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Athens Sightseeing: A Full Day Tour Of Athens

Akropolis by night

After visiting a number of European countries, all of them start to look pretty much the same right? Fortunately, that doesn’t apply to Athens. Athens is indeed a European country but it feels like it has been ‘spiced’ with many Middle Eastern colours and aromas.

Due to its geographical position, as well as the occupation from the Ottoman Empire for more than 400 years, have left Athens with a variety of cultural influences on landmarks and on it’s inhabitants.

Athens Kalimarmaro stadium

Athens besides the many archaeological sites has numerous beautiful seaside places where you can swim in the sea or just drink a cup of Greek coffee (like the locals do) and enjoy the views. Make sure you have more than one day to visit and explore all the hidden gems of the city.

Athens Metro

Best place to start your day tour of Athens is the Metro station of Acropolis. It is advisable to be there early in the morning to have a head start, as more tourists will be visiting later on and it will get crowded. Also you must remember that the Greek sun in the summer is really strong so make sure that you apply sun cream often and always have a bottle of water with you.

Walk the beautiful street of Dionysiou Areopageitou and buy yourself a ticket (20 Euros per person which applies for all the archaeological sites of Athens for 4 days). I could fill in at least ten pages with the facts and the history of Acropolis but this is neither the place nor the time to do so.

Always remember to support the campaign for returning the STOLEN artefacts of Parthenon, which are now located in the British Museum in London back to Greece, where they belong to.

So enjoy the beauty of Acropolis standing for more than 2000 years and wonder around it. Make sure you exit not from the typical exit, but from a downhill exit next to a small wooden kiosk that you will come across as you climb up the stairs. This way you will be able to see more sites and ancient constructions as well as an additional theatre.

Athens Archaeological Museum

Once you exit the site of Acropolis head the opposite way to the new museum of Acropolis, a construction that Greeks are really proud of since it was literally built upon ancient buildings but without causing any destruction to them. You will be able to see parts of them as you move though the Acropolis museum.

Exiting the museum of Acropolis and head left the same road you followed to go to Acropolis. Enjoy the weather and feel free to buy from the street vendors’ traditional artifacts and souvenirs which are actually in much better prices than the shops. Always try to support the local economy which really needs your help, especially these days!!!

Once you meet the first cafeterias’ with their tables outside you can go for a coffee to the roof gardens and admire the views of Acropolis.

Once you catch your breath continue and enter the ancient Agora from the small exit in front of the cafeterias with the same ticket that you bought in Acropolis. There are three must see places there among the many:

• The ancient temple that really looks like Acropolis.
• The old church with the unique pictures that were saved during the occupation from the Ottoman Empire (check out the Saints and Angels that their faces were removed by the occupants).
• The small museum which shows aspects of everyday life in Athens.

Exit the site from the main entrance and you are in Monastiraki area.

Day tour of Athens - Monastiraki

Warning!!!: As all the main tourist attractions around the world, the same rules apply in this area. Keep your bag zippers closed, leave no bags unattended and beware of your personal belongings in general. Pick pocketing is not a very common thing but not a very rare as well. Kindly decline any offers for sunglasses, perfumes or mobile phones since they will be 90 percent end in monkey business.

Monastiraki open flea market where you can shop various stuff

Shop around this area, you can find really good prices in leather and gold or buy some souvenirs for your friends back home. (Make sure you buy a hat for the rest of your vacations in Greece since the Greek sun is very strong. The area is ideal for taking pictures of locals restoring old furniture and buying antiques.

Hungry? I would suggest you head to the restaurant of Savvas with the amazing roof garden. It serves traditional Greek cuisine and the quality of the food is always very good, and of course you can stare (guess what???) Acropolis!

From there you can head to the Athens central meat & fish market called “Varvakios” to take some photos. Avoid it if you don’t have a strong stomach, watching hanged meats and the heavy smells might not be for everyone! The whole area is really popular for buying traditional products.

Head back to Ermou street (if you don’t know which one it is, simply ask an Athenian. The majority of the Greeks speak English and usually are very helpful with tourists.

Ermou street is the road with all the big brand names stores and you can always buy designer clothes or anything else you might need. Head up towards Syntagma square. On your way visit the small church (Kapnikarea) in the middle of the street.

It is estimated that the church was built some time in the 11th century, perhaps around 1050. As it was common with the early Christian churches, this was built over an ancient Greek pagan temple dedicated to the worship of a goddess, possibly Athena or Demeter. You can walk into it and light a small candle like Orthodox people do.

Efzonas on Syntagma sq in Athens

Reaching Syntagma square you will see the Greek parliament and the national guards called Efzones. They wear their traditional skirt (which has 400 foldings, one for each year of occupation under the Ottoman Empire).

Take some photos and walk until the national Library and Academy. Two amazing buildings built like the ancient Greek ones. Once you are done continue on to the Omonoia street where you need to ask the way to the National Museum which is just five minutes by foot.

The national Archeological museem of AthensThe National Museum even though it is last on the list, it is for me the most important sight of Athens. Make sure you do not miss it. It hosts an amazing collection of masterpieces of art of the ancient Greece.

Statues more than 5000 years old, jewels of the Macedonian family of Alexander, and the famous Machine of Antikythera.

That is a full a day tour of Athens, where you can cover all the main tourist attractions.

If you feel that your feet can still do some extra walk, you can always add one of the following sights to your tour. Plaka, Kallimarmaron, the National Garden, Zapeio, Likavitos and Glyfada area.

But my suggestion is to visit those places another day so you can take your time and enjoy them like they deserve to.

Spyros Skouris profile photoAbout the author

Spyros Skouris the author of the article “A full day tour of Athens” can help you arrange your dream vacations on your visit to Athens in Greece.

He also owns an apartment in Athens which is available to rent on Airbnb.

Kaunas City in Lithuania

For those who want to visit the more undiscovered and unexplored parts of Europe should not hesitate to visit Kaunas city in Lithuania. You will not be disappointed.

Legend claims that Kaunas city was established by the Romans in ancient times. Later on the Russian empire as well as the Swedish army set their eyes on this beautiful city. Through the centuries the Kaunas city was an important trade center across the Northern Europe and the Baltic countries.

Kaunas castle

The city is surrounded by rivers from three sides, the medieval old town of Kaunas is located next to the meeting point of the two major rivers: Neris and Nemunas. This area of the city was once an important market, and it was fortified by the Kaunas castle in the 14th century.

If you are visiting Kaunas city for first time, you could consider a guided tour of the city, even though it is fairly easy to navigate yourself as the central Kaunas is defined by two pedestrian streets, the first one is a 2-km-long Laisvės alėja (Liberty Avenue), a central street of the city, lined by linden trees, and the second one Vilnius Street, leading to the oldest part, the old town of Kaunas.

Guided tours in Kaunas city

The old town of Kaunas: The length of tour is approximately one hour and thirty minutes. During the tour you will see many popular monuments like the Kaunas castle, monasteries of male and female Franciscans, the Saint George the Martyr church, the Vytautas‘s church, and many more important landmarks.

Kaunas Garrison Church LithuaniaUsually the guided tours are in Lithuanian language, as well as in English and Russian. You need to check with your hotel to point you to a local certified tour guide to show you around. The cost of the guided tour is around 30 Euros per person but you can obtain a discount for larger groups.

If you decide to stroll across the city on your own, there are certain monuments and landmarks that you should not miss.
• Governor‘s Palace
• Nicholas Boulevard
• Choral Synagogue,
• Kaunas musical Theater
• Comendant‘s Palace of Kaunas Fortress,
• Kaunas Fortress

Hotels in Kaunas City

Magnus Hotel KaunasMagnus Hotel Kaunas

Situated in Kaunas, this 3-star property is cosy and modern. It is conveniently positioned for those wanting to visit local attractions. There are 82 modern rooms at Magnus Hotel Kaunas, each providing all the necessities to ensure a comfortable stay. Each features a flat-screen TV with cable / satellite channels, as well as a private bathroom.

Hotel Magnus features a restaurant and a bar where guests are able to unwind at the end of the day. A variety of breakfast options are on offer in the hotel’s dining room.

Kaunas City HotelKaunas City Hotel

Kaunas City Hotel is situated in Kaunas and offers guests wireless internet. It is moments from the Kaunas State Drama Theatre, restaurants and nightlife options.

Kaunas City has 44 modern rooms that are equipped with a range of essential amenities to ensure guests have an enjoyable stay. Each one features a flat-screen TV with cable channels, in addition to a private bathroom.

Hotel Kaunas

Hotel Kaunas

Hotel Kaunas provides elegant 4-star accommodation in Kaunas. It also offers an indoor pool, a sauna and 24-hour room service. The elegant rooms at Hotel Kaunas include a refrigerator, a mini bar and a private bathroom. All offer a telephone and heating.

A satisfying breakfast is prepared each morning at Hotel Kaunas, and there are numerous cafés and eateries close by. For those wishing to stay on-site for dinner, 55 provides international and local cuisine.

Flight to Kaunas city

Kaunas International Airport is the second busiest civil airport in Lithuania after Vilnius Airport and the fourth busiest in the Baltic states.

The airport is located in the central part of the country, 14 km (8.7 mi) northeast of the Kaunas city centre and 100 km west from the capital Vilnius.

Ryanair is flying to Kaunas city from Birmingham, Bristol, London Gatwick as well as Luton airport. A return flight to Kaunas city from Gatwick will cost 182.00 Pounds in December. From Bristol airport cost 138.00 Pounds.

Lads holiday to Antalya Turkey

Andrew Wain 2015With the university exams out of the way, we gathered at the pub debating where to go for our summer holidays.

There were four of us, Mat, George, Kevin, and myself Andrew.

The choices were mainly Spain, Italy, Greece, but with our student budget been on the low side we had to eliminate most of the ideas.

Even if we could get a low cost airline like Easyjet to fly us to Spain we couldn’t collect enough money among us to book a cheap hotel room for four lads in Spain.

Disaster was looming on the horizon, we could all see ourselves spending the summer at home with a trip down to Southampton for a long weekend.

That was all until Murat, the fifth member of our university gang pop in to our table holding a travel map to Antalya in Turkey.

Murat was born in Luton but his parents came from Turkey in the early eighties. His parents still have contacts with their extended family back in Turkey and Murat had been toying with the idea of going to Antalya to see where his parents grew up.

Needless to say the connection was instant!! Murat’s family had a house in Antalya. After a few more rounds at the pub our travel plan was set, hands were shaken, we were good to go. Our first lads holiday to Antalya in Turkey.

easy jet turkey antalya 2015

We flown from Gatwick with Easyjet and we landed at Antalya airport just before 10:00 a night. We were picked up by Bulent, Murat’s cousin who took us to our accommodation and promise to show us around the next morning.

Antalya city is definitely a modern city built on the South Western coast of Turkey with a population of around one million with a lot of buzz and night life for the holiday makers.

Antalya Turkey fish restaurants

In the morning we took the tram upto the Hadrian’s Gate or Üçkapılar in Turkish and we walked into the old part of the city the Kaleici for some sight seen.

Antalya was buzzing, many touristic shops selling souvenirs, beach clothes and café/restaurants are cramped in the rather small space of the old city with narrow streets and paths that somehow all seem to lead downhill towards the old harbor.

Konyaalti Beach

Turkish flag - Lads holiday to Antalya 2015

The next morning we walked back to Hadrian’s Gate and took the tram to Konyaallti beach.

Konyaalti beach is on the western side of Antalya city and it is about 7 km long. At the far end of the beach you can clearly see the Beydagları mountains. Inwards from the beach there is a huge green park with plenty of cafes, bars, nightclubs and hotels.

If you fancy doing more than just swimming and sunbathing on the Konyaalti beach, a short walk towards the park and across the Dumlupınar road are the Aqualand waterpark and the Antalya Aquarium, one of the biggest aquariums in Turkey, it claims to have the longest tunnel aquarium in the world, 131 meters long!!

We really liked the beautiful designed thematic exhibitions of different seas, oceans and rivers. There are many different types of sea species small and big as well as sharks. The sharks are not huge but there are really many of them and you can see the divers swimming among the sharks while feeding them.

Antalya Aquarium - Lads holiday to Turkey

All signs at the Antalya Aquarium are written in 3 languages: Turkey, English and Russian. It cost us 75 Turkish Lira per person for entrance to the aquarium. On the ground floor as you exit the aquarium there is food court with a number of different establishments to choose. By that time we were starving so we marched to McDonald’s which these days seems to be everywhere.

Lara Beach

Lara beach was our second favorite beach in Antalya. You can drive to the beach or get there by taxi but since we were on a budget, Bulent advised us to take a small minibus from the centre. In Turkey they call them Dolmush and they seem to be everywhere and run very frequent services across the city.

However, sometimes they can get very crowded. To the Lara beach you need Dolmush number 18, 30 and 77, it took us around 40 minutes to the beach and it only cost us 2,5 Turkish Lira each, which is around a dollar each.

lara beach antalya

Lara beach was not as busy as Konyaalti beach, which was a surprise as it is the longest sandy beach in Turkey and offers stunning views of the Mediterranean sea. We had a long walk and it seems some spot on the beach tend to be more popular than other with private organized beach clubs.

With the temperature on the beach approaching 40C we decided to rent a couple of umbrellas and sunbeds. There are plenty of bars with cold beers, to keep you cool and refreshed and since we were in Turkey Efes beer was our first choice!!

Side

Side is a holiday resort around an hour from Antalya city, full of 5 star hotels. It also seems to be very popular with Russian tourists. Side has calm water and fine sandy beaches, plenty of water-sport activities and is dominated by all inclusive type of hotels.

Antalya City

During our stay in Antalya we also hopped into a pirate boat and went for a daily cruise. There are many boats leaving around 10 in the morning from the old harbor.

Don’t get intimidated by the Turkish sales men who claim to have a last minute special fare, walk around and compare the different cruises before you make up your mind. Then you are ready to start bargaining, believe me bargaining is part of the Turkish culture.

Fares vary according to the length of the trip, we went for the six hours cruise.

lads boat trip in antalya

Once on board we snap some photos and had a few rounds of beers, loud party music was echoed around the boat reflecting the mood of our group. After almost an hour of sail we stopped twice for swimming and snorkeling in some truly amazing bays.

Complimentary food was also provided by the crew of the boat. We were served spaghetti, green salad and fish barbequed which was delicious and after a tasty lunch, there was even more time to relax as we sailed slowly back towards the harbor.

Night life

The night life in Antalya did not disappoint us. Having a local on our side we were taken to all the best pubs, bars and night clubs. Kaleici at night was heaving with young Turks and tourists, the narrowed streets where full of folk-songs bars and little colorful taverns. The Turks seem to party until the morning, so we joined them too!

Ally’s night club was our favorite night club, great music, amazing sea view, and plenty of girls to dance and flirt until the sun comes out. OK drinks were a little bit expensive but we were lucky to be amongst a group of friends of Bulent so we were charge local prices, no tourist prices. I could write more here but as they say, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!!

club ally antalya turkey

I have to admit that towards the beginning of the second week of our holiday to Antalya we were all running low on cash, our student budget could not support our all night partying lifestyle, so we started spending more time at the beach than going clubbing and partying every single night.

Without doubt this was our best holiday so far, we had great time, we made a lot of friends and we all agreed that we would definitely be going back to Antalya in the future.

I am actually thinking after my graduation to apply for a job in Antalya, Turkey. There are many hotels in Antalya that require English speaking staff, for various roles during the summer.

Andrew Wain, the author of the lads holiday to Antalya in Turkey is a final year student of hospitality and hotel management at LMU.

Vital information You Need to Know Before Travelling to the US

Need to Know Before Travelling to the US 2015One of the worst things you can do is to realize you have left out something or forgotten an important detail just before you board a plane to the United States.

Travelling today is a little bit technical due to issues of global terrorism, changing weather patterns and country specific restrictions that have to be adhered to.

To travel safely and comfortably, Hotels-Fairy.com has compiled a brief guide with the most important things you need to know before travelling to the US.

So here are a few things you might want to check out.

Delays could happen

Remember if you are travelling in winter snow storms could bring about cancellations and delays across the main airline hubs within the US. Before travelling, you might want to contact your airline or travel company to prepare accordingly. You can also monitor the US airport conditions online, such as through the Federal Aviation Administration site.

Do not forget that the US hurricane season usually begins from June all the way to November and it is capable of affecting the coastal regions of the United States.

Medical Cover

Almost 4 million people from Britain visit the US annually and while the visits are usually without any trouble, you might want to get yourself a comprehensive medical and travel cover before travelling. This is very important because anything could happen while in the New World.

Valid travel documents and detailsNew York city 2015

Before you travel to the United States ensure that your passport, Visa or any other travelling document is valid and has not expired. If you are from the UK and other 37 Visa Waiver countries you can easily enter the United States without a valid US visa for three months or 90 days.

The Visa Waiver Program allows you to visit the US for tourism or business reasons and you do not have to wait until a valid visa has been granted. However, as one of the citizens in the Visa Waiver countries you need to apply for ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) to be allowed to enter the country.

Citizens of other countries outside the Visa Waiver nations must apply for valid US visa to be allowed entry.

 Travellers from risky regions

It is worth noting that travellers arriving from countries affected by Ebola in West Africa, particularly Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea should arrive at any of the five main airports so that they can undergo proper health screening. While this can change, it is always important to clarify and counter check before you travel.

Taxi-Cab-New-York

Car hire

If you are planning to hire a car in the US to save time and money that you could have used in public transport and taxis, make the arrangements before you board the plane. Renting a car prior to travelling can help you save money and time, especially if done online due to immense deals offered to travellers.

Specific requirements

If you have unique requirements that might complicate your travelling or your health it is important to notify the airline as soon as possible. This could save you a lot of trouble as well as incurring losses while in America, which you could have avoided with a little planning.

Above all, you might want to remain as safe as you can and observe caution. Even in a great country like the US something negative could happen at any moment as history has shown.

america capitol washington dc

Six autumn days on the beautiful island of Crete

 

The beautiful island of Crete

A late October escape to the beautiful island of Crete begins with my arrival in Chania. My gamble to visit the island so late in the season seems to be blessed by the Ancient Gods, as the sweet Aegean sun is still most definitely shining in this part of the Mediterranean; the summer hordes of holiday tourists have long since departed and the island is begging to be explored.

Base camp for this autumn adventure, the ancient and “off the beaten track” village of Aptera, situated on the north-west coast of Crete between the towns of Souda and Kalives. Aptera lies approximately 13 km east of Chania. A hidden treasure of a location; unspoilt, and unique in its rich history and local hospitality.

Home to two importantAptera Castle and impressive historical sites. The ruins of the Ancient City of Aptera and the Fortress of Sousbasi, also known as Koules of Aptera. Both sites just a stone’s throw walk away from the Aptera Hotel, a small family run complex of modern studio apartments, with a most spectacular view of Souda Bay and the White Mountains.

Traditionally furnished, spacious, self-catering apartments, well equipped, with all necessary amenities and complementary Wi-Fi access.

A place to call home after a long day out, on the road, mountain or beach out exploring Crete and all it has to offer its guests.

With the relatively short time I have to spend on the island a hire car is a must, as I wish to see as much as one can possibly see in Crete and the freedom of having your own transport to accommodate your schedule offers a freedom of possibilities and destinations.Aptera cisterns

The island roads are well maintained and destinations for the most part well signposted.

The first port of call is the Old Town of Chania and its famed Venetian built harbour. The quaint narrow shopping streets and waterfront restaurants, all housed in old buildings of Venetian or Turkish design make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

I recommend taking a lengthy stroll through the town, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells it has to offer – which are plentiful. Then pick a spot to rest, order a meze and some tsikoudia (the Cretan raki drink) and watch the world go by, the backdrop of the Venetian lighthouse and the Mosque of Yiali Tzami is sure to make the moment magical.

My second day in Chania, Crete is spent exploring the local area. In the morning I set off by foot, a visit to the ruins of the Ancient City of Aptera and the Fortress of Sousbasi. What a nice way to start ones day.

I won’t lie, I’m no history buff and I’m not here on a quest to enhance my knowledge of history and classical antiquities but my mornings walk through the Roman ruins has been a wonderful, serene experience and the views from the top of the hill have stolen my heart.

The most impressive monument on the site, in my humble opinion, is the impressively preserved Roman cisterns which have survived centuries and earthquakes galore in order for me to feel like Lara Croft exploring them.

The Fortress is also astonishingly well preserved and an imposing landmark I can look to in awe, in order to guide myself back to Aptera if I find myself geographically challenged during my travels.

I then travel by car, to explore the neighbouring villages of Kalives and Almyrida, the October sun still guiding my travels, I take a stroll in Kalives and stop foSamaria Gorger a coffee, astonished to still see tourists still swimming in the crystal blue waters so late in the Autumn season.

I then drive a few kilometres east to Almyrida where I stop for fresh fish and glass of wine, watching the sun set and planning my adventure to Samaria Gorge the following day.

An avid adventurer and a keen walker the main reason I wanted to visit Crete was to walk the famous Samaria Gorge. Knowing that visits to the National Park are only allowed from the beginning of May to the end of October and fully aware that weather this time of year may very well take a turn for the worse, I was keen to attempt to cross the Gorge as soon as possible.

Research taught me that the usual way to “do the Gorge” was to take an organised tour, from Chania by bus to the starting point of Omalos, travelling through breath-taking mountain scenery, and then departing on the beautiful yet treacherous 13km trek through the Gorge, arriving in Agia Roumeli some 5-6 hours later.

The only way to then leave Agia Roumeli, which is only accessible by foot, and return to Chania is by boat via Chora Sfakion or alternatively to Sougia. This is the usual way to pass the Samaria Gorge.

However if you’re up for a challenge and are physically able to, there is another way. Drive to Omalos in your own hire car, arrive early, (you can call the Park Rangers the previous evening to confirm opening time on +30 28210 67179), pay your 5 euro entrance fee and depart on a most adventurous and exciting journey of a lifetime.

Kri-Kri Samaria GeorgeWalk through well-trodden paths, with plentiful water stops, take in the stunning scenery and stop off to say hello to the Kri Kri (indigenous to Crete and protected species of mountain goat), walk joyful mile after mile, appreciating the wilderness along the way.

You arrive in Agia Roumeli, take a well-earned break and then … well you walk back up to Omalos again! The Park Rangers give a guideline time of this route of 10 hours, so if you are trusting of your ability to undertake such a walk and allow plentiful time you can appreciate the Gorge twice fold and experience both routes.

Only the last 4km are of a significant physical challenge, where the gradient increase rises back up to 1236m quite rapidly and unforgivingly. Those with weak knees should not attempt this. Walking the Gorge in late October, providing the weather is on your side is an unprecedented experience. No long queues of busloads of tourists littering the way, fair weather and a sense of achievement await those who go to Samaria.

Fourth day in Crete and understandably after the challenging walk down and back up Samaria Gorge it is a relatively easy going day. A nice, easy going, excursion to Lake Kournas just 30 minutes away from Aptera, provides an ideal location to relax, recuperate and take a slow pedalo journey across the mystical mountain lake.

lake cournas

An afternoon visit to Souda and the Souda Commonwealth War Cemetery is a worthwhile drive, to pay respects to the fallen soldiers of past Word Wars. A serene, beautiful and peaceful place of rest, worthy of our respect and reflection.

A visit to Rethymnon, another stunning Venetian built harbour town of Crete, greets my fifth day on the island. After a walk up Mt Vrisina a few kilometres north of the town, where poor weather now prevents summiting, a rainy October walk leads me into town.

There I seek refuge one of the towns welcoming and hospitable tavernas and pass away the time, sharing stories and travel experiences with other travellers.

My final day in Crete beckons me to try my luck walking another Gorge, this time the Gorge of Agia Eirini, inland towards Sougia. The lesser known sister of Samaria Gorge is a much easier trek of 7km down a gradient of 500metres.

Agia Eirini Gorge

Alas the previous day’s rains have made the Gorge impassable after the 3rd kilometre so the planned journey is cut short. Onwards and upwards through mountains to the beautiful southern seaside town of Sougia, where the sun is still shining and people are still swimming in its luscious bays.

There I stop off to walk along the shore, watch fishermen head out to sea with their boats and feed local stray cats the leftovers of my most delicious fish supper.

My six autumn days on Crete have too swiftly come to an end. What a diverse, lovely landscape I have been treated to in the last few days. What generous, hospitable and honourable people I have met along my travels. One thing is for sure, I will return to the beautiful island of Crete as my journey here is far from complete.

To be continued….


Travel blog by El MEl Mitropoulouitropoulou.

Travelling solo around the Globe, seeking adventure and challenge.

Namaste

Astana: The jewel of Central Asia

Astana Presidential palace

The Presidential palace in Astana

The jewel of Central Asia

Quite often travelling brings unexpected surprises and experiences to those who are not afraid to explore, who are not afraid to live for today.

A few months ago with a fellow traveler we decided to visit Kazakhstan on our Asia tour and we landed to Astana the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan as it is officially called.

Having travel through most of Asia we had our minds set to what we were expected to find in our trip, oh boy we were wrong!! A week full of surprises.

Astana is something else, something unique. A city from the future, full of strangely futuristic structures, buildings and landmarks. An architectural paradise.

Where shall I start?

  • Baiterek Tower: The Astana tree of life an 100 meter tall tower that looks like a giant lollipop and is meant to evoke the local legend of the “Tree of Life” apparently it was designed by the president of Kazakhstan Mr. Nursultan Nazarbaye.
  • The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation: A 60-meter-tall pyramid which was designed by architect Norman Foster and holds different floors an exhibition center, a conference center, an opera house, indoor climbing gardens.
  • The Presidential palace: Next to Ishim River, which look very much like the White House in Washington DC.
  • Khan Shatyr: The world’s largest tent is a building that looks like a massive tent and houses a shopping mall. It measures 150m high and has a 200m elliptical base covering an area larger than 10 football stadiums!!
Crossing the Ishim River

Astana, crossing the Ishim River

Crossing the Ishim River

Astana city is build around the Ishim River who divides the center of the city in the two parts, the right one which is at the northern bank of the Ishim river where the old town is, and the left one which is at the southern bank of the river, where the new city has been constructed full of government buildings and many luxurious apartments, hotels and living complexes.

Going away from the futuristic design of the city, the people of Astana seem to be very friendly and approachable, whenever we had to stop and ask for directions and advise.

Obviously it helped that my travel companion was fluent in Russian, it made our travel much easier.

Astana has a very strong economy which can be seen everywhere around the city as oil and gas money have transform the city with a massive boom in construction.

Astana architecture

Astana architecture

The residences of Astana enjoy very high standards of living, with disposable income where can only be seen in developed countries in Europe or the US.

Expensive cars, luxury clothing brands, huge shopping centers.

Most of the credit for this rapid development and growth in Astana goes to the president of the Kazakhstan Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev who has been running the country for the last 24 years, since the independence from the Soviet Union.

His ingenuity, determination and vision have managed to make Astana the city as it is today literally.

In 1997 in one highly criticized bold move, he decided to move the nation’s capital from Almaty, the country’s largest city, to Akmola, a small unknown town deep in the Kazakh steppe, and renamed it Astana, which means “capital” in the Kazakh language.

Who could have imaging or even believe at the time that this little and unknown city in less than 15 years will be transformed into the jewel of Central Asia.

According to the Kazakh government the average disposable income in the country cames to $124.000. Not bad for a country that did not exist 25 years ago.

The jewel of Central Asia

Baiterek Tower

In 2012 Astana was chosen by the International Exhibitions Bureau, as the venue to host the EXPO-2017 which is going to be focus on Future Energy.

The food in Astana is much closer to the Asian cuisine than the architecture of the city. We had a choice of Asian, European and even American cuisine but as always we dipped in to the local cuisine.

We really liked the Shashliq, at “Real Restaurant” on 68 Abay Dañgili street, a classic kebab of either pork or chicken served with freshly chopped onions on the side.

Boursaky, a very tasted bread served hot, Beshbarmak was also came up highly recommended by the locals but we decided to pass on it as it is a horse meat dish cooked with pasta.

There are many hotels in Astana from, two star to five star hotels, with the cheapest once to be around the $50 mark and the most expensive once to go for a few thousand dollars a night.

You can book hotels in Astana with Hotels-Fairy.com, just click the link above.

We had an amazing time in Astana and we highly recommend it to fellow travels who wish to see today the jewel of Central Asia, a city from the future.

Destination Yorkshire

Destination Yorkshire: The Shambles

The Shambles

If you’re looking for somewhere to go for that late summer break then Yorkshire could be the place for you. Yes, you did read that right. The largest county in England has been awarded two gongs at the recent World Travel Awards held in Athens, Greece.

Dubbed as ‘the Oscars of the travel industry’, the coveted accolades recognised Yorkshire for being Europe’s Leading Destination, and its tourism agency, ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’, as having Europe’s Leading Marketing Campaign.

This all comes hot on the heels of the county successfully hosting the Tour de France’s Grand Départ in July this year.

Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “This is yet more evidence that

Yorkshire continues to be the premier European travel destination by winning this prestigious award.

It is a tribute to the 12 months of hard work that has gone into making this year the most successful year of all time for the county.”

In Yorkshire’s case, success certainly seems to have bred more success, as this is the third time the county has won for its marketing campaign, and the second year in a row for being the top destination in Europe.

Destination Yorkshire: Harewood House near Leeds

Harewood House near Leeds

Destination Yorkshire: Must see attractions

So if you’re considering a trip to ‘God’s own county’, here are some things you can do when you get there.

York – The city which gives the county its name was one of the top 20 most visited towns in Britain last year by UK residents, with the Shambles being hailed as the country’s most picturesque street.

Shopping – For those in need of some retail therapy, Meadowhall in Sheffield boasts Europe’s biggest shopping and leisure complex and is visited by over 400,000 people every week.

Seaside – Scarborough has been welcoming families for the past 360 years and is Britain’s oldest seaside resort.

Snow – Winter sports enthusiasts can enjoy the real thing in Castleford’s Xscape. It has over 1,500 tonnes of real snow and the longest indoor slope in the UK at 170 metres.

National Parks – For outdoor types there is plenty on offer to explore as nearly one third of England’s national parkland is found in Yorkshire. (The North York Moors, most of the Yorkshire Dales and part of the Peak District.)

Heritage – Yorkshire is certainly rich in history with over 2,600 nationally important ancient monuments, 800 conservation areas and 116 registered parks and gardens. The county also has two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Studley Royal in North Yorkshire and Saltaire Village in West Yorkshire.

Destination Yorkshire: Scarborough

Scarborough

As we can see there are a wealth of different experiences and activities for you to enjoy whatever type of getaway takes your fancy. There’s also plenty of room to accommodate you if you want to stay overnight or longer, as Yorkshire has over 4,800 hotels, guesthouses, self-catering properties and campsites.

In fact there are enough bed spaces available to sleep the entire population of France over the course of a year.

By Sereena Assih Freelance Writer.

The images above are courtesy of the tourism agency ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’