Read The essential guide to backpacking China's Silk Road by Lonely Planet
China’s Silk Road is an epic journey through desert dunes to the end of the Great Wall, a length of pink mud that ends abruptly in the magnificent beige towers of the Jiayuguan fort. This is not a voyage that many travellers experience; it's often and understandably overlooked in favour of more accessible and famous destinations in China. But for adventurous travellers looking for something truly different, backpacking the Chinese Silk Road reaps glorious rewards: sand-sledding down a magical unmoving sand dune, a camel ride around an oasis, a trek up the end of the Great Wall and sipping wine under grape trellises are just a few of the possibilities. So don a sand-proof rucksack and check out our guide to backpacking the Silk Road through China. Climbing the Great Wall, by Megan Eaves / Lonely Planet Climbing the Overhanging Great Wall at Jiayuguan. Image by Megan Eaves / Lonely Planet. The route Historically, the Silk Road was not one but many routes that connected east and south Asia to Mediterranean Europe, so named because the largest commodity traded down the route was sought-after Chinese silk. The route traditionally started in Xi’an (then known as Chang’an) and continued northwest through modern-day Gansu and Xinjiang provinces before reaching Central Asia. Several historical splits in the road mean that you have options when deciding your route. By far, the most traversed portion of the route is from Xi’an to Lanzhou and Jiayuguan in Gansu. From here, you can choose to head northwest to Urumqi in Xinjiang, where fascinating Uyghur culture, China’s wine country, and the soaring peaks of the Tian Shan mountains await. Alternately, the southern route heads through the fiery desert of Gansu, with its huge dunes and ancient Buddhist caves, ending in the distinctly Central Asian city of Kashgar, renowned for its bustling Sunday livestock market. Adventurous travellers and those with extra time could potentially explore both routes by heading southward from Jiayuguan to Dunhuang in Gansu, then upwards to Urumqi and finally south again to end in Kashgar. Sacks of chillies and colourful heaps of spices for sale at Dunhuang's market. Image by Megan Eaves / Lonely Planet. Don’t-miss sights Jiayuguan Fort. The ancient Great Wall ends in this towering mud fortress, which rises out of the desert like a mirage. Just a few kilometres northwest of Jiayuguan town, the fort boasts a few touristy activities like archery and camel rides, but the real reason to come is for the sweeping views from its ramparts. Overhanging Great Wall. Named because it looks like a dragon hanging over a cliffside, this portion of the Great Wall is one of the most visually stunning: a mud maze that zigzags its way up a stark desert mountain. The wall is open for climbing and views from the top are incredible. Mingsha Dune. To call this a single dune would be an understatement. On the outskirts of Dunhuang, Minghsha is the first in a series of thousands of dunes that make up the Taklamakan Desert. Mingsha Dune, though, is legendary for having never covered the oasis below, despite thousands of years of sand erosion. Adventurous types can climb the dune for great vistas of yet more dunes - and then sand-sled back to the bottom. Flaming Mountains and Mogao Caves. These eerie red and orange sandstone hills feature eroded gullies that, at certain times of day (like sunset) look like they're on fire. Tours from Dunhuang often also take in the Mogao Caves, a series of grottoes containing an incredible wealth of Buddhist art and murals. Mogao Caves, by Maria Ly. CC BY 2.0 Mogao Caves, by Maria Ly. CC BY 2.0. Turpan Grape Valley. China may not be known for its quality winemaking just yet, but Turpan – an oasis town – is home to one of the oldest and most prolific wine-making regions in the country. No matter the quality of the wine (some is actually quite quaffable), sipping a fresh glass of white under grape trellises as a brook babbles nearby is great way to beat the desert heat. Jiaohe ruins. This 2300-year-old archaeological site contains the ruins of an ancient capital that was destroyed by Mongol invaders around the 13th century. What remains today is an elaborate network of structures in various states of decay, connected by a maze of streets. Tian Chi Lake. Easily one of the most scenic lakes in China, Tian Chi (or ‘heavenly’) Lake sits in the cradle of the Tian Shan mountains underneath the looming 5445m gaze of Bogda Peak. A popular destination with domestic tourists, the lake's serenity is sadly hampered by honking boat horns and tramping visitors, but if you can find a spot of solitude, the vistas are incredible. It’s also possible to camp or stay in a yurt with a local Kazakh family – highly recommended for delivering a slice of the water and surrounding forest to yourself. Kashgar Sunday market. One of the largest and liveliest markets in all of Asia, Kashgar’s bazaar is open every day but is especially bustling on Sundays, when the livestock market adds cattle, horses, sheep and goats to the mix. The great road. Image by Megan Eaves / Lonely Planet Desert-bound: heading for the Mingsha Dune in Dunhuang. Image by Megan Eaves / Lonely Planet. Getting around China’s northwest is historically one of its least connected regions. The Jiayu pass, where an impressive fort was built in the 1370s, marks the end of the Great Wall and the border of ancient China. The region spreads over 2400km, most of which is separated by vast tracts of desert. Bus rides can be long, bumpy and sometimes dusty; in some cases, roads are still being built or renovated for modern traffic. Regular flights connect most of the main airports in the region: Xi’an, Lanzhou, Jiayuguan, Urumqi and Kashgar all have commercial airports, and tickets are often discounted. Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/asia/travel-tips-and-articles/77807#ixzz2jZcvXOVJ
Too many people say they can’t afford to travel, but the truth is, if you’re willing to get a little off the beaten path, there are plenty of exotic destinations out there just waiting to be discovered. Best of all, they aren’t overrun with tourists. From Asia to south American to eastern Europe, here are a few suggestions for exotic places you can afford to visit. You might be surprised at just how far your dollar will stretch.
Nepal tops this year’s Backpacker Index with a daily travel total of only US$14.75 in Pokhara, its second-largest city (that includes a dorm bed, three meals, two public transport rides, one paid cultural attraction, and three cheap beers). This landlocked country is home to eight of the world’s top 10 highest peaks, and is a magnet for the outdoorsy and adventurous. You’ll find great bargains on food, not to mention a wide variety of cuisines. Odds are you’ll want to fit in some trekking while you’re in Nepal; this can be pricey, but shop around for the best deals. Good quality gear can also be bought for a song if you need to kit up there.
Sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia should definitely not be overlooked by the budget traveler. Rich in history, its temples are not to be missed, and if you want to relax in the sun after soaking up the culture, it’s easy to get away to one of the picturesque islands or beaches down south. While it’s less developed than surrounding countries, Cambodia offers rock-bottom prices on everything from accommodation to drinks – just watch out for possible scams.
Colorful, lively, spiritual, and affordable, India ticks all the boxes. It’s a diverse country, one of extremes – the rural and scenic south, and the historic, cultural north – one that deserves weeks, if not months, to explore in its entirety. Even so, it’s bound to be a frugal trip. Prices vary widely across the country; they are higher in the larger cities and tourist hotspots, and during festival seasons, but overall, accommodation and meals clock in at top notch value. Getting around can be done on a shoestring, too, as India has an extensive transport network.
Small yet dripping in heritage, the landlocked Czech Republic has a lot going for it. Prague is the jewel in its crown, but for those with time to spare, getting further out into the country is well worth the effort. There’s beautiful architecture, hiking and swimming opportunities, and of course, cheap beer, beds, and bus tickets for budget backpackers.
This former Soviet country is actually the second largest in all of Europe, and makes for a unique destination that won’t break the bank. From mountains to beaches to fortresses, you’ll find Ukraine spans a variety of architecture, language and culture. Costs are lower away from the capital of Kiev and towards the Russian end of the country. The food is hearty and filling, the people generous and warm, but be prepared to encounter language barriers and facilities of dubious quality from time to time.
Another country outside of the euro zone that’s surprisingly affordable – at least for now – is Croatia. It boasts a stunning coastline, albeit one that’s more rocky than sandy, and is bursting with quaint old towns just crying out for you to lose yourself in. Charming churches and zig-zagging alleyways are remnants of the past that remain, even as the country continues to develop. For lower prices, head inland to continental Croatia and get off the tourist circuit.
East meets west in Turkey, where regions range from European-flavored to areas with more of a Middle Eastern tinge. The coastal Mediterranean areas are stunning, and offer plenty of opportunities for sailing, hiking, and cruising. You’ll enjoy many of the comforts of western Europe, as the infrastructure is of high standards, yet Turkey is far less expensive than some of its neighbors. Food is reasonably cheap and there are plenty of street stands; buses are also an economical way of getting around, although they aren’t the most comfortable option.
Nicaragua remains one of the lesser-known destinations in Central America, but that’s part of its appeal. Because it’s yet to be discovered by the masses, you can stretch a dollar further than you could in other nearby locations, such as Costa Rica. If you’re into the outdoors, there’s plenty of lakes and waterfalls to explore and beaches to surf; culture vultures can soak up the history and architecture in colonial Granada and elsewhere. Look out for the famous intercity ‘chicken buses’, used by locals and tourists alike – you may well find yourself sitting alongside some livestock for the duration of the ride.
Diverse in geography and population, Bolivia is one of the most remote countries in the world, where traditions and beliefs date back to the days of the Inca kings. It’s a little rough around the edges; simply navigating around can be a challenge, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But as your reward, you’ll experience views and landscapes unlike anything you’ve seen before, from sparkling lakes to volcanoes, geysers, and of course, the famous salt desert – to say nothing of the thousands of wildlife species that Bolivia is home to.
Peru is growing in popularity as a destination, but for now, there are still many affordable options for the budget traveler. Try staying in in hospedajes, which are small family-owned hotels, and visiting during spring or fall, when prices are lower. Be sure to visit more than just Machu Picchu and you’ll enjoy a much more satisfying journey – there’s a reasonably extensive bus network in most cities. There are ancient ruins, museums to ogle, and vast varieties of delicacies to sample. If you’re planning to book a trek, shop around, ask plenty of questions, confirm what is included in the cost, and don’t commit if you’re not entirely comfortable.
Formally known as San Francisco de Quito is the capital city of Ecuador which is situated at an elevation of 9,350 feet from sea level is one of the most compelling cities in Latin America. Nestled in a long, narrow valley in Andes with Pichincha to the west, Quito enjoys a spectacular natural setting with a mix of colonial and modern architecture creates a fascinating mix of environment which is enough to strike you speechless. It is the highest capital city and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978. After the massive restoration that spruced up buildings and churches provide a new lease of life to theaters and museums and made the old town magnificent with its old glory.
In addition to being the administrative, legislative and judicial seat of government Quito is also the cultural capital of country with an impressive selection of museums, festivals and beautiful nightlife. Quito is most often visited for its proximity to the celebrated middle of the world at equator line. In addition to this, Quito’s Old City (Centro Histórico) is also among major attraction which boasts exquisite Spanish colonial architecture that makes it a photographer’s delight. It is dotted with cathedrals and is wrapped by Andes Valley which makes it truly magnificent.
Most visitors love to explore this site which is also a UNESCO heritage site and has biggest colonial sections which is quite impressive. The city is laid out according to Spanish planning with the central plaza as the heart of community. The central square called Plaza de la Independencia, which is surrounded by regal mansions. Many festive events take place over here. Standing proudly in front of plaza is the Carondelet Palace, which is the seat of government. The plaza is bordered by Palacio de Gobierno, the cathedral and Palacio Presidencial. The cathedral is the oldest in South America which has been renovated several times due to earthquakes. Heroes of independence are honored over here and several presidents are buried here.
Parque El Ejido is one of the beautiful parks of city which is dividing the old and new city. On weekend the park is fairly crowded with visitors shopping for art, jewelry and crafts. Children are busy playing games while adults enjoy sun and entertainment of bustling park. You can spend your leisure time over here or rent a bike and ride down the streets leading to El Ejido. Another big and beautiful park is La Carolina which is located right outside of two major shopping malls in Quicentro is a gorgeous green space of 67 hectares. The park is huge and boasts many different types of athletic fields. It is a great place to enjoy picnics or rest for a while after a shopping spree.......
Traveling the world isn't only for the rich. If you want to travel for a sustained period of time but aren't sure how earn money while traveling, read on.
Let us know in the comments below if we’ve missed something!
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Sometimes the hardest part of taking a vacation is choosing where to go. There are so many things to consider – cost, safety, travel restrictions, and so on. However, one destination that comes highly recommended is the Philippines.
The Valdera takes its name from the river Era, which flows through most of the region. Valdera is an unspoiled area situated in the heart of Tuscany, between Pisa and Florence, and is characterized by amazing hilly landscapes and old traditions. The territory has largely conserved its farming origins, with cultivated fields, olive and fruits trees, vineyards, wheat and sunflowers everywhere.
The Valdera is also the land of the Piaggio company, located in Pontedera. One of its most famous products is the Vespa: I’m sure you’ve already heard about it! So take these landscapes, add a Vespa, shake it altogether, bake it under the Tuscan sun and the recipe is ready! Let’s go and discover the Valdera together on a Vespa following one of the itineraries of “Valdera in Vespa”. [...]
The beauty of El Nido is almost surreal: Endless white beaches, crystal clear waters and an underwater world, that will take your breath away. A destination that truly looks like paradise.
A few years ago when I came the first time to the Philippines, I traveled to El Nido. All I remember about this place is, that it was such a hassle to get there. I was sitting on the roof of a bus and praying that I would survive the endless 7 hour ride. Hold on, there was something else I remember clearly. Right, I remember that I felt like Alice in Wonderland. El Nido had blown my mind.
Over the years I kept talking about El Nido, I was telling friends and strangers about the place and how magical it was (and I sent quite a few people there, just for the record, everybody was amazed).
Actually it was not the town El Nido itself that took my breath away. It was the surroundings and the stunning views of the seascape. Every morning people are heading out by bangka boats to explore nearby Islands and lagoons, snorkel in crystal clear waters and discovering caves and hidden beaches.
I have never seen anything like that before, it was probably the most beautiful place in the world.
In 2013, I decided to visit El Nido again (fantastic decision!!) to take photos for my blog. The roads were better than I remember, and the buses looked newer and had A/C. Nice. When I reached the town and looked over the bay of El Nido, it was just as amazing as I remembered it. The beauty of the Archipelago was almost surreal. I was back in paradise. And ridiculously happy. The place is magic I tell you...
WHY IS EL NIDO SO SPECTACULAR?
Good question. Once upon a time, El Nido was a sleepy town at the northern tip of Palawan that has been relatively unknown to foreigners. In the 1980s, it became a popular tourist destination and worldwide attention for its superb diving, endless white sandy beaches and steep limestone cliffs, surrounded by turquoise crystal clear waters, beautiful lagoons, waterfalls and caves. El Nido became the gateway to Asia's most beautiful natural treasure: The Bacuit Archipelago.
Or let's say it in other words: Mother Nature has gone crazy here.
El Nido is not just a tropical beach paradise, it's a place like no other. With breathtaking views of nature, over and under the sea, El Nido is so unique and for sure, one of the most beautiful seascapes on earth.
Have you seen the movie or read the book "The Beach"? The author Alex Garland wrote his bestseller novel while he was living in El Nido. The story in the movie is about Thailand though, but the truth is that Thailand was not the inspiration for his book. It was El Nido and the stunning Islands around. Eventually, for creative licence purposes Garland felt that the theme of the story itself was better off being set in the Islands of Koh Phi Phi, Thailand.
The beauty of El Nido is hard to describe, you have to see the place with your own eyes.
What is the Most Beautiful Waterfalls in the Philippines? I guess it's really hard to tell specially in a country that has so many hidden wonders.
The Philippines is blessed with so many photogenic waterfalls. The country may not have a waterfall that is as mesmerizing as the Niagara Falls but we have our own list of enticing cascades that can be found in different parts of the archipelagic islands.
To make it easier, I gathered the list of the Most Beautiful Waterfalls in the Philippines according to Pinoy Travel Bloggers and here they are:.....
Paris, Rome, Barcelona … Europe’s most famous cities are unmissable destinations for any traveler, but its rural delights have just as much to offer tourists. When you’ve had your fill of shopping and museum-hopping, there’s nothing better than escaping to a picturesque lake away from the hustle and bustle. Here are 5 of Europe’s most beautiful lakes – guaranteed to take your breath away.
Lake Neusiedl, Austria
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Lake Achensee, Austria
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Limunsudan Falls is a two-tiered waterfall situated in Brgy. Rogongon, Iligan City, in the province of Lanao del Norte, Philippines. It is situated 55 kilometers away from the city proper. It is said to be the Philippine's highest waterfall with the height of 870 feet, with the lower part cascading alone higher than the Maria Cristina Falls.