Tag Archive | Regions

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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5 Reasons to Ski the Sierra Nevada This Winter

A ski holiday is not the first thing people usually think of when considering a visit to Andalucia; however, the Sierra Nevada ski resort is for many reasons a terrific alternative to the Alps and other European ski destinations. With world-class slopes and facilities, this site overlooking the Mediterranean sea and the culture rich city of Granada played host to the FIS Freestyle Ski & Snowboard World Cup Super finals in March of this year and is already slated to host the World Championships in 2017. With the top station sitting 3300 meters high and a ski-able vertical drop of 1200 meters, this resort is no joke.

Sierra Nevada Spain

Consider five reasons to book your ski holiday in the Sierra Nevada this season:

The sun

This is still sunny Andalucia after all, and the Sierra Nevada ski resort is in fact the southernmost ski resort in Europe. It’s also the sunniest ski resort in Europe with more than 80% sunny days during the ski season. You can see the Mediterranean from the slopes on a clear day, and as the beach at Motril is within about 45 minutes drive from the resort, you can even ski and take in the sun on the beach all in the same day.

The Sulayr Snow Park

In preparation for hosting the freestyle ski and snowboard World Cup in March, 2013, the Sierra Nevada resort expanded the already impressive Sulayr Snow Park with nine brand new features to bring the number of jumps, rails, half-pipes and various other obstacles up to 70. Forty-six of these can be done consecutively in what is now Europe’s longest such run. There is a dedicated “Kidspark” within the zone and practice areas for intermediates to provide a safe as well as fun environment for freestylers of all ages and skill levels.

Fewer crowds and virtually endless off-piste slopes

The resort still seems to cater more to local patrons than for weeklong holiday makers, which means that on weekdays the crowds are often very thin, and even on weekends long queues for the lifts are rare. The Spanish habit of siesta still plays a role as well, so the midday slopes are even more luxuriously unoccupied.

But for those who really want to get away from the crowds, the entirety of the Sierra Nevada resort sits above the tree line so with a good snow it is possible to ski virtually the entire mountain. However, such off-piste excursions are not advisable for any but the most knowledgeable and expert skiers. Avalanche prevention measures off-piste are minimal, but with a bit of information and advice there are vast areas of skiable, natural mountainscapes.

Proximity to diverse attractions

It is often the case that the best ski resorts are so remote that it’s not possible to explore the region beyond the slopes. Again the Sierra Nevada resort offers a stark contrast. The resort itself is known for a livelier-than-most nightlife, but with such proximity to the historic city of Granada and the World Heritage site of the Alhambra at only about 20 kilometres away, it’s not so much of a possibility as a must. Malaga, at about 160km is also workable on a day trip and half of that is coastline for any desired beach stops. Cordoba and the Mezquita are also about a two-hour drive from Granada (a train also runs) offering further World Heritage sites and deep cultural explorations.

Length of the season

The Sierra Nevada ski resort is usually open from late November to early May, making it one of the longest non-glacial ski seasons in Europe. There are fewer than 50 ski resorts in the world open in May for late season skiing and the Sierra Nevada is one of them. The slopes are now already open for 2013, with the first skiers and snowboarders carving up the fresh snow from 23 November. That gives you a full six months to plan and schedule your visit this season!

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