Snuggled up north in Europe with the rest of Scandinavia, the rugged Kingdom of Norway has an extreme terrain with high plateaus, steep fjords, mountains, fertile valleys and Northern Lights. The climate is temperate along the coast, but much colder inland. With its far north location, Norway experiences very long days during summer months and equally long nights during winter.

The capital of Norway is Oslo, which is also the biggest population center with over 520,000 residents. Other major cities of note include Bergen with just under a quarter of a million residents, Trondheim with 150,000 residents and Stavanger with roughly 110,000 residents. Ethnicity in Norway is primarily a blend of peoples from the Scandinavian countries in antiquity, with a tiny immigrant population. The dominant majority is a mix of Nordic, Alpine and Baltic peoples intermixed over time.

Oslo is a laid back city with plenty to see and do, more than 50 museums and many art galleries. Compared to the rest of Scandinavia, the climate of Oslo is relatively moderate. May to September offers long sunny days with temperature of around 16 C and up. Its coastal location makes it prone to rains, however. Winters are, needless to say, freezing cold with the temperatures hovering around 1 C in the south though the Gulf Stream keeps the coastal areas from icing up. In winter, Oslo is shrouded in snow with perpetual twilight.

Oslo is well connected by air from Europe and North America, with an international airport at Gardermoen, 30 miles north of the city. Bus services connect Oslo with other Scandinavian countries, Germany and Russia. There are ferries between Oslo and other Scandinavian countries along with the UK and Germany, and trains link Oslo with Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg and London. Getting around Oslo is easy due to its efficient subway and a range of buses, streetcars, taxis, and ferries on the fjord. Oslo is a compact city so walking is a fine option.

Highlights of the city are the Viking Ship Museum, the Munch Museum and Holmenkollen. A new attraction is the Nobel Peace Centre. Try a Hop-On Hop-Off Tour of Oslo, stopping off at all major attractions – The Oslo Opera, Royal Palace and Ibsen Museum, Vigeland Sculpture Park and Kon-Tiki Museum. Boat trips along the fjord offer spectacular views, and vast tracts of unspoilt natural beauty provide a peaceful retreat and excellent opportunities for hiking, skiing and sleighing.

The vibrant Norwegian city of Bergen is a lovely port as well. Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed district at Bergen’s old wharf, has distinctive colorful wooden houses and the Hanseatic Museum, dedicated to the Hanseatic League that traded stockfish and grain in this area for more than four centuries. The St Mary’s Church (the oldest building in Bergen), the Den Nasjonale Scene theater, the Fredriksberg Fortress and the Bergen Museum, which boasts one of the largest collections of cultural and natural history objects in Norway are worth a visit. The world-famous Fish Market (Fiske Torget) is a must visit, where you can stop for some fresh food, flowers and souvenirs. The Fløibanen funicular to the mountain top offers splendid views over the city and its surrounding islands.

One of the great wonders of the world, the tall peaks of Norway plunge down into watery canals that are one of the trademarks of Norway. There is no other exceptional panorama like this on earth, and combined with the old world rustic appeal of the country there is no better vacation destination. Tourists can explore the region themselves and plan their own trip, which can include every single activity you could imagine, from fishing to hiking, sailing to sight-seeing.

The Preikestolen at Stavanger is by itself reason enough to head to Scandinavia. The steep Pulpit Rock has vertical cliffs with heart-stopping drops from the edge into Lysefjorden. The gorgeous scenery will always make you want to go back to get high on nature.

Norway has a few holidays through the year, the most important of which are Constitution Day and Midsummer’s Eve. Constitution Day on 17-May is a traditional event is widely celebrated with dressing in folk costume. Beach bonfires are lit on Midsummer’s Eve, another big celebration in Oslo. If you are looking for a different European experience, Norway beckons.

London Museums

 ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’ – Samuel Johnson.

The world’s greatest city is an amalgamation of history, culture, vibrancy and joie-de-vivre. Every street tells a story, every bridge a tale. And there is something in this melting pot from all corners of the world, with 240 museums exhibiting various artifacts from the beginning of time.

Even a single day maneuvering through London’s museums will turn out to be very insightful and educational. With perhaps the world’s highest concentration of museums per square mile, the choices are as varied as the tastes of the visitors. As everyone knows, London can be expensive; as not everyone knows, some of London’s best museums like the British Museum are free of charge. In fact, there are several museums displaying free permanent collections in London. Of course some of them like the Tower of London turn out to be quite steep. The London Pass can be an economical solution, giving free entry to countless London attractions for a set fee. Tourist-oriented museums, like Madame Tussauds wax museum, are a category in themselves, perfect for entertainment rather than serious study.

To begin, the British Museum is one of the world’s best-known museums, showcasing one of the widest collections of world cultural history. Some highlights are the Rosetta stone, the first known image of Christ, Lindow Man whose well-preserved 2000-year-old body was found in a bog and the Reading Room, where Lenin, among others, studied and wrote plans for his Revolution that would affect the whole world. Sir Hans Sloane had contributed his mass collection of over 71,000 interesting items when the British Museum was founded in 1753. In the nineteenth century, the museum began to thrive, increasing its inventory of interesting items to over seven million; many of which are over 10,000 years old. The British Museum’s charter had insisted that the museum remain open free of charge to all those curious and studious persons who wish to enter. Spend an astounding afternoon wandering the eternal corridors and discover some of mankind’s greatest cultural achievements and explore the great relics of the Greek and Egyptian empires.

Next on the list is the Victoria and Albert Museum which houses an extensive collection of art and design, with over a million objects ranging from architectural elements to textile collections.

The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square is where you can see art by Europe’s best painters and sculptors. Located in the heart of Trafalgar Square, it houses some of the world’s finest art dating back to the 13th century. Construction of the National Gallery began in 1832 and since then it has amassed the exceptional works of da Vinci, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Botticelli, Gainsborough, Turner, Cezanne along with other great works, with paintings ranging from 1250 to 1900. Nearby is the National Portrait Gallery, concentrating its collection on England’s most famous citizens throughout the centuries.

For a different flavour, head to the Tate, considered to be London’s best modern art museum, a leading example of how London likes to reinvent itself. The exclusively contemporary museum is housed in the old Bankside Power Station, lending an industrial, factory-like feel with sharp lines and a smokestack exterior. From the Tate, the sleek Millennium Footbridge stretches across the Thames with the elegant St. Paul’s Cathedral jutting into the clouds. Regarded as London’s most innovative gallery, it includes an array of exhibitions and grand collections of modern art. Appealing to children and adults, amateurs and experts, with the collections of artists like Andy Warhol, Matisse and Bacon.

The Natural History Museum is an attractive gothic building that houses one of the world’s largest collections of dinosaurs with exhibitions dominating the great halls and towering above awe stricken visitors. The nearby Science Museum is a great place for kids with interactive exhibits and the Apollo X space module.

The Museum of London educates its visitors about London’s history and culture. If you’re interested in London, this museum is for you; and, presumably, you are interested in London if you’ve traveled all the way to get here!

For those seeking to discover London’s culture in a more interactive setting, attraction museums are ideal. The London Dungeon combines history with horror in a haunted setting. In the north of London are the London Planetarium and the neighboring Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, which not only houses the world’s largest and most up to date collection of wax figures, but also the most life-like. For those who want to line up along the Prime Meridian, the nearby town of Greenwich is the place to go. There you can visit the Royal Observatory, enjoy the beautiful park at the base of the Observatory’s hill, the National Maritime Museum, the famous Cutty Sark ship, and get a feel of an English village.

The sheer variety of museums in London is mind boggling, catering to all sorts of specific interests that anyone could possibly have – from medical history at the Anaesthesia Heritage Centre and the British Optical Association Museum to the Clint Prison Museum, the Fan Museum and also the Type Museum on the history of the printed word. So while planning your next trip to this amazing city, factor in some time at a museum of your interest and you’ll definitely cherish the trip.

A Glimpse into the Cradle of Humanity

Kenya is often referred to as “the cradle of humanity”, with some of the earliest evidence of mankind found in this effervescent country. The thriving wildlife, stunning landscapes and untouched beaches with coral reefs make it the perfect location for an exotic getaway in Africa.

The country is an African melting pot, with a little bit of various African ethnicities co-existing here. The Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin, Kamba, Kisii and Meru all live up to the national slogan “Harambee” in Swahili which loosely translates to “let’s all pull together”. Compared to other sub-Saharan countries, Kenya has historically been relatively developed in infrastructure and general living standards. During the colonial period, England controlled the country and developed the area till the Kenyans rebelled and eventually became independent on December 12, 1963. Following independence, Kenya continued to grow economically and the standard of living was the envy of much of Africa. Unfortunately, corruption threw a wrench in the proceedings the country, bringing down the economy. In 2002, with a new government, things turned around and have been improving since.

Kenya ascends from a low coastal plain on the Indian Ocean in a series of mountain ridges and plateaus which rise up above 9,000 ft in the center of the country. The Rift Valley bisects the country above Nairobi, opening up to a broad arid plain in the north. Mountain plains cover the south before descending to the shores of Lake Victoria in the west. The climate varies from tropical in the south, west, and central regions to arid and semi-arid in the north and the northeast.

A visit to Kenya is synonymous with a trip to Masai Mara. It’s one of the best known and most popular parks in Africa, and it’s really worth visiting. At times and in certain areas it can get a little overrun with tourist minibuses, but there is something so extraordinary about it that it tempts you back time and again. Here you can view lions, leopards, rhinoceros and over 450 bird species. The Maasai Mara game reserve is said to host over 10 prides of lions if not more, with marked territories and locations. The African lion in Maasai Mara is famous for its black mane, with starts out as a golden luster in the lion’s youth, darkening as it ages. The safari land park is rife with succession battles between male lions. The dominant male is constantly fending off other competing males. The male will in most cases be heavily scarred on the face as a result of battles fought and won previously. The lions will nonchalantly cross your path, hang out below and besides your vehicle for hours, ignoring you completely for most part. The wildebeest migration across the crocodile-filled Mara river is a display of nature in all its instinct and glory, and is an unforgettable experience to behold. Wildebeest birthing in January – February is another glorious event on the undulating landscape.

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Other Africa lion tours safari parks in Kenya famous for their African lion populations include the Tsavo, Amboseli, Nairobi, Nakuru and Meru safari Parks.

Tsavo has featured in the movies, made famous by The Ghost and the Darkness starring Val Kilmer. The lions of Tsavo East especially, are the most dreaded and killed hundreds of railway workers and at one point halted the construction of the East African railway line in 1890’s. They came to be known as the “man eaters of Tsavo”.

Nairobi National park is the only wildlife park in the world within capital city boundaries. It is therefore easily accessible and a showcase of what other lion safari parks have to offer. The African lion prides of Nairobi national park are fewer due to the relative size of the park. They can however be heard in the early mornings and late evenings roaring away. It is always an exciting experience in your Africa lion tours safari to see the elusive lions in this park before proceeding to the major national parks in Kenya.

The Meru National park, unlike other parks is home to very aggressive and un-habituated wildlife. The African lions of Meru National park compare to those of Tsavo and are dreaded. Meru national park however is a favorite with tourists in search of virgin natural places in their Africa lion tours safari photo hunt.

Lake Nakuru national park is the most visited park in Kenya. The park is also located 2½ hours northwest of Nairobi and within the Nakuru town and is host to Lake Nakuru, an important Ramsar site. Lake Nakuru is a very shallow, strongly alkaline body. The landscape includes areas of marsh and grasslands alternating with rocky cliffs and outcrops, stretches of acacia woodland and rocky hillsides covered with a Euphorbia forest on the eastern fringes.  The park is famous for the millions of the pink coloured flamingo that line the sides of the lake.  The African lion park prides are easily found and are located in a particular area called the lion hill. L. Nakuru is a very famous park since it also hosts the Black and White African Rhino. The white Rhino populations in the park have improved tremendously and are promoted as a resonating success of the rhino breeding programme by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

The Shaba National Reserve, which lies east of the road linking Isiolo with Marsabit, took its name from the Mount Shaba (1525 meters), a volcanic mountain that became extinct around 5,000 years ago. Mount Shaba lies on the border of the reserve. It has a specific place in the history of Kenya game conservation for it was here that the author Joy Adamson died; her trilogy of books on the rehabilitation of the compliant leopard to a wild environment remaining unfinished. Shaba was one of Joy Adamson’s preferred African haunts, it was in this placid wilderness that she released the first hand-raised leopards.

The Aberdares are a remote volcanic range that form the eastern wall of the Rift valley, running roughly 100km north south between Nairobi and Thomsons Falls. The Aberdare National Park was formed in 1950 to protect the forested slopes and moors of the Aberdare Mountains. While the park has elephant, rhino,  black leopard, lion and the striking but elusive bongo antelope, it is rarely visited by safari companies and individual travelers. Soils are of volcanic origin and red. There are two main peaks Kinangop (3,906m) and Ol Donyo Lesatima (3,999m) separated by a lengthy saddle of alpine moorland at over 3,000m. The high rainfall turns the roads to mud and you need a 4×4 to get anywhere. The park often closes in the wet season. There are many clear streams and waterfalls.

Mt. Kenya is an imposing extinct volcano dominating the landscape of the Kenyan Highlands, East of the Rift Valley. Mt. Kenya lies about 140 km North, North-East of Nairobi with its Northern flanks across the Equator. The mountain has two main peaks – Batian (5200m) and Nelion (5188m). The mountains slopes are covered in forest, bamboo, scrub and moorland giving way to rock, ice and snow on the high central peaks. Mt. Kenya is an important water catchment area, supplying the Tana and Northern Ewaso Ngiro systems. Lake Magadi is the most southerly of the Rift valley lakes in Kenya. The place is very remote and hence is scarcely visited by tourists. However, it is an excellent place to visit as the thick encrustation of soda gives it a lunar appearance. This is the most mineral rich of all the soda lakes.

History enthusiasts can head to the Gede ruins hidden in the forests. These ruins consist of a vast colony of houses and mosques, which are shrouded in mystery. There are no records of this place’s existence in the textbooks of history making them even more mysterious. Excavations, which were carried on in this place, have led to the discovery of startling facts about the history and trade of the place.

Find the most enthralling chimpanzees at the Jane Goodall’s Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Also worth a visit is the Rothschild Giraffe Center, home to Karen Blixen, author of “Out of Africa”.

The Samburu National Park and Hell’s Gate National Park are also worth a visit. Other Kenyan safari highlights include hot air ballooning, white water rafting and other adventure sports. Of course, you will feel compelled to buy the pretty Kazuri beads. And for some clear waters, head to Malindi with its extensive reefs and beautiful beaches. Diani beach near beautiful Mombassa is another pristine paradise.

The African way of life, the wildlife, the landscapes and the mountains – all keep calling for a trip to the soul of the continent.

Best Beaches for Tanning

Looking to flaunt the perfectly bronzed, sun-kissed look when you get back from a vacation, or to just get a healthy dose of Vitamin-D to feel bouncy again? Here are your best bets to catch some sunshine outside a salon.

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1. If you have loads of money to spend on your holiday, consider a trip to the beaches of St. Tropez. A number of celebrities make a stop at St. Tropez each year, pointing to the specter of this French getaway. The Plage Port Grimaud is undoubtedly the place to be seen catching rays in St. Tropez, as it is the most popular beach in the area.

2. Located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Copacabana Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. With a backdrop of the rolling hills of Brazil, you will not only find yourself tanning here but also enjoying the beautiful scenery. In addition to being a great place for tanning and for enjoying the landscape, Copacabana Beach is rarely quiet. There is always something happening on this beach, whether it is tourists enjoying the summer sun during the day or music and drinking at night. Copacabana Beach offers it all to the tourist looking for some fun in the sun.

3. If you are looking to get a great tan in Europe, Greece is your paradise. The island of Crete off of the south coast of Greece is surrounded by 100 miles of beach along its coastline. Try the area of Rethimno on the island’s northern coast. The beach is beautiful but tends to be crowded, as it is one of the most popular spots on the island. If you are looking for a place to tan in solitude then try elsewhere, as there are plenty of small, secluded beaches scattered around the island.

4. Waikiki Beach on the Hawaiian island of Oahu is a great place for sunbathers to sit back, enjoy the sun and watch the action all around them. While sitting on the sand beachgoers can watch the experienced surfers surf the large waves that swell off the two-mile long beach. Hawaiian beaches offer soft sand and spectacular sun. After tanning during the day, stick around to watch the beautiful sunset at night.

5. Down in southern Mexico you will find miles and miles of beaches in Cancun. Cancun boasts a 14 mile long peninsula that jets out into the ocean and provides a favorite beach-going spot for tourists. There are a number of scenic beaches great for tanning in Cancun of which you could consider San Miguelito, which is also home to a small, historic Mayan ruin.

Sunbathing and tan lines almost go hand-in-hand. Haulover Beach in Miami offers beachgoers in pursuit of a perfect uniformly tanned beach body the option of shedding their suits. Located close to both South Beach and downtown Miami, Haulover Beach is the ultimate place for those seeking a terrific tan.

Top 5 Travel Blogs to Follow

20 years ago to this day, Jeff Greenwald wrote “One Hundred Nanoseconds of Solitude” from Mexico, which is widely regarded as the first travel blog that was. Several years, numerous travels, myriad memories and terabytes of tales later, we look back on that day and list out the best 5 blogs that are simply unmissable.

1. Digital Nomad – Always on the move, Andrew Evans shares his stories from amazing destinations around the world – from the interiors of Africa to the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan.

2. Heather Poole – Flight attendant and author of Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers shares insider information about flying, crews and in-the-air insights. Get the best plane experience with her tips.

3. Inside TravelLab – Doctor-turned-blogger and photographer Abigail King shares marvelous photos of gorgeous destinations that will inspire you to travel more.

4. Wandering Earl – Constantly on the move since 2000, Earl’s the “New Breed of Explorer”, with eclectic local experiences and a life to envy.

5. Perrin Post – Wendy Perrin offers travel tips and recommendations to make your next trip even better.

Best Ski Resorts

Millions of vacationers across the world take a ski holiday every year. While Michael Schumacher’s unfortunate accident is a grim reminder of the dangers of off-piste skiing, this is the right time to look for the most frequented, reliable slopes to enjoy the winter sport safely.

For many people Val D’Isere remains the first choice. This area in the French Alps has become so sought after by foreign visitors that you’ll be hard pressed to find a pub or shop where the locals don’t speak English. The ski area is excellent, as are the facilities away from the slopes. Of course, it gets crowded, so if you’re looking for a quiet week away then Val D’Isere may not be right for you. Other popular ski resorts in France include Chamonix and Courchevel.

Krasnaya Polyana, a hugely popular Russian winter ski destination on the Caucasus Mountains, will be the hub of all Mountain Cluster games in the Sochi Winter Olympics this year.

Many holiday-makers tend to be put off Switzerland and Austria because of exorbitant prices. Whilst it’s undeniable that both countries have some very expensive resorts, if you shop around you can still find some bargains in terms of both getting to your chosen destination and making the most of your stay there. St Anton in Austria is less well-known but also has a wonderful ski area. This provides a great platform for both skiing and snowboarding. Scenic Kitzbühel is everything an alpine resort should be: a charming village with a medieval center, a world-famous après-ski mecca, and a ski run regularly used on the World Cup circuit. Kitzbühel offers over 145 km of trails, most parts for beginners and intermediates. There are four main mountains: the Hahnenkamm, theKitzbüheler Horn, the Bichlalm, and Pass Thurn. Kitzbühel is also home to the popular Ski Safari circuit, marked by elephant symbols. The circuit allows skiers to explore the entire area between Hahnenkamm and Pass Thurn. Whether you go to Kitzbühel to ski the Hahnenkamm or to party all night (or both), Kitzbühel doesn’t disappoint.

Set in the centre of Europe, Switzerland is of course highly accessible for Europeans, but has also been very popular with tourists from all over the world. The Zermatt resort in Switzerland is amajor contender for the title of the best ski resort in Europe, with fine Alpine scenery. There are 29 mountains surrounding Zermatt that rise over 4,000 meters (13,200 feet), of which Matterhorn is the most renowned. The Matterhorn Ski Paradise covers three ski areas: the Sunnegga-Rothorn, the Gornergrat, and the Klein Matterhorn. There are 250 km of trails, of which 70 km is for advanced skiers and the rest for beginners and intermediates. The intermediates have the advantage in Zermatt with miles of scenic runs but there are special heli-skiing trips for advanced skiers. Zermatt runs a highly efficient transport facility with high-speed cableways, mountain railways, and ski lifts. This system also provides access to Cervinia, Italy, where visitors can ski down the slopes and enjoy a tasty Italian meal.

For skiing and hiking in Northern Europe, the Sudeten Mountain Range which winds through part of southern Poland and includes popular escapes in the Tetra Mountains, and the lakeside resort of Voss in Norway offer plenty of snow.

Aspen Colorado is one of the world’s largest and most famous ski resorts. Cuddled in the higher ranges of Rocky Mountains, it is 200 miles southwest of Denver and 130 miles northeast of Grand Junction, In Aspen you will find all that you are looking for in a winter vacation – snow capped mountains, ski resorts, forests, festivals, Victorian architecture, music, arts and a historical background. Vail in Colorado is touted as America’s favorite winter resort, and offers a great variety of entertainment choices as well. While Jackson Hole is another popular North American resort, the recent avalanche-related death there is a point of concern. Whistler, with the highest vertical drop in North America and the Piccolo lift draws several advanced ski enthusiasts.

Choosing a good winter base can make your ski vacation truly awesome. You can rent a ‘ski-in, ski-out’ log cabin or a chalet, or a traditional resort, which can offer perks such as free lifts and discounted ski lessons. Do check for space for skis, parkas, snowboards and other equipment which you might be carrying.

Have a great ski vacation, and stay safe!