Lesser-known national parks of USA

picGates of the Arctic, Alaska

The Gates of the Arctic National Park is located in Alaska and is one of America’s finest national parks. The park is within the Arctic Circle and covers 39,460 sq km. That is almost the same size as the Netherlands. This is not a place for casual tourists: there are no trails, roads or visitor facilities in the park. The only visitor centre is off the Dalton Highway close to the town of Coldfoot. There are wild rivers, hungry grizzlies and huge Mountains, so you will need to know how to survive in the wild. The park is extremely remote and most people arrive by floatplane.

Shenandoah, Virginia

Most of the terrain here was farmland before the creation of Shenandoah National Park in the mid-1930s. Tranquillity is still what you will find along Skyline Drive, which is the main 169km route running through the park. Blue Ridge Mountains may sound imposing, but Hawksbill Mountain is the highest at 1235m. Shenandoah is the perfect place to relax, hike through country trails and camp in the grassy meadows. This park is the best place to take your family for a wonderfully relaxing day out in nature.

Big Bend, Texas

This park is situated in the Deep South, making up almost 400km of the Texan border with Mexico. Big Bend National Park is known for the outstanding geology and palaeontology. The park has extreme climatic conditions, due to the varying altitudes. From the hot deserts and plunging canyons by the Rio Grande, to the cooler Chisos Mountains, you are sure to see something that inspires you here. There are a number of archaeological finds from thousands of years ago along the border. Big Bend’s isolation keeps the number of visitors low, because the nearest airports are Midland/Odesa (330km) and El Paso (580km).

Crater Lake, Oregon

The Great Lakes of America are famous all around the world, but many people do not know that the world’s ninth-deepest lake is also here. It is 594m deep, and the blue Crater Lake is home to an extinct caldera, which is in the heart of Crater Lake National Park. The lunar landscapes of ash and pumice are another sight that you absolutely have to see. Try hiking the 4260km Pacific Crest Trail and get that much needed exercise.  It runs all the way from Mexico to the Canadian border – A “walk in the park”. Take a boat tour from Cleetwood Cove from July to September if the weather is good.

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Bryce Canyon is located 330km northeast side of Las Vegas. There are no neon signs in Bryce Canyon National Park, but you will seethe brilliant red and orange hoodoos (pillars and arches that are eroded from the soft sedimentary rock). Bryce’s focal point is its eponymous amphitheatre and is19km long, 5km wide and up to 240m deep. There is a mass of fragile needles 60m from the valley floor, something that not even Vegas can match. The super clean air means that you can see all 7500 stars on a clear night.


 Make the Most of your Trip: Things to Do and See in Menorca

menorcaWith so many things to do here in Menorca, you cannot possibly get to everything, which is why we have compiled a list of 10 amazing things to do and see while visiting here.

Ciutadella – The old town of Ciutadella is full of passages, archways and sudden unexpected views. Situated on the western end of the island, the hills of Mallorca are clearly visible. The city was founded by the Carthaginians over two thousand years ago. It was the capital until the 18th century, when Richard Kane transferred the island’s power to Maó. Ciutadella now has a population of 28,000 and it is regarded as the most beautiful town in Menorca. Plaça des Bornis the main square and it is lined with aristocratic palaces of the 18th century.  Somewhere in the 14th century, the cathedral was built on the site of the former mosque.  There is a small port lined with fishing boats where the ferry leaves everyday for Mallorca.

Port of Maó – The Port of Maó extends about five kilometers into the heart of Menorca’s capital. It is one of the world’s largest natural harbors. Back in the day, the docks were some of the busiest in the Mediterranean, with ships from all over the world unloading cargoes there. Maó still has many traces of the British rule in years gone by, from the Georgian town houses to the neo-classical Town. The old dock area is now filled with restaurants and cafes, which make a killing when visiting cruise ships dock beneath the walls of the city. Maó has a relaxed easy going atmosphere where everybody seems to know one another.

Bay of Fornells – This is a beautiful inlet on the northern coast. The Bay of Fornells is over five kilometers long and two kilometers wide, it has shallow sheltered waters that provide the perfect location for all water sports from windsurfing to kayaking and dinghy sailing. An 18th century British built watchtower looks across the narrow entrance because of the fact that the area used to get raided by pirates in the past. Today it is very safe and is a popular place for visiting yachtsmen cruising around the island to visit. The old fishing village has some excellent restaurants, with caldereta de llagosta being one that serves up a delicious succulent lobster stew. Menorca’s largest marine reserve is located just off shore the Bay of Fornells and is a Mecca for scuba enthusiasts.

Megalithic monuments – Menorca is like an open air museum, with one of the largest collection of megalithic monuments in Mediterranean. These amazing standing stones and ancient settlements of the Talaiotic culture are evidence that a sophisticated and well organized society did exist here about 2,000 years BC. The two main ones are the Taula and the Naveta. The Taula is two massive pieces of stone in the form of a high freestanding table or altar.  The Naveta are large burial chambers made of blocks of stone.

The above four place are only a drop in the ocean when it comes to things to do and see here. Some of the other attractions include Favàritx lighthouse, the Fortresses of Marlborough and La Mola, the amazing views from Monte Toro, the festivals, quarries and of course, the beaches. Make sure that you get all the relevant information regarding these other things to see and do before you embark on your journey around Menorca.

 Menorca’s Best Known Cuisine Explored

picBeing strategically placed in the Mediterranean, it is not surprising that there are so many varieties of Menorca food and drink. The food and drink here has influences left by the many invaders over thousands of years, from the British, Romans, Arabs and the French.

Seafood – Seafood has always been extremely important here. The island also has a history of cattle farming – both for dairy and meat production. Menorca food and drink has the best of both land and sea. One of the most well known seafood dishes is the “caldereta de llagosta”, a succulent lobster stew served on thin slices of toast. This dish is made from the spiny blue lobster, which is caught in the waters close to the coast. This is a popular menu item for the traditional family Sunday lunches, which are served in most restaurants across the island. Some other popular seafood dishes are escopinyes and peus de cabrit. Baked sea bream, squid and octopus or grilled red mullet served with baby potato’s, grown on the island, are also popular dishes on local menus.

Mayonnaise – The islanders claim to have discovered mayonnaise. Mayonnaise was first produced in Maó in18th century by a French chef. This rich sauce took Europe by storm at the time and the Menorca people have no doubt in their minds that it was invented here. The sauce was first made in Maó, which is where the name mayonnaise comes from.

Dairy – With a lot of dairy cows on the island, milk, butter and cheese are a very important part of Menorcan cuisine. Richard Kane introduced Friesland cows to the island early in the18th century. Cheese making artifacts dating back to 3,000 BC have been found here. They have a long time to perfect the local cheeses and they are now famous for their superb quality. Menorcan cheeses have a very distinctive flavor, which is due to richness of the pastures and the climate. The cheese made here is matured for up to a year, giving it a similar consistency to that of Parmesan. Today the curado and semi curado cheeses have their own D.O.P. regional trade mark and a well know worldwide.

Meat – The meat produced here are also well known for their quality and flavor. Menorcan people often eat sobrasada (a pork sausage-meat made with red peppers) and carn i xua sausage made of lean meat and bacon cubes.

Wine – Wine production was a vital part of the island’s economy with so many thirsty troops on the island during the French and British occupations. Many vineyards were killed by phylloxera in the 19th century, but wine production is on the rise again as many new vines are being planted. The hot summer sun and calcium rich soil of the island are perfect for bringing good flavor into the grapes. Binifadet Chardonnay was added to the wine list of El Bulli in Cataluña. This restaurant was voted the world’s best restaurant of 2008.

Gin – Gin was a favorite of the Navy at one time and within a few short months of British occupation local gin was being produced to supply the thirsty sailors. Today the gin of Maó (Gin Xoriguer) is well known and is still produced from a secret recipe, which is flavored with local juniper berries. Pomada is one of the favorite drinks at fiesta time for many Menorcans. Pomada is a refreshing drink made from lemonade and gin.

Sweet dishes – The Menorcan sweet dishes are also well known in Spain. There are delicious small cakes which are made with almonds or toasted nougat. The traditional ensaimadas, a delicious circular soft pastry cake that is covered in icing sugar simply melts in the mouth. You have to give both of these a try!

Traditional cuisine – In the 20th century, traditional cuisine was in danger of disappearing, as busy modern families did not have the time for preparing food as their mothers and grandmothers did in the past. But today, some of the chefs here believe that the old recipes and ways of cooking should be preserved. As a result traditional dishes are making their way back onto the menus of many restaurants.


Must see landmarks of Australia

picSydney Opera House -What more can we say? This landmark is more than likely the most famous in Australia. It has sail-like arches, which dominates its structure. The Sydney Opera House is to Australia like the Eiffel tower is to France, or the Colosseum to Italy. On the 20th of October 1973, Queen Elizabeth II opened this structure up to the public. It has since become the world’s busiest venue. More than 3000 performances are hosted here every year and over 2 million audience members attend annually. Just over 200,000 people visit this amazing place every year through guided tours.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge – This place is known locally as The Coat hanger. Is the world’s most massive steel arch bridge with the highest point soaring 134 meters above the harbour below. The bridge opened in 1932 and is still an architectural marvel to this very day. Images of the bridge are recognized by people all over the world. For a small fee, visitors can take advantage of the Bridge Climb where they are escorted into the network of catwalks. This is where you will see the most spectacular view of Sydney Harbour. You are allowed to take The Bridge Climb during the day, twilight, or at night.

Uluru/Ayers Rock – Uluru, was known as Ayers Rock and it is the world’s biggest monolith, (single piece of stone). Uluru is the name given to the monolith by the local Pitjantjatjara people. The desert surrounds this huge sandstone formation. It is sort of like an iceberg in the cold seas. Most of Uluru is hidden underground, but above ground it is 348 meters high and has a circumference of 9.4 kilometres. Guided walking tours are available and Uluru is popular for its striking appearance. It seems to change colour at different times of the year.

The Great Barrier Reef – Australia is a land full of natural wonders, but the Great Barrier Reef is most definitely the most famous of all. It is the world’s largest coral reef system and it stretches on for 2600 km. Taking up and area of over 300,000 square kilometres, this is the only structure that can be seen from outer space. The dugong, Loggerhead turtle and a variety of dolphin species all call this place their home. With over two million people visiting this area each year, it is easy to see why it is a popular tourist attraction. People are debating how the many feet walking on the coral could be affecting the fragile environment.

The Royal Botanic Gardens – These gardens were opened by Governor Bligh in 1816. It is situated close to the middle of Sydney, the Opera House and offers visitors the most amazing views of the surrounding urban area. There are over 7500 different species of plants in the 30 hectares that make up these gardens. Visitors can enjoy a number of presentations throughout the year, take guided tours through the gardens, the Government House and there are even Aboriginal heritage tours that you can take part in.

Port Arthur – is a fabulous tourist destination full of Australian history. Founded in 1830, Port Arthur was originally served a timber station. Industry came after that and by the 1840s Port Arthur over 1100 convicts. By the 1870s the convicts were no longer there and all that was left was the buildings, which were not destroyed by fires in the late 19th century. Tourists started to flock in. The preservation of this area as a historic site was established in 1916. There are archaeological studies that are still being conducted today and they continue to dig up more of the penal colony past.

Coober Pedy – this place is most well known for the unusual lifestyle of its local residents, who live underground all year. This started when a local resident was trying to get away from the heat. This was way before air conditioning was invented. Coober Pedy was first established in 1915 as an opal mine. You are now allowed to visit the underground churches, the old opal mines, and stay in an underground motel. You can play night golf at the local golf course with glowing golf balls. This area does not have any trees and the golf course has no grass. It also served as the backdrop for the post-nuclear apocalypse film titled Mad Max Beyond Thunder dome.

Kangaroo Island – This is a natural haven overflowing with Australia’s unique wildlife. Koalas sleep their days away in the trees, platypus can be seen in the local streams, and wallabies and kangaroos hop across the wide-open spaces. Kangaroo Island is a tourist hotspot, because it is one of the only places in Australia where so much wildlife can be seen in their natural setting. There are many caves and striking rock formations in this area that will make you want to capture them on film. Reeves Point on the island is a place rich with history and a popular place for tourist to visit.

The Bungle Bungles – These unique, beehive-shaped sandstone formations located in Purnululu National Park. The Bungle Bungles were only discovered by others in the 1980s, but the Aborigines knew about them for a long time before this. This area, located 250 kilometres south of Kununurra was discovered by mistake by TV crew, and that is the only reason why we know about this remote place. It is rather difficult getting there and the first 80 kilometres of dirt roads can only be taken on with a four-wheel drive.

Uluru – This is the most famous monolith in Australia. Castle Hill is another one and is a massive pink granite rock. Paved roads take you to the top of Castle Hill and offer you the most excellent views of Townsville. In WWII there were military bases and defensive batteries built in this area. There are rumours that underground tunnels and a bunker were built under Castle Hill. This may be why so many people flock to see this mysterious area.


Things to do in Vancouver for free

picEconomists have said that Vancouver is the most expensive city for residents, but there are a number of wonderful things for locals and tourists to do here for free. Sometimes it is difficult to know where to go or what to do, which is why we have compiled a list of the best free things to do in Vancouver.

Nature is free

You do not need to have money to appreciate the beauty of nature. Visit Stanley Park to see exactly what we are talking about. The Lost Lagoon Nature House is absolutely free to visit and is a great place to see the areas flora and fauna. Wildlife exhibitions are held here on a regular basis and for a donation of five dollars, you can take part in the bird watching walks through the park

Nature lovers have to go and see Chinatown, where you can visit Dr Sun Yat-Sen Park for no fee at all. This is the place to be if you want to discover the tranquillity that Chinese people exude. There are lily ponds, terracotta-topped buildings and super bright neon koi fish. It is a fabulous place to escape to and just relax.

Pop over to the Gordon Macmillan Southam Observatory on a Saturday to marvel at the universe. Situated in the Kitsilano neighbourhood, this is a great place to take the kids. Guides will point out the highlights of the night skies through a giant telescope. Lynn canyon Ecology centre takes visitors into the regional rainforest, the parks woodland trails will lead you to a suspension bridge and the scenery here is spectacular to say the least.

Free activities

If you have nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon, why don’t you go down to Robson Square to take part in free salsa lessons? If you still have energy after dancing half of the afternoon away, then you could take a hike on the grouse Grind hiking trail. This popular attraction starts by the parking lot at the base of Grouse Mountain and takes you through 2.9km of natures best.

There are a number of attractions and shows that take place at the top of the mountain such as lumberjack shows and wildlife enclosures. The only bad part of the trail is the fact that it is a one-way only trail, which means that you have to pay the $10 to take the gondola back down.

Complimentary history

There are a number of places for history lovers to visit in Vancouver. One such place is the Roundhouse Community Centre where you will find the Engine 374 Pavilion. The Hastings Mill Store Museum is another place that is packed full of amazing history. If you go down to the Christ church Cathedral, the huge stained glass windows will overwhelm you. If you have kids with you, then you need to go to the Variety Kids Waterpark. The park is totally free and is filled with pipes, sprinklers and slides for the little ones to enjoy.

Things to do with kids in Sydney

picSydney is Australia’s oldest and busiest City and a wonderful place to visit with your kids. There are so many different activities for children to take part in and we have decided to share the twenty best things to do with kids in Sydney.

20 Things to Do in and around Sydney with the Kids

Spend the day with your kids at Luna Park. There are seventeen super rides to choose from there is non-stop fun for the entire family to enjoy. This is a really great place for those who want to bring out their ‘inner child’.

Take a trip to the Taronga Zoo. The Chimpanzee Exhibit and Gorilla Forest are two things that are not to be missed when here. Get up close and personal with the cute and cuddly Australian Animals such as the Koala Bears.

The Australian Museum is the best place to discover natural history. The ‘More than Dinosaurs’ exhibit is a fabulous place for the kids to dress up in a funky Insect Costume.

The Australian Reptile Park has a massive alligator lagoon and you will also be able to see lots of different spiders, birds, reptiles, and marsupials. Be sure to look out for the celebrity crocodile Eric, who weighs over 500kg!

The Powerhouse Museum is great fun for all ages and the place where you can learn about the unusual properties of chocolate, and discover science and how it all works. This is a wonderful venue for children to learn while they have fun.

The Sydney Aquarium is where you will see sharks, fish, eels and turtles swimming in special tanks above your head. There are more than 650 species of marine life in 1.5 million litres of water in the Aquarium.

If climbing a 19th century lighthouse excites you, then visit the National Maritime Museum. There are a number of interactive maritime exhibits, both outdoors and indoors, which will keep the kids busy for hours.

Watch the Koala bears in their natural habitat. You can actually take a walk through the rainforest and watch these fluffy little bears eating and sleeping. The younger kids will love the fact that they can even feed the kangaroos here.

Take a slow walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and watch the busy city as it and all its inhabitants go about their daily lives. It is high up and is not for the faint hearted!

Go bush walking in Buddy National Park; this park has a series of small, beautiful beaches beneath steep hills, forests and cliffs. A national park that is perfect for the whole family.

Visit Fairfield City Farm for a day with a difference. This 580-acre working cattle and sheep farm is one place where you can see how they milk cows, how sheep are sheared, the working dogs and much more.

Take a ferry ride on the majestic Sydney Harbour; this is honestly the best way to see the city and all the wonders that it provides visitors with. You can get some really great shots of the city on a ferry.

Take the family to a Beach! Shelly beach, Bronte, Balmoral and Nielsen Park are all wonderful kid-friendly beaches. Remember to take the buckets, spades and boogie boards with, or you will never hear the end of it.

Feed the Pelicans! Feeding Pelicans is the Central Coast’s most popular tourist attraction. You can enjoy doing this at 3.30pm daily, 365 days a year. It happens if there is rain or sunshine!

Visit Vera’s Water Garden. What child does not like to dangle their feet in water, climb all over stuff and run through water sprays? Vera’s Water Garden has everything for kids to enjoy.

Enjoy a picnic at Bicentennial Park. There are bbq spots, lovely picnic areas, and two playgrounds for children, boardwalks and places for cyclists to ride safely and securely.

The Sydney Wildlife World is one of the newest attractions. There are nine unique Australian habitats, which include a spectacular rainforest and the iconic red centre were there are more than 6,000 of Australia’s creatures.

Watch a movie on the big screen at IMAX theatre. The IMAX experience is something that you cannot explain to people, you need to experience it yourself. Huge screens allow you to get ‘the bigger picture’.

Go for a paddleboat ride! You can hire these paddleboats from Darling Walk at Darling Harbour. This is a lot of fun and very good exercise for your legs. Nothing better than a fun workout!

Take a ride on the Metro Monorail. This is a unique transport system that is a very popular way of getting around. There are a total of eight stops along its 3.6km route around Chinatown, the city and Darling Harbour.


Top Australian backpacking destinations


Those backpackers who make the effort to take the journey out to the Top End are pleasantly surprised with a taste of ‘real Australia’. Darwin is the gateway to Kakadu National Park, Litchfield National Park and Katherine Gorge. Here backpackers can enjoy ancient Aboriginal culture, spectacular wilderness and loads of adventure.

The backpackers Hostel of choice in Darwin is The Melaleuca On Mitchell


Sydney should definitely be the first stop on any backpackers list. It will be like a dream come true when you see the iconic Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge for the first time. Visiting the famous Bondi Beach is another destination in Sydney that you cannot afford to miss. You more than likely will see the few over-enthusiastic sunburnt backpackers being saved from the surf by Bondi’s finest lifeguards.

The backpackers Hostel of choice in Sydney is The Big Hostel.


Many backpackers will end up in the capital of Tropical North Queensland at the beginning of winter, after spending the entire summer travelling up and down the east coast. A lot of backpackers choose to work in the north over wintertime, because it is often more affordable than the rest of the East Coast. There are a number of really cool attractions in this area to enjoy before moving on to the next spot.

The backpackers Hostel of choice in Cairns is The Calypso Inn

Byron Bay

Byron Bay has balmy temperatures all year round, beautiful beaches, and an extremely laid back type of lifestyle. Byron Bay is a backpacker’s heaven. Thousands of relaxed backpackers spend most of their days on the beaches, hitting the surf and enjoying life to the full. These travellers spend their nights partying the night away at Cocomangas and Cheeky Monkeys nightclubs. Nimbin, which is very close by, is also a favourite for day-trippers!

The backpackers Hostel of choice in Byron Bay is The Arts Factory Lodge


The super stylish Melbourne is a very popular place for backpackers who like seeing a different side of Australia’s beach culture. Backpackers can enjoy the AFL as well as the multitude of quality restaurants and nightlife in the area. Great Ocean Road and St Kilda are some of the favourite Aussie destinations to visit when in Melbourne.

The backpacker’s hostel of choice in Melbourne is the Basa St Kilda

Airlie Beach & The Whitsundays

This is a small and friendly town similar to Byron bay and is very lucky to be blessed with outstanding natural beauty. Airlie Beach offers backpackers a wide variety of hostels to choose from. There is plenty to do at night and many cheap parties to attend. Backpackers always get good deals on overnight sailing trips to The Whitsundays. Many times, this trip is a highlight of many backpackers who travel round Australia.

The backpackers Hostel of choice in Ailie Beach & The Whitsundays is The Beaches

Surfers Paradise

Surfers Paradise is part of the East Coast backpacker trail. This place offers fun, sun, and a bit of glitz and glamour as well. Many backpackers visit the Gold Coast to get their first taste of its promise of endless beaches and days filled with fun in the suns. Many backpackers will have to do some fancy thinking when it comes to their budgets, as a lot will go towards a visit to the theme parks!

The backpackers Hostel of choice in Surfers Paradise is The Islander

Hervey Bay & Fraser Island

Hervey Bay is another favourite stopover point for the Fraser Island trip. Great deals are available for backpackers, who are on a self-drive 3-day camping trip to Fraser Island. It really is a true adventure for those backpackers who love swimming in fresh water lakes and four-wheel-driving in the hot sand. Rainbow Beach is an up-and-coming exit point for Fraser Island.

The backpackers Hostel of choice in Hervy Bay & Fraser Island is The Beaches


Your popularity will sky-rocket for ‘doing’ the West Coast of Australia. Backpackers absolutely love the relaxing capital of the West Coast. Many backpackers also enjoy being away from the main backpackers route of the East Coast. Two places backpackers love to visit in Perth are Fremantle and Rotnest Island.

The backpackers Hostel of choice in Perth is The Billabong Resort

Alice Springs & Uluru

There are a wide variety of tours to Uluru and Alice Springs, including overland tours from Darwin and Adelaide. Alternatively backpackers can take the train or bus out to Alice Springs and if they have some extra cash, they can even fly there. Experiencing The Red Centre is a highlight for many backpackers.

The backpackers Hostel of choice in Alice Springs & Uluru is Annie’s Place