Tag Archive | North America

7 Amazing Sights to See in Central America!

Despite Mexico’s soaring popularity as a holiday destination, the rest of Central America seems to have fallen by the wayside. Years of turmoil may have put visitors off, but there are so many sites to see from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific Ring of Fire that have gone unnoticed. Here are 7 places to add to your bucket list.

Semuc Champey, Lanquin, Guatemala

Nestled in the mountains of Guatemala’s Alta Veraspaz region, Semuc Champey really is a sight to behold. A natural water park of clear, cold pools, winding caves and gentle rivers, you could easily spend a couple of days here. Take a tour through the Lanquin cave system and tube down the river before climbing the mountainside to take in the view.

Semuc Champey

Tikal, near Flores, Guatemala

Whilst Chichen Itza holds the title of most famous Mayan site, Tikal is arguably the most impressive. Once a sprawling city, it is now a mass of deep jungle with stone temples perforating the canopy. There are so brilliant local guides who will show all the secrets of the place – from the acoustics of the temples to the trees used to create weapons.

Tikal

Copan, Honduras

Copan is another Mayan site worthy of more visitors. Once ruled over by Mayan ruler and fan of the arts 18 Rabbit, Copan is home to some incredible works of Mayan sculpture from detailed stelae to the amazing Hieroglyphic staircase.

Copan

The Great Blue Hole, Belize

Famous amongst divers, The Great Blue Hole is an underwater sinkhole some 300m across. Situated in the middle of Lighthouse Reef it offers great snorkeling opportunities, too, and a chance to meet some very friendly stingrays.

Blue Hole

Ik Kil Cenote, Yucatan, Mexico

There are thousands of cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, but this one is something special. A cenote is formed when the roof of a cave collapses, exposing the pool inside, and Ik Kil is a perfect example of this. Stairs lead down to the pool, and you can swim beneath the lush vegetation growing from the walls.

Ik Kil Cenote

Leon, Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a country with a turbulent past, and nowhere is this more visible than in the city of Leon. It was originally built in 1524 but abandoned some 100 years later after a series of earthquakes decimated the region. Modern Leon lies 30km from this original site, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Leon, Nicaragua

Pacaya Volcano, Antigua, Guatemala

Whilst the city of Antigua in Guatemala offers plenty for travelers to see and do, one cannot miss a hike to the summit of active volcano Pacaya – that is, if it isn’t erupting. At ‘quiet’ times, local guides lead groups to the crater and if the volcano is behaving well, you can even poke the lava with a long stick. If not, then the climb is worth it for the views alone.

Pacaya Volcano

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Top 10 Islands in the World

Popular travel review site TripAdvisor has come out with the results of its annual Travelers’ Choice® awards. Among them are the awards for the best islands in the world. Wonder which ones made the top 10, according to the opinions of TripAdvisor readers? Then read on…

1. Ambergris Caye, Belize Cayes

For the second year in a row, Ambergris Caye takes top honours. The beautiful Belize island offers the perfect blend of modern development and laid-back tranquillity. A mangrove swamp is the eye of this white beach island, the largest in Belize, and golf carts are the main form of transportation along the sandy roads. Reef divers drool over the Belize Barrier Reef and the Blue Hole, a 400-feet deep circle of limestone that teems with angelfish, Elkhorn coral, cleaner shrimp and stalactites.

Ambergris Caye

2. Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

Scuba diving, horseback riding, sunbathing… take your pick. “Provo” offers plenty for the happy couple to do, including picture-perfect coastlines to walk along, hand in hand. The island itself is relatively tranquil; try Malcolm Beach to get even further away from crowds.

3. Bora Bora, Society Islands

The relatively small island of Bora Bora is an activity giant, offering visitors the chance to experience a 4×4 safari, sunbathe and swim at white sandy beaches, dive in a natural underwater park among fish and corals, experience thrilling shark feedings, or circle the turquoise lagoon by boat. And Bora Bora is a superlative romantic spot. Fall captive to this lush gem of a Polynesian island by sharing an intimate midnight dinner on the beach; visiting the Lagoonarium, the Diving Centre, the Coral Gardens or the Leopard Rays Trench; or taking it all in from the lofty heights of 2,300-foot Mount Otemanu.

Bora Bora

4. Marco Island, Florida

Marco Island is the perfect destination for those who crave a peaceful retreat but don’t have time to travel too far off the grid. The jewel of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island’s soft white beaches overlook the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Scavenge for seashells or hit the links for a sunny session of golf. Explore the Everglades in a swamp buggy or enjoy a rejuvenating nature hike at the Rookery Bay Reserve.

5. Lewis and Harris, Outer Hebrides

A visit to Lewis and Harris is like stepping into the pages of a Scottish fairy tale. In Lewis—the northern part of the island – the legendary Callanish Standing Stones poke up from the ground like a strange and massive rock city. The Blackhouse, the Shawbost Norse Mill and Kiln, and the Carloway Broch all offer a peek at what island life used to look like. In southern Harris, the east side beaches boast some of the oldest known rocks in the world, dating back millions of years. Cruise over to the volcanic islands of St. Kilda to explore the ruins of a medieval village.

6. Naxos, Cyclades

A spot of white in the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea, the island of Naxos is a unique blend of ancient ruins and beach culture. The largest of the Cycladic Islands, Naxos is the childhood home of none other than Zeus, king of the gods. Upon arrival in Naxos, hike over a causeway to Palatia, where the Portara, a stone gateway to an ancient temple that no longer exists, stands alone, the symbol of the island. At sunset, the views of the island, and the sea beyond, are breathtaking.

Naxos

7. Aitutaki, Southern Cook Islands

This small island encased in a triangular barrier reef boasts incredible lagoons. Relax with a intimate picnic on the alabaster beach of one of Aitutaki’s minor islands, uninhabited and lined with swaying palm trees. Despite its heartbreaking beauty, Aitutaki isn’t (yet) flooded with tourists, due to its relatively difficult-to-reach location. For off-the-beaten-sandbar holiday-making, Aitutaki is a prime destination, especially for those seeking unbridled romantic ambiance.

8. Nosy Be, Antsiranana Province

“Nosy Be?” Is that a typo for “Noisy Bee?” Nope. It means “big island” and it is just that; a large island off the northwest coast of Madagascar. Here you’ll find volcanic lakes, lazy lemurs, rum distilleries, Ylang Ylang plantations and intricate coral reefs that are practically begging to be explored. Flora and fauna lovers will be in seventh heaven at the beautiful Lokobe Nature Special Reserve. Audiophiles should visit in May, to experience the four-day Donia Music Festival.

9. Easter Island, Chile

Located in the South Pacific more than 2,000 miles off the Chilean coast, Easter Island’s not the easiest place to reach. (If you’re interested, the easiest access is by air from Santiago or Tahiti.) But isolation has helped preserve the 1,500-year-old mysterious congregation of volcanic rock sculptures (maoi) that’s the island’s biggest claim to fame. After exploring the unique landscape, relax on an uncrowded beach and ponder one of the most mysterious places on Earth.

Easter Island

10. Ko Tao, Surat Thani Province

Drifting serenely in the Gulf of Thailand, the palm-fringed island of Ko Tao takes its name from the abundant sea turtles that reside on its shores. White sand beaches sheltered by steep hills – some only accessible with four-wheel drive vehicles – and 300 days of sun per year invite long afternoons of lounging.

Do you agree with this selection or are there other islands that you think are more deserving of making the top 10?

 

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Ms Johnnie Wright
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