A New and Popular Travel Destination – The Middle East

Once called the Middle East, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel have become popular travel destinations. Visited by themselves or in combination, most travelers return satisfied and surprised by their travel experience. For many, they have been on a truly remarkable holiday with a difference. So why is this so? To best answer this, we need to know a little more about these countries and how to travel to and within them.

*How to get there

Most travelers come by air. The national capitals of Damascus, Amman, Beirut and Tel Aviv all have international airports that are serviced by a range of international and Middle Eastern carriers. Both bus and private car travel is possible between most of the countries. Generally these are via a number of single crossing points like Syria-Lebanon and Syria-Jordan (at Derá on the new highway that links the two countries). Land routes exist to bordering countries. Land travel into/from Israel is more restricted. The most common point of entry is via the King Hussein (Allenby) Bridge from Jordan. Syria has a somewhat dated rail network. Some services only run weekly but those on the popular central routes operate several services each day.

*How to get around

Trains, buses and taxi’s form the centerpiece of Middle Eastern travel services. Car hire with a guide is provided by many local tourist operators. They generally are cost effective and worth considering. Use Google to find them and always ask for (and check) references. Most will require half of the booking fee wired to them before they will confirm the bookings. A number of international companies including the overland companies offer tours. Again check with Google. A number of universities offer summer archaeological digs. Many of these are fee based and no experience is required.

*When to go

The Middle East enjoys a Mediterranean climate but the summers are hot and the winters cold, especially in the north. March to May is the best time to visit. Those who want to soak up the sun will find the coastal areas mid summer comfortable as temperatures are often influenced by cooler coastal breezes. The area suffers from winter rainfall that can make sightseeing difficult and snow covers the mountains between Lebanon and Syria mid winter.

*The Countries

Syria – Syria is modern, easy to travel in and relatively safe. It’s affordable if you keep away from the more expensive five star international hotels. It has a myriad of charms with excellent food, breathtaking scenery, tons of places of historic interest and friendly people. English is generally spoken in most hotels and markets in the major centers. Damascus is the major attraction with its wonderful markets and historic mosques and palaces. The Umayyad Mosque and the nearby mausoleum of Saladin (one of the greatest heroes of Arab’s history), are a “must see”. Plan a couple of days to enjoy Damascus. Consider at staying in one of the renovated boutique hotels that have sprung up in the past ten years. Many of these are ancient palaces in the Old City and are well worth the little extra cost. Do take the time to drive out to Palmyra for the site of the city that built to rival Rome. Homs with its water wheels in on the road to Apamea. This has an avenue of two kilometers of granite columns. Both are worth visiting and are part of 20 or more major archaeological sites that can be visited by tourists. Wandering around ruins of forts, mosques, churches and palaces provides a wonderful insight into what life was like two thousand years ago. Looping back towards Damascus is the most famous of the Crusader castles, Krak des Chevaliers. It is remarkably intact and it will be enjoyed by castle enthusiasts.

Jordan – Jordan has a huge selection of fascinating history to offer the tourists. It is steeped in the history of the Old Testament. The ancient cities of Petra and Jerash date back to Roman times when they were great trading cities along the Silk Road. Jerash is the “Pompeii of the East” and needs a little background reading to fully appreciate the historic context of the site. Take your time to explore it; you are walking through centuries of history. Although Amman is the relatively modern capital of Jordan, you’ll find the satellite city of Salt with its narrow streets and quaint houses is worth the visit. Jordan has a fascinating history of craft, Bedouin weaving, embroidery, pottery and ceramics, jewellery and glassblowing. These crafts are still very much part of Jordanian life today. The Bedouin hospitality and wonderful local cuisine is legendary.

Driving south from Amman you’ll find the now spreading town of Petra. To walk down the half mile long suq, you will be surprised by the beauty of the pink stone Treasury at the entrance of the old city of Petra. It will take your breath away. Read about Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, who discovered Petra in 1812, before you go. His is indeed an amazing story. South of Petra is the now modern port of Aqaba made famous by Lawrence of Arabia. West of here you’ll find Wadi Rum where the film of Lawrence’s war-time exploits was made. Here, an option is to stay with the Bedouins in their cloth covered black tents. They are remarkably comfortable. Take a camel ride out to the secret camp where Lawrence planned his desert campaigns. You might return a little saddle sore but you will have really “ridden” in the footsteps of history.

Lebanon – Lebanon is a relatively small country. The highlights are generally along the coast. Here is the colorful coastal town of Byblos and further north is the ancient Crusader city of Tripoli with it’s interesting souqs (markets), mosques and hammams (baths). Turning inland, you will pass through the picturesque villages of the Qadisha Valley, through the Cedars and on to historic Baalbeck which has magnificent Roman ruins said by some to be the best preserved in the world, The route continues through the vineyards at Bekaa and then Umayyad ruins of Aanjar. Nearby is the charming village of Deiral-Qamar and the Beiteddine palace with its wonderful gardens.

Israel – Don’t ignore Israel as a possible travel destination. Access difficulties can be overcome by careful planning or with the help of an experienced travel operator. It’s the Holy Land and steeped in history. Most visitors head for Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho but there lots of little know archaeological sites like the old Roman capital of Galilee called Tzipori. In Jerusalem, the old City of David, The Citadel and Church of the Holy Sepulcher with the nearby Wailing Wall, draws the most tourists. What is believed to be the oldest church in the world is in Bethlehem. A silver star marks the place where it is believed that Christ was born.

Some tourists choose to visit the Dead Sea. It is off Highway 90 west of Jerusalem. Personally, although unique, I think that it is overrated. Those with more time might consider visiting Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Further a field you’ll find Masada with its spectacular ruined fortress.

Take care in Israel photographing or showing interest in border and military installations or personnel. You’ll get used the very obvious security presence.

*Visas

All these countries have different visa requirements. Generally Israel does not require a visa for most western countries. Tourists are allowed a stay of up to 90 days. However, it is necessary to avoid getting your passport stamped upon entry or exit as this causes problems of entry into Lebanon and Syria. Ask the border officials to stamp your entry permit instead. Better still, put Israel last on your itinerary. Jordanian visas can be obtained upon arrival at the airport and at most border crossings. It is best to get Syrian visas in advance. USA, most EU, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand passport holders can get a visa to enter Lebanon at the border. Jordan allows entry/exit to Israel via the King Hussein (Allenby) Bridge without a multi-entry visa.

*Recommendation

The countries of the Middle East are attractive and exciting travel destinations. The people that you’ll meet are friendly and if your leave politics aside, you’ll have a very enjoyable travel experience. Middle eastern cooking is a highlight and in all countries you’ll find an amazing array of low cost local restaurants. Try the local beers and wines and few of the specialized drinks like Arak (Lion’s milk) which is commonly served with mezze. Talk to your travel agent or check out travel sites on Google. You are guaranteed to have a holiday of lifetime.

The Most Remarkable Highlights of Peru

This was where the famous Inca Empire once flourished which was established as early as the 15th century AD. This is why Peru enjoys hosting some of the most amazing monuments.

The Spanish forces took control of this region during the 16th century. After the independence of the country in 1821, it witnessed a state of disturbances until it reached the country we view today. We will be highlighting some of the most interesting destinations never to be missed by travelers who tour Peru.

The City of Lima

Lima is the capital of Peru, the largest city of the nation, and the cultural, industrial, and commercial hub. With a population of 9 million inhabitants, it is the fifth largest city in Southern America. Several travelers who spend their vacation in Peru enjoy a couple of days in Lima.

Nicknamed as the city of the kings, Lima was established in 1535. The city hosts a number of interesting monuments. This is in addition to its fine cuisine offering wonderful tasty traditional dishes. Lima is also famous for its exotic nightlife with many cultural events, exhibitions, and concerts held in the city. A visit to Lima is a must for any tourists who travel to Peru.

The Sacred Valley

Situated in the heart of the former Inca Empire, the Scared Valley is located near the city of Cuzco today. During the period of the Inca, the inhabitants of the valley dig many basins for the steaming of salt, to obtain fresh water through a rather primitive yet brilliant process. This was the main reason why travelers who tour Peru still view these large square shaped basins that were established thousands of years ago. The valley also hosts some of the ruins and antiquities left by the Inca Empire.

The City of Cusco

Cusco was once the most important centers of Peru. This was where the Inca Empire priests worshiped the sun and left many impressive monuments that amaze traveler coming from all over the world to spend a holiday in Peru.

The Spanish occupied the city in 1533 and Francisco Pizarro González, the famous Spanish army leader and conquer officially established the city in the middle of the 16th century. The Spanish was clever to found a new city on the ruins of the great buildings of the Inca Empire. Today the city welcomes hundreds of tourists who travel to Peru as it is considered among the most remarkable touristic destinations in the country.

The ancient town of Chan Chan

Built out of limestone, Chan Chan was the largest and most impressive towns of Latin America, before Columbus discovered the continent. The city is now full of tourists who enjoy their holidays in Peru for hosting a large number of quite remarkable monuments. Established in 850 AD, the Inca took control of town for more than 500 years and they added their contributions to the constructions of the city as well.

The city of Mancora

Located at the Northern shores of the country, Mancora is featured with some of the finest beaches and resorts situated over the Pacific Ocean. This is the reason why it grabs the attention of many travelers who tour Peru. The city is also famous for having a wonderful nightlife with many discos and nightclubs all over the city.

Mediterranean Travel Destination – The Hidden Wonders of Datca

How do you savor the Mediterranean and Aegean seas? Let us count the ways. A definitive first on the list is taking a trip to Datca. There’s probably a hundred more under it, but no famous yet unspoiled tourist spot can offer refreshing views of and plunges in these Greek seas while offering access to the wonders of the countryside.

After all, this peninsula (and town) is not only famed for its relaxing beaches and bays, it’s also a haven for anyone with a hunger for adventure, history and celebration.

Treats for Travelers

A trip to Datca is a visual feast for any traveler. With its spectacular views of pine trees, azure seas, almond groves and virgin coves, traveling to this town feels like going inside a colorful postcard.

Some parts of Datca offer vacation villages for travelers wishing to make their stay a bit longer and more convenient. In fact, some of the most remarkable bed and breakfasts in Turkey can be found in this town. Yet even with these developments, the rich collection of flora and fauna of the town remains unspoiled.

Triple Pride of the Town

Datca makes a living not only from tourism but also from its organic produce. While vegetables and garden fruits are among its gastronomic wonders, the town takes pride in its three B’s: bal (honey), badem (almond), and balik (fish).

Haven for Historians

Any historic buff would find bliss in this peninsula for it houses several historic sites. Knidos is home to the ruins of a wealthy city that dates back to about 400 BC. A trip to this historic wonder is not complete without seeing the statue of Aphrodite, which is said to be history’s first naked female statue.

Eski or Old Datca offers the best of the town’s countryside with its stone houses, carved doorways and narrow cobbled streets. It was also the home of Can Yucel, one of Turkey’s famous poets and translators.

Delight for Shoppers

Even a quiet town like Datca can be a shopper’s Mecca. What with its wealth of boutiques, carpet shops and souvenir shops. Add to these some bars, restaurants and an amphi cinema and you’ll almost find a city anchored in nature.

Among the remarkable wares of this town are its handcrafted embroideries. Made of silk, these handcrafts are usually sold in bazaars on Saturdays.

Getting the Best Taste

What better way to savor Datca than during months when special celebrations are held throughout the town. Should your schedule allow you a vacation in early autumn, be sure to bring jars for you’re just in time for the collection of honey. You’d want to explore the wonders of the town until November for this month brings with it the olive oil production.

If your taste buds often crave for almonds, we recommend you drop by in July for not only are the almond trees in full bloom, it’s also the perfect time for the Almond Festival. Make sure you stay a bit longer for come August, poetry and music reign in Datca with the celebration of the life and works of Can Yucel.