Sicily – Beautifully Italian
Located just off the toe of peninsular Italy, Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Renowned for its beautiful beaches, unspoiled nature and friendly people, Sicily is also home to the world’s most active volcano Mount Etna and the historic city of Palermo, Italy’s Capital of Culture 2018.
The best time to explore Sicily is during May and June, which is the late spring of the island. When you arrive in Palermo, the island’s capital city, the eclectic mix of cultures is evident everywhere. The city has a history dating back more than 2,000 years with its cultural peak during Arab occupation. Today Palermo is a tapestry of ancient Greek and Roman historical sites with a maze of boisterous souk-like street markets.
In Palermo there are many remarkable piazzas, Quattro Canti, officially known as Piazza Vigliena, four baroque corners mark the center of the historic quarter. You can enjoy a stroll through the city to explore 12th century churches, along with Via Vittorio Emanuele II or the Cassaro, the most ancient street of Palermo where there are alluring stalls and a street market. This street also provides access to numerous attractions including the Palazzo dei Normanni or the Royal Palace, and the Cathedral – both of them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as the Teatro Massimo, Italy’s largest opera house, renowned for its perfect acoustics. While exploring the many historical and cultural sites, pause and enjoy the flavors of Sicilian cuisine at fine restaurants or simple street vendors.
For the adventurous Mount Etna is Europe’s tallest volcano and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013. From Catania, the closest major city to Mount Etna, hiking tours to suit all capabilities are available, or take a wine tasting tour among the countless vineyards that dot the slopes of Mount Etna.
Taiwan – Island of Contrasts
Taiwan, a rising Asian destination, it is packed with an array of contrasts and delightful surprises especially during the spring and summer.
For nature lovers, Taiwan is home to numerous natural parks and retreats to unwind. Sun Moon Lake, is one of Taiwan’s most relaxing retreats with nature walks, cool breezes, and a myriad of outdoor recreational activities is a popular day trip from Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. Taroko National Park, the island’s most visited national park with its world-famous gorge, is one of Asia’s natural wonders. There are also more than 150 natural hot springs in Taiwan, most in mountainous landscapes with water piped into secluded hotels and resorts for a rejuvenating spa experience, the Beitou area being only a short MRT ride from the centre of Taipei.
Apart from plenty of natural attractions, a city break in Taipei is urban Asia at its best. A cultural highlight is the National Palace Museum that houses the world’s largest collection of imperial Chinese artefacts. Another landmark not to be missed out is the iconic Taipei 101 – the one-time tallest building in the world. At its observatory deck the panoramic view of Taipei is stunning, while the lower levels boast hundreds of famous local shops and global brands to satisfy any shopper.
At night fall the Pingxi area, the famous old lantern town, is where you can launch your wish-covered lantern to the sky with friends, family or loved ones. Also on offer are a wide variety of snacks, including the original pearl milk tea and tasty local dishes, as well as Taiwanese night markets with an endless selection of clothes, toys, games and much more.
Bali – Island of the Gods
Bali is a scenic island in Indonesia famed for its beautiful beaches, lush vegetation, terraced rice paddies and ancient Hindu temples.
Denpasar, the Balinese capital, is a bustling commercial city yet full of temples, palaces and museums. Day trips from the heart of Denpasar include the Bali Museum with vast collections showcasing Balinese culture and history, to the south a vast mangrove forest in the northeast Kertalangu Cultural Village .
The southern coast of the island is where many of Bali’s best and most famous beaches are found. Kuta, a surfers’ haven, Legian and Sanur’s long stretches of sand and upscale Jimbaran with Bali’s most luxurious hotels. Temples also dot the coastline including Pura Tanah, one of the most important Balinese sea temples just offshore and accessible only at low tide.
Ubud in central Bali is the center of Balinese arts and culture, home to traditional dance and musical performances, artisans in painting and sculpture and countless temples. The surrounding area is picture perfect with steeply terraced rice paddies and deep river gorges where secluded luxury retreats and simple homestays attract many visitors to Bali.
A trip to Mount Agung, the highest point in Bali and its most active volcano, is a stunning experience of landscapes; lush jungles, high altitude pine forests and desolate windswept lava flows. Pura Besakih, the largest and holiest of Bali’s Hindu temples is high on the slopes of Mount Agung and no visit to Bali is complete without a journey to this heart of Balinese culture.
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