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Greek Island holidays still top favourite Mediterranean holiday destinations

Greek holiday destinations have topped the list as the preferred places to visit. Greek islands were listed as the four of five top places to visit, in a list of 20 most popular destinations in the Mediterranean.

A research done by the travel metasearch engine, which was focusing on the hotels Trivago, and looking for the most popular destination in the Mediterranean, and basing its research on user comments, the first place was taken by Imerovigli on the island of Santorini, Greece. The destination came first with a vote of 85%.

santorini Greek Island holidays still top favourite Mediterranean holiday destinations

The second slot was taken by the traditional settlement of Fira, which is found on the Greek Aegean island of Santorini. International travellers gave the island their vote due to its beauty, and most placed it among the first two places in their responses.

The third place went to Capri in Italy, and the fourth slot was taken by Chania, in Crete. The fifth place was taken by Rethymno, in Crete. Another island was still found in the list, and this was Agios Nikolaos, in Crete, which got the 17th slot.

Crete and Santorini were the first to pop in most travellers’ minds, whenever they hear the word Mediterranean. In the list, there were 6 destinations from Italy, four from Spain, and twp from France including Lagos in Portugal.

Crete Greek Island holidays still top favourite Mediterranean holiday destinations

Krabi: Your Gateway to the Thai Islands

It’s no secret that Thailand has some of the finest islands in the world – travelers have been raving about them for years and movies have immortalized their white sandy beaches and otherworldly limestone cliffs. They’re beautiful, affordable and offer just what you’re looking for on a tropical holiday…there are also hundreds of them.

With so many islands scattered throughout southern Thailand on either side of the mainland, it can quickly become overwhelming trying to decide where to visit. How do you narrow down where to go?

map krabi Krabi: Your Gateway to the Thai Islands

Fortunately there are areas with several island hot spots grouped together. For easy access to a range of islands – from partying Koh Phi Phi to the calmer Koh Lanta – you can’t beat heading first to Krabi.

Krabi Town and Ao Nang – Get ready for the islands
Located on the west coast of Southern Thailand along the Andaman Sea (on the mainland across the water from Phuket), Krabi, pronounced ga-bee, is a capital town in the province of the same name. The entire region is filled with palm and rubber plantations, pre-historic looking karst cliffs, several impressive national parks, and more white-sand beaches than you’ll know what to do with.

The town itself is somewhat sleepy, but has managed to hold onto its local character, despite becoming the main jumping off point for more than 130 – 130! – nearby islands. Thousands of travelers come through Krabi Town and the nearby Ao Nang beach on their way to enjoying all that the Andaman Sea has to offer. Accommodation in both Krabi Town and Ao Nang is plentiful with options to fit any budget. Chances are, if you’re doing a bit of island-hopping in the area, you’ll be going through Krabi and Ao Nang multiple times and perhaps stay overnight. If you’re in Krabi Town with enough time for a day trip, head to Wat Tham Seua, or the Tiger Temple Cave, 8km north of town to explore the sprawling temple complex and panoramic views of the surrounding area.

krabi1 Krabi: Your Gateway to the Thai Islands

While Krabi Town is pretty low key, Ao Nang seems made for tourists with humming shops and restaurants, beachfront hotels and even a boardwalk. The area is still on the mainland, about 20 minutes from Krabi Town, and right on the beach. While it may not be the most relaxing place to stay, littered with travel offices, tailors, chain restaurants and overpriced food, it’s a great location to get your bearings and organize some trips.

The following destinations are all just a quick jaunt away, and make for great day trips from Krabi or Ao Nang.

Railay – Rock climbing, cliffs and white-sand beaches
‘Heaven’, ‘spectacular’ and ‘sublime’ are just a few adjectives I’ve heard people use who have been bitten by the Railay bug. Though actually part of the mainland, Railay is cut off from the rest of Krabi by a series of karst cliffs and is only accessible by boat. The area is best known for its fine white-sand beaches and unrivaled rock climbing. With around 700 bolted routes, Railay is the place to be for climbers. Those not into climbing are perfectly content to lounge away at their beach-side bungalow or explore the area’s hidden lagoon and various caves, like the legendary Phra Nang Cave at the south end of Phra Nang beach.

While not as crowded as the larger islands and beaches of Koh Phi Phi or Phuket, Railay is definitely a tourist town and you won’t see much of everyday Thai life. That said, once you look past some of the poorly planned developments, the jagged cliffs set against soft beaches suck you in and are well worth the trip.

krabi Krabi: Your Gateway to the Thai Islands

Get there: Go for the day from Krabi Town or Ao Nang, or stay a while sinking into the beach’s beauty. Boats depart from Krabi Town (at Chao Fah Pier) and Ao Nang (buy tickets on either side of the beach) throughout the day until early evening.

Koh Hong – Deserted island day trip
About an hour away by speedboat from Krabi, Koh Hong is in a chain of limestone islands and best known to day-trippers for its lagoon at the center of the crescent-shaped island. Part of the Than Bok Khorani National Park, Koh Hong (or Room Island) has no accommodation and overnight stays are not allowed. Though you can’t stay on the island, there’s plenty to do for the day including hiking, kayaking and snorkeling.

Get there: Tours run from Krabi and Ao Nang daily often leaving around 8:30 and returning in the middle of the afternoon.

Koh Phi Phi – Pearly beaches and partying

Ko phi phi Krabi: Your Gateway to the Thai Islands
Koh Phi Phi, pronounced pee pee, shot into the spotlight as the destination in the film, The Beach. Simply put, the island is gorgeous, surrounded by clear turquoise water and more karst cliffs. A speedboat ride from Krabi out to the island may be one of the most impressive, and unique, rides you ever take. Everywhere you look there are craggy cliffs and rock formations that seem strange and beautiful at the same time. Because the island’s natural beauty is such a draw, however, it’s brought big development and hoards of vacationers. If you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing getaway, Koh Phi Phi may not be for you.

While it’s not known for wild parties, like the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan, it definitely has a here-for-a-good-time vibe thanks to being firmly planted on the backpacker trail. You can’t beat the scenery though and with a little research, you can still find less developed beaches, often on the eastern side of the island. Though a little pricier than the surrounding islands, there’s still a wide range of accommodation around Koh Phi Phi, with rooms often cheaper on the outer edges of the island away from the center and pier. Don’t bother with the pushy guesthouse touts meeting you right off the boat – you don’t have to go with them. Take some time to find the best room for you.

Get there: Ferries go between the island and Krabi, Ao Nang, Railay and Koh Lanta several times a day with service being reduced in the low season. The ride between Krabi and Koh Phi Phi takes about 90 minutes.

Tips for the Thai Islands
Koh means island and hat means beach. You’ll often see variations of spellings including, ko, hat and haad.

High season is around October-April. Depending on where you go, crowds will be completely overtaking beaches and towns and prices are often higher for transportation and accommodation. Even in the high season, however, there are deals to be had and quiet getaways to be found. Just do your research and stay away from the main tourist centers if that isn’t your scene and try to reserve accommodation ahead of time.

Consider visiting the islands in the low, or rainy, season for fewer crowds and lower prices. The weather won’t be as predictably beautiful everyday, but it’s usually unlikely for it to be pouring all day, everyday either. While the popular islands are more manageable and relaxing in the low season, keep in mind that some accommodation, activities, transportation and restaurants may be closed on smaller islands. If you’re looking for a quieter experience, then this is definitely the time to go.

420 Koh Lanta Thailand 420x0 Krabi: Your Gateway to the Thai Islands

While you’ve probably heard crazy stories of what can happen in Thailand, it’s actually a pretty conservative country, especially when it comes to dress. Bikinis and cover ups are okay right on the beach (although you will rarely see a Thai woman in a two-piece) but do not sun bathe topless or go into places without appropriate clothes on.

Remember sunscreen! Areas with a lot of travellers will have sunscreen for sale, but it’s often highly marked up since a) you’re on an island and b) the locals don’t use it. Stock up at home or if you find a good deal in a larger city, like Bangkok, on the mainland.

As with all islands, food prices are higher than on the mainland. You have to come to terms that you’ll be spending more than you did in other parts of the country and keep in mind the view you’re paying for. To save a few dollars, and get a different perspective of the island, find out where the local market is or eat inland away from the resorts and beaches.

Relax and (try to) go with the flow. Island time a real thing and sometimes transportation schedules and safety precautions (or seemingly lack thereof) can be a little unsettling. Expect for things to run late, appear a little scattered or done differently from what you might expect at home. In the end, these are the experiences, aside from staring at all the unusual rock formations and swimming in the sea, that will make the area – and your trip – memorable.

lanta island 01 Krabi: Your Gateway to the Thai Islands

Hong Kong Island Half-Day Tour

The Hong Kong Island Half-Day Tour begins as you leave Central Hong Kong and past Happy Valley, the city’s famous horse racing grounds. The first stop is Aberdeen, a historic fishing community that exists today amongst the glamourous yachts and floating restaurants. Watch the families and fisherman at work from a sampan, a traditional fishing boat, as you cruise through the harbour.

Our next stop is a jewellery and gold workshop, where you’ll see the craftsmen at work and visit their boutique. As we meander along Hong Kong Island’s coastal roads, past the luxury enclaves of the city, we stop in Stanley for some shopping in the market or a quiet stroll along the ocean front boardwalk. Back on the winding roads, we head higher and higher until we reach Victoria Peak. As Hong Kong’s highest point, the Peak offers spectacular views as you stare down at the city’s core of massive skyscrapers. The tour concludes with a ride down on the Peak Tram, the british colonial rail system built to reach their mountainside estates.

A Weekend Getaway to New York City’s Governors Island

New York, USA, Canada, Mexico

Sitting off the tip of lower Manhattan, the 172-acre Governors Island is New York City’s newest playground. And it’s pretty cool, too. On the 5-minute ferry ride you’re treated to awesome views of the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan Skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Brooklyn itself. Once on the island, a car-free environment is yours to enjoy. On a weekend afternoon, you can see live music, wander through art galleries, take a free yoga class, picnic in the shade, rent a bicycle, relax in the sun, and so much more. It’s fun for the entire family, too. And best of all its free!

Governors Island is steeped in history. Wouter Van Twiller, a representative from Holland, bought the island from Native Americans in 1637 for the bargain price of two ax heads, a string of beads, and a handful of nails. From then until the 1960s, the island served as an important American military base including stints as a strategic fort during the Revolutionary War and as a central recruiting station during the Civil War. In 1966, the Coast Guard took it over.

After they left in 1995, the island lay dormant until it was purchased by the city in 2002. Although it welcomed visitors for a tour as early as 2003, it wasn’t until 2010 that it opened officially to an enthusiastic public.

Getting ThereGetting to the island is as easy as walking into Central Park. A free ferry departs hourly from the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan, close to the South Ferry, Bowling Green, and Whitehall Street subway stops. The island is open Friday through Sunday, and Monday holidays from late May through September 25. Ferries leave twice an hour (hourly on Fridays), between 10am and 5:30pm; ferries return to Manhattan every half hour from 10:30am to 7pm (5pm on Fridays). If you’re coming from Brooklyn’s Pier 6 on Atlantic Avenue, ferries run continuously from 11am to 5pm, the last ferry returning at 7pm. It’s easy to spend as much or as little time as you like.

What to DoA plethora of fun activities will keep you occupied for however long you want to stay on the island. There’s Water Taxi Beach, a stretch of sand that hosts events and the occasional live band, though no swimming is permitted. At Nolan Park, a well-preserved collection of 19th-century officers’ quarters houses art galleries and gifts shops. Rent a bicycle or quadracycle for a spin on the paved 2-mile bicycle path that circles the island (come on a Friday and bike rentals are free). If you want to get in the water, sign up for a free kayak for a short paddle off shore.

The Parade Ground is a great place to just wander and people watch. You can hear live music, take a free yoga class, sample food from the many vendors, and take an art class. On the southern end of the island is Picnic Point, a stretch of green with picnic tables, hammocks, and close-up views of the Stature of Liberty.

Food, Food, FoodFood is everywhere on Governors Island. Vendors sell a variety of food, from zesty Caribbean fare to hot dogs, at Liggett Terrace and Picnic Point. The Parade Ground is the place to go for ice scream, smoothies, and occasional samples. At Water Taxi Beach you can order fries, hot dogs, and burgers to eat on picnic tables front the sand. You can also buy alcohol there, but it must be consumed there at the beach. You’re welcome to bring your own food and picnic on the island; however, you cannot bring alcohol to the island.

Special Events

Governors Island hosts a variety of cultural events throughout the season. Upcoming 2011 events include Governors Island Swim (September 10), where swimmers jump off the ferry boat for a race around the island. Ongoing weekend events include 4 Heads Art Fair, where more than 100 artists are each given a room of their own in which to create an exhibition environment of their own design, and Big Apple Circus Family Fun Fest, which includes teaching kids and families how to juggle, clown around, and other circus tricks. Check the web site for the latest information.

Much More than an Island Paradise: The Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands earn their reputation as a must-do vacation destination. The sheer beauty of the volcanic islands and the turquoise waters of all shades are enough to greatly satisfy any traveler, but it’s the natural history, wild life and diversity of terrain from island to island within the archipelago that really make it a trip of a lifetime. Visiting the different islands – some thousands of years old, others that are still forming – one can see how Darwin was able to develop the theory of evolution based on the drastically varying landscapes of the different islands and the adaptation of the wild life from island to island.

Having lived in Quito this past year, I knew I couldn’t leave Ecuador without a trip to the Galapagos. As part of a final wrap-up of my time in the country, my mom came to visit and we visited the Galapagos. From mainland Ecuador, the flight is about an hour and a half (don’t forget your $100 cash per person for the National Park entrance fee). We flew into San Cristobal where we were able to visit the Interpretation Center and received a brief history of the islands (some good, juicy information surrounding the colonization of the islands!), and then met up with our boat tour.

5 Reasons to Visit Phillip Island

Australia & Pacific, Melbourne

Wildlife and nature-lovers will be right at home on Phillip Island, an island approximately 90 minutes drive southeast of Melbourne. You can find some of Australia’s most lovable creatures here, like little penguins and koalas. The penguins’ nightly march from the water to their sand dune burrows is the island’s biggest natural attraction, but other Phillip Island Nature Park sites like the Koala Conservation Centre, the Nobbies Centre and Churchill Island offer a myriad of scenic, outdoorsy entertainment. Wildlife abounds, both in and out of the water.

1. The Penguin Parade

Phillip Island’s biggest claim to fame, the nightly Penguin Parade, is an adorable spectacle that’s not to be missed. Watch as hundreds of Little Penguins emerge from the water every evening and waddle to the safety of their dune burrows. There are a range of viewing options including exclusive boardwalks, the indoor Skybox and private ranger-led experiences for groups of 10 people each night. Options are tailored for couples and families.

2. Koala Conservation Centre
Competing with the penguins for the title of Australia’s cutest animals, the koalas at the island’s Koala Conservation Centre put up a good fight. As you walk through the native bush on treetop boardwalks, you’ll see koalas in their natural habitat, lounging in the trees. These animals give the word “relaxed” new meaning – with an average sleeping time of 20 hours a day. You will be able to spot the koalas in the trees and maybe even moving around with a joey on their backs. You may also see wallabies, echidnas and other Aussie wildlife. A penguins and koalas day trip from Melbourne combines a trip to the Koala Conservation Centre with the Penguin Parade.
3. The Nobbies Centre and Seal Rocks
On the southwest tip of the island, you’ll find the Nobbies Centre, inside Phillip Island Nature Park. Before heading to the Penguin Parade, which is just up the shore, spend some time here enjoying the dramatic coastal scenery and viewing Australian Fur Seals. As you walk along the boardwalk, you may also see little penguins, seabirds and dolphins – look through the binoculars or indoor seal cameras for a better view of Seal Rocks, a breeding ground for more than 30,000 Fur Seals that lie 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) off the coast. If you want to see more of the seals, book a tour that includes a wildlife cruise to Seal Rocks.
4. Churchill Island
Churchill Island is connected to Phillip Island by bridge and is the site of the first European settlement in the state of Victoria. At the heritage farm and homestead, you’ll step back in time to the 1800s, in addition to seeing traditional Australian working farm demonstrations such as cow milking, sheep shearing, working dogs and blacksmithing, as well as interactive boomerang throwing and whip cracking activities. Go for a ride on a horse and cart or simply take a walk along the coastline. A 3 Parks Pass self drive ticket includes a visit to the island, as well as the Penguin Parade and Koala Conservation Centre.
5. Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
Trekking all over the island deserves a reward – what better than chocolate fresh from the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory? On a small-group eco-tour from Melbourne, you’ll visit the factory, where you’ll learn about cocoa harvesting, see how chocolate is made and sample the finished product. At Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate, inside the factory, you can use interactive machines to make your own chocolate, which will travel down a conveyor belt right to you, ready for you to pop in your mouth.

Don’t forget to pack your swimmers in the warmer months to explore the amazing surf and bay beaches!