Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Galapagos Islands

The islands are well known because of the research the Charles Darwin did in the region; but the region is so much more than that. The islands are off of the coast of Ecuador and are part of that country. But what makes them so special? Well I will tell you: the animals, the weather, and the views.

Most people will go to the Galapagos Islands for the fauna. The wildlife on the islands are unlike the rest of the world and are enough to make the visit worth it. The first major animal is the Galapagos tortoise which can only be found on these islands, but sadly there are only 200 have them still alive. These are the tortoises that Darwin studied when he was on the islands. Another unique animal only found here is the Galapagos land iguanas. There is also the only marine iguana that eats out of the ocean. One of the most popular animals with the tourists are the Blue-footed Booby. These are seagull type birds with large blue feet that they show off during mating season. Another popular species is the Galapagos Penguin which is the only tropical penguin still in existance.

Besides the animals that are unlike the rest of the world, there is also weather that will attract many tourists. The islands are scattered about the Equator, however they are located in a current that tends to bring light rains and cooler water during the colder months (June to November). Then during the summer months (December to May) the temperatures increase and the water temperature rises. The amount of rains varies A LOT between the different altitudes and the different islands. On the beaches, the usual hangout spot, there tends to not be much rain.

The views at the islands are some that could be gawked over for a long time. Within the islands, there are 13 main islands and six smaller islands. Each island is slightly different and are used for different reasons. There are just four islands that people live on. The biggest of these is Isabela Island. This is where you will be able to find the airport and other ammenities of civilization. Many of the smaller islands are used for SCUBA diving. One highlights for most people is going snorkeling with penguins at these islands. There are tons of fish and coral around these islands making for some great diving. The sea lions on the islands are also unlike those of other places. They tend to be very curious and are not afraid of people. It is not uncommon to have a sea lion come up to you to see what you are doing.

The Galapagos Islands are not the typical vacation for most, but they can offer much to it's visitors. Because of all the different species, the islands are commonly used for educational purposes. The beaches or the SCUBA diving seem to be the main attractions to the rest of the visitors. If you are interested in visiting these islands, Jeopardy is currently doing a sweepstakes so you can spend a couple weeks with Alex Trebek.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Istanbul is the capital and cultural center of Turkey. It surrounds the Golden Horn Harbor and the Bosphorous Strait in the northwest corner of the country. That same harbor is also one of the boundaries between Europe and Asia. Istanbul is actually the only major metropolis that is situated within two continents. During the long history of this city it has been the capital city of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. This history adds a lot to the culture and architecture of the city.

The religion in the city is mostly is Islam, with the minorities being Christians and Jews. There are nearly 2,700 active mosques in Istanbul, 123 churches and 26 synagogues. This religious diversity has added a lot to the culture of the city and the acceptance of different people.

The transportation in the city is actually one of the highlights. First site is the Bosphorous Bridge. This bridge connects Asia and Europe and cannot be missed at night. It is always beautifully decorated with lights at night. Next is the different types of boats that can be seen. There are the gigantic cruise ships that stop at the port as well as the little fairies, the day-cruise boats, the fishing boats, the cargo ships, and the seabuses. The final main type of transportation is railway. There are trams all over the place including older, slower, nostalgic trams as well as faster, modern trams. These are always open to the public and a lot of fun to ride. Besides the trams, one can also take the metro, the trains, or the light rail.

Besides these things, there is also the spectacular buildings with their diverse styles of architecture. There are still ruins all over the city of the past empires that ruled there. One would never really expect to see Roman ruins, but statues can be found scattered about the city. Besides all of the old architecture, there are modern buildings springing up all over that are spectacular. The financial district is as modern as any other city, but within these buildings one can find a magnificent mosque or some Roman statues setting this city apart from others.

Istanbul has had a long and mostly prosperous history. This can be seen in the different types of architecture as well as the way the people embrace different cultures. The city welcomes visitors of all kinds and is a place where one can learn a lot about culture and acceptance.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park is located in Southern Oregon. As you could probably guess, the main highlight of this park is Crater Lake. This national park is one of the least known and least visited, but it still has some attributes that would attract anybody.

Mount Mazama used to be a volcano that used to be in this same location. However, about 7,000 years ago the volcano erupted and then the mountain collapsed into the newly formed opening. The entire mountain didn't collapse into the hole, so there was a ginormous opening still there. Over the years, that hole has filled with rain water and melted snow forming Crater Lake.

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States at 1,949 feet at the deepest point. The average depth of the lake is 1,148 feet. To put this in perspective, lake Michigan has an average depth of 279 feet. The lake is also the seventh deepest in the world. Surprising, there are also no rivers or streams that go into the lake or out of it. All of the water is direct from rain and snow.

This lake is actually very clean and extremely blue. The water does not stay in the lake for very long. The ground absorbs the water so fast, that there has to be a constant replenishing of the water. The ground absorbs water so fast that plants have a very hard time growing around here. The roots just can't soak up the water faster than the ground does. This lack of vegitation right next to the lake makes Crater lake National Park quite different from other parks. Don't worry though, there are plenty of plants in the park, just not next to the lake.

So when you go visit the park there is plenty to do. Within the park, there are MANY miles of trails to hike. One specifically will take you to a nice place to go swimming in the lake. Also at the lake, you can go fishing. The lake was stocked with fish in the 40s so now people can fish there without a license or without any restrictions. The national park also offers tours of the lake by boat that many tourists take.

Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is an "island" off of the coast of Normandy in France. When most people hear Normandy, WWII is the only thing that come to mind. France is actually split into regions much like the United States is split into states. One of these regions happens to be Normandy, which is where we invaded and where Mont Saint-Michel happens to be located.

Mont Saint-Michel was first used in the sixth and seventh centuries as a place for the Romano-Bretons could have culture and power. Basically as a place of status, and was invaded by different groups for a couple hundred years. At the end of the eighth century, construction began for the first monestary. The monestary was firmly established during the eleventh century and turned into a prized posession by kings of France. The English tried to invade it many times unsuccessfully, which just added to the pride in the piece of land.

Finally, by the time of the French Reformation, there were barely any monks living at the monestary. So, to be efficient, the French turned it into a prison to hold people against the current regime. The prison was closed in the mid 1800s and became a national monument. It has since become a much visited spot for tourists to see culture as well as natural and man-made beauty.

So like I said, this was originally used as a monestary but the uses evolved over time. Which adds to the architecture that can be seen. The center-piece of the island is the cathedral/monestary at the top of the island. It has been restored through-out the years, but has kept the original charm. The cathedral is actually really cool because it has been added on to over the centries. So there is every type of architecture imaginable all in the same structure.

So besides the obvious monestary on the island, there are other things to be seen. As was mentioned, there is a pretty sweet prison on the island. The prison, though developed later, is underground. This adds a bit of a creepiness to the island to make it a little more interesting. There is also a town on the island where people actually still live and have shops for the tourists. And trust me, these people make money souly on tourism, so don't expect a good deal. However, there are some very impressive artists on the island worth the money.

Visiting Mont Saint-Michel is a must do while in France. The views from the mainland are just magnificant and worth your while. The architecture will impress anybody as will the friendliness of the townspeople.

Friday, April 10, 2009


So when people think of Egypt they think of the pyramids, the nile, and maybe the Sphinx. But there is so much more to be seen within this country. Those are some places that need to be seen, but I want to show you some other hot spots (pun intended).

First, one thing that you need to put in perspective is the size of Egypt. In square miles, it is about the size of California and Texas put together. Granted most of this is dessert, this is still a size that most people don't expect.

Cairo is the capital of Egypt and the biggest metropolis in all of Africa. This is the city where you will find everything that you would want to find in a city. However, this is the largest city in the Arabic World, so it is going to be a little different than say New York. It will not be uncommon to see people dressed in western wear as well as people wearing Arabic clothes. Cairo is located along the Nile in the northern part of Egypt, close to where the Nile splits and close to wear it floods every year. Cairo is also famous for the amount of mosques located there. Not only that, but many of them are lit up well at night and are great for pictures.

Ok, theres not much there besides Cairo and the places already listed, so I need to go back to those well known tourist spots. Let's start with the Pyramids; the three main ones (there are a total of about 67 around Egypt). The Pyramids are located right by Cairo in a slightly more deserty area. There are three different pyramids in this area on almost perfect square bases. There is the Great Pyramid (Khufu), Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren), and the smaller Pyramid of Menkaure (Mykerinos). The faces of the different pyramids are all facing north; only a fraction of a degree seperates all three of them. They are also in the shape of the constellation Orion. The Great Pyramid is actually the only surviving Wonder of the Ancient World, which says something about the construction.

The Pyramids were made as a place to bury the dead pharoahs. So when the pyramids were made, there was a plan with hallways and rooms to bury the deceased. Since they were buried, all of the pyramids in Egypt have been broken into and the gold buried with them has been stolen. There was one grave that had been kept in tact until the 1920's, and his name was Tutankhamun, aka Kind Tut. With him was buried many artifacts and gold, people are actually still excavating there and have found new things just a couple years ago.

Ok, that was enough history, near the Great Pyramid you will also find the Sphinx. The Sphinx is a gigantic mythical creature that resembles a lion with the head of a woman. Similar, smaller figures like this one have been found all throughout ancient Egypt. These were thought to be temple protectors.

Wow, so Egypt would be a really awesome place to go. But as you can see, history is a major aspect of this country. Understanding and appreciating the Egyptian culture will help you to enjoy the artifacts and monuments a little more.


So I am going to cheat a little bit on this post. I am going to write about a region instead of just a specific place. Patagonia, however, is WELL worth it. If I could go backpacking anywhere in the world, this is where I would go in a heartbeat. Patagonia is a region in the southern part of South America and takes up parts or Chile and Argentina. It has one of the best varieties of geography that can be seen around the world.

There are seven regions within the larger geographic region of Patagonia. I am just going to highlight a few of them that represent the area well. The first is called Chubut and is located primarily in Argentina. This region is primarily used as farm land and is particularly known for the quality of wheat. But this is not the quality of the region that attracts the visitors. There are numerous lakes scattered throughout the region especially on the eastern side. These lakes are surrounded by small mountains, creating a most surreal environment. These lakes also attract 1000's of fly fisherman every year. There are a couple regions that are similar to this one.

Next is the Santa Cruz region. Most people are probably thinking about Santa Cruz in California, but this is just about the opposite. This area is also in Argentina and is a very cold region with some fantastic landscapes. Santa Cruz is the southern most region, closest to Antarctica. It is known for the pebble beaches and the deep water lakes. These lakes were formed by melted glaciers; there are actually still a lot of glaciers that can be seen and gawked at.

A third region is Magallanes and is located in Chile. This has some of the more well known spots to visit; for instance the strait of Magellan and Cape Horn. This region has a very low population and is extremely vast, which makes it great to see different plants and animals. In this region it is relatively easy to find penguins and condors as well as other animals in their natural habitat. What this region might be most known for is hosting the Patagonia Expedition Race, one of the world's most spectacular adventure races.

Patagonia has one of the best variations of geography in the world. From mountains, to plains, to lakes, to oceans, to glaciers this region has something for everyone. This is the place for any adventurest to have the time of their life.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Yosemite is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. It is located in central California and takes up an area of over 1000 sq. miles. The most visited part is the seven sq. miles of Yosemite Valley. This is the most photographed part of the park, but there is much more to be explored than just that spot.

The park is known for its granite cliffs, water falls, clear streams, and the biological diversity. Yosemite was actually one of the main focal points when the government decided to protect and preserve national parks and wilderness areas. It is said that the park was made from the shifting of techtonic plates as well as the movement and formation of glaciers.

Yosemite Valley (roughly 1% of the park) has a couple of the most spectacular features. First, El Capitan is a gigantic granite cliff that is perfect for rock climbing. There are tons of different routes waiting to be persued. There are also a couple of half domes in this region just soaring a few thousand feet about the surrounding area.

Some of the other more popular places to visit are in the highlands. There are mountain ranges, extensive meadows, and hundreds of miles of trails to follow. This is a great place to go backpacking and offers the hiker everything needed. This area is full of clear streams for water and washing as well as a great view for constant entertainment.

These views and environment aren't just perfect for people, but also for plants and animals. Black bears are all over the place in this park. If you go hiking here, it is actually required to have bear-safe food containers. Besides bears, one can also see marmots, foxes, deer, and owls, among many others. The park also has some Giant Seguoia to gawk over. These trees are actually the largest in the world in area (not height).

Yosemite is the jackpot of places to go backpacking. You will not be disappointed if you ever make the trek out there. Between the views, the animals, and the gigantic trees, one can never go away without satisfaction.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Dubai continued

So i wrote about Dubai earlier, but since then I have learned more about the city. I think these things are definitely worth mentioning. One of them is like the all-time superbowl championship of architecture and the other is the mona lisa of creative engineering. This city is now one of the wealthiest around the world, and they want everybody to know it.

What is the most coveted feat that everybody wants? Tallest building. Dubai can claim that. The Burj Dubai is by far the tallest building in the world soaring at an amazing 2,684 feet as of January of 2009 (currently still under construction). The building started construction in 2004; the plans have changed since then adding hundreds of feet to the original planned height. Some interested facts:

  • The elevators have evacuation procedures (so you can use them in emergencies)
  • The concrete in this building could make 1900km (which is 1180 miles)
  • The conrete weighs as much as about 100,000 elephants

  • The rebar used end-to-end would make it a quarter way around the world

  • It was made to withstand the worst storm Dubai has had in over 100 years

  • It is as tall as the Sears Tower with the Eiffel tower on top of it

So besides this ridiculous building, there is another feature of the city that will immediately catch your eye. The Palm islands are man-made islands that are made just of the coast in Dubai in the Persian Gulf. There are three different islands that were designed with the Palm Jumeriah as the only one completed. Each of the islands are in the shape of palm trees, and will have an area large enough to house many people. The Palm Deira (which was started in 2007) is supposed to be able to house over 1 million people on it.

There is so much architectural feats to see in this city. Between the tallest building, the two tallest hotels, the biggest water fountains, the largest man-made islands, largest indoor skiing mountain, the longest bridge (in plans), this city will put you in amazement. However, with the recent economic problems, this may not last for long. Most of the things listed are still under construction, and probably won't be finished until the economic problems are solved.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Portland, Maine

Portland is the central city in Maine, and is the focus point for almost all cultural and economic happenings. It is on the coast of the Atlantic close to the southern part. Tourists are usually drawn to the Portland Harbor, the Old Port, and the nearby Portland Head Light. This medium sized city has been recognized from many reputable sources for beng one of the best places to do business.

When coming upon the city, most people want to take a tour of the town and the nearby harbor. When touring the city by bus you will be able to see the historic homes sprinkeled around. Most of the older places in the city were destroyed in a fire that spread in 1866. This fire happened when fireworks were not kept in control for the Fourth of July celebration leaving over 10,000 people homeless. So from the remaining homes, many are listed as historic buildings and are protected by the state. These homes are beautiful and are constantly being renovated so as to make them look good as new.

So besides just seeing the historic homes, one of the most historic lighthouses is nearby. This is the Portland Head Light and is the most photographed lighthouse in the world. The scenery is gorgeous, and you could linger around the building for hours. When I was there this summer, there were tons of people around, included an entire tour bus of Buddhist monks. As you can see in pictures, the building is right of the coast, and shows a tremendous view of the harbor.

Speaking of the harbor, what a great place to tour around by boat. There are tons of small islands right off the coast just waiting to be explored. Besides all of the islands, you can also see all of the crab fisherman on their boats working hard. Most of the boats are the traditional crabbing boats, and are really interesting to just sit and watch. Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised with what I found in this city, and would really recommend it to anybody.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Alps

One of the most glorious of all views, the Alps are a must see and a must do. The Alps are a mountain range that start near the Mediterranean and stretch through Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, and Slovenia. The range is split in half between the east and west sides, both with MUCH to offer.

The most common thing that tourists do is go skiing. There are so many places that one can do this too. Almost all of the countries have resorts salted all over the mountains. This skiing is intense too. Some people are think the Rockies are the only place to go, but they are wrong. The Alps are, on average, higher than the Rockies and cover more area. The slopes are also just as extreme as you could possibly want.

While skiing, you can also see the spectacular views. You will not see anything more pure than a sunrise over snow covered mountains. Breathing in the cold air, you will feel more alive than ever before. Besides viewing the scenery, there is also a variety of flora and fauna to see during the summer season. Some of the animals consist of marmots (like a big guinea pig), alpine ibex (ram type animal), or the typical hare.

The Alps are not only beautiful, but they are full of life. On any given day, you will be really close to a ski resort as well as the wilderness all around. This is a great place to be outdoors exercising and enjoying some of God's most amazing creation.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Vienna is the capital of Austria and one of the newest favorite tourist destinations. There have been some very important happenings that have gone on in this city. First, this is where the Habsburg empire ruled from. This may sound familiar as they were the ones who started WWI when Franz Ferdinand was killed. Ferdinand was supposed to be the next ruler of the empire in Vienna.

Most people visit Vienna for the Habsburg palaces or the picturesque view of the white horses trotting around. These people typically not disappointed. Vienna tends to fulfill all of those nastagic stereotypes. But there is also more to the city than what you might think. From museums to castles to architecture to cathedrals, this city really has something for everyone.

One of the most popular places to visit is the Schonbrunn Palace. Don't be mislead by the name, this is not just one building. This is where the Habsburg led from and the palace shows the personality of those that were in charge over the centures. The palace is made of a main palace, gardens, a zoo, and even some Roman ruins. The palace (shown) was built during the beginning of the 1700s and is still one of the main features of the city. Not to mention the obvious beauty and personality that it shows. An entire day could be spent at this tourist haven.

Another must see highlight is the St. Stephen's Cathedral in downtown Vienna. This part of the city used to be all there was to the city. There were walls built around it which were later torn down to build a road. Popular tourist guide (Rick Steves) lists this as one of his favorite places. The lighting on the cathedral at night is supposed to be one of the most spectacular sights. The architecture is so precise that the shadows are very prominant and distinguished. This cathedral is still being used, so hours are limited for tourists, but well worth a visit.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Grand Tetons

The Grand Tetons are a mountain range in southern Wyoming, just south of Yellowstone. They are, however, still part of the Rockies. The Grand Tetons are heaven for any backpacker. The scenery is gorgeous and the wildlife is prevalent.

So what makes the Tetons better than any other set of mountains? What is missing from the pictures that you normally see with mountains? The answer: foothills. Because of the way that the Tetons were formed, they don't have any foothills to block the views. This makes for some of the prettiest views. The land is flat until all of a sudden there are mountains 5,000 to 7,000 feet above the base.

So once you get past the initial perfect view and hike in, there is even more to awe about. If you go in the summer or fall, the lakes and the sunsets should be more than enough to get you there. The water is so clean and pure that, as you can see, there is a nearly perfect reflection. And because of the lack of foothills, the sun hits directly on the mountains pointing out every perfect detail. In the picture you can see just how perfect the scenery can be.

The wildlife in the Tetons is also fascinating. There are tons of deer, moose, birds, and fish. I am not into hunting, so thats not why I like it. But you get to see the animals raoming around without a care in the world. They don't always notice you or know that you are "bad" so many times they won't run away. I feel like there is know way I can explain this to give it any justice. This is a MUST SEE for anybody who might consider themselves as an outdoors person.

Friday, February 20, 2009


This is probably not the average place that most travelers want to go to. However, tourists are becoming more and more satisfied after visiting here. Dubai is in the United Arab Emirates and is right off the cost of the Persian Gulf. It is right between Saudi Arabia and Oman, if that helps at all. The weather here could very accurately be described as hot. Most people visit during the winter, where the temperatures are in the 70s and 80s. During the summer, it is not uncommon for the temperature to sore to the 120s (but it is a dry heat).

Once you make it to the city, there are going to be some highlights that you need to make sure to see. The most popular thing to do is something called Arabian Adventures. This is a tour of the city and surrounding area by ATV and off road vehicles. The tour will take you into the desert to have a little fun. The best part is the sand dune bashing, as they call it. Which is exactly how it sounds, driving wherever you want and running into the dunes to watch the sand fly. It is compared to an intense roller coaster for all of the adventurous type.

Then, if you are ready to indulge yourself, you can stay at the Burj Al Arab. It is the world’s only seven-star hotel! To begin, the hotel is built on an artificial island, connected to the mainland only by an exquisite bridge. Then once you go into the hotel you will notice the enormous atrium, it is the tallest and listed at an astounding 590ft!! The hotel is the second tallest in the world, yet only has 202 rooms; with rooms ranging from 1800 sq ft to a ridiculous 8396 sq ft. The cheapest room is slightly over $1,000 a night with the Royal Suite at about $28,000. The suite includes a marble spiral staircase with gold leaf covered railings. The hotel also has some restaurants. The most extravagant of these is on one of the top floors. The head chef was named best chef in the world in 2006.

Did you ever think you could go skiing or snowboarding in the dessert? I didn’t, but you can! Ski Dubai is an INDOOR skiing facility. The slopes obviously aren’t quite like Colorado, but it is a great contrast to the endless dessert around. People that having been skiing for years are saying this place was great. If you need a break from the sand, this is the place to be in Dubai.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Madrid is the capital of Spain and is located in the middle of the country. The city is actually the third largest in population in Europe, making for a lot to see.

One of the visual highlights is the amount and variation in architecture. Many of the older buildings still reflect Moorish ancestry (from the 1100s) while sometimes also combining French characteristics. The Catedral de la Almudena was built over 400 years, so is the perfect example of a mix of different eras. The building pictured (City Hall) is an example of the intricacies that many of the buildings are decorated with. Don't be fooled though. Over the last couple decades, Madrid has modernized some parts of town. For instance, the financial district looks just as the financial district of Boston looks.

As for things to actually do, Madrid has plenty to offer. The nightlife would be exhausting if completely examined. There is at least one weekend during the year where all of the younger people will dance and party the whole weekend and just shower the morning that they have to go to work. So do not worry, you will find a good time if you go out at night.

Then there are the cultural things of Spain to bring another twist. Madrid has the largest Bullfighting ring in Spain and is said to be the world center of the sport. Seating over 25,000 people, there is some space for you to get to see the action. Fights are held everyday for a couple months, and every sunday for six months of the year. If bullfighting isn't your cup of tea, you could go to a football (as in soccer) game. These games are CRAZY. Football in Spain is the equivalent of American football plus baseball plus basketball in the United States. Madrid is home of the team Real Madrid and has hosted the FIFA World Cup before. Just be prepared to pay an arm and a leg for tickets.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Loire Valley

The Loire River Valley is along the Loire River in the middle of France. The region has castles of spectacular architecture all throughout. Most are from the Renaissance era, but there is a mixture of that and medieval. The castles are the main highlight, but the countryside also has vineyards and a rolling landscape to offer.

Arguably the prettiest castle is Chenonceau. It was built in the 1430’s for one of King Charles VIII’s Chamberlain but eventually made its way into the heirloom of the king. So it was passed down among all of the later kings. The castle bedrooms dedicated to almost all of the kings that owned it. Each king decorated their room to their liking, so the rooms are all different and not repetitive. Then there is the great hall with a series of rib vaults that have fauna hanging. Or there is the chapel, with the stained glass window filling the room with life. This is just inside, the gardens outside are even more colorful and never ending. To think the kings just used this as a summer home.

That was just one of over 300 castles! Another must see is the Chambord. You might recognize it as one of the choices for standard wallpaper on a Microsoft. This castle was originally built as a hunting lodge for King Francois I. It is known for the French Renaissance architecture and the double helix staircase in the main foyer. Just from the outside, you can see how HUGE it is. Not to mention the reflection off of the perfectly kept lake right next to it, making it look twice as big. The castle has over 440 rooms inside! Under restoration in the 1940’s, it is now restored to the original majesty.

After you have spent multiple days looking at the creation of kings, you can enjoy a peaceful day in the countryside trying some of the most famous wines in the world. Some of these wines include Sancerre & Pouilly-Fume, Anjou-Saumur, and Chinon. Most wineries in the Loire Valley are still family owned giving the vineyards a very homey and safe feel. When you watch movies that have the traditional, dreamy vineyards in them; they are most likely from this region.

The Loire River Valley would be the perfect place to relax for any length of time. It is filled with castles just waited to be awed at, as well as wines just waiting to be tried. The ideal rolling hills overflowing with castles and filled in with vineyards are the perfect place to escape to.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Belize (the size of Massachusetts) has to be the most diverse country in the ways that it attracts visitors. It has highlights ranging from Mayan ruins to arguably the best SCUBA diving in the world to God’s beautiful creation found in the vegetation and landscapes.

The Mayans lived in Belize for an estimated 2400 years and are the originators of the name. The Belize River was named because of the “muddy waters.” Since the Mayan culture was prevalent for so many years, there is a multitude of ruins (many still uncovered). The country is mostly flat. But if you drive down the road you will almost always have in sight a place where there is just a tall patch of land covered with trees. Each one of these is a piece of history after the world has worn on it. Of course there are some spots that have been uncovered and attract surprisingly few visitors each year for the magnitude of its presence.

With some beaches, they are clean and the water is blue, but there is only one thing to make it perfect; coral reefs. Belize is perfect in that it has all of this! There are many species of fish and coral that live within swimming distance to the seemingly perfect beach. But this is not the main attraction. The best part of Belize diving is the Great Blue Hole. This is a gigantic sinkhole about 60 miles off the coast. It was made by a limestone cave system collapsing when the water depth was shallower many years ago. You can tell that it was formed long ago because there are shifts in the hole which means that the tectonic plates have moved since then. Then there is the wildlife. To put it plainly, the fish are spectacular! Sharks are a regular sighting, including; nurse, hammerhead, blacktip, and bull.

Then there is what seems like the most perfect flowers and waterfalls you will ever see. The Big Rock Falls are an example of that. These falls are on a river that is very popular also for the white water rafting and kayaking available. The flowers could not be more colorful or diverse in their shapes and sizes. This makes the hiking even that much better. You could be walking through a rain forest and see color dispersed the whole time.

Belize has to be the most under-rated country. It offers everything that a tourist could possibly be looking for. There is history, beaches, and scenery. Yet there are less than 1 million visitors a year. Making it more ideal yet, nobody in the way.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Maui is the second largest island in the Hawaiian Islands. Being a volcanic island, it has features that are not common to all islands. It was made by two volcanoes that are so close that they have connected to form one island with an isthmus in between. The volcanoes are now starting to erode which is forming a valley; this is why it has the nickname Valley Isle. Because of the diverse geography, there is so much to be done on the island.
The most famous part of Maui would have to be the beaches. They aren’t surrounding the whole island, but the ones that exist are amazing. The surfing is extraordinary for the adventurous type, and the sand is soft for the relaxed type. There is something for everybody on this sand, and everybody can have the day of their dreams.
The flora is also something that locals can brag about. From the beautiful palm trees to a botanical garden, Maui is full of beautiful plants. The palm trees give the island its exotic feel and some much needed shade during the day. There are also many exotic flowers including the bird of paradise at the gardens.
Some other activities that are popular consist of biking, hiking, SCUBA diving, fine dining, driving tours, whale watching, and the ever popular luaus. Many people will go to the top of the highest mountain to watch the sunrise, than will bike down to the beaches for the day. There is also extensive hiking for the outdoors type around the two mountains. The SCUBA diving is also ranked in the top five in the world, with plenty of sharks and underwater creatures. Hotels will also offer driving tours, the best restaurants, as well as the luaus.
Maui has been said to be the best island around the world for active travelers. With the amazing scenery, this is the perfect spot to rejuvenate the mind that is tired of working.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Prague is the capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic and is on the Vltava River in Eastern Europe. The city has been around for hundreds and hundreds of years and is home to the largest "ancient" castle, the Prague Castle. The city is a thriving place just ready to be explored.

Prague has long been under a United States adversary for most of history. However, since the wall went down in the 80s, the city has been opened up to the U.S. "Pra-ha," as the natives pronounce it, was also unscathed during WWII, preserving most of the historic buildings and structures.

One of the must sees in Prague, the Charles Bridge, was started in the mid 1300s. Interesting fact: they used eggs in the mortar so that it would last longer. The bridge is beautifully lit every night for all to see, but mostly the tourists. The Charles Bridge is popular enough that multiple music videos have been shot there, it was a stop on Amazing Race, it was in movies such as Mission Impossible and XXX, as well as being in a Playstation game.

Another go to spot is the Prague Castle. This is a picture of it lit up at night. The castle is in the middle of the city and contains most of the tourist attractions. Inside of it you will find cathedrals, great halls, museums, a monestary, palaces, and some gorgeous gardens. In total, the castle is 570 meters in length and and average of 130 meters wide. It is huge and well lit at night, so you can see it from just about anywhere in the city.
The third part of Prague that you will notice when you go is the nightlife. There are an astounding number of bars in the city full of people ready to have a good time. The locals are very proud of there brew, and are happy to share the experience with the tourists. The city is breathtaking and is ready to show anybody a great time.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon has to be the most beautiful natural wonder of the world. With over five million visitors every year, this canyon is also one of the most visited.

This masterpiece surrounds the Colorado River in northern Arizona in the Grand Canyon National park. The canyon is about 277 miles long and ranges from four miles across to 18 miles across. It also has a depth of just over a mile. This leaves a huge area for the adventurer to explore.

I was lucky enough to spend spring break backpacking in the canyon during my freshman year. We stayed in the canyon for six days, and explored as much as we could during that time. On a normal day we hiked about eight miles, so that we could reach our destination point, the Royal Arch.

With all of this area, there are so many hidden jems to be found. Some include Eagle Rock, or the Royal Arch (as seen below). The Royal Arch takes about three days to hike to and is located just above Elves Chasm. Just before the Arch, there is the only clean water that was found during the entire trip. The Arch was breathtaking, and just beside the arch was a "pin needle" that was just as tall as the arch (you can see how small the people are in the picture). I am convinced that being near that arch is the closest I will be to heaven until I die.

Another highlight of The Grand Canyon has to be the views. In the morning, we would wake up near the edge of either a cliff and the most beautifully carved wall. During the day we would hike for hours and never see the same scenery twice. After we would go around a bend, there would be an entirely different backdrop. Also, the view of the stars at night was breathtaking. The canyon is located in the desert, so there was not a chance of rain the entire time we were there. So we were able to sleep under the stars every night. I was so clear that you could see the milky way. We would fall alseep every night just counting the shooting stars.

There are so many places to explore in this national park. I know I didn't even scrape the surface of this magnificent place. The Grand Canyon will forever have a place in my heart.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Dominica is a beautiful island located in the Caribbean. The island has not been commercialized like most others, so there is a more natural feeling about it. The island is unspoiled enough, that producers decided to film the Pirates of the Caribbean movies on this island. It is a great place for hiking, exploring, SCUBA diving and relaxing!

The most common way for people to visit the island is by cruise ship. There is a new pier just recently built which brings in three to four ships a week. There are many options from the cruise lines for excursions to do while on the island. Some of the more common ones include; hiking, exploring waterfalls, nature walks, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, or a visit to the sulphur springs.

When I visited Dominica last year, I LOVED the diving that we did. There were sulphur bubbles that came up from the ocean floor for the fish to swim through. We also saw a school of sea horsed playing in those same bubbles. The water was warm and incredibly clear, perfect for looking around.

The other highlight from our day there was the nature hikes. There are quite a few waterfalls all around the island just waiting to be explored. The waterfalls are near the top of the multiple peaks with an elevation of over 3000 feet. On the hikes, besides the landscape, there are a variety of plants and animals to awe over. One of the animals that I enjoyed the most was the land crab. While going for a hike, these animals would join you on the trail.

Overall, Dominica is a beautiful island known for its natural features. It is great for any adventurest or SCUBA diving enthusiast.