Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Dream List: Puerto Rico

Despite the fact that most people I know who’ve actually been there rate it among their least favorite places, I’ve long been intrigued by this almost-a-state tropical outpost in the Caribbean.

I’m taking their distaste for the place as evidence that they didn’t go to the right places. Lonely Planet has good things to say about the island, so I’m taking that as a sign that I’m right. To ensure that I get to really experience all the richness Puerto Rico has to offer, I plan to avoid the all-inclusive tourist hotels and instead travel around as much of the island as I can.

This is a culturally, historically, and environmentally rich island with a wide variety of attractions for tourists like me.

Old San Juan

  • Gardens: Every tropical city needs a few gardens! San Juan’s include the Moorish garden at La Fortaleza, the gardens of the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, and the Estación Experimental Agrícola de Puerto Rico, with its lotus lagoon, massive orchid garden, and palm plantation.
Las Cabezas de San Juan Reserva Natural ‘El Faro’ - Located in the far northeast of the island, the reserve includes a historic lighthouse, a bioluminescent bay, rare flora and fauna, and a lush rainforest spread over seven ecological sytems. It sounds like a beautiful hotbed of biodiversity and rare flora and fauna
Coalición Pro CEN, via Wikimedia Commons

Boquerón and surrounds – This laid-back town has a world class beach and is surrounded by nature reserves.

The bioluminescent bay at Vieques – The beaches are gorgeous, but it’s the bay -which glows when disturbed at night - that puts this on my list!

El Yunque National Forest – A lovely and accessible recovering rainforest waiting to show-off for visitors.

Snorkeling along Desecheo Island – As a former military facility with unexploded ordinance still around, the island (which can’t be visited) draws few visitors, which has helped keep the waters pristine and the coral and fish healthy.


Playa Flamenco on Culebra – Identified as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, it is a great place to relax or snorkel.

The Ruta Panorámica – This network of roads is said to live up to its name, providing great views all along the way.

Note when planning a trip that many websites are not available in English. 

The Travel Dream List

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Photo Thursday: Lake Wabana in Winter

I haven't had a chance to get up to northern Minnesota in the winter for awhile, so brought out a few photos taken some years ago on Lake Wabana near Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

To me, this is still what Christmas looks like. 

This is my submission for Photo Thursday at Nancie's Budget Traveler's Sandbox. Nancie should be back in Thailand by now, so she will have a very different take on winter. Check it out for more images and stories from around the world.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Memorable Travel Moments: Christmas in Minneapolis, Minnesota 1970

Over Thanksgiving 1970, my mother took me and my brothers (three kids all under the age of 10) to the Twin Cities on a Christmas outing. With increasingly serious talk about the end of passenger rail service to our small town, my mother had decided we should ride on a train before they disappeared forever; Christmas was simply a reason to make that trip.

My father was already in Minneapolis, so we met him downtown. My brother tells me we would have arrived at the long-gone Minneapolis Union Depot.   

I don’t recall that, but I do recall the excitement of Christmas in a place so entirely different from my small town. It was exciting.

I clearly remember shopping at Dayton’s (the building houses Macy’s today) and Donaldson’s flagship stores and I still have the necklace I bought for myself at a glittering jewelry counter. These big department stores were glamorous and exotic places with mirrored walls and glittering decorations. They also had dramatic escalators. Despite never having seen one before, I made sure to swallow my fear and approach it as casually as all the other shoppers, as if I did this all the time. I’m sure I also pretended not to know my youngest brother, who initially viewed these moveable stairways with sheer terror. I most definitely wanted people to think that I was sophisticated enough to belong in a place like this!

The rest of our time downtown is a blur of tall buildings and Christmas lights. All that has stayed with me is the sense of energy and excitement I felt, as if I were in at the heart of something so much bigger than myself. Looking back on it now, I realize that the downtown I saw on the trip – a downtown that was still the commercial and retail heart of the state – is gone. A surprising amount of it no longer even exists physically, either demolished or remodeled beyond recognition. But more importantly, the glamor is gone, as is the sense of being in the heart of everything. After years of disinvestment and ill-conceived redevelopment schemes, Minneapolis is again a vital, energetic city. But during those years the role of cities change and today it is a very different place than what it was in 1970. It has a different kind of energy these days. I’m not sure that is good or bad – it just is, but I’m really glad I got a taste of what cities were like once, before fear and crime and neglect took their toll.

We also took in a holiday show on that trip, attending the Ice Capades, which was doing a Disney-themed production that year. (A low-quality snippet of which is available below. It is the only evidence I've found indicating that there actually was an Ice Capades show in 1970.)




While I have a vague memory of this show, of swirling figures moving in deep darkness, what has firmly stuck in my memory is the group of black kids (a few about my own age) seated in the row just behind us.

A big fan of the TV show Julia, I was fascinated with black people, sure they would all be as interesting and fun as Julia’s son Corey on the TV show. Not having ever actually seen a black person, I was really looking forward to seeing some while we were in Minneapolis. Having these kids seated so near was both thrilling and terrifying – could I actually get up the nerve to talk to them? Fortunately for me, the dad accompanying these children must have seen my interest in them and had them share their popcorn with me. This started an exchange of treats and simple conversation. Thanks to him, I not only got to see black people, but got to meet some. That seems like a good first step in moving from TV-inspired stereotypes to actual understanding.

It was a good trip, a travel experience that let me learn a little about other people and places. Isn't that why we travel?

I really appreciate the effort my mother put into bringing three little kids to the city.

I wish I could find some pictures, but thus far no luck – if I do I’ll add them.

More Memorable Travel Moments 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!



Wishing you happy holidays with a few images from this year's international trips -

From Turkey, I offer both the sublime
Chora Church, Istanbul
Chora Church, Istanbul

 and the silly
Ephesus
Pamukkale
Pamukkale

From the Seychelles
Curieuse Island
La Digue Island
Mahe

All Turkey posts

All Seychelles posts

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Memorable Travel Moments: The Sun Appears at Machu Picchu (2005)

In 2005/2006, we spent the Christmas/New Year’s holidays on a group tour of Peru and Ecuador, a trip that included both the Galapagos and Machu Picchu. 

We arrived at Machu Picchu under cloudy skies threatening rain and our tour proceeds through fog and intermittent showers. It is evocative and, perhaps, a good introduction to the site, as it restricts our view to digestible portions.  
But, of course, we wanted to see Machu Picchu under clear skies.

We had selected a tour that allowed us two days in which to visit Machu Picchu. On the second day we woke up early in hope of beautiful weather for climbing Huayna Picchu and spectacular views of Machu Picchu. An early morning peak out my window tells me the clouds are heavy again today.

None-the-less, we get up and head for the bus and the ride up to the park. The sheer drop into the valley below is obscured by low-hanging clouds and fog. . . for a moment we wonder if it is even worth a return trip, but by then we have arrived.

Given the weather, we decide to skip Huayna Picchu, but we do decided to hike up through the ruins and beyond to the Sun Gate. The clouds were heavy as we started.
I’m not sure why we decided to go up there, given the weather, but along the way the sun began to burn through the clouds. As we came out of the trees at the first stop with a clear view of the ruins, the sun came out in full – and stayed out. 
Who could ask for more?

More Memorable Travel Moments
Celebrating the Holidays in South America   

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Dream List: Morocco

Morocco is not only a place we want to visit “someday,” but a place we are actually in the process of planning a trip to in the near future. (I’m hoping for early spring, but that is still very much up in the air.)

So, why do we want to go to Morocco? Well, it sounds exotic and Casablanca is one of my favorite movies and my husband really wants to go there, but like a lot of other places that have captured my imagination, I didn’t really know that much about it. Now I know that there is far more to see than I’ll be able to squeeze into my two-three week vacation.

A few priorities for my trip:
    Jardin Majorelle  by Cate91 via Wikimedia Commons
  • A night (or two) in the dunes, where I want a taste of what life in the Sahara is like for the nomadic people who have learned to survive in this harsh climate. Tours via four-wheel-drive and camels take visitors into the dunes where lodging in Berber-style tents is provided. (I swore after my Egypt trip that I’d never ride a camel again, but hey, when in the Sahara, one should do what the Berbers do.) Most people only go out for one evening, but I’m hoping for two to get at least a little sense of the flow of time here. 
  • Traditional oasis villages and Kasbahs, including Aït Benhaddou. The challenge will be deciding which routes to take to see the best of Morocco’s traditional architecture.  
  • Marrakech, with its shop-filled medina, action-filled square of Jemaa el Fna, and the magical Majorelle gardens
  • Fez,  where the old part of the city comprises the largest intact medieval city in the world. As such, it is a maze of ancient buildings and narrow, twisting streets calling out for exploration. 
  • Silver jewelry is always on my list and Morocco should be a treasure-trove of Berber and   Bedouin baubles! 
  • Chafchaouen, a picture-perfect village in the northern Rif Mountains seems worth at least a quick stop. 
  • The drive between Ouarzazate and Zagora, with desolate-sounding mountain scenery and the oases of the Dra Valley sounds awe inspiring.  
  • Tafraoute is listed as “an artist’s dream” in every guidebook, so I am hoping to get to this traditional village and the surrounding cliffs, but it is a long ways south.
A few things I’d like to see, but will probably end up missing because I can’t see everything:
  • The Atlantic coast from Agadir to the south, where golden dunes meet the sea.
  • Casablanca, though I’m still struggling with this one – how can I go to Morocco and NOT visit Casablanca? Not only does Casablanca (a Casablanca that doesn’t exist and probably never did) symbolize Morocco in my mind, but it also had a significant collection of Art Deco buildings and the over-the-top Hassan II Mosque (one of a very few mosques in Morocco that a non-Muslim visitor like me can enter). 
  • The Roman ruins at Volubilis look lovely, but - having seen great Roman ruins in Portugal, Turkey, Croatia, and Rome (among other places) – just aren’t a priority.

Of course, there is a lot more available. The real challenge will be choosing between all the options!

Fortunately there are a few things I can skip without much regret:
  • Tangier is an ancient city and has begun to see re-investment and restoration. As a city that attracted many famous writers in its heyday, it has some allure – but not enough to feel too bad about not getting there. 
  • Ifrane, the French-build mountain resort, seems to show up on a lot of itineraries. I can’t imagine why. I’d rather go to the Alps for Alpine architecture.
At this point we are planning to work with a travel company to arrange travel within Morocco (including a driver for much or all of the trip), lodging, and guides. We want to be able to focus on what we are seeing and experiencing during our shot time here and hope that having guides in most places can help us do that more efficiently than we could on our own. But again, this trip is still in the early planning stages, so everything is still up in the air.

If you’ve been to Morocco I’d love to hear your suggestions, otherwise you are all free to join me in dreaming a bit about where you will go when you visit Morocco!
Ait_Bougmez by *pascal*  (Uploaded by PDTillman) via Wikimedia Commons
 Morocco photos from National Geographic

The Travel Dream List 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Photo Thursday: My First Visit to Mount Stewart Gardens, Northern Ireland

In 2004 I visited Ireland for the first time, spending my time in the northern half of the country. Less familiar to most travelers than the south, northern Ireland (both the Republic and Northern Ireland itself) is a beautiful, wild land. But it also has manicured areas tucked into its wild corners.

One of the most beautiful of those manicured areas is Mount Stewart Garden, a gorgeous estate just outside Belfast.

In April, it looks like this: 
 
 

(Yes, the skies did open up and pour at one point.)

This is my contribution to Photo Thursday on Nancie's Budget Traveler's Sandbox. Check it out for more images and stories from around the world.

Images of Mount Stewart Gardens from 2009

All Irish images  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Memorable Travel Moments: Touring the North of Ireland (2004)

As a birthday present to ourselves, my college roommate and I traveled around the northern half of Ireland in the early spring, spending our time in Northern Ireland (Ulster) and the counties of Dublin, Louth, Meath, Cavan, and Donegal in the Republic. We started out with a general itinerary, but almost no hotel reservations, allowing us a lot of freedom. It was a wonderful trip, filled with great memories. Here is a taste.

“But I reserved an automatic”
Our adventure started right at the airport, where the young man at the car rental counter offered to upgrade me to a brand new manual transmission vehicle.

“I’m sorry, but I reserved an automatic.”

“You don’t want one. The automatics are all bad - they are old and beat up. This car is new, bigger, and much nicer.”

“I’m in IRELAND. I need an automatic.”

“You drive a manual at home, don’t you?”

“Yeah, but. . .”

“Well, then you can drive one here.”

“But everything is on the other side!”

“You’ll get used to it. It’s easy. You can practice in the parking lot.”

My girlfriend didn’t drive a manual even at home, so she wasn’t about to drive one here, so in saying yes I was committing myself to doing all of the driving during this trip. But the car was brand new and beautiful, with about 200 miles on it.

By the end of the trip I mostly liked driving in Ireland, although I’m not sure my friend ever felt comfortable in the passenger’s seat (those hedgerows must have seemed awfully close). I was lucky in that she was used traveling in England, kept up a mantra that went “to the left, to the left, to the left. . . .” My own internal tune was “driver in the middle, driver in the middle” as in “the driver is always in the middle of the road,” which is also a handy thing to remember when returning home after a driving trip in Ireland!  

 
Rhododendrons
The rhododendrons were in bloom while we were in Ireland, huge trees full of flowers.

I’d never seen anything like it before and wandered about both Castlewellan and Mount Stewart Gardens in a bit of a daze. It was simply glorious. (And then there were those fields of daffodils!)
 

Gale force winds at the Giant’s Causeway
Having spent too much time hiking in the Glens of Antrim     (where we went from hot sun to rain, snow, sleet and hail over the course of 20 minutes), we ended up at the Giant’s Causeway  late in the afternoon.

The sun was blindingly bright, but the wind was howling and I was really sick of driving (as noted above, my friend can’t drive a manual). We could tell we wouldn’t be going out to the Giant’s Causeway, so our attention turned to where we would spend the night. My vote was “right here.”

There was lodging near the Causeway, in a huge old ramshackle inn, but it wasn’t cheap. It was memorable though. The whole building shuddered and shook when hit by a particularly strong gust. You could hear the shutters rattling in every room and rain and sleet slammed against our window all night. It was like the setting of a Gothic novel come to life.


“The talk”
Having spent our first three nights in evocative, but rather expensive, lodgings and eating incredible, but rather expensive, meals - my friend sat me down for a little talk.

She started: “I’ve been spending quite a bit more money than I budgeted.”

“Yeah, me too.”

There was a long silence as we considered each other. I knew she was right and that we needed to start being more frugal. I just didn't want to.

Finally she said, “I think I’m worth it, how about you?”


Ranger Kennedy
The city of Derry has wonderful solid walls around much of it, walls perfect for walking, so that is where we started our tour of the city.

 My friend knew much, much more about The Troubles than I did, so she understood what we were seeing, explaining to me that the modest neighborhood below us was Bogside, the heart of the Catholic community in what has historically been one of Ireland’s most religiously polarized cities. Even without knowing much about that history, its weight seemed tangible – sad and heavy. We spoke quietly, our voices dropping lower and lower to avoid being overheard. We weren’t sure it was ok to even talk about that history – it hadn’t come up anywhere, in any conversation – and now an older man was pacing just behind us, watching us, perhaps listening in.

Uncomfortable with feeling we were being watched, we decided to move on. Of course, I was slow to actually move, since I had to take a picture first. As my friend walked away, that older gentleman walked up and greeted me.

I tried to evade him, but he reached out and pushed a scrap of paper at me. And I do mean a scrap. It was poorly photocopied and folded into about a 2” square.

“This explains the real meaning of the coat of arms of Derry. You can't get this from anyone else."

Oh oh. What kind of a wacko have I run into? I shot my friend a panicked look – help me escape! He must have seen it too, because at that point he introduced himself. I didn’t catch his name (that lovely Irish brogue!), but I did understand he worked for the city of Derry and immediately everything was fine. I’m a city planner by training, so anyone with the city had to be ok. Besides, someone with the title City Ranger might be able to answer my questions!

We were fully engaged in conversation by the time my friend cautiously came over to figure out was going on. The three of us spent the rest of the morning walking the wall and wandering the city streets. In the process I learned more than I ever could have hoped to from this knowledgeable and engaging man.

There were a few (a very few) other people on the wall that morning. I have no idea why he selected us to approach, but I’m so glad he did. . . and glad that the concept “city employee” sunk in enough to overcome my fear of a stranger.

The Book of Kells
I love illuminations and was really looking forward to finally seeing the Book of Kells for myself. I was not disappointed – it was even more beautiful than I had expected it to be and was housed in a gorgeous, informative exhibit space. I’m not sure which astounds me more: the effort and artistry that went into the creation of the book itself or the fact that this fragile artifact has survived to create a physical connection to an ancient time. It’s so human.

I wished I could have seen more than four pages, but that is an incentive to return to Dublin regularly.

 (Graves in a ruined abbey in County Cavan)

 More Memorable Travel Moments

All Ireland Posts 

Ireland


Under construction!


Ireland 2004
Touring the North of Ireland (December 11, 2012)


Ireland 2009
Traveling in Ireland: Rain, Sun, Fog (June 21)

Ennis (June 22)
Kilfenora Cathedral
Roadside Flowers in Kilfenora
Walking the Burren
Coastal Scenery
The Cliffs of Moher

Kinsale (June 23)

(June 24)

Grey Abbey (June 25)
Ambling in Greyabbey Town
The Gardens at Mount Stewart

Belfast Black Taxi Tour (June 26)
The Crown Bar
Belfast from the Air
Dunluce Castle (June 27)
Waking the Giant's CausewayNorth Coast Scenery
A Wee Harbor
Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge
Fish-n-chips in Ballycastle
Evening Drive "Home"

(June 28)

(June 29)
Bank Restaurant and Bar (the Dublin Version)

Morning along the Liffey (June 30)


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Travel Dream List: Cartagena, Colombia

The folks at Hike Bike Travel are planning a trip to Colombia and were checking in for travel advice. While a visit to Colombia was a spontaneous decision for them, it has been on my list for a while now, primarily because of Cartagena.

In my mind, Cartagena has always epitomized Caribbean tropical glamor and adventure – a city that harkens back to the Miami or Havana of the 1950s.

While Cartagena escaped the violence of Colombia’s drug culture, it has long been avoided by Americans due to the danger in the rest of the country. With Colombia becoming increasingly safe, it’s time to start planning a visit!
Juan Camilo Maya, via Wikimedia Commons

The old city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a wealth of Spanish Colonial buildings surrounded by a 400 year old wall. A stroll along the wall provides views of the Caribbean to one side and of the old city on the other. It is a city perfect for strolling.

More history can be found at the Spanish Castillo de San Felipe fortress, which presides over the city from high above. It sounds like a good place to explore and to take in the view.

Kamilokardona via Wikimedia Commons
poirpom (Flickr: Ravage) via Wikimedia Commons
Of course, Cartagena is a large, modern city too, with high rises and business districts like other cities. But there are other neighborhoods worth exploring and good food and music are found throughout the city.

This seaside city is also famous for its beaches and there seems to be a beach for every mood and occasion.

Despite the wealth of beaches in and around the city, the best beaches are a relatively short boat ride away in the Rosario Islands.

(However, the most pristine Colombian island is probably Providencia (Old Providence) which is far to the north near Nicaragua. The island and surrounding waters have been designated as the Sea Flower Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in recognition of the area’s biodiversity.  I might have to make this a side trip or maybe part of a trip to Nicaragua or Costa Rica.)

Resources
This is Cartagena is a comprehensive travel site, including current art and entertainment
Discover Colombia: Cartagena 
Colombia Information
Daviddavid00 via Wikimedia Commons


The Travel Dream List

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Photo Thursday: Dubrovnik Memories

For various reasons, Croatia has been on my mind this week, so I'm taking a break from posts about the Seychelles to focus on Dubrovnik this week.

Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic, is a gorgeous walled city. The walls are wide and well maintained, providing a wonderful walkway for looking into the city and out to the ocean beyond. Within those walls, I remember glistening white "streets" (cars are not allowed within the the walled city) and warm white walls, narrow alleys -- some comprised of nothing but steps, wonderful food severed alfresco, and intricate local jewelery. The old city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a wealth of wonderful late medieval buildings. Dubrovnik might be my favorite jewelry shopping destination in the world, but it is so picturesque that even I had trouble staying focused on all those jewelry shops!
 
 
I was last there as part of a cruise in 2004. By that time the scars the war left on the city's lovely buildings were mostly repaired, although obvious to those who knew where to look. Not so obvious were the scars in human hearts. People were warm and friendly, eager to enjoy life, but if you took your time, the stories would come out - sometimes when least expected, like the matter of fact explanation that the odd corrosion on that piece of jewelry is from being buried. If you, like me, were only half listening while you tried to choose between the beautiful handmade pieces (some made by your young salesmen, others by his father and grandfather), you might look up suddenly and ask "Buried? Why would it be buried?" This might lead to a story of how all the jewelry and antique cabinetry was removed and hidden before the shelling began "just in case." And a good thing too, since a shell came straight down through the ceiling above your head. 

Despite all my reminiscing, this is my contribution to Photo Thursday at Nancie's Budget Traveler's Sandbox. Check it out for more images and stories from around the world.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Memorable Moments: Walking the City Wall in Kotor, Montenegro, 2004

My husband and I took an Adriatic cruise in 2004 that began in Venice and took us along the coast of Croatia and Montenegro to Corfu, Greece, and back again. At that time Montenegro wasn’t much of a tourist destination, so it felt as if I were discovering someplace exotic and unknown.

Kotor, Montenegro is a medieval city tucked between the Bay of Boka Kotorska and the surrounding mountains. Its location is stunning and its wealth of historic structures have led to the listing of the old city and its wall as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Approaching from the sea, the predominate feature of Kotor is the stunning “wall” that zig-zags up the mountainside above the city.  
It is an amazing sight

Of course I am determined to hike all the way to the top where the fortress of San Giovanni (St. John) sits almost 1000 feet above the sea.

Lane is less eager (there is a lot of - quite uneven - stairs), but accompanies me as far as the Church of Our Lady of Remedy, an Orthodox church established in 1518 and accessible only by foot.


Even from this point, the views are great. However, I’m sure they’ll just keep getting better, so I say goodbye to Lane and continue on.

It’s beautiful, but hot and I’m getting tired.

I’m about ready to give up when the group of young Texans from my cruise show up. They have water and extra snacks, which they share with me, and we continue on together.
 It’s a good thing I have company, as the higher portions of the wall have some rough patches where it has begun to collapse. We help each other over the disintegrating spots until, at last, we reach the fortress.

 I made it!











My Most Memorable Travel Moments  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Travel Dream List: Zanzibar

The very name conjures images of warm seas, exotic cultures, and fragrant spices. Although I’m not sure I really knew where it was actually located for many years, I’ve always known that Zanzibar was a place I wanted to visit.
Stone Town by Nina Silaeva, via Wikimedia Commons

Zanzibar Island (Unguja Island to the local population) is the largest of several islands off the coast of Tanzania, not far from Dar es Salaam.  While not very big itself, being about 60 miles long and 20 miles across, the other island in the archipelago are mostly tiny islets.

Zanzibar is most famous for three things: Beaches, spices, and Stone Town.

Beaches    
The island – and the archipelago as a whole – has a wealth of lovely beaches, most with lots of white sand. Those along the north end of the island are particularly recommended for swimming, while those on the east have interesting tide pools when the tide is out.

I’m more interested in exploring under the water than in hanging out on the beach and there is supposed to be great snorkeling throughout the archipelago.
  • Mangapwani beach has a coral cavern and underground slave chambers to explore. 
  • The Mnemba atoll is noted as a good spot for snorkeling with a wide variety of fish. 
  • The Chumbe Island Coral Park is a privately managed nature reserve. It is open to guests staying at the resort and a very limited number of day visitors. The snorkeling is supposed to be amazing.
Spices
Zanzibar is sometimes called the Spice Island, as at one time almost all of the world’s supply of cloves was grown here. The growing and exporting of spices from here was an integral part of the slave trade and diminished with the end of slavery. However, while no longer a major exporter of spices, many different spices are still grown here and tours can be arranged to visit some of the plantations. In addition, the markets have a range of spices available.
The Sultan's palace, by Vincent van Zeijst, via Wikimedia Commons 


Stone Town    
Stone Town is part of Zanzibar City (the capital and largest city in the archipelago). Much of it is a maze of winding alleyways and carved doorways that has seen little physical change over the past 200 years.

While it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as an example of a Swahili coastal trading town, it is also a vibrant, noisy city. It is a great place to explore, but not the ideal place for a quiet holiday!



Attractions in Stone Town include:

Photo by Harvey Barrison, via Wikimedia Commons      
Other places worth a visit while in Zanzibar:
  • Jozani Forest National Park on Zanzibar Island is home rare Zanzibar red colobus monkeys, a species unique to Zanzibar.
  • Zanzibar Island has a number of ruins scattered about, including those of Kidichi Persian Baths, the Mtoni Palace, and the ruins from a former freed-slave colony at Mbweni. (Mbweni also has good snorkeling and a botanical garden.  
  • Prison (Changuu) Island was once used to detain slaves. Today it is a quiet retreat just a short boat ride from Stone Town.

And, should I have trouble finding enough to keep me busy in the Zanzibar Archipelago itself, the nearby Mafia Archipelago offers superb snorkeling in a less-visited area.

Caution
Despite all the enticing things about Zanzibar, this is a very poor place. Visitors need to expect run-down buildings, touts and other hassles, and the potential for crime. 

Links to Additional Information:
Boats in Stone Town, by Fanny Schertzer, via Wikimedia

The travel dream list  

Looking Ahead: Dream Trips