How to see a side of Japan that tourists are yet to discover
Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima – the Japanese golden route. It’s a trail many have completed, and one many aim to complete during their lifetime. And while there is definitely room for exploring Japan’s epicentre (a 450 per cent increase over the past five years doesn’t lie), a recent journey through the country’s more authentic side highlights just how much more there is to discover.   Despite the staggering rise in foreign tourists, relatively little has been done so far to make travellers aware of alternative destinations, with a continued fixation on commercialised travel spots.   Tokyo-based startup tour operator Heartland JAPAN is leading the way in the exploration of sustainable travel destinations, positioning itself as the oh-so-necessary provider for inbound visitors wishing to journey off the beaten track.   Not only will opening up these regions reignite local economies, but it will also assist in reversing the effects of depopulation and urbanisation, with the hopeful result of revitalising these communities.   If you’re like me, and you get your travel kicks from discovering vast and varied natural, historical and cultural alternatives that aren’t plagued with tourists, there are two Heartland JAPAN tours you need to discover ASAP. Allow me to take you through them. TOUR 1: Mt Aso, Kumamoto At the heart of Japan’s most southwesterly island of Kyushu sits the Kumamoto Prefecture.   If you haven’t heard of it, fear not, neither had I. And the Japanese are quick to forgive you, eager to open their arms wide for foreigners keen to discover just how incredible their little untouched pocket of the world is. Kumamoto City Your tour begins in Kumamoto.   Whilst Kyushu’s modern day capital is Fukuoka, situated in the north, historically Kyushu was governed from Kumamoto city.   [caption id="attachment_45084" align="alignleft" width="600"] A traditional seafood dinner in Kumamoto city.[/caption] For those who haven’t dusted up on their samurai history prior to the tour, Futaenotouge Pass is a portion of the Bungo Circuit, a historic trail used by the feudal lords of the Kumamoto Domain to travel to Tokyo, in a practice known as sankin-kotai.   Following this exploration (and plenty of time to stop and marvel at the landscape’s rolling hills) you’ll make the 90-minute private car journey to the main event: Aso. Mt Aso For me, there are a number of things that draw me to any country. The people, food, culture – but one of the most significant is the chance to marvel in a natural beauty that is unlike anywhere else I have seen. And for me, Mt Aso is high on the list of my favourites.   [caption id="attachment_45080" align="alignleft" width="600"] The craters of Mt Aso resemble a space-like texture.[/caption]   Mt Aso is the largest active volcano in Japan, and is among the largest in the world. And among it lives five peaks: Mt Neko, Mt Taka, Mt Naka (also called Nakadake or Naka-Dake), Mt Eboshi, and Mt Kishima.   Nakadake hosts a spectacular crater, stretching 24 kilometres from north to south and 18 kilometres from east to west. Within it lives an active volcano that emits smoke at all hours of the day.   [caption id="attachment_45081" align="alignleft" width="600"] Nakadake hosts a spectacular crater which stretching 24 kilometres from north to south.[/caption] In fact, it emits so much toxic smoke that many tourists find themselves turned away from visiting, depending on the ever-changing wind directions. We were lucky, I hope you are too. Waita Onsen Village If you take one thing from this article, I hope it’s that the Kumamoto Prefecture offers many things that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Among them is the Waita Onsen Village, located in Oguni.   With its collection of six hot springs located at the base of the 1500-metre-tall Mt Waita, the village overlooks Kumamoto and Oita prefectures.   Looking around, you wouldn’t be wrong to think you were on the set of a blockbuster Hollywood movie, complete with million-dollar smoke machines as far as the eye can see.   What you would be witnessing (and smelling), however, is a natural phenomenon whereby gushing steam from the surrounding volcano punctures the ground and fills the skies.   [caption id="attachment_45082" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Waita Onsen village is one of the steamiest places in all of Japan.[/caption] Walking around the sleepy rural town, it’s hard to see a square metre of land untouched by steam. And the locals, they make use of it. On the tour, you will be invited inside one of the villagers’ homes, where you can view, and participate in, a unique hot spring cooking experience.   The fuming hot steam serves as a means of heating up just about anything. From fish to vegetables, most residents house a smoke vent for culinary purposes. [caption id="attachment_45083" align="alignleft" width="600"] Locals brewing vegetables using steam from the village.[/caption] Kagura Performances During your tour with Heartland JAPAN you will experience a private Kagura performance at a local theatre.   Kagura is thought to be among the oldest traditional performing arts in the country, with an origin tracing back to ancient mythology.   [caption id="attachment_45085" align="alignleft" width="600"] A colourful Kagura performance.[/caption] It is originally said to be performed for Shinto dieties in an attempt to welcome and entertain, performed only by Shinto priests to thank them for abundant crops.   In contemporary Japan, however, the vibrant dances and garments are widely performed to the enjoyment of the public.   Experiencing these performances firsthand is unlike anything I have ever seen. The costumes, dramatics and even stamina of these performers is really unparalleled – it’s crazy to think they’re amateurs. TOUR 2: Yamaguchi Prefecture  Due to its rich history which spans nearly 700 years, Yamaguchi is the perfect place to explore with experts.   Yamaguchi is renowned throughout Japan for its impressive 300-year history and its ties to the Meiji Revolution.   While sitting as the seat of the powerful Ouchi lords, Yamaguchi grew as a rival to the war-torn capital of Kyoto during periods of Japanese conflict. As a result, the city grew in popularity as the ‘Kyoto of the West’ and many of its smaller cities have come to resemble the eastern hotspots many travellers know and love. Exploring Tsuwano With old samurai mansions, dark red roof tiles, wooden grated windows and koi carp fish,  Tsuwano is a bustling, pleasant town at the western edge of Shimane Prefecture.   Walking through Tsuwano is a blissful experience: peaceful mountains envelop the town and its surrounds. It has an energy of ancient Japan, alongside a contemporary atmosphere that allows it to not feel dated.   The town was built around the Tsuwano Castle in the early 14th century, and while the structure does not exist anymore, several business and samurai residences still remain in their original locations. You are also able to visit the castle ruins, accessible by chairlift.   Spend your time walking down Honmachi and Tonomachi avenues, memorable for their cobblestone streets dotted with established sake breweries, folk craft shops and Japanese sweetshops. The Shinto Shrine Yamaguchi is also celebrated for housing the Taikodani Inari Shrine, one of the five most significant Inari shrines in Japan.   [caption id="attachment_45086" align="alignleft" width="600"] The shinto shrine overlooks Tsuwano.[/caption] The site was built in the mid-18th century in close proximity to Tsuwano Castle, with the aim of driving away evil spirits and bringing in good luck.   Today, vermillion-lacquered Torii gates are erected over a long series of stairs leading up to the shrine. Visitors are encouraged to make the 15-minute climb through the gates and pray for prosperity, good luck and harvest on the way to the main shrine grounds.   [caption id="attachment_45087" align="alignleft" width="600"] Visitors are encouraged to make the 15-minute climb through the gates.[/caption] Large sacred straw ropes line the front of the halls, which is a feature that occurs at other shrines in the Shimane Prefecture.   Visitors to Taikodani Inari Shrine can buy fortunes, also known as Omikuji. A bamboo aparatus allots you a number, which coresponds to a tiny slip/roll of paper on which your fortune is written.   [caption id="attachment_45089" align="alignleft" width="600"] White pieces of paper contain discarded bad fortunes.[/caption] If you draw a good fortune, keep it, take it home with you. But if it’s bad, you’re encouraged to tie it among the wall of other fortunes. The idea is to leave all bad luck at the shrine, where the divine spirit can exorcise it. Ogawa Sumikawa Sake Brewery Driving towards Susa Bay, you may start to feel an appetite for Japan’s most prized and celebrated alcohol: sake. Fear not, the team at HEARTLAND are quick to replenish, taking you to one of the country’s most celebrated breweries.   For novices, sake is a traditional Japanese rice wine, made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran. At Ogawa Sumikawa Sake Brewery, the place you’ll visit, you will learn and watch the signature manufacturing process using the unique brewery rice, ‘sakemirai’.   [caption id="attachment_45090" align="alignleft" width="600"] Local markets sell traditional sake cups.[/caption] Very few breweries can brew with this rice, and the much-loved taste led to this brewery being chosen to provide sake for the 2008 G8 summit.
Inspiring Journeys
Land of the long white cloud
Inspiring Journeys New Zealand The Long White Cloud itinerary embodies the classic-journey philosophy, full of ambition and adventure, searching out the finest experiences and landscapes that New Zealand offers in one very considered, well-rounded coach journey. In 22 unhurried days, you’ll probably witness more than many New Zealanders see of their own country in their lifetimes, and more than most flop-and-drop tourists could do in five separate trips. From South Island gateway Christchurch, sweep south onto the West Coast’s uncrowded landscapes where you can relax in Franz Josef Glacier’s geothermal pools while staring up into lofty snow-crowned mountains. Then it’s time to journey toward the ancient waterways of Fiordland National Park. The Long White Cloud is far from just your got-the-T-shirt sightseeing tour; you control the action – or inaction, if you prefer. In action capital Queenstown, you can opt for a recharging massage to balance the adrenalin overload of your jet boat trip down the heaving Haast River. [caption id="attachment_45009" align="alignnone" width="600"] Cultural hub[/caption] Once Milford Sound is imprinted on your psyche forever, the expedition swoops slowly northward, through Dunedin, drinking in barely believable scenery: the cute little Church of the Good Shepherd on Lake Tekapo’s deserted shores; or spying whale pods from the skies above Kaikoura. Next, it’s time to island hop: first stop, New Zealand’s most happening city, Wellington, followed by a journey through the North Island’s cultural and (volcanically) active heart, Rotorua. From here, bear witness to one of the southern hemisphere’s true natural wonders: Waitomo’s enchanting glow worm caves. Once you’ve had your fill of cosmopolitan capital Auckland, then the golden sands of Orewa, the kauri-tree-rich sacred Waipoua Forest,and the Bay of Islands’ coastal magnificence are all ready to prove to you just how diverse this peaceful and compact country can be. Nose to nose with the Maori: an uncommon cultural connection Naturally, The Long White Cloud itinerary offers far more than just filmic landscapes. To get to know New Zealand intimately, you must learn the ways of the country’s proud and vibrant Maori culture. There are few greater chances to do so than over dinner and a concert at Tamaki MAori Village. In the spectacular marae (meeting ground), an ancient culture dramatically unfurls before you, in dance, in art, in ceremony. The Tamaki performers take you on a journey through ancestral beliefs, revealing an inexorable bond with the landscape and its rhythms. Once again, don’t expect the usual sit-back-and-clap experience; this is deep cultural immersion. And while they might not be able to get you up for a dance, you won’t be able to resist indulging in the Hangi, a traditional feast cooked in the earth that has few foodie peers. Three Long White Cloud memories of a lifetime [caption id="attachment_45008" align="alignnone" width="600"] The church of the Good Shepherd on the shores od Lake Tekapo[/caption] Bay of Islands cruise: When most people envisage New Zealand, they summon the archetypal South Island  Lord of the Rings landscape. A languid cruise around Bay of Islands Maritime Park, which graces the country’s northern tip, may change your preconceptions forever. Why not opt for wind power aboard a historic tall ship, a silent serene space to take in the kaleidoscopic contrast between 144 emerald-topped islands, the azure waters and the white beaches (yep, they have them in New Zealand, too). Milford Sound cruise and kayak: Few places on Earth reward exploration more than pristine Fiordland National Park. Aboard one of the spacious Southern Discoveries vessels, a half-day deep into Milford Sound awaits, where you’ll get to know the area’s wildlife, rainforests and its wonderfully wild moods. For a deeper appreciation of the Sound’s abyssal waters, get a little more hands-on – by getting your hands on a paddle and sea kayaking your way around bewitching Harrison Cove. [caption id="attachment_45010" align="alignnone" width="600"] Get on board and be Inspired[/caption] Wine time, Hawkes Bay-style: Marlborough used to get all the attention, but those in the know never miss a sojourn into Hawkes Bay for a drop of distinction. Check out charming Napier’s Art Deco streetscape (rebuilt after an earthquake in 1931) before getting down to business tasting some of the best wine that New Zealand produces. Just for balance, you’ll tuck into some wonderful regional cuisine, too. Balance, after all, is the essence of a worthwhile expedition. And The Long White Cloud itinerary gets to the very essence of New Zealand, distilled conveniently into just three weeks of your life. All you need to bring along is your sense of adventure.   To get on board The Long White Cloud, head to Inspiring Journeys and save 10 per cent before 31 January 2019. Visit inspiringjourneys.com/nzij or call 1300 669 175 (terms and conditions apply).
On The Go Tours Jordan
Perfect holidays, the Jordanian way
From grand palaces to historic temples, hot desert plains to snowy mountain peaks, On The Go Tours has always brought travellers the finest sights and adventures the world has to offer.  This is perfection the Jordanian holiday way. Immerse yourself in a truly authentic local experience on a popular guided group tour, make a date with some of the world’s most colourful festivals, take an unforgettable family adventure, tailor-make that dream holiday or discover the pulse of the world’s most exciting cities on a wide range of day trips; it’s all up to you. [caption id="attachment_45003" align="alignnone" width="600"] The jebels and duens of Wadi Rum's desert landscape are magic at sunset[/caption] A magical evening of traditional music and dance, local cuisine and shisha accompanied by awe-inspiring incredible lansdscapes awaits under a blanket of stars at On The Go Tours’ desert camp at Wadi Rum. A vast, silent landscape of ancient riverbeds, pastel stretches of sandy desert and amazing rock formations known as jebels, the desertscape of Wadi Rum encompasses some of the most stunning scenery in all of Jordan, forged by millions of years of geological formation, erosion and evolution. Split by networks of canyons and ravines, spanned by naturally formed rock bridges and watered by hidden springs, the jebels (essentially mountains) offer awesome opportunities for scrambling, rock climbing and trekking. The Details Explore the vast landscape on a 4WD adventure, stopping at unusual rock formations, with a night spent under the stars in a perfectly located desert camp. [caption id="attachment_45004" align="alignnone" width="600"] The desert camp at Wadi Rum[/caption] You can choose to spend the night camping under the stars or bedding down in comfortable permanent tents with twin beds and linen provided, although you may want to bring your own sleeping bag liner. If visiting in winter (November to March) it can be very cold at night in the desert and you may wish to bring your own warm sleeping bag. There are environmentally friendly shared bathroom facilities with hot and cold running water, toilets and a shower. A communal tent, furnished with small tables and cushioned seating area, is the place to gather at night to enjoy a hearty Jordanian meal and some traditional Bedouin music.   For more information please contact On The Go Tours on 1300 855 684 or email aus-info@onthegotours.com
Bali grass
The ultimate five-day Lombok itinerary
What to do and where to explore on Bali’s neighbouring island Bali has long been a much-loved holiday destination for Australians – it’s practically a rite of passage. And while record numbers of Aussies are still basking in Bali’s warm waters, an increasing amount of visitors are now travelling to Bali’s less-visited sister, the stunning island of Lombok. Like the rest of Bali, Lombok offers lush landscapes, tasty culinary dishes, unique cultural experiences and its fair share of adventure, but this beautiful island also boasts almost-deserted beaches, epic surfing breaks and hidden waterfalls as well. It goes without saying that to really explore Lombok you need two to three weeks, but if you’ve only got the best part of one week, here’s one of the best ways to spend it: Day 1 Once you fly into Lombok from Bali, head to the beautiful coastal area of Mandalika Beach, just 30 minutes to the south. Once a hidden mecca for surfers, now this pristine coastal paradise that is only six minutes from popular Kuta Beach (not to be confused with Bali’s Kuta Beach) is home to watersports of all kinds, modern hotels and hip cafes serving up local treats. It’s the perfect place to start your holiday (cocktail in hand). After checking into your hotel, take the afternoon to hike to the top of nearby Merese Hill above Batu Payung beach to see an impressive panorama of Lombok as well as a beautiful sunset. The walk itself will take roughly about an hour from Mandalika or you can hop on a moped and then it’s just a quick 15- to 20-minute walk from the car park to the top. [caption id="attachment_44790" align="alignnone" width="600"] You'll never want to leave after seeing these jaw-dropping sunsets[/caption] Day 2 Today is beach day! Mandalika Beach is perfectly located near some of Lombok’s most beautiful beaches, so hiring a moped or catching a taxi to each one makes for a stunning day by the sea. If you love surfing and fishing, head to Gerupuk Beach or if you’re after peace and quiet, try relaxing at Serenting Beach. For lunch, make your way to beautiful Tanjung Aan Beach for freshly made Nasi Goreng and a swim on a near-deserted beach, before heading back to Mandalika Beach for dinner. Day 3 Say goodbye to Lombok’s south coast and travel a couple of hours up to Lombok’s main tourist area of Senggigi. On the way, take a short detour to the spectacular Benang Stokel and Benang Kelambu waterfalls, centred around swimming holes below. The 20-metre-high waterfalls cascade through rugged rocky outcrops covered in moss creating a cool retreat from Lombok’s beaches. When you’ve cooled down with a swim, head to your hotel in Senggigi, around 90 minutes’ drive away. Situated on wide open beaches and backed by jungle-covered mountains, Senggigi is a great place to enjoy a day of shopping, before watching the sunset over the water as you eat dinner and head out to a bar. [caption id="attachment_44791" align="alignnone" width="600"] So many activities to keep even the most adventurous traveller occupied[/caption] Day 4 After an early breakfast and a swim, take a local day trip north to the famous Gili Islands just off the coast of Lombok. Known for incredibly rich tropical marine biodiversity, the three islands of the Gilis each have a no-car policy and white sandy postcard-worthy beaches. For scuba divers, dive in and explore the sunken ship at Wreck Point near Mentigi Beach on Gili Trawangan. Or you could meet the local turtles and even swim with them. Or you could just snorkel right off the beach (why not?). You’ll find that the pace of life on the Gili Islands is slow… and that’s just how the locals like it. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing day in the sun. Overnight in Senggigi. Day 5 Get up bright and early to hop on a half-day trip cycling through some of Lombok’s beautiful terraced rice fields – most of which date back to the time of Balinese colonisation. As you explore the beautiful rice fields on two wheels, you’ll visit small villages along the way and learn about local customs and culture. You might even try homemade local delicacies. Spend the afternoon back in Senggigi relaxing on the beach, before watching the sunset and listening to late-night live music in the local bars: an ideal way to end your holiday. [caption id="attachment_44789" align="alignnone" width="600"] Experience a few nights staying in a beach hut[/caption] Where to stay: Lombok has a range of accommodation including five-star resorts and hotels as well as affordable surf huts and beach hostels to choose from. How to get there: There are regular daily flights between Australia and Denpasar, Indonesia, and there are daily flights between Denpasar and Lombok International Airport (LOP). Local airlines that fly to Lombok from Bali include Garuda, Lion Air, SilkAir and Trans Nusa.   Planning a holiday to Indonesia? For further info on Lombok and the surrounding areas, check out www.indonesia.travel
James Thompson Food Feels
The best non-travel Instagram accounts to inspire you to see the world
There are countless travel accounts on Instagram. But there are other ways to see the world through Instagram’s lens. Here, six accounts that will take you on a visual world tour of a different kind.   How do you while away the hours on Instagram? For me, it’s a haphazardly curated feed of beautiful destinations, coveted fashion, mouth-watering food and Betoota Advocate LOLs. I want to go there, wear this, eat that. Sure, I’m envious, but I try to keep the green-eyed monster at bay by striking a content balance. Exotic locations, oui. Nothing but exotic locations, non. To that end, here are six accounts that will nourish your wanderlust while injecting some less traditional imagery into your feed. Best for people-watching in New York City: @humansofny   View this post on Instagram   “I wasn’t planning on dressing up as a clown. I’d been drinking all night in Poughkeepsie and I somehow ended up at the train station, so I decided to take the 4 AM train into the city. I had $200 in my pocket from some gutter cleaning work. I immediately spent the first $60 on brunch and Bloody Marys. Then I walked by Party City and I had the idea to get a clown wig. But then I noticed the suspenders, and the top, and the bow tie, and some balloons. I bought a red nose too but I’m not sure what happened to it. I left the store with about $100, which was enough to get some shoes and a half pint of Seagram’s. I ended the day with $10 but that got lost when I passed out in Times Square. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get home. I need to stop drinking.” A post shared by Humans of New York (@humansofny) on Aug 9, 2018 at 10:52am PDT Humans of New York has over eight million followers. I mean, you’re probably one of them. This is a hugely popular account. @humansofny started life as Brandon Stanton’s photography project in 2010 and, although it has evolved since, it remains true to its original mission: to provide a glimpse into the lives of everyday New Yorkers.   While the account still predominantly features locals – it would be weird otherwise, right? – it now goes on tour, too, giving followers an insight into lives around the globe.  Best for global floor appreciation: @ihavethisthingforfloors   View this post on Instagram   #ihavethisthingforfloors #ihavethisthingwithfloors #fromwhereistand #tiles #floors #floored #ceramics #shoes #beauty #bnw #love #awesome #tassles #canvas #slippers #hawanas #blue #love #feet #feetmefloor #stencil #painted#paint #art #fortheloveof #paints @cimkedi #pattern #like4like #follow A post shared by I have this thing for floors. (@ihavethisthingforfloors) on Aug 8, 2017 at 4:55am PDT More than four million Instagram posts have been tagged #lookup, a nod to the notion that we should pull our eyes away from our phone and enjoy what’s around us. (Hashtag irony.) But, as this account proves, we should be doing more looking down as well. @ihavethisthingwithfloors is the result of three friends realising they all, err, had this thing with floors.   They curate the account from Amsterdam, but share ‘selfeets’ (selfie meets feet, geddit?) from all over the world. Each features an Instagram-worthy floor – think beautifully patterned tiles, confetti covered dance floors, colourful carpets – underneath a pair of feet. Bonus points for cute shoes. Best for perving on the world's best caffeine containers: @coffeecupsoftheworld   View this post on Instagram   Magnolia coffee house, Prairie Grove, Arkansas. @magnoliacoffeehouse Submission @deidremays #coffeecupsoftheworld A post shared by Coffee Cups of the World (@coffeecupsoftheworld) on May 21, 2018 at 5:05am PDT If you’ve never posted a photo of your cool takeaway coffee cup, are you even on Instagram? Kiwi photographer Henry Hargreaves has taken the trend a step further, curating an account dedicated to, as the handle would suggest, @coffeecupsoftheworld.   The account started with Hargreaves’ personal assortment of cups collected during his travels, but has since added submissions into the mix. The result is a striking visual ode to cafes that have turned a ubiquitous item into a work of art. Best 'non-street-style' street style account: @aks   View this post on Instagram   10 PHOTOS shot during @parisfashionweek SS19 in Paris, France 🇫🇷 for @wmag + @lofficielparis • SEE MORE on AdamKatzSinding.com • #PFW #SS19 #Paris #AKS #AdamKatzSinding #NoFreePhotos A post shared by Adam Katz Sinding (@aks) on Oct 5, 2018 at 10:59am PDT The first thing you should probably know is @AKS “is not a f**king street style blog.” Adam Katz Sinding is a fashion week documentarian. The American born, Copenhagen-based photojournalist travels 300-plus days of the year, capturing the world’s biggest fashion events from both backstage and the street.   The disclaimer is his. He says street style is a lie he wants no part of. In contrast, Katz Sinding’s images are an honest snapshot of style in some of the world’s most fashionable cities, and a touristy #ASKforeheadselfie series for good measure. Best coverage of doorways around the world: @thedoorproject   View this post on Instagram   Barcelona, Spain A post shared by Doors Worldwide (@thedoorproject) on Jun 2, 2015 at 9:56am PDT “Behind every door is a story,” says Caryn Cullinan, the woman behind The Door Project. That might be true, but @thedoorproject is more about the door itself with colourful, ornate and quirky examples from around the world captured via the Instagram account. The project has its roots in a 2015 Kickstarter campaign, which aimed to raise enough money for Cullinan to publish a book. She did that, but hasn’t stopped the door hunt, which she documents on Instagram.   While her captions include little more than each door’s location, the absence of the aforementioned ‘story’ does allow you to imagine your own. Best account to simultaneously make you drool and want to book flights to wherever that pizza is: @food_feels   View this post on Instagram   I’ll have all of the above ✔️ No trip to Macao is complete without a stop to Lord Stow - I had so many recommendations to try their famous egg tarts - similar to Pastel de natas but instead using English custard. I’d recommend visiting their original store in in Coloane where they’ve been baking these since 1989.. @macaouk - #Macao #Ad A post shared by Food Feels (@food_feels) on Sep 24, 2018 at 4:53am PDT Ahh, there’s a small pizza, I mean, problem. Sorry. I have been scrolling through James Thompson’s @food_feels account to get some pizza, I mean, inspiration (sorry!) for this pizza, oh God, I mean, piece. And now, as you might have guessed, I am a little pizza. ARGH! I’m distracted. I am a little DIS.TRAC.TED.   Thompson, an Aussie based in London, is (at time of writing) in Italy. Prior to Italy, he was in France. Before France, he was in Denmark. Previous to Denmark, he was in Portugal. Thompson’s accompanying #foodie photos are delicious. Let him whisk you away on a culinary adventure.
The must-see sights of Galapagos National Park
There’s a spot in the Pacific Ocean that holds a special significance to anyone with a deep appreciation for the natural world, discovers Daniel Down. If Charles Darwin hadn’t observed the unique wildlife of the Galápagos, namely its famous finches, and made deductions that helped him formulate his great theory of evolution by natural selection, we’d still be ambling around saying how incredible it is that all life was created 6000 years ago by an omnipotent being. [caption id="attachment_44555" align="alignleft" width="1000"] paradies galapagos[/caption] Besides making a scientific pilgrimage to the islands, you should go to see their otherworldly landscapes and abundant endemic wildlife.   To get there, catch a flight from the Ecuadorian capital Quito to Baltra Airport just off Santa Cruz; stay at Red Mangrove Eco Lodge in Puerto Ayora, for example, and organise a tour through the lodge, or book a cruise with transfers straight to your boat from the airport.   Incorporate just a few of the ideas into your itinerary to witness the great natural wonders of the Galápagos National Park, and indeed, the world. El Chato – Giant Tortoise Reserve You’ll need a guide to enter this part of the national park that’s been set aside for the Galápagos’ most iconic animal, the giant tortoise.   Weighing up to almost half a tonne these magnificent, ancient beasts do what they have been doing for millions of years in the wild, namely extending their long necks very slowly to nibble on grass; a captivating experience that you’ll take an unnecessary number of photos of. Snorkel León Dormido With 150-metre-high buttresses of rock rising out of the ocean, the sight of León Dormido alone is worth making the trip out to this remote spot off the coast of Isla de San Cristóbal. But you should also come to snorkel with eagle rays, hammerhead sharks and turtles. Climb Volcán Alcedo You feel like you could be on an alien planet on the slopes of Alcedo Volcano. Emerging from the heart of Isla Isabela, take a guided walk to see big groups of giant tortoises sitting in pools in a landscape of craters, ancient lava flows and fumaroles spewing hot sulphuric gases. Puerto Egas / Las Tintoreras The black igneous rock seems to come alive in another of the archipelago’s most famous sights: that of countless scaly black marine iguanas clinging to a surf-battered shoreline, warming up in the sun before swimming off to dive and graze on algae.   See this endemic lizard at Puerto Egas on Isla Santiago, or catch a boat out to Las Tintoreras (pictured above) off the coast of Puerto Villamil.   Some species of the iguana also sport red blotchy skin and the occasional dollop of turquoise. Tortuga Bay On the central island of Santa Cruz you can hike along a paved, 2.4-kilometre path through the scrub to reach the pristine crescent of white sand at Tortuga Bay.   Here, marine iguanas patrol up and down the beach like miniature dinosaurs. While the main beach is closed for swimming, you can take a dip in a nearby cove, often with reef sharks. Darwin Lake They like naming things after the bearded Victorian here, and Darwin Lake in the shadow of the mighty Darwin Volcano, is a spectacular sight reached via a two-kilometre hike from the shore of Tagus Bay on Isla Isabela.   An old volcano caldera has created this near circular saltwater lagoon, only separated from the sea by a thin sliver of land. The Charles Darwin Research Station Scientists have been using this facility, at Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz, to study and conserve the islands’ unique biodiversity since 1964.   Pay a visit to get hands on with specimens and get up close to giant tortoises at the centre’s breeding program.  
La Paz, Bolivia.
How to spend 48 adventurous hours in La Paz, Bolivia
You’d think the fact that La Paz is a city located at the bottom of a canyon would be its most interesting feature, but trust me it has so many more. The capital city of Bolivia, La Paz encompasses the colourful lifestyle and unique landscape of South America perfectly. The city will leave you in love with Bolivia’s bright and bold culture, and a dose of fresh and crisp air. While travelling across South America, I can honestly say I wasn’t as excited to visit Bolivia as some of the other nations on my itinerary.   La Paz is a city that you don’t really expect too much from and has a reputation of being unsafe, but boy did it prove its worth! It is the highest administrative capital in the world sitting at more than 3500 metres above sea level. With Mt. Illimani as its backdrop, the city’s landscape is nothing like you’ve seen before. The higher you climb, the more stunning the view. [caption id="attachment_44367" align="alignnone" width="600"] Residential neighborhood in La Paz Bolivia[/caption] The rich culture, the unbelievable history, the vibrant atmosphere, the friendly people, the mouth-watering food and the incredible landscape, La Paz has all the characteristics of a must-see city. Although some more northern parts of the city are deemed unsafe due to theft, the majority is full of curious tourists like yourself and a helping hand. Manoeuvring around is quite the adventure, and the best part is, you can do it all in 48 hours. Day one: 7.30am: Death Road Mountain Biking One of the major attractions of La Paz is Yungas Road, also known as Death Road, and you can’t visit the city without giving it a good run. It was built in the 1930s as the only route from La Paz to Coroico, although its narrow, high and sharp turns soon made it a deadly path for travellers.   The only way you should conquer the road these days is with a mountain bike. There are a few different tour groups that offer excursions, though I would highly recommend Gravity Assisted Bolivia. They’re pricey but safe, provide great detail along the way, and the day is organised well. Once breakfast at Cafe Del Mundo is ticked off, you’re in for a long bus ride, hours of mountain biking and a trip to the La Senda Animal Refuge. Price is $174. 10.30pm: Pollos Copacabana Day one is jam-packed and the only way to finish it off is with a good late-night feed. Pollos Copacabana is the most popular fast food restaurant in Bolivia and you must experience its deliciousness. Its burgers are fatty, its chicken is greasy and its plantain chips are the bomb!   [caption id="attachment_44368" align="alignnone" width="600"] Ornate alley in old town La Paz Bolivia.[/caption]  11.30pm: overnight stay After a massive day, you’ll want to hit the sheets for a good night’s sleep before another early morning. My personal hotel recommendations include Hotel Rosario, Stannum Boutique Hotel & Spa or Presidente Hotel. They are clean, conveniently located close to shops and restaurants and have friendly and knowledgeable staff to help with any questions you have.   If you have a bit more energy then you should head straight to Wild Rover Hostel, the number one hostel in La Paz. Its bar is loud, its atmosphere is buzzing and makes for a very fun night meeting fellow travellers. Just don’t go to bed too late! Day two: 9.00am: HB Bronze Cafe South America boasts some incredible coffee. Luckily for you, HB Bronze Cafe recently popped up in the centre of La Paz and stocks some of the most incredible coffee beans from not just SA, but all around the world. Each coffee is brewed and served in its traditional way, so the baristas put on a bit of a show. 11.00am: walking tour I’m a massive fan of walking tours. In La Paz, Red Caps is known for its incredible walk through. They’re informative, quirky and very well organised. Plus, only cost $4! My tour starts at Plaza San Pedro and then continues on through the major markets of La Paz, San Francisco Church, Plaza Murillo and a complimentary drink at Sol y Luna cafe.   The guides are passionate about their city, the nation of Bolivia and, what they admit is, their crazy history. My favourite part of the tour? San Pedro Prison. Second favourite? The incredible chorizo sandwich you’ll down for lunch at the Rodriguez Market. 2.00pm: Cementerio General It sounds a bit funny, visiting a cemetery while on holiday, but you won’t ever see one quite like this. La Paz’s main city cemetery is vibrant and loving. The cemetery is so full that the graves are being stacked on top of each other and the street art on the side is big and bright.   The best time to go would be during Day of the Dead celebrations at the start of November. The best way to get there is by bus and during the day, as it isn’t located in the safest of areas for tourists with pickpockets and gangs lurking at night. 3.30pm – cable cars   [caption id="attachment_44369" align="alignnone" width="600"] Cable car, La Paz.[/caption] One significant feature of La Paz is its cable car system Mi Teleferico. It’s not only the most efficient way to get around the complicated city, but also the most impressive. The view of the canyon is second to none. To make the most of your trip, head on up to El Alto and visit the Flea Market, which is one of the biggest in the country.   Beware though, there are known to be pickpockets throughout this part of the city, so wear your backpack in front and pack away your camera. 5.30pm – Cholita Wrestling Show You can’t leave La Paz without heading to a Cholita Wresting Show. It’s the WWE of Bolivia and is quite the night out! It’s best to book a tour through your hotel as you want to go in a group and with locals. NOTE: Wrestling shows only run on Thursdays and Sundays so time your 48 hours wisely!
South Africa.
From surfing and safaris to bright city lights, here are 10 reasons to visit South Africa
 When it comes to travel, Africa is one place on many people's must-visit list. Here are  10 reasons to get yourself to South Africa that you may not have even considered... To go on safari in search of the Big Five Going on your first African safari feels like being on a hushed film set waiting for the key cast members [read: the big five] to arrive. And when they do, it's with all the drama, tension and romance that is implicit on a game drive. What's surprising is how much the bit players – dik-diks, kudu, impalas – steal the spotlight as they scramble for survival. A crash course in astronomy Receiving a crash course in astronomy while standing under a night sky swirling with stars in the middle of the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve is to marvel at the magnificence of the universe. Astrotourism has become a popular safari ritual in South Africa and Ben Coley, of Celestial Events, has a seriously powerful telescope to enhance the experience. To caper up the Cape of Good Hope Geography lessons come to life at the Cape of Good Hope on the Cape Peninsula, a long spindly finger of land pointing south toward Antarctica. Climb to the top of the Old Cape Point Lighthouse where you can marvel up close at the rippling sandstone and swirling blue-green sea below. Be warned: baboons are everywhere so keep your car locked when you pose for that selfie near the Cape of Good Hope sign. Explore SA's largest art museum The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa – Zeitz MOCAA – is one of the world's most important exhibition spaces for contemporary African art. It's a great echoing cavern of steel and concrete and glass located inside a grain silo built on the waterfront in the 1920s. Huge sections of the building's interior have been carved out to create a complex warren of more than 100 gallery spaces. Visit the rainbow-bright neighbourhood of Bo Kaap [caption id="attachment_44236" align="alignnone" width="600"] You have to visit the stunning rainbow-bright neighbourhood of Bo Kaap when you visit South Africa.[/caption] The boxy buildings of Bo Kaap present like a bag of Liquorice Allsorts coloured everything from indigo and fuschia to tangerine and mint green and brightening up the Cape Malay community. Turn your back on the camera-toting crowds and head up the hill to Bo Kaap Kombuis, a restaurant serving traditional Cape Malay cuisine. Coo over the penguins at Boulders Beach The waddling African penguins are not the only reason to make a pilgrimage to Boulders Beach, as the area is strewn with rounded boulders looming like giant sculptures. As well as providing ideal nesting territory for the endangered species, the tumbled rock formations are every bit as photogenic as the resident penguins. Enjoy an African sunset Table Mountain is one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature and, if there's a defining landmark that shapes Cape Town's skyline it is this. The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway has revolving floors so visitors get 360-degree views of the mountain and city from the top of the towering escarpment. Experience Steampunk at Truth Coffee, Capetown If you are a fan of steampunk, this is the cafe for you. Steampunk informs the philosophy behind Truth Coffee while paying homage to the movement with its centrepiece: a vintage espresso machine dubbed Professor Jones' Fabulous Coffee Bean Contraption. Truth is equal parts cafe and cult and the steampunk aesthetic filters down to the fashions favoured by the staff. truth.coffee To surf world-class waves [caption id="attachment_44237" align="alignnone" width="600"] Hit the beach for the ultimate surfing in South Africa.[/caption] Jeffrey's Bay is ranked as one of the best surfing destinations in the world. Located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, J-Bay offers rides of up to 800-metres long and includes breaks dubbed Salad Bowls, Coins, Tubes, Kitchen Windows and Impossibles. The best time to surf here is dawn, when the sky is indigo and the seas are stretched like blue denim over the curves of the coast. Yes, it's where Mick Fanning punched a great white during the J-Bay Open surf event, so BYO shark repellent. The grape and the good The Cape Town bar scene is cool and contemporary and includes a range of bars, some more dog-eared than others. The Outrage of Modesty serves cutting-edge cocktails in an old frame theatre with wacky wall art and tiered seating. Nearby, The Gin Bar is aimed squarely at gin geeks. The bar, which is hidden behind the Honest Chocolate Cafe in the CBD, has a charming sand-blasted courtyard and beautifully backlit drinks selection. GETTING THERE Africa Travel specialist Bench Africa has a 13-day Luxury Signature Safari Special that focuses on South Africa. Visit benchafrica.com   There is a SAA flight daily from Perth to Johannesburg operating an A340-300 and A340-600 (connecting with codeshare partner Virgin Australia from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.) Visit flysaa.com
No wheels, no worries: Best way to explore Switzerland? Sans car
Those punctual, hardworking Swiss have thought of everything – after all, where would we be without velcro, the World Wide Web (invented by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee at CERN) and… LSD? But there’s one thing you’ll never have to think about when it comes to travelling through their picture-perfect country: a hire car. Of course plenty of the population drive their fuel-efficient cars on their impeccably-designed motorways, but for travellers, a car is about as useful as a pair of knitting needles on a Swiss Army knife. Although the country is compact at around two-thirds the size of Tasmania, Switzerland’s public transport network is unrivalled, weaving a hyper-punctual web of rail, trails, river boats and buses across the land using one integrated pass – the Swiss Travel Pass. This is how you can keep your travels clean, green and lean while exploring Switzerland’s natural beauty by any means but car.   Why drive when you can first-class train? You’d be hard pressed to find a destination in Switzerland not serviced by a train. One with wrap-around panoramic windows and tea service, at that. There are 29,000 kilometres of public transport routes crisscrossed across the country and you can buy a blanket Swiss Travel Pass or individual region passes, depending on where you’re going. Just getting from A to B? You’ll truly understand the term “Swiss efficiency” after touching down in Zurich and zipping to the other side of the country in two hours flat. However, for most people, it’s all about the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland – an experience in and of itself, which attracted a 48% increase in bookings in 2017. It combines eight different routes including iconic panoramic journeys like the Glacier Express (travelling across the Alps) and GoldenPass (with its beautiful Belle-Epoque GoldenPass Classic). With a Swiss Travel Pass in hand, you’re not only covered for train journeys but the entire network of boats, buses and city transportation along with many mountain cable cars and free admission to over 500 museums. [caption id="attachment_43969" align="alignnone" width="600"] Experience the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland – where you can journey through the Glacier Express.[/caption] More cycling trails than the Tour de France The circuit of the Tour de France may clock 3500 kilometres but Switzerland has over 12,000 kilometres of signposted cycling trails, making it one of the most cycle-friendly countries in the world. They’re now even shutting down roads so you can ride in the shadows of snow-capped mountains. Select mountain passes will be closed to motorists between May and September for Ride the Alps, a cycle series that allows cyclists to freely ride through the storybook landscape without fear or inconvenience of passing cars. But it’s not just the Swiss who are nuts for two-wheel transport – almost two million visitors to Switzerland will cycle during their holiday, with around 30% opting for the ease of e-bikes. Companies like Rent a Bike allow you to pick up wheels in one spot and drop them in another while you’ll also find bike-storing facilities on public transport, and for the serious lycra-lovers, there are even bike hotels where you’ll find handy facilities like bike repair workshops, e-bike charging stations, and luggage transfer services.   Food on foot There’s nothing more quintessentially Swiss than to hike throughout the day before retreating to a traditional fondue house for schnapps, rösti and raclette. However, there’s more to Switzerland's culinary landscape than chalets of cheese. In Zurich, explore the up-and-coming Zurich-West quarter on foot with fellow foodies on the Zurich Food Tour and you’ll taste your way through some of the city’s top restaurants and try freshly brewed Zurich beer. Continue your explorations and you might stumble upon Max Chocolatier. The artisanal chocolate house, which has its flagship on the banks of the River Reuss in Lucerne, offers private chocolate tastings to learn about the origins of their cocoa and other natural ingredients. Wandering is also the best way to discover the makers within Basel’s Markethalle (Market Hall), which operated as a local market from 1929 until 2004. After laying dormant for a decade, it was rejuvenated and re-opened in 2014 with a line-up of food stalls and a weekly market on Saturdays.   Just staying there gives you free transport Rather than transport costs gobbling up a good chunk of your holiday budget, many major cities within Switzerland provide a discount card when staying in one of its hotels. You’ll generally receive unlimited access to the city’s public trains, buses and trams, but some cards include additional extras, which make the argument for leaving the car in the rental bay even stronger. On top of free transport, the Basel Card for example gives holders access to free Wi-Fi at 17 spots around the city; and 50% off admissions to Basel Zoo, a two-hour sightseeing bus, a walking tour of old town and scheduled river cruises. In Bern, airport transfers are thrown in. And in Lausanne the Transport Card also grants holders discounts at selected shops, theatres and museums.

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