Polynesia – Dreamy Gateway To The Pacific

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Oh, Polynesia. Just the word conjures up images of beautiful beaches, stretches of bright blue waters as far as the eye can see and the innate beauty of both flora and fauna. Polynesia is actually an umbrella term for the many vast amounts of islands that make up the eastern part of Oceania and even includes the US State of Hawaii as well as Chile’s Easter Island. With so many islands in the region it can be difficult to choose the best ones, so here we give you a rundown on a couple of the more popular options.

French Polynesia

French Polynesia is easily one of the most visited in the region. With islands like Bora Bora and Tahiti to call its own, it’s easy to see how people are keen to flock here. While it has some of the most eye-wateringly expensive islands on the planet, it can be navigated on a budget if planning is executes and plans adhered to. If wishing to visit more than one or two of the islands that are close enough to access by boat, air travel is the only way to get to and from various regions in a timely manner and passes connecting multiple islands are available. Air Tahiti offer great itinerary suggestions for those looking to visit multiple islands in the region. Hotels range in price but even budget can be eye wateringly high. Try to stick with guesthouses if running on a budget. Ultimately, the easiest way to consider French Polynesia is as the playground for celebrities and indeed should you stay at higher end locales it would not be far-fetched to catch a glimpse of rock stars or A-list celebrities.

Cook Islands

This string of impressive islands was first seen by Captain Cook in the late 1700s, lending them his name. This string of islands is more budget friendly than French Polynesia, but anything that has to be imported in will be significantly higher in price, so it’s not a great place to be picky about having real milk versus UHT or powdered milk unless you don’t mind literally paying the price for it. Hotels can be found for cheaper than other islands and guesthouses still provide the best authentic island experience. There are an abundance of fantastic snorkelling and diving opportunities as well as hiking, caving and other various outdoor things to do. Make sure to make time for the markets in Rarotonga – they are a real treat.

Kiribati

This is the string of islands to head to if you’re truly on a budget. Significantly less developed than its regional neighbours Kiribati is poorer but ever so friendly. Visitors will have to expect lower quality accommodations but will be rewarded with their patience by not having their bank accounts ruptured by the end of their stay. Kiritimati (Christmas Island) is the most developed island in Kiribati, and also has the world’s largest coral atoll, a huge tourist draw. Ultimately Kiribati has probably the most “local” vibe in the region due to its significant lesser development so if you want a real taste of island life, this is the area for you.

There you have three island chains in Polynesia for different budgets and tastes. With so much land to cover and so many islands to check out it’s easy to see why Polynesia conjures up images of dreamy getaways and luscious days spent on the sand amid turquoise waters.

African Islands You Need To Visit Now

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For many travellers to Africa, the choices tend to be between the islands or sub-Saharan regions. South Africa continues to be a huge attraction for travellers of all level of experience and age due to its huge booming tourist industry, but what about those who aren’t sure where to go and want something a bit different in terms of island options? Read ahead for some great suggestions for islands that people don’t usually pick for their African getaway.

Zanzibar

This is a bit of a curious one – it’s both popular, and yet not. During the high season it does attract visitors but never seems to have huge amounts of people, especially in more local village resorts than he big gated resorts. Zanzibar is located off the coast of Tanzania and is home to numerous types of spice plantations as well as huge amounts of white, sand beaches that rival those elsewhere in the world. Be sure to check out the snorkelling – especially off the north eastern coast where trips to a private island’s reef can be arranged (you can’t set foot on the island, though). The reef is impressive and offers huge arrays of gorgeous fish. For more local experiences, stick to the smaller resorts. For parties head to the town of Nungwe on the north coast. For chilled beach scene and parties check out Kendwa on the west coast.

Reunion

While technically an overseas French territory, Reunion Island is located off the coast of Madagascar and not very far from Mauritius. It’s relatively unexplored by tourists but offers those who make the trip some truly unspoilt beauty and natural scenery. Covered by mountains and lush forests, Reunion Island is truly a unique paradise that will leave you wanting more. Dotted with waterfalls, beaches, and amazing hiking trails along with volcanoes, Reunion is not just an adventure lover’s paradise but also an outdoor lover’s ideal place to visit. The food has been influenced in such a way that it has a large amount of French, African and Indian dishes available. Some can be spicy, but not terrifically so, but be sure to check if you have a spice sensitivity.

Madagascar

Madagascar is a large and beautiful country off the east coast of mainland Africa. This unique region was first settled between 300BC and 500AD by Bornean migrants and then by Bantu migrants from the mainland later. The general isolation of the island means that it’s home to plant and animal life, most of which is not found anywhere else on the planet. Due to the location, Madagascar has been settled by an interesting collection over time, which have all added their individual tastes and takes on clothing and dishes, so it’s a really unique place to head to in order to enjoy a culture you won’t find elsewhere.

There you have a couple of lesser visited islands of Africa and why you should definitely consider them on your next trip to the region. With so many to choose from it can be difficult to pick the one that’s right for your tastes but each is filled with so many wonderful things it makes it even harder to pick one! So pack your bags – Africa is waiting for you.

A Morocco Run Down – Where To Check Out

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When you think of Africa, many people think about rich, lush forests filled with gorillas or the Serengeti Plains where you can watch giraffes run free against a setting sun. While these images are certainly iconic to the overall image of the African continent, there is a whole other layer of Africa that many people don’t think to explore. Saharan Africa is some of the most wonderful and unique regions of the world allowing visitors a look at real Middle Eastern culture without having to travel to the Middle East. So which country should you check out? Read ahead to learn more about Morocco and why it’s the best Saharan African country for travellers of all levels of experience.

Morocco – An Overview

Morocco is a coastal country nestled in the northwest corner of Africa, bordering Algeria as well as contested Western Sahara, which borders Mauritania. Morocco is home to the Atlas Mountain range which is a vast series of gorgeous mountains and foothills that stretches through much of central Morocco. The coastlines of the Mediterranean to the north and the Atlantic to the west have a curious collection of villages and towns which offer respite from the heat of the interior. As a majority Muslim nation, mosques are found throughout – often a beautiful and picturesque image of an oasis town with towering minaret jutting from date palms amid the rocky and unforgiving craggy cliffs of the Atlas.

The Cities – Fes and Marrakech

The two most popular cities of Morocco are Fes and Marrakech – still somewhat rivals in their fight to be top dog among travellers, but each with their own unique things to see and do. Fes is well known for its intricate network of alleys and streets that crisscross each other tightly, adding to the ambience of the city. Be sure to check out the leather tannery – where men work in the hot sun beating and dying animal skins to create the leather that Fes is famous for. In Marrakech, the Jema el Fnaa square adjacent to their network of tightly packed souk markets is the place to be at nightfall when the residents all congregate for night markets and alfresco dining. In both cities be sure to seek out traditional hamamms – steam baths and subsequent body scrubs that leave you squeaky clean.

Further Afield

Morocco is also home to a number of towns and villages that offer up unique experiences and fantastic beaches. Essouira in the southwest is a great beach town that has a bustling network of markets and was the filming location for part of Game of Thrones. Chefchaouen in the north is known for its walls and buildings painted blue hues – a unique and interesting town to visit for many who also want to get away from the heat of the bigger cities for a while.

There you have a quick rundown on Morocco – easily one of the most unique and enjoyable as well as welcoming countries in all of Africa not just the Saharan region. So pack your bags and take advantage of this opportunity to get a taste of the Middle East without having to travel there.

Sri Lanka For The Adventurous

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For any travellers to Asia, you may wonder what country offers up unprecedented levels of things to see and do with a bit of an adventurous twist. You’re in luck – Sri Lanka offers all this and more and all of it with a huge undercurrent of adventure. Located off the south eastern coast of India, Sri Lanka is a well-placed country to also access the continent of India, so for travellers on longer trips, doing both in one go is a great idea. So what is there to see and do in Sri Lanka for adventure lovers? Read ahead.

Canyoning

Canyoning is one of the ultimate ways to see a country, literally getting down and dirty in the vast gorges and canyons that make up the countryside and beyond. Sri Lanka is awash with gorgeous hills and mountainous scenery, ideal for finding opportunities for canyoning. Canyoning, for those who don’t know the term is a way of traversing through a canyon that may include abseiling, walking, climbing, scrambling, and even swimming in order to get from A to B. It’s a highly enjoyable and challenging way to spend a day, and in Sri Lanka, many companies offer this as a form of adventure tour.

Climbing

With so many rocky outcrops and mountainous regions throughout the country, it only stands to reason that climbing – in all its forms – is another highly enjoyed activity throughout the countryside. Sigiriya – the famous rock and former royal palace – is a prime example of some of the climbing you can do that doesn’t involve needing equipment and is one of the ‘must do’ things in Sri Lanka. The view from the top of the rock is not only commanding and impressive, but it’s historically rich in culture. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sigiriya is home to not just the palace ruins but also a network of gardens as well as fresco paintings that date back over a thousand years.

Safaris

It’s true – Safaris aren’t just for Africa anymore! Sri Lanka is home to herds of wild elephants and other animals which can be safely and enjoyably viewed from the experience of a safari. There are numerous safaris that are available, not all of which include seeing animals exclusively. Village safaris to meet the local people are wildly popular as are river and boating safaris to see specifically water based wildlife. Safaris can be booked in a number of places across the country and they are a primarily exceptional way to get out and get up close and personal with the wildlife and nature of Sri Lanka. Definitely don’t come here without joining a safari of some kind. Village safaris can be particularly enjoyable where you can see how the local people live and work and interact with them personally and meaningfully.

So there you have a quick rundown on Sri Lanka for the adventurous spirit. There has never been a better time to check out this unique and beautiful country, and with so many things to see and do, including great outdoor activities mentioned above it’s easy to see why this country is fast becoming a go-to for many.

Israeli Travel Guide For First Timers


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When most people think of Israel, they think of conflict these days. An unfortunate result of the developments in the area over the last few decades, but this shouldn’t stop you from considering a trip to the region. Israel is full of so many amazing sights and locations with important historical and religious significance. Not only that, it’s absolutely stunning and offers up not just hilly and gorgeous hiking options, but a long stretch of coastline. Check out the rest of this article for a quick rundown on Israel and what you shouldn’t miss while there.

 

Golan Heights and Galilee

This unique area in the north of the country is  home to some impressive highland areas and is really of the traditional tourist trail. The area of the Golan Heights is an occupied territory by Israel since 1981 when it claimed it from Syria in the Six Day War. Ever since, Syrians were driven away and Israelis settled the lands. It’s remote, and hitching is sometimes the only way to get around, but you’re rewarded for your efforts with some stunning natural scenery including waterfalls, mountains, streams, and old ruined Byzantine monasteries and churches. The Galilee region is likewise beautiful and home to the Sea of Galilee as well as mountains and hills and is an ideal place for hiking if the Golan Heights area is a bit too close to the Syrian border for your liking.

 

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is one of  the most vibrant, bustling cities in the Middle East and for good reason. It has a fantastic mix of old meets new and east meets west all within its city limits. It’s known for a laid back, enjoyable beach culture – of which there are a number of well maintained beaches with chair side snack and drink service. For a look at ancient Tel Aviv, hit up the small area of Jaffa to the south of the modern city, an area which is purported to have been inhabited since 7500 BC. Be sure to check out the markets throughout the city as well – some of which have been on sites of old ancient markets for thousands of years.

 

Visas

Now that we mentioned a bit about what you should see, time to talk visas. Israel is a bit… special… in terms of its visa situation. If you try to visit Arabic countries after having visited Israel and you have the stamps in your passport, expect to be denied entry. In this sense to help promote tourism without people having to choose between Israel and Arab nations, Israeli immigration has implemented a system where they stamp an alternate piece of paper that you must keep with you for the duration of your trip through the country and then discard once you leave. This will then appear that you have never been to Israel at all.

So there you have a couple of great spots to check out on any visit to Israel you may find yourself on. This is truly one of the gems of the Middle East, so make sure not to miss it!

Gems Of Jordan Not To Miss

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Almost everyone who travels as a serious hobby or for work will tell you that it’s their dream to go to a Middle Eastern country. Sadly with all the conflict that goes off in the Middle East, many people are hesitant to check it out, but some countries are as safe as can be and welcoming to boot. One such country is Jordan – an absolute jewel of the region, home of a number of stunning natural wonders, ancient villages and wonderful weather. Read ahead for three things you have to see in Jordan.

Petra

This is a given for anyone visiting Jordan. Located in Jordan’s southwestern desert, this ancient city was the capital city of the Nabatean Kingdom and is a series of buildings carved out of cliff faces. Due to the fact they have been carved right out of the cliffs themselves, the entire city takes on a rose gold coloured hue which has given Petra the nickname “the Rose City”. Many people are mistaken in believing the huge facade known as the Treasury is the sole attraction in Petra, but Petra is actually the entire city which can be explored. You can also head off into the bush on a tour with locals for some really unique views.

 

Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum is a huge swathe of gorgeous desert comprised of cliffs and rock formations in the deep south of Jordan near the border with Saudi Arabia. It’s a protected wilderness region and is home to numerous ancient rock carvings in the various formations found throughout this vast expanse of desert. Sunset and sunrise are particularly impressive in Wadi Rum, with the hills and rock formations almost coming to life in deep hues of reds and oranges. For a truly unique experience, take a hot air balloon tour of the region and be left breathless at the commanding views.

 

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is a highly salty body of water that sits between Israel and Jordan and is a popular site for holidaymakers, sun seekers and more who come for the seas healing properties. The Dead Sea is world renowned for its intense mineral properties as well as being the world’s lowest point on dry land. It’s a beautiful region with many oases and small villages dotted around and the swimming is enjoyable with the hyper salinity of the sea making it easy to float in the water. Regardless of the other things you have planned for Jordan, the Dead Sea with its history and significance to the area is an important and unforgettable place to go. Make sure you pick up some of the local Dead Sea Mineral products before you leave to take a bit of the miraculous sea home with you.

 

So there you have the top areas you should check out on any trip to Jordan. On top of this there’s also the extreme southern coast of Aqaba and the city of Amman which is worth a visit as well. It’s easy to see why Jordan continues to impress and delight travellers to the region time and again.

Things Locals Are Better At Telling You


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It’s inevitable – you touch down in some uncharted country and you’re ready to hit the streets exploring, but first, where’s your hotel? What’s the best way to get there – and what is a fair price? These are the questions that you start wondering and undoubtedly you’re going to get taken for a ride – both literally and figuratively – more than once in your travelling, so it’s always a great idea to get details right from the horse’s mouth. So what are some examples of things you should ask locals about? Read ahead for the top questions locals in many countries get posed and why.

How Much Is A Taxi To X Location?

Possibly the most common and most useful of all the questions that could be posed to a local. Determining the price of a taxi to any location will help you understand what the real price is and not the conveniently higher foreigner price that you will encounter in many countries – unless you question or fight it. Knowing in advance will help you determine when you’re being taken advantage of, and will help you be able to combat it.

Where Can I Get A SIM Card?

Another common question locals will be able to answer. Unlike in the UK where you can get almost any SIM you want from the checkout lane at Tesco, abroad it can be much harder to figure out. You may need to get a SIM from an actual phone company or may be able to pick it up from a roadside convenience shop. They may also range drastically in price, so asking a local what the best option is can be a great idea.

How Much Is a Bus to X Location? How Long?

This is another really important pair of questions to ask locals. Not only will they know how much a bus ticket to a location will cost, but they will know how long it should take as well. These are both important because often some people will try to take advantage of foreigners and charge a higher price for bus tickets that should be cheaper. Alternatively they may also take advantage of foreigners with transfers – claiming you need to purchase a transfer or additional portion of your trip through them. Know what you’re buying in advance and ask locals who will know. Very often it’s a business or individual trying to take advantage of foreigner ignorance as to what the actual case is.

Which Dish Do You Recommend?

Another great suggestion on questions to ask locals. Dishes the locals are eating are usually the best dishes to opt for in your culinary travels as they will provide you the most authentic opportunities to try dishes that only the locals are eating or that the locals highly recommend rather than the standard dishes everyone seems to have the world over.

There you have a couple of great questions you should ask the locals the next time you find yourself in a foreign country. Always remember that the locals have their ear to the ground, so they will be able to help you the best – aside from expats who have been in country for an extended period of time.

New European Hot Spots – The Word Is Out

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When you hear the word ‘Europe’ you automatically think of places like London, Paris, Berlin or Rome. Many people would think immediately of the very discovered locations across the continent that have become more discovered as time has gone on and travel has become more and more available to everyone, not just the very well off. So how can you catch a slice of undiscovered Europe when it feels like every inch has been traversed by tourists time and again? Check out these top three undiscovered gems of Europe.

Slovenia

Slovenia is fast becoming one of the next hottest European destinations for those looking for something other than another photo of Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower or the Arc d’Triomphe. With amazing natural scenery including Lake Bled – an impressive alpine lake with picturesque island and castle in the middle of the water – the Julian Alps, caves throughout, impressive Mediterranean coastline and gorgeous valleys such as the Savinja and Salek Valley. The capital city, Ljubljana is a welcoming, beautiful city with a perfect town centre that is primarily pedestrianised, making it easy for travellers to get around by foot. Enjoy one of many backpacker friendly bars or cafes in the centre, and wonder for yourself why more people don’t come to this unique gem of Europe.

Albania

Word is out – Albania is in. This formerly very closed off country has in recent years started to develop a booming tourist infrastructure with many hotels and restaurants popping up all over the place. The typical tourist trail includes Tirana, the capital city, along with the coastal cities of Vlore and Sarande. Don’t miss Ksamil – an area that gives the Caribbean a run for its money in terms of beaches and beauty. For a more alpine experience, head inland to lake Ohrid on the border with Macedonia. This large lake offers some pristine imagery and opportunities for hiking, swimming and boating in the summer for the nature lover. Add to this that Albania enjoys beautiful weather for a large majority of the year, including a summer that sees temperatures still into the 20s into November, along with easily affordable hotels and restaurants, so it’s a budget lover’s dream come true!

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)

This part of the Balkans is an impressive, landlocked country north of Greece and borders the other Balkan nations of Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania. The countryside itself is beautiful, dotted with churches and villages and general natural beauty in the form of hills, plains and valleys. Lake Ohrid is arguably one of the most beautiful locations in the country and is one of the highest rated tourist attractions. This is the same Lake Ohrid as mentioned under Albania – and both sides are stunning and worth a visit, but be warned that the tourist aspect makes at least FYROM’s Ohrid more expensive than other places in the country.

There you have three untouched, undiscovered gems of Europe that are usually not on many people’s hit lists for checking out when they’re in the area. To really shock your friends and family with amazing travel stories, check them out while they’re still unique and charming, before mass tourism makes them another common theme you hear about.

Eastern Europe Spots Not To Miss

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When you say the words ‘Eastern Europe’, images come to mind of Soviet-era blocks of apartments, grey, dull weather, bland food and intimidating police on every street corner. While the blocks of apartments may be true, the rest couldn’t be further from the truth. Eastern Europe is awash with amazing natural and architectural beauty, and is indeed one of the last relatively untouched places in the continent. Here are the top Eastern European destinations for you to check out before they become overrun with tourists and change forever.

Ukraine

The country of Ukraine has gotten some bad press in recent years in part to the Eastern Ukraine conflict with Russia, particularly in Donetsk region as well as in Crimea. Anyone thinking about heading to Ukraine shouldn’t be put off by any of the conflicts happening in the east or in Crimea. The west and north west areas around Kyiv and L’viv are perfectly safe, welcoming and friendly. The food in Ukraine is to die for – flavourful, varied and enjoyable. Typical fare includes meat or potato stuffed dumplings known as Vareneky, rice and meat stuffed cabbage leaves with tomato sauce (Holuptsi) and a lot of things that are deliciously flavoured with dill and garlic. The cities are very European in architecture and layout and are bustling with many bars, vibrant nightlife and great local beers. If going to Eastern Europe, Ukraine is a do not miss.

Romania

Romania is a large, beautiful and mysterious country with some spooky stories and history. Home to Transylvania, the believed home of Vlad Dracula, mythical vampire king, the countryside of Romania is stunning and rugged with many mountainous and hilly regions dotted with small terracotta coloured villages and is bordered by five other countries – Ukraine, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Moldova. The countryside is some of the most beautiful in the region, with towering, snow topped mountains giving way into lush valleys of green. For a beach experience, Romania has some impressive beaches on the Black Sea coast, where many Romanian holidaymakers head for the summer to cool off in the Black Sea. Be sure to visit Dracula’s castle located near Brasov for a really unique experience.

Bulgaria

This lesser visited country boasts some impressive coastline along the Black Sea as well as some of Europe’s prettiest cities. Plovdiv, an artsy backpacker city located in the centre of Bulgaria is a great, chilled out spot for people who like to hang out, meet other travellers and sample the local beers and food. Varna, on the Black Sea coast is Bulgaria’s answer to the traveller dream – bustling nightlife, impressive beaches, and great shops and restaurants all on the waterfront.

There you have three locations in Eastern Europe that you must check out when you’re in the area. These three in particular are also located all along the same region, making them easy to visit as a trip altogether. You won’t be disappointed by Eastern Europe – with so much to explore, and much of it untouched, you will find a whole other world on the east side of the continent.

Short Japan Travel Guide

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For many travellers, thoughts of their ideal, dream trip are always something they talk about, even if it’s just once or twice a month. Japan always seems to be high on dream travel lists, and for good reason. With so many unique and colourful exports through anime and video gaming along with food and general culture, Japan has found its way into the hearts of many in the West, generating an innate desire to go and experience this wonderfully strange and fun country. Here is a quick travel guide for those looking to head to Japan, especially if it’s their first time.

Getting To Japan and Getting Around

Undoubtedly, getting to Japan is fairly straightforward, regardless of where you’re coming from. Tokyo, the capital city is well serviced by primarily national carriers of other countries throughout the world and so flights are easy to find throughout the world to Japan. Once in Japan though, where should you go? There are a number of amazing, unique areas within the country which you can travel to either by train or air, with train being one of the more popular options. The islands are Hokkaido to the north, Honshu, on which Tokyo is located, Shikoku and Kyushu. Kyushu is the southernmost island and enjoys somewhat tropical, much warmer weather than other islands, especially Hokkaido where it’s not uncommon to be able to ski still late into the season. In order to access some of the more outlying islands quickly, air travel is recommended. Everywhere else though, trains are common and an enjoyable experience, especially the bullet train (Shinkansen) which can get you to and from different towns and cities in record time.

While train travel can be relatively expensive in Japan, the best option is to purchase a JR (Japan Railway) train pass in advance of your trip. These can be purchased online with options for different periods of time (ie: three weeks) and are all you can travel for the specific period of time. They are only available to visitors and you must purchase the exchange document online, which you then trade in once in Japan for the actual rail pass. Passes are not valid on some lines, so check before travelling.

Accommodation

Accommodation in Japan can likewise be fairly expensive, depending on where you are. Hostel rooms can be higher than those in Europe slightly, usually around $30 per night, but may be more in the centre of major cities like Tokyo. Avoid hotels unless you have a larger budget as many start from around $70 a night. Air Bnb’s have grown in popularity, so if you are travelling with friends in a group it will probably work out cheaper per person to rent a full home with the ability to cook some of your own meals as well with the added benefit of having privacy, rather than all paying for hostel beds.

Things To See and Do

Japan is awash with amazing cultural and historic things to see and do and you will be hard pressed to find time to be “bored” in Japan. Depending on your individual tastes and preferences, Japan has a huge ancient culture to explore including traditional onsen experiences, the bath house experience with the hot natural pools, tatami mats, tea ceremonies and calligraphy. This is a must do for anyone coming to Japan, especially if you don’t have a lot of time but want the ultimate cultural experience. Sightseeing through temples, gardens and the mountains of Japan is likewise a must do. If you’re a fan of the traditions and culture surrounding Japan’s cherry blossom season, plan your trip in the spring to coincide with the blossoming season and be sure to take part in the tradition of Hanami or Yozakura – dining under the cherry blossoms by day or night, respectively. For a true Japanese treat, head to Mount Fuji for some impressive natural beauty.

There you have a quick travel guide for first timers to Japan. With so much to see and do in this relatively small country, it’s easy to see why this continues to delight travellers time after time.