What to do in Reykjavik

Reykjavik – one of the coldest cities but one of the most enjoyable cities I have visited.  It all started with a discussion with a friend about the Northern Lights.  Everyone has seen them, whether it be on TV or in pictures.  I always have the “wow” factor and am mesmerized by them.  To see them has always been a dream.  Unfortunately, like my experience with the Pyramids, I am yet to be amazed.  You will feel my frustration more below.  For now, I would like to tell you about the other two activities that were fun and adrenaline filled and something I would definitely recommend.

1. The Golden Circle Tour with Snowmobiling

With excursions to the best and biggest Icelandic Natural attractions this tour took me to the Geysir Geothermal Area, Thingvellir Nation Park and the Gullfoss Waterfall.  We then ended with a fun-fuelled snowmobile tour on top of Iceland’s largest glacier.

I had an early start for an all day tour but it was great! In the Geothermal area I saw hot pools and hot springs.  Although the Geysir does not erupt anymore, the Srokkur was sprouting as high as 40m every few minutes.  The heat was great, the smell not so much!

The waterfall was amazing.  Standing close to the edge I could feel the spray on my face and the earth shake.  Don’t expect to talk to anyone near this, the sound of the thundering water is extremely loud – you can’t even hear your inner voice!

My favourite part of the tour was the snowmobiling activity.  I still speak to my friends about this a year later.  Travelling through a glacier and imagining myself in an Ice Age movie, this was not only beautiful and mesmerising but I was most definitely appealed to my inner competitor mode as sped through the snow trying to beat my other tour members!  By the way, wearing the jump suit and feeling like an astronaut on the moon was not a bad feeling either

2. The Blue Lagoon

Imagine a massive spa, and then throw that out of your mind.  Now image a spa in Heaven.  The Blue Lagoon is the most amazing spa in the world (according to me).  An outdoor heated ocean with in-water massages was pure bliss after an activity filled holiday.  Book your massages in advance to avoid disappointment and enjoy a great spot of lunch or dinner in the lovely indoor restaurant.  There are also natural exfoliating products that are on the rocks on the side of the ocean.  Enjoy seeing everyone swim with their heads above the water in white exfoliating masks – fun sight!  On a serious note, this is one of the greatest places for relaxation and I most defiantly recommend anyone to visit even if it means getting a cheap plane ticket, just to go there and come back a day later!

3. Northern Lights

As I stated earlier, this was a dream to see.  But unfortunately I was disappointed.  Of course if someone said to me is it worth going to Iceland to see the lights I would say yes BUT you are lucky if you actually see them.  It was frustrating not being able to experience what you see in the pictures, but I guess sometimes it is just pot luck.  We had landed in the evening and found a tour that night.  It was extremely cold and I was not used to such extreme temperatures, plus I was tired.  The tour started at 12am and lasted for 2 hours.  We drove to the outskirts and then had to disembark the coach and look up in to the sky which was pitch black.  I guess if I had seen what I had dreamed I would see, I would be writing a different account, but unfortunately you do need to be prepared to see nothing and just settle for the pictures! The Northern Lights did not shine for me that night.

In conclusion, Iceland is amazing.  The food and drink is lovely, the hotels are accommodating and the nightlight is party central! I had a great time and would recommend the destination to anyone.  I would most definitely go back just for the snowmobiling and blue lagoon, and maybe next time I will get lucky and see the Northern Lights!

About the author:  This article was written by Nishma Shah for FHR Airport Hotels and Parking

Things to Do in Sapporo, Japan

Things to Do in Sapporo, Japan

When people think of the name Sapporo their thought often turn to drinking beer. Sapporo is the fifth largest city in Japan and is the capital of Hokkaido. It offers its visitors a lot more to do than to sit back and sip on a cold beer, but not everyone is aware of where they should go if they visit this city. There are certain attractions that stand out from the others and that need to be included on the list of things to do when you visit Sapporo, Japan.

1. Sapporo Beer Museum – While there are many things to do in Sapporo that does not mean that you should ignore the importance of beer when visiting. The beer museum is the perfect place to find out about the birthplace of beer in Japan. Sapporo beer was first brewed in 1877 and is one of the most popular brands of beer that is sold in the world today. This museum was opened up by the Sapporo brew company in 1987. It offers the complete story of beer making in Japan and the process that is used. Visitors can get samples of the beers that are brewed. They can also visit one of the two restaurants that are located at the Sapporo Beer Garden which is near the museum.

2. Teine ski Resort – There may be some people who may not think that skiing and snow sports are a big thing in Japan. This resort is proof that there are places to go to enjoy the winter sports. The resort is located about 40 miles from the center of the city and is a great place to enjoy winter activities. It has two ski runs that were used in the 1972 Winter Olympics that were held in Sapporo. The Olympic Torch from those games can still be seen at this resort.

3. Shiroi Koibito Park – This is a theme park that was created by a candy company in Sapporo. Visitors can browse the shops and restaurants that are in this park for free. They can find the Shiroi Koibito cookie which is a must have souvenir for anyone that takes the time to visit this park. Visitors can also enjoy the museum and a tour of the chocolate factory in the park.

4. Susikino – This is the entertainment district of Sapporo. In addition to the stores that can be found hear, tourists can take in the bars, karaoke shops and pachinko parlors that fill up this area. A must have when visiting this area of Sapporo is a taste of the real ramen noodles that were made famous here.

5. Nijo Market – Like so many other places in Japan, the open air market is one of the places that visitors must take in. The hustle and bustle of the vendors and their patrons is only surpassed by the aroma that you get from the vendors selling their wares. A trip to one of the restaurants in this market can allow a visitor to get some of the freshest possible seafood around.

Things to Do in Osaka, Japan

Things to Do in Osaka, Japan

Things to Do in Osaka, Japan

Osaka is the third largest city in Japan with over 2.5 million residents. It is located on Japans main island of Honshu in Asia. A trip to Osaka allows visitors to enjoy both the modern world and the old world charm of Japan. You can find just about everything that you want when you travel to Osaka, but there are some things that you do not want to miss.

Universal Studios

This amazing theme park is located on the waterfront of Osaka. It is a popular destination for tourists with families. The park is separated into 8 different sections that include Hollywood, New York, Jurassic Park and other famous names. Visitors will be able to ride the rides and see the shops that are located in this theme park. The streets are full of costumed characters that visitors can get their picture taken with. It can take several days to experience all that this park has to offer. The most common ways to get to the park are by bus, train or ferry.

Osaka Aquarium

This is another modern tourist attraction. The aquarium is home to a wide variety of marine life that can be seen in 15 different tanks. The wildlife and marine life of the Pacific Rim are highlighted in tours of this attraction. The main attraction is the Central tank that depicts life in the Pacific Ocean. It is over 9 meters deep and is something that needs to be seen. The aquarium opens at 10 in the morning and is open until 8 in the evening. Visitors are allowed to enter up until 5 in the afternoon.

Osaka Castle

This castle was originally built in the 16 years with the latest building done in 1931. The architecture of the castle and its surrounding buildings is truly amazing and the garden where 600 cherry trees can be found is a delight. Visitors should be prepared to pay an admission fee to get into the garden.

Museum of History

This modern building allows its visitors to discover the history of Osaka. It is a modern building that opened in 2003 and it is located next to the Osaka Castle. The museum offers some great views of the castle along with the displays that depict the history of the area. The museum is open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm and there is a price for admission.

Shitennoji Temple

This temple is not only one of the oldest temples in Japan; it is the first one that was built by the state. It was built in 593 A.D. and is important to the history of Buddhism in Japan. The gardens that surround this temple are beautiful and visitors can walk around these gardens without paying any admission price. There is a price of admission to see the inside of this temple. The temple is a five story pagoda. Although it has been damaged through its years, it has always been carefully rebuilt the way it was in the past.

Things to Do in Nagasaki, Japan

Things to Do in Nagasaki, Japan

Mount Inasa

Calling Mount Inasa a mountain is being rather generous. It’s really a big hill however it plays a grand role in the history of the city of Nagasaki in Asia. It rises 1,093 feet above the the landscape and gives beautiful views of the city at night. The Nagasaki Ropeway is the preferred method visitors use to reach the top. There are several buildings located at the top however there hill does not have any inhabitants. The night time views are so breathtaking the locals say it is a “10 Million Dollar Night View,” similar to some famous views found in China.

Dejima Wharf

It started as a small Dutch Trading post in the mid-17th century through 1855. It was once Japan’s only insight into the customs of the outside world. This site was once sectioned off. The Dutch were only allowed to interact with their Japanese trading partners and their support staff, which included courtesans. As such, it was once the center of Japan’s world trade. Today it is an open-air mall of sorts with restaurants, bars and shops facing the bay.

Nagasaki Night Life

When we travel it is to see the sights and sounds of the native locale in which we have traveled. However, there comes a time when you just want to feel at home. Here is a list of assorted restaurants and night spots that might help make your visit to Nagasaki all the more pleasant. Moonshine is not only a ramen shop. Its menu features Chines, Japanese and Western cuisine. But its bar scene is one of the best around. Ayer’s Rock is a basement bar filled with headnodding techno beats, bongs and is a popular hangout for local musicians. Albert’s Diablo’s atmosphere is laid back and mellow. Jazz, blues and reggae can be heard floating from the bar on any given night. If you’re in the mood for some down home country done up Nagasaki style then you should check out Country Road. The cuisine is described as Americana with a Japanese touch.

Suwa-jinja Shrine

Established in 1825, Suwa-jinia can be reached by tram lines 3, 4 and 5. Suwa-jinja Shrine becomes a hotbed of local activity between October 7th and 9th. That is win the shrines hosts the dragon dance of Kunchi Matsuri. It is one of Nagasaki’s most important celebrations and only happens once a year. You will find komainu on the inside. Komainu are prayer dogs that visitors use to pray for luck and fortune in their occupations.

Five Sights to See In Hiroshima

Sights to See In Hiroshima

Every middle school student is aware of the tragic history of Hiroshima, Japan and its place in world history. It was the first (and only one of two) city to ever face a nuclear attack in the world. But the city’s history, people and sites are far more than its unfortunate distinction. It is a beautiful metropolis of beautiful people, monuments and architecture in Asia. Here’s an abbreviated list of some places you may wish to see if you are ever fortunate enough to visit this beautiful city.

1. The area that encompasses Peace Memorial Park was once the political and commercial heart of Hiroshima. Because of this it was ground zero for the atomic bomb drop that leveled everything within a two-square mile radius during World War II. Today, Peace Memorial Park is the most visited locations in the city. The park covers over 120,000 square meters and features beautifully manicured lawns, trees and walking paths. Four years after that fateful day, as Hiroshima was being reconstructed, it was decided that ground zero would be rebuilt in a similar manner as the rest of the city. It would be dedicated to monuments of peace. The Peace Memorial Museum, the A-Bomb Dome, and the Cenotaph are featured prominently within the park.

2. Peace Memorial Museum consists of two buildings and documents the history of Hiroshima and the creation of the atomic bomb. It is the center point for August 6th activities commemorating the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Some of the exhibits document human suffering on a scale that remains unmatched to this day.

3. If you would like to take a walk 17th century feudal Japan look no further than Shukkei-en Garden. This miniature landscape garden was restored after its destruction in during World War II.

4. Car enthusiasts might want to swing over to the Mazda Museum. Founded in 1920, MazdaMotor Corporation Headquarters is a prominent feature in the history, economy and society of Hiroshima. But if you really want to take a trip back in time then you should take a guided tour of the Mazda Museum. Though not as large as Toyota, Mazda has been on the cutting edge of Japan automotive manufacturing almost since its incorporation. The company became the first and only company to win the prestigious Le Mans Grand Prix in 1991. Reservations for the 90 minute tour can be made up to a year in advance and offers insight into the company’s history, the technology its autos incorporate and future automotive development.

5. Hiroshima Castle (also called Carp Castle) is one of the most prominent pieces of architecture in the city. Built by feudal lord Mori Terumoto in 1589, Hiroshima castle was once the physical and economic epicenter of the city and an important power base in Western Japan. The main keep is five stories tall and the grounds are encapsulated by a moat. Like most of the city, Hiroshima Castle was destroyed in 1945 but was later rebuilt.

The Best Natural Wildlife Areas In South Africa

Natural Wildlife Areas In South Africa

The country of South Africa is a large area of the tip of the African continent, and has been making large strides in terms of developing tourism over recent years.  The end of Apartheid in the country may have been a turbulent time for the people of South Africa, but it was also an important step in making the country acceptable in the eyes of the rest of the developed world.  Today tourism is an important part of the economy of this African country, and it is the natural beauty and the sights that can be seen here that bring people into the country from around the world.

Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park is probably the most famous of the parks in South Africa, and is located in the north east of the country spanning the borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe.  As well as being one of the most well known, it is also one of the largest parks in Africa, with animal stocks recovering well after a significant period of poaching in the 1980s.  A safari in the Kruger National Park can reveal all of the important game animals in one trip on a good day, with healthy populations of African Elephants, Black Rhinos, Buffalo, Lions and Leopards to be found in the park.

This national park is one that is geared towards tourism, with several sites across the park that allow visitors to stay overnight for extended visits in the park.

The Addo Elephant National Park

This is one of the most impressive natural locations in South Africa, located in the Eastern Cape area of the country which is on the south coast.  Although the park itself is named after the elephants that are to be found in the park, the mission of the park is to maintain populations of the five major game animals spotted on safari along with the whales and white sharks to be found in the waters off the coast of the park.  With over four hundred elephants living in the park this is one of the main attractions but a guided safari will often allow visitors to also spot buffalo, leopards, lions and zebra too.

The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park

While many people may associate South Africa with safari and the rolling plains, the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is located around the eastern borders of Lesotho.  The park incorporates much of the Drakensberg mountain range which has some sensational scenery, and also has some of the best hiking routes in South Africa taking visitors through some sensational locations.  The park is home a variety of highland animals such as the bushbuck, mountain reedbuck, baboons and the lammergeier, a huge species of bearded vulture.  As well as the animal attractions here, the park is also home to over five hundred caves filled with rock art.

Mapungubwe National Park

Located on the northern border of South Africa, Mapungubwe is not only a naturally beautiful location but is also one of historical significance, with archaeologists having revealed a significant Iron Age settlement on the site.  There are many animals that live in the park, but as well as the game animals Mapungubwe National Park is also noted for the diversity of the bird population in the park.  The sandstone outcroppings of the hills in this region give Mapungubwe a very distinctive landscape that is different from many other parts of the country.