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! 

Monday, November 7, 2011


Cosmopolitan and hip Vancouver located on the Pacific Ocean. Charming and quaint Victoria with its British heritage. The wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. Whistler, one of the world's premier ski destinations and all-season resorts. From hiking to skiing to scenic train rides and gastronomic delights, British Columbia offers amazing diversity.

British Columbia is Canada's westernmost province and is set between the Pacific Ocean in the west and the magnificent Rocky Mountains in the east.
Blessed with breathtaking landscapes, British Columbia is home to amazing geographical diversity. Whether you are exploring its cosmopolitan cities or overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean around Vancouver and Vancouver Island, whether you are lost in the immense beauty of the dense forest and snow capped mountains, or soaking up the relaxed atmosphere in the wine region of the Thompson Okanagan, it is not difficult to enjoy a holiday in Western Canada.
Vancouver, one of the world's most spectacular cities, is surrounded on three sides by water and nestled beneath the peaks of the Coast Mountain Range. Located less than 40 miles from the Canada-US border, it is an easy drive from Seattle, Washington.
Named as the world's "Most Liveable City" in 2011 by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a title it has been awarded eight times since 2002, Vancouver offers outstanding opportunities for outdoor adventure and the sophisticated amenities of a world-class city. Known for its abundance of green space, the many gardens and parks are a testament to the city’s love of nature. Good shopping, beautiful parks, superb restaurants, theatre productions and a pulsating nightlife are all within easy walking distance of the central bay area.
Accessible by a 90-minute ferry ride or a short hop in a floatplane from downtown Vancouver, is Vancouver Island. It is a haven of contradictions and enjoys a mild year round climate, courtesy of the warm ocean currents that brush its shores.
The capital, Victoria, sits on the southeast tip of the 300-mile long Vancouver Island. Breathtakingly picturesque, and imbued with a flavor and style born of its British heritage, the city is ablaze of floral colour by day and is a captivating and vibrant by night.
Victoria seems to have something to offer for everyone: wilderness adventure in the mountains and forests of Vancouver Island; cruising, whale watching, kayaking or fishing in the surrounding waterways; quaint shops; boutiques and exclusive stores; museums, culture and historic tours; and a variety of eateries to choose from.
Only 75 miles north of Vancouver is the stunning ski resort of Whistler, host of the 2010 Winter Olympics and a natural year-round playground with its crisp mountain air, crystal clear lakes and lush emerald forests.
Whilst from October through April, Whistler enjoys its reputation as Canada’s premier ski resort, during the remaining months the snow disappears from all but the higher elevations to offer a wide variety of alternative attractions like hiking, sailing, or playing golf at any of Whistler’s four golf courses. Shop in Whistler's attractive village. Or just enjoy the magnificent scenery, luxury dining facilities and the vibrant nightlife.
Head east from Vancouver and you are soon into the Thompson Okanagan wine region, one of Canada’s best yet relatively unknown holiday destinations. Vineyards, fruit orchards, mountains, lakes, valleys and even a desert, make up this diverse region of central southeast British Columbia, located between the coastal mountains and the Kootenay Rockies.
Just when you think it couldn’t get any better, you head further east into the Kootenay Rockies region, forming the border of British Columbia with Alberta. Enjoy the picturesque resort towns of Panorama, Cranbrook and Kimberly with their myriad attractions such as four national parks, the highest number of mineral springs and hot spas in British Columbia and, near the town of Golden, the world’s largest grizzly bear habitat!
British Columbia offers not just outdoor adventure but cosmopolitan culture, uptown shopping, fabulous dining and exciting nightlife. From sophisticated cities to breathtaking scenery, there is something for everyone in British Columbia.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Splendiferous Oman: Beholding the real beauty

With the most awe-inspiring natural landscapes under an incessant Middle Eastern Sun, Oman offers travellers an experience of enchantment. With a vibrant culture that coexists with modernity, Oman has all the expected allure for those seeking the exquisiteness of nature.
From the fjords and barrenness of Musandam, to the sand deserts of the Wahibar, from the Hajjar mountain range, to the green monsoon area of Dhofar in the south, the draw of Oman lies in the outdoors. The Sultanate enjoys an unspoiled culture and traditional lifestyle in almost every aspect. Even in its modernity, Oman is distinctly Arab and offers visitors a glimpse of many unique old-world wonders.
Muscat, the capital city, is the pulsating heart of the country. Popularly known as "Arabia's jewel”, Muscat lies sparkling white, topped with golden minarets in the middle of a maze of brown pleated mountains reaching down to the Arabian Sea.
The older part of the city has many forts, castles, mosques and towers dotting the landscape. Of particular note are Jalali and Mirani forts flanking Al Alam Palace. Among the city highlights are the Corniche with its promenade, and the old souq of Muttrah - an ideal spot to buy souvenirs and treasures. Greater Muscat showcases eminent business properties, world-class highways, upscale suburbs rooted in traditional Islamic architecture, elegant mosques, large green parks, archaeological sites, museums and world-class hotels. The intermingling of ancient cultural heritage and modern style allows Oman to preserve its historic character while enjoying its contemporary spirit.
Muscat is conveniently located for a plethora of activities like cultural trips to explore the Nizwa fort, the rocky terrain of Jebel Shams or the coastal Sur. Those seeking an adrenalin rush can go wadi bashing through the Wadi Shab, sand dune bashing or relax at one the Bedouin camps at the Wahiba Sands, or simply discover the Hajjar mountains through a mountain safari, mountain biking, quad biking, trekking & caves exploration.
Sur, a placid coastal town, is famous for its dhow shipyards (and presumed home of the legendary Sinbad the Sailor). En route one can stop at the must-see Wadi Shab.
Nizwa, with its historical buildings and imposing fort, is also famous for its expansive souq that sells everything from local artefacts, meat, fish, fruits and vegetables to spices, dates, gold and silverware. See the silversmiths hammer patterns into the hilts of khanjars. Amble through the souk for a glimpse of the traditional Omani lifestyle.
The beautiful dunes of The Wahiba Sands could keep one occupied for days. It is a vast mass of red and white sand with dunes rising up to 150 meters. There is a scattering of Bedouin camps in the desert and Bedouin herders still wander from waterhole to waterhole. The sands contain quite a variety of terrain and vegetation.
Another must-see is Oman’s efforts towards adapting eco-tourism. Ras Al Jinz, is world renowned for nesting endangered green turtles in the Indian Ocean, and is the only place where one can watch the nesting process of these amazing sea giants.
Nicknamed as the "Norway of the Middle East" because of the inlets likened to Norway's fjords, Musandam provides a spectacular bird's eye view. Here one will find placid waters, marine life, secluded beaches and isolated outposts.
Oman has some of the best beaches along its 1700 km long coastline. From the placid waves and stillness of the sea to the crashing surf and palm fringed shores of golden sand, Oman’s pristine beaches and quiet coves with its rugged and rocky coastline are thoroughly enthralling.
Enjoy swimming, diving, snorkeling, boating, surfing and sail boarding, beach combing and shell collecting at the popular Qurum beach, Bandar Al-Jissah, Sawadi beach or Al Bustan beach. See the beautiful coral reef formations and marine life whilst diving off Daymaniyat Islands or around Muscat. The Oman Dive Centre, located at a private cove between Qantab and Barr Al Jissah, is an ideal place for those who’d like to learn diving or take advanced diving courses while on a holiday in the sun.
Discover Oman, a magical country in the Arabian Gulf. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top 10 Things to do in Israel

Israel is a fascinating contrast between the ancient and the modern. It is a land of bustling cities and nature reserves. Fertile hills and arid deserts. Gilded temples and glistening skyscrapers. Sacred shrines and glorious Mediterranean beaches.
A treasure trove of attractions, every little corner of the country is worth visiting. Here’s a list of top 10 things to do in Israel.

1. Tour the Old City of Jerusalem
Experience the special thrill of walking in the footsteps of history. Visit the museums and archeological sites. Pay your respects at the religious sites including the Temple Mount, the Western Wall of Wailing, the Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Dome of the Rock. Browse the stalls in the narrow streets of the Old City and roam through the surrounding Jerusalem Mountains.

2. Float in the Dead Sea
Rejuvenate at the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth at 400 meters below sea level. The lake is so saturated in salts and minerals that you can't sink in it. Float unsinkably on the highly saline water, immerse yourself in the sulphur pools, coat yourself with the natural black mineral mud on its shore. A 100% organic spa experience!

3. Shop in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv, one of the Mediterranean Sea's most glamorous cities, has a New York's worth of shopping and a London's worth of culture. Its chic shopping malls and boutiques are a shopper’s delight. So is the Carmel market in central Tel Aviv to hone your bargaining skills. Wander past the many clothes stalls before you hit the market’s epicentre; the food and spices with their amazing colors and smells!

4. Marvel at the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa
The magical Bahai Gardens in the heart of Haifa comprise of a staircase of nineteen terraces. The golden-domed Shrine of the Báb, the resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith, stands on the central terrace and attracts pilgrims from around the world.

5. Snorkel or scuba at Eilat on the Red Sea
Eilat on the Red Sea has top hotels and that all important blend of sun and sand. One of the world’s best diving sites, it has amazing coral reef, beautiful fish, and crystal-clear water. The list of activities is endless: snorkeling, scuba diving, glass bottom boat rides, yachts, the Underwater Observatory Marine Park, the Dolphin Reef, parasailing and much more.

6. Enjoy a sunset on Tel Aviv beach
The gorgeous beach of Tel Aviv has enough golden sand to compete with the Mediterranean's best beaches and is a truly the perfect spot to catch a sunset. Lie on the beach, feel the sand between your toes, sip some wine as the Mediterranean laps gently at the shore.

7. Visit the mountain fortress of Masada
The mountain fortress of Masada stands on an isolated rock plateau in the south east of Israel, overlooking the Dead Sea. Take a cable car to the fortress where about 1,000 Jewish inhabitants committed mass suicide rather than surrender to their Roman enemies.

8. Be moved at the Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
Visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Located on the Western outskirts of Jerusalem, the large complex of museums, outdoor monuments, exhibition halls with major archives, library and other resource centers extends over 45 acres.

9. Relax at the Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee, at 213 meters below sea level, is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth. The dark basalt sand at the bottom of the lake gives the water a dark blue color. Its coastline and surrounding hills are a year-round vacation resort, with nature trails, historical sites and holiday spots.

10. Have a night out in Tel Aviv, the City That Never Sleeps
The nightlife in Tel Aviv is legendary. Known as the “city that never sleeps”, there are countless clubs, pubs, piano bars, restaurants and cafés that stay open until very late. There are theatres, galleries, and concert halls for a more cultured evening.

Travel to Israel – quite simply, there's nothing else like it.