All over the world, there are perfect tropical paradises within the reach of beach-seeking travelers. Many destinations are well known - and just as many are well off the beaten path. Discover a place which may be your next dream destination, or learn about others which may have been beyond your realm of imagination...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Réunion Island

Réunion Island, which is about the size of Rhode Island, is part of the Mascarene archipelago in the Indian Ocean just east of Madagascar. Unlike the Seychelles to the North, the island is governed by the French constitution and legal system. Thus, French is the official language while Creole is also widely spoken. Formed by a volcano, the island is home to Salazies Mountain, an extinct volcano in the west, and by the Grand Brulé mountain in the east, where the Piton de la Fournaise – an active volcano - is situated. Due to its challenging landscape and terrain, the island is known to attract adventure seekers and hikers who can discover the many places which are accessible only by foot or helicopter. The island offers some of the most dramatic scenery anywhere, including jagged mountain peaks, sheer cliffs, waterfalls and an active volcano.

The outdoor activities on Réunion Island are endless. Adventure seekers can participate in canyoning, which challenges you to abseil down rugged gorges and cliffs into water holes or lagoons below. Tourists can also go paragliding, mountain biking, diving, rafting, water-skiing, snorkeling and swimming.



There are tons of events on the island, and many tourists tend to plan their trips accordingly around them. Some include Festival de Court-Métrage, Festival des Plantes et du Terroir, Grand Prix Départemental des Métiers d’Arts, and Foire Internationale des Mascareignes. Rental cars are readily available on the island for tourists to get from here to there, and tourists can even take direct flights to the island from Paris and all major European cities! For more information about the island, feel free to check out Réunion's official website.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Easter Island

Easter Island is an extraordinary and intriguing place to travel. Located between Tahiti and Chile, the island is one of the most isolated places on earth and is best known for giant stone monoliths known as Moai, that dot the coastline (as you can see in the pictures). These structures facing the sea were carved by the island's indigenous inhabitants, called Rapa Nui, who are said to be Polynesians who emigrated from the Marquesas Islands or Mangareva dating back to 300 A.D.

Unfortunately, approximately 10,000 years ago the island’s population exceeded the capabilities of its ecosystem and there was social destruction – including cannibalism. In this destruction, most of the Moai were torn down, and in fact the ones that are displayed on the island at the present time are thanks to efforts by archeologists. Tourists can also see indigenous petroglyphs (rock carvings), as well as traditional wood carvings, tapa (barkcloth) crafts, tattooing, string figures, dance and music.

Besides the fascinating, rich culture of the island, visitors can also enjoy common vacation activities including scuba diving (where one can see caves, walls, and unique coral and fish), surfing (most commonly at Caleta Hanga Roa and Ahu Tahai) as well as hiking. Horseback riding is also very common on the island and relatively inexpensive.

Finally, a really interesting tourist event seems to be Tapati Rapa Nui, which is a carnival that runs in late January. The event features tons of fun activities, such as traditional dancing, horse and canoe races, traditional dancing, body painting, statue carving and shell-necklace-stringing competitions. If this sounds fun to you, LanChile Airlines can ensure that you get to the island during the high season courtesy of Boeing 767 flights from Tahiti and Santiago, Chile (and there are direct flights to Santiago from major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, Miami, and New York). Consult the island’s homepage for more information about this very interesting destination!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Cook Islands

If you want to go somewhere exotic and a bit different, explore the exquisite untouched beauty of the French Polynesian Cook Islands. With history dating back to 800AD, the first settlers on the island were part of the great Polynesian migration. Located in the South Pacific, these 15 islands offer a traveler peace and quiet and really exciting culture.

As you can see in the picture, the Cook Islands house their visitors in tiny bungalows suspended over the sea, and there are no high-rise hotels in sight which makes the island a very interesting place to stay for adventurous tourists. Each of the 15 islands offers something special, and lack the usual clichés associated with the South Seas. Rarotonga, the capital of the Cook Islands, has two main roads: one leads to the beaches and villages, and the other winds through fields of bananas, taro and pawpaw. The island of Manihiki is famous for a deep lagoon which is farmed for cultured black pearls. Atiu is famous for its bird population, and supports one of the largest colonies of red-tailed tropic birds. Pukapuka is another interesting island, and what sets it apart from the rest is a substantially different dialect, a special island craft of fantastic woven mats, and passion for Kirikiti (the game of cricket of Samoan origin).

The Cook Islands are extremely culture rich. Cook Islanders are considered among the finest Polynesian singers and dancers and awards come often in international contests. The island language, Maori, has 14 consonants which have many similarities to English. Natives are also avid sports players and fans, and while on the islands a visitor can attend many sporting events and competitions. Examples include the Tumutevarovaro Games, which include competitions in rugby, netball, soccer and volleyball, or the Rarotonga International Triathlon which attracts participants from all over the world.

In all, there is a lot to do as a tourist on any one of the Cook Islands, and one can be sure that the vacation will be slightly out of the ordinary. But do not think that the islands are not accessible from this part of the world – both Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue fly passengers to the islands quite frequently. To conduct a little more research about the islands and perhaps put it on your wish list, check out Cook Islands Tourism.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Santorini

Santorini, one of the Greek Isles, is the number one vacation destination in Europe and the number two island destination worldwide. No surprise there, as Santorini boasts beautiful beaches and architecture, a rich ancient history, volcanoes and hot springs, and wonderful bright, sunny weather from April to October. Located on the Aegean Sea, about 63 miles north of Crete, Santorini can be reached from most international airports via Athens (with a flying time of approximately 40 minutes).

Besides catching a few rays, there is a lot for a culture-seeking tourist to do and see on the island. The ancient city of Akrotiri is called the prehistoric Pompeii of the Aegean, and is the most important archaeological site on the island. There is also an archeological museum in Fira, the island’s capital, which displays many works of art which represent the island’s rich culture and history. There are also many wineries to visit, and tourists can attend wine tastings featuring Santorini’s exquisite wines from the island’s famed vineyards.

Beach-goers can expect unique scenery and surroundings by the sea. Santorini’s beaches have white, black, or red sand, and are scattered with blank shining pebbles. These breathtaking beaches are incredibly exotic and posses an unusual tropical beauty. Perissa and Perivolos are the island’s most famous beaches, and together they form the longest black sanded beach on the island. Hotels and restaurants tend to line the beaches, and tourists can expect most beaches to offer lounge chairs, umbrellas and water sport activities.

It has been said that the sunsets in Santorini are the best in the world. I, for one have definitely put Santorini on my list of future vacation destinations, and I cannot wait to check out a sunset. For more information, feel free to check out www.santorini.net.