3 up and coming countries to see before the tourists take over

MYANMAR
A trip to Myanmar is one of the most rewarding experiences in the South East of Asia because the country is strikingly beautiful and different from most destinations in Asia. With the lift on the tourism boycott ban to this country, it means that doors are finally open for exploration.

Myanmar has been through a tough political regime that has deprived the world access to this beautiful country and much of the country remains the same as it did years ago. Though the economy remains in tatters, the Burmese people still express shy smiles to the visitors and their warm hospitality welcome you to explore this country in friendly environment.

There are numerous attractions to luxury travel in Myanmar which include numerous temples, the Ayeyarwaddy River, Lakes, Mountains, Rivers, pretty over water villages, caves, pagodas and forests. The best destination to explore ancient temples is Bagan; the city of Yangon offers beautiful contrasts of colonial architecture and ancient pagodas while the Inle Lake rewards you with unforgettable sights.

CROATIA
It is an incredible country to explore with its dizzying diversities that range from dramatic lime mountain ranges towering over canyons to impressive gorges to waterfalls and rivers. Since the Homeland Wars that ripped the former Yugoslavia apart, Croatia has spent time healing its scars and quietly turning itself into one of the most sought after destinations in Europe and with its entry into the European Union in 2013 means that this beautiful country is ripe for exploration.

The choice of simple beach experience is overwhelming in Croatia making it difficult to decide whether to go to the Italianate resorts on the Istrian Coast, the glitzy Opatija Riviera or the islands that dot the coast from Kvarner Southwards, Central Dalmatia, elegant Hvar and Dubrovnik with its spectacular islands.

If it is adventure you are after you will enjoy the outdoors in Europe’s most scenic parks from the Karst Peaks of Velebit to the rushing waters of Krka.

MOROCCO
Morocco is an ancient North African country that offers fascinating contrasts, mystery and breathtaking beauty. It is where Berber, European, African and Arabic cultures blend, the ancient and the modern strive to strike a balance and where idyllic villages up the Atlas ranges seem to be caught up in a time rap while in cities such as Fez, Marrakech and Essaouira the medieval streets go hand in hand with fashionable roof top bars and restaurants.

This is definitely the place to visit before the rich Berber culture which has endured invasions, regimes and harsh climate gets eroded by western culture. Morocco is rich in every dimension, from the landscapes ranging from deserts to rugged mountains and pristine coastline; it is a paradise under the sun for outdoor lovers and those who want an adventure holiday.

There are some experiences only worth trying in Morocco such as scrubbing clean in a traditional Hammam, haggling prices in the bustling souks, enjoying an afternoon in the lively Djemma El Fna and tasting the spicy tagine in a local restaurant.

On Travelling to Morocco

Morocco is a North African country bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. In deed the exotic location of Morocco makes it a quintessential tourist destination for adventure lovers. Its strategic location at the crossroads of the East and West, the North and South presents a wonderful opportunity for a vacation that is set to leave you spoilt for choice. Suffice to say that Morocco presents a clash of culture owing to the multitude of cultures that influence it. Indeed, the culture in Morocco can be compared to fine cuisine given that the African, the oriental, Arabic, Mediterranean and the European cultures contribute to the Moroccan culture. What makes Morocco holidays truly unique is the fact that this diverse flavor spread in to every facet of the travel experience ranging from the music, the food and the architectural designs of the town.

What makes the exotic and exciting North African country of Morocco stand out is the plethora of activities that you can indulge in throughout the year. Unlike other travel destinations, Morocco welcomes tourists at all times of the year with the promise of a breath-taking and memorable experience. With its diverse tourist attraction sites, its historic monuments and the striking architecture of the towns that speak volumes in to the history of the country and the wide array of activities available for the enjoyment of the tourist, Morocco has something in store for everyone who visits. It combines a unique blend of rural travel activities and the exotic fast paced urban experiences.

With its white sandy beaches, for the lover of the ocean, Morocco offers a selection of secluded beaches nestled beautifully along the beachfront. Here you can enjoy an assortment of activities including water sports in the strikingly beautiful aquamarine waters. This is especially so in the towns of Casablanca and Essaouira. For the lovers of food, a journey to the delight of your palettes presents itself in the Moroccan cuisine. Its exquisiteness lies in the diversity employed in preparation. From the Mediterranean fruits, the fresh red meat and the use of rich spices, attraction sites such as the Djemaa El Fna market come alive in the night to serve only the best in Moroccan cuisine. The mouth watering fried eel, the remarkable pastries and the crisp salads are some of the delights on offer in this market.

However, the greatest pleasure in a trip to Morocco lies in store for the adventure lovers. The favorable climate all year round leaves them spoilt for choice between which activities to engage in. The treks to the Atlas Mountains offer a fun activity for the whole family given that the terrain is favorable for all and sundry.

Camel rides through the desert are one of the most popular adventure tours in Morocco. Voyages to the leading attraction sites in the towns of Volubilis, Marrakech, the ancient and medieval town of Fez and Rabat offer unparalleled adventures. The phrase employed in marketing Morocco truly sums up the experience “the country that travels within you”

Marrakech: an ideal place to immerse in Morocco’s culture

Marrakech is definitely a great place to visit if you want to immerse yourself in Moroccan culture. From haggling in one of its many souks to getting a henna tattoo, there are many ways to embrace the culture. Here are a few things you can do to get to the heart of the north African country.

An assault on the senses

One of Morocco’s largest cities, this is the best place to head to if you really want to get a taste of the nation’s culture.

When I went to Marrakech, the first thing to hit me was its lively ambience. You are immediately struck by people rushing around, stallholders shouting and the strong scent of food cooking out in the open when you arrive here for your luxury holiday in Morocco.

Even if you choose to stay in opulent accommodation in the centre of the city, no riad or hotel is able to escape the vibrant atmosphere of Marrakech – and this is half the reason why so many people love coming here.

As well as the constant bustle of locals and tourists walking throughout the city at all hours of the day, you’ll be able to smell the strong scent of spices and incense in the air. But if you really want to embrace all the sights and sounds of Marrakech, there is only one place to head to – its souks.

Haggle at the souks

Marrakech is home to the largest marketplace I have ever seen in my life, with a myriad of stalls surrounding its main square, Djemaa el-Fna. Even if you don’t buy anything, you can spend an entire day (and more) simply walking around the bazaar, as it stretches out like a maze around the central courtyard.

As the marketplace is so huge, you will find everything you can imagine here, from lanterns and traditional ornaments to fresh fruit and herbal pharmacies. This is, unsurprisingly, a great place to pick up some souvenirs, either to bring home and remind you of your holiday or to give to family and friends.

You could buy some handicraft items, such as wooden ornaments or pictures, so you can have an authentic slice of Moroccan culture in your living room. Alternatively, you could revamp your wardrobe with a pair of babouches – leather slippers – or brightly-coloured dyed garments. Head to the jewellers’ souks, where you’ll find stall upon stall selling gold necklaces, bangles and earrings. There is also a huge range of cheaper costume jewellery if you want to save some money for other souvenirs from your trip.

Don’t forget to try your haggling skills out here. This is the best place in Morocco to pick up some bargains and the stallholders thoroughly expect you to barter with them, with the process often ending up in a cheerful conversation with the vendor – as well as the successful purchase of an item you will remember buying forever.

Get involved in the culture

There are several historic attractions you can visit in Marrakech, as well as tour operators offering the chance to enjoy trips into the desert or to the seaside. However, I found a great way to really embrace the local culture was to stay in the city centre and get involved in things they would.

You could pay a snake charmer to show you how he can make his cobra wind their way out of his ceramic vase simply by playing a recorder or you can add some beautiful body art to your arms or legs by getting a lady to give you a temporary henna tattoo. Of course, don’t forget to sample its food – one of my favourite parts of the trip.

Delicious tomato stews called tagines can be tasted at local restaurants, where you can enjoy scrumptious local cuisine cooked in an authentic style.

Marrakech – The assembly of the (not so) dead

The Djemaa El-Fna square is the beating heart of Marrakech, which translates roughly as ‘the Assembly of the Dead’, but it could not be more alive. It is unorganized chaos and bedlam, people will accost you each and every way you turn, trying to sell you god only knows what. Trying to tell you stories you can’t understand, taking you by the hand and proceeding to henna tattoo it, asking you for money having already done the tattoo. These are known as the Henna Hustlers, and are just one of many ‘traders’ that make up the cacophony of Djemaa El-Fna square. However this is somehow only adds to its charms, you simply have to adapt. You have to realise that you will be targeted for every possible blag for money as a westerner, but as long as you are aware you can start to understand and enjoy this magical place. For example if you wish to purchase something, be prepared to be asked for around %500 than it is actually worth. One way to barter is put the amount you want to pay in your pocket, say that is all you have and start to walk away. Nine times out of ten they will make the sale to you. You will soon realise that you are not in the UK, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

The square gets its name from what it was originally a parade ground made by the Amorovids, in front of their royal fortress. The name ‘Assembly of the Dead’ specifically refers to the executions which would take place here, the pickled heads exhibited for all to see upon spikes.

By night the square literally transforms. I would recommend sitting and waiting for the sunset, and watch the whole scene unfold before your eyes, like a theatre of the night with the cast of thousands. Night and day the orange juice sellers will be ever present; gypsy style ramshackle carts piled high with oranges, other traders crammed into every other nook and cranny with all manner of dried fruit and nuts for sale. The many mint sellers you can barely see behind their small green mountains. To the ever increasing throng of tribal drums played on animal skinned drums, more and more clusters of figures gather under rough parasols. The Henna Hustlers will be out in force seeking undrawn hands and feet, and the snake charmers sat cross legged playing entrancing sounds holding the mighty cobra in a somnambulistic trance, which in turn is strangely entrancing to watch. You will see men leading nappy wearing monkeys, charlatans, beggars and traders performing the most weird and wonderful spectacles before your eyes.

It is a bizarre bedlam, entire make shift kitchens are pulled onto the square with tables and chairs making it a huge outdoor restaurant of sorts, with scooters and rickshaws beeping and weaving through it all. It has a circus like atmosphere, and you will go away with some definitely perception changing memories!

Staying in a Riad in Marrakech is the only way to experience the country just as the locals do, book one by clicking here for your next holiday!

Marrakech Must Sees

Marrakech is situated at the foot of the Atlas mountains and is a truly fascinating place, full of history and beauty. It is the cultural centre of Morocco and must be experienced. This magical city has been transformed into one of Africa’s swishiest destinations and boasts boutique hotels furnished in luxury, celebrity chef-run restaurants and deluxe hammams. Marrakech is known as the ‘Red City’ and is literally bursting with delights, things to do and places to visit. There is so much to see, it’s whether you have enough days to fit it all in?!

If you see only one thing when on holidays in Marrakech, it should be the famous Djemaa ed Fna. In the shadow of the Koutoubia Mosque, the square is the pulse of the medina by day and night. By day, it is a bus station and market place with stalls lining the square. Yet from evening, it is transformed into a festival of food and fun, with snake charmers, storytellers, medicine men, circus performers and musicians, but to name a few. Its cultural significance has merited a UNESCO designation as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. In the evenings, it morphs into the busiest square in all of Africa. Indulge all your senses into the sights, sounds, tastes and smells. This is where you’ll really discover and experience the bustling heart of Marrakech and it’s an experience you’ll never forget!

Djemaa El Fna translates as “The Assembly of the Dead” and this is where the heads of executed criminals and rebels were once displayed in times gone by. The historic square is surrounded by cafés and restaurants, why not watching the comings and goings and magic of the square from one of the rooftop cafés, whilst sipping on a relaxing herbal tea? On your visit there, make sure you take some loose change, as the performers do expect a bit of appreciation!

North of the square is the Labyrinth of Souks, the largest in Morocco. These bustling, labyrinths offer the city’s most fascinating sights. It’s a vast marketplace selling everything from carpets to spices. Explore them at your leisure and make sure to do some bargaining along the way, it is seen as an insult to the locals otherwise. Whether you’re there to shop or simply to explore, they are a must for any visitor. The key to exploring the maze is to accept that getting lost is part of the experience.

The alleyways cover over a square kilometre and are divided into distinct markets, each with their own specialities. Probably the most colourful are those selling the babouches (slippers). Also, the magic market, the Rahba Kédima, is the most unusual, with its grisly displays of lizards and snakeskins.

One of the most famous landmarks in Marrakech is the Koutoubia Mosque, which was built in the 12th century and is still the main place of worship in the area today. At around 70 metres high, this grand minaret is the city’s tallest building and it is visible for miles from any direction. The mosque and minaret are closed to non-Muslims, but you can wander around the surrounding buildings and through the gardens.

Another site well worth a visit is the Saadian Tombs, they are in excellent condition as were sealed up for centuries until their rediscovery in 1917. Occupying a quiet enclosure at the Kasbah, the tombs are decorated with colourful tiles, Arabic script and elaborate carvings.

Something also worth a visit is the sights and smells in the Marrakech Tanneries, with the leather dyeing workshops and giant pots of colourful dye. Historically, the dyes were made using everything, but now most are made using chemical pigments. The majority of work is crafted by local artisans then sold in the Marrakech souks.

Other things for you list of things to do and see could include taking a horse-drawn caliche tour around the city walls, or visiting the Jardin Majorelle, a botanical garden once owned by Yves Saint Laurent. 

When planning your trip, please note it’s best to try and avoid the summer heat and crowds and visit Marrakech during the cooler months between September and May.

Although the tourist trade is a booming industry here, with more than one million Moroccans living here, the Marrakech experience remains true to its roots as an imperial city full of culture. Marrakech has a wealth of museums, historical sites and quiet gardens offering a change of pace from the hectic streets. There is plenty to see and do here, indulge yourself into the culture and history and you’ll have a completely memorable holiday!