All posts by Vago Damitio

Vago Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. He jumped ship from a sinking dotcom in 2000 and decided to reclaim his most valuable commodity, time. He bought a VW bus for $100, moved into it and set out on a journey to show the world that it was possible to live life on your own terms. That journey took him from waking up under icy blankets in  the Pacific Northwest to waking up under palm tress in Southeast Asia. Three years later, his first book, Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond was published. After diving into the Anthropology of Tourism and Electronic Anthropology at the University of Hawaii (with undeclared minors in film and surf) he hit the road again in 2008. Since that time,he's lived primarily in Morocco and Turkey, married a Moroccan girl he couchsurfed with, and become a proud father. He's been to more than 40 countries, founded a successful online travel magazine (this one!), and still doesn't have a boss. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook
Copper Canyon Mexico by Eli Duke

Mexico: spectacular blend of science and nature

Many people head to Mexico for sun and sand – but not me. Well, not entirely anyway! What most excites me about Mexico is its amazing natural attractions, from its rainforests and cenotes to gigantic canyons and dazzling marine life. I think that discovering these is an essential part of making sure your trip to Mexico is the holiday of a lifetime.

To give you an indication of just how wonderful the landscape here is, scientists have long been flocking to the destination for research purposes. You see, the sheer variety of environments and life here is truly staggering – think volcanoes, reefs, deserts, caves, 50 national parks, nearly 30,000 species of flowering plants, 1,000 species of birds… I could go on. Of course, while all this is great in terms of scientific learning, it also creates the perfect basis for a luxurious holiday of discovery and adventure! Below, I’m going to give you a few useful tips on things to do and see during your stay.

Copper Canyon

Copper Canyon Mexico by Eli Duke

Let’s start with one of my personal favourites, Copper Canyon. You’ll find this in the state of Chihuahua, tucked away in the Tarahumara Mountains. Also known as Las Barrancas del Cobre, Copper Canyon is so-named for the greenish copper colour of its canyon walls – but this somewhat unusual hue is hardly the only amazing thing about the place.

What really strikes me about the canyon is its size. Spanning some 59,545 km in total, this network is actually longer than the Grand Canyon in the US, which should give you a pretty clear picture of just how incredible it is. Plus, the whole area is not only awash with stunning natural attractions, but it’s also the home to several indigenous peoples who have made the canyons their home.

You can get here via a train line called the Chihuahua al Pacifico, which covers 628 km in total. The best way to explore the area is, without doubt, by taking a guided tour. The beauty of doing so is that you can select one that’s relevant to your interests. For example, you could opt to go horse riding, or instead pay a visit to the second tallest falls in Mexico, the Basaseachi Waterfalls at 245 m high.

Scuba diving…

One of my favourite things about Mexico is that it’s just as beautiful below the water as it is above. Whether you’re an experienced diver, would like to learn or would prefer to stick to snorkelling, you simply can’t miss the landscape beneath the waterline. And, since there is an absolutely huge range of dive sites to choose from, you should have plenty of opportunity to go exploring. As an example, the ever-popular holiday resort of Cancun has 24 diving spots alone .

If you fancy seeing sunken shipwrecks, though, you should take a trip to either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic coast, where there are many. Personally, I think the Parques Marino Nacional Arrecifes de Cozumel is a pretty unbeatable place to go, being home to part of the second largest coral reef system in the world.

… and other attractions in Cozumel

An added advantage of going to Cozumel is that it features lots of other spectacular landscapes that are just waiting to be discovered. For instance, it is where you’ll find Chankanaab Park, where you can meet sea lions, dolphins and manatees. Plus, this park also has spectacular botanical gardens. Take a stroll through these and you can see plants from more than 20 countries – a truly amazing display.

 

Travel to Antalya

Antalya: the king of Turkish tourism?

Pristine seas, cultural assets, gorgeous beaches and history galore… it’s no wonder ten million tourists book flights to Antalya every year. Antalya has long been hailed by tourists as the jewel of Turkey’s crown, capable of satisfying the desires of sun worshippers and cultural fanatics alike. Its rugged countryside and host of coves also make it ideal for the explorers and the wanderers, with endless possibilities on offer to guests.

Antalya, Turkey
Antalya, Turkey

With that in mind, we present a perfect day in Antalya for every possible holidaymaker.

For the Sun Worshipper

You’re more than happy to lie like a beached whale until the sun goes down, before expending all that energy in the evening. But even sun worshippers have their preferences.

For a quiet lie-down, head to Konyaalti beach as it’s less popular with tourists. If you prefer a gossip with the person on the sunbed next to you, you’re likely to be happier at Lara beach. Got watersports on the mind? Get yourself over to Cleopatra beach and hire out a windsurf board or jetski.

Then when the sun starts going down, get back to the hotel and start readying yourself for a night on the town. Club Ally in Antalya town centre is highly recommended, particularly as the venue is served by seven individual bars that cater for all tastes on the nightclub scene. Great for dancing the night away.

For the Culture Vulture

On the prowl for temples, museums and ruins? You won’t be disappointed. Antalya was once a hub for the Byzantine empire and is steeped in heritage and history. Start the day at Hadrian’s Gate, constructed in honour of the emperor himself. From there, wander round to Hidirlik Tower, thought to have been erected by the Romans as a fortification or lighthouse. Note the restoration work carried out by the Ottomans and the Seljuks.

From there, head to the Tekeli Mehmet Pasa mosque to experience original Ottoman architecture. Considered one of the most important places of worship in the city, its three domes stand proud against the horizon. The Antalya Archaeological Museum is also worth a visit. With 13 exhibition halls and thousands of artefacts on display, you’re certainly getting your money’s worth.

In the evening? Head to one of Antalya’s many restaurants for traditional Turkish cuisine. The Sunset Restaurant and Bar is particularly revered among tourists.

For the Explorer

The explorer likes a challenge and is prepared to go to whatever means necessary to discover something new. A world away from the souvenir shops and luxury hotels, you’ll discover the carved and rugged landscape that surrounds the city. If you’re staying near Lara, get away from the busy beach and meander along the Lower Duden Fall – a truly beautiful location full of lush vegetation and spurting waterfalls. More serious adventurers might wish to tackle the Taurus mountains, which are often scaled by hikers.

For the evening? You’ll surely be too knackered from all that walking to go out, so order from room service and flop out in front of the telly!

 

Pinnacle National Park in California

Exploring California’s National Parks

California may well be famous for its sun-drenched beaches, but we think that when it comes to having a really exciting, memorable holiday, it’s the California’s National Parks you should look to. There are 26 in total, and today we’re going to take a look at three of the very best.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite, photo by SmifLet’s start with Yosemite National Park, which is around a four-hour drive from the bright lights of San Francisco. In this reserve can expect to stroll with views of some of the most beautiful mountain terrain in the world. It’s this stunning landscape that the park aims to protect, and for which it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1984.

First, a few basic facts. The park was formed by millions of years of glacial activity and spans 1,170 sq miles. Without doubt it is best known for its striking scenery, which includes vast monoliths like El Capitan (3,000 ft high), waterfalls and sequoia coves. While there are plenty of activities you can try in the park, including hiking and rock climbing, arguably the best thing to do if you’ve never been here before is to visit some of its most famous landmarks.

Yosemite Valley should be high on your list, with its gorgeous waterfalls and dramatic cliffs. For the ultimate vista, head over to Tunnel View, which is at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel – from here, you can see El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls. We also recommend visiting the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, which is around 36 miles south of Yosemite Valley (which should give you some idea of just how vast the park really is). This is the reserve’s largest group of giant sequoias, and standing among them you’ll feel utterly dwarfed by their size.

By the way, if you’re planning a fly-drive holiday to California  don’t miss driving along Tioga Pass. Usually open from late May to early October, it spans the entire length of the park and offers incredible alpine scenery.

 

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

California National Parks Sequoia & Kings Canyon by Satosphere

Over in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range are the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. Now, technically these are two reserves rather than one, but as they are twinned and often treated as a single entity, we will look at them as one park. And, as they stand side-by-side, that’s perfectly easy to do when you visit as well.

Both these parks preserve granite peaks and lush forests and, as you can probably guess from their names, the giant sequoias and Kings Canyon are the top things to see. Looking at the latter first, Kings Canyon might not be as well known as the Grand Canyon, but it is actually the deepest in America. Expect to be totally wowed by the views – think sheer granite cliffs rising 1,000 ft sprinkled with spectacular waterfalls.

The sequoias, meanwhile, are best viewed in the aptly-named Giant Forest. The largest tree of them all is dubbed General Sherman, and is approximately 275 ft high. As you stare up at it, it’s worth remembering that this is thought to be the biggest tree in the world by volume.

Other great things to do here including taking a tour of Crystal Cave. A really popular attraction that’s home to some fascinating marble formations, it is open to the public from May to November, but you’ll need tickets to get in and take the tour. It’s worth bearing in mind that because of its popularity these tend to sell out fast, so try to book first thing in the morning. Sometimes you can reserve places the day before, so that’s worth checking when you arrive.

Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacle National Park in California

Our final suggestion is Pinnacles National Park – another aptly-named reserve, having earned its title from the huge spires and monoliths found here. Located just to the east of Salinas Valley, this ancient volcanic field is in the Gabilan Mountains and has some of the most exciting and unusual terrain in California – at least we think so anyway!

Over millions of years, the volcano here eroded as it gradually moved along the San Andreas Fault. Left behind are sheer-walled canyons, spectacular spires and massive monoliths that have to be seen to be believed. Most people come to the park to hike or rock climb, but you can also visit simply to admire the view. As a quick tip, Pinnacles is one of the few national parks that’s well suited to exploring in the cooler months and is generally open throughout autumn and winter.

Since the park is home to more than 30 miles of excellent hiking trails, it’s definitely a must-visit for keen walkers – even if you’re not after anything too challenging. For instance, there are several short routes starting out at the Pinnacles Visitor Centre, such as the 2.3-mile trail to Bear Gulch Day Use Area and the 6.5-mile path along the South Wilderness Trail. The latter is fantastic for wildlife spotting, while it’s worth bearing in mind that spring is the best time to come for seeing wild flowers on any of the trails.