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Sun, Sand, and a Side of History: 7 Historic Sites You Must Visit in the Caribbean

 If you love sun and sand… with a side of history, here are seven Caribbean islands whose history lives on today through preserved and protected UNESCO World Heritage historic sites.

Which history-rich destinations top your list for an upcoming beach holiday with a twist?


ANTIGUA: “Nelson’s Dockyard”

Known for its famous inhabitant, British Admiral Lord Nelson, who lived in Antigua’s Royal Navy Dockyard for three years in the 1780’s, Nelson’s Dockyard is part of a National Park UNESCO site that is comprised of Georgian naval buildings and a walled enclosure. (Pictured, top, courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority)

Historically, for Britain’s Royal Navy far from home in the West Indies, Antigua’s coast and English Harbour were a perfect bolt hole from enemies and the elements. Deep, narrow bays protected by mountains provided an ideal location to repair ships and regroup safe from hurricanes.


In the late 1700’s, the Dockyard was built, using enslaved Africans, as a strategic, Eastern Caribbean stronghold to protect English sugarcane plantations from other European powers trying to expand their Caribbean presence.
Nelson’s Dockyard isn’t just an historic site. Today, Nelson’s Dockyard is still Antigua’s main port, where cruise visitors to Antigua embark and disembark, as well as hosting the country’s famous sailing and yachting events.
 

BARBADOS: Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison

The distinction of biggest British colonial garrison in the 17- and 1800’s belonged to Barbados. Combined with the capital of Barbados, Bridgetown, one of the finest remaining examples of British colonial settlements of the period, it’s a UNESCO site.

Bridgetown’s name comes from the bridge constructed in the area by earlier Amerindian inhabitants, before being settled by the British beginning in the 1600’s. Other Dutch and Spanish settlements were laid out in a grid, but Bridgetown follows a ‘serpentine’ city layout. Bridgetown’s harbor was a key maritime hub and frequent first port of call for ships arriving from a trans-Atlantic crossing.


The Barbados Garrison began at the turn of the 1700’s with construction of a fort, barracks, parade ground and other supporting buildings, including its famous red towered guardhouse. It protected the island from attacks by competing colonial powers like Spain, Holland and France.

Bridgetown and its Garrison are still central to life on Barbados. Cruises call at Bridgetown’s port, and some lines embark on Caribbean itineraries from Bridgetown, which has a host of land and sea-based activities for visitors.
 

CURACAO: Historic Willemstad and its Harbor

Willemstad (in English: William Town) is the modern-day capital of the Dutch island Curacao. Until 2010, it was also the capital of what had been the Netherlands / Dutch Antilles, which included the ‘ABC’ islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, as well as the ‘SSS’ islands of Dutch St. Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius.


Its candy-colored, unmistakable harborfront skyline combines Dutch with Spanish and Portuguese architectural styles of the 1600’s. It’s one of the most distinctive and best-preserved historic cities in the Caribbean. Willemstad is home to the oldest surviving synagogue in the New World.

Today, Curacao, in the southern Caribbean, is a must-see destination for travelers who have already immersed themselves in the more abundant examples of British and Spanish Caribbean history. The ABC islands are famous for their dry, desert climates, and world-class diving, as well as iconic examples of 400-year-old Dutch history.
 

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Colonial City of Santo Domingo

The capital of the Dominican Republic was the first seat of Spanish colonial rule in the Americas. This ‘cradle’ of the New World was founded in 1496 soon after the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s the oldest, continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas.


Santo Domingo’s Colonial City is much more than a single building, which is sometimes all that remains of historic settlements. It’s home to the first cathedral, first hospital, first customs house, first fortress, first monastery, first castle, and first university in the Americas. In addition to the historic landmarks, Santo Domingo’s early form of urban planning created a city laid out in a grid pattern, establishing the model that would be used throughout Latin America as Spanish and Portuguese influence spread.

Although most famous as an all-inclusive beach resort vacation destination, and many visitors to the Dominican Republic stay in their beach resort communities, expanding your visit to Santo Domingo’s UNESCO World Heritage Colonial City is an eye-opening, intriguing insight into the entire region’s history. 

JAMAICA: Blue and John Crow Mountains

The mountains that cover a fifth of the island are Jamaica’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also the Caribbean's first World Heritage Mixed Site for both natural and cultural riches.

In addition to being a global biodiversity ‘hotspot’ with 1357 flowering plants, a quarter of which are only found in Jamaica, and 87 that can only be found in the park, the steep slopes of the rare, ‘tropical mountain’ environment are the only known home for rare butterflies, birds, boa and other creatures. 


History lives here, too. This is where indigenous Tainos and former enslaved persons fled to escape colonial power. The thickly forested mountains provided the isolation and natural resources for the Maroons' survival and fight for freedom. They developed a profound knowledge of and spiritual connection to the mountains, creating a cultural legacy that survives in modern Jamaica.

Tangible history of the Maroons' life and resistance in the mountains also remains today. The Nanny Town Heritage Route includes settlements, trails, viewpoints, and hiding places.
 
The Blue and John Crow Mountains sustained Maroons and hid them as they struggled to survive and achieve recognition and liberation. Their struggle and successes influenced other slave resistance in the region, and is a powerful story of humanity for all people of the world.

PUERTO RICO: La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site

If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship arriving into port in San Juan at sunrise, you’ll have seen one of the most beautiful approaches by sea in the Islands. San Juan’s fortified harbor projects on rocky shores out into the sea, with emerald greenery setting off the stones and the waves.


The series of defensive structures that are now a UNESCO World Heritage site on this U.S. territory were built beginning in the 1500’s, and one quick look at a map will tell you why. Puerto Rico occupies a very strategic position in the Caribbean Sea, and this fortified harbor stood guard over the bay and city.

The U.S. National Park Service manages the Old San Juan site that includes a citadel, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, built from the 15- 1700’s and named after Spanish King Philip II, as well as bastions, powder houses, and almost all of the impressive old city wall.

La Fortaleza or El Palacio de Santa Catalina, is the name given to the vivid, wedding-cake style governor’s mansion in Old San Juan. Built in 1533, it has been the official governor’s residence for centuries and is the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the New World.
 

ST. KITTS & NEVIS: Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

The UNESCO World Heritage historic site in the twin-island country is the fortress – one of the best preserved historical fortifications in the New World - perched on the steep slopes of St. Kitts’ Brimstone Hill. Like Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua, and Bridgetown, Barbados’ historic core and garrison, Brimstone Hill’s fort is a British military construction. It was built in the 17th and 18th centuries by enslaved Africans.

But the historic site everyone’s talking about these days is on next-door Nevis, where a stone house originally built in the late 1600’s merges Nevisian and American history. The recent, wild success of the Broadway musical Hamilton has shone a spotlight on the Nevisian birthplace of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who, among many accomplishments during a pivotal time in history, was instrumental in having the international slave trade made illegal.

(Image courtesy Four Seasons Nevis)
In the heart of Nevis’ small main town of Charlestown, Hamilton House and other historic buildings are still very much part of local life. The first floor is a museum, and the second floor is the meeting room for the island’s House of assembly.

The landmark resort on the island, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, has even created a special Hamilton experience to bring his legacy to life for guests, involving a visit with a local storyteller, on-resort experiences and even a Hamilton-inspired playlist.


 START YOUR HISTORIC ISLAND TRIP!



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Hike Europe's Most Famous Ancient Trail During This Jubilee Year
Only once or maybe twice a decade, the Camino de Santiago becomes an even more remarkable hiking journey through Spain.

Pilgrims and tourists have been hiking the “Way of St. James,” as it translates, since the 9th century. It’s a 500-mile (800 km) route across northern Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, the spiritual home of the apostle James who preached in Spain, became its patron saint, and whose remains were returned here and enshrined.

The route of St. James’ final, return journey to Spain became a pilgrimage, one that continues to this day.

Spiritual and religious devotees walking the route today are joined by those taking the “Way of St. James” as a journey of self-discovery, to achieve a personal challenge, or to explore this unique cultural experience and northern Spanish countryside actively on foot or by bicycle.
 

Jubilee Years on the Camino de Santiago

 
And if your trip coincides with a Jacobean (from “James”) Holy Year, the experience will be all the more exceptional. The “Xacobeo Holy Year” occurs when the festival of St. James, which takes place annually on July 25th, falls on a Sunday. That means the special celebrations of Jubilee Year happen once or twice a decade.
 
Due to the pandemic, the Holy Year 2021 was extended for the first time over two years. Already, special festivities have begun for its second half. “Light up the Xacobeo” is an initiative where more than a hundred monuments and landmark buildings throughout Spain are illuminated to honor the special pilgrimage year. Half of those are along the actual Camino de Santiago. 

 (Illuminations at the terminus, at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, courtesy of the Tourist Board of Spain)

They include a wayfinding arrow, pointing the way to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the terminus of the Way and a long pilgrimage. They mirror the wayfinding signs that are used to mark the actual route still today.
 
This year’s Xacobeo Holy Year has gone global. Recognizing how communities and the world have come together even more during pandemic times, “Light up the Xacobeo” illuminations and wayfinding have spread beyond Spain’s borders.
 
Here, for example, is Notre-Dame Cathedral in Ottawa, Canada, illuminated for the Holy Year Jubilee – wayfinding arrow guiding pilgrims and seekers towards Spain.

(Photo courtesy of the Tourist Board of Spain in Canada)

In addition to special, wayfinding illuminations, the Way of St. James in Spain this Jubilee year will be celebrated by events including concerts, art exhibitions, films, conferences and educational activities for all ages.

Centuries-Old Traditions


That’s in addition to all the traditions of the Way of St. James, not just wayfinding markers that range from the humble to the spectacular illuminations of the Jubilee year.


Scallops are the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. The shellfish is plentiful on the beaches of the region, and originally the shells may have been practical for pilgrims to scoop shared food and water, as well as become a souvenir of the life-changing journey. 

Pilgrims still wear a shell to show they are on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. And scallop shell markers, including brass shells inlaid in cobblestone paths, or stylized sideways shells, often gold on a blue background on signposts or buildings still mark the path through towns and countryside. 


Most pilgrims then and now buy and carry the credencial. In days of yore, it provided access free accommodations and support for pilgrims along the Way. It’s also like a passport, an official record of your journey. You get an official St. James stamp in each town you eat, or official stay along the way, and presented at the Pilgrim's Office once you reach Santiago, proves that you have completed the official route and qualify for a 'compostela' – a certificate of completion.

A Pilgrim's Mass is held in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela twice daily, and pilgrims who received their compostela the day before have their countries and where they started their journeys announced during Mass.

Pilgrimages had trickled down to only a few hundred travelers along the Camino de Santiago by the 1980's. Then, in 1987, it was declared the first European Cultural Route and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Modern pilgrims and secular active travelers re-discovered the appeal of the historic route.  

These days, 300,000 or more people make the trip every year on foot, by bicycle or horseback, and in escorted tours by vehicle that stop at highlights along the way. During Jubilee years, that number swells.

The trip on foot from the Spanish border nowadays takes about a month. Not everyone who walks on the Camino receives a compostela, but you can still earn one without a month-long commitment. 

To qualify, you must make the pilgrimage for religious or spiritual reasons, even if they are your own spirituality and inner quest, do the last 100 km (approx 60 miles) on foot or horseback, or the last 200 km (approx 120 miles) by bicycle, AND you still need to collect a certain number of stamps in your credencial which you present at the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago de Compostela.

The next Jubilee Year for the Camino de Santiago isn't until 2027, so don’t wait to experience this uplifting, unique experience.
 
As the Tourist Board of Spain says: Just walk. Buen Camino.
 

 

START YOUR TRIP!


Top image courtesy of the Tourist Board of Spain.

Unless noted, other images: Getty

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World First UNESCO Trail Connects 13 Sites in Scotland 13 diverse sites with natural and cultural significance, including World Heritage Sites, Biospheres, Global Geoparks and Creative Cities now form a dedicated digital trail. read more
Mary Shelley's House of Frankenstein Opens in the Birthplace of Famous Fictional Monster
Over 200 years ago, a trail-blazing female author penned the novel that brought one of the first tales of the horror genre to life.
This year, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein opened to commemorate the life of the novelist and her legendary, terrorizing creature.

In 1816, at just 19 years old, Mary Shelley wrote much of her novel Frankenstein in the chic, English spa-city of Bath.

Frankenstein the novel was groundbreaking on two levels: it had a rare, woman author, and it was one of the earliest examples of published horror stories. Shelley’s novel helped spawn a popular culture trend that resulted in a literary, theatrical, and nowadays, film and television landscape full of vampires, monsters, the living dead, medical and science experiments gone awry with terrifying and supernatural results.

Mary Shelley’s monster has been immortalized countless times over in frightening or campy, early and recent films, in pop culture references like cartoons and music videos, and is of course a perennially classic Hallowe’en costume.
Now Frankenstein’s monster has a permanent home of its own in the town where it was born.

Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein in Bath celebrates the author as well as her notorious fictional creature. Her monstrous literary creation has 'lived' in various artistic forms non-stop since its inception in Shelley’s novel, but this is the world’s first attraction dedicated to the trail-blazing Regency-era author.

Interactive exhibits tell the full story behind the genesis of ‘Frankenstein’. Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein celebrates the legacy of the author’s work across four atmospheric floors, uncovering:

Mary Shelley’s Unusual and Complex Life - Visitors retrace the tragic and unconventional life events and radical scientific thinking that flourished in Shelley’s active and ahead-of-its-time mind;

The Monster of Shelley’s Imagination - You’ll confront head on the formidable 8-foot breathing creature in a world-first recreation exactly as the author imagined in her novel;

Frankenstein in Popular Culture - Revisit all things Frankenstein and his “monster” in the Popular Culture rooms bursting with vintage memorabilia, props, posters, and even bizarre collector items;

Enter the Darkness - Venture down into a dank foreboding basement, in a dark and disorientating walkthrough experience revealing the unhallowed practices of a deranged scientist.

Multi-sensory Classic Horror


Brace yourself for a thrill. Ominous music and unsettling soundscapes, eery temperature shifts, bespoke scents and unsettling aromas, lighting and special effects, electric shocks, projections, and props deliver a scarily immersive, unnervingly thrilling and visceral experience.

It’s not all scary, though. In the Popular Culture rooms, notes of cinemas, popular culture and childhood nostalgia are conjured with gourmand notes of popcorn, vanilla, caramel, chocolate with an undertone of plastic and even playdoh!

You Can’t Escape Frankenstein’s Monster - or Can You?


The bravest of 'Franken-fans’ can test their mettle in Victor’s Lair Escape Room, where you have just one hour to unravel the ramblings of his deranged mind and, more critically, your way out.

You begin locked in Victor’s miserable attic quarters, strewn with insane equations, strange artefacts and miscellaneous body parts. Trying in vain to unlock the mysteries of life itself, he needs just a few more ‘vital’ components to fulfil his maniacal quest. If you and your group can unravel the ramblings of a madman and discover the equation through 14 challenges, you’ll reveal the mystery of Frankenstein’s undead life, but more critically, your way out to freedom.

Between the literary history, the tale of a trail-blazing woman author, a creature who has embedded itself into our cultural fabric, immersive and entertaining exhibits and challenging activities, as well as tongue-in-cheek approach that even has body parts in jars intermixed with items for sale in the gift shop, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein has become a gothic must-do experience in the elegantly Regency-era city of Bath.

#StartYourTrip!


Images courtesy of Mary Shelley's House of Frankenstein, Bath, UK



This New Museum in Oslo is a Real 'Scream'
Edvard Munch’s 'The Scream' is one of the most famously eery pieces of art in history, and it continues to disturb admirers today.

Now, MUNCH, a new museum and landmark architectural masterpiece on Oslo’s waterfront, has opened, with the world’s largest collection of works by the famed Norwegian artist. That includes several versions of Munch’s iconic work, The Scream, including an early study in pastel from 1893 and a later painted version from 1910.

More than 26,000 works bequeathed by the artist to the City of Oslo are housed in the massive museum with unparalleled views of the Oslo Fjord. It’s one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to a single artist.

11 exhibition halls feature not only versions of Munch’s most famous, disturbing work, but also over half of Munch’s known works, from paintings, prints, photographs, drawings and watercolours by the artist, ranging from 1873 to 1944, to monumental mural paintings like The Sun (1909), which stretches nearly 8 meters.

While Munch is best-known for The Scream, he also experimented with various media and techniques at the edge of modernism. In addition to the paintings, watercolours and woodblock prints for which he is best known, Munch bought a Kodak camera in 1902 and is recognized today as one of the first artists to experiment with self-portrait photography.

The museum’s collection also includes thousands of other items included in Edvard Munch’s original bequest to Oslo such as his printing plates and lithographic stones as well as thousands of letters and approximately 10,000 of the artist’s personal belongings.

Image: Munchmuseet

Alongside personal items and displays of iconic artworks from the renowned permanent collection, temporary exhibitions will show Edvard Munch’s lasting influence in his own contemporary society, as well as on today’s generation of artists.

In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the highlights of Edvard Munch’s work and influence, visitors will get to enjoy a wide-ranging program of cultural events and experiences for art lovers of all ages, including concerts of all types of historic and ultra-modern music, literature readings, performance and art workshops.

That includes those interested in modern architecture and the transformation of the Oslo city skyline.

Image: Munchmuseet

Right on the edge of the Fjord and in the heart of Oslo’s city life on the water, MUNCH was designed and created in homage to Edvard Munch’s connection to the Norwegian landscape and his habit of painting outdoors in all seasons.

The top floor opens up into an observation area, offering some of Oslo’s most spectacular views. The perforated, translucent aluminium façade reflects the changing colours and conditions of the Oslo skies. Visitors can also enjoy dining in the 13th floor restaurant with views overlooking the city and Fjord.

A can’t-miss destination on your next trip to the Norwegian capital.

#StartYourTrip!

All images courtesy MUNCH






New Museum in Denmark Celebrates the Fantastical World of Hans Christian Andersen
Many of us have spent hours of our own childhoods or alongside our favorite kids immersed in stories like the Snow Queen, the Emperor’s New Clothes, the Princess and the Pea, the Nightingale, and the Little Mermaid, either in timeless storybooks or Disney movie incarnations.

Now, the author who created these immortal works is being reinterpreted and remembered in a new museum in his birthplace of Odense in Denmark. The new attraction is one of Denmark’s largest and most ambitious museums.
 
Hans Christian Andersen was born in 1805, and lived until 1875. Denmark is home to a number of reminders of his enormous contributions to our collective culture, including a statue of Andersen himself and another of his famous Little Mermaid overlooking the sea in Copenhagen.

In the summer of 2021, a new museum opens in Odense, called H.C. Andersen’s House, and the exhibition leads to the author’s childhood home to showcase Andersen’s life’s journey. 

His fantastical fairytales serve as the foundation of a brand new type of museum, whose designers say will not just communicate about Andersen, but as Andersen.

The vision for H.C. Andersen's House is to create a complete artistic experience in which architecture, sound, light and a stream of images constantly invite new encounters between each visitor and Andersen’s fairytales. 


“Hans Christian Andersen’s artistic universe is fantastic, because it reverses how you imagine this world you thought you knew,” explains Creative Director of the new museum, Henrik Lübker.
 
“In the new museum, we use Andersen’s own artistic strategies as the starting point for how the garden, the house and the exhibition have all been shaped, as well as for the many artistic contributions that will also be part of the museum.”
 

The museum is a vision of a fantastical world that might have been dreamed up by the teller of fairytales himself. The famous Japanese architect who designed the museum was inspired by Andersen’s story ‘The Tinderbox,’ in which a tree reveals an underground world and a secret, new universe.


In a nearly 1.5 acre site, a children’s house and underground museum, entwined with a surrounding magical garden, don’t just retell favorite fairytales, they let you walk in the footsteps of the author, and pique visitors with the familiarity and nostalgia of childhood memories, and inspire us to re-read the works of Hans Christian Andersen all over again with fresh and playful eyes.
 
Fun fact about Hans Christian Andersen: he had a travel imagination, too. Andersen travelled throughout Europe, as far as Morocco in the mid-19th century, and the travel quote, “To travel is to live” was written by Andersen in 1855.

#StartYourTrip!


All images via Visit Denmark




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Celebrate the Māori Lunar New Year and the Southern Dark Skies in New Zealand
New Zealand is in celebration mode in July with the arrival of Matariki.

It's a constellation of stars that rises in New Zealand skies, shining their brightest in the first week of the month.

Known to astronomers as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, Matariki is believed to have formed more than 100 million years ago, and this pre-historic cluster of stars plays a pivotal role in modern and ancient Māori mythology.

The rising of Matariki marks the Māori Lunar New Year, a significant time in the New Zealand cultural calendar.

The Matariki celebration focuses on three principles:
  • Remembrance: Honoring those lost since the last rising of Matariki;
  • Celebrating the present: Gathering together and giving thanks for today's blessings; and
  • Looking to the future: Anticipating the promise of a new year.
 
In addition to the Māori Lunar New Year, this astronomical event inspires festivals across the country, and like the commemorations of the indigenous people, it's seen as a time to celebrate new life, to remember those who’ve passed and to plan for the future. A time to spend with whānau (extended family) and friends – to enjoy kai (food), kōrero (story) and waiata (song).

(Aurora Australis 'Southern Lights', courtesy Dunedin, NZ)
 
In 2022, the reappearance of the constellation will be recognised as an official public holiday on June 24th, providing the opportunity for visitors to plan holidays in the middle of the year, and reconnect with friends and family in New Zealand.

The magic of astronomy each summer has more than history and cultural significance. It also gives star gazers an occasion to turn their gazes to the heavens above New Zealand. Here are some of the most incredible places in the country to catch a glimpse of the Matariki constellation.

(Dark Sky Reserve - Twizel courtesy Jack Austin)

Dark Sky Sanctuary at Aotea (Great Barrier Island), Hauraki Gulf

 
Aotea (meaning 'white cloud' in Māori), also known as Great Barrier, is New Zealand’s sixth-largest island and completely off the grid, with no electricity supply. The island is one of only five Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world, and was named the first ever Island Sanctuary in June 2017.
 
 
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Luxury Cabins at Owhaoko, Taupō

 
There’s no roads, no people, no internet and no cell phone coverage at Owhaoko, making it the perfect place for a digital detox in a luxury cabin with views so spectacular one of the bedrooms is made of glass. The luxury cabin’s Māori name is Te Whare Ruruhau (a place of shelter, refuge and protection) has two double bedrooms – one with glass walls and ceiling – and guests can enjoy everything from a bubble bath under the stars with champagne to gourmet meals cooked using traditional Māori methods.
 
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(Night Skies over Red Tarns, Aoraki courtesy Lee Cook)

The Darkest Skies in the world: Aoraki / Mount Cook Mackenzie Region

 
Much of New Zealand has no 'light pollution' and is home to some of the most accessible observatories in the world. In 2012, 4,300 square kilometers of New Zealand’s South Island was recognized as the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. That formalized restrictions on light pollution that had been in place since the 1980s.


This was the first reserve to be awarded gold status, meaning nearly non-existent light pollution. It is one of the clearest, darkest and most spectacular places in New Zealand to view the night skies, and keen stargazers are able to see amazing constellations that can only be seen in the southern hemisphere, including the Southern Cross, the Magellanic Clouds and the Milky Way.
 
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(Aurora Australis ('Southern Lights') Southland, NZ courtesy VideocopterNZ)

Dark Sky Sanctuary: Rakiura (Stewart Island), Southland

 
Stewart Island’s population is only around 400 people, making little impact on the darkness that surrounds the island. Plus, its far-south vantage point means you’ll see celestial features not visible from any other spot in the country. Local policies formalize the community's commitment to environmental protection and help to preserve the pristine skies. 
 

#StartYourTrip!


Images courtesy NewZealand.com and specific copyright holders where indicated.






Now You Can Discover Your European Family Heritage While Sailing on a River Cruise
It’s news that marries two of the fastest-growing styles of travel: river cruising and family heritage travel.

AmaWaterways has partnered with Ancestry, the company that specializes in genomics and connecting people to their family history.

The river cruise line has done family-heritage themed cruises before, but now, you’ll be able to uncover specific details about your own family. That’s because guests are given pre-cruise private ancestry consultation and family history research, while onboard, presentations and curated excursions hosted by an expert genealogist connect your present with your past.

AmaWaterways says the pandemic highlighted how we cherish our family connections and travel – and trips like these offer us the privilege to travel to find our roots. They were inspired to help guests bring “treasured family stories to life.”

Obviously, not everyone will find their roots on a European river cruise. The series begins on the Rhine river, from Amsterdam through the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France and Switzerland, so people with ancestors who came from one – or more! – of those countries, and who have wanted to walk in the footsteps of family members who came before them, will find it an appealing opportunity to have an expert-hosted trip to the land your family once called 'home'.


Imagine a deep dive into your family story, with the help of experts – and while you are sailing the historic Rhine river, the magic of travel is enhanced by the knowledge that your forebears likely passed along the river too. The rivers were the first transportation and communication routes, before road travel developed, so sailing on the river makes an ancestry trip feel even more authentic.

The marriage of ancestry and river cruise begins before you actually sail. You’re matched with an expert from Ancestry’s professional research division, and on a call at home, you can discuss what you already know about your family history and what you’re hoping to discover.

The experts take that information away and start researching your family background – and filter away what is true and what’s just family legend! As well as identify places of interest you may visit or pass by while sailing along the Rhine.

On board, an expert genealogist offers presentations to provide insight into what life was like for guests’ ancestors and highlight the types of records that are available for them to learn more. As guests sail along the Rhine, enjoying every delight of a river cruise, since you’re passing through different regions where your ancestors lived, it triggers your historic imagination and heightens the river cruise experience even more.

The genealogist will also explain the history behind those areas, providing a deeper understanding of the past and a glimpse of guests’ ancestors’ everyday lives.

Guests also enjoy a private onboard consultation with the expert genealogist to review their own family tree, coming full circle from their initial consultation at home before their trip and connecting the dots with what was discovered during your journey. Guests will also have the opportunity to enjoy an Ancestry-specific group excursion with their expert genealogist. In certain cases, travelers can delve even deeper with an optional add-on of an Ancestral Home Visit accompanied by an expert genealogist.
 
Heritage travel on the rivers of Europe promises to be a whole new way to enjoy European river cruising, with another dimension of meaning to the historic towns and countryside, even the waterways themselves.

Your trusted travel advisor can help you plan a trip with the deep meaning of returning to your roots – and the great pleasure of returning to travel.
 

#StartYourTrip!

 
Images courtesy AmaWaterways




Discover 'Japan's Machu Picchu'
 In Japan, it’s called the ‘Castle in the Sky’, but international travelers who’ve discovered historic Takeda Castle have compared it to another mountain-top historic ruin half a world away in South America.

Peru’s Machu Picchu has made most intrepid travelers’ bucket lists of adventures. But Japan’s Takeda Castle (pronounced: ‘tah-kay-dah’) - that's about the same age as Peru's Machu Picchu - remains an other-worldly experience unknown to most overseas travelers. That's especially surprising considering it’s in the district next door to the ancient capital city of Kyoto, which is a must-do stop for nearly every visitor to Japan.

It’s worth the detour to the mountains of Hyogo Prefecture. Visitors make pre-dawn ascents to viewpoints on the mountain opposite just to gaze over upon the wonder of Takeda Castle at sunrise, appearing to float on top of what the Japanese call ‘unkai’ or ‘a sea of clouds’ - triggered by early morning fog.