Magnificent Travel Destinations on the South American Continent

If you are interested in adding new intriguing and exciting destinations to your travel itinerary, don’t miss the opportunity to spend your holiday in South America. By choosing to travel to this magnificent continent, you will have the chance to discover remarkable cultures and civilizations with a great history behind them, driven by the temperamental but also very welcoming Latin spirit. Some of the most prominent and important countries in South America, representing true symbols for the South American continent, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Panama have a very well-developed potential for tourism, attracting overwhelmingly large numbers of tourists each year.

These magnificent countries have known great progress and development in the last few decades, despite their struggled historical past, dominated by political conflicts and interests. Nowadays, these splendid countries on the South American continent are among the most requested holiday destinations, enchanting visitors with a wide variety of tourist sites and resorts, both old and modern remarkable architectonic structures, large and imposing metropolitan areas, all revealing the ingenious, innovative and hard-working character of their inhabitants.

The remarkable economic achievements of these major countries in South America are direct proportional with their high potential for tourism. Thanks to their great history, culture, music, as well as the amazing beauty of their urban and rural establishments, and not to mention their accomplishments regarding the much-treasured Latin passion – football, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama have become extremely popular worldwide. Their continuously increasing popularity has determined a pronounced development of their tourism, drawing millions of tourists towards their borders.

If you decide to travel to Brazil, you will be amazed by the staggering beauty of this great South American country. Among the most requested Brazil travel destinations are its capital, Brasilia, and major cities such as Sao Paulo, Salvador and Rio de Janeiro. Famous for its majestic carnivals, magnificent natural resorts, tropical climate and the exuberance of its inhabitants, Brazil is a highly requested holiday destination. Renowned as an important center for tourism of the South American continent, Brazil attracts overwhelmingly large numbers of visitors each year. Brazil has a well-developed and extended network of airports, air travel facilitating the visiting tourists’ access to major cities and various other locations between or beyond the borders of the country. Thanks to modern infrastructure and the variety of airports present here, flights to Brazil are the quick and comfortable way of traveling to this intriguing region of South America.

Similar to Brazil, Argentina is also a major center for tourism in South America. The most popular Argentina travel destinations are its capital – Buenos Aires, Mar del Plata – the main tourist resort situated on the Atlantic Coast, La Plata, Santa Fe, Santa Cruz, Cordoba, Mendoza and San Juan. Combining the Latin mentality with European cultural influences, Argentina is a welcoming country for anyone who wishes to discover new interesting locations. Thanks to the well developed network of airports present here, the best way to travel around the country is by air. Apart from being very comfortable, Argentina flights have the benefit of being inexpensive as well. Travel to Argentina and you are guaranteed to have the time of your life!

Although they are much smaller in size than Brazil and Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama are also important tourist centers of the South American continent. Vacations in Colombia, Venezuela and Panama are exciting and intriguing experiences for both regular travelers and occasional visitors. The most requested Colombia travel destinations are Bogotá, Cartagena, Cali, Villa de Leiva, San Augustin and San Andres. Among the most desired Venezuela travel destinations are Caracas, Puerto la Cruz, Isla Margarita, Isla El Grand Roque, Isla La Tortuga, Merida and Puerto Ayacucho. Popular Panama travel destinations are Panama City, Bocas del Toro, Boquete, Isla Contadora, Guadalupe, Isla Bastimentos, Isla Taboga and Almirante.

Whether you decide to visit these countries for the beauty of their tropical landscapes, shores and beaches, for their ancient cultural resorts and the variety of historical tourist sites or simply to interact with the exuberating, welcoming locals, spending your vacations on the Latin American continent is definitely a remarkable and unforgettable experience!

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.

What is Responsible Travelling?

Responsible travelling is about respect. Respect for the environment, the place, culture and the people. Responsible travelling is about reducing your carbon footprint and it is also about conservation and protection.  

Obviously when we travel, especially by air, we have inevitably contributed to global warming. However, we can try to reduce the carbon emission in other ways like planning your travel plans in advance to avoid unnecessary travel. Whenever possible, use public transport like buses and cycle to sightsee. Abstain from unnecessary travelling using domestic airline for interstate travelling if possible, travel by train or coaches to reduce your carbon footprint. Walking holidays and cruises are also ideal form of responsible travelling.   Responsible travelling is also about supporting the local produce and not imported goods. However, it is also important not to buy products of unethical practices like slave labour, company that exploit the young and the vulnerable. When you buy local produce, you inevitably create jobs and help contribute to the community.  

It is always an eye opener or sometimes even a culture shock to discover practices and way of life that is so different from our own. We should always respect the different cultures and practices of the locals, we should never try to judge and pass snide remarks about them. Imagine how you would feel if a tourist passes undesired remarks or do something disrespectful.   We should also be aware of different religious beliefs and should always try not to offend them.   It pays to learn more about the country, culture and the people before going there. You can obtain the necessary information from brochures or do your research on the internet. With a good understanding of the place you are visiting, you can immerse yourself into their culture more readily. It also enables you to have a more authentic experience about the place rather than just visiting the usual tourist attractions.  

Responsible travelling is also about visiting local conservation projects like forest conservation, animal sanctuary and learning about what people do to preserve their environment. There are responsible holidays where you can stay and participate in the conservation projects like forestry, wild life conservation and protection.  

Conservation is also about keeping the environment clean, not wasting water especially in places where water is scarce and not wasting food.   When you participate and practice responsible travelling, you encourage the good practice of tolerance and respect. When you take an interest in conservation projects and wildlife, you help sustain the livelihood of the local people and indirectly help build their community.