Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Travel New Years Resolutions

Life is an adventure, so why aren't you having any? This is the year to get out, stop dreaming and start doing. The following New Year's resolutions, if embraced can get you out of the house more, open you mind to new adventures, and fill your life with memories rather than regrets.

1. Do it! Many people love planning vacations, you speak with them and they have all of these grandiose plans for that perfect trip to South Africa, that magical trip to Egypt etc and yet years go by, and then decades, and suddenly they're wishing they had gone but it will be really hard now as they feel that they are too old.

Life is short, it is finite. Nothing happens from wishing. Put away money, or vacation days, or frequent flier miles, or befriend someone on the internet who lives where you want to go - whatever it takes, just, as the cliche' goes, do it!

2. Explore your own backyard. The number of adventures both small and large left on the table because people forget that that their own home town/state are worth exploring is astonishing. Don't wait for the perfect trip to Rajasthan to take that camel back ride, or rent a bike to explore Ladakh from a new perspective. Explore your own local sites and your local museums. Make adventures out of day trips, the country is loaded with small towns each boasting something, whether it's Agra  with the largest monument of love, or a trip to Hampi for a tantalizing slice of history and religion. India is loaded with the fun, the bizarre, and the outlandish.

3. Embrace curiosity. If the world is one never ending scene of amazement then the TV will seem hollow and sad, a thing reserved for nights without stars and days when the winds are whipping rain against the eaves. Make a list of every thing you have ever imagined doing, everything from bungee jumping to paragliding, from visiting the Museum to sitting on the edge of a gorgeous scene and trying to paint it, and do it. Stop waiting for the perfect day, or perfect excuse. The perfect day is today, and the perfect excuse is that tomorrow may be to late.

4. Eat your travels. Give up on the familiar when you explore. Exploration is more than what can be captured on a camera, it is the conversations you have (or hear), the people you meet, the scents of the streets or the flowers, and the tastes that are wholly linked to place. Delhi has chole batura, Indore has poha-jalebi , Mumbai has everything under the sun, and then some. And that is just India! Taste your way through the world.

5. Become an armchair traveler. Reading about places, whether in the pages of a Travel Mag, or an episode of a Travel channel isn't as good as the real thing, but, most people will never travel the world, most will never cruise down the Nile, or explore the Himalayas, or visit Easter Island, there is nothing wrong with a little vicarious travel, it can even introduce you to your next "must see" destination. Also, reading the works of those that have loved and lived in a place can help create a more fulfilling trip for you when you do arrive. Certainly people will see Italy different after reading Under the Tuscan Sun, or Moab differently after reading Ed Abbey's Desert Solitair. A book can round out your experieces, making your whole trip richer.

These are just a few tips to help your new year be one filled with amazing adventuries, grand stories and beautiful memories. Life is short so get out there and explore it with Mercury Travels! Experiences that take you far. Experiences that bring you closer.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Enjoy your 'Players' Holiday in New Zealand

For everyone who needs an extra dose of the good life, New Zealand is the place to go – after all what else can you expect from a country which has the word “zeal” in its name itself? This island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean was amongst the last places in the world to be settled by humans. Couple that with its colonial past and you have a distinctive mix of exotic biodiversity and a vibrant culture renowned for its warmth. The country comprises of two main landmasses – the North Island and the South Island along with numerous smaller islands. With a population of only about 4 million people, New Zealand is refreshingly uncrowded. Is it any wonder then, that the country was selected as the location of the upcoming high-octane Bollywood flick “Players” starring Abhishek Bachchan, Bipasha Basu, Sonam Kapoor and Neil Nitin Mukesh.

This stunningly breathtaking country has a diverse geography encapsulating glaciers, mountains and even volcanoes. Visit Rotorua and you can see spouting geysers, hot water pools and bubbling mud pools. The mountains are dotted with rivers and lakes which accentuate the natural beauty of the place. New Zealand is the natural habitat of many varieties of whales, dolphins and a vast selection of interesting birds. If you are curious about the island nation’s flora and fauna then you should include one of the smaller islands on your itinerary. For instance, Stewart Island conjures a pristine picture of New Zealand forests at their prime. The island is also home to the famous national bird of the country - the kiwi. You can sit back and enjoy the Aurora Australis or the “Southern Lights”on this small island making it the perfect spot for a camping adventure.

There are plenty of activities for everyone in New Zealand. You can take advantage of the wonderful natural scenery and go on a guided tour or kayak the beautiful rivers of the area. Cave diving is an especially popular sport for those who are looking for something out of the ordinary. It is easy to find a guide who can teach you the basics so that you can embark on your own adventure within a short period of time. The extensive coastline of the country provided the perfect backdrop to Bipasha Basu sizzling bikini scene in “Players”. New Zealand also boasts of a diverse culture with both indigenous and immigrant populations. There are various throbbing metropolises in the Northern Island and small communities which lie off the beaten tracks on the smaller islands.

Once you have explored the natural beauty of New Zealand, you can venture into its world-class urban centers. There is a lively entertainment scene with nightlife, cafes, bars and top class restaurants. Most cities stage first class concerts and shows. The country offers everything from exclusive designer stores along with traditional arts and crafts markets and even large chain stores. Auckland is renowned for its museums and shopping malls. While there, you can also indulge in the traditional food of New Zealand. There has been an attempted revitalization of Maori culture and prominent exhibits in the local museums of Auckland testify the same. These feature an abundant variety of ancient artifacts and modern information on the lifestyle of the Maori. Furthermore, Auckland offers conventional entertainment as well in the form of casinos and sightseeing tours.  The Sky City is a must-visit – this enormous glass tower overlooks all of Auckland.

Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand and has been dubbed the 'coolest little capital in the world'. It has a vibrant café scene and some of the best restaurants in the country. Wellington is a city which enjoys fine dining and good coffee. It is known as New Zealand’s arts and cultural capital - there are many interesting and contemporary public sculptures around the city. The waterfront of Wellington houses the “Te Papa Tongarewa” (meaning “Our Place”) which presents New Zealand’s story through art and interactive displays.  “Players” has been extensively shot in Wellington and takes advantage of the varied terrain of the central city with its steep streets, leafy suburbs, dramatic coast and natural harbor.

Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the country's third-largest urban area. The large number of public parks has resulted in Christchurch earning the moniker of “The Garden City”. The Willowbank wildlife park lies to the north of the city. Travis Wetland - an ecological restoration program designed with the aim of creating a wetland - lies to the east of the city centre. The city is known for its many live acts and has a professional symphony orchestra. It is also the seat of the experimental music scene in New Zealand.

Let MercuryTravels whisk you away to this fascinating destination – we promise that you will never be the same again!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Great Southern Touring Route: An Iconic Australian Self-drive Holiday

See some of Australia’s most spectacular sceneries and live some of its best experiences on a self-drive down the Great Southern Touring Route.

Geelong, an easy hour’s drive along the Princes Freeway from Melbourne, is the eastern gateway to the dramatic coastline of the Great Ocean Road.

It is also Victoria’s second largest city. One of the ‘must dos’ for any visitor to Geelong is to take a boat ride on, or a flight over, sparkling Corio Bay. The Geelong Waterfront has excellent restaurants and cafés with tables looking out over the water and the impressive display of colourful bollards telling the history of the city.

Torquay is Australia’s surfing capital as well as being the official start of the road. Surf World Museum tells the story of surfing in Australia and an all surfing-shopping precinct welcomes visitors year round.

The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s great coastal drives; Conde Nast travel magazine says it is one of the top 20 journeys of a lifetime. Hugging the seaside on the south-west coast of Victoria, it passes through some of the most dramatic scenery in Australia, including the world famous Twelve Apostles.

The Twelve Apostles, the gigantic limestone rock stacks that rise majestically from the Southern Ocean are a ‘must do’. Boardwalks, viewing platforms and an interpretive centre make it easy to see and understand this truly awe-inspiring scenery.

For the best view a helicopter ride over the coastline to see all the magnificent limestone stacks is highly recommended.

The city of Warrnambool overlooks the deep blue of the Southern Ocean and has a long,
fascinating maritime history. These remarkable times are recaptured at the city’s major attraction, Flagstaff Hill, a recreated maritime village and port representative of 19th century
Warrnambool. Flagstaff Hill also features a spectacular sound and laser light show ‘Shipwrecked’ recreating the tragic story of the Loch Ard disaster more than 125 years ago.

There are more than 400 million years of history in the Grampians, the verdant mountains rising from the vast landscapes of the Western District plains. They are the setting for the largest collection of Aboriginal rock art in Australia.

The Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Halls Gap provides a detailed insight into the culture of the original inhabitants of the region. A visit is one of the region’s ‘must dos’.

There are a number of waterfalls, the best known MacKenzie Falls, one of four in the
MacKenzie River Gorge. Spring, when it is framed by wildflowers, is the best time to
visit Beehive Falls, an easy walk from Roses Gap.

A walk at twilight, or even at night offers the chance to see some of the nocturnal native animals including owls, possums and koalas. More than 200 bird species live in the Grampians and kangaroos abound throughout.

Ballarat is the gateway to the Goldfields region. The city’s classic colonial architecture stretched out along broad, tree-lined streets reflects the riches taken from the ground after gold was discovered in the 19th century.

The city is also regarded as the birthplace of Australian democracy. Ballarat was the setting for one of just two civil uprisings in Australia’s modern history, the Eureka Rebellion. This battle between troopers and miners has left a stirring legacy in Ballarat.

Blood on the Southern Cross, a dramatic and fiery sound and light show, retells the story of the bloody uprising which killed 22 miners and four troopers, each night at Sovereign Hill - one of the finest tourist attractions in Australia. Constantly upgraded as a finely detailed recreation of a gold mining town, Sovereign Hill provides an interactive experience for visitors, allowing them to pan for gold or ride on a stagecoach.

The Great Southern Touring Route offers visitors the best of Australia’s natural attractions, coastal scenery, history and heritage – all in a flexible, compact touring package with Mercury Travels.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

ISRAEL: The Extra Dimension

There are so many reasons why people are attracted to Israel. For some, it’s the sun-drenched climate. For others, it’s the rich variety of sites and sights – historical, archeological, religious or just beautiful. For still others, it’s the fascinating contrast between the ancient and the modern. But for absolutely everyone, Israel has a special hard-to-define something – an extra dimension – that turns every visit into a truly memorable experience.
Israel is a modern country that combines a rich history with a tourism infrastructure that caters to every vacation taste. From the time you step foot in this legendary land, you realize it's a far cry from anything you expect. It's a land of bustling cities and nature reserves. Fertile hills and arid deserts.  Gilded temples and glistening skyscrapers. Sacred shrines and glorious Mediterranean beaches.
No other city on earth means so much to so many people as Israel's capital, Jerusalem. Home to more holy spots than you can count on two hands, it exudes an electricity all of its own. Experience the special thrill of walking in the footsteps of history as you retrace the steps of Abraham 4,000 years ago, King David 3,000 years ago, Jesus 2,000 years ago, and the Crusaders 1,000 years ago.
Jerusalem has something for everyone. You can spend days on end just visiting the museums and archeological sites. Roam through the Jerusalem Forest and Jerusalem Mountains that surround the city. Check out the year-round cultural festivities in the streets, concert halls and at historical sites.
Israel's west coast is home to one of the Mediterranean Sea's most glamorous cities. Part beach resort, part full blown metropolis, Tel Aviv has got it all. A New York's worth of shopping. A London's worth of culture. And enough golden sand to compete with the Mediterranean's best beaches.
With its sidewalk cafes, fine museums, lovely parks and beaches, concert halls and theatres, elegant restaurants, chic shopping malls and boutiques, Tel Aviv was made for strolling. Known as the “city that never sleeps”, Tel Aviv has clubs, pubs and piano bars that stay open until very late.
For a full-on holiday haven, head south to Eilat. This is the place for that all inclusive holiday on the Red Sea. Top hotels, world class diving and that all important blend of sun and sand. Eilat offers endless list of activities: water sports, glass bottom boat rides, yachts, the Underwater Observatory Marine Park, the Dolphin Reef, parasailing, camel safaris and many other activities.
Need a break with a rejuvenating edge? Israel has the answer – the Dead Sea. A lake so saturated in salts and minerals, you can't sink in it. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth at 400 meters below sea level. The healing properties of the Dead Sea and of the nearby mineral spring have been known for millennia.
Enjoy the pollen-free atmosphere created by the high barometric pressure and filtered sunlight. Float unsinkably on the highly saline water, immerse yourself in the sulphur pools, coat yourself with the natural black mineral mud on its shore works that is known to work wonders on any complexion. A 100% organic spa experience!
In the North is the Sea of Galilee, Israel's largest freshwater reserve. At 213 meters below sea level, it is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second lowest point in the world after the Dead Sea. It is fed by underground springs, but it mains source is the Jordan River. The dark basalt sand at the bottom of the lake gives the water a dark blue color when you look at it from a distance. The Sea of Galilee coastline and surrounding hills are a year-round vacation resort, with nature trails, historical sites and holiday spots.
With a tradition of making visitors feel welcome that goes back to Biblical times, the friendly people of Israel await you. Travel to Israel – quite simply, there's nothing else like it.

Check out our different packages at Mercury Travels

Monday, December 5, 2011

Macau, a Happening Destination

Experience the fascinating blend of 400 years of Portuguese influence and 3,000 years of Chinese influence in architecture, cuisine and customs of Macau.

Macau is where east meets west. A former Portuguese colony, Macau was handed back to China in December 1999. An important trading post of the European colonisers, Macau has had an eventful history since the latter half of the 16th century. The European influence due to its long and deep contact with Portugal and other European countries blends well with the Oriental charm.
Located on the south-eastern coast of China, at a distance of around 75 km west of Hong Kong and around 150 km off Guangzhou (Canton), Macau comprises a peninsula and two islands of a total area of 29.5 sq km. Though small, it bursts with history, culture, shopping and family entertainment.
The central focus of the town is the busy Senado Square. The Leal Senado and the church of St. Dominic, some of Macau's famous buildings surrounding the Square lend Mediterranean flavour to Macau.
Overlooking the busy town centre from their hillside perches the ever-impressive Ruins of St. Paul’s and the historic Mount Fortress offer a commanding view of the cityscape. The Museum of Macau, located within the fort takes one back to the times of the Portuguese rule.
For those who love history, a visit to the ever-lively A-Ma Temple is a must. Many say the name ‘Macau’ was derived from the Chinese ‘A-Ma-Gau’ meaning ‘Bay of A-Ma’, referring to A-Ma Temple. Another must-see is the imposing Guia Fortress, within which lie the Guia Chapel and Guia Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse which is still functional.
Another unique attraction of Macau is the Fisherman’s Wharf, a theme park and complex with over 150 stores and restaurants built in the style of different coastal towns of the world like Miami, Cape Town, New Orleans, Amsterdam, Venice, Spain and the Italian Riviera. It also includes six rides, a slots hall, a 72-room hotel, and a casino.
With many world-class entertainment complexes, Macau is today the entertainment capital of Asia. It boasts of grand and luxurious casinos at par with Las Vegas. Other entertainment options include golf, spas, horseracing, greyhound racing and abundant nightlife.
Apart from the nightlife and the glittering shows, young adventurers can get an adrenaline rush at the Macau Tower by plunging down the world's highest commercial bungy jump at 233 m, sky jumping or by embarking on a sky walk along the tower's outer rim. Another highlight is the Macau Grand Prix held every November with races around a 3.8 miles circuit around the picturesque city.
Shopping is a key element of central city life. St. Dominic's Market fills the alleyways off Senado Square. The items one can buy here range from clothes, silk, jewellery, toys, electronic gadgets, antiques, porcelain, watches and cashmere shawls. Gold shops by the dozen line the main thoroughfare running between the square and the Leal Senado.
Savour the sumptuous Macanese cuisine, a blend of southern Chinese and Portuguese cuisines. The most famous snack is the Portuguese-style egg tart. It is widely popular in Southeast Asia, especially in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The most famous Macanese dishes are the Galinha à Portuguesa, Bacalhau, Macanese chilli shrimps and stir-fried curry crab which are served with many local wines.
If a quick vacation is what you need, Macau is an ideal destination. With no visa required for Indians holidaying in Macau and great flight connections into Hong Kong, which is less than an hour’s ferry ride away from Macau, planning an exciting holiday here is most convenient.
Experience Macau on a spectacular and entertaining holiday that is specially packaged just for you with Mercury Travels

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Discover the best kept secrets of France

The charm of France can be felt all year round. With its varied regions, offering the best of scenic locales, picturesque views and a host of activities, it is an ideal getaway destination for all those with a holiday on their mind.

With a choice of 22 varied regions, each one different from the other, it is the culture and the “art de vivre” or the art of living that forms the underlying link between these destinations. Each region of France reveals a little bit of itself to you through its monuments, its cuisine, its specialties or particularities that are singularly unique. Each province of France has its own identity, something truly distinctive from the rest that makes it so special, so different and yet an integral part of France.
The French bonhomie and the joie de vivre found in simple things such as enjoying a simple meal together with family and friends, the satisfaction of having spent an enjoyable outing, a promenade on lazy afternoons is what truly forms the essence of France.
The charm of France attracts visitors of all types, be it a family wanting to discover the many sights of France, honeymooners wanting a romantic getaway, or couples wanting to explore the different facets of France or simply friends on a holiday out to have a good time and lots of fun. 
The picture perfect region of the Rhone Alpes invites you for a rendez-vous with the majestic Mont Blanc the highest peak of Europe. The capital of this region – Lyon is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is also home to many celebrity chefs. Renowned for its famed cuisine Lyonnaise, the city entices you for an unforgettable gourmet experience. Besides the wonders of gastronomy, it invites you to explore its cozy cobbled streets and through covered passageways, France's largest single collection of Renaissance buildings. Lyon serves as the perfect gateway to access the charming mountain town of Chamonix home to the famed Mont-Blanc peak of Europe. Known for its scenic vistas and tranquil ambience, Chamonix offers a host of possibilities to its visitors in the form of summer and winter adventure sports, sightseeing, gastronomy, restaurants, hotels, spas and signature shopping outlets.
With charming villages dotting the mountain landscapes, there are year round activities in the French Alps. Ski enthusiasts will be pleasantly delighted by the abundance of ski slopes that this region has on offer. For adventure lovers, the region offers a host of adventure sports that is sure to get the adrenalin pumping. However, those with rest and relaxation on their mind can check in at any of the wellness resorts that thrive here offering a host of cures and therapies to make your wellness experience complete!
Located in the South West of France, the region of Aquitaine appeals to art and culture aficionados, wine connoisseurs and beach lovers alike. The promise of savouring fine wine is enough reason to include Bordeaux on a French itinerary. A trip to the city and its surrounding vineyards such as Saint Emilion, Medoc, and Sauternes is sure to leave you with sweet experiences. The historic monuments of Bordeaux have found recognition on UNESCO’s heritage list. The Bordeaux World Heritage site is the largest urban entity to be so honoured. It covers almost half of the city, from the outer boulevards to the banks of the Garonne. Bordeaux also has attractive, vibrant, and cosmopolitan districts. 
Beach lovers find their paradise in the glamorous sea side resort of Biarritz made famous by Napoleon III and Princess Eugenie. Blessed with fine weather all year around, the beaches of Biarritz are an ideal destination for those seeking some fun under the sun!
France presents to you a kaleidoscope of activities, a unique experience that is your own. It invites you to visit its cities, its beaches, its quaint villages, its mountains, its vineyards, to create a holiday that is uniquely yours filled with good times and perfect holiday memories.

For more information on France, log on to 
Check out the different packages to France customizable just for you with Mercury Travels

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A magical journey down Australia’s Great Southern Touring Route

Journey through some of the most spectacular, enchanting and exquisitely different landscapes on a self-drive down the Great Southern Touring Route.

This magical journey through some of the most exciting, enchanting and exquisitely different landscapes in Australia is found in the south-west of Victoria, the nation’s smallest mainland state.

Marvellous Melbourne, the cosmopolitan capital with its dramatic towers, art galleries, restaurants and charming river, is a natural starting and finishing point.
The romance of the Great Ocean Road, with its rugged coastline, lush forests and overpowering sense of freedom, is an unforgettable experience. The road also links the major regional cities of Geelong and Warrnambool, both vibrant destinations in their own right.

The soaring mountains of The Grampians National Park have been the spiritual heartland of the Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years. Their ancient rock art is all part of the enriching experience of a visit to the Grampians.

Ballarat and its Goldfields are a heady mix of the romance and majesty of the 1850s gold rush and a whole range of modern treasures.

Native Australian wildlife abounds across the region, including kangaroos, koalas, platypus, native birds and Australian wildflowers.

Top 10 must do experiences

> The Great Ocean Road

1. Majestic Scenery: Drive the exhilarating Great Ocean Road, taking in highlights like the famous Bells Beach, the seaside towns of Lorne and Apollo Bay, and the dramatic coastline of the Shipwreck Coast, including the Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell and Port Fairy. The regions rich maritime history is recreated at Flagstaff Hill in Warrnambool.

2. Surf Culture: Torquay is the surfing capital of Australia with its beaches, surf museum and an all surfing shopping centre. It is also home to Bells Beach.

3. The Twelve Apostles: The icon of the Great Ocean Road coast, The Twelve Apostles are majestic limestone stacks rising up out of the ocean. They can be viewed from a helicopter or from a boardwalk for easy walking and great views.

4. Wildlife: Southern Right Whales come to Warrnambool’s Logans Beach each year between June and September to give birth to the calves. Other wildlife along the road includes koalas at Kennett River, Cape Otway and Tower Hill and the friendly mob of kangaroos on the golf course at Anglesea.

> Grampians

5. MacKenzie Falls: The roar of falling water and the magic of the rising mists are just part of the charm of these falls, one of four in the MacKenzie River Gorge.

6. Soaring Peaks: The centrepiece of Victoria’s Western District, the Grampians are three mountain ranges that rise majestically from the plains with their lakes and valleys. Rockclimbing, bushwalking and wildlife spotting are just some of the adventure activities available. The Grampians region is also home to some of Australia’s finest vineyards.

7. Rock Art: The Grampians contain some of the best examples of Aboriginal rock art in Australia. Visit Brambuk – The National Park and Heritage Centre to learn the story of these ancient works.

> Ballarat Goldfields

8. Gold!: The Ballarat Goldfields capture much of the spirit of colonial Victoria. When gold was discovered in the region in the mid 19th Century, it changed the state forever. The riches quickly turned Ballarat from a city of tents into a place of ornate buildings including the magnificent Art Gallery of Ballarat.

9. Ballarat Wildlife Park: Enjoy close contact with Australian native animals. Feed the free-roaming kangaroos.

10. Sovereign Hill: Re-creates the days of the goldfields, scene of one of just two civil up-risings in the history of Australia. Blood on the Southern Cross, an explosive light and sound show, tells the story of that battle.

The Great Southern Touring Route offers you the best of Australia’s natural attractions, coastal scenery, history and heritage – all in a flexible, compact touring package.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Incomparable Jordan. Go back 2000 years in Petra, the ancient city carved in a mountain.

Your first sign of the legendary rose-red city of Petra as you enter through a crack in the gigantic mountain is sure to be one of the memories of Jordan that will be forever cast in stone.
 One of the seven new wonders of the world, Petra is an outstanding architectural achievement, whether you choose to explore its elaborate rock-cut tombs, obelisks, temples, sacrificial altars and colonnaded streets on a grand horse-drawn carriage, or on a leisurely walk.

Soak in the history of Petra at the Petra Nabataean Museum, go back to the Edomite, Roman and Byzantine periods in an ancient Nabataean cave.
As night falls, allow the hypnotic strains of the Bedouin’s soulful ballad to lull you into a trance, as a thousand candles light up Petra’s historic walls on a mesmerizing candle-lit evening.

Return to the modernity at Amman, the capital city, a fascinating blend of the old and the new. A unique city built on a series of hills, Amman is truly eclectic, with historic marvels coexisting with medieval souks, sleek modern buildings, fine dining restaurants and sophisticated boutiques.

Travel back to Roman and Byzantine times at Jabal el Qala, home to the Tempe of Hercules, built by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelios in 161 AD.

Unearth the hidden Roman city of Jerash that dates back 6,500 years. Breach its imposing city walls, march through its colonnaded streets, past spectacular theatres, public squares, plazas and fountains.

Touch the lowest point on earth at the Dead Sea in the Jordan Rift Valley, home to five Biblical cities. Follow in the footsteps of Cleopatra as you luxuriate in its mineral rich waters, wrapped in its rich, rejuvenating black mud.

Watch the earth reach for the sky at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Wadi Rum, stumble upon 4000-year-old inscriptions on these gigantic rockscapes soaring majestically from the desert floor.

Allow Mercury Travels to weave together a memorable holiday in Jordan. In a beautiful country fast racing towards modernity, watch time stand still.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Family Fun in Ontario, Canada

Ontario's cities and towns are packed with fun activities - you're going to have a hard time deciding when to stop travelling!
Ontario offers a treasure trove of world-class experiences. The lakes in Ontario make up about one-third of the World’s fresh water, hence its name meaning “sparkling or beautiful water”. Sample great entertainment, culture, dining and shopping in Toronto and Ottawa, discover charming towns and villages and be awed by one of the wonders of the world – the mighty Niagara Falls.
Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is a fabulous metropolis, overflowing with multicultural arts, museums, entertainment, and eateries. A ‘Waterfront City’, it is eminently walkable with a green urban landscape. The city is bursting at the seams with exciting stuff to do this summer. Dino bones, a shoe museum, fun science, a world of wizardry, a ride above the skyline and your family’s favourite sporting and music events are just some of the attractions awaiting you.
Explore this vibrant city from the top of the CN Tower to the Toronto Islands. Discover world-class shopping, entertainment, dining and nightlife in the cosmopolitan capital of Ontario.
This year, Toronto is hosting IIFA's 2011 celebrations from June 23–25, 2011. The IIFA Weekend and Awards consists of fun-filled activities that bring fans close to their favourite stars. Year round, Ontario celebrates its diversity with festivals from Stratford’s Shakespeare to Kitchener’s Oktoberfest.
Ottawa, Canada’s capital, displays its British heritage proudly on Parliament Hill. Immerse yourself in this young, vibrant and bilingual city that uses French and English. Journey through 300 years of Canada’s history at the ultramodern Museum of Civilization. Walk along the Rideau Canal, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Stroll among the boutiques and award winning restaurants.
Head over to Niagara Falls to marvel at one the Natural Wonders of the World. The thundering Falls is just the beginning of any trip to Niagara Falls – it’s the perfect destination for kids with lots of energy. Visit Clifton Hill to find new and exciting ways to delight the whole family, like a wax museum, a haunted house and more. And don’t forget about everything around Niagara Falls either: the Welland Canal, British forts and lots of natural wonders to explore.
Don’t miss the Niagara Wine trail. Taste the wonderful ice wines and be sure to stay in lovely Niagara-on-the-Lake on your gourmet expedition.
Also easy to access is Algonquin Provincial Park, a mere 3 hours' drive from either Toronto or Ottawa, which means you could be shopping in the morning in a major city and paddling on a lake, totally immersed in nature before supper.
One of the other jewels in Ontario is Killarney Provincial Park. One of the best scenic drives will see you leaving from Toronto, going towards the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, take the ferry across to Manitoulin Island and then reach the mainland again to access Killarney, its white cliffs make it a totally different landscape to Algonquin.
Ontario supports an astounding variety of wildlife. From the haunting call of the loon – Ontario’s official bird – to the sight of the industrious beavers – Canada’s official animal, there are many ways to experience nature’s gift to Ontario.
Venture to Northern Ontario’s Chapleau Crown Game Preserve, the largest game preserve in the world where moose and bear are all part of the scenery. Or swim with furry friends at Cochrane’s Polar Bear Habitat and Heritage Village.
Whether you want to experience the incredible beauty of Ontario by rail or fly above it all, Ontario can offer you a whole array of train and aerial adventures. Board the Dream Catcher Express, go on the Agawa Canyon Train tour or the Polar Bear Express. Or simply easily connect from Toronto to Ottawa with VIA Rail.
Get high above Ottawa on a hot air balloon or see the Niagara Falls on a helicopter tour. Soar high over deep, clear waters and thousands of pine-clad islands on a float plane tour of Georgian Bay.
Spend a quiet evening along the picturesque Thousand Islands near Kingston. Ontario awaits you!

Monday, November 14, 2011

That special feeling called Sydney

  Sydneysiders love the outdoors, beaches and stunning national parks just minutes from the city. Here are our best picks of quintessential Sydney experiences….
    1.      Climb to the summit of Sydney Harbour Bridge
BridgeClimb to the dizzying heights of the Harbour Bridge. Wearing a special Bridgesuit, harness and communication equipment, climbers hook on to a fixed safety cable and ascend the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the company of trained guides for the ultimate view of the city and the world’s greatest harbour and city centre – 134 metres above sea level.

2.  Surf, shop and see-and-be-seen at Bondi Beach
It’s the most famous strip of sand in the country. A kilometre of golden grains where Sydney’s beautiful people come to bare it all. Take a surfing lesson in Bondi, hit the beachwear boutiques and check out the vibrant café culture along Campbell Parade.

3.  Shop till you drop in Oxford Street, Paddington
This hillside village is one of Sydney's most charming suburbs, with beautiful Victorian two-storey terrace houses and distinctive wrought- iron balconies. Oxford Street, Paddington’s main thoroughfare, is Sydney’s fashion artery, a one-kilometre boulevard of boutiques and homeware shops.

4. Do a cooking class at Sydney Fish Markets
Overlooking Blackwattle Bay on the city’s western fringe, this boisterous market is a must see for any seafood lover. Lobsters, fresh tuna, the famous Sydney rock oysters, crayfish and Atlantic salmon are just some of the varieties arrayed in glistening ranks, together with a handful of sushi bars, cafes and seafood restaurants, staffed by people from the local fishing industry.

5.  Dance the night away at Ivy
A multi-level, mega-venue created by dining and nightclub tsar Justin Hemmes, Ivy proves that Sydney’s nightlife scene is hotter than ever. Bold and beautiful from top to toe, there’s a New York-style grill with prime beef, a sushi supremo at work on the Japanese classics at Teppanyaki, cool bars and a pool complete with lifeguard and cabanas, where models frequently make a splash.

6.  Take a thrilling seaplane adventure from Sydney Harbour
Operating from the former Rose Bay flying boat base, Sydney Seaplanes offers a thrilling aerial adventure. As well as scenic flights over the city and whale-spotting trips, there’s an imaginative array of options.

7.  Float over the Hunter vineyards with Balloon Aloft
Just over 90 minutes drive from Sydney, the Hunter Valley is the state’s most illustrious winegrowing area – and there are a few novel ways to see it including from the basket of a hot air balloon with Balloon Aloft. Enjoy a one-hour pre-dawn flight with breathtaking views followed by a post-flight champagne breakfast at sunrise.

8.  Be amazed by the Three Sisters in the World Heritage Blue Mountains National Park
Barely an hour’s drive to the west of Sydney, the dramatic rock formation known as The Three Sisters is one of the icons of the Australian bush. These towering rock stacks have defied the elements, remaining intact while the rest of the cliff has eroded around them. At their romantic best when the moon bathes the rock in a softly glowing light

9. Cruise with wild dolphins at Port Stephens and Sand dune rides at Stockton Beach
Just a few hours north of Sydney is Port Stephens, home to about 150 bottlenose dolphins. Board a dolphin watch cruise to see the dolphins at play. South of Port Stephens is Stockton Beach with more than 30 kms of coastal sand dunes. Indulge in Dune Bashing in a 4WD, to horse riding, camel treks or toboggan rides.

10.  Adventure activities along the beaches of the Grand Pacific Drive
A short coastal drive south from Sydney, Grand Pacific Drive is simply sensational - a stunning scenic route with gorgeous beaches, rainforests and small-town treasures along the way. Stop at the coastal town of Stanwell Park where the fabulous beach, hills and strong air currents make it a prime spot for tandem hang gliding flights. Send your adrenalin into overdrive with the unique Skydive The Beach adventure, where you jump off and land in the middle of serene Wollongong Beach.

Come and discover what makes Sydney so...Sydney.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Flanders: Traditional Belgian Charm with Stylish Modernism!

Flanders presents a fine balance between a two thousand-year-old culture and cutting edge contemporariness.

The region of Flanders in the North of Belgium, tucked between France and the Netherlands, strikes a fine balance between a two thousand-year-old heritage and its cutting edge modernity. This unique Flemish blend of traditional charm and stylish modernism is unmistakable, whether you’re picking out antiques in Brussels’ fashionable Sablon precinct, or unwinding at one of Ghent’s übercool jazz clubs.
The major historic cities in Flanders are Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges. You will find bustling open-air markets, elegant shopping galleries, vibrant nightlife, gourmet restaurants and of course, the famed Belgian chocolate shops!
Brussels, Belgium’s capital houses the headquarters of the European Union and NATO. The city is famous for its art, culture, shopping and nightlife. It is home to many Museums including the prestigious Royal Museum of Fine Arts and the contemporary Comic Museum, where younger visitors flock to its exhibits on science fiction and children’s comics.

Brussels has over 80 nightclubs and bars, and a staggering 138 restaurants per square mile! Check out the shopping in the posh Le Sablon, a beautiful cobblestone square lined with elegant boutiques and home to art dealers, silverware and antiques, and to the prestigious auction house Pierre Bergé & Associés. Brussel’s Rue Neuve and the Grand Place are filled with local designers and other private design shops

If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then Antwerp is definitely every woman’s dream destination. Leopoldstraat is the best place for high end international brands, while the diamond district and Diamondland have the widest range and highest quality of diamond jewellery in the world.

Antwerp is also a well-known fashion hub, thanks to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. The bustling Grote Markt square, the Antwerp Zoo and the Art Nouveau Zuid neighbourhood present an effortless mix of the ancient and the modern.

Bruges, ‘The City that Time Forgot’, has a beautiful, medieval city centre and an almost-continuous ring of canals around the centre. The only way to get around is by walking, cycling, boating or on horse-drawn carriages.

Chocolate shops, lace boutiques and multi-cuisine restaurants line the square. Among the many museums in Bruges are one for lamps (Lumina Domestica), Belgian Fries (Frietmuseum) and beer (Brewery Museum)!

If entering the heart of Bruges feels like you’re stepping into 14th century Europe then sightseeing through Ghent is like zipping from the Middle Ages to the 21st century! The city has an immense cultural heritage that includes 900 ancient structures. At the same time it enjoys a reputation as a lively, pulsating centre of art and music.

The Art of Chocolate: If chocolate is the food of the gods, then Belgium surely is heaven with more than 2,000 chocolate shops across the country. Visit the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate at Brussels and the Choco-Story Museum at Bruges. The innumerable private chocolatiers produce legendary brands like Godiva, Leonidas, Neuhaus, Marcolini and Mary Chocolatier, with stores across Flanders.
The famed Beer Culture: Home to Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and Leffe, Belgium offers a staggering 8700 brews, of which 500 standardized brands are available in breweries and restaurants! Flemish beers come in a variety of colours – white like Celis White, blondes like Duvel, sour browns like Goudenband and Petrus, and the distinct red ale like Rodenbach.

Beer restaurants and brewery tours abound in all Flemish cities, but for a unique experience head to The Dulle Griet, a bar on the Vrijdagmarkt in old Ghent. Before you can taste the house brew, you have to hand over a shoe as collateral against the large round glasses in which they are served!

Whether its unique Flemish culture, exclusive shopping, luxury dining, vibrant nightlife or simply enjoying the beautiful Belgian countryside, Flanders has something to offer every visitor, and plenty to keep them coming back for more!