It’s the fifth largest country in the world, and home to perhaps the world’s happiest people. Many know Brazil best for its samba, carnival and soccer, but this is only the beginning of it. Among its highlights include metropolis Rio de Janeiro, old gold capital of Ouro Prêto, the amazing Foz de Iguaçu falls, its white-sand beaches scattered along the more than 7000 km long coastline, not to forget the wildlife and wilderness of the Amazon and Pantanal.
Rio de Janeiro: Cidade Maravilhosa
Few cities in the world have been blessed by as much natural beauty as Rio de Janeiro. Its name conjures images of white-sand beaches (37 in total), the Cristo Redentor, carnival, a football-game at Maracanã, samba or favela. Rio de Janeiro is a diverse city, from the 19th century hillside neighborhood of Santa Teresa to the Americanized suburb of Barra da Tijuca. Though, most visitors tend to stick to the beach neighborhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema, with the near-mandatory excursions to Corcovado and Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf).
Petrópolis: Imperial Town
One of the nicest day excursions from Rio de Janeiro is to the mountain town of Petrópolis. The Museu Imperial in the center of town was once the summer retreat of Emperor Dom Pedro II. Besides the prodigal interior of the palace, on display is also the 1.7 kg imperial crown (with 639 diamonds and 77 pearls). Another impressive structure in Petrópolis is the Palácio Cristal, a huge glass house originally built in France. Petrópolis is just a little over one hour from Rio’s Rodoviária (Bus Terminal).
São Paulo: Gigapolis
Look up metropolis in the dictionary and you’ll probably find a picture of São Paulo. It’s one of the world’s largest cities, and the population of greater São Paulo is expected to reach 25 million by 2025. São Paulo is the financial capital of South America, and the paulistas (natives of São Paulo) are best known in the rest of the country for being serious workers. São Paulo has arguably the best restaurants (thanks to its ethnic diversity) and nightlife in Brazil.
Tokyo: Endless City
With 35 million people in the metropolitan area, Tokyo (capital of Japan) can rightfully be called one of the world’s great megacities. It is an endless expanse of buildings and overground highways and railroads, lit by the ever-present neon signs. History and the old has definitely had to take the backseat, with future pushing ahead at full speed. The size and density of Tokyo can be intimidating at first, but with patience and curiosity the many small treasures of the city reveal themselves.
Indonesia: Island Smiles
See sunrise over Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world. Nearby is the Hindu temple of Prambanan. Both are within easy reach of cultural city Yogyakarta. Then cross the island of Java to see Jakarta, capital of 240 million Indonesians. Don’t forget to drop by Jakarta’s port to see the schooners of the Bugis people, one of the world’s last commercial sailboat-fleets. By size Java is not Indonesia’s biggest island, but with 130 million inhabitants you’ll have ample opportunity to meet the smiling Javanese.
This months’ featured destination:
Turkey: East Meets West
At the crossroads between east and west, Turkey has always been a battleground between forces from all directions. Besides Russia, it’s the only country two have both Asian and European territory. It’s culture is diverse, containing flavours from Central Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. It’s this diversity, along with the natural and historical diversity of the country, that makes it such a popular place with travelers. Our favourite itinerary is cappadocia tour from istanbul
Istanbul: Turkish Nights
Istanbul may no longer be the capital of Turkey, however it remains the economic and cultural powerhouse of the country. It’s historic landmarks links it with its Ottoman past, while it’s young population has firm course set towards the future. Most tourists spend a good portion of their time in the area of Sultanahmet, which contains Topkapı Palace, Aya Sofia (Hagia Sophia) and the Sultanahmet Camii (the Blue Mosque). However, don’t miss many of the other interesting areas of the city, such as Beyoğlu, Beşiktas and Ortaköy.
Ephesus: Wonder of the World
In the classical Greek world, Ephesus (Efes in Turkish) was one of the greatest cities. It was most famous for the Temple of Artemis, in honour of the virgin goddess of the hunt and the moon, and this temple was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Even though time has taken its toll, Ephesus is the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean. It is located 3 kilometers from the town of Selçuk, and about a one hour’s drive from the city of İzmir
Iran: Axes, Schmaxes
Iran has gotten a bad reputation over last 25 years, mainly due to its conservative ruling clerics. First-time visitors to Iran are in for a big surprise! The bruteness of the regime is in stark contrast to its friendly population. Persian hospitality is second to none. Other reasons to visit Iran are its amazing historical monuments, and its impressive nature. Iran ranges from the historical cities of the dry south, to the snowcapped Alborz Mountains (known for skiing) and the Mediterranean-like Caspian region of the north. Iran has it all!
Isfahan: Cultural Highlight
The former capital of Isfahan tops the list of many visitors to Iran. The major attraction is the magnificent (Islamic) architecture, mainly exhibited through the Imam Square (also known as Naqsh-e Jahan Square by the locals). At 500 by 160 meters the square is one of the world’s biggest, and it is surrounded by important historical buildings. On the east and west side you find the Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque and Ali Qapu, respectively. But the real gem is on the south side, the grand Imam Mosque. It is the masterpiece of Islamic architecture in Iran.
Isfahan: Bridge of 33 Arches
Like many other of the great monuments of Isfahan, the Si-o-Seh Pol (meaning Bridge of 33 Arches) was built under the great Shah Abbas I. Under his rule, from 1587-1629, the Persian empire became one of the most powerful in the world. Abbas was the one who moved the capital from Qazvin to Isfahan, and changing the face of the new capital into becoming one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The Si-o-Seh Pol was built between 1599 and 1602.
Tehran: Supreme Mausoleum
Getting to the mausoleum of the former Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, is quite easy. Take Tehran Metro Line 1 to the end station Haram-e-Motahar. The mausoleum itself is a huge structure a few hundred meters from the station, a mixture between mausoleum, mosque and shopping center. Apparently Khomeini wanted it to be a place for the people, though the budget for building the place doesn’t suggest much for this. Go inside to see Iranians mourn their late leader.
Nature: Alborz Mountains
The Alborz Mountains stretch all the way from the border with Armenia in the north-west to the borders with Afghanistan and Turkmenistan in the east. It also contains Iran’s tallest mountain, Mount Damavand (visible from Tehran), weighing in at 5604 meters. Not far from the peak is the Middle East’s largest ski slope Dizin, not far from Tehran. It’s the perfect destination for skiers that are looking for a resort a littlebit out of the usual.
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Malaysia: In the Heart of Asia
Malaysia is all about taking it easy. Even its bustling capital keeps a relaxing pace compared to its Asian counterparts. Splurge in Kuala Lumpur, discover wildlife in Taman Negara, go to the East Coast for dream-like beaches, and then head down to colonial city Melaka.
Kuala Lumpur is the undisputed capital of Malaysia, governmental and economic, and nothing demonstrates the latter like the Petronas Towers. It’s actually quite a pleasant city to stay in, with good restaurants, shopping, and some memorable landmarks.
Malaysia: Diving Down
The east coast of Malaysia is a diver’s dream. Fish in all shapes, sizes and colors, and many of them, reef sharks, corals, turtles… The list goes on. Head out to one of the many volcanic islands, just of the coast. You’ll wish you could stay forever, and some do. For the uninitiated, finding a PADI-certified course is a breeze. The most popular islands for diving are Perhentian Islands (near Kota Bharu), Redang (near Kuala Terengganu) and Tioman (closest to Singapore)
Malaysia: Back to Nature
The best of Malaysia is in its natural beauty, wether it’s rain forrest or tropical islands.
From left to right:
-Lizard in Taman Negara.
-Colorful flowers in Taman Negara.
-Picture-perfect postcard view in Pulau Perhentian Besar.
Perhentian: The Beach
Pulau Perhentian Kecil is a favorite backpacker hangout. Perfect sandy beaches studded with palm-trees overlooking turquoise ocean. Some go for a day or two, others for weeks, months or years. It’s an excellent place for seeing marine life, whether you snorkle or scuba-dive.