Category Archives: travel stories

Only one city in the world gets more tourists than London

from Tour Expi – Jan 31, 2016

The UK capital is the second most visited city in the world, according to Euromonitor, but one resilient residence pips it to the post

Only one city in the world gets more tourists than London

London has grown its tourist count to become the second most visited city in the world, overtaking Bangkok and Singapore.

However, the British capital could not catch up with Hong Kong, which is the world’s most popular city destination for the sixth consecutive year, according to Euromonitor International.

“With London airports nearing capacity, the capital risks losing out to European rivals.”  Wouter Geerts, Euromonitor

Almost 17.4m people visited London in 2014, a 3.6pc increase on the year before, while the number of tourists to Hong Kong jumped 8.2pc to 27.8m.

Singapore, Bangkok and Paris rounded out the top five despite receiving fewer travellers than in 2013, marking declines of 0.4pc, 7pc and 1.9pc respectively.

Rio de Janeiro was the biggest climber, attracting 47pc more travellers than the year before as sports fans flocked to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup – an increase that could be seen again this year with the Rio Olympics.

Visitors to Rio increased by almost half thanks to the FIFA World Cup

Athens grew by 29.4pc, entering the top 100 along with two other Greek cities and taking Greece to an all-time high in international arrivals.

However, geopolitical tensions took their toll elsewhere in Europe, with St Petersburg and Moscow marking double-digit declines and Kiev falling out of the index altogether.

Biggest climbers

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil +46.6pc

Cancún, Mexico +42.1pc

Agra, India +31.5pc

Taichung, Taiwan +30pc

Hanoi, Vietnam +29.9pc

Despite London’s high position on the ranking, it was the only UK city to make the list of the 100 most visited cities.

Revenue from inbound tourism grew 30pc between 2008 and 2014, according to the Tourism Alliance, generating £24bn for the UK economy.

However, Euromonitor warned that the British capital could lose its hold on the global tourist market if airport capacity is not increased

“It is no exaggeration to say that tourism has been at the forefront of the UK’s economic recovery since the start of the global financial crisis.”

The Government recently delayed its decision about a third runway at Heathrow – which was used by almost 75m passengers last year, 2.2pc more than the year before – until this summer, after the Airports Commission failed to support Gatwick’s bid for expansion.

“London is one of the most iconic cities in the world. The resounding success of the London Olympics in 2012 has boosted visibility and popularity even further,” said Wouter Geerts, travel analyst at Euromonitor.

“However, with London airports nearing capacity, the capital risks losing out to European rivals. To remain competitive in the international city destinations landscape, ensuring connectivity and innovation is key.”

These are the most visited cities in the world

  1. Hong Kong
  1. London
  1. Singapore
  1. Bangkok
  1. Paris
  1. Macau
  1. Shenzhen
  1. New York City
  1. Istanbul
  1. Kuala Lumpur

 

 

Five reasons why we haven’t found aliens yet

From Focus, Jan 25, 2016
by Louisa Field

As Prof Stephen Hawking and colleagues set out on the biggest alien hunt ever, we take a speculative look at why we haven’t already found any little green men (or extraterrestrial microbes, for that matter).

 

1) Aliens have never existed
We are unique. Hurray.

2) They’re already extinct
A recent study claims that we haven’t heard from aliens because they’re already dead. “The universe is probably filled with habitable planets, so many scientists think it should be teeming with aliens,” says lead author Dr Aditya Chopra. “[But] early life is fragile, so we believe it rarely evolves quickly enough to survive.” The scientists argue that life on other planets would become extinct before it had time to create a balanced atmosphere where greenhouse gases are kept in check. “Most early planetary environments are unstable,” says Chopra.

3) We’re not worth bothering with
In the world of Star Trek, the extraterrestrial Vulcans don’t bother getting in contact with the humans, because they find them irrelevant and dumb. It’s not until Zefram Cochrane invents a warp drive (a device that lets you go faster than light) that they change their minds. So maybe aliens simply don’t care about our existence because we’re stupid and they can easily hide from us. Again, because we are stupid.

4) Alien life hasn’t had time to develop
Observations from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the planet-hunting Kepler space observatory suggest that our Earth was one of the first ever habitable planets. “Compared to all the planets that will ever form in the Universe, the Earth is actually quite early,” said Dr Peter Behroozi back in the December 2015 issue of Focus. So maybe life just hasn’t had time to get started on other planets.

5) We’re looking for the wrong thing
Some astronomers think that we’ve got the wrong idea when it comes to looking for extraterrestrials. Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees is known for having said that aliens are more likely to be machines – not organic creatures. In this case we should be looking for pollution and solar-harvesting structures instead of listening for radio signals.

So there are reasons why E.T. has been thus-far absent. But for many, it’s just a matter of time. Maybe the Breakthrough Listen project – the largest ever hunt for alien life – will be the first to strike gold.

by Louisa Field

Jerusalem: Christmas lights are on now

Robert Swift | The Media Line  Dec 25, 2015

Tourists visiting Jerusalem in Israel this year are getting a treat for Christmas. The city’s Young Men’s Christian Association is decked out every year with lights and Christmas decorations, but this year, the YMCA has really outdone itself.

A huge planted tree with colored lanterns stands out in front of the impressive building, located opposite the historical King David Hotel. Inside the halls of the YMCA a number of Christmas bazaars have been opened, with sweets and decorations being sold by smiling people in silly festive hats. The smell of spicy mulled wine wafts through the stalls enticingly.

At night, the lights from the building’s tower are so bright that they can be seen right across the city. They blend nicely with the Hanukah lanterns still decorating Jerusalem’s streets, marking the recently passed Jewish celebration of lights. The Hanukah decorations still present seem to add to the Christmas spirit that might be more commonly found in European or American cities.

erusalem feels like a city celebrating Christmas on a bigger scale than it has done in the past. The fact that Jerusalem’s municipality announced it had doubled the number of pine trees it handed out to Christian residents of the Old City, up from around 100 the year before, seemed to hint at this. The numbers of busy shoppers visiting the YMCA Christmas market and the size of the crowd braving the cold for the Christmas tree lighting at the Old City’s New Gate on 18 December seemed to confirm it.

The question remains however, why in a city where less than 2% of the population are Christian is Christmas being celebrated on a wider scale than in the past? Possibly it’s the creeping power of Hollywood inserting its favorite branded holiday into the minds of young Israelis. Perhaps people have decided to throw an extra-large party to make up for the lower than usual turnout of tourists as business has continued to suffer under the recent security situation? Or perhaps there’s more to it.

Interestingly it is not just local Christians and foreign pilgrims come to visit Bethlehem that are celebrating Christmas this year. A small number of Jewish Israelis are getting onboard too.

“Come celebrate Christmas with a bunch of Jews who grew up watching too many Hollywood RomComs and are sick of missing out on the holiday spirit,” Daniel Bernstein, a secular Jerusalemite throwing a Christmas party, invited friends via social media. Bernstein spoke to The Media Line as he returned home after purchasing his first ever Christmas tree. “There’s no real reason, it’s just a fun occasion,” he admitted, saying that not being an expert on Christmas trees, he was surprised by the strong smell of pine when he made his purchase.
Israelis are much less exposed to Christianity than Jews living in the Diaspora and so tend to view the holiday through the media and television, Jeffrey Woolf, a professor of religion at the Naftal-Yaffe Department of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University, told The Media Line. This does not represent the holiday as it is experienced by Christians around the region, Woolf said, explaining that for them “Christmas is a profoundly spiritual holiday.”

An additional quirk of Christmas in Jerusalem is that it is not just celebrated on 25 of December. “We celebrate Christmas three times here because there are three major churches that are represented: the Catholic, the Eastern Orthodox, and the Armenian,” Woolf said. For the Armenian Christians, the holiday will be celebrated this year on 6 January, for the faithful of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the festival is a day later.

On each of the days a procession departs from Jerusalem and walks the distance to neighboring Bethlehem, a practice which by and large keeps within the holiday spirit even if it necessitates the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority having to coordinate together, Wolf suggested.

As to the reason why Christmas is big this year, Bernstein had one suggestion. “Maybe it’s becoming more of a thing here because of the Russians who celebrate Novy God – which is pretty much Christmas without saying ‘it’s Christmas,’” he said.

After the fall of communism thousands of Jews left the former Soviet Union (USSR) for life in Israel. Many of these people, who now number nearly a million, celebrated the holiday of Novy God – New Year – in their former countries and continue to do so in Israel. Novy God was the only non-Soviet holiday allowed to be celebrated in the USSR and involves dinner with family and friends, toasting in the New Year and a Santa Claus like character named Grandpa Frost who hands out presents.

It’s possible that many of Israel’s secular young generation liked what they saw their Russian compatriots doing and decided to join. “All the Russians I know celebrate it…I wanted to try it out for myself,” Bernstein said.

Or possibly, they have just been watching too many romantic-comedies.

New Gate Christmas Tree, Jerusalem’s Old City (Photo: Dudi Saad/The Media Line)

                                             http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Wlq4fXr9k_k/VnyvGyJ7MVI/AAAAAAAATtc/Uz2jE2MkuOc/s1600/MED4.jpg

Interior of The American Colony Hotel (Photo: Dudi Saad/The Media Line)

WestJet Offers travel tips for Christmas Travel

CALGARY, Canada – The upcoming Christmas travel season is among the busiest time of the year at airports worldwide. WestJet’s tips help its guests prepare for an enjoyable travel experience.

The airline makes the following recommendations to travelers:

1. Eggnog expires. And so does ID.

Ensure you have proper ID and documentation for all travellers, including children and infants. Transport Canada has changed ID requirements for domestic travel, meaning expired ID can no longer be used for any flight. For international travel, travel documents must be presented at check-in. Each country on your itinerary may have different entrance requirements, including the physical condition of a passport, or extended validity of a passport beyond your intended departure date. Check national entry requirements with WestJet well before departure.

2. Inflight entertainment? There’s an app for that.

WestJet’s new inflight entertainment system, WestJet Connect, is available on your own laptop or through the WestJet app on your smartphone or tablet. Download the latest version of the airline’s iPhone or Android app for free access to nearly 500 hours of movies and TV programs, and three live TV channels. WestJet Connect also offers pay-per-use Internet access. Not all of WestJet’s aircraft are equipped with the new system, so pack some books, magazines, tablets or laptops loaded with entertainment, or perhaps small games or toys for little travelers.

3. You’ve made your list, now check-in only once.

WestJet offers three convenient self-serve check-in options: web, mobile and kiosk. The airline suggests checking in 24 hours before scheduled departure.

• Web check-in is available at westjet.com.

• Check-in on your mobile device using WestJet’s app or mobile-optimized website.

• Self-serve check-in kiosks are available at most of WestJet’s airports, and may also offer self-serve baggage-tagging.

Speed up your airport experience by paying baggage fees with a credit card when you use self-serve check-in.

4. This is the busiest travel period of the year, so plan to arrive early.

Prepare for large crowds at the airport. WestJet suggests arriving at the airport no less than two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight. Guests on a delayed flight can use the revised departure time to determine what time they check in.
Travellers should complete security, immigration and customs and be at their departure gate one hour before departure. Those who do not meet check-in, baggage drop or boarding cut-off times may be denied travel.

5. Santa’s got a brand-new carry-on bag.

Carry-on baggage must meet WestJet’s size requirements as listed on its website. Each guest is permitted one piece of carry-on baggage and one personal item. Excess and oversized carry-on baggage may be checked in and subject to applicable baggage fees. Guests are encouraged to visit westjet.com for details on checked and excess baggage allowances and fees, sporting equipment, restricted items and special items.

6. Lovely to look at, better to hold.

Be sure to pack ID, wallets, purses, medication, mobile devices, keys, and valuable items such as cash, jewelry and electronics into carry-on baggage.

7. Security prefers rapping over wrapping.

The airline suggests guests do not wrap gifts. Airport security may unwrap items in checked or carry-on baggage, causing delays at security. Pack wrapping paper in your checked luggage, and have a wrapping party on arrival at your destination.

8. Large pets, like reindeer, need a kennel over Christmas.

WestJet does not accept kennels as checked baggage between December 15 and January 6 inclusive, although certain small animals may be able to travel in the aircraft cabin; visit WestJet’s website for details.

9. Pack your patience.

Holiday travel can be stressful, but you can cope more easily by being prepared, leaving lots of time to travel to the airport, arriving early and taking things in stride. Everyone wants to get to their destination to share Christmas with family and friends, and a little patience goes a long way to help make the journey stress-free.

One day trip to the amazing pockets of London

from Travel & Tour , Oct 3, 2016

While planning a one day trip to London, the city’s jocund company and lively vibes is so emphatically felt that it will immediately make you fall for its throbbing passion. But for many, London has been an oft visited destination and the best views, The Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and London Bridge have almost always been covered thanks to chartered tours. Of course there is more to London, london parkswhich none of the chartered trips can help you discover and for knowing a city best, tracking it through long walks or maybe a hop in a bus or tram — which in itself is an amazing experience is ideal! You can also choose the London tube for a one day trip.

London is blessed with marvelous parks that are well maintained and can start off your day on a happy note. The luxuriously green and picturesque spread of St James’s Park and Buckingham Palace which are closely located can add a song to your mind and blithe to your spirits.

You could start your one day trip with a quick breakfast at the Table Cafe or Inn the Park (in St James’s park) which does a full English breakfast with pancakes. However since it’s just a one day trip there is indeed much to see, so you have to be choosy.

The South Kensington is a place that has some great museums. The old iconic shops of Harrods and Hamleys, which are often mentioned by British novelists, are close drops and you could actually get a first hand view of them while you’re there.

You have seen the Westminster Bridge many a times and for some the view that I am about to suggest may also be a regular tour but the view of the entire space in a boat down the Thames is breathtaking. Walking along the South Bank of the Thames is also quite an experience that fills you with charm no matter how many times you do it in a one day trip.

A walk down the northern bank of the river will take you to the oldest part of London. The St. Paul’s Cathedral, The famous Fleet Street, The Strand and Trafalgar Square are modest reminders of the grand British Empire. There is ample scope for photography and the much sort after stone lion at Trafalgar Square will surely fetch a great number of likes in social media from friends.

You can head towards Soho and get a feel of the artistic side of the city. The bold wall graphite and the general appearance of people there will make you wander to a world that has been bitten by art, literature and music. If you are interested in the seedy history of Soho, there is a tour for that too. Soho has good places where you could snap up some lunch.

St Albans, Hertfordshire which is very close to Central London. The cathedral is officially the oldest place of Christian worship in the country. Pubs and restaurants, and the buzzing centre of this thriving market town where this humble monument stands is a great place for a wander at any time of day. So you can try out lunch at this venue.

The Ronald Dahl Museum at Great Missenden may be of interest for some. The Epping Forest is a vast and peaceful expanse giving you a feel of wilderness close to London. You could keep a note of these destinations in your travel itinerary for a one day trip.

In the evening Piccadilly in the West, Holborn in the East and Covent Garden are the best places for theatre. What is the use of being in London if you don’t watch a single theatre? The shows start at 7.30 so be there before time and book your tickets. However if you can plan to book advance tickets it would be good as there is always a rush and you may get left out. There are some restaurants that do pre or post theatre dinners so don’t forget to explore those options.

 

What happens to you mentally over lack of holidays?

Monday Sept 20, Tour EXP 

The benefits of holidays are obvious to most people – yet last year over half of Americans (56 per cent) didn’t take any.What they may not realize is that abstaining from a vacation can be seriously bad for your health, according to experts.  Here they reveal how those who don’t take enough breaks can suffer serious damage physically and mentally. The effect on your body Nuffield Health, the UK’s largest healthcare charity, and tour operator Kuoni, conducted a study in 2012 called The Holiday Health Experiment and discovered there are striking effects of not jetting away. The test found those who didn’t go away for a break had higher blood pressure, didn’t sleep as well and had higher levels of stress.

Altogether 12 volunteers underwent a health assessment, wore heart monitors to measure their sleep patterns and resilience to stress, had psycho-therapeutic tests and were given dietary and lifestyle advice during the summer. The benefits of the break lasted at least a fortnight longer than the vacation and the study claimed it could be felt for months in some cases.

A study by Allianz Global Assistance found that when Americans do go on holiday, 61 per cent of them continue to work while they are out of the office. With US workers failing to take advantage of their hard-earned time off, a staggering 429 million days of accrued holiday entitlement went unclaimed in 2013. It also found that 56 per cent didn’t take any holiday at all last year.

The company unveiled a television ad after the release of the study featuring child actors who admonish their parents for not booking a family getaway. Psychotherapist Christine Webber, who carried out the testing, said blood pressure reductions are important to reduce the chances of stroke and heart attacks, while better sleep is good for the immune system. She said: ‘It’s apparent from our results that the majority of people feel happier, more rested and much less stressed because of their vacations.’

Dr Lucy Goundry, Nuffield Health’s Medical Director, said: ‘For the first time, our clinical results show how holidays helped these couples reduce their blood pressure, improve their sleep and manage their stress levels better. ‘These results clearly demonstrate that on holiday our ability to physically cope with stress improves. ‘I urge everyone to ensure they plan their holidays carefully. Working hard is important but so is taking time to rest and recuperate.’  Corinne Usher, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, said: ‘The reported benefits of holidays are short lived and only last a couple of weeks at most. The greatest happiness appears to come from planning and anticipating a break. Given the short lived nature of benefits, some researchers have suggested it might be helpful to think in terms of taking more frequent short term breaks.

Did you notice, I said ‘break’? Not surprisingly, there is a difference between taking a holiday and taking a break.’ The test supported results from The Framingham Study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1991.It discovered that female homemakers who took a holiday every six years or even less doubled their risk of developing heart attacks or having a fatal heart problem. This was compared to those who took time out at least twice a year.

The test analysed women’s lifestyle based on data started in 1948, considering physical factors and including lifestyle choices such as their attitude toward children, money and travel. Speaking to ABC News, primary care physician Natasha Withers from One Medical Group in New York said: ‘Rest, relaxation, and stress reduction are very important for people’s well-being and health. This can be accomplished through daily activities, such as exercise and meditation, but vacation is an important part of this as well.’  She listed a decreased risk of heart disease and improved reaction times as some of the benefits from taking some time off.  The effect on your mind

Not taking enough time off is not good for your career prospects, says one expert.

Corinne Usher, who managed and led NHS mental health psychological services in Buckinghamshire for 20 years, said to MailOnline: ‘Not taking our full annual leave entitlement can lead to people feeling resentful towards colleagues in the workplace, and more likely to make mistakes.’

She added: ‘There is a lot of research into the beneficial effects of taking a holiday, such as making us more creative problem solvers, refreshing our motivation, increasing levels of happiness, and lowering levels of stress and emotional exhaustion.

‘These promote greater survival rates for people at risk of heart problems and better family relationships, to name a few.’

BPS Associate Fellow & HCPC Registered Clinical Psychologist, Dr Rachel Andrew, backed this up, saying to MailOnline: ‘A lot of people get caught up in the day to day stresses, and this leads to them becoming disconnected and getting no enjoyment or emotional connection to what they are doing.

‘In order to build people back up again, I recommend taking time out from hectic, pressured lifestyles. ‘It is essential to switch off. This can be linked to escaping technology, too. This can free up the mind to be creative.’ The effects of working overtime can be equally destructive. Researchers from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health found that those who worked more than 11 hours a day, as opposed to seven to eight hours, were more than twice as likely to have a major depressive episode. This even applied to those who had no prior mental health issues. But do we even need a holiday?

Dr Andrew said that shunning a holiday could actually help your mental state. ‘A lot of work I do is about people making time each day in order to improve their motivation, something a short holiday alone won’t tackle,’ she said. ‘I usually recommend taking time to switch off each day and focus back on why they are doing what they are doing. ‘In fact some people I interact with find holidays stressful, and I work with them to overcome any obstacles that could hinder them.’ Corinne Usher, a consultant clinical psychologist, said that some people actually report something called ‘leisure sickness’, in that people who are characteristically perfectionistic and particularly committed to work may find it more stressful to be away from it and tend to find it more difficult to relax. She said to MailOnline: ‘The reported benefits of holidays are short lived and only last a couple of weeks at most. ‘The greatest happiness appears to come from planning and anticipating a break.

‘Given the short lived nature of benefits, some researchers have suggested it might be helpful to think in terms of taking more frequent short term breaks. ‘Did you notice, I said ‘break’? Not surprisingly, there is a difference between taking a holiday and taking a break.’

SEX may be the best way to cure a fear of flying

from Tourexpi, Sept 15, 2015

Sex may the best way for an anxious passenger to conquer their fear of flying, says a pilot-turned-therapist. But it has nothing to do with joining the mile high club, as Tom Bunn insists he has had clients who have forgotten about their anxiety after having sex the night before a flight.

Mr Bunn, a former US Air Force and commercial pilot who now counsels terrified air travelers, said a new study on chronic and post-traumatic stress may support the theory that sex can lower a person’s stress levels before setting foot on board. Mr Bunn, a licensed therapist who founded SOAR in 1982, said sex helped a male client who struggled with a fear of flying for seven years.

He told Yahoo Travel: ‘Every time he flew he was totally miserable, except for one time when, before he came back from a business trip, he hooked up with someone. ‘He said they didn’t get any sleep. They made love all night long and he dragged himself out of bed onto the aeroplane and had a perfectly anxiety-free flight.’

To back up his anecdotal evidence, Mr Bunn has pointed to a new study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, who explored why trauma victims are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress if they have previously suffered chronic stress. The study was based on animals and has nothing to do with sex or an anxiety caused by flying. It found that animals that underwent chronic stress prior to a traumatic experience are more likely to consolidate traumatic memories, which can trigger anxiety. But the researchers found that blocking that type of memory formation may offer a new way to prevent post-traumatic stress.

Mr Bunn told Yahoo Travel the study suggests that passengers who have chronic stress in their lives are more vulnerable to develop a fear of flying based on post-traumatic stress when something such as turbulence occurs. Published in Science Daily, the MIT study found that it may be possible to prevent traumatic memories from consolidating or weaken them after they have formed with drugs that interfere with serotonin, which accelerates memory consolidation in the brain. Mr Bunn told Yahoo Travel that sex can help people who are anxious travellers as it causes a spike in their levels of oxytocin, a hormone which acts as a neurotransmitter.

In 2012, a study by researchers at the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland, found that oxytocin bombards the amygdala, an almond-sized part of the brain that governs fear, Live Science reported. While it may help some fearful flyers, Mr Bunn said he knows that sex won’t help all travelers cope with their anxiety. In his counseling sessions, he tries to help his clients develop a mental link between flying and a memory that produces oxytocin.

Free Wi-Fi now available at the Taj Mahal

from TTW Asia June 17, 2015

Taj Mahal gives you a new experience as now you can upload selfies or photographs directly from Taj with the monument offering free Wi-Fi  to all its visitors.

http://www.ttwasia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Taj-Mahal.jpgThe free Wi-Fi facility will be for half an hour. The facility was launched by the union Minister for Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad. Anyone willing to go beyond the stipulated half an hour span would need to pay Rs.30 an hour.

This facility is being introduced by BSNL with support from a Bengaluru-based company, Quadgen.

There are future plans of introducing Wi-fi in Fathepur Sikri complex. The Agra Cantt railway station is already Wi-Fi enabled. Taj Mahal is a major tourist attraction in India which welcomed six million tourists in 2014.

This move has been appreciated by many industry leaders. However there are some who feel that in a bid to share pictures, people may lose the actual essence of enjoying this glorious monument as they did by getting immersed in its romantic appeal.

20 new sites in UNESCO’s world network of Biosphere Reserves

From Tour Expi June 11, 2015unesco

The International Co-ordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) has added 20 new sites to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, bringing their total number to 651 sites, including 15 transboundary sites, in 120 countries. Myanmar had its first biosphere reserve inscribed this year. These additions were made by the Council during a meeting taking place in Paris from 8 to 12 June.

The Man and the Biosphere Programme is an intergovernmental scientific programme set up by UNESCO in the early 1970s with the aim of improving the interaction between people and their natural environment, on a global scale. Biosphere reserves are places for learning about sustainable development aiming to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with the sustainable use of natural resources. New reserves are designated each year by the International Co-ordinating Council of the Programme. The Council brings together representatives of 34 UNESCO Member States, which are elected to that office .

The Belezma biosphere reserve (Algeria) is a mosaic of habitats including forests, thickets, lawns, cliffs and rivers. It includes over 5,315 hectares of centuries’ old Atlas cedars, almost one third of the cedar forests of Algeria. Endemic to North Africa, Algeria and Morocco, the cedar is a protected species in Algeria. It is a flagship tree species of the Aurès region. The reserve also boasts historic and archaeological sites, caves and tombs. It is home to 3,500 inhabitants who work in livestock and grain farms as well as commercial and artisanal activities.

The Patagonia Azul biosphere reserve (Argentina) is located in the south of the country on the coast of Chubut province, and covers an area of 3,102,005 hectares. The site encompasses a coastal area with the greatest biodiversity on the Argentinean coastline. It also includes important breeding, feeding and migration sites of different species of birds and mammals. It hosts the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in the world, accounting for almost 40% of the global population. The site has a very low human population density, the only town being Camarone. Close to five percent of the town’s permanent population belong to indigenous ethnic groups, including the Mapuche and Tehuelche. Ranches or rural establishments dedicated to sheep rearing account for the main human activity on the territory, followed by the production of wool, fishing, tourism and seaweed extraction.

Hanma biosphere reserve (People’s Republic of China) is located in Inner Mongolia and is described as representing an important part of the Taiga distributed in China. It protects the diversity of both forest and wetland ecosystems, extending over a total area of 148,948 hectares. The natural vegetation is intact, owing to very limited interaction with humankind. The cold temperate coniferous forest is the best-preserved forest type in China and is of high scientific value. Forest products from this site, such as bilberry and other wild fruit, contribute to the socio-economic development of the communities in the area. Ecological tourism is an activity that could be exploited further.

The Lake Tana biosphere reserve (Ethiopia) is situated in the north-western part of Ethiopia and inlcudes Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia. The site covers a total area of 695,885 hectares and is a hotspot of biodiversity. Internationally known as an Important Bird Area, it is also of global importance for agricultural genetic diversity. The main economic activities are agriculture, fishing, national and international tourism and sand mining. The area has a unique cultural, historical, geological and aesthetic value with numerous monasteries and churches dating back to the 13th century. Church forests around Lake Tana host an outstanding diversity of tree and shrub species and medicinal plants and play an important role in the conservation of biodiversity. The biosphere reserve will seek to rekindle traditional communities’ appreciation of their cultures, knowledge and skills, which reflect a sustainable lifestyle in harmony with the environment.

Gorges du Gardon biosphere reserve (France) is located in the Gard département in Southern France and covers a total area of 45,501 hectares. It includes the cities of Uzès and Nîmes, as well as the Pont du Gard, a World Heritage since 1985. The site is a typical Mediterranean landscape, with scrubland, green oaks, the Gardon River and cliffs, and contains threatened and protected species such as Egyptian vultures, Bonelli’s eagle and the Woodcock orchid. This area is known for its rich cultural, architectural and historical heritage. The main human activities are agriculture, tourism (450,000 visitors per year) and services. The main agricultural activities include wine production and olive oil, as well as Tuber melanosporum (truffles), herbal plants and aromatics.

The Cacique Lempira, Señor de las Montañas biosphere reserve (Honduras) is located in the western part of the country and covers a total area of 168,634 hectares. It forms part of the ecological region of pine and oak forests as well as humid tropical forests and hosts a large number of endangered and endemic species. The high rate of endemism among the wildlife has led Conservation International to designate the eco-region an Endemic Bird Area (EBA). The total population of the biosphere reserve is over 150 000 inhabitants. The predominant economic activity is traditional agriculture (87%), mainly mais and beans, with a steady increase in coffee production. Tourism is promoted in the city of Lempira, which receives local and international tourists in growing numbers.

The Bromo Tengger Semeru-Arjuno biosphere reserve (Indonesia) is located in East Java province and has a total area of 413,374 hectares. The site consists of Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park (BTSNP), and the forest protected area of Raden Soerjo. There are 1,025 species of flora, including 226 orchid species along with 260 other medicinal and ornamental plant species. Several of the site’s mammal species are included on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The area is a model of good practice in terms of sustainable development at the regional, national and international levels. The development of agriculture is envisaged in certain areas. Livestock farming of cattle, goats, sheep, horses, rabbits and chicken also contribute to the local economy. There is an active programme of research in the area on biodiversity management and carbon reduction.

The Taka Bonerate-Kepulauan Selayar biosphere reserve (Indonesia) is located at the south of Sulawesi (Celebes) and belongs to South Sulawesi Province. It covers an area of about 4,410,736 hectares. Mangrove forests serve as a barrier against the fierce ocean waves and hence as a shelter and spawning ground for various types of fish, as well as a habitat for many species of fauna such as birds. The national authorities aim to make this site the leading area in coral reef conservation and a major tourist destination in Sulawesi. The area is intended to serve as a learning laboratory for researchers, students, local government representatives, NGOs and private sector organizations

The Tang-e-Sayad and Sabzkuh biosphere reserve (Islamic Republic of Iran) is a combination of the reserves of two regions, Tang-e- Sayad and Sabzkuh totalling 532,878 hectares. Land subsidence, geological activity and the melting ice caps have formed several wetlands in the area, home to rare fauna such as the wild cat and tiger snake. The Karun River, the biggest in Iran, supports 22 fish species, including pike and Mesopotamian catfish. During the cold season, the bushlands in the area are home to migratory birds such as the white stork and greater flamingo. The presence of several rivers and springs in the site has led to an increase in the development of agriculture and animal husbandry. Local handicrafts and folk festivals also offer the potential to develop tourism. These activiies would be managed by the local communities.

The Ledro Alps and Judicaria biosphere reserve (Italy) is located in the Trento region in northern Italy, between the Dolomite World Heritage site and Lake Garda, with a total surface area of 47,427 hectares. The site is representative of the southern slopes of the central-eastern Alps, comprising different non-polluted habitats (Alpine meadows, forest, grasslands, moorlands) as well as traditional crops. Its strategic location contributes to its rich biodiversity and the creation of a corridor running north−south across the Alps, ensuring a territorial continuity between protected areas from the Po valley to the northern Alps. It is also a highly valued by tourists who provide an important source of income to the local population. Agriculture is the main economic activity in the Reserve, chiefly viticulture, olive, fruit and vegetable, as well as animal husbandry.

The Po Delta biosphere reserve (Italy) in northern Italy covers an area of 139,398 hectares and is home to 120,000 people living in 16 municipalities. The area is a plain produced by the Po River’s action and recent human activity. It is the only delta in Italy. The site includes the confluence of river branches, coastal dune systems and sand formations, lagoons, fishing ponds, marshes, fossil dunes, canals and coastal pine forests, vast brackish wetlands and cultivated lands dominated by rice farming. These landscapes provide an exceptional heritage of biodiversity due to their range of habitats. Tourism is one of the main economic activities of the local communities, along with agriculture and fish farming. Sustainable tourism could be promoted. Environmental and cultural education aimed at the general public is an important activity of the biosphere reserve.

The Appennino Tosco-Emiliano biosphere reserve (Italy) is located in the Tuscany and Emilia Romagna regions, in northern-central Italy. It covers the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine ridge from Passo della Cisa to Passo delle Forbici. This stretch of ridge marks the geographical and climatic boundary between continental Europe and Mediterranean Europe. It includes 38 municipalities. The total surface of the site is 223,229 hectares. The reserve contains 70% of all the species present in Italy, including species of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, fish, the wolf and the Golden Eagle, but also great plant biodiversity, with at least 260 aquatic and terrestrial species. The main economic activity is agriculture, of various kinds depending on the landscape. A tourism economy has recently been developed to improve the link between tourism and agriculture, with, for example, “zero kilometre menu” restaurants using local products.

The Aksu-Zhabagly biosphere reserve (Kazakhstan) is located south of Karatau in the west Tien Shan. The total area of the site is 357,734 hectares. It has 48% of the total diversity of birds in the region, and 72.5% of vertebrates. Land in the reserve is mostly used for agriculture, with a variety of crops: on the rain-fed area – cereal cultures (wheat and barley); on irrigated arable lands – forage cultures (corn, clover, alfalfa). Local people usually breed cattle, sheep (South-Kazakh Merino), goats, horses (trotters and Donskaya breed) and poultry (chicken and turkey). Aksu Zhabagly is one of the famous tourist spots for bird- watchers from all over the world and there is great potential for eco-tourism. Research activities on the ecology of the fauna are carried out within the biosphere reserve.

The Inlay Lake biosphere reserve (Myanmar) is situated in Taunggyi District, Southern Shan State and covers a total area of 489,721 hectares. The wetland ecosystem of this freshwater lake is home to 267 species of birds, out of which 82 are wetland birds, 43 species of freshwater fishes, otters and turtles. Diverse flora and fauna species are recorded and the lake is reported to be the nesting place for the globally endangered Sarus crane (Grus antigone). In addition to its ecological importance, Inlay Lake is also unique for the way the local inhabitants have adapted their lifestyle to their environment. Farmers from one of the dominant ethnic groups in the region, the Inthas, practice floating island agriculture, locally called ‘Yechan”. Inlay Lake and its watershed provides several ecosystem services on which local people depend, including clean air, clean water, a cooler climate, fish stocks and other resources.

The Gouritz Cluster biosphere reserve (South Africa) in the southern part of South Africa covers an area of 3,187,892 hectares.  The reserve is divided into four connected sectors ranging from sea level to 2,240 m. It is the only place in the world where three recognized biodiversity hotspots (Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Maputoland-Tongoland-Albany) converge. There are a great many endemic plant species. The site is on the migratory route of large mammals such as the leopard and serves as a nursery for marine species. The area is critical for water resources. With over 200,000 inhabitants, the area is facing socio-economic challenges (high unemployment, wide-spread poverty, sprawling informal settlements with inadequate services, rising HIV and crime rates). One promising solution envisaged to reduce youth unemployment consists of establishing local business models in the biosphere reserve and developing jobs linked to the biodiversity economy.

The Magaliesberg biosphere reserve (South Africa) covers an area of 357,870 hectares, between the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg. The site lies at the interface of two great African biomes* – the Central Grassland Plateaux and the sub-Saharan savannah. Its rich biodiversity includes 443 bird species constituting 46.6% of total bird species in the Southern African sub-region. In addition, the area is exeptionally beautiful, with unique natural features, rich cultural heritage, and archaeological interest with the “Cradle of Humankind”, which is part of the World Heritage site with 4 million years of history. Over 260 000 people live in this region, adjacent to a major urban infrastructure impacting an economy that is dominated by agriculture, mining, urban development and tourism. The biosphere management plan aims to stimulate conservation and promote, among other things, tourism, farming and sustainable practices (such as solar power and water saving).

The Macizo de Anaga biosphere reserve (Spain) in the northeast of the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands covers 48,727.61 hectares. Macizo de Anaga hosts significant diversity of fauna including reptiles, birds and fish, and in particular large numbers of invertebrates, with 1,900 recorded species. From a geological point of view the massif is one of the oldest areas on the island with rocks dating back seven to nine million years. Over this long period, the area has experienced several cycles of volcanic activity, the result of which is a rich geological and geomorphological mosaic. Over 22,000 people live permanently in the biosphere reserve. Historically, agriculture, livestock farming (especially goat breeding), forestry and fishing have been the main economic activities.

The Meseta Iberica biosphere reserve (Spain/Portugal) encompasses the provinces of Salamanca and Zamora in Spain and Terra Quente and Fria in Portugal. It covers an area of 1,132,606 hectares. Altitudes in the area vary from 100 m to 2,000 m above sea level. The area contains many flagship species, some of which have been the subject of conservation projects, such as the black stork (Ciconia nigra), Egyptian vulture (Neophron pernocpterus), Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata), Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo), European otter (Lutra lutra), and Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus). Over 300,000 people live in this site, which also features built heritage dating back to Roman times and the Middle Ages.

Langbiang biosphere reserve (Viet Nam), in Lam Dong Province, covers a total area of 275, 439 hectares. Biodiversity in this region is very high, including many threatened species in. The core area will create a biodiversity corridor, maintaining the integrity of 14 tropical ecosystems. It is also the habitat of many species of wildlife. Agriculture, forestry and the fishery sectors are the main sources of employment for the local communities. Flowers, coffee and tea are the most important cultivated crops here, in terms of revenue. There are a number of planned investment projects for some areas with a view to improving overall management and protection.

13 Places On Earth People Risk Their Lives To Visit

from Tour Expi, Apr 6,2105

Our world is magnificent with beautiful natural wonders that attract several visitors right through the year. However, there are some wonders that can scare the living daylights out of you, or have you toying with the urge to flirt with death and disaster. While the common man might just say no to visiting these places, destiny defying adventure seekers know them only too well.

  1. Trolltunga, Norway
    Literally translated as Troll’s Tongue, Trolltunga is one of the most spectacular scenic cliffs in Norway. It is 1100 meters above sea level, hovering 700 metres above Lake Ringedalsvatnet. The view is breathtaking. The hike goes through high mountains, and takes 8-10 hours in total (to Trolltunga and back), and the ascent is about 900 meters. The hike is usually possible to do from mid June, depending on when the snow melts in the mountains. Do carry an extra pair of pants if you plan on peeking over the edge.
  1. Siju Caves, Meghalaya
    The Siju Cave in Meghalaya is the first limestone natural cave in India. It is also home to a flimsy rope bridge that connects the summits of two hills. Its wobbliness will make you freak out. Extra pants are always a good idea!
  1. Huayna Picchu
    The ancient city of Machu Picchu is best viewed atop the summit of this mountain. However, getting there is the hard part. Inhospitable terrain, narrow and steep stairs, and high altitudes can be pretty unnerving.
  1. Hussaini Hanging Bridge, Northern Pakistan
    Located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of northern Pakistan, this bridge served as a connection across the Borit Lake in Upper Hunza. This rope bridge is both long and poorly maintained. Many planks are missing, and strong winds shake the bridge as you cross it. A previous, older, broken bridge hangs in tatters next to the “new” one, not something that would ease your nerves.Despite its dangerous looks, the Hussaini is a relatively safe bridge and has become something of a tourist draw, with hikers testing their nerves as they carefully work their way across.
  1. Mont Blanc Box, France
    We’re not talking about the luxury brand, but the glass box that stands 12,604 feet over the rocks to give you a 360 degree view from Europe’s tallest peak. Engineers have assured visitors about its structural durability and the technology that prevents this box from toppling off the edge. But is that enough?
  1. Mount Huashan, China
    Visitors flock to this mountain in China which is famous for its almost vertical stair cases, steep edges, and the creaky wooden planks that are bolted onto the sides of the mountain.
  1. Moher Cliffs, Ireland
    This biking trail in Ireland would give an extreme adventure sports fanatic an orgasm. The winding track is 4 feet in width at its widest portion and was featured as the “cliffs of insanity” in the 1987 movie ‘The Princess Bride’.
  1. The Trift Suspension Bridge, Switzerland
    The Trift Bridge is one of the most spectacular pedestrian suspension bridges of the Swiss Alps. It is 100 meters high and 170 meters long, and is poised above the region of the Trift Glacier. Even reaching the bridge through the ravine by cable car is an adventure.
  1. Phugtal Monastery, Ladakh, India
    Located in the Zanskar region of Ladakh, the monastery is a unique construction of mud and timber. It is built at the entrance of a cave on the cliff-face of a lateral gorge of a major tributary of the Lungnak (Lingti-Tsarap) River. From a distance, the monastery looks like a giant honeycomb.This is the only monastery that can be reached by foot. The altitude and limited options for food make it a little difficult for visitors to adapt to.
  1. El Caminito Del Rey, Spain
    Known as the “Little Pathway of the King,” this was built in 1905 and has had little to no repairs done until recently. Therefore, bold climbers enjoy braving the sections that are dangerous and completely disintegrated.
  1. Devils Pool, Zambia
    The Devil’s Pool forms the lip of the Victoria Falls, Africa’s highest waterfall, which borders Zambia and Zimbabwe. A lot of visitors have lost their lives trying to get the perfect view of the 355 foot cascade but that hasn’t stopped the local tourism industry from stopping tourists from visiting it.
  1. Stolen Chimney, Fisher Tower, USA
    The Stolen Chimney is a route located on the Ancient Arts tower, one of the Fisher Towers in Moab National Park, Utah. This is the most common route to ascend the Corkscrew Summit of the tower, which is the western most summit of the Ancient Arts tower but is not the tallest. The summit is noteworthy for its extremely unusual shape which makes climbing this technically different from most other climbs.
  1. Kjeragbolten, Norway
    Kjeragbolten is a rock wedged between two boulders in the Kjerag mountain and has long been a famed photo op spot. It was featured in the 2006 Visa viral video ‘Where the hell is Matt?’, where traveler Matt Harding danced atop the precarious boulder. Due to its enormous popularity, long lines usually form with people who want to have a photo from the site. Expected waiting time can be anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour. Let’s just hope gravity doesn’t decide to have its way anytime soon.