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Most people who’ve never been to South Carolina, let alone its Lowcountry, will remain speechless at lush landscapes and the barely tamed wilderness of the Sea Islands. A first-timer’s guide to Beaufort SC will help you navigate the network of estuaries and wetlands to get the most out of your trip to this lovely historic town.

Beaufort has been around for a long time and the townsfolk proudly claim it to be one of the first European settlements in North America, as the Spanish colonists first mentioned it in 1514. However, it wasn’t until 1711 that the town of Beaufort was finally chartered, officially making it the second-oldest town in South Carolina after Charleston. Whichever event you pick as a starting point for this quaint little town on Port Royal Island, the outcome is the same – a place so deeply steeped in history and culture that you shouldn’t ever pass up on the opportunity to come and visit it.

Where to Stay in Beaufort?

Much like in any other place in this fair world of ours where there’s been a sharp increase in tourism, there’s a wide array of bedding options for travelers looking to spend a couple of days in Beaufort.

Whether you’re looking for a B&B, an inn or a fully fledged hotel, there’ll be something in store for you. Preferably, you’ll be wanting to stay in a place featuring design and surroundings representative of the overall style of the town of Beaufort. This architectural style is referred to as antebellum, or ‘pre-war’, addressing the period preceding Civil War, and the town is brimming with such buildings.

The Rhett House Inn

Located in the very heart of Beaufort’s Historic District, The Rhett House Inn is the perfect representative of the beauty of antebellum – it is a combination of Georgian and Greek Revival styles, featuring towering white columns and verandas that almost fully circumnavigate the building itself.

Just like the rest of Beaufort, the Rhett House Inn is surrounded by magnificent oak trees on all sides, a sight that you should get used to in the Lowcountry. While staying here, you’ll feel as though you’ve returned to the 19th century, but without all the social injustice. They boast hosting multiple contemporary celebrities, as well as serving complimentary champagne on arrival.

Website: The Rhett House Inn

The Beaufort Inn

Not too far from the previous hotel and only two streets away from Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park is the Beaufort Inn.

Many private porches and gardens will make you feel all the Southern comfort as they like to advertise themselves. Also at the center of Beaufort Historic District, you’ll be a whisper away from all the museums, shops and other landmarks of the town you might be interested in, with Tabernacle Baptist Church being just across the street. There’s also a huge parking lot to make good use of, so you can go ahead and rent a car to cover more ground and see more in less time.

Website: The Beaufort Inn

Cuthbert House Inn

Right next to South Carolina Intracoastal Waterway, Cuthbert House Inn is an antebellum mansion that blends in with the surrounding area seamlessly.

With all the amenities you could ever hope for, this bed and breakfast is right where you want it to be – you can go exploring, kayaking, golfing or sightseeing from here and be back in your 19th-century hideaway room in no time. You’ll be able to try some delicious southerner specialties. Enjoy a day filled with interesting activities thanks to the proximity of this B&B to the center of the town.

Website: Cuthbert House Inn

Anchorage 1770

It might seem as if this ‘antebellum’ style is overused in the Beaufort area, but trust us, it’s so gorgeous seeing Greek Revival in South Carolina that it’ll be long before you grow tired of it.

Anchorage 1770 is a beautiful bed and breakfast masterfully designed and one of the oldest standing Tabby structures. When we say Tabby, we don’t mean cat species. No, we mean the type of concrete that was used in the 18th century, created by burning oyster shells to make lime which was then mixed with other ingredients. For a building dating back to 1770, it sure is comfortable and romantic, with amazing amenities and even better cuisine.

Website: Anchorage 1770

Top Things to Do in Beaufort

Depending on who you ask, you’ll probably hear that Beaufort must-dos usually involve fishing or golfing.

While these activities do bring exquisite pleasure to anyone looking for a relaxing weekend getaway, a first time visitor to Beaufort should focus on some of the more unique aspects of this picturesque town. There are plenty of museums to explore and islands to hop, things to buy and foods to taste – you’ll certainly find your fill.

Woods Memorial Bridge

If you’ve never seen a swing bridge before, you’re in for a real treat. Even if you have, you’ll still be astonished at how perfectly Woods Memorial Bridge accentuates the wilderness around it.

This mighty steel construct is one of the last movable bridges in South Carolina, but it’s the way it moves that makes it so captivating and interesting to look at. Swing bridges move 90 degrees horizontally in order to make way for passing ships, unlike lift bridges that move vertically.

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Woods Memorial Bridge owes its name to trooper Richard Woods that was gunned down in Beaufort in 1969. It attained a decent amount of fame following a brief appearance in Forrest Gump.

Hunting Island

If you’re visiting Beaufort for the very first time, you’ll want to head out the Hunting Island way and enjoy its raw coastline.

The town of Beaufort sits on an island called Port Royal Island, one of the many in a region so perfectly described as Sea Islands. They’re all more or less well-connected, but this especially goes for Hunting Island. It’s quite close to Beaufort, so close in fact that it’s one of the favorite getaways for locals, especially considering there’s a State Park here. You’ll be able to hit the gorgeous beach that stretches for about 5 miles and is as wild and untamed as it gets. Besides all the fun activities that beaches usually promise, a great spot to visit is the Hunting Island Lighthouse. Get all the way to the top and simply absorb the beauty of the Lowcountry.

Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park

Right next door from almost everything in Beaufort is its charming Waterfront Park that is the very hub of all the happenings.

You’ve got so many options here that it’s certainly going to be an excellent backup plan and one of the top spots in town for those visiting with children. The local community is right here, walking around, having picnics, eating out and otherwise interacting. For those in love, there’s no spot more romantic than this one. Playgrounds attract families with kids and the busy marina is bustling with vessels going in and out. Take a stroll on the boardwalk or try to reel in a fish or two – options are endless.

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Drive-in Theaters

Considering how beautiful all the moss-covered oak trees are, there’s nothing more attractive than watching a movie outside.

You’ve got several Drive-in theaters at your disposal: two Sonic Drive-ins, and a Highway 21 Drive-in theater. Regardless of whether young or old, we recommend you to see at least one movie that way while you’re here.

Beaufort’s Historic Spots

Where to start? As one of the older historic towns in the USA, Beaufort is overflowing with historic spots for your perusal. Now more than ever, you’ll need a guide such as this one to help you find all the places submerged in history.

Penn Center

The site of major historical significance for Gullah and European Americans alike, Penn Center campus has finally become recognized as a National Historic Landmark District in 1974.

Established in 1862 by the abolitionist missionary Laura Towne, Penn School was the first such institution dedicated to the education of freed African-Americans in the southern states. To this day, school buildings stand among lush moss-covered oak trees on the nearby St. Helena Island.

Beaufort National Cemetery

Beaufort National Cemetery came to be in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln declared it so.

Its 19,000 interments are all soldiers of various wars that America’s fought. Originally a place of burial for Union and Confederacy soldiers, it now covers many souls from the Korean and Vietnamese wars, but also the more recent ones. Any soldier can be buried here, with the exception of those dishonorably discharged.

Chapel of Ease

You might have run into a chapel-of-ease or two on your journeys. After all, they weren’t all too rare, considering how many people needed a secondary church where they could attend service, having lived far from the primary parish church.

The one near Beaufort SC is actually located on St. Helena Island and was intended for the plantation owners and their families who couldn’t be bothered with traveling to Beaufort. It dates back to the mid-18th century and is yet another astonishing example of tabby construction. Naturally, a ghost story or two may reach your ears, so be prepared.

Fort Fremont

Visiting Beaufort and adjacent St. Helena Island cannot go without a trip to Fort Fremont, one of the two fortified remnants of the Spanish-American war.

The fort was constructed on condemned private property and it included everything you’d expect from a self-sustaining military outpost – its own food supply, barracks, stables, artillery batteries, and even a post office. Of these, only some artillery pieces remain to this day, alongside a brick hospital from 1906.

Considering how many sights there are to be seen on St. Helena Island, you must be able to get there somehow. Cross the Woods Memorial Bridge and follow the road for about 5 miles and you’re there.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins

About 17 miles north of Beaufort you’ll find the ruins of what was once known as Prince William’s parish church.

This religious structure of the Sheldon area was an unfortunate victim of conflagration two times – it was first burnt down by the British during the Revolutionary War, and then again during the Civil War. All that’s left are abandoned ruins and a couple of graves encircling them, visited only once a year for an annual service following Easter.

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Regardless of its horrible fate, Old Sheldon Church Ruins are still a beautiful site to see, a powerful reminder of battles that had taken place here prior to the arson.

John Mark Verdier House Museum

Also known as Lafayette building, John Mark Verdier House was built in 1804 by, well, John Mark Verdier!

This large, antebellum structure showcases how lucrative indigo and cotton trade was back in the day. Today, it is Beaufort’s only house museum and it’s open for visitors from 10 AM to 4 PM with a $10 entry fee. If you’re interested in colonial architecture, the museum is a must-see. You’ll find it where all the other gems of Beaufort lie – in Historic District!

Eating and Drinking in Beaufort

First timers in Beaufort SC will, quite naturally, be interested in what it is that people of Lowcountry like to wine and dine on, and where.

Saltus River Grill

If you’re looking for a more high-end cosmopolitan experience (and prices) while enjoying local cuisine, check out Saltus River Grill. Their seafood always tasted fresh and sushi is simply divine. Their wine menu is quite extensive, there are so many in fact that even the most hardened connoisseurs will find something.

Address: 802 Bay Street, Beaufort

Breakwater Restaurant & Bar

The goal of this restaurant, in their own words, is that all food served should be seasonal to ensure the best taste and experience for their guests.

Some of the delicacies you ought to try here is grilled cheese and southern fried shrimps. The wine selection is good, not that of Saltus, but still immensely satisfying for most customers.

Address: 203 Carteret St Ste 102, Beaufort

Plums Restaurant

While it’s basically more or less the same thing as Saltus, the reason why we put it here is that it’s quite possibly the best place to try the king of all local delicacies: shrimp and grit. It’s one of those things that truly complement your visit to a certain place and that all restaurants should serve.

Address: 904 Bay Street, Beaufort

Shopping in Beaufort

After you explore Beaufort and every nook and cranny, you’ll most certainly be interested in getting some handicrafts and souvenirs to remind you of this amazing place. After all, Beaufort is going to be a vacation to remember.

Lulu Burgess

Souvenirs, books, scarves, eyeglasses and every silly item imaginable are all available at Lulu Burgess. It’s one of the most commonly visited gift shops in all of Beaufort, meaning the odds are you’ll find what you’re looking for – or something similar to replace it.

Address: 917 Bay St E, Beaufort

Chocolate Tree

Is there a better gift than chocolate? We think not. If you agree with us, check out the Chocolate Tree store where you’ll be able to taste some of the finest chocolate in South Carolina, and perhaps broader.

They make their chocolate with the best of ingredients and also ship them to all corners of the world. Surprise some far-away friend with Beaufort’s delicious treat.

Address: 507 Carteret St, Beaufort

Scout Southern Market

Another quaint little shop where you’ll be able to purchase loads of accessories and doodads for your home. Many different decorations in the finest southern-style will make you want to spend an eternity here. For a tourist, it might be impossible settling on just one item!

Address: 709 Bay St, Beaufort

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10 Tips Every First-Time Beaufort Visitor Should Know

Finally, we’ll wrap this guide up with 10 tips for anyone coming to Beaufort SC for the first time. Hopefully, these tips will help you make the most out of your vacation and see as much of this lovely historic town as possible.

  1. Stay in a hotel or an inn that resembles antebellum architecture both on the exterior and the interior. It will enhance your experience of Beaufort drastically.
  2. Whatever you do, don’t evade Chocolate Tree! You’ll be missing out on a lot otherwise and feel sorry later.
  3. Speaking of food, grab a plate of shrimps and grit. Delicious!
  4. Take a stroll down Beaufort’s Historic District. It is as stunning as it is relevant for understanding this place.
  5. Visit Woodsworth Memorial Bridge, watch it move and cross to the other side.
  6. Explore St. Helena Island. So many of the historic spots are located right there, hidden among the mossy oak trees.
  7. Continue your journey down the same path and you’ll reach Hunting Island. Spend a day at the beach and climb the lighthouse.
  8. See a movie at one of the drive-in theaters.
  9. Go fishing at least once if you care about blending in.
  10. Check out some of the museum recollecting the history of the Lowcountry.

Most of all, go exploring on your own. Beaufort is more gorgeous and historic than one article can fully expand on.

The post A First-Timer’s Guide to Beaufort SC appeared first on Truly Traveled.

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Apart from England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland usually top the lists of the UK itineraries. Though we are accustomed to seeing them depicted as constantly cloudy and rainy, the reality is far from that. In fact, there are many periods of the year that actually make up for the best times to visit Ireland and Scotland.

When To Come To Ireland and Scotland

These two countries are predominantly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean making their climate mild and pleasant all year round. Being rather hilly, they are well protected against strong winds and severely low temperatures. Still, weather in Ireland and Scotland can be volatile and unpredictable at times.

Although certain seasons are ideal when you want to escape the crowds, other visitors will surely appreciate the hustle and bustle of the busiest seasons. Unsurprisingly, both Ireland and Scotland experience dramatic changes in appearance as the seasons change and each one carries its own distinct charm with it.

Read more: Best Ways to Spend 2 Weeks in Europe

Summer in Ireland and Scotland

In Ireland, temperatures in summer rarely exceed 68°F and it’s predominantly pleasant and sunny. Summer months cover the period between May and July. During that time, you will be able to experience extended hours of daylight. As a matter of fact, the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere happens around June 21st and it signifies the beginning of “the longest day” – the time when the sun rises as early as 5 am and doesn’t set until 10 pm. It’s a perfect opportunity to go out and about without the fear you will be caught out in the darkness.

Summer in Scotland also spans from June to the beginning of August and the temperatures rarely go above 63°F. Extended twilight and pleasant long summer days are ideal for a relaxing vacation. What’s more, the far north of Scotland never actually gets completely dark at this time of year. These extra hours of daylight make summers in Scotland the best time of year for a perfect summer getaway.

Summer vacation in Ireland and Scotland offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities, enough to make a hefty bucket list. Topping the lists of Scottish itineraries are the majestic Isle of Skye and the Stirlingshire region which are a no-miss in the summertime. Irish summers are also perfect to embark on road tripping adventures along the Causeway Coastal Route or have an unforgettable time on one of the annual summer festivals.

Spring in Ireland and Scotland

Spring is possibly one of the best times to visit both countries. Not only does everything start to blossom and flourish but the temperatures also range from 46 to 54°F, making these countries highly favorable for exploration and adventures. The average temperature in Ireland in spring is a bit chillier than in summer, especially in the evening. On the other hand, the chances of rain are least likely during spring, with the biggest number of sunny days in store.

Scottish springs are no exception to this. Spring in Scotland begins in late March and ends in May while the temperatures are just enough to get the snow to start melting. Though Scotland, just like Ireland, tends to have unpredictable changes in weather conditions, the risk pays off. Despite popular belief, the driest months are actually April and May, making this period an ideal opportunity to wander off in the Scottish Highlands.

Spring activities in Ireland and Scotland are aplenty. If you’re visiting Ireland in spring, the chances are you will want to be there on St. Patrick’s Day held on March 17. Not only is it the highlight of Ireland’s cultural and social calendar but it’s also a time when the whole country explodes with colors and joviality. Unlike summer which sees a major tourist inflow, Irish springs are perfect to pay a visit to the iconic Cliffs of Moher or marvel the Causeway Coast without having to deal with hordes of tourists.

The same goes for Scotland which usually sees a tourist season peak during summer. On the other hand, spring is the perfect time to escape the crowds and enjoy some stunning hiking trails and breath-taking vistas. Natural landmarks such as The Three Sisters mountains, Luskentyre Sands, and Glenmore Forest Park really look majestic once spring disperses its colorful splashes in every direction.

Autumn in Ireland and Scotland

Autumn in these two countries covers the period between September and November. This is the time when temperatures rarely go above 62°F in September and drop to 39°F in November. The days are a bit shorter than in summer and spring and there are more rainy days too. Still, autumn brings some magical touch with it which is why it’s one of the best times to visit Ireland and Scotland.

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, visiting Northern Ireland in autumn will surely bring you closer to Westeros. Not only is this part of Ireland brimming with the Seven Kingdoms localities but it’s also magical during autumn. What’s more, autumn in Ireland marks the beginning of the harvest season so festivals become every fall’s highlight. Waterford Harvest Festival and Mount Stewart Gardens put on incredible shows to celebrate the beginning of autumn.

Visiting Scotland in autumn is nothing short of spectacular, too. It is between September and November that Scottish landscapes burst with colors, giving everything an unforgettable charm. Autumn is the best season to take a trip to Scotland because the crowds start to thin and you will stand great chances of enjoying this wonderful country without any hustle. Gardens and National Parks are abundant in hiking trails, lakes, and wildlife reserves which never cease to amaze nature lovers around the globe. Still, the biggest highlight of Scottish autumn is definitely the magical Aurora Borealis. Though it’s also visible in some Scandinavian countries, Scotland makes up for a perfect Northern Lights spotting destination, especially if you position yourself in Shetland, Orkney, and Caithness.

Winter in Ireland and Scotland

Believe it or not, Irish winters are actually the driest of all seasons. They cover the period between December and February with maximum average temperatures no higher than 46°F. There is no much snowfall throughout the period but there are also fewer hours of daylight. With the winter solstice occurring around December 21st, the sun doesn’t rise until 8 AM and sets very shortly, around 4 PM.

Scottish winters are pretty similar, starting around the end of November and lasting until early March. Winters are surprisingly mild unlike in other places on the same latitude (Norway, Canada, or Alaska). The temperatures stay around 44 °F during the day and rarely drop below zero, even in the evening. The South of Scotland is generally warmer than the North although extreme winters are highly rare throughout the country.

If you thought winter is not the best time to visit Ireland and Scotland, you are in for a big surprise. Winter is off-season which means there will be fewer tourists around. That way you won’t have to break the bank as everything is much cheaper. What’s more, this is just the right time to revel in all things festive as cities throughout Ireland prepare to celebrate the New Year’s Eve. With holidays ahead, you will be delighted by the New Year’s Festival in Dublin or Belfast’s Christmas Market. If you decide to venture further inland, the Mourne Mountains in County Down or Cork’s Beara Peninsula looks simply mesmerizing in winter, making it just the right season to be on the Emerald Isle.

Winter is a good time to travel to Scotland as well. It is not the busiest of seasons which means prices will be down and it will be less crowded. Still, you will have to keep in mind that certain attractions close over winter so it’s best to plan your winter itinerary accordingly. There are lots of special events around this time, especially in theaters and markets. The most fascinating of them is definitely Hogmanay – the Scottish equivalent of the New Year’s Eve.

Outdoor adventures are aplenty too. Skiing and snowboarding season kicks off in early December, with numerous ski resorts throughout the country. Lastly, you shouldn’t miss a visit to the Scottish castles which become all the more romantic and magical during winter.

Read more: Quiet Holiday Spots in Europe

What Clothes to Bring when Visiting Ireland and Scotland

The Scotts swear by one adage: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes!’

Weather in Scotland varies from region to region and may change several times in a single day. For this reason, what you plan to do while there makes all the difference. However, there is one rule of thumb and that is – layers.

You should definitely wear layers of clothes you can put on or take off as weather conditions dictate. You may happen to arrive in Scotland on a perfectly sunny day only to be soaking wet a few hours later. Don’t forget to bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots if you’re planning to go exploring, especially in autumn and winter. A warm waterproof coat is also ideal to have with you so that you don’t have to walk around carrying an umbrella all the time.

Traveling to Ireland also implies some serious planning wardrobe-wise because all seasons can change in a single day. For this reason, it’s best to pack smart and bring rain gear (coats, jackets, light sweaters, cotton tops, and comfy footwear).

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Ireland and Scotland?

Obviously, it all depends on what you want to do and what you want to see. Every season in these countries carries its own perks and provides visitors with opportunities to embark on different adventures. Although the weather is more likely to be volatile during certain seasons, the beauty of these countries will surely make up for that no matter when you visit them.

The post Best Time to Visit Ireland and Scotland appeared first on Truly Traveled.

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Few countries can hold their own against the overwhelming beauty of the Greek islands, especially considering their incredible positioning in the Mediterranean and subsequently their heavenly climate. Having said that, there are so many of them that any prospective traveler will profit from keeping a Greek islands map nearby, the likes of which we’ll provide towards the end of the article.

Carefully selecting the best islands in Greece is no walk in the park, it is a daunting task that won’t do justice to all the gorgeous places you can visit, and also something that more often than not boils down to personal preferences. After you’re done traversing all the islands we’ve listed here, make sure to expand your exploratory efforts and see as much of the country as possible.

1. Corfu

Otherwise known as Kerkyra, Corfu is an island on the west coast of Greece, in the Ionian Sea.

This island is so far up north that a part of it actually faces Albania on the other side, not Greece. Plenty of natural beauty and historical sites dot the landscape of the island, with the city of Corfu being situated on a wide peninsula at the center of the island. Its old town is a gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the entire city is classified as Kastropolis, or ‘Castle City’. If you decide to visit the old fortress and gaze on the city from above, make sure to stop by St’ George’s Church nearby.

Head up to the northernmost point of the island to see all the majesty of Cape Drastis and its unusual shape. Down south, you’ll be greeted by Arkoudilas Beach, a wonderful stretch of sand and clear waters with Arkoudilas Monastery stealthily overlooking it from the cliffs.

2. Ithaca

Discussing Ithaca without mentioning Homer’s Odyssey is simply impossible, except today, it won’t be Odysseus who’s trying to return to his homeland – it will be you, the traveler.

Ithaca is a slice of heaven and one of the most charming islands in Greece. Travel to Koni Village to experience this charm to its fullest extent by dining right next to the calm, Ionian Sea. Scattered about the island are many archeological locales, remains of civilizations long gone. The most famous one is the Acropolis of Alalkomenes which is often regarded as the castle of Odysseus.

The best way to get the lay of the land is to go on a sailing tour around the island. That way, you’ll truly experience all the beauty Ithaca has to offer.

3. Kefalonia

Where to begin talking about Kefalonia? We could mention that this is the second suspect for the location of Odysseus’ island. Or, we could just point you in the direction of the most amazing beach and let you figure out the rest.

Myrtos Beach might be the perfect candidate if a beach is what you’re looking for. Locked between rolling, green hills and the Ionian Sea, it has always been a popular destination among Italian tourists that find its proximity attractive. After having your fill of the beach, check out the capital of the island, Argostoli, and explore what it has to offer.

About 5 kilometers from it, you’ll find the Castle of Agios Georgios which used to be the capital of Kefalonia during the Venetian era. Hike to nearby towns of Assos and Sami. While staying at the latter, ask around for directions to Melissani Cave – you won’t be disappointed.

4. Zakynthos

Much like Mykonos, Zakynthos has also gained prominence as a party destination that few young people would pass up on.

However, there’s more to this island in the Ionian Sea than rows of endless nightclubs and bars. More than anything else, Zakynthos is known for its incredible beaches and their gorgeous sands, especially Navagio Beach. Also known as Shipwreck Cove thanks to an actual ship that washed up some time ago, it paints a realistic picture of how wonderful Zakynthos beaches are, especially Alykes and Xigia.

Besides that, the coast of this island is ripe with life, with many corals and even an endangered species of Sea Turtles calling it their home. If you plan on going boating or partaking in underwater activities, make sure you’re not damaging the fragile marine ecosystem.

5. Crete

Easily one of the most beautiful and magical places in Greece, Crete has a rich cultural and historical heritage.

Combine this with the fact that Crete also happens to be the largest of all islands, spanning 8,450 square kilometers, or 3,260 square miles, and what you get is a place so immense in size that you could probably spend an entire month here and still don’t get to see or do everything.

Crete is home to the remains of the first advanced civilization in Europe, the Minoans. They’re still shrouded in legend, the most famous of which revolving around King Minos and his vile creature called the Minotaur roaming the Labyrinth. The palace at Knossos, which stands to this day, albeit barely, became the center of Minoan culture at one point and is thought to be the original labyrinth due to its extensive and elaborate passageways.

Crete is riddled with such monuments and structures that simply beg the visit. Other than exploring its many ancient ruins, you can always enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of Crete and its endless stretches of towering mountains and olive plantations.

6. Rhodes

The Island of the Knights is the largest Dodecanese island and the former site of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Colossus of Rhodes stood 33 meters (108 feet) tall until a disastrous earthquake brought it down to its knees, and quite literally. Some of the remains were preserved, others scavenged and melted down for reuse, making the original location of the wonder unknown to humankind. If you ask us, this calls for adventure and discovery, hiking across this lovely island and imagining where the Colossus could have stood.

When you get tired of trying to locate a missing giant, there’s plenty of experience to be had from wandering landmarks that still stand to this day. Palace of the Grand Master stands out among these structures, letting you sneak a peek into the times of Ancient Greeks and observing their lives and history through sculptures, art, and mosaics. Modern Greek Art Museum will let you take that exact same peek, but only at works of contemporary Greek artists.

Some other excellent places you could visit are Acropolis of Lindos and Monastery of Tsambika. Day trips to the island of Symi are also a popular pastime.

7. Kos

Kos is one of the most popular holiday islands these days, whether it’s because of Agios Stefanos beach or the lovely dancers of Lyceum of Kardamena is difficult to say.

Regardless of the reasons that bring you to Kos, you’ll most certainly have a wonderful time. Antimachia Castle is a window into the past of Kos and harrowing battles against the Ottomans. If you enjoy visiting castles and otherwise medieval locales, head out to Mt. Dikeos where you’ll find the remains of Palio Pyli.

Other than spectacular views of sunsets and medieval walls, Kos nurtures traditional values such as locally manufactured clothing items and horse races. There really is a bit of everything for everyone here.

8. Kalymnos

Grouped with 165 other Dodecanese islands of the southeastern Aegean Sea, Kalymnos is most famous for its intense rock climbing locations!

With over 2,000 climbing routes, most of which require a certain level of expertise, Kalymnos has earned the title of one the best such locations in Europe. If you’re a beginner, make sure you’re equipped with proper knowledge first by taking a couple of lessons in Kalymnos.

While most people come to Kalymnos for the dangerous sport of rock climbing, there are other things and pastimes to be found here, namely seeing Chora and Chrysocheria Castles, Agio Sabbas Monastery and the picturesque capital of Pothia.

9. Samos

There’s no wonder Samos has been seeing so much traffic over the years considering how many great people it spawned. However, we wouldn’t do it justice if we were to avoid mentioning all the spectacular sights of this island in the Aegean Sea.

Birthplace of great Pythagoras, Greek philosopher and mathematician, and Aristarchus who was the first man (to our knowledge) to come up with the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun and not vice versa. Philosopher Epicurus also lived in Samos in an age past, all of them contributing greatly to causes beyond them.

If you need a reason to come other than this, we’ll let you know that Samian wine is to die for. Exploring Samos must also include a visit to Monastery of Panagia Spiliani, the town of Samos and of course Heraion, or Temple to Hera.

10. Mykonos

Taking a boat to the nearby island of Delos, one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece that is also featured on UNESCO’s list is quite possible, but not the thing that Mykonos is best known for.

While it has its fair share of history and culture, such as the famous Chora Windmills, Mykonos is best known for its vibrant and lively nightlife and amazing dining options. If you’re keen on visiting the aforementioned windmills instead, you’ll find them in the city of Mykonos. ‘Chora’ is quite a common way of naming places in Greek, usually when the name of the principal town matches that of the island.

When they’re not partying, younger tourists enjoy hiking across Mykonos or renting bicycles to cover more ground faster. Beaches here are as gorgeous as anywhere else in Greece, so you’ll have where to go to wrestle that hangover.

11. Naxos

Naxos is the largest of all Cyclades islands and the cultural center of a civilization that thrived in this area of the Aegean Sea during the Bronze Age.

The town of Naxos is yet another example of a Chora – that is, a principal city bearing the same name as the island itself. This Chora is just magical – windy, narrow streets of white houses lead down to the port past numerous cafes and shops. The surrounding area of Naxos is rather mountainous, so come prepared if you want to explore.

For a more leisurely approach to enjoying your visit to Naxos, head out to the Agios Prokopios beach. Crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches might sound ubiquitous and overrated as every town in Greece claims to have these, but they really do!

12. Ios

Having discussed Homer and his world-renowned Odyssey, guessing whether his home is in Ithaca or Kefalonia, now is the time to pay our respects to his supposed place of eternal rest.

It is said that Homer returned to his mother’s home island..

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Truly Traveled by Damjan Tanaskovic - 1w ago

With a name as alluring and promising as Greenland really is, it’s safe to say that its settlers must have held it in high regard. It’s either that or they really wanted to portray their newfound land in a much better light and trick other settlers into coming, the latter one being accepted as the actual reason why the Norse named it the way they did. The topic of the origin of Greenland’s name is often the perfect prelude to an article disseminating certain aspects of this unusual country, especially Greenland population.

Many theories exist, with the one about deliberate swapping of Iceland and Greenland’s names to fool potential invaders not even being the weirdest one. The story historians agree on goes something like this – Eric the Red was exiled from Norway after murdering three men as a result of a feud they’ve had. Having been given the choice between execution and banishment, he naturally opted for the latter and became known as the first European man that settled Greenland.

The arrival of Eric Thorvaldsson, blessed with his nickname ‘the Red’ either because of the beard or his murderous ways, has introduced Norwegians, Icelanders and thus Europeans to the population of Greenland.

Read more: Spending 5 Days in Athens

Greenland Demography

For a country nested on the largest island of the world, Greenland certainly features only a minuscule portion of the overall population of the world.

Greenlanders are few and far between, an entire group of people that could all comfortably fit in what we would call a large town. With such a small population, tracking demographics is a much more personal pursuit with higher accuracy, more reliability and better representation of actual individuals.

Structure of the Population

After going out of our way to express how few Greenlanders there are, it’s time to get down to actual data and show how many people make up this fine country and who they really are.

Currently, the total population of Greenland consists is 56,673 people, making it the 207th most populous country in the world. This number has been mostly growing since the 1950s when Greenland became a part of the Kingdom of Denmark and gained Danish citizenship, ending its colonial status. During World War II, while the United States was in the protective custody of Greenland due to Denmark being occupied by Nazi Germany, the population of Greenland was about 20,000 and stagnated.

Read more: What Happened to Detroit?

When it became a part of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1953, Greenland had approximately 25,000 citizens, a number that has doubled by 1974, reaching 50,000 for the first time. From then on, there were slight fluctuations in population number, with neglectable ups and downs or just plain stagnation. Today, when they’ve finally come so close to the 57,000 population mark of the 2000s, they are again seeing negative population growth of -0.1%, a negative trend that is unlikely to be fixed by a fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman. Such population trends have already occurred in the past, caused by a major problem existing in the society that we’ll discuss later on.

Gender Structure

When looking at the total population of 56,673, there are more men than women. To be precise, 52.40% of the people are men, while 47.60% are women.

This trend reoccurs for almost all age groups except for the elderly, when the number of women finally surpasses that of men due to differences in life expectancy.

Age Structure

Most of the Greenlanders fall under the age group of 25-64. Almost 32,000 of them belong to this category, which is about 56% of the population aging less than 64. Other than that, a significant portion of the population comprises the 18-24 range group, the rest being only children. Only 4% of the Greenland population are people older than 64.

Life Expectancy

At birth, Greenlanders are estimated to live 72.7 years on average. This number translates to 69.9 years for men and 75.5 years for women. Even though this might seems like a decent life expectancy, it’s still a decade lower than that of other European nations, including Denmark.

Mortality and Social Issues

Serious issues are gnawing at the very core of the country of Greenland and its indigenous population.

A situation that often happens to places and peoples that face rapid changes is that they undergo a certain social trauma. The same can be said for Inuits, who form the large majority of the population. They used to be simple folk, hunting and fishing year after year, rarely disturbed by the occurrences from the outside world. However, after becoming one with the Kingdom of Denmark, they were introduced to the world outside of their own. More disturbingly, their lives and relevant decision making were out of their hands. Even though they’ve been given more independence on several occasions, such as in 1979 when the Home Rule Act restored a portion of their autonomy and in 2009 with self-rule, these problems still haven’t gone away.

They’ve mostly manifested themselves as a smoking and drinking epidemics, as well as increased childhood obesity. Alcoholism is running rampant among the population that’s trying to cope with the new technologies that have been introduced.

The worst of all the issues and a result of lower life expectancy and higher mortality rates is suicide. Never a symptom of only one problem, suicides happen among the youngest population making the entire situation far more tragic than it already is. As a matter of fact, Greenland is the world’s suicide capital, an issue often connected to multiple causes such as alcoholism, isolation, high incest rates and endless summer days that often hit those in the north much harder. There’s a serious epidemic that Greenland has been struggling to deal with by opening suicide hotlines while trying to get to the bottom of this horrible problem.

Population

So far, we’ve only given you a statistical representation of who those 56,673 people are, but we haven’t really talked about the groups that comprise what we refer to as Greenlanders.

While human species are highly diverse, this diversity is not at all present or noticeable among the inhabitants of Greenland.

Ethnic Groups

We’ve already told you the story about Eric the Red and his fellow Norwegians and Icelanders that came with him to settle the southern coast of Greenland. The first of these settlements was formed towards the end of the 10th century. The Norse must have had great things planned for their new home, however, by the end of the 16th century, they were all gone. It’s still somewhat of a mystery as to what happened to these settlers, the commonly accepted theory being that a combination of a minor ice age and conflicts with the Inuit tribes. For that reason, Norwegians don’t account for even a single percent of the population.

The Inuits, on the other hand, are the majority of Greenlanders. 88% of the total population are of Greenlandic nationality! They’re the indigenous people of Greenland, who call their homeland Kalaallit Nunaat meaning ‘Land of the Kalaallit’, or ‘Land of the People’, referring to themselves of course. They’ve come from mainland Canada a couple of thousands of years ago in several waves, with the first immigration taking place somewhere around 2,500 BC, and settled here for good. When talking about this 88%, it’s important to note that this number takes into account mixed-race persons as well. The remaining 12% are Danish, either born in Denmark or Greenland.

As you can see, the Greenland population is low and not as diverse, which is quite understandable considering their remoteness.

Language

There’s only one official language in the country and that’s Greenlandic. It is spoken by about 50,000 people, meaning it takes up almost 90% of total language usage in Greenland. Three dialects are most commonly associated with it, Kalaallisut being the most used one since it’s the dialect spoken in western Greenland that also happens to be the most populated part of the island. Kalaallisut is spoken by about 44,000 people, while Tunumiit gets some 3,000 speakers in the east and Inuktun only 800 speakers in the north of Greenland.

Besides Greenlandic, schools also teach Danish and English languages alike and they’re mandatory subjects. So, don’t be surprised if you’re able to have a conversation with Inuits in one of these languages!

Religion

The spiritual roots of the Inuits are deeply intertwined with shamanism and worshipping Sedna, Goddess of the sea and marine animals. The Norse brought more than a fair share of their traditions which were mostly pagan, but they have never had that much of an impact, and have passed away with the settlers that brought them. Leif Erickson, son of Eric the Red, was a converted Catholic Christian and he brought his religion with him to Greenland, constructing parishes and monasteries. Among other reasons, this sparked the great Danish recolonization, the need to find these colonists and convert them to Protestantism.

Read more: Antarctic Countries

The 21st century Greenlanders are mostly Protestant Christians of Evangelical Lutheran orientation. Throughout history, there were several attempts at translating the Bible into Greenlandic, but only the version from the year 2000 uses modern orthography.

Greenlands Area

Now, we’ve already established that mere 57,000 people are living on the largest island in the world, which is as big as all the countries of Western Europe combined.

Geographically, Greenland is a part of the continent of North America, but as you’ve seen so far, they’ve always had more to do with their European neighbors socially and politically. But why, you might be wondering, is it so poorly populated? The third biggest country in North America occupies 2.17 million square kilometers or 840,000 square miles. It’s bigger than Mexico, and just a bit smaller than Argentina.

However, the population density is just 0.028 per square kilometer, which makes it the least densely populated country in the entire world. The reason for such low density lies in the fact that most of Greenland – 81% in fact, is covered by a permanent ice sheet. It is the only such an ice sheet outside of Antarctica! This 4-kilometer thick layer of ice covers most of Greenland, making only the coastal areas habitable.

Towns in Greenland

The capital of Greenland, Nuuk, holds almost one-third of the entire population of the country. It is one of the thirteen cities with a population exceeding 1,000 people. Other than that, there are numerous smaller towns and settlements scattered across the island, most of which are located in south and west of the country.

Read more: Blue Lagoon at Night

Here, we’ll focus on the three largest and most populous places to be found on Greenland.

Nuuk

With almost 18,000 people that live in Nuuk, you’ll surely meet a lot of foreigners as the city has been gaining more traction among the travelers of the world.

Urbanization has brought about a sudden change to the lives of these people, and it’s been difficult for them to adapt to the new technologies. Regardless of all the changes, Nuuk is the place to go to meet all the different cultures of Inuits that come from all corners of Greenland.

Sisimiut

About 5,500 people reside in Sisimiut, descendants of many different cultures and peoples – Sassaq culture, Dorset culture and people of Thule.

It’s one of the few ports that haven’t iced over, so it’s an important hub for transporting people around Greenland.

Ilulissat

The third-largest city in Greenland has a population of approximately 4,500 people.

It’s one of the main tourist hotspots on the island, thanks to the beautiful Ilulissat Fjord which is featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list.

Despite the small and not that varied population, Greenlanders and the island they inhabit are as unique as any other place in the world. Tourism here is still in its infancy, but it’s looking promising. Hopefully, they’ll avoid the pitfalls of becoming a huge travel destination and let people in responsibly!

The post Greenland Population appeared first on Truly Traveled.

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Truly Traveled by Teodora Ilic - 1w ago

Although officially a Danish territory, Greenland bears very little semblance to its neighboring Denmark. It is almost entirely covered in ice and is said to be one of the least densely populated territories on the globe. The chilliness and the ice dominating these regions account for Greenland’s winters being very special and magical. This is why winter is possibly the perfect time to visit it.

Despite popular belief, Greenland is not a continent. It is actually the biggest island in the world and it stretches across an area of 2.166 million square kilometers. Regardless of the freezing Greenland temperatures, there is an abundance of wildlife and complex ecosystems which make it a great place for exploration and animal spotting.

Seemingly similar to its Southern counterpart Antarctica, Greenland actually has a long history of human settlements dating back to 2500 BC. Unlike Antarctica which has no indigenous population, around 80 percent of Greenland’s inhabitants are Greenlandic Inuit while the rest comprise Danes.

Greenland Winter Facts

With all those glaciers and snow-capped peaks and landscapes, it comes as no surprise that there are quite a few interesting winter facts about Greenland. In fact, there are some figures that may even rival Antarctica.

To begin with, the ice sheet in Greenland covers 1.7 million square kilometers. It is the second-largest body of ice in the world and accounts for 10 percent of the world’s fresh water. Not only is the ice sheet in Greenland one of the oldest in the world but some parts of it are even the thickest. At its highest point, the ice can reach the thickness of a whopping 3 kilometers.

The icebergs in Greenland are yet another fascinating aspect of it. Their shapes and sizes vary so much that they cast many different and captivating formations, usually so intricate that you can easily make up a face, an object, or an animal out of it. Many icebergs rise up to 100 meters above sea level. The old adage of seeing only the tip of the iceberg is absolutely applicable to Greenland because almost 90 percent of their mass is beneath the water level. As a matter of fact, it was the iceberg that began its journey from Greenland that sunk the Titanic in 1912.

Read more: Visiting the Blue Lagoon at Night

Average Winter Temperatures in Greenland

Depending on the season, temperatures in Greenland vary to a great extent. The climate is Arctic and it’s characterized by brief summers and long winters. Although temperatures tend to be a bit higher during summer and spring, they usually never go above 50°F.

Greenland winters can be fierce and the temperatures may drop to – 68°F, especially in the North of the island. Being surrounded by an open sea on every side, coastal parts might get windier than the inland, particularly during the winter. On the other hand, the humidity is very low here. For this reason, there is very little snowfall around the peninsulas which is where the majority of Greenlanders live. The most populated parts are South Greenland and West Greenland where the capital Nuuk is located. These ice-free areas typically have warmer temperatures and mild climate.

The coldest month in Greenland has to be February. The temperatures can plunge to -122°F, especially in the North and the East. Even the sturdiest locals don’t go out much during the winter and instead, they stack up with the supplies beforehand. They spend the majority of time indoors, cozying around the fire, recounting folktales, or simply cooking seafood delicacies unique to their cuisine.

How Long does Winter Last in Greenland?

The winter months cover the period between December throughout March. During these months the days are mostly dark, with only a couple of hours of daylight though sometimes there is no light at all. Greenland winter daylight hours usually never last for more than a couple of hours. In most cases, the dark reigns supreme during winter and the dawn doesn’t crack bit by bit until late January.

In December and January, the light might emerge on the horizon for an hour at best and in February it might last for two and a half hours. It isn’t until March that the sun starts to emerge, signifying the end of the polar nights. Though it might seem inconceivable that people can live in darkness for so long, Greenlanders are perfectly accustomed to it and have no problems with spending a few months without sunlight.

Read more: Summer in Antarctica

Winter Adventures in Greenland

Winter in Greenland is something special. Just admiring the icy landscapes is enough to make up for a perfect getaway into the peace and tranquility. Of course, winter adventures in Greenland don’t idly dwell on the vistas alone. There are so many interesting things to do that you will probably have a hard time deciding what to do first.

One of the most spectacular winter activities is definitely dog-sledding. Dogs have a special role in the lives of the locals in Greenland. The dogs and humans share a unique bond and those furry friends are so much more than pets to them. Dog culture has existed in Greenland for centuries and using dogs to pull the sleds is the most traditional way of transport in this part of the world, simply because there are no road networks as we know them. Still, it’s not just any breed that can perform these tasks.

These husky-type dogs are the true companions of Greenlanders and they play a pivotal role in making their lives easier. Until recently, locals and hunters were reluctant to receive visitors on board the sleds but luckily, times have changed. Today, you can hop on the sleds and whizz through the icy deserts as you sit behind an experienced musher. This remarkable experience not only leaves you with some unforgettable memories but it also instills the sense of connectedness with nature, evoking an ancient bond between humans and dogs.

In case you prefer speedier transport, snowmobiles are just the right solution to move around and experience Greenland. The snowmobile tours usually incorporate a visit to the Oqaatsut, a small Greenlandic settlement outside Ilulissat. Along the way, you will have the chance to cross the frozen lake and soak up the splendid scenery. Another tour follows the trail around the backcountry of Ilulissat, leading into the untouched wilderness all the way up until the top of the mountain is reached. The mountain viewpoint offers spectacular vistas of Greenland’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, encompassing the Ilulissat Icefjord and Sermeq Kujalleq, the fastest-moving glacier in the northern hemisphere.

During the summer in Greenland, the meltwater sifts through the glaciers and creates amazing turquoise canyons that freeze in the winter. Although glacier hiking is available all year round and is not reserved solely for winter, the canyon hiking is an exclusively winter activity. The gorges wind through the endless ice, tightly nestled between crystalline ice walls. The majority of hiking tours start from Kangerlussuaq, a small town in western Greenland. From there, visitors can embark on an adventure to the giant Russel Glacier that will take them through the valley veins created by the retreating ice. On a similar note, you can go snowshoeing to the top of Lille Malene which offers a spectacular vista of the Nuuk Fjord.

A special bonus to the winter wonders is the incredible Aurora Borealis. This fascinating phenomenon is also visible in other parts of Scandinavia but still, Greenland has the highest likelihood of catching a glimpse of the celestial light show. During late fall throughout winter, the clear night skies get beautifully painted by strokes of colorful lights you can see from almost any place. This is particularly the case on the nights between September and April, provided that the sky is clear and without any clouds. Though the locals are accustomed to this extraordinary occurrence, first-time visitors to Greenland will surely find it mesmerizing. You can go on guided tours from Ilulissat, Sisimiut, or Kangerlussuaq that will lead you out in the wild where there are no artificial lights to impede the natural hues of the colorful spectacle.

In case you’re worried about the safety, all tours around Greenland are lead by experienced guides who know the paths like the palm of their hand. They will take care of the safety measures and will make sure that all visitors have a memorable time visiting the island.

Greenland Winter vs. Summer

Despite seemingly everlasting winters, Greenland has all four seasons and they are tremendously diverse. The two most distinct are definitely winter and summer, which is when the majority of tourists visit the island.

The most obvious difference between these two seasons is the day length. Unlike long polar nights in winter, summers in Greenland are characterized by perpetual sunlight. This phenomenon is also called the midnight sun and it refers to the period between late April to late August when the sun never actually sets. Although brief, summers are really intense and enjoyable.

The differences in weather become all the more perceivable, too. The temperatures in summer become higher and the air is noticeably warmer. Although the average temperatures don’t exceed 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you will probably feel as if it were much warmer because of so little humidity in the air.

Going out and about in summer also offers some additional possibilities. As the snow melts and the climate shifts, the vegetation begins to bloom and Greenland really starts living up to its name. Trees, bushes, flowers, and shrubs are visible along the coastline and they paint the edges of the island in the most beautiful hues. This is the time when hiking and cycling become the activities of choice for many tourists. Visitors with a keen interest in outdoor activities can cycle to Russell Glacier or climb Ukkusissat with a stunning view of Nuuk.

As sailing is not an option during the windy and chilly winters, summers are a perfect time to sail the glorious fjords of Greenland. On top of that, kayaking and taking boat tours are also a fantastic way to sail along the ice-covered shores. Rental companies and tour operators are aplenty and they are available all over the country. These water activities will surely bring you closer to the stillness of nature that dominates Greenland as you slowly drift down the intricate web of icy crevices and mazzy islands.

The beauty of Greenland is something you have to see in order to believe. Not only is it perfectly untarnished by the presence of the modern and hectic way of life but it also hides unique natural splendors unlike anywhere else in the world.

The post Winter in Greenland appeared first on Truly Traveled.

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Athens is a great starting point to explore Greece’s ancient history, get a feel of modern Greek society, and savor the unique fusion of Greek and international cuisine. Day trips on ferries to a nearby island gave us a taste of the magnificent Greek islands. Greece is slowly recovering from its economic hardship. Being the country’s epicenter, Athens is grungy, but very much alive.

Accommodation

When we travel, we love to stay in AirBnBs whenever possible. It gives us a sense of what life looks like in the place. On this trip, we booked a studio apartment in the cozy Pangrati neighborhood. The subway connects to Evangelismos station, easily accessible from the airport, and well connected to popular tourist destinations.

The neighbourhood has a number of great restaurants and bars, and it’s far enough from the touristy madness to feel like a retreat, but close enough to reach on foot or a short ride on public transport. Even within a short 5-day stay, we had established a morning routine of getting coffee from Kokkos, and pastry from Chez Alice.

Things to Do

If you are a history buff, Athens is the city for you. With architecture that dates back to 5th century BC, there is plenty of historical wonder to take in. This mix of history and modernity makes Athens a tantalizing city to explore.

Pro tip: When I visit a city, I like to star all the places I want to visit on Google Maps, including restaurants & cafés. Download the map onto your phone to have an offline version. I then decide which neighborhood I want to explore for the day, and can make decisions on the go.

Hop-on/Hop-off Bus Tour

In a major city, I like to take advantage of the hop-on/hop-off bus whenever possible. They serve as a great transportation option with added history lessons. Exploring the city on the bus gets me to all the top destinations, and helps me get a feel of the land. We used CitySightseeing in Athens, and ticket prices begin at €18 for an adult. You can book the tickets ahead online, or get them at the booths located near major attractions.

Read more: Must Have Travel Packing List for a Family trip

The Acropolis & Parthenon

When in Greece, visiting monuments that symbolizes Greek civilization is a must. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and be ready for a climb. The Acropolis and Parthenon sit on top of a hill, and along the way, check out the magnificent Theatre of Dionysus. Imagine the stadium filled to the brim with people watching a show. At the foot of the hill sits Acropolis Museum. This is really worthwhile with multi-levels of well-curated artefacts that brings ancient Greece alive.

Get Lost in Monastiraki Square & The Plaka

Monastiraki Square and its surrounding is a bustling area filled with second-hand shops, boutiques, souvenir stalls, and antiques to fill your shopping needs. It’s a great place to peruse and take in the vibrant vibe. A hidden gem nestles within the neighbourhood is TAF (The Arts Foundation). This bar/café is masked behind an unassuming door, but opens into an atrium with a café at the courtyard surrounded by art galleries.

Nearby is the Plaka neighbourhood, the old historical center of Athens. This area feels like a village with windy alleys, uneven steps, beautiful art murals, with hospitable restaurants and cafés sprinkled in between. Get lost in this area and follow turns on a whim; no plans necessary.

Lycabettus Hill at Sunset

The peak at Mount Lycabettus sits atop 277 meters, and gives one of the best panoramic views of Athens. While the view is wonderful no matter what time of the day, the scene at sunset is a different level of spectacular. To get up to the mountain top, you have a few options. For the adventure climber type, you would want to climb up the hill. If you aren’t up for a long climb, a smaller climb takes you to the Teleferik station. From there, the cable car takes you to the mountain top.

We were not aware of the cable car at the time, and simply had a taxi driver take us straight to the top, and then we took the Teleferik down. Whatever combination you decide, the view is breathtaking, and very much worth the effort.

Tour the Panathenaic Stadium

The Panathenaic Stadium is a majestically made of marble is the site of the first modern Olympic games in 1896. Beyond simply walking around to feel the magnitude of the space, there is a well-curated Olympics museum inside the stadium. Be sure to bring sun protection though, there is not an ounce of shade if you are walking around on a sunny day!

Explore Academy of Athens

I often like visiting universities on my travels. Educational institutions reflects the society, and in Athens, I enjoyed exploring the area around Academy of Athens and National Library of Greece. Not only the buildings are gorgeous to look at, I can feel the youthful energy emitted from students. There are has some lovely cafés and restaurants. Bring a book, and have a coffee, you can blend in with the rest of the student body.

Day Trips From Athens A day trip to Aegina

If you are coming to Athens without any onward travel to other Greek islands, you can take a day trip to get a taste of the island life. While there are a number of tour operators offering day tours, it’s easy to make the trip on your own. From Piraeus Port, we bought tickets from Flying Dolphin, one of the many ferry companies, to head to Aegina. The ferry ride across Saronic Gulf takes around 40 minutes. We left early in the morning, enjoyed the entire day on the island, and took the ferry back at night. The night view from the boat was a lovely contrast from the morning.

Port of Aegina is busy, lined with a fleet of ferries, cruise ships and more. On shore is a bustling fish market with a number of restaurants competing for that gorgeous ocean view. It’s a great place to get a delicious seafood meal with fresh produce. To explore the island, you can rent a motorbike, hire a car, or simply wander on foot. The old town was relatively quiet when we visited in early October, as the summer season winded down. The quiet streets that were full of wonderful architecture details gave me a sense of Greek island life.

A day trip to Alimos

After a few days in the city, we were curious to see what life looks like outside the city center. We hopped on a tram, and took it all the way to the coast. Along the journey, we saw various neighborhoods in Athens, and observe daily life in the city. Traveling opens our eyes to new ways of life, but we must remember most people don’t live near touristy destinations. Sometimes, it helps to step away and see a different side.

Read more: Best Non Touristy Places to Visit in Europe

As we reached Alimos, various beach-side restaurants and lounges began to appear. We walked around, but it was eerily quiet given it was a week day, and the suburbia neighborhoods nearby were devoid of people. I could imagine the area filled with families on weekends. We settled into Peñarrubia Lounge, the one place that looked somewhat lively, and enjoyed a tranquil view and some lunch.

Good Eats

One of the joy of travel is the ability to try resaurants and local cuisines. Athens has plenty to offer, and here are some of my favorites:

Avocado – If you need some vegetarian fix, this café has a great menu of healthy and fulfilling bites. The atmosphere is relaxed, and a perfect spot in the center of town to rest from sightseeing.

Fresko Yogurt Bar – When in Greece, trying out their yogurt is a must. This yogurt bar offers up a variety of toppings to go with its creamy yogurt. If you are in the mood for a dessert, come to this bar to curb that craving.

Gelato Follia – If you do make it out to Aegina, definitely stop by this delicious gelateria for a big scoop of ice cream in delightful flavors.

Kokkos – This is my neighbourhood café for the week in the Pangrati neighbourhood. It’s a small café, with friendly baristas serving up delicious coffee. The cappuccino was perfection!

Mani Mani – If you are looking to have a decadent meal without breaking the budget, this is the place. Situated not far from the Acropolis museum, it’s a beautiful place to have a delightful Greek meal with a bit of a fusion twist.

Nice n Easy – This cozy restaurant has a fantastic outdoor sitting in a quiet residential neighbourhood near Academy of Athens. This is where you can have blend into the society a bit, away from the tourists. Food is fresh and tasty, true to its Mediterranean form.

TAF (The Art Foundation) – As mentioned, this hidden bar in Monastiraki is great for a coffee, or a cocktail. Enjoy the art, and feel the hip vibe!

The Black Sheep – This place was so delicious that we went back for a second time before we left. The tapa-style ordering lets you try many dishes, but very reasonably priced. If you are dining in the evening, be sure to call ahead to reserve a table. Lunch is also a great option if you are in the neighborhood.

The post First Timers’ Guide to Athens: 5 Days in the Heart of Greek Civilization appeared first on Truly Traveled.

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Truly Traveled by Damjan Tanaskovic - 2w ago

One of the biggest urban tragedies in the recent history of the United States, Detroit was at one point the fastest-growing city in the country. The industrial and economic boom that came with the rise of Detroit was as legendary and abrupt as its decay and regression into dirt and mold. All that’s left of this great city is a blight on the land and a question often posed by generations too young to remember all that’s transpired: Why is Detroit abandoned?

The answer to this question is so deeply rooted in history and so multifaceted, that anyone claiming a specific issue was the cause of all troubles for the city of Detroit is not being very honest. Not only is an entire array of issues responsible for the downfall of the place that went into history as the Motor City, but also the main cause for its current unyieldly state of affairs. To truly grasp the magnitude of the events that took place in Detroit before, during and after its heyday, a comprehensive analysis of all factors involved is due.

What Happened to Detroit?

The sequence of events preceding the contemporary postapocalyptic state of Detroit are all equally important in determining how it got to where it is today.

Before we discuss the underlying instabilities that led to such horrible death throes of this once prominent city, it’s important to understand and unravel the onset of its hypergrowth. Because to fully understand all the symptoms of illness that took Detroit down, we need to be aware of all the things it was exposed to.

The Rise of Detroit

Up to the very beginning of the 20th century, the city of Detroit was your run-of-the-mill industrial town, manufacturing goods for a range of other industries, forming a strong, local supply chain that made the businesses in the area highly self-reliant.

The abundance of coal, iron, and copper had spawned numerous workers well-versed in metallurgy, creating a strong foundation for the automobile industry that was to come soon after. In 1903, Henry Ford established his Ford Motor Company in a suburb of Detroit called Dearborn and the Packard plant also went into business. Following in their footsteps were other automobile giants such as General Motors, Chrysler, Dodge, and others. Whether they all settled in Detroit due to the availability of competent workforce, and bountiful resources, the importance of Detroit’s position as a gateway to Canada or simply out of chance is a matter of some debate to this day.

Soon after, the Highland Park Ford Plant was opened in 1910, introducing the first moving assembly line. Jobs here didn’t require much education or experience, enabling people who didn’t even speak the language properly to come from places as far as Poland and Hungary to work at the assembly line. This practice came to an abrupt end following the perils of World War I and the subsequent Immigration Act of 1924 that introduced annual quotas on how many people are allowed in the US.

Read more: Places to Avoid in South America

However, these quotas did not apply to immigrants in the western hemisphere, attracting Canadians and Mexicans to the ever-increasing number of automobile plants. Moreover, these jobs attracted the African-Americans fleeing the racial discrimination of Jim Crow laws in the south, but also the white people from the very same regions. In 1920, Detroit was already the 4th-largest city in the entire US, fuelled by all the workers eager to get in on the thriving automobile industry which was so successful that it had already created a rich, managerial layer of employees. Unlike the workers who’ve built their own homes close to the production plants, managers started moving away from the plants and the workers, settling the soon-to-be upper-class neighborhoods such as Grosse Pointe, Bloomfield Hills, and Oakland County. The 1920s seemed promising for the African-American community as they enjoyed in the prosperity as well, but they have soon realized that the prosecution and segregation are to be continued, as they were to be prohibited from getting loans to purchase houses in Detroit in white neighborhoods.

In 1927, Ford opened its Rouge Plant, a fully self-sustaining entity that employed 90,000 workers. Three years later, Detroit’s population reached 1.6 million people, the number that culminated in 1950 when it reached its peak of 2 million citizens. World War II changed the main focus of all these automobile plants, requiring them to manufacture war machines instead. While this was a common practice all over the US, Detroit had some troubles adjusting to the newly established situation due to a lack of a real industrial zone – auto factories were all over the place without any order.

For a long time, everything looked exceedingly well for Detroit and its people, discounting for blatant racism that was still very much alive. No one expected what was about to come.

The Descent into Chaos

After all the years of prospering and growing, no one was ready for the wake-up call that was about to happen. Lulled into a false sense of security and enjoying their high wages, workers were not prepared for events that were to unfold after World War II.

Read more: What to do in Sri Lanka

Following the war, most smaller car companies got forced out of the business by giants in the field, namely Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. This unruly group became known as the ‘Big Three’ and all of the workers of Detroit were in their hands. Many unions didn’t fail to realize what kind of threat this posed for the average worker. Of all the factories, workers at the Rouge Plant were best organized and least obsessed with racial segregation, fighting together for better working conditions for all. Regardless of how noble their intentions were, they were unwillingly adding fuel to the fire that was about to break out.

The fire in question was the displacement of manufacturing plants from the city to the suburban areas. The companies cited many reasons for this relocation, most often complaining about the high taxes in the city and the need for more manufacturing space that could also be automated more easily. Ford has seen this as an excellent excuse to take control back from the unions. Having one mega-facility that the Rouge Plant truly was could have been extremely dangerous for the business in case of a worker strike. Instead, they spread all the work among a large number of much smaller, more specialized facilities so that they can keep on producing parts even if workers at one of the other facilities go on a strike.

Read more: Where to Speak English in Europe

They even had workers at multiple facilities manufacturing the same items in order to avoid any potential losses. From 1945 to 1957, The Big Three constructed 25 auto factories all of which were in the surrounding areas and not in the city itself – all of the companies slowly drifted the production away from Detroit itself, trying to cut down on expenses (and risks) as much as possible. During the 1950s, more than 150,000 people have lost their jobs due to the relocation of factories to the suburbs. In 1958, the Packard factory was, like many others that didn’t belong to one of the companies from the Big Three, closed down and abandoned.

However, it did not end there. The problems kept cropping up, and companies would always try to solve them by cutting down on expenses, i.e. workforce. The best example of this practice is the aforementioned Rouge Plant in Detroit, which after having the record number of employees (90,000 in 1927) dropped down drastically to 30,000 by the 1960s. Unfortunately, the cuts didn’t stop there.

It was only in the 1970s and 1980s that the final nails were in the coffin. Gasoline prices went up spearheaded by organizations such as OPEC, while more and more competition kept emerging, especially from countries such as Germany, Japan, and Italy. The companies kept trying to get better and better deals while spending less, which eventually led to them abandoning their Detroit posts altogether and moving to the southern states at first and then ditching the US altogether for Canada, Mexico, and some other lower-income countries.

Abandoned Detroit

Having abandoned Detroit for some other, more profitable destinations, car companies revealed a glaring problem that had been swept under the rug for so many years before, never being addressed by anyone.

The city had abandoned all the other industries for the sake of the automobile industry. The once mighty shipbuilding business was all but a pipe dream, while timbering was denounced as ancient history. Detroit was revealed for what it was – a hollow shell with bad infrastructure and horrible segregation issues. As the companies keeping the city alive withdrew, they left a trail of disappointment and pollution. During these final years when good manufacturing plants were going extinct, the ugly face of overcrowdedness made its presence known. All roads were basically unsuitable for anything but automobiles, with the singular purpose of getting workers to downtown Detroit and their offices, all the while cutting right through the black neighborhoods.

The racist tactics such as redlining, which involved refusing loans to African-Americans, became more apparent than ever. Foreseeing the impending doom, real estate agents began to use underhanded tactics such as blockbusting, which involved manipulating white people into thinking that African-Americans are coming to take over their neighborhoods. Considering that their homes were the only things of value they’ve had after World War II, whites would sell their homes for lower prices, scared of their property losing all value in case it became a black neighborhood. The agents would then sell those homes for exorbitant prices to those African-Americans desperate enough to pay them just so they could escape the inner city. With white, middle-class people gone, taxes used for maintaining public services were gone as well, with what went into history as ‘white flight’.

Read more: Does Antarctica Have Countries?

Racial tensions have escalated on several occasions, fuelled by poverty and disdain for each other that has accrued over the years. During the riots, people died on both sides and what little property was left in the city was now damaged or looted.

The Aftermath

In 2013, the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy. It was the single, biggest case of going bankrupt in the history of the US, with Detroit’s debt reaching 18 billion dollars.

Today, the situation is only marginally better for most middle-class families in Detroit. Household income has taken a turn for the better, but it’s nowhere near the level where it was a century ago. The city poses a unique problem for most urbanists: Why hasn’t the situation gotten better? Why is Detroit abandoned still?

There were other cities in a similar situation, places like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. How come they’ve managed to recover? Something is very sinister about the lack of improvement in this city. Many different experts posed many different explanations for that. These mostly revolve around infrastructure and social issues. The former deals with all the abandoned buildings still littering what’s become known as the urban prairie. Blight on the land is still very much present with no one to take care of it considering how expensive it is. As for the social issues, they involve middle-class families refusing to move to black neighborhoods. They are still deemed unsafe and their value is in decline.

There’s also more than a small amount of corruption prohibiting capital from coming in, locking Detroit in a state of perpetual poverty. If this doesn’t improve, no amount of regentrifying the city will help.

Urban Tourism

One shining light in all the darkness of the postindustrial Detroit is the amount of attention it has been getting from people enjoying its postapocalyptic charm.

People actually come to visit all the decrepit, dilapidated buildings that once comprised the industrial core of the city. Graffiti art and rave parties are the main attractions here, with a decent number of people showing interest in these kinds of activities. Historic places like Belle Island and the Riverfront can be seen on the East Side of the city.

There are even groups such as Pure Detroit that give organized tours of the city’s deteriorating landmarks.

Detroit still looks abandoned, but there’s still hope while there are people willing to keep living there and fighting for a better future. Even though there’s only about 700,000 of them now, their spirits are strong and Detroit may yet recover.

The post Why is Detroit Abandoned appeared first on Truly Traveled.

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Truly Traveled by Damjan Tanaskovic - 2w ago

Despite the years of effort to have Antarctica preserved as a politics-free zone, many countries still vie for its territory to this day.

Some of them are taking steps adverse to peace on the southernmost continent of the world, continuously claiming sovereignty in the most underhanded of ways. Others are either turning a blind eye to such activities in order to maintain the status quo or performing some illicit activities themselves. While there are systems to prevent such divisions of land among sovereign countries in Antarctica, there are obviously tendencies to bend the rules ever so slightly, just enough for certain countries to flash their claims.

All these conflicting interactions, double standards, and a glutton for land are to this day causing confusion not only among those visiting the South Pole themselves but also anyone trying to get informed about the bottom of the barrel that are these claims to Antarctican lands.

How many Countries in Antarctica

Before discussing the exact number of countries presently holding claims on Antarctica, it’s important to understand what these claims constitute.

Territorial claims in Antarctica include all lands and each and every ice shelf under the 60th parallel south, or it is at least how the Antarctic Treaty deals with the aforementioned claims. So, what countries are in Antarctica if any?

Are there any Countries in Antarctica?

The short answer to this question, and also how it should be is simply – no.

However, as can be expected of any place on Earth where interests of various countries collide, waters get muddied rather abruptly. To get a clearer picture, you need to understand more about the events that preceded the treaty system that keeps the fifth-largest continent of the world in check, protecting it from armed conflicts and petty squabbles.

Read more: Antarctica Cities

During the 1950s, seven countries were very eager to lay claim to the Antarctic continent. They were the neighboring countries of Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and a few countries under Antarctica continent (or above depending on how you look) – Norway, the United Kingdom, and France. The Antarctic region was divided into Australian Antarctic Territory (now headed by Australian Antarctic Division), Ross Dependency, Chilean Antarctic Territory, Argentine Antarctica, Peter I Island, British Antarctic Territory, and Adélie Land, claimed by the seven countries respectively. To truly grasp the ridiculousness of these claims, just consider the fact that Argentina, Chile, and the United Kingdom’s proposed territories overlap, which can be seen on any map of Antarctica that features borders.

After this greedy division of the Antarctic region came some better days. International Geophysical Year was a major turning point for countries deeply separated by the Cold War and the danger it posed. It was there, on Antarctica, that scientists from a large number of countries came together to learn about the world and the universe. The product of their collaboration was the Antarctica Treaty. Opened for signature in 1959, it was initially given a blessing by twelve countries that participated in the International Geophysical Year, or IGY for short. Besides the seven countries that were also busy claiming the territories, five more came forward, willing to ratify the treaty. These were Belgium, South Africa, Japan, the United States, and the Soviet Union. The Antarctica Treaty came into force in 1961 and has been the main tool in managing the international relations around the South Pole.

Read more: Blue Lagoon at Night

So, does Antarctica have countries? No, no one owns Antarctica, at least not officially, but the number of countries in Antarctica doing research at the moment is quite high, with more than 50 of them signing the Antarctica Treaty.

Antarctic Treaty System

With so many different fields requiring a decent amount of regulation in order for all these countries to coexist and focus on science rather than causing conflicts, the need arose for an all-encompassing system to fulfill that role.

This is exactly where the Antarctic Treaty System came into play, and it has served the purpose admirably. The system features a set of treaties that were later added to the steady foundation that is the Antarctic Treaty. Being so important for the stability and cooperation of countries of Antarctica, the treaty deserves a special mention here:

“No acts or activities taking place while the present treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica or create any rights of sovereignty in Antarctica. No new claim, or enlargement of an existing claim, to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica, shall be asserted while the present treaty is in force.”

-Antarctic Treaty, Article IV

These lines fully portray the importance of the treaty in preventing conflicts due to territorial claims. On the other hand, it shies away from denouncing the claims that are already in place. After the initial treaty, there were some others that followed suit, protecting marine and all other kinds of life on the continent, particularly seals and prohibiting mineral extraction.

Read more: Summer Season in the South Pole

List of Countries in Antarctica Continent

As we’ve already established, there are no countries in Antarctica, and making a list of such countries would be absolutely redundant.

However, there are other questions that we may ask, such as:

How many countries are there in Antarctica that claim portions of its territory?

The answer to this question we’ve already talked about, there are seven countries that claim one area each as their own, the exception being Norway which claims two territories: Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land. To reiterate, these countries are:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Chile
  • Argentina
  • Norway
  • The United Kingdom
  • France

Which countries of the world have research stations in Antarctica?

Besides these seven, some other countries with research stations include:

  • The United States
  • Russia (Former Soviet Union)
  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • Japan
  • Uruguay
  • Poland
  • Sweden
  • China
  • Belarus
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • South Africa

The list goes on and encompasses most of the European countries, including quite a lot of them from Europe.

Violations of the Treaty

The treaty system defines what countries involved may or may not do and this mostly boils down to demilitarization of the continent.

However, there have been instances of these rules being broken, like when Argentina performed military maneuvers on Antarctican land. Also, even though the military is prohibited from operating on the continent unless they’re helping the scientific staff, Chile and Argentina are maintaining a constant military presence. The United Kingdom offers visitors to stamp their passports as if they were entering a sovereign country. What’s the purpose of all this? Well, making it look like these countries actually have claim over the land. It’s hard to predict what may happen in the future, but if oil were to be found underneath all the ice, the sovereigns will hold on to their claims much stronger.

Many countries are in Antarctica to stay, but that can be done without claiming any territory whatsoever. Let the world have at least one completely demilitarized zone where scientists from all over the globe can come together for the betterment of humankind. There’s no need for Antarctica countries, just Antarctican scientists and research stations!

The post Countries in Antarctica appeared first on Truly Traveled.

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Truly Traveled by Teodora Ilic - 2w ago

Isn’t it miraculous how Iceland pulls it off to make us swoon over with delight every single time we lay eyes on it? Indeed, the spots in the land of fire and ice are enough to make an endless bucket list. As one of the most sought-after destinations in the country, the Blue Lagoon Iceland surely deserves an honorable place on that list.

Still, visiting the Blue Lagoon at night opens a whole new level of spa journeys and it creates a genuinely transformational experience. The chances are you will have fewer people frolicking around which is why nighttime is ideal to have the lagoon almost entirely to yourself.

What is the Blue Lagoon?

The Blue Lagoon is one of the most famous geothermal spas in Iceland, and possibly in the whole world. Located on the Reykjanes Peninsula just 20 kilometers from Keflavík International Airport and just 30 minutes from the capital Reykjavík, it is also one of the most visited spots in Iceland all year round. This is why any trip to Iceland should definitely include a visit to this magical lagoon. What makes it so special is the fact that its beautiful milky-blue water stands in stark contrast with the surrounding cone-shaped volcanoes and barren landscapes covered in grey moss. The lagoon really seems like something out of this world.

The lagoon is not a natural phenomenon, though. This hot spring was formed as a deposit body of water for Svartsengi power plant. So to say, it is filled with waste-water from the plant. However, not only is the water super-clean and free of chemicals but it also contains natural minerals that have healing properties and are great for the skin. The water from the plant is incessantly being streamed into the lagoon which ensures its cleanness.

Having in mind that Iceland has tremendous geothermal energy, it uses it to heat the urban areas. The hot water from the springs is full of minerals that could damage the pipes so it’s only used to heat the fresh water or produce electricity by running the turbines. Once utilized, the water is pumped into lava fields but it doesn’t drain into the ground. Instead, it stays in the lagoon because of the silica which forms the mud layer, preventing the water from escaping. The silica is also the reason why the water in the lagoon has the most beautiful shade of blue.

The temperature of the water in the lagoon stays pleasantly high throughout the year. Although the warm water is present in almost all parts of the lagoon and it is usually between 37 – 39 degrees Celsius, some parts might get a bit chilly if it’s really windy or cold outside.

It wasn’t until 1981 that the first person who had a skin condition (psoriasis) tried to bathe in the lagoon. Although people were rather skeptical about his feat, the result was surprising. Immediately after spending some time in the water, the man called Valur Margeirsson said that he felt tremendous relief from the itch and tickling which psoriasis caused. Just like that, the lagoon soon gained its worldwide fame for its beneficial properties. Today, dermatologists are more than ready to recommend it as a great way to appease skin-related ailments or else simply use it as a great skin care treatment.

Read more: Must-See Waterfalls in Iceland

The Best Time to Visit the Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon permits only a limited number of visitors at a time. This is why it’s necessary that you book the tickets in advance. The management has decided to implement these rules in order to avoid the crowds and cramming in the lagoon but still, there are times when the lagoon is more crowded than usual.

Many of us can’t afford to reserve the lagoon entirely for ourselves as Bill Gates did in 2015. Instead, the best budget-friendly option is to either visit it very early in the morning or, even better, book your visit as late as possible. Not only will you have the chance to enjoy a tranquil magical midnight swim but you will also avoid hectic locker rooms and long waiting lines.

There are dozens of ways to experience the lagoon and the best part is that it’s open year round. The Blue Lagoon spa amenities include steam rooms and sauna, mud masks, an in-water bar, and a relaxation area overlooking the lagoon.

If you only have a few days to sightsee Iceland and you don’t want to skip visiting the Lagoon, it’s usually best to arrive or depart from Keflavík Airport which is closer to the Blue Lagoon than Reykjavík. That way you can save time and take a dip before your trip back or immediately after you land.

In addition to this, the Blue Lagoon Iceland can be visited as a part of various tours around the country. For example, some round trips include a full-day tour of the Golden Circle with a two-hour visit to the Lagoon. That way, you will have the chance to visit Gullfoss waterfall, Þingvellir National Park, and the Geysir Geothermal Area which are the Golden Circle’s main attractions. Soaking in the milky water of the Lagoon is an awesome way to top off the trip. Another fantastic way to experience Iceland with a side trip to the Lagoon is to embark on a whale watching cruise. You can admire Iceland’s incredible marine life, including minke whales, dolphins, humpback whales, and numerous sea birds which populate the area. After this amazing experience, you will head to the Blue Lagoon to blow off the steam.

Lastly, there are two additional tours comprising cultural sightseeing tours of Reykjavik with a visit to the Lagoon and the one that includes a visit to the Kerid volcano crater. No matter which tour you choose, it is certain that your trip to the Blue Lagoon will be all the more memorable if you include some of these tours in your visit.

Visiting the Blue Lagoon at Night

Apart from having fewer people around, visiting the Blue Lagoon at night has another fantastic perk. Being perfectly positioned in the Auroral Zone, Iceland is one of the best destinations in the world to catch sight of the Northern Lights – the surreal occurrence of dreamlike colors in the night sky. The best time to witness this celestial phenomenon in Iceland is to visit it during the winter months (October to March). The darkest months are December and January, with nights lasting for anywhere between 10 to 20 hours. As you may guess, they make up for a perfect opportunity to take a dip in the lagoon while gazing at the spellbinding light show in the night sky.

If you happen to visit the Blue Lagoon during the summer months, spending night hours there might happen to be not so dark at all. Due to Iceland’s proximity to the Arctic Circle, summer nights in Iceland can get pretty bright. This dazzling natural phenomenon is commonly known as the Midnight Sun and it refers to the occurrence of continuous daylight which lasts for almost half a year. You can only imagine how otherworldly the experience can be as you float immersed in the warm milky water while there is an astounding celestial light show put on in the night sky.

Read more: Summer in Antarctica

Things to Keep in Mind

Reserving a visit to the Lagoon is done through the official Blue Lagoon website. As it’s one of the top attractions in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon sells the daily ticket capacity within only a few hours do timely booking is an absolute must. The ticket prices will also go up depending on the availability so if you wait for too long to book, the price might be much bigger than the initial amount.

The opening hours vary depending on the season and so does the closing time. From January throughout May or August throughout December, the lagoon is open from 8 in the morning until 10 in the evening. From May until August, it opens an hour earlier (7 AM) and remains open until midnight. Still, you have to keep a few things in mind before visiting.

First of all, you won’t be able to go into the water the minute you arrive there. Sometimes, you might have to wait for a while until your locker key is available. On top of that, you will need to count in the time it will take you to take a shower because no one is allowed to go into the water unless previously showered.

Spa amenities and different packages are also available in the lagoon. The Blue Lagoon Comfort package lets you use towels, have the first drink of your choice, and enjoy silica mud mask. On the other hand, you can treat yourself in the Premium Blue Lagoon package and revel in a few additional things not covered in the Comfort Package – a table reservation at Lava Restaurant, sparkling wine if dining, the use of bathrobe, and the second mask of choice. If you want to go over the top and opt for the ultimate pampering experience at the lagoon, Luxury Retreat Spa is a dream come true. This deluxe treatment opens new vistas of wellbeing by opening the doors to the Lava Cove – a secluded lagoon, in-water massage, a hidden spa, and so much more.

If you’re traveling to the Blue Lagoon with kids, keep in mind that the minimum age for using the Blue Lagoon is two years old. The elevated mineral content in the water might not be good for toddlers. Children between 2 and 13 years of age are admitted to the Lagoon free of charge and any child younger than 8 must wear floaties which are available at the entrance and are free of charge. Having in mind that the depth of water may even reach 1.4 m in depth at certain spots, it’s an absolute imperative that all children are supervised by a parent or guardian. Although we can’t blame the little ones for expressing their excitement by being a bit noisy, everyone is strongly encouraged to respect the serenity of the tranquil environment.

Obviously, visiting the Blue Lagoon at night is not only magical but it’s also a way to enjoy this unique destination with very few tourists around. The feeling this experience instills will surely be the one you will remember for many years after the minerals have washed away from your hair.

The post Blue Lagoon at Night appeared first on Truly Traveled.

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The South Pole truly is a formidable stretch of wilderness. Gigantic chunks of ice, temperatures way below freezing, winds whipping at breakneck speed, and polar nights lasting for half a year – someone or something living there really seems out of the realm of possibility. So, does anyone actually live in Antarctica?

Believe it or not, life does exist in Antarctica in all possible forms which is yet another fascinating fact about this unique continent.

Who Exactly Lives in Antarctica?

When it was first discovered centuries ago, it seemed almost out of this world and it has remained so ever since. Over the decades, various expeditions disembarked its shores in attempts to explore these fascinatingly vast lands. Having realized how special this continent is, numerous countries vowed to keep it intact. On December 1st, 1959 in Washington, the Antarctic Treaty was signed and it stipulated that signatories would never militarize the land and would exclusively use it for scientific purposes. Since then, Antarctica has been populated by scientists and other staff that help boost scientific research and promote wildlife conservation.

When we talk about someone actually living in the South Pole, it doesn’t mean that it is their permanent home. To begin with, Antarctica is no man’s land, so to say. There is no government, there are no public airports in Antarctica, no schools, no banks, no hospitals, or anything else that makes up for regular living conditions. At least, not in the way we know them.

Countries that have formed base camps in the South Pole include the United Kingdom, the US, Argentina, Russia, Chile, France, Italy, Australia, and Norway. The Norwegian research station Troll is constructed on a snow-free slope in Queen Maud Land, unlike all the others. Each camp has its own airstrip, be it gravel or ice. Specialized aircraft operate along aerial routes to and across the continent.

Antarctica has no indigenous population and no one can possess an official passport to it. So far, there are eight territorial claims to land in Antarctica and they belong to original signatories of the Antarctic Treaty – France, Australia, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom though some of them overlap. Theoretically speaking, anyone born on territory in Antarctica would become a citizen of the specific country that claims that territory.

People don’t live and work in Antarctica for indefinite periods of time i.e. they stay there for as long as missions demand or until certain research is completed. Most often, people who work in Antarctica stay there anywhere between about 3 and 18 months. There is not an actual limit to the length of the stay although some countries restrict their programs and after the period expires, scientists have to go back to the mainland.

Survival in Antarctica

There are only two seasons in Antarctica and they dictate the number of people living in research camps. The majority of scientists stay in stations between November and April because this is the summer period in Antarctica. On the other hand, the Antarctic winter is cruel and merciless.

It’s not easy to get around and do much in such extreme cold. During winter months, usually between April and October, survival doesn’t only depend on the clothes you’re wearing. Though people simply have to wrap up warm in layers and wear insulated footwear, winters are ferocious for a few more reasons. There is complete darkness for several months during winter and it’s easy to get lost in whiteout conditions. Avoiding unnecessary risks and not being caught out in the worst weather are also important parts of survival in Antarctica. Anyone residing there for whatever period has to be familiar with well-versed drills.

Research stations generally provide everything to make living there as easy as possible. Food and supplies are stored to cover months of complete isolation. High energy foods, lamps, paraffin stoves, thick sheepskin, sleeping bags are the bare necessities. Reserves, tents and additional equipment are kept in huts near each base, in case of fire or other incidents that could destroy the base to the ground. When scientists go off base, they have to plan it carefully and bring sufficient supplies for much longer than the intended stay. If the winds get up and a snowstorm gets nasty, it could keep them cut off for weeks.

Jobs in Antarctica pretty much revolve around science and scientific support. Antarctic personnel comprises specialists in a particular field. These include lake biologists, bird biologists, marine biologist, microbiologist, geologists, atmospheric scientists, climatologists, oceanologists, chemists, while support positions remain available for doctors, firefighters, cooks, electricians, carpenters, or boat handler, only to name a few. Though it might seem like a perfect adventure for unemployed enthusiasts, there is a handful of reality checks to keep in mind.

First of all, perseverance and psychological stability are crucial because Antarctica can get lonesome and depressing at times. Self-reliance, flexibility, competence, and adaptability are some of the crucial traits you need to have in order to land a job on the South Pole. Another potential obstacle is that the applicant who has the citizenship of a country with an Antarctic Program stands much greater chances of getting a job than the one that doesn’t. This is not to say that it is impossible but chances are very limited.

Read more: Is Antarctica a Desert?

Do Animals Live in Antarctica?

Seeing as no people live in Antarctica permanently, it is only logical to wonder about other life forms and their presence in these glacial areas.

Surprisingly enough, animal life in Antarctica is just as abundant as in any other part of the world. Still, these animals are pretty sizable and warm-blooded because they had to adapt to relentless and extreme cold. On top of that, they all largely depend on the sea as the only source of food. Antarctica is all about glaciers, icebergs, and ice, without any nutritious plants about. Mammals and birds that inhabit the continent feast on fish and plankton from the sea.

Whales, penguins, bears, foxes, and seals dominate the South Pole. Apart from whales which obviously never leave the water, other animals dwell on the sea ice for extended periods of time. Some of them form colonies and this is especially the case with penguins. Male Emperor Penguins even take charge of the eggs by incubating them on their feet and they sit huddled on the ice throughout the dark months until females return.

Be that as it may, animals don’t stick around Antarctica forever either. The continent is just a stop on their migrating routes but they do contribute to making it one of the most beautiful continents on the planet.

Read more: Are there Towns in Antarctica?

Human Impacts on Antarctica

Though people don’t live in Antarctica, they still manage to affect it and it’s not always for the best. Despite scientific efforts to preserve the Earth’s last great wilderness, many of us have consciously or unconsciously made a shameful mark on this beautiful land.

In order to gain economic benefit, people have taken some animal species to the verge of extinction. Oceans are being over-fished and fishing for kill impacts the Antarctic food chains in the most dramatic of ways. In the past decade, scientists have been able to detect plastic waste that has managed to find its way to these distant shores and as a consequence, many animals have died of suffocation or poisoning. Passing ships have even brought rats and mice that pose a great threat to Antarctica’s ground-nesting birds which are not experienced in defending themselves against any predators.

Climate change and global warming result in the loss of ice as ice shelves collapse and glaciers retreat. Consequently, many species are forced to leave their habitats as the ice surface keeps melting away, leaving them without a place to stay.

The environmental management of Antarctica is doing their best to raise awareness on these issues and make good past damage. It is our collective responsibility to reduce the current harm and prevent future impacts before we disfigure this wilderness beyond repair.

The post Does Anyone Live in Antarctica? appeared first on Truly Traveled.

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