Discovering the Ancient Ruins of Tikal, Guatemala

It’s a jungle out there

For the adventurous traveller nothing is more exciting than hacking through the jungle in the early morning mist to discover a lost empire with towering pyramids and ancient city streets. Like Indiana Jones you swashbuckle your way through crocodile infested swamps, past crazed howler monkeys to find yourself at the lost tomb of the tribal chieftain.

At least that was the scenario going through my mind as our party entered the national park in Peten, Guatemala on our way to Tikal, the most important city of the Mayan civilization. Once a bandit ridden and dangerous area regular police and army patrols have made this destination much safer for tourists however some caution should still be exercised.

There are two main ways to get to the region, either from the Guatemala City in the south or across from Belize which is how I came in. My journey had started in the town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, a small island off the coast of Belize. I took the 7am water taxi to the marine terminal in Belize City where there was a connecting bus that would take me all the way to Flores in Guatemala.

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Recession and the Older Travel Generation

One aspect of the credit crunch and the financial crises that have exploded around the world is the increased availability of free time to a huge swathe of educated workers either made redundant or placed on sabbatical.

At one time these hard working members of society would have eschewed long term holidays, instead working more and focusing their attentions on career development. In the United States even taking the full compliment of allotted vacation time was frowned upon in a peer pressure environment.

All this has changed and a new paradigm has emerged, a six month paid severance is not uncommon for many professionals and once the trauma of unemployment has subsided many turn their thoughts to travel and fulfilling their once suppressed dreams of escaping the rat race and seeing the world.

There are two issues that confront them at this point; the first is deciding where to go and how to engage themselves in a constructive manner, the second problem is one of a more practical nature and that is fear of the unknown. Budget travel may have played a part for them many years ago but now they are used to swanky hotels and business paid travel, changing their attitudes to accommodate new financial circumstances can prove to be a big difficulty.

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6 Hotspots of Turkish Delight

When the rain is falling in Western Europe and the drizzle is backed up the Thames River I think of Turkey sitting there with iridescent blue waters, ancient ruins, endless summer nights and plenty of cold beer.

Hold on tight for a quick run down of my six favourite places in Turkey.

One: Istanbul
One could write pages and pages about this wonderful city but let’s stick to the basics. Get in by plane from the UK, as cheap as chips if you can swing that deal with EasyJet, or come down the long way from Budapest by the old “Stamboul Train” route passing through Bucharest and the crumbling Romania and Bulgaria.

Stay in Sultanahmet, the semi sleazy backpacking area near the main sights, some of the hostels here have been around for years as have some of the residents! The views of the Bosphorus from the obligatory rooftop terraces are perfect for cold beers and watching the sun go down.

Eat a fresh grilled fish sandwich from one of the boats near the old Galata Bridge and watch the ferryboats as they rush madly across the river or shop in the Grand Bazaar, possibly the most famous market in Europe.

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Is Montenegro The New Monte Carlo?

I thought about this before travelling to the tiny Balkan country of Montenegro, I had spent a lot of time on the French Riviera and wondered where they got the idea from.

The line comes from the foreign minister referring to the potential of Montenegro to become attractive for the super rich and the wealth that comes with them compared to the faded grandeur of Monte Carlo. So how does it shape up?

I had started my journey down the Adriatic coast from Split in Croatia down to Dubrovnik passing thorough the scruffy bit of coastline that belongs to Bosnia Herzegovina before finally arriving at the border of Montenegro. The trip down the coast could only be made by bus or private car and in the heat of the summer with the tourists in full sway meant the journey was long and tiring.

view onto old town of budva

We passed through customs with little formality, just a stamp on the passport and a rummage through the luggage.

Almost immediately the scenery changed the road moved away from the ribbon of coastline and meandered someway inland before the route opened up onto the fabulous bay of Kotor. Almost an Alpine landscape the steep granite cliffs plunged down into the water giving an impression of a deep fjord.

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