vegetarian and vegan choices. Gluten-free options are also available.
The ambience is simple and warm, the owners are very friendly and you will feel like at home. Choose the combination platters to try different tastes.
It is the perfect place to first experience authentic Ethiopian food and fall in love with it.

Ethiopian injera

2. Queen of Sheba International Foods (2413 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Portland, OR 97212, Northeast Portland, Eliot)
It is considered one of the best (not only Ethiopian) restaurants in Portland. It opens every day for dinner; on Thursday, Friday and Saturday it is open also at lunch time.
Products and ingredients are mainly imported from Ethiopia. Along the restaurant's corridors the colors and flavors of Ethiopia will accompany you. The menu offers a wide choice of combination options. They are sensitive to gluten-free diet. You can find full menu here.

3. Sengatera Ethiopian Restaurant (3833 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Portland, OR 97212, Northeast Portland, King)
It is closed on Tuesday, it is open also for lunch on Saturday and Sunday.
The environment and the staff are nice and welcoming. They offer traditional family recipes. The fresh ingredients and typical spices come directly from Ethiopia.
This restaurant also offers live music shows during the week.
They also set the place for parties and birthdays.
Have a look at their menu on this page: http://sengaterarestaurant.com/menu.html.

4. Aberus Ethiopian Restaurant (438 NE Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97211, Northeast Portland, King)
Open also for lunch, it is closed on Monday. It is quite a small restaurant for about 50 people. Family run, you will find a very warm and nice environment.
Food is typically served on a single platter and you generally eat with your hands.
The menu offers a very varied meat menu and a little bit more limited choice of vegetarian food. Combo platters are the best way to experience the different tastes of the traditional Ethiopian food. Prices are reasonable, ranging from $11 to $30.

5. Enat Kitchen (300 N Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97217, North Portland, Humboldt)
Open for lunch, it is closed on Sunday. Held by an Ethiopian family, the restaurant offers a wide range of typical Ethiopian dishes and tastes. It proposes both meat dishes made of beef, chicken, lamb or fish, and vegetarian specialties.
The 2-person combo platters are very generous.
The family style couple platter offers 2 meat dishes and 5 veggie ones for $29, perfect for 2/3 people. The larger family plate is for about 5 people for $40.

Ethiopian wat

6. E'njoni Cafe (910 N Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97217)
This restaurant opens 7 days a week, also at lunch during the weekend. A warm environment will welcome you. It offers a wide range of vegetarian and meat dishes, with authentic and organic ingredients.
If you you opt for the veggie platter, you can chooose 5 vegetarian dishes for $13.
You can have a look at the online menu.

7. Bete-Lukas (2504 SE 50th Ave, Southeast Portland, OR 97206)
Open for dinner only, it is closed on Monday.
The environment is very welcoming with warm colors and artistic pictures on the walls.
It is a bit hard to find and not very well signed. It is on the 2° floor, following the stairway on the right of the building. The menu is varied and includes vegetarian, fish and meat dishes.
Try the vegetarian combo or the meat one: you will not be disappointed.
Prices are reasonable, ranging from $11 to $30.
Full menu here: http://www.bete-lukas.com/Dinner_Menu.html.

8. Abyssinian Kitchen (2625 SE 21st Ave Portland, OR 97202-Southeast Portland, Clinton, Hosford-Abernethy)
Closed on Monday, it is open for dinner only.
Price range is from $11 to $30. Having probably been a house before, it is a very welcoming and homey place, and the staff is very friendly. You will find high quality fresh food and staff sensitive to dietary needs.
View the online menu!

A typical Ethiopian dish you can enjoy in Portland Or

9. Emame's Ethiopian Cuisine (Portland, OR 97205, Southwest Portland, Downtown)
This place is perfect for a quick, good and cheap lunch. Open at office time, it is closed on Sunday. You should try the vegetarian combo: spicy lentils, cabage and injera bread. You will also find vegan options. The lady who runs the cart is very friendly.

10. Rahel's Ethiopian Food (Hazelwood, 10175 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97216)
This food truck will not disappoint you. The lady is very nice, food is fresh and cooked with love and prices are cheap. Open from 11am to 8 pm, it is closed on Sunday.

Do you love Ethiopian food, but want to cook it yourself? 

At Meskel Market (839 N Killingsworth Street, Portland, OR 97217, North Portland, Humboldt) and Merkato Ethiopian Music and Food store (2605 NE M L King Blvd, Portland, OR 97212, Northeast Portland, Eliot) you can find injera bread packs, Ethiopian spices, lentils, coffee beans and teff flour.

Getting to know real Ethiopian food

Ethiopian food tradition is an expression of the Ethiopian culture and food represents a true moment of sharing.
Generally, don't expect any fork or knife, but just the Injera bread serving as utensils, plate and sometimes also towels!
The Ethiopian cusine offers both vegetarian and meat dishes, from spicy to mild, or no spicy at all. Typical Ethiopian food can be accompanied by traditional drinks (wine, honey wine, beer, coffee and tea in their varieties).
Herbs and spices usually come directly from Ethiopia, so you get the chance to taste the real flavour of traditional dishes.

Injera, the typical Ethiopian bread

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Whitmore Hot Springs, Mammoth Lakes: The Ultimate Guide

Along the eastern side of Sierra Nevada Mountains, a few miles from the city of Mammoth Lakes, you will have the chance to visit some of the best and most primitive hot springs in California: they are the result of an ancient volcano's explosion, some 760,000 years ago, and mostly concentrate in the area between Bridgeport and Mammoth Lakes itself.

Route 395, Eastern Sierra Nevada, California, near Mammoth Lakes

Whitmore Hot Springs

They are located in the Long Valley Caldera, 20 minutes south-east to Mammoth Lakes and are surrounded by the Inyo National Forrest, in California's Eastern Sierra.
You can reach them travelling along Route 395 and then following the Whitmore Tubs Road. You will find 6 or 7 hot spring tubs over a course of few miles.
The natural context of the Whitmore Hot Springs is astonishing.
Imagine to be in the middle of nothing but nature in all its different forms.
They are located in a rather desert and pristine valley, surrounded by alpine mountains. They blend in with an almost lunar landscape, giving you a direct contact with nature.
One of their main and best features is that they are free and not commercial at all.
Usually volunteers take care of them, there are no special signs or business premises indicating their presence and often there are no facilities around the tubs, such as bathrooms or trash cans.
In some cases, the springs have been enclosed in concrete and rock tubs of various sizes.
Some of them are very small and can host just one person or a couple at a time, others are bigger and welcome more people. They can have taps to regulate water's temperature which can vary and be really hot. So, be careful!

We list here the most famous Whitmore Hot Spring Tubs, where you can soak your body while feeding your spirit with incredible views and quiet surroundings.

Whitmore Hot Tubs, near the city of Mammoth Lakes, California

1. Hilltop Hot Springs
Here you will find just one pool to accomodate four to six people. It is very popular being easy to get to. You will enjoy a breathtaking open view over the Sierra Nevada mountains.

2. Crab Cooker Hot Springs
This tub is not easy to reach and it is not easy to park there. There is only one pool that accomodate no more than 6 people. There are taps to regulate the water temperature.

3. Wild Willy's Hot Springs
Surrounded by an incredible backdrop and sagebrushes, they include 2 pools (a bigger one and a smaller one), that can be reached through a boardwalk from the car park.

4. Rock Tub Hot Spring 
It is popular and often crowded and can accomodate 6 to 8 people. Its water is hot, reaching over 100°, and you cannot adjust it.

Dead trees at Mammoth Hot Springs

5. Shepherd Hot Springs

This pool is easy to reach by car, that's why it is popular and often crowded, but it is worthy the wait. The water can be very hot, but can be regulated.

6. Little Hot Creek
This pool, a bit difficult to reach, is located in a small and isolated valley within a wonderful landscape. Water temperature is nicely regulated. It is better to have a SUV to get there.

Other Hot Springs near Mammoth Lakes

Hot Creek, close to Mammoth Airport, is an incredible hot spring within a cold stream surrounded by rocks and mountains all around; the effect of hot bubbles and cold water on your body is amazing. The spring can be very hot, so be careful. Recently the place has been closed for volcanic activity.

Travertine Hot Springs (Bridgeport Valley) consist of a group of 5 pools immersed in a wonderful natural context. Easy to reach, they are quite popular.

Benton Hot Springs and Keough Hot Springs are more structered and organized pools, offering the possibilities to lodge nearby.

Travertine Terrace, Mammoth Lakes Hot Springs

Warnings

- The hot springs are often connected by dirt roads that may be muddy or extremely rough, and you may need 4x4 to drive there.
- In winter, routes and mountain passes can be closed.
- Local people are friendly, but they actually do not like much that the hot springs are overly hyped.  We suggest a sort of code of behavior in attending the hot spring tubs.
- There are both "closed, private" tubs (smaller) and "open" ones (bigger), be discrete in entering occupied small hot springs and choose rather the bigger ones, or wait until they are free.
- Do not park or camp too close to the pools.
Keep the pools clean after yourself and be respectful with the environment.

Accomodation in Mammoth Lakes

You can choose the best accomodation according to your tastes and needs.
Being an area of natural parks, if you like an adventurous way or you are travelling in your RV, there are some campgrounds and RV parks around.
If you prefer or have to sleep in a hotel, there are many options in Mammoth Lakes or along Route 395.

Things to Do in Mammoth Lakes

Beside the experience of lying in the hot mineral waters and relaxing among the mountains, the incredible natural and wild environment of Mammoth Lakes surroundings offers many opportunities, both in summer and in winter.

During the summer you can enjoy the landscape through activities such as hiking, sightseeing, biking, rock climbing, camping and golfing. This area is dotted with many alpine lakes where it is possible to practice many sports: canoying and kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming and fishing.

During the winter this is an amazing place for skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice climbing.

Being a wild environment, you have to be always careful and behave properly since you can see wildlife, such as bears, coyotes, deer, raccoons and wolves. Rangers are there to help you and give advice.

What to do in Mammoth Lakes

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