Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wildlife travel to India

Some of the well known Wildlife Resorts in India are located in the precincts of Corbett National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park, Ranthambore National Park, Kaziranga National Park, Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Sariska and Nagarhole. An old world and mysterious charm engulfs these resorts, more so because of the fear of the unknown. The rhythmical beat of the drum of the tribal population living nearby the resorts adds to the unknown factor. The sweet smell of the mahua flower or the jui infuses the whole air with something but you can't exactly point out what. The beauty of the surrounding area further accentuates the romantic feeling
Karnataka should ideally be the next in choice when it comes to the best Indian wildlife sanctuaries. The best part about the wildlife sanctuaries here is that they are in perfect harmony with the unspoilt beauty of Nature. There are sanctuaries that serve as secure havens for wide ranging mammals, whereas others, like the Nagarhole National Park, are reputed for the Cobras, crocodiles, kraits, pythons, vipers, and several species of lizards that they shelter. If you are more inclined towards bird viewing then you will just have to grab hold of a binocular to spot bird species like common babbler, bee-eater, bulbul, dove, crested serpent, hornbill, Malabar pied, alexandrine, peacock, woodpecker, warbler, great Indian reed, eagle, crested hawk, golden-back parakeet, and the southern tree pie.

When wildlife gets out of control, a professional is called up to resolve the problem. Wildlife problems can often be complex and require the knowledge of the animal you are controlling and how to initiate your control program.

People have come from all walks of life and learned to be wildlife professionals. It can be a thrilling career and an exciting way to live your life. The best part is that you are helping people and wildlife.
Finding out what supplies the bird watching and wildlife tour company provides during the outing is important to ask about before heading out. Check to see if they bring any food or water. You will want to bring some of your own even if they say they do. Wear a pair of hiking boots or comfortable shoes and wear clothes that are appropriate for the season. Depending on where you are and when are going, you may want to bring along a rain jacket, hat and a sweater.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

How to Travel Like a Raja

In the early 18th century, an ambitious nobleman, Rawat Lal Singh, stabbed his friend in the neck on orders of the local king. The king's reward for removing a rival was a fief here in the southwest corner of the state of Rajasthan, where the nobleman built a fort perched on a cliff above a river filled with crocodiles.
[Go to slideshow]

For centuries, the fort proved impregnable. Only in recent months have the gates swung open to a new era of invaders: tourists.
In September, two brothers who are descendants of the murderous nobleman began accepting guests in five restored rooms of the Bhainsrorgarh Fort. The 25-acre property is the latest example of how India's noble families are turning towering antiquities into boutique hotels.

Rajasthan's Department of Tourism estimates that 130 forts and palaces have been converted into so-called heritage hotels during the past decade or so. Many are owned by families, like the Singhs, who lost their powers to govern and tax their fiefs after India's independence in 1947 but held onto much of their property and the historical landmarks on them. In some cases, the crumbling castles reflect crumbling family fortunes -- and the hospitality business is a way to rejuvenate both.

The Indian government has nudged along the trend. In the early 1990s, it lifted a ban on India's erstwhile nobles transforming historic homes into commercial properties, according to Daleep Singh Rathore, assistant director in Rajasthan's Department of Tourism.

More recently, the government has extended loans to families hoping to open hotels in palaces and forts. The cash infusions have saved scores of forts and palaces that were falling apart, while helping to meet surging demand for high-end hotels among tourists and business travelers. While Mr. Rathore doesn't have details on how many have done so, he says there has been a substantial increase in recent years.
[Map promo]

Indeed, Rajasthan's heritage properties are drawing more tourists who want to break from the well-trodden Taj Mahal path. In 2006, Rajasthan ranked fourth among India's states and municipalities in total foreign visitors, nearly doubling to 1.2 million from 2003.

Big hotel groups have long seen the potential for business. One of the first was Neemrana Hotels, founded by a Frenchman, Francis Wacziarg. In 1986, Neemrana Hotels converted a 15th-century fort between New Delhi and Jaipur and opened it as a hotel, called the Neemrama Fort-Palace. Neemrana Hotels has since restored several other tottering properties, including one in the nearby village of Kesroli, called the Hill Fort Kesroli.

The Tata Group's Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces operates three palaces in Rajasthan, including the Taj Lake Palace, aptly named because it's on an island in the middle of Udaipur's Lake Pichola. India's wealthy Poddar family, which has been involved in several heritage projects, took more than a decade to restore the Devi Garh Palace outside of Udaipur.

To tap into the tourist flows, Hilton International and India's Oberoi Hotels & Resorts are among those that have built properties near Rajasthan's forts and palaces.

Like the Singhs, many royal families are inclined to hold onto their former fiefs rather than sell to a hotel group. As Hemendra Singh was growing up, he estimates his family rejected 100 or so written offers to sell or lease the Bhainsrorgarh Fort.
[Neemrana Fort-Palace Hotel]
Neemrana Fort-Palace Hotel

By venturing into the hotel business without established backers, though, Hemendra Singh and his brother Rajveer confront big challenges. Funding and staff training are merely two.

The fundamental challenge is how to turn a military fortress into a comfortable hotel. The fort -- which once housed hundreds of soldiers and included stables for 250 horses and three elephants -- was able to repulse the mightiest of attacks. The fort also had its own grainary and two separate wings in the main building for men and women. Yet it has stood up less well to Rajasthan's harsh desert climate and decades of neglect. Cracks have opened in now-abandoned rooms. Honey bees have taken over one of them.
http://www.indiatours.org.uk/gifs/taj-mahal-agra-india.jpg http://www.indiasite.com/gifs/taj-mahal2.jpg
Still, the two brothers -- with assistance from their wives and a dozen staff hired from the local village -- have managed to cater to high-end tourists. They charge about $365 a night for a room, all-you-can-eat royal cuisine included. Indoor plumbing, installed last year, has helped. So have touches like stained-glass windows in some of the spacious rooms. The main draw is sitting, dining and strolling around a fort hundreds of years old and hundreds of feet above the placid Chambal River, home to a crocodile sanctuary.

"This is my dream -- to put Bhainsrorgarh on the world map," says 35-year old Hemendra Singh. He grew up in the fort and is now marketing it from New Delhi, where he lives in a less palatial third-floor apartment. The brothers aim to open another 15 rooms in the fort in the next five years.
[ the Taj Lake Palace on Lake Pichola]
The Taj Lake Palace on Lake Pichola

Constraining the flow of tourists is the time it takes to reach Bhainsrorgarh. From India's capital, New Delhi, it's an 11-hour road journey or an overnight train to nearby Kota city.

An hour from Kota, after winding through narrow village lanes, the elder of the Singh brothers, 41-year old Rajveer, greets guests at Bhainsrorgarh Fort Hotel. He offers cool glasses of guava juice and wreaths of marigolds. Guests are escorted to rooms past mounted antelope heads, grainy photos of slain tigers and ancestor paintings.
http://www.all-indiatravel.com/gifs/taj-mahal-india-travel.jpg http://www.yogaworldtours.com/images/Taj%20mahal.jpg
The artwork features the family's notorious Rawat Lal Singh, whom the 19th-century British explorer and historian Lt. Col. James Tod called "a beacon in the annals of crime." In his three-volume history of Rajasthan, Lt. Col. Tod describes how the Singhs' forefather murdered the king's uncle, Nathji Maharaja. As one of his best friends, he was able to slip into the well-guarded chambers at midnight to slit the man's throat as he was bent in prayer.

According to the author, the last words the Maharaja uttered were: "What brings you here?"

The King of Udaipur elevated the Rawat Lal Singh family to the top tier of Rajasthani nobles, able to rule vast swaths of land, and granted it Bhainsrorgarh.
[Trident Hilton Jaipur near the Amber Fort]
Trident Hilton Jaipur near the Amber Fort

Work on Bhainsrorgarh Fort began in 1742, clearly with the worry of revenge in mind. The fort's short doorways force visitors to stoop when entering rooms, so sword-wielding hosts might more easily slice off the heads of unwanted guests.

Bhainsrorgarh's current host, Rajveer Singh, claims no hard feelings remain between the two families. Digging out his ancestor's 16th-century gold-plated dagger, fingering a blade still razor sharp, Mr. Singh says, "because of this dagger, we have this property."

But if the family still has the fort, being a royal isn't what it used to be. Instead of being waited upon, Mr. Singh spends his days hustling up and down stairs serving dishes that he and his wife help cook. The royal cuisine includes blackened chicken, mutton with gravy, freshly plucked okra and sweet shredded carrots for dessert.

Mr. Singh has also done away with the traditional attire of Rajasthani nobles -- colorful turbans and pointy shoes -- for jeans, leather loafers and a ranch-style canvas jacket. The wardrobe is more suitable to the Jeep drives he takes with guests through desert scrub brush to nearby villages.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Thrissur : The cultural capital of Kerala

From ancient times, Thrissur district has played a significant part in the political history of south India. The early political history of the district is interlinked with that of the Cheras of the Sangam age, who ruled over vast portions of Kerala with their capital at Vanchi. The whole of the present Thrissur district was included in the early Chera Empire. The district can claim to have played a significant part in fostering the trade relations between Kerala and the outside world in the ancient and medieval period. It can also claim to have played an important part in fostering cultural relations and in laying the foundation of a cosmopolitan and composite culture in this part of the country. Kodungalloor which had the unique distinction of being the 'Premium Emporium India', also belongs to the signal honour or having first given shelter to all the three communities i.e. the Christians, the Jews and the Muslims which have contributed to the prosperity of Malabar.

Even as early as 1919 a committee of the Indian National Congress was functioning in Thrissur. In the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1921, several persons in Thrissur town and other places in the district took active part and courted arrest. Thrissur district can claim the honour of having been in the forefront of the countrywide movement for temple entry and abolition of untouchability. The famous Guruvayur Satyagraha is a memorable episode in the history of the National Movement. Serpent (naga) worship and ancestor worship, evidently non-Aryan practices, have been widely prevalent in the district. The temples here are centres of religious activity. The Vadakkunnathan Temple at Thrissur, Koodalmanikam temple at Irinjalakuda, the Kurumba Bhagavathi temple at Kodungalloor, the Sri Rama Temple at Triprayar, the Sri Krishna Temple at Guruvayoor are some of the reputed shrines. The prominent Gods and Goddesses worshipped are Vishnu, Siva, Bhagavathi, Siva, Bhagavathi, Subramonia and Sastha.

The famous Thrissur Pooram is an annual festival celebrated during April-May in the Vadakkumnathan temple here. During the festival idols of gods and goddesses from various temples are brought in all pomp and pageantry with the play of drums and musical instruments and pro-techniques to the Thekkinkadu Maidan. Lakhs of people attend the festival every year. An all India exhibition is also conducted every year during the Pooram under the combined auspices of the Thiruvampady and Paramekkavu Devaswoms in the temple premises.

Thrissur district has a long tradition in the field of fishing industry. If offers natural facilities for marine and inland fisheries. Its coastline is about 54 kms in length from Azhikode to Puthenkadappuram. About 95 per cent of the total catch is marketed within the district. The fishing industry thus makes a sizeable contribution to the wealth of the district, and is the main source of income of a large section of the people inhabiting the coastal area. A total area under forests in the district is 1006.72 sq kms. The forests of the district are mainly seen in the eastern portion of Talappilli, Thrissur and Mukundapuram taluks. They extend from the Shornoor River (Bharathapuzha) in the north to the Chalakudy River in the south.

Cheruthuruthy is famous as a seat of the Kerala Kalamandalam founded by the poet Sri Vallathol Narayana Menon, to encourage the study of the ancient arts of Kerala such as Kathakali and Mohiniattom. Presently the Kerala Kalamandalam is functioning at Vallathol Nagar, with its new building complex and Natyagraha. Kerala Kalamandalam was the first institutional step in the cultural history of Kerala to start training in classical performing arts, which were so far left to the patronage of provincial kings and landlords.

Kerala Sahitya Academy was established on August 15, 1956. It aims at the development of Malayalam language and literature and works in co-operation with the Kerala Sahitya Academy in New Delhi. There is a good library attached to the Academy consisting of two sections, the General Section & the Research Section. Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy is also located in Thrissur town and was established on April 12, 1938. Its aim is to foster and develop Kerala dance, drama and music and to promote through the cultural unity of Kerala. It works in close collaboration with the Kendra Sangeetha Nataka Academy in New Delhi for the enrichment of Indian culture. A regional theatre is constructed in Thrissur with all modern facilities. Kerala Lalitha Kala Academy, located here was established in 1962, the aim of the Academy is to promote sculpture, painting and visual arts.

Athirappalli, 63 kms from Thrissur and Vazhachal 68 kms from Thrissur are the two scenic and popular waterfalls on the edge of the Sholayar forest ranges. Both these destinations are just five kms apart from each other. The Athirappalli Falls joins the Chalakkudy River after plummeting down a drop of 80 feet whereas Vazhachal is part of the Chalakkudy River. Both the waterfalls, their cool, misty waters cascading down in the backdrop of thick green forest and rocky terrain, offer a scintillating experience to visitors.

Nattika is a wide, long and virgin golden sand beach about 30 kms away from Thrissur. It is quite and calm and away from the city traffic and hectic urban life. It is ideal for beach holidays and package tours. It is also accessible by road, three kms off the Mumbai - Kanyakumari national highway from Thrissur.

Some of the other places of interest in and around Thrissur include Aquarium, Arattupuzha, Art Museum, Archaeological Museum, Christian Divine Retreat Centres, Dream World Water Park, Peechi Dam, Silverstorm Amusement Park, St Mary's Forane Church - Koratty, Town Hall, Vadakkumnathan Temple, Vilangankunnu, Adur, Ariyannoor Temple, Kandanisserry, Chavakkad, Cheraman Juma Masjid, Irinjalakuda Koodal Manikyam Temple, Kodungallur, Nadanakairali, Punnathoorkotta, Saint Thomas Memorial - Kodungalloor, Shakthan Thampuran Palace and Tripayar Temple.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Know about Switzerland the lands fo the mountains

While travel to Switzerland, one can never afford to overlook the natural treasures and adventurous thrills that one can experience in the Mount Matterhorn. The principal rivers of the country are the river Rhine, Ticino, and the river Inn. The other attraction of the place is the picturesque views of streams and lakes. These water bodies provide sensational pleasures to the travelers. The Lake Geneva, Lake Lugano, Lake Maggiore, Lake of Neuchatel and Lake of Lucerene are some of the other attractions of the country, Switzerland.

The history of the place is truly interesting. In the ancient times in 1291 the country, Switzerland is called as Helvetia. It consisted of only three districts. Later in 1798, the French revolutionary troops occupied the country and they named it as the Helvetic Republic. Later in the year 1815, the country was guaranteed the neutrality and recognized as the independence of Switzerland by the Congress of Vienna. But again in the year 1847, in the revolutionary period the Catholic cantons were defeated and rejoined the federation.

The country Switzerland is one of the fabulous touring places on the earth. The alpine beauty of the high beautiful peaks and the breathtaking sceneries of the place will never fail to allure you. The panoramic view of the Mount Pilatus in Lucerene is simply gorgeous. There on you can enjoy an amazing journey to a height of about 7000 feet on a cable car. Switzerland is a land of mountains. Most of the mountains peaks remains covered with snow.

One of the famous mountain peaks is Jungfraujoch, which is popularly known as the “Rooftop of Europe”. This panoramic sight is situated in the Swiss Alps at a height of about 11,333 feet. It has been one of major tourist places in Switzerland, since time immemorial. Hold your nerves to explore these beautiful and magnificent glacier mountain peaks. Also never get baffled if you find a village on these mountain tops. Alps in Zermatt are one of the famous peaks of Switzerland and it is a popular destination for the mountaineers. The tourists also enjoy skiing adventure in the Matterhorn that is located in Zermatt.

You can assure a comfortable stay in Switzerland. There are many 5 star, 4 star and 3 star hotels in Switzerland. The Switzerland airline is a big and reliable network, which ensures to make your Switzerland travel more comfortable and luxurious one. You can experience the extreme pleasure of your Switzerland tour by taking the assistance of the travel agents in Switzerland.

It’s truly a stunning and an astonishing fact that how a small country likes Switzerland possesses extraordinary varieties of attraction. The country is the land of natural treasure and hence it is the dream destination of every tourist. The country Switzerland is located in Central Europe. The total land area of the country is equal to 41,290 sq. km. The capital city of Switzerland is Bern. The total population of the country is 7,554,661. The largest city of Switzerland is Zurich. The prominent language of Switzerland is the German language.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Travel: Mellow days in Laos

Laos has the pace of a snail, but for some, that is a very welcoming respite. DAVID LAVOIE writes.
IT’S the capital of the land of the laid-back. Vientiane, Laos’ major city, is what all of our cities were so many years ago. Although a town in size, it actually feels more like a village. There are few buildings taller than five stories; two or three is more common. Three cars in the same block is a traffic jam; four is grid-lock. Most transportation is by bicycle, small motorcycle, tuk-tuk

or slightly larger jumbos. In fact, many people simply walk everywhere.

Many of the buildings are French colonial in style and have ornate balconies. Here and there are more traditional Laotian buildings. It all has a tremendous elegance. The sidewalks are clean and largely empty. Everywhere tiny shops sell the beautiful fabrics produced by women in rural villages using traditional patterns. The cloths are hand-woven on ancient wooden looms.
The people are very friendly and soft-spoken. It is very offensive to a Laotian to shout, or raise your voice, or complain loudly or generally make a scene. They are culturally a very gentle people, just one of the many paradoxes of this country which has in the past been so torn by war. Laotians are Buddhists, a religion which emphasises the cooling of human emotions; strong emotions are taboo.

The French say that the Vietnamese plant rice, Cambodians watch it grow and Laotians listen to it grow. It’s a wry, but astute, observation. It’s not that Laotians avoid work, far from it, but rather that they shun stress. In fact, they feel sorry for people who live for their work since it is, they believe, “bad for your brain”.

It’s a relief to say that Laotians have so far resisted franchises. Nowhere will you find Starbucks, MacDonald’s, KFC, Hilton and other chain hotels, or anything resembling a trendy shop, or a supermarket. You buy your clothes from the tailor or seamstress who makes them, you frequent shophouses and small cafés where you make do with delicious croissants, brioche, baguettes and dark, aromatic, wonderful Laotian coffee.

Laotians have inherited from the French a taste for really good food. Laotian cuisine tends to be very spicy even when it is toned down for western tastes but in Vientiane, one finds all sorts of restaurants: French, Thai, Italian, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, and even a Scandinavian bakery! And everything is as it was a half century ago at home. It’s quite wonderful.

A stroll in Vientiane inevitably leads you to the huge “Morning Market”, its name a bit of a mystery since it seems to run 20 hours a day. Everything under the sun is for sale there, and much of it is rather shoddy, except for the traditional handwoven cloths.

Near the market is the Patuxai, which the Laotians think of as their “Arc de Triomphe.” It is constructed from cement paid for by the Americans who wanted the Laotians to use it to build an airport. Expatriate residents in Vientiane fondly call it “The Vertical Runway”. A sign on the Patuxai provides an excellent insight into Laotian honesty. “From a close distance”, the sign reads, “it appears even less impressive, like a monster of concrete”.

There are some terrific views from the top of the arch giving a very clear idea of the layout and nature of the city. Most amazing is to see the four lane avenue running from the arch to the presidential palace which, by our standards, is empty. There are simply relatively few cars in Vientiane.

Strolling about is easy. Even the tuk-tuk drivers hustling visitors are polite and low-key. Closer to the river, the number of shops selling handicrafts, much of which one can find much cheaper at the Morning Market, increases. So do the cafés and restaurants.

Some opportunities for exploring outside the town exist. One trip is to the “Buddha Park”. Dozens of cement Buddhas and other figures from Hindu and Buddhist mythology crowd a small park some 40 kilometres from Vientiane. Along the road one sees the full panoply of rural life; rice paddies, water buffalo, goats, naked dusty children, women in coolie hats, and some beautiful old colonial homes among the simpler rustic dwellings.

A visit to the National Museum in Vientiane starts out as expected with a number of exhibits showing archeological finds from prehistory, but as the visitor walks from room to room the artefacts change in character. Gone are the potsherds; now on display are almost exclusively rifles and other weapons. There are more and more photographs of the struggles of Laotians against various foreign forces, French, North Vietnamese and Americans.

It is a sobering reminder of recent Laotian history. Although the US never declared war on Laos, between 1964 and 1973, in an attempt to shut down the dangerous Hi Chi Minh Trail being used by the North Vietnamese, the US dumped on the Laotian countryside an average of one planeload of bombs every eight minutes, 24 hours a day for the whole nine years. UXOs (unexploded ordinance) continue to take many lives and limbs each year in Laos.

But the museum is largely empty. Too much sorrow is “bad for your brain”.

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is a jewel. Its old colonial-style buildings and shophouses rarely exceed two stories. So far, 700 of the town’s buildings have been classified by a Unesco team as historic. In the narrow streets and lanes, cars are few. There is no street lighting. At its busiest, it is still very quiet.

After a day in Luang Prabang, even laid-back Vientiane seems like a pressure cooker. Wats, Buddhist temples, are everywhere and the sight of monks, many of them just boys, is common. Hmoung, Mien and Thai tribal people stroll about the streets, or sit beside the river under coconut palms. In one shop an industrious silversmith carefully engraves a delicate silver bowl; in another, an artisan carves a wooden roof brace for a traditional house reminding the visitor that Laos is still very low-tech. Coffee beans and wheat wafers, for instance, are naturally dried on racks on the sun. Tea leaves are processed in very simple conditions by women over wood-heated hot tables.

When the peace of Luang Prabang gets to be too much, one can spend a day kayaking. The trip down the Nam Khan river offers many tantalising glimpses of the life of rural people. Closer to the city are sacred caves and small villages which can be visited, or the really energetic can learn to ride and care for an elephant at a nearby Eco-lodge.

In town, however, there is little to do apart from eating in one of the many excellent restaurants, climbing Phu Si, the hill in the centre of town, or visiting one of the town’s 66 temples. The Royal Palace, now a museum, contains some attractive displays and gives a real taste of traditional Laotian elegance. Local people believe that the palace is haunted by the tragic spirits of the last royal family forced into captivity, starved and abused by the Pathet Lao. None will enter the palace at night.

After dark, the liveliest part of town is the large night market, a riot of colour operated mostly by ethnically-dressed women. The shopping is wonderful. By 10 o’clock, the whole town is asleep.

The restaurants are shut down, there is no traffic, and the sole illumination comes from the quiet houses. The only noise in the night is the deep subdued sound of the huge wooden drums summoning the monks to prayer. Otherwise, the town is dark and quiet.

Morning, however, comes early. One of the experiences one must do is rise early in the morning to see the processions of begging monks between six and seven. The sticky rice which the monks collect along the way is their main food for the whole day. Some 300 monks in long silent columns move slowly past rows of kneeling people, many of them women.

Each person places a pinch of sticky rice in the brass bowl of each monk; this way the bowls slowly fill. The people kneel because it is disrespectful to have one’s head higher than a monk’s even though he may be a little boy and you a senior citizen. There is little sound except the shuffling of sandaled feet and the deep reverberations of the occasional temple gong. The air is filled with the sweet smell of wood smoke from simple braziers preparing the rice.

In a journal published in 1909, the French wife of a colonial doctor, Marthe Bassene, wrote: “Oh! What a delightful paradise of idleness this country protects, by the fierce barrier of the stream, against progress and ambition for which it has no need! Will Luang Prabang be, in our century of exact sciences, of quick profits, of victory by money, the refuge of the last dreamers, the last lovers, the last troubadours?”

If only Marthe could know how much of her beloved Luang Prabang remains.

But for how long now? The new world is knocking at the door and the change she feared has arrived. Still simple, low-key and not quite ready yet for well-heeled tourists, the old Laos is, nevertheless, on the cusp of disappearing. How many more years will the country be as it still is?


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ten tips for New York tourists

Don't be intimidated by the big crowds and bigger buildings. New York can be a friendly and manageable city for visitors if you heed some of this time-tested advice.

1. Don't be afraid to wander. Start spreading the news: New York is the safest big city in the United States. Gone are the days when people were warned not to venture into Alphabet City or the Lower East Side. Pretty much nowhere in Manhattan is off-limits – though it's still an urban area, so do use your common sense (for instance, you may not want to walk around at 3 a.m. by your lonesome). Most of Manhattan, with the exception of a few downtown neighborhoods like the West Village, the Lower East Side and Battery Park, is laid out on a grid system with very few hills, making it extremely easy to find your way around. In fact, a highlight of your trip will likely be strolling the streets gazing at the fascinating people, buildings and sights that pop up on every corner.

2. Take the 'A' (and the 'B' and the 'C'…) train. Though the New York subway system is ancient – the first underground line started running in 1904 – the trains are well-marked and surprisingly fast, often a better bet than cabs if you're trying to cross the city from east to west or vice versa, or traveling during the morning or evening rush hours. The subways do run 24 hours a day, but if you're alone, you may feel more comfortable taking a taxi after midnight, though you'll find many people still riding the rails. Try HopStop.com to figure out which subway line will help you reach your destination fastest, but keep in mind that there can be a lot of routes re-routed or closed for maintenance, especially on weekends, so also check the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's website for the latest subway route updates. Tip: The 7-day unlimited ride MetroCard is usually a good deal so you don't spend $2 on MetroCards each time you hop on the train.

3. Eat dinner early – or late. When New Yorkers eat out, they like to take their dinner between 8 and 10 p.m. If you want to eat at the same places they do, it's best to make a reservation in advance – at least a week ahead of time for most places and a full month ahead for perpetually booked favorites such as Daniel, Babbo and Le Bernardin – and to go for an evening between Sunday and Wednesday rather than the always-crowded Thursday through Saturday. But if you've left things till the last minute, try calling a day or two ahead and reserving a table either for before 7 p.m. or after 10:30 p.m., which exponentially increases your chances of getting seated, even at the hottest spots in town. Of course, this tactic won't work at the handful of trendy restaurants that don't take reservations in advance, like Momofuku, Boqueria and Bar Jamon. There, you'll have to queue up with the rest of the ravenous foodie masses.

4. The world on a menu. New York City houses so much diversity of cuisines that it's a shame to stick to tourist neighborhoods or chain restaurants you probably have at home. Travel to some of the city's ethnic enclaves to sample delicious, cheap and authentic fare. In Queens, an easy subway or cab ride from Manhattan, there's renowned Indian food in Jackson Heights (the area's Jackson Diner is regularly rated some of the best Indian food in NYC) and hard-to-find Egyptian cuisine in the "Little Cairo" neighborhood of Astoria. Astoria is also home to many old-time Greek restaurants, primarily situated on Broadway or Ditmars Blvd. You can have a more authentic Italian meal on Arthur Ave. in the Bronx than in the tourist-clogged streets of Manhattan's Little Italy, and it's hard to beat the soul food found in Harlem, including the famed, family-run Sylvia's. Consider expanding your boundaries with a guided neighborhood food tour, such as one offered by Savory Sojourns and run by Addie Tomei, mother of Marissa.

5. Scout out the smaller shops. It's nearly impossible to visit one of the fashion capitals of the world and not drop some dough on clothes, shoes and other goodies (unless you have a lot of willpower!). But don't just confine yourself to the shopping meccas of SoHo and Fifth Avenue, though each does have its own New York charm — SoHo for its beautiful 19th-century cast iron buildings and Fifth Avenue for its elegant department stores and proximity to Central Park. Head to the Lower East Side to check out intimate boutiques that feature local designers as well as trendy new and vintage pieces that you can't find anywhere else. You'll also find special shops sprinkled throughout the downtown neighborhoods of the West Village, the East Village and Nolita, as well as across the East River in artsy Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

6. Buy-buy Broadway. With the opening of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein last year, the top price of a Broadway ticket reached $450 for the first time ever. Though this is an extreme case, it's difficult to find a seat at a popular Broadway show for less than $100 nowadays. A couple of options can save you money: Sign up for the free discount ticket listings at www.theatermania.com and www.playbill.com, which offer savings on advance ticket purchases for select Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Or get in line at a TKTS Discount Booth on the day you want to see a performance to save up to 50% on a variety of plays. (Tip: The South St. Seaport location is usually a lot less busy than the Times Square one, and only there can you purchase tickets the day before for matinees.) That said, if there's a particular Broadway show you've set your heart on, buy tickets as far in advance as possible (and be prepared to spend top-dollar). If your show's sold out, check out the online ticket brokers such as www.stubhub.com or www.razorgator.com, where people sell extra seats or re-sell ones they won't be using.

7. Hear the music. It's tough to claim boredom in New York. Every night of the week you can listen to world-class musicians of all types in venues across the city, from classic settings like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Radio City Music Hall to gritty downtown (or, increasingly, Brooklyn) rock clubs to traditional jazz bars (though the era of the traditional smoky bar is over, since smoking was banned at bars and clubs in 2003). You can find indie rock events listed at www.ohmyrockness.com, classical music events at www.classicaldomain.com and jazz at www.gothamjazz.com. Best of all, some of these concerts are free of charge, especially in the summer months.

8. Pack your running shoes. On the weekends, Central Park closes to traffic and becomes a huge open-air running (and biking and inline skating) track. Enjoy the prime people-watching as you exercise, or opt for other scenic paths along Riverside Park on Manhattan's Upper West Side, along the Hudson River heading downtown to Battery Park, on a trail next to the East River, or across the Brooklyn Bridge. Though it's more comfortable to run in the spring or fall, you'll find many hardy New Yorkers braving the extreme heat and humidity of summer or the bitter chill of winter for their outdoor fitness fix.

9. Don't crowd yourself out. A lot of tourists (and relatives visiting local family members) who come to NYC can't get over how crowded the city is. The crazy secret about New York is that many locals can't stand crowds – which is why they stay away, at all costs, from Macy's anytime except weekday evenings, holiday store windows and Rockefeller Center between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Times Square whenever humanly possible (except when they must venture over there to work or to catch a show). While you may want to see these iconic parts of New York City, consider planning your visit so that you're not hitting the big department stores, say, the week before Christmas – unless you think that braving hordes of pushy people is part of that old-fashioned New York City charm. (And it really isn't!)

10. Mind your city etiquette. Unfortunately, tourists have a reputation for doing a few things that drive New Yorkers crazy: taking up the entire sidewalk so that other walkers can't pass; coming to a complete stop at the top or in the middle of the subway stairs, thus blocking the way down; looking over a shoulder or down at a guidebook while ambling straight ahead, thus sideswiping people walking toward them. New Yorkers like to walk quickly with a purposeful strut and are often in (or appear to be in) a hurry. Respect their sense of purpose and be mindful of the space around you – and you'll win renewed respect for tourists from the world over! On the other hand, if you need directions or if you drop something on the subway or sidewalk, New Yorkers will be the first to run after you, offering their assistance. They really are nice folk, after all.


Alaska offers many options for viewing wildlife: Whales, eagles, bears and more

Alaska — It was near the end of a six-hour bus tour of Denali National Park that we got a good, long look at a bear eating his way through a field of berries.

Elsewhere in Alaska, my husband, two sons and I had watched whales spouting near Juneau, eagles along the Chilkat River, and waterways in Ketchikan and Skagway so full of salmon they could barely move.

But we'd headed to Denali knowing that the park's 9,400 square miles are home to just 350 brown bears. We hoped to see them, but we were prepared for the possibility that we might not.

And therein lies an important point to keep in mind if you're planning a trip to Alaska this summer. There are no guarantees you'll see wildlife, but you can improve your chances if you're patient and if you put yourself in the right place at the right time.

"People go to Alaska to see wildlife for a reason, but you see it in many ways and in many circumstances," said Holland America Line spokesman Erik Elvejord. "Don't expect a line-up of bears when you hit the pier, or pods of whales everywhere the ship goes."

The Sea Otter Quest from the town of Sitka is one of the tours recommended by Robert Blythman, director of tour operations for Carnival Cruise Lines. "It's a 100% guarantee that you'll see the otters," he said.

Whales are also relatively easy for summer visitors to spot. "The time the cruise ships are up there is when humpbacks and orcas are feeding, so there's a good chance you'll see them," said Blythman.

Whales are so plentiful that some excursions come with money-back guarantees, like the Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest in Auke Bay, offered through Holland America Line.

On a whale-watch tour near Juneau, booked through our Royal Caribbean cruise, we saw so many humpbacks that we lost count. They spouted, surfaced and dove all around our boat, their black Y-shaped tails at a perfect 90-degree angle as they went down.

In contrast, Blythman said, "bears are more hit or miss."

As if to underscore that very point, an excursion we took from the port of Icy Strait Point was called a "bear search" tour rather than a "bear watch." The tour description clearly states that wildlife "sightings cannot be guaranteed." As it turned out, we did see bears, so we felt we'd gotten our money's worth.

Besides, the $100 per person we paid for the "bear search" was modest compared to the $300-$1,600 pricetags for fly-in tours to remote areas like Pack Creek on Admiralty Island or the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary. Bears reliably congregate in these places and others, like Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, to feed on the salmon runs in the summer.

Keith Courtepatt, his wife Diana and daughter Alexa cruised Alaska last summer on Royal Caribbean and saw bears twice during shore excursions. "My advice would be, particularly on a trip like a cruise to Alaska, choose your day trips carefully," he said. "And once you choose them, don't worry about the money as it is a once-in-a-lifetime deal."

Among the steps you can take to improve your chances of viewing wildlife: Bring binoculars, be quiet on trails, and remember that early morning and dusk are the best times to see many types of animals. Yes, sign up for the 7 a.m. bear tour, not the 11 a.m., and drag yourself out of bed early on your vacation. The bears are up catching salmon for breakfast first thing, and you don't want to miss it.

Know the right season. According to the Alaska Public Lands Information Center, bears can be seen in Denali from May to September, but July through late August is the best time to see them at the Anan Wildlife Observatory in the Tongass National Forest.

And you'll probably see some eagles if you take the lazy float trip on the river through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve near the Haines Highway. But to see the thousands of eagles that the preserve is famous for, you'll want to visit in October.

Recognize the role that serendipity plays. "The strange thing is that I've seen more wildlife just driving or walking around than on tours," said Elvejord. "I tend to do the active things so wildlife is secondary but I've seen moose and bear in towns, goats on the side of roads, wolves by rivers and eagles will always hang out by the rivers to catch the salmon."

One of Blythman's favorite trips is a fly-in to the Taku Glacier Lodge, where you're treated to a salmon bake. But he said there's also "a good chance that you'll see bears because they live close by. I've actually been there when the bear came up to the grill."

Opt for longer tours if you have time. You'll go deeper into Denali on the six-to-eight hour Tundra Wilderness Tour than on the three-to-four hour Natural History Tour. (A third Denali bus tour, the Kantishna Experience, is even longer at 12 hours.)

The Tundra tour buses also come equipped with high-powered telescopes hooked up to video screens throughout the bus so you can get close-up images of animals that are far away. You can even purchase a DVD afterwards with footage from your trip.

Some cruises will provide ground transportation to Denali from their first or final port of call, and they'll include the bus tour in your cruise package. But you can also book the bus tour on your own and rent a car for the 250-mile trip to the park from Anchorage.

Once you get to Denali, though, you can only drive your car 15 miles into the park before you must turn around; individual access is limited in order to help preserve the wilderness. That's why 300,000 of Denali's 400,000 annual visitors take the bus tours, which are allowed farther into the park. The Tundra tour travels 54 miles in the park, and it's reasonably priced at $93.50 (children, $46.75).

On the bus tour we took, we saw moose, caribou and Dall sheep in addition to the bear. We were so captivated by the park's landscape, animals and history that we decided to return the next day on our own, even though we knew we'd only be able to drive in those 15 miles.

We were rewarded with an unforgettable moment that rivaled our observation of the bear the day before. We spotted a magnificent owl perched in a treetop by the side of the road, so we pulled over and rolled the car window down so my teenage son could take pictures.

Just then, the bird suddenly stretched its wings wide and shot out of the tree, swooping straight for us. It swerved at the last moment as we rather hastily closed the window.

For a family from New York, where the only birds we see are pigeons, it doesn't get any more exciting than having an owl remind you that you are indeed where the wild things are. Six months later, we're still talking about that owl, along with all the other creatures we encountered in Alaska.


Deluxe tours on Kangaroo Island

Known as Australia’s Galapagos, Kangaroo Island is increasingly seen as an integral part of every first time visitor’s itinerary to Australia due to its exceptional wildlife and fine regional dining.

Touring options have been further increased with the introduction by Sealink (sealink.com.au) of new deluxe tours which provide guests with the opportunity to experience the best the region has to offer.

Available from March and catering for groups of 10 or less, the two new touring options are the two-day/one-night Platinum Tour and the three-day/two-night Platinum Plus Tour. Departing from Adelaide, both tours are conducted in luxuriously modified coaches for maximum comfort and sightseeing, including a window seat for each passenger and individual reclining seats fitted with lambswool seat covers.

Tour highlights include an authentic sheep shearing demonstration; exploring Flinders Chase National Park, known for its prolific wildlife and fascinating coastal formations; visiting Seal Bay Conservation Park with the chance to walk amongst a breeding colony of wild and rare Australian sea lions; and a visit to a winery and marron farm – this fresh water lobster is a local speciality - followed by lunch served with selected Kangaroo Island wines and marron.

Another highlight is a bush based bistro lunch followed by a free flight, birds of prey demonstration involving eagles, hawks, owls, kestrels and kookaburras.

Accommodation is at the four-star Wilderness Retreat, close to Flinders Chase National Park, set in 113 acres of pristine natural bush land. This property has eco-friendly facilities, comfortable accommodation and wildlife, like wallabies and possums, that wanders around the resort.

Visitors who opt for the Platinum Plus tour will spend the first night at Penneshaw’s four-star Kangaroo Island Seafront Hotel, famous for its penguins. Guests can undertake a guided tour along the boardwalk to watch the penguins’ nightly wanderings, followed by a delicious two course dinner using local ingredients and wines from Kangaroo Island.

The Platinum tour two-day/one-night tour costs from AUD$831 per person based on two people sharing and includes transfers from Adelaide, most meals, accommodation, luxury transportation and all entrance fees on Kangaroo Island. The tour program starts on Thursday 27 March and will run every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The Platinum Plus three-day/two-night tour costs from AUD$1026 per person based on two people sharing and includes the above, plus an additional half board night at Kangaroo Island Seafront Hotel and penguin tour. The tour will run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

South Australian-owned SeaLink Travel Group, two time Australian National Tourism Award winner, is one of the main tourism drivers for Kangaroo Island and is also a major provider of packaged holidays, self-drive programs, accommodation and coach tours highlighting the diversity of Kangaroo Island.


Teeming with kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, seals, sea lions, penguins and goannas, this is the best place to see the widest range of free roaming native animals in their natural habitat.

At 155 kms long, 55 kms wide and with 450 kms of coastline, Kangaroo Island is the third largest island off Australia with almost a third of its area covered in pristine wilderness and conservation parks, 21 in total. It is not surprising then that the island has retained its rich diversity of flora and fauna, much of which is not found on the mainland.

Easily accessible by air and ferry, Kangaroo Island is ideal for travellers interested in walking, wildlife and nature, history, photography, outdoor pursuits, food and wine, fresh air and relaxation and as such easily lives up to its claims of being a not to be missed Australian destination.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hawaii Travel Gallery

Hawaii Travel Gallery
Hawaiʻi is the name of a chain of several islands and are among the numerous Pacific Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Of these, the islands which have significant tourism are: Hawaiʻi, Oʻahu, Maui, Kauaʻi, and Lānaʻi.

In 2003 alone, according to state government data (see), there were over 6.4 million visitors to the Hawaiian Islands with expenditures of over $10 billion. Due to the mild year-round weather, tourist travel is popular throughout the year. The summer months and major holidays are the most popular times for outsiders to visit, however, especially when residents of the rest of the United States are looking to escape from cold, winter weather. The Japanese, with their economic and historical ties to Hawaii and the USA as well as relative geographical proximity, are also principal tourists.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Best hotels for budget travelers

Are you as tired as I am of those hotel "best" lists where the average prices start at around $400 a night and go up from there? Do you wonder who really pays those rates? If you do, you'll want to take a look at a new series of "best" lists based on data from TripAdvisor. That's the leading online site for hotel reviews posted by real-world travelers on real-world budgets.

The most useful list is the 100 "Best Value" hotels around the world, which is based on TripAdvisor findings and published in Budget Travel, the nation's leading budget travel magazine. For each hotel, the Best Value list includes its numerical score (on a scale of one to 100), contact information, price per night (as reported by TripAdvisor contributors), and a brief contributor comment. Here are some highlights, but I urge you to visit the complete set of lists.

The majority of Best Value prices are in the $150 to $225 per night range—not exactly my idea of budget, but at least well under the rates on most other best-of lists.

The list includes only six hotels with rates of $100 or less: The Steigenberger Nile Palace, Luxor Egypt, $100; the Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel, $100; the Hilton, Kuching, Malaysia, $72; the Crowne Plaza Hotel Riverside, Kuching Malaysia, $67; the Taba Heights Marriott Beach Resort, Taba, Egypt, $80; and the Villa Caletas, Jaco, Costa Rica, $100.

The highest Best Value rates, at $240 to $250, were at the Iberostar Bavaro, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Andel's Hotel Prague; the Grand Oasis Meridien, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; the InterContinental Berlin; the Iberostar Dominicana, Punta Cana; and the Grand Bahia Principe Samana, Samana, Dominican Republic.

Not surprisingly, most low-priced U.S. hotels on the list are suburban motels.

The best European rates are generally in the East: Out of the 100 listed hotels, five are in Budapest and three are in Warsaw.

Hotels with rates under $150 are concentrated in Asia, especially in Malaysia and Thailand.

You won't find any Best Value hotels listed for New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, or other notoriously expensive cities, although a couple of Tokyo hotels make the list at the top end of the price range.

For convenience in trip planning, the list is cross-referenced by region.

On TripAdvisor's own site, you can register and download a set of 39 diverse best lists in PDF format. It provides individual best lists in 10 categories: luxury, hidden gems, pools, for families, bargains, inns and B&Bs, romance, service, best brand, and all-inclusives, with two or more regional 10-best breakouts within most of those categories. (Spoiler: The best brand is Four Seasons.) Another interesting sub-list shows the best hotel in the world's 25 most popular visitor destinations. Several hotels covered in TripAdvisor's compilations are in Cuba, a testament to international participation among the TripAdvisor contributors.

Unfortunately, this listing shows only hotel names and locations, with no price information—and no links to the detailed information in the TripAdvisor database. You have to check separately for those details. Still, it's a great place to start your hotel search for just about any kind of trip imaginable.

Overall, I've seen a disagreement among prominent travel mavens about the relative merits of hotel reviews generated by ordinary travelers, such as you get on TripAdvisor and a few other websites, as against reviews prepared by professional writers, as you typically find in guidebooks. The big risk with reviews generated by the public is that hotel owners and managers could prepare rave notices about their own properties and load them up on the sites. As I look at TripAdvisor, however, I don't see that as a major problem, and TripAdvisor (and several similar sites) say they're able to detect (and reject) any such submissions. On balance, I'm convinced that user-generated reviews can be of great help in selecting hotels.


Hong Kong ready for Chinese New Year travel peak

With the Chinese New Year Golden Week just around the corner, the Tourism Commission has coordinated with government departments and the tourism industry, and liaised with Mainland tourism authorities, to draw up measures to prepare for the arrival of Mainland visitors during the travel peak period.

These measures include enhancing the flow of visitors at boundary control points, stepping up promotion of "honest and quality tourism" and shop inspections to protect tourists' interests, and advising visitors to cross the boundary at Lo Wu, or Shenzhen Bay Port and Lok Ma Chau Spur Line check point.

Commissioner for Tourism Au King-chi said they would monitor the recent Mainland snowstorms' impact on inbound and outbound travelers, and offer assistance when necessary.

To ensure tourists' safety, the Travel Industry Council has issued notices relating to several outbound group tours destined for affected provinces. The China National Tourism Administration has advised visitors to avoid affected provinces. When making travel plans, even if the weather is improving visitors should realise transport links and infrastructure in affected areas may not be fully functioning and may cause delays.

Hong Kong and Guangdong have set up an emergency notification mechanism to handle unexpected events concerning travelers of both places effectively. The joint command centre set up by the Immigration Department and other departments will be activated to monitor the situation at land check points and take prompt and flexible action when necessary.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Budget Travel signs exclusive deal with BlueSky

The Budget Travel has signed an exclusive, three year deal with BlueSky to use its itour reservation system. The search for the technology partner began last October, just after Budget Travel was bought by The Primera Travel Group.

BlueSky’s Oracle based technology is completely replacing the previous system from Anite.

“What was in place when Primera acquired Budget needed to be upgraded.” says Daði Ingólfsson, IT director for Primera. “We have great plans for Budget and we needed to bring in a brand new, robust and user friendly system to take the business forward. BlueSky was simply the best available,” he added.

The 1.5 million Euro deal was signed at the Travel Technology Show.

“A number of solutions were considered both in the UK and Europe to find the right technology partner,” says Nick Fowler, Sales Director of BlueSky Travel Systems. “We are delighted to be working with Budget Travel and Primera. We are implementing the itour product along with a number of other innovative enhancements. It’s an exciting challenge for BlueSky.”

BlueSky’s technology platform has a reputation for providing flexible functionality. “This has been the key to our success,” says Fowler. “The way itour is designed allows it to be adapted and enhanced as the market develops. itour can move with the times and react to changing trends in the travel business like dynamic packaging and dynamic pricing.”

Budget Travel, which is based in Dublin, was founded in 1975 and has a 34% market share in Ireland. The company operates 31 offices in Ireland as well as 15 franchises. More than 350.000 passengers travel with the company every year and annual turnover is expected to be close to 160 million Euro this year.

The Primera Travel Group in Scandinavia operates travel agencies and tour operating companies in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Ireland and Estonia. Last year the group took more than one million passengers to destinations all over the world. It‘s turnover is in excess of 650 million euros.

Primera Travel Group, a privately owned Icelandic travel company acquired Budget Travel, Ireland’s leading tour operator from TUI AG. TUI AG is one of Europe’s largest travel and tourism groups, recently merged with First Choice plc.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Road trip in south Morocco

Although city-sightseeing and beach holidays for winter sun are very popular in Morocco, the best way to experience the country is in your own car.

The area around Marrakech gives travellers a myriad of choices, from coastline driving to adventures in the remote desert, or hair-rising mountain driving in the High Atlas mountains.

The P31 highway runs from Marrakech all the way to the impassable border with Algeria, through unbelievably varied landscape.

The route takes around eight hours one way, which is a perfect itinerary for a five to ten-day holiday. No 4WD is required until Zagora but check your tyres before setting off into the mountains.

An incredible array of colours and shapes inhabit this part of the country. You will pass quiet Berber villages perched on mountainsides, surrounded by nothing but snow and 4,000m peaks.

There are also infinite lengths of golden stony desert, known as hammada, and cute little oases with palm trees loaded with dates.

The drive is tough; it requires patience and a lot of attention. This road should never be attempted at night, firstly because it would be far too dangerous, but also because you would not want to miss a second of this fabulous landscape.

For such a small stretch of road the P31 offers incredible diversity and driving this route is a rewarding challenge that none of the tourists on a 4WD or bus tour will ever experience.

If by chance King Mohammed VI is visiting the area at the same time, you will also witness the funniest deployment of security forces. Every little hill in the desert will have a thirsty but very smartly-dressed policeman standing on its summit like a miniature soldier.

A good stop for tea time is Cafe Ard Essalam, an hour away from Marrakech. It has great views of the surrounding mountains from a sunny terrace, where you can appreciate the summits while sipping a nice cup of mint tea.

There is also very good accommodation along the way. Kasbah Ait Ben Moro near Scurra, which is a castle made of mud, has a lot of character and enjoys a stunning view overlooking the oasis. The rooms can be chilly in winter but the experience is worth it. After wandering in the oasis, take a camel ride back to the castle.

Another amazing place to stay is Riad Lamane in Zagora. I recommend the roof room and its balcony near the pool, as it would have made Aladdin's princess Jasmine herself jealous.

Ait Benhaddou is also a very nice village and waking up in the middle of the desert could be one of your best memories of the trip. The village boasts one of the best preserved kasbahs in the country and several movies, including Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator were shot here.

Nearby Ouarzazate has all the commodities and comfort of a city. Hotel Kenzi Azghor has a pleasant spa with traditional hammam treatments at very good prices.

After a week of remoteness spend your last night in Marrakech in budget hotel CTM. Although slightly noisy, the hotel has rooms directly overlooking the famous square Djemaa el-Fna, which has been recognised by Unesco as a place of international significance for intangible or living heritage.

Snake charmers will enchant you into waking up on your last morning in Morocco and the feeling will remain with you forever.