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.

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.

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.

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