Travel Plans gone bust?Take a virtual tour of these top UK tourist attractions.

virtual

A worldwide lockdown doesn’t have to bring back the fear of missing out on your dream  holiday you had planned months back.

Why not make the most of your stay -at- home time and enjoying your day as best as possible?

From Buckingham Palace to the Lake District National Park: Take a virtual tour to these top UK tourist attractions from the comfort of your own home – thanks to amazing interactive virtual tours and webcams.

Featured below are UK’s top online tours for royal residences, museums and galleries, national parks and more thanks to the incredible webcams and virtual tours on their websites.

 

The National Gallery

The National Gallery, in collaboration with Google Street View, has an online tour of its fascinating paintings across seven of its rooms and its central hall.

According to the gallery, those logging on can look at ‘Renaissance masterpieces from Northern Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany, including works by Titian, Veronese, and Holbein’.

To take an online tour, visit www.nationalgallery.org.uk/visiting/virtual-tours.

 

The Beatles Abbey Road 360

An incredible interactive panoramic image by britishtours.com allows you to explore the instantly recognisable graffitied sign and zebra crossing outside London’s Abbey Road Studios – made famous by The Beatles.

By zooming around, you can see the leafy streets of North London and a family trying to recreate the famous Abbey Road album cover.

To check out the image, visit www.britishtours.com/360/beatles-abbey-road.

 

Victoria & Albert Museum

London’s V&A Museum doesn’t offer an interactive virtual tour, but you can browse static images of some of the stunning artefacts that it has showcased via its website.

The museum says: ‘From ancient Chinese ceramics to Alexander McQueen evening dresses, take an incredible journey through 5,000 years of human creativity with our online collections.’

To peruse the V&A collections, visit https://www.vam.ac.uk/collections?type=featured.

 

The Royal Academy of Arts’ online drawing class

If you want to brush up on your art skills, The Royal Academy of Arts’ website has an online life drawing tutorial.

The anatomy class was originally broadcast in February 2019 and features a male model as well as a miniature horse.

To have a go at the class, visit www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/watch-life-drawing-live-anatomy-class. And have some paper and a pencil to hand.

 

Tate Britain

The works on display at the Tate Britain can be explored thanks to the gallery’s collaboration with Google Street View.

There are also more than 270 items in its collection that can be viewed on the site.

To meander past the Tate Britain’s works, visit artsandculture.google.com/partner/tate-britain.

 

Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo might be off-limits for now, but you can still keep an eye on the antics of some of the animals there thanks to a series of live webcams.

The cams have been placed in the enclosures of the pandas, penguins, tigers and koalas. Don’t worry if you can’t see the animals at first – they may just be lurking out of shot.

To keep up to date with the creatures, log on to www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/webcams.

 

British Museum

The British Museum’s collection spans over two million years of human history – and it can be explored online.

Thanks to Google Street View, history buffs can view artefacts including the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures and Egyptian mummies.

To step inside a digital version of the museum visit artsandculture.google.com/partner/the-british-museum.

 

Hidcote Manor Gardens

Located in the Gloucestershire village of Hidcote Bartrim, Hidcote Manor Gardens is a series of outdoor spaces brimming with colourful plants and flowers.

And thanks to a bloomin’ marvellous 360-degree interactive feature on the National Trust website, you can wander amongst them from the comfort of your own lockdown HQ. Turn on the sound effects to hear birds chirping.

To gaze upon the wonders of nature visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hidcote/features/hidcote-virtual-tours.

 

Lake District National Park

The stunning Lake District National Park has a series of webcams placed at its most beautiful sights.

By logging on, you can see live scenes from Windermere, Conniston Water, Derwentwater, Ullswater, Keswick and Skiddaw.

To check them out, visit www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/webcams-videos-and-photos/webcams.

 

Sissinghurst Castle

Sissinghurst Castle, in Kent, has a stunning array of gardens and is best known for its blooms of white roses in the summer.

And on the National Trust website, keen gardeners can explore both the rose garden and courtyard as well as the library in the castle’s stable.

To see more, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sissinghurst-castle-garden/features/sissinghurst-castle-virtual-tours.

 

Anglesey Abbey

Anglesey Abbey is a Jacobean-style house with gardens and a working mill in Cambridgeshire.

Online, you can take a tour of the original dining room, formal garden and tapestry hall.

To start exploring, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/anglesey-abbey-gardens-and-lode-mill/features/anglesey-abbey-virtual-tours.

 

Hyde Park and Kensington Palace Gardens

Two of London’s most famous parks, Hyde Park and Kensington Palace Gardens, can be explored via Google Street View.

You can tour Hyde Park’s education centre as well as meander around its footpaths and see Kensington Palace, the official home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

To get exploring, visit www.royalparks.org.uk/learn/learn-in-hyde-park-and-kensington-gardens/planning-your-visit/our-facilities/virtual-tour.

 

A la Ronde

A La Ronde is an 18th-century, 16-sided house located in Lympstone, Devon, that is owned by the National Trust.

Online there is a virtual tour of its ornate shell gallery and cosy drawing room as well as a panoramic view across the River Exe from its gantry.

To take a peek, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/a-la-ronde/features/a-la-ronde-virtual-tours.

 

Giant’s Causeway

The rugged landscape of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is a sight to behold – in real life and online.

On the National Trust website you can take a virtual tour of the landmark from four different angles – the Grand Causeway, Aird Snout, Giant’s Port and Port Noffer.

To check it out, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/giants-causeway/features/take-a-virtual-tour-of-the-giants-causeway and remember it comes complete with the sounds of crashing waves and birds.

 

Buckingham Palace

Royal fans can venture inside Buckingham Palace and explore three of the rooms – from their own home.

They can discover the Throne Room, the White Drawing Room and the Grand Staircase. Users can click on the icons to learn more about the rooms and the objects in them.

To catch a sneak peek, visit www.royal.uk/virtual-tours-buckingham-palace.

 

Palace of Holyroodhouse

It’s not just the Queen’s official residence you can tour virtually.

You can also discover three of the rooms at her official Scottish home, the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The rooms you can explore are the Grand Stair, the Morning Drawing Room and the Royal Dining Room.

To see the rooms, visit www.royal.uk/virtual-tours-palace-holyroodhouse.

 

Houses of Parliament

No area of the Houses of Parliament is off-limits in this 360-degree virtual tour.

Online you can discover parts of the grand, historic building, including the Central Lobby, the Peers’ Corridor, the Robing Room, the Royal Gallery and both the House of Commons and House of Lords.

To step inside, visit www.parliament.uk/visiting/virtualtour/.

 

Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Brighton’s Royal Pavilion has a virtual tour of four of its rooms, with each providing a 360-degree angle.

Not only will those logging on get to see inside the banqueting room, great kitchen, music room and the usually off-limits red drawing room, you can also listen to an audio guide.

To find out more, visit brightonmuseums.org.uk/royalpavilion/whattosee/virtual-tour/.

 

Canterbury Cathedral

There are several areas of Canterbury Cathedral that the public can enjoy online.

These are the crypt, the quire, the nave and Trinity Chapel.

To start a tour, visit www.canterbury-cathedral.org/visit/information/tour/.

 

RAF Museum

The RAF Museum in London has virtual tours of several of its collections and exhibitions.

These include the Grahame White Watch Office, the historic hangars and Bomber Hall.

To fly in, log on to www.rafmuseum.org.uk/london/things-to-see-and-do/virtual-tours.aspx.

 

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum has a collaboration with Google Street View so naturalists can explore the venue from home.

Large parts of the museum can be discovered, although some of the exhibits in the pictures may have changed since the tour was generated.

To virtually visit the museum, visit artsandculture.google.com/partner/natural-history-museum.

 

Stonehenge

Bring the mysteries of Stonehenge in Wiltshire onto your computer screen thanks to the English Heritage website 360-degree tour.

It puts you inside the monument – with clickable white circles revealing more about the unfathomable structure.

To explore, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/history-and-stories/stonehenge360/.

 

 

Stay home-stay Safe. This too shall pass.

-Madhavi

 

 

 

OS-DailyMail.co.uk

 

 

Ecotourism-the need of the hour

kaala-pathar-beach

Ecotourism also called sustainable tourism can be defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests.

Ecotourism is a part of environmental conservation, and a form of sustainable travel that supports the local environment instead of putting more pressure on it and exploiting its resources.

Things are rarely simple, however, and ecotourism is a complex concept. Its importance is growing more and more each year, as more and more people travel farther and farther away.

houseboat-kerala

The most important thing here is how aware are you as a tourist. Not only should you be aware of your impact both on the local environment and on the local community, but you should try, within reasonable limits, to reduce this impact. Common themes in this context are recycling, responsible water consumption, local craftsmanship, and cycling or walking as opposed to driving. A great emphasis is placed on protecting local species, especially the threatened species.

It’s also important not to be fooled by pleasant words — a vacation isn’t “ecotourism” just because it says so on the brochure, without any actual justification.

Ecotourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism industry, and tour operators will try to lure clients using eco-advertising.

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Looking at things from a wider perspective, it’s also about the size of the groups. You can’t do mass-ecotourism, it’s an oxymoron — ecotourism has to be done in small or medium groups.

If the industry sources are to be believed, the world’s airlines are estimated to be carrying close to 5.9 billion passengers by 2030. There’s no getting around it: as living standards increase globally, tourism is set to grow. Which means we will obviously be putting a huge burden on the already crumbling environments, as tourism places a substantial burden on ecosystems?

Tourism also necessitates additional infrastructure, such as water treatment plants, sanitation facilities, and lodging. Oftentimes, local communities are not able to sustainably offer these conditions and the results are devastating. Especially in vulnerable areas, the increase in visitors can lead to significant environmental degradation. Wherever people go, they leave behind garbage – and even if it is left in bins, it can still create a dangerous imbalance.

Safaris and animal photographing can scare creatures. Feeding wildlife can teach them bad habits and leave them depending on humans. Even just walking can lead to soil erosion and destruction of animal paths. It can be hard to accept, but everything we do has an impact on wildlife – we should be conscious of this.

The world absolutely needs more ecotourism. It teaches travelers to be more attuned to the pristine areas of the world, it helps educate people, and it provides funds for conservation as well as for local communities

Agreed that the terms ‘ecotourism’ and ‘sustainable tourism’ are an oxymoron on the whole, and that you can’t travel in a way that helps the environment, since you will be leaving your carbon footprint as you fly.

But there is still so much you can do to reduce your impact and at least in some aspects, even make a positive difference. There is always room for improvement. Here’s how.

  • Minimize impact. If you must, travel by plane. If you can avoid it, try a train instead. Walk or bike instead of driving or at the very least, use public transportation. Respect local resources and don’t waste.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation. If it’s real ecotourism, much of the money you’re paying will go to conservation.
  • Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people. Buy local, authentic products – they’re higher quality, genuine, and they support the locals. This way, they get much more financial benefits than from mass tourism – even if the number of tourists is much lower.
  • An important fact of eco-friendly travels is avoiding “green” traps. Some people mistake any form of nature travel with ecotourism. Just because you’re in nature doesn’t mean you’re doing something right – on the contrary, it often means that your impact is high and negative. Things like jungle travelor adventure travel are not eco-friendly and shouldn’t be confused as such even though many touristic operators use buzz words like “green” or “eco-friendly” – this is a clear case of green washing.

Safareya local

That’s the bottom line; ecotourism should concern three main things:

  1. the wellbeing of the local environment
  2. the wellbeing of the locals
  3. The high-quality experience of the tourist.

 

It’s a way to make a massive difference and it’s something which I hope more and more people will start doing.

alberta-attraction-banff-417074

-M

 

 

Celebrating Shiv Ratri in the oldest city of the world.

vranasi

Varanasi also known as Benaras or Kashi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and is regarded as the holiest place in the world in Hinduism.

According to legend, the city was founded by the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva, around 5,000 years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country.  In Hindu cosmology, the city is considered the, “center of Earth”, and most religious activity here occurs around stair structures called ‘Ghats’.

Mark Twain described Varanasi as “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”.

Varanasi is a bridge or ‘tirtha’ between heaven and earth, a crossing point where Gods visit this world and mortals travel to the next. The city is known for its belief that any one leaving his / her mortal body here, goes to heaven in their afterlife. Its location on the banks of the sacred Ganges River also contributes to its prestige as an important site of pilgrimage.

There is possibly not a single month, when Varanasi is not preparing or in the midst of a festival. The city celebrates its festivals with such zealous fervour, that it is difficult not to get drawn into the carnivalesque atmosphere. Pick any month and you will find some festival to plan your trip around. There is never a dull moment in the city.

The city known as the spiritual capital of India, has one of the most important Shiva temples in the country and hence it’s quite natural that Maha Shivaratri (the wedding of Shiva & Parvati) is celebrated here in a grand manner. Mahashivratri, “The Great Night of Shiva” is considered the most significant event in India’s spiritual calendar.

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The festival sees more than a million Hindus from all over India, converge at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.

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The city is thrown into frenzy as hundreds of small troupes carry bedecked Shiva idols in processions to the Shiva temples. The preparation starts early in the morning with a parade that starts from and ends at the Tilbhandeshwar temple. The procession lasts roughly about 5 hours and it is celebrated with loud music in the background and people consuming Bhaang (a form of marijuana legal and common in Varanasi) and dancing in the procession. As marijuana is considered as the blessing of Lord Shiva, a lot of people do it here for religious reasons. After the procession, everyone returns back to the temple, offers their prayers and perform rituals.

Out of the 88 Ghats in Varanasi the most popular one is the Dashashwamedh Ghat. It attracts a large gathering every evening, when a group of priests performs a synced ritual known as Ganga aarti -to praise and pray to Goddess Ganges with lights, Conch sounds and bell ringing along with Vedic chants.

dashwameda

The aarti is always carried out facing the river Ganga. It starts by lightning up the multi-tiered brass lamps, along with a well synchronised chanting of mantras and blowing the conch shells. The shells are known to sanctify the atmosphere. The other remaining priests light the incense sticks and offer it to the goddess in a clockwise circle.

Ganga-Aarti-at-Dashashwamedh-Ghat-on-the-banks-of-The-Ganga-Shutterstock.com_

Witnessing the Ganga aarti is no less than a spectacle. The energy around this daily ritual fills your core with peace and tranquillity.

ganga_aarti_as_seen_from_the_boatride_on_the_ganges

 

Maha Shivratri falls on 21st February this year.

 

-M

 

PC: AirPano.com;VaranasiTourism; Youtube;Indiatimes;

 

Family friendly holidays

Summer-Family-Holidays-Family-on-the-Beach

Summer is just a few months away. It’s about time to plan that vacay with the family. Travelling with your wee ones need not just be mainly resorted to theme parks. Some ccities make great getaways—short or long—for families. They are hubs for direct flights, ample accommodations, top-notch restaurants and iconic, innovative attractions as well as some of them provide a touch of history, making them both educational and fun and appealing to all ages.

So let’s dust off your passport and pack up your kids for adventures in these family-friendly world cities.

Orlando

disney

Why it’s great for kids: Orlando’s an absolute paradise for kids of all ages, with home to not one but four action-packed Disney theme parks.

Put it on your itinerary: The fun doesn’t stop once you’ve explored Disney World, as the Kennedy Space Center is just a short drive from Orlando. The kid-friendly museum displays America’s space rockets and even lets you touch a piece of moon rock! The museum’s located on Florida’s Space Coast, which boasts tons of gorgeous beaches. However, when it comes to nature, it’s not just sandy shores that impress children and parents alike. Florida’s famous for its marshlands, and the whole family can glide through the swamps on an air boat. Be sure to keep an eye out for gators!

London

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Why it’s great for kids: With a host of historical attractions and many contemporary exhibits, the British capital city just screams ‘kid-friendly’.  There’s no language barrier, the food is kid-friendly (those chips!), and there’s lots to do around one of the major characters of modern childhood—Harry Potter.

Put it on your itinerary: Many of London’s main attractions, like the Tower of London and the British Museum, are geared to be family-friendly, so they’re incredibly interesting for both you and your little ones. Your kids will love spotting red telephone boxes, exploring Tower Bridge and following the River Thames as it meanders across the capital. If any of you are Harry Potter fans, you’ll all be in your element at the Warner Bros Studio Tour; and just outside of the city are theme parks like Lego land and Chessington World of Adventures which are easily accessible by public transport. There are also plenty of whimsically themed high tea experiences (try the Mad Hatters Tea Party at the Sanderson) and endless free museums, including the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.

Cancun

cancun

Why it’s great for kids: You’ll get the best of both worlds — a bustling city culture and a beach vacation.

Put it on your itinerary: Parque de Palapas, the city’s central park, offers food carts, performances, and the kiddo essential, playgrounds. Mercado 28 is a bustling marketplace where you and the kids can bargain for local treasures to bring home. Isla de Mujeres lets you get away from the city’s hustle and bustle with a trip out to this laid-back island just off the coast — the Garrafon Reef Park there lets you swim with dolphins or stingrays or take a ride on a zip line. When you’re not busy lazing on the beach, make sure you head out to tour Chichén Itzá, the Mayan Ruins nearby.

Copenhagen

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Why it’s great for kids: Denmark’s capital is literally a fairy-tale city — it’s where Hans Christian Andersen wove his classics, like The Little Mermaid. And if your kids are even mildly Lego-obsessed, they’ll probably be thrilled at a chance to visit the country where the blocks were first created.

Put it on your itinerary: Copenhagen is home to the Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park that is said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s amusement parks. With gorgeous gardens and architecture and one of the world’s oldest still-in-use wooden roller coasters the Tivoli gardens, with rides and games, is an awesome place to take kids of all ages, and adults that want to indulge the kid in them! There are roller coasters for older children and kiddie rides for wee ones. And if your children don’t like rides, there are musical performances and pantomimes to enjoy. When it’s lit up at night, the park is a joy to stroll through.

Other than Tivoli Gardens, children will enjoy viewing the statue of the Little Mermaid from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, and posing for a photo with her. Watching the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace is wonderful. And if you and your family are looking for a green space to enjoy, the King’s Garden is the ideal place to go. You can picnic on the grounds and enjoy some chill time here. Copenhagen is a fun destination and very family-friendly.

Dubai

dubai

Why it’s great for kids: Full of architectural superlatives, the Emirate with the tallest building (Burj Khalifa), vastest sand desert, and largest mall, is great for adventure, relaxation, and even good old-fashion theme park fun.

Put it on your itinerary: The city isn’t all fancy cars and glittering skyscrapers (although there are plenty of both). It’s also home to adventures your kids (and you!) will love, from feeding a three-foot-wide turtle at the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project to catching a free show at Dubai’s massive musical fountains. Once you venture outside the city limits, there are camel rides, sand skiing (think of it as hot-weather sledding!), and dune-bashing (where your Jeep guns it over sand hills, so you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster) through the Arabian Desert. Check in at Atlantis The Palm for loads more family-friendly activities: There’s the Middle East’s largest water park, an aquarium holding more than 65,000 creatures, and evening programming for kids age 3-12  You can also explore the souks of Old Dubai where you can shop for textiles, spices, and even gold on the streets alongside the Dubai Creek.

Sydney

Sydney

Why it’s great for kids: Sydney is one of the most family friendly cities in Australia. The city has plenty of things to do for all the ages. For the smaller kids, there are extraordinary zoos, great aquariums, wildlife parks, plenty of playgrounds and there is even a Luna Park as well.

Put it on your itinerary: Admit it: You’ve always wanted to visit Australia. If your kids are old enough to make it through the long plane ride out there, now’s the time: There’s plenty to make you feel like a giddy little kid, from being blown away by the Scienceworks Museum to checking out the march of the penguins at Phillip Island to seeing the forest and fern gullies from the century-old Puffing Billy Steam Railway. There is a ferry trip on the Sydney Harbour, iconic Sydney Opera House to explore, Darling Harbour, tonnes of museums, Blue Mountains, beautiful beaches and even a Haunted Sydney walking tour to check out. Sydney Aquarium is home to more than 12,000 marine animals, including dugongs (sea cows). And there are a ton of ways to see Sydney’s sights, whether you and your family venture up to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or Skywalk on a glass-floored platform above the city.

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The fact is that kids — even young ones — love traveling for the same reasons we do: They get to have a new routine, spend time with the people they love, and eat fun snacks. Plus the parents get to experience places that can make them feel like a child again, which is gratifying.

 

-M

 

 

PC:Pinterest;WaltDisney;VisitLondon;LonelyPlanet

 

“Adults Only” – Grown up Getaways

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Komandoo Maldives Island Resort

At first it seems like the sort of thing you would associate with the category of a movie rating, and not the hospitality industry.

Adult only holidays is definitely a thing. Popular worldwide, the concept, though a novelty in India, is becoming quite the rage.

The segment is not associated with licensed yet racy ‘good times’ for grown-ups unhampered by children in the background. Usually “Adults only” resorts and hotels might have different characteristics, but they all agree on one thing and that is kids below the age of 18 are not allowed.

Canny industry operators have showcased its appeal to the wealthier traveller on the lookout for some quality downtime, and to sub-sets of aspiring tourists, like women’s-only groups, sports fans or alternative therapy seekers.

The facilities, as well as all the small details and comforts, are designed considering the needs of this audience in depth. Some adults only hotels are livelier while others are more tranquil, relaxing and romantic. They offer an upscale and sophisticated vacation experience and take care of every last detail, guaranteeing that guests enjoy a blissfully relaxing holiday.

If you are looking for the answer to your quest of finding a child free environment some of these hotels/resorts may appeal to you

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Komandoo Maldives
  • Komandoo Maldives Island Resort, Maldives.
  • Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay, Jamaica.
  • Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort & Spa, Grenada.
  • Excellence Playa Mujeres, Cancun.
  • Royal Davui Island Resort, Fiji.
  • Excellence Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
  • Galley Bay Resort & Spa, Antigua.
  • Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso, Playa Del Carmen.
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Hotel Senses Quinta Avenida, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Closer home The Park Hotel Goa Baga River which caters exclusively to couples and the honeymooners is a boutique hotel, with its ‘adults only’ tag.

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Although hoteliers are of the opinion that considering the fact that Indian families hardly travel without kids and such restrictions are generally looked down upon, The Park has taken a ‘bold move’. But nonetheless with having almost 60% occupancy, the hotel has been a trendsetter of sorts.

According to TripAdvisor, there is only one other hotel in the country with entry restrictions Ananda – In the Himalayas, in Rishikesh. But Ananda is not an ‘adults-only’ place, it simply doesn’t allow children below 14 in order to maintain its tranquility.

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Ananda in the Himalayas

Globally, however, the line between family and adults-only hotels is getting sharper. While package tours catering to family groups with a long checklist of things to do and see on vacations continue to be popular, the hospitality industry is discovering the benefits of nurturing a child-free, or more accurately, ‘adult-only’ clientele.

Secrets-Wild-Orchid-Master-Suite
Secret Wild Orchid Montego Bay 

But having said all of this do you think the “adult-only” tag will be considered discriminatory? I would like to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below.

-M

 

 

 

 

PC:Hotels own website

Azerbaijan-Is it on your bucket list?

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“Where?” Azerbai… “What?”

If you plan to visit Azerbaijan, prepare to answer that question.  A lot. No one seems to know where Azerbaijan is.

Well to brush up on your geography, Azerbaijan is in Central Asia. With Russia to the north, Iran to the south, The Caspian Sea to the east, Armenia and Georgia to the west.

Having said that comes the inevitable follow-up question “Why?”

Now this is the interesting one.

Why would you want to go to Azerbaijan, a place with the conviction of a bright future, a place of development, a place of natural beauty, a place no one really knows anything about?

So here’s the thing. On the cusp of a tourism boom, Azerbaijan is one of the fastest-growing destinations in the world.

Azerbaijan is a little bit weird. It’s like Rome, it’s like Paris, and it’s like London- a charming mix of architectural styles, genuinely beautiful buildings that line the city’s traffic-choked streets.

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Stroll into the centre of Baku, and its appeal reveals itself, in its most impressive sight, the Flame Towers.

Inspired by Azerbaijan’s nickname, the “Land of Fires”, these three flame-shaped towers dominate the skyline, and have become something of a national symbol since they appeared in 2012. By night, huge LED displays give the appearance of flames licking the sides of the buildings.

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The Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre fills you with an absolute “WOW” when you see it. Being one of the most recognized architectural landmarks worldwide, the Centre is one of the signature architectural landmarks of modern Baku. It is perfection. This building is one of the pinnacles of modernity. It flows in all directions in line with how a natural landscape should be. And no matter where you stand as you walk around it, it looks completely different in shape.

Azerbaijan also has money. At the bottom of one of the Flame Towers there’s a Lamborghini shop. Wander around near the lake and you’ll find names like Gucci, Tom Ford, Bulgaria and Tiffany slapped across the storefronts.

All set to bill itself as the “new Dubai” Azerbaijan has relaxed its tight entry requirements, allowing tourists to apply online for an e-visa rather than post passports to an embassy. More than two million people are now venturing to the country each year.

Some will come to experience a rich culture that finds its expressions in food, and in the intricately woven carpets. More still will come to wander through Baku’s charming Old Town, with its 1000-year-old Maiden Tower and its ancient history. There are some who will come here for the natural beauty alone.

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Also the Azeris boast that their country is home to nine of the world’s 11 climate zones, from semi-desert in the central lowlands to rainforests in the northern hills and Alpine tundra in the Greater Caucasus.

You can scuba dive in the Caspian Sea, sun yourself on a beach, or ski in resorts in the nation’s north.

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Azerbaijani food, with its mix of influences from Iran, Turkey and Georgia, may be still unfairly anonymous on the world scene, but it’s definitely tantalizing the taste buds with its rich and traditional cuisine. And how can you forget about the caviar. Famed beluga caviar from the Caspian Sea is treasured here and regulated even more zealously than oil – however, walk into any market and you’ll hear soft calls of “caviar, caviar” from black market sellers seeking to offload their goods.

An Eastern country with a Western outlook, it’s capital city ,Baku is known as the Pearl of the Caucasus. Combining history, culture and modernity, the vibrant city offers a safe and attractive setting along the Caspian Sea. From outdoor activities, phenomenal shopping experiences, luxury hotels, and beautiful venues and locations for weddings and honeymoons, Azerbaijan is a perfect destination for couples, families, and friends.

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You would definitely want to ‘Take another look’ and say ‘salaam’ to Azerbaijan, as the country rolls out the hospitality red carpet to unveil its incredible revelations and attractions. I know I want to.

M

 

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