Shanghai

March 31, 2014

Set at the mouth of the mighty Yangtze river, Shanghai has been a centre of trade and commerce for centuries. In recent years, however, China’s seemingly endless growth has seen this incredible city grow and modernise faster than virtually anywhere else on the planet. Second only to Beijing, Shanghai is a city of both history and contemporary China.

The city’s famous waterfront, The Bund, represents its historic multiculturalism perfectly. The Bund was built in a mix of architectural styles, including examples from the Baroque, Classical and Renaissance eras – and every day tourists and locals flock to the location to sightsee or enjoy romantic strolls. From The Bund, many of Shanghai’s modern wonders are visible, including the World Financial Centre and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, rising high above the city’s glamorous skyline.

Shanghai Shanghai

Beyond its vibrant waterfront, Shanghai has a quieter side, perfect for exploration. The Yunyan Garden is a stunning example of China’s grand past: a sanctuary of rockeries, ponds, cloisters, intricate halls and pavilions, the garden was designed to showcase the extravagance of China’s 16th century Ming Dynasty. This ancient tradition continues in the suburb of Zhujiajiao: built on water, the town is connected by a network of bridges and visitors can explore preserved Ming and Qing Dynasty dwellings, or sail along its waterways and canals on a hired boat. One of the most sacred locations in Shanghai is the Jade Buddha Temple, the home of two priceless white-jade Buddha statues originally brought all the way from Burma by an adventurous Buddhist monk. The Temple is designed to encourage tranquillity and self-reflection but is also a stunning architectural attraction right in the heart of modern Shanghai.

 Jade Buddha Temple

Both bustling with contemporary culture and holding an immense historical presence, it is incredibly easy to immerse yourself in Shanghai’s atmosphere. A city virtually unparalleled in China – or the wider world, for that matter – no holiday to the Far East is complete without enjoying the many splendors that Shanghai has on offer.

Photo Credits: Jade Buddha Temple: flickr 


Friday Photo: The Great Barrier Reef

March 28, 2014

Our photo this Friday shows one of the most beautiful ecosystems in the natural world. The Great Barrier Reef is an unforgettable experience for adventurous holidaymakers who wish to be transported to a magical underwater world brimming with colour, spectacle and marine life. Travel with Titan to Australia and you will be introduced to this magnificent paradise beneath the ocean.

Great Barrier Reef

Visible from space, the world renowned Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef system on the planet, covering an incredible area of 344,000km². Few spectacles can match this expansive coral kingdom, which bustles and swarms with vibrantly coloured tropical fish. Travelling with Titan, you will be taken from Port Douglas on a thrilling Quicksilver Wavepiercer boat journey across the azure blue Coral Sea.

Titan holidaymakers have a choice as to how they observe and experience the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. You can view the marine turtles and dolphins play from the enthralling glass-windowed underwater walkway situated at Agincourt Reef on the astonishing Outer Barrier Reef, observe tuskfish and manta rays from the comfort of a semi-submersible boat or dive deeper with the snorkelling equipment provided to get up close to the multi-coloured urchins, sponges and starfish.

Photo opportunities abound as you gaze into the clear waters teeming with marine life and as our photo shows, the corals make a stunning backdrop for the bright shoals of tropical fish. After your exhilarating day you can relax and unwind at Palm Cove, the most luxurious sandy beach in Cairns.

A visit to the Great Barrier Reef is much more than a holiday excursion. It is the uplifting experience of a lifetime that leaves you with happy memories of some of the most arresting natural sights to be seen anywhere in the world.


Highlights of the River Elbe

March 27, 2014

The River Elbe snakes through the forests of central Europe, like a large watery vein across a vast, mysterious and beautiful landscape. Within each lies legendary and historical treasures, awakening in those that journey Elbe’s route a curiosity to greet new cultures and connect with the past.

On a river cruise along the Elbe, Prague is a good place to start. As the capital city of the Czech Republic there is an abundance of attractions, as you can probably imagine. Some highlights include the iconic Charles Bridge that crosses the Vitava River and the Old Town Square, where you will find architectural wonders in the form of the baroque St. Nicholas Church and incredible Prague astronomical clock, to name but a few.

Prague Prague

Following on from such cultural bustle, Litomerice makes the perfect pit stop along the river, with just as many fascinations but a more laid back ambience. A picturesque environment of almost cartoon like greenery and views that drift foggily into an enchanting haze in the distance make Litomerice seem both strange and charming. Exploring the Market Square will certainly have you feeling as though you’ve travelled back in time as you take in the renaissance buildings and ponder sites such as the Cathedral of St. Stephen with belfry.

Next up there is Dresden, formerly the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. This is a truly enchanting place that has a fairy tale type illusory feel, with a skyline of Baroque buildings that illuminate mystically at night as their reflections blur like water colours in the river.

 Dresden

Meissen cannot be missed on this route either, with scenery so charismatic it almost does not look real. The Albrechtsburg Castle and Meissen Cathedral in particular are highlights of the area, with grandiose gothic appearances that reach domineeringly towards the clouds. It is easy to picture dragons flying overhead and unicorns grazing amongst the greenery, yet although mystical appearing, Meissen’s beauty is very real, and this allows for visitors to lose themselves for a while amongst its environment.

Wittenberg is a small German city well known for being linked with Martin Luther and the protestant reformation. For this reason many of the sites to see here are associated with this, including a museum within the Augustinian Monastery along with intriguing places like the Lutherhaus and St Mary’s Church that have been given the prestigious title of  UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

 St Mary’s Church

Many of the destinations that reside along the Elbe are so unlike anywhere else through the way in which they’ve preserved their history. This gives them extra impact, as the sites exist so closely to how they would have done years ago. Burg bei Magdeburg is another good example of this. While only a very tiny town in the northeast of Germany, this makes its medieval churches and towered buildings all the more impressionable.

Lastly, Potsdam must be mentioned. Not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Listed City, but also the capital of the federal state of Brandenburg. It has got quite a reputation, and doesn’t disappoint. The narrative of its past exists everywhere, through the majestic Sanssouci Palace and Roman Baths that give a taste of what it might have been like to be Prussian royalty and then the more down to earth old town market square, where those spirits of the past can mingle with those of the present.

Photo Credits: Dresden: flickr; St. Mary’s Church: flickr


Seven Sights of South America

March 25, 2014

In South America there is an array of exotic environments and exhilarating cultures to be discovered. No place is quite the same as the next, which makes for a holiday that is full of exciting possibilities. The only daunting part can be deciding where to start, so to provide some guidance here are seven destinations you will want to experience.

The Galapagos Islands

Located just off the west coast of South America, the Galapagos Islands are best known for being where Charles Darwin carried out the studies that helped to shape his theories on natural selection. It will come as no surprise that there is a plethora of vibrant wildlife to see, with everything from the famous Galapagos Giant Tortoises, which can weigh up to 400kg, to the charismatic (and rather bizarre) looking Redthroated Frigatebirds and Bluefooted Boobies.

Frigatebirds Redthroated Frigatebird, Galapagos Islands

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is in Central South America and as with much of South America, you will find a focus on the preservation of its incredible wild life, with the opportunity to catch sight of species such as sloths, toucans and spider monkeys in their natural habitats. Paradise like beaches and greener than green jungles rejuvenate the senses and surround those that visit in calm, while the energetic culture of places such as San Jose add to the country’s unique charisma.

Toucan Colourful Wildlife of Costa Rica

Mexico’s Mayan Trail

Mexico is spirited with the historical wonder of its Mayan heritage. There are the ceremonial pyramids of Chichen Itza and astonishing artifacts that cast a presence of ancient communities amongst striking scenery. Walking the Mayan trail and passing through exciting areas such as Mexico City, Monte Alban and Palenque takes you back in time to walk the paths of previous civilizations.

ChichenItza Chichen Itza, Mexico

Chile

Situated between the Andes mountains and Pacific Ocean, Chile is a skinny stretch of vast landscapes, ranging from the peaceful, wildlife embellished greenery of Torres del Paine National Park, to the desolate Atacama Desert, and cultural bustle of Santiago city, distanced with snow topped mountains. Within each of these awaits a multitude of experiences.

Santiago Santiago, Chile

Panama Canal Cruise

The Panama Canal is most definitely a highlight of Southern America. Its waters reach all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific on a 48 mile route that passes through places such as Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco and Cartagena, stopping for visits along the way and capturing the essence of the continent.

Panama Canal Panama Canal

The Ecuadorian Amazon

The Amazon is full of mysteries; a host to much of the world’s undiscovered flora and fauna. It provides a fascinating destination to visit, allowing people to truly escape the rest of the world for a while. The Ecuadorian Amazon in particular is so exotically embellished with birds, fish and strange species such as the giant river otter that you will never see the world in quite the same way after.

Manatee Amazon Explorer The Manatee Amazon Explorer

The Footsteps of the Incas

The Inca Empire was once the largest of pre-Columbian America and is an important part of Southern America’s historical identity. Due to the empire being based in Peru this is where you will find much of its remnants to this day, including the infamous mountain-top city ruins of Machu Picchu. This fascinating site, bathed in mists of orange cloud, will leave you speechless.

Machu Picchu Machu Picchu

South America is a vast and diverse continent, full of wonder, wildlife, culture and history. For those looking for somewhere truly unforgettable need look no further.


Can You See the Great Wall from Space?

March 24, 2014

The world is full of myths and legends, which is one of the reasons it is so fascinating to travel. These fantastical tales add a charisma and iconic status to those places they exist in, and though exciting and shocking to believe, they also make you wonder, which of these myths are actually real?

One of the best known myths is that you can see The Great Wall of China from space. Big as the Great Wall may be, the world is bigger, and astronauts such as Chris Hadfield have clarified that it is in fact not visible from space. While this revelation may very slightly lessen the Great Wall’s awe-inspiring wonder, It is unlikely many of us would ever have the chance to see it from space anyway. Until we start doing escorted holidays to Mars, that is (in which case we probably will not be so concerned with Earth anyway).

 The Great Wall of China

Saint Basil’s Cathedral is another striking landmark, located within the red square of Russia’s capital Moscow. Bright colouring and bold patterns create surreal dimensions, making this building appear like something from Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

The myth behind it is that it was built under the orders of Ivan the Terrible, who after its completion blinded the architect so that he could never again build anything else so fantastical. Seems a bit drastic, does it not? Right. This too is false, as in fact records from a quarter of a century later show that the same architect was hired to build an extension on the cathedral. Makes it seem a little less possible.

 St Basil’s Cathedral

Troy is a legend that most will be familiar with. Located in Turkey, it is where the legendary Trojan War of Greek mythology took place. The truth has been debated over the years, and is still to this day left undecided. There is certainly some evidence to suggest fragments of truth through ruins of sieges that have been discovered while the extent of the sources that tell of this tale also would seem to suggest that there is some truth at the myths core.

If you visit Troy today you will find a Trojan Horse that you can climb inside, which creates a nice balance between the stories and reality of what happened here, enhancing what has been left behind with the excitement of a narrative.

 Trojan Horse at Troy

One far more romantic myth is set in a part of Marmaris, Turkey, where Marc Anthony and Cleopatra would meet to romance. The legend has it that Marc had sand from Egypt shipped over to create a beach that would make Cleopatra feel more comfortable. Since then bits of white sand have been found on what has become famously known as Cleopatra Island, which fit the sand type of Egypt and therefore supports this tale.

 Cleopatra Island 

This has never been proven, but reminds of the fascination such stories of the past can cast over parts of the world. Cleopatra Island exists today as a wonderfully romantic and relaxing escape, with beauty as grandiose as Marc Anthony’s gestures of love, and for this reason, perhaps some myths are better left unresolved.

Myths and legends may inspire us to travel, but many are (sadly) a little less based in truth than we would like to believe. Do you have a favourite travel myth? If so let us know on Facebook.

Photo Credits: Troy: flickr; Cleopatra Island: flickr


Friday Photo: Cape Cod

March 21, 2014

Our photo this Friday shows one of the famous sights to be seen on a summer visit to Cape Cod in New England. Since the first was erected in 1857, the iconic lighthouses of Cape Cod have kept seafarers safe around the coastline, shining a friendly beacon through the night sky.

Cape Cod

Despite the great natural beauty of Cape Cod, the coastline is particularly perilous for vessels and before the lighthouses there were more than 3,000 shipwrecks on the 50 miles of coast between the towns of Chatham and Provincetown. The most famous of these was the Whydah Gally, belonging to the notorious pirate Samuel Bellamy, which went down with more than 4 tonnes of treasure in 1717.

Strong symbols of safety and security, the Cape Cod lighthouses are a favourite photo opportunity for visitors. The oldest and tallest lighthouse is the Highland Light (also known as Cape Cod Light), which shines from the Cape Cod National Seashore in North Truro.

There are many other lighthouses dotted around the Cape Cod coastline, surrounded by stunning scenery. Looking up from the beaches, visitors enjoy seeing the watchful lighthouses, the familiar white guardians looking out to sea, which have become synonymous with the charm and character of Cape Cod.

Other notable Cape Cod lighthouses to visit include Nobska Light and Wing’s Neck Light, located on the Upper Cape, Sandy Neck Light and Hyannis Harbour Light, located on the Mid Cape, and Long Point Light and Mayo Beach Light, located on the Lower Cape.

When you visit Cape Cod on your summer holiday in New England, take the time to see these marvellous symbols of US maritime history.


California Dreaming

March 20, 2014

The ‘Golden State’ of California is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the US. Sun, sea and stardom have lured multitudes to the bright lights of Los Angeles, while the vibrant cosmopolitan culture of San Francisco, with its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, has long been an exciting hotbed for the arts.

But what about the lesser known Californian highlights that really should not be missed? There are some beautiful sights, historical attractions and cultural hubs that must be on the itinerary of all holidaymakers heading out to indulge in some California dreaming.

Balboa Park, San Diego

Be sure to visit the harbour city of San Diego and head straight for the awe-inspiring 1,400 acres of Balboa Park. Here you will find the San Diego Zoo, one of the world’s finest, San Diego Natural History Museum, San Diego Museum of Art and the Old Globe Theatre. Leave time to wander through the vast botanical gardens, which are breathtakingly beautiful and dine out in one of the luxury restaurants.

 San Diego Museum of Art

Discover Calico Ghost Town in the Desert

For an authentic Old West experience, visit the fascinating Calico Ghost Town. Calico was founded in 1881 during the largest silver strike in Californian history. The 500 mines yielded over $20 million in silver ore, until the silver price crash forced the miners to up and leave Calico a ghost town in 1896. In the 1950s the original town buildings were completely restored and today Calico provides a fantastic insight into what life was like in the Old West.

 Calico Ghost Town

Curve Your Way Round the Big Sur Coastline

Made famous in Jack Kerouac’s 1962 novel Big Sur, this dramatic coastline has to be experienced to be believed. Immense Pacific waves crash against the rocky shore as you wind your way along the curves of the road. Be sure to take some photographs of the Santa Lucia Mountains, which rise majestically from the Pacific Ocean.

Big Sur Big Sur

History and Culture Abound in Monterey

The magnificent city of Monterey was formerly the capital city of Alto California from 1777 to 1846 under Spanish and Mexican rule, until California was claimed for the United States during the Mexican-American War. There remain fine examples of old town architecture throughout the city. On the seafront delicious seafood can be tasted at Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row provides excellent nightspots and restaurants, while the varied local sealife can be enjoyed at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

 Fishermans Wharf Monterey

Alongside the usual attractions, make sure these lesser known yet thrilling Californian highlights are on your itinerary as you make your way through America’s glorious ‘Golden West’.

Photo Credits: San Diego Museum of Art: flickr; Calico Ghost Town: flickr: Fishermans Wharf, Monterey: flickr


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