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Santorini Greece

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Santorini

Capture your own postcard moment on Greece's most iconic island.
  With its dazzling whitewashed buildings, trademark blue-domed churches, and dramatic clifftop towns, Santorini is arguably Greece's most recognisable location. This little island in the Aegean Sea offers so much beauty in such a small space, and visitors flock here in their millions to watch the sun set over its red, rocky landscape.
  But this haven of tranquillity was not always so; the island had explosive beginnings. Its unique shape - it resembles a reverse C pulling some smaller islands into its embrace - was caused by an extremely violent volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. What's left is the remains of a volcano caldera that flooded with seawater. The people of Santorini soon built a new civilisation, perilously clinging to the sides of the old rim.
  As you might expect from anywhere in Greece, Santorini (also known as Thira) is packed with archaeological treasures, including an entire village called Akrotiri, which overlooks much of the island. There, you'll see the foundations of a grand temple, and colourful frescoes that have miraculously withstood the test of time.
  When you want to return to the present, you can meander about Santorini's more modern towns and villages, which seem to climb up the old volcano like a stairway into Greece's perfect blue skies. Browse the charming little shops of Oia, or take a leisurely cable car ride from the port to the main town of Fira. While you're in town, don't forget to feast your eyes on elaborate Byzantine churches, which feature gilded chandeliers and painstakingly painted murals of Christian imagery.
  In Fira, the largest settlement on the island, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire caldera, or check out some of the local history museums. If you'd prefer a more typical Santorini view, head ten kilometres (6.2 miles) north to visit Oia, the village where that distinctive Santorini photo is set. You know the one: the colourful village overlooking a rocky seaside, which the Greek tourist board adores.
  If you're looking for more active pursuits, Santorini has much to offer. Hike up to Skaros Rock, a precarious outcrop that was once home to a medieval fort. Or trek all the way down to Red Beach - an almost alien setting where the red, sandy cliffs of Santorini meet the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea.
  At the end of your day exploring all of the island's delights, you'll be in need of some well-earned rest and relaxation. Get yourself to a seaside taverna - Amoudi Bay is a particularly scenic spot - and sip on a glass of Santorini's famous red wine, which is said by some to be the best in all of Greece. While you're at it, order some domatokeftedes - a Santorini speciality of deep-fried local tomatoes (famed for their deliciously sweet taste) and classic Greek feta cheese. For afters, you won't want to miss loukoumades - sticky, sweet Greek doughnuts that come in a variety of flavours.
  Santorini offers some of the most luxurious hotels in the world, so if you're staying in one, you're in for a treat. Relax in infinity pools that stretch seamlessly out over the water, giving you a stunning view of the volcanic landscape. If you're in more modest accommodation, you can still enjoy the wonderfully Greek philoxenia' (love to strangers/guests) that your hosts will undoubtedly offer - after all, you are in Greece's most sought-after destination.

St Petersburg

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St Petersburg

St Petersburg's opulence is garnished with contemporary eclecticism.
  Under the unruly northern sky, the iconic city of St Petersburg stares out across the Baltic Sea. Founded by Peter the Great in 1703 as a 'window into Europe and designed by a slew of celebrated architects, today it's Russia's chameleonic second city. Effortlessly modern, it has lost none of its old-world grandeur through Russia's turbulent history.
  The Palace Square makes a very powerful first impression, the backdrop to some of Russia's most poignant events, from the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1905 to the October Revolution in 1917. At its centre, the Alexander Column stands, commemorating Russia's famous 1812 victory over Napoleon.
  The green-and-white Winter Palace flanks the square's northern end - its Rococo exterior festooned with larger-than-life statues. Formerly a royal residence, it's now one of six buildings comprising the world-famous Hermitage Museum. The second-largest museum in the world, the sprawling complex spans 360 rooms, housing a selection of the collection's three million items. Look out for the friendly cats (a colony of about 50 felines) that also call the lavish grounds their home.
  Just across the Neva River lies the comparably modest Summer Palace, its grounds studded with impressive Italian sculptures imported by Peter the Great. Nearby, at the Field of Mars, a sombre flame burns for victims of the Russian revolutions of 1917.
  Instantly recognisable, the pure-gold dome of St Isaac's Cathedral dominates the skyline and the huge square around it. Beyond its enormous doors remains elaborate stained glass and soaring columns of lapis lazuli and malachite. While its lavishly decorated dome looms large over the interior - which can hold 14,000 worshippers - its colonnaded walkway reveals panoramic views over the city for those willing to brave its 262 steps.
  Just across the water, housing the tombs of Russia's imperial family, along with a Baroque cathedral and scalable fort, the Peter and Paul Fortress offers a glimpse into the city's storied past - constructed in 1703, it was one of St Petersburg's first buildings.
  Continuing through history, literary buffs can walk the streets that inspired some of the greatest poems and prose ever written - from Alexander Pushkin's apartment to Catherine Canal, where scenes from Crime and Punishment unfold. There is also the FM Dostoevsky Literary Memorial Museum, as well as the Stray Dog Café, a literary hangout frequented by the likes of Leo Tolstoy and Anna Akhmatova.
  Come nightfall, the Mariinsky Theatre calls. St Petersburg's most impressive venue, it may be the epitome of ornate grandeur, but its ballet and opera credentials are unparalleled.

London

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London

From red phone boxes to black cabs, there's an iconic sight on every corner.
  Samuel Johnson once said: "When a man is tired of London, he's tired of life." London is one of the most vibrant cities in the world. It's packed with things to see and do, from beautiful architecture and history to iconic landmarks and, of course, the Royal Family! It's a shopaholic's paradise, a culture vulture's dream and a major foodie hotspot. But beyond this, every neighbourhood has something unique to offer.
  Red telephone booths, double-decker buses and the Underground are synonymous with London, but the city is full of iconic sights. One of the most famous landmarks is Big Ben. You can't take a trip to London without taking a photograph in front of the Houses of Parliament. Mistakenly, most people think Big Ben is the 96-metre (315-foot) clock tower, but it is in fact the massive 13-ton (13,760-kilogram) bell - the tower itself is called the Elizabeth Tower, to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Before then, it was simply known as the Clock Tower. It's a spectacular sight to see, particularly when lit up at night. Tower Bridge is another landmark that often appears on postcards. One of the city's most famous bridges, its high-level walkways not only offer incredible views of the city, but a different perspective of the River Thames through its glass floor.
  There are countless places for epic views, but arguably some of the best vistas can be seen from the London Eye, Europe's largest observation wheel. There is also The View from The Shard; London's tallest building offers the highest viewpoint at 244 metres (800 feet).
  If history is what you're after, the Tower of London is the place to visit. This royal palace, fortress and infamous prison encompasses more than 1,000 years of history. Visitors can meet the iconic 'Beefeaters, hear tales of torture and execution, and visit the Crown Jewels at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  London has three other World Heritage Sites: the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey, Maritime Greenwich, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The Palace of Westminster is not only a stunning piece of Victorian Gothic architecture, but it's also home to the Houses of Parliament. Next door, Westminster Abbey is Britain's coronation church and the venue for Prince William and Catherine's wedding.
  London has some unique neighbourhoods from affluent Mayfair to bohemian Camden, but the leafy area of Greenwich has some of the best highlights, including the Royal Observatory, National Maritime Museum, Cutty Sark and Greenwich Market. Here you can visit the home of Greenwich Mean Time, see the uniform that Nelson was wearing when he was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar, discover the world's largest surviving tea clipper, or sample delicious food.
  While 30 minutes from the city centre, Kew Gardens highlights its greener side. The world's most diverse collection of living plants is housed here. Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park, The Regent's Park and St James's Park are just a few of the other vast green spaces that draw attention to London's natural beauty.
  While spring is one of the best times to visit to see London in bloom, if you want a regal day out, you'll have to come in the summer when Buckingham Palace, the Queen's official London residence, opens to the public. From the Changing of the Guard - a formal ceremony of the Queen's guards in their red uniforms and bearskin hats to the 19 lavish stately rooms inside, the palace never fails to impress. Other awe-inspiring palaces include Kensington, the birthplace of Queen Victoria and Hampton Court, Henry VIII's favourite royal residence If you still haven't had your fix, visit St Paul's Cathedral to see where Prince Charles and Diana were married. Climb the 528 steps to the Golden Gallery for spectacular views, or listen to the acoustics in the Whispering Gallery .
  Designed by Britain's most famous architect, Sir Christopher Wren, St Paul's is not the only masterpiece. Christ Church at Spitalfields, the Old Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College and the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel are all visually astonishing and worth a trip.
  London has a plethora of beautiful sights to see, but it's also bursting with things to do. The city is packed with museums and galleries many of which are free to visit. From the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum to Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers at The National Galley, it's a treasure trove. Other cultural gems include Tate Modern and Tate Britain, the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Natural History Museum.
  Music fans are just as spoilt for choice. Visit the shooting locations for some of the most famous album covers, including the Beatles' Abbey Road, or go to top-notch record stores and music venues. Among the best venues are the Royal Albert Hall, Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, The Roundhouse in Camden and the 02, which hosts some of the biggest names in music.
  But it's not just music and art. London has every form of entertainment from theatre in the West End or at Shakespeare's Globe, to nightclubs, pubs and bars. Have a pint at The George Inn near London Bridge, where Shakespeare once drank, or sip a James Bond martini at DUKES Bar.
  Dozens of new bars and restaurants open every month, making the city a holy grail for foodies. From street food to fine dining, there's something for everyone. Visit Brick Lane for a Bengali-British curry, wander Borough Market for gourmet grub, or take your pick from one of almost 70 Michelin-starred restaurants. If you want the quintessential British experience, have a full English breakfast at a local café (or greasy spoon, as the Londoners call them). enjoy afternoon tea at The Ritz, or eat fish and chips at Poppies.
  London is also a fashion capital. From highend boutiques in Mayfair to flagship stores on Oxford Street, you can shop until you drop. If you're after more than just clothes, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason are almost attractions in their own right, and London's markets, especially Portobello Road, are the perfect place to hunt for antiques and one-of-a-kind items.
  London has something for everyone. Kids can get a thrill riding the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the world's longest tunnel slide, and sports fans can visit Lord's, Wembley or Wimbledon.
  It's such a multicultural city that you can dine on Chinese food in Chinatown, watch French films at the Barbican, and learn Flamenco at the Southbank Centre all in one day. There are so many events from the Notting Hill Carnival to Chinese New Year. There's always something different to do. Ride a narrowboat on Regent's Canal, watch street performers in Covent Garden or visit Sherlock Holmes' Baker Street.
  One of the best things about London is that it's ever-changing. You could visit a dozen times and never run out of new things to discover. You may get tired running around trying to do it all, but like Samuel Johnson, you'll never get tired of London.

Venice

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Venice

Explore italy's city of water and its vibrant history.
  The city of Venice isn't just steeped in history its past flows through its famous canals and can be seen in every crevice of the city's magnificent architecture. If you're looking for a cultural trip with a Renaissance vibe, you needn't look any further. But don't be fooled into forcing Venice into this corner because it has so much more to offer you.
  In the 18th century, Venice was a party city and in some ways it still is especially if you visit in the run-up to Lent. At that time of year, Venice really lets its hair down and goes all out in Carnevale. An already vibrant Venice comes alive as the streets are filled with people in elaborate costumes and masks in an open-air festival that spans the entire city. You'll find live music in the squares, balls and parties to attend, and an endless list of sights to see.
  For those looking for something a little quieter, it's important to remember that Venice is an incredibly busy tourist city thanks to its stunning buildings and lively history, but as long as Carnevale isn't on, you should be okay. When the streets aren't full of mask-wearing revellers, you'll find it a lot easier to check out the other attractions Venice offers you.
  It's the gondolas that are most associated with the city. You'd regret it if you went all that way and missed out on the experience of riding through Venice's canals via the traditional method. You can book tours of the city from the water or simply go for a ride, but it's best to stay away from the Grand Canal as it can get incredibly busy. It is a must-do experience, as there is no other way to appreciate how to get around in the Floating City. For a cheaper alternative, try the traghetti (public gondolas) that cross the Grand Canal.
  For some good Gothic architecture, the Doge's Palace is where you'll want to head next. Built in 1424, it was one of the city's most important buildings, and it reopened as a museum in 1923. During the Venetian Republic, this was where the ruler would live, spending their days in opulent apartments and stunning halls. The palace also has chambers from when the city was administrated from there, and a prison, connected by the famous Bridge of Sighs. For more splendour, check out Saint Mark's Basilica near the Doge's Palace. While the outside is simply stunning, inside really is something to behold. Over 8,000 square metres (86,000 square feet) of mosaics cover the walls, vaults and copulas, telling different stories from the Bible with glittering gold backgrounds.
  But Venice has more than history. A littleknown fact is that Venice is the capital of the Veneto region: the home of Prosecco. With tiny wine bars all through the city, it's impossible to go for a drink and not see it on the menu. It's the perfect excuse to try the different flavours as you sit overlooking the gorgeous canals on a warm summer day.

golden circle tour

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golden circle tour

With so much to see and do, don't put Iceland's Golden Circle tour on ice.
  With so much to offer its visitors, Iceland's Golden Circle will introduce you to the wonders of Reykjavík. If you've never heard of it and are wondering what it is, the answer might surprise you. Iceland's Golden Circle is a sightseeing route to three main attractions of natural beauty in southern Iceland: the heritage-rich Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and the nationally protected Gullfoss waterfall. Instead of driving back and forth, the preferred route is to drive a short circle that's just under 230 kilometres (143 miles). Dozens of Icelandic companies offer tours across the route, which are wildly popular with first-time tourists. It is also possible to drive the route yourself and take in the sights at your own leisure; it really is up to you.
  The main areas of the Golden Circle can become crowded, but despite this it is still one of the most memorable routes in the world. Although winter days in Iceland mean drastically shorter daytimes and prolonged darkness, the colder seasons appear to be only slightly less popular than the summer months with tourists, when the sun sets late and rises early. With that in mind, the chance to explore the Golden Circle in the midnight sun makes it the best time to visit to ensure you get the most out of your trip.
  The first major stop-gap on the Golden Circle tour is usually the Thingvellir National Park, which sits in the rift valley of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, separating the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. With many major events in the history of Iceland having taken place at Thingvellir, the park is Iceland's national treasure. Among the sublime landscapes, the national park plays a vital role in Icelandic history as the location of the first open-air parliament in Althing, the location where Viking settlers first decided upon the laws of the Icelandic nation. At the site of what is considered to be the oldest parliament in the world, its first sessions were held around the year 930, around a rock (appropriately named by the settlers 'Law Rock'), which still stands today. A single Icelandic flag planted in the rock by the park's operators marks the exact location for the sake of visitors keen to trek to where Icelandic civilisation began.
  Between the winter and summer months, Iceland's rich landscape can change drastically, meaning that be it spring, summer, autumn or winter, the area has something new to show off every season. In summer, charming freshwater streams highlight the park's vibrant khakigreen fields as they wind along the Ridge's rugged terrain. The beautiful Silfra fissure (a crack in the earth that was ripped open by the movement of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates) borders the Thingvallavatn Lake and offers scuba divers an opportunity to swim between two continents at the same time. When the harsh, cold winter months set in the park is covered with a blanket of white snow and ice, changing its landscape once again as the tendrils of freshwater freeze and the sub-zero temperatures invade Thingvallavatn Lake, which eventually becomes partially frozen. The park evolves from a thriving spring oasis to a winter wonderland in just a few months.
  The famous hot springs of Geyser are also a popular stop along the Golden Circle route, attracting thousands of visitors every year. Located in southwest Iceland, the geothermal area of Haukadalur Valley is home to multiple hot springs and geysers. Strip off and jump into the natural springs and experience the relaxing open-air pools. The Great Geysir, once known for propelling water up to 70 metres (230 feet) high, is rarely active these days. Nevertheless, there are plenty of hot springs and geysers for visitors to sink into, including the powerful and infamous Strokkur, which spurts jets of hot water up to 40 metres (131 feet) high every five to ten minutes. Keep your camera close as you will not want to miss the amazing display of nature.
  In terms of size and volume, the Olfusá River is Iceland's largest by volume, carrying more water to the Atlantic than any other river in the country. Don't believe us? Then visit Gullfoss, or Golden Falls, and watch the rapids of Olfusá thunder 30 metres (98 feet) down to a valley floor and feel the fresh spray against your skin. In the early 20th century, land owners considered selling the waterfall to foreign investors who intended to harness the energy of the waterfall as a way of generating electricity. Thankfully the plan fell through and the government stepped in, turning it into a protected site to ensure that Iceland's beauty wouldn't be harvested by any eager energy tycoons in the future.
  As well as the three main attractions of the Golden Circle, there are also multiple other stop-off points that can be explored along the way, such as soaking in the geo-pool that is Reykjadalur's hot river, or the elusive Secret Lagoon natural pool located in the village of Flúðir. If you're looking for something more educational, then a visit to the fascinating (and frankly quite impressive) hydropower museum known as the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant is definitely worth doing. Located a short drive from the Hengill geothermal area and Thingvellir National Park, the power station, which serves the Greater Reykjavík area, produces around 120 megawatts of electrical power and around 1,110 litres of hot water (80 to 85 degrees Celsius / 176 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit) per second, and gives the opportunity to explore an approximately 3,000-year-old explosion crater lake - Kerið volcanic crater. Thanks to a natural change in Iceland's landscape (created as the land moved over a localised hotspot), the area commonly known as Iceland's Western Volcanic Zone includes several crater lakes such as Reykjanes Peninsula and the Langjökull glacier. However, Kerid is the one that has the most visually recognisable caldera still intact.
  The Golden Circle trail could be done in a matter of hours, or a day tip. However, with this much natural wonder to see, we recommend you spend a lot longer soaking up the spectacular sights, alien landscapes and truly fascinating history of Iceland.

The Northern Lights

  Once you've finished the Golden Circle route, there's every chance you'll be hooked on Iceland's natural beauty and be craving more. If that's the case then a complementary tour to the Golden Circle is to go in search of the world's most stunning natural light displays: the Northern Lights. While the Golden Circle might be more preferable in the summer, this is one advantage to visiting Iceland in the winter, when the dark nights highlight the aurora borealis -a dazzling result of particles in the air, reacting with one another to give off colourful light patterns. Many travellers will tell you that this is a must-see when you visit Iceland, and they're not wrong. Check out a tour and marvel at the fluorescent greens, purples, oranges and reds as they fill the night sky for what could be a few minutes, but if you're lucky, it could be a few hours.

lake bled hike

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lake bled hike

Take in the lovely scenery of Lake Bled aboard a boat, with a cream cake.
  With its beautifully blue waters and picturesque surroundings, Lake Bled is a travel photographer's dream. Its painterly scenery really has to be seen to be believed, though.
  The Alpine lake is situated in the Julian Alps in northwest Slovenia and lies next to the town of Bled. The postcard-perfect spot is surrounded by mountains and forests, and the medieval Bled Castle sits above the lake on the north shore, adding to the stunning scenery.
  The focal point of this beautiful location is Bled Island, which is situated in the middle of the water. There are a few buildings on the island, but the main one is the pilgrimage church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. Built in the 17th century, the church has a 52-metre-high (170-feet-high) tower and 99 baroque steps leading up to it from the water's edge. On the island you can listen to the church bell ring and even ring it yourself, which, if legend is correct, will make all of your wishes come true!
  If you only have time for one activity when you get to Bled, we'd highly recommend that you visit the island on a traditional Pletna boat. These wooden boats have been taking visitors to the petite, pretty island for centuries and are operated by standing oarsmen. Even if you don't really fancy exploring the island, the journey to and from the island will give you a wonderful, alternative view of the area. Just getting out on the water - especially on a sunny, calm day - is a wonderful experience.
  It might not sound like a traditional Slovenian food, but the Bled cream cake (kremšnita) is a culinary must for any visit to the area. Kavarna Belvedere is a café situated in the most stunning location on the edge of the lake. You'll need to hike up quite a few steps to reach it, but once you get there you'll be fruitfully rewarded. Order a generous slice of the cream cake and enjoy it with an utterly breathtaking elevated view of the lake.
  If cream cakes and boats aren't really for you, take a relaxing stroll around the tree-lined water's edge or hop in a horse-drawn carriage for a guided tour from one of Bled's coachmen, also known as fijakers!
  For an another view of the world-renowned lake, take a trip up to Bled Castle, where you can get a stunning look at the lake, its island and the surrounding peaks. The 12th-century castle boasts impressive architecture as well as a museum collection. You can learn about traditional manual printing in the castle printing works; visit the castle's cellar to bottle wine and seal it with wax, and in the summer you can experience an archery tournament and even meet the castle lord.

finn mccool and the giants causeway

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finn mccool and the giants causeway

Northern Ireland's mystical attraction boasts views across to Scotland.
  As the sun rises over Northern Ireland, the view from one area of the north coast is nothing short of stunning. With the rays bouncing off the Atlantic Ocean, standing on one of the three outcrops of volcanic rock, frozen in perfect hexagonal columns, it seems as though time itself has stopped. With just the sound of the water lapping at the shore, it's more tranquil than anything you could possibly imagine. It could be the setting of a myth - and, in fact, it is.
  Legend has it that the Causeway was created by giant Finn McCool as he threw rocks into the water to cross to Scotland and teach another giant, Benandonner, a lesson. Things didn't exactly go Finn's way, and as he scarpered back to Ireland, he destroyed some of the rocks so that Benandonner couldn't follow him. However, the truth is far less tense - the rocky crops are 60 million-year-old pieces of lava that cooled into more than 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, creating something that's breathtaking and awesome in equal measure. And you can climb all over them, all the way out so you can almost touch the ocean - although this isn't advisable on the rare occasion of very strong winds, as there is no barrier between you and the water!
  It's easy to see why the Giant's Causeway became a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1986. Northern Ireland's only attraction to make the list, it holds a lot of geological value, is a totally unique place, and has been venerated in both science and the arts over the years. There's more to see than just those outcrops, though. Perhaps most famous is the Wishing Chair, a natural throne created by the basalt columns, and there's also Finn McCool's camel. Local folklore claims it was the only steed that could carry the giant; it's also made of lava that is millions of years old.
  If walking is more your thing, there are a few paths, like Shepherd's Steps, that take you up the cliff face, past the Organ Pipes and towards an eight-kilometre (five-mile) path that stretches along the picturesque north coast. You can use this route to visit the scenic ruins of Dunseverick Castle to the east, and on a clear day, you can see over the water to Islay, the southernmost island in Scotland's Hebrides chain. The coastline itself is nothing short of stunning - taking a stroll should be high on your list of priorities.
  For those who don't want to take lunch with them, there's a pub a short walk away from the visitor centre called The Nook that offers a true taste of Ulster. The visitor centre itself also hosts a cafe, as well as being home to a small exhibition about the Causeway with interactive activities for children. At the Giant's Causeway, there really is something for everyone, and it's all just waiting to be discovered.

French Polynesia

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French Polynesia

Heaven on Earth, this tropical island paradise in the South Pacific has to be seen to be believed.
  It’s no surprise that the French Polynesian islands are among the top honeymoon destinations in the world. This little slice of heaven in between Australia and South America in the South Pacific is one of the most aweinspiring destinations. Close your eyes and picture it: crystal-clear turquoise lagoons, lushgreen mountains and breathtaking beaches dotted with palm trees. It’s like something out of a dream.
  Also known as the islands of Tahiti, French Polynesia is made up of 118 islands and atolls spread across 2.5 million square kilometres (9.6 million square miles). It can be divided into five groups of islands: the Society Islands, the Tuamotu archipelago, the Marquesas Islands, the Gambier Islands and the Austral Islands. Tahiti and Bora Bora may be the most famous, but there’s a whole host of islands to explore and each one has its own unique identity.
  The largest island is Tahiti where 70 per cent of the population of French Polynesia live. No matter which island you’re visiting, this is where your journey begins as you fly into Faa’a International Airport. While your journey may continue elsewhere, Tahiti is definitely worth a stopover and time to explore.
  Shaped like the figure eight, the island is made up of two volcanoes: the larger Tahiti Nui and the smaller Tahiti Iti. It’s known for its jagged mountains, including Mount Orohena, the country’s highest peak; its waterfalls, such as Faarumai Waterfalls; and black sand beaches. The island should be explored either by hiking on foot or in a 4x4 vehicle. Go shopping in its capital Papeete in the northwest, or taste the local cuisine from the roulottes or food trucks. Experience the world’s biggest surf at Teahupo’o or get splashed at the Arahoho Blowhole. Take in some culture by visiting the Robert Wan Pearl Museum, the only museum dedicated to pearls, or learn about island heritage at the Tahiti and Her Islands Museum.
  Described by author James Michener as ‘the most beautiful island in the world’, Bora Bora, to  the northwest of Tahiti, is renowned for its natural beauty and luxury, high-end resorts. One of the best dive spots across the globe, the island is surrounded by a blue jewel of a lagoon and a spectacular coral reef, which means it’s teeming with marine life. You can relax in a luxurious overwater bungalow with stunning views of Mount Otemanu, or go snorkelling or scuba diving with sharks and stingrays. Head to Matira Beach for a stunning sunset.
  After Bora Bora, Mo’orea is probably the second most popular island for honeymooners. Shaped like a heart, the island’s main draws are its distinctive mountains, including Mount Mouaputa (which has a hole in its summit), the ‘shark tooth’ Mount Mouaroa, and the highest peak Mount Tohiea, as well as its two bays, Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay ideal for hiking and scuba diving.
  A 40-minute flight from Tahiti, Huahine may not be as well known as Bora Bora or Mo’orea, but it’s equally beautiful. Known as the ‘garden island’ because of its lush-green forests and fertile volcanic soil, you’ll find plenty of vanilla, banana and melons growing here. Huahine is also home to Maeva Marae, one of the most significant archaeological areas, and the sacred blue-eyed eels of Faie.
  Rangiroa is the largest atoll in French Polynesia. If you want to go diving and see dolphins, sharks and manta rays, Tiputa Pass is the best spot. It’s particularly good for drift diving. The atoll may be secluded, but one thing it does have is its own vineyard. The Dominique Auroy Winery makes French Polynesia’s only wine label, Vin de Tahiti.
  Raiatea and Taha’a both share the same lagoon. Raiatea is known as the ‘sacred island’ and is home to one of the most important ancient temples in Polynesia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Marae Taputapuatea. This is the only place where the tiare apetahi, one of the rarest flowers in existence, can be found. Taha’a is called the vanilla island as it grows some of the best vanilla beans in the world. It’s also home to the Champon Pearl Farm where you can learn all about pearl farming. If you’re looking for somewhere a bit more off the beaten track, these two islands offer sandy white beaches, hiking with incredible views and waterfalls, as well as the only wreck diving in French Polynesia.
  The list of islands goes on. Visit Tikehau to stroll along its exotic pink sand; go diving in Rurutu from June to October to spot humpback whales; or go to a church made from coral in Fakarava. The isolated island of Nuku Hiva has lots of interesting sites to explore. Visit the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral, take a photo with a giant tiki statue or get a traditional tattoo from one of the best artists in the country.
  French Polynesia may be famous for its romantic postcard-perfect location and luxury honeymoon bungalows, but the islands offer so much more. It’s a haven for wildlife lovers with more than 800 unique fish species. It’s a playground for adventurers not only for diving and snorkelling in crystal-clear waters and coral gardens, but for surfing, hiking, caving, cliff  jumping, waterfall climbing and lava tube exploring.
  Foodies can enjoy incredible fresh seafood including the local poisson cru, raw fish marinated in coconut milk and lime. Plus, there’s more than 3,000 years of history to uncover for culture lovers. Visit in July for the Heiva festival, a month-long celebration of Polynesian culture including song and dance, ancient ceremonies, fire-walking and traditional sports like coconutting. There’s even something for film fans, as Mutiny on the Bounty was filmed here. Marlon Brando was so enchanted by French Polynesia that he bought the island of Tetiaroa.
  You’re bound to fall in love with the islands too. The best way to make the most of your trip is to go island hopping. Whether you move around by air or by boat, it’s a chance to see what makes each island special.
  While you are taking in all that French Polynesia has to offer, don’t forget to look up. It not only has stunning sunsets and sunrises to top off its jaw-dropping views, but because of the low air pollution, the night skies are perfect for stargazing.

Rotorua New Zealand

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Rotorua New Zealand

New zealand is one of eart's most beautiful countries and rotorua is a prime example of why.
  Aland of geothermal activity, Rotorua is not exactly love at first sniff. The town’s lingering eggy, sulphuric air is perhaps the first thing visitors notice when approaching it. However, the source of this smell is far too remarkable to turn one’s nose up at.
  In the heart of the city, an innocuous weekly market hawks fresh fruit, crafts, clothing, souvenirs and other goods, but Kuirau is not your average park. Bubbling and hissing, it hints at a great, unstoppable menace below. According to Maori legend, the gods first heated up the park’s small lake to punish a water-dwelling taniwha for kidnapping a young woman.
  Just three kilometres (1.9 miles) away, at Whakarewarewa, 500 hot springs and 65 geyser vents surround what was once the unconquered fortress of Te Puia, founded in 1325 CE. The local Maori who inhabit this ‘living village’ continue to rely upon the traditional, eco-friendly geothermal energy source for heating and cooking. Today, visitors can learn more about Maori culture, music and food, cooked over hot stones, just by the country’s largest geyser. Erupting 15 times a day. Pohutu blasts boiling hot water 30 metres (100 feet) high-fitting for a geyser whose name literally means 'big splash.
  The only Maori-owned thermal park, Tikitere, or 'Hell's Gate, has remained holy ground to the Ngati Rangiteaorere tribe. It is Rotorua's most energetic landscape, 20 hectares (50 acres) marked by spitting mud pits, angry geysers, steaming hot springs and the southern hemisphere's largest hot waterfall, the terrifyingly destructive Kakahi.
  The black pool is a nightmarish pond, ever set to 93 degrees Celsius (199 degrees Fahrenheit) - so hot, it's used to cook food. Elsewhere. colourful bacteria known as 'land corals' sprout upon the alien landscape, flourishing from its unusual conditions. Though even in hell, there is paradise, in the form of the Wai Ora and Hells Gate spas, a tantalising set of mud baths and hot springs, simmering with replenishing nutrients.
  Another park, Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, is a brightly coloured spectacle, where hot springs peacock in various shades of orange, yellow, turquoise and emerald. Not content to choose just one, the Champagne Pool rings its green centre with a skirting of orange. The park's Lady Knox Geyser is set off every morning with a curious trick, discovered by a chain gang in the 1900s: pouring soap into its spout.
  Elsewhere in the Hidden Valley, lies one of the world's only two geothermal caves. Ruatapu, or 'Sacred Hole, driving 37 metres (120 feet) underground, into a hot pool named Waiwhakaata, or 'pool of mirrors.
  Four of Rotorua's geothermal parks lie on the Te Ara Ahi cycling trail, its off-road sections a pleasant ride even for casual riders. Eager bunnies can even whisk themselves through Redwoods Mountain Park, a 5.600-hectare (13.838-acre) forest. Here, unusual vegetation blooms alongside volcanic craters and steaming rainbow-coloured rocks.
  For something a little different, at Waitomo Caves boats drift into the darkness, illuminated by the soft light of glow-worms. A more exciting alternative is to abseil down into the caves. throttling through via zipline, and leaping off underground waterfalls.

tasmania australia

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tasmania australia

Australia’s island offers a rugged landscape, befitting its storied past.
  Every day, the Spirit of Tasmania whisks visitors from Melbourne to Tasmania’s northern coastal city of Devonport. The city offers a hearty welcome, with a casual beachside stroll to the red and white Mersey Lighthouse. By the bluff, Aboriginal rock carvings hint at the region’s indigenous heritage, dating back tens of thousands of years before its more recent colonisation and influx of convicts.
  After a day of fishing, rowing and sailing, and a trip to the stunning Tasmanian Arboretum, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park calls. Here, the epic week-long Overland Track takes hikers through the bushland, where glacial water drips down mountainsides into steady lakes, and cold waterfalls spit into thick rainforests. Its trees date back thousands of years, providing shade to the park’s platypus, echidna and, of course, Tasmanian devils.
  To the west, the coastal town of Strahan is true frontier territory a Wild West, where convicts and settlers pushed themselves to their natural limits. Though rife with on-trend restaurants and quaint shops, it sits just south of the soaring Henty Dunes, shaped by winds roaring all the way from South America. The West Coast Wilderness Railway, meanwhile, is a comfortable way to explore the region’s extremely uncomfortable past complete with a rainforest stroll, gold panning and honey tasting.
  On the opposite coast lies Hobart, the state capital, and a hub of art, food and culture. Framed by mountains and sea, and an hour from the stunning Mount Field National Park, the city overflows with fresh food and artisanal markets. Mona (Museum of Old and New Art) curates a striking blend of modern art and ancient heritage, set within a deliciously contemporary building, driven into the cliffs.
  An hour and a half away, originally built as a timber station, Port Arthur grew into one of the country’s most notorious prisons. Dubbed ‘inescapable’, despite its beautiful surroundings, it was the bane of 12,500 convicts’ lives from 1830 and 1877. Fittingly, the World Heritage Site has its own Ghost Tour, for those who dare to explore its ruins by lantern light.
  After a short stop at the state’s second city of Launceston, with its colonial and Victorian cityscapes and parks, the Tamar River flows through vineyards, orchards, forested hills and scores of riverside villages. In Tasmania’s far northeast, the Bay of Fires spans 50 kilometres (31 miles) of coastline, from Eddystone Point to Binalong Bay. Multi-day hikes traverse sandy beaches and heathland, over boulders and  through eucalyptus forests, with plenty of time for snorkelling and birdwatching.
  Further south, Freycinet National Park features pink cliffs and empty white beaches, with only exotic birds to keep visitors company. A short ramble away, at Wineglass Bay, white sand gives way turquoise sea. With lagoons to explore, along with wallabies and black swans to spot, it will have visitors unpacking their tents, and digging their feet in for the long haul.

fiordland national park new zealand

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fiordland national park new zealand

The artistry and grandeur of nature are unsurpassed in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park.
  The poet Rudyard Kipling called Milford Sound the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, but this is only one of many natural wonders carved and crafted through the centuries at the Fiordland National Park, tucked along the southwest edge of New Zealand’s South Island.
  Established in 1952, Fiordland National Park is home to a number of spectacular vistas for visitors to enjoy. 12,607 square kilometres (4,868 square miles) are preserved, where mountains push skyward, deep and dark fjords have been etched by nature, and verdant valleys stretch far beyond the horizon. Nature’s handiwork is on display in its grandest, most exhilarating fashion.
  A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fiordland National Park includes Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds. It’s also home to three of the world’s most renowned hiking treks: the Kepler, Routeburn and Milford Track.
  Milford Track is probably the most famous hiker’s journey in New Zealand, traversing 53 kilometres (33 miles) through distant valleys and in the shadow of soaring mountains, beside crystal blue lakes and among ancient rainforests. It finishes at Sutherland Falls, the tallest waterfall in New Zealand and a wondrous sight to behold. Millennia ago, when glaciers crept across the land and created the finger-like fjords actually flooded U-shaped valleys left by these rivers of ice they also created other interesting formations. Visitors have been awe-struck with their splendour since indigenous peoples gathered there in ages past.
  Today, visiting Fiordland National Park is a pilgrimage for lovers of natural beauty. Flights into the resort city of Queenstown are regular, and air services are available in Te Anau, the gateway to the park, Manapouri and Milford Sound. The two-hour drive from Queenstown to Te Anau is around 172 kilometres (107 miles). Car rentals are easy to find in Queenstown, and scenic drives enable motorists to view points of interest. Fiordland National Park may also be experienced via boat tour or chartered aircraft, offering different perspectives on the dark cliffs rising directly from the depths of the lakes.
  Visits to Fiordland National Park should begin at the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre, where reservations can be made and itineraries planned. Rare species of plants and animals reside within the park, and the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary is a favourite for those wishing to catch a glimpse of the Fiordland Crested Pengui (or tawaki) or the Kaka. The etched limestone caverns of Glowworm Caves reward adventurers with a spectacular subterranean waterfall. Fishermen angle for brown and rainbow trout in the Waiau River, along with cod, tuna and other saltwater species along the shoreline. Hunting is allowed, but a permit is required.
  Milford and Doubtful Sounds exhibit their own charms, including the sheer cliffs, roaring waterfalls and occasional visits of bottlenose dolphins. Lake Manapouri is the second deepest in New Zealand, offering visitors a perfect opportunity for a boat cruise or kayak paddling.
  Only 20 minutes’ drive from Te Anau, the village of Manapouri lies adjacent to the shimmering lake that shares its name. Both towns offer resort accommodations, economically priced rooms and other lodgings. Numerous restaurants and picnic areas provide diverse dining options, and popular local foods include lobster and venison.

Fiji (Island hop)

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Fiji Island hop

Island hop through this tropical paradise in the South Pacific Ocean.
  It’s only when you step on a white sandy beach under a row of swaying palm trees, with warm clear water breaking quietly in the background, that you realise that all those postcard pictures of Fiji are true to life. Fiji is a tropical paradise that has a big beach culture, catering for those looking for adventure as well as for those wanting to simply kick back.
  Fiji is comprised of hundreds of islands 333 of them to be exact with the two main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, holding much of the country's population. The country's harbour capital, Suva, offers a place for travellers to replenish their backpacks before heading out for an island adventure.
  The Fijian people are warm-hearted and friendly. Fiji is thought of as one of the happiest nations in the world, and the tight-knit communities and family-focused outlook make for a warm welcome wherever you go. Once you've adapted yourself to 'Fiji time a concept that represents a laid-back approach to getting things done, life in Fiji becomes somewhat therapeutic and dreamy.
  From the main airport in Nadi, catch a flight to Taveuni, the Garden Island, to find secluded sandy beaches, hidden waterfalls and incredible forests. The best way to explore beaches and islands is by kayak, and there are plenty of places offering them up for hire. It’s entirely possible to paddle out and find empty islands to enjoy all to yourself. Taveuni has a meeting point where the international date line cuts through Fiji separating today and yesterday. Why not hire a tent to camp out on a beach and wake up to the waves breaking on the shore every morning?
  For the more adventurous travellers, head out on an unforgettable snorkelling tour to get up-close and personal with sharks and other marine life in the clear waters off Fiji's Kuata Island. Alternatively, try your hand at underwater scootering, or dive down to a sunken wreck with certified divers taking the lead. Visit the beautiful Malamala Beach Club, located on its own island, to enjoy beachside cocktails and pristine waters to snorkel in. Islands such as Mana and Navini are the perfect locations to get away from it all, where you can stay for just one night before heading onto the next island.
  When you’re not bathing in the warm ocean waters, pay a visit to the multi-coloured Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple, a sacred Hindu site located in Nadi. It’s well worth booking a tour to visit local villages and learn about the Fijian culture and way of life, and also about lovo the way that food is prepared in banana leaves and then cooked over hot rocks underground. This is usually followed by a ceremony called meke, a tradition that encompasses storytelling through song and dance. Whether it’s a relaxing cruise to numerous beaches, a scuba-diving experience or kayaking with friends across clear waters, Fiji is a  place that shouldn’t get left out.

cairns australia

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cairns australia

Australia’s tropical oasis is your perfect gateway to some of the most stunning scenery on the planet.
  Sitting on the northeast coast, Cairns is uniquely positioned next to not one but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics of Queensland. A visit to this part of the world is best spent getting out and exploring the reefs, rainforests, beaches and tropical islands.
  Many of the two million annual visitors only make a brief one-or two-night stop in the city to go on tour of the Great Barrier Reef, but linger a while longer and you can experience more of what the nature capital of Australia has to offer.
  As one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, it’s no surprise that the Great Barrier Reef is the most popular attraction for visitors to Cairns. These crystal-clear turquoise waters contain 3,000 individual reefs and hundreds of islands and coral cays, and are home to thousands of fascinating animal species. A variety of tours and activities cater for different reef experiences from helicopter tours to view the marvel from above, to scuba diving lessons to meet some of the reef’s residents up close.
  Lush, tropical rainforests don’t immediately spring to mind when you think of Australia. But this is a country the size of a small continent it’s not all outback and coastal cities. The rainforests stretching along Australia’s northeast coast form the Wet Tropics of Queensland, which are a prehistoric relic of what Australia was like millions of years ago, and many of the country’s native species evolved there. It’s easy to see why this otherworldly environment is said to have inspired the alien forests of Pandora in the blockbuster movie Avatar.
  Tour operators run guided trips from Cairns and Port Douglas out to the neighbouring national parks, but you can also hire a car and follow your own itinerary. A two-hour drive north of Cairns takes you deep into Daintree, Australia’s largest tropical rainforest. It’s one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, so you can expect to see a huge variety of rare and unique flora and fauna during your visit, including the primitive ‘idiot fruit’ and magnificent, endangered cassowaries. The spectacular scenery is something to behold, ranging from the dense jungle, rivers, waterfalls and gorges down to idyllic beaches and coastal reefs.
  Another must-see destination during your stay in Cairns is the Kuranda rainforest. You can reach Kuranda in just 30 minutes by car, but in this instance the scenic route is highly recommended and well worth the extra time. From Cairns Station on Bunda Street, take the Kuranda Scenic Railway, which winds its way to Kuranda Village via the picturesque Barron Gorge National Park. Along the way you will pass stunning mountains, ravines and waterfalls from the comfort and style of the train’s elegant old-fashioned timber carriages. Upgrade to Gold Class tickets for a little luxury, including a host service, welcome drinks and a morning or afternoon tea.
  In Kuranda you can explore the town’s renowned marketplaces. Kuranda Original Rainforest Markets on Therwin Street was originally established in the 1970s for the local community to sell arts and crafts. Today it’s a hive of colourful stalls offering a selection of trinkets, clothing and food. There’s a focus on eco-friendly products, so many items are made from organic or recycled materials. Across the street, the Kuranda Heritage Markets sell an assortment of arts and crafts, souvenirs and clothing, including handmade Aboriginal items.
  From here, you can also get up close with some of Australia’s most iconic and rare wildlife at the nearby wildlife centres. Meet koalas, kangaroos, wallabies and many more native species at the Kuranda Koala Gardens. Find yourself surrounded by more than 1,500 tropical butterflies at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, and join some of the world’s rarest tropical birds in their rainforest habitat at Birdworld Kuranda.
  Another way to experience the beauty of the rainforest is from above. You can take the Skyrail gondolas, which glide over the canopy and down into the jungle between Kuranda and Smithfield. A one-way trip takes 90 minutes, including stops at Barron Falls and Red Peak where you can take in the sights from viewing platforms and go on ranger-guided boardwalk tours to learn more about Kuranda’s fascinating natural history. Upgrade to a ‘Diamond View’ glass-bottom gondola to get a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest below. Or, for the ultimate Skyrail adventure, choose the ‘Canopy Glider’ experience an open-air gondola accompanied by an expert guide to provide a unique insight into Kuranda’s vibrant ecosystem.
  The Cairns region has been home to Aboriginal inhabitants for tens of thousands of years. One of the best places to learn more about Australia’s indigenous history is the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, which is next to the Smithfield Skyrail station and just a 15-minute drive from Cairns. The park’s Tjapukai Cultural Centre hosts exhibits, galleries and performances to share the history and customs of the local Djabugay people. With Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as your guides, you can learn about traditional hunting and foraging, dances, songs and crafts.
  If an island getaway is what you’re after, Fitzroy Island is a secluded tropical paradise just 45 minutes away from Cairns by boat. The island is open to day-trippers, but you can also book to stay at the luxury four-star Fitzroy Island Resort, or reserve a spot at the nearby campsites.
  Most of the 339-hectare (838-acre) island is a protected National Park, but there are walking paths for visitors heading from the main resort up to the old lighthouse, and in the opposite direction towards the beaches. The island is surrounded by parts of the Great Barrier Reef, so you can go snorkelling or diving straight from the island rather than relying on boats or pontoons. What’s more, Fitzroy’s Nudey Beach was ranked first in Australia’s 101 Best Beaches 2018.
  When you’re not exploring the natural wonders around Cairns, take some time to unwind in the laid-back city itself. The three-kilometre (twomile) Esplanade is a popular place for a stroll and to relax along the seafront. Enjoy a meal al fresco overlooking the gardens and ocean from one of the Esplanade’s many restaurants or cafés. In the parklands you can have a picnic or a barbecue, join a free fitness class, or swim and sunbathe at the city’s famous man-made lagoon.
  The Esplanade Lagoon contains crystalclear waters filtered from the ocean inlet that it overlooks. The lagoon is surrounded by white sands and the shade of palms, and is patrolled by lifeguards to provide a safe place to paddle and swim. The lagoon is free to use and open every day; it’s a great place to cool off in the summer heat and meet fellow travellers.
  With all the activities and excursions Cairns has to offer, you are bound to work up an appetite. Seafood, international and fusion cuisine are particular specialities in the area, and a huge choice of restaurants cater for every budget. The vast majority of venues in the city are casual, but bear in mind that some higherend restaurants may have dress codes (no flipflops, for example), so check before you head out. For lighter bites, Cairns has a buzzing café scene where you can enjoy a range of snacks, salads and pastries, or cool off with an iced coffee.
  Cairns is home to one of the most exciting marketplaces in the world: Rusty’s Markets. From Friday to Sunday each week, join the buzzing local crowds to browse the 180-plus stalls offering a fantastic selection of fresh, local produce, bric-a-brac and speciality goods. From fruit to flowers, cheeses to chocolate, and coffee to clothes, all at very affordable prices, you’ll be hard pressed to leave empty handed. All the delicious produce on show is bound to make you hungry, but there are food stands in the market’s eatery where you can grab a quick snack or drink, including crêpes, fresh juices, noodles and more. You can pick up some bargains if you visit on a Sunday afternoon, as vendors often drop their prices to sell off any remaining stock.
  A popular day-trip destination from Cairns is the small town of Port Douglas, which itself is another hub for visitors heading to the Great Barrier Reef and the region’s rainforests. Port Douglas is about an hour north of Cairns along the picturesque coastal road of Captain Cook Highway. It’s home to several spas, golf courses and four- and five-star resorts, several of which are located next to the stunning Four Mile Beach. As its name suggests, its sands stretch almost as far as the eye can see, perfect for a long walk. Like Cairns, Port Douglas also has a thriving foodie scene, with plenty of restaurants, bars and cafés to suit your appetite, whether you’re after coffee and a pastry, or a fine-dining experience overlooking the waterfront.
  There are a few factors worth considering as you decide when to visit Cairns. The northern coastlines lie well within the tropics, and as such enjoy wet and dry seasons. The tropical climate means summers (December to February) are generally hot and humid, and winters (June to August) are fairly warm and dry. February and March have the highest rainfall on average, while July, August and September are typically the driest. Winter is more popular with tourists, so attractions are inevitably busier, and accommodation and flights may be more expensive at that time.
  Besides the weather, one thing to bear in mind is that November to May is ‘stinger season’, when there are more jellyfish in the coastal waters. Fully-body ‘stinger suits’ provide good protection against most marine stingers, and can be hired for a reasonable price. Many beaches have stinger nets to keep jellyfish out, but it’s still a good idea to wear a suit as a precaution. Most reef tour operators will provide them at no extra cost, although the risk of stingers out at the reef is lower than it is at the shore. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should always avoid visiting at this time just be sure to take sensible precautions in the water, such as wearing stinger suits and only swimming at guarded beaches.
  If you’re planning to make your own way around Cairns and its surrounds, you can rent a car. There is plenty of on- and off-street parking around the city, and many hotels will have free or paid on-site parking. However, with public transport, shuttle buses and tour operators providing hotel transfers, you can easily explore the region without a vehicle.
  Cairns Airport is just a 15-minute drive or taxi transfer from the city centre, and is well serviced by domestic flights across Australia. Some international airlines also fly direct to Cairns, depending on where you’re flying in from.
  No matter when or how you choose to visit, Cairns will open your eyes to some of the most stunning natural wonders the world has to offer, and you’ll need a good week to take it all in.

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places to visit in sydney

No trip Down Under is complete without a visit to Australia’s multicultural metropolis.
  Why settle for having to choose between a city break and a beach holiday when you can enjoy both? Sydney’s bustling centre offers a diverse variety of cultural attractions, with a choice of stunning golden beaches just a stone’s throw away. It’s not difficult to see why more than ten million tourists visit Australia’s largest city every year.
  One of the best ways to get acquainted with Sydney is to take a walking tour. The I’m Free Walking Tours are led by local guides (easily spotted in their bright-green shirts) who explain the stories behind the city’s major sights, and can give you plenty of tips on where to visit, eat and drink during your stay. Although the tours are free, be sure to tip your guide at the end.
  Think of Sydney, and the eponymous Opera House immediately springs to mind. Join one of the daily tours to learn more about this unique building’s history, or go behind the scenes with a backstage tour to explore parts of the Sydney Opera House that aren’t otherwise open to the public.    For an unforgettable evening, you could book to watch one of the many performances that take to the Sydney Opera House stage each year. Don’t worry if opera’s not your cup of tea there are all kinds of performances to enjoy, including music, theatre, dance, comedy, circus, cabaret and many more. When planning your trip, be sure to check out the upcoming schedule.
  Sydney has plenty of other cultural hotspots to visit. The city’s galleries display works of the Old Masters as well as modern, contemporary and indigenous art. Admire the marvellous architecture of the Queen Victoria Building; originally constructed in the 1890s but restored in the 1980s, today it is home to some of Sydney’s finest boutiques. Museums across the city host fascinating exhibits where you can learn more about Sydney’s history, the natural world, science and technology, and more. In particular, the Australian Museum is the country’s oldest, specialising in natural history and anthropology. Its dinosaur exhibition is a guaranteed hit with visitors of all ages.
  The city also has a fantastic foodie scene, with a wide variety of restaurants, bars and cafés. Sydney’s multicultural character is reflected in its food, and you’ll find flavour influences and fusion cuisine from all over the world. Whether you want a quick bite or a three-course gourmet meal, there will be plenty of choice, no matter what your tastes or budget.
  As with many major tourist hubs, Sydney’s hop-on hop-off bus tour is a convenient way to see all the city’s main sights for a reasonable price. A ticket will give you access to two routes: one that circulates the city and another that heads out to Bondi Beach. Both tours include optional pre-recorded audio guides that you can tune into to learn more about the sights you’re passing. 24- and 48-hour tickets are available and, depending on how many of the tours’ locations you’re keen to see, they may save you having to pay for taxis or other public transport during your stay.
  Being a harbour city, another great way to explore Sydney is from the water. Take an exhilarating jet-boat ride, paddle around the waterfront in a kayak, or enjoy a luxury cruise. Many popular destinations around Sydney and its suburbs can be reached by ferry from Circular Quay. Head to Darling Harbour for some retail therapy, or hop on a boat to Taronga Zoo and visit more than 4,000 native and exotic animals.
  To soak up some of Sydney’s reliable sunshine, many of its beautiful beaches are easy to reach by ferry. One of the most popular spots for sunbathing, surfing and snorkelling is Manly. Learn to ride the waves with lessons at Manly Surf School, or hire a snorkel at the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve for some up-close encounters with the local marine wildlife.
  You can also get a ferry to Watsons Bay, where Camp Cove offers a little more peace and quiet than the more popular beaches. From here you can embark on a picturesque walk along the South Head Heritage Trail up to the candy-striped Hornby Lighthouse, where you can admire Sydney Harbour to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to spot migrating whales between June and September.
  By far the most famous stretch of sand in Sydney, if not all of Australia, is Bondi Beach. It’s a popular spot in summer, particularly in the areas close to the bus stops, so head to the northern end of the beach to enjoy a little more space. Campbell Parade has plenty of cafés and restaurants overlooking Bondi where you can get refreshments and watch the world go by. 
  While staying in Sydney, make sure you take.time to venture out of the city to visit the Blue Mountains, a World Heritage Area about two hours away. The region gets its name from the distinctive azure haze that envelops the mountains and forests here, making for some spectacular scenery. There are many clifftop vantage points and walking paths to explore, and even a glass-bottomed cable car that travels across the valley. For adrenaline junkies there are plenty of more adventurous activities to enjoy in the area, including rock climbing, mountain biking and skydiving. There’s even white water rafting, canoeing and kayaking on offer at Penrith Whitewater Stadium (the course built for the 2000 Sydney Olympics), located at the foot of the mountains.
  Sydney’s position on the southeast coast mostly protects it from the extreme heat and tropical storms that affect other parts of Australia. Winters are typically mild and summers are reliably warm to hot, so it’s a great year-round destination.
  Don’t forget to consider special events when planning your trip too the Sydney Festival is scheduled for January 2020, and the stunning Vivid Sydney festival of light, music and ideas takes place in May and June each year. Of course, the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are among the best in the world, but be sure to book your activities and accommodation well in advance for that.