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Central Vietnam

Vietnam, Asia

Da Nang is central Vietnam’s largest city and is home to some extremely picturesque sites including the Ngu Hanh Son (Five Eleme...

string(3909) "Da Nang is central Vietnam’s largest city and is home to some extremely picturesque sites including the Ngu Hanh Son (Five Element Marble Mountains) which lie close to the sea and have caves and pagodas, and Da Nang Beach which stretches for several kilometres between Monkey Mountain and Marble Mountain. The city of Da Nang is surrounded by the three UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites of Hoi An, Hué and My Son. Thirty-two kilometres south-east of Da Nang is the ancient town of Hoi An, an important international port from the 17th to 19th centuries and now Vietnam’s most popular destination beyond Hanoi and Saigon. Its combination of charming heritage streets and riverside setting, bustling markets, Chinese assembly halls, Japanese remnants, quaint restaurants and cafés, and local tailors and handicraft outlets, have made it a must-see for visitors to Vietnam. It is also a rapidly developing beach resort, with a huge stretch of beach just five kilometres from the town and many modern resorts. Outside Hoi An is My Son Sanctuary, the capital of the kingdom of Champa from the 5th to 12th centuries. From here, there’s a great view of Champa from the Mountain Church (Nha Tho Nui) which is on top of Buu Chau Hill in the town of Tra Kieu. Hué, located approximately a 2.5 hour drive north of Da Nang, is widely regarded as the most beautiful city in Vietnam. Hué is situated alongside a large, deep river adjacent to a mountain range. Traditionally Hué was one of the country’s cultural, religious and educational centres, and was also Vietnam’s capital from the years 1802 to 1945. The city of Hué is known worldwide as an architectural treasure with palaces, royal tombs and mausoleums, pagodas, and temples all framed by the natural landscape on either side of the Huong (Perfume) River. The ruins of its huge, moated citadel contains many interesting sites, such as the Nine Holy Cannons, the Imperial Enclosure, the Palace of Supreme Harmony and the Halls of the Mandarins, although the Emperor’s Getaway, the Purple Forbidden City, was largely destroyed during the wars. The Royal Tombs are 15 kilometres south of Hué. One of Vietnam’s best beaches, Thuan An is just 13 kilometres north-east of Hué, and from here visitors can take sampan trips up the Perfume River. From Hué, tourists can go by car to visit the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the remarkable tunnels of Vinh Moc, used during the wars. The Hai Van Pass divides North and South Vietnam. A 21 kilometre-long road over Hai Van Pass, opened at the end of the 19th century, winds back and forth to a height of 435 metres above sea level. Its name means ’Pass of the Ocean Clouds,’ since the peak of the mountain is in the clouds while its foot is close to the sea. Hai Van is considered to be the largest frontier post in Vietnam From the top of the pass, one can admire Lang Co Beach to the north and Da Nang to the south. The curving railway through Hai Van Pass is 3200 metres long with sections running through seven tunnels. There are endless forests to the west of the pass and the ocean is to the east. Hai Van Pass is a real challenge for drivers, as well as for adventurers. Dalat located in the Central Highlands region is renown for its relaxing, natural verdant environment. A popular tourist destination, it is probably one of Vietnam’s best-known vacation sites and is a popular honeymoon mecca. The many sites include Emperor Bao Dai’s Summer Palace and the colourful fresh food and flower markets. Picturesque crumbling French Villas from the 1930s dot the surrounding hillsides. Nha Trang is on the south central coast of Vietnam and arguably boasts the best beach in the country. Its turquoise waters are perfect for swimming and boat trips are available to interesting offshore fishing villages and islands including Monkey Island with diving options also available."
Micronesia Chuuk Beach Hotels Resorts Chuuk

Micronesia, Pacific

Chuuk Atoll, located in the Caroline Islands has one of the largest lagoons in the world. Beneath the blue waters of the lagoon...

string(1424) "Chuuk Atoll, located in the Caroline Islands has one of the largest lagoons in the world. Beneath the blue waters of the lagoon encrusted with coral, are more than 60 sunken ships from the Japanese WWII fleet. Lashed to the decks of freighters are the rusty remains of fighter planes and trucks. The lagoon has been declared a monument, with the salvage and taking of relics prohibited by law. Divers must obtain a permit before diving around the ships. One of the two top scuba diving locations in the world. Chuuk’s water temperatures are 29ºC and incredibly calm between December and May. Average temperature above water is 30ºC. The main island of Weno is the capital and commercial centre and Chuuk’s State Centre is where visitors can experience a taste of island life by visiting the local stores jammed with everything from kerosene stoves to ladies wear and handicrafts. For an outstanding view of Weno and the lagoon, climb into the old lighthouse built during Japanese occupation and visit the Blue Lagoon Resort for a stroll in the coconut palm grounds with splendid views across the water to Dublon Island, formerly the Japanese military headquarters. American dollars are used while travellers cheques and currency can be changed at banks and at some hotels. When visiting traditional areas, respect local customs and note that the locals frown upon mini skirts and short shorts. "
South Thailand

Thailand, Asia

The region abounds in sandy beaches fringed with palm trees. The narrow peninsula of southern Thailand stretches from the borde...

string(3145) "The region abounds in sandy beaches fringed with palm trees. The narrow peninsula of southern Thailand stretches from the border of Myanmar to Malaysia. The region has a rich multi-cultural heritage, and abounds in sandy beaches fringed with palm trees. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and one of the most popular holiday destinations in Southeast Asia with many traditional fishing villages transformed into holiday resorts. Longtail boats take visitors to sights such as the extraordinary limestone stacks of Phang-Nga Bay. Phuket Town is a perfect place to shop for truly unique gifts, as well as giving tourists the opportunity to see Thai and Chinese temples. Covered in lush green hills and rice paddies, Phuket’s major attractions include Karon, Kamala and Kalim beaches, as well as Patong Beach and Promthep Cape. The clearest waters, best sand and most luxurious hotels are found on the west coast. Patong is the most densely developed resort while Karon and Kata are quieter. Patong Beach owes its popularity to its easy access and long stretch of beach. Most of Phuket’s evening entertainment is found here, as well as cheap shopping opportunities. Patong Beach is where Phuket’s action is, and it is by far the most frequented destination on the island. It has several white sandy beaches and is packed with restaurants, hotels, bars and shops and is a great place to start your exploration of the surrounding areas. Nature lovers won’t want to miss Mai Khao Beach, where sea turtles lay their eggs between December and February. A visit to a pearl farm is also a popular day trip for tourists. Krabi, 180 kilometres from Phuket, is a small fishing town with an important role as the ferry connection point for islands such as Ko Lanta, Ko Phi Phi and the beaches around Ao Nang. Towering limestone outcrops have become the signature of the twin Phi Phi islands, and the challenging conditions attract rock climbers from around the world. The beautiful paradise of Koh Samui is Thailand’s third largest island. It has a forested hinterland of granite and limestone hills and a shoreline of world famous palm-fringed beaches. Koh Samui is the second most popular island destination in Thailand. Chaweng Beach has a reputation as a hangout for the international party crowd while those looking for peace and quiet should try Mae Nam, Bo Phut and Big Buddha on the northern coast. Trang is a coastal province on the Indian Ocean that was the first area in Thailand to grow rubber, which is now a major part of the economy. Hat Chao Mai Beach is of particular interest to tourists, and on offer are amazing experiences such as paddling on Phang-Nga Bay, allowing adventurers to explore a network of interesting caves and scenic deserted beaches. Phang-Nga, located next to the Andaman Sea, has amazing natural beauty and offers breathtaking scenery and landscapes, with mountainous areas alongside forest and some wonderful islands and beaches. It has a charm of its own, without the hustle and bustle of Phuket, and is nestled amongst soaring mountains that rise up around the town. "
Indonesia

Asia

The size of Indonesia is over whelming and offers visitors a very individual experience.Whether you are shopping, visiting temples...

string(9606) "The size of Indonesia is over whelming and offers visitors a very individual experience.Whether you are shopping, visiting temples, enjoying the beaches and resorts in Bali, or venturing further to discover remote villages or the jungles of Borneo an Papua, visitors are sure to be amazed by Indonesia’s diversity. Capital and major centres As the nation’s centre of government, business and industry, the capital Jakarta is a modern society that reflects recent decades of remarkable economic growth. The mega city has a population of 10 million and is surrounded by the metropolitan area, Jabotabek, with a population of around 28 million. The island of Bali, a tropical paradise and tourism hot spot, lies off the eastern tip of Java. A rich culture, beautiful landscapes, coastline and rural villages keep visitors returning in droves. The islands of Lombok, Sumba, Flores and others form a chain all the way to the easternmost province, Papua. Sumatra, the world’s sixth largest island, is located to the west of Jakarta. The equator divides it in two just north of Bukit Tinggi. The scenery in Sumatra is amazing, offering incredible mountains, rivers and almost 100 volcanoes, 15 of which are active. Kalimantan, the southern two-thirds of the island of Borneo, was once, and still is for the most part, a vast, jungle-covered wilderness. Boats and ferries are the main modes of transport, and the native Dayak tribe is a main attraction. The highland region of Sulawesi offers national parks, and a festive culture that includes the famed funeral festivals of Tana Toraja on the south western peninsula. Further east still, in the islands of Maluku previously known as the Moluccas, lie the fabled Spice Islands. Many of these areas are just a two-hour flight from Jakarta, and an extensive and convenient network of air services connects the major cities and towns. The people The fourth most populous nation in the world, Indonesia’s estimated 257 million people speak more than 500 different languages and dialects, and range from city dwellers to sea gypsies. Sixty percent of the people inhabit a mere seven percent of Indonesia’s land area on the island of Java, while most of the archipelago remains unexplored. Nature Indonesia has one of the world’s richest natural environments, offering an incredible diversity of animal and plant life. While a number of species of fauna are familiar to both Asia and Australia, there are many indigenous species in Indonesia such as the orangutan apes of Sumatra and Kalimantan, the giant Komodo dragons, the only ones of their kind in the world still roaming free, the one-horned rhinoceros of Java, the wild banteng oxen, tigers, and many other species now protected in wildlife reserves. East of Komodo is the island of flowers, Flores, where Komodo dragons can be found along the west coast, the only other place apart from Komodo. Also on Flores is Kelimutu with three coloured lakes in the caldera of the volcano. These lakes change colour depending on the oxidation state of the water and go from bright red through to green and blue. Papua, once part of the Australian landmass, has kangaroos, marsupial mice, bandicoots, ring-tailed possums, crocodiles and frilled neck lizards. Indonesia has 400 volcanoes and a spectrum of landscapes from lush green mountain slopes to warm sandy beaches; from rice fields to rain forests and mountains topped year round with snow. The sights The most visited islands tend to be Sumatra, Java and Bali, and there is a great diversity of landscapes and cultures in these regions alone. There are also many temples from the Buddhist and Hindu dynasties such as those in Borobudur, Prambanan and the Dieng Plateau, the palaces of the sultans in Surakarta and Yogyakarta, the Maimoon Palace of the Sultanate of Deli in Medan, and the Hall of Justice in Bali. There are remote villages, the ruins of ancient fortresses and museums, mosques and churches. Where to stay Accommodation in Indonesia ranges from deluxe hotels and resorts through to simple economy hotels, ‘wisma’ (guesthouses) and ‘losmen’ (rooms to let). Deluxe hotels complete with convention facilities can be found in places such as Medan, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Jakarta, Bali and Makassar, while Jakarta offers a good mix of elegant five-star hotels and quality three- and four-star establishments. In Bali, accommodation is available in all price categories, in the mountains or along the beach. In Bandung in West Java two old hotels have been restored to their original art deco style. Most hotels in major towns have air-conditioned rooms, but budget hotels are very basic. Getting around Indonesia has a huge variety of local transport, with public minibuses found in cities and villages. Many towns have bemos, three wheeled pick-ups with two rows of seats down the side, while the bajaj is found only in Jakarta. Becaks, or bicycle rickshaws, operate mainly in the suburbs of Jakarta and Surabaya, and are increasingly being banned from the central areas of major cities. In Bali, Yogyakarta and many other centres you can hire self drive cars, bicycles or motorbikes. Taxis are available in Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Solo, Semarang, Medan and Bali. Fares are generally low, and most taxis use their meters. If you choose not to use the meter make sure to agree on a price with the driver before you set out for the destination. Food and entertainment As with the cuisine throughout Asia, Indonesian food is largely based on rice. Nasi goreng, fried rice with an egg on top, is one of the most popular dishes. Seafood, including fish, lobster, oysters, prawns, shrimp, squid and crab feature prominently in the Indonesian diet and the cuisine is bold, rich in flavour and heavily spiced. Coconut is also very common and is produced for its cooking oil as well as its milk and white flesh that are used as ingredients in many dishes. A rumah makan, ‘house to eat’, is generally the cheaper equivalent of a restaurant. Markets are a good food source, especially night markets. Jakarta and Bali have a wide range of excellent restaurants offering all types of cuisine from ethnic Indonesian to Chinese, Japanese, and also Western and European fare. There’s entertainment in Bali almost every day with exhibitions of Balinese dancing either in villages or at hotels. Entry requirements All visitors need a valid passport/travel document with minimum validity of six months beyond the period of intended stay. Free visa entry on arrival for 30 days is now available for Australians. Activities Beach resorts offer sailing, surfing, scuba diving and windsurfing. Many areas are legendary for good diving, snorkelling and surfing. Of the 60-plus golf courses in Indonesia, Bali offers three of international standard, including the Greg Norman-designed Bali Nirwana Golf Course. The more adventurous climber can tackle Mt Bromo in Java or Mt Agung in Bali for a day climb, or try more strenuous climbs such as Gunung Rinjani, the volcano that dominates Lombok. Traditional spectator sports include bull races, bull fights, rowing and unique ram fights, all held during festivals. Silat, a martial art, is regularly performed as a dance or an exercise and is similar to karate. Camp Leaky, in the jungles of Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan, is the site of Dr Birute Galdikas’ study of wild orangutans and is the longest continual study by one principal investigator of any wild animal, enabling visitors to witness the rehabilitation of these amazing primates. On the island of Sulawesi is the impressive Lore Lindu National Park, home to over 200 species of bird, the cuscus, tarsiers, anoa (a rare dwarf buffalo) and babirusa (an animal resembling both a pig and a hippopotamus). The park has been largely untouched by tourism and offers many different treks. Within the park are ancient stone megaliths, waterfalls, hot springs and the large lake of Danau Lindu. Sea walking is a new and popular activity that allows anyone to walk at a depth of three metres along the ocean floor without carrying heavy oxygen tanks. The Sea Walker helmets permit close observation of the myriad fish and sea life Indonesia offers. Shopping While Indonesian cities have air-conditioned shopping centres, supermarkets and department stores with fixed prices, bargaining is customary in smaller shops and particularly in the markets. The wax-and-dye art of batik is one of the country’s best-known crafts, and silverwork, wayang puppets and leatherwork are all found in Java. Wood carvings, leather goods, paintings, clothing, bone work,bronze castings and stone statues are all available in Bali. Beautiful furniture and homewares are for sale or made to order in Kuta, and from a number of warehouses between Seminyak and Ubud. Sumba blankets, the song-kets of Sumatra, the silks of South Sulawesi and the jumpuntan (tiedyed) items of Palembang can all be found in Jakarta. Climate It is hot throughout the year with daily temperatures from 26°C to 33°C with the wet season from October to April. Wear informal, light cotton clothing. In the highlands a sweater may be required. Discreet clothing should be worn at festivals, ceremonies and villages. A sarong or sash may be required for temple visits. Currency The rupiah is the currency unit of Indonesia. Most major foreign currencies can be easily changed in city banks, bureaux de change and large hotels. Credit cards are accepted in major hotels and restaurants. "
Mamanuca And Yasawa Island

Fiji, Pacific

The Mamanuca Islands lie in a majestic arc only a short distance from the mainland of Viti Levu, curving to the northwest, and alm...

string(2807) "The Mamanuca Islands lie in a majestic arc only a short distance from the mainland of Viti Levu, curving to the northwest, and almost touching the Yasawa chain of islands. There are 20 islands and they all share in common pristine white sandy beaches, waving palms, crystal blue waters and, at night, the cooling influence of the trade winds. The Mamanuca Islands (pronounced Mah-mahnoo-tha) are essentially volcanic outcrops pushed up from the ocean floor in a gigantic earthquake thousands of years ago. Some are especially significant in Fijian folklore. From the air you can see that the Mamanucas islands are two clusters known as Mamanuca-i-ra and Mamanucai-cake. Within the Mamanucas is the Malolo group, five kilometres inside the barrier reef, extending in a curve for 120 kilometres. A number of resort islands are scattered throughout the Malolo group, each offering bure accommodation, a relaxing holiday atmosphere and a range of water activities. There are boat excursions, fishing trips, and watersports including surfing, SUP, jet ski safaris, parsailing, kiteboarding, kayaking and coral viewing for the kids. The islands of Malolo are the centre for most tourism to and from the Mamanucas. It has safe anchorage, a cosmopolitan community and an airstrip. The movie Castaway was also shot on Monuriki Island in the Mamanucas. At the southern end of the chain, Cloud 9 is a world-class wave that hosts the Fiji Pro International Surf Competition and recently hosted the World Stand-Up Paddle and Paddleboard Championships. Here there is also a two-tier floating bar off Malolo Island on stunning RoRo Reef. The Yasawa Islands have a different ambience and are dotted with small resorts and backpackers accommodation. They are a chain of 16 volcanic islands and dozens of tiny islets stretching 80 kilometres in a northeast direction off the west coast of Viti Levu. They are special because their beautiful, isolated beaches, cliffs, bays and reefs and are less commercialised than the neighbouring Mamanuca Islands. Islands in the group include Waya, the highest with amazing scenery and Tavewa, a strikingly beautiful, small island that is about two kilometres long. In 1972 Richard Evanson bought Turtle Island while others in the group include Sawa-i- Lau Island with ancient limestone caves and Yasawa Island that has small villages and a five-star resort. Naviti is the largest island while Viwa is the most remote, sitting alone 25 kilometres northwest of Waya. The Blue Lagoon movie was filmed in the Yasawas. The limestone caves of Sawa-i-lau is a very popular day trip as are diving with manta rays and snorkelling with sharks. There are also multi-day island-hopping small ship cruises to the Mamanucas and Yasawas with three and seven day itineraries. "
Central Thailand, Bangkok & Hua Hin

Thailand, Asia

From bustling cities, serene temples and beautiful relaxing beaches, Central Thailand has something for every traveller. On the...

string(3671) "From bustling cities, serene temples and beautiful relaxing beaches, Central Thailand has something for every traveller. On the fertile plains stretching north from Bangkok are 21 provinces, sometimes called ‘the rice bowl of Asia’, that are responsible for producing much of the country’s rice. Ayutthaya was one of the greatest mercantile centres in Asia and its incredible temples and palaces are built around the confluence of the Chao Praya, Lopburi and Pasak rivers. Hundreds of visitors on day trips from Bangkok are drawn to the remains of monuments that stand among more modern buildings. At Kanchanaburi is the infamous River Kwai bridge and ‘Death Railway’, the Japan-Burma railway built by the Japanese during World War II, when thousands of Asian labourers and Allied POWs died. Nearby are two war cemeteries, Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and Chong Kai Cemetery and the JEATH (Japan, England, Australia, Thailand and Holland) War Museum is housed in a reconstructed POW detention hut. Bangkok Bangkok is a thriving, bustling capital city catering to all kinds of tourists. Taxis or minibuses take visitors directly to their hotel via the convenient new expressway. Bangkok proper seethes on the east side of the Chao Phraya River and can be divided in two by the main north-south train line. Old Bangkok glitters in the portion between the river and the railway and it is here that most of the older temples and the original palace are located while new Bangkok is east of the railway For a bustling city, Bangkok surprisingly offers quiet escapes. Step out of the street noise and into the calm of one of the city’s 400 temples and monasteries. The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo complex is the city’s premier tourist attraction and home to Phra Kaeo, the small, sacred and renowned emerald Buddha, the most revered image of Buddha in Thailand. The Grand Palace is a must-see for visitors, with temples and pavilions shimmering in gold leaf, porcelain and glass while not far away is the Marble Temple, considered one of the country’s most beautiful buildings. The Dusit Zoo is near the Royal Plaza, where the Thai royal family live in the Chitralada Palace. Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn is one of the city’s major landmarks with its central monument symbolising Hindi-Buddhist cosmology. The Temple of the Golden Buddha houses a unique, gleaming, 18-carat gold, four-metre high, 13th century Sukothai Buddha. Other sights include the Wat Sai floating market in Thonburi, a boat trip through the city’s extensive network of canals, and the renowned Oriental Hotel. For a shopping indulgence, head to central Bangkok’s Siam Square. This bustling shopping mecca is littered with alleyways jam packed with cheap, independent designer boutiques as well as numerous major shopping malls. Hua Hin Hua Hin is a favourite coastal destination for Thais who flock there to enjoy its beaches, multicultural buzz and numerous cafés and bistros that offer a wide range of cuisine. It is situated in the southwest of Bangkok and is recognised as Thailand’s first beach resort and extends some kilometres to a headland where Buddhist temples cling to the cliffs. Powdery white sand, resort hotels lining the coastline and visitors enjoying numerous watersports give the beach town its distinctive ambience. Stunning Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park, 45 kilometres south of Hua Hin is one of the best-managed protected areas in the country. Kaeng Krachan National Park, northwest of Hua Hin, is Thailand’s largest protected area and is home to elephants, tigers, leopards, gibbon and many species of birds. "

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