Daily Archives: 13.02.2014

Scenic New Zealand: The Youngest Country on Earth



Scenic New Zealand: The Youngest Country on Earth

The Island Country of New Zealand in the Southern Pacific Ocean is often called as the youngest country on Earth. This is due to the fact that it is one of the last countries in the world to have human settlement. Its remoteness and diverse terrain make this country a nature lovers and traveler’s Eden. The wilderness of forests, dazzling glaciers, sandy beaches, majestic mountains, the islands and lakes, the vivid flora and fauna make the untouched beauty of New Zealand more exquisite. It is tough to decide what places should be among the best destinations in New Zealand:

Coromandel Peninsula

cathedral cove

The North Eastern Peninsula also called the Coromandel Peninsula has many charming sites making it a favored tourist destination. The beaches with their golden and ivory sands provide a picturesque retreat. Hot Water Beach is another place popular among visitors. Thames is a small and quaint city that lies nearby. It has historical significance, owing to the gold mines that operated in this area. Cathedral Cove is another famous site near Hahei Beach. Huge arched cavern joins two secluded coves here and the cathedral like arches give it its name. For snorkelers and scuba divers it is a favored spot, as the Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve provides an extremely rich marine life. A visit to this peninsula allows one to explore its past and to witness the scenic beauty of the area.

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park

Located in the North Island, it is among 28 of the mixed cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The area within the park has varied landscapes, from calm lakes, active volcanoes, wild forests, to desert like stretch of lands. In addition to this the vividness of the flora and fauna, include rare species of birds, insects including moths etc found here make it a must visit tourist spot. The magnificent Taranaki Falls are located a mere 3 km from here. This National Park also provides ample opportunities and facilities to indulge in adventure sports like hiking, trekking, horse riding, rafting, mountain biking etc. in winters skiing and snowboarding are also available here.

Bay of Islands

New Zealand.

It is one of the most famous holiday location and tourist attractions in New Zealand. The Bay of Islands includes 144 islands, which have some of the most spectacular sandy beaches and bays. It is most suitable site for sailing yachts and cruises. The marine life found in this area is extremely rich, it includes whales, penguins, dolphins and many other aquatic organisms. The beaches here provide many beautiful sites to laze around on, or to explore.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

It is located within Fiordland National Park, and is known for its breath taking beauty. The Coastal landscape here is among few of the world’s most stunning and astounding vistas. The cascading waters and the cliffs, the remarkable mountains, the waters and their vivid blue color make it an extremely beautiful site. It was famously called the eighth wonder of the world by Rudyard Kipling, a famous author.

Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island

Some 17km from Auckland, this island of New Zealand is known for its picturesque landscape. There are many activities for tourists to engage in. the beaches on this island provide opportunities for all the beach side activities including sunning, swimming, as well as adventure sports. There are many distinctive museums on the island, including a musical island. The sculpture park, craft shops, eating joints are some other places worth a visit. This island is also popular because of its vineyards, wineries and olive groves that provide some lush green and beautiful vistas. This island is also famous as a gourmet food destination. Various adventure activities are also provided on the island. The island provides something for all kind of travelers.

Sky Tower

Sky Tower

Standing in Auckland, the largest city of New Zealand, the Sky Tower is one of the tallest structures in Southern Hemisphere. It is a 328 m tall observation and telecommunications tower. Various features of this tower include a revolving restaurant, as well as Sky Jump- a 192 m jump from observation deck. It is a prominent presence on the Auckland skyline.

Kaikoura

Located in South Island, this town is a coastal tourist location. The marine life that can be spotted off the shore is very rich, including dolphins, whales, albatross etc. The forest in Kaikoura with its wild and natural qualities provides tourists a chance to explore them on foot. The town is also a delightful place for seafood lovers. The menu here includes such delicacies as Crayfish, blue cod, mussels among others.

Franz  Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier

This glacier is located within Westland National Park. Along with Fox Glacier this is a famous tourist site. Its sheer and striking beauty makes a visit to these glaciers a memorable experience. Added to its beauty is the fact of its easy accessibility. It is possible for visitors to reach the base of these enormous glaciers on foot. Besides a helicopter ride over the glacier also provides one with a sight to behold and remember.

There are many small cities in New Zealand which have unique attributes. Rotorua is a delight for visitors. The geysers and hot springs in the city make it a thermal wonderland. Wai-O-Tapu is a popular tourist attraction. The hot springs here are more famous because of their colorful quality.  Napier is another such place. This city which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1937 was rebuilt along the lines of art deco architecture. The striking architecture of this city makes it unusual when compared with any other city in world.

New Zealand

These by no means exhaust the stunning and scenic destinations in New Zealand. Such locations as Wanaka, Taupo Lake, Marlborough Sound, One Tree Hill, Huka Falls, Coronet Peak are few more beautiful places in New Zealand that offer a lot to nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. The country of New Zealand with some exceptionally scenic locales is bound to add some breath taking and memorable experiences to every traveler’s journey.

Bridging North East India: Caving in Meghalaya



Bridging North East India: Caving in Meghalaya

cave

Meghalaya, the “abode of clouds”, has probably the most diversified tourism options to offer in the entire country. There are waterfalls, lush green sceneries, mountain climbing, boat races, scuba diving and caving. In short, it’s an adventurer’s paradise. Today I’m going to take you into the dark, breathtaking, yet unexplored dungeons of the famous caves of Meghalaya, which now run something up to 1,350 spanning over 387 kilometre in the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo ranges, of which 887 have been explored including the country’s longest Krem Liat Prah. Some of them have been excavated and discovered recently, Mawsmai Caves being the most famous and hospitable of them. Some still lie hidden for centuries now and offer one of the most tempting opportunities for caving enthusiasts, speleologists and explorers from all over the world.

These are the longest, deepest and largest number of caves found in India, so offer a really unique experience of tourism. Most of the caves of these areas were either discovered or surveyed by the Europeans (German, British and Italian).

There has been a rise in the number of commercial tour packages recently offering systematic and guided exploration of these caves, ranging from 10K-70K rupees.  You can find the details, history, geography and background of all the caves nicely explained in the official government website for Meghalaya tourism. All the caves have some kind of peculiar attraction about them. There are varied and beautiful displays of bright colours like blue, orange, red, green, and grey all through the caves making you feel like you have entered some kind of psychedelic parallel universe.

5regcave2

You can probably start with the Mawsmai caves in the Khasi range. It has been fully equipped with electricity and you can start off easy and explore the beautiful patterns made by the action of moving water inside.

The cave Krem Lymput lies about 6 km. from the village of Nongjri. The entrance is hidden in the jungle covered boulders which reveals itself mystically by the cool air. It is a beautiful, charming and another relatively easy cave for tourists to explore.

From the small entrance hole, the main trunk passage runs for about 1 km with inclined walls and ceiling towards west into a passage known as ‘Way to Heaven, which is a very loose and slippery climb. It leads into a series of spacious galleries which are very rich in calcite formations. Here, the great attraction is the very huge and spacious- Mughal Room.

gal_935477313_Liat Prah Cave, Meghalaya, India by hughpenney

Then there’s the Kret Liam Prah which is the longest one in the country, its most prominent feature being its grand trunk passage called the Aircraft Hangar. Then comes the Sinrang Pamiang, which has a wet entrance and is the longest single cave (7.63 km). The cave is very rich in formations coloured in orange, red, black, grey, blue, green and white. The Titanic Hall chamber is one of the most splendidly decorated chambers with thousands of large resplendent cave-pearls lying scattered on the floor. The Krem Lubon has a “phantom cave” type entrance just behind the waterfalls which is pretty cool. Most of the caves are rich in biodiversity, particularly endemic species of Bats and cave-adapted fishes.

Walking down the slope from Tongseng village, you reach a sink which will take you to a very unstable boulder blocking. The downward passage leads to the dream of cavers- big stream-way passages and is called the Krem Umthloo. An ultimate river cave with magnificent formations leaves you enchanted.

caving-001-full

I particularly like the Krem Umkseh; it has a beautiful cave entrance, used as a washing place by the local people and is situated behind the sawmill to the south of the Lumshnong Petrol Station. It is a splendid river cave with lots of formations, and mostly low but wide and crawling size plain passages filled with water.

gal_410807594_Meghalaya Caves 04

The Krem Shrieh (or the Tangnub Monkey cave) lies at the end of a fluted canyon and can be reached by the Tangnub village. It is famous for its peculiar key-hole passages lined with orange mud, giving it a very “artsy” look.

132 km from the Tura falls, the Siju caves are imprssive for their stalagtite and stalagmite formations which fill the expeditors with awe. Next comes the Dagedikol caves which are 18m wide and 12m high, and the entrance leads to a largish meandering stream passage. The cave houses a large population of bats. With 1352m of surveyed length, the cave is still ongoing, and you can be very well a part of it.

The 10th longest cave in the country, the Krem Labit Kseh in the Kopili Valley has fine river passages and beautifully decorated dry relic passages like the Black Diamond Passage and Crystal Gallery. This is one of the very few caves in India that has a profusion of rare gypsum formations resembling flowers.

For the religious, there is the Krem Syndai where the entrance of the cave opens with the impressive proportions. This cave is worshiped by Hindu saints, who come from Nepal. It has some amazing calcite formations.

caves

Krem Chympe, the 5th longest, passes through the Khaddum village and Sielkan. The river cave has large deep caves, so you might have to swim to get through this one. It has a lot of new things waiting to be discovered. Sielkan Pouk acts as a sink to this cave system.

Now that I have given you a rough holistic idea about the main features of some of the most known caves, you can go ahead and explore for yourselves, and may be find out the lesser known ones. Happy Caving!

Santa Monica- the Famous Resort-town of California



Santa Monica- the Famous Resort-town of California

Santa Monica is a beachfront city of South California, near the city of Los Angeles. It is a paradise of famous Hollywood actors and Television stars. It is one of the most expensive real estate in the country. Santa Monica is a superb blend of the excitement and lure of a big city and the essence and calmness of the seashore. It is named after a Christian saint named Monica. It is situated on the Santa Monica Bay. The place is not only just limited to the wealthy and rich communities but is also accessible and warm to the average people. The beach community welcomes all the tourists with open arms. It is a perfect destination to stay and relax when you are visiting California.

santa monica

Santa Monica is a perfect tourist destination, especially for the people who like to travel on foot. It is only 3.6 miles in size and could easily be explored by just walking. Still it has one of the best developed public transportation system. The city is well designed with only 30 blocks so it is difficult to be lost while exploring the area. The city has 8 districts and tourists must take their time to visit each one of them. One of the famous districts is ‘The Bayside District’. It is the city’s primary shopping and dining destination. It has many designer and exclusive stores and boutiques. It’s one of the main attraction is the Santa Monica Place which is the city’s traditional mall. Street artists and entertainers are a common site here. It is a pedestrian only area.

santa_monica_place

Other attractions in the city include The Santa Monica Museum of Art in the Mid- City district. It is known as the centre of arts. It is the abode of many major movie, TV and music companies like Sony, Universal, MTV, etc. It is also famous for its large number of British and Irish pubs. The other districts include the Montana Avenue district which is the most opulent and luxurious place of the city. It is easy to spot a movie star or a celebrity in this area. It has one of the most expensive hotels, restaurant and bars.

The most attractive and famous destination in Santa Monica is the ‘Santa Monica Pier’. It is the home of the traditional amusement park named Pacific Park with old fashioned roller coaster rides at affordable prices. This is the place where you will find the famous ‘Santa Monica Neon Sign’ which one can often spot in movies and TV shows. The place is also a designated place for fishing where you do not need a license for fishing. The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is an attraction for both children and adults alike. It is open for both general public and to student groups. The special events in the aquarium include lectures and lessons of marine and environmental studies for the students and sometimes specially organized story telling events for the kids. The famous restaurants in the Pier include the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company seafood restaurant which is located right at the entry of the Pier and offers a beautiful view of the beaches, oceans and palisades. Other famous restaurants are Meriasol Mexican Restaurant, Rusty’s Surf Ranch Restaurant/Bar, etc.

Santa-Monica-Pier-20415

If you want to visit art galleries and theatres, you may visit the Pico Boulevard district in the southern end of Santa Monica. Here, the theatre and music students show their talent and it is a wonderful breeding place for them. The place also has a wide range of restaurants and bars.

SantaMonicaPierAndBeach

Besides other attractions in Santa Monica, the main reason to visit Santa Monica is the beaches of the city. They introduce the tourists to the healthy lifestyle of California. The most famous beach of Santa Monica is the ‘Santa Monica State Beach’. It is said to enjoy ample sunshine almost whole of the year. It is the most crowded beach of the city, especially in the weekends. Throughout the year the beach is filled with bare bodies covered in sand. But despite the overcrowded state of the beach and so many visitors, the city authorities manage to keep the beach clean and attractive.  Other things to enjoy at the beach apart from sunbathing and swimming include the Bike Path and Chess Park.

The Bike Path is 22 miles long and is the longest beach path of its kind. All types of non-motorized wheeled vehicles are allowed on it. For those who enjoy biking, often ride along the path to enjoy the beautiful view of the beaches of the city. The other attraction of the beach is the Santa Monica’s Chess Park. Here, the people daily witness some high anxiety chess games. It attracts a lot of talented and superb chess players and viewers from all over the place. The human scale chess board built on the sidewalk also had become a fancy for the kids. Among other attractive beaches of the city include ‘The Muscle Beach’. It is the favourite destination of the fitness freak people. The beach is equipped with best fitness machines and is a hang out place for fitness icons like Jack LaLane and Joe Gold, founder of Gold’s Gym.

promenade-fountain

Santa Monica is a great shopping destination too. The main shopping areas include Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica Place, Venice Beach Boardwalk, Montana Avenue and Malibu Country Mart. The choices for shopping in the city are very diverse and they range from traditional style of retail to the eclectic designer boutiques.

The Santa Monica city is generally safe to roam around, but it is still advised to use one’s common sense and be in a crowded area at night and avoid deserted creepy places. The city has the highest population of homeless people but they do not pose any threat to the tourists or common people. The crime rate is low in the city due the presence of a vigilant police force.

History, Heritage: The Architectural Attractions in Sweden



History, Heritage: The Architectural Attractions in Sweden

Sweden and particularly its capital Stockholm is known for its varied and stunning architectural landmarks. These buildings and structures dating as far back as 16th century provide a grand look to the Swedish skyline. A visit to these monuments will provide any tourist with sights to behold, and all history enthusiasts with a lot to explore. Some of the major architectural sites worth visiting include:

Stockholm Palace

Stockholm Palace

Located on Stadsholmen in the Old Town in Stockholm, the construction of this Royal Palace took place from 1697 to 1760. It also serves as the official residence of the Swedish Monarchy. Riksdag building and Stockholm Cathedral lie nearby. The oldest constructions at this site date back to 13th century. In 16th century it was renovated keeping the Renaissance style in mind. The current structures were built during 1690s and have heavy baroque influences. With 1430 rooms, it is one of the largest Royal Palaces in the world. Some of the most important and beautiful parts of the palace’s interiors include The Treasure Chamber (stores the Swedish Crown Jewels), White Sea (The State Ball Room), Lynx Yard ( a small and stunning garden between two wings). The palace Church within the palace dates back to 1740s. Sculpture of lions which are inspired by the Medici lions, stand on the northern side. This also gives the area its name, Lion’s Slope. There are two museums within the palace, Museum of antiques which contains ancient Italian structures, and Tre Kronor Museum located in the oldest rooms in the Palace. It is a grand and stunning site.

Stockholm City Hall

Stockholm City Hall

Stadshuset, as it is locally called, was finished in 1923. It stands facing the islands of Riddarholmen and Sodermalm. Today it is used as the Municipal Council for the City of Stockholm. This Hall also functions as the venue for the Nobel Prize Banquet. As the bricks used in its construction were generally used in monasteries and churches, they were called monk’s bricks. Some 8 million of these red monk’s bricks were used for the Hall’s construction. Its architectural style makes it a popular tourist attraction as it includes both North European brick construction as well as the elements of Venetian architecture. Stadshuset has a spacious layout, with a piazza called Borgargarden on the east and Blue Hall on the west. Blue Hall is the dining Hall used for the banquet held after annual Nobel Prize Ceremony. The Blue Hall was originally intended to have blue decorations, but though the architect’s plans and designs changed, the name was retained.

Golden Hall

Golden Hall lies above the Blue Hall. 18 million tiles are used in this Hall to create ornamental mosaic depicting Swedish history.  The structure is a visual delight for all the visitors.

Nordic Museum

Nordic Museum

Established in 1873, this museum showcases the cultural and ethnographic past of Sweden, dating as far back as 1520s. These collections depict both the peasant as well as the urban lifestyle in Sweden in the centuries gone by. The building is not based on Swedish models; rather it is influenced by Dutch Renaissance architectural style. The huge main hall, and the enormous sculpture of King Gustav Vasa, along with the collections displayed here, makes a visit to this Museum worthwhile.

Swedish Museum of Natural History

Built in 1916, and designed by Axel Anderberg, this building is located in Stockholm. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences founded this museum in 1819. The collections displayed here date back to 1739. It also houses the largest planetarium in Sweden, called Cosmonova. This is one place that is equally fascinating for the historically as well as the scientifically inclined.

German Church

german church sweden

Situated in the old town in Stockholm, the German Church is known as Tyska Kyrkan locally. It is dedicated to Saint Gertrude who is said to be the patron saint of travelers. The spire and the brick steeple of the church form an 86 m tall structure. Gargoyles depicting grotesque animal figures are also a part of church’s architecture; they are influenced mostly by the nuances of Gothic Revival. The northern and southern sides have statues of Saint Gertrude, Jesus and Moses. The interior of the church is done in Baroque style. The white vaults, the wine cellars, the painted windows, 10 m tall altar and the king’s gallery, the stunning carvings on the stairs that lead to the golden-green structure of king’s gallery, the painting on the ceiling, all make this church a structure replete with beauty, spirituality and history.

Drottningholm Palace

Drottningholm Palace

Built in 16th century, Drottningholm literally means the Queen’s islet. This palace was inspired by the Palace of Versailles and toady it serves as the Swedish Royal Family’s private residence. It is included in the list of UNESCO world heritage sites owing to its beauty and its superbly maintained original features and styles. The interior of this palace is done in the French rococo style. Palace Church dates back to 1740s; the church has traditional and ancient tapestries, as well as a Cahman organ from 1730 that is still in use. Palace Theater is the opera house located at the palace. The summer opera festivals hosted here are quite popular. The palace gardens are well maintained and picturesque. They are a famous tourist attraction. The Baroque Garden dates back to the 17th century. The English Garden has a beautiful layout with ponds, bridges, and antique statues (such as that of Diana) interspersed among the lawns and flowers.

Stockholm (2)

Riddarholmen (or the Knight’s islet) which contains several Palaces, the Royal Burial Church, Old historical government buildings is also worth a visit. The views of Stockholm from this small island are magnificent. Royal Dramatic Theater or Dramaten built in 1908 is another spectacular building. It helps one trace down the fascinating history of Swedish theater and plays, in addition to its historical and architectural value.

Stockholm as Sweden’s capital is a major center of cultural and political interests and activities. This town is equally magnificent and photogenic owing to its specimens of architectural brilliance and beauty. These architectural specimens stand today as a reminder of Sweden’s glorious past, and provide the travelers with a chance to explore it for themselves.