Monday, November 29, 2010

Photography in the Himalayas (Nepal / India)

Two close friends of mine have recently departed for a trip to the Indian Himalayas for a multi-week trek. Before leaving, we had a long discussion about SLR photography needs based on my prior travels to Nepal and India. This article summarises some of our thoughts on photography for such a region. Many of the ideas apply equally to African safaris and other long treks and hikes in more remote parts of the world. While the list is hardly exhaustive, hopefully it will prompt some thoughts before embarking on travel to this mountain wonderland.

Batteries are a significant challenge in Nepal and India. The cold saps the life of batteries and recharging batteries can be difficult. Take a number of camera batteries and charge them in the teahouses wherever a source of power (typically solar or generator) can be found. Most importantly, keep your batteries warm by wrapping them in a beanie or jacket and keep them in the bottom of your sleeping bag at night. Keep spare batteries warm in your pack during the day. Remove the active battery from your camera before going to bed. Save considerable battery life by limiting the use of the on-board flash and limiting the viewing of images on the LCD display.

By contrast, keep the camera cool. On the day of the main pass of the trek I undertook, the temperature before dawn (when we set off) was -25°C (-13°F). If the camera is taken from the warmth of a sleep bag then it will instantly mist up due to the sharp contrast in temperatures. Leave the camera settle into the ambient temperature before setting out.

Bring lots of memory cards (or an external storage device). The Himalayas are photogenic attracting many more photos can you’ll plan on taking so pack those extra cards. Change cards regularly to avoid risking all your photos to a single card.

Plan out exactly what gear you want to walk with each day. Lens, cameras and accessories weigh a fair amount that may be regretted in the rarefied air of higher altitudes.

Dust is difficult to manage in these regions. Every time that you swap lens, dust sneaks into your camera. Keep your gear as clean as possible (a job for each evening) and keep lens swapping to a minimum. It is disappointing and hugely time-consuming to remove dust spots off thousands of photos at the end of a journey (and they show up badly against blue skies and snow-capped mountains). An ounce of prevention...

As in most locations, the early morning and dusk provide wonderful photos. The mountains are painted in a golden yellow, the morning skies are often at their clearest and the small mountain villages are a buzz of activity.

Panoramas help capture the amphitheatre of towering snow-capped mountains that consistently surrounds your trekking in the Himalayas. Become practised in taking panorama sequences of photos before you leave to capture the stunning mountain vistas that accompany your trek. I strongly recommend Autostitch (see Autostitch guide) for joining the photos together later and start and finish each sequence with a meaningless photo to help easily identify the groupings after download. Overlay each photo generously (I suggest 20 to 30 percent) and keep the camera settings the same for the full sequence.

Keep a notebook detailing the names of the mountains and villages. With a bundle of photos and a fading memory, it is difficult to identify the mountains photographed when sorting through them back in the comfort of your own home. If it is important to you, only noting names as you go avoids confusing your shots of Thamserku from your photos of Gyachung Kang.

Most treks pass several Buddhist monasteries (gompa), a location of spiritual succour to most of the local population. Note that the sherpas and porters treat these locations with reverence. Ask permission before photographing inside the monastery and before photographing any people. Note that the monasteries are dark so consider cranking up the ISO or find a place to rest the camera. In my experience, the porters and sherpas are familiar with travellers’ photography habits and are happy to be photographed while many other local people are very uncomfortable. If you promise to send photos back, then follow your commitment through.

Take lots of photographs and include many incidental events and sights along the path each day. The steep roughly hewn stone stairs, the yaks, the campsite or teahouses, the rickety bridges, the prayer flags, village life and the landscape all add to the overall trekking experience.

Most importantly, spend considerable time without your camera. The Himalayas are a spectacular natural travel wonder of the world that heightens the senses. Stop and enjoy the exceptional vistas of the world’s highest mountains, the freshness of the mountain air, the rage of the mountain streams, the colour and sounds of the monasteries, the buzz of village life and the refines culture of the Buddhist people.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Benefits of a European Cruise -v- a Package Holiday

by Gill Cruise

Want to get the most bang for your holiday buck? Then choose a European cruise rather than a package holiday. While package holidays often include transportation, tours and some meals, these holidays cannot compare with the variety and quality available to those who choose a European cruise.

Tour Options
When you choose a package holiday, tours are often part of the deal. The problem is that there is often very little room to customize the tours to suit your interests. For example, if you're into historical sites but the available tour centres around art, you may be forced to skip the historic sites completely.

With a European cruise, you are free to spend your time in port however you wish. You can choose from a variety of tours and outings or simply explore on your own. In most cases, each tour is paid for separately, so you never pay for a tour that you do not take.

All of the time spent in port is free time and can be spent in ways that most interest you whether that means lounging on a beach, exploring historic sites or spending the afternoon shopping.

Meal Plans
It's no secret that meals on board a cruise ship are amazing. Good luck trying to stick to a diet if you prefer cruise holidays! While finding it difficult to keep trim is a downside to the vast array of food choices on a cruise ship, the upside is that the variety means being able to eat what you want. If you want Italian and your spouse wants Mexican you can both have what you're craving. Another bonus? All meals and snacks are included on a cruise. Some meals may be included on a package holiday, but there will not be anywhere near the options.

Getting There is Half the Fun
A European holiday is certainly a great time, but getting there is not always so pleasant. When you opt for a package holiday, you may be forced to fly in cramped seats and often have to endure long layovers. With a cruise, however, getting there is half the fun!

While at sea, passengers enjoy an abundance of amenities such a shopping, swimming pools, fitness centres and nightly shows. You will be able to choose the type of cabin that you want. Whether you choose an affordable inside stateroom or a suite with a private balcony, the room is likley to be comfortable and well-appointed.

Unlike other types of holidays, when you choose a cruise, the transportation is not just a method of getting you to the holiday destination, but is instead part of the holiday experience.

Just a few of the many fabulous ports you may visit are described briefly below.

Lounge on the beach whilst working on your tan, or spend the day exploring on a boat tour to Morocco. If you're in the mood for a bit of adventure, consider rock climbing or white water rafting. There are also historic sites you can visit, such as Alhambra Palace (pictured).

Party the night away in one of the many clubs that have helped to put Ibiza on the map. If you're not into the party scene, there are also beautiful spots to explore which are protected as United Nations World Heritage Sites.

Spend your time in Barcelona visiting some of the dozens of museums or historical sites located in Spain's capital. If you're not in the mood for art and history, you can choose to spend your time sunning and relaxing on the beach whilst reading a good book.

You'll feel as though you have stepped back in time when you visit some of the many ancient arsenals, fortifications and other historic sites that are in the city. If you want to learn even more about the history of the area, make a stop to one of the museums that focus on local archaeology.

Stretch your legs after spending a few days out to sea by hiking, rafting or mountain biking whilst in Gibraltar. With many outdoor activities as well as museums and the famous Barbary apes, you will find plenty to do whilst in port here.

Choose a European cruise for your next breakaway. You'll be glad you did!

Photo Credits: Alhambra

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Photo of the Week: Lets Talk Turkey

As turkeys are a strong theme with the celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States, a photo of an Australian brush turkey (or scrub turkey) seemed appropriate. Unrelated to the American turkeys that are about to be feasted upon, the brush turkeys are popular in Australian bushland and picnic areas with limited fear of people.

These impressive birds live in groups with a communal nest tended by the dominant male. He monitors the temperature of the nest with his beak adding or removing leaves, stones and twigs to ensure the ideal incubation temperature. Their bright red and yellow head colouring and wattles make them a highlight of any bush walk.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In the Footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci - Part Four (Amboise, France)

See parts one, two and three covering Leonardo's boyhood years in Vinci, Leonardo's apprenticeship in Florence and Leonardo's time in Milan.

Leonardo’s time in Milan finished after the French occupied the city, starting sixteen years of travels around Italy in various roles, including visits to Venice, Florence and Rome. In this time, Leonardo continues to produce his extraordinary notes and work. During the time he painted the famous Mona Lisa before finally being offered a painting and advisory role to the French king and moving to the Loire valley and the town of Amboise. He took his valued belongings with him (including the Mona Lisa) a reason the Louvre holds five of Italian Leonardo’s rare paintings.

Leonardo was granted a mansion in Clos Luce connected by underground passage to Amboise Castle. This mansion still survives and pays homage to Leonardo with the house furnished in the style of Leonardo.

The property is surrounded by extensive leafy parklands with pleasant walking tracks lined with a number of models of Leonardo's works. Unlike in other museums, these models are made to be touched and enjoyed. The paddleboat can be ridden on the stream, the multiple firing gun can be fired, water raised from the river and the portable bridge crossed.

In a separate room, a number of his other models are on display highlight Leonardo’s fascination with flight and transport. His extraordinary vision for a geared car shows a model that will run on a spring for over 100 metres and a wooden tank that could be used in warfare.

Leonardo only lasted three years in Clos Luce before dying. Cherished by the French king, François 1,”No man ever lived who had learned as much about sculpture, painting, and architecture, but still more that he was a very great philosopher.”, his remains were buried in a chapel in Amboise Castle in a simple tomb.

For his time, Leonardo was exceptionally well travelled. Leaving behind precious little of his times outside of his drawings, famous paintings and notebooks, he is unmatched in history for his breadth of works and was unmatched for centuries in the inventiveness of his thoughts and ideas. As an engineer, he has left behind helicopters, gliders, armoured tanks and a parachute. His anatomical studies were not bettered for hundreds of years. Leonardo is the true “Renaissance Man” and has left enough snippets of his life to make travelling in his footsteps an intriguing journey.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

In the Footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci - Part Three (Milan, Italy)

See Leonardo's boyhood years in Vinci and Leonardo's apprenticeship in Florence before his time in Milan.

Leonardo received increased opportunities as he moved to Milan to serve the powerful Duke of Milan – a city of less than 80,000 people in 1480. Leonardo was partially adopted for his ability to design defences and war machines for the Duke – an ironic twist for this pragmatic but pacifist being. By this time, Leonardo was starting to become noteworthy and Milan has more evidence of Leonardo’s life.

Leonardo also commenced his famous notebooks (or codices) filling between 20,000 and 30,000 densely filled pages packed with ideas, sketches, creations, maps and thoughts. Leonardo was a pioneer in virtually every field he studied and researched – an unmatched achievement in human history.

Broken up and sold over time, only 7,000 pages exist stored in twelve modern codices and held by various libraries and institutions (and one by Microsoft’s Bill Gates and one by The Queen of England) around the world. Most have been scanned and can be viewed through the internet to see the unusual mind of Leonardo – the same page potentially containing an anatomical sketch of a limb, notes on water flow and a drawing in preparation for a painting.

When virtually everyone wrote right-handed, Leonardo’s famously wrote left-handed and in a perfect mirror-script. Experts argue as to whether this was for a sense of secrecy or the practical reason of not smudging the ink before it dried.

On one page, Leonardo recorded his observations of fossils suggesting correctly that they were ancient creatures preserved by time. His notes include the identification of tracks and burrows left behind by ancient creatures, controversially against the teachings of the church (who claimed it was either from the Great Flood or simply bits of coincidental rock) and hence never spread beyond his notebook. Such ideas would only be matched by modern naturalists hundreds of years later.

On another page is the familiar Vitruvian Man highlighting the proportions of man (now in the Accademia in Venice) while another details a fully functioning robot capable of playing drums automatically.

I have sighted several of these codices though sadly most only go on display for special events. Codex Arundel at the British Museum and Codex Windsor at Windsor Castle are the most likely to be on public display while Bill Gates loans his codex on an annual display somewhere in the world. The two in Milan at the Ambrosiana Library (largest codex) and Sforza Castle are rarely sighted.

The highlight in Milan is undoubtedly Leonardo’s extraordinary Last Supper painted on a wall of the dining hall of the monastery at Santa Maria delle Grazie (visits are limited to a strict 15 minutes and only accessible by ticket – buy them well in advance online).

The outstanding Milan National Science and Technology Museum includes a rich selection of models from Leonardo’s notes highlighting paddle boats, gliders, cars, winches and cranes with notes from his pages showing the original drawings.

A cruise on The Milan canals (sadly many are now filled in) reveals much of Leonardo’s thinking at work. While the canals existed well before Leonardo’s time, he dramatically improved and interconnected them with the development of lock designs and sluices some of which remain in usage in Milan today.

Sforza Castle remains a major landmark in Milan, highlighting the power of the dukes in the middle ages. Today it hosts a number of museums and art galleries. Leonardo assisted in designing the defences of the castle (including a moat, now grassed) and decorated the Tower Room (sala delle asse) which was eventually given to him as his own private room. Leonardo constructed a bridge over the moat to gain access and decorated the room with an exceptional (but heavily restored) fresco of eighteen willow trees with a single golden rope intertwined and looped through the branches and the Sforza coat of arms in the centre.

Milan is an elegant city based on its unusual mix of fashion and finance, often excluded on Italian itineraries for the popular Florence, Rome and Venice. For those seeking the treasures of Leonardo, it highlights a number of elements of Leonardo’s life at the time when Leonardo was at his most prolific and inspirational.

The final part takes up Leonardo's last years in France.

Photo Credit: salle della asse

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Glamping Across Canada: Adding Glamour to Wilderness Camping

Guest post by Vinay Shingornikar. Vinay is a popular and accomplished writer having authored a number of articles across a wide variety of online publications. Currently, he is happily employed with Flight Network. Founded in 1998, has grown to become Canada's second most visited online travel agency, specialising in offering highly discounted prices for domestic and international flights, along with hotels, cruises, vacation packages, and car rentals.

Forget resting in a sleeping bag on a cold and hard ground while you are camping outdoors. Imagine staying in the heart of wilderness and relaxing on a comfy bed in a luxurious tent complete with crisp linens, carpets and polished wood floors. If relaxing in a king-size bed with access to spotless toilets and sparkling showers is not enough, you can pamper yourself at fancy spas and taste fine cuisine in the midst of serene surroundings.

Sounds like a dream? Not really. “Glamping” makes your dream a reality by combining nature's beauty with the comforts of luxury aesthetically. The term itself was coined from the delightful blending of “glamour” with “camping”. In this manner, glamping truly offers the best of both worlds.

If you are wondering where to head for the perfect glamping experience, mentioned below is a list of the top five glamping destinations in Canada.

Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Fly to Vancouver and head to the wild west coast of Vancouver Island to step in the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. Nestled in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, this resort is the jewel in the crown of luxurious glamping.

Embraced by a temperate rainforest, you can relax in the ambiance of a safari tent furnished with antiques, oriental carpets and polished wooden flooring. Stepping outside the comfort of your room, you can do hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, and fly-fishing. When you feel like pampering yourself, have a massage and relish the cuisine at the open-kitchen bar.

Rockwater Secret Cove Resort (Sunshine Coast, British Columbia)

Situated on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia, Rockwater Secret Cove Resort is a quaint bunch of treetop tents and ocean-side cabins. Walk along the treetop boardwalk and head to your private Tenthouse Suite, which is blissfully snuggled between the surrounding dense rainforest and offers fantastic view of the vast Pacific Ocean. Alternatively, you can also choose to stay by the ocean in the Ocean Edge Cabins or even in the poolside rooms.

Relax in the remote-controlled, hydrotherapy Euro-soaker tubs and bask in the bedroom fireplace as you step on the heated slate floors. If you are in the mood for some activities, you can do horseback riding or kayaking. Moreover, the food is local and organic.

Yukon’s Uncommon Journeys (Yukon Territory)

Dogsled to a remote wilderness yurt camp in the Yukon Territory that elevates the thrill of winter camping with a touch of pleasant comforts. The deluxe yurts have pinewood floors, skylights and large windows. The outhouse has insulated seats and offers a stunning view of the aurora borealis (top photo). You can also enjoy sauna and hot shower facilities in a tent or warm yourself by the campfire while savouring juicy steaks.

Quebec’s Hôtel de Glace / Quebec's Ice Hotel (Quebec)

If you plan to visit Quebec City during winter, it will be worthwhile to check out Quebec's Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel). Each winter, Hôtel de Glace is open to guests from early January till the end of March. Camp with your friends or family in this unique ice retreat. The exquisite suites are crafted from scratch each year from fresh blocks of ice and snow. The entire hotel is made of ice, including the cafe, bar, chapel, tubs, fireplaces, furniture and even beds! However, since we are glamping, the icy bed is covered with thick layers of deer fur, foam mattress and a sleeping bag. The bathroom is the only spot that is not made of ice.

Misabi Adventure Company (Lake Obabika, Ontario)

The Misabi Adventure Company is located on the shore of Lake Obabika in the wilderness of Ontario’s Temagami region. Glamping enthusiasts are certain to experience nature's best with a touch of flair in this eco-friendly camp. Raised on Crown land in Temagami, Misabi Adventure Company is a tranquil retreat that also offers activities like canoeing, angling, and forest trails. In this manner, it presents something for everyone – whether you are looking to let loose in physical challenges or just relax with complete peace of mind.


Change your perception of camping in the wilderness. Discard the leaky tent, uncomfortable sleeping bags, packaged food, heavy backpacks, Coleman stove and instant noodles! There is no need to sleep among creepy crawlers anymore. Instead, sip on some Soju and hang out in an elegant tent complete with wooden flooring and furnishings. Go glamping!

Photo Credits: Aurora, Clayoquat, Rockwater, Dog Sled, Ice Hotel, Obabika sunset

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Photo of the Week: Baird Glacier (Alaska, USA)

The race is on. As our small skiff bobs and bounces its way across Thomas Bay (which has the unfortunate nickname of The Bay of Death) towards Baird Glacier, the mist slowly sinks into the valleys, turning the daylight into a daunting greyness. Not far from the Alaskan town of Petersburg and approaching the final inlet, the icy wind knives us in the face, the breeze off the glacier savagely chilling the air. Woollen hats are adjusted and jackets zipped up. Arriving at the glacier, our group of three intrepid travellers stood and watched not brave enough to wander too far for fear of being enveloped into the silvery fog. After all, the weather gods were in a mean mood.

While it appears a god-forsaken location, the weather in Alaska swings dramatically from the grim to the sublime. White-outs are quickly replaced by sparkling blue skies. Sunny weather on the tidewater Baird Glacier must change the mood of the place, highlighting the rearing dark mountains and the snaking ice river meandering its way to the so-called Bay of Death.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In the Footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci - Part Two (Florence, Italy)

See Part One for Leonardo's early years in Vinci.

Showing early signs of being a fine painter, Leonardo moved to Florence with his father when he was fourteen and was apprenticed to master painter Verrocchio (only a couple of blocks from the stunning cathedral).

In those days, the apprentices worked as a team on many of the commissioned works though tradition dictated that all were credited to the workshop master. Hence the difficulty today in assigning who actually painted various paintings. It is well documented that Leonardo painted the angel in the lower left of Verrocchio’s The Baptism of Christ (pictured) with most considering it the finest part of the painting (it is hung in the nearby Uffizi). Stories abound that Verrocchio never painted again and turned solely to sculpture.

Early on, Leonardo pioneered subtle shading and smudging techniques called sfumato to create subtle differences in tone and mood which is apparent in all his works.

As it is today, Florence was an elegant cultural city becoming the ultimate Renaissance City. While the buildings have obviously changed and the city walls gone, the general panorama of Florence is little changed with its grand cathedral (duomo), main piazza and stately Ponte Vecchio already built by the time Leonardo moved there in 1466. Note Vasari’s painting of Florence from 1460 (top photo) and contrast it with the wonderful and recommended panoramic view from Piazzale Michelangelo. As with Paris, the city centre has been spared from tall modern buildings with architectural integrity being maintained so well.

The relationship to art is well noted with statues and artworks all over the city in the main squares along with a number of world class galleries. To imagine that Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael, a remarkable trinity of renaissance painters all spent overlapping time in Florence, leaving a cultural influence that remains bedded into the fabric of this city to this very day.

A few years later, Leonardo set out by himself (aged 25) but struggled to find much work with competition fierce between the painters serving the elite and wealthy citizens. His lifetime habit of being both a perfectionist and procrastinator left him with a nasty early reputation of being unreliable and not completing work.

Leonardo must have seemed an odd person to his fellow workers. He was left-handed (seen as the work of the devil by many), homosexual (evidently not as unusual in Florence, but illegal and strongly disliked in the highly influential church) and a vegetarian (very rare) on compassionate grounds.

Not being as well known, sadly little remains of Leonardo’s time in Florence apart from a handful of his fine paintings that are on view in the incomparable Uffizi Gallery (a public gallery since 1591!). These include The Adoration of the Magi (one of several unfinished paintings) and The Anunciation. An occasional habit of painters of the time was to include self-portraits with speculation that the young man on the far right looking outwards is a youthful Leonardo.

His finest times were to come as he moved to Milan under the sponsorship of the Duke of Milan. Part Three takes up Leonardo’s life in Milan.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

In the Footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci – Part One (Vinci, Italy)

Leonardo is probably the most universal genius of all time. Variously described as a painter, sculptor, writer, architect, town planner, scientist, cartographer, engineer, philosopher, aeronaut, inventor, anatomist, botanist, musician and geologist – his achievements in any single field would have left his mark in history. For his time through the Renaissance, Leonardo was widely travelled, taking various roles for a number of military, regal and religious leaders of the day. Leonardo is my invited guest to the well-known but pointless query about who I'd most like to share a dinner with.

This series of articles explores Leonardo’s travels starting with his birthplace in the small Tuscan hillside village of Vinci (hence his surname). Born illegitimate to a father who married four times, Leonardo’s ordinary and unprivileged early life is fairly undocumented. Today the small town of Vinci dines out on their famous son, nearly every element of the town carries his name.

Built around the so-called Ship Castle due to its elongated shape, the long narrow town is surrounded by rolling hills, covered in the trademark Tuscan vineyards and olive groves. Tasty wines and olive oils compete for space with Leonardo memorabilia and knick-knacks in the numerous small shops. Vinci feels lost in time – Leonardo may well still feel at home in the narrow streets and stone houses of the tiny town.

Independent of Leonardo, the castle tells a fine story of a Vinci military leader who was arrested for treason and sentenced to death by being thrown from the castle. In the spirit of the day, prisoners who survived their death were pardoned as it was seen as God’s way to rescue wrongly charged folks. Imbued with a glass of the local wine, the man survived his death by miraculously gliding – the town also recording record harvests that year. To this day, this event is celebrated in the town.

The Leonardo Museum boasts quite a number of models taken from his detailed but cryptic notes revealing the breadth and depth of thinking of this extraordinary individual. A car, double-hulled ship and a skin-diving suit (with breathing tube) shares space with innovative war machinery, bridges, gliders, a crane and a weaving machine. Each model is captioned with the relevant page from his notes showing the detailed sketch from which the modern models are constructed. For further detail, the neighbouring library (Biblioteca Leonardiana) contains copies of all his written works, though no originals.

The font likely to have been used to baptise Leonardo remains in the Church of Santa Croce, while a fine horse statue graces the centre of Piazza della Liberta at the other end of the village.

However, the best way to enjoy Vinci is to escape the visitor bustle and undertake a pleasant hour-long stroll to his underwhelming but humble honey brick birth house in Anchiano via a fine hiking trail. Under shaded trees and near farmyards to the sounds of twittering birds and alongside a peaceful stream, maybe Leonardo’s later ideas and inventions were formulated and stimulated along this very path. The views back on Vinci alone make the walk worthwhile.

At fourteen, Leonardo moved to Florence...

Photo Credit: Vinci map, parachute

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Exploring the Big Four Canary Islands (Spain)

Guest post by Amanda Hattersburg. Amanda writes about everything travel related focussing on Canary Islands holidays. She writes frequently on travel subjects and enjoys publishing guest articles.

Despite being a set of seven distinct islands, much of the tourism in the Canaries is centred on four of the islands.

Being the second largest of the Canary Islands, Fuerteventura boats a booming tourist economy. Although a quieter destination than other islands in the region, holiday makers are attracted by the wealth of opportunities for exploration here. The island is home to over 150 beaches and many archaeological sites: creating the perfect balance between exploring natural wonders and local history. The waters off the coast of the island are home to whales, dolphins, marlin and turtles; ensuring that underwater exploration is a must when visiting the island.

Tenerife has often been heralded as the party island in the region but there is much on the island to entice those looking for a little more from their trip. Holiday makers are able to visit such natural wonders as the volcanic crater of Mount Teide (photo above)and the cliffs of Los Gigantes, whilst those looking for some historical and cultural exploration will find a visit to Puerto de la Cruz is a must.

Individuals enjoying Canary Islands holidays will often wish to explore the natural habit of the island of Gran Canaria. The island has been described as a horticultural centre due to the countless plantations home to numerous species of plant and crop, but Gran Canaria also boasts huge sand dunes which can be explored to the full on the back of a camel. Not only are there countless natural features to the island but the bustling metropolis of Las Palmas enables tourists to explore the biggest city in the region. Las Palmas is home to various different local sports and at the right time of the year holiday makers can find the city in full swing during one of the many local festivals. This is the perfect time to explore the cultural heritage of this fascinating region.

The remaining of the big four islands in the region, Lanzarote, provides holiday makers with possibly the most interesting landscape to explore. The entire island has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve due to the unique volcanic landscape which is found here. A trip to the Fire Mountains will enable visitors to fully experience the wonders of this inhospitable landscape as they will be guided through the area on the back of a dromedary and will witness the earth seethe in places despite the area being officially described as dormant.

Whichever of these four islands is the chosen destination there is huge scope to explore one of the most interesting areas of the world.

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