MCI (P) 134/03/2013
“Best Of” Issue
Svalbard | Cabo Verde | Scotland
Roy Mangersnes - wildphoto.no / www.nordnorge.com / Longyearbyen
S T N E T N CO
14 0 2 B E JAN-F 14 20
08 30 22
36 06 12
S ations E R U T > FEA dlife Destin f Wi l Best o istmas Island r 06 – Ch ana uy s 08 – G g Gem n u l F r f Fa Best o ibia m 12 – Na lbard a 14 – Sv th Georgia u 16 – So s ctivitie A f o t Bes iking tain B n u o 20 – Mtah, USA U
ing Climb in k c o a ia, Sp 22 – R n Catalo
e v 24 – DDierawan, Indon
k 26 – HSci otland
ations n i t s e D untain ia o M f o d Best nd, In rakha a t t U 28 – tein h t en s c e i L 30 – ds f Islan Best o o Verde b 32 – Ca rus p 34 – Cy e Cultur Guinea f o t s Be ew pua N a P – India 36 t h an , s a j a 38 – R
S R A L U REG
IDE EA R G U G 10 AVEL NEWS 18 TR VEL TIPS 9 TR A
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This issue we're exploring our "Best Of..." list of destinations, based on our (biased) picks for what’s hot for the beginning of 2014, selected from personal experiences and lists from travel bigwigs like Lonely Planet and National Geographic, but mostly compiled during a stupor of debauched indulgences during the year-end parties.
Covering 6 categories, we've included a bit of everything from wildlife hotspots to remote destinations, so there should be a little of something for everyone. Kicking off the Best of Wildlife is our closest wildlife hotspot Christmas Island, and then it’s of to one of the Amazon's least-visited corners: Guyana, which is also arguably home to the best waterfall in the world, Kaieteur Falls. For the Best of Far-Flung Gems, we kick off in Africa with Namibia with its forbidding Skeleton Coast. Then it's off to Svalbard in the Arctic, before finally reaching the most remote of all, South Georgia, site of Shackleton's epic life-or-death trek. Activities, we’ve included popular things to do while on a trip – these include mountain biking (along Utah's legendary Park City and Moab mountain bike trails), rock climbing (in Europe's little-known Abella de la Conca), diving (in Derawan for stingless jellyfish and sea turtles) and hiking (along the Scottish countryside along the new John Muir Trail). When compiling the Best of Mountains, it’s hard to miss the Himalayas – Uttarakhand’s an easy pick with its mix of spirituality and soaring summits – and the Alps, with the tiny Principality of Liechtenstein. Our Best of Islands pick includes Cape Verde for its amazing scenery, culture and value, as well as Cyprus with its ancient Greek ruins, Byzantine churches, and bragging rights for visiting the world's last divided capital city. Finally, our Best of Culture is not without colour, from PNG's amazing tribes to India’s Rajasthan, with its architectural wonders of Rajput warrior kings. While some of these may make it to your bucket list for 2014 (and many may have been ticked off), we are always keen to hear what your "Best of..." destinations for 2014 are, and why. Head to our revamped website now – we want to hear from you!
Until then, Happy Trails!
GREEN CORRIDOR RUN | 18 MAY 2013 The Green Corridor Run 2014 is a 10.5km race through an uninterrupted stretch of greenery and woodlands that runs the entire length of Singapore's rail corridor. The trail run starts from the historic Tanjong Pagar Rail Station, winding its way along the beautiful green corridor to finish at the old Bukit Timah Rail Station. The number of entrants is limited, so register early (registration closes 31 March). For more info, visit www.greencorridorrun.com.sg.
Our Team Editor-in-Chief May Lynn Writers Konrad Clapp Samantha Pereira Creative Director Lynn Ooi Designer Marilyn Wong General Manager Aaron Stewart
Media Rep Lennox & Ooi Media Pte Ltd 242A River Valley Road Singapore 238299 Tel 6732 0325 www.sportsandtravelonline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sports and Travel Limited Rm. 1104 Crawford House 70 Queen’s Road Central Hong Kong Tel +852 2861 8746 Fax +852 2961 4800 email@example.com
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Contributors Liam Quinn, Michael Johnson, Mickaël T.
Special Thanks Christmas Island Tourism Consell Comarcal Pallars Jussà Cyprus Tourism Board
Liechtenstein Marketing Namibia Tourism Board North Norwegian Tourist Board Scottish Viewpoint Utah Office of Tourism and many, many others!
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With so many challenges facing our world today, it's more important than ever to celebrate its diversity, and appreciate the amazing wealth of wildlife our planet is home to. And there's no better way to come to grips with that than by visiting a wildlife hotspot, be it Guyana in the Amazon or Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.
PHOTOS FROM Christmas Island Tourism
Diversity in Droves Closer in proximity to Indonesia than it is to mainland Australia, Christmas Island rises out of the Indian Ocean as the tip of an extinct submarine volcano. Reaching 361m at its highest point, the central plateau is dominated by stands of rainforest that is home to a host of wildlife that have made this island famous. Named in 1643 for the day of its discovery, this Australian territory is now famous worldwide for its annual red crab migration, when millions of these red crustaceans crawl out of their burrows and march to the ocean to breed en masse. Even if you missed the major spawning season, you’ll still be able to find plenty of red crabs around town and in the jungles. Some areas are even home to many other species of crabs, including the giant robber
crabs which can grow up to 1m in length from leg to leg. Other wildlife that inhabit the island in massive flocks include the island’s resident birds – no less than 3 species of boobies can be found here (brown, red-foot and Abbott's), along with colourful bosuns with their magnificent tails, Frigatebirds with their inflatable red throat pouches, and many more. Christmas Island is the closest place to find all of these seabirds in one spot – it’s even been nicknamed the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean’. Most birds are easy to spot and get close to (each species has its own territory), making wildlife photography a joy. The island’s many parks – with habitats ranging from mangroves to hillside forests – are easily accessible via boardwalks and walking trails.
Christmas Island isn't surrounded by sandy beaches – instead, its fringes are dominated by almost continuous sea cliffs that give way to shallow bays with small beaches (the largest of these is Flying Fish Cove – the island's only port). As the island is basically the tip of a volcano with a narrow encircling coral reef, the waters surrounding Christmas Island plummet to deep sea just 200m offshore. This means diving and snorkelling spots, with walls of tropical reef – complete with accompanying tropical fish life – are just minutes offshore. Pelagics also make the occasional visit, including whale sharks (from NovemberApril). Thanks to the island’s remote location in the Indian Ocean, wildlife – both terrestrial and marine – thrive here.
Getting There & Around Christmas Island Air operates weekly flights from Jakarta to Christmas Island, with a flight time of 1 hour. Another option is via Perth, with 4 weekly flights, taking 3 hours. What to Eat or Drink You can get halal food in the Kampung (Malay) village, and Chinese food at Poon Saan (the Chinese settlement). Elsewhere, Australian/Western fare can be found. As alcohol is duty-free, it costs less than on mainland Australia. Food can be slightly more costly on the island than on mainland Australia, due to the fact that it has to be airflown in. Where to Stay Accommodation ranges from the motelstyle Christmas Island Lodge, to 3-star establishments like the colonial-style Sea Spray Villa and the shophouse-style Tong Chee House. Cultural Tip While it’s an Australian territory, most of Christmas Island’s inhabitants comprise of Chinese and Malay settlers from Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore (it was part of Singapore until 1957). Today, it celebrates a wide range of festivals, from Chinese New Year to Hari Raya and ANZAC Day. Fun Fact You can go to the Post Office to have a red crab ‘Christmas Island’ postmark stamped in your passport – the official immigration stamp is not as fun.
Red Crab Migration At the beginning of the wet season (October or November), adult red crabs pop out of their rainforest burrows and head toward the ocean like a herd of crustacean zombies for the spawning season. During this time, roads are closed and 'crab bridges' are erected to prevent them from being crushed. The males will dig burrows by the beach where they mate, and the females remain there for 12-13 days while the males return to the forest. Around 6 January, the females head to the ocean to release their eggs into the water – the eggs hatch immediately after contact – before migrating back to the forest.
This year's possible spawning dates set for 20 October, 18 November or 18 December. Bird Week A major annual event, Christmas Island's Bird'n'Nature Week 2014 is where you can get a chance to work with visiting scientists to study endemic birds on the island. Seminars and field trips are part of the programme. The Christmas Island Thrush, Abbott's Booby and the Christmas Island Hawk-Owl are just some endemic species you can encounter at any time of the year, along with boobies, bosuns and frigatebirds. This year’s event is set for 30 August to 6 September 2014.
Wild Amazon There’s few places on earth that conjure a traveller’s imagination more than the Amazon. With its promise of vast rivers, raging waterfalls, remote tribes and yet-to-bediscovered species, it’s one of the final frontiers, and sandwiched right in the middle of it all is Guyana. Despite being seemingly small next to its immense neighbour Brazil, it covers an area bigger than Great Britain. Comprising a narrow coastal strip backed up by its huge jungle-interior, much of Guyana’s relatively small population is concentrated in the capital Georgetown, its only true city. Beyond that are only towns and scattered settlements stretching across the Amazon, meaning vast tracts of Guyana are given over to wildlife, whether officially in national parks or simply in unsettled wilderness. The country’s capital and international hub, Georgetown is small and easy to navigate around. Situated on the edge of the jungle, it is also the primary gateway to Guyana’s vast hinterland, which literally begins at the city limits.
In dry season, it’s possible to drive all the way to Lethem on the Brazilian border, where Guyana’s jungles give way to vast savannahs. Known for its Giant anteaters and resident vaqueros (cowboys), this remote, western corner marks the end of the road in Guyana before crossing into Bonfim on the other side of the frontier. Wildlife Situated between the Amazon and the Caribbean Sea, the wildlife in Guyana is very varied. Amazonian Red and Green Macaws as well as the iconic Guianan Cock-of-therock – with its bright red plumage and rounded crest – can be found across the region. The rainforest is home to golden frogs (used for poison darts), the massive blue morpho (the largest butterfly in South America), as well as a number of wild cats like pumas and leopard cats. A rare treat is the sighting of the endangered three-toed sloth, which lives high in the trees and are so famously sedentary that green algae grow on their fur.
Iwokrama Forest Along the road out of Georgetown into the interior is Iwokrama Forest. One of the largest stretches of undisturbed jungle on earth, its 3,700sq.km. are home to over 500 types of birds and 400 species of fish, as well as black caiman and rare felines like leopards and tiger cats. One of the best ways to take it all in is from its impressive canopy walk (35m high). Part of an innovative, ongoing experiment, half the park’s land is set aside for strict conservation, while the other half is earmarked for sustainable utilisation in careful cooperation with 16 local tribal communities who are involved in ranger duties and tours, as well as sustainable fishing and hunting. Kaieteur National Park Deep into the interior along the border with Brazil is Guyana’s undisputed gem: the world’s tallest single-drop waterfall, Kaieteur
Falls. Part of the vast Kaieteur National Park, it is an uncrowded spot (unlike other major waterfalls like Victoria or Niagara), with a rocky vertiginous viewpoint that juts out over the abyss. The total lack of guardrails and miles of unobstructed views make it a oneof-a-kind experience. The easiest and fastest way to reach Kaieteur is by air, with regular flights (1 hour) from Georgetown to the park’s airstrip. There are also 5D/4N overland tours, starting with an 8-hour drive to Mahdia in central Guyana. From there, it’s a 3-day hike to the falls, where there are guesthouses and rangers who run guided hikes. Overnighting at Kaieteur allows you to experience the park, where you can easily spot the outrageously colourful Guianan Cock-of-the-rock. Most overland travellers depart by air back to Georgetown rather than retrace their steps.
Getting There & Around Georgetown is Guyana’s sole international gateway, with direct flights from New York, Toronto and London. You may also arrive by road from Brazil or ferry from Suriname. What to Eat or Drink Guyanese cuisine is similar to that of the West Indies, with pepperpots (a meaty, spiced stew), cassava and Indian curries. One of the best places to try any of these (except the pepperpot, which is harder to come by) is in Georgetown’s famous Stabroek Market. Where to Stay Part of a still fledgling eco-tourism industry, Guyana has many new, up-and-coming rainforest lodges, including Timberhead on the Demerara River and Rockview Lodge at Annai (central Guyana). Cultural Tip As English is its first language, it’s more culturally linked to the Caribbean (like Trinidad or Jamaica) than with its Latin neighbours. This is evident in its steel drum bands or a day at Georgetown’s historic Cricket Club. Fun Fact Lying on the edge of the Amazon, more than 200 species of tropical birds can be found in Georgetown alone.
SPREAD THE MESSAGE Nikwax TX.Direct
SPREAD THE MESSAGE While breathable clothes are great when new, over time they need special care and attention. The Nikwax TX.Direct Wash-In is a water-based waterproofing treatment that restores and improves the durable waterrepellent finish of breathable fabrics without wicking/ absorbent liners. It prolongs the effective lifespan and optimises the performance of wet-weather clothing and maintains or renews the waterproofing required to make breathable items breathe. It's environmentally friendly and nonhazardous as well as quick and easy to apply in a washing machine or by hand, with no need for tumble drying. Now available at Adventure 21 at S$22 and S$26 (for the TX.Direct Spray-On).
For getting around town quickly, The North Face's Basecamp Messenger Bag is constructed with the same organisational features similar to a regular daypack. You can sling it over your shoulder or tote it on your bike handle, or use the removable hip belt to provide a secure fit to avoid it bouncing around your sides. It's an ideal size for a carry-on, and the open-back construction allows you to slip it over rolling luggages. The padded laptop sleeve and separate tablet sleeve securely hold larger electronics, while fleece-line pockets hold mobile phones, chargers and small everyday items. Now available at S$176 at The North Face.
The North Face Basecamp Messenger Bag
RETRO CASING The Rangefinder Sensor Case is a waterproof outdoor organisational casing for tablets with a clear, touchscreen-compatible compartment for electronics and includes pockets for pens and other small items. The case is constructed with a polyester fabric that looks like retro cotton but is actually fully waterproof, with RF-welded synthetic leather accents. The Rangefinder Collection has other bags and packs, including a messenger bag, backpack, seabag and duffel. The Sensor Case is available at Outdoor Life for iPad (S$99) and iPad Mini (S$82).
ZIP AND GO Marmot's Cruz & Lobo Convertible Pants are made from innovative Durable Water-Resistant Finish (DWR) fabric with soft DriClime interior waistband, with the cargo pockets featuring sturdy zip closures. Thanks to its zip-and-go convenience, it's ideal for most weather conditions, it's quick drying with an additional Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) 30. Durability is provided by its Abrasion Resistant Nylon Fabric, which is stretchable for increased mobility. Both are available at Campers' Corner at $99 per pair.
Marmot Cruz (left) & Lobo Convertible Pants
Rangefinder Sensor Case
Far-Flung Gems Namibia:
© Namibia Tourism Board
Going West Situated on Africa’s remote southwest coast, largely cut off from the rest of the continent by deserts and the sea, Namibia may not be as well-known as its neighbours like South Africa and Botswana, but its got epic sand dunes, historic German towns, expansive hinterlands, pristine coastline and even safari.
Even with its very low population density, one of Namibia’s most fascinating aspects is its mix of tribes, including the San bushmen and the Himba (an ancient group of seminomads), the women of which use otjize (a mixture of ochre and butter fat) in their uniquely-braided hairs and on their bodies.
A vast country, Namibia’s arid deserts (the Namib and Kalahari) are fringed by the dry Central Plateau, rugged scrublands and even tropical forests.
This is complemented by the country’s rich, if recent, history of German colonialism reflected in its architecture, towns and even food, with German names appearing on menus and streets. Namibia’s colonial-era relics range from Art Nouveau and German Imperial architecture and castles in towns like Lüderitz and Windhoek, to the ghostly relics of Kolmanskop, a once booming but now abandoned mining town is that being swallowed by the Namib Desert.
National Parks abound in the country, showcasing each of its distinctive landscapes – the most popular of which are Etosha National Park (a safari destination covering a multitude of environs) and Namib-Naukluft National Park (famed for its petrified desertscape).
© Namibia Tourism Board
Deadvlei’s petrified trees
There are few places on earth that mankind hasn't left its mark, thanks to early explorers who set off to establish a human presence in uncharted territory. Today, there still are destinations that offer travellers the opportunity to experience a part of that pioneering experience – which in many cases, remain far more wild than tame.
Getting There & Around Namibia is one of Africa’s most stable, safe and easily-travelled destinations. While many sensitive ecological areas – like Skeleton Coast and various national parks – have highly controlled entry requirements, it’s possible to arrive in Windhoek, rent a 4WD and largely self-explore vast tracts of the country. What to Eat or Drink Namibian cuisine is a mix of indigenous African and imported German recipes, covering everything from stews and porridge to cured game meat like biltong (dried jerky) and boerewors (local sausage). Famous local lagers include Hansa and Windhoek.
Himba women and children in a circular mud home
Where to Stay Some of Namibia’s best experiences include camping on 4WD safaris, or uniquely situated bush lodges, such as Duwisib Guest Farm, which sits next to remote Duwisib Castle. You can also stay at a historic castle like Hotel Heinitzburg. Cultural Tip Many of Namibia’s various tribal groups put a lot of effort into their hair and clothing, including impressive hats and jewelry. And many do expect to be paid for taking their picture. Fun Fact At one time, diamonds were so plentiful along Namibia’s coast, that early miners didn’t dig them up, but simply collected them by hand off the ground. The government then moved in, and declared the Sperrgebiet area a prohibited zone, which kept out settlers and has preserved local wildlife in pristine condition to this day.
The vast NamibNaukluft National Park is home to numerous huge saltpans (or ‘vlei’ meaning ‘desert lakes’) and towering sand dunes (some over 300m tall), forming a rugged, arid landscape.
Stretching hundreds of kilometres along Namibia’s desolate Atlantic shoreline, the stunning but desolate Skeleton Coast was not a place early seafarers would have chosen to visit. Here, the entire coast is cloaked in thick fog, which together with huge pounding surf, has led to hundreds of shipwrecks over the centuries – hence the ‘Skeletons’.
The largest of which is the forbidding Sossusvlei, and the most photographed being Deadvlei, with its ancient, petrified trees and ever-shifting sand dunes.
Now, the area makes a haunting, and uninhabited destination, with experienced 4WD operators running overland tours and fly-in safaris into one of Africa’s most remote corners, taking in historic wrecks and the unique local wildlife. Etosha National Park Located in the inland plateau, Etosha National Park is Namibia’s most famous safari destination, covering a diverse area of bush, desert, woodlands and the Etosha Pan, a vast salt flat that’s home to elephants, flamingos, big cats, ostrich and rare black rhinos.
Far-Flung Gems © Roy Mangersnes (wildphoto.no)
Polar bear with zodiac in the backdrop
PHOTOS FROM North Norwegian Tourist Board
Northern Exposure Aptly named by early Norse explorers, Svalbard (literally “the cold rim”) lies halfway between Norway and the North Pole. Consisting of numerous islands, the largest of which is Spitsbergen, the archipelago was only settled during the last 200 years when mining and whaling drew settlers to this remote corner of the world.
Home today to a burgeoning community of climate change researchers, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a university and some remaining coal miners, relics of the past abound, from the ruins of early settlements to the hulking remains of the abandoned mines and whaling stations that were Svalbard’s raison d’etat.
This part of the arctic is governed by extremes – the Polar Night and Midnight Sun alternately cloak Svalbard in darkness or bathe it in light half the year, yet even with its remoteness, Longyearbyen (the archipelago’s only real town) is covered with Wifi connection.
While in winter Svalbard is a dark (the sun never rises), cold and forbidding place (save for the occasional glow of Aurora Borealis), it comes alive during the short arctic spring/summer (April-August), when the Midnight Sun serves as a signal to plants and animals alike to erupt in activity, when flowers bloom and reindeer graze.
Longyearbyen is the kind of town where Svalbard reindeer (a rare endemic species) wander the streets, and arctic foxes run through snowy fields. There are also more polar bears in Svalbard than people, so locals travel armed anywhere outside of town.
Activities like snowmobiling, ice caving, dog sledding and glacier hiking are best in late winter, while summer is good for horse riding, kayaking and hiking.
© Marcela Cardenas
© Marcela Cardenas
Dogsled Expeditions © Marcela Cardenas
Not surprisingly, © Marcela Cardenas one of the biggest activities in Svalbard is dog sledding. Local operators run everything from half-day runs to multi-day expeditions into the wild, which would require you to carry a gun for protection against polar bears. Longer trips make the land crossing to Barentsburg, or the ghostly abandoned mining settlement of Pyramiden, while shorter trips run down the Adventdalen Valley or to the neighbouring settlement of Nybyen – both 2-3 hour return trips.
Operators also run trips to and from Barentsburg (2-3 days), crossing some of the world’s most untouched landscapes. Visit Barentsburg The Russian mining settlement of Barentsburg is a mix of raw nature and Soviet-era kitsch, and the only way in is via boat (or helicopter) down the icy fjords from Longyearbyen. Filled with murals of a “workers’ paradise”, a Lenin statue, a lonely Orthodox church and the 78th Parallel Bar, Barentsburg has a distinct frontier town feel. It is also slowly shrinking, as operations wind down. Dotted with industrial decay (like boarded-up buildings), it still spews plumes of black smoke, making it a sight to behold, simply for the outlandish mix of detritus in town and white glaciers just beyond.
Getting There & Around It’s the world’s most northerly destination serviced by commercial flights; the easiest route is via mainland Norway. Longyearbyen has only one road through town (though you can walk everywhere), and other outlying areas accessible by boat or dog sled (in winter). What to Eat or Drink Being that far north, their idea of ‘fresh catch’ include reindeer, whale, seal and Arctic char. You can enjoy some reindeer fajita or seal steak at the Kroa (Longyearbyen’s convivial local), or Arctic char at Huset. Mary Anne’s Polarigg even serves Thai-style whale stir-fry.
Where to Stay Perched on a hill, the historic Spitzbergen Hotel (built in 1947) is a fixture in Longyearbyen, as is Mary Ann’s Polarigg, with its unique frontier theme. Alternatively, you can stay onboard the ‘Ship in the Ice’, moored 60km from town, which hosts guests from February to March.
© Marcela Cardenas
Dog sledding excursion
Cultural Tip Locals have a custom of taking off their shoes and boots before entering someone’s home, or upon entering hotels, offices and some shops – it’s a tradition dating back to the coal mining days when miners would take off their shoes to avoid tracking coal dust into the houses. Visitors today swap their shoes with indoor slippers (or Crocs) provided, so don’t forget your socks. Fun Fact Prices of food, drink and everything else are subsidised – which is contrary to costs elsewhere in the arctic.
© Marcela Cardenas
Far-Flung Gems Colony of King peguins
PHOTOS BY Liam Quinn
Southern Endurance Originally made famous by the heroic explorer Ernest Shackleton, South Georgia and Sandwich Islands lie over 2,000km east of Argentina. Claimed by the British since the 18th century, South Georgia became an important seal and whaling base during the early 20th century, with no less than 7 whaling stations situated along its north coast. With the end of the whaling industry, Grytviken – last of the stations – ceased operations in 1964, adding to the hulk of decaying remains along with other abandoned whaling stations. However, there was no lasting human impact
on the islands, which has allowed massive penguin, bird and seal colonies to flourish, making the islands a key mating and migratory habitat. This in turn has made the island an important centre for research. It’s not difficult to find huge numbers of elephant seals or fur seals dominating the beaches, along with huge colonies of gentoo, king and macaroni penguins. While most of the wildlife gather along the coast (a spectacular sight with millions of king penguins as far as the eye can see), it’s also not difficult to spot them inland amongst the grassy hills. In addition, seabirds like terns and petrels also populate the area.
These days, the archipelago is only occasionally visited by strong-stomached travellers (the waters around South Georgia are very turbulent) – some come to experience its raw nature and wildlife, while others come to retrace the legendary 42km route that Ernest Shackleton and his team made in 1916. With no roads or infrastructure on the island – save for the 2 small settlements of Grytviken and King Edward Point – hiking and skiing are the only ways to get across the island. An alternative is a zodiac cruise around the island, stopping for short hikes en route.
Grytviken The historic settlement of Grytviken – home to a Whaling History Museum – is no longer inhabited yearround, but seasonal interpretive staff are on hand to provide commentary on the local wildlife and history. Here, you can visit the beaches where wildlife
abounds and explore buildings now occupied by seals and penguins; it is also in Grytviken that Ernest Shackleton is buried at a humble cemetery near the church. Following Shackleton’s Trail While exploring the Antarctic coast in 1908, Ernest Shackleton’s boat, the Endurance, was crushed by pack ice. Miles from the nearest civilisation, Shackleton and his skeleton crew made a daring sea crossing to South Georgia island for help. In a tiny lifeboat, they sailed 1,230km across turbulent seas before landing on the southern coast.
With 3 days’ supply and threadbare equipment, they trekked to the northern coast to reach a whaling station – frostbitten and malnourished, they finally reached the whaling station of Stromness after trekking 42km across the desolate landscape. Today, several operators offer ski expeditions retracing Shackleton’s Route, starting from King Haakon Bay (where Shackleton made landfall in 1916) to Stromness, negotiating the Murray Snowfield and traversing the Crean and Fortuna Glaciers along the 4-day ski traverse.
King Haakon Bay
Getting There and Around The only way to get here is on large icebreakers or expedition cruises, as there are no airstrips on any of these islands. There is no independent travel allowed (permits required), and most visitors come on one of many cruises – most with onboard naturalists and/or scientists. What to Eat or Drink Visitors are prohibited from bringing their own food and drinks due to strict biosecurity rules. The normal protocol is to dine onboard the vessels, which are normally full board. Fur seals at Grytviken
Where to Stay Staying on the island is not the norm (a permit costing £1,000 is required for expedition teams), so visitors normally bunk in the vessels they came from. Cultural Tip As the island is inhabited by wild birds and mammals, it’s best to take precaution against possible attacks. Terns may attack if you’re too close to their nests, while fur seals have been known to charge at humans. Fun Fact Many visitors purchase postage stamps issued by South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (produced in the UK), which accounts for a large part of the islands’ income. You can also post letters at Grytviken and King Edward Point.
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While it can be daunting when you step into a well-stocked gear shop, there is hope. Here are a few sure-fire picks that can help get you started before that next big trip. If you can’t find these exact items, just ask for help at an outdoor gear shop for similar products – there are plenty of other great brands available on the market.
BRIGHT LIGHT The amount of features that the Petzl Tikka RXP headlamp has is outSelect models available standing. It has a at Adventure 21 sensor to automatically adjust brightness based on how far away you are looking or you can set it to a constant light mode and when you hook it up to your computer you can customise your own brightness level. It has a red LED if you want to save your night vision. Rechargeable battery and if you want brightness? 215 lumens will light up the night.
Select models available at Outdoor Life
The Leatherman Wave has been around for a long time now and there is a good reason why it is a favourite. It has all the tools that most of the people need. Twin blades, pliers, scissors, screwdriver bits and more. And if you decide that you want more screwdriver bits you can always buy them later.
devices. That alone makes it the best camp stove ever.
GIMME SHELTER The new version of MSR’s latest lightweight two person tent (the Hubba Hubba) is Available at Outdoor Life 15% lighter than the earlier version. At only 1.72 kg it still has two doors, two vestibules and enough floor space to sleep comfortably. It’s also still very comfortable on warm nights, thanks to great ventilation and being able to fold back those vestibule doors.
BAAH BAAH COMFY SHEEP The Smartwool NTS 195 is a medium-weight base layer that (like all merino wool) wicks moisture away from you without absorbing odour. The back is a little bit
MOST INNOVATIVE The Biolite Camp Stove allows you to use twigs and small pieces of wood to bring your water to a boil. It produces surprisingly almost no smoke and is extremely efficient. While your food is cooking or water boiling, it can charge your electronic
BIKE TRAINING In (relatively) flat Singapore, it’s not surprising that hills tend to be many riders’ (and racers’) weakest dimension. So how to attack the hills without training overseas? On the road, if your route does have small climbs or rolling terrain, deliberately use a more difficult gear, and stick with it even as you struggle; this partially recreates the progressive, steady resistance of a real hill climb. Or hit the gym. The idea of training indoors is somewhat counter-intuitive, since the best part of cycling is you do it outdoors, in the real world. But there's one aspect of the gym that can really help on hills – mixing high-resistance, strengthendurance intervals on the stationary bike, with stationary rowing. Rowing is actually one of the best ways to train for hills. You can set the resistance to be challenging, as it engages your core, arms and back – something which hill climbs demand. Plus the pumping action is bio-mechanically similar to the less fluid, repetitive, up-down movement needed to do strenuous climbs. Varying your normal ride training even once per week with circuit training – switching it up between moderately high-resistance intervals on the stationary bike and even short 2-3 minute pumping row sessions – can have a big impact.
GEAR GUY: Ken Berg Ken grew up on the doorstep of the Canadian wilderness, backpacking, paddling and rock climbing in this rugged land. Armed with a degree in recreational studies, he has been working at Canada's premier outdoor retailer for over 10 years, putting gear to the test whether it's cycling in -35ºC winters, running marathons or travelling to the far reaches of the planet.
longer to give you better coverage and the flat seams make it more comfortable especially when carrying a pack. And all Smartwool product are mulesing-free, meaning that the sheep wasn’t put through unnecessary pain to provide you with the wool.
SOCK IT TO YOU The Thorlo Experia Micro Mini Sock is a warmAvailable at weather running sock with World of Sports effective padding where you need it to absorb the friction your feet take when running, but the thin Cool Max polyester is on the rest of the sock to help keep your feet comfortable. The polyester moves the sweat away from your feet. Great for distance runs or any sport where you might be running and cutting.
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Mountain Biking White Pine Lake
© Utah Office of Tourism
Epic Trail Rides Located in the southwest of the United States, Utah is known for its scenic beauty, ranging from ochre canyons in its southeast portion to soaring, snowcapped peaks in the north. Home to national parks like Arches and Canyonlands, Utah also boasts 2 internationally-known mountain bike trails – the first is the legendary Slickrock Bike Trail in Moab, and the second is Park City's MidMountain Trail. While both are epic rides, the scenery and ride terrain are extremely varied. Moab – located in the southeast – takes bikers through breathtaking ochre canyons and imposing mesa tops in the desert, while Park City – tucked in the mountains – features rides through the beautiful alpine scenery of the forested Wasatch Range.
encompassing alpine mountains, lush meadows and barren ridges. This mountainous area is a popular ski resort in winter – thanks to its proximity to Salt Lake City – and by spring, the hills surrounding Park City offer over 240kms of mountain biking trails to explore. As winter snows melt from the hills, experienced bikers head straight for the 42km-long Mid-Mountain Trail, listed by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) as an ‘Epic’ trail and its only goldlevel Ride Center.
While both areas offer trails for riders of every ability, it's not difficult to check them both out – they're about a 3 hour drive apart.
Following a mountain contour at around 2,440m, the singletrack trail boasts almost 910m in elevation change and stretches in a loop from the Park City mountain resort to The Canyons ski area. This trail – also known as the "8,000 Foot Trail" – is a nice intermediate trail with a couple of technical areas and exposed rocky sections.
Park City’s Mid-Mountain Trail Located along the Wasatch Range, Park City is renowned for its breathtaking scenery,
The trailhead is on Crescent Road, following a 5km climb onto the Spiro Trail. While other trails also connect to Mid-Mountain, all of
SELECT PHOTOS FROM Utah Office of Tourism
them involve a lot of uphill cycling, some topping out at 3,000m. To cut that portion out, you can take the Town Lift (a ski lift) with your bike up to Mid-Mountain from the centre of Park City. The Spiro Trail connects to the Mid-Mountain Trail and heads into the forest, affording spectacular views of the Park City area. A couple of exposed ridges pepper the ride, and the scenic panoramas and shaded areas – provided by towering aspen and fir forests – make this trail a joy to ride. The trail winds around the mountains with its backdrop of wildflowers (in summer) or a blaze of autumnal colours (in fall). The trail then descends through a pine forest around the Canyons ski resort area, before ending the ride right back at Park City. If you're not up for the Mid-Mountain Trail, plenty of other shorter, easier trails line the mountains around Park City, like the flat 7km Beaver Creek Trail that traverses wooded valleys and creeks.
It's one thing to see a destination. It's another to experience it. From rock climbing, to mountain biking and hiking, there's many ways to get to grips with a trip. And for more travellers than ever, it's not just the destination that matters, but how you cycle, climb or camp when you're there that really counts.
© Monique Beely | Utah Office of Tourism
Getting There & Around From Utah’s capital, Salt Lake City, Park City is just a few minutes off the major highway (I-80), and is a short distance from Salt Lake International Airport. Within Park City, there is a network of free bus transportation. Moab is a 4-hour drive from Salt Lake City; there is a scenic portion on the I-70 highway that takes you through a scenic section of the San Rafael Swell area.
© Audrey Livingston | Utah Office of Tourism
What to Eat or Drink While Park City boasts a huge range of fine international cuisine (they have many gourmet tours), it's best to try some of Utah's 'native foods' while you're here. These include Fry Sauce (a pink dip for fries), Utah Scones (deep-fried dough slathered with honey butter) and Funeral Potatoes (baked casserole with potatoes, canned soup, cheese and cornflake topping). Not all are unhealthy – Utah is also famous for its local raspberries, melons and honey. Where to Stay Both Park City and Moab are dotted with plenty of accommodation options, ranging from business hotels to luxury resorts and cozy B&Bs. As Park City is a ski resort, prices are often higher in winter.
Scenery from Slickrock of the La Sal mountains
Best Season Mid-Mountain Trail is best tackled from late spring to fall; in spring, wildflowers start blooming along the meadows until the end of summer. If you come in autumn, the landscape changes to a yellow-red hue as the fall foliage takes over. In Moab, the best time is either in spring or in fall, as summer can get very hot in the desert, especially on exposed rocks. Fun Fact If driving out of Moab, the Utah State Route 128 (to Grand Junction, Colorado) is a supberly scenic route through narrow sandstone gorges and offers spectacular views of parts of Arches National Park.
Moab’s Slickrock Bike Trail Moab is the best base to explore both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and while you're here, you shouldn't miss tackling its mountain bike trails, particularly at Slickrock. The trail that put Moab on the world map, Slickrock attracts over 100,000 riders annually. It was named 'slick' because the horses of early settlers often slid off the rocks, as their metal-shod horseshoes couldn't grip the barren rock. However, the traction between the stone and bicycle tyre rubber is superb, allowing mountain bikes
to be ridden at gravity-defying angles. The Slickrock Bike Trail is a 20km long loop in a figure-of-eight pattern, but allow 4 hours to roll through the Navajo sandstone, as it's rated high for technical difficulty. First timers can try the 4km-long Practice Loop – the smaller of the 2 figure-of-eight sections – which gives you a feel for the terrain before tackling the entire trail. Once mastered, riders can rip it up at sections like 'Faith in Friction' and 'Steep Creep' – none of which are flat.
The trails are all indicated by white painted markers, but bikers can stray from the path (just be careful not to tread on the fragile local desert plants). Slickrock's surrounding beauty is hard to miss: you can make out the petrified sand dunes that comprise the trail, and the entire trail crosses an elevated platform bound by cliffs and cut by rivers. In addition, the dense alpine forests of the La Sal Mountains provide a stunning backdrop. Those not up for Slickrock can tackle Moab's 45 other trails, including the easy 3km BarM in the Moab Brands system which rides on dirt road with some rocky segments.
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Rock Climbing Climbers tackling the sheer vertical walls
PHOTOS FROM Consell Comarcal Pallars Jussà
Catalonian Crags To most, the image of Catalonia is that of sunny Barcelona, but head just inland from the Med, and you'll be in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. Forming the rugged border between France and Spain, and concealing tiny Andorra in between, their sheer walls and deep chasms hide ancient villages with Romanesque churches and castles, and are popular with hikers, birders and rock climbers. The Lleida Province (one of the 4 provinces that make up modern Catalonia, including Barcelona, Girona and Tarragona) is dotted with hundreds of rock climbing spots on the spectacular gorges like Terradets, Mont Roig, Mont Rebei, Collegats and Vilanova de Meia. Mountain villages – like Abella de la Conca – also offer excellent climbing opportunities. Abella de la Conca Home to just 120 inhabitants, quaint Abella is one of Catalonia's most beautiful villages. Surrounded by pristine nature at the foot of
the Carreau and Boumort Sierras, the village is home to an 11th century church (with rare romantic paintings) and a town square where locals still fetch water from the plaza fountain. Some of the houses are cut into the rock while Griffon vultures are a common sight. The unique landscape (consisting of tufa) surrounding the village were once an ideal hideaway for smugglers, but today are hotspots for geologists and climbers. Just a stone’s throw from the main square, the limestone cliff walls offer around 200 routes of many grades, and are in season mainly from September to June. Climbing here is not for beginners – many routes are graded as 5 and above, with lots of technical walls and slab climbing. There are no less than 7 climbing areas dotted around the village’s gorges, each with its own set of routes. Some routes are shadowed by overhangs, allowing you to climb even in summer.
Mont Rebei Gorge © Nelson Souto
Abella de la Conca
Other climb areas Easier climbs can be found around the Paret de les Bagasses at Terradets and Roca dels Arcs at Vilanova de Meia, both providing fully and partially bolted routes from 4+ to 7b. Both also offer superbly challenging routes that are only for expert climbers. The climbs at Collegats gorge are on conglomerate rock, where you can climb routes on strange rock formations, especially at Zona de la Figuereta.
The red limestone of Mont Roig dominates the skyline; while tackling its bolted routes, you may have the opportunity to witness a sea of mist that obscures the plains far below. For those who prefer isolated climbs, the Mont Rebei gorge offers big wall challenges of up to 650m. This area is only for experts, and climbs are only by special arrangement. However, the gorge does have excellent hiking trails, where you can spot local birdlife which include huge vultures and lammergeiers.
Getting There & Around There are direct flights via Singapore Airlines to Barcelona (the capital of Catalan), and from there, head to the picturesque city of Lleida which is accessible by road and rail. All of the climb sites are just north of Lleida; the best way to get to the climbing region is by car, as the drive through the gorges is breathtaking (public buses also service various villages in the area). What to Eat or Drink Along the highway from Barcelona to Lleida, you can stock up on local specialties, including torro d’Agramunt, Catalan’s version of the famous almond nougat, locally produced in Agramunt.
The church at Abella de la Conca
Where to Stay There is a self-catering eco refugio in Abella de la Conca, as well as numerous converted farmhouses in villages like Vilanova de Meia, Tremp and Cornudella. Cultural Tip Catalonia is home to many unique festivals, like the La Diada de Sant Jordi (honouring Catalan's patron saint), when couples exchange roses and books on 23 April.
Mont Rebei Gorge © Arthur Selbach
Panorama of de Collegats
One of the best times to visit Lleida Province is during the annual 3-day Aplec del Caragol (Snail Festival). Organised by local ‘snail clubs’, it sees over 3 tonnes of snails prepared in paella, as tapas or a la gormanda in tomato sauce. It’s also a major street festival with parades, concerts and castells (Catalonia's famous human-towers). Held in Lleida city's Camps Elisis, this year's Aplec del Caragol is from 23-25 May, 2014. Fun Fact Across Catalonia you'll find castells - local, gravity-defying human towers. Dating back 200 years, UNESCO declared this traditional performance an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010. In August 2013, the castellers of Vilafranca set a record for the tallest human tower ever at 10 levels high – a feat attempted (and failed) at least 30 times before.
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Jellies, Turtles and Man Once a cluster of sleepy fishing villages, the Derawan Islands have suddenly sprung into the international dive scene thanks to its newfound connectivity when Kalimantan's Berau Airport opened in 2012. A group of desert islands located off the east coast near Balikpapan in the Sulawesi Sea (just south of the cluster of Sipadan islands), they are most known for their powder beaches, friendly locals and lagoons filled with stingless jellyfish. As with many islands in this part of the world, the reef has been decimated in parts by dynamite fishing. However, the Derawan archipelago – including Derawan, Sangalaki, Kakaban and Maratua – have managed to reap benefits from the ocean by replacing fishing with its diving industry. A number of
dive schools and operators can be found on Derawan, offering classes and dive excursions around Derawan's waters and beyond to nearby Maratua, Kakaban and Sangalaki islands. Derawan Island Today, even with the damaged reefs, you'll still be able to spot a smorgasbord of marine life, ranging from cuttlefish and pygmy seahorse to barracudas and giant green turtles. The underwater terrain in Derawan vary from fringing reef to reef walls and caverns, with macro life (harlequin shrimp, blue ring octopus, frogfish, etc) taking the spotlight. Both hawksbill and green turtles are a draw on Derawan: they’re not only found on most dive trips, they also come ashore at night to
lay their eggs. Up until 2002, most of these eggs were collected by islanders for sale as a source of income. Today, the WWF – together with islanders – have set up a conservation programme to protect these beaches, and in the last decade or so, turtles have been tagged and eggs have been monitored. Those who want to get involved with WWF can head to Losmen Danaken (a dive operator and guesthouse) to accompany wardens on their night patrols. Sangalaki Island Both divers and snorkelers can head to Sangalaki Island, which is famous for its manta rays that flock here for the planktonrich waters. These gentle giants can be spotted year-round, often staying for a week before vanishing.
Getting There & Around The closest international airport is at Balikpapan (with daily connections to Singapore via Garuda Indonesia and Silkair), from where there is a 1-hour flight to Berau airport. From Berau, Derawan Island is a 3hour boat ride away. Sangalaki Island is about 50 minutes by boat from Derawan, while Maratua and Kakaban Island are a further 10 minutes away. There are plans to put an airport on Maratua, with firm resistance from conservationists. What to Eat or Drink Most resorts have in-house restaurants that serve Indonesian fare and seafood. If you plan on eating out, you can find small warungs near fishing villages. The food will most likely be halal. Where to Stay The Derawan islands are dotted with plenty of simple beachfront chalets, many of which are stilted, where you can view marine life in the waters below your chalet. You can stay at either Derawan or Maratua, as Kakaban and Sangalaki are uninhabited. Plans are underway for more resort development, so head there before this laidback atmosphere disappears. Best Season While you can dive in Derawan year round, the best time to go is between March and October, during the islands’ dry season. It's also the best time to go if you want to volunteer with WWF.
ntas Kakaban Island Nearby Kakaban Island has a brackish lagoon (15 minutes from the jetty) where you can swim or dive with 4 species of nonstinging jellyfish (the Moon, Spotted, Box and Upside Down). Because of their isolation, these jellyfish have shed their natural defences due to the lack of natural predators. Around the perimeter of the island, cave diving is an option for experienced divers, where you can spot pelagics. Maratua Island Maratua Island is known for its famous barracuda tornadoes, along with thresher sharks and eagle rays. In addition, its coral reef is home to some unusual corals with fluorescent colours and technicolour starfish, while the Payung-Payung dive area is known for its huge numbers of turtles.
Fun Fact All jellyfish in Kakaban are stingless; the most interesting is probably the Upside Down jellyfish (the Cassiopeia) which swims upside down and – through evolution – has lost its spots.
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Aerial view over Balloch Castle
© Paul Tomkins
Scotland’s John Muir Way:
PHOTOS FROM Scottish Viewpoint & Visit Scotland
History and Nature This year will prove to be an eventful one in Scotland, with multiple happenings taking place for Homecoming Scotland 2014. In addition to the Commonwealth Games (which will be held in Glasgow in August) and the Ryder Cup (a biennial golf tournament for European and American golfers in September), its year-long programme of activities involve the great outdoors, its ancestral heritage and plenty of food & drink events. Among the many events under this banner is the John Muir Festival (17-26 April), which commemorates the Scots-born naturalist and founder of America's national parks 100 years after his death.
One of the highlights of this festival is the opening of the John Muir Way, a 170kmlong trail that links Dunbar (east of Edinburgh) to Helensburgh (north of Glasgow), cutting through Central Scotland past Loch Lomond (the largest lake in Britain) and the Trossachs. The trail winds through windswept hills, birdfilled wetlands, ragged cliffs and the mighty Highlands, and takes in ancient fortresses and castles, in addition to picturesque villages and waterfront towns. Along the way, you'll spot remnants of the 2,000 year-old Antonine Wall, which stretched from coast to coast, once marking the northern frontier of the Roman Empire.
John Muir Way The early stretches of the trail mainly follows the existing 73km-long John Muir Way, which has a starting point at the seaside town of Dunbar (Muir's birthplace). Following the coastline, you can explore North Berwick Law (at the seaside town of North Berwick) – a small hill with remnants of military buildings dating back to the Iron Ages, once used as lookouts in the Napoleonic Wars and WWII. Just offshore is Bass Rock, home of the world’s largest single island gannet colony with about 150,000 birds.
Preston Mill, East Linton
Bridge To Nowhere, Belhaven Bay near Dunbar
© Paul Tomkins
© Paul Tomkins
The coast near Gullane
Getting There & Around With Edinburgh as a base, you can get to Dunbar via rail or bus, as it stops at several points along the trail. There are no direct flights to Edinburgh from Singapore, with most flights stopping over in London. What to Eat or Drink Despite recent fads involving deep-frying everything from Mars bars to Christmas puddings, Scotland’s most iconic food is the haggis – a large sausage-like dish filled with sheep’s innards, oatmeal and spices – which can be found at almost any local establishment. When it comes to drinks, whisky comes to mind; in Edinburgh, you can sample over 300 whisky varieties at Scotch Whisky Experience (they sell tiny sampler bottles as well). Where to Stay Plenty of accommodation options line the entire trail, ranging from ocean-facing guesthouses to farmhouse-style B&Bs and picture-perfect manor house hotels. The trail meanders along the scenic east coast until it reaches the outskirts of Edinburgh, where you have the option of exploring this vibrant capital city. Continuing west, historical highlights include the underrated Blackness Castle (which resembles a giant stone ship perched on the edge of a fjord) on the Firth of Forth, built in the 15th century by a powerful family that throughout its lifetime became a royal castle, a garrison fortress and a state prison. The path then weaves between canals around the Auchinstarry Marina before following the disused Strathkelvin Railway
path. Cycling is an option at both the marina and the railway path. The high point (both figuratively and literally) of the route is the Stoneymollan road from Balloch towards the coast at the Firth of Clyde – it affords excellent views over Loch Lomond and the distant Highlands. This final stretch follows an ancient 'coffin road' to Helensburgh, a waterfront town with a scenic pier. The trail can be done either in its entirety, spending nights at B&Bs along the way, or in sections as day walks, where public transport is available along the route.
Best Season With the exception of winter, hiking is possible at any time of the year in Scotland, bearing in mind that the peak tourist season is in summer from July to August. The John Muir Way is only scheduled to open during the John Muir Festival (17 -26 April) this year, so it’s a good time to experience the festivities along with the hike. Fun Fact Despite being the founder of national parks and the famed Sierra Club in America, John Muir was never a fan of hiking – he preferred ‘sauntering’ to enjoy nature at a sedate pace.
Mountain Destinations On the Roop Kund trail
© Red Chilli Adventures
Mystical Mountain Lying in the northern part of India, Uttarakhand, known as the ‘Land of Gods’, is soaked in mysticism. Speckled with temples sequestered in hilly corners, towering statues and majestic shrines, Uttarakhand – an epicentre for Hindu lore – is a destination favoured by many spiritual seekers for its pilgrimage circuits. Enveloped in dramatic landscapes, from high altitude meadows peppered with brightly coloured flowers, expansive lakes and springs, to towering peaks and waterfalls, Uttarakhand is one of the gateways to the Himalayas. Along with the headwaters of the Ganges river winding through this hilly state, Uttarakhand is also a treasure trove for flora and fauna.
Marked by sweltering summers and chilly winters, Uttarakhand’s climate largely depends on the terrain where you are. Villages resting on stepped valleys tend to see cooler temperatures even during the summer (average 25ºC), as it lies between the Gangetic plain and high altitudes. While terrains closer to the Himalayan peaks are bitterly cold and perennially shrouded in snow. There are numerous activities for visitors within the region, including rappelling, trekking and bungee jumping, which is best done during the summer. In the winter when it snows, Uttarakhand becomes an excellent locale for a number of winter sports like skiing or trekking glaciers.
Whether it's a snow-capped summit, or just a jungle-clad peak, mountains have been drawing in travellers and climbers since the dawn of time. From religious reverence, to the simple desire to conquer the cold, thin air, even the sight of mountains exhilarates most of us in a way other landscapes can't.
Rishikesh Sitting in the Dehradun district of Uttarakhand, Rishikesh – where the Ganges River spills out of the foothills of the Himalayas, is a destination popular with all kinds of travellers, from yoga enthusiasts and pilgrims to adventure seekers. Known as the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’, Rishikesh is dotted with yoga and meditation centres. The birthplace of Ayurveda (India’s archaic healing system), which is explicitly seen through the numerous Om symbols painted around the town, orange-robed swamis ambling about and temple bells
Rafting on the Ganges
pealing, this serene town is a spiritual haven for any traveller looking to attain peace and piety. The starting point for one of the most revered pilgrimage circuits – the Char Dham Yatra route, which consists of visiting four ancient temples marked as Hinduism’s holiest spots, is scheduled to reopen this year. Previously closed because of the flash floods that happened in 2012, it is best to experience this route in May and June, since July to September the monsoon season makes it difficult to trek across. A favourite among adventure seekers,
Rishikesh is host to a spectrum of sports activities, including being a mecca for whitewater rafting. Rafters will get to paddle various stretches of the Ganges, which vay in rapids ranging from Grade I-IV, making it suitable for beginners to seasoned rafters. Coupled with skilled instructors, whitewater rafting is an ideal way to get acquainted with Rishikesh’s scenic landscape. For sports enthusiasts looking to peddle in their other adventure activities found within the locale, it is best to take up a camping trip, which will have travellers residing in tents along the town’s pristine beaches. From there, travellers can then try their hand at activities like cliff jumping in the Ganges River, kayaking and trekking around Rishikesh to visit some of the hidden waterfalls shrouded in dense forests. A jumping off point to the Himalayas, Rishikesh has numerous trekking trails to choose from that will bring hikers trekking through alpine meadows, rolling valleys and glaciers. A number of popular trails include the Roopkund Trail (a scenic high altitude trek which is also a pilgrimage trail littered with ancient human remains) and the Har Ki Dun Trek (a trek that passes traditional villages with their terraced fields).
Getting There & Around To get to Rishikesh, you can catch a flight from New Delhi to Dehradun, and then travel down to Rishikesh by car or bus. Another option is to take a chartered bus or train from New Delhi to Rishikesh, which would be a 5 - 7 hour journey depending on traffic.
What to Eat or Drink Rishikesh, as well as the surrounding towns, serve only vegetarian food. There is no alcohol served either. Where to Stay Rishikesh is dotted with numerous yoga ashrams, many of which offer room and board and yoga lessons. Away from town, plenty of campsites line the Ganges, all of which are full-board and offer rafting. For luxury, the Ananda in the Himalayas boasts a string of past celebrity guests. Cultural Tip Shoes are not allowed in temples, nor is any form of leather such as belts, wallets, etc. Do check before entering any sacred place. Fun Fact The Beatles travelled to Rishikesh in 1968 to learn about Transcendental Meditation from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – the ashram that developed that technique.
Mountain Destinations The Rotes Haus with private vineyard
PHOTOS FROM Liechtenstein Marketing
Pint-sized Principality A pocket-sized principality, Liechtenstein measures just 25km long and 6km wide – about 20 times smaller than Singapore. While Liechtenstein may be famous for its stamps and dentures (it's the world's largest producer), this doubly-landlocked micronation is the last remnant of the Holy Roman Empire that today shares its currency with neighbouring Switzerland. Locals will tell you that it’s not uncommon to see the Prince himself strolling around the Princely Forest barefoot, or shopping at the local stores just like everyone else. While these claims are to be taken with a grain of salt, the fact is that Liechtenstein’s reigning monarch resides in a Gothic castle perched atop a hill overlooking his principality. One thing Liechtenstein shares with its neighbour Switzerland is its profusion of private banks – the swanky offices of which
line the streets of Vaduz (the capital). While Vaduz is easily covered on foot in under an hour, just on the outskirts of the town, a 400km network of well-marked hiking trails line the surrounding mountains – ranging from easy walks to multi-day hikes – offering spectacular views of the Alps dotted with quaint villages. In addition, 3 classic mountain huts – the Pfälzerhütte (2,109m), Gafadurahütte (1,428m) and Berggasthaus Sücka – provide excellent bases for hikers. While many visitors tend to stop over in Liechtenstein only for a few hours – and it does get crowded by lunchtime with a touristy crowd – those who spend a night or two can not only find solitude after the tour buses have gone, but also discover the personality of its quaint neighbourhoods and the capital on a quiet stroll.
The Pfälzerhütte in summer
Hiking Liechtenstein The ‘DreiSchwestern-Weg’, or the ‘Three Sisters’ track (12.4km, 5 hours), is the most classic mountain hike; opened in 1898, it has fantastically laid-out tracks leading along steep cliffs and mountain ridges. The Kuhgrat ridge (2,123 m) offers spectacular panoramas of the Swiss and Austrian mountains while views of the villages situated along the Rhine to Lake Constance, and the magnificent flora, provide an exceptional backdrop.
The Princes' Way Hike (6km, 3 hours) is a classic hike in Liechtenstein, taking you from Alp Gaflei over green pastures and mountain pines before climbing to exposed sections (with fixed ropes) and mountain peaks with spectacular views of the mountain valleys of Liechtenstein. Guided hikes are available. The romantic Grüschaweg Trail (11km, 3.5 hours) starts from Vaduz along the historic 'Schlossstrasse' (castle path) to Vaduz Castle before entering the Princely Forest where the Grüschaweg Trail meanders to Triesenberg village, famous for its 400-year old museum-house. The trail then passes the Wals Fable Trail where hikers encounter bizarre mythical figures (with interpretive boards) along the way, before reaching
On top of the ‘Three Sisters’ track
Rotabada village and the descent to Vaduz. In addition, numerous themed trails allow you to explore a certain region or village – the 6km Schaan Culture Trail takes you through the town's history via interpretive boards, while the Triesen trails allows you to explore this ancient settlement with its historic sawmills, blacksmiths and other workshops. For multi-day hikes, the Liechtenstein Panorama Trail (48km) has 3 stages from Malbun to Ruggell, passing ridges, peaks and panoramic views of mountains along the way. There are also guided 4-day hikes that include accommodation at all 3 of Liechtenstein's mountain huts.
Getting There & Around There is no train station or airport in Liechtenstein, so the only way in is by road. From Switzerland (Sargans, Buchs) or Austria (Feldkirch) you can take regular buses (LIEmobil) into Liechtenstein. What to Eat or Drink Small private vineyards and wineries dot the principality (although they are fairly recent). A must-visit is The Prince of Liechtenstein Winery in Vaduz, where you can stroll the vineyard and sample (and buy) wine. The Telser Distillery (founded 1880) still uses traditional methods to distill fine spirits, with grappa/whisky tasting available. For food, the Käseknöpfle (pasta-like dish with cheese) and the Ribel (cornmeal) are classic Liechtenstein staples, both found at almost any restaurant.
Where to Stay In town, you can stay at the historic Gasthof Löwen (dating back to 1388) while in the mountains, there are a number of Swissstyle chalets that give you great access to hiking and skiing trails. Cultural Tip At the end of summer, each region has a ceremonial cattle drive where cows are elaborately decorated and paraded down from the mountain pastures to participate at a village fair. Taking place in October, these fairs happen in Triesenberg, Vaduz and Eschen. Fun Fact As there is no immigration checkpoint when entering Liechtenstein, you can get a souvenir Liechtenstein passport stamp (at CHF 3) from Vaduz’s Tourist Information office.
Mention islands and most people think palm-fringed, sandy beaches. And while we all love a beach holiday, there's so much more to many great islands. It's the very nature of their isolation (as islands) that creates their unique cultures, landscapes and wildlife – in this case, in two very different destinations – idyllic Cape Verde and historic Cyprus.
Santo Antão’s mountainous interior
PHOTOS FROM Mickaël T.
Spirit of Saudade Situated 600km off Africa’s Atlantic coast, Cape Verde is arguably the continent’s bestkept secret – as well as one of its most stable, thriving democracies, making it an exotic, welcoming destination. Spread across 4,000sq.km., the archipelago’s 10 main islands range from semidesert to mountainous, with an abundance of pristine beaches and historic colonial-era towns. Lying along major migratory routes, Cape Verde is a critical habitat for sea turtles, and boasts 50% endemic bird species, while among its people, the country's unique geography and history have endowed each island with their own distinctive version of Creole culture, food and music.
Santiago Santiago is the largest of the islands, and home to the capital and transport hub Praia, which despite a modest tourism boom, has managed to keep its Portuguese colonialera charm and historic architecture. Nearby, the impressive UNESCO-listed Cidade Velha (Old City) is the oldest colonial town in the tropics dating back over 500 years with sites including Nossa Senhora do Rosario (the oldest colonial church in the world), the fortress of Real de Sao Filipe and the whitewashed houses along Rue Banana. Fogo Island Lying 100km out from Praia, and dominated by the massive Pico do Fogo (2,830m) volcano, the island of Fogo is ideal for
trekking and climbing. Rising right out of the sea, the volcano’s lower ridges and valleys are home to numerous towns, including Sao Filipe, with its historic city centre and dozens of colonial mansions. Undoubtedly Fogo’s biggest attraction is the volcano itself. From Sao Filipe, operators offer full-day and overnight trips into the caldera, where you’ll find the famous Chã das Caldeiras – twin farming villages that have survived in isolation inside the volcano for centuries. While a road connects them with the outside world today, Chã das Caldeiras remains physically remote, a fact that protects the volcano’s rare, endemic wildlife and plants.
Sal and Boa Vista Due north of Santiago are the barlavento or ‘windward’ islands. Divided into eastern and western clusters of islands, the eastern half comprises the islands of Sal and Boa Vista.
A typical house on Rue Banana in Santiago’s Cidade Velha
Fogo Island’s Pico do Fogo volcano
Now popular for its beaches, prior to the arrival of tourism, the desert island of Sal was better known for its namesake salt (its main product) than anything else. Today its dry climate and sandy shores attract winter beach goers, and especially windsurfers and kiteboarders. Lying 200km northeast of Santiago in the tradewind belt, during the winter season (November-April), Sal sees strong, sustained gusts over 20 knots, making it ideal for kiting. Santo Antao An island on Cape Verde's northwestern tip, Santo Antão is known for its precipitous peaks, dizzyingly high ravines and dwellings that cling onto mountainsides.
Much of the island is unexplored, and its wild rocky interior is ripe for some great hiking and climbing along centuries-old footpaths that criss-cross the island's high mountains and steep valleys. Driving along the few roads that snake their way precariously along the mountains is an exhilarating undertaking – landscapes quickly change from bare and arid peaks to lush green valleys. Two historic towns of Ribeira Grande (the main town) and Paúl make great bases to explore the island, each with its collection of colonial buildings. Santo Antão also has a number of villages that cling onto steep towering seaside cliffs, including the picturesque Fontainhas and the fishing villages of Forminguinhas and Corvo – mostly only accessible on foot via scenic winding stone footpaths.
Harbour at San Vicente’s Porto do Sol
Getting There & Around Extensive inter-island ferries and flights connect Praia with rest of the archipelago; other international gateways with direct flights from Europe or the US include Boa Vista and Sal. Self-drive is an ideal way to explore individual islands, with 4WD hires (necessary in places like Fogo, Sao Antão etc.) readily available from US$60/day. What to Eat or Drink The national dish cachupa (a hearty stew of corn, beans and meat) can be found on all the islands, each with its own version of the dish. Refried cachupa is also served with eggs at breakfast. The twin villages in Pico do Fogo produce a spicy local wine called manecom. Fogo is also known for its excellent Arabica coffee, while the national drink grogue (similar to sugar cane rum), can be bought direct from small artisan distillers in Santo Antão and Santiago. Where to Stay Depending which island you’re on, options vary greatly from traditional Portuguesestyle B&B pousadas, to village homestays in Chã das Caldeiras. Cultural Tip Saudade is a defining characteristic of Cape Verdean culture. Part longing, part nostalgia, saudade can be seen in the country’s distinctive music, which you don’t need to speak Creole (the local dialect of ancient Portuguese) to appreciate. Fun Fact There are more Cape Verdean émigrés overseas than in Cape Verde itself.
Island Hopping As every one of Cape Verde’s islands is diversely different, islandhopping rewards you with something unique on each. The fastest interisland option via air, with local carrier TAVC offering up to 10 domestic flight passes at a deep discount. While some islands don’t have airports, all are linked by ferry (boats are of varying age), with the Santiago-Fogo-Brava “Fastferry” being one of the best.
Islands Agios Neofytos Monastery, Pafos
PHOTOS FROM Cyprus Tourism Organisation
Steeped in History The third largest island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus is known for its fractured identity – part European and part Asian, it has long been coveted by mainland Greece and Turkey and today, both sides have an almost equal claim on the island. The EU part of Cyprus is one that most visitors will be familiar with; it is here that you'll find all that the island is fabled for, from the ancient archaeological ruins of Paphos to the religious mountain region of Troodos, along with the hedonistic town of Ayia Napa. Known as the 'Island of Aphrodite', Cyprus has 6 very distinct regions. Ammochostos Starting from the east, the Ammochostos region is where the party town Ayia Napa is situated. Away from the clubs and bars, the beaches here are famous for diving while Cape Greco is known for its cliff formations.
Larnaca Moving westward, the ancient Larnaca region has a characteristic palm-lined promenade dotted with cafes. The existence and continued usage of the Hala Sultan mosque and the St Lazarus church – both important ancient sites – prove that both religions are revered here. In addition, the church of Angeloktisti features a rare 6th century Byzantine mosaic of the Virgin and Child. Lemesos (Limassol) To the west is the Lemesos (Limassol) region, home to the island's main port and the centre of its wine industry. The foothills of the Troodos Mountains form a verdant backdrop, with many Krassochoria (wine villages) dotting the hillside. The region is famous for its dry red wines – especially the Commandaria, which is similar to port. Another site is the magnificent Kourion, consisting of a huge Roman Theatre, stately villas with exquisite mosaic floors and an early Christian basilica.
Church at Palaichori village
© A. Lorenzetto
Painted icons at a church in Kakopetria
Ruins of Kourion in Lemesos
Byzantine Art Cyprus is a renowned centre for Byzantine Art, which can be found in almost all its churches, ranging from village sheds to grand monasteries.
© C. Morandi
Tomb of the Kings, Pafos
An art of Eastern Orthodox Christians, it’s defined by iconic paintings (often with fancy gold embellishments) depicting scenes and characters from the bible. Though most of the artworks date back to the 10th century, they are still in good condition (many have also been restored to their former glory).
Getting There & Around The main international airport is Larnaca International Airport, which is serviced by several airlines including Emirates, making it the easiest way to get to Cyprus from Singapore. What to Eat or Drink Cypriots have a similar diet to the Greeks, with dishes like the souvla (skewered meat cooked over an open fire) and kleftiko (lamb slow-cooked in a clay oven). A typical Cypriot dish is halloumi cheese (made of cow and sheep milk) that’s served grilled. Commandaria – the local red wine akin to port – is an iconic local tipple.
© St. Gerardi
Lefkosia (Nicosia) Moving inland to the north, the Lefkosia (Nicosia) region is home to the multi-cultural capital. While the city centre is decidedly modern, the Venetian walled Old Town – where the Green Line cuts the town into the Greek and Turkish sides – showcases many ancient buildings and museums. Troodos The Troodos mountains (rising to almost 2,000m) are renowned for the grand Kykkos monastery and 10 UNESCO-listed Byzantine-era painted churches (dating from 11th century), each featuring Byzantine murals. These churches range from small structures whose rural architectural style is in stark contrast to their highly refined decoration, to monasteries such as that of St John Lampadistis.
In addition, plenty of ancient villages – complete with stone houses and cobbled streets – dot the mountains. Pafos (Paphos) The west of the island is the Paphos (Pafos) region, arguably the most beautiful part of Cyprus. Paphos is a harbour with a medieval fort, beyond which are numerous archaeological gems, including the Tombs of the Kings (underground tombs dating to the Hellenistic and Roman ages) and Kato Pafos, a UNESCO-listed town dotted with ancient Roman-era gems like the Agia Solomoni Catacomb Church and an archaeological park that’s strewn with well-preserved Roman mosaics, a coliseum and a number of stone monuments.
Where to Stay A wide range of hotels – from budget to luxury – are available in Cyprus, with a rather large gap in price between a 3-star and a resort. When visiting Troodos, you can opt to stay at one of many refurbished ancient village homes – Kakopetria has a number of options, including a repurposed mill. Cultural Tip The subject of the Greek-Turkish divide will always be a thorn for most Cypriots, so it’s best to avoid any discussions relating to it. While open hostilities between both sides have been absent for some time, the UN's peacekeeping force still keep a narrow buffer zone (the ‘Green Line’) between the 2 zones in Lefkosia – the capital to both sides. Visitors are allowed to visit the 'occupied side' (a term used by Greek Cypriots for the Turkish side); passports are not stamped, although it's mandatory to have it with you. Fun Fact Cyprus was the only nation in the world to have a map on its flag until 2008, when Kosovo followed suit.
One of the best parts of travel is in the discovery of whole new cultures, complete with their own set of beliefs and traditions. The world is a diverse melting pot of humankind, and places like Rajasthan and Papua New Guinea are proof that their ancient traditions have weathered the test of time.
Papua New Guinea:
Tribal Colour There are many reasons to visit Papua New Guinea: you can hike the famous Kokoda Trail, discover an ornithologist’s dream spotting some of the most colourful birds on earth, or dive its world-class wrecks and reefs. Standing out among all these attributes is PNG’s one-of-a-kind, often strange indigenous cultures. Incorporating hundreds of unique tribes spread throughout the country, many of PNG’s people staunchly maintain their ancient cultures and traditions to this day. Only in the 1930s when explorers started flying over PNG’s otherwise inaccessible highlands did they realise the country’s rugged interior was actually occupied. Previously, it was assumed the highlands were too remote for human habitation, when in reality people have lived in the highlands
for over 20,000 years. And it was this remoteness – in its deep mountain valleys separated by raging rivers or impassable chasms – over many millennia that contributed to the country’s great diversity, both among its people and wildlife. Home to more than 700 tribes speaking 800 languages (many unique to a single remote village), PNG’s people are as diverse as the country’s incredibly rugged landscape. And while the best way to experience the culture is to head into the hills for home stays, treks and wildlife spotting, all require time and patience across tough terrain. An easy option for many visitors is attending a “cultural show” – the two biggest, most boisterous of which are the Goroka Show and Mt. Hagen Cultural Show. They offer everyone an opportunity to experience a
PHOTOS BY Michael Johnson side of PNG’s culture that’s otherwise relegated to remote valleys, very far off the beaten track. On the surface both events can seem touristy, but the cultural displays are an earnest expressions of the highland peoples’ unique traditions. Local singsings celebrate actual harvests – face paints and vibrant plumage are adorned for real religious reasons, and outlandish penis gourds are worn because locals like them. The biggest spectacles in both shows often unexpectedly take place on the sidelines. Here, groups warm up and give impromptu performances, including pig sacrificing ceremonies and negotiations of wedding dowries, since these shows are also rare chances for remote highland tribes to mix on such a large scale.
Round mountain hut home
Dancing Asaro ‘mud men’
Getting There & Around Air Niugini has direct flights from Singapore, with a flight time of 6.5 hours. On the ground, PNG has extensive (but generally expensive) domestic flights, including Port Moresby to Goroka and Mt. Hagen. What to Eat or Drink In the villages, mumu (food cooked in a underground oven) is a special treat, with chicken or pork being most popular. Everyday staples like breadfruit and sasak (sago) also take many forms. While many villages forbid alcohol, coffee is ubiquitous in the mountains, where small farms grow quality Arabica. Where to Stay While Port Moresby has internationalstandard hotels, village home stays are available all over the country, ranging from Motuan stilt houses to communal longhouses in the highlands. Best Season This year’s Mt Hagen Cultural Show is from 16-17 August, followed by the Goroka Show from 12-14 September, 2014. Fun Fact Antique (read: used) penis gourds command the highest price, occasionally available for purchase at cultural shows or in villages. Some of the oldest are hundreds of years old, and handed down (and used) over generations.
Culture Mehrangarh Fort
The Princely State Known as ‘The Land of Kings’, Rajasthan is imbued with a history of monarchy and warriors. With much of its heritage retold through their rich folklore of gypsy music, ritual dances and resplendent embroidery, Rajasthan is indisputably the cultural capital of India. Besides being the centre of the Indus Valley civilisation, Rajasthan was the epicentre of India’s golden age (the Gupta empire), which spurred grandiose monuments that can be seen dotted throughout this expansive state, from majestic temples outfitted in stained glass and holy shrines to captivating forts and palaces embellished with royal paintings. Spanning across the northwest of India, encompassing the Thar Desert (India’s largest desert), Rajasthan’s rugged terrain consists mainly of dry desert pocketed by stands of forests. This desert landscape is best explored on a camel safari, which is ideal
during the cool winter months. Celebrating its momentous history in a multitude of hues, Rajasthan’s opulent past is proudly on display in its ‘coloured’ cities: Jaipur (pink), Jodhpur (blue ), Jaisalmer (gold) and Udaipur (white). Jaipur Rajasthan's capital, the walled city of Jaipur - also know as the Pink City – is named for its distinctive salmon-hued buildings. The sprawling Amber Fort (home to the ornate mirrored hall of Sheesh Mahal) and the City Palace (a grandiose museum with a blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture) are popular sites that define the city’s past. Large complexes of courtyards, gardens and buildings covered in detailed workmanship are a testament to the wealth the royal family Jaipur once had. Dotting the city are numerous other forts,
palaces and temples, including the Galta Monkey Temple, which consists of three sacred pools of water where monkeys flock during sunset. Jodhpur Like a sea of blue layered over the bleak Thar Desert, Jodhpur’s captivating vista of blue buildings – blue is used to identify a Brahmin’s residence – and the iconic Mehrangarh Fort are the city’s icons. Perched on a hill, the Mehrangarh Fort is surrounded by thick walls and covered in stone carvings that retrace Jodhpur’s history. Housing a large collection of artefacts from Rajasthan’s rich past, the fort’s the best spot to get a bird-eye view of the Blue City. Jodhpur’s vibrant culture can be experienced at the Old City Market – a bustling, traditional area selling spices and fabric – situated in the heart of the city.
Getting There & Around The fastest way to get to Rajasthan is via a flight from Delhi to Jaipur. Travelling by car or bus is also possible via the National Highway connecting Delhi to Rajasthan, as are overnight trains to Rajasthan from Mumbai and Delhi. There are also luxury rail options covering various cities in Rajasthan, including the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Palace on Wheels, the Maharaja Express and the Fairy Queen.
Patwon ki Haveli in Jaisalmer
What to Eat or Drink Food served in Rajasthan is mostly vegetarian, with most of their sweet dishes being dairy-based. Where to Stay Finding accommodation in Rajasthan is relatively easy, as most of the palaces and forts have been turned into hotels. There’s also the option of camping out in tents while on a tiger, camel or elephant safaris. Cultural Tip Rural Rajasthan's seeing an upsurge in sustainable farming, meaning when you eat local, everyone benefits. Fun Fact Rajasthani men are known for their wellgroomed moustaches, which they care for by applying mustard oil, and pressing it into shape with a piece of cloth. Some men even dye their moustaches with turmeric.
Pushkar Camel Festival Held from 30 Oct6 Nov this year, the Pushkar Camel Fair is a festival on an epic scale, attracting more than 400,000 visitors. The colour and spectacle of one of India's most traditional melas brings together livestock (11,000 camels, horses and cattle), farmers, traders and villagers from around Rajasthan.
Jaisalmer Lying on the western end of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer – with its mix of glistening sand dunes, cobbled streets, palaces, forts and havelis (private mansions) – lies in the heart of the Thar Desert. Known as the Gold City because of the wealth of carved sandstone buildings that dot its streets, the main draw here is the Jaisalmer Fort. One of the last working bulwarks in the region, the fort houses a collection of intricate havelis of merchants
who once resided here. As it sits atop a hill, it’s a great spot to get a birds-eye view of the city. Situated deep inside the Thar Desert, Jaisalmer is famous for its camel safaris. A range of half-day to multi-day safaris allows travellers to visit nearby villages while getting acquainted with the wildlife. Udaipur Set in the heart of the Aravalli Range, Udaipur’s backdrop consists of white marble
palaces stacked against numerous lakes, hence its nickname the ‘White City’. Revered for its opulence, Udaipur is home to the larger-than-life City Palace on Lake Pichola, built entirely of granite and marble and containing many grandiose palaces including the pleasure palace of Amar Vilas and the luxury Fateh Prakash Palace hotel. Udaipur is also famous for its Mewar dynasty temples, many of which – including the Jagdish Temple and Jagannath Rai – are sites of holy pilgrimages.
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From snowcapped mountains to tranquil lakes and magnificent ancient sites, the journey alone wonâ€™t be the only thing to take your breath away. With the new Tourist visa-on-arrival facility for citizens of Singapore, India is now so close to home. Be there to discover the charms of Incredible India. India Tourism, #01-01 United House 20 Kramat Lane, Singapore 228773 Tel: (65) 6235 3800 Fax: (65) 6235 8677 Email: email@example.com
"Best of" Issue | Singapore's free adventure travel magazine. Jan/Feb 2014. www.sportsandtravelonline.com
Published on Jan 29, 2014
"Best of" Issue | Singapore's free adventure travel magazine. Jan/Feb 2014. www.sportsandtravelonline.com