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Fly Into Sikkim Via Their Brand New Airport

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For the past few decades, the Indian state of Sikkim has been left out in the cold. With airports being constructed and opened in almost every other state in India, tourists have been able to access these places with ease. With an increase in tourists comes an increase in tourism revenue. Unfortunately, mountainous Sikkim was ruled too rugged and remote for air travel — travellers have to get on a hour-hour jeep ride from the airport at Bagdogra located in West Bengal in order to get to Sikkim.

As of September 2018, the India prime minister Narendra Modi has declared the brand new Pakyong Airport open for business. Situated 1,400m above sea level, this is Sikkim’s first ever airport. It also happens to be a remarkable engineering feat as it is built atop an artificial plateau on the edge of a rugged hillside and is supported by a retaining wall standing 71m in height.

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Flights have commenced on 4th October and passengers flying into Sikkim will be treated to an incredible panoramic vista. The rocky wall of Khangchendzongda, the third-highest mountain on earth, welcomes incoming planes and on either end of the runway, the landscape consists of plunging valleys. This puts visitors right in the heart of the Himalayan hills. Pakyong will most probably be listed on the list of the world’s most exciting and challenging flight routes, alongside Lukla in Nepal and Leh in Ladakh.

Residents of Sikkim can now expect a big influx of visitors with the availability of air travel. They can also expect convenient road transfers to the state capital of Gangtok and fast access to the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and mountain trekking routes.

Travellers should keep in mind that they will require an Inner-Line Permit (a colonial-era document which allows travel to the disputed border area between India and Tibet). The government of China does not recognise India’s claim to Sikkim and the countries have had disagreements over the territory as recently as 2017.

Let Google Assistant Handle Your Car Rides

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All thanks to Google Assistant, everyone can now have their very own personal assistant. Google Assistant, which is available for both iPhone and Android, as well as the Google Home, now has the capabilities of hailing you a car.

Just by saying “Hey Google, book me a taxi to the airport,” Google Assistant will display a list of available ride services. The list is complete with estimated prices and wait times. Next, all you have to do is to select your preferred ride service and the app will proceed to open to confirm the ride.

This feature will be useful for individuals who are running late and are short on time to compare between service providers for the most cost efficient ride. With the help of Google Assistant, users will be able to see all wait times and prices on the same page rather than switching back and forth between apps.

Apart from hailing rides for you, Google Assistant has been extremely helpful in terms of letting you plan your vacation hands-free. From learning a foreign language to finding you flight options and providing information about the weather, you can rely on Google Assistant. Plus, in the earlier half of 2018, Google introduced a feature that has allowed Assistant to book restaurant reservations and salon appointments.

Sustainable Travel Through Eco-Friendly Airlines

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With sustainable travel getting more attention, travellers who are devoted to protecting the environment while still getting to another country or state, choosing which airlines you take can make a huge difference.

20 major airlines flying between the U.S. and Europe has been ranked according to their carbon footprint. Coming in first, Norwegian Air Shuttle is the most environmentally friendly airline. The airline uses a combination of its seat numbers and uses of newer aircrafts that has lower fuel burn. Other airlines that ranks high with above-average fuel efficiency is WOW Air, SWISS, Turkish Airlines, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, KLM, and Thomas Cook.

Right at the bottom of the fuel efficiency list is British Airways. As a matter of fact, the airline’s fuel efficiency worsened by 4%, lower compared to a previous ranking in 2014.

Delta Airlines performed best, among the U.S. Airline, with an industry- average fuel efficiency. Both American and United Airlines ranked below average, with United coming in third from last with only 1% more fuel efficiency that Lufthansa. Though, United is making plans to make changes that would improve its overall environmental footprint.

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An interesting fact, crowded planes are much better for the planet. More people get to one place to another with the same amount of fuel. So by flying in a fully booked flight or a long-haul low-cost airline, could actually be more environmentally friendly, even if it’s more uncomfortable.

The environmental impact of aviation is actually a hot issue. With airlines contribution about 2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and boeing expects as many as 43,000 planes will be needed to fly all 7.8 billion people by 2036.

Many airlines are now making plans to be more fuel efficient, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the new Boeing 777X, Airbus A350, and the new Airbus A220.

Biofuels are also taking off, having Boeing play and important role in their advancements. Though there are challenges that come in to play as well, including getting enough to supply airports and also reducing the price of biofuels so that they can be used by more airlines in a regular basis.

Back in 2016, Oslo Airport became the first airport to have stock and supply for biofuel in large quantities to support airline operations. The blend of biofuels in Oslo is a combination of used cooking oil and Camelina, a Spanish plant.

How About Staying In An Indoor Caravan For Your Next trip?

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Image credit: Hüttenpalast

You don’t have to always drag a caravan behind your car and pitch up to campsites for the night. There’s now a caravan hotel in Berlin that allows you to stay in a caravan all the same, but without the hassle of travelling around with it.

Hüttenpalast, situated in the Neukölln district of Berlin, happens to be an indoor caravan park. Home to eight vibrant and eye-catching caravans, you can rent these caravans to spend the night. Hüttenpalast was founded by Silke Lorenzen and Sarah Vollmer after realising that the neighbourhood lacked a suitable place for visiting family and friends to stay overnight.

The building which houses the caravans was actually a former vacuum cleaner factory.

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Image credit: Hüttenpalast

Each of the eight caravans have been designed and crafted by a different designer and is up for rental from £70 (~US$82) a night. It’s not that much of a difference when you compare it to general camping as you’ll be using shared bathrooms. The only difference is that you won’t have to find yourselves in situations where you walk across a field in the dark to nearby facilities.

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Image credit: Hüttenpalast

As the on-site caravans are not soundproof, guests should be mindful about their noise levels and remain respectful to their fellow neighbours. Stay connected with the availability of Wi-Fi and meet your fellow campers at the two communal gardens at the back fo the halls. Plus, you’ll be able to fill your tummies with a sumptuous breakfast buffet served each morning.

If you’re not so much into caravans, there are six traditional hotel rooms available with ensuite bathrooms. Additionally, you can also choose from three wooden huts to retire for the night. If you’re travelling in a big group, you can choose to rent out one of the three halls that can accommodate up to 14 people.

You can visit Hüttenpalast’s website for more information.

Go on a Hiking Adventure in Chile’s New Trail

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Pack up your hiking gear because outdoor enthusiasts can now trudge through the the immense hiking trail that spans a third of Chile and surround over a dozen national parks and millions of hectares of protected land waiting to be explored.

The Route of the Parks of Patagonia is a 1,740-mile-long journey across 17 national parks that stretch from Puerto Montt in Chile’s Lake District to Cape Horn, located in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. This makes Route of the Parks one of the longest hiking trails in the world.

Along the way, visitors can explore more than 60 communities with the trail encompassing three different regions and a total of 11.5 hectares of protected land.

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The route, which also combines existing routes like the Carretera Austral, was to put Chile on the map as a country packed with natural beauty and attractions as well as to serve as an example for environmental conservation.

Last year, the Tompkins Conservation donated an extensive amount of land to Chile, to encourage the creation of five new national parks. This led the government to 2.2 million hectares of reserve into national parks that now coexist as one as part of the new trail.

The park has a collective of 24 different ecosystems where visitors can spot 140 bird species, most of the species being endangered, together with 40-over different mammal species.

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Parks includes famous locations such as Torres del Paine National Park, known for its turquoise icebergs, glaciers and its soaring peaks, as well as lesser travelled locations such as the San Rafael Lagoon National Park, which is dotted with wonderful glaciers and snowdrifts.

For more information, visit http://www.rutadelosparques.org to find different itineraries that ranges from 5-6 days and , if you’re up for it, months of exploration.

The Quaint City-State, San Marino

One of the smallest countries in Europe is growing in popularity faster than any other country on the continent. San Marino, a 24 square-mile country, is getting lots of attention from tourists all over and has become Europe’s fastest growing destination last year.

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Image credit: Max_Ryazanov

From 2016 to 2017, San Marino’s tourism grew more than 30%, more than 78,000 people visited the country last year. That may not look impressive, but given that the country only has a population of about 33,500, it is a big number. The number of tourists that visited San Marino last year is almost double the number of people that actually live there!

Though in the last few years, San Marino was reported to be the least visited place in Europe. But, as it gets known by other people, tourism in San Marino is slowly soaring up everyone’s travel list’s.

Located inside north-eastern Italy, about a three-hour drive from Florence, San Marino is the fifth smallest country in the world. Despite this, the country has lots to offer to entertain visitors.

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If you are a history buff, San Marino might be your perfect cup of tea. It is the last independently-governed city-state in Italy, hence, it is full of fascinating history waiting to be discovered. In fact, the San Marino Historic Centre and Mount Titano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the nation’s main draws is the well preserved medieval architecture. Some of the building around the town dates back to the 11th century, wandering around the old walled city and its several palazzos will surely take you to another era.

The Infamous Death Road in Bolivia

Yungas Road has multiple other nicknames, but is better known as Death Road, and it is one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Cut into the side of the Cordillera Oriental Mountain chain in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners during the Chaco War, the stretch has a notoriously high death rate.

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Image credit: Ilosuna

The road is surrounded by a thick foliage of mountainous terrain, horrific cliffs and rock faces. Yungas Road connects the Amazonian rainforest and the capital city with a convolution road that stretches 35 miles from La Paz to Coroico.

From La Paz, Yungas Road ascends to around 15,250 feet to the La Cumbre pass then gradually descends to 3,900 feet at the town of Coroico. The climb promises a drop in altitude, having travellers experience both cooling conditions in the Altiplano highlands and the hot humid conditions of the rainforests below.

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Since the 50s, Death Road was the only road that would link La Paz and the Yungas region in Bolivia. Hence, it wasn’t uncommon to have crowded buses and trucks filled with people and trucks carrying agriculture to overtake each other on the three-meter hairpin turns, day and night.

With a deadly combination single track roads, 900m cliffs, damp weather, sketchy visibility, a lack of guard-railings and occasional landfall has put together the hazardous conditions of the road that have caused many vehicles to go the side of the cliffs. This eventually took the lives and livelihood of many with it.

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Image credit: Alex Proimos

There are about 200 to 300 deaths along Yungas Road and has had cars falling over the edge at a rate of one every two weeks as late as 1994. The sides of Yungas Road is lined with an unsettling amount of crosses and altars, marking a few of the many spots where people lost their lives.

After years of hard work, Yungas Road was finally modernized. Including two lanes of asphalt pavement, drainage system and guardrails. In 2009, an alternative road replacing the dangerous Death Road was completed, diverting all the traffic to the new road. With this new road built, drivers can now travel from La Paz to Coroico without being fearful that this journey will be their last.

Despite having a new and safer road built, Yungas Road is still visited by daredevil backpackers. In recent years, the death toll is limited to local workers and tourists that still use the notorious road.

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Image credit: GilCahana

Looking past the statistics, the downhill bike ride has drawn attention from thrill seekers and mountain biking enthusiasts since the late 90s. Though Yungas Road is definitely not for the faint hearted, it certainly is satisfactory for confident beginners and expert mountain bikers.

There are a handful of tours you can book that offers a quality Death Road MTB experience that has an array of bike quality, safety gear, inclusions, alternate cycling excursions and price. As for confidence, that would be all up to you.

Meet Europe’s Fastest Growing Tourist Destination

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It doesn’t matter if your country’s big or small when it comes to tourism. One of Europe’s smallest countries is experience a growth in tourism numbers way faster than any other location on the continent.

With reference to the data provided by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), San Marino has become Europe’s fastest growing destination as of last year.

San Marino, which only measures 24-square-mile in size, saw a 31.1% growth in tourism from 2016 to 2017, with more than 78,000 travellers visiting the country last year. Before you decide that the numbers does not seem to impress you, you should know that the country only has a population of approximately 33,500. To put things into perspective, more than twice as many people visited San Marino last year compared to the residents living there.

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San Marino is located within northeast Italy, and you’ll be able to arrive there after a three-hour drive from Florence. Although it’s the fifth smallest country in the world, there’s still lots of activities in store for you which promises to keep you entertained. You should also know that it is the last remaining independently-governed city-state in Italy and history buffs will enjoy themselves there as they explore the country’s fascinating history. The historic centre of San Marino is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The nation has a well-preserved collection of medieval architecture, with some citadels dating as far back as to the 11th century.

Just a heads up if you’re intending to visit San Marino, do remember to act on it quickly as it’ll probably get more and more tourists with its rising popularity.

Are you up for ‘The Thrill of the Chase’?

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When we think of ‘Treasure Hunt’, we would often think Indiana Jones or it being as simple as an Easter egg hunt. However, former Vietnam fighter pilot and art dealer, Forrest Fenn made treasure hunting an exhilarating reality eight years ago.

Somewhere in the Rockies, roughly 1,000 miles between Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Canadian border, is where Forrest Fenn hid the treasure. Or that’s where many think its buried. The chest is estimated to be worth millions, filled with riches Fenn has found over his years looking and collecting treasures himself.

Of course, a good treasure hunt wouldn’t be any fun without a twist. Fenn has named the hunt, ‘The Thrill of the Chase’, and has only provided a very cryptic poem that is said to contain nine clues that will lead the hunter directly to the treasure. Fenn has kept the location of the chest from everyone and anyone, even his wife.

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Image credit: Forrest Fenn Instagram

The chest, about a square foot in size, is supposedly filled with emeralds, rubies, diamonds, gold coins and other artefact Fenn has amassed during his explorations in the Southwest. Fenn initially planned on dying beside the chest after he was diagnosed with cancer back in 1988.

After he survived, Fenn left the chest in storage only to take it out years later during the Great Recession. He did so to lighten the spirits of the people and give them some hope.

After a few years of hiding the treasure, there have been a handful of hunters that has made it their full-time career to hunt for the chest. From hiking and trekking every inch of the questioned locations to spending their nights looking for clues and piecing the poem in and out. An estimated 350,000 people have gone hunting for the treasure and some have even risked their lives for it.

Fenn has addressed this, saying that the treasure hunt is suppose to be fun and that the hunt is suppose to encourage people of all ages to go out and enjoy the outdoors.

8 Must-Visit Locations in Bolivia

Bolivia is a landlocked country located in western-central South America. Most who have visited the country are actually backpackers who are merely passing through. What most travellers are unaware of is that Bolivia offers a ton of activities for adventure seekers and also those who are looking to gather new experiences.

From the lush green jungles of the Amazon to the high peaks of the Andes Mountains and the mesmerising salt flats, Bolivia has something for everyone.

We’ll share 8 of our favourite locations in Bolivia to get your started:

1. Salar De Uyuni

Salar De Uyuni

You can’t say that you’ve been to Bolivia until you visit the world’s largest salt flat. Situated in the middle of a desert, Uyuni is the starting point of all trips that bring you to the world-famous salt flats. With expansive mirror-like surfaces and rock formations, Salar de Uyuni is a land of endless skies and horizons.

If you visit from late April to October (which is the dry season), you’ll witness a unique blanket of hexagon-shaped salt deposits that has been naturally formed as a result of post-summer evaporation. Heavy rainfall during the wet season then replenishes the surface to form a vast reflective mirror, an impressive sight to behold.

2. La Paz

La Paz

La Paz is the administrative capital of Bolivia, which sits at 4,000 metres above sea level. The city is surrounded by the high mountain peaks of the Altiplano and the triple-peaked Illimani towering over it.

Hop on the city’s urban cable car system to enjoy the panoramic vistas of the beautiful city and to avoid traffic between La Paz and El Alto. It also happens to be the longest and highest cable car system in the world, and has three of the eight planned lines already running at the moment.

3. Moon Valley

Moon Valley
Image credit: Guttorm Flatabø

 

Located approximately 10 kilometres from La Paz in the small town of Mallasa lies the Moon Valley (Valle de la Luna). It is an area where erosion has worn away the majority of a mountain. As it is composed primarily of clay instead of rock, it has left tall spires in the valley.

As the distinct formations contain a rich variation of minerals, it creates a colourful composition across the drastic landscape. Get on one of the walking trails and tours that bring you through the valley to get better acquainted with this natural landscape.

4. Death Road

Death Road
Image credit: Jan Beck

The Death Road connects La Paz to Yungas and has been listed as one of earth’s most dangerous roads, and is a popular tourist attraction for thrill seekers who are brave enough to cycle it. Although the government of Bolivia has constructed a much safer road, the more-treacherous downhill cycle is still opted for by the adrenaline junkies out there. Riders are reminded to keep their eyes on the extremely narrow road.

Alternatively, travellers can choose to travel via public and private transportation options if they’re not so keen on riding.

5. Witches’ Market

Witches' Market
Image credit: Dan Lundberg

The Witches’ Market is where you should head to if you’re looking for weird, quirky and unique souvenirs. From dead llama foetuses and dried frogs to talismans and fortune potions, there’s lots to be explored.

Tip: Brush up on the local lingo to better your chances at haggling. Ask “cuánto cuesta” for “how much” and say “muchas gracias” for “thank you”.

6. Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is the world’s largest high-altitude lake and the largest lake in South America, covered with 3,232 square miles of water. As the birthplace of the Inca civilization, the area is surrounded by traditional villages and ancient ruins, making it an amazing place to explore.

Choose to take a boat to nearby villages to get acquainted with the history and culture of Bolivia. Alternatively, go on a day trip to Isla del Sol from here. Archaeology enthusiasts and history buffs can visit the Inca ruins in Copacabana and Tiwanaku (a huge stone ceremonial site built a millennium ago).

7. Laguna Colorada

Laguna Colorada

At Laguna Colorada, you’ll find the world’s largest population of rare James’s flamingos chilling in the blood-red waters (due to red algae and plankton). Both the Andean and Chilean varieties can also be found there and you’ll be glad to know that they are not at all camera-shy.

8. Andes

Andes

It’s no secret that the Andean mountain range is home to some of the world’s most majestic peaks. Mount Aconcagua can be found here and it is the highest point in the Southern Hemisphere, and is known to be one of the Seven Summits.

Don’t be mistaken, you don’t necessarily have to be the fittest individual to take the peaks. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced hiker, there’s a mountain that is suitable for you.