Travel Articles

 

Drones To Aid In Restoration Of China’s Great Wall

The China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation has teamed up with technology company Intel to restore the Great Wall of China. Their secret weapon? Drones.

“Using drones, we are able to inspect multiple aspects of the structure including areas that are quite inaccessible,” Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager, Intel’s drone team, said in a statement. “We continue to be excited about the future of inspections being automated all the way from drone data capture to data processing, analysis, and insights. We look forward to leveraging our technology to aid in the preservation of more world heritage sites in the future.”

The Great Wall is made of stone, brick, wood, and other raw materials. It was built to protect China from invaders as early as the 7th century B.C. One of the wall’s most famous sections is Jiankou, which dates back to the third century B.C. Over the years, the Jiankou section has worn away and is in need of repair.

This part of the wall is very steep and is surrounded by thick vegetation, making it difficult to access. To aid in the process, Intel is deploying artificial intelligence (AI) and Falcon 8+ drone technologies to remotely inspect and map the area.

“As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall has been exposed to weather erosion for thousands of years,” explained Li Xiaojie, China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation chairman. “Some parts are on steep inclines, which pose a great challenge for daily maintenance. Our partnership with Intel has opened new avenues for preservation.”

The drones will be used over the next few months to take aerial photographs of the area and produce high-definition, 3-D images. This will allow the teams to thoroughly examine the wall’s condition. Intel AI data capture will produce a visual representation of the fortification that will show which sections are most damaged.

“It’s a powerful example of how Intel’s artificial intelligence and drone technology can positively impact the world,” noted Alyson Griffin, Intel’s leader of global brand marketing.

The Great Wall of China is officially 21,196.18 kilometers (13,170.7 miles) long. It has not been worked on since the downfall of the Ming Dynasty in 1644, but it has been restored over the years for tourism.

Airbnb Targets The Wealthy To Stay In Other Rich People’s Homes

March 15, 2018

Airbnb has launched two new tiers of service—Plus and Beyond—to appeal to travellers with a bit more spending power. The company announced the news at an event in San Francisco, Calif.

Plus is slightly more expensive than its regular offerings and is expected to include particularly good value and service. Beyond targets wealthier travellers.

To ensure quality, Airbnb personally inspects the Plus listings. They examine the properties for comfort and style as well as relaxing outdoor spaces, fully functional kitchens, and ease of check-in. Airbnb explains on its website: “Airbnb Plus is a new selection of only the highest quality homes with hosts known for great reviews and attention to detail. Every home is visited in person for a 100+ point quality inspection to ensure your comfort.

“Every Airbnb Plus home is one-of-a-kind, thoughtfully designed, and equipped with a standard set of amenities—whether you’re in a private room or have the entire place to yourself.”

The 2,000 Plus locations include Toronto, Barcelona, London, Milan, Rome, Cape Town, Melbourne, Sydney, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. The properties cost on average $200 a night (versus $100 a night for Airbnb’s average listings).

Hosts are required to have an inspection during the application process in order to be considered for a Plus listing. They must also have a minimum 4.8 out of 5 rating from guests.

“You can expect a consistent set of amenities you need to live like you do at home–from fast WiFi and televisions ready for streaming to full kitchens with all the cooking essentials,” the company notes.

Beyond is the result of Airbnb’s purchase of Luxury Retreats in 2017, according to DigitalTrends.com. It will feature more luxurious accommodations and will launch in the spring. These listings will be featured on a separate website.

Currently, Airbnb has nearly 5 million listings all over the world. The company is reorganizing its search system to make it easier for customers to find properties such as boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. A category dubbed “uniques” will feature strange and unusual listings, such as a cave or treehouse.

Canada Suggests Eight New UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Jan. 15, 2018

Some of the most well-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites are the Galapagos Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, Machu Picchu, Yellowstone National Park and the Pyramids of Giza. Canada lays claim to 18 stunning Word Heritage Sites, including the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. These places are carefully selected for their value to humanity and must meet specific criteria to be considered for inclusion.

In honor of Canada’s 150th anniversary, citizens across the country nominated places to be considered in UNESCO’s prestigious list. Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, revealed the addition of eight new candidate sites for recognition. It’s the first time since 2004 that Canada has updated its tentative list.

The eight additions are:

  • Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs (British Columbia)
    • Stein Valley (British Columbia)
    • Wanuskewin Heritage Park (Saskatchewan)
    • Anticosti Island (Québec)
    • Heart’s Content Cable Station Provincial Historic Site (Newfoundland and Labrador)
    • Qajartalik (Nunavut)
    • Sirmilik National Park and the proposed Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area (Nunavut)

“Canada is full of hidden gems and exceptional, inspiring places. I’m grateful to the Canadians and communities across the country who shared the places they cherish to be considered as potential future World Heritage sites…These national treasures represent the very best that Canada has to offer from natural wonders and maritime heritage to Indigenous lands and culture. These places will showcase Canada to the world,” said McKenna.

Bardish Chagger, leader of the government in the House of Commons and minister of Small Business and Tourism, added: “From the Red Basque Bay Whaling Station in Newfoundland and Labrador to the majestic Rocky Mountains to SGang Gwaay in British Columbia, Canada’s UNESCO World Heritage sites offer visitors to our country unique perspectives into Canada’s rich history and natural wonders.”

Being listed as a World Heritage Site offers many benefits, including international recognition and an increase in tourism.

Six sites still remain on Canada’s nomination list from 2004:

  • Áísínai’pi (Writing-On-Stone), Alberta
  • Pimachiowin Aki, Manitoba and Ontario
  • Gwaii Haanas, British Columbia
  • Ivvavik/Vuntut/Herschel Island (Qikiqtaruk), Yukon
  • Tr’ondëk Klondike, Yukon
  • Quttinirpaaq, Nunavut

The last Canadian site to become a World Heritage site was Mistaken Point, Newfoundland and Labrador, in July 2016.

See Phenomenal Footage of one of Earth’s Most Remote Places

Less than 50 people visit Quttinirpaaq National Park on Ellesmere Island in Canada every year so few have seen its natural beauty in person. The park is located on the northernmost end of Nunavut about 800 kilometers from the North Pole. Quttinirpaaq means “top of the world” in Inuktitut, the language of the local indigenous people.

Technology is now allowing people who would normally not have access to the park to see its stunning vistas. Google Street View now features incredible footage of Quttinirpaaq. The Street View team walked on the park’s hiking trails and produced some beautiful scenes. The team mapped just 30 kilometers of the park, which is nearly 38,000 square kilometers, over five days. Street view users can see glaciers, mountains, rivers, and lakes.

Quttinirpaaq National Park is very remote, so few tourists have traveled there. They are required to have a permit and are dropped off at one of three landing sites. The highlands are covered in ice caps, and wildlife in the area include arctic wolves, hares, caribou, seals, walruses, and narwhals.

Emma Upton, manager of Quttinirpaaq National Park, and a colleague took the footage for Google. She told CBC News: “You’re getting intimate with a massive glacial ice cap, you’re on the edge of the glacier, the geology is phenomenal, and it just gives you a sense of the expanse of the park. The footage gives you a sense of being in the place, and I think that’s an incredible opportunity for people to experience because it is a place that is hard to get to.”

It’s definitely safer to see the park on a computer screen rather than in person. Parks Canada warns: “All visitors must be prepared to deal with extreme and rapidly changing weather, unpredictable river crossings, high winds, and travel in Polar Bear Country. You must be self-reliant and responsible for your own safety.”

Ellesmere Island is Canada’s third largest island. In 2016 the population was less than 200, many of whom were military personnel at Canadian Forces Station Alert.

The 5 Least Visited (But Amazing!) Places In The World

If a place doesn’t receive a lot of tourists, you may think it’s not worth visiting. But the five least-visited countries in the world are incredible island nations filled with white sand beaches, lagoons, volcanoes, and coral reefs.

TUVALU

Tuvalu is a Polynesian island nation in the South Pacific that receives about 1,000 tourists a year. Pronounced “too-VAH-loo”, the island’s nine atolls include large lagoons enclosed within a coral reef. The calm waters are perfect for diving and snorkeling among sea turtles and tropical fish. Tuvalu is part of the British Commonwealth, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recently visited the tropical paradise

KIRIBATI

This island republic located in the Central Pacific receives about 5,000 visitors a year and includes 33 coral atolls with lagoons and white sand beaches. Many of its islands are uninhabited and are perfect for fishing, diving and bird watching. The island is so remote that the nearest civilization is a five-hour flight away.

MONTSERRAT

This mountainous Caribbean island, part of the Lesser Antilles chain and a British Overseas Territory, receives about 7,000 visitors a year. Between 1995 and 2000, two-thirds of the island’s population were forced to flee due to a volcanic eruption. Fortunately, there has been little activity since 2010, and the island’s beautiful beaches and azure sea are luring tourists back to the destination.

SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE

Approximately 8,000 people visit this African island country near the equator every year. It is part of a volcano chain featuring striking rock and coral formations, rainforests and beaches and is perfect for scuba diving. Popular spots include the Lagoa Azul lagoon and Ôbo Natural Park, which features Pico Cão Grande, a skyscraperlike volcanic rock.

COMOROS

This volcanic archipelago off Africa’s east coast is the most visited place on this list with 15,000 tourists a year. Located in the warm Indian Ocean waters of the Mozambique Channel, the island features mountains, beaches and wildlife-filled forests.

It’s Okay To Blow Your Cash On Traveling, According To Science

If you’re given the choice between a new big-screen TV or a vacation, you should pack your bags. Experiences, not material things, make people happier, according to science.

Many believe amassing things such as the latest iPhone or brand new headphones will lead to happiness; however, experiences such as traveling, being outdoors, learning a new skill or visiting exhibitions will lead to bigger emotional benefits.

Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who’s been researching the connection between money and happiness for decades, published the study “A Wonderful Life: Experiential Consumption and the Pursuit of Happiness” in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

He explained, “One of our enemies of happiness is adaption. We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed, but only for a little while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

In other words, your brand new television will make you happy for a little while, but your traveling memories will last much longer and become part of your identity. Think back to a childhood trip or another adventure you had in your life. What left a greater impact on you — that trip or the video game you bought as a kid?

Gilovich added, “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are a part of you. We’re the sum total of our experiences.”

Because humans are very social creatures, shared experiences help us forge relationships and make us happier.

“One reason that experiential purchases tend to provide more enduring satisfaction is that they more readily, more broadly, and more deeply connect us to others,” Gilovich said.

Start checking off the items on your bucket list.

10 Breathtaking Island Getaways Right Here in The United States

There are many beautiful island escapes located in the United States in addition to the famous Hawaiian islands, which can be difficult (and expensive) to visit, particularly if you live on the east coast.
Scattered across the country, the following locations offer the best of island life: relaxation, outdoor activities, and beautiful beaches. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Nantucket, Massachusetts

Nantucket is a picturesque getaway located off the coast of Cape Cod. The island is famous for its unpainted cedar-shingled buildings, cobblestone streets and high-end boutiques. One of the best ways to get around is on a bicycle because there are miles of paths on the 14-mile-long island. There are also three lighthouses and many pristine beaches to visit.

  1. Key West, Florida

Key West is 90 miles north of Cuba and is known for its pastel-colored houses and relaxed atmosphere. Activities include kayaking, snorkeling, fishing and taking in one of many art galleries. Don’t forget to stop at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, which has about 50 polydactyl (six-toed) cats.

  1. Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island has many activities for active people. Hike in its forest or kayak in the Great Lakes. If you prefer land activities, hop on a horse-drawn carriage or take a haunted history tour. The island is also known for its various fudge shops. Yum!

  1. Anna Maria Island, Florida

Anna Maria Island is off the coast of Manatee County in the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike many places on the Florida coast, the island doesn’t have too many high-rise condos and fast food chains. The seven-mile beach is described as “sugar white.” Have a bite at one of the pier restaurants or board a free trolley to go shopping.

  1. Hilton Head, South Carolina

In addition to beautiful beaches, Hilton Head is home to 24 championship golf courses and 350 tennis courts. It includes other popular activities such as hiking, biking, fishing and kayaking. Many resorts in the area also have spas if your idea of a relaxing vacation means being pampered.

  1. San Juan Islands, Washington

There are actually 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County, but the four most popular are San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island and Shaw Island. Popular activities include whale watching, hiking, paddle boating, and zip-lining.

  1. Chincoteague island, Virginia

Chincoteague Island on Virginia’s eastern shore is known for its wild ponies. The island is the gateway to the Virginia portion of Assateague Island, which has 150 horses who graze in the area. Every year thousands of spectators watch the Saltwater Cowboys swim the pony herd from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island.

  1. Mount Desert Island, Maine

Mount Desert Island, part of Acadia National Park, is the largest island off the coast of Maine. Points of interest include the town of Bar Harbor, Sand Beach and Otter Cliff. Boating, kayaking and biking are popular activities along with taking a glider or bi-plane trip to see the landscape. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, try some ice climbing in the winter.

  1. Whidbey Island, Washington

Whidbey Island is between Seattle and Vancouver in the Puget Sound. Hiking, fishing, kite boarding and shopping are popular activities. There are miles of beaches to explore and waterways to sail and kayak. There is also a large art community on the island.

  1. Galveston Island, Texas

Galveston Island is about 50 miles southeast of Houston. The area has unique shops, museums, and the famous Schlitterbahan water park. Of course, there are also 32 miles of beach to explore. Galveston also claims to have “one of the largest and well-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the country.”

Gorgeous 100-Year-Old-Theater Is Now A Bookshop With Over 1 Million Visitors A Year

Book lovers, here’s a place to add to your bucket list. El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina, receives over 1 million visitor a year — and for good reason.

The shop is built inside the nearly 100-year-old Grand Splendid Theater, which opened in 1919. Before being transformed into the incredible bookstore it is today, it was converted into a cinema.

Architects Peró and Torres Armengol designed the building. In 2000, architect Fernando Manzone turned the place into the gorgeous bookstore, retaining many aspects of the theater, including its stage, balconies, frescoed ceiling and other architectural details.

El Ateneo covers 21,000 square feet and sells approximately 700,000 books every year (who said brick and mortar book stores were dead?). While most of the books are in Spanish, it may be worth visiting just to enjoy the view or sit in the still-intact theatre boxes.

Regarded as one of the world’s best bookshops, El Ateneo Grand Splendid is located at 1860 Santa Fe Avenue in Barrio Norte.