Frederik Dawson Netherlands - 20-04-2017
When I planned to visit Carcassonne, I made sure that our group must stop at the highway rest area outside the city to see the famous view of the medieval fortifications, and when I saw it, I was really pleased that the first view of this World Heritage Site was indeed impressive and deserved its famed reputation as one of the best walled cities in the world. My friends and I decided to stay at Carcassonne for one night, at first we were in dilemma between stay in the old city or in the newer area, at the end we decided to book an apartment in the new city but within short distance to the old quarter.
The view of city wall together with its old Pont Vieux from Pont Nerf was really amazing. From here we could see that the fortifications were actually really complex in design which different from other famous walled cities like Avila and Dubrovnik which have almost similar pattern on the whole system. Its complexity reminded me Segovia’s Alcazar, but Carcassonne was much bigger and grander. One of the thing that made Carcassonne looked even more special was its conical witch hat roofs on its many towers, again similar to Segovia’s Alcazar. While these creations of Viollet le Duc were controversial, they really made the fortifications more interesting and has visual impact more than other city walls. After we admire the outside fortifications, we walked to see inside. The pathway from the new town to the city gate of Porte d’Aude in the western side was quite steep and looked dangerously slippery after raining, but really beautiful. When we were inside the old city, we were quite surprised that the city was quite lovely than we expected. I noticed that the city must be full of tourist shops, but because we visited on low season, only few shops were still opened. Then we looked around the city to find a recommended restaurant to try the famous Cassoulet, a local dish of white bean and pork stew which was really nice for cold winter. We walked to the eastern side of fortifications, these side was quite different from the western side. While the western fortification was built on steep hill, the eastern side seem to be built on the normal level ground which required a large ditch and ramparts for better protection especially around the city gate of Porte Narbonnaise. We decided not to walk on the wall, as we believed that it is much better to see from the ground level, also Chateau Comtal which was the center of all fortifications were closed for renovation during our visit.
We were in the old city until sunset and walked back to our apartment, Carcassonne at night time was also stunning especially when looking from Pont Vieux, but the spooky atmosphere around Porte d’Aude was really something. In my opinion Carcassonne was a very nice example of European medieval town and really fine World Heritage Site. Its fortification are really great in terms of size and design. While the old city itself was a bit too small than my original thought, I still really enjoyed my time in Carcassonne.
Chris W. Netherlands - 19-04-2017
I visited the Caves of Maresha and Bet Guvrin the day after I arrived in Israel. The flights from the Netherlands arrive passed midnight and the next day i drove from the airport to Jerusalem but first visited the Caves of Maresha and Bet Guvrin.
It's a nice park; and best to go around by car. The Roman parts are outside the park and free to visit. In the park there are 4 places to park the car and see the caves around there.
It looks small if you're at the entrace, but once you go underground some complexes are very big. I really enjoyed my visit. Do take a pick nick lunch! Lots of places to eat but not much available in the park.
Recommend to go from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem; easily reached in a day by car. Photo's see the link below.
nan Germany - 15-04-2017
On my last day in Sofia, I went to Boyana Church. It’s a small church with very nice frescos on the outskirts of Sofia facing the mountains. The original church built in the 10th century was extended repeatedly. Repeatedly new layers of frescos were added atop of the previous frescos. The key frescos of the church are from the 12th century. Interestingly, you can see the different layers at some spots in the church due to missing parts.
The visit itself is rather quick. It’s a tiny site and I would be surprised if you spend more than 30min here.
On my way up I took a tram (#4 or #5, same line you need to go to the bus stop for Rila). From the closest station I simply walked to the church (30min or so). On my way back I took bus #64, but I don’t think it takes you fully into town.
While You Are There
Sofia isn’t a beauty, not even a sleeping one. It’s a bit surprising considering the long history of the city. I did appreciate the Roman ruins and the Sweta Sophia, an early Christian church (4th-5th century).
Boyana Church itself is a good starting point for hiking into the mountains. You can follow the Boyana Cascades up, but it’s quite a climb and partially a very rough trail.
nan Germany - 15-04-2017
Late antiquity, the rise of Christianity and the early Byzantine empire are periods of history I have grown fond of. When you come from a site like the Pantheon in Rome or Diocletian’s palace in Split and go to a church like San Vitale in Ravenna, you actually see the epic change that took place in late antiquity. Thessaloniki is part of the transition and you will find plenty of sites from the late Roman (300 CE) period as well as early Byzantine period.
Thessaloniki functioned as my hub during my exploration of the Northern Greek WHS. So most of the site seeing was done at late hours and I did not manage to see all I had set out to visit. But possibly due to the upcoming Easter holiday, church services were held mostly in the evenings allowing me to sneak into most. Of the churches I found St Demetrios the most impressive. Also the tiny chapels gave a good impression of early Christianity.
Comparatively, though, Thessaloniki is a bit underwhelming. To me Ravenna offers the better early Byzantine churches. I also found the paleo Christian sites in Italy more appealing (e.g. St Ambrosius in Milan, not a WHS). And the ruins scattered across the city are similar to a site like Merida in Spain. I did wonder why the Roman forum and the palace of Galerius are not included.
Generally, I approve of the reduced scope of the inscription. Sure, Thessaloniki has a nice coast line, but the city itself isn’t nice, featuring primarily Mediterranean concrete appartment blocks. It’s really only about the sites themselves.
Thessaloniki has it’s own hotspot. Aigai, Philippi and the city itself are easy. Meteora is straightforward, too, but it’s a long, possibly very early, but certainly very rewarding day trip. Mount Athos meanwhile could be difficult to do in a day by public transport. And it doesn’t really make sense anyhow if you can get a permit. Finally, Pirin seems impossible, taking into account that you need to cross the border. Twice. And getting into the park isn’t all that straightforward.
The train station is within walking distance of the city center, albeit due to the ongoing construction work for the new metro it’s a bit more complicated. The main bus station for all destinations other than Ouranoupoulis is in the North and well connected via bus line #8. For Ouranoupolis you have to go to the Southern terminal, the easiest option being a cab.
For some strange reason the hotels are regularly fully booked over weekends. I normally book really late and rarely had any issues with this approach. In Thessaloniki it cost me dearly. In the end I was just happy to find a room. My recommendation would be to skip Thessaloniki over the weekend or to reserve well in advance.
nan Germany - 15-04-2017
Rila Monastery is a nice day trip from Sofia taking you into the mountains where you will find a colorful monastery. It does feel special and I can’t quite fathom the bad evaluation it got by Unesco.
The site spans multiple locations with the monastery in the center. If you want to see the other parts you will have to do some hiking (or bring a car). For your efforts you will be rewarded with nice nature and mountain views.
It took me 1:15h to make it to Saint Ivan’s cave. On my way up I wasn’t able to spot the start of the trail and walked along the road. The sign posting leaves much to be desired; it’s also mostly in Bulgarian. From the cave it’s quite straightforward following the trail back, though. But the trails were still rather rough. I assume they will do some maintenance before the hiking season starts in earnest. Given the ubiquity of camping sites and barbecue areas I would guess the area is rather popular in summer.
There are daily busses from Sofia departing the western bus station Ovcha Kupel (Tram Line #5) at 10:20h. Tickets are bought on the bus and cost around 6€ one way. Be advised that the bus may be crowded. So if you prefer to have a seat for the next three hours of bus ride, it’s best to queue early.
The return by direct bus is already at 15:00h, giving you a less than two hour time window. Enough, if all you want to see is the monastery itself, get a coffee afterwards and get in line early again for your seat. Too little if you actually want to hike to the cave which I would recommend.
I returned with the bus at 17:00h to Dupniza. From there half hourly busses run back to Sofia. This connection isn’t even much slower than the direct bus clocking in around 3h. The direct bus makes a lot of stops and does a 15min break in Rila. Not really tourist friendly.
If you are travelling onwards to Bansko (Pirin) or Thessaloniki you may want to consider staying in Blagoewgrad. There is a 7:00h and a 12:00h bus to the monastery and it saves you some time as you don’t need to go back and forth to Sofia twice. I skipped on this option as I was eager to get to Sofia and wasn’t sure what to do about my luggage. Some German travellers I met asked around in the monastery and had their luggage stored with the security of the monastery, probably for a tip.
For current bus schedules please check the monasteries site.
nan Germany - 13-04-2017
Who could have known that a skiing region would still be snow covered in Mid-April? Apparently everyone but me and two Spaniards, because we were the only ones hiking in Pirin National Park that day.
The trails were covered by snow and hard to find. It was quite a strenuous effort just getting to Vihren hut which normally would be the start pointing for a proper exploration of the park. And it took me 30min just figuring out where the trail actually started. On the upside it was a pleasure hiking in the snow covered landscape for myself.
I get Solivagant’s comment about the OUV of the site. If this is inscribed, every second mountain valley in Switzerland should be on the list. But well, it was a nice contrast to the sunny coast in Greece.
Bansko is well connected by bus. As stated in my Philippi review you can also travel onwards to Kavala in Greece. The train connection sounds fantastic, but is very time consuming. Also the schedule didn’t work out for me. Bansko in general is fairly pleasurable as skiing resort towns go.
To get into the National Park from Bansko you can take the cable car. It seems it also operates during summer months for hikers. You will be in the park, but in the ominous buffer zone due to the area being developed for skiing. From there you can hike on to the huts. Banderitsa is the first hut and Vihren the next one. Both are in the core zone as far as I could tell. From Vihren you have multiple options to hike on. Unless you arrive during snow season.
When to Go
If you want to hike, April is still too early. I would wait till May or June. Solivagant seems to imply that even June is too early.
nan Germany - 13-04-2017
Philippi has a spot in the history books for two reasons. First, it was on the fields of Philippi that the Roman Republic ended when the final battle was lost to forces of Octavian and Markus Antonius. Then, it’s listed in the bible as the place Christianity came to Europe. Both events show in the ruins of Philippi. The city was remodelled by Octavian. And several early Christian churches were built here. Both have left there mark in the ruins you will get to see here.
I spend roughly 1.5h on site which includes a nice museum. And while these ruins are great, Greece already has many sites listed from the period. I do wonder how many more Greek ruins should be inscribed?
Coming in from Thessaloniki I followed Stanislaw’s description and it worked to a point. There are regular busses (normal, express) running more or less hourly from the main bus station in Thessaloniki to Kavala (2-2.5h). As far as I could tell the first bus runs at 8 a.m.
From Kavala jump on any bus to Drama and get off at Krinides. Important: There is also a town named Philippi, but the archeological site is in Krinides.
From Philippi you could connect eastwards towards Turkey. As much as I want to see the Hagia Sophia, given the current political situation I did not invest any time in researching this option.
Another interesting option is going North to Banska for Pirin National Park. There is one mini bus each day at 4 p.m. from Kavala Bus Station via Drama. I found this one at rome2rio.com and confirmed it here with a little help from google translate. The bus also goes the other way. Tickets are bought at the Kavala bus station.
If you are continuing onwards you can leave the luggage at the post office at the bus station. Just ask them. It’s not really a locker, more a place where they hopefully watch for your luggage and you tip them for it.
While You Are There
Again, following Stanislaw’s comments: You should spend some time in the old town of Kavala. It’s fairly nice with an aqueduct, an acropolis and views of Thassos. It’s also a nice distraction from the concrete jungle that is Thessaloniki. While I don’t feel it must be Kavala, I do feel a nice Ottoman city would be a good addition to the Greek list.
Frederik Dawson Netherlands - 12-04-2017
When our car crossed Pont de Pierre and we saw the whole skyline with the long row of stately buildings along the Garronne and Porte de Bourgogne at the end of the bridge was like a symbolic city gate, Bordeaux welcomed us with its really grand appearance. This was my second time I visited Bordeaux, but last time I travel by train and did not have a chance to see this fantastic view. After hotel check in, we drove our car to see the city, the traffic was really bad as there were many junctions and the new tram system also added more traffic lights. Bordeaux’s city center was like little Latin Quartier of Paris with many fine buildings, nice but nothing remarkable.
In my opinion the only part of the city that made Bordeaux stunning is the riverside, all the beaux art buildings seem to be transported from Paris grand boulevards of Baron Haussmann. The crescent shape of the riverside made the whole view of these buildings more magnificent and looked endless. We decided to park our car near Place des Quinconces that unfortunately closed for preparation of city festival. We walked to see the famous Place de la Bourse, the square was indeed very grand and the best sight of Bordeaux. The riverside terrace was a popular place for evening exercise, I saw many joggers, cyclists and many safety patrols. Flèche Saint-Michel, the gothic tower of Basilica of Saint Michael was a landmark dominating the southern part of Bordeaux while the twin towers of St Louis des Chartrons Church marked the nice visual landmark of the northern part. To our big disappointment, the much photographed Le Miroir d’eau, the modern fountains and pool that create the water reflection view of Place de la Bourse were not opened and the pool was dried. Then we walked around Place du Parlement to find a place for food. After lovely dinner, we walked back to Place de la Bourse to see the beautiful night view of the whole riverside buildings before we backed to our hotel. In the morning we went to see Place de la Victoire for another city gate, Porte d’Aquitane and Marche des Capucines, the big market hall to see many local fresh products and Bordelais lifestyle. Before we departed the city to Poitier.
Even though Bordeaux is a great city and beautiful, I did not see anything remarkable as in my opinion the city was like a small copy of Paris. Even its skyline was strikingly similar with Parisian skyline height control. But again compared to other big regional cities in France, like Toulouse, Lyon and Marseilles, Bordeaux really look different for its grand and prosperous appearance of beaux art riverside. Since World Heritage Site of Paris is only limited to the Seine Riverside and excluded many grand beaux art avenues i.e. the famous Champ-Elysees or Boulevard des Capucines, then the grand buildings along the quay of Bordeaux and its city center seem to be unique indeed at least among current UNESCO's list.
nan Germany - 12-04-2017
For those who have been to Meteora before, it may come as a surprise: It wasn’t that high on my list. Indeed, my original plan had been to skip it entirely. But then several factors (Mount Athos permit being granted, my flight being rescheduled and my family having a get together) forced me to redo my schedule with one day to spare for going to Meteora. Lucky me. Because apart from saving money on the flight home I got to take in this great site. It truly ranks with the best.
Of the six monasteries I visited three: St Nicholas, Rousanou and Varlaam. Great Meteora was closed for the day, but I made my way to the gate and viewpoint. The highlight, though, was hiking up the mountains and taking in the stunning views of monasteries and landscape.
It’s true that the big monasteries are overrun with tour groups. The area you can visit per monastery is quite limited and a few busloads will quickly bog down all traffic. In one case a tour guide felt the need to do a lecture in a tiny chapel blocking all ins and outs. A better crowd management would come in handy. Luckily, the bus loads don’t visit all monasteries. They are limited to those offering proper parking. As a consequence, the smaller ones are more relaxed.
My personal highlight was Saint Nicholas as you got to see more of the inside rooms than elsewhere. It’s the lowest one and the first one you will pass when you hike up.
VisitMeteora.travel has mostly up to date information on all possible connections. Mostly, as my return bus ran 30min later than indicated. A few more points to add:
- Short connection times with the train are not a concern. The local train to Kalambaka will wait for the inter city trains. In Thessaloniki the ticket office opens really early, so no need to pick up the train ticket the day before.
- The bus station in Kalambaka is not at the train station, but closer to the town center. The town is dotted with maps and the bus station is well marked on these (front side Meteora, back side town). At the bus station you can also get the ticket from Trikala onwards to save yourself the hassle. The journey from Kalambaka to Trikala really takes 40min and the terminal there lies on the outskirts of town, but has sufficient amenities.
I would try to opt for the train connection. It’s faster and at least for Thessaloniki it drops you off in the city instead of the outskirts.
Finally, there seem to be plenty of tour operators offering day trips if you prefer things organized.
There is a bus that will take you up the mountain from the train station. Not sure about the schedule, but if this wasn’t Greece I would assume it’s aligned with the arrivals of trains. Personally, I just walked. It takes 1.5h up and 1h or so down. The views (and pictures) you will get by walking are stunning. Unfortunately, there is no dedicated hiking trail or even sidewalks for that matter. If you are short on time or stamina, you can take the bus up and walk down.
All monasteries have a dress modestly policy in place. Best to wear long trousers and a long armed shirt.
All monasteries close one day of the week. Check the schedule in advance if there is one you definitively want to see.
nan Germany - 11-04-2017
Not sure how and why, but I got in. As Ian can attest, I didn’t believe it would work out till I held my official permit (diamonitirion) in my hands and had boarded the ferry. And then it settled in, I did it!
Given Mount Athos’ restrictions on visitors, I was one of ten non Orthodox visitors that day. Albeit visitor is the wrong term as everybody is considered a pilgrim. Please bear that in mind when you travel there.
In addition 100 Orthodox Christians are allowed entry each day. At least that’s what is communicated officially. When I looked at the large crowd on my return ferry and the hard time I had to get a seat, I came to doubt, if they really stick to these numbers each and every day.
On Mount Athos I visited two major monasteries (Agiou Panteleimonos and Xeropotamou) and a skiti (Evaggelismos tis Theotokou). I hiked along the coast line taking in the gorgeous scenery and nature the monasteries are embedded in. Seeing Klaus brought it up, this is a mixed site and I feel deservedly so. I visited in spring and all flowers were in bloom. The trees coloured the mountain sides in a lush green. And the entry restrictions of the area serve as a perfect protection from the mass tourism found all along the Greek and Turkish coast.
I stayed overnight at the Russian monastery. It was undergoing heavy construction work and looks rather modern. The sheer size of it and the surprising number of balconies had me wondering if this acted as a winter resort for Russian monks. Being a monk must have its perks. Being woken at 3.30h for morning prayer wouldn’t be one of those, though.
Interestingly, the schedule was well aligned with the one I had to follow while staying at Haeinsa. Being a Buddhist or a Christian monk seems to come with similar requirements. And both seem to have a similar taste for exquisite sceneries.
On an educational level I found my temple stay in Haeinsa more interesting. The Russians treated me as a pilgrim providing food and shelter and allowing me to participate in the daily ceremonies. They did not provide any information. The Buddhists meanwhile went to great length to explain their ways and their faith.
The internet offers ample resources on the subject. What it boils down to is:
- Write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org specifying your date and if you are an Orthodox Christian or not. And yes, the pilgrim’s office uses a gmail address.
- If they say yes, send them a copy of your passport.
- Two weeks prior to your arrival, call them to confirm.
- On arrival to Ouranopoulis pick up your permit at the pilgrim’s office.
When you board the boat and each time you arrive at a monastery you plan to stay at, you will be asked for your permit, so keep it safe.
Getting a Monastery
With your stay confirmed by the pilgrim’s office, call the monasteries you want to stay at. Some use email, but most don’t. My Russian monastery was a nice distraction. Still, I would recommend staying in a more traditional Greek one. Lavra comes to mind being the most ancient one.
Please check that you can make it in time. At sunset all monasteries close their gate. Better to arrive in the afternoon.
Getting There (and Away)
Most pilgrims come in from Thessaloniki. The bus terminal (Halkidiki) connecting Ouranopoulis is well South of the city, quite close to the airport actually. You can check the schedule online. Be advised that the schedule differs for weekdays and weekends. Tickets can be bought directly at the bus terminal in cash. Get a return ticket. I would also recommend picking up some cash from the ATM in the bus terminal as you won’t get any in Mount Athos. The trip will take between 2.5h and 3h.
To get to Halkidiki, you are probably best off taking a cab (18€), because the bus terminal is badly connected via public transport. If you are opting for the early bus to Ouranopolis, you won’t have much choice anyhow. Meanwhile, on my way back I waited 45min for a bus to take me back into town that never materialized.
In Ouranopulis get off at the first stop. Pick up your permit and head to the ferry. The big ferries do not require a reservation, the fast ones do. Again, reservations need to be done by phone for the most part. Most ferries go to Daphni, but some do extra stops in between or continue onwards. Check the time plan and where your monastery is.
To get back I would recommend the 12:10h slow ferry. Tickets can be bought near the customs office in Daphni. It’s arrival in Ouranopolis is aligned with the bus for Thessaloniki. The added kicker is that it stops at several monasteries on the way, so you get a close look and picture opportunity on the way back. If possible get a seat facing the coast line.
Athos must be a hiker’s dream come true: Pristine landscape with no crowds and free dormitories. What is not to like? Well, seeing how few people actually hike on the peninsula, the trails are in bad shape. I actually fell pretty badly once. The sign posting leaves much to be desired. If you are serious about hiking, you will have to buy a proper map. And finally, outside Daphni and Karyes you will have a hard time getting provisions, so bring all you need. Apart from hiking you can also take mini busses from Daphni (reserve) or a ferry (reserve) to get from one monastery to another.
You can find plenty of resources on Athos online. Surprisingly in a sense, taking into account how many people are actually able to visit each year (less than 40.000).
If you aren’t lucky getting a permit or you happen to be female, one option is to do the cruise along the shore.
Finally, I am not sure this belongs in the Thessaloniki hotspot. While technically possible to do be done on a stressful day trip, you should stay overnight.
Luke LOU China - 11-04-2017
It is located in western Hubei, not easy to arrive here by bus or by train, it takes 3 or 4 hours from Yichang, the nearest big city. Tickets are very expensive, especially considering the poor service, not a good experience. Car hiring are highly recommended, and don't trust the local drivers easily.
Frederik Dawson Netherlands - 11-04-2017
When we planned the trip, my friends and I already expected that our visit to Saint Emilion must be not enjoyable because visiting in March, there is almost nothing in the vineyards, and because two of our group don’t drink alcohol, and one has to be a driver, so visiting chateaux for wine testing for just one person in the group seem to be pointless. Anyway we still kept Saint Emilion in our plan expecting good weather and great view from this medieval town; however, when we arrived the town, there was shower and it was really cold. We decided to look around the town which was quite prosperous and lovely but really quiet as all the shops were closed and no one came out in such bad weather. My friends also angrily cursed the expensive parking fee so that we decided to park our car outside the town.
We roamed around the wet and quiet town, luckily that the town was great. Many buildings were beautiful and many small alleys were really pretty with flower and ivy. We saw the famous monolithic church which was interesting and the Tour du Roy, an old tower, a really nice place for photograph where we could get a perfect view of the whole town. We went to a recommended spot to see the view of countless tiled roof which was really nice indeed. During our visit the only shop that still opened were the wine shops. When we looked inside, to our surprised most of customers were Chinese which made us understood why many shops had small Chinese flags and accepted Chinese credit card. Not only Chinese we also saw transaction services for Japanese and Korean. Seem to me that Asian market has become an important customer for Saint Emilion wine. Since we could not drink wine, or had a large meal as we wanted to have dinner in Bordeaux, we turn to another Saint Emilion’s speciality, the macaron. The macaron of Nadia Fermigier which claimed to be the original recipe was quite lovely to see as its packaging is quite interesting and the taste was really nice which they claimed go perfectly with Bordeaux wine. We even found out that its canelé was also amazing and far better than many famous bakeries in Bordeaux.
The worsen heavy rain made us decided to go back to our car, so we only spent 2 hours in this towns. Since we did not expecting anything from the visit, we were quite OK with Saint Emilion. The old town was nice but nothing special compared with other similar old towns in this region. Its viticulture were fine and its effect on economic was easily visible; however, since Saint Emilion AOC was one of the most expensive, I expected some fancy shops liked in Champagne cellars in Reims or Epernay, but everything seem to be a bit plain. Its outstanding value seem to be the odd “jurisdiction” which I don’t think it is an easy reason to comprehend. But since Saint Emilion is one of earliest World Heritage Sites that based on viticulture, its jurisdiction reason seem to make Saint Emilion easier to distinguish itself from other listed vineyards.
Frederik Dawson Netherlands - 10-04-2017
When I heard the news that France has opened the new Lascaux International Center or commonly known as Lascaux IV, I immediately asked my friends to visit this new museum as part of our trip to Andorra which seemed to be a great place to see. The tickets were very easy to secure by online booking from the Lascaux’s website and maybe our visit was happened in March, there were plenty of free slot of tour to choose. We arrived the village of Montignac 50 minutes before our tour started, but because of many detours from road construction in the center of village and our GPS did not know this new site, we got lost and arrived at museum carpark 10 minutes before the tour started.
The stunning museum complex building is very modern but well integrated with overall nearby landscape. We met our guide who is excellent in French accent English. Our tour group was only 10 persons. The museum also provide an excellent hi-tech audio guide with personal ipad liked machine. First of all our guide took us to the roof of the complex to explain the environment of Vezere River Valley, then we went to see a presentation of what this area was looked like in ancient time in each seasons especially the common wild animal and the story of how Lascaux has been rediscovered by local teens. Our guide took us to the small open corridor next to the forest while played the record of dog barking sound and voice of chasing boys to replicate the time when they discovered Lascaux. Then came the highlight of the tour, the replica of Lascaux Cave. The replica is stunning for its impressive works of multi-colored of art, the images of the rows of countless animal by ancient humans in the first and second rooms are really beautiful, while it was unbelievable that all are just a replica with faithful works to copy everything from the real cave. Then we went to see the new section that was not at the Lascaux II, so this section was quite interesting for people who already been to Lascaux II. While there are still a lot of paintings in this new section, most of them are lack of color, only fainted lines are visible, so without guide, this section really looked plain. After that the guide took us to another hall which display partial sections of paintings which we could see as long as we want for better understanding via the audio guide and multimedia. Then we went inside cinema hall which displayed history of Lascaux interpretation and study and ended the tour with nice meal at café museum.
Lascaux International Center is a very nice place to visit, the first and second hall of the replica are unbelievable and very beautiful. The display which try to make a better understanding on cave study and history is really good and highly recommended, truly one of the best World Heritage Site of France. What is our opinion on Lascaux IV, I think what our guide said before we entered a replica cave is the very good summary “Human love beauty and in searching of beauty is a thing of human being. Art of Lascaux is beautiful, so it is natural that people around the world want to come here to visit Lascaux”.
Walter Switzerland - 10-04-2017
The levadas of Madeira island are a system of channels and aqueducs collecting waters from the mountains and bringing them down to the coastal areas, for irrigation of lands or hydroelectric plants.
Levadas are widespread around the island. They pass through forests (notably the Laurisilva Forest on the WHL), going hillside, hanging on almost vertical cliffs or going through tunnels. Building them was an engineering achievment, Madeirans are very proud of. This project can be compared with the “Aflaj Irrigation Systems of Oman”. For me, it clearly has an OUV.
Many hiking trails follow the course of the levadas. A practical guide is published by Rother Wanderfuhrer, available in German , English and French (rother.de).
A presentation of this project, in portuguese but with some nice picture is avaiblable on the following link : (http://www.ppa.pt/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/1.-Miguel-Sequeira.pdf)
I visited Madeira a few years ago. Walking along the levadas is one of the most rewarding experience on this island. Choose carefully the levada you going to visit, especially if you fear heights, as some are litterally hanging on cliffs, and you get to walk on a 50 cm large stone wall above the abyss without any guardrails.
I recommend the upper part of the Levada do Norte, as one of the most impressive levada (but be extremely careful however, as a british women died after falling from the trail in november 2016), or the Ribeira de Janela, going in a valley deep in the Laurisliva WHS forest. A quieter levada (also in the Laurisilva WHS) would be Levada do Furado.
Getting to trailhead is easier with a rental car, but can also be reached by public transport.
Kebonyekgosi Divonge Botswana - 10-04-2017
I would like to thank all Batswana and International tourists as a young youth who grew up in Tsodilo Village that keep on visiting this beautiful place course with you we prosper and we give more information about Tsodilo Hills and is part of our life development and socio-economic development to all Batswana which will end up combating unemployment to some of us as this site will keep on having more tourists.
Jay T USA - 09-04-2017
Sometimes when you travel with family or friends, you are limited in the amount of time you can spend visiting World Heritage Sites; accordingly, my visits to the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Hospital de Sant Pau in May of 2013 were quite literally superficial. In some ways, I didn't mind, since I rather prefer Art Deco-style architecture to Art Nouveau, but I would have liked to have seen the insides of both buildings, which were designed by local architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner in the early 20th century. When I visited the hospital, a large crane was in front of the building, so we didn't spend much time there beyond taking photos. I was able to visit the Palau twice during my time in Barcelona, but was unable to take a tour because we arrived at the wrong time of day (which didn't particularly bother my friend who was by this time very tired of visiting museums or buildings). I appreciated the outside of the Palau, with its distinctive columns, mosaics, and tilework; however, it is very hard to photograph because of all the surrounding buildings. One day I'll have to return to see the inside, which looks fascinating in photos.
Logistics: Both sites are accessible by Barcelona's Metro system. The Palau de la Música Catalana can be reached via the Urquinaona stop on Lines 1 and 4; the Hospital de Sant Pau can be reached via the Sant Pau/Dos de Maig stop on Line 5 or the Guinardó/Hospital de Sant Pau stop on Line 4.
nan Germany - 09-04-2017
At the time of my visit (April 2017) only the royal tombs museum is open and can be visited. As previous reviewers have pointed out the combination of excavation site with actual graves plus the artifacts founds on site and all of that hosted within the original hill is unique. Still, it’s a fairly quick visit. And personally, having a bit more lightening would have helped; I found them way to dark without a reason.
The palace area is currently under renovation. I climbed nonetheless to get a bit more out of my visit. From the little
I could see from the outskirts heavy construction works are taking place. Don’t expect this to be open for the foreseeable future. A pity, if you ask me, as I am hard-pressed to see why you would have to lock up the whole area and could’t keep parts of the site open for viewing. The only part you can view is the theatre area.
The official website refers to frequent busses between Vergina and Veria. When I arrived in Veria around 2 p.m. the next bus was to run at 8 p.m. I ended up taking a cab back and forth (17€ and 15€). Taxis are frequent in Veria. In Vergina I had the gas station call a cab.
Vergina is well connected by frequent busses (1h express, 1.5h normal) and far less frequent trains (1h) to Thessaloniki. The train station is outside town with cabs and a bus to the town centre waiting on arrival. The bus station is in the middle of town.
If it fits your schedule, I would still counsel to take the train as the bus station in Thessaloniki is really far out and it will take you another 30min to get back into town. And the train is faster, even taking the average delays into account, and certainly cheaper.
Finally, if you can go by car, the clear recommendation is to do that.
The musuem itself is rather small and covered in an hour. From there to Philip’s palace it’s a 20min walk uphill, the parking lot being in the middle.
Not sure if Els updated the official website, but it is www.aigai.gr. Also, a new museum is being built; EU money needs to be spend.
Gary Arndt USA - 08-04-2017
I visited here in 2007.
Nara is a former imperial capital of Japan and served as the capital before Kyoto.
While there are many attractions here, the biggest (literally) is the Todaiji Temple, which is the largest wooden building in the world. It makes for a great bookend with Hyruji if you like wooden building superlatives.
You can visit Nara via a day trip from Kyoto, but I think there is enough there to justify at least an overnight stay if possible.
Read more about the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara on my website.
Gary Arndt USA - 08-04-2017
I visited this site in 2007.
Whenever someone tells me they are going to Japan, especially if they are going to Kyoto and Nara, I tell them to take the time to go to Horyuji.
Getting here is simple. It is an easy walk from the train station, and you can visit on a day trip from either Kyoto or Nara.
It is home to the world's oldest wooden buildings. Given the flammable nature of wood, it is remarkable that they have survived as long as they have.
Give yourself 1-2 hours to visit the temple and related sites. It is much less crowded than the sites in Kyoto or Nara, and more relaxing.
Read more about the Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area on my website.
Gary Arndt USA - 08-04-2017
I visited this site in 2007.
Like many of the European world heritage sites which encompass an entire city (Paris, Rome, etc) Kyoto is probably the grandest and most encompassing world heritage site in Japan.
Kyoto was specifically spared bombing in WWII by the allies because of its history. Unfortunately, many of the buildings did not survive the post-WWII modernization fervor in Japan.
Nonetheless, there is plenty to see in Kyoto and you can easily spend several days in the city viewing historic shrines and temples.
This is a must see for any tour of Japan.
Read more about the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto on my website.
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