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Get Around Italy With a £20 Train Ticket

Florence

Italy houses many of the world’s greatest artworks, architecture marvels and mouth watering delicacies. Owing to its central geographic location in Europe and the Mediterranean, Italy is also home to a myriad of people and cultures.

There is no question that Florence, Venice and Rome are Italy’s most popular tourist hotspots, from searching for exquisite cuisine to taking a trip down memory lane and learning about the region’s fascinating history. Travellers would be glad to hear that you can now visit all three cities for approximately £20.

Colosseum

The European booking site GoEuro is collaborating with Italo Traino to offer huge discounts on the high-speed trains running between Italy’s most popular cities. Travellers who are wishing for more flexibility in arranging their itinerary should also be elated to know that fares start from £9.99 for one-way train tickets.

In order to qualify for the discount, travellers would have to begin their trip in either Florence or Rome and include a stop in Venice in the middle. The price of the tickets would be at £20 if you book and “open jaw” ticket between the three cities. However, prices would increase to £40 if you were to book a return ticket to the city where you journey started, travellers are reminded to check though their bookings before checking out.

Grab your tickets from now till 31st August and the tickets are valid for travel between 17th October to 8th December. Note that tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable.

The Blissful Island of Syros, Greece

Syros (3)
Image credit: G Da

With almost perfect weather from June to October, affordable healthy dietary options, and the warm and friendly locals and environment that surround you, the Greek islands are wonderfully enchanting. You might have visited Tinos or Mykonos, but a less well-known destination awaits you beyond those islands.

Syros, 30 minutes away from Tinos, is a idyllic gem that is often looked past. The island is outlined with old and rustic buildings. When you arrive in Syros, you are greeted by a rusty dry dock and dilapidated cranes instead of a busy quayside with bars and taverns. It may sound like the island is too industrial but it is far from that. The rustic planes of the island is what gives it its unique charm.

Syros (1)
Image credit: Hans Peter Schaefer

The cobbled streets of the old town of Ermoupoli, is lined with glorious neoclassical and Venetian architecture — a massive city hall, the Church of St Nicholas and two elegant towers that dominates the skylines of the island. Ermoupoli will bring you back to a world straight out of the 19th century. Below the church is the Apollo Theatre, which you can visit for a couple of euros. It is perfectly restored and is a somewhat miniature re-creation of the La Scala or Covent Garden.

Syros (2)
Image credit: Zacharias Mitzelos

You can also spend your time in the main town and fall in love with the pace of Greece as it used to be. You can lounge in the numerous restaurants that are grouped together behind the seafront. It may be a little noisy and busy in the surroundings but the food is bound to be fresh and excellent.

You do not need to spend too much time on the island to see all of its beauty and you’d be able to do so in three to four days. You can rent out a scooter to go around one cobbled street to another. Make your way to Kini, a beach more catered to the tourists that come by the island. It is also said to be home of the best taverna on the island the Allou Yialou.

There isn’t a holiday package to Syros, you’d have to spend some time researching on how you can get on a boat to the island, which adds on to the fun. This unique and charming island is definitely worth a visit.

5 Spots to Visit For An Amazing Adventure in Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta (also ‘Jogjakarta’ or ‘Jogja’ in short) is a city on the island of Java in Indonesia. Renowned for its classical Javanese fine art and culture such as batik, ballet, drama, music, poetry and puppet shows, Yogyakarta is without a doubt the soul of Java. Yogyakarta is fiercely independent and protective of its customs which date back to centuries ago as the city is governed independently by a traditional Sultanate system. Despite that, it is not stopping the city from evolving in to a metropolitan city decked with new malls and fast-food chains while at the same time staying true to Javanese arts, culture and traditions of batik, gamelan and ritual.

From well-known historical and cultural landmarks to breathtaking natural landscapes, Yogyakarta provides a perfect dose of balance for today’s travellers. You can get started on your Jogja adventure with this list:

1. Go on a Gondola Ride at Timang Beach
Timang Beach
Image credit: Pandora Voon

Home to beautiful beaches of Yogyakarta, the Gunungkidul Region has plenty to offer. This includes Timang Beach, where travellers can catch a glimpse of white waves crashing into cliffs and coral stones in the distance.

Plus, if you’re a thrill seeker, put your limits to a test by crossing onto the nearby Watu Panjang Island via a wooden gondola that’s held together by fabric rope on pulleys. You’d find yourselves crossing strong currents and treacherous waves beneath you. The gondola was originally used as a mode of transportation by the local lobster fishermen.

Address: Tepus, Gunung Kidul, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55881

2. Hike Up Mount Merapi
Mount Merapi

Mount Merapi (or Gunung Merapi), which literally translates to Fire Mountain in Indonesian and Javanese, is the most active stratovolcano in Indonesia. Situated on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces, the volcano has erupted regularly since 1548.

If you’re both an adventurer as well as an early riser, try catching the sunrise from the peak of Mount Merapi and take in the breathtaking panoramic vistas at the same time as the sun’s rays unfold across the horizon. Alternatively, sign yourselves up for the Merapi Lava tour. Get on board a jeep to visit areas such as the Museum Sisa Hartaku and learn more about the volcano’s 2010 eruption.

3. Catch the Sunrise at Borobudur
Borobudur
Image credit: Justine Hong

A 9th century architectural marvel, Borobudur is a Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang Regency. Did you know that the temple is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the world’s largest Buddhist temple consisting of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular and topped off with a central dome. The temple is also decorated with over 2,600 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues.

There’s no better way to experience the temple than to catch the sun rise over the temple grounds with the mesmerizing views of the surrounding nature in the backdrop.

Address: Borobudur Park, Magelang, Central Java

4. Visit Prambanan Temple
Prambanan Temple

Prambanan Temple is a 9th century Hindu temple compound in the Special Region of Yogyakarta dedicated to Hindu deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The temple compound has also been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia, and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia.

Catch the daily Ramayana Ballet Performance from 7.30pm – 9.30pm, a traditional dance based on a Hindu epic of King Rama. Take this opportunity to learn more about the local Javanese culture, style and music.

Address: Kranggan, Bokoharjo, Prambanan, Sleman Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia

5. Have a Go at Cave Tubing
Goa Pindul
Image credit: Cave Tubing Goa Pindul Website

Take a break from the usual waterparks and get yourselves onto a tube at Goa Pindul. Here you can drift across the river while admiring the natural stalactite and stalagmite rock formations carved on the walls centuries ago.

Combine both your love for nature and your thirst for adventure by exploring the caves on a rubber tube along the water channels within the cave. Keep a lookout for the resident bats while you’re floating by!

Address: Dusun Gelaran 1, Desa Bejiharjo, Karangmojo, Gunungkidul, Yogyakarta

Getting There
The Yogyakarta Adisucipto International Airport (JOG) lies northwest to the city, 10km away from the town centre.

There are direct international flights twice a day from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and once a day from Singapore with AirAsia, and five times a week from Singapore with Silk Air. Alternatively, Garuda, AirAsia and Lion Air operate the domestic routes from Jakarta and Bali to Yogyakarta as well.

Travel Back In Time to Mackinac Island

In today’s age of fast growing technology and globalisation, being stuck in the past doesn’t seem to fit in the whole fast paced world. But off the coast of Michigan, Mackinac Island begs to differ.

 A ferry ride away from Mackinac City, Mackinac Island gives off a different type of unique olden-day atmosphere. The island is slightly stuck in the past. Ever since 1875, cars were banned on the island, making the only mechanical transportation on the island to be buggies. You can also go around the island by bike or gallop around on horseback.

  Mackinac Island (3)
Image credit: Randy Hall

The island is filled with well maintained historical architecture and undisturbed nature, a great combination for disconnecting you from your fast paced lives. With buildings dating back to the 1700’s, the island was named a National Historic Landmark in the 60s for the exceptional preservation of its Native American buildings, Victorian homes and Arts and Crafts cottages.

You can stay at one of these preserved buildings to really experience some old-timely hotel luxury. The Grand Hotel, which starts at $329 per night, is one of the independently owned luxury hotels on the island. The hotel was featured in the 1980 film ‘Somewhere in Time’, fitting the olden-days setting of the film perfectly. The Grand Hotel isn’t the only hotel open to public, there are plenty of bed and breakfast options available on the island that offers a first-hand look at the Mackinac culture.

 Mackinac Island (1)

Once you’re there, pay a visit to the Mackinac Island State Park, where you will be given the opportunity to explore historical fort buildings, go for a Native American Cultural History Trail and also hike through the woods to elaborate limestone caves. The State Park makes up about 80 percent of the island so you have plenty to discovering and explore.

The best time to visit Mackinac Island would be early June for the island’s 10-day Lilac Festival. With the annual Lilac Festival Grand Parade, the horse-drawn parade is recognized as a local legacy event by the Library of Congress.

Don’t forget to grab a box of Mackinac Island Fudge, one of the islands famous exports. With recipes dating back to the Antebellum period, every bite of the Mackinac Island Fudge is still as delectable as it was in the 18th Century.

 Mackinac Island (2)
Image credit: Rebecca Chatfield

There’s No Need to Bring Your Own Book to the Beach

Etretat

Summer is all about conquering the outdoors, from going on a hike to beautiful mountain tops to getting a perfect tan at the beach. If you’re going to be in France this summer, swing by one of the pop-up seaside libraries for a different experience at the beach.

Readers have been heading down to the book-filled beach huts that authorities have set up along the coast of Normandy in northern France and other beaches around the country. Travellers can take a break from sunbathing or swimming and head on to the seaside library for a quick read. Picture this: sitting back in a deckchair at the seaside library while listening to the waves and being towered over by dramatic cliffs along the coastline.

Etretat is one of the 12 French resorts where authorities have opened library beach-huts specially for the summer. From now till 26th August, you can find more than 1,000 books filled in each of the wooden huts. The “Read At The Beach” scheme has been introduced in Normandy since 2005 with three such beach-huts and has welcomed more than 38,000 readers as of last year.

Herault

Elsewhere in the south of France, the Herault region has attracted approximately 21,000 book enthusiasts to its beach-huts last year. The idea has been taking off in various countries such as Australia, Bulgaria, Israel and Spain as well.

Here a Normandy, you are more than welcomed to dive straight into a book while you’re at the beach. The only condition is that readers have to stay in the deckchairs provided, and they are not allowed to bring the book along with them down to the sea — just a measure to prevent sand from getting in between the pages.

This summer, approximately 400 chairs are available around the beach-huts. Travellers can visit daily from 2pm to 7pm. There’s no need to worry if you’re not well versed in French, there are also books available in English, German and Italian, catering for an international crowd.

Help to Preserve Siberian Tigers on Your Next Adventure

Siberian Tiger

Siberian tigers are in the top ranks of the world’s most endangered species and the natural habitat which they roam in the wild has also shrunk significantly. In order to preserve the species, it is vital that we track and observe their movements.

An initiative by Natural World Safaris (a company based in England) allows adventurous tourists to participate in tracking and observing the movements of the Siberian tigers in the cold taiga of Eastern Siberia in Russia.

Eastern Siberia

As documented by a 2015 census, the population of Siberian tigers stands at approximately 560 individuals and Siberia remains to be their last well-preserved natural habitat. Participants of the safari would be residing in a wood cabin in the Durminskoye Reserve which is instituted by conservationist Alexander Batalow. He would be leading participants to set camera traps daily and also collecting and examining the footage captured.

Though there isn’t much possibility for travellers to come into contact with the Siberian tigers, you would still be able to get a feel of the tigers’ natural habitat and play a part in preserving the species by tracking their movements and numbers. You would be able to meet other species at the Durminskoye Reserve which is also home to animals such as the snowy owls and red deers.

Part of Natural World Safaris’ “Frontier” series which aims to pioneer travel for adventurous souls, travellers can also sign up for other safari tours in other parts of the world. Other destinations on the list include Chad and its resident lions and crocodiles, Djibouti’s whale sharks, Canada’s ice grizzlies in Yukon and the blue whales in Sri Lanka.

For more information, visit the official website of Frontier safaris.

Sailing Along Iconic Rivers Around the World

River cruises are one of the most popular honeymoon options, wedding destination and/or anniversary activity be it sailing across iconic rivers such as Danube and Moselle in Europe or being on board a Paddle-wheel cruise in New Orleans. Both options provide stunningly beautiful views, culinary experiences and striking cities that fits the bill for any romantic getaway, but there are some lesser-known gems that offers the same romance that should not be overlooked.

Paddle Wheel Cruise

 

A slightly off-the-beaten-path option lies in the south of France, in the Bordeaux region and Portugal’s Douro River. The river cruise offers beautiful sceneries from the lovely lavender fields to the famous chateaux of Bordeaux and the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Douro Valley.

The cruise destinations also bring you to well-known wine regions, and you can expect an unforgettable wine journey with your partner. Pair this amazing wines with mouth-watering cuisines and you get an equally exceptional dining experience. All three sailings make the perfect backdrop to celebrate a couple’s love with spectacular views and experiences.

Rio Douro Cruise
Image credit: Adam Jones

Going beyond Europe to the regions of Southeast Asia, the Mekong river is one of the world’s most exotic rivers that gives off a different feel of romance. A river cruise along the Mekong river is a unique experience of colourful cultural encounters and delectable local cuisines. The cruise stops by quiet and remote stretches of the river, giving couples the time and solitude that is well needed to relax and reflect.

Mekong River Cuise
Image credit: Basil Morin

Though these river cruises all offer stunning romantic getaways with amazing scenic sights and excellent cuisines, it doesn’t really matter where you are as long as you’re with your partner.

The Magical Islands of Matsu, Taiwan

When you mention Taiwan, the first thought that crosses your mind would be the city of Taipei. This is not at all surprising since it is the capital of the country. However, what you may not know is that Taiwan is in fact surrounded by numerous islands that are categorised by archipelagos.

The archipelago of Matsu is gaining interest from tourists that are seeking to explore the remote islands and learn about its history and culture. Matsu consists of 36 islands and islets, making it one of Taiwan’s smallest archipelago.

 Matsu (3)

The islands are divided into four townships. Up north is Dongyin, famous for its wild flowers, military emplacements and lofty granite cliffs. Beigan and Nangan in the southwest region are the two most populous townships which are only separated by less than two kilometres of ocean. Both townships are populated with picturesque villages and have their own airports that takes in direct flights from Taipei. At the south of Matsu Islands lie Juguang township, home to two inhabited islands Dongju and Xiju.

Previously named as Dongquan (eastern dog) and Xiquan (western dog), the islands were renamed Dongju and Xiju in 1971, referring to the slogan employed by President Chiang Kai-shek, which translates to “Don’t forget you are in Ju!”

On the islands of Dongju and Xiju, the growing season is short and there is limited flat land. Despite that, the uneven land has grown to become a breathtaking asset for both islands and encouraged an increase in tourism.

 Matsu (1)
Image credit: Shoestring

A few centuries back, the islands were often subjected to pirate attacks and when the confrontation between Taipei and Beijing arose, the threat of a full-scale war loomed as well. As the confrontation eases in the late 1970s, the civilians of Matsu were already outnumbered by the military presence on the islands. Between 1981 to 1991, the townships population was halved to almost 550 people.

Over the years, tourism has fortunately helped Matsu bounce back. Population has sprung up to 1,500, the highest it has been in 40 years. Individuals who has strong family ties to the islands have come back to the houses they grew up in or were owned by their parents.

Matsu (2)
Image credit: Shoestring

In comparison to all the other islands in the archipelago, Dongju has topped the ranks as a popular tourist destination in recent years. Residents of the island are especially friendly and you’d be able to experience a relaxing vibe on the island all thanks to the slow and peaceful way of life. Taking a walk along the east coast gives you the opportunity to experience the full magical spectacle of the Matsu archipelago.

Set Foot on 56 UNESCO World Heritage Sites Across 6 Continents With This Cruise

Amalfi Coast

Let ancient history, natural beauty and diverse culture blow you away as you embark on a trip to visit UNESCO’s famous World Heritage Sites on a world cruise. With Regent Seven Seas Cruises, adventurers, travellers, outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs can now all come together to take on a 117-day journey across six continents, 30 countries and visit 56 different World Heritage Sites.

You’d be boarding the cruise line’s Seven Seas Mariner, which is known to be the first all-suite and all-balcony ship of its kind. Guests would then be well on their way as they set off from Miami towards 61 ports in South America, French Polynesia, Australia, Asia and the Mediterranean.

The cruise would also bring travellers to the Caribbean islands such as Aruba and the Bahamas before passing through the Panama Canal towards South America’s west coast. The UNESCO World Heritage Sites in this region includes the ancient city of Chan Chan, Peru’s Nazca Lines and Machu Picchu. Travellers can also look forward to spending a night at Easter Island and be amazed by its moai statues, pink sand beaches as well as volcanoes.

Great Barrier Reef

As guests head towards Australia, they would be visiting the famed Great Barrier Reef as well as lesser-visited sites such as the Bay of Islands and the uninhabited Whitsunday Islands National Park.

Feast on traditional Arabic cuisine and learn about traditional dance as the cruise sails to Petra and Wadi Rum in Jordan before continuing along the Red Sea. As guests arrive in the Mediterranean, they would be visiting the coast of Limassol in Cyprus before moving on to the Amalfi Coast in Italy and swim in hidden locations such as the fjord of Furore. Roam the streets of the medieval town on the island of Rhodes. Spend a total of 11 overnight stays in locations which include Dubai, Bali, Singapore and Mumbai.

Departing on 5th January 2021, fares start from US$61,999 which includes first class airfare to Miami with complimentary airport to ship transport as well as business class airfare back from the final stop in Barcelona. Guests would also be entitled to a pre-cruise gala event alongside a one-night hotel stay in Miami, unlimited onboard beverages, luggage services, dry cleaning and pressing services and onboard medical services.

Get Closer to Nature by Staying in This Treehouse

Located in the Big Island, Hawaii, this tropical treehouse takes you far away from the hustle and bustle of the city and lets you escape to the Fern Forest. The ‘Dreamy Tropical Treehouse’ listed on Airbnb has been saved more that 66,000 times to people’s wish lists.

Nestled deep within the Fern Forest, this dreamy tropical treehouse sits 15-feet above the ground, giving its guests both the best views of the forest and the ultimate privacy. It only has one bedroom, making it the perfect getaway house for single and/or couple adventurers. You also don’t have to worry about going hungry in the middle of the jungle, the treehouse is stocked with delectable local coffee and snacks.

Hawaii Airbnb (2)
Image credit: Airbnb

The treehouse is also designed with floor-to-ceiling windows and massive doors, allowing natural sunlight to flood in during the day time. The entire house is also eco-friendly and is filled with sustainable items that will make you feel good about your eco-footprint. The built of the treehouse will truly make you feel closer to the nature that surrounds you.

The shower uses naturally caught rainwater which is subsequently reused by transferring it to fill the toilet bowl. There is also a handmade rock sink that makes use of gray-water, which is also being reused to fill the toilet. Although none of the water that comes off the tap is portable for drinking, there’s no need to worry as the hosts will provide you with sufficient drinking water.

Hawaii Airbnb (1)
Image credit: Airbnb

The treehouse adds on to the list of the best off-the-grid experience for the adventurous, or simply for those who wants to be closer to nature. The treehouse also runs on solar power, making good use of the ample amount of sunlight that hits the forest. In the event that the battery runs out, that would mean that the lights or anything else running on electricity would be going out as well. On the bright side, what’s more romantic than a night in the jungle under the bright Hawaiian stars?

Apart from the eco-friendly fixes of the house, the price is also a bonus! You can stay a night in the treehouse for only S$414, which is way cheaper than a luxury room in a hotel or resort in the island of Hawaii.