Day by day itinerary
Beach in Miami
Miami is one of the world’s most popular holiday spots. It has so much to offer; from its countless beach areas, to culture and museums, from spa and shopping days out, to endless cuban restaurants and cafes. Miami is a multicultural city that has something to offer to everyone.
Located closer to Havana than Miami, Key West is synonymous for all that is fabulous. Whether it’s beaches, back country or just a brilliant time that you’re after, Florida’s most southern point holds a wealth of intrigue, both past and present. Famed for its unique originality, Key West is a condensation of the best of the sunshine state – fantastic weather, laid back attitude, deep-rooted history and masses of fantastic, fresh seafood; it’s little wonder that nobody ever wants to leave.Floating in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, the island has two very definite personalities: bookish and bizarre. On the one hand, the literary festivals, exquisite Caribbean architecture and splendid art galleries attract the bourgeoisie, while on the other, the eccentricity and reticence to be associated with “the mainland” attracts all kinds of “happies” –new era hippies. The two dichotomies live peacefully side by side and have done ever since travellers started arriving in the 1960s — Key West being one of the three big K’s on the hippie path to enlightenment (Kuta and Kathmandu are the others).But past the idiosyncrasies of the Key Westers, and you will find an island that is literally brimming over with spectacular sights and wonderful wilderness. From Henry S. Truman’s Little White House and Ernest Hemmingway’s house and studio, to botanical gardens and marine sanctuaries, visitors will leave this fascinating island wanting more.Best seen by foot, bike or boat, this is an island to be explored al fresco.
Cartagena's magnificent city walls and fortresses, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, enclose a well-restored historic center (the Cuidad Amurallada, or walled city) with plazas, churches, museums, and shops that have made it a lively coastal vacation spot for South Americans and others. New hotels and restaurants make the walled city a desirable place to stay, and the formerly down-at-the-heels Getsemaní neighborhood attracts those seeking a bohemian buzz. The historic center is a small section of Cartagena; many hotels are in the Bocagrande district, an elongated peninsula where high-rise hotels overlook a long, gray-sand beach.When it was founded in 1533 by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Heredia, Cartagena was the only port on the South American mainland. Gold and silver looted from indigenous peoples passed through here en route to Spain and attracted pirates, including Sir Francis Drake, who in 1586 torched 200 buildings. Cartagena's walls protected the city's riches as well as the New World's most important African slave market.
Dutch architecture, Center square in Oranjestad, Aruba
Aruba's capital is easily explored on foot. Its palm-lined central thoroughfare runs between old and new pastel-painted buildings of typical Dutch design (Spanish influence is also evident in some of the architecture). There are a lot of malls with boutiques and shops—the Renaissance mall carries high-end luxury items and designer fashions. A massive renovation in downtown has given Main Street (a.k.a. Caya G. F. Betico Croes) behind the Renaissance Resort a whole new lease on life: boutique malls, shops, and restaurants have opened next to well-loved family-run businesses. The pedestrian-only walkway and resting areas have unclogged the street, and the new eco-trolley is free and a great way to get around. At this writing, Linear Park was well and will showcase local merchants and artists. There will be activities along a boardwalk that will eventually run all the way to the end of Palm Beach, making it the longest of its kind in the Caribbean.
The small island of Mayreau, just one and 1/2 square miles in area (3.9 square kilometres) is the smallest inhabited island of The Grenadines, and is part of the independent state of St.Vincent in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Two of the best known islands in The Grenadines are Mustique and Bequia, the second largest island in this group. The Grenadine Islands are strung out in a gentle sweep between St.Vincent and Grenada. Most visitors to Mayreau arrive from cruise ships, on the regular ferry, or by yacht. There are no proper roads on the island, only a few vehicles, no airport and only a single unnamed village. Mayreau and the neighboring Tobago Cays are very popular for divers and snorkellers. Saline Bay, on the west coast of the island, has a wonderful broad beach and a few local vendors selling T-shirts and local craft. A climb up the road to the hilltop village on the island provides breathtaking views across Mayreau, Canouan, the Tobago Cays and Carriacou.
Coast of the Carribean Sea, Bridgetown, Barbados
Located beside the island’s only natural harbour, the capital of Barbados combines modern and colonial architecture with glorious palm tree-lined beaches and a number of historical attractions. Experience the relaxed culture of the city renowned for its British-style parliament buildings and vibrant beach life, and seek out the Anglican church and the 19th-century Barbados Garrison. The distance between the ship and your tour vehicle may vary. This distance is not included in the excursion grades.
Your next stop will be Cape Verde’s cultural capital, Mindelo. Get along with the locals listening to the real morna in the bars of the old town and sipping the local drink, a sugarcane spirit. This island is also known by its British and Portuguese colonial architecture and pastel-coloured houses, the municipal market and the facades of the old Governor’s Palace.
Panorama of Dakar, Senegal
Dakar, set at the tip of the Cape Vert peninsula, is West Africa’s westernmost point and the capital of French-speaking Senegal. Although it was not founded until 1857, it is West Africa’s oldest European city and one of the most westernised. The opening of the Dakar-St Louis railway in 1885 put the town on the map; it subsequently became a French naval base and in 1904, the capital of Afrique Occidentale Française. It bears the legacy of Africa’s French colonial past, especially so in the downtown Plateau area, where the architecture is redolent of southern France. Every inch a modern city, Dakar is a frenetic buzz of activity, which can be startling. Perhaps sample the popular mint tea and try your hand at bartering in the colourful craft markets for traditional embroidery, woodcarvings, metalwork and costume jewellery.
West Africa Gambia Banjul - panoramic view city
The tiny city of Banjul is the capital of The Gambia, a country that itself is little more than the banks of the mighty river that shares its name. Situated on St Mary’s Island, where the River Gambia joins the Atlantic, Bathurst, as Banjul was previously called, was established by the British in the early nineteenth century as a naval outpost dedicated to putting a halt to the trade in human beings. In 1943, Franklin Roosevelt visited Banjul on his way to the Casablanca conference with Churchill, becoming the first serving American president to visit Africa. Today, Banjul plays host to a thriving tourist trade, thanks to its pleasant climate, and is the political centre for the oldest democracy in Africa.
Three hours south of Yamoussoukro, nestled in between the canals and waterways, lies Abidjan the economic capital of the Ivory Coast. Considered the crossroads of West Africa both economically and culturally, Abidjan benefits from clement temperatures year round, reaching average highs of around 88˚ Fahrenheit, or 30˚ Celsius. Like much of West Africa, this city has cachet and soul, and enjoys a diversity of cultures, traditions and people, notably through the French influence, but also through the steady stream of tourists that make the city both vibrant and cosmopolitan. Although its reputation was tarnished during the civil war in 2011, Abidjan held firm and has blossomed into a stunning coastal city, ripe for exploration.
Ghana's fourth-largest city plays serene beaches against a bustling commercial centre. People from around the world visit the shore, both for its beauty and to enjoy the fresh seafood served right on the sands. Frantic city life awaits a short distance inland, where an economy fuelled by Ghana’s oil industry is most apparent in the maze of vendors at Market Circle.
To visit Luanda is to witness the inhabitants of Angola rebuild a great city with their newly-acquired wealth. The sense of pride and confidence is overwhelming, and is demonstrated by the city’s new highways and skyscrapers, and by the wildlife and habitat rehabilitation programmes being carried out by the conservation authorities. The modern city of Luanda was founded in 1575 by Portuguese explorer Paulo Dias de Novais, and soon became a centre for trade between Portugal’s African colonies and Brazil. Apart from a short period of Dutch occupation, Luanda was under Portuguese rule until 1974. In the four decades since independence, Angola has become a peaceful and increasingly prosperous country, rich in diamonds and Africa’s second largest oil producer: many international companies now have head offices in Luanda. Please note: Owing to the destruction caused to the country’s infrastructure during the civil war that ended in 2002, Angola lost much of its ability to produce and distribute food: the resulting heavy import duties and high taxes have driven up the cost of goods and services, making Luanda one of the world’s most expensive cities. The price of excursions in this port reflects the prevailing local conditions.
Once a whaling station, Walvis Bay provides a gateway to the extraordinary desert landscapes of Namibia and is itself an area of unusual natural beauty. The showpiece of the Walvis Bay area is the natural lagoon where you can see flamingos in their thousands at certain times of the year, along with a variety of other wading birds such as the white pelican. Further inland you will find the stunning Namib Desert, which provides an unlikely home for a diverse array of wildlife. Alternatively, you could venture into the desert of Sossusvlei, whose mountainous ochre sand dunes are said to be the highest in the world, or visit the colonial town of Swakopmund.
Luderitz city at sunset, Namibia, Africa
The reopening of the diamond mine at Elizabeth Bay 20 years ago has brought the development of tourism and fishing back to this small 19th century village on the barren, windswept Namib Desert coast. One of Namibias oddities, it has everything you'd expect from a small German town - delicatessens, coffee shops and a Lutheran church. Here, the icy but clean South Atlantic is home to seals, penguins and other marine life and the desolate beaches support flamingoes. It was founded in 1883 when Heinrich Vogelsang purchased Angra Pequena and some of the surrounding land on behalf of Adolf Lüderitz, a Hanseat from Germany, from the local Nama chief. Lüderitz began its life as a trading post, with other activities in fishing and guano-harvesting. As a sign of Luderitz's revival, 1996 staged the first traditional German Karneval since 1960.
Sometimes referred to as the Mother City, Cape Town is the most famous port in South Africa and is influenced by many different cultures, including Dutch, British and Malay. The port was founded in 1652 by Dutch explorer Jan Van Riebeeck, and evidence of Dutch colonial rule remains throughout the region. The port is located on one of the world's most important trade routes, and is mainly a container port and handler of fresh fruit. Fishing is another vital industry, with large Asian fishing fleets using Cape Town as a logistical repair base for much of the year. The region is famous for its natural beauty, with the imposing Table Mountain and Lions Head, as well as the many nature reserves and botanical gardens such as Kirstenbosch which boasts an extensive range of indigenous plant life, including proteas and ferns. Cape Town's weather is mercurial, and can change from beautiful sunshine to dramatic thunderstorms within a short period. A local adage is that in Cape Town you can experience four seasons in one day.
Millenium Pier in Umhlanga, Durban, South Africa
Durban, a glistening jewel on the south-east coast of Africa, is the third largest city in South Africa and the major city of KwaZulu-Natal. It has been a centre of sea trade since before colonisation and now has a flourishing artistic centre, which perfectly complements the vibrant markets and rich cultures of the city. Durban’s port is a natural half-moon harbour lined with white sand and azure water, punctuated by the port’s many piers which reach into the water like the leaves of a fan. The beaches of Durban’s famous Golden Mile stretch along the harbour and are popular all year round, as travellers and locals alike enjoy Durban’s warm, humid summers and mild, dry winters.
South Africa’s largest harbour is located on a lagoon on the Mhlatuze River on the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal and takes its name from Admiral Sir F W Richards who sailed into the bay to deliver supplies to the troops during the Anglo/Zulu War of 1879. The Richards Bay lagoon was declared a game reserve in 1935, when conservationists objected to the growing industrialisation here. This however did nothing to halt development. Instead a compromise was agreed and a wall was built across the length of the bay to divide the lagoon. The north side became the seaport and the south remained a sanctuary for waterfowl and wildlife. The lagoon is famous for being the site where the longest crocodile ever recorded was shot by hunter John Dunn - it measured over 20 feet. The town was built on the shores of the lagoon in 1954 and although it was only a small fishing community in the 1960s, the development of the deep water harbour and railway in 1976 prompted the growth of the much larger township you see today. The bustling town is now a popular holiday destination with its unspoilt beaches at the edge of the Indian Ocean, year-round sunshine and excellent recreational facilities including surfing and fishing. It is also an excellent gateway to Zululand and the KwaZulu wildlife reserves. Richards Bay has recently undergone a major renovation that has given the town a Caribbean feel.
Nosy Bé, meaning Big Island in the Malagasy language, lies just a stone's throw off Madagascar's northwest coast. It is a remote and exotic destination. With its deserted beaches, rustic hotels and unhurried pace, it attracts travellers looking for a laid-back vacation. The fertile island is the centre for the production of perfume essence from the ylang-ylang trees. The heady scent of their flowers gave Nosy Bé the name "Perfumed Isle." Other local products include sugar cane, coffee, vanilla and pepper; they are grown for export in large plantations. Hellville, the island’s main town and port, is situated in a sheltered bay. It is named after a former French governor, Admiral de Hell. The town features a few old colonial buildings, a busy market, some small boutiques and tourist shops along the busy main street. At the quayside, vendors display embroidered linens, wood carvings and straw articles. Trips into the lush countryside may include a ride up to Mt. Passot. At 950 feet (285 metres), this is the highest point on the island. The view from the top offers an extensive panorama of crater lakes nestled between verdant hills. Most visitors make the boat trip to Nosy Komba. The tiny island is known for its lemur reserve. These arboreal primates, with their large eyes, soft fur and long curling tails, have lived unharmed for centuries in the forest behind Ampangorina village. The lemurs are a popular tourist attraction and a profitable source of income to the small local community.
This ancient isle once ruled by sultans and slave traders served as the stepping stone into the African continent for missionaries and explorers. Today it attracts visitors intent on discovering sandy beaches, pristine rain forests, or colorful coral reefs. Once known as the Spice Island for its export of cloves, Zanzibar has become one of the most exotic flavors in travel, better than Bali or Mali when it comes to beauty that’ll make your jaw drop.Separated from the mainland by a channel only 35 km (22 miles) wide, and only 6 degrees south of the equator, this tiny archipelago—the name Zanzibar also includes the islands of Unguja (the main island) and Pemba—in the Indian Ocean was the launching base for a romantic era of expeditions into Africa. Sir Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke used it as their base when searching for the source of the Nile. It was in Zanzibar where journalist Henry Morton Stanley, perched in an upstairs room overlooking the Stone Town harbor, began his search for David Livingstone.The first ships to enter the archipelago's harbors are believed to have sailed in around 600 BC. Since then, every great navy in the Eastern Hemisphere has dropped anchor here at one time or another. But it was Arab traders who left an indelible mark. Minarets punctuate the skyline of Stone Town, where more than 90% of the residents are Muslim. In the harbor you'll see dhows, the Arabian boats with triangular sails. Islamic women covered by black boubou veils scurry down alleyways so narrow their outstretched arms could touch buildings on both sides. Stone Town received its odd name because most of its buildings were made of limestone and coral, which means exposure to salty air has eroded many foundations.The first Europeans who arrived here were the Portuguese in the 15th century, and thus began a reign of exploitation. As far inland as Lake Tanganyika, slave traders captured the residents or bartered for them from their own chiefs, then forced the newly enslaved to march toward the Indian Ocean carrying loads of ivory tusks. Once at the shore they were shackled together while waiting for dhows to collect them at Bagamoyo, a place whose name means, "here I leave my heart." Although it's estimated that 50,000 slaves passed through the Zanzibar slave market each year during the 19th century, many more died en route.Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged in 1964 to create Tanzania, but the honeymoon was brief. Zanzibar's relationship with the mainland remains uncertain as calls for independence continue. "Bismillah, will you let him go," a lyric from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," has become a rebel chant for Zanzibar to break from Tanzania.Zanzibar Island, locally known as Unguja, has amazing beaches and resorts, decent dive spots, acres of spice plantations, the Jozani Forest Reserve, and Stone Town. Plus, it takes little more than an hour to fly there. It's a popular spot to head post-safari.Stone Town, the archipelago's major metropolis, is a maze of narrow streets lined with houses featuring magnificently carved doors studded with brass. There are 51 mosques, 6 Hindu temples, and 2 Christian churches. And though it can rightly be called a city, much of the western part of the larger island is a slumbering paradise where cloves, as well as rice and coconuts, still grow.Although the main island of Unguja feels untouched by the rest of the world, the nearby islands of Pemba and Mnemba offer retreats that are even more remote. For many years Arabs referred to Pemba as Al Khudra, or the Green Island, and indeed it still is, with forests of king palms, mangos, and banana trees. The 65-km-long (40-mile-long) island is less famous than Unguja except among scuba divers, who enjoy the coral gardens with colorful sponges and huge fans. Archaeology buffs are also discovering Pemba, where sites from the 9th to the 15th century have been unearthed. At Mtambwe Mkuu coins bearing the heads of sultans were discovered. Ruins along the coast include ancient mosques and tombs. In the 1930s Pemba was famous for its sorcerers, attracting disciples of the black arts from as far away as Haiti. Witchcraft is still practiced, and, oddly, so is bullfighting. Introduced by the Portuguese in the 17th century, the sport has been improved by locals, who rewrote the ending. After enduring the ritual teasing by the matador's cape, the bull is draped with flowers and paraded around the village.Beyond Pemba, smaller islands in the Zanzibar Archipelago range from mere sandbanks to Changu, once a prison island and now home to the giant Aldabra tortoise, Chumbe Island, and Mnemba, a private retreat for guests who pay hundreds of dollars per day to get away from it all.
You may well find yourself in Mombasa for a few hours or an overnight stop. The city (which is actually an island linked to the mainland by a ferry) is the second oldest trade center with Arabia and the Far East. Today it still plays an important role as the main port for Kenya. Although it lacks the beautiful beaches of the north and south, it has a rich, fascinating history. Visit the Old Town with its narrow streets lined with tiny shops and souks (markets). The Old Harbour, frequented by numerous dhows, is an ideal place to arrange a short cruise on one of these local boats that have plied the oceans for centuries. Fort Jesus, designed by an Italian and built by the Portuguese in the late 16th century, is a major visitor draw and well worth a visit. In summer there's an impressive sound-and-light show.
Victoria is the capital of Mahé, the largest of the archipelago. there are a magnificent 70 white sandy beaches in Mahé, each more stunning than the last.The rich underwater life that lives within the crystal-clear waters and coral make for a perfect snorkelling exploration. The island is also famous for its splendid mountain panoramas accessible on hikes, such as the Morne Seychellois, which is 905 metres high and overlooks the Indian Ocean.
Forty kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Mahé, Praslin is just a 15-minute flight or 45-minute ferry ride away. Praslin, at 11 km (7 miles) long and 4 km (2.5 miles) wide, is the second-largest island in the Seychelles. First settled as a hideaway by pirates and Arab merchants, the island's original name, Isle de Palmes, bears testament to its reputation as home of the Vallée de Mai UNESCO World Heritage Site: the only place in the world where the famous Coco de Mer, the world's heaviest nut, grows abundantly in the wild. Praslin's endemic palm forests shelter many rare species, and the island is a major bird-watching destination. Surrounded by a coral reef, majestic bays, and gorgeous beaches, Praslin is much quieter and less developed than Mahé. With few real "sights," the pleasures of Praslin largely involve relaxing in or exploring its stunning beaches and fantastical forests.
There are many nations around the world with bragging rights to miles of pristine white coral sand and balmy turquoise seas but few can take it to the same level as the Maldives. Its 1,200 islands are spread out over 26 coral atolls; the combined land of all the islands is little more than 100 square miles. That means you are rarely more than a few steps from the beach. Many of the villas are actually built on stilts out over the water, so you may actually have to walk onshore in order to get to the beach. Besides curling your toes in the sand, many people come here to sample the Maldives enviable world-class dive spots. Others simply snorkel among the endless coral reefs. There are so many coral atolls here that our English word derives from the Maldivian name atholhu.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka's capital and largest city, Colombo offers fine restaurants, a buzzing nightlife scene, and good museums, parks, and beautiful Buddhist temples that are all worth visiting. The beach resort of Mt. Lavinia is only a short taxi ride from the downtown area and offers a golden, sandy beach and sunset views to die for. As an exciting blur of colors and cultures, Colombo presents a neatly packaged microcosm of this island nation.
Madras was the site of the East India Company’s first settlement, founded in 1639 on land given by the Raja of Chandragiri. A small fort was built on the settlement in 1644, and a town which subsequently became known as George Town, in the area of Fort St. George was built north of it. The settlement became independent of Banten, Java in 1683 and was granted its first municipal charter in 1688 by James II. It is therefore the oldest municipal corporation in India. During the 18th and 19th centuries, when the British and French competed for supremacy in India, the city’s fortunes waned.
Sabang, popular tourist and diving spot
Sabang is the largest city on the island of Weh or Pulau Weh. Weh is a small, active volcanic island, just northwest of Sumatra. It's at the northern end of the Indonesian Archipelago and at one time, was a coal loading station for ships passing between Europe and Asia. Today, the island is known for its ecosystem and much of its surrounding sea and inland areas have been declared as wildlife protection areas by the Indonesian government. Pulau Weh attracts visitors seeking underwater diving, hiking through the volcanic mountains and relaxation by the beach. Those venturing into the city will see some of the remaining colonial buildings and the large trees that offer them shade. The island and city are virtually untouched by tourism and a sense of adventure when exploring ashore is needed.
Long boats on island Krabi, Thailand
Though few tourists linger here, Phuket Town, the provincial capital, is one of the more culturally interesting places on the island to spend half a day. About one-third of the island's population lives here, and the town is an intriguing mix of old Sino-Portuguese architecture and the influences of the Chinese, Muslims, and Thais that inhabit it. The old Chinese quarter along Talang Street is especially good for a stroll, as its history has not yet been replaced by modern concrete and tile. And this same area has a variety of antiques shops, art studios, and trendy cafés. Besides Talang, the major thoroughfares are Ratsada, Phuket, and Ranong roads. Ratsada connects Phuket Road (where you'll find the Tourism Authority of Thailand office) to Ranong Road, where there's an aromatic local market filled with fruits, vegetables, spices, and meats.
On Malaysia's west coast, Langkawi is an archipelago made up of 99 islands. The only real settlement is on the main island, Pulau Langkawi. This popular beach destination attracts divers from around the world to explore the sea life, and after being declared a duty-free zone back in the '80s, it has become a favorite shopping spot for visitors seeking cheap booze. You'll find sightseeing attractions—such as national parks, a cable car ride, and a large aquarium—throughout this island of lush rainforests. However, it's the long stretches of sandy beach that attract most visitors to this tropical paradise.
An island off the northwest coast of peninsular Malaysia, Penang is blessed with a multicultural history that's led to a fascinating fusion of East and West. Claimed by the British East India Company in 1786, the island's city center of Georgetown—listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site—is filled with colonial architecture, temples, and museums. The island has also attracted many Chinese immigrants, who now make up the majority of the population. On Penang you'll find an exciting mix of jungle, coast, farmland, and fishing villages, along with the country's largest Buddhist temple.
Kuala Lumpur, or KL as locals refer to it, intrigues visitors with its diversity and multicultural character. The city's old quarter features stretches of shop houses that hint at its colonial past, while modern buildings—including the iconic Petronas Towers—give a glimpse of its modern financial ambitions. The city is filled with culturally colorful quarters dedicated to Chinese, Malay, and Indian communities. New shopping malls with designer labels, five-star hotels, and top-notch restaurants also proliferate in this bustling city of 1.6 million.
Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, Singapore
The main island of Singapore is shaped like a flattened diamond, 42 km (26 miles) east to west and 23 km (14 miles) north to south. Near the northern peak is the causeway leading to West Malaysia—Kuala Lumpur is less than four hours away by car. It is at the southern foot where you will find most of the city-state’s action, with its gleaming office towers, working docks, and futuristic "supertrees," which are solar-powered and serve as vertical gardens. Offshore are Sentosa and over 60 smaller islands, most uninhabited, that serve as bases for oil refining or as playgrounds and beach escapes from the city. To the east is Changi International Airport, connected to the city by metro, bus, and a tree-lined parkway. Of the island's total land area, more than half is built up, with the balance made up of parkland, farmland, plantations, swamp areas, and rain forest. Well-paved roads connect all parts of the island, and Singapore city has an excellent, and constantly expanding, public transportation system. The heart of Singapore's history and its modern wealth are in and around the Central Business District. The area includes the skyscrapers in the Central Business District, the 19th-century Raffles Hotel, the convention centers of Marina Square, on up to the top of Ft. Canning. Although most of old Singapore has been knocked down to make way for the modern city, most colonial landmarks have been preserved in the CBD, including early-19th-century buildings designed by the Irish architect George Coleman.
There are two Bangkoks, the ancient soul of Thailand with its long and fascinating history and the frantic, modern metropolis that embraces the latest trends both Eastern and Western. The two blend together remarkably well—even the most jarring juxtapositions of old and new somehow make sense. Bangkok is not only the biggest city in Thailand, but also the most mesmerizing, with some of the country's most beautiful temples and shrines. The city's energy is palpable, especially at night, when traffic opens up a bit, its famous markets get going, and everything seems lit up—from its proudest monuments to its seediest streets. When Ayutthaya was besieged and pillaged by the Burmese in 1766, Thonburi became Thailand's capital. The Thais call Bangkok Krung Thep (City of Angels), and in 1782 King Rama I moved his capital here, just across the Chao Praya River. Laem Chabang is approximately 130 km (81 mi) from Bangkok.
Sihanoukville is the premier beach destination in Cambodia for tourists and Cambodians alike, with golden white sands, tropical islands and mangrove jungles. A relatively new city, it sprang to life in 1955 with the construction of the only deep-sea port of a newly independent Cambodia. With the bay of Thailand surrounding it on three sides, Sihanoukville was named in honour of the former King Norodom Sihanouk in 1964. As Cambodia descended into civil war the town fell on hard times with the Khmer Rouge using the famous Independence Hotel for target practice. In 1993 peace returned to Cambodia and since then Sihanoukville has been slowly rebuilding itself. Today it attracts Asian Individual travellers, young students and back-packers but after decades of war and upheaval the town’s infrastructure is still very much in its infancy. A visit to Ream National Park offers pristine mangrove forests rich in wildlife with miles of beaches unmarked by footprints.
Romantically referred to by the French as the Pearl of the Orient, Ho Chi Minh City today is a super-charged city of sensory overload. Motorbikes zoom day and night along the wide boulevards, through the narrow back alleys and past vendors pushing handcarts hawking goods of all descriptions. Still called Saigon by most residents, this is Vietnam's largest city and the engine driving the country's current economic resurgence, but despite its frenetic pace, it's a friendlier place than Hanoi and locals will tell you the food—simple, tasty, and incorporating many fresh herbs—is infinitely better than in the capital.This is a city full of surprises. The madness of the city's traffic—witness the oddball things that are transported on the back of motorcycles—is countered by tranquil pagodas, peaceful parks, quirky coffee shops, and whole neighborhoods hidden down tiny alleyways, although some of these quiet spots can be difficult to track down. Life in Ho Chi Minh City is lived in public: on the back of motorcycles, on the sidewalks, and in the parks. Even when its residents are at home, they're still on display. With many living rooms opening onto the street, grandmothers napping, babies being rocked, and food being prepared, are all in full view of passersby.Icons of the past endure in the midst of the city’s headlong rush into capitalism. The Hotel Continental, immortalized in Graham Greene's The Quiet American, continues to stand on the corner of old Indochina's most famous thoroughfare, the rue Catinat, known to American G.I.s during the Vietnam War as Tu Do (Freedom) Street and renamed Dong Khoi (Uprising) Street by the Communists. The city still has its ornate opera house and its old French city hall, the Hôtel de Ville. The broad colonial boulevards leading to the Saigon River and the gracious stucco villas are other remnants of the French colonial presence. Grisly reminders of the more recent past can be seen at the city's war-related museums. Residents, however, prefer to look forward rather than back and are often perplexed by tourists' fascination with a war that ended 40 years ago.The Chinese influence on the country is still very much in evidence in the Cholon district, the city's Chinatown, but the modern office towers and international hotels that mark the skyline symbolize Vietnam's fixation on the future.
The Hong Kong Island skyline, with its ever-growing number of skyscrapers, speaks to ambition and money. Paris, London, even New York were centuries in the making, while Hong Kong's towers, bright lights, and glitzy shopping emporia weren't yet part of the urban scene when many of the young investment bankers who fuel one of the world's leading financial centers were born. Commerce is concentrated in the glittering high-rises of Central, tucked between Victoria Harbor and forested peaks on Hong Kong Island's north shore. While it's easy to think all the bright lights are the sum of today's Hong Kong, you need only walk or board a tram for the short jaunt west into Western to discover a side of Hong Kong that is more traditionally Chinese but no less high-energy. You'll discover the real Hong Kong to the east of Central, too, in Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, and beyond. Amid the residential towers are restaurants, shopping malls, bars, convention centers, a nice smattering of museums, and—depending on fate and the horse you wager on—one of Hong Kong's luckiest or unluckiest spots, the Happy Valley Racecourse. Kowloon sprawls across a generous swath of the Chinese mainland across Victoria Harbour from Central. Tsim Sha Tsui, at the tip of Kowloon peninsula, is packed with glitzy shops, first-rate museums, and eye-popping views of the skyline across the water. Just to the north are the teeming market streets of Mong Kok and in the dense residential neighborhoods beyond, two of Hong Kong's most enchanting spiritual sights, Wong Tai Sin Temple and Chi Lin Nunnery. As you navigate this huge metropolis (easy to do on the excellent transportation network), keep in mind that streets are usually numbered odd on one side, even on the other. There's no baseline for street numbers and no block-based numbering system, but street signs indicate building numbers for any given block.
MANILA, the capital city of the Philippines, was founded in, 1571 by Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi. It is one of the oldest cities in the country and was the seat of power for most of the colonial rules of the Philippines. It is situated on the eastern shore of Manila Bay and contains a multitude of landmarks, some of which date back to the 16th century. It is home to the baroque 16th-century San Agustin Church as well as Fort Santiago, a storied citadel and military prison. In the 19th century Manila became one of the most modern cities in Asia. Before the Spanish–American War, Manila saw the rise of the Philippine Revolution. Under the American rule following the Spanish-American War, the United States changed the official language from Spanish to English. Towards the end of World War II, during the Battle of Manila, most of the city was flattened by intensive aerial bombardment. Today, tourism is a vital industry in Manila. Major shopping malls and bazaars thrive around Manila.
The Spanish arrived at this beautiful corner of the world in March of 1872, founding the city, that would eventually become the Capital of Palawan. In 2011, the area received a huge boost, when New7 announced its list of the 7 Wonders of Nature – counting 500 million votes in the process. Puerto Princesa’s stunning underground river - complete with a cavernous, sunken lagoon - beat off wonderful sites like the Great Barrier Reef, to claim a spot on the final, prestigious list. Set sail across the glowing green water, on a journey into the gaping mouth of the limestone caves at Puerto Princesa. Known for being one of the least densely populated, cleanest and most environmentally friendly cities in the Philippines, there’s a raft of natural wonders to explore - from diving hotspots to towering limestone cliffs, and the entrancing underworld of the underground river.
Benoa sand beach view,Bali,Indonesia
Bali really is as alluring as everyone says. This island, slightly bigger than Delaware, has it all: beaches, volcanoes, terraced rice fields, forests, renowned resorts, surfing, golf, and world-class dive sites. But what sets Bali apart from other nearby tropical destinations is Balinese tradition, and villagers dedicated to celebrating it. The hundreds of temples, dances, rituals, and crafts linked to their ancient Hindu faith aren't a show for tourists, but a living, breathing culture in which visitors are warmly received by the Balinese, who cherish their own identities.
Pink Beach earned its name for the way the beach can appear to have a rosy hue in certain lights. The color comes from small flecks of red coral mixed in with the fine white reef sand. With a few trees along the beach for shade, this stretch of coast makes a fine place to relax or enjoy a snorkel or dive in the crystal clear waters. It is possible to spot a striped clown fish nestled among the protective tentacles of its sea anemone host, or to see a grouper lazily swimming by a flamboyant soft coral. The reef here is now protected by law and the maturing corals are a joy to behold.
Waterfalls, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
Darwin is Australia's most colorful, and exotic, capital city. Surrounded on three sides by the turquoise waters of the Timor Sea, the streets are lined with tropical flowers and trees. Warm and dry in winter, hot and steamy in summer, it's a relaxed and casual place, as well as a beguiling blend of tropical frontier outpost and Outback hardiness. Thanks to its close proximity to Southeast Asia and its multicultural population it also seems more like Asia than the rest of Australia. Darwin is a city that has always had to fight for its survival. The seductiveness of contemporary Darwin lifestyles belies a history of failed attempts that date from 1824 when Europeans attempted to establish an enclave in this harsh, unyielding climate. The original 1869 settlement, called Palmerston, was built on a parcel of mangrove wetlands and scrub forest that had changed little in 15 million years. It was not until 1911, after it had already weathered the disastrous cyclones of 1878, 1882, and 1897, that the town was named after the scientist who had visited Australia's shores aboard the Beagle in 1839. During World War II it was bombed more than 60 times, as the harbor full of warships was a prime target for the Japanese war planes. Then, on the night of Christmas Eve 1974, the city was almost completely destroyed by Cyclone Tracy, Australia’s greatest natural disaster. It's a tribute to those who stayed and to those who have come to live here after Tracy that the rebuilt city now thrives as an administrative and commercial center for northern Australia. Old Darwin has been replaced by something of an edifice complex—such buildings as Parliament House and the Supreme Court all seem very grand for such a small city, especially one that prides itself on its casual, outdoor-centric lifestyle. Today Darwin is the best place from which to explore Australia's Top End, with its wonders of Kakadu and the Kimberley region.
Beach, Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia
Tourism is the lifeblood of Cairns (pronounced Caans). The city makes a good base for exploring the wild top half of Queensland, and tens of thousands of international travelers use it as a jumping-off point for activities such as scuba diving and snorkeling trips to the Barrier Reef, as well as boating, fishing, parasailing, scenic flights, and rain-forest treks.It's a tough environment, with intense heat and fierce wildlife. Along with wallabies and grey kangaroos in the savannah and tree kangaroos in the rain forest, you'll find stealthy saltwater crocodiles, venomous snakes, and jellyfish so deadly they put the region’s stunning beaches off- limits to swimmers for nearly half the year. Yet despite this formidable setting, Cairns and tropical North Queensland are far from intimidating places. The people are warm and friendly, the sights spectacular, and—at the right time of year—the beachside lounging is world-class.
Townsville City Queensland Australia from Mt Stewart
This coastal city has little in the way of sandy beaches or surf, but it does have shady parks, charming colonial buildings, and a boardwalk-flanked waterfront Esplanade with a terrific man-made beach and picnic facilities. The historic town center has thrived recently, with an influx of lively eateries and bars. There are also some excellent museum and a world-class aquarium.Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has an office on Magnetic Island, but Townsville Enterprise's information kiosks in Flinders Square and the Museum of Tropical Queensland (MTQ), on the mainland, are the best sources of visitor info about the island.
Founded in 1824 on the banks of the wide, meandering Brisbane River, the former penal colony of Brisbane was for many years regarded as just a big country town. Many beautiful timber Queenslander homes, built in the 1800s, still dot the riverbanks and inner suburbs, and in spring the city's numerous parks erupt in a riot of colorful jacaranda, poinciana, and bougainvillea blossoms. Today the Queensland capital is one of Australia's most up-and-coming cities: glittering high-rises mark its polished business center, slick fashion boutiques and restaurants abound, and numerous outdoor attractions beckon. In summer, temperatures here are broilingly hot and days are often humid, a reminder that this city is part of a subtropical region. Wear SPF 30-plus sunscreen and a broad-brimmed hat outdoors, even on overcast days.Brisbane's inner suburbs, a 5- to 10-minute drive or 15- to 20-minute walk from the city center, have a mix of intriguing eateries and quiet accommodations. Fortitude Valley combines Chinatown with a cosmopolitan mix of clubs, cafés, and boutiques. Spring Hill has several high-quality hotels, and Paddington, New Farm, Petrie Terrace, West End, and Woolloongabba are full of an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars. Brisbane is also a convenient base for trips to the Sunshine and Gold coasts, the mountainous hinterlands, and the Moreton Bay islands.
Sydney Opera House and Skyline
Sydney belongs to the exclusive club of cities that generate excitement. At the end of a marathon flight there's renewed vitality in the cabin as the plane circles the city, where thousands of yachts are suspended on the dark water and the sails of the Opera House glisten in the distance. Blessed with dazzling beaches and a sunny climate, Sydney is among the most beautiful cities on the planet.With 4.6 million people, Sydney is the biggest and most cosmopolitan city in Australia. A wave of immigration from the 1950s has seen the Anglo-Irish immigrants who made up the city's original population joined by Italians, Greeks, Turks, Lebanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thais, and Indonesians. This intermingling has created a cultural vibrancy and energy—and a culinary repertoire—that was missing only a generation ago.Sydneysiders embrace their harbor with a passion. Indented with numerous bays and beaches, Sydney Harbour is the presiding icon for the city, and urban Australia. Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the 11-ship First Fleet, wrote in his diary when he first set eyes on the harbor on January 26, 1788: "We had the satisfaction of finding the finest harbor in the world."Although a visit to Sydney is an essential part of an Australian experience, the city is no more representative of Australia than Los Angeles is of the United States. Sydney has joined the ranks of the great cities whose characters are essentially international. What Sydney offers is style, sophistication, and great looks—an exhilarating prelude to the continent at its back door.
View of a beach at Noumea, New Caledonia during sunset
With its elegant urban infrastructure in a stunning natural setting, Noumea is a truly unique island and part of the New Caledonia archipelago. Noumea started as a penal colony, but has since evolved to a lovely metropolis and today has almost two thirds of New Caledonia’s population. While much of the archipelago of New Caledonia has a large percentage of Kanak people – the indigenous inhabitants who live in tribal areas across the country – Noumea is predominantly European with a strong French influence. The city’s center and Place de Cocotiers, the main park, are located close to the harbor and several churches date back to the late 19th century. Other attractions include a world-class aquarium at Anse Vata, several long beaches to the south, and a noteworthy collection of Kanak and South Pacific objects at the Museum of New Caledonia. The architectural gem of the city is the Tjibaou Cultural Center, the structure of which resembles sails, or the roofs of Kanak houses hidden behind mangroves.
Named by Captain Cook in the 18th century for its prominent, spiny pine trees, Île des Pins is a vibrantly beautiful island located in the Pacific Ocean and part of the New Caledonia archipelago. Surrounded by some of the world’s brightest aquamarine blue water, the island has also been nicknamed as “the closest island to paradise,” with tropical fish and coral that can be seen through the transparent waters of its lagoon. Île des Pins was used in the 19th century as a prison for political exiles from France and remains can still be seen at Kuto and in the village of Ouro. Today the island’s primary inhabitants of the island are the native Melanesian Kanaks, with 2,000 residents. One of the local sites to see on this island are the spear-shaped carvings surrounding a Catholic monument in the city of Kuto. The beaches in Kuto and close-by Kanumera are some of the finest beaches in the South Pacific and while Kuto is for swimming, Kanumera and the giant rock in its bay are for snorkelling.
Cathedral in Suva
Fiji is a collection of tropical islands in the South Pacific and is well known for soft coral diving, white sandy beaches, and idyllic and peaceful surroundings. Because of its paradisiac surroundings, Fiji is a popular location for weddings and honeymoons. Suva is the capital of the Fiji archipelago, located on the southeastern coast of the island of Viti Levu and is the second most populated city of Fiji.
Suva, a multiracial city, is the pulsing heart of the South Pacific. Its location is on a hilly peninsula in the southeast corner of Viti Levu Island, the largest in the Fijian archipelago. Suva was named the country's capital in 1882; the former capital was Luvuka. Suva's natural harbour was no doubt a deciding factor that prompted the change. Its port is the country's main shipping facility, accommodating vessels from all over the world. The town is backed by the lush green hills of the Suva-Rewa range. The waterfront district, much of which is built on land reclaimed from tangled mangrove swamps, provides the hub for much of Suva's activities. The downtown centre is a hodgepodge of high-rise office buildings, colonial houses with second-story verandas, parks and government structures. The northern and western mountains catch the trade winds, with the result being damp conditions year-round and frequent tropical downpours. Despite the ever-present possibility of showers, Suva is an excellent place to explore on foot. Many points of interest are located on Victoria Parade and along tree-shaded Queen Elizabeth Drive. Suva's botanical park is lush with flowering plants, trees and green lawns. In its centre stands the Fiji Museum, where objects reflect 3,000 years of Fijian history. The museum boasts a fine collection of Melanesian artefacts and various exhibits that reflect on Fiji's maritime era. Government House stands on a hillside surrounded by landscaped grounds. A stern, uniformed sentry guards the pillared gate entrance. The monthly Changing of the Guard is executed with almost as much pomp and ceremony as at London's Buckingham Palace. Friendly Fiji will charm you; here Melanesia mixes with Polynesia, ancient India with Oceania and tradition with the modern world. The Fijian greeting "Bula!" is extended warmly to strangers on city streets and country roads. Fiji is one of the South Pacific's most hospitable countries and a holiday destination that has much to offer in recreational activities, shopping and joyous celebrations.
Apia, Samoa. Hut and boat by the beach
Samoa is a group of ten islands located in the South Pacific. The tropical climate and volcanic landscape create a picturesque location for visitors to explore, together with the experience of Fa'a Samoa, the three thousand year old way of life on Samoa.
Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach, Honolulu city, Hawaii
Capital of Hawaii, and a popular tourist destination, Honolulu is known for surfing and water sports. However, there's more to the city than surfing; with museums, the only royal palace in the country, and a mall, there's bound to be something of interest for any visitor.
With its myriad hills and spectacular bay, San Francisco beguiles with natural beauty, vibrant neighborhoods, and contagious energy. From the hipster Mission District to the sassy Castro, from bustling Union Square to enduring Chinatown, this dynamic town thrives on variety. The city makes it wonderfully easy to tap into the good life, too: between San Francisco's hot arts scene, tempting boutiques, parks perfect for jogging or biking, and all those stellar locavore restaurants and cocktail bars, it's the ultimate destination for relaxed self-indulgence.
Seabourn Sojourn, which will debut next year, carries 450 guests in the same intimate, relaxed atmosphere as its smaller sister ships and shares the same all-suite accommodations and delights, such as the water sports marina.