Friday, December 31, 2010

Win a Trip to Norway!

UK residents are eligible to win an 'Arctic Highlights' Hurtigruten voyage in Norway!

You can enter here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 5 Local Drinks You Have to Try

Everyone knows that in Mexico you drink tequila, in Japan you drink sake, in Greece you drink ouzo, and in Ireland you drink Guinness. But there are other, really interesting drinks that you'll only find in certain places all over the world. Here's our global pub crawl, and top five local drinks you have to try:

Palm Wine (Nigeria)
Made famous by the Fela Kuti song, palm wine (or palm toddy) is made from the sap of various palm trees, which is then fermented. It tastes light and sweet, more like a weak cider (4%) than a wine.

Feni (India)
Popular at trance parties in Goa, feni is a liquor distilled from cashews or coconuts, sometimes with lime or lemon infused. It's a strong drink (42%), with a powerful aroma. Be careful to buy it somewhere reputable.

Lao-Lao (Laos)
This Laotian rice whisky is often called Snake Whiskey or Scorpion Whiskey, depending on which creepy-crawly is inserted into the bottles sold to tourists. It's strong (40-45%), but has a mild vanilla-like flavour that mixes well with fruit juice.

Cachaça (Brazil)
The most popular drink in Brazil, which consumes over 1.5 billion litres annually. Distilled from fermented sugarcane, it has a rum-like flavour and a strong kick (up to 54%). It's most popular as a traditional part of the famous caipirinha cocktail.

Palinka (Hungary)
A traditional Hungarian brandy, Palinka is made from a variety of fruits including plums, pears, apricots, apples, and cherries. The strength varies from 40-80%. Locals say it is best drunk as a shot at a temperature warm enough to smell the fruit.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Food Replica of Boston

Check out this creative chef's miniature replica of Boston landmarks, built entirely out of food:

Tiny Urban Kitchen is more of a cooking blog, but I love the creativity in the food replicas of various flags from around the world as well:
Can you identify all the countries?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Win a stay at Kapama Game Reserve!

Okay South Africans, this one is for you:

Amarula is giving away a 3-night stay at the Kapama Game Reserve near Hoedspruit. All you have to do is send them a picture of your best sunset!

For more info or to enter, visit their website.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top 5 Crazy Hotels in Sweden

I'll admit, this post was going to be worldwide, because there are crazy places everywhere. But as I researched all the wild and wacky accommodation options, I kept seeing Sweden pop up again and again. So in tribute to those crazy Swedes and the odd things they like to sleep in, here are five crazy hotels in Sweden:

There are many copycats, but Sweden’s Ice Hotel is the original. Snuggle up at -5 degrees in sleek, minimalist rooms made completely of ice. They also offer Northern Lights bus trips, ice sculpture carving classes, and weddings.

The rooms at the Tree Hotel aren’t your childhood treehouses. Each unique, they look like bird’s nests, lego houses, mirrored cubes, UFOs, and more. The only things they all have in common is that they’re perched high above the ground in the trees.

Utter Inn
This hotel lets guests sleep underwater after being left in the middle of Lake Malaren. An inflatable canoe is provided for visits to the nearest (uninhabited) island.

For the half of the world (including me) that can’t manage to sleep on flights, Jumbo Stay lets you snooze on a plane anyway. There are 27 rooms and suites including the luxury converted cockpit, and a cafe.

If isolation is what you’re after, then a hotel room 500 feet underground is perfect! The Sala Silvermine Underground Suite combines lavish banquets and furnishings with the stark rock walls of the underground cave its situated in.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Truth About Shark Attacks

Resorts in the Red Sea were recently 'terrorised' by a spate of shark attacks, so once again there's a lot of misinformation going around about how sharks attack. The Mother Nature Network put together this informative (and funny) infograph to dispel the myths:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Win a Trip to Miami!

Captain Morgan is giving away a trip for four to Miami, all you need to do to enter is send in a picture of your best 'Captain Pose'.

You can read more and enter here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Top 5 Cities for New Year’s Eve Parties

For many people, the New Year's Eve celebrations in New York City are the beginning and end of the story. But there are a number of cities around the world that give the Big Apple a run for her money when ringing in the new year. Here are some of our favourite New Year's Eve parties worldwide:

Brazilians know how to party, and Rio's New Year (Reveillon) celebrations are ranked among the world's biggest extravaganzas. Over two million people head to Copacabana Beach, where revellers in white throw flowers into the sea to mark the passing of the year. There are massive fireworks displays, music concerts, dancing and parties everywhere you look.

Goa’s beachfront trance parties are somewhat legendary in the worldwide party community. Dancers with a lot of stamina groove to psychedelic music under the stars, and may catch a glimpse of famous Bollywood stars as well. Try a glass a fenny, an alcoholic drink made from guava, coconut or cashew nuts.

Prague's Christmas celebrations continue full-tilt into the new year, with Christmas markets in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square serving up hot food and drinks. You can choose between the elegant New Year's Eve gala ball at the Prague State Opera, or the more rowdy parties in any of the city's bars and pubs. Don't forget to watch the spectacular fireworks displays from Charles Bridge.

Known to some as the 'party capital of the north', Reykjavik really lets loose on New Year's Eve. Icelandic fireworks laws are relaxed for a few days, meaning anyone can set off their own display and the skies are constantly lit up with bright-coloured light flowers, against a backdrop of the spectacular Northern Lights. Other than that, you may encounter friendly bonfires where stories are told, songs are sung, and drinks are shared.

Thousands of minstrels take to the streets in a dazzling display of colourful satin uniforms, shiny parasols, painted faces and foot-tapping banjo tunes that accompany the traditional Cape Malay folk songs. The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival begins in the new year and the festivities continue into January with extravagant street parades; singing, dancing, costume competitions and marches through the streets from the central city area of District Six.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Earth Photography

Word Travels is all about info, but if it's just travel porn you're after, then the images at Earth Photography will satisfy you. One of my favourite travel photo sites, it's nothing but galleries of beautiful pictures that make you want to get out there and see the world for yourself! This great image was taken in Lisbon.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #06

Time for our Monday round-up! Here are the most active topics on the Word Travels Forum right now:

Remember that anyone can take advantage of our forum to ask your travel-related questions! We have local experts in hundreds of destinations worldwide that are ready to help you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Win a Trip to Geneva!

Speaking of Christmas markets, London City Airport is giving away four pairs of tickets to Geneva, Switzerland!

Geneva has a fantastic market well worth visiting... you can enter here, and you'd better do it soon!

Top 5 Travel Christmas Gift Ideas

Does Santa need a little help this year? Here are our favourite Christmas gift ideas for travellers:

Balanzza Digital Luggage Scale: There’s nothing worse than getting to the airport and discovering that your bag is several kilos overweight; you’re left rummaging through your luggage, wondering what you can possibly leave behind or lug with you on the plane. (I once spent a nine-hour flight with a queen-sized quilt clutched to my chest!) A luggage scale is a handy tool for frequent travellers, as it takes all the guesswork (and balancing on bathroom scales) out of packing.

Lifeventure Shampoo Leaves: With shampoo permanently on the no-fly list, there’s no way for sophisticated travellers to freshen up without digging through their checked bags. And there’s nothing worse than having a bottle explode all over your clothes and shoes! These shampoo leaves are perfect for those quick trips, and also for hiking and camping as they’re completely biodegradable. Makes a wonderful stocking stuffer!

Eurail Youth Pass: This is the perfect gift for all those graduates taking a gap year or summer vacation through Europe. The pass is available for anyone under 26, and allows them to wander through all 23 countries Eurail travels to. There are several options to choose from, depending on the length of the trip.

PicTranslator App: I know we talked about iPhone apps a few weeks ago, but this one deserves a mention. PicTranslator allows you to snap pictures of street signs, subway maps, menus and newspapers in foreign languages for instant translation in over 15 languages. Sure, you can’t wrap it up, but your iPhone-tourist friend or family member will love you for it.

Blankid: For well-travelled kids, this carryall/blanket is the ultimate in double-duty travel gear. It starts out as a backpack with removable pouched and unzips to become a soft blanket with a plush animal attached—perfect for naptime on the go!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Top 5 Countries You've Never Heard Of (But Should Visit)

Working at Word Travels, you have the privilege of discovering corners of the globe you never knew existed. Since I started here I've added many destinations to my bucket list, including the Plain of Jars in Laos, the Avenue of Baobabs in Madagascar, and the huge caverns of champagne at Epernay in France.

But I didn't expect to find entire countries that were completely new to me! Here are five countries you're never heard of from around the world:

Meaning 'good air' in French, Bonaire is nestled in deep in the Caribbean. With a perfectly consistent tropical temperature, which is moderated by Atlantic trade winds, Bonaire is the ideal playground for lovers of all things aquatic. From scuba diving, snorkelling and fishing to sea kayaking, wind surfing and kite boarding, this little slice of tropical paradise will provide beautiful memories to be relived for years.

A tiny country in the Himalayas guided by a policy called Gross National Happiness, Bhutan is at times a wonderfully strange place: the walls of many buildings are emblazoned with drawings of giant penises - an invocation of good luck and fertility. All new structures must follow the ancient style and people are obliged by law to wear traditional dress in public. Monks have broadband access, and cigarette sales are illegal. And, uniquely, 70 percent of the land is owned by women as inheritance is matrilineal.

Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) may be a tiny nation in the central tropical Pacific Ocean, but its 33 atolls, mostly surrounding turquoise lagoons and barely rising above the surrounding ocean, span a whopping 1.4 million square miles (3.5 million sq km) of the Pacific Ocean. Many people come here to sunbathe on one of the countless sandy white beaches, sip on an exotic cocktail and watch other beach goers partake in volleyball, surfing, kayaking and jet skiing.

Most famous as a tax haven sandwiched between Spain and France, the tiny independent Principality of Andorra has some of the best skiing in the world. If skiing is not for you, however, Andorra also offers plenty of hiking opportunities, horse riding, golfing, relaxing in some fine restaurants and cafes, and of course some excellent duty-free shopping.

Curaçao is an ideal holiday destination for underwater lovers, as the excellent visibility, warm water, active reef conservation and variety of dive and snorkelling sites ranks the island among the best dive locations in the Caribbean. On land there are also several interesting sites to visit, including the 'living' Hato Caves where centuries-old stalagmites and stalactites are still being formed; the protected wildlife preserve of Christoffel Park with bent divi divi trees and blue iguanas; and the dramatic limestone caverns within Shete Boka National Park.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Snakes on a Plane... really.

According to news sources, a passenger was arrested in Abu Dhabi carrying a bag filled with snakes and other animals. Authorities have been unable to explain how the man was able to smuggle the animals onto a flight from Indonesia. The bag contained four pythons, two parrots and a squirrel.

Samuel L. Jackson was unavailable for comment.

Read the full story here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Where I've Been

Part website and part Facebook app, Where I've Been is a way for avid travellers to keep track of all the places they've been... and show off to their friends, of course!

You can customise your map with all the places you've visited and lived, and also mark the places you'd still like to visit. Who knows? Maybe you'll discover that you and your best friend secretly both want to visit Cyprus and start planning that trip!

Find out more about Where I've Been here.

Word Travels Forum Round-Up #05

It's our Monday Forum Round-Up, so here are the hottest topics for the week:

Not the info you're looking for? Ask our local experts yourself on the forum!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Win a Trip to South Africa!

It's Free Stuff Friday, and this week we're going wild!

Maybe you missed the World Cup, but you can still see South Africa! South African Airways is giving away two round-trip tickets from the US to SA via their Facebook page.

Enter now and there may be elephants in your mirror in the near future...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Salvador da Bahia

As the Northern Hemisphere is pounded with snow and ice and the mercury dips ridiculously low, you can't help but dream of a tropical getaway. .. and the only thing wrong with the excellent beaches in Salvador da Bahia is that visitors are spoilt for choice. The range extends from calm coves (ideal for swimming, sailing and underwater fishing, such as Porto da Barra beach) to wild beaches facing the Atlantic Ocean, such as Aleluia beach, which attracts surfers. Some beaches are surrounded by coral reefs, forming natural swimming pools that are ideal for children. The beaches are the location for many of Salvador's great festivals, including the New Year festivities, which include performances and an impressive fireworks display.

The spicy atmosphere of this delightfully decadent city in Brazil is best soaked up on foot, within the narrow streets and in the markets, the best of which is the Mercado Modelo arts and crafts market. Most churches are open to the public and many have been turned into museums. One of the city's more unusual experiences is to ride the Elevador Lacerda, an Art Deco structure housing old electric elevators that carry passengers between the port and the old historic part of the town, on the hill.

Read more about Salvador here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Top 5 Christmas Markets

It's the holiday season, and we've taken a look at the best Christmas markets from around the world! Here are our favourites:

USA: Bryant Park Holiday Market (New York City)

This pretty park in New York City is bound to put you in the holiday mood. Situated around a large ice skating rink, there are lots of activities for kids including magicians, carriage rides, a reading area and carousel. A 50-foot Christmas tree lit by 30,000 lights adds to the holiday spirit. The market is open 11am-8pm Monday to Friday, 10am-9pm Saturday, and 10am-6pm Sunday through January 2nd.

Germany: Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt

Though Germany is famous for its abundance of Christmas markets, the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt has accumulated over 400 years of experience and now draws visitors from all over the globe. The Old Town is saturated in Christmas spirit with lights and decorations, and the scent of mulled wine and gingerbread fills the air. The children’s area even features a steam-powered merry-go-round! The market runs 9:30am-8pm Monday to Thursday, 9:30am-10pm Friday and Saturday, and 10:30am-8pm Sunday through December 24th.

Czech Republic: Prague Christmas Markets

It’s hard to choose just one Christmas market in Prague, as the city boasts four festive areas within walking distance of each other! The markets at Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, Havelske Trziste and Namesti Republiky offer life-sized nativities, carol singing, children’s entertainment and hot food and drinks to warm you as you browse the stalls! The markets run daily throughout December.

South Africa: Adderley Street Night Market (Cape Town)

Cape Town’s famous flower market in the heart of the downtown area blooms with holiday cheer with the addition of hundreds of stalls filled with gifts and goodies of all kinds. The Adderley Street Night Market has entertainment for the whole family including magicians, face painters, trapeze artists and live music. The market is open from 6:30-11:30pm December 17th through 30th.

France: Noel a Lille

One of France’s most popular holiday markets, the Noel a Lille draws nearly a million people every year due to Lille's location on the Eurostar rail line. Along with the sumptuous decorations (including an 18 metre Christmas tree) and the sound of Christmas carols, the market boasts a 50 metre ferris wheel where you can get the best views of the city. The market is open 11am-8pm Sunday to Thursday, and 11am-9pm Friday and Saturday through December 30th.