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Photo of the Day – Laguna Lodge Guatemala

Posted by on Apr 24, 2014 | 0 comments

Photo of the Day – Laguna Lodge Guatemala

Opened in 1998, the luxuriously eco-friendly Laguna Lodge Guatemala is quite literally a labor of love for owners Mayah and Jeffro. Nestled in its own private 100-acre nature reserve on Guatemala’s stunning, volcano-framed Lake Atitlan, the lodge was constructed entirely of local volcanic stone, adobe, wood and palm. Six suites feature lakefront volcanic views, plush locally-crafted art and furnishings and uber-green amenities. The meat-free restaurant serves creative gourmet cuisine straight from the lodge’s own organic garden. But the best part is that no roads lead to Laguna Lodge, access is exclusively by boat from nearby Panajachel. When I arrived late one night on my trip around Central America, the lake was calm and the 20-minute ride eerily silent in the darkness. But when the flaming torches and twinkling lights of the palapa-style, palm-fringed lodge finally came into view, I was awestruck. It was a bit like a scene from Survivor…if someone dared Donald Trump to play.

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Photo of the Day – Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu

Posted by on Apr 23, 2014 | 0 comments

Photo of the Day – Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu

Located about 5 miles south of the congested Nepali capital, Patan is known as the “city of fine arts.” The city’s centerpiece, Patan Durbar Square, is Kathmandu right out of central casting. The lively square is full of historic monuments, temples and shrines but its most famous feature is the ancient Royal Palace with three main chowks (or courtyards). Dusty narrow streets wind like veins off the main artery of the square packed with craft shops, art galleries and the usual assorted souvenir shops and travel agencies. Make your way through the side streets to the Kumbheshwor temple, one of only two in the city designed with five roofs. Long lines of local worshippers come and go from the temple daily and pungent incense fills the air. It’s a fascinating place to sit and watch daily life in Kathmandu and another reason this Himalayan capital is more than just the eclectic gateway to nearby Mount Everest.

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Photo of the Day – Devil’s Cataract Victoria Falls

Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 | 0 comments

Photo of the Day – Devil’s Cataract Victoria Falls

Located on the Zambezi River dividing Zambia and Zimbabwe, Africa’s Victoria Falls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boast the world’s largest sheet of falling water. In 1855, Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone was the first European to view the falls naming it in honor of Queen Victoria. However, the indigenous name, Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders) is still commonly used by the locals. Though they fall mostly on Zambian side of the border geographically, the falls are best viewed from the Zimbabwe side along the scenic path through Victoria Falls National Park. Called “Leaping Water” by some, the Devil’s Cataract Victoria Falls is the lowest of the five falls and is separated from the rest of the falls by Cataract Island. The island is also known as Boaruka which is Tongan for “divider of waters” and while it’s the weakest point in the geological composition of Victoria Falls, it’s also one of the most visually stunning, often blanketed with rainbows.

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Photo of the Day – Mykonos Windmills, Greek Islands

Posted by on Apr 21, 2014 | 0 comments

Photo of the Day – Mykonos Windmills, Greek Islands

The most iconic feature of this tiny Greek island, the Mykonos windmills can be seen from every point in the island’s main village of Chora. Taking advantage of the Mykonos’ strong north wind, the windmills were originally built to mill wheat and greatly contributed to the island’s prosperity in the 17th century. The need to ship the milled grain from the port led to the construction of the Mykonos windmills near the sea where today they serve another purpose as the spectacular backdrop for the nightly sunset show. Each evening, locals and visitors alike gather to watch the sun drop into the Aegean Sea around the Little Venice area at the base of the windmills. My favorite spot is the Veranda bar in Little Venice (where this photo was taken) because of its perfect view of both the sunset and the pinkish sky behind the windmills. 

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Photo of the Day – Kuanidup Island, San Blas, Panama

Posted by on Apr 18, 2014 | 0 comments

Photo of the Day – Kuanidup Island, San Blas, Panama

It’s not easy to get there, but Kuanidup Island is worth the trip. Run by the indigenous Kuna, the Archipelago de San Blas is part of the Comarca de Kuna Yala – a narrow, 140-mile stretch of Caribbean coastline and the almost 400 tiny palm-lined islands just offshore. The Kuna are fiercely protective of their beautiful land and all accommodation and transportation is 100% Kuna owned and operated. Though there are sparse flights, the most reliable way to reach the islands is by 3-hour 4×4 transport from Panama City. After spending our first two days in the San Blas sailing the Holandeses and Lemon Cays on the sailboat charter Kokomo, we arrived at Kuanidup Island for our final night not exactly sure what to expect. We’d seen pictures of the beautiful island on Panama Travel Unlimited’s website but we knew the sand-floor hut accommodations would be “rustic” and that the island had a single shared bathroom and limited power. In the dim light of morning we were a little concerned as the owner showed us to our tiny cabana so we could drop our bags.

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Photo of the Day – Mutianyu, Great Wall of China

Posted by on Apr 17, 2014 | 2 comments

Photo of the Day – Mutianyu, Great Wall of China

It was the 27th day of my first 30-day trip around the world. I hired a taxi and left Beijing at 8am on that frigid winter morning hoping to get a jump on the dreaded tour buses. One hour and a few twisting mountain roads later we arrived at a deserted parking lot at the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. Though there was a cable car at Mutianyu, I opted for the hike up (probably the equivalent of 40 or so flights of stairs). When I climbed up onto the actual wall through a garrison tower, the morning sun was just starting to break through the clouds. I took a look around and was shocked to realize I was completely alone. I had the Great Wall of China all to myself and it was a moment I will treasure forever. It was so incredibly peaceful up there, looking down on the endless mountain ranges lightly dusted with snow.

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Photo of the Day – Sunset over Bagan, Myanmar

Posted by on Apr 16, 2014 | 0 comments

Photo of the Day – Sunset over Bagan, Myanmar

While Bagan’s reign of power may have ended when the city was partially destroyed by the Mongols in 1287, what remains of this Kingdom is still a sight to behold. Marco Polo once described it as a “gilded city alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sounds of monks’ robes” and in the mid-9th century as many as 13,000 temples and stupas may have graced the 26-mile plain. Today, more than 2,000 temples still stand – some large and well-preserved, others tiny and crumbling in overgrown brush. With so many temples to choose from around Bagan, it’s impossible to see them all. But no matter how many temples you manage to squeeze into your day, watching the sunset over Bagan from the Shwesandaw Pagoda is the perfect finale. Foreign and Burmese tourists alike make the steep climb up the large steps of Shwesandaw to gather at the small top of the “sunset temple” each night. The climb is worth the vertigo-inducing effort for a panoramic view of thousands of temples as they burn orange with the sun’s setting rays creating a sunset over Bagan that is likely to be one of your most memorable Myanmar experiences.

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