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The must-visit winter travel destinations

<p dir="ltr">As winter rolls around, many people are looking to flee the confines of their chilly homes and routines in search of sunshine and adventure. </p> <p dir="ltr">Aussies have been already planning their getaways to follow the sun, as <a href="about:blank">Booking.com</a>'s latest search data has revealed the top ten international holiday spots for this year.</p> <p dir="ltr">The results show that while many travellers are heading to tropical destinations this winter, others are searching for a different kind of holiday. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>10. Kuta, Bali</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While Bali has long been a popular tourist destination for Aussies, many chose to head to Indonesia to enjoy the sandy beaches and escape the winter chill. </p> <p dir="ltr">With winter temperatures hovering around 25°C each day, there's no better place to escape the cold.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>9. Paris, France</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">In 2024, Paris is on many people’s travel lists ahead of the Olympics in July. </p> <p dir="ltr">With charming restaurants, trendy boutiques, chic cafes, and amazing museums on offer, as well as warm temps, there’s no better time to head to Paris. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>8. Ubud, Bali</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Another Bali region to make the list, Ubud is an inland paradise amongst rice paddies and lush jungle.</p> <p dir="ltr">The food heaven destination is also known for its gorgeous climate, making it a perfect holiday spot. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>7. Queenstown, New Zealand</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">For those who don’t want to venture too far from home, Queenstown is an amazing spot for anyone seeking an active holiday.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the only spot on the list which isn't about escaping winter, Queenstown - and New Zealand in general - is often visited by keen skiers and those looking to amplify their winter travels. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>6. Canggu, Bali</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Another Bali spot making the list, Canggu is a beachside area surrounded by terraced rice paddies and known for good surf.</p> <p dir="ltr">Accommodation in the area ranges from beachside villas and gorgeous guesthouses, with something for everyone. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Singapore</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While Singapore has long been a default stopover city for travellers on their way to Europe, it's also a great destination in its own right.</p> <p dir="ltr">With a stunning mix of old town charm and modern skyscrapers, it's the perfect place for a mid-week getaway or long weekend.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. Legian, Bali</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Legian Beach is right next to the popular spot Kuta, though is a bit more relaxed and laid-back, and perfect for travellers who want to chill out.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to booking.com, Legian has become increasingly popular with travellers in the last year.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. London, England</strong> </p> <p dir="ltr">For anyone embarking on a Euro summer, London is a must-see destination for any keen traveller.</p> <p dir="ltr">There's something in London for everyone, from amazing museums and sprawling markets, to iconic landmarks and rich history.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Tokyo, Japan</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While tourism in Japan has surged in recent years, there’s a good reason why, as many travellers are flocking to the nation to experience its rich culture. </p> <p dir="ltr">On top of it being an affordable destination, the unique experience has Aussies heading to Japan in droves, with Tokyo seeing a 25 per cent search increase among Aussies in the last year. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Seminyak, Bali</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Unsurprisingly, a Bali destination has topped the list, as Seminyak offers luxury hotels and villas, high-end dining, and famous beach clubs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Located between Canggu and Kuta, Seminyak has long hosted thousands of tourists looking to escape the cold, with travellers and locals alike basking in the picturesque sunsets. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p>

International Travel

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Qantas connects two destinations for the first time in 50 years

<p>Qantas has announced a new international route that will see Aussies connected to a popular holiday destination for the first time in 50 years. </p> <p>Two return flights will operate each week between Sydney and Papua New Guinea's Port Moresby, adding to the service already running to the island nation from Brisbane. </p> <p>“These flights will meet the growing demand from the business community for travel between Australia and Papua New Guinea,” Cam Wallace, CEO of Qantas International and Freight, said. </p> <p>“Our new Sydney service will save customers at least three hours in travel time on return trip by avoiding a stopover in Brisbane.”</p> <p>The route is the latest international service to be added to Qantas’ network out of Sydney, with the airline suggesting it will support both business and trade between Australia and Papua New Guinea.</p> <p>Trailing behind island nations such as Fiji and Indonesia, Papua New Guinea's tourism industry is steadily growing in popularity largely due to containing the world’s third largest rainforest, crystal clear waters, and 45,000km of coral reefs.</p> <p>As the number of annual travellers to PNG increases, so does accommodation options, with Marriott International announcing earlier this year that they would be expanding their accommodation into Papua New Guinea, marketing those wishing to have an “extended stay”.</p> <p>“We are thrilled to establish our inaugural foothold in Papua New Guinea with this milestone opening”, said Sean Hunt, area vice-president of Australia, New Zealand and Pacific for Marriott International, in a statement.</p> <p>“This is also a debut for the Marriott Executive Apartments brand in the region, allowing us to diversify our offering to cater to ambitious and adventurous travellers who seek a premium, trusted extended-stay experience.”</p> <p>While the new tourism initiatives have been put in place to help boost the economy of PNG, Papua New Guinea currently has travel advisory warnings in place, with SmartTraveller urging visitors to “exercise a high degree of caution in Papua New Guinea overall due to high levels of serious crime, with “higher levels” applying in some areas.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p>

International Travel

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Seasoned travellers share the most underwhelming tourist attractions

<p dir="ltr">When it comes to travelling the world, there are always places and attractions that have been overhyped by those who travelled there before. </p> <p dir="ltr">While some places are known as hotspots for a reason, others can fail to deliver. </p> <p dir="ltr">Sharing some of their experiences, a group of travel writers have shared stories of the times they were left feeling deflated while travelling the world. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Mona Lisa, Paris, France</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While most travellers who visit the world-famous Louvre museum in Paris are destined to join the hoards of people to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, others have dubbed her underwhelming. </p> <p dir="ltr">According to one travel writer at <em>Stuff Travel</em>, the small dimensions of da Vinci’s masterwork make it difficult to see. </p> <p dir="ltr">They wrote, “You either need to BYO ladder or be over six feet tall to even catch a glimpse over the hordes of tourists waving their cellphones.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“A security barrier also means that it's impossible to appreciate the finer details of the hyper-realistic work - which essentially defeats the point altogether.”</p> <p dir="ltr">They concluded by writing that despite being ‘the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world’, the Mona Lisa is also one of the world's biggest letdowns.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Playa del Carmen, Mexico</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Located in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, this vibrant tourist hotspot is a treat for the senses, or, as others have called it, an overstimulating nightmare. </p> <p dir="ltr">A combination of the blazing heat, suffocating humidity, loud clubs, and seemingly endless floods of tourists, this vibrant destination is not for the faint of heart. </p> <p dir="ltr">One seasoned traveller admitted that while some might find the holiday spot idyllic, for those searching for somewhere a bit less overstimulating, “head a little bit further south to Tulum”. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>That Wānaka Tree, New Zealand</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">One of New Zealand's most popular tourist hotspots, especially on social media, is the picturesque Wānaka tree, located on the South Island. </p> <p dir="ltr">A travel writer made the trip to NZ with her sister to view the stunning landscape, but both women were left severely underwhelmed when they arrived. </p> <p dir="ltr">“From the carpark, over the bridge and down the trail to the lakeside to find That Wānaka Tree had not a single leaf. "Is that it?" my sister blurts out. I must agree, was that it?” the seasoned traveller wrote. </p> <p dir="ltr">“A true case of Instagram versus reality.” </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

International Travel

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The best countries for food lovers to visit

<p dir="ltr">When it comes to travelling, one of the best things about exploring a new place is sampling the local cuisine. </p> <p dir="ltr">From cafes adored by locals and the best of fine dining, to charming markets and unassuming but delicious street food, discovering a country’s culture through their food is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in all the world has to offer. </p> <p dir="ltr">According to TripAdvisor’s 2024 Traveller's Choice Awards, some cities are better than others for foodies, with their top ten list showcasing the best destinations for lovers of food. </p> <p dir="ltr">Coming in hot in the number one spot for foodies to visit is the city of Hanoi, situated in the north of Vietnam. </p> <p dir="ltr">With a plethora of street food, fresh markets, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, you won't be leaving hungry in this popular tourist destination. </p> <p dir="ltr">The national dish of Vietnam, a noodle soup called Pho, is a speciality for visitors to fall in love with, and compare between the hundreds of restaurants that offer the delicious meal. </p> <p dir="ltr">Other foods to try there include banh mi, rice pancakes, and Bun cha, or Vietnamese meatballs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Check out the entire top 10 list of foodie destinations below. </p> <p dir="ltr">10. Phuket, Thailand </p> <p dir="ltr">9. Lisbon, Portugal </p> <p dir="ltr">8. New Orleans, Louisiana, USA</p> <p dir="ltr">7. Barcelona, Spain</p> <p dir="ltr">6. New Delhi, India </p> <p dir="ltr">5. Florence, Italy</p> <p dir="ltr">4. Cusco, Peru</p> <p dir="ltr">3. Crete, Greece</p> <p dir="ltr">2. Rome, Italy</p> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">1. Hanoi, Vietnam</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

International Travel

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The most welcoming cities in the world revealed

<p>Travel experts at booking.com have shared the top ten most welcoming cities in the world for 2024. </p> <p>In their 12th edition of of the Traveller Review Awards, booking.com shared their picks for the most inviting countries, giving eager travellers new destinations to add to their 2024 holiday bucket list. </p> <p>To determine what cities made the list, nooking.com used more than 309 million verified customer reviews from their site, with the frontrunners of the list boasting exceptional hospitality in all areas. </p> <p>Coming in at the coveted first place is Arraial d’Ajuda in Brazil: a charming beach town known for its calm and serene atmosphere.</p> <p>According to Booking.com’s report, Arraial d’Ajuda is the perfect destination for 67% of travellers who want to rest and recharge when traveling. </p> <p>One small Aussie town made the list, with Daylesford, Victoria coming in at the number four spot. </p> <p>The sleepy but lovely town in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range offers plenty of nature nearby to explore for those looking to switch off. </p> <p>With classic Aussie pubs, great local food, fun shops to explore, and welcoming residents, it's an ideal weekend getaway spot.</p> <p>Check out the entire top 10 list below. </p> <p>1. Arraial d’Ajuda, Brazil</p> <p>2. Ermoupoli, Greece</p> <p>3. Viana do Castelo, Portugal</p> <p>4. Daylesford, Australia</p> <p>5. Grindelwald, Switzerland</p> <p>6. Moab, United States</p> <p>7. Uzès, France</p> <p>8. Mazatlán, Mexico</p> <p>9. Jaisalmer, India</p> <p>10. Fujikawaguchiko, Japan</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images / Shutterstock</em></p>

International Travel

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Your choice of holiday destination is a political act

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/brendan-canavan-228682">Brendan Canavan</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-huddersfield-1226">University of Huddersfield</a></em></p> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCDd7hl3tLw">Tickets, money, passports!</a> We all know what to check for during that last minute packing panic. But preparing for your holidays is about more than what you squeeze into your suitcase. It is about making a political choice.</p> <p>Tourism is an industry tied up with national and international politics like no other. Tourists are a source of foreign exchange, governments promote themselves through visitors, and politicians quite often worry about the social freedom that tourism can nurture. For these reasons tourists are both courted and scapegoated.</p> <p>At the most basic level tourism counts as an export industry. It is a source of foreign currency and can help to prop up a nation financially.</p> <p>However, local people often see few of the benefits of hosting tourists. Large organisations tend to control much of the tourism industry. These frequently pay little in the way of <a href="https://www.taxjustice.net/2015/11/09/guest-blog-sun-sea-sand-tourism-and-fantasy-finance/">local taxes</a>. Meanwhile local people shoulder much of the burden of sharing their space and facilities with visitors.</p> <p>Some <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09669582.2016.1206112">indigenous people</a> have asked foreign tourists to stay away. They have argued that tourism is threatening their culture, damaging their land’s ecosystems, and is a form of colonialism. In <a href="http://files.hawaii.gov/dbedt/visitor/sustainable-tourism-project/drafts/Native-Hawaiian-Impact-Report.pdf">Hawaii</a>, attempts are being made to reconcile some of the issues arising from the tourism industry over-exploiting an open and hospitable native culture.</p> <p>Where you spend your holiday money therefore contributes to legitimising particular politicians and their policies. However, tourists don’t just bring money into a destination. They also bring social and cultural inputs.</p> <p>Tourism has been associated with liberalising social values, empowering minorities, and even spreading democracy. In Spain, for example, the growth of tourism, initiated under the dictator, Francisco Franco, as a means of propping up an ailing economy, has been suggested as helping to usher in democratic change.</p> <p>Hosts and guests <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261517715300224">exchange observations and ideas</a>. They form relationships. And they stimulate <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261517705000865">mutual creativity</a>. It is only in the past 20 years that China began to allow its people to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/05/only-governments-can-stem-tide-of-tourism-sweeping-the-globe">freely travel abroad</a> after decades of forced isolation. Politicians are frequently fearful of the subversive ideas and awkward questions that travellers might bring back with them.</p> <p>A residual mistrust of tourists can see them scapegoated by politicians looking to place convenient blame. <a href="http://web.mit.edu/11.951/oldstuff/albacete/Course%20Reader/Culture%20and%20History/Tremlett%202006%20Chapter%204.pdf">In Barcelona</a>, a city dependent on tourism for its late 20th-century revival, tourists are being made increasingly unwelcome. They are blamed for increasing costs of living for residents, rather than the broader challenges of inequality and financial stagnation that raise uncomfortable questions about local political capacity.</p> <h2>Image control</h2> <p>Tourism is also a way for governments to assert their ideologies – internally and externally. Visitors to <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g147271-d147980-Reviews-Museum_of_the_Revolution_Museo_de_la_Revolucion-Havana_Ciudad_de_la_Habana_Provinc.html">Cuba</a> for example, can visit the Museum of the Revolution, reportedly one of the top things to do in Havana.</p> <p>Research has shown that the exhibits <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160738399001152">sold as heritage</a> to tourists prioritise certain specific stories and can silence others. Over time the official narrative becomes established and other perspectives may be forgotten. <a href="https://historicengland.org.uk/whats-new/news/england-queer-history-recognised-recorded-celebrated">Historic England</a> has, for example, recently begun to try and include the often overlooked queer history of many heritage sites.</p> <p>Meanwhile tourism can be a means of raising and modifying a country’s image on the world stage. Israel has for many years used gay tourism to soften its international image by making the country seem progressive in a part of the world which generally is not. Dubai has established itself in the same region as a deluxe playground filled with sights and indulgence like nowhere else.</p> <p>However, the commitments of both of these destination’s governments to the touristic image they sell is debateable. LGBTQ people in Israel recently had restrictions placed upon their <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/protests-erupt-israel-lgbt-surrogacy-law-approved-1034931">right to surrogacy</a> by their parliament. Meanwhile Dubai is well known for its cases of people facing severe judicial sentences for acts as innocuous as accidentally <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/22/briton-jailed-for-three-months-in-dubai-for-touching-mans-hip">brushing another man’s bum</a>.</p> <h2>Having a better holiday</h2> <p>On the one hand the image sold to tourists is often not the same as the reality faced by like-minded people living within a country. On the other, tourists may themselves be expected to conform to regulations they would not agree with or accept back home.</p> <p>The power of tourism is not lost on political actors. Recently the Chinese government successfully put <a href="https://theconversation.com/taiwan-how-airlines-are-being-dragged-into-chinas-bitter-dispute-over-the-islands-sovereignty-100932">pressure on international airlines</a> to stop referring to Taiwan as a country or face retaliation.</p> <p>Tourists should not leave it up to politicians to exploit their desire for exploration for self-interested purposes. We need to appreciate our power as consumers; supporting destinations that celebrate tourism as a means of mutually rewarding host-guest exchanges and boycotting those which do not. Tourists have a lot of potential influence. They should use it to hold politicians to account.</p> <p>So there are a few things to consider when planning your holiday. Find out whether your travel provider committed to investing in local taxes, jobs and suppliers. Research the attitudes of local residents towards tourism beforehand in order that you can be a better guest. Bring back more than a nice tan by swapping ideas, stories and phone numbers. Check the public image of a destination matches its private one and don’t support hypocrites. And finally, be aware of politicians using tourism to bully those with whom they don’t agree – and be prepared to call them out.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/100846/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/brendan-canavan-228682"><em>Brendan Canavan</em></a><em>, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-huddersfield-1226">University of Huddersfield</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/your-choice-of-holiday-destination-is-a-political-act-100846">original article</a>.</em></p>

International Travel

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“Take official warnings seriously”: Aussies warned to not travel to surprising destination

<p dir="ltr">Australian travellers have been urged to exercise caution if they are planning to visit a popular Scandinavian tourist destination. </p> <p dir="ltr">The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have warned Aussies to use “a high degree of caution in Sweden due to the threat of terrorism” in its official travel advisory for the country.</p> <p dir="ltr">The warning comes as Sweden has the country has seen a surge in racial and religious tensions, with violence escalating after anti-Islam activists publicly burned and damaged copies of the Islamic sacred text, the Quran.</p> <p dir="ltr">As a result of the violence, Australia's official <a href="https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/europe/sweden" target="_blank" rel="noopener">SmartTraveller website</a> has placed the Scandinavian country on a Level Two alert, which means visitors need to be more cautious than normal.</p> <p dir="ltr">The warning does not include urging travellers to reconsider a trip or being told not to go to a destination. </p> <p dir="ltr">“You should maintain a high level of vigilance in public spaces,” the website says.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Since the beginning of 2023, there's been an increase in public burnings of the Quran, which has led to a deterioration in the security situation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“The Swedish Government has assessed the risk of terrorism as an 'elevated threat', equivalent to a threat level of 3 out of 5.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“This rating means an attack could happen. Take official warnings seriously.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The website offers some further advice to “protect yourself from terrorism”, including avoiding places that could be terrorist targets (such as airports, travel hubs, tourism hotspots and places of worship), avoiding visiting such places at peak times and having “a clear exit plan if there's a security incident”.</p> <p dir="ltr">Travellers are also advised to “consider the level of security around you”, report suspicious items to police, and monitor official advice and media assessments.</p> <p dir="ltr">Australia is not alone in classifying Sweden as a more dangerous country for tourists, as the UK's Home Office has warned terrorist attacks “could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners”, while the US Department of State says terrorist groups “continue plotting possible attacks in Sweden”.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

International Travel

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4 seemingly boring cities worth visiting

<p>They might not have all the flashy bells and whistles of the world’s top tourist destinations, but these ‘boring’ cities actually make for excellent travel destinations.</p> <p><strong>1. Geneva, Switzerland</strong></p> <p>Switzerland regularly tops polls for the best country to live in or the happiest country in the world. Yet for many travellers, the fact that it’s a great place to live doesn’t seem to translate into a great place to visit. Sure, a city that’s known for making watches and housing the UN doesn’t sound like it would be much fun, but we think it’s definitely worth a visit. First of all it’s beautiful, strung gently around the shores of Europe’s largest alpine lake. A multicultural population makes for friendly people and good dining, and the high-end shopping is among the best in the world (even if you can only afford the window variety).</p> <p><strong>2. Adelaide, South Australia</strong></p> <p>Poor Adelaide, always the butt of Australian jokes. People claim that it’s woefully backward, has no culture and is full of bogans. The mayor of Melbourne even said it has so little going for it that it should be shut down. We disagree. Adelaide is an elegant colonial capital surrounded by acres of lush parkland and gorgeous beaches, and it’s home to an emerging small bar scene to rival any other Australian city. Then you’ve got the incredible wineries of the Adelaide hills, which are reason enough to put this South Australian gem on your list.</p> <p><strong>3. Brussels, Belgium</strong></p> <p>A TripAdvisor survey found Brussels to be the most boring city in Europe and it’s a sentiment that most experts agree with. As the ‘capital of Europe’ and the seat of the EU, most people regard Brussels as a centre for boring political types and not travellers. Look beyond that though and you’ll find a fascinating city filled with hidden architectural marvels, a buzzing café scene and a contented population living a very good life. And then there’s all the delicious chocolate, waffles and beer you can eat. What’s not to love?</p> <p><strong>4. Toronto, Canada</strong></p> <p>Toronto has always been happy to accept its boringness and leave the flashy, good-time fame to cities like Vancouver or Montreal. Not anymore. The city has undergone enormous growth in recent years and has emerged as a prosperous, stylish, well-adjusted destination that that is emblematic of the ‘new Canada’.  Toronto is one of the country’s most multicultural cities, so you can eat and drink your way around the world, and the shopping is equally good. It’s Canada’s largest city, but still manages to be arguably the safest city in North America.</p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><strong>Related links:</strong></p> <p><a href="../travel/international/2016/09/10-stunning-shrines-and-temples-to-visit-in-kyoto/"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em><strong>10 stunning shrines and temples to visit in Kyoto</strong></em></span></a></p> <p><a href="../travel/international/2016/08/magical-french-region-of-alsace/"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>France’s Alsace is like something from a fairy-tale</em></span></strong></a></p> <p><a href="../travel/international/2016/08/10-of-the-most-enchanting-churches-in-france/"><strong><em><span style="text-decoration: underline;">10 of the most enchanting churches in France</span></em></strong></a></p>

International Travel

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The safest travel destinations for women revealed

<p dir="ltr">With travel back on the cards for many after years of being confined to exploring no further than our own backyards, many are opting to head out on a journey of self-discovery. </p> <p dir="ltr">Eager travellers are setting out on their own ‘eat pray love’ holiday, and for a lot of people, heading abroad solo is the best way to discover a new place. </p> <p dir="ltr">However, for some, travelling alone can be a daunting prospect, especially for those less travelled and for women, who are unfortunately, often the target of unwanted attention. </p> <p dir="ltr">Luckily, travel experts at <a href="https://www.kipling.com/uk-en/live-light/europes-leading-city-escapes-for-solo-female-travellers/">Kipling</a> have released their first ever Solo Female Traveller Index, which considers female safety, the global gender gap, attractions, group activities, and other travel factors to rank Europe's best solo travel destinations. </p> <p dir="ltr">This list was topped by two thriving destinations in Germany, with the city of Hamburg taking out the top spot. </p> <p dir="ltr">For travellers seeking a solo trip which promises vibrant cultural experiences, a thriving food scene and iconic architecture, look no further than this waterborne gem.</p> <p dir="ltr">Second to Hamburg in Kipling’s index came Munich, another Bavarian gem, which is frequently rated one of the safest countries in the world. </p> <p dir="ltr">Famed for its annual Oktoberfest, Munich is a world-leading city for beer gardens, street food stalls, green spaces, and excellent public transport system, making it easy to visit the city’s iconic spots, including Munich’s iconic Nymphenburg Palace or New Town Hall.</p> <p dir="ltr">The rest of Kipling’s list features capital cities that appear on many people’s travel bucket lists, alongside lesser travelled picturesque places. Check out the top ten list below. </p> <ol> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Hamburg, Germany</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Munich, Germany</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Edinburgh, Scotland</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Faro, Portugal</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Dublin, Ireland</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Prague, Czech Republic</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Heraklion, Crete (Greece)</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Helsinki, Finland</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Kraków, Poland</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Zurich, Switzerland</p> </li> </ol> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Travel Tips

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10 horror travel stories that will make you think twice about that destination

<p>From terrorist attacks and natural disasters to good old-fashioned scams, you might want to think twice about that next holiday.</p> <p><strong>1. A very expensive meal, Vietnam</strong></p> <p>Last year an Aussie tourist was charged around $40,000 for a single meal at a restaurant in Vietnam after the manager fraudulently used his credit card.  A staff member swiped the diner’s credit card numerous times after he told him there had been an error. In reality he was taking a large sum of money straight from his account.</p> <p><strong>2. Honeymooner murdered in paradise, Mauritius</strong></p> <p>Mauritius is one of the world’s top honeymoon destinations. But in 2011 27 year old newlywed Michaela McAreavey was strangled in the bathtub of her room. Two hotel workers were charged though were eventually cleared, meaning the crime has never been solved. Tragically, her body was returned to Ireland and she was buried in her wedding dress at the same church where she had been married just 12 days before.</p> <p><strong>3. In flight toilet nightmare, Los Angeles</strong></p> <p>A Virgin Australia flight from Los Angeles to Sydney was forced to turn around after one of the toilets exploded, sending water and waste pouring into the aisles. The smell was so bad that passengers were given face masks to wear and had to wait at least three hours before they could land again at LAX.</p> <p><strong>4. Hotel terrorist attack, India</strong></p> <p>In 2008 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic militant organisation based in Pakistan carried out a series of coordinated terrorist attacks over four days in Mumbai. Two of the locations targeted were hotels, the Taj Mahal Palace and the Oberoi Trident with a number of hostages taken, including foreign tourists. 61 people were killed in the hotels, with 166 killed around the city.</p> <p><strong>5. Britons contract Zika, Florida</strong></p> <p>In 2016, the Zika virus was all over the news though many people assumed the danger was restricted to South America. However, two unlucky British tourists travelling to the state of Florida contracted the disease. Zika has been linked to serious birth defects microencephaly, which limits brain development.</p> <p><strong>6. Thousands die in Boxing Day tsunami, Asia</strong></p> <p>On Boxing Day in 2004 a 9.2 magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of Sumatra. The resulting tsunami killed an estimated 230,000 people across 14 countries in Southeast Asia. Among the dead were around 2,000 foreign tourists who had been holidaying in the coastal resorts of the region. Germany and Sweden were the worst effected, making up around 1,000 of the casualties.</p> <p><strong>7. Corrupt police demand huge bribes, Bali</strong></p> <p>The Indonesian island of Bali is the most popular international destination for Australian tourists. But for one group of men it quickly became a nightmare. The 16 men were celebrating a bucks party when police and private guards burst into their restaurant, tasered and pistol whipped them, and demanded $25,000 in ‘fines’. The men were told they faced 10 years jail if they didn’t pay up.</p> <p><strong>8. Gunman storms a casino, Philippines</strong></p> <p>At least 37 people were killed and many more injured in June 2017 when a gunman stormed into the gaming floor of Resorts World Manila, setting fire to gaming tables with gasoline. Most of the casualties died due to smoke inhalation and suffocation, and the gunman was also killed. Authorities said his motivation was robbery, not terrorism.</p> <p><strong>9. Unexplained deaths on Koh Tao, Thailand</strong></p> <p>One of Thailand’s most popular islands, the diving paradise of Koh Tao, has earned the name ‘Death Island’ after a number of unexplained cases in recent years. At least eight foreigners have been killed or died under mysterious circumstances since 2014. Many people accuse the corrupt Thai police for failing to adequately investigate the cases.</p> <p><strong>10. Tragic death in a water tank, Los Angeles</strong></p> <p>In February 2013 guests at the Hotel Cecil in downtown LA began complaining that the tap water had a strange colour and taste, and there was little pressure. Little did they know that the decomposing body of 21 year old Canadian tourist Elisa Lam was floating in the water tank on the roof. Elisa, who had bipolar disorder, had been in the tank for 18 days. Her death has never been explained, though there is security footage of her behaving strangely prior to going missing.</p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Travel Trouble

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10 amazing abandoned sites around the world

<p>For every perfectly-manicured tourist attraction around the world, there are scores more that haven’t been touched in years, yet still draw thousands of curious thrill-seekers who aren’t afraid of a bit of dust (and maybe a few ghosts!). Take a look at these incredible abandoned places that are definitely worth a visit – but only if you’re game.</p> <ol start="1"> <li><strong>Chateau Miranda, Belgium</strong> – an imposing castle built in 1866 but abandoned in 1991 after becoming too expensive to maintain.</li> <li><strong>Kolmanskop, Namibia</strong> – a German settlement established in the early 20th century to mine for diamonds, but which has been a ghost town since the ‘50s.</li> <li><strong>Teufelsberg, Germany</strong> – the “Devil’s Mountain” is a manmade hill in Berlin created out of rubble from WWII and home to a former US National Security Agency (NSA) listening station.</li> <li><strong>House-Monument of the Bulgaria Communist Party, Bulgaria</strong> – it looks like it’s straight out of a sci-fi film, but in its heyday, this structure was the meeting place of communist leaders.</li> <li><strong>Garnet Ghost Town, USA</strong> – this remote town in Montana was built to house those rushing to the state during the gold rush, but these days, the mines are empty and so are the houses.</li> <li><strong>Ross Island, India</strong> – this British Administrative Centre was abandoned after a serious earthquake in 1941. It now lies in overgrown yet beautiful ruins.</li> <li><strong>Wonderland Amusement Park, China</strong> – construction on Beijing’s answer to Disneyland stopped after land disputes, so all that’s left is the surreal shell to a Disney-esque castle.</li> <li><strong>SS Ayrfield, Australia</strong> – right in the middle of Homebush Bay lies this floating relic of the past, covered in beautiful greenery.</li> <li><strong>Villa Epecuén, Argentina</strong> – from the 1920s to 1985, this Buenos Aires village was a popular tourist destination, after a flood forced both residents and visitors out for good.</li> <li><strong>Gouqi Island, China</strong> – on the banks of the Yangtze River lies this beautiful forgotten fishing village, filled with ivy-covered homes reminiscent of old European towns.</li> </ol> <p><em>Images: Shutterstock</em></p>

International Travel

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8 surprising alternatives to popular European destinations

<p>That’s the problem with great destinations – they become too popular for their own good. So we’ve found some alternatives that are just as good.</p> <p><strong>Instead of: Croatia</strong></p> <p><strong>Try: Montenegro</strong></p> <p>The yacht set have known about Montenegro’s charms for years, but the rest of the world is just getting onboard. Sitting just south of Croatia, the country shares its same gorgeous coastline, beautiful beaches and historic walled cities, but with hardly any of the crowds. It’s sat at the border of east and west for more than 400 years, so expect a fascinating cultural mix and even a unique communist legacy thrown in.</p> <p><strong>Instead of: Prague</strong></p> <p><strong>Try: Brno</strong></p> <p>Hard to pronounce, easy to love. The Czech Republic’s second city is a winning combination of old and new. Baroque cathedrals and historic houses rub shoulders with lively pubs, trendy cocktail bars and contemporary art museums. Plus, as with all of the Czech Republic, Brno is great value – and you won’t come across any of the UK bucks parties that seem to trawl other capitals in Eastern Europe.</p> <p><strong>Instead of: Cinque Terre</strong></p> <p><strong>Try: Rapallo</strong></p> <p>There’s no denying that the Cinque Terre is stunning – provided you can find a hotel in high season. Instead, head around 50 kilometres north along the coast to the charming town of Rapallo. You’ll find the same brightly coloured buildings, a 16<sup>th</sup> century castle perched above the sea and pebbly beaches lined with retro changing huts. All this for a fraction of the price.</p> <p><strong>Instead of: Canary Islands</strong></p> <p><strong>Try: Azores</strong></p> <p>These Portuguese islands sit around 2,000 kilometres off the west coast of continental Europe, so they’re something of a hidden gem. They miss out on most of the tacky package tours from the UK and have less of a party vibe than other islands in the Med. Referred to as the Hawaii of the Atlantic, you’ll find a landscape volcanic peaks and dramatic crater lakes while offshore there’s world-class surfing, diving and whale watching.</p> <p><strong>Instead of: Florence</strong></p> <p><strong>Try: Bologna</strong></p> <p>Did you know some 16 million tourists visit Florence every year? That’s a lot for a town with a permanent population of less than 400,000. The university town of Bologna gets only a fraction of that and has just as much to offer. The streets are lined with historic religious architecture, the food is incredible and the whole city seems to embrace the culture of aperitivo (afternoon cocktails with friends). We’re sold.</p> <p><strong>Instead of: Berlin</strong></p> <p><strong>Try: Warsaw</strong></p> <p>Berlin is considered Europe’s capital of cool, but Warsaw can give it a run for its money. The city was largely flattened in World War II and was rebuilt in a fascinating mish mash of styles that makes it unlike anywhere else in the world. Restored Gothic buildings sit alongside Communist-era concrete blocks and sleek glass towers rise from gritty laneways. It’s also home to fantastic museums covering everything from the Jewish ghettos to Chopin.</p> <p><strong>Instead of: Interlaken</strong></p> <p><strong>Try: Bovec</strong></p> <p>Switzerland is notoriously expensive, so the Slovenian town of Bovec is a great value alternative. It’s known as the adventure capital of eastern Europe and the surrounding Julian Alps are ideal for hiking, canyoning, mountain biking, white water rafting and skiing in winter. The best part is, they will cost around half of what they would in Interlaken.</p> <p><strong>Instead of: Budapest</strong></p> <p><strong>Try: Tallinn</strong></p> <p>It wasn’t long ago that Budapest was itself an ‘alternative city’, but cheap flights and the river cruise boom have pushed it up to the top of the list. The medieval city of Tallinn, capital of Estonia, sits on the Baltic Sea and is a unique mix if Scandinavian, European and Russian culture. The magnificent onion-domed St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is reason enough to visit, though once you’re there you’ll also love the cool design shops springing up and the very cheap (and very good) local beer.</p> <p>Image credits: Getty Images</p> <p> </p>

International Travel

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Six of the best wildlife cruise destinations

<p>Cruises allow nature lovers to get close to wildlife with small ships, unique itineraries and practical shore excursions. Here are six of the best places to see wildlife from the water.</p> <p><strong>Sea of Cortez, Mexico</strong></p> <p>Legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez, off the coast of Baja California, the aquarium of the world. Where the sea meets the Pacific Ocean tidal currents create an ideal environment for sea life and you’ll see everything from tiny fish right up to sperm whales. Watch huge Pacific manta rays leap out of the water or grab a snorkel and dive with playful sea lions. California gray whales are one of the biggest drawcards, coming to the region to calve during the winter, and you’ll have the opportunity to get up close in a Zodiac.</p> <p><strong>Galapagos Islands </strong></p> <p>There’s nowhere in the world like the Galapagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago around 1,000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Look out for giant tortoises, iguanas, penguins, seals, sea lions and a spectacular array of birds, including the dancing blue-footed booby, albatross, pelican, heron and egret. Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1835 and developed much of his evolutionary theory based on the adaptations of Galapagos bird species, especially finches.</p> <p><strong>Alaska</strong></p> <p>America’s 50<sup>th</sup> state is a true wilderness with wildlife to be seen in the ocean, on the land and in the air. Humpback and killer whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, otters and leaping salmon can be found in the water, seen either from the main cruise ship or on Zodiac excursions. Grizzly bears wander the shore alongside caribou, moose, beavers and even wolverines. The American national bird, the bald eagle, is a regular in the sky with a population of more than 30,000 – in fishing towns like Ketchikan you’ll even see them swooping around the docks for fish.</p> <p><strong>Antarctica</strong></p> <p>Penguins, penguins, penguins. From the cute little rockhopper penguins in the sub-Antarctic islands to the huge, 1.15 metre tall emperor penguins in continental Antarctica, not a day will go by on a cruise here that you don’t see a penguin. If you get penguined out, there are also killer and sperm whales, elephant seals, leopard seals and a huge number of sea birds like albatross, petrels and skuas. For a close encounter, jump in a kayak and paddle amongst the wildlife in the freezing waters.</p> <p><strong>Southern Africa</strong></p> <p>This is a safari with a difference. Small river ships cruise along the Chobe River through Botswana and Namibia carrying just a handful of passengers. The river runs through the Chobe National Park, which has one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Africa. Elephants and buffalo can be seen right from the decks, splashing along the edges of the river just metres from the ship. Cruises here include early morning game drives that take passengers further into the national park to see lions, giraffe, leopards, antelope and plenty of birds.</p> <p><strong>Peruvian Amazon</strong></p> <p>Think dolphins only come in gray? Think again. A very rare breed of pink freshwater dolphin swims in the waters of the Amazon River, one of only a couple of places in the world that they can be seen. Small, specially designed river ships sail along the Peruvian section of the river where squirrel monkeys swing through the trees, sloths laze about in the branches and brightly coloured macaws squawk from the canopy. Passengers even have a chance to catch and eat the flesh-eating piranha.</p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Cruising

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3 budget-friendly overseas holidays destinations

<p>You don’t have to rob a bank to go on an overseas trip. While you may be pinching pennies for retirement that doesn’t mean that a holiday is out of the question.</p> <p>Jetting off somewhere doesn’t have bleed you dry, actually, there are quite a few spectacular, great-value overseas destinations that allow you stretch your purse strings without making a dent in your savings. Why not consider one of these:</p> <p><strong>Northern Ireland</strong></p> <p>With many affordable guesthouses near Antrim’s seaside Giant’s Causeway and budget flight options, there are many great deals for a holiday in Northern Ireland. Make sure you see Pritzker-winning architect Zaha Hadid's cutting-edge Titanic Belfast museum, which brings fresh life to the dockyard where the doomed cruise liner was built.</p> <p>You’ll also want to make sure you take in the astounding interlocking rock columns of Antrim.</p> <p><strong>India</strong></p> <p>If you travel outside of the tourist favoruties – Mumabi and Delhi – there are many hotels that are reasonably priced if not utterly cheap. And the country has lots of landscape and culture for the buck. If you travel around by train and dine at low-key local places it will not only make you trip more authentic, but your pennies will go further.</p> <p>From lounging on the beaches of Goa to affordable skiing on Himachal Pradesh, there are many budget-friendly options including staying at Rajasthan's former palaces and living like a maharaja for less.</p> <p><strong>Laos</strong></p> <p>With better deals than Thailand, with its natural beauty and friendly locals, Laos is somewhat a majestic destination. With its sleepy riverfront and statue-decorated Buddha Park, Vientiane – the capital of Laos – offers much to be explored that you don’t have to pay for.</p> <p>Observe saffron-robed monks at dawn moving gracefully around the temple-filled holy town of Luang Prabang, or discover dramatic megalithic stone vessels, believed to be funerary urns, in the Plain of Jars.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

International Travel

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Don’t say cheese! Travel destinations where photos are illegal

<p dir="ltr">While many happy travellers love to immortalise their holiday with a collection of photos, there are some places that don’t allow for pics to be taken. </p> <p dir="ltr">In several destinations across the globe, tourists are actually banned from taking selfies and can even get fined for breaking the rules.</p> <p dir="ltr">So before you pull out your camera and strike a pose, you might want to check if what you’re snapping a photo of is legal. </p> <p dir="ltr">Here are just a few places where taking photos isn’t allowed. </p> <p><strong>The Sistine Chapel, Vatican City</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The use of professional cameras and phones is strictly prohibited in the Sistine Chapel so don't even think about it. </p> <p dir="ltr">According to <a href="https://www.vaticancitytours.it/blog/are-cameras-allowed-in-the-vatican-city/#:~:text=Sistine%20Chapel&amp;text=The%20real%20reason%20for%20the,companies%20to%20fund%20the%20project.">VaticanCityTours,</a> the reason you can't take pictures dates back to 1980 when the chapel was restored due to damage caused by flash photography. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Mecca Pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">In Saudi Arabia, it is against the law to take photos of worshippers during Hajj, otherwise known as their pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. </p> <p>This is due to it being disrespectful to snap people while they are on their religious journey. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>The Blue Mosque, Turkey</strong></p> <p>Taking a photo of the outside of the iconic Blue Mosque is totally okay, but snapping any photos of the interior is a big no. </p> <p>Visitors also must follow strict dress codes as well as other rules and regulations.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Anne Frank's House, Amsterdam</strong></p> <p>Taking photos or selfies in the House of Anne Frank is not allowed inside the museum due to its serious nature.</p> <p>There is a very sombre mood within the historical house, making it a time for reflection, not for flash photography. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Palace of Versailles, France</strong></p> <p>Photos of both the Palace and the surrounding gardens are strictly prohibited for all travellers. </p> <p>This is due to concerns about the preservation of artwork and the safety of visitors.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Garoupe Beach, France</strong></p> <p>The famous Garoupe beach in southern France banned holidaymakers from taking selfies during the busy season in the middle of summer.</p> <p dir="ltr">The law was first introduced to stop people from bragging about their holiday and just enjoy the stay rather than show off on social media.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Travel Tips

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5 magical destinations to spend Christmas

<p>Here are the five best places to spend Christmas around the world. If you can’t be home for Christmas this year, one of these locations would do nicely!</p> <p><strong>1. Niseko, Japan</strong></p> <p>For a guaranteed white Christmas without the 24-hour flight to get there, Niseko should be on your Christmas list. The resort, on the northern island of Hokkaido, is considered the powder capital of the world and you’ll get fresh snow virtually every day. Even if you’re not a skier, you can soak up the Japanese onsen culture, dine at the Michelin star restaurants and indulge in a little après ski.</p> <p><strong>2. Bruges, Belgium</strong></p> <p>Europe’s best-preserved medieval city oozes charm from every cobblestone. Walk through the snow-dusted streets, inhaling the scent of praline and warm waffles, stopping in at one of the many chocolatiers to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate. A small ice rink and Christmas market take over the central square, creating one of travel’s most snappable moments.</p> <p><strong>3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil</strong></p> <p>Aussies are so accustomed to a warm holiday season that a trip to the snow might be too much to handle. So head straight across the Pacific to South America and the buzzing beachside beauty of Rio. Brazil is the world’s largest Catholic nation, so Christmas is a big deal. The world’s largest floating Christmas tree sits in the harbour, bedecked with thousands of twinkling lights, and the whole city is in a festive mood.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ahytoTd8vHo" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p><strong>4. Salzburg, Austria</strong></p> <p>One of Europe’s great Christmas market hubs, the markets here date back to the 15<sup>th</sup> century. The main market runs for the month before Christmas and sits right in front of the grand Cathedral of Salzburg. Other markets are dotted around the city, like the Advent Market in Hellburn that has an oversized advent calendar as the centerpiece.</p> <p><strong>5. Rome, Italy</strong></p> <p>Midnight mass inside St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is a one of a kind Christmas experience that you will never forget. An enormous tree is set up in the middle of St Peter’s Square and there’s also a television screen broadcasting the mass inside if you can’t get a seat. The Christmas season lasts for a full month in Italy, so you will be able to participate in a number of religious ceremonies leading up to the day.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

International Travel

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Literary travels – destinations made famous by your favourite writers

<p>Great writers have the ability to make a destination jump off the page. Here are five places made famous by great writers where you can step into the pages of your favourite book.</p> <p><strong>Myanmar</strong></p> <p>During the 1920s and 30s Burma (as it was called then) was a hub for the most famous writers in the world. George Orwell, Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham all lived here and the capital Yangon (Rangoon) was a buzzing party town and the most beautiful capital in the British Empire.</p> <p>Much has changed in modern day Myanmar, but travellers can still spend the night in the famous Strand hotel where Kipling used to write or travel up the Ayeyarwady River stopping at the small towns that Orwell made famous in <em>Burmese Days.</em></p> <p><strong>Bali</strong></p> <p>In 2006 Elizabeth Gilbert chronicled the breakdown of her marriage and her own recovery in the novel <em>Eat Pray Love</em>. After stints in Italy (eating) and India (praying), Gilbert set up camp in Ubud in the lush green hills of Bali to find a balance of the two – and ultimately found love.</p> <p>The book and subsequent film have brought a huge influx of travellers to Ubud, but it is still a quiet region of rice paddies, ancient Hindu temples and roadside stalls – though there is now a healthy dose of art galleries, small bars and boutiques added to the mix. Check into a villa and let the soul soothing begin.</p> <p><strong>St Petersburg</strong></p> <p>St Petersburg has been the inspiration for novelists from Russian greats like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky through to <em>The Bronze Horseman</em> trilogy by Paullina Simons. During the city’s famed white nights (a period from May to July where the sun barely sets and the city experiences near constant daylight) you can practically see Anna Karenina dashing through the streets in her finest.</p> <p>Russia is also home to more literary museums than any other country in the world and in St Petersburg you can visit the Dostoevsky museum in the apartment where he wrote <em>The Brothers Karamazov</em> or the National Pushkin Museum dedicated to Russia’s favourite poet.</p> <p><strong>Dublin</strong></p> <p>Dublin is one of only six UNESCO Literary Cities in the world, which is not surprising when you consider it’s the birthplace of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and WB Yeats. Joyce’s <em>Ulysses</em> follows a day in the life of three Dubliners and fans can now take a self-guided walking tour around the city visiting the places mentioned in the book (there’s even a virtual tour online if you’re more of an armchair traveller).</p> <p>Visit the Dublin Writers Museum to learn about the city’s great literary history or head to Trinity College to see the legendary Book of Kells, an illuminated gospel manuscript dating from 800AD.</p> <p><strong>Cuba</strong></p> <p>To think of Cuba is to think of Ernest Hemingway; sitting at a bar, mojito in hand, cigar clamped firmly between his teeth. Papa, as he was known, lived in Cuba for more than 20 years and it was the setting for his last major fiction book, the Pulitzer Prize winning <em>The Old Man and the Sea</em>.</p> <p>The small fishing village of Cojimar, where Hemingway used to dock his boat, was the inspiration for the book and the old man is said to be based on Cojimar local Gregorio Fuentes. The village is largely unchanged, with narrow streets and a picturesque seafront – though expect to find a few tour buses stopped for photos by the bust of Hemingway. </p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Travel Tips

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10 best destinations for the solo traveller

<p><strong>Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia</strong></p> <p>Malaysia is known for being a generally safe country – a key factor in choosing the best places for solo travel. Travelling alone here will allow you the luxury of soaking in the beautiful and peaceful surroundings of the beaches, affordable luxury hotels and fine cuisine, all without worrying about how safe you are on your own. Plus, the city is rich in architecture, magnificent mosques and historic sites. With tourists from all over the world, you’re guaranteed to meet friendly faces and make some new friends along the way.</p> <p><strong>Auckland, New Zealand</strong></p> <p>Auckland is known for being one of the friendliest cities in the world, so the single traveller will feel right at home in no time. An affordable city with lots to see, like the Civic Theatre or the Sky Tower, Auckland is a wonderful place to visit on your own. Travelling with a group can mean conflicting interests. The beauty of seeing Auckland alone is that you can choose what you want to see and when, and you’ll always meet a friendly face along the way – among the friendliest of faces actually, according to a Condé Nast Traveler survey.</p> <p><strong>San Ignacio Town, Belize</strong></p> <p>If your desire for a solo trip comes from wanting total and complete relaxation, San Ignacio Town should be your next stop. This tropical city in Belize is the ideal getaway from stress, noise and anything else you may need a break from. A beautiful coastal view, warm weather, and sandy beaches are the perfect recipe for some good old-fashion R&R. As the country’s official language is English, San Ignacio Town is easy to navigate sans travel companion. Plus, history buffs will love that this city is located very close to ancient Mayan ruins.</p> <p><strong>Napa, California, USA</strong></p> <p>While many consider Napa to be a romantic destination for two, it’s actually one of the best places for solo travel, too. Known for its peaceful, beautiful vineyards, Napa is the perfect getaway from the everyday, where one can enjoy fine wines, five-star hotel accommodations and a relaxing environment. Plus, many hotels in the area are equipped with private pools and lounging areas, so you can avoid all disturbances.</p> <p><strong>Hoi An, Vietnam</strong></p> <p>Hoi An literally translates into “peaceful meeting place,” making it a great option for anyone looking to make new friends. When travelling alone, people tend to reach out and form new friendships more easily and Hoi An is a great place to do so. The city offers up the best of everything: beaches, historical landmarks, lavish hotels, and more. With so much to do and so many friendly locals to meet, you’ll never, ever feel lonely.</p> <p><strong>Lahaina, Hawaii</strong></p> <p>Located in West Maui, Lahaina is a perfect destination for the single traveller. Not only are the beaches serene and beautiful, but there is no shortage of adult-only resorts for guaranteed relaxation. You can choose from a plethora of five-star hotels with beach access, private pools and spa amenities. Plus, shopping and fine dining throughout the city are only a skip and a hop away from most resort hotels along the beach. Hawaii is considered a safe place to visit, and while one should always be cautious when travelling alone, there’s no need to be on high alert in Lahaina.</p> <p><strong>Vienna, Austria</strong></p> <p>If finding the perfect holiday buddy is more of a nightmare than anything else, you may want to consider packing up and heading to Vienna solo. This is a fabulous city to see on your own as it has so much to offer, you can’t possibly get bored. You can opt for a museum visit, a cruise of the Danube, or visit St Anton in winter, known for being the best ski party city in Europe. This is a great solo trip experience for anyone looking to break out of their comfort zone, meet new friends, and enjoy the beauty of one of Europe’s finest cities.</p> <p><strong>Sydney, Australia</strong></p> <p>In case there weren’t enough reasons to visit Australia (historical landmarks, beautiful sights, beaches, botanical gardens, and more), Sydney is also a safe spot to visit solo. Mild temperatures, fine restaurants and a fantastic nightlife for singles are a few more bonuses to visiting this amazing city on your own.</p> <p><strong>San José City, Costa Rica</strong></p> <p>If fear of boredom is keeping you from taking the plunge into solo travel, fear no more. With museums to see, beaches to lounge on and markets to visit, you won’t be short on activities in San José City. The temperature in Costa Rica is warm all year long and most of the travelling you’ll need to do within the city can be done on foot. The convenience of the city also makes it easy to navigate, so a lone traveller won’t have any problem going unaccompanied. Plus, hotel staff will go out of their way to make sure your solo adventure is perfect.</p> <p><strong>Nadi, Fiji</strong></p> <p>If you’re interested in a solo trip for some peace and quiet, a trip to Nadi will not disappoint. The locals and hotel staff are known for their friendly and pleasant nature, and the beaches could not be more beautiful. The weather is usually warm with a soft, gentle breeze, and the waters still. Plus, there’s no shortage of world-class luxury resorts that offer blissful peace and quiet.</p> <p><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-8f91333a-7fff-cd4a-f1bd-d753495cef97">Written by Maria Barillaro. This article first appeared in <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/10-best-destinations-for-the-solo-traveller" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader’s Digest</a>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, <a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&utm_medium=articles&utm_campaign=RDSUB&keycode=WRA87V" target="_blank" rel="noopener">here’s our best subscription offer.</a></span></em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p>

International Travel

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11 best places to retire in Australia

<p>From Geraldton to Merimbula, there’s so many amazing places to retire to in Australia, so where do you choose? Here’s 11 great places.</p> <p>When it comes to choosing where to retire, it’s good to give the decision some careful thought. Who likes packing up the belongings and moving house several times? Not many people. However, it can be a difficult decision because Australia is a beautiful country, so you’re spoiled for choice!</p> <p>For many over-60s, the decision will come down to a few important factors, such as where your children and grandchildren live, what amenities are available, good transport connections and affordable housing. Good all-year round sunshine doesn’t hurt either. For this reason, Queensland has always proven a popular choice, with places like the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, however, there are great places to choose all over this great southern land.</p> <p>Jill and Owen Weeks, founders of retirement website <a href="http://www.where2now.net" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Where2Now</a> and authors of <em>Where to retire in Australia</em>, say, generally speaking, retirees are looking for a number common factors when trying to find their perfect retirement location. “Every retiree is different, so they will have a different set of criteria about what they are looking for,” Jill explains. “However, generally speaking, they’re looking for leisure facilities, low crime rates, accessible transport, relatively low cost of living, good climate, good medical facilities and choice of shopping.”</p> <p>Before making your final decision, however, do your research. It can be a costly (and not to mention annoying) for anyone who had to move again, and again. With so many amazing places to choose from in Australia, we take a look at some of the most popular places to retire. Does your location make the list? Read on to find out!</p> <p><strong>Sunshine Coast, Queensland</strong><br />No one will be surprised by the inclusion of this area of beautiful beaches, great weather and relaxed community feel, otherwise known as the Sunshine Coast. A little quieter than its southern counterpart, Gold Coast, but no less vibrant, this area is home to a few well-known suburbs, including Noosa, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore and Caloundra. There has been less development in this area, and cheaper housing too. However, that will all depend on what you’re looking for.</p> <p>Prices can range from about $500,000 to $2 million, or if you’re not wanting to buy, there’s plenty of rentals available too. You’ve also got a pick of retirement villages, with a number of affordable options close to amenities. An hour’s drive north of Brisbane, it’s a great place to base yourself that’s quiet and peaceful, but not too far out of the way that you can’t easily visit family in other parts of the country.</p> <p><strong>Coolangatta, Queensland/Tweed Heads, NSW</strong><br />A favourite area with retirees, it’s hard to separate Coolangatta and Tweed Heads, the neighbouring towns on the Queensland/New South Wales border. Much quieter than its glitzy cousin, Surfer’s Paradise, Coolangatta has a relaxed and friendly vibe that’s easily accessible to all parts of Australia, with the nearby airport.</p> <p>Good shopping centres, close proximity to leisure and entertainment options, and plenty of community groups, clubs and associations to get involved in, this area has everything an over-60 could want. The popular Twin Towns club is beloved by retirees on both sides of the Queensland/New South Wales border, with affordable dining, entertainment (in the form of classic film showings and live music), live bands for dancing, and let’s not forget the great views of the Tweed River!</p> <p>Unlike the glitter strip of the Gold Coast, which can get a little noisy when school leavers descend on Surfer’s Paradise and surrounds, Tweed Heads is relaxed, peaceful and an ideal retirement spot for many. Between Tweed Heads and Coffs Harbour, as well as further south towards Foster-Tuncurry, Aussie retirees are spoilt for choice. If you’re looking in this area, take a few days and go for a drive to find a place that feels right for you.</p> <p><strong>Hunter Valley, NSW</strong><br />While you’re probably thinking over-60s are retiring here for the wine (and that could definitely be a contributing factor), the Hunter Valley also offers close proximity to the state’s main urban hubs – Newcastle and Sydney – and has plenty of amenities for retirees.</p> <p>House prices have steadily risen in this area, however, as more people have discovered the appeal of this diverse region. Having said that, it can be cheaper than living in many other parts of the country which are closer to the big capital cities.</p> <p>What the Hunter Valley excels at though is its rich gourmet food and wine scene, stunning golf courses and diversity of residents, with the nearby mining industry continuing to attract and retain people of all ages to the region.</p> <p><strong>Merimbula, NSW</strong><br />It’s one of the worst-kept retirement secrets among retirees – the south west coast of NSW. From Milton to Merimbula, this peaceful coastline that has long been popular with holidaymakers has started attracting large numbers of people looking for a quiet and relaxed retirement destination.</p> <p>From Sydney, Milton is about a three-hour drive while Merimbula is about a six-hour drive, with beautiful scenery along the way. If you feel like a day trip to Canberra or a weekend in Melbourne, these are well within driving range too. If you prefer a quicker way to get to Sydney, there’s also an airport in Merimbula, with daily flights to Sydney and Melbourne.</p> <p>There’s sunshine all-year round, with a range of natural attractions, superb beaches and national parks to go for walking excursions. Plenty of amenities too, with a good selection of shops, clubs, leisure facilities and restaurants. Safe and friendly too, this is a beautiful place to call home.</p> <p><strong>Echuca, Victoria</strong><br />For residents of this little spot on the Murray River, there could be no better place to live. While it may be far away from the pristine coastlines of the Sunshine Coast, the community spirit in the twin towns of Echuca and Moama, which sits across the river in NSW, makes every visitor feel welcome.</p> <p>As the closest settlement on the Murray to Melbourne, Echuca offers an affordable place to live that’s vibrant, accessible and friendly. Retirees to this place, whose name means “the meeting of the waters”, love the clubs, associations and activities that can be found and enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. It also offers great health facilities and plenty of places to eat out at half the price of dining in Melbourne.</p> <p><strong>Mornington Peninsula, Victoria</strong><br />On the other side of the state, to the south, is the Mornington Peninsula, another retiree favourite in Victoria. The quaint coastal villages and hamlets in this breathtaking part of the world are hard to forget, and offer endless places to explore and discover for retirees who decide to settle here.</p> <p>From the beachfront to the rolling hills of orchards and market gardens, this place is heaven. There are a number of housing options, including retirement villages, good access to the Melbourne CBD, if you need to visit family or fly interstate, and there are plenty of quality food and wine producers, so you’ll never fall short of having delicious dishes to create for visiting family and friends.</p> <p>For those who like a morning or afternoon walk, there’s beautiful places to go in and around the open water scenery of Western Port Bay, Port Phillip Bay and the Bass Strait.</p> <p><strong>Huon Valley, Tasmania</strong><br />Sharing the love around Australia, you can’t forget Tasmania. If you’re love for natural beauty and open spaces can master the cooler climate you’re going to experience here, then Huon Valley is an ideal retirement spot. While many retirees opt for places with warmer weather, Jill and Owen Weeks say more people are noticing the charms of Tasmania.</p> <p>“We have become aware of a number of people from mainland states looking to retire to Tasmania,” they say. “For example, St Helens on the east coast, which has around 300 days of sunshine a year, and the Huon Valley. People we have spoken to say they like the clean air, friendly locals, ease of getting about and the relatively low cost of living (compared to where they used to live).”</p> <p>With affordable housing, plenty of attractions to explore and a strong community vibe, the townships in the valley could be a great place to look at for those hoping to retire in a beautiful part of Tasmania. There are seven altogether: Cygnet, Dover (on Esperance Bay), Franklin, Geeveston, Port Huon, Glen Huon and Huonville.</p> <p>While retiring in Tasmania won’t be for everyone, if you’ve lived here before and love it, or prefer quiet places with that local feel, the towns in this part of the world could be worth a look.</p> <p><strong>Kadina, SA</strong><br />Together with Tasmania, South Australia has the highest proportion of older Aussies (about 16 per cent) compared to the other states. So, where do they live? Well, you’ll find many retirees enjoying the community spirit of the Copper Coast, with Kadina at its heart.</p> <p>This pretty town, along with Wallaroo and Moonta, make up the Copper Coast, so named for the discovery of copper at the Wallaroo mines, near Kadina, in 1859. The region on the Yorke Peninsula, about a two-hour drive from Adelaide, is also known as ‘Australia’s Little Cornwall’. Here, you’ll find the Kernewek Lowender, the world’s largest Cornish festival, which has been held every two years since 1973.</p> <p>Away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city, Kadina and its neighbours continue to attract retirees for its country way of life and the variety of facilities the towns offer. There’s a good selection of supermarkets, medical services, retirement living options, aged care facilities and local attractions to keep residents busy.</p> <p><strong>Yankalilla, SA</strong><br />Set on the western side of South Australia’s stunning Fleurieu Peninsula, Yankalilla is a pretty country haven that has lots of charm and character. If you love being surrounding by nature and is only about an hour’s drive south from Adelaide.</p> <p>It has a number of quaint bed and breakfast establishments for visiting family and friends, and there are affordable housing options if you’re looking to set up permanently. Median prices in Yankalilla are about the $240,000 mark. For beach excursions, the nearby seaside havens of Normanville, Carrickalinga and Myponga Beach are beautiful spots for a relaxing morning swim or afternoon walk.</p> <p>While it may not have as many facilities as other retirement havens, the fact that it’s an hour’s drive from the state’s capital means you can get to bigger shopping complexes and medical facilities. Home to farmers, artists, city-dwellers down for the weekend and retirees, this is an ideal place for those looking to be close to a capital city but with the peaceful lifestyle of a quiet country town.</p> <p><strong>Geraldton, WA</strong><br />If you love the feel of the sun warming your skin and taking a dip in clear turquoise waters, Geraldton is the place to go. This coastal town about a five hour drive from Perth is a popular haven for retirees who like to be warm all-year round!</p> <p>It’s the gateway to the Abrolhos Islands and is an area known for its rock lobster fishing. Jill and Owen Weeks suggest nearby Dongara, which they say is perfect for over-60s who love fishing and a quieter life. Due to the local iron ore mining boom, housing may have gone up slightly compared to previous years, but you can still find some affordable gems here.</p> <p>Due to the growth from mining, the region boasts a number of facilities for residents, including a wide variety of community activities and programs for residents over 60. These include: art classes, ballroom dancing, bowling tournaments, computer lessons and a range of clubs to get involved in.</p> <p><strong>Esperance, WA</strong><br />While the South West of WA has a wonderfully diverse range of quiet inland towns and coastal havens for retirees, Esperance is a real natural gem. It’s one of the furthest outposts from Perth in the state’s south, but its unspoilt coastline, stunningly white beaches, friendly community and great options for one to three-day road trips make it an ideal hub to set up and establish your retirement home.</p> <p>If you’re not up for the eight to nine-hour drive south-east from Perth, Esperance has an airport that provides daily travel to Perth with Virgin Australia. Here, you’ll find all the essential amenities of any large regional centre, along with plenty of things to see, do and show your family and friends when they come down for a visit.</p> <p>Median house prices come in around $267,000 for units or $370,000 for houses. A truly beautiful part of the world, Esperance could make a great retirement destination for anyone.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

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