Responsible Adventures – Nepal

Himalaya Mountains

Responsible Adventures is an ecological trekking organization designed to improve, protect and preserve the environment of the Himalayan mountain ranges. An organization for the 21st century, we are leaders in the organisation of ecological mountain treks. Responsible Adventures was created and developed by a group of young environmentally and culturally conscious former Trek leaders with … Read more

The Facts: Getting the Right Travel Insurance

A lot of preparation can go into making sure you’re not one of those travellers that comes home with a woeful story of being ripped off or injured overseas. You can spend hours researching local scams, the best accommodation available and the locks you’ll get to protect the camera and phone tucked in your luggage. … Read more

Villa in Sicily

infinity pool

Renting a luxury villa in Sicily can open up a world of opportunities and experiences that you would not normally get from staying in a large hotel. If you want to find a villa that is right for you and your family, you need the right agent who not only understands the area but also the needs of the customer.

Villas offer the unrivalled experience of living like a local, so that you can enjoy the luxurious surroundings of a character property in a relaxing pool, surrounded by lush landscapes and breathtaking sea views.

Finding the right villa in Sicily for your holiday can be a daunting task, particularly when there is a language barrier. There are plenty of websites for renting villas, but sometimes it is just easier to give the difficult task of finding a villa to an agent.

The best agents will have personal knowledge of Sicily and will be able to offer advice about location, customs and even excursions. They should also be able to answer any questions about the finer details of renting the property before you choose to go ahead.

When dealing with a rental property, especially a luxury villa with a pool, it is always best to prepare for the unexpected. Like any other holiday property, you will probably find something that you didn’t expect, whether it is the situation of the villa, the decorative features or the proximity to neighbours, but it is important to keep an open mind. Your own personal idea of what luxury villas should look like may be very different to the opinions and tastes of a local, so it is essential to keep this in perspective. No matter what property you choose, your villa will always offer more space and freedom than a large luxury hotel.

Benefits of renting a villa

The best part of renting a villa is the freedom it can bring to you and your family. If you love to see all of the local attractions, then you certainly have the opportunity to see them at your own pace. Sometimes the best moments are spent enjoying all the facilities that the villa has to offer. This is especially true for children, who will love to run around freely or splash about in the pool. It’s also the perfect opportunity to explore the local area, get to know the owners or the neighbours and really immerse yourself in authentic Sicilian culture. Sicily has a long and fascinating history that has been shaped by its ancient Phoenician, Greek and Roman influences. To explore all the wonderful historic sites of this fascinating island, like Syracuse and Catania, there’s no better choice than spending your holiday in a luxury Sicilian villa.

Top 5 attractions of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh

Castle in Armenia

The tours to Armenia and the beautiful old region Nagorno-Karabakh are becoming popular day by day. This area amazes by its old and difficult history, colorful traditions, exotic national dishes and, of course, a huge number of attractions. In this article you’ll be able to have a closer touch with this amazing country. You will learn about most famous attractions of Armenia and the region Nagorno- Karabakh located to the east of the country.

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Geghard Monastery

Gaghard Monastery is one of the most famous in Armenia. It is included in almost all tour packages. The uniqueness of the temple is that it has rock architecture and its part is carved in the rock. The exact date of its construction is not known yet however, it is supposed that the monastery was built in the 4th century and first was called Ayrivank translated as Cave Monastery.

Later it was renamed into Geghard or Geghardavank (a monastery of spear). This name was given because of the spear of Loginus that for a long time had been kept in the monastery. Geghard Monastery impresses by its rough simplicity and majesty seemingly borrowed by surrounding landscapes – equally severe and amazing.

Tatev Monastery

This amazing architectural creation is an absolutely must for all those who wants to travel to Armenia. It is a masterpiece of medieval architecture of the 9th century. You can get to the monastery by the world famous rope way which is included into the Guinness Book of Records because of its length (5,7 km). You will fly over the amazing gorge for 15 minutes. At the end of the way you will see Tatev Monastery – impressive and majestic as though soaring over the surrounding mountains.

Ghazanchetsots Cathedral

The town of Shoushi is one of the most famous in Nagorno-Karabakh region. It is famous for its tragic 200-year history. It is a real symbol of the tireless struggle of Armenians and their belief in a brighter future. One of the most popular and exciting attractions of the town is the majestic Church Ghazanchetsots (Church of Holy Savior). It is one of the largest Armenian churches in the world.

The temple was built in 1888 from white limestone and decorated with the finest exquisite carvings. While visiting the temple, you will be impressed by its graceful design and spirituality. The temple is also known for its unique acoustic hall located under the altar, in which man’s voice changes unrecognizably and sounds like a stranger’s. Ghazanchetsots Church is the perfect embodiment of the architectural talent of Armenian people.

Gandzasar Monastery

In Nagorno-Karabakh near the river Khachen, there is another great architectural monument. It symbolizes wisdom and centuries-old Christian traditions. We are speaking about the Gandzasar Monastery (Church of St. John the Baptist).

The construction  began in 1216 and was completed in 1238. People differently call this beautiful creation. “The greatest miracle of Armenian architecture”. Also”the church similar to the Heaven’s dome temple”, “a perfect creation”. The church is also famous around the world because it keeps the head of John the Baptist buried under the altar. So once in Nagorno-Karabakh try not to miss this majestic site. It would be a great omission!

Hunot Canyon

Hunot Canyon is a natural miracle of Nagorno-Karabakh. This canyon is a State Natural-Historical Reserve which by its stunning beauty leaves the visitors in awe. The tourists who choose to travel around the canyon will be able to discover amazing waterfalls, forests, caves, ruins of ancient settlements, and numerous historical and architectural wonders. An excellent place for hiking lovers! There you can choose among the three trials marked with signs.

For example, Routе 1 will lead you to the popular picturesque waterfall called Mamrot Qar or Umbrella. It got this name not by chance: the water here falls from a cave that resembles a big umbrella covered with moss. This impressive natural monument surprises visitors of all ages, and is a highlight of the canyon. Route 2 will lead you to the ruins of Hunot village which was founded in the 18th century and was abandoned in the 20th century. During the hike the tourists can explore interesting remains of old buildings and cemeteries. Hunot Canyon has lots of other unique surprises for its visitors, so if you decide to have a Holiday in Nagorno-Karabakh try to necessarily visit this attraction.

If you’d like more information on Armenia go to the official tourism website of Armenia 

Ecotour – Kyrgyzstan Horse Riding Tours

Ecotour organizes travel for individuals, small groups and families (with children). We have prepared for our guests thematic cultural programs – meeting the nomads, felt making and active adventurous tours – trekking, horse riding, mountain bike trips and cycling tours and tours for bird watching, nature photography, and a tour exclusively for women. We also … Read more

Food and Cuisine of Hoi An – Paradise in Vietnam for the Food Lover

Food in Hoi An

A trip to Vietnam is not complete without visiting Hoi An, a Unesco World Heritage Site. While not being a large town (120,000 people) there are plenty of things to see in Hoi An and you can easily spend 3 days seeing the major sights, most of all enjoying the local cuisine that includes some fantastic regional specialties.

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The history of Hoi An is predominately based around trading and Hoi An was the most important trading port in the South China Sea in the 17th and 18th centuries, trading in ceramics and spices, which were exported all over Asia.

The legacy of this history is some very old and historic buildings and a rich cuisine with some external influences, such as the French, Japanese and Chinese.

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Banh Mi

The main culinary gift the French exported to Vietnam was the baguette and is the base of the Banh Mi.

The Vietnamese baguette is lighter than the French variety, it’s made with rice flour as well as wheat flour. Added to the baguette is pork, sometimes egg and pate’ which is almost always made at home. Then add coriander (cilantro),

Cucumber,onion, mint and mayonnaise and often pickled carrot and daikon radish. Some chilli or sweet chilli sauce is also added depending on your tolerance level.

It’s a great and cheap meal to have for lunch and backpackers are seen at all the local Banh Mi shops.

The most visited Banh Mi shop in Hoi An is Banh Mi Phuong which was made famous on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.

Hoi An Crispy Pancake

Another great snack and regional specialty is the Hoi An Crispy Pancake. In Vietnamese called Banh Xeo – sizzling cake.

It’s similar enough to crepes to think there maybe a French influence in this dish as well.

The pancake is made from rice flour, turmeric and coconut milk/cream and then bean sprouts,shrimp and pork are added to the batter.

Once the batter is cooked rice paper is used as a base next layer the pancake and then put cucumber, green banana coriander (cilantro), mint on top of the pancake and roll it like it’s a cold roll and eat. Just fantastic!

You can buy the pancakes in the local market and you eat them with your hands, true street food.

This dish is taught at most of the local cooking schools of which there are many.

Cao Lau Noodles

This noodle dish is something you will only find in Hoi An and the legend that surrounds it, is that the taste and texture can only be achieved using water from the Ba Le water wheel (although it is quite likely an urban myth).

It’s also said the ash of a burnt local tree gives the dish its taste and texture.

Nobody can be sure of the origins of the dish but the fact that it is unique to Hoi An and is reminiscent of a Japanese or Chinese noodle dish, you would think that it is a local attempt to replicate a Chinese or Japanese

dish a few centuries ago to sell to the traders.

Different restaurants cook the dish in slightly different ways the dish is normally pork, noodle and vegetable with a broth and sauce.

There are many Cao Lau noodle makers in Hoi An outside of the old town where you can enjoy a bowl of Cao Lau Noodles

You can see the noodles being made all over town being laid to dry on the pathways, out the front of the homes of the noodle makers.

Crispy Wontons

This dish is out of left field and something I would more likely expect to see in Mexico. In Vietnamese this dish is called Hoanh Thanh.

Crispy Wontons are fried wontons filled with pork. It’s a bit like a fried tortilla but the thing that’s most Mexican like is the salsa that’s added at the end.

It’s a tomato based salsa with vegetables and coriander (cilantro), it’s a fresh taste that’s ideal for the hot climate in the area.

Pho

If you are in Vietnam you will find Pho (pronounced) fur everywhere. The Hoi An variety is much like the Saigon style which is a lighter broth with star anis, very floral with plenty of herbs.

The more north you travel the more that Pho tends to change to a more winter like soup by European tastes.

Unlike in Europe the soup is eaten for breakfast in Vietnam and you will find Pho in nearly all the places you go in Vietnam.

It’s a taste sensation when done well and you’ll find everyone will have a different master stock so no two restaurants will have Pho’s that are exactly the same.

Hoi An is a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of Vietnam and should be on the itinerary of every food lover visiting Vietnam

Relax with nature in Tuscany at Oasi Maremma Village

The thought of Tuscany brings evocative images into my mind. The sun setting behind a vineyard as you snack on olives and sip on your glass of wine.

I guess everyone gets a different picture in their mind when they think if a certain place and that’s my image of Tuscany.

One place where you can satisfy that desire is at Oasi Maremma Village where you can let one of 48 newly built apartments for you holiday in Tuscany.

There are many things to see and do near Oasi Maremma Village and is very close to Scarlino a small medieval village on Alma Mountain, with a view of the blue sea.  Scarlino’s history is linked to the noble Aldobrandeschi family, dating back to the eleventh century.

Walk along its medieval walls to the Rocca Aldobrandesca castle, walk through ancient streets and encounter the Romanesque atmosphere of the San Donato church, dating back to the 12th Century.

Only 40km away is Grosetto a town that dates back to the 9th century, see the 16th Century Medicean Walls and Grosseto cathedral you can spend a great day exploring the town and its history. You could spend days exploring all the churches, abbeys and palaces in Grosseto but you may not want to because Siena and Florence are only a 2 hour drive away as well.

Within the city walls you can visit

  • Church of San Francesco. Situated in the square, it was built in the 13th-century, initially an important Benedectine, later Franciscan convent. The complex underwent several restorations and reconstructions: the bell was rebuilt in the first half of the 20th century.
  • Convent of Clarisse. Located on strada Vinzaglio, the convent is annexed to the Church of Bigi. The convent of Clarisse and the church of Bigi are now desecrated. The entire complex is characterized by the probable medieval origins, which was followed by a series of restorations in Baroque style in the 17th century.
  • Church of San Pietro. The oldest religious building in town, it was built along the stretch of the Via Aurelia that crossed the center and was originally a plebeian and stational church along the old consular road.
  • Church of Misericordia (19th century). It belonged to various religious orders during the following centuries, before moving on brotherhood in the early decades of the 19th century.

Another daytrip you could take is to Portoferraio best known as the location of Napoleon’s first exile (Elba) there are a number of historic forts on the island for you to visit, you can get to Elba on a ferry from Piombino.

And if the history is not enough you have the beach and there is a great sand beach nearby for you to swim and spend some time in the sun.

For more information about accommodation at Oasi Maremma Village please go to the website oasimaremma.it

Dodging a Typoon – Nha Trang

Vinpearl Nha Trang

The train trip south to Nha Trang was another overnight sleeper trip. This time it was our first encounter with Vietnam Rail First Class Sleeper Air-Con. It was pretty bad. Despite labor being so cheap in Vietnam they appear to not want to worry about leaving dirty sheets on beds and as one person leaves … Read more

Hoi An Vietnam – French Colonial Paradise

Hoi An Cafe

The trip to Hoi An (or actually Danang because the train doesn’t go to Hoi An) is the highlight of the train trip – the Reunification Express. It passes through an area where the mountains meet the sea. White crescent shaped beaches dot the coastline and the train cruises above the beach. Well that’s what … Read more

The City that lost its Glory – Hue

Hue Palace Gates

After leaving Hanoi we had our first experience of the Reunification Express. We were in the Livitrans carriages – the most expensive and the first impression we got – cockroaches and plenty of them! Anyway other than the cockroaches it was an uneventful and uncomfortable trip.

Arriving in Hue was a nice culture shock because the incesant noise of Hanoi was over and Hue is a much smaller and laidback town.

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The majority of hotels, backpackers and bars were in a small 3 or 4 block area and prices are cheap for food especially.

During the day we visited the Citadel which contained the palaces and capital buildings of the Nguyen Dynasty rulers of Vietnam from 1805 to 1945. The citadel has what I would politely call a run down charm to the place. Saying that looked like work was starting to be done and it seems to have survived the last 50 years and everything that went on around it in OK shape.

It is Vietnam’s answer to the Forbidden city.

Also while we were in Hue we took a cruise on the Perfume River, It was a bit of a waste of time and money -although it wasn’t expensive 100,000 dong I think. Our time might have been better spent going to one of the pagodas.

One other thing that was noticeable was there were more cyclo drivers offering prostitutes and marijuana in Hue than other places I’ve been in so far. Haven’t been to Saigon or Vung Tau yet though!

Hue also has a number of pagodas you can visit plus tours to the tunnels in the demilitarised zone. Due to fact that we had been travelling so much the previous days we didn’t do any of this and treated Hue as a bit of a rest and relaxation time.

Trekking in Sapa

Sapa

Our trip to Sapa began at Hanoi and our train trip to Lao Cai near the Chinese border. We decided to take the Sapaly Express the highest price option.

The train to Lao Cai has a number of different names but are the same train. The train was borderline comfortable, the trains in Vietnam are certainly not up to the standard of Thai first class.

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So after a night on the train we arrived in Lao Cai early morning where we had a car waiting for us, The car cost $30 and was arranged by the hotel.

My first impression of Sapa was a mountain town surrounded by low cloud almost a combination between Asia and Switzerland.

There are not many things to do in Sapa town itself you can graze between French style cafes and restaurants and you can relax at a few Massage joints.

Most of your time however will be spent trying to dissuade the local hawkers trying to sell their wares. Sapa also has a large number of shops selling North Face and Columbia hiking gear. (you can also buy this in Hanoi at pretty much the same price).

The big earner (other than the hotels) are village tours. The trek in Sapa are run by local guides we had a local Black Hmong villager called Soo whose English was very good. She took us from Sapa up hill down dale through the Sapa countryside. The walk was 13km but felt like more for my bloated, unfit body.

The tours themselves were very enjoyable and if you are lucky and go on a clear and sunny day it would be heaven for people who enjoy photography.

However the downside is the hawkers. You appear to get 2 Black Hmong villagers who walk along with you and over the day you strike a rapport with them but as soon as you get to the village its all bets off and you get a severe hard sell. After buying a couple things from the 2 women who walked with us we were surrounded by about another 20 of them wanting you to buy their stuff.

So in the ended up spending $20 on a couple things I’ll never use plus the $28 for the guide.

Is it worth it, considering it cost $90 round trip on the train plus higher hotel rates – I’m not sure to be totally honest but I think if the weather was better I might not be writing this.

Hanoi – Bustling, Loud and Loving it

Hanoi

After the first evening in Hanoi we were able to start exploring the area. We were staying in the Old Quarter which was a labyrinth of lanes with all types of vehicles using them from coaches to cyclos to pushbikes. The people seemed to have a system based on anarchy when they were driving but … Read more

The flight to Vietnam – Malaysia Airlines

Hanoi

As with most travelling, particularly when you travel by plane the “getting there” is not what you enjoy. Here is a rundown of the last couple days. I left Adelaide on Saturday 17 March, it was an afternoon flight on Malaysia Airlines to Kuala Lumpur. I watched a couple movies – exciting stuff. My overall … Read more

Travelling on the Trans Siberian Railway

trans siberian railway

History of the Trans Siberian Railway The Transiberian train, the longest continuous railway and certainly one of the most impressive in the world. It has been around for over a century. When it comes to historical significance, this may not sound too impressive. But that’s only until you realize that the original plans for the … Read more

Sailing Holiday in Croatia

Sailing the Adriatic Sea is a great way to spend your vacation. The blue sea , a wonderful climate and historic ports to visit will make this the most wonderful trip of a lifetime. Sailing holidays in Croatia can take you to some fantastic, historic towns on the Dalmatian Coast. While many appreciate the tranquil … Read more

Villa in Goa

One of the most popular areas of India for a beach location is the ex Portuguese colony of Goa. Goa is best known for its many beaches and its wonderful cuisine. You can dine on many seafood dishes and great curries that are distinct to the region. Fifteen kilometers from Panjim, the Goan capital, is … Read more