Tag Archives: destinations

Valletta – Malta’s Unique Capital City!

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Valletta – Malta’s Unique Capital City!

Valletta is the Capital city of Malta, I’ve never experienced such an interesting city! You know a native Maltese person when you hear them talk. When they speak English (I actually can’t remember hearing many people speak Maltese, so I can’t speak for that, but I am sure it’s the same..obviously it has to be! lol), they talk in a sing-song style tone – which is the best way I can describe Valletta! It has steep sloping streets…so basically “sing-songy” streets! Baroque to Modern in it’s style and sooo beautiful!! The architecture here is like nothing I have ever seen either!

Valletta contains buildings from the 16th century onwards. The city is essentially Baroque in character with modern elements in selected areas. The Second World War left major scars on the city, particularly the destruction of the Royal Opera House (which I don’t think I saw). The City of Valletta was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.

To be honest, I only decided to go because I felt I had to. It’s the capital of the island. A lot of reviews online say it’s worth seeing, but I wasn’t dying to go, so we went one evening thinking a couple hours would be enough. I definitely did not plan that accordingly! A city is a city was my ignorant New York mindset!

Once you arrive in, you are greeted with this big roundabout type thing with some cool art. As fascinated as I was with this big sculpture of a hand holding a bird…..

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And this interesting sculpture with description:

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I stopped everything as I noticed the sun setting behind this wall over a beautiful landscape!

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Definitely spent about 20 minutes there taking pictures and just taking in the view that I lost my travel partner lol.

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From there, there is a main street with tons of designer shops and cafes – many the typical global brands you are familiar with, and some you aren’t. There were musicians blasting loud tunes from their trumpets and various street performers. Something definitely gave this town a very Christmasy type vibe. Christmasy yet caveman lol.

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As I was walking, I kept looking to my left where I noticed through the intersections that if you went down that side you would hit the view of the ocean.

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So we decided to take a detour and check it out (and then get back on the main route and continue down) OMG – even more beautiful streets.

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These streets, all different but with a pattern of steep sloping roads. The architecture was so unique! Valetta is a city with so much character! You picture yourself in some old Kris Kringle meets Flintstones type town back in time, haha! That’s the vibe you get!

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Anyways, was hoping to get a close up, grand view of the sea – but realizing how slopy Valletta is; from the main street we could see the sea, but when we got to the edge there was a barrier that blocked the view, that we didn’t notice from the Main Street, because of the slopes!

We headed back on to the Main Street and found ourselves at a square with a fountain, and we noticed a bunch of cafes and a lively, floral, nicely decorated area to our left.

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We continued straight though because we wanted to go all the way to the end of the city hoping for a view of the sea. Once we passed the square the streets were quieter and more residential. I keep saying this but the architecture was so unique!

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The vehicles were a combination of modern, nice sports cars, classic, old school cars and stuff I have never seen before lol.

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At the edge of the road, there was a turn that sort of led to a wider street. We found the sea there!! The streets went on but we knew we would have gotten lost if we continued, and it was getting late.

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We headed back to the cafe area which was a nice, lively area! Hoping to try something different, perhaps local Maltese cuisine, which we were still trying to figure out what that was, beside Rabbit – yes, their most famous local dish is Rabbit! Italian food is quite common, as is American/British junk food. Unfortunately that’s all we pretty much could find. Don’t go to Malta expecting amazing cuisine. Ohhh, also, for some reason, the chicken is different there. I definitely could not eat it lol. I couldn’t even stand the smell! I don’t know how to explain it, but it just wasn’t right. I think all I ate in Malta was pretty much junky pizza and fries, ugh! Europeans also have a thing for mayonnaise. Mayo, bread and cheese. LOL. Very common in Europe. Finding food was pretty frustrating and being Indian, I need spice. Lots of flaming spice. A lot of places, when I asked for hot sauce, they gave me black pepper…..#fail. They did have good ice cream though!

As we exited, I noticed some ads for Malta Fashion week! I guess I was so mesmerized by the sunset I didn’t notice them when I arrived! Hosted by Mercedes Benz, so it’s pretty legit!

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Valletta is definitely a place I want to go back to and explore more than just a couple hours! I don’t think I would look for a hotel there, as I doubt there are any beach resorts, and thats sort of my thing. I def would go back to Malta, stay at a beach resort in a neighboring area and do a full day trip to Valletta again and get lost in those sloping streets!

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-Karen Bahri

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Burano pt#2 – Colorful Canals!

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Burano pt#2 – Colorful Canals!

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-Karen Bahri

Three Must See Hidden Gems in Turkey

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Three Must See Hidden Gems in Turkey

Turkey is a country I am so not done with! Although (through my experience) Turkish airlines will most likely have you experience delays of 3-5 hours, but oddly enough, still get you to Istanbul Ataturk Airport at said time (which is 10 hours from New York) I kid you not – lol!

Next time you decide to visit this stunningly beautiful and culturally rich country, you definitely should take the path less travelled and check out these 3 hidden gems within the country:

BUTTERFLY VALLEY

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The coastline of Turkey is usually bustling with tourists and luxury resorts. On the contrary, the Butterfly Valley (or Kelebekler Vadisi in Turkish) is serene, untouched and completely secluded.

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Located in the south of Turkey on the west coast, the valley is only accessible via water taxi or boat. So picturesque, you will find majestic waterfalls, a wide beautiful beach with turquoise water so clear and calm it looks like a painting, treehouses, magical sunsets and forests that appear straight out of a fairytale all tucked away in the valley, waiting to be discovered by its explorers.

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It’s no surprise that the valley, rich in flora and fauna, takes its name from the large number of butterfly species found here.

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Butterflies of many varieties in a wide range of colors can be observed in the valley between June and September.

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ISHAK PASHA PALACE

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Located in the isolated region of Dogubeyazit, this palace is a striking example of rare historical Turkish palaces. It is one of the most distinguished and magnificent examples of the 18th century Ottoman architecture and is very valuable in terms of art history. According to the top of the door inscription at the Harem Section, it was constructed in 1784, according to the Islamic calendar.

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The palace, set on a hill, is grandeur in many ways than one; it has several rooms and courtyards just waiting for a glance. İshak Pasha Palace stands at a desolate valley today and the fact that it was the subject of various legends and stories add to its magnificent atmosphere some colour and mystery. It’s haunting beauty will definately allure you, and the view from the palace is a striking bonus!

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Entrance from the outer to inner courtyard

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Inner courtyard

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DERINKUYU UNDERGROUND CITY

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The deepest underground city in Cappadocia, this ancient city was built during the Byzantine era between 780-1180 AD, when it was heavily used as protection from Muslim Arabs during the Arab–Byzantine wars. The city was connected with other underground cities through miles of tunnels. At a depth of more than 250 feet with a capacity of up to 20,000 people, this multi-leveled city, with over 600 entrances, contained everything an entire population would need to survive a history riddled with invasions. The tunnels were rediscovered in 1963, after a resident of the area found a mysterious room behind a wall in his home.

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~Karen Bahri

And the winner of the World Luxury Hotel Awards 2017 goes to….

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And the winner of the World Luxury Hotel Awards 2017 goes to….

…drumroll…

JUMERIRAH VITTAVELI, MALDIVES!!!

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The 11th edition of the awards took place at the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz, Switzerland, where Jumeirah Vittaveli was named the 2017 Global Hotel of the Year. Winners are based on the votes of 300,000 travellers who were invited to vote for their favorite luxury hotel over a four-week period.

 

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Located a speedy 20-minute speedboat ride from Malé, Jumeirah Vittaveli offers supreme diversity and subtle luxury. The resort comprises 89 villas and suites each with their own swimming pool and direct access to the beach or lagoon.

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The resort provides extensive leisure and wellness facilities. One of the highlights is an award-winning Talise Spa, offering Asian inspired treatments in a lush, garden setting.

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The most amazing accent about the spa is that the team produces their own island-made 100% pure Coconut Oil! This luxurious oil is utilized in select signature treatments and available for purchase at the spa boutique. They also offer Coconut Oil making demos!

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The resort also offers complimentary bicycles, fitness center, kids club, yoga areas and four exquisite restaurants, a pool bar as well as a beachside cocktail lounge.

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All these amenities are great additions to the already naturally gorgeous atmosphere surrounding you on this beautiful island!

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-Karen Bahri

 

Alacati, Izmir, Turkey – add this to your bucket list!

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Alacati, Izmir, Turkey – add this to your bucket list!

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Alaçatı is a unique Mediterranean town on Turkey’s Çeşme Peninsula, on the Aegean Sea. It’s known for its beaches, old stone houses, narrow cobblestone streets, vineyards and windmills.

 

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Alacati made its name in the world of windsurfing and kitesurfing, with its crystal clear water and consistently steady wind for over 150 years now. The Professional Windsurfing Association (PWA) Windsurfing World Cup is held here every year in August.

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What stands out the most about Alacati is that it is largely undiscovered outside Turkey, yet, many Turks, including several national celebrities, spend their holidays to escape the more touristy scene in Bodrum.

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Quiet and sleep a beach town it lays by day, but Alacati buzzes at night!

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The pictures do all the talking. Definitely something to consider adding to your 2018 travel itinerary!

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The best time to plan a trip is from the end of April through May or from September through October, when temperatures are still high (reaching over 20C), and prices are at their best value.

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-Karen Bahri

 

 

The Most Wonderful time of the Year – German Editon!

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The Most Wonderful time of the Year – German Editon!

It’s the holiday season and so many cities around the globe are known to attract tourists as they deck the halls to the max! Many countries draw crowds for their own traditional holiday touch and Christmas markets are great places to discover provincial traditions, but no one does Christmas quite like Germany! Known as Christkindlmarkts (Christ child markets) or Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas, or Holy Night, markets), Germany’s holiday markets have been recorded as early as 1310! Here are 11 of the country’s can’t-miss markets.

Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt

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Widely considered by many Germans to be one of the most traditional markets in the country, Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt is an excellent spot for those looking for a hint of nostalgia! Known as one of the most beautiful markets in Europe, the main Stuttgart market, comprises nearly 300 stalls,  is set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Old Palace.

Munich Marienplatz Christmas Market

With over 20 different markets in Munich, there is something for everyone; from a medieval market with gospel choir, to the gay-friendly Pink Christmas Market, where wares are sold from pink and purple pagodas with added cabarets and shows. The Kripperlmarkt  specializes in all things Nativity. For something completely different, the Tollwood Market is an urban cultural festival offering a diverse range of international music, drama and cuisine. The main market in the city of Munich, though, is the Marienplatz Market.

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One will find a gigantic fir tree lit up brightly as the centerpiece of the market, with more than 3,000 lights! Dating back to the 14th century, this market remains quite traditional. Predominantly loaded with Bavarian produce, unique Christmas gifts and delectable treats, this market will undoubtedly fill you with the holiday spirit!. Concerts are played daily and you can look down on the sights of the market, well away from the hustle and bustle of the crowd, from the balconies of the spectacular town hall.

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Few Christmas markets are as incredibly beautiful as the one in Rothenburg, a walled medieval city dating back to 950. Come December, the town transforms into a winter wonderland, and the market—which has been occurring since the 15th century—is its crown jewel! The Reiterlesmarkt is held on a medieval stage and Rothenburg is illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights! Unlike cosmopolitan Berlin and Cologne, Rothenburg has an entirely different feel, with smaller markets and a more intimate setting.

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Rothenburg’s Schneeball (snow ball) is a must-try for those with a sweet-tooth, made from strips of sweet fried dough covered in powdered chocolate or sugar.

Dresden Striezelmarkt

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With accounts dating back to 1434, Dresden’s Christmas Market, traditionally known as Striezelmarkt is the oldest in Germany. The Striezelmarkt boasts both the world’s tallest Nutcracker, and the world’s tallest Christmas pyramid. The highlight of the market is the Stollen Festival on the second Saturday in Advent.

Leipzig Christmas Market

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Second only to Dresden, Leipzig otherwise lays claim to the oldest Christmas market in Germany, tracing its origins back to 1458. Here, in front of the Old Town Hall where Johann Sebastian Bach signed his employment contract, you’ll find everything from a ferris wheel to a Finnish village!

Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market

In front of the impressive backdrop of Cologne’s landmark cathedral, this market has all of the expected bells and whistles: your glühwein, your crafts, your twinkling lights. One thing that stands out, however, is its entertainment, which comprises more than 100 stage performances through the duration of the festival.

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Apart from the Cathedral, the Alter Markt is the place to go for children — with a Santa’s grotto, puppet theatre and stands filled with toys. The Rudolfplatz will transport children to the world of the brothers Grimm, with fairytale figures and festive illuminations.

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Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt

With the majestic Alps to the south and the medieval Imperial Castle perched proudly at the top of the Old Town hill, Nuremberg is a spectacular back drop for one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets. The Kinderweihnacht, or Children’s Market, provides plenty of family fun, featuring an old-fashioned carousel, Ferris wheel, steam train and Nativity scene trail.

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Over 180 traditional stalls, blanketed in red and white cloth, ensure that this extremely popular market remains authentic. Modern and mass-produced goods are strictly prohibited and officials police the stalls to ensure that the vendors are offering the visitors hand-crafted wares in keeping with the tradition of the market.

Konstanz Christmas Market

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This sprawling market runs from the town center to the shores of Lake Constance, Germany’s largest lake. Tuck in to traditional Käsespätzle, freshly made pasta with cheese; and spend some time on the ‘Christmas Ship’ moored in the harbor. Just be sure to bring extra layers!

Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market

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The snowy Black Forest is picturesque enough come wintertime, but this market in its midst manages to be even more Instagram-worthy. Here, over 40 stalls proffer handmade Christmas wares, while even more can be found nearby at the Hofgut Sternen Inn, where the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once stayed.

Frankfort

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Germany’s financial center taps into its inner medieval market town every holiday season with a Christmas market that dates back to 1393! Traditionally held with orchestras of carols chanting with religious mystery plays. These days you’re more likely to hear live music. Make sure to peek inside the 300-year-old timber Honey House, which sells pretty much any imaginable honey-related products. Fun fact: Poet Goethe was a fan of the Frankfurt market’s famous Bethmännchen, or marzipan cookies.

Freiburg Rathausplatz Market

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On the edge of the Black Forest, Freiburg’s medieval center looks straight out of a Brothers Grimm folk tale! The fair’s merchants, around 115 in total, sell their wares (beeswax candles, cuckoo clocks, blown glass) in the shadow of a 380-foot Gothic spire. The market opens every year with a ceremonial cutting and distribution of a giant Lebkuchen, or gingerbread loaf, to the waiting crowd.

 

 

Karen Bahri

 

 

A peak inside the Gem of Zanzibar – Stone Town!

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A peak inside the Gem of Zanzibar – Stone Town!

Stone Town is not just any town – it’s a delight for the senses not to be found anywhere else in the world!

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Stone Town is a city of prominent historical and artistic importance in East Africa. Also known as Mji Mkongwe (Swahili for “old town”), it is located in the old part of Zanzibar City, which is the main city of Zanzibar, in Tanzania.

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Its architecture, which mostly dates back to the 19th century, has STORIES to tell, as it reflects the diverse influences of Swahili culture – yet also giving a unique mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements.

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The buildings are honestly a feast for the eyes, despite their deteriorating condition. That only adds charm and character to the entire painting! Stone town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 due to it’s distinct archetecture.

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The most well-known feature of Zanzibari houses are the finely decorated wooden doors.

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You won’t find these giant wooden masterpieces anywhere else in the world! Elaborately carved with astonishing detail, the heavy doors in Stone Town are quintessentially ‘Zanzibar’, and served as a valuable glimpse into the homeowner’s place of origin, profession and economic status.

For example, the Indian doors were crafted by skilled tradesmen out of imported teak. The large brass studs have their origins in India, where they were once used as a defense against charging war elephants. In Stone Town, however, they were used only as decorative pieces and symbolic markers of wealth.

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Arab doors have intricately crafted frames with Arabic inscriptions at the top. The chain, lotus and pineapple are common and culturally significant motifs.

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The heart of Stone Town consists of a maze of narrow alleys lined by houses, shops, bazaars and mosques. The streets bustle along with bicycles and motorbikes as they are too narrow for cars. Stone Town can easily be explored on foot.

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Of course, the beaches in Zanzibar are RAVISHING, but this UNESCO World Heritage Site is definitely worth a stroll at some point during your holiday in which you feel like exploring. Trust me, it’s worth it – It is utterly captivating!

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I hope this has given you a good glimpse of a little town you may never have even heard of! Stone Town has an interesting history. Everything about this place will make you feel alive – from the melting pot of African, Arab, Indian and European cultures; the vivid shades of every color imaginable; the textures; the vibrant energy of the seafront and markets; and the locals who greet you with a “jambo!” (hello) and “karibu” (welcome) everyday!

To add to your itinerary, if you have been following me for a while, almost a year ago I wrote about the most unusual and amazing place to check out on the Indian Ocean off Zanzibar (which got a lot of buzz, thank you muah!). You can check that here:

https://karenskaleidoscope.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/the-rock-a-luxurious-fairytale-in-the-indian-ocean/

And OF COURSE I’m sure the main reason for your holiday would be for the astonishing beaches, with a day or so excursion to Stone Town, so I don’t want you to forget what that beautiful pond looks like 😁 —–>

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-Karen Bahri

 

 

 

 

Best places to catch the Most Beautiful Sunsets in the World

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Best places to catch the Most Beautiful Sunsets in the World

 

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I love sunsets! I love taking pics of sunsets! I love sunrises! I love taking pics of sunrises! Basically, I love a pretty sky. Read on for your guide to where in the world you are guaranteed to catch a colorful, beautiful, picturesque and awe-inspiring sunset.

OIA, SANTORINI, GREECE

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Well if this wasn’t a given! Santorini, known for its distinctive white and blue architecture, is one of the most beautiful places in the world! The sunset can be captured perfectly as the village of Oia is set on a rugged Cliffside giving onlookers the perfect spot to watch the sun as it reflects on the crisp white buildings and then sets into the Aegean Sea.

IPANEMA BEACH, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

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The sunset is so stunning in Ipanema because it sets behind the rocky hillsides that border the coast. One of the best places in Rio to watch the sunset is Arpoador Rock which is located between Copacabana and Ipanema. Arpoador juts out into the ocean giving you an unobstructed view to the west along Ipanema beach. You will be in awe as the sun dips into the Gulf of Mexico in a magnificent array of pink and orange!

NORTH CAPE, FINNMARK, NORWAY

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North Cape, Norway is so far north it’s nearly in the Arctic Circle! Therefore during the summer, the sun hardly ever sets. Visitors can take in the midnight sun (the sun that sets just to the horizon, but never fully sets. OMG huge on my bucketlist!!!!) Seeing this strange sunset phenomenon can be a once in a lifetime experience!

AO KAO BEACH, KOH MAK, THAILAND

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Located in Trat Province in Thailand, Koh Mak is world famous for its stunning sunsets. Koh Mak features idyllic, serene nature with no skyscrapers or cityscape to obscure the sky, making the nightly setting sun into the horizon an unforgettable experience!

BAGAN, MYANMAR

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If you’re looking to snap a few dramatic sunset photos, head to Bagan, Myanmar’s Valley of Temples. Each night as the sun drops low in the sky, it lights up the outlines of more than 2000 ancient temples, pagodas, and monasteries that have sat in the Valley for a thousand years! There are so many locations throughout Bagan to capture stunning sunset views. You may also wish to snap photos of the sacred Buddhist and Hindu temples at dusk, but for a birds-eye view book a hot air balloon ride over the Valley.

ULURU, AUSTRALIA

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Uluru, or as some call it Ayers Rock, undergoes a dramatic transformation each night when the sun sets over the Australian outback. The rock cuts a striking silhouette across the sky as the sun paints it golden, deep red, orange and other hues before it turns black under the cover of night. Hike to the top of the dunes for a stunning view of Uluru and the nearby ancient rock formations known as Kata Tjuta.

THE AZORES, PORTUGAL

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The lovely islands that make up the Azores archipelago sit off the coast of Portugal in a nearly empty stretch of the Atlantic Ocean that allows for unobstructed views of the water, sky, and brilliant sunsets! Spread across 374 miles, this autonomous region of Portugal offers endless opportunities for soaking up the last rays of the sun.

MILOVAIG, ISLE OF SKYE, UK

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The Isle of Skye is an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. While the entire island offers a stunning view of the sun setting, one of the best spots to catch it is the pier at Milovaig, which offers onlookers a multi-colored, breathtaking scene.

DIAMOND HEAD, HONOLULU, HAWAII

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Nearly anywhere on Oahu is a great place to catch a sunset, but climb up Diamond Head, which is a volcano and state monument, and you’ll be able to catch the gorgeous setting sun over legendary Waikiki beach.

TAJ MAHAL, AGRA, INDIA

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I love my India! It is incredible. Everything about the Taj Mahal is beautiful – everything. It has become an international destination to visit at dusk, because of the beautiful sunsets that occur behind it and the stunning colors that reflect around the building. hashtag colorful india #colorfulindia #colourtheworld #sunsets

 

-Karen Bahri

Kazan, Russia’s Temple of All Religions:

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Kazan, Russia’s Temple of All Religions:

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The Temple of All Religions, or the “Universal Temple”, is an architectural complex in the Staroye Arakchino Microdistrict of Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia.

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As one reviewer on tripadvisor stated:

How much longer are we going to be divided by different religions? God equals Good. Here is one creation in the name of Greater Good.

Clustered tightly on a small plot of land, the complex consists of several cupolas, minarets and spires representing the religious architecture of 12 major religions of the world. There is a Christian cross, the Muslim crescent, the Star of David and the Chinese dome.

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Because it is not a functioning temple, no ceremonies are actually performed inside. The building is basically a cultural center which also serves as the residence of its owner – Ildar Khanov, and his assistants. Khanov is a local artist and philanthropist who practices spiritual healing upon willing subjects. Khanov is known for his efforts in the treatment of alcoholism, drug addiction, and various other diseases. His former and current patients help him to maintain and develop the Temple, either by direct involvement in the construction work or through sponsorship.

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Khanov believed that all religions are equal, and the Temple of All Religions was his way to bring them all under one roof. It was started in 1992 and still currently under construction.

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As the story goes, Ildar Khanov, a graduate from Kazan Art School, was an eccentric individual who claimed he met Jesus when he was just three years old. It was during the difficult years of the Great Patriotic War. Khanov almost died of starvation when Jesus saved him and showed him heaven and hell. According to him, it was then that he embarked on his journey as an artist and healer.

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The Temple has become a popular landmark in the city of Kazan, which takes pride in the peaceful combination of different cultures including Islamic Tatar, Orthodox Russian, and others. Khanov describes its mission, a “temple of culture and truth”. The Temple is visited both by tourists and by people seeking Khanov’s healing touch.

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-Karen Bahri

 

The most Beautiful Small towns in France

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The most Beautiful Small towns in France

Paris, the city the world is in love with! A beauty indeed, but there is plenty more to see in France than just the capital. From wine country to the Alps, there are thousands of beautiful villages and small towns in the country, and each region has its own special qualities. Travelling around some of the small towns in France means travel between hilltops, rocky coastal towns and breathtaking scenery while enjoying the local lifestyles of the people.

Among the thousands, here is a short list of small French towns with such beauty, they can rival any major city in the world:

Annecy

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Sometimes called “the Venice of Savoie,” this lakeside Alpine town is treasured for its sloping hillsides and the small canals that wander their way through the streets.

Pourquerolles

Fort Sainte AgatheÎle de Porquerolles is a Côte d’Azur gem which is an island paradise that’s also a small town. The best thing about this place is that after all these years, the car-free island is still a blissful, peaceful paradise!

Bayeux

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Tapestry is the highlight for most tourists to the town. Bayeux has an appeal of a mix of the classic (the Norman-Gothic Bayeux Cathedral dominates the skyline) and the more contemporary (a somber, minimalist World War II cemetery).

Eguisheim

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Eguisheim is very unique with its concentric layout of streets unlike other towns and villages in France. It is a magnet for tourism because of its flower-filled villages and colorful houses, which give it a fairy tale ambiance. One of my favorites on this list!

Dinan

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The prettiest town in Brittany! Set on a hilltop, this medieval town oversees the river of Rance. Dinan is surrounded with long ramparts or walls, Tudor type houses, port, cobbled streets, art galleries, and shops.

Perouges

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Perouges is a medieval walled town in the northeast of Lyon. The town is so romantic, homey and old-fashioned that it is often used in many films.

Lourmarin

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Lourmarin is poetry in motion. It has numerous cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and ivy-covered streets full of a lavender scent which will give you an exquisite taste of its locality.

Chamonix

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Although Chamonix’s proximity to Mont Blanc has made it a legendary skiing and climbing center. The town, with panoramic mountain views and rows of slant-roofed buildings, is lovely all year round.

Ars-en-Ré

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A charming town of bicycles! With its white-washed houses and traditional green shutters, hollyhocks, salt pans, and relaxing but sleepy beach town vibe, it is a pleasure to explore this tiny seaside village.

Eze

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For a more subdued Riviera experience, bypass Nice and Cannes for Eze, whose rocky hillside location 1,400 feet above the sea makes for stunning views of the Mediterranean.

Etretat

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Etretat is best known for its three natural arches and pointed needle. It attracts tourists and even celebrities because of its peaceful scenery.

And last, but definitely not least:

Colmar

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Picturesque Colmar has a section also known as “Little Venice,” thanks to the small canals that cut elegant lines past candy-colored houses. And locals aren’t the only ones inspired by Colmar’s beauty: some people believe the town was the model for Belle’s village in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast!

~Karen Bahri