Lavender Fields in Provence

Want to get swept off your feet this summer? The breathtaking lavender fields in Provence would be a good bet. The rich violet landscape will leave you spellbound and the fragrant air will transport you to a different world. Take a Day Trip to Luberon and discover why the French countryside is so highly recommended.

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June to August is when the flower blooms, and several fetes are organized in the region at this time.

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Gordes, the old stone village at the edge of the Plateau de Vaucluse, is made entirely of beige stone. It offers breathtaking views of the Senanque Valley with its lavender fields and vineyards.

The ochre village of Roussillon is spectacular to look at, with quaint buildings and narrow medieval streets.

Sign off your incredible tour with a visit to the Lavender Museum in Coustellet in the Luberon National Park.

Then head off to the gorgeous Gorge du Verdon, with its captivating canyon views.

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Of course, if you’re in Provence, do not forget to carry bottles of Herbes de Provence back home to remind you of your heady trip.

5 Must-See Places for History Lovers

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” ― Michael Crichton

For history lovers, there is no better way to rediscover the passage of time since civilization began than to travel to the places where it all happened, to marvel at the monuments, to wonder at the artifacts. Here are 5 must-visit destinations for those seeking a glimpse of the past –

Egypt

Egypt, the cradle of civilization, where history first emerged, with Hieroglyphic records dating back to about 3200 BC and fascinating tales of the time of Pharaohs, pyramids and the Sphinx is an amazing place to visit and learn about an ancient civilization along the Nile. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone, inscribed in both Greek and Egyptian, rekindled interest in Ancient Egypt in the West that remains undiminished to this day.

For the pyramid trail, moving your way south from the capital city of Cairo, you can stop at Giza where the famous Great Pyramid stands. Built by Pharaoh Khufu in the year 2550 BC, this 147m high pyramid was the largest and most ambitious structure built in ancient Egypt requiring 2.3 million stone blocks to construct. Also at Giza, you can see the Pyramid of Khefre, home of the Sphinx, built 30 years after the Great Pyramid. The third pyramid located at Giza is the Pyramid of Menkaure. Further south, Saqqara is home to the Step Pyramid of Djoser built in 2630 BC. Pyramid of Pepi II, also located at Saqqara was the last pyramid built by ancient Egyptians. In Dahshur, the Bent and the Red Pyramids are located. And down south at Maidum, the Maidum Pyramid can be found.

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Egypt has temples, mummies, tombs, hieroglyphics, and Valley of the Kings and the Queens which can keep you occupied and amazed for months. A cruise along the Nile is a pleasant and relaxing way to get close to the attractions of antiquity, and also get a glimpse of rural Egypt. Try one here.

Peru

Historically, Peru was the location of the dominant early cultures in South America. As the hub of the Inca civilization, Peru is a great destination for discovering the continent’s past. Peru has a strong Inca and pre-Inca heritage, which includes the famous Lake Titicaca area, the Nazca Lines, Caral and the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco, with its Inca Trail to the lost city of Machu Picchu.

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Lima, founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro to became the “City of Kings”, has everything from 17th century colonial architecture to glass-faced skyscrapers. In the centre (or ‘Old Lima’ as it is often known) you can find some of the best colonial and neo-colonial architecture Peru has to offer. Hundreds of stunning colonial buildings line streets bustling with every type of person and business. As well some superb churches, museums and other public buildings, the busy streets lead to some tranquil squares where you can relax. About 31km from Lima, Pachacámac is a huge temple/palace area originally devoted to the namesake God. The site includes a partially-restored Temple of the Sun in a huge complex originally dating to 1350.

The city of Caral has pyramid remains dated to between 2000 and 2600 BC, which may make it the oldest city in the world. Peru is also the home to the Nazca Lines, football field size drawings in the ground that are only apparent from the air.

Machu Picchu, the Lost city of the Incas, is a mystical, sacred place, with one of the most enigmatic and beautiful ancient ruins in the world. Rediscovered on July 24, 1911 by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu (meaning ‘Old Peak’ in Quechua, the language spoken by the Incas) was thought to be a sanctuary for the preparation of priestesses and brides for the Inca nobility. The dramatic setting in a remote area of the Peruvian Andes enhances the shroud of mystery even more. The Inca life can be retraced in the exciting Inca Trail. Walk to the Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman, Machu Picchu, and Pisac.

In many areas along the Andes, you can still hear Quechua – the language of the Incas – spoken as a first language and the spiritual ideals of Inca culture remain strong. Today cities like Cusco combine stunning Inca and colonial architecture with thoroughly modern services but just a short distance away from the major urban areas, life carries on in a way which would be instantly recognisable to the Incas.

Greece

Greece has a lot more to offer than its stunning beaches. Greece is a land of mysteries, mythologies, tales of man’s ancient past and the immense developments it has garnered over the last three millenniums. Walk practically anywhere in Greece and you are walking in the footsteps of antiquity. Home to such historical figures, as Plato and Homer and considered as the center of modern civilization, Greece is the abode of art, philosophy and many other aspects of culture. The historical sites in the country are impressive. Still, Greece also has modern touches making it a good travel destination.

As the center of knowledge, government, and system in the ancient world, you would be amazed at how the ancient city of Athens grew and evolved. You can visit Acropolis, Agora, Library of Hadrian, Kerameikos, Olympieion & Southeast Athens, Pnyx, Roman Agora & Tower of the Winds, Arch of Hadrian, City Eleusinion and other ancient sites in this ancient city of Athens.

The island of Amorgos, one of the most visited islands in the Cyclades, has a very rich and interesting past, and therefore all those who enjoy historic spots would be able to have a great time while visiting it. Anciently called Minoa, the origins of this city and its population can be found strongly attached to the Cretans who are believed to be the first inhabitants in this island. Many centuries ago, Amorgos was used by the Ionians in order to go from their islands to mainland Greece. Many constructions and elements from such époque can be still observed nowadays since was important in shaping the island’s culture and traditions. Three of the main and most antique cities in Amorgos – Militos, Efessos, and Alikarnasos are strongly attached to the époque in which the Ionians used to go through this island in order to reach mainland Greece in such a way that each one of them can tell a bit of the history of those days. The city of Arkesini, one of the main spots in Amorgos, has several appealing and unique characteristics such as the antique walls that surround it and which were part of many important historical events.

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Chania is thought to be settled by the humans since the Neolithic times before being ruled by several known empires. It was the place where the Minoan settlement took place – remains of the Minoan city were excavated during the last hundred years beneath the ground where the district of Kasteli stands right now. The invasion and occupation of Chania by Hitler’s army during the Word War II is yet another significant aspect of its modern history. Since the 1970s, Cretan tourism began soaring and Chania was brought to the attention of the world for the very first time.

Italy

Italy, with its culture, food and Renaissance has had a long and colorful historical significance dating back to the times of the Roman Empire.

For 3,000 years Rome has stood at the forefront of civilisation. Rome presents the living timeline from the Roman Empire to the shift of the Middle Ages, to baroque and renaissance, to the dawn of the romantic period and enlightenment, with well-preserved temples, churches, arts, and invaluable paintings and murals. At the core of the once mighty Empire, The Roman Forum was the nucleus of government where aristocracy would socialise and decide the course of history during lavish banquets. The Colosseum, undoubtedly the most famous ancient Roman landmark, was built by Jewish slaves and has a marked place in the city’s history as the arena for gladiator fights. The Pantheon from 2nd century AD and the catacombs along Via Appia Antica all stand witness to the story of this city on seven hills.

Located roughly an hour outside of Florence, built as a fortified city in gothic medieval architectural style behind large, thick walls on a small mountain, Siena oozes history, with the centre of the city being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Piazza del Campo housing the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia is an architectural marvel considered as one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. The Palazzo Pubblico has an art museum with Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s significant series of frescos on government. On the Piazza Salimbeni is the medieval headquarters of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, one of the oldest banks in continuous existence and a major player in the Sienese economy.

A rich city in history and life, Verona is well known from Shakespeare’s play. Verona hosts many events and shows, including the famous lyric festival every summer which has been on since 1913 when it was inaugurated with Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida. Apart from the famous arena of Piazza Bra, you should certainly see Grasses’s Square and Piazza dei Messrs’s square to immerse yourself in the history of the city.

The town of Civita di Bagnoregio, with orthogonal alleys in Etruscan and later Roman style, has several structures from the medieval age. The San Donato square, on which the 7th century cathedral dome rises, is at the heart of the town and has a passage that leads to the building of medieval jails. The town was almost untouched by Renaissance and preserves its medieval soul.

China

Travel Far East and discover the history of the ancient eastern civilization. China is one of the oldest states in the world and the only, surviving till today. You can follow the traditional Silk route, sailing down the Yangtze River, or travel to just the few major historical places.

Beijing, the capital for over 800 years now, has been an important trading city from its earliest days. You still can see the traces of the Chinese history at the Forbidden City, the largest and best-preserved imperial palace complex, the Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven, the largest sacrificial complex in the world.

The Chaotian Gong with a 4th century Confucian temple in Nanjing, the Giant Buddha of Leshan, the royal Behai Park, the 10th century Longhua temple in Shanghai, the Ming tombs are all examples of the richness and breadth of Chinese history and culture. The Terracotta Warriors in Lintong, a World Heritage Site with a collection of about 7000 amazing life size sculptures of soldiers, horses and infantry dating back to 210 BC is a must visit for all art and history lovers.

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There is no possible way to summarize all the places of historical interest in this vast country – there is so much diversity in the different regions, each with a different story, that you simply must go to this sprawling country to discover its Oriental past.

Coasting through Colorado

Even before the legalization of marijuana in the state early this year, Colorado had always been a favorite with travelers, especially those into adventure and winter sports. You can visit Colorado all round the year – there’s skiing in winter, sightseeing in spring, hiking and rafting in summer and the lovely colors in fall. Even the Northern Lights make a surprise appearance here at times! From biking in the mountains to viewing the vibrant fall colors from a hot air balloon, Colorado offers many opportunities for you and your family to take in the scenery.

The main cities here are Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs. The capital “Mile-High City” of Denver has 300 days of sunshine a year, perfect for adventure sports such as Ziplining or through the Front Range, mountain biking, river rafting and hiking. In the heart of the city, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is home to the region’s largest resident, professional theater company. You can catch top performances such as Chicago, Million Dollar Quartet and Shadowlands here.

Boulder has numerous hiking trails overlooking the city. Step back 300 million years in time as you marvel at the stunning Flatirons, which can be hiked from the Chautauqua Park. The Eldorado canyon is another great place to hike. The Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder, one of only three remaining Chautauqua performance sites in the United States, sees an annual footfall of 1 million visitors. The distinctive auditorium features educational and cultural programmes in the commemoration of the historic Chautauqua movement.

Colorado Springs and its neighborhood have a lot to offer – the breathtaking landscape along the Rockies glows in all shades of gold during fall from mid-September to mid-October. The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is a popular local venue with world-class acts. For kids, there is the North Pole and Santa’s Workshop, with Santa, a petting zoo, amusement rides, magic shows, and other fun things for the entire family. There is also the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo which is the only mountain zoo in the country, with a tram and a miniature train. At Garden of the Gods, you can find art exhibits on the culture and history of the area. The Cave of the Winds is worth a tour, with a dramatic laser show in the evening as well. There is of course Royal Gorge with awe inspiring views, which is a little more than an hour’s drive away. You can walk or drive across the bridge, take a tram down to the river, and even tour the area by rail.

Manitou Springs is well-known for its effervescent mineral drinking springs. An excellent place to go for shopping,  there are several specialty shops and boutiques around. The Manitou Cliff Dwellings are worth a visit in summer to watch a live Pueblo Indian dance performance. For some family fun, head to Buckskin Joe Frontier Town and Railway.  You can ride a train and view the magnificent landscapes. Or you can try some Pikes Peak chocolate. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Manitou Springs, the highest railroad in the country, transfers passengers to the 14,110-foot summit of Pikes Peak. The Pikes Peak Highway with deer, chipmunks, marmots and elk is a lovely route to drive.

For a viewing of fall foliage, climb aboard the Fall Photo Special tour offered by Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in southwest Colorado.

If you want to escape into the heart of nature, then a road trip to the Alpine Loop Back Country Byway is the way to go. Situated in Colorado’s southwest, this picturesque destination will quickly captivate you with a breathtaking landscape of snow-capped mountains, serene lakes and meadows dotted with wild flowers. With untouched landscapes and an elevation of more than 12000 feet, The Loop is a relaxing getaway, but also has activities from hiking and biking, to camping in the outdoors. The Engineer Pass, surrounded by Mt. Sneffels, Uncompahgre Peak, and the wiped out Lake City offers stunning views. A hike to Whitmore Falls can be refreshing as well.

Another good Colorado road trip is the scenic 22 mile Guanella Pass, starting at Georgetown, an absolutely quaint and charming historical place with well-preserved old buildings, many of which have been converted to museums. For kids, there are carriage rides through the town to keep them entertained. The nearby Idaho Springs is yet another scenic location to coast through. And you simply can’t miss the famous Coney Island Hot Dog Stand in Bailey!

Hiking and Adventure

For more outdoor fun, hike 350 miles of trails in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Majestic mountains, lakes, forests and wildlife will keep you spellbound in their midst for more a week. In Grand County, you can bike around under brilliant yellow aspens and through exuberant river valleys offering more than 600 miles of mapped trails.

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Echo Canyon is one of the safer places to go rafting. If you really want your adrenaline pumping, head to the Royal Gorge for rougher waters.

If you enjoy waterfalls then Seven Falls should be on your itinerary.  You can climb quite high to see the falls, or take the mountain elevator if that is more to your tastes.  You may even be able to feed peanuts to the chipmunks which is a lot of fun for old and young alike.  Make sure you allow yourself enough time to really enjoy the area and you may want to consider staying there through sunset and enjoying all the colorful lights.  The falls are gorgeous will the lights in the evening.

Indulge in summer activities such as swimming, hiking, and fishing at one of the many dude ranches in Colorado. You can ride horses over mountain trails, alongside rivers, or through open meadows, go river-rafting, mountain biking, and hunting. On working ranches, guests can help with the cattle alongside the cowboys and cowgirls at work. During winter, visitors can take up sledding, sleigh rides, ice-skating, snowmobiling and cross-county skiing.

Winter Breaks in Colorado

Colorado is one of America’s top skiing destinations, with millions of active skiers visiting each year. The mountains with picture perfect powder snow are what make this beautiful American state a top ski destination.

While traveling to the various ski resorts to enjoy winter sports you need to be mindful of the road conditions that can be dangerous due to the ice and snow in the mountains. In case you are driving, keep tire chains with you, and carry food and blankets in case you get held up on the way.

If you want adventure, scenic beauty and history all at one place, then Aspen is the place that you are looking for. One of the world’s largest and most famous ski resorts nestled in the higher ranges of Rockies, Aspen is 200 miles southwest of Denver and 130 miles northeast of Grand Junction, with snow capped mountains, ski resorts, forests, festivals, Victorian architecture, music, arts and a historical background. This exclusive wonderland is a perfect getaway for beginner to serious skiers, celebrities, memorable family vacations, and those who just want to relax.  In summers, the natural beauty will refresh and rejuvenate you. For the adventurous, there’s hiking, mountain biking, and rafting. The town is open for entertainment throughout the year – cafes, tony shops, unique restaurants, cultural activities, spas and exciting nightlife abound. Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the 2,050-seat Benedict Music Tent at the internationally renowned Aspen Music School combines Colorado beauty with more than 200 premier performances throughout the summer.

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Aspen has several good resorts. Buttermilk, aimed at snowboarders and beginners, has 42 trails and is one of the longest terrain parks in the world. If you’re an intermediate to advanced skier, Ajax Mountain would be a good bet. Snowmass, about 15 miles from Aspen, is the largest skiing resort in the area with a wide range of terrain to suit all levels. It is paradise for snowboarders with separate parks. There are also locations for speed skiing and for various types of racing events.  The Aspen Highlands are a favorite with locals and usually the least crowded of the slopes.

If the beautiful Summit County is where you prefer to go, be sure to visit the most historic gold mining town in Colorado – Breckenridge. With top notch skiing and snowboarding facilities, the four peaks which surround the town are huge but can actually be mastered. Breckenridge gets lots of snow averaging over 200-inches per year. After the discovery of gold in 1859 along the blue river, it started out as a mining town , with more than 350 buildings here belonging to the historical gold mine era. The Gold Pan bar in Breckenridge, one of the oldest bars in the state used to be a miners bar from the 1800s. When you walk through the door, you will realize its historical significance. In 1860, Breckenridge established the first post office, and in 1882,  was connected with a railroad, which has now been removed but you can still hike up the trail to the town’s prosperity. During the summer, locals run Gold Mine Tours which are a lot of fun.

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Copper Mountain to the west of Denver is considered to be the one of the best because of the variety of ski slopes it offers for beginners and advanced skiers. With 126 trails across 3 peaks, it is another Summit County attraction for winter sports enthusiasts.

For the professional skiers and snowboarders, the best place in Colorado to go is Winter Park with over 260 kilometers of groomed trails. With its close proximity to Denver, its ski train, and small town charm, it is a skier’s favorite. They offer 143 slopes and about 65% of them are for specialists. Cross country skiing is also popular in Winter Park . In order to achieve a more rounded winter vacation experience, the valley has evolved to offer a host of outdoor winter activities, such as snowboarding and snowmobiling. Since 1988, its ski slopes have provided perfect seating each July for the annual KBCO World Class RockFest. The Fraser Valley offers a wide variety of choices for skating, classic or venturing off the track. Sleigh rides are a romantic way to enjoy a starlit evening in Fraser Valley. For the animal lover, Dog Sled Rides offer a thrilling journey through Winter Park’s beautiful country.  Snow tubing is an exhilarating ride down the slopes and is a wonderful activity for both kids and adults alike.

Located about half an hour away from Winter Park, the hot mineral pools and baths once used by the Ute Indians for their healing powers are located where you can go in for a spa. For those who prefer to remain indoors, Winter Park offers charming shops and fine dining restaurants.

Telluride in Colorado offers only 84 slopes, but is a pretty place with fewer crowds and a favorite with snowboarders. With its highly acclaimed blend of mountain and creative splendor, the Telluride Town Park hosts the annual Telluride Jazz Festival.

Many skiers travel to Steamboat Springs to because it is easier to access, with a major airport only minutes away so you can avoid the traffic and the difficult road conditions. They do offer a total of 164 slopes, mostly for intermediates, with a lot to keep you entertained for several days. Enjoy mountain vistas and musical vibes at the Music Festival Park in Steamboat Springs, which hosts the annual Strings in the Mountains orchestral ensemble. The park also hosts 10 free concerts each summer.

So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to Colorado for a fun and enriching experience.

There’s more to Florida

Florida is synonymous with theme parks and beaches – Disneyworld, Legoland, Universal Orlando Resort and Seaworld attract millions of visitors each year. But there’s a lot more to this sunny state than roller coaster rides and beaches. There’s the fascinating Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, the beautiful Everglades National Park and several culturally significant places to round off your trip.

Cape Canaveral on Florida’s ‘Space Coast’ is the only place in the US from where people are launched into space. Get up close with Space Shuttle Atlantis, meet real astronauts and experience the thrill of a shuttle launch at the Kennedy Space Center (4.5 star rating: Recommended – 107 reviews).

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The Everglades National Park (5 star rating: Highly Recommended – 34 reviews) along the southern tip of Florida is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to endangered species such as the American crocodile, Florida panther, and West Indian manatee. With mangroves, swamps and forests, you can lose yourself in the wilderness for weeks.

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Pensacola has mesmerizing wrecks to explore, including the 500-foot World War 1 battleship USS Massachusetts, the Russian freighter San Pablo and an A-7 Corsair aircraft that fell off the deck of the USS Lexington.

Beyond the more obvious tourist attractions, Florida has a profusion of museums, forts, art galleries and architectural gems.

The South Beach’s pink, lavender and turquoise Art deco buildings lined up along Ocean Drive, Miami is an iconic part of the city’s history and culture. In Miami, you can also take a driving tour of Coral Gables, one of the country’s richest neighborhoods. Known as ‘The City Beautiful’, its stylish homes lie on lush, peaceful winding roads lined with banyans and live oaks. Along the tour, you can see the Granada Entrance – a replica of the gate to Granada in Spain, the Country Club Prado Entrance with ornamental pillars, the Alhambra water Tower, the Venetian Pool and the grand Biltmore Hotel. Shop for couture wear and fine jewelry in the posh Miracle Mile.

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A tropical paradise throughout the year, with beautiful shells on the beaches and gorgeous skies, the quaint town of Bonita Springs between Fort Myers and Naples on the Gulf of Mexico is the perfect place to enjoy the sun. A visit to this resort-like town can truly restore the spirit and reenergize the soul. Often referred to as “The Gateway to the Gulf”, the beaches of Bonita Springs are incredibly picturesque. A little distance away, with white sands, mangroves and natural wildlife is the Lovers Key State Recreational Area. The natural mangroves settings of the Imperial River are not only perfect for snook and trout fishing but also terrific for kayaking and canoeing.

Hemingway’s House in Key West, where the novelist lived from 1931-1940, Little Havana in Miami where you can get a slice of Cuban culture and life, and the awe-inspiring Ringling Museum of Art on Sarasota Bay are other less visited but amazing places to visit in Florida.

Wooden Churches of Maramures

The eight tranquil wooden churches of Maramureş, Romania constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Set in an ethereal landscape in the midst of peace and quiet, the beautiful wooden monastery with Gothic and Byzantine elements is the tallest wooden building in Europe. The complex houses a museum on the culture and history of the region.

The manually carved Church of the Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple in Bârsana, built in 1720, is surrounded by beautiful blossoms in summer.

The Church of Saint Nicholas at Budeşti is older, built in 1643 on the site of a 15th-century church. The Church of the Holy Paraskeva built in 1770, the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin which replaced the one destroyed by the Tatars in 1717, the Church of the Holy Archangels at Plopiş, the Church of the Holy Parasceve at Poienile Izei, the Churches of the Holy Archangels at Rogoz and Şurdeşti make up the remaining of the World Heritage Site.