Monday, December 31, 2007


Tapping the ‘green

There has been a spurt of media reports on tourism promotion in the country. Wildlife reserves and areas of outstanding natural beauty would be the obvious attractions. Though this enthusiasm is encouraging, certain issues have to be taken note of or else unregulated tourism will be another serious threat to the list of problems to our wildlife and their habitats.

In India, tourism to wildlife destinations in the garb of “eco-tourism” is already a popular concept. However, the term is by and large misused. In practice, it is used as just another “eco-sell” marketing tool. Wldlife tourism is carried out in an unsystematic and unscientific manner with no clearly laid out policies. For instance, carrying capacity is undefined for most of our protected areas, neither have there been scientific rules defined on visitor discipline. Enforcement of existing regulations has been very frail. Many of our natural wonders are seen as ideal locations to be unruly, play loud music, for gambling or as locations for recreational activities with little interest in experiencing natural environments.
Emphasis on conservation

Eco-tourism is defined as “Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature, that promotes conservation, has a low visitor impact and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples”. Mere use of the prefix “eco” does not lead to eco-tourism. Eco-tourism can be distinguished from other forms of tourism by its emphasis on conservation, education, traveller responsibility and active community participation.

In our country eco-tourism is largely unfamiliar and is restricted to washing linen in an environmentally friendly manner or building thatched huts as lodges. A luxurious wildlife resort in Rajasthan charging over US$ 1,000/guestnight does not even have a conservation policy, depicting poor corporate behaviour. Tourism also has undesirable side-effects. In many areas it has led to negative social and cultural impacts, conflicts between local communities and investors, and also increased living costs for locals.

There are very few examples where eco-tourism is carried out in its true meaning. In the Periyar Tiger Reserve, the forest department has set up tourism eco-development committees. One of the committees is run by local Mannan, Paliyan tribals and carry out wildlife, birdwatching walks, sharing the benefits among its members. This is real eco-tourism.

In Karnataka, places such as Bannerghatta Biological Park or Tavarekoppa Tiger Safaris attract far more visitors than Nagarahole National Park. For a sizable segment of visitors who want “quick” wildlife tourism, we should promote such safaris to educate people on wildlife and utilise the revenue generated to protect larger, more ecologically sensitive wildlife habitats where small-scale, low-impact tourism should take precedence.
Benefits for local communities

The State provides substantial publicity and subsidies to tourism entrepreneurs. However, there is always scope for betterment and we need novel ideas that can provide viable economic development alternatives for local communities with tourism promotion. In places like Nagarahole National Park, where forest dwelling communities have been resettled outside the park, support should be provided to develop their own low-key tourism activities such as guided walks in reserved forests outside the national park limits. People like hands-on activities. Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts would be attracted to such innovative programs. Non-governmental organisations can help train tribals in communication and also support in running their programs.

In areas where agriculture is no longer profitable due to wildlife crop raiding, farmers adjacent to protected areas can form co-operatives and develop tourism activities in their land. Alternatively tourism companies can lease (not buy) farmland and carry out nature tourism in private lands. I am certain such tourism can bring in better revenue than agriculture and improve community attitudes towards wildlife.

Eco-tourism should promote conservation ethics and generate public awareness through accurate scientific information and not “story telling” which is the current trend. This needs trained, motivated education officers and attractively designed interpretation centres which is currently lacking both in the Government and private sector. Eco-tourism should motivate visitors to a more “active” contribution to wildlife conservation.

Nature tourism is growing at 10-12 per cent annually. With the neo-classical economic development bringing increased disposable income, advances in transportation, advanced information technology and corporatisation of this industry, low impact wildlife tourism has great potential; however it has to be well regulated. In its current form, it lacks focus, discipline and sensitivity to both wildlife conservation and local cultures. Wildlife landscapes should be more seen as outdoor educational classrooms rather than recreational locations. Well-implemented, scientific and environmentally sustainable wildlife tourism can bring in larger public support for conservation. Government and private entrepreneurs should solicit NGOs and academic institutions to provide technical and educational support. Monitoring sustainability, developing objective indicators, systematically tracking short-term and long-term tourism impacts through research that would help in developing appropriate policies and management guidelines, could all be the role of wildlife tourism researchers. Building awareness about the negative impacts of tourism among tourism entrepreneurs, guides, safari drivers has to be another key activity for NGOs. A nascent effort in this direction is taken up by Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT), a non-profit joint venture of U.K.-based India-focused travel operators and Global Tiger Patrol through eco-labelling of wildlife resorts in six tiger reserves in north India.
Towarsds fair distribution

Is there a linkage between promoting tourism and wildlife conservation? Though the volume of park-based tourism has substantially increased, there is little direct linkage between the benefits reaped by tourism entrepreneurs and wildlife conservation. Tourism is an economic activity and it cannot be a one-sided transaction. There should be fair distribution of benefits for preservation of the attractions that are the source of tourist interest, which are wildlife in this case. Urgent steps have to be taken to encourage the tourism industry, including hotel and resort owners, restaurants, souvenir shops, travel agents and all others benefiting directly or indirectly from wildlife tourism, to contribute for conservation efforts through setting up a separate protected area conservation tax under the local forest department. This would also enhance the non-use value of protected areas.

Eco-tourism should provide genuine development opportunity for local communities and involve them in planning, development, operation and benefit sharing. Focus should be on optimising local economic benefits, developing leadership and skills of local communities for higher paid jobs rather than restricting them to jobs such as cooks, drivers, gardeners or cleaners. Though such jobs are certainly helpful, the ratio of revenue sharing is minimal. Eco-tourism should offer jobs that provide an alternative to agriculture, animal husbandry or other forms of land use that are causes of wildlife habitat degradation. However we need to be cautioned that over-dependence, unplanned tourism can be risky and can cause severe damage to ecological integrity.

Holiday hotspots: where are we heading in 2008?

Forget glitz, crowds and over-development: the key holiday destinations in 2008 will be those remote corners of the globe that offer comfort, solitude and authenticity, writes Mark Jones.

Once upon a time, writing an article of predictions such as this would have been a straightforward task. Name-check some big openings, whisk around the atlas with a style thermometer naming what's hot, where's cool, where has gone tepid and who's been frozen out.

No longer. Now you can't look forward in the travel business without grappling with the Big Issues: global warming, geo-politics, China, international security. Many of these issues came together at the Bali conference this month - and what a choice of venue that was. Only a few years ago, nowhere better symbolised the innocence of modern multicultural travel: a place where young Australians flocked to get drunk and rich Britons fled to chill out. Now Bali - sadder, wiser, bombed, more wary Bali - will become shorthand for nothing less than the battle to save the planet.

Greener travel

The great hope for 2008 is that tourism, like other global industries, can find a way to be both green and profitable. At present, niche operators such as hotelier Campbell Gray (One Aldwych and Carlisle Bay, among others) can safely target the sliver of wealthy travellers who really do prefer a single perfect apple in an earthenware bowl to a huge basket of waxy fruit wrapped in cellophane. Still, a decisive shift is taking place and any hotel-owner who thinks that going green means putting a little card in the bathroom asking you whether you want your towels washed has spectacularly missed the point.

The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) says that tourism accounts for 10 per cent of global GDP. International tourism will triple in next 20 years and international arrivals are expected to rise from 700 million to 1.6 billion by the year 2020. That's a lot of people on the move burning a lot of fuel. But no sane environmental campaigner can simply set up camp outside Heathrow and tell us to stop flying.

More WTO figures: tourism employs over 250 million people. It is the main money-earner for a third of developing nations and the primary source of foreign-exchange earnings for the majority of the 49 least developed countries. So by all means choose Norfolk rather than The Gambia for your summer holiday if it eases your worries about air miles. But be aware that a tourism drought in these countries will be just as devastating as any other kind.

We will see more travellers opting for the so-called "gold standard" carbon offsetting schemes (too complicated to go into here, but it's about more than planting a few trees).

Where we'll be going

The indications are that we will be choosing our big holiday more thoughtfully, opting to keep it real and low-scale in Africa or Latin America. The success of Namibia and Botswana in limiting developments to a few high-quality lodges and responsible operators is encouraging others to follow suit. The coming year will be a landmark one in Zambia, where Abercrombie&Kent plans to open no fewer than seven new camps (four of them in 2008).

In Botswana, Colin Bell, the founder of Wilderness Safaris, has gone into partnership with Mark Read (the former head of WWF in South Africa) to create the Selinda Reserve (due to open in April). While in July, the celebrated Zambian guide Robin Pope is opening Pamulani in July, a new lodge on Lake Malawi, set inside a World Heritage Site.

South America will continue to supplant south-east Asia as the destination of choice for intrepid long-haulers and gap-yearlings. The Atacama Desert will get the boutique treatment with the new Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa, while long-standing Latin American experts Cazenove+Loyd are beginning tailor-made hiking trips into the remote areas of the Torres Del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. They have also spotted that Machu Picchu is becoming overworn and are starting treks through remote Andean villages avoiding the tourist trail.

Even before regime change happens in Washington, the hawks are in flight. That makes the prospect of visiting Iran or Syria, say, much more palatable. In fact, as anyone who has travelled in those countries knows, it's hard to feel safer and less hassled anywhere in the world; and it will take huge increases in visitor numbers to make magical places like Isfahan, Persepolis, Palmyra and Aleppo feel crowded.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New business model needed, vendor says

A San Diego gift shop operator has drawn the ire of cultural watchdogs after ousting island artisans from one of Hawaii's most popular tourist attractions.

Some fans of the Polynesian Cultural Center, which draws about 700,000 visitors each year, complain that many authentic crafts have disappeared from the center's gift shop on Oahu since San Diego-based Event Network took over retail operations last year.

“I tried to go Christmas shopping and couldn't find the local crafters that I normally find at PCC,” said Kathy Connors, a resident of Windward Oahu. “I'd say at least 90 percent of it is made in China or overseas. I'm originally from Hong Kong, and I just can't send Made-In-China Hawaiian gifts to friends in Hong Kong.”

Event Network, which operates gift shops in museums, aquariums and other attractions nationwide, acknowledged that the previous handful of local artisans and vendors who ran several center shops were let go when the company took over.

The center, located about one hour from Waikiki, is a top tourist destination. It consists of seven native villages that are designed to give visitors a glimpse of native Hawaiian and other South Pacific cultures.

But the perceived influx of look-alike crafts not produced on the islands has miffed cultural purists. The issue landed Event Network on the front page of The Honolulu Advertiser last week.

Larry Gilbert, president of Event Network, maintains that the center's gift shops and crafts remain “very authentic” to the cultures the center showcases. He said the shops source many of the same items from the displaced vendors as well as new ones.

“There are people who create crafts all over the Hawaiian and Polynesian islands, and there are many different people we buy from,” said Gilbert, whose company operates gift shops in 48 locations, including the San Diego Air &Space Museum in Balboa Park. “There isn't just one source of product. Our job is to bring together the best and most authentic and most interesting assortment possible. It is no different from any retail environment – sources change.”

The center does offer products made in Hawaii and the Pacific, including tapa cloth made in Hawaii and Fiji, according to Event Network. Other items are produced elsewhere to keep them affordable – for instance, the center's Hawaiian-style quilts are made in the Philippines.

Susan Kunz, director of PCC's retail stores for Event Network, said the company required a “different business model” when it took over operations for the center, according to the Advertiser article that ran Thursday.

“There were a lot of unhappy feelings. For some of these people that was their whole livelihood. So that's a tough thing,” Kunz said. “But it just becomes a different business model. You just have to adjust. It's a different way of doing business.”

Kunz told the newspaper that the challenge is maintaining a product balance that serves everyone from Saudi princes to everyday tourists. Because PCC is a major cultural attraction it needs a steady supply of quality products, she said.

“I need to find people who can supply me and who can keep me in product and who can deal with a company,” Kunz told the Advertiser. “We don't do cash on delivery, for example. And we're not a craft fair. We're not one-time buyers. So we deal with purchase orders. And we pay with a check after 30 days – that kind of thing.

“And some of that becomes very difficult for our local crafters because they're not used to it,” Kunz said.

Cultural watchdogs who are championing some of the local artisans said the “mainland” business model doesn't always work for one-of-a-kind items. Kona Hahn, a native Hawaiian whose family practiced the art of lauhala weaving, said a compromise should be found.

“We are trying to keep part of our heritage alive by doing the authentic things that were done generations ago,” Hahn said. “So many tourists make the PCC a destination. They've paid all this money to come to Hawaii and they want to bring home something made in Hawaii – not the Philippines.”


New Year revellers not visiting Maoist land

Raipur, Dec 27 - With hills, caves and waterfalls, Bastar makes for a picturesque getaway, yet there has been a sharp drop in the number of New Year revellers in the region that was virtually the epicentre of Maoist violence in Chhattisgarh throughout 2007.

'New Year revellers, a majority of whom consists of families, are shying away from Bastar,' a top official in the tourism department told IANS.

Till Tuesday, around 5,200 people had booked hotels, motels and government guesthouses to usher in the New Year at various tourist spots in Chhattisgarh. Out of these, just about 18 percent (756 people) had booked at Bastar locations.

Last year about 8,000 people had gone to various tourist spots for New Year celebrations, of which 80 percent visited Bastar despite spiralling Maoist violence.

The revellers' reluctance this time to celebrate in Bastar is blamed on rising violence in the region, which includes the worst hit Dantewada and Bijaur districts.

Overall, about 95 percent of the Maoist violence in the state has been recorded in the Bastar region, which is spread over some 40,000 sq km in five districts. The violence has resulted in some 300 deaths, including 202 policemen, this year.

'They seem to be preferring the state's northern region's hill station Mainpat in Surguja district, the wildlife-rich forest location at Barnawapara in Mahasamund district and Achanakmar forest reserve in Bilaspur district.'

He, however, pointed out that tourist spots in Bastar have never seen any Maoist violence.

The Bastar region is home to ancient monuments, rare wildlife, waterfalls and rock paintings.

One of the places known for its natural beauty is Chitrakote, where the Indravati river abruptly drops 96 feet, resulting in a spectacular horseshoe waterfall often compared with the Niagara Falls.

Bastar also boasts of the Kailash and Kutumsar caves that are said to be three billion years old.

Left extremists have stepped up their activities in Bastar this month. They blew up a police station Dec 12, engineered a daring jailbreak Dec 16 from Dantewada prison in which 299 inmates, including nearly 100 Maoist cadres, escaped and killed 12 policemen Dec 20 in Konta block in Dantewada.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

48 hours in New York for the holidays

Got 48 hours to explore New York over the holidays? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors make the most of the shopping and holiday attractions on offer in the Big Apple.


6 p.m. - Arriving in Manhattan for a weekend of holiday shopping or to do the sights, what better way to start than with a cocktail. The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street at Lexington Ave is offering two new drinks for the holiday season -- The Sugarplum Martini and The Campbell Apartment Holiday Eggnog.

7 p.m. - Walk up Fifth Avenue to take in the holiday lights, including the Rockefeller Christmas Tree which is celebrating its 75th anniversary and draws about 500,000 people a day. Watch the ice skaters below and don't miss the spectacular window displays across the road at the upmarket Saks Fifth Avenue store.

8 p.m. - Try dinner at Tavern on The Green (www.tavernonthegreen) at Central Park West at 67th Street which prides itself on its festive atmosphere with a holiday dinner menu which ends with plum pudding.

10.30 p.m. - End the evening with a ride in a horse-drawn carriage around Central Park, pure magic on a snowy night.


8 a.m. - With children in tow, a trip to Santaland at Macy's, the massive department store on 34th Street at Broadway, is a must. Wind your way through a wonderland of trains, talking trees and busy elves to the North Pole where you can have photos with Santa. A seasonal puppet show, "Moose Crossing," is in the store's Christmas department. There are fantastic display windows too.

Other stand-in Santas are available for photo opportunities at Bloomingdales on Third Ave at 59th Street, Saks Fifth Avenue at Fifth Ave and 50th Street, Manhattan Mall on 33rd Street at Sixth Ave, South Street Seaport at Pier 17, and the World Financial Center at Winter Garden on Vesey Street.

12 noon - Walk up to Times Square to join the crowds squeezing into Toys 'R Us which has a ferris wheel inside the store and three floors of toys. For a family lunch try Carmines ( at West 44th Street, an Italian eatery which serves family sized portions of various pastas.

2 p.m. - Time to shop, with New York full of tourist shoppers this time of year enjoying the strength of their currency to the dollar and spending it at designer discount stores like Century 21 ( at 22 Courtlandt Street, which is a haven for the truly committed shopper.

There are numerous holiday markets as well to enjoy:

- Bryant Park on Sixth Ave at 42nd Street has over 100 booths with this European-style holiday market one of the biggest in town with free ice-skating on the park's rink.

- Grand Central Holiday Fair in the Vanderbilt Hall has stalls and a kaleidoscopic light show in the main concourse

- Holiday Gift Shops at St. Bartholomew's Church on Park Avenue at 50th Street is a pretty market

- Holiday market at Union Square on 14th Street at Broadway where red and white tents have been put up for various stalls

- Holiday Market at Columbus Circle at Central Park South and Central Park West is an ideal location for foodies

6 p.m. - Aim for an early dinner then pick one off the list of holiday shows in New York.

8 p.m. - There is a show for everyone. From the traditional high-kicking Rockettes at Radio City Hall (, to the Nutcracker ballet at the New York State Theater, LincolnCenter (, to the more modern musical "The Grinch on Broadway." Other holiday productions include The Big Apple Circus and Cirque du Soleil's Wintuk, a new winter story about a boy's search for snow. Book in advance.


9 a.m. - What better way to start the day than a trip to Central Park for a ride on the carousel, to see the polar bears and penguins in the zoo, and for a skate around the picturesque Wollman Rink ( Go early as the rink is packed by noon.

12 noon - Grab a pretzel off a street stand for lunch and head down Fifth Avenue, making the upmarket toy store FAO Schwarz your first stop. Virtually every shore along Fifth Avenue has holiday windows to enjoy including Cartier, Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany & Co., and Henri Bendel.

2.30 p.m. - St. Patrick's Cathedral on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 51st Street is worth a stop and break from the crowds, regardless of your denomination or religion. It is an architectural beauty and a nativity scene with life-sized statues adds to the holiday spirit.

4 p.m. - Finish off the weekend with the final holiday windows at department store Lord & Taylor at Fifth Ave at 38th St, which are usually the most traditional of them all.

Happy Holidays.


Top 10 must-see tourist attractions in Tainan County

Indulge in a hot spring vacation

Guanzihling Hot Spring is one of four major hot spring areas in Taiwan, along with Peitou, Yangmingshan and Sihchongsi. Guanzihling Hot Spring includes alkalinity carbonate and other minerals, which make the local spring water look a bit murky and muddy. It is believed, however, to have a curative effect on various skin diseases.

Observe black-faced spoonbills

Starting in September each year, black-faced spoonbills fly in groups from northern Asia to spend the long, cold winter along the Zengwu River in Tainan County. The bird's name comes from their spoon-like black beak. In March, they return to the north to breed.

Experience the Tainan County Lantern Festival

During the Chinese New Year -- also known as the Spring Festival -- local governments hold lantern exhibitions throughout cities starting on the 15th day of the lunar calendar. In Tainan County, the coming lantern festival will be held in the "Solar City" district of the Southern Science-based Industrial Park, already dubbed, "The World's Most Brilliant Lantern Festival."

Visit the Tower with eight angles

The Ba-jao Lo -- or tower with eight angles -- was built in Yen shui Town in the Ching Dynasty. The wooden structure was designed by master carpenters from Fu Zhou, and later became the center of the borwn sugar trade in the region.

'Bai-Bai' at Nankunshen Daitianfu Temple

Built in 1662, Nankunshen Daitianfu is the oldest and largest Wangye temple in Taiwan. The religious edifice, made of wood, brick and Laojhensheh stones, is dedicated to the worship of Wufu Ciansuei, of the Li, Chih, Wu, Jhu, and Fan families. The outer walls of the temple are richly decorated with artwork depicting mythological animals, gods, historic figures and renowned military officers.

Legendary Yuan Shui firecracker ceremony

Also held during the Chinese New Year, the Yuanshui Fongpao -- Yuanshui firecracker ceremony -- takes place in Yuan Shui Township to commemorate the end of a cholera epidemic that hit the area in the 19th century. Local businesses thus called on "Guan The Holy Sovereign" to visit the town and end the epidemic by setting off firecrackers.

Ride through Hsiaolung Culture Park

Hsiaolung Culture Park, also known as Chiali Sugar Factory, includes a 13.8-hectare recreational area. The factory's red-brick main building was built in 1906 by Meiji Sugar Manufacturing Cooperation during the Japanese colonial era, and is surrounded by hudred-year-old trees. Trains from the sugar factory used to provide transportation for sugarcane and local residents, but nowadays only tourists enjoy the picturesque ride on a traditional coal-locomotive thorough the park.

Hiking the salt mountains

Located in Chiku town, Chiku Yunchang is the largest sun-dried field of sea salt in Taiwan, with a total area of 1,800 hectares. Today, Chiku Yunchang has become a famous scenic spot, where tourists can enjoy salt mountain hiking and bathing in a sea salt swimming pool.

Nap by Hsikou little Swiss

Hsikou little Swiss takes its name from a quiet, Swiss-like scene upstream from Coral Lake, which is surrounded by a forest of maple trees, bamboo, acajou and evergreens. Located by the lake, Hsikou camping ground offers a quiet and relaxing environment for the family in the heart of nature.

Meditate at Hsikang Cing-an Temple

The temple, located in Hsikang Town, is also called "Jinda Temple" because it is richly decorated in gold foil. The temple's vivid artistic representations of local deities show them posing in colorful postures. The main structure of the building dates back to the Ching Dynasty.


Tainan County blends culture and nature into top tourist attractions

Tainan County's top tourist attractions are a blend of local culture and nature, the county's first-magistrate said yesterday in an exclusive interview with The China Post, while noting the region has a lot to offer foreign visitors during the various festivals held year-round.

For instance, the Taiwan international orchid show, the Taiwan coffee festival, lantern festival, and bird-watching for "black-faced spoonbills," and the Yuan Shui firecracker ceremony, all top the list of Taiwan's most popular tourists attractions.

"It is a little bit painful if you don't wear appropriate protection," said Tainan County Magistrate Su Huan-Chih about the Yuan Shui firecracker festival, which he has taken part in for the past three years. Further, he strongly recommended wearing a safety helmet and appropriate clothing before participating in the event.

Hundred of thousands of people from all over the island go to Tainan County each year to join in the annual events held on the 15th day of the lunar calendar after the Chinese New Year. The Yuanshui Fongpao -- Yuanshui firecrackers Festival -- takes place in Yuan Shui Township to commemorate the end of a cholera epidemic in the 19th century. Other famous religious festivals held in Tainan County include the Sigong Shaowangchuan -- a ceremony to burn a Wangchuan boat, or the Pingpu Yeji -- a night festival.

Moreover, some theme exhibition halls such as the Chimei Museum, Donglonggong Culture Exhibition Hall, and Tainan Museum of History are places you wouldn't want to miss when you go to Tainan County, he said.

Su added that Tainan County has come a long way in Taiwan's history. During the Japanese colonial era, hot spring water was first used for treating skin ailments of wounded soldiers before it eventually evolved into its current health and leisure industry. Guanzihling Hot Spring is currently one of the four main hot spring areas in Taiwan, along with Peitou, Yangminshan, and Sihchongsi.

Because this "murky hot spring" is unique in Taiwan -- only Japan and Italy have the same kind of hot spring -- Tainan County has integrated spa treatments with various tourist sites and attractions, such as the Lingding Park or the Haohanpo Hiking Trials, and succeeded in attracting a new crowd to the region.


What makes Costa Brava such a popular tourist destination?

According to the INE statistics growth in the Catalonian tourist sector kept growing in 2007 with a 4,1% increase respect to the previous year. That maintains it to the second most visited area in Spain just after Baleares. Catalonia represents 21, 7% of foreign tourism in Spain and more precisely, it is Costa Brava that is the second most touristic region in Spain. Accommodation in Costa Brava is already in high demand and is still growing. That is why has invested in offering both hotel and private holiday apartment accommodation.

The factors that make Costa Brava so appreciated by tourists are many. First come the geographic particularities of the area. Costa Brava is such a surprising diverse region, it offers a wide range of rugged mountains, cliffs, unique preserved beaches, bays and many famous harbors. It also has very particular interior cities and villages.

The climate is also one of the main attractive criteria that benefits to Costa Brava. The region has nearly year-round warm temperatures and sun-drenched beaches.
Then, Costa Brava’s history and culture is one of the richest and most interesting of Spain. The region is affluent in theatres, museums, castles and artistic historic places. It is without counting that Costa Brava has one of the best golf courses, beach activities facilities, shopping areas, restaurants, bars and nightlife.

Moreover, the proximity with Barcelona brings even more value to Costa Brava. Barcelona is possibly the most internationally famous, exciting and stunning city in Spain. This is why has become an expert in both Barcelona and the Costa Brava.
Last but not least, Costa Brava lastly improved significantly its accessibility to the rest of Europe thanks to a huge amount of competition among low cost airlines that made it much easier and cheaper to travel to and from Spain.

Tourist industry in Costa Brava is then clearly growing up by taking advantage of Costa Brava popularity. Nevertheless, holiday trends are evolving, moving away from travel agent booking towards direct online holiday accommodation booking services.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Forget Phuket

You've seen the pictures of one of Thailand's main drawcards: shimmering blue water lapping along the shores of the white-sand beaches, limestone outcrops rising out of the ocean.

You may have even seen movies set around the picturesque islands. Think of The Beach, where Leonardo DiCaprio and friends discover their own island 'paradise'.

Then there's Ko Phing Kan, better known as James Bond Island since its feature role in The Man With The Golden Gun in the 1970s.

So where exactly are these postcard-perfect gems in Thailand?

It must be the tourist mecca of Phuket, right? Or Ko Samui?

Try Krabi.

"The crystal clear water and limestone and beautiful clear beaches ... for me personally I thought it was Phuket, because Thailand is always Phuket, Phuket, Phuket," says Edwardo Iswandl, a relatively recent inductee to Krabi's charms.

"But when we came here, they are all Krabi in fact. They are in the Krabi province."

Located about 800 kilometres south of the Thai capital of Bangkok, Krabi is probably best described as a younger version of Phuket.

It's Phuket 10 years ago - less commercial than its more well-known big brother.

It's a good way to be, particularly in these days of heightened environmental awareness, according to Sofitel Phokeethra Krabi Resort & Spa general manager Ove Sandstrom.

"I mean Krabi is now, it's fresh, this is really Thailand like it was in Phuket 10 to 15 years ago.

"I think they can keep it like this. Today you know you have global warming, people are becoming more and more conscious about the environment.

"So now the nature is the biggest attraction. If you want the nightlife, OK you go to Bangkok."

The local government, Sandstrom and Iswandl say, is keen to keep it that way.

"It's not exploited, because the local government had made it stricter than anywhere else," Sandstrom says. "It's the only region in Thailand where you're not allowed to exploit the beach."


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Egypt Attractions - Top 10 Tourist Attractions of Egypt

Egypt is located in North Africa and is among the top most tourist destinations of the world. No other country comes even closer to Egypt when it comes to the number of magnificent monuments, activities and historical attractions. More than ninety percent of all Egyptian attractions are lined up along the river Nile. Many places can therefore visited by taking a cruise in the Nile river (besides road and air travel). Since it is a popular tourist destination Egypt offers extensive facilities for tourists.

Top 10 attractions of Egypt are:

1. PYRAMIDS: There are more than 80 pyramids in Egypt which were built mostly between 2600 BC and 1500 BC and all are situated close to the Nile river. After the ruler died (or other prominent royal figures like queens), their bodies were wrapped and preserved as a mummy, and placed in the Pyramid. The most popular pyramids are the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx: An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 workers built the Pyramids at Giza over 80 years. Giza also has the largest pyramid also known as "Great Pyramid" which rises an amazing 481 feet.

2. CAIRO: It is the capital of Egypt. Popular attractions of Cairo include:

a) Khan al-Khalili market: Khan al-Khalili is one of the largest markets in the world which attracts both local's and international tourists. This is a great place to but exotic perfume bottles, Arabic clothing and other souvenirs.

b) Egyptian Museum of Antiquities: It have over hundred thousand artifacts in 107 halls. The most popular attraction is the Tutankhamun Gallery.

c) Other attractions are Pyramids of Giza (mentioned above) and Old Cairo.

3. ABU SIMBEL: It was carved out of sandstone cliffs high above the River Nile. The most famous attraction are the four colossal 20m-high statues of Ramses II guarding the entrance. When the waters of Lake Nasser to rise, UNESCO relocated them to a high ground between 1964 and 1968.

4.KARNAK TEMPLES: It is a huge complex comprising of three main temples and many smaller ones, most famous among them is the Temple of Amun. It is estimated that they were built in a time span of 1300 years.

5: LUXOR TEMPLE: The modern town of Luxor is the site of the famous city of Thebes,( or the city of a hundred gates). A row of sphinxes line the entrance to Karnak Temple. The most famous section of these temples is a huge all called the Great Hypostyle Hall.

6: SIWA OASIS: The area is famous for its dates and olives, and is one of the most beautiful landscapes and springs in Egypt. It was the most inaccessible oasis until recently. It lies 60 feed below sea level.

7: NUBIAN MUSEUM OF ASWAN: It is designed to house the fantastic collection items unearthed from the archaeological excavations during the Nubia Campaign.

8. VALLEY OF THE KINGS: The Valley of the Kings is located on the West Bank of the River Nile in Thebes. There are 62 tombs in the valley. It has two components - the East Valley and the West Valley. It is the East Valley which most tourists visit and in which most of the tombs of the New Kingdom Pharaohs can be found.

9: ALEXANDRIA: Best places to see are - Pompey's Pillar,Bibliotheca Alexandria, Alexandria National Museum, King Farouk Palace and the Roman Amphitheater.

10: SHARM EL SHEIKH: Best places to see are - Sinai Mountain, Na'ama Bay,Tiran Island, Terrazzina Beach and White Lagoon.

Other attractions of Egypt include the White Desert, Hurghada and Felucca on the Nile.

SAFETY INFORMATION: There were some terrorist bombings reported in Egypt in last few years. Check for additional information. Overall the crime rate in Egypt is low. Visitors should consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling. Egypt has high road fatalities rate so you should prefer not to drive yourself unless you feel comfortable.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cheonggyecheon to get facelift

Cheonggyecheon, the restored downtown stream that celebrated its second anniversary last month, is to undergo a facelift to attract more tourists by highlighting its history and culture.

The stream has become one of Seoul’s most popular tourist attractions since opening in October 2005 and has attracted more than 56 million visitors.

However, most visitors mainly stroll around the stream because Cheonggyecheon lacks facilities for cultural experiences beyond sightseeing.

To counter that, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has recently unveiled a project aimed at making the stream a center for tourism and culture in the city. It has called for the construction of a traditional Korean village, floating catwalk and other cultural facilities near the stream and spread throughout the capital by February next year.

City officials say that the project aims to draw more foreign visitors by establishing diverse cultural facilities based on Cheonggyecheon’s unique features and location.

One of the most distinctive features of the project is the planned restoration of some of the shacks, which lined the stream up until the 1970s to feature the everyday life of post-war Korea.
Shantytowns made of wooden planks covered the banks of Cheonggyecheon in the 1950s and 60s after the Korean War. Restored versions of the shabby dwellings will be displayed along with tools, such as carriers for water buckets and soft coal, a key source of home heating at the time.
Also, part of the project is "the cultural and digital Cheonggyecheon," the city said it will create a digital screen by Dec. 21, using Cheonggye waters for romantic events and a floating stage for entertainment.

People can also make romantic proposals by using the digital screen. They can run UCC images or text messages for their lovers on the so-called "wall of digital proposals" by making applications in advance.

When there are no proposal plans reserved, the huge digital screen will show artistic graphic images every night, made with water and multi-colored lasers.

In the block near the Dongdaemun fashion town, a runway stage with lighting facilities will be set up on the water. The floating catwalk and fountains will be used as a debut stage for aspiring young fashion designers and artists to showcase their works.

On another bridge near the Sewoon electronics arcade, an artsy lighting tower named "Sotdae" will rise to underscore the history of Korea`s electronics mecca in the 1970s and 1980s.

A creative studio will also open near the cluster of hardware stores alongside Cheonggyecheon to develop and showcase products of unique design and metallic processing technology.

A second-phase development plan will follow to make Cheonggyecheon a more captivating part of Seoul, according to city officials.


Like it or hump it at tourist mecca

FROM my balcony at the Noosa Crest Resort, I cannot hope for a more spectacular view across Noosa, Laguna Bay and the Noosa River. It has been years since I visited this tourist mecca nestled between the crystalline waters of Noosa Sound and the national park.

Our double-storey villa has a distinct Mediterranean feel. It sports uneven terracotta tiles, wrought-iron railings and Tuscan-style pottery and furnishings.

I fold back the entire top-storey glass doors to draw in the view. Out on the private balcony are sun lounges and an extensive barbecue area. Not far away, a rooftop swimming pool, spa and sauna glitter.

It is the perfect spot to hole up for a weekend, but it's not to be. I have the family in tow, and this weekend is all about Noosa with kids.

We start our adventures at the end of Noosa Crest's private boardwalk, where stand-up paddle surfing is taking off. The traditional Hawaiian sport promotes balance, strength and fitness. Chris de Aboitiz and Grant Cunningham have the only surf school in Australia dedicated to it.

We join their free demo day, held on the second Sunday of every month from 7am to 9am at Noosa Lions Park. It's a family affair. Even the dogs are invited, catching a ride on the front of boards. My kids are eager to hit the water and, equipped with paddle, board and a little instruction, are off to discover the calm waterways, learning to manoeuvre, turn and control their craft.

I sense that our instructor Chris, who once worked on Waikiki Beach, could cut a mean wave. But he enjoys the tranquil ripples of the Noosa River. "Many surfers also enjoy this sport," he says. "It's great for cross-training, and it brings together core strength and balance."

There's also a delicate balance between exercise and the stomach, so after some excellent fun and fitness we head to Noosa's Hastings St, where fine food abounds.

The famous precinct is undergoing a $10 million makeover, due to be completed by July 2008, so we dig deep to see what we can find.

Sure enough, the chic and the hip are all still tucked into sidewalk cafes, sipping glasses of vino.

The Massimo ice cream and gelato shop fights for best treat among fresh juices and rich baked delights.

Noosa restaurateur Jim Berardo says few places in the world have the ability to offer both "paddock to plate" and "sea to plate".

"The amazing synergy between grower, fisherman, primary producer and chef has made Noosa Australia's leading regional culinary destination," he says.

The main road through nearby Noosaville is also lined with restaurants. Indeed, the new edition of Lonely Planet Australia gives Gusto's Riverfront Restaurant, Noosaville, the thumbs-up, saying: "It trumps Noosa's classy competition with effortless style, superior service and breezy water views."

We couldn't agree more as we dined on the likes of seared Hervey Bay scallops, Mooloolaba prawn and garlic ravioli and barbecued baby veal fillets. The service is top shelf, and my daughters giggle at the charming waiter who calls them "Madam".

Back in Hastings St, we park the car and hit the beach. There is also a line-up of holiday shopping to be explored -- hats and sunnies, a new surfboard, flowing resort wear and surfer-chic swimmers.

But the kids don't put up with this for long, eager for a camel ride along the quieter Noosa North Shore.

Dave and Lyn Madden have operated Camel Safaris since 1989, winding their camel trains through melaleuca-lined bushland and out on to the huge expanse of sand and ocean of 40 Mile Beach.

Our camel, Menindie, rolls his large rubbery lips and presents a set of yellow teeth. We jump on his back and stroke the coarse hair between his ears, but are rudely rewarded with a jerking from side to side as he gets up clumsily from his knobbly knees.

From here on it's smooth sailing. We set a leisurely pace through shady bushland and on to the beach, enjoying views of seashells, coloured sands and distant Noosa.

This area has so much to offer the family: koalas and scenic walks through Noosa National Park, surf and still water activities, boats to hire, ferries to catch, markets to explore, mountain bikes and kayaks to conquer.

By the end of it, you may be exhausted and sitting on your paddle, but you will be happily grubby: it's standard procedure to get dirty on a top-notch adventure.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mana Live in Costa Rica Tonight

The popular Latin American rock band, Mana, will be performing tonight at the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in Tibas, North San Jose, Costa Rica, performing a variety of tracks off their new album “Amar Es Combatir” (To Live is to Fight).

Fehr Olvera, the lead singer, recently told a national newspaper the message behind the rock group’s new album stating that life to love is to fight because things in life should be accomplished through love. Life should not be a combat of violence, but a combat of feelings, illusions and soul.

The Mexican band has come to Costa Rica after having already performed at venues across the Europe and the United States as part of the world wide tour and they promise that this gig will be as entertaining as the rest.

Olvera said that he admired Costa Rica a great deal and respected it as one of the most progressive nations in Central America with less corruption and violence than the others.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Coronado Beach California

Just over the bridge from San Diego is a small, tree-lined beach haven known as Coronado. The "island," as many locals call it, is really a peninsula connected to the mainland by a neck of land named the Silver Strand. Coronado is about a mile from downtown San Diego and is linked to the city by the Coronado-San Diego Bridge. Crown City, as it is called (Coronado means "crowned one" in Spanish), regards itself as a friendly, small town of wide leafy streets lined with Victorian homes and Californian bungalows ... and regards San Diego as somewhere else.

Along with the amicable, small-town atmosphere and near-perfect weather, Coronado proudly touts itself as a car-optional environment. The island is small enough to walk almost anywhere — it's only a mile from the San Diego Bay side of the peninsula to the ocean — and the Coronado 904 Shuttle (fare is $1) loops past most of the hot spots. There are also 15 miles (24 kilometers) of relatively flat paths fit for both cyclists and skaters and even more miles of bike routes along city streets.

The emblem of Coronado is the Hotel Del Coronado — a Victorian pleasure dome that instantly turned Coronado into a beach resort when it opened on the oceanfront in 1888. Other resorts followed, but today the military, not tourism, represents Coronado's largest industry. The North Island Naval Air Station, site of America's first military flying school, occupies the entire north half of Coronado, and Navy SEALs train at the Naval Amphibious Base on the south end of town.

For well over a century, Coronado's beaches have been its fortune. The main beach, Coronado Central Beach, stretches 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) behind the great houses along Ocean Boulevard. The morning crowd here includes the SEALs who run along the beach. Later in the day swimmers, bodysurfers, boogie boarders, sand sculptors, tide poolers and, from December through February, whale watchers all take to the sand and sea. North Beach attracts surfers in the morning, and at the extreme north is Dog Beach, where leashless canines can frolic in the surf.

Other beaches include Silver Strand State Beach along the road connecting Coronado to the mainland, where fire rings are provided and overnight RV camping is welcome. Coronado also offers less-crowded beaches. Glorietta Bay Beach is a grassy park and playground with a small sandy beach, and there is a vest-pocket patch of sand beside the wooden pier at the Ferry Landing Marketplace that's a good bet for a barren beach.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Fewer tourists visit Britain

One million fewer tourists visited Britain during the three months to September, compared with the same period last year, as sky-high prices, poor airports and bad weather deterred people, official figures showed.

Overseas visitor numbers fell by 10 per cent to 9.25 million – the largest quarterly fall since the fall out of September 11, 2001, when American tourists numbers ground to a halt. This time, the weak dollar, rather than terrorism, is behind the fall in numbers.

Added to this, is Britain’s increasing reputation as an unexciting, troublesome destination, compared to more exotic places in Asia.

Elliott Frisby at VisitBritain, the Government-backed agency that promotes the country to tourists, said: “The exchange rate is seriously starting to bite for many North Americans. Visits from that region are predominantly driven by price, and many Americans are choosing to stay at home.”

Americans are the most important visitors to the UK as they tend to spend the most and stay the longest, frequently travelling outside London to the Lake district and other areas that are very reliant on the tourist dollar.

Tour operators and analysts also cite “Heathrow hassle” and the increase in air passenger duty as contributors to the fall, with this summer’s airport delays and dire weather all helping to persuade visitors to travel elsewhere.

The emergence of China, Turkey, India and other exciting locations competing for international visitors is another factor.

“Competition is hotting up and people want to go to new destinations that have got the 'brag factor’ – where you can take the photos and come back home and tell all your friends. Britain just doesn’t have that,” said Mr Frisby.

David Else, the author of Lonely Planet’s guide to Great Britain, said he was sad that tourist numbers had fallen after a resurgent few years.

“My view is that Britain is not boring at all. Yes, it is expensive compared to many other countries, but it is a great place and the tourist facilities have all improved enormously in recent years – the cafes, restaurants, attractions, the transport links. Everything is getting better.”


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cemeteries as tourist attractions?

The idea of a cemetery as a place to visit in the course of a vacation, may not exactly resound with Jamaican sensitivities, but Mayor of Kingston, Desmond McKenzie, has raised an interesting idea: making the May Pen Cemetery a tourist attraction.

The fact is we're not a 'cemetery people', despite our penchant for elaborate funerals and mourning rituals. There are, however, other places where cemeteries do attract tourists, particularly if they are the final resting place of celebrities.

One of the famous sightseeing spots of Europe, for instance, is the Pére Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, wherein lie some of the world's most celebrated artists and artistes, from centuries past up to contemporary times.

In other places, where celebrities are interred also, some tourists do find it interesting to visit the site as part of the experience of another culture.

But is our May Pen Cemetery ready for that? Most Jamaicans associate the area with inner-city neglect which we seem unable to put right.

It has been said that members of some of Jamaica's older families were interred at May Pen in the days when it was the major site for burials in Kingston.

It is posited also that the history of such families and the context of the times in which they lived could be presented in a way to attract visitors who like that sort of thing. Would that be enough of an incentive, however?

There are practical considerations which would have to be dealt with. It is not just the physical state of the cemetery which has to be improved, but the environs which surround it.

Mayor McKenzie is no stranger to the condition of the Spanish Town Road and adjacent communities. He knows, even more than most, the extent of the urban decay and blight which will require more than wishful thinking to reclaim and bring it to a standard which would make visitors, as well as locals, feel enough at ease to go in the cemetery. Perhaps, with time and effort, such an idea could bear fruit, but it certainly is not a short-term fix.

The current effort to clean up and attract public support for May Pen is but one of many in a series of several such drives. It has been tried before.

As he makes yet another go at it, this time using prisoner labour, Mayor McKenzie would do well to use his considerable leverage to put in place systems for continuity in the ongoing maintenance of the cemetery.

It is only when the facility can be accorded respect by our own people that we will have the confidence to indicate to others that we regard it as an important part of our national heritage and thus worthy of being an attraction.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


The great Mughal Emperor Akbar commissioned the construction of the Agra Fort in 1565 A.D., although additions were made till the time of his grandson Shah Jahan. The forbidding exteriors of this fort hight an inner pardise. The fort is crescent shaped, flattended on the east with a long, nearly straight wall facing the river. It has a total perimeter of 2.4 k.m., and is ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A 9 mt. wide and 10 mt. deep moat surround the outer wall.

There are number of exquisite building like the Moti Masjid-a white marvel mosque akin to a perfect pearl, Diwan-e-Am, Diwan-e-Khaas, Jehangir's Palace, Khaas Mahal, Shish Mahal and Musamman or Samman Burj-where Shahjahan was held captive in 1666 A.D.

Open Time : Sunrise to Sunset.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Costa Blanca

Costa Blanca

The Costa Blanca, with its beautiful beaches, attracts millions of tourists every year. In northern coast of blanca begins with Denia and Javea two wonderful towns at the bottom of a mountain.

In southern coast blanca down to the Guardamar and Torrevieja. With these wonderful city like Elche, Palm capital of the world.

You can basically travel along the Costa Blanca as la carretera national go away all together the coast. Make sure that when you come along sometimes these beautiful small villages in search of holiday homes Costa Blanca, you have enough time to spend at

There are many attractions of the Costa Blanca, some of which are specifically for tourists, such as the Terra Mitica theme park in Benidorm or the bays of Altea and Calpe. Others are smaller towns and villages as Villajoyosa just south of Benidorm, famous for its historic center and its chocolate.

For me the greatest beauty of the Costa Blanca seavill comes from. Its beaches, along with its small villages to the Costa Blanca, the only attraction.

Further north along and Gandia Oliva between Moraira, Benissa, Teulada and Denia find the city of Javea, with the Cabo Nao, one of my favorite places on the Costa Blanca. One of the areas where lots of new Costa Blanca and Costa Blanca property is sold. You can also find some villas in Costa Blanca sale.

Costa Blanca tourist

For more on Costablanca make sure you have a good map and Costa Blanca tourist information. If you want to play a nice game of golf at one of the finest golf resort Costa Blanca, please find a list of golf clubs here. The best way to do this is the Airport (Tourist Information is before leaving the building date), or in the center of Alicante. So I always ask for information Costa Blanca.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Cape Town targets cruise liners

Already famous for being one of the most beautiful tourist cities in the world, Cape Town has unveiled its ambition to become one of the best passenger cruise liner destinations in the world, in hope of securing a slice of the lucrative US$29-billion market.

The city seeks to benchmark itself against the likes of Miami, Vancouver, Sydney, Melbourne and even Auckland, which have all developed as favoured cruise liner destinations.

"The time could be ripe to re-establish Cape Town as one of the great passenger liner destinations of the world by promoting itself and the southern African region as a base for destination cruises," said the city councillor in charge of economic development and tourism, Simon Grindrod.

He said he was disappointed, however, that Cape Town and southern Africa had largely failed to benefit from the fact that cruise liner operators were seeking new destinations.

Areas such as the east coast of Australia and New Zealand have become popular cruise liner destination bases experiencing 28% annual growth between 2002 and 2004.

The advantage of cruise liners, Grindrod said, was that they could berth at ports with limited landside facilities as they were basically equipped like floating resorts. In addition, approximately 50% of passengers expected to return to places that they have visited while on a cruise.

"Given this position, areas which have previously been fairly inaccessible to this type of tourists as well as the traditional nodes could also benefit," he said.

Grindrod said that at present, Cape Town and Durban featured on the schedule of "round-the-world" cruises and vessels that are on appropriate repositioning cruises, but that this was a limited market.

Multi-purpose terminals
Cape Town has been perceived to have the perfect opportunity to develop a multi-use cruise liner terminal, though Grindrod said cruise liner terminals were not profitable investments on their own, but "given this position trend worldwide, would construct a multi-purpose use facility" that can be used as a cruise liner terminal as well as for other use.

Durban is also planning to build a cruise liner terminal as part of the re-development of the Point.

"If destination-based cruise liner business is to expand in this region, then terminals at the potential home-ports of Cape Town and Durban are probably essential," he said.

"It is stated that in the KwaZulu-Natal commissioned work that more than 85% of cruise passengers believe that cruising is an important vehicle for sampling destinations to which they may return."

Cape Town's executive director for economics, social development and tourism Mansoor Mohamed said a major challenge was that a few major players dominated the industry.

"We need to contact the cruise liner operations to market the region to these countries to assess what is required to induce them so that Southern Africa can be included on their list of cruise destinations," he said.

"Our marketing bodies also need to be prominent at the relevant trade shows around the world to promote the region as a cruise liner destination."

The cruise liner industry is the fastest growing global tourism sector and the average growth rate of the sector has been 8% per annum since 1980. Over 12-million people went cruising in 2006 and the number is expected to grow to 16-million by 2009.

The industry is estimated to be worth about US$29-billion and it sustains approximately 559 000 jobs.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Visiting the state in the summer or early fall is one of life's great pleasures

If you don't like picturesque New England towns overlooking sparkling harbors with little piers and sailboat masts, you probably should not visit the coast of Maine.

And if you don't like fresh lobster, crab, scallops or mussels, by all means don't go to the coast of Maine. It would be a big waste of time.

I know what you're thinking: Summer is over and I don't even have to consider another summer vacation for at least six months. And, of course, I'm not suggesting that you visit in winter. As Mark Twain is alleged to have said: Maine is cold, but it's damp.

Nonetheless, to visit Maine in the summer or early fall is one of life'spleasures that you owe yourself. And the sooner you start planning, the
sooner you'll be sitting in your own postcard, washing down lobster and crab with a cold Sam Adams.

The key to any good trip is information. So, get your hands on the most up-to-date travel books to see which part of Maine's considerable coastline you want to explore.

If you arrive in Camden, in the Midcoast region, you'll be struck by the authenticity of this old New England port. Sure, Camden is set up for visitors with various inns and a slew of quaint bed-and-breakfasts, but like most of the small towns along this coast, it hasn't surrendered its identity to tourism.

New Englanders love their towns, and their strong

traditions keep them from falling prey to bigger-is-better development.
Still, you can stroll down to the harbor and hook a ride on an old-fashioned two-masted windjammer. You'll catch the breeze for a long reach past forested islands on Penobscot Bay before coming about and hauling back to the mainland.

Once your stomach has settled, you can drop anchor dockside for a cold refresher and select your own lobster from a tank full of the crawly creatures. Set your watch for 10 minutes and voilÀ. Call it heaven. Call it Camden. What's the difference?

There are a host of other great spots along Maine's Midcoast. The most notable is quaint Boothbay Harbor. It's reportedly quite busy in July and August. But after Labor Day and before the onset of New England's colorful autumn "leaf peeping" season, you can have the place pretty much to yourself.

Stroll, or ride a bike, along the rocky coast as the warm fog rolls in and out playing watercolor magic with harbor boats and gingerbread houses. It's New England at its intoxicating best.

No tour of the Maine coast would be complete without an excursion Down East, where peninsulas and islands creep out into the cold North Atlantic. The most popular of these places is Bar Harbor near Acadia National Park on Desert Isle.

Once a gem, Bar Harbor is now, unfortunately, a tourist trap where bus after bus drops tour groups who choke the sidewalks and trinket shops. It's one of the few places along the coast that have given way to "Disneylandification" and where the food is overly expensive and decidedly mediocre. Enough said.

The more adventurous traveler will find Down East enchantment at little places like Castine, Blue Hill and Stonington. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, reservations at the few inns there are an absolute must.

After Labor Day, you could take a chance and, if you're lucky, get the last room in tiny Stonington on Deer Isle. If you like tranquility, this is the place for you. The historic hamlet is so quiet and beautiful that you may feel as if you're walking through a dreamscape.
Breathe deep, this is relaxation.

For a little excitement, you can wander out on the pier and watch the lobster fleet come in from 2 to 3 p.m., when you'll witness lobstermen weighing in their catch of the day.

Later on, repair to the Fisherman's Friend restaurant - one of only three eateries in Stonington - and chow down on that catch as the big orange sun falls into the harbor.

If you don't like lobster, try the scallops and mussels. And if you're one of those rare birds who can't stand shellfish, you're not completely out of luck. The haddock and cod will have your endorphins doing backflips.

A little self-discipline may be required here - if you're not careful, you could eat yourself into critical condition.

On the other hand, if you don't like fresh seafood at all, you're probably better off avoiding Maine altogether. That will leave more for us lobster and crab and mussel and scallop lovers. Did I mention Sam Adams?

Friday, October 12, 2007

McDuffie listed among top places to retire

McDuffie County was named one of the top 10 places in the state to retire in the Fall/Winter 2007 issue of the Retire in Georgia magazine.

"It's a big deal," said Elizabeth Vance, the McDuffie County tourism director, who turned in a nomination. "I think it's a great thing anytime you're named the best of anything. ... It only validates that McDuffie is a great place to live."

According to a press release sent out by the magazine, the editorial staff chooses 10 sites annually using criteria such as climate, travel and tourism assets, cost of living, healthcare infrastructure, housing, population, dynamics, community commitment, local park systems and lifelong learning opportunities.

Not ranked in any order, the top 10 places listed in the article are Albany-Dougherty; the City of Atlanta; Big Canoe in Pickens and Dawson Counties; Gainesville-Hall County; Douglas-Coffee County; Georgia's Lake Country in Morgan, Greene, Putnam and Baldwin Counties; Lowndes, Brooks and Lanier Counties; McDuffie and Columbia Counties; St. Mary's in Camden County and Thomasville-Thomas County.

Mrs. Vance said she did not work with Columbia County in filing McDuffie's nomination. She said migration data compiled by the magazine staff combined the two counties.

"It's not a negative thing to be with Columbia County," Mrs. Vance said. "What they don't have, we do. And what we don't have, they do. So we play off of each other. ... They have more city-like amenities, and we have a more laid back atmosphere."

Retire in Georgia is published two times a year in March and September. A partner of the Georgia Tourism Foundation, the magazine is promoted as the most comprehensive source for amenity-seeking active adults considering visiting and relocating to Georgia. The magazine is distributed throughout the state in visitor information centers, as well as chambers of commerce, county commissions, economic development and business organizations.

Complimentary issues are mailed to subscribers in Georgia and to households in states with an established pattern of relocations to Georgia, which is something Forward McDuffie Director Mike Carrington plans to take advantage of.

"It's one more thing I can use to promote our county," he said. "It's definitely something I can talk about when making presentations."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Former President Bill Clinton Visits Tanzania's World Famous Ngorongoro Crater

Former President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, spent six days in Tanzania, the largest country in East Africa. He was there to announce a critically needed subsidy to improve malaria treatment in the country.

On his last day in Tanzania, President Clinton became one of 360,000 visitors annually to explore the World Famous Ngorongoro Crater. Often called 'Africa's Eden' and the '8th Natural Wonder of the World,' this collapsed volcano (a "caldera") is located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This is a natural sanctuary for thousands of birds, insects and animals such as lions, zebra, black rhino and wildebeest, all free to wander.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) was established in 1959 to protect an area covering 8300 square kilometers. Only indigenous tribes such as the Masaai are allowed to live on this land. Olduvai Gorge ("The Cradle of Mankind"), Lake Ndutu and Masek are also within its borders. Lush highlands surround the Crater, falling away to tawny plains and alkaline lakes of the Great Rift Valley. A descent down the rim passes rain forest and thick vegetation, and the flora opens to grassy plains throughout the crater floor.

Hon. Prof. Jumanne Maghembe, Minister of Natural Resources & Tourism, stated, "We are pleased that Former President Clinton was able to see for himself the success resulting from what started as a pioneering experiment in multiple land use where pastoralism, conservation and tourism co-exist in a carefully managed harmony."

Bernard Murunya, Acting Chief Conservator, NCAA, who accompanied President Clinton, said, "The Former President spent seven hours game viewing and experiencing first hand the majesty of the area. He was extremely impressed with our efforts to protect what is a unique ecosystem, one of the few such places in the world."

Besides vehicle safaris, hiking treks through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are becoming increasingly popular touring options.

Tanzania: The Goldmine in Heritage

When one mentions tourism in Tanzania, what beeps right into most people's minds is the rich menu of attractions like the Serengeti and Zanzibar.

Zanzibar being a place of winding alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses whose extravagance is reflected in their brass-studded, curved, and wooden doors; fragrant plantations of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Other attractions in Tanzania include internationally recognised six world heritage sites which are prime tourist attractions; Ngorongoro conservation area, Serengeti national park, Stone town of Zanzibar, Ruins of kilwa kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara.

Apart from wildlife, Tanzania has world-class marine assets in Pemba, Mafia and Zanzibar.

Tourist circuits

Tanzania has many tourism circuits and has benefited from its principle of conserving its natural resources.There are wildlife viewing/photographic safaris in all parks and reserves but mainly in the Northern Circuit with famous National Parks.

Southern Circuit comprise of Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National park. Tourists can also visit the East where the famed Jane Goodall set base for her Chimpanzee research center. Access to this area known as Gombe Stream is strictly controlled. Most popular tourist circuits for Europeans are the beach resorts mainly in Zanzibar but they are also in addition to wildlife safaris.

In Pemba and Mafia there are coral reefs and big game fishing. While Chumbe Island which won the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award in year 2000 is an ecotourism resort.

There is also bird watching mainly on photographic safaris to southern or northern circuits. Adventure tourism comes in when tourists opt to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Deep sea fishing takes place in Pemba channel and Mafia and inland fishing on Lake Victoria. One of the best places in the world for Scuba diving is Mafia, Pemba and parts of Zanzibar.

A variety of archaeological and historical sites make up for a larger percentage of cultural tourism. The most notable places are the Olduvai Gorge, Bagamoyo, Kilwa and the island of Kilwa Kisiwani, Laetoli, Isimila (near Iringa region) Tarangire not forgetting the stone town of Zanzibar.

Cultural attractions

Other cultural attractions are the people of Tanzania like maasai. There are also the stone town of Zanzibar and Bagamoyo. Bagamoyo, located north of Dar es Salaam, was once an important trading post in East Africa including slaves sold to Arab buyers in Zanzibar.

Bagamoyo was also the capital of German East Africa from 1887 to 1891.Hunting is also classified as a tourism activity because it thrives on wildlife and brings in foreigners and as it is, is among the highest expenditures made by any segment of tourists.

One of the major reasons why Tanzania is the best tourist destination is because of the favourable climate. Game viewing and bird watching is uninterrupted.

Visiting the Northern circuit is all year round. Hunting seasons are best in July to December. In Zanzibar peak seasons for tourists are in August, December and January. The government needs to introduce more activities and tourist destinations that can attract more tourists in other parts of the country.

A large chunk of tourists who come to Dar es Salaam which is the business hub of Tanzania visit the National Museums that houses the country's cultural heritage, relics and antiquities.

Dr. Paul Msemwa, the Director for the National Museums of Tanzania says that very few foreigners visit the museum as compared to the local people. He says that his department contributes very little to the tourism industry as a whole.

He quickly points out that what is needed is perhaps for the government to carry out awareness on the importance of the museum and what it has to offer.

"Many people think the museum is a boring place where old unwanted things are kept, but they need to as well know that this is a living place that is important to society and the future generation," says Dr. Msemwa.

Currently the national museum of Tanzania in Dar es Salaam is being renovated at a cost of 5.5 billion Tanzania shillings by a Chinese contractor and the work is scheduled to take 21 months.

Both governments of Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar recognise that tourism apart from agriculture is a major source of foreign exchange.

The governments' tourism and vision 2000 - 2020 report calls for wise utilisation of available tourism resources and diversification of and improvement of assets in order to attract diverse tourism segments and markets.

The report also underlines the importance of improved infrastructure and better education and capacity building for Zanzibar.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Places to See and Things to do in Sydney

Sydney is one of the best places in the world that is worth exploring. It offers much tourist attraction that travelers shouldn’t miss. Here are some of the things you can see and do in and around Sydney:

Sydney aquarium

Perfect for the whole family and friends, Sydney Aquarium lets you walk under water and see the sights of Australia’s rich and diverse marine life and habitats. Sydney Aquarium houses more than 650 species that includes over 6,000 individual fish and other aquatic creatures.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House never fails to mesmerize tourists with its splendid and elaborate façade and structure. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sydney Opera House is one of the most magnificent, unique and popular buildings of the 20th Century. However, what travelers see outside is, so to speak, just the tip of the iceberg.

Known as the venues of top performing arts in the world, it showcases outstanding art productions like theatre, ballet and musicals and is home of internationally renowned performing arts producers such as Opera Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company, and the Sydney Symphony.

The 1.8 hectares of land elevated 25 metres above sea level houses five spacious theatres, five rehearsal studios, two large halls, ten bars and restaurants, and a handful of souvenir shops.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Locally known as “the Coathanger”, Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks not just in Australia but across the globe as well. It links the city centre in the south and the residential north.

Thrill-seekers are welcome to the BridgeClimb, a guided walk to the top of the world, or as high as 50-storey. The tour is available at Dawn, Day, Twilight or Night.

The foot of Sydney Harbour Bridge, known as “The Rocks” is a busy tourist spot consisting of various leisure destinations like art galleries, shops, cafés and restaurants.

Above are just few of the many things that guests can experience in Sydney. Finding a place to stay while touring the rest of Sydney is recommended so one can relax and rejuvenate after a day packed with activities. For a fine hotel accommodation , one can count on Sovereign Inn Crows Nest . It offers cozy rooms and superb hotel services at very affordable rates. Plus, it is admired for having a strategic location where guests can witness the magnificent view of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Parramatta River.


Saturday, September 8, 2007

A day in London

WHAT trip to the United Kingdom would be complete without visiting the vibrant capital of London?

In addition to their stay at the University of Hull, the secondary grand-prize winners for the Campaign 4 Rewards (C4R) 2007 contest will also be treated to a overnight trip to London.

Sponsored by the British Council and the Malaysian Students Department in London, the two teams and their teachers-in-charge will have the chance to explore the lively cosmopolitan city.

With plenty of museums, theatres, shopping centres, historical sites and other attractions to choose from, they certainly will not be bored.

Ranging from modern art to fashion and history, there is a museum for almost everything in London.

Entry to famous ones like the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and Natural History Museum is free, and they are popular tourist destinations.

The British Museum, rated one of the top three in the world, has exhibits on everything from prehistoric to modern times.

Among its most famous displays are the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, sculptures from the Parthenon, Sutton Hoo artefacts, Mildenhall treasures and Portland Vase.

And the city itself, with over 2,000 years of history, is full of iconic sites to explore.

Popular tourist spots include the Tower of London where the Crown Jewels kept, the Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral and Big Ben.

More modern attractions consist of the London Eye, Covent Garden with its street performers, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, Madame Tussauds and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Another usual must-do activity while in London is catching a West End musical or play.

The Sound of Music, Chicago, Grease and even The Lord of the Rings are all on show at London theatres.

During their visit, the 10 students and their teachers will spend the night at Malaysia Hall, sponsored by the Malaysian Students Department. The Malaysian High Commission will also be hosting dinner for the two teams.

The sponsorship by the British Council is in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of UK-Malaysia ties.

With over 11,500 Malaysian students currently studying in the UK and more than 30,000 doing UK programmes in Malaysia, the educational ties between the two countries remain as strong as ever.

In Malaysia, the aim of the British Council is to build mutually beneficial relationships between people in the UK and Malaysia, and to increase Malaysians’ appreciation of the UK’s creative ideas and achievements.

Its activities include the teaching of English, providing the latest information about studying in the UK, promoting British education and training, and demonstrating the innovation, creativity and excellence of British science, arts, literature and design.

The organisation has in-house educational counsellors to advise students who intend to further their studies in the UK, as well as a resource centre with relevant reference material and useful publications.

It also organises twice yearly educational exhibitions that provide students with the opportunity to meet up with representatives from UK institutions and find out more about studying in the UK.

In addition, it also conduct annual pre-departure briefings for students, covering topics on visa and immigration issues, arrival in the UK, accommodation, settling into student life, banking, health and insurance.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Top five tourist attractions in the UK

It may not have the sunshine of Europe but Britain is chock full of world class tourist attractions, ranging from theme-parks, theatres, castles and monuments to just simple scenery.

The array can be quite bewildering, but luckily is on-hand to help you choose how to spend a weekend, collecting the top tourist destinations for your travelling pleasure.

travelbite's top five tourist attractions in the UK

The Eden Project, Cornwall

Initially designed to regenerate a post-industrial area of the British countryside, the Eden Project has grown to become the world's premier monument to ecology. Nestled in the heartlands of Cornwall its domes emulate specific natural environments and contain an incredible array of flora and fauna.

In this environment the project examines man's relationship with nature, and our dependence upon it for shelter, food and energy. Through examining this relationship the Eden project hopes to educate future generations about the major environmental issues of the day in a humorous, engaging way.

It is one of the best tourist attractions in the country and well worth a visit. Prices for entry range from £5 for children, £7 for students and £15 for adults, with discounts for advanced group bookings.

The Eden Project website has more details for those who want to visit.

The Isle of Skye, Scotland

The Isle of Skye is the furthest north and largest of the Inner Hebrides islands and boasts breathtaking scenery along its coasts, including beautiful cliffs, caves and beaches.

And while its natural beauty has made it a tourist hotspot, visitors are also drawn by the array of wildlife, including red deer, golden eagles and the otter, which inhabit the island.

Local heritage is also examined through a variety of visitors' centres and castles, allowing tourists to get a sense of the tumultuous history of the Scottish highlands.

It is possible for tourists to reach the island from land, sea and air, with flights direct from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. More information can be found on the Skye website.

Shakespeare's Globe, London

Before it burnt down in 1613 the original Globe was able to house 3,000 Elizabethan visitors, all of whom came to watch works by England's greatest writer, William Shakespeare.

Rebuilt to mirror the original the stage at the new Globe is open to the sky, projecting into three tiers of seating and a large area of stalls. And since reopening in 1997 the venue has become one most visited tourist destinations in London.

There are 700 tickets priced at £5 for every performance, making it accessible to all, and they can be bought at the Globe website.

Holkham Bay, Norfolk

Holkham is a picturesque nature reserve reaching to the shores of Norfolk, featuring a mix of sand dunes, grassy marshes, creeks and pinewoods.

The bay is situated at the edge of the reserve and stretches for several miles across the north coast of Norfolk. Its sandy beaches offer an exquisite chance to escape the bustle of the world and are so photogenic they were used as a backdrop in a number of films, including Shakespeare in Love.

Take a look at the Nolkham website to find out more.

The Backs, Cambridge

One of the most scenic areas of historic Cambridge is the Backs, where the colleges back onto the river Cam. The area captures both the natural beauty of the river and the timeless charm of the beautiful university buildings.

The ground along the banks of the river were formerly used for growing fruit or grazing livestock but are now well maintained and manicured to create a delightful environment.

The river flows under the nearby King's College Bridge which is also an ideal spot for punting.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

13 reasons to savor 'Capital of Scandinavia'

Swedes are hardly braggarts, so it must have caught their neighbors in Norway and Denmark off guard when they decided to brand Stockholm as "the Capital of Scandinavia."

But, really, why not? Stockholm, as its Web site points out, has the most multinational corporations, the largest stock market and, not incidentally, the most visitors.

I'm hardly unbiased in this matter - my heritage is 100 percent Swedish and there's a Nobel Prize in my family - but there are hundreds of reasons to savor Stockholm. Here are a baker's dozen of them:

The weather

Stockholm is cool, but it's not that cool. Thanks to the warming effects of the Gulf Stream, February is the only month when the temperature dips much below freezing. And Nobel laureates get their prizes in December, which speaks well of that month's weather.

Absolut Icebar

If you do crave cool, check out the year-round Absolut Icebar Stockholm. Sponsored by the Vodka company, the Stockholm bar is an offshoot of the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, a village in northern Sweden. Both hotel and the growing number of ice bars are fashioned entirely from ice made from the water of the river Torne, some of Europe's purest. Before you enter the bar, the staff packs you in parkas.


Stockholm is built on 14 islands where Lake Mälaren flows out into the Baltic Sea. The islands are strung together by little bridges. Stretching out into the Baltic is an archipelago of over 24,000 more islands, mostly uninhabited. Wherever you go in Stockholm, you're surrounded by water and, in the warmer months, by people eating in waterfront cafes. It's actually possible to fish and swim in the waterways in the heart of the city. You can fish all day on one side of a bridge and at nighttime go to the opera on the other.

Ease with English

Everybody speaks English. Studying English is compulsory from the third grade on, although some schools begin even earlier. Television programs in English are never dubbed into Swedish, so "Law & Order" is a learning experience, too. All this means that lots of Swedes speak better English than you do, which is intimidating - but it also means that when perusing a menu in a Swedish restaurant you needn't know that hummer is lobster or that nötkött is beef, because in even the most non-touristy establishments the waitstaff will explain it all to you. On the matter of food, try the reindeer; the herring; lingonberries, which are to Sweden what blueberries are to the state of Maine; and, of course, load up on the succulent fresh fish.

CIean and pristine

As plusses go, cleanliness might sound a bit of a bore, but after traveling to particularly filthy cities in other parts of the world it's a relief to arrive in one that is immaculate.

And authentic. While Sweden was a bellicose power in the 17th century, going to war and taking over its neighbors, it remained neutral in the wars of the 20th century, which meant it didn't get bombed. So the architecture remained untouched.

Fewer crowds

The city's population of just around 750,000 - the same as San Francisco with half again as much room to spread out - means no jostling in the streets. If you're tired of elbowing people while choking on dust in the world's more crowded metropolises, try Stockholm.

And if airports have become nightmares to navigate, try taking a domestic flight out of Arlanda. I checked into the city's airport, checked baggage and went through security, all in five minutes. Seriously.

In sum, when you arrive home from Stockholm, you won't need a vacation from your vacation.

Vasa Museum

The Vasa Museum houses a ship with a story every bit as dramatic as the Titanic's.

King Gustav Adolf meant the Vasa to play a major role in his navy. But on her maiden voyage in 1628, she capsized and sank to the bottom of Stockholm's harbor, less than a mile offshore, possibly because there wasn't enough ballast at the bottom of the ship to support its enormous height.

The museum tells the story of the Vasa's rescue 333 years later, long after people had given up trying to locate her. In the 1950s a tenacious marine expert, Anders Franzen, began the search anew. Using a homemade core sampler, Franzen found a bit of black oak and knew he'd also found the Vasa, lying in silt.

The timing of Franzen's discovery was fortunate: Had the Vasa been located much earlier, the conservation techniques necessary to resurrect her wouldn't have existed. Today, she is the world's only preserved 17th century wooden ship, adorned with over 700 carvings.

You can't go onboard, but you can discover the Vasa through several stories of ramps that surround it, and there is a fascinating half-hour documentary film about the boat's rescue, offered in several different languages.

The Royal Palace

With 608 rooms, it's not exactly "cozy," a favorite English word in Sweden. It's atypically grandiose - and somewhat grubby until a scrub-down a decade ago.

A previous palace on the site burned down in 1697 with only one fatality - a man outside who was hit by a flying book while people in the building were trying to save the royal library by hurling volumes out the window.

The current gargantuan palace is in the Italian Baroque style. In addition to a throne room and state apartments, where distinguished foreign guests are still put up, the palace houses attractions including a treasury with the state regalia - crowns, scepters, keys and swords used at royal weddings, christenings, and funerals. The Royal Palace looms at the edge of Gamla Stan - Stockholm's old town, which has cobbled streets and narrow buildings painted ochre. Here are cafes, shops specializing in hand-knitted clothing, marine antiques and glass.


Speaking of palaces, a 40-minute ferry boat ride from downtown Stockholm is this fairy tale world, tucked into dense woodland. You see the palace from the water first, and also see its reflection in the glassy lake. The lines of formal pyramidal topiary leading down to the water look like green soldiers.

This gracious 17th century building is the opposite of the Royal Palace in Stockholm: This one is cozy, at least as palaces go. It's like a mini-Versailles that doesn't drag on forever. No wonder that, since 1981, it has been the official home of the royal family.

Drottningholm is heated with Sweden's typical cylindrical tile stoves in the corners of the rooms. The rooms themselves are filled with Baroque ceiling paintings, brocaded walls, parquet floors, rock crystal chandeliers and separate suites of rooms for the king and queen, who had very little privacy. "Le Grand Levée" was the ceremony in which gentlemen courtiers attended the king as he washed and dressed, whether or not his royal highness was a morning person who felt like having company at that hour.

The palace's outbuildings are exquisite fantasies. There's a Guards' Tent, billowing out at the bottom and adorned with tassels, fringe and braid, as a Turkish military tent made of fabric would be. Only here, it's all carved out of wood. There's a Chinese Pavilion, pink, gold and green, and about as authentic as the Chinese dance in "The Nutcracker." Inside is a dumbwaiter so large that an entire table could be lowered on it. In the downstairs kitchen the table was set and laid with food before it was hoisted back up to the royals. The idea was that servants never saw what was going on upstairs.

Best of all Drottningholm's outbuildings is the Slottsteater, one of the very few wooden theaters surviving from the 18th century. Other than electric lights, which flicker to mimic candles, the theater is completely as it was in the 1700's, down to sound effects including thunder, created backstage by rattling a box filled with stones. Period opera and ballet are still performed here.

The low-key monarchy

Since 1873, when there was a rumble of democracy in the air, Sweden's monarchs haven't been crowned at their coronations, which are modest affairs in comparison with those of other realms. To avoid the uppity attitude of some of their predecessors, they just stand beside the crown, which rests on a table.

Sweden's royal family, currently led by King Carl XVI Gustaf and Spanish-born Queen Silvia, has also avoided the tabloid headlines of the Windsors. The family averages an approval rate of 60 to 65 percent because, my guide says, "They're well-behaved. No scandals."

! Södermalm

The trendiest island in the city, Södermalm is a massive stretch of granite made accessible by Alfred Nobel's invention of dynamite to blow a tunnel leading to it.

The island specializes in pottery, shops carrying chic designer wear and restaurants including one called Garlic & Shots, where the guiding principals are that everyone needs a shot of garlic every day, and that every dish is improved by the pungent flavor, ice cream included.

Stockholm City Hall

Nobel laureates dine in splendor every year at Stockholm City Hall. Constructed between 1911 and 1923, it is in the National Romantic style, which is an eclectic mix of Italian Renaissance, Moorish and Byzantine. The large inner courtyard is based on open ones in Italy, only it's sensibly covered over because of the climate.

The stone busts in the councilor's chambers aren't likenesses of former city councilors. Here Swedish egalitarianism kicks in: They're images of - and homages to - the master craftsmen who built the building. Faux medieval touches include tiny narrow windows, the kind used in fortresses to shoot arrows at the enemy. A lofty wooden ceiling in one room suggests Viking days, while The Golden Hall is covered with over 18 million tiny golden tiles.

Art and architecture

To choose a last reason is a toughie, because there's lots more to say about Stockholm, its rich array of over 75 museums, for instance.

My favorites are the National Museum, which includes the pioneering 20th century decorative arts that were dubbed "Swedish Modern" and influenced the entire world; and the splendid Architecture Museum, with its intricate models of Swedish buildings from medieval times to today.

One don't-miss will take you much less time than a whole museum: While walking around Gamla Stan, drop into the Storkyrkan ("The Great Church"), Stockholm's 700-year-old cathedral, where the decor includes a magnificent sculpture of St. George and the dragon. Created by Bernt Notke and unveiled in 1489, it is a fine example of Late Gothic art. Notke's materials skew the story, though. St. George is conventionally carved in oak. The dragon, however, is composed entirely of elk horns, which give the animal a mythic presence.

It's hard to tell which side to root for. But it is one reason I have no problem rooting for Stockholm as my favorite capital.

If you go Where to stay

The Grand Hotel, S. Blasieholmshamnen . Where Nobel laureates are put up, it's grand and within easy walking distance from almost everything you'd want to see in Stockholm. Rack rates start at $550 per night (try online discounters for lower rates.)