5 potential new UNESCO World Heritage sites for 2020


If you’re anything like us, your bucket record is as extensive as the line at the departure gate when the verify-in team announce that the plane is all set to board (your seat isn’t likely anywhere, people)! Maybe it is total of palm-fringed beach locations, late night time towns or thrilling bungees and sky dives. Or if you are a lifestyle vulture, you are going to have a handful of UNESCO Environment Heritage Web-sites shoved into the combine.

If it’s the latter, it could be time to update your listing.

Each and every year, UNESCO’s Environment Heritage Committee requires a seem at the very best cultural and purely natural miracles of the world, adding to the checklist of web-sites.

There are previously some complete winners on there, together with the Grand Canyon and Angkor Was, but here are the opportunity newbies for 2020.

Prospective UNESCO Earth Heritage sites

What? Southwestern Coast Tidal Flats
Where? Gosmo Bay, Yeoja Bay and Hamhae Bay, South Korea

Sitting in the southwest corner of South Korea and surrounded by mountains, these coastline tidal flats are made by waves through the wintertime, which then expand through the summertime.

They are very common in South Korea, with men and women functioning tough to grow windbreak forests to defend salterns and rice paddies behind them, which has contributed to preserving the normal Korean tidal flats.

They’re a popular spot for wildlife much too. All-around one million birds of 300 species stopover each calendar year to refuel on their migration to Siberia. Now, that is a whole lot of birds!

 

What? Historic Monuments and Sites of Historic Quanzhou (Zaytun)
The place? Quanzhou, China

The historical city of Quanzhou was an critical port city all through the time of the maritime silk road and Yuan Dynasty (13-14th Century), enjoying a substantial element in trade routes by way of the Indian Ocean and western Pacific.

A whole of 16 monuments and web-sites together with pagodas, temples and carvings are nominated for their representation of prosperity at the time. If that is what you want to be affluent, we’ve obtained a extended way to go!

UNESCO World Heritage

Credit history: trabantos / Shutterstock.com

What? Padova Urbs Picta. Giotto, the Scrovegni Chapel and the 14th-Century Painting Cycles
Exactly where? Padua, Italy

If there is just one point Italy does perfectly, it is church buildings and chapels adorned ridiculously nicely. This site incorporates just that – monuments from the 14th Century, wherever the nicely-known painter and architect, Giotto di Bondone, remaining his mark on their frescoes (naughty!) They include things like the Scrovegni Chapel, Palazzo della Ragione, Baptistery of the Cathedral, Basilica del Santo, and extra.

Painted all-around 1303-5, the Scrovegni Chapel is an outstanding three-tier scene depicting the life of Saints Joachim and Anna, the lifetime of the Virgin, and the life of Christ.

Italy also does UNESCO Environment Heritage web-sites ridiculously effectively – it is got far more than 50 and the most significant quantity in the planet! Mamma Mia!

 

What? Hima Well Rock Art
In which? Najran, Saudi Arabia

There are some pretty amazing rock artwork websites all-around the entire world. This just one is no distinctive and could make UNESCO Planet Heritage. Found alongside a major trade route in the Arabian Peninsula, the web site dates back to the historical prehistoric times.

People and animals have been drawn on to the mountain faces in the Hima Wells space – considered amid the most significant historical inscriptions and rock artwork web pages. Hima Very well also includes a variety of stone structures, tombs and archaeological wells. Indiana Jones enthusiasts consume your heart out!
UNESCO World Heritage

What? Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, the northern component of Okinawa Island and Iriomote Island
Exactly where? Kagoshima Prefecture and Okinawa Prefecture

The Okinawa Islands of Japan are acquiring additional awareness now thanks to Instagram, but there are still a great deal of islands in the region that have been remaining untouched for some time – and which is a good issue!

As a consequence, there is some really serious flower electric power likely on the flora and fauna are flourishing and scientific tests have demonstrated significant numbers of endemic and unusual species.

Fancy a excursion to a person of these potential UNESCO earth heritage internet sites? Find a affordable flight to your chosen place.



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What to do in Sofia: The ultimate Sofia travel guide


Hello fellow travellers! Alexx here from Finding Alexx. I’m on a year-long solo adventure to a new country every week for a year, with my route based entirely off the cheapest flight each Tuesday. Yep, it’s as hectic as it sounds! This insane adventure took me to Sofia, a gorgeous hidden gem in the Balkans and the capital city of Bulgaria. Here’s all you need to know if you’re considering a trip to Sofia, from what to do, where to sleep to how to get around and more.

Where to stay in Sofia

Let’s kick this off with some good news… Sofia is the ideal spot if you’re on a budget! There are plenty of cheap hostels in Sofia with dorm beds for less than $13 a night, or you can get a budget-friendly hotel room from about $32 a night.

Normally I’m a big advocate for accommodation with full kitchen facilities so you can save money on food, but food in Sofia is so cheap (and good!) that there’s honestly no need to cook your own food.

Some great options for places to stay in Sofia are Generaator Hostel, Peter Pan Hostel, 5 Vintage Guest House and the aptly-named Hotel Cheap.

How to get around Sofia

If you’re staying in the city centre and you don’t mind getting your steps up, you’ll probably be able to see the city pretty easily by foot. A lot of the main sights are within walking distance, and wandering aimlessly around the city was how I found loads of my top food recommendations!

If you prefer to get somewhere quicker (and maybe drier), there are trams, buses and the metro. A single ride is 1.60BGN (about 90 cents) or a day pass with unlimited travel is 4BGN (about $2).

There’s no Uber in Sofia, but there is a great local taxi app that does the same thing, called TaxiMe. You can sign up with your UK number, add in your credit card and hail a ride through the app just like you would anywhere else.

To get to and from the airport easily and relatively cheaply, I’d recommend getting a taxi from the airport taxi stand. Only one company is authorised to provide taxi services at the airport and they’ve got standard fare rates, so follow the signs to the official taxi area and you’ll be looked after. To get into the city centre you should pay about 15-20BGN ($8-$12).

On a super tight budget? You can get the metro from Terminal 2 at the airport to Serdika station for 1.60BGN (cash only so you’ll need to use an ATM at the airport), then transfer to a bus, tram or other metro to get closer to your hotel.

How much to budget for Sofia

Yay for cheap destinations! Much like my week in Warsaw, Sofia was a real treat for my wallet.

If you’re looking for a challenge, Sofia is actually possible to experience from only $15-$20 per day. This would cover cheap hostel accommodation ($9-$13) and supermarket or bakery food (up to $7). You can see loads of the beautiful buildings for free, and with a bit of Googling you could self-guide a city tour to learn about the city’s communist history.

To add in a nice local meal ($6-$10), a drink ($3) and the donation for a free walking tour ($6), I’d recommend budgeting around $40 a day.

You can get freshly baked goodies from local bakeries for less than 1BGN (about 65 cents), decent sandwiches or salads for lunch from 4-8BGN ($1.95-$4.50) or slightly fancier sit-down dinners from 12-20BGN ($6.50-$12). A local beer will cost anything from 2BGN to 6BGN depending on where you are ($1.30-$4).

The best things to do in Sofia

Despite it not being as well-known as other Eastern European hot spots like Prague and Budapest, the city has a lot going for it and there’s endless things to do in Sofia no matter what you’re into.

Gain some insight into Bulgaria’s rocky past, shop for second-hand goodies at flea markets, eat your heart out at some of my favourite cafés from all my travels, or escape the urban jungle and head out to explore another nearby city. Here’s five of the best things to do on your Sofia trip.

1. Learn about communist history

Bulgaria’s political past is something that’s still woven throughout the city, with huge headquarters, architecture, museums and statues representing the communist era from 1946 to 1989.

Whether you’re a total newbie to communist history or all clued up and want to see how if affected Bulgaria specifically, there’s a couple of places and tours to add to your Sofia communism class.

Coming from New Zealand, where communism’s never touched anywhere near our little corner of the world and where I opted for maths and science classes over history, geography and politics (nerd, I know), my knowledge of Eastern Europe’s communist regimes was limited.

First up is the Free Sofia walking tour, which runs three or four times a day (depending on the season) and is tip-based. Your local tour guide will take you around 20 of Sofia’s must-see spots, and you’ll get a decent overview of the history and politics of the city, as well as a local’s tips on things to do, eat and see.

Free Sofia also has a daily communism tour for only $11, which gives you a three-hour in-depth walk through of the city’s communist landmarks as well as an insight into what Sofia was like to live in during those 43 years.

Want more? Consider visiting the National Historical Museum or the Museum of Socialist Art, which is home to the huge red star that sat on top of the communist party’s headquarters before being overthrown in the late 80’s.

2. See the city’s most beautiful religious buildings

While the dominant religion in Bulgaria by far is Bulgarian Orthodox (at about 60%), there are some simply stunning churches, mosques, cathedrals and monasteries in the capital city.

Start off with the most epic building in the city, and one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever seen, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This seriously impressive Orthodox church was started in 1882 but not finished until 30 years later, and it’s one of the most iconic landmarks in Bulgaria’s capital city, with a 45m high gold-plated dome and interior made of onyx, marble and other ultra-fancy materials.

Other Orthodox churches that are worth a visit are St Nicholas Church (a Russian Orthodox church), the Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church, and Sveta Nedelya Church, which has a dramatic history including a funeral bombing in 1925 by the Communist Party where over 500 of Bulgaria’s elite political figures were injured and 150 were killed.

After Eastern Orthodox, the next most common religion is Islam, with up to 15% of the population identifying as Muslim. Bulgaria was under Ottoman rule for almost 500 years, from the late 1300s until the Russian Empire took on the Ottoman Empire in 1878, but after being liberated thanks to Russia’s victory and then declaring independence in 1908, many buildings from this era were repurposed or destroyed. The 16th century Banya Bashi Mosque is the only functioning mosque left in Sofia, and as such it’s a bustling hub for the city’s Muslim community.

Ancient history fans will want to make a stop at Sveti Georgi, a 4th-century Christian church built by the Romans in the ancient city of Serdica. It’s the oldest building in the city, and it’s home to some stunning frescoes dating back to the 10th century.

3. Devour all the cheap food

I’m a big proponent for cooking your own food while travelling to stick within a tight budget, and usually allow myself a bit of spending money each week for a meal or two out. Buttttt in Sofia, I ate out every single meal of the whole week. Yes, I said every single meal!

The local food scene is not only cheap, but it’s actually seriously impressive too. From bakeries where you can get four pastries or savouries for the equivalent of €1, to Instagrammable brunch spots with next level dishes, to traditional restaurants serving up home-style dishes, I would go back in a second literally just for the food.

There’s bound to be an eatery in Sofia perfect for whatever type of food tickles your fancy, but here are some of my favourites.

Bistro Pesto was my number one, and I’m not ashamed to say I had lunch there four days in a row! They’re a super cute corner restaurant close to the main shopping boulevard, and they serve Italian food all day and night. Their panini menu is amazing; authentic Italian ingredients and a Bulgarian price tag. Win win!

If you’re looking for a funky food photo (no judgement here), check out the brunch menu at Rainbow Factory or Boho. I didn’t make it to Rainbow Factory but my hostel mates raved about it, and I can personally vouch for the Oreo pancake stack at Boho. Mmmmhmmmm.

And for a reasonably-priced but delicious sit-down dinner, be sure to visit the legends at Shtastlivetsa, a chain restaurant with a HUGE menu of home-cooked meals. Prices are understandably a bit higher than the local street food stalls, but the service is fantastic, the meals are massive and there are plenty of hearty Bulgarian dishes to choose from.

4. Head into the mountains

Sofia’s landscape is rare in terms of European capital cities, because there’s a mountain range so close to the city centre. The bottom of Vitosha Mountain is only 10kms or so from the city, and it’s easily reachable by taxi, public transport, or walking if you want to make a day of it.

In summer Vitosha is a popular hiking destination, where city-dwellers escape to on weekends to get some fresh air. The highest peak is 2290m but there’s also hikes around the bottom half of the mountain to different rivers and waterfalls.

During winter, the mountain is a ski resort, perfect for any snow bunnies on a budget. Although it is significantly less-developed than other European ski destinations like Switzerland and France, your day pass and rental will be much cheaper and your money will go way further.

As well as being an adrenaline activity hot spot, Vitosha is home to another Sofia must-see and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Boyana Church. Boyana is an Orthodox church from the 11th century and is famous for the many frescoes it houses, particularly a collection from way back in 1259.

5. Take a day trip

There’s some pretty incredible places to see and experience outside of Sofia itself, so if you’ve got the time, I’d recommend trying to squeeze in a day trip or two!

My top pick for a day trip from Sofia is Plovdiv, another Bulgarian city and one of the two 2019 European Capitals of Culture. Plovdiv is a couple of hours away from Sofia by bus, and tickets cost about £6 each way. Once you’re in the city I’d recommend jumping on a free walking tour, run by the same organisation who run the Sofia tour. They’ve got a city tour daily year-round as well as a free graffiti tour daily from October to April. And if you want to explore yourself, don’t miss the unique coloured houses that line the streets in the old town, it’s different to every other European old town I’ve seen!

Fancy a work out? There’s no better place in Bulgaria to get moving than in the Seven Rila Lakes area. Seven Rila Lakes is, you guessed it, home to seven glacial lakes in the Rila mountain range, and all are between 2100m and 2500m of altitude. It is possible but it’s tough to get there on public transport so it’s best to hire a car and drive (1.5-2 hours), or to book an organised day tour or shuttle bus. Bonus tip: Don’t miss Rila Monastery, a 10th-century Eastern Orthodox monastery and the largest in the country. Well worth a visit!

And there you have it, a full travel guide for Sofia and beyond for your Bulgarian adventure! Book your flight to Sofia now with STA Travel. If you want to follow more of my adventures you can find me on Instagram.





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5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Jordan Now


Week eight of my mad 52 countries in 52 weeks experience took me to the Center Jap gem of Jordan, the most affordable flight out of Budapest. Now really don’t get me mistaken, I appreciate European metropolitan areas, but immediately after two months straight of church buildings, castles and outdated cities I was SO enthusiastic to be heading someplace totally different to the to start with portion of my significant excursion.

Jordan jumped on to my bucket record a couple of yrs back following viewing photographs of the beautiful Petra ruins on Instagram, but mainly because it is notoriously pricey to get to, and nonetheless not straightforward on the wallet when you are there, I hadn’t managed to make it there just nevertheless. But now just after shelling out a 7 days exploring all the country has to give, I can say with certainty that it is absolutely really worth the income!

Here are five reasons why you need to have to go to Jordan and wherever you ought to go,  plus a guide on how to get about as soon as you’re there.

1. The individuals

Jordanians have been some of the most welcoming individuals I’ve ever met. Soon after enduring the craziness of souks in Morocco and bazaars in Istanbul, where by gals are pulled into shops and yelled at (“Spice Girls! Woman Gaga! *Insert other western celeb here*!), I was totally ready for the very same in Jordan. Turns out that was avoidable!

When shopkeepers nonetheless vye for your enterprise, I identified that procuring in Jordan was significantly a lot more pleasurable than undertaking the exact same in both of those Morocco and Turkey. I wasn’t touched once, most shopkeepers say a polite ‘hello’, may display you a couple of specialities and then go away you to browse for a although, and when there were people today who stared, specifically in downtown Amman, I by no means felt like I was remaining qualified or pressured.

The taxi motorists I experienced ended up all so friendly (like a woman driver who picked us up from the airport, a pleasurable shock to start off our vacation!), waiters had been constantly far more than joyful to assist translate menus, and there was a team of school girls at Ajloun Castle who have been all desperate for selfies with us just simply because we looked unique, and they then sang delighted birthday to my close friend! Stunning people, attractive moments.

2. The historical ruins of Jordan

Apart from the persons and the meals, the clear following motive to take a look at Jordan is due to the fact of the unbelievable historical ruins it is household to.

The apparent chief of the pack in terms of Jordan’s should-sees is the magical ancient city of Petra, a person of the New Miracles of the Globe. The city is far more than 2000 a long time aged, was rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer disguised as an Arab scholar, and now sees just about a million travellers pay a visit to each 12 months.

The most effectively-acknowledged component of Petra is Al-Khazneh, the Treasury, which featured in 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Very last Crusade and is now just one of the most important tourist sights in the whole Middle East location. It is truly considered to be a king’s mausoleum from the very first century, and you can see bullet holes on the facade from tribesmen attacking the building hundreds of a long time ago on the lookout for (and failing to find) treasure.

An additional worthwhile internet site to see in Petra is the Monastery, while the trek is not for the faint-hearted. You will will need to climb 800 uneven actions to arrive at the Monastery which can be hard in the summertime heat (I went in August, would not suggest), but you are going to be rewarded with near up views of this superb 3rd century BC tomb. It’s a comparable model to the Treasury but it’s even even bigger, measuring 50m wide and 45m higher.

And for some quite distinct but also tremendous amazing ruins, it’s worthy of heading just north of Amman to the Roman ruins of Jerash. These ruins are some of the most effective-preserved ruins I have at any time seen, and there’s a colonnaded principal avenue which is still acquired the unique stones so you can see where the chariots utilised to ride over them.

3. The food items

My tummy is rumbling just wondering about Jordanian cuisine. Neighborhood dishes are rather identical to other nations in the area, with big mezze platters, hearty meat dishes, limitless falafel and sugar-soaked desserts as staples on cafe menus.

The local hospitality flows correct as a result of to the dining places, where they provide gigantic foods that you almost certainly won’t be capable to consume all of devoid of falling into a food stuff coma. If small plates are an selection, it’s best to get a pair of people to avoid over-ordering, or if you’re travelling in a team then go really hard and purchase as much as you want, sit all-around for a few of hrs to devour it, then tuck into some syrupy goodness like knafeh to wrap up a delicious food.

Whilst Jordan is an high-priced country over-all, if you’re on a finances you could unquestionably stay off pita, falafel and hummus if you have to (like I did!). I’d recommend examining out Hashem in Downtown Amman, a person of the most-loved and most economical falafel eateries in city.

4. The natural landscapes

Jordan isn’t just wonderful thanks to people, its landscapes and all-natural phenomena are ideal up there with the ruins on the finest points to see in this country.

Wadi Rum desert appears to be like another planet, so a great deal so that it’s been a filming place for The Martian, a Transformers motion picture and Star Wars amongst other people. It’s residence to vast dunes of red sand, large jagged rocks and bedouin tribes who run beautiful camps for travellers to working experience a evening in the desert.

If you have obtained the will need for pace then you must e-book a place on a 4WD safari, where by you will hit the dunes challenging and rapid sitting down in the back of a 4WD jeep, or decide for a sunrise camel trip to see the desert in a far more calming natural environment. Note that camels need to only at any time have just one man or woman, passengers ought to not be in excess of 90kgs, and make sure you report any mistreatment of the animals to the supplier or community authorities.

Keen to get damp? Jordan’s a single of the countries that borders the Useless Sea, a salty lake (indeed, the identify is bewildering) exactly where the shore is the least expensive point of dry land on earth, at 432m below sea degree. The Lifeless Sea’s salinity is 33.7% (in contrast to the ocean’s salinity of 3.5%) which suggests human bodies pretty much simply cannot sink and just sit at the prime of the water. It’s a mad feeling, you have to have to check out it oneself to believe that it!

For a further underwater experience the place you can truly go underwater, head to Aqaba and dive in the Pink Sea. The Red Sea is property to vibrant corals, whale sharks, turtles and a lot of extra sea close friends, as very well as some outstanding wreck dives.

5. The basic safety

Jordan is in fact known as a single of the most secure international locations in the Center East, and the 40th most secure country in the entire world in accordance to SafeAround.com.

Borders with Syria and Iraq are especially perilous, but the relaxation of the place is observed as a bit of a risk-free haven in an place that’s usually known globally for its instability. If you are keen to get a flavor of the Middle East but you are nervous about the political and basic safety difficulties that unfortunately taint several other nations in this location, Jordan is a actually excellent selection for you and in my private working experience was fully protected even for woman travellers*.

*A disclaimer on solo female protection: When I individually had no issues at all as a lady travelling in Jordan, it is important to take note that there have been circumstances of harassment of solo feminine travellers at some tourist sites like Petra. Most attention you receive from locals (and if you appear various, you will acquire attention) is absolutely harmless and not meant maliciously, but if you do obtain by yourself currently being touched, grabbed or adopted, it is best to prevent contact, say or yell ‘leave me alone’ and get to an place with police and/or other travelers.

How to get all around Jordan

The very best way to investigate Jordan is by jumping on a little team tour. Not only will you get a manual thoroughly clued up on neighborhood heritage, culture, things to do and must-sees, you’ll also get the protection and security of your trip being pre-organised, you will not have to offer with hard language limitations, and you will be hanging out with a prepared-designed team of journey buddies.

If a tour is not your matter, the other possibilities are to employ the service of a automobile or seek the services of a private driver, as public transport in Jordan is exceptionally confined. Car retain the services of starts off at about £40 for each working day but you will need to understand neighborhood traffic guidelines and be geared up to deal with the language barrier, and personal motorists will set you back again at the very least £70 for each day.

Tempted? E-book flights to Jordan and see all of our Jordan journey tours.

If you want to follow more of my adventures you can see my previous vacation guides for Paris, San Sebastian and Sofia or on Instagram to see what I’m up to now!





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