International Travel

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The world's most promiscuous countries revealed

<p>An analysis of the world's sexual habits has revealed the top 10 most promiscuous countries in the world and Turkey came in first. </p> <p>The average Turk has slept with more than 14 people according to the World Population Review, with Australia coming in a close second with the average Aussie having slept with more than 13 people, according to the <em>New York Post</em>. </p> <p>“The average number of sexual partners can vary significantly from country to country, as cultural norms can have a significant impact on the number of people someone has sex with,” the website declared. </p> <p>Their figures were based on a compilation of “datasets from multiple third party sources.”</p> <p>Turkey's top spot may be surprising to some, with most residents being muslim and the country is widely conceived to have traditional views when it comes sex and relationships. </p> <p>New Zealand came in at third, with a similar number to Australia,  followed by Iceland and South Africa. </p> <p>Countries thought to have more liberal views on sex, such as Brazil and France, were lower down the list, with the average Brazilian sleeping with nine people putting them in 25th place, while France clocked in 29th position. </p> <p>The United States clocked in 13th place, with Americans sleeping with an average of 10.7 people. </p> <p><strong>Here's the Top 10 most promiscuous countries:</strong></p> <p>1. Turkey (14.5 people)</p> <p>2. Australia (13.3)</p> <p>3. New Zealand (13.2)</p> <p>4. Iceland (13.0)</p> <p>5. South Africa (12.5)</p> <p>6. Finland (12.4)</p> <p>7. Norway (12.1)</p> <p>8. Italy (11.8)</p> <p>9. Sweden (11.8)</p> <p>10. Switzerland (11.1)</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p> <p> </p>

International Travel

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94-year-old grandma takes on huge travel challenge

<p>"Grandma Joy" Ryan was 91 when she first got her passport, and she hasn't stopped travelling since. </p> <p>Now aged 94, she is embarking on a new global challenge with her grandson Brad Ryan, 42, with the intergenerational duo planning to travel to all seven continents in the world together. </p> <p>"I don't have many years left, [so] you hop to it," Grandma Joy told <em>CNN Travel</em>. </p> <p> "If you slow down, you don't get anything done."</p> <p>The pair, who are from the US, have already travelled to three continents, visiting Banff National Park in Canada last year to "represent North America well beyond just our own country", and Africa in 2023, visiting both Amboseli National Park and Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. </p> <p>Their most recent trip was to South America, where they travelled to Ecuador, and spent time in  the Galapagos Islands, as well as Chile. </p> <p>"It was amazing to see those huge tortoises," Grandma Joy recalled. "They could raise their shells up just like a convertible or something."</p> <p>Prior to travelling the world together, the grandma-grandson duo were actually estranged for around a decade due to a family rift that occurred after Ryan's parents divorced. </p> <p>After reconnecting in 2010, Ryan was telling his grandma about his previous hiking adventures on the Appalachian Trail and Mount Kilimanjaro, when he learnt that his grandmother "had never set eyes on a mountain."</p> <p>"That was one of her lifelong regrets," he said. </p> <p>"Her travel had been limited to just a few road trips to Florida with my grandfather when he was alive.</p> <p>"Her view of the world was always what she saw on the Travel Channel or just on the news."</p> <p>That conversation stuck with him and the pair embarked on their first journey together in 2015, when Ryan decided to take a weekend road trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. </p> <p>"At 85, she saw her first mountain, climbed her first mountain and went camping for the first time and fell off the air mattress a couple of times and didn't complain," he said. </p> <p>He added, that having to move more slowly as he was travelling with his grandma, meant that he was able to appreciate everything in a more meaningful way. </p> <p>"I wasn't rushing through the places that I was visiting. I was really taking the time to appreciate smaller details.</p> <p>"The lens through which she is seeing the world is very different to most people my age. She doesn't visit a place thinking, 'Well, I'll be back again,' so there's more presence."</p> <p>They kept the adventure going and decided to travel to the 62 other US National Parks, and while it took them almost eight years with two-month long breaks between each trip, Grandma Joy made history last year. </p> <p>She became the oldest person to visit all 63 National Parks in the US. </p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CsU_w4-rqyP/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CsU_w4-rqyP/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Grandma Joy’s Road Trip — Brad and Joy Ryan (@grandmajoysroadtrip)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>"Being an old person sitting on the porch, this makes you feel like, 'Well maybe I did accomplish something.' So I enjoyed every bit of it," she said. </p> <p>Ryan himself is very proud of his grandmother's achievement, and after going viral with their national parks quest in 2023, he said that travelling with her has been a life-changing experience. </p> <p>"She shattered my preconceived notions about what it means to be an older person,"  he said. </p> <p>"Because she wasn't just sitting in the passenger seat looking out the window, although we did that too."</p> <p>He then described how Grandma Joy went ziplining at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia and whitewater rafting at Wrangell St. Elias National Park in Alaska at the age of 91, and how she reminded him of all the possibilities that come with getting older. </p> <p>"I think we all have this sort of innate dread about getting older," he said. </p> <p>"And we think about the limitations instead of the possibilities. She [Grandma Joy] reminds us of the possibilities that still exist."</p> <p>While the pair are currently "still recovering" from their latest trip to South America, they shared their plan to visit Australia later this year, and hope to  "hop over to Asia" after. </p> <p>Once they've ticked off Australia and Asia off their list, they plan to visit Europe and hope to end their trip in Antarctica. </p> <p>"Antarctica is the one that's like the wildcard," Ryan said. "We would love that, but getting there is challenging.</p> <p>"I'd like to end big, and I think Antarctica would be the cherry on top of this adventure."</p> <p>The duo document all their adventures on their Instagram account, <a href="https://www.instagram.com/grandmajoysroadtrip/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">grandmajoysroadtrip</a> and despite people wondering when they would wrap it up, Grandma Joy's "willing spirit" keeps her going. </p> <p>"I just take one step at a time, one day at a time, and thank the Lord every morning for giving me one more day," she said. </p> <p>"I try to be an optimist. The glass is half full, not half empty. And the people that you meet along the way lift your spirits.</p> <p>"You see people in worse shape than you, and I just think 'I've got a lot to be thankful for.'</p> <p>"Not everybody's lucky enough to have a grandson that's willing to drag them around."</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p> <p> </p>

International Travel

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Everything you need to know before you travel to Vietnam

<p dir="ltr">So you’ve booked your flight to Vietnam to experience the best of south-east Asia. </p> <p dir="ltr">When travelling to Vietnam, and other Asian countries, there are a handful of tips and tricks to be aware of to ensure you have a smooth sailing travel experience. </p> <p dir="ltr">In comparison to travelling around Western countries, exploring Vietnam comes with a unique set of circumstances, and being prepared for every situation will make sure your trip is one to remember. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Cash is king</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">When it comes to planning your trip to Vietnam, other than booking your flights, hotels and travel insurance, one of your first priorities should be getting your hands on cash. </p> <p dir="ltr">The Vietnamese Dong is a unique currency to get used to, given that $5 AUD is equal to approximately $82,000 VND. </p> <p dir="ltr">Most of the restaurants, cafes and tourist attractions you’ll be heading to will only accept cash, so make sure you seek out an ATM (most ATMs will let you translate to English) and always have a decent amount of cash on hand. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Go off the beaten track </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Vietnam has so much more to offer than the major cities. </p> <p dir="ltr">While Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have a lot of interesting history, tourist attractions and unique cultural experiences, staying in these cities for the entirety of your Vietnam trip is limiting. </p> <p dir="ltr">Make sure you explore coastal towns such as Hoi An, Hue and Phu Quoc, explore the rolling rice fields of Sapa, and don’t forget to book your cruise around the picturesque Ha Long Bay. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Don't be afraid of the food </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While Vietnamese food is maybe not what you’re used to eating everyday, part of experiencing a different culture is immersing yourself in the food scene. </p> <p dir="ltr">One of the best things you can do when you arrive at your destination is to book a food tour with a local guide (there are many available through TripAdvisor), to take you around and show you a variety of dishes to become accustomed to. </p> <p dir="ltr">Your food tour guide will also help ease your anxiety over ordering food in different places. </p> <p dir="ltr">Another top tip: Restaurants will often be called the name of the dishes they serve. For example, places that sell the delicious Bahn Mi bread rolls will have “Bahn Mi” in their name. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Google Translate is your friend </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While your hotel staff will often speak good English, other vendors at restaurants or markets may not be as fluent. </p> <p dir="ltr">Downloading the Google Translate app on your phone will allow you to communicate with locals quickly and easily, by typing in what you want to say in English, and letting the app read out the sentence in Vietnamese. </p> <p dir="ltr">Also, the app’s camera feature lets you hover your smartphone camera over something written in Vietnamese, before translating it into English in seconds. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Beware of scams</strong> </p> <p dir="ltr">One of the most common scams in Vietnam is taxi scams. Some people will claim to be a taxi and then jack up the prices once they take you to your destination. </p> <p dir="ltr">To avoid this, only get in registered taxis (that actually look like taxis and not just a random car), and download Grab, which is the Vietnamese version of Uber and is just as easy to use. </p> <p dir="ltr">Another common scam is for market vendors to hike up prices for food and souvenirs, so be ready to barter for a better price. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Make friends with the locals </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The Vietnamese people are some of the loveliest, kindest and most accommodating in the world. </p> <p dir="ltr">People on the street, hotel staff and restaurant workers are always happy to help you with queries or concerns, so make the most of their local knowledge and don’t be afraid to approach people with a smile. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

International Travel

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King Charles makes historic change to Balmoral

<p>King Charles has made a historic change to Balmoral for the first time ever, allowing the public for an exclusive look inside the royal residence. </p> <p>Later this year, the King will allow public tours of the Scottish castle, with small group tours available to be led by expert royal guides. </p> <p>Those being shown around the royal residence will get a unique glimpse in several rooms used by the King and Queen.</p> <p>A source close to the royal family said the initiative was in line with the King's wish to make royal residences more accessible to the public.</p> <p>It also reflects Charles' comments made after Queen Elizabeth's death, that the house had been earmarked as a place for the public to remember her.</p> <p>While Balmoral holds a lot of historical importance, the Scottish residence is not set up to handle a large influx of tourists. </p> <p>As a result, a month-long tour programme to begin in July will serve as a trial period to see how the castle and staff copes with increased footfall.</p> <p>Until now, the interior of the vast castle has largely remained out of bounds to members of the public, with tours limited to just the ballroom, the grounds and the gardens.</p> <p>The Balmoral estate announced the tours on Tuesday on its <a href="https://www.balmoralcastle.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">website</a>, stating, "For the first time since the castle was completed in 1855, we have been granted permission to take you on a private tour with our experienced guides."</p> <p>"They will take you on a historical journey through several of the beautiful rooms within Balmoral Castle. You will learn about the origins of the Castle and how it has been loved by generations of the Royal family."</p> <p>"You will see why Balmoral is such a special place - the much loved and celebrated Highland home of the Royal family."</p> <p>Only forty tickets each day will be sold for the "castle interior tour" for £100 ($193 AUD), or £150 ($289 AUD) if afternoon tea is included.</p> <p>The tours will take place from July 1st until August 4th, before the King and Queen arrive for their annual break. </p> <p>The season begins later this year due to the refurbishment of the restaurant but if successful, the opening hours will likely be extended in the future.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

International Travel

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The problem with shaming people for Auschwitz selfies

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/craig-wight-1514086">Craig Wight</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edinburgh-napier-university-696">Edinburgh Napier University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/phiona-stanley-1514087">Phiona Stanley</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edinburgh-napier-university-696">Edinburgh Napier University</a></em></p> <p>Selfies have become the modern day equivalent of postcards, a way to share our travel experiences with family and friends on social media. It’s one thing to strike a goofy pose and snap a photo for Instagram on a beach or town square, but what if you are visiting a Holocaust memorial site?</p> <p>Taking fun, playful, even silly selfies at <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9566811/">dark tourism</a> sites such as <a href="https://www.dazeddigital.com/life-culture/article/45182/1/chernobyl-grenfell-tower-unpacking-the-rise-of-the-dark-tourism-tragedy-selfie">Chernobyl</a> Japan’s <a href="https://www.selondoner.co.uk/life/12122023-dark-tourism-in-london">“suicide forests”</a> or concentration camps has become a regular occurrence. It is widely regarded as controversial and distasteful.</p> <p>In 2017, Israeli-German artist Shahak Shapira launched a project aimed at shaming visitors taking selfies at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Germany. The project was <a href="https://yolocaust.de/">called Yolocaust</a> – a portmanteau of internet slang Yolo (you only live once) and Holocaust. It juxtaposed historical photos of Nazi murder victims with visitors’ photos of themselves, juggling and jumping, posing and playing at the Berlin memorial.</p> <p>Ever since, online vigilantes have been empowered to shame Holocaust-site selfie takers on social media. Many have used “yolocaust” in comments as shorthand for censure, judgement, and moral panic.</p> <p>We <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02508281.2022.2153994">analysed hundreds</a> of these posts, captions and comments to see how the selfie-takers are perceived and punished by others online. We examined posts with location tags at the Auschwitz Memorial Museum in Poland and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin.</p> <p>Based on our analysis, we think it may be better that young people engage with Holocaust sites in their own way, rather than not engaging at all. We also suggest that some commenters may be just as guilty as the selfie-takers, using their comments to show themselves in a positive light. Paradoxically, this is precisely what they are shaming the selfie-takers for doing: centering themselves, using the Holocaust as a prop.</p> <p>Vigilantism and public shaming has been around for centuries – think angry villagers with pitchforks raised. Vigilantes take it upon themselves to prevent, investigate and punish perceived wrongdoings, usually without legal authority.</p> <p>Online vigilantes (often called “<a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azv118">digilantes</a>”) punish others for perceived transgressions online. They act when they feel that someone has committed a crime or social wrongdoing on the internet as a form of <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/05/19/americans-and-cancel-culture-where-some-see-calls-for-accountability-others-see-censorship-punishment/">cancel culture</a>. There is, of course, a fine line between constructively questioning someone’s choices and publicly shaming them.</p> <h2>Who gets shamed?</h2> <p>We found that it wasn’t just any photo (we also looked at non-selfie tourist photos) that attracted online shaming. Some people were more likely to receive negative comments than others, depending on age, gender, cultural identity, photo pose, facial expression and the captions accompanying the photos.</p> <p>Younger, more conventionally attractive people – especially women, and especially people posting in English or German – attracted many negative comments. In contrast, older and less conventionally “sexy” selfie-takers, men, and those posting in, for example, Italian or Russian tended to be ignored.</p> <p>Some of these patterns appear related to how young women are often sexualised and <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14680777.2018.1447345">demeaned online</a>, especially when it comes to the selfies of women holding their bodies in “model-like” poses. To some commenters, it appears more acceptable to shame those who society already deems unserious and flippant.</p> <p>Location was also important. While the Berlin Memorial saw plenty of tourist behaviour deemed “disrespectful” by commenters, it was rare to encounter selfie-taking at Auschwitz. This may because Auschwitz is a paid visitor attraction offering structured tours.</p> <p>In contrast, the Berlin memorial is an art installation, always open and part of the streetscape. Its purpose and meaning may not be immediately apparent. This leaves room for the possibility that some Holocaust-site selfie-taking is an innocent, accidental part of tourism in Berlin.</p> <p>Another predictor of negative comments was the captions on the photos we examined. If the caption was flippant or suggested a lack of serious engagement with Holocaust history and memory, the photo attracted more critical comments. Those who made some attempt to justify or even intellectualise their selfie-taking were often excused censure.</p> <p>In one example, a young woman is pictured jumping between the concrete slabs of the Berlin memorial. But her picture is accompanied by a careful caption that explicitly questions whether her behaviour is ethical.</p> <p>She writes, “One part of you comes out, simply wanting to explore the structure for what it is physically. Another part of you says that you cannot take part in anything that brings you joy here”. As the caption appears to neutralise the fun selfie, her post escapes critical comments.</p> <h2>Think before you shame</h2> <p>Although the Auschwitz Memorial Museum <a href="https://twitter.com/AuschwitzMuseum/status/1108337507660451841?lang=en">tells visitors not to take selfies</a>, and while playful selfie-taking seems disrespectful, we don’t think it should be banned, as some online commenters have called for.</p> <p>We argue that it is more important to keep alive – however clumsily and imperfectly – the memory of the more than six million Jews and <a href="https://holocausteducation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/1.-Non-JewishVictimsOfNaziPersecutionMurder-Digital.pdf">millions of others</a> who were killed by the Nazis. Perhaps this is best done through people living their ordinary, complex, messy and often joyous lives, precisely as the Nazis’ victims could not.</p> <p>We also think it is important to question the motives of digilantes themselves. Some seem to be using their comments to display their own moral superiority, rather than trying to educate or influence the behaviour of the selfie-takers.</p> <p>Before you join the ranks of the digilantes and comment on something you think is disrespectful, think about why you’re doing it – these images, their captions and the comments show that there is often more nuance to “ethical” behaviour than can be captured in a photo.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/224304/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/craig-wight-1514086">Craig Wight</a>, Associated Professor in Tourism, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edinburgh-napier-university-696">Edinburgh Napier University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/phiona-stanley-1514087">Phiona Stanley</a>, Associate Professor of Intercultural Communications (Tourism and Languages), <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edinburgh-napier-university-696">Edinburgh Napier University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-problem-with-shaming-people-for-auschwitz-selfies-224304">original article</a>.</em></p>

International Travel

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Hilarious moment King's Guard demands pigeons move from Buckingham Palace

<p>The King's Guard have left royal fans in stitches after a hilarious interaction between two guards and two pesky pigeons has gone viral.</p> <p>The exchange took place outside Buckingham Palace, as the Guards marched out of the gates with a briefcase in hand, holding their signature stern looks. </p> <p>As the Guards progressed, a pair of pigeons stopped in front of them on the pavement, prompting the Guards to bellow "make way" at the birds. </p> <p>Their booming voices startled the birds as they flew away, as the Guards continued down the pavement. </p> <p>The unusual interaction was captured on video and posted to TikTok, where it gained thousands of likes and comments, with many remarking how hilarious it was. </p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/reel/C5BwYdaIxPS/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/reel/C5BwYdaIxPS/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by about.london (@about.ldn)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Many were quick to comment on the hilarity of dutiful soldiers yelling at birds with such authority, while another person commented, "How do pigeons behave better than tourists? Incredible."</p> <p>Despite many considering them tourist attractions, the King's Guard consist of elite serving soldiers who are tasked with protecting the monarch's life and properties. </p> <p>The King's Guard are generally not allowed to interact with the public, and have been known to be very vocally aggressive if they get too close or present their bayonets if they become persistent. </p> <p>The soldiers must not let anything distract them from their duties - with toilet breaks banned during two hour shifts - and will march through anyone, or apparently any bird, that gets in their way. </p> <p><em>Image credits: TikTok</em></p>

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The captivating winners of the Mobile Photography Awards

<p>It turns out your smartphone camera can do much more than capture pictures of your pets, family holidays and fancy meals. </p> <p>These budding photographers have pushed the limits of their smartphone camera and emerged victorious in the first <a href="https://www.britishphotographyawards.org/2024-mobile-photography-awards/gallery" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mobile Photography Awards</a>, launched this year by the British Photography Awards (BPA), in partnership with Samsung.</p> <p>Entrants submitted their snaps under categories including Portrait, Landscape, Night Scenes, Food &amp; Drink, Pets and Zoom In, creating some of the most breath-taking pics that look as though they have been taken with a professional camera. </p> <p>BPA Awards Director &amp; Photographer, Hugo Donnithorne-Tait, said, "As photography continues to develop as a medium, it is clear that the way people take and enjoy photos is changing too.'</p> <p>"More and more photographs today are being captured only because people have a top camera in their pocket when they need it. This means so many more of life’s moments are being documented."</p> <p>This year's winning photos feature a father and son sleeping side by side, a hiker atop the Scottish Highlands, the bustling London streets from above and below, a furry friend at bath time, and a few hungry seagulls. </p> <p><em>All image credits: British Photography Awards</em></p>

International Travel

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Pilot captures once in a lifetime photo of the Northern Lights

<p>A pilot has captured the breathtaking moment he flew beside the Northern Lights while manning a cargo plane. </p> <p>Christiaan van Heijst, a pilot and photographer, shared the incredible image to Instagram, which shows the "turquoise aerial fire" appear in the form of the aurora borealis. </p> <p>Beneath the sea of twirling green lights, the city lights of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, illuminated the horizon in a contrasting orange glow far away.</p> <p>The extraordinary photo has racked up thousands of likes in just a few days, as Captain van Heijst shared the entertaining story of his flight and the moment he captured the picture in the caption. </p> <p>“Artificial lights on the horizon: a beacon of civilisation and connectedness to the world after many hours of isolation: no communication in my headset except for the bare minimums in regard to procedures, nor any personal interaction from my Icelandic captain, who’s been mute ever since the landing gear went up on the other side of the planet,” he explained in the post.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/C41LrzMsgN6/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/C41LrzMsgN6/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Christiaan van Heijst (@jpcvanheijst)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>“A character known for his absolute approach to colleagues and deliberate lack of conversational depth during flight."</p> <p>“Hours later, the lights of Reykjavik are abundantly visible and without need, heed or warning, he opens up the intercom and takes his time to start his declaration for a single-person audience: me. Staring out of his window, eyes set on the distant orange glow from his left-hand window, he solemnly proclaims a few seconds later: ‘… the centre of the universe …’, allowing some moments of quiet contemplation and thought on my side, before switching his intercom off again, as if to underline this statement and retreating back in his cone of silence."</p> <p>Mr van Heijst said after the pair touched down four hours later in a cargo-airport in central-Europe, neither shared a single word “besides his solemn proclamation of Iceland’s true worth”.</p> <p>The incredible post has unsurprisingly been met with comments from stunned followers in awe of the natural beauty. </p> <p>“Wow! Incredible shot! Silence is golden indeed,” one person wrote.</p> <p>Mr van Heijst is one of the world’s leading aviation photographers, and has been lucky enough to witness the Northern Lights several times from above, capturing the moment each time to share online.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Instagram </em></p>

International Travel

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Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia nears completion

<p>Since its inception 140 years ago, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona has stood as an enduring symbol of architectural ingenuity and perseverance. As one of the most ambitious and iconic basilicas in the world, its completion has been eagerly anticipated by millions around the globe. Now, with the announcement that the final tower will be erected in 2026, the culmination of this remarkable saga is within sight.</p> <p>Designed by the visionary Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí in 1882, the Sagrada Familia was conceived as more than just a place of worship – it was intended to be a testament to faith, innovation and the beauty of nature. Gaudí's vision encompassed 18 towering spires, each representing a different biblical figure, weaving together intricate symbolism and breathtaking aesthetics.</p> <p>However, Gaudí's untimely death in 1926 left the project in a state of uncertainty, with only a fraction of his grand design realised. The onset of the Spanish Civil War further impeded progress, resulting in the destruction of many of Gaudí's original plans and models. Yet, despite these setbacks, the spirit of the Sagrada Familia endured, a symbol of hope amid troubled times.</p> <p>In the decades that followed, a dedicated team of architects, craftsmen and artisans took up the mantle of Gaudí's legacy, striving to bring his vision to fruition. Working with surviving materials and reimagined designs, they laboured tirelessly to resurrect the basilica from the ashes of its tumultuous past.</p> <p>The road to completion was fraught with challenges, both logistical and bureaucratic. For 137 years, construction proceeded without the necessary permits, a fact that went unnoticed until 2016. Yet, even in the face of such obstacles, the spirit of the Sagrada Familia remained unbroken, a testament to the unwavering determination of all those involved.</p> <p>In 2019, a pivotal moment arrived when the Barcelona City Council finally granted the long-awaited building permit, signalling a new chapter in the basilica's storied history. With legal hurdles cleared, construction surged forward, propelled by renewed enthusiasm and a sense of purpose.</p> <p><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">Now, as the final tower – the majestic Tower of Jesus Christ – stands poised to ascend towards the heavens, the realisation of Gaudí's dream draws near. At 172.5 meters tall, crowned by a towering cross, it will stand as the crowning jewel of the Sagrada Familia, a testament to human creativity and perseverance.</span></p> <p>Upon its completion in 2026, the Sagrada Familia will claim its place as the tallest church in the world, surpassing the historic Ulm Minster in Germany. Yet its significance extends far beyond mere measurements and accolades. It is a monument to the power of vision, the resilience of the human spirit, and the enduring legacy of one man's genius.</p> <p>From the humble beginnings of a visionary architect to the monumental efforts of countless individuals, the story of the Sagrada Familia is a testament to the enduring power of human ambition and imagination. And as its spires reach towards the sky, may they inspire future generations to dream boldly, create passionately, and never lose sight of the infinite possibilities that lie within our grasp.</p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

International Travel

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Bold idea sees hotel offer thousands in cash back if it rains

<p>In a move that's making waves in the travel industry, a posh hotel in the heart of Singapore has rolled out a revolutionary offer: rain insurance. Yes, you heard it right – rain insurance!</p> <p>InterContinental Singapore, a sanctuary for jet-setters seeking respite from both the humidity and the occasional tropical deluge, has unleashed a game-changer for travellers. Dubbed the "Rain Resist Bliss Package", this offer promises to keep your spirits high even when the rain gods decide to throw a dampener on your plans.</p> <p>Picture this: you've booked your suite at this 5-star haven, eagerly anticipating your Singapore escapade. But lo and behold, the forecast takes a turn for the soggy, threatening to rain on your parade – quite literally. Fear not, dear traveller, for with the Rain Resist Bliss Package, you can breathe easy knowing that if your plans get drenched, your wallet won't.</p> <p>Now, you might be wondering, how does this rain insurance work? Well, it's as simple as Singapore Sling on a sunny day. If the heavens decide to open up and rain on your parade for a cumulative 120 minutes within any four-hour block of daylight hours (that's 8am to 7pm for those not on island time), you're entitled to a refund equivalent to your single-night room rate. The package is available exclusively for suite room bookings starting from $SGD850 per night – so that’s around $965 rain-soaked dollars back in your pocket, no questions asked. No need to jump through hoops or perform a rain dance – just sit back, relax, and let the rain do its thing.</p> <p>And fret not about having to keep an eye on the sky – the clever folks at InterContinental Singapore have got you covered. They're tapping into the data from the National Environmental Agency Weather Station to automatically trigger those rain refunds. It's like having your own personal meteorologist ensuring that your plans stay as dry as your martini.</p> <p>But hey, if the rain does decide to crash your party, fear not! The hotel has an array of dining options to keep your tastebuds entertained while you wait for the clouds to part. And let's not forget, Singapore isn't just about sunshine and rainbows – there are plenty of indoor activities to keep you occupied, from feasting at Lau Pa Sat for an authentic hawker experience to retail therapy at Takashimaya.</p> <p>And here's a silver lining to those rain clouds: fewer tourists! That's right, while others might be scrambling for cover, you could be enjoying shorter lines, less crowded attractions, and even snagging better deals on accommodations. Plus, let's not overlook the fact that the rain brings a welcome respite from the tropical heat, making outdoor adventures all the more enjoyable once the showers subside.</p> <p>So, pack your umbrella and leave your worries behind. With InterContinental Singapore's Rain Resist Bliss Package, you can embrace the unpredictable and turn even the rainiest of days into a memorable adventure. After all, as they say, when life gives you lemons, make Singapore Slings and dance in the rain!</p> <p><em>Images: InterContinental Singapore / Getty Images</em></p>

International Travel

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Does British tourism really need the royal family?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ross-bennett-cook-1301368">Ross Bennett-Cook</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-westminster-916">University of Westminster</a></em></p> <p>Love them or loathe them, the royal family are up there with red telephone boxes and scones when it comes to images of Britishness. Souvenir shops are full of their faces, newspapers across the world discuss them, and <a href="https://www.euronews.com/culture/2022/09/13/netflixs-the-crown-skyrockets-in-popularity-following-the-queens-death">television dramas</a> based on their lives have never been more popular.</p> <p>Whenever people are critical of the royal family, the oft-repeated retort is “but think of the tourism!”. This has been particularly common rhetoric recently, as <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/royal-family/who-paid-for-coronation-b2334669.html">many people question</a> how a country facing mass strikes and a crippling cost of living crisis can afford the estimated <a href="https://www.lbc.co.uk/news/explained/how-much-king-charles-iii-coronation-cost-who-pays-for-it/">£100 million</a> cost of King Charles III’s coronation.</p> <p>In a recent <a href="https://yougov.co.uk/topics/arts/survey-results/daily/2023/04/18/25178/3">YouGov poll</a>, 51% did not believe the coronation should be paid for by taxpayers. For young people, this figure was even higher, at 62%. But supporters will often use <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/charles-iii-ap-coronation-buckingham-palace-elizabeth-ii-b2326220.html">tourism</a> as justification for lavish expenses.</p> <p>The royal family does bring tourism to the UK. The economic consultancy Centre for Economics and Business Research <a href="https://cebr.com/reports/uk-economy-raises-a-glass-to-337-million-coronation-boost-from-tourism-and-pub-activity/">estimated</a> that the coronation weekend would lead to a £337 million boost from tourism and pub spending.</p> <p>But if the royal family were to disappear, would the UK’s tourism industry suddenly implode?</p> <p>2011 research by <a href="https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukgwa/20140722183820/http://www.visitbritain.org/mediaroom/archive/2011/vbrwwedding.aspx">Visit Britain</a> found that around 60% of tourists to the UK are likely to visit places associated with the royal family. While there is no more recent specifically royal data, in 2022 Visit Britain found that history and heritage was the biggest <a href="https://www.visitbritain.org/MIDAS-research-project">pull factor to tourists</a>.</p> <p>And while the <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1468797606071477">international perception</a> of Britain is certainly intertwined with the royal family, this does not tell us whether a reigning royal family is necessary for tourism. After all, the history surrounding the monarchy and places associated with them would still be here even if the royal family was not. Ottoman palaces of Istanbul remain <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/most-visited-castles-palaces/index.html">wildly popular</a> attractions 100 years since the collapse of the caliphate, as are the royal châteaus of France or imperial palaces of China.</p> <p>Lack of royalty does not seem to have affected these countries’ appeal, each of which attract <a href="https://www.e-unwto.org/doi/epdf/10.18111/wtobarometereng.2020.18.1.7">more tourists</a> annually than the UK.</p> <h2>A special relationship</h2> <p>The USA is the UK’s <a href="https://www.visitbritain.org/inbound-tourism-trends-old">largest tourist market</a>, and <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/royal-family/2023/05/05/coronation-american-tourists-britain-boom-royal-family-usa/">American tourists</a> do seem to be very fond of things associated with British royalty.</p> <p>But this may change with the new monarch. In a <a href="https://today.yougov.com/topics/entertainment/articles-reports/2021/02/17/british-royals-popular-america-poll">poll taken in February 2021</a>, before the death of Queen Elizabeth II, a whopping 68% of Americans viewed her favourably. The same poll found only 34% had a favourable opinion of Charles – but this has changed in his favour following his accession to the throne, according to a <a href="https://today.yougov.com/topics/international/articles-reports/2023/05/05/americans-think-british-royal-family-charles">poll taken before the coronation</a> which gave him a 50% approval rating in the US. That said, 62% of people in the US said they did not care about the coronation very much or at all.</p> <p>Outside America, the UK’s next largest tourist groups have significantly less interest in the royal family. The holiday firm <a href="https://www.traveldailymedia.com/study-reveals-importance-of-royal-family-to-uk-tourism-industry/">Travelzoo</a> found in 2016 that just 19% of German, 15% of French and only 10% of Spanish travellers want to come to the UK because of the British monarchy.</p> <h2>Where do tourists go?</h2> <p>Typically, when commentators discuss the royal contributions to tourism, they talk about significant events such as weddings, jubilees, coronations and funerals. Even though these events attract huge crowds, they happen rarely and are unrepresentative of the tourism industry as a whole. Research <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/13548166211004361">has found</a> that royal weddings massively improve a country’s image and brand awareness, but are not comparable to major mega events such as the Fifa World Cup, the Super Bowl or the Olympics.</p> <p>Even though royal places are popular, they are far from our most popular attractions. Of Britain’s <a href="https://www.visitbritain.org/annual-survey-visits-visitor-attractions-latest-results">ten most visited</a> free and paid-for attractions in 2021, none were royal attractions. The <a href="https://www.visitbritain.org/sites/default/files/vb-corporate/top_20_listings.pdf">highest ranking</a> royal attraction was the Tower of London, making only 17th on the list.</p> <p>Typically, Chester Zoo attracts more visitors than Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace, although these statistics do not differentiate between domestic and international tourists. In the most recent <a href="https://www.windsor.gov.uk/dbimgs/Windsor%202017%20Visitor%20Survey%20final%20report%2028_11_17.pdf">Windsor visitor survey</a>, the majority of its tourists came from overseas.</p> <p>Anti-monarchy group <a href="https://www.republic.org.uk/tourism">Republic</a> has disputed the widely cited figure that the monarchy generates £500 million in tourism income for the UK annually – which itself would be only a small fraction of Britain’s £127 billion tourism economy.</p> <p>The group also questions why royalty <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hL9yDOK48A">barely feature</a> on British tourism campaigns or advertisements, if they are so vital to the tourism economy.</p> <p>It is impossible to deny that royalty adds to the UK’s appeal as a tourist destination – the history and associated heritage is famous worldwide. However, what is questionable is whether a reigning monarchy is necessary for this attractiveness to continue.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/205158/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ross-bennett-cook-1301368"><em>Ross Bennett-Cook</em></a><em>, Visiting Lecturer, School of Architecture + Cities, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-westminster-916">University of Westminster</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-british-tourism-really-need-the-royal-family-205158">original article</a>.</em></p>

International Travel

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Surprising Aussie beach crowned best in the world

<p dir="ltr">An iconic Australian beach has been named the best in the world in a prestigious list of the most picturesque coastlines on the planet. </p> <p dir="ltr">Each year, <a href="https://www.cntraveller.com/gallery/best-beaches-in-the-world" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Condé Nast Traveler</a> ranks the beaches from around the world to curate a list of 34 locations that every beach lover needs to visit. </p> <p dir="ltr">In the top ten list, five beaches from both Australia and New Zealand feature, living up to the countries reputations of stunning coastlines. </p> <p dir="ltr">With a “combination of leaning palm trees on powdery sand”, the publication crowned Palm Cove Beach as the best beach in the world, describing the spot in Queensland as “the epitome of a tropical paradise”.</p> <p dir="ltr">Located north of Cairns, the publication shared that Palm Cove is relatively “crowd free” and home to a range of unique wildlife. </p> <p dir="ltr">While many on social media were quick to agree with the winning location, others argued that there are beaches around Australia more deserving of the crown. </p> <p dir="ltr">“The only way you rank Palm Cove as the best beach in the world is if you have never been to Palm Cove or don’t like beaches,” one wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Eyre Peninsula beaches leave Palm Cove for dead,” another added.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Best beach if you don’t ever want to go in the water. What about all the magic in WA?” one questioned.</p> <p dir="ltr">Check out the top 10 list of the world’s best beaches below. </p> <p dir="ltr">10. Die Plaat, South Africa</p> <p dir="ltr">9. Awaroa, South Island, New Zealand</p> <p dir="ltr">8. Noosa Beach, Australia </p> <p dir="ltr">7. Dune du Pilat, France</p> <p dir="ltr">6. Mona Vale Beach, Australia</p> <p dir="ltr">5. Ora Beach, Indonesia</p> <p dir="ltr">4. Wategos Beach, Australia</p> <p dir="ltr">3. Brekon, Shetland</p> <p dir="ltr">2. Honopu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii</p> <p dir="ltr">1. Palm Cove Beach, Australia</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p>

International Travel

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The US just returned to the Moon after more than 50 years. How big a deal is it, really?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-flannery-3906">David Flannery</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a></em></p> <p>In the few short years since the COVID pandemic changed our world, China, Japan and India have all successfully landed on the Moon.</p> <p>Many more robotic missions have flown past the Moon, entered lunar orbit, or crashed into it in the past five years. This includes <a href="https://www.planetary.org/space-missions/kplo">spacecraft developed by South Korea</a>, <a href="https://english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2023/04/27/Dubai-s-ruler-announces-new-moon-mission-after-UAE-s-Rashid-Rover-lunar-crash-">the United Arab Emirates</a>, and an <a href="https://www.spaceil.com/">Israeli not-for-profit organisation</a>.</p> <p>Late last week, the American company <a href="https://www.intuitivemachines.com/">Intuitive Machines</a>, in collaboration with NASA, celebrated “America’s return to the Moon” with a successful landing of its Odysseus spacecraft.</p> <p>Recent <a href="https://theconversation.com/change-5-china-launches-sample-return-mission-to-the-moon-is-it-winning-the-new-space-race-150665">Chinese-built sample return missions</a> are far more complex than this project. And didn’t NASA ferry a dozen humans to the Moon back when microwaves were cutting-edge technology? So what is different about this mission developed by a US company?</p> <h2>Back to the Moon</h2> <p>The recent Odysseus landing stands out for two reasons. For starters, this is the first time a US-built spacecraft has landed – not crashed – on the Moon for over 50 years.</p> <p>Secondly, and far more significantly, this is the first time a private company has pulled off a successful delivery of cargo to the Moon’s surface.</p> <p>NASA has lately focused on destinations beyond the Earth–Moon system, including Mars. But with its <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/commercial-lunar-payload-services/">Commercial Lunar Payload Services</a> (CLPS) program, it has also funded US private industry to develop Moon landing concepts, hoping to reduce the delivery costs of lunar payloads and allow NASA engineers to focus on other challenges.</p> <p>Working with NASA, Intuitive Machines selected a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malapert_(crater)">landing site</a> about 300 kilometres from the lunar south pole. Among other challenges, landing here requires entering a polar orbit around the Moon, which consumes additional fuel.</p> <p>At this latitude, the land is heavily cratered and dotted with long shadows. This makes it challenging for autonomous landing systems to find a safe spot for a touchdown.</p> <p>NASA spent about US$118 million (A$180 million) to land six scientific <a href="https://www.esa.int/Enabling_Support/Space_Engineering_Technology/About_Payload_Systems">payloads</a> on Odysseus. This is relatively cheap. Using low-cost lunar landers, NASA will have an efficient way to test new space hardware that may then be flown on other Moon missions or farther afield.</p> <h2>Ten minutes of silence</h2> <p>One of the technology tests on the Odysseus lander, NASA’s <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/stmd/impact-story-navigation-doppler-lidar/">Navigation Doppler Lidar experiment</a> or NDL, appears to have proved crucial to the lander’s success.</p> <p>As the lander neared the surface, the company realised its navigation systems had a problem. NASA’s NDL experiment is serendipitously designed to test precision landing techniques for future missions. It seems that at the last second, engineers bodged together a solution that involved feeding necessary data from NDL to the lander.</p> <p>Ten minutes of silence followed before a <a href="https://twitter.com/Int_Machines/status/1760838333851148442">weak signal was detected</a> from Odysseus. Applause thundered through the mission control room. NASA’s administrator released a video congratulating everyone for returning America to the Moon.</p> <p>It has since become clear the lander is not oriented perfectly upright. The solar panels are generating sufficient power and the team is slowly receiving the first images from the surface.</p> <p>However, it’s likely Odysseus <a href="https://www.universetoday.com/165864/odysseus-moon-lander-is-tipped-over-but-still-sending-data/">partially toppled over</a> upon landing. Fortunately, at the time of writing, it seems most of the science payload may yet be deployed as it’s on the side of the lander facing upwards. The unlucky payload element facing downwards <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2024/02/23/world/odysseus-lunar-landing-sideways-scn/index.html">is a privately contributed artwork</a> connected <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2024/02/22/style/jeff-koons-moon-phases-odysseus-landing/index.html">to NFTs</a>.</p> <p>The lander is now likely to survive for at least a week before the Sun sets on the landing site and a dark, frigid lunar night turns it into another museum piece of human technology frozen in the lunar <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/regolith">regolith</a>.</p> <h2>Win some, lose some</h2> <p>NASA’s commercial approach to stimulating low-cost payload services all but guarantees some failures. But eventually NASA hopes that several commercial launch and landing providers will emerge from the program, along with a few learning experiences.</p> <p>The know-how accumulated at organisations operating hardware in space is at least as important as the development of the hardware itself.</p> <p>The market for commercial lunar payloads remains unclear. Possibly, once the novelty wears off and brands are no longer able to generate buzz by, for example, <a href="https://www.columbia.com/omni-heat-infinity/moon-mission/">sending a piece of outdoor clothing to the Moon</a>, this source of funding may dwindle.</p> <p>However, just as today, civil space agencies and taxpayers will continue to fund space exploration to address shared science goals.</p> <p> </p> <p>Ideally, commercial providers will offer NASA an efficient method for testing key technologies needed for its schedule of upcoming scientific robotic missions, as well as <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis/">human spaceflight in the Artemis program</a>. Australia would also have the opportunity to test hardware at a reduced price.</p> <p>It’s worth noting that US budgetary issues, <a href="https://spacenews.com/nasa-warns-of-very-problematic-space-technology-budget-cuts/">funding cuts</a> and <a href="https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/jpl-workforce-update">subsequent lay-offs</a> do threaten these ambitions.</p> <p>Meanwhile, in Australia, we may have nothing to launch anyway. We continue to spend less <a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_departments/Parliamentary_Library/Budget/reviews/2023-24/ScienceResearch">than the OECD average on scientific research</a>, and only a few Australian universities – who traditionally lead such efforts – <a href="https://business.gov.au/grants-and-programs/moon-to-mars-initiative-demonstrator-mission-grants/grant-recipients">have received funding</a> provided by the Australian Space Agency.</p> <p>If we do support planetary science and space exploration in the future, Australians will need to decide if we want to allocate our limited resources, competing with NASA and US private industry, to supply launch, landing and robotic services to the global space industry.</p> <p>Alternatively, we could leverage these lower-cost payload providers to develop our own scientific space program, and locally developed space technologies associated with benefits to the knowledge economy, education and national security.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/224276/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-flannery-3906"><em>David Flannery</em></a><em>, Planetary Scientist, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Intuitive Machines</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-us-just-returned-to-the-moon-after-more-than-50-years-how-big-a-deal-is-it-really-224276">original article</a>.</em></p>

International Travel

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Dive below the surface with the Underwater Photographer of the Year awards

<p>There's a world beneath us that we don't know much about, and photographers around the world have all tried to capture its beauty. </p> <p>With over 6,500 photos submitted for this year's Underwater Photographer of the Year contest, one photo captured the panel of judges' heart - Alex Dawson's 'Whale Bones'. </p> <p>The image shows a diver swimming among the enormous skeletons of slaughtered whales off the coast of Greenland. </p> <p>"Whale Bones was photographed in the toughest conditions, as a breath-hold diver descends below the Greenland ice sheet to bear witness to the carcasses," Alex Mustard, Chair of the UPY Jury said. </p> <p>"The masterful composition invites me to consider our impact on the great creatures of this planet," he added. </p> <p>"Since the rise of humans, wild animals have declined by 85%. Today, just 4% of mammals are wildlife, the remaining 96% are humans and our livestock.</p> <p>"Our way needs to change to find a balance with nature." </p> <p>Lisa Stengel from the US won the title of Up &amp; Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024, for her shot titled 'Window of Opportunity'. </p> <p>The photo captured the beauty of nature as a mahi attacks a swarm of fish, an action shot that captured "high speed hunting at the decisive moment."</p> <p>Nuno Sá from Portugal won the award for 'Save Our Seas Foundation' Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2024 for his work titled Saving Goliath. </p> <p>The photo showed dozens of sun seekers working together to try and save a stranded sperm whale off the beaches of Costa da Caparica. </p> <p>UK residents Jenny Stock won the title of British Underwater Photographer of the Year for her work  'Star Attraction' and Sandra Stalker won the title of Most Promising British Underwater Photographer 2024 for 'Midnight raver'. </p> <p><em>Images: UPY </em></p> <p> </p>

International Travel

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The cheapest places to travel in 2024

<p dir="ltr">With the cost of living continuing to rise, many people are looking for cost-friendly ways to travel the world in 2024. </p> <p dir="ltr">Some destinations are more economic than others, with these somewhat overlooked holiday hotspots showcasing the best of travelling without breaking the bank.</p> <p dir="ltr">If you’re looking for a new adventure this year, these corners of the globe are the cheapest places to travel in 2024.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>The Philippines</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The underrated gem located only a few hours northeast of Australia is one of the cheapest destinations in Asia, it's a wonder why more tourists don’t visit. </p> <p dir="ltr">Not only is it home to over 7,500 picturesque islands, six UNESCO World Heritage Sites and an endless chain of pristine beaches, it's also very affordable with resort accommodation under $100 a night is not hard to find.</p> <p dir="ltr">On top of accommodation, day tours and activities (snorkelling, for example) will set you back around $30 to $40.</p> <p dir="ltr">Flights are also reasonable in cost, with return flights from Sydney to Manila coming in around $600 per person. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Turkey</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Travellers can get to Istanbul from Melbourne and back for approximately $1,300 per person, to visit some of the world’s most historical sites. </p> <p dir="ltr">Turkey is a paradise for those travelling on a budget, with mouthwatering meals can be found regularly for as little as $5, and even less for street food.</p> <p dir="ltr">To make it even better, striking accommodation in the historic Galata region can be as low as $50 a night. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Hungary</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Hungary is regularly dubbed one of Europe’s cheapest tourist destinations, with  accommodation, dining and entertainment costs significantly lower than the neighbouring countries.</p> <p dir="ltr">Expect to part with $60 to $100 a night for a pretty-as-a-picture hotel in the city centre, around $10 to $15 for meals in restaurants, and anywhere between $7 to $30 for activities. </p> <p dir="ltr">There are also tourist passes available that make these costs even cheaper. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Albania</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Located on the western part of the Balkan peninsula, this destination is often overlooked by tourists, making it an ideal budget-friendly destination. </p> <p dir="ltr">The stunning country is home to UNESCO World Heritage sites and turquoise beaches, all while keeping your budget in mind. </p> <p dir="ltr">Beachside accommodation can be found for as little as $70 a night, with prices comparable to Turkey for restaurant meals. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

International Travel

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Seasoned travellers share the most underwhelming tourist attractions

<p dir="ltr">When it comes to travelling the world, there are always places and attractions that have been overhyped by those who travelled there before. </p> <p dir="ltr">While some places are known as hotspots for a reason, others can fail to deliver. </p> <p dir="ltr">Sharing some of their experiences, a group of travel writers have shared stories of the times they were left feeling deflated while travelling the world. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Mona Lisa, Paris, France</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While most travellers who visit the world-famous Louvre museum in Paris are destined to join the hoards of people to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, others have dubbed her underwhelming. </p> <p dir="ltr">According to one travel writer at <em>Stuff Travel</em>, the small dimensions of da Vinci’s masterwork make it difficult to see. </p> <p dir="ltr">They wrote, “You either need to BYO ladder or be over six feet tall to even catch a glimpse over the hordes of tourists waving their cellphones.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“A security barrier also means that it's impossible to appreciate the finer details of the hyper-realistic work - which essentially defeats the point altogether.”</p> <p dir="ltr">They concluded by writing that despite being ‘the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world’, the Mona Lisa is also one of the world's biggest letdowns.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Playa del Carmen, Mexico</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Located in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, this vibrant tourist hotspot is a treat for the senses, or, as others have called it, an overstimulating nightmare. </p> <p dir="ltr">A combination of the blazing heat, suffocating humidity, loud clubs, and seemingly endless floods of tourists, this vibrant destination is not for the faint of heart. </p> <p dir="ltr">One seasoned traveller admitted that while some might find the holiday spot idyllic, for those searching for somewhere a bit less overstimulating, “head a little bit further south to Tulum”. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>That Wānaka Tree, New Zealand</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">One of New Zealand's most popular tourist hotspots, especially on social media, is the picturesque Wānaka tree, located on the South Island. </p> <p dir="ltr">A travel writer made the trip to NZ with her sister to view the stunning landscape, but both women were left severely underwhelmed when they arrived. </p> <p dir="ltr">“From the carpark, over the bridge and down the trail to the lakeside to find That Wānaka Tree had not a single leaf. "Is that it?" my sister blurts out. I must agree, was that it?” the seasoned traveller wrote. </p> <p dir="ltr">“A true case of Instagram versus reality.” </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

International Travel

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The best countries for food lovers to visit

<p dir="ltr">When it comes to travelling, one of the best things about exploring a new place is sampling the local cuisine. </p> <p dir="ltr">From cafes adored by locals and the best of fine dining, to charming markets and unassuming but delicious street food, discovering a country’s culture through their food is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in all the world has to offer. </p> <p dir="ltr">According to TripAdvisor’s 2024 Traveller's Choice Awards, some cities are better than others for foodies, with their top ten list showcasing the best destinations for lovers of food. </p> <p dir="ltr">Coming in hot in the number one spot for foodies to visit is the city of Hanoi, situated in the north of Vietnam. </p> <p dir="ltr">With a plethora of street food, fresh markets, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, you won't be leaving hungry in this popular tourist destination. </p> <p dir="ltr">The national dish of Vietnam, a noodle soup called Pho, is a speciality for visitors to fall in love with, and compare between the hundreds of restaurants that offer the delicious meal. </p> <p dir="ltr">Other foods to try there include banh mi, rice pancakes, and Bun cha, or Vietnamese meatballs.</p> <p dir="ltr">Check out the entire top 10 list of foodie destinations below. </p> <p dir="ltr">10. Phuket, Thailand </p> <p dir="ltr">9. Lisbon, Portugal </p> <p dir="ltr">8. New Orleans, Louisiana, USA</p> <p dir="ltr">7. Barcelona, Spain</p> <p dir="ltr">6. New Delhi, India </p> <p dir="ltr">5. Florence, Italy</p> <p dir="ltr">4. Cusco, Peru</p> <p dir="ltr">3. Crete, Greece</p> <p dir="ltr">2. Rome, Italy</p> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">1. Hanoi, Vietnam</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

International Travel

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The most welcoming cities in the world revealed

<p>Travel experts at booking.com have shared the top ten most welcoming cities in the world for 2024. </p> <p>In their 12th edition of of the Traveller Review Awards, booking.com shared their picks for the most inviting countries, giving eager travellers new destinations to add to their 2024 holiday bucket list. </p> <p>To determine what cities made the list, nooking.com used more than 309 million verified customer reviews from their site, with the frontrunners of the list boasting exceptional hospitality in all areas. </p> <p>Coming in at the coveted first place is Arraial d’Ajuda in Brazil: a charming beach town known for its calm and serene atmosphere.</p> <p>According to Booking.com’s report, Arraial d’Ajuda is the perfect destination for 67% of travellers who want to rest and recharge when traveling. </p> <p>One small Aussie town made the list, with Daylesford, Victoria coming in at the number four spot. </p> <p>The sleepy but lovely town in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range offers plenty of nature nearby to explore for those looking to switch off. </p> <p>With classic Aussie pubs, great local food, fun shops to explore, and welcoming residents, it's an ideal weekend getaway spot.</p> <p>Check out the entire top 10 list below. </p> <p>1. Arraial d’Ajuda, Brazil</p> <p>2. Ermoupoli, Greece</p> <p>3. Viana do Castelo, Portugal</p> <p>4. Daylesford, Australia</p> <p>5. Grindelwald, Switzerland</p> <p>6. Moab, United States</p> <p>7. Uzès, France</p> <p>8. Mazatlán, Mexico</p> <p>9. Jaisalmer, India</p> <p>10. Fujikawaguchiko, Japan</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images / Shutterstock</em></p>

International Travel

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14 best places to travel in 2024

<p>If you’ve been to an airport recently, what we’re about to tell you will come as no surprise: Travel is back in a BIG way. Travellers are hitting the skies – and the rails, roads and seas – in record numbers, looking for the best places to travel.</p> <p>So what does that mean for 2024? “We’re looking at a wave of excitement over travelling with family and friends,” according to Heather Heverling, managing director of Audley Travel. “One thing we’re seeing a lot of is ‘skip-gen’ travel,” when grandparents take their grandkids on holidays but leave the parents at home. (We say: Those are some lucky kids!)</p> <p>And while domestic travel will certainly be popular, people are also looking to expand their horizons. Interest in Japan is booming, says Heverling. And there’s a desire to leave the crowds behind and find hidden gems in spots like France, where many people will be headed to watch the Olympics this summer.</p> <p>We know – there are so many amazing places to go and cool things to see, and it’s hard to narrow things down! To help you pick the perfect spot, we’ve rounded up some of the best places to visit in 2024, whether you’re looking for quick trips, beach getaways, cheap places to travel, city experiences or far-flung adventures. Read on to get a whole year’s worth of inspiration!</p> <p><strong>South Island, New Zealand</strong></p> <p>Wondering which hot spot to visit first? Our pick for 2024 is South Island, New Zealand. Christchurch is considered the base camp for South Island explorations. During the day, kayak in the emerald waters of Abel Tasman National Park, bike or hike to gorgeous hot springs, or sample New Zealand’s best pours at spots like Tussock Hill Vineyards (where you can also spend the night in new luxury suites nestled in the vineyard). When the sun goes down, it will be time for spectacular stargazing at Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, which recently became the first Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay:</em></span> Find a hotel that puts you right in the heart of Christchurch and within walking distance of restaurants, shops and the Botanical Gardens.</p> <p><strong>Paris, France</strong></p> <p>Everyone is talking about visiting France this year, and for good reason. Paris will be hosting the Summer Olympics, with events held throughout the City of Lights and the surrounding area – including boating and swimming events on the Seine River and dressage events at Versailles. (According to France’s tourism office, 95 per cent of the Olympic and Paralympic events will be held in existing locations for a more sustainable world event.) The city is in full-throttle preparation mode, with new hotels opening, art exhibits launching and plenty of projects underway to make Paris shine even brighter than usual.</p> <p>And that’s not all France has going on. June 6, 2024, is the 80th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy. To get the most context out of a visit, it helps to go with a guide who can take you through the area and bring the past to life through storytelling and interactive exhibits.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay:</em></span> If possible, base yourself in the ever-popular Left Bank neighbourhood in the 6tharrondissement of the city, where you’ll be able to enjoy views right across the river of the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral, which is set to reopen in late 2024 after its devastating 2019 fire. Like we said, it’s a big year!</p> <p><strong>Cambodia</strong> </p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Why you should go:</em></span> More ways to explore and two new airports to reach the country</p> <p>Cambodia is a bucket-list destination for many travellers. “With the addition of luxury lodges and resorts, travellers can now enjoy a true luxury immersion in Cambodia – blending ancient ruins and culture, cuisine and handicrafts, rainforest and jungle, and ending with a sublime beach stay,” says Brady Binstadt, CEO of GeoEx, an adventure-travel company. In the little-visited Cardamom Forest Protected Area, options for hiking, mountain biking, boating and bird-watching abound, says Binstadt, who also recommends boating through lush forest to Tatai village, where visitors can walk by the river, kayak through mangroves and listen to the symphonic sounds of wildlife from a floating lodge.</p> <p>You’ll also want to visit Angkor Wat, famed for its glorious temples. Happily, reaching Angkor Wat just became a lot easier with the brand-new, $1 billion Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport, which is just a short drive from the UNESCO Heritage Site temple complex. Later in 2024, the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, will also unveil a new $1.5 billion airport, providing even more ways to reach the country.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay:</em></span> Shinta Mani Wild in the Cardamom Mountains is a luxury jungle retreat about three hours from Phnom Penh; it boasts its own zip line over the waterfalls and river where the remote lodge is located. Another unique option is Six Senses Krabey Island off the southern coast, where 40 glass-front villas are tucked into the dense foliage of this romantic resort. Indulge in a treatment at the luxe spa after exploring the nearby Kbal Chhay waterfalls and the waterways of Ream National Park.</p> <p><strong>Los Angeles, California </strong></p> <p>Yes, we know, you hear “LA” and think beach and sand. But for 2024, replace that with cool art and culture, since Los Angeles will be hosting two awesome openings. When it opens in February, Destination Crenshaw will be the largest Black art program in the US, with a two-kilometre stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard in South LA, containing 100 commissioned works by Black artists displayed within beautifully landscaped community spaces.</p> <p>And September will see the launch of Getty’s colossal PST ART: Art &amp; Science Collide. The latest edition of the initiative (previously known as Pacific Standard Time) will include more than 50 exhibitions across the Los Angeles area, including iconic spots like the Griffith Observatory, the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Getty Center. The exhibits aren’t just paintings and sculptures. They are intersections of art, science and the natural world – including “Color in Motion: Chromatic Explorations of Cinema” at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures; “From Fire We Are Born,” which explores Native American culture at the Fowler Museum at UCLA; and “Seeing the Unseeable: Data, Design, Art” at the ArtCenter College of Design.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay:</em></span> No matter which room or suite you book at the InterContinental Los Angeles, you’ll be greeted with what feels like a never-ending view. You’ll see everything from the Pacific Ocean to the Hollywood sign and downtown skyscrapers. And not only is it the tallest building west of Chicago, but the location puts you right in the middle of all the arts action.</p> <p><strong>Okavango Delta, Botswana </strong></p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Why you should go:</em></span> Sustainable new safari camps deep in the Delta.</p> <p>Always dreamed of going on safari? Botswana should be at the top of your 2024 travel list. A decade after being designated the 1000th site on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Botswana’s watery Okavango Delta remains a captivating marvel of nature that differentiates it from other safari destinations. The intricate network of waterways, lush greenery and diverse ecosystems presents amazing opportunities to observe animals like elephants, impala, kudu, zebra and more from a mokoro, or dugout boat, as you float silently through the area.</p> <p>For an intimate stay in the wilderness areas, try the new tented camps. If that’s not your thing, there are also fancy, all-inclusive hotels that wrap game drives into their included offerings.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay:</em></span> First, there’s the Natural Selection’s Tawana Camp, which is set to open in May 2024 in the Moremi Game Reserve. It will combine modern luxury (think: multi-bedroom, free-standing suites with private pools) with intimate safari experiences. Bonus: This corner of Botswana is known for its high population of lions and leopards.</p> <p>Atzaro Okavango from African Bush Camps opens in March 2024, offering sustainable luxury in the heart of the Delta. This eco-friendly property is made from recycled materials and powered entirely by solar energy. Guests stay in air-conditioned suites with their own plunge pools and will be treated to year-round sightings of elephants, buffalo, lions, leopards, giraffes, hippos and other African wildlife.</p> <p><strong>Turks and Caicos </strong></p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Why you should go:</em></span> Because kiteboarding will be the thing to do in 2024 – and Turks and Caicos is also heaven on earth.</p> <p>We’re calling it: When kiteboarding makes its official Olympic debut in 2024, the sport will surge in popularity. But don’t go to Paris to do it. Instead, head to Turks and Caicos, a fabulous warm-weather winter getaway that offers some of the best kiteboarding conditions in the world. “The island’s consistent trade winds, shallow warm waters and large areas of flat, uncrowded riding make it an ideal destination for this thrilling water sport,” says Vasco Borges, the owner of Beach Enclave Turks and Caicos and a passionate kiteboarder.</p> <p>Swimming and snorkelling are popular activities on the island as well, and avid divers love the mammoth undersea coral wall off Grand Turk. Plus, Turks and Caicos is home to some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. In other words, it’s always one of the best places to travel!</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay:</em></span> New for 2024, Beach Enclave will offer new beach houses with privacy, tranquility and an oceanfront private pool on the North Shore. The Grace Bay location of the multi-location resort is introducing contemporary villas with a blend of indoor and outdoor living, called the Reserve at Grace Bay. And finally, at the resort’s Long Bay location, which is known as a kiteboarder’s haven, you’ll find new beach houses along the pristine white-sand beachfront, ideal for families and water-sports enthusiasts.</p> <p><strong>Belize</strong></p> <p>Have you heard of the Great Barrier Reef? We thought so. How about Belize’s Barrier Reef? Not so much, right? We’re here to tell you that in 2024, it’s time to put this natural wonder on your must-visit list. The world’s second-largest barrier reef (behind Australia’s), it is actually the biggest reef in both the northern and western hemispheres. The snorkelling here is magnificent, and so is the diving – plus, it’s not as crowded as the better-known Australian alternative.</p> <p>If you’re looking for the perfect home base while visiting, consider Belize’s largest island, Ambergris Caye. The Belize Barrier Reef is just a 400-metres offshore, and you’ll definitely want to check out the protected Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which is just a 10-minute boat ride from the main town of San Pedro. When you’re not snorkelling or swimming, spend your days popping into Belizean art galleries and souvenir shops or just lounging on the white sand.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay:</em></span> Try the Alaia Belize, an Autograph Collection hotel in the island’s historic town of San Pedro. This beachfront hotel is just 600 metres from the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve and has stunning views of the Caribbean Sea. Plus, it has an on-site dive shop and three pools, including Belize’s first-ever suspended rooftop pool and a lounge with 360-degree views.</p> <p><strong>Paros, Greece</strong></p> <p>Have you heard of destination dupes? According to Expedia, these are “places that are a little unexpected, sometimes more affordable and every bit as delightful as the tried-and-true destinations travellers love.” One of our favourites on Expedia’s list is this stunning Greek island that usually sails under the most travellers’ Mediterranean radars in uncrowded bliss while the hordes of tourists head to Mykonos and Santorini.</p> <p>Visiting the island, which is about a two-hour ferry ride south of well-known party island Mykonos and right next to Naxos, is one of the best things to do in Greece, since it means enjoying idyllic beaches framed by the azure waters of the Aegean Sea. While you’re here, explore the winding streets and charming villages of Naoussa and Lefkes, and sip whipped coffee frappes or ouzo at the picturesque port of Parikia (the island’s capital), home to whitewashed houses adorned with vibrant bougainvillea.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay:</em></span> You can’t go wrong at the newly opened Minois hotel, where the whitewashed walls hold luxurious touches, such as decadent dining at Olvo and pampering spa treatments. But the best part may be simply floating in the infinity pool with views of the sea spread out in front of you.</p> <p><strong>Kyoto, Japan</strong></p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Why you should go:</em></span> An array of new luxury hotels and the opening of the first Nintendo Museum.</p> <p>“One thing we can say for sure is that interest in visiting Japan is not slowing down,” says Audley Travel’s Heverling. Japan finally welcomed visitors back in 2023, and the numbers are soaring. And for 2024, we’re seeing cool new openings and numerous developments that will make your trip even easier. Kyoto, especially, will be the city to watch in the new year, when the world’s first Nintendo Museum opens in spring 2024 in the former Nintendo Uji Kokura factory site in Kyoto. This will be a big draw for pop-culture lovers and gamers.</p> <p>Even if you don’t know a controller from a cruller, though, Kyoto will enthral you with ancient temples and beautiful architecture that make it look like a real-life fairy-tale town. Plus, there are four amazing new hotels opening in Kyoto in 2024, where you can happily rest, relax and enjoy.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay:</em></span> Luxury brand Banyan Tree Higashiyama Kyoto will feature a private onsen bath; elegant Six Senses Kyoto will have a spa and zen-like rooms situated around seasonal gardens; and the 313-room Hilton Kyoto will be the brand’s first flagship hotel in Kyoto. Finally, the new Regent Kyoto (an IHG property) is opening a resort-like property in a hundred-year-old garden complex that’s also home to a Michelin-starred restaurant.</p> <p><strong>Northern Territories, Canada </strong></p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Why you should go:</em></span> An almost-guaranteed opportunity to see the northern lights during the “solar max”.</p> <p>There are two truths about seeing the northern lights: They’re beautiful, and they’re elusive. Unlike the solar eclipse, there’s no date or time that you’re guaranteed to see the night-time spectacular. You do need, however, to go north… in winter… and then wait. That’s why we’re so excited about the news from the Northern Territories of Canada, where a “solar max” cycle is going to make it possible to see the aurora borealis with new ease. According to the Canada Tourism Board, in the Northwest Territories, “travellers have a 98 per cent chance of witnessing the spectacle” during a three-night stay November through March, when longer hours of darkness each day and clear nights make it easier to spot the lights.</p> <p>The jewelled green, purple and gold lights can be seen due to the perfect combination of clear nights, flat landscape, low humidity and the location beneath the earth’s auroral oval. Even better, 2024 is the peak of the 11-year solar cycle, which means the light show will be even more dramatic than usual.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay: </em></span>The main gateway to the area is Yellowknife, the location of Aurora Village, an entirely Indigenous-owned experience that leads guided night-time tours and where you can go dog sledding and snowshoeing. You can also spend the evening in a cosy teepee, complete with a wood stove, which makes it easy to pop out and see the aurora borealis when it lights up the sky.</p> <p><strong>Mexico City</strong></p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Why you should go:</em></span> Tour tourism for live-music lovers – and Madonna fans!</p> <p>Expedia predicts that “tour tourism,” following a favourite artist on their headlining tour, will thrive in 2024. “In 2023, the cultural impact of the Eras and Renaissance tours was undeniable, driving ticket sales but also travel and tourism,” according to Expedia Brands travel expert Melanie Fish. Perhaps driven by ticket prices, 30 per cent of travellers told Expedia they would travel outside of their home city for a concert because tickets were cheaper elsewhere, with Mexico City coming out near the top of that list. We’re totally in on the trend, especially since Madonna will play four dates the Palacio de los Desportes in 2024, making Mexico City a live-music hot spot for the coming year.</p> <p>And as an extra bonus, Mexico City is an affordable warm-weather destination, not to mention a hub for art, culture and cuisine. Translation: There’s plenty to do and see when you’re not rocking out. Check out the Colonia Roma neighbourhood, called CDMX – often referred to as “the Williamsburg of Mexico City” for its hipster vibe and cool architecture, art galleries and restaurants.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay:</em></span> The new boutique hotel Colima 71 features hundreds of authentic Mexican art pieces, a craft coffee bar with an on-site barista and plenty of communal spaces perfect for mingling with fellow travellers. Located in the heart of artsy CDMX, it’s also a super convenient and central location.</p> <p><strong>Washington, D.C.</strong></p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Why you should go:</em></span> To watch democracy at work during an election year… and visit some cool museums, too.</p> <p>Following a record year of tourism to the US capital, 2024 will likely see visits continue to rise, thanks to the upcoming presidential election in November. But even if you’re not a pollster, there are plenty of other attractions in the nation’s capital that make it one of the best places to travel year-round. First, travellers will be happy to hear that it’s easier to get into the heart of the city now that the Metro added service to Dulles International Airport with direct service on the Silver Line of the underground train system – and it’s never more than $6!</p> <p>While you’re in town, check out the newly renovated and reopened National Museum of Women in the Arts, which spotlights women artists from the 17th century to the present. And in 2024, the Smithsonian’s contemporary art museum, the Hirshhorn, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with a collection of new exhibits. Also, remember: Nearly all D.C. museums are free, so the sightseeing part of your trip will be super affordable.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay:</em></span> Book a room at The Dupont Circle, a hotel that successfully walks the line between feeling luxurious and homey. It’s steps away from dozens of art galleries and museums, and it boasts an impressive art collection of its own. Don’t miss brunch and dinner at the delicious new American on-site Pembroke restaurant.</p> <p><strong>The Pekoe Trail, Sri Lanka</strong> </p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Why you should go:</em></span> To check out amazing new hiking trails and old cultures.</p> <p>The newly opened Pekoe Trail in Sri Lanka is a fantastic way to explore the country’s varied landscapes. Ten years in the making, the Pekoe Trail is the first collection of destination-based walking trails that aims to support remote communities, promote cultural heritage and showcase Sri Lankan scenery. Most of the trails opened in the fall of 2023, with a few more opening at the beginning of 2024.</p> <p>The 300-kilometre route starts in the central city of Kandy, famous for the Temple of the Tooth, and meanders through to stunning mountain views of Ella. Audley Travel, says Heverling, can arrange treks to the most scenic parts of the Sri Lanka trail. Hikers will walk on the region’s famed tea trails, as well as through forests, jungle and remote towns and villages.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay:</em></span> The experts at Audley recommend Mountain Heavens for its fantastic infinity pool that will make you feel like you’re literally floating over the valley. Big, comfy beds and modern amenities, not to mention a delicious included breakfast, all add up to a very luxurious end to a hike.</p> <p><strong>Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates </strong></p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Why you should go:</em></span> Seaside vibes in Dubai’s under-the-radar neighbour to the north.</p> <p>Dubai is always popular, and always full of flashy new attractions and frenetic energy. But if you want an Emirates vacation that’s a little more relaxing, head 40 minutes north of the city to this under-the-radar gem. Well, under the radar until 2024, that is, when the luxury Anantara Mina Al Arab Ras Al Khaimah Resort opens and more people realise that it’s one of the best places to travel. It’s set amid the area’s stunning mountains and mangroves in the seaside neighbourhood of Mina Al Arab, which is quickly becoming a trendy destination, with new openings and plenty of sunshine.</p> <p>Ras Al Khaimah is a great spot for outdoorsy types, who can snorkel or swim in the crystal-clear turquoise waters, then head off for a quad biking adventure in the desert or soar over the desert on the world’s longest zipline. And speaking of world records: If you get a chance to spend New Year’s Eve here, don’t miss it. The Emirate holds multiple Guinness World Records for its spectacular fireworks performances held during its New Year’s celebrations.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Where to stay: </em></span>The Anantara Resort here is more than just a getaway from the bustling city. It also boasts Bali-style overwater bungalows for an over-the-top romantic getaway.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/flightstravel-hints-tips/14-best-places-to-travel-in-2024?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

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