Calling all fans of Lord of the Rings, ever wondered what Sauron’s eye looks like up close?
In this week’s 123RF World Travel Guide series, join us as we take a stroll in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, Tallinn. Next, we travel deep into the depths of Ethiopia to witness Gandalf’s worst fear in the lava lake of Erta Ale. Following that, we fall asleep under nature’s most spectacular light show, in breathtaking Finland. Finally, we end our odyssey amid surfing hippos in Gabon’s Loango National Park, a.k.a “Earth’s Last Eden”.
One thing Tallinn is never short of – amazing views. Image via Dmitriy Baranov@123RF.
Ever considered a trip to Estonia? If the answer is a no, then the 123RF World Travel Guide recommends its time to pack your bags. Tallinn is perhaps one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. It’s a pity that it remains under-rated for tourism. However, that’s exactly why this capital city has somehow managed to retain its fairytale-like charm even during the booming tourism seasons. Tallinn’s UNESCO-listed Old Town is massively photogenic, as each corner of the city bursts with beautiful sights. Ancient churches and medieval streets are the name of the game in Tallinn. The town’s open air museum is a perfect tagline for “if you can’t go to the countryside, we’ll bring the countryside to you”. This massive complex homes wooden farmhouses and windmills, along with an ancient chapel and tavern.
For the opposite end of the time spectrum, hop over to the futuristic Kumu. This spectacular structure accommodates some of the finest artworks from Estonia’s top talents. Meanwhile, a trip to Lahemaa National Park enables travelers to cherish Estonia’s great outdoors. Cast your eyes to acres of sheer unspoilt natural beauty, lend your ears to the sounds of the rivers, and breathe the fresh pine infused air. Only then, have you truly experienced one of Europe’s most picturesque countries.
58. Eswatini (Swaziland)
A traditional Swati (Swazi) hut in a local village near Manzini.
Swaziland has recently been renamed to Eswatini. Situated just a hop away from South Africa, this tiny kingdom can also be accessed from the extraordinary Kruger, with tours constantly organized. What sets Eswatini apart is its ability hold on to the laid back atmosphere, without having to sacrifice on its charm. This tiny kingdom is a paradise for anyone looking to indulge in rich wildlife, lush forests and stunning landscapes. The Mkhaya Game Reserve is the best place to spot Africa’s black and white rhino. Meanwhile, the Hlane Royal Park offers fantastic bird watching opportunities, alongside overnight bush trails and guided walks.
For the best of both worlds, visit the Mantenga Cultural Village and Nature Reserve. This tranquil park offers travelers to explore the lush forests while digesting the best of the nation’s cultural displays. For those looking to get their hands on traditional crafts, head over to Manzini Market. This maze of vibrant stalls offers unique arts and crafts from various parts of the continent. To get the best experience, the 123RF World Travel Guide suggests brushing up on your bargaining skills before you leave.
The Danakil Depression is one of the hottest and driest places on Earth.
For the 123RF World Travel Guide, this is without doubt, one of Africa’s most beautiful countries. The place is home to stunning landscapes and is embellished with history at every corner. First up, the Danakil Depression. Like a Breaking Bad experiment gone wrong, this deserted landscape is painted in a yellow sulfuric hue. It would not be an overstatement to say that there’s no place like this on earth. Ethiopia’s breathtaking landscapes also takes us to Erta Ale. The Smoking Mountain is an active volcano and is home to a permanent lava lake. For LOTR fans who ever wondered what Sauron’s eye must be like up close, you’ve come to the right place.
Ethiopia doesn’t do ordinary. And the Debre Damo is a true testament to that. Arguably the country’s most important monastery, there’s only one way to reach it – to climb. You’ll need to scale a 15m cliff, armed with nothing than a thick rope and good faith. It may be a daunting task, but trust us, it’s worth the climb. If Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most beautiful countries, then Harar is one of the continent’s best cities. Unlike Maze Runner, Harar’s colorful maze is one that you wish to never escape. Dotted with mosques and shrines at every turn, it’s rather unsurprising that this walled city has also been UNESCO-listed. Additionally, the pots of incense being sold here only serves to perfume the air and stimulate your senses – making this a truly magical experience, unlike anywhere else.
Sun, sea and sand. What else is there to life?
Set in the South Pacific, Fiji is made up of over 300 stunning islands. Each of it, a perfect blend of sun, sea, sand, along with magnificent natural beauty. The tagline of tropical paradise may be densely saturated in every travel guide. However, there is no getting away from that in Mamanuca. The 123RF World Travel Guide forgives you for mistaking this island for a work of art. Powder white sands, swaying coconut palms and clear blue waters go as far as the eye can see. Recognizing its allure, the accommodation options in Mamanuca satisfies every traveler’s wallet, with backpacker lodges and splendid world class resorts on offering.
Meanwhile, for adventure junkies, head over to the nation’s adventure capital. The Pacific Harbour enables daredevils to swim with sharks, enjoy kayaking between mammoth cliffs, heading off road on a four wheel drive and putting their wits to the test with an unforgettable whitewater rafting journey. On the other hand, a trip to Suva enables visitors to enjoy Fiji’s rich culture and heritage, amid a metropolitan setting. The nation’s capital homes shopping centers, farmers markets, colonial era buildings and a vibrant nightlife. All of which makes for a complete holiday for any traveler out there.
Live out your ultimate winter wonderland in Lapland.
Heading to Finland is like answering your call of the wild. The famed Northern Lights and Lapland’s magical white setting is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The former is every travelers dream, as some even travel to the ends of the world to catch a glimpse of this extraordinary phenomenon. However, the 123RF World Travel Guide is curious to know how many of you have ever dozed off under the Northern Lights? In Finland, nature’s most spectacular light show can be viewed from a set of luxury lodges. The Eagle’s View Suite in Hotel Iso Syote is perhaps one of the best places to catch the Aurora Borealis, right form the comfort of your bed.
Meanwhile, the Kevo Strict Nature Reserve offers breathtaking views of Lapaland’s majestic landscapes. This vast land covers gentle slopes of ravines, an 80 meter deep canyon valley and the gorgeous Fiellu waterfall. Above all, the most popular attraction here must be the Spring of Sulaoja. This site which is about the size of a small lake, is also a holy place for the Sami community. However, Finland does not sacrifice urbanization for its beauty. The city of Helsinki accommodates stunning modern architecture that rivals any of the world’s thriving metropolis. This is best seen in Loyly, where the timeless Finnish tradition, a sauna experience is transformed. In this stylish establishment, you use a ladder to travel between a city sauna and the open Baltic Sea. Let that sink in for a moment.
For anyone looking to run shoulders with the A-listers, look no further than Monte Carlo. Image via kasto@123RF.
The 123RF World Travel Guide believes France needs no introduction to a globetrotter’s dictionary. And Paris perfectly embodies this. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but before every “10 Places to Visit in France besides Paris”, is a 2000-word long feature on the city of love. You may not end up sharing a meal with that Parisian lover of yours. Especially not one which involves the both of you miraculously chewing on the same strand of pasta, inching closer with each bite until your lips meet. However, you must and should, visit the Eiffel Tower and the Notre-Dame Cathedral, at least once in your lifetime. Forget about the road less traveled, because with it, there would be no Paris, and to a lesser extent, France.
Additionally, Lyon, Bordeaux and Marseille are all noteworthy stops to make during your visit here. Lyon especially, is widely regarded as the world’s culinary capital. However, no gastronomic journey is complete without a bottle of wine. And Bordeaux has the world’s best collection. Once well fed, you’ll need to digest it all. Hence, visit Marseille and wander away in the heartbeat of the city, the Vieux Port. Then, make your way to the Republique street and end your day at any one of the exciting boutique hotels. For a dose of glitz and glamour, head to the French Riviera. Here, lay next to George Clooney in the luxurious beaches and resorts of Cannes and St Tropez. Alternatively, drive away to Mocano and experience the best and worst of lady luck in Monte Carlo. Because after all, c’est la vie ladies and gentlemen!
The mighty Kongou Falls is Gabon’s answer to the Niagara Falls.
Also known as “The Last Eden on Earth”, Gabon promises to be a spectacular journey for every traveler. Apart from the capital city, Libreville, this land is an undiscovered paradise. Home to over a third of Gabon’s population, the city reaps the rewards from its oil money. Upscale restaurants and neighborhoods are the initial impressions of the town. However, a closer peek reveals its African heart, thanks to its vibrant markets and communities. Now it’s time for the 123RF World Travel Guide to uncover Gabon’s wild side.
The Loango National Park is the nation’s poster child for wilderness. With 200km of unpopulated shoreline, lagoons, savanna, and an epic wildlife, this is one of the most exciting places on earth. Hippo’s have been caught surfing by Nat Geo experts in 2004, elephants wander in the beaches and whales populate the waters. Additionally, the UNESCO-listed Lope National Park is another example of Gabon’s spectacular wilderness. Elephants, gorillas, and buffaloes play across the savanna, the last remnants created during the Ice Age.
Next up on our 123RF World Travel Guide, join us as we uncover exotic Gambia, the smallest country in mainland Africa and take a dive into the clear waters and rich cultures of Guatemala. Alternatively, catch up on our previous series which witnessed the spooky yet magical Ti Tou Gorge of Dominica and Eritrea’s frozen-in-time Italian cities.