Prague: The City of 100 Spires

Czech Tourism

(Photo Credit of Prague: Czech Tourism)

 

Just how did this beautiful 15th century city gain the nickname of the City of a Hundred Spires?

“Surely, there are more than 100” exclaim most of our travellers.

We travelled past the astronomical clock, over the Charles pedestrian Bridge, and into the towers of dozens of cathedrals to find out.

The origin of the name comes from Bernard Bolzano, a Bohemian mathematician who counted 103 spires at the beginning of the 19th century. Now two centuries later, we find the influence of art nouveau mixed in with the renaissance symmetry, the dramatic baroque play on light and shadows, and of course the ribbed vaults and pointed arches of the Gothic architecture style.

Currently, there are over 500 spires in Prague, so our travellers are indeed correct in believing there are more than 100 spires.

But regardless of the number of spires, Prague is truly a city that enchants. A city of wonder, set between seven hills, Prague was never touched by war and allows one to enjoy an old world charm of a city often listed as one of the best cities in the world.

Join us on any number of trips to Prague, from active to cultural tours. Click here to browse our tours of Prague:

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Touring the Five Stans: A Photo Journey through Central Asia

Stans

 

Often thought of as one of our most exotic explorations,  each Stan holds a unique history and culture that has been shaped over the centuries and influenced by many empires.

While on tour to the Five Stans, expect to see 2000 year old fortresses, famous silk road cities that captured the imagination of leaders like Alexander the Great, cultural epicentres from the 14th centuries, remote oasis’, local bazaar, grand mosques, stunning 19th century palaces with European and Asian influences, and gorgeous drives through snow-capped peaks and deep valleys with vast vistas.

Of course, also expect to see the old world charm mix in with Soviet era architecture.

Our Five Stans tour has been a hit with our groups, and runs twice annually.

Here is a preview of what you’ll see on this amazing 21 day tour through Central Asia, as shown by our senior tour leader and professional photographer, Jonathan Hodgson.

All photos are from his Instagram account (@owilybug).

Zenkov Cathedral. #Almaty #Kazakhstan #travel #asia @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Zarafshan Valley. #Tajikistan #asia #travel #nature @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum. #Samarkand #silkroad #uzbekistan #asia #travel @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Kalan Mosque. #Bukhara #uzbekistan #asia #kalanmosque #travel @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Walls of Ichan-Qala. #Khiva #uzbekistan #asia #travel @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

 

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How to decide which African safari is the best?

Choosing which African safari tour to take for your dream holiday can be a very difficult decision.

With so many parks and so many types of animals, the options feel endless.

Here is a quick list of some of our favourite destinations for game spotting:

 

Owilybug Travel - Africa

(Photo Credit: Tour Leader Jonathan Hodgson / Owilybug Travel Photography)

 

South Africa:

South Africa’s largest reserve, Kruger National Park, has more animal species than anywhere else in Africa. It is home to over 137 mammal species, 49 fish, 112 reptiles, and over 500 bird species. This park is close to the heart for birders and big game enthusiasts alike.

The Mkuze Reserve and its savannahs, swamps, sand forests and recorded 420+ bird species is an exceptional stop for birders as well.

Jonathan Hodgson Owilybug - Africa

(Photo Credit: Tour Leader Jonathan Hodgson / Owilybug Travel Photography)

 

Namibia:

As one of Africa’s lesser known safari destinations but still a photographer’s dream, Etosha National Park is a big surprise for many. It’s one of the world’s largest national parks with an extraordinary array of animals, which are mostly dependent on watering holes.

 

Jonathan Hodgson - Owilybug - Afirca

(Photo Credit: Tour Leader Jonathan Hodgson / Owilybug Travel Photography)

 

Botswana:

Boarding a boat down the Chobe River or venturing into the grasslands on an open-top vehicle, it is easy to discover why this park is so beloved. With over 100,000 elephants, big pods of hippos, very large crocodiles, lions, hyenas, giraffes and more, Chobe National Park has one of the largest concentrations of game on the African continent.

Another heavy hitter in the safari world, the Okavango Delta is best explored by canoe or by 4WD. Normally deltas unload into the sea, but this river system empties out onto the land creating a unique pulsating wetland filled with big game, as well as plenty of fish and birds.

There is nowhere like it in the world.

 

ol-pejeta-rhinos

(PC: blogs.scientificamerican.com)

 

Kenya:

A highlight in the Kenyan parks is the grassy plains of Ol Pejeta, home to the largest black rhino sanctuary and Kenya’s only chimpanzee population.

As an extension of the Serengeti, there is no way one could miss a safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Not only home to all the ‘Big 5’ game and the wildebeest migration, the Mara also holds the largest lion population and the best chance to view cheetahs, this stop is key for those who love big cats.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(PC: wikipedia.org)

 

Tanzania:

Amboseli National park rests in the shadow of snow capped Mt Kilimanjaro and is a wonderful place to spot elephant herds on open plains with that uniquely African backdrop of the continent’s highest mountain.

For birders, you’ll enjoy a chance to spot ibis, flamingos, fish eagles and pelicans in the Lake Manyara National Reserve.

Tanzania’s most well known highlight is the chance to watch the 1.5 million wildebeest and half a million zebra migrate to better grazing and water pastures in the Serengeti National Park. We stake our vantage point from high on the kopje mountains or with a possible daybreak hot air balloon ride.

For those who are looking to see dynamic landscapes, the Ngorongoro Crater’s volcanic landscape with waterfalls, grasslands, and mountain forests is considered one of the greatest natural spectacles in the world.

 

 

 


 

 

To find out more about our African safaris, or our small group tours across Africa: click here.

Alternatively, click the link in the country name above and be redirected to a list of tours which includes the country desired.

 

 


 

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A China tour highlight: the Terracotta Army

 

Terracotta Warriors - Adventures Abroad PC Rachel Kristensen

(Photo from our China tour including the Terracotta Army. Credit: Tour Leader Rachel Kristensen)

Discovered in 1974 by a local farmer who was digging for a water well, the Terracotta Army and museum are undeniably one of China’s most awe-inspiring collections.

In a space roughly the size of a football field, it is estimated over 8000 soldiers, 130 chariots ,and 520 horses were buried. As of now, over 2000 figures have been unearthed and are found guarding the tomb Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China.

Construction of the site started in 246 BCE and was completed by the work of over 700,000 workers. It is thought the locals worked in an assembling line, producing the pottery figurines in sections, placing limbs together after made individually rather than as a whole piece.

The faces of the soldiers were created in 8 different styles. Crafted with details such as facial hair, a variety of bone structures,  and a diverse range of eye sets it is thought that the different soldiers represented the emotions and temperaments of the times.

Graceful eyebrow and eyes representing a canny solider. Braveness was illustrated in eyes that are wide and staring.  While those with a  wide face, large head with bushy eyebrows and large eyes are thought to have been simple men.

While pieces from the collection have been shown around the world, no collection of the Terracotta Army can duplicate the mass scale of discovery which the museum in Xi’an has.

Archaeologists are still uncovering more pieces and our small group China tour includes a fully guided excursion to better understand the work archaeologists are doing on this famous discovery.

Click here for information on our next trip to China which includes the Terracotta Army.

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MOA Journeys: In depth cultural and art tours

Withoutmasks Capture (Top three photos are part of the Without Masks exhibit. Bottom three from Heaven, Hell and Somewhere In Between Exhibit. Source: www.moa.ubc.ca)
 
For the art lovers and those exceptionally curious about cultural encounters, we’ve teamed up with Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology to curate unique cultural and art tours that coincide with their exhibits.
 
Our first journey led us to Cuba, to dive deeper into the contemporary Afro-Cuban art scene after a successful showing of the Without Masks exhibit. We ventured into exclusive galleries, institutions, and were joined by leaders in Afro-Cuban religions as they explained their communities.
 
Our next trip is to Portugal, inspired popular art in the current Heaven, Hell and Somewhere in Between exhibit. This trip will once again deliver exclusive access to artists’ studios and marketplaces where we learn what makes Portugal pulse.
 
To get a better idea of what these trips are like, once our Cuban adventurers arrived back at home, the group took time to share their stories on their own blog,  http://moajourneys.tumblr.com/.
 
By the looks of it, the group enjoyed the art tours as much as we did.
 
We can’t wait to rejoin  with MOA members this fall, for a closer look at the current and historic culture in Portugal.
 
To find out more about our next MOA cultural and art tour, please contact our sales staff at 1 800 665 3998.

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Greece - AA - Rachel Kristensen

What island hopping on a Greek Island tour looks like

The term Aegean Blue was clearly coined after a visit to a Greek Island.

The vast sea and skyline provide a stunning backdrop for the picture perfect white houses that scatter themselves across the 227 inhabited Greek Islands.

In total, there are more than 6000 islands dotted across the Aegean and Ionian Seas that fall under Greek sovereignty. Each with crystal clear waters that lap onto the sandy or pebble shores complete with sea-caves or sheltered coves.

Our tour takes you to the highlights to see ancient Cycladic and Minoan civilizations such as tiny sacred island of Delos near Mykonos, once the political capitol for ancient Greece. We also visit the ancient site of Akrotiri, a bronze age civilization buried after a volcanic eruption over 3500 years ago.

To catch up with modern Greece, we explore quaint modern village life of pirate-proof cities on Mykonos,  as well as the beautiful Oia and Pyrgos while taking in the dramatic volcanic landscapes along Santorini’s caldera.

Of course, there is also time to taste local specialties that include unique grape growing techniques, while sleeping in comfortable locations next to those famous Greek beaches.

Off the regular tourist path, our Greek Island hop also includes multiple days on Crete. The guided tour of Knossos, Iraklion and Chania’s museums promises to enchant the history buffs, while the sights on the harbour cities deliver wonderful photographic opportunities of modern Greece.

For more information on a small group tour to Greece and the Greek Islands, click here.

Greece - AA - Rachel Kristensen Greece - AA - Rachel Kristensen Greece - AA - Rachel Kristensen

 

 

(Photo credit: all from Tour Leader Rachel Kristensen)

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Yangshuo: A highlight on our China tour

 

Li River China PC Rachel Kristensen(Photo credit: On a China tour with Rachel Kristensen / @meandertheworld)

 

China is the third largest country in the world and has some of the most diverse landscapes, bustling cities and quiet villages to explore.

From the sandy dunes of the Gobi Desert, to the deep gorges cut by the Yangtze River and the karst mountains of Guilin.

Our Classic China tour takes you to the quiet village of Yangshuo, what many recall as their highlight of China.

The village is beautiful from all angles,  situated among breathtaking mist covered mountains that jet into the sky. With less car traffic and little air polution, it is easy to roam the streets and discover why so many love visiting this town.

No trip to Yangshuo is complete without exploring the winding rivers that cut through the valley floor. On the Li River, our small group tour sets sail beside bamboo rafts to watch fishermen collecting their catch with traditional netting methods.

The pristine environment complete with sweet smelling cassia flowers feels a million miles away from the high rises of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing and China’s other well-known cities.

Click here for more information on our trip to China which includes a small group tour of Yangshuo.

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5 Wonderful Greek Philosopher Quotes

Greece - Rachel Kristensen

One can’t help on a tour of Greece to indulge a bit of a wisdom from a Greek philosopher.

Ancient wisdom is found in the country which founded democracy, and changed the course of modern civilization into what we know today.

Well over 2000 years ago, the minds of great philosophers such as Plato, Socrates, Epictetus, Aristotle, and Plutarch questioned ideas on education, morality, purpose and nobility and were among the first to spread wise thoughts to all parts of society. Through plays, meetings and text, these great minds have continued to inspire for centuries.

Here are a few quotes to get you inspired before you get to Greece:

“There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.” – Plato

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” – Socrates

“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.” – Epictetus

“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour.” – Aristotle

“Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.” – Plutarch 

 


For more information about our small group tours to Greece, where you will inevitably learn more about these famous Greek philosophers, click here.

 

 

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Tour Norway and Finland: A quick photo journey

Martin Charlton - Norway Tour

(PC: Martin Charlton)

Last year, senior Tour Leader Martin Charlton debuted a small group tour of Scandinavia to what would be an instant classic.

A tour through Norway and Finland, cruising the beautiful fjords, riding the rails on some of the most dramatic European train journeys, and discovering markets as well as museums that are uniquely Scandinavian.

Here is a closer look at what Martin captured, and considered his highlights:

Coastal Norway. #coast #Norway #travel A photo posted by Martin Charlton (@travelbug1970) on

Coastal Norway. #coast #Norway #travel

A photo posted by Martin Charlton (@travelbug1970) on

 

For him, taking the small group tour along a 7 day cruise of the Norwegian coastline was a real highlight. This tour also includes 6 excursions on land, as well exploring Europe’s northernmost point of Lapland. City highlights and guiding walking tours are included for Oslo, Bergen, Helsinki, Trondheim and Kirkenes.

For more information on our small group tours to Norway, Finland and Scandinavia, please click here.

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What makes Peking Duck so special?

peking-duck-china

(Photo source: www.feminiya.com)

If you have ever gone to Beijing to taste authentic Chinese food, you may have tasted the world famous delicacy.

Prepared for royalty since the 13th century, we have often wondered what it is about the dish that makes it so notorious with dining in Beijing.

Could it be the pickled radish? The scallion, cucumber or sweet bean sauce? What is the special seasoning, and how is the skin so crispy?

First, get to know the duck.

The Peking duck is a type of mallard that historically was found in the canals of Nanjing (which was once China’s capitol) before making its way to Beijing as trade commerce spilled grain in the river (and once the capitol was changed to Beijing in the 15th century). These days, the duck is now raised specifically to be consumed in China.

Cooked for 50 minutes while hung in a brick oven, each cook uses their own special seasoning but pays close attention as the duck is roasted to perfection.

Each restaurant has its own secret ingredient but only those in duck roasted in China are thought to be authentic.

As China considers getting the duck among other Chinese cuisine listed on the UNESCO list of cultural heritage for future generations to enjoy, the past has also benefited from the duck.

Once touted as part of China’s international diplomacy relations strategy, notable figures such as Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger tried out the dish on their official visits to China in 1972, which was the first step in normalizing relations between the US and China.

Try out this dish on our next trip to China, click here for more info.

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