World Guides Travel Blog

December 2012

This is where we let you know all about what's going on with our website and the world of travel, with destination reviews, current travel news and topical travel-related stuff to discuss with your friends. Please let us know if you want to comment on anything - Contact us.

December 21, 2012


Photo of the Inca ruins at Machu PicchuMy local music venue is holding an End of the World Party tonight. Elsewhere, folk are stocking up on survival gear, just in case. The reason for this flurry of activity? Not the state of the world economy, but an ancient Mayan prophecy that has led some people to believe that the world will end on the 21st December 2012.

The Mayan prophecy has led to a new sort of holiday maker, with curious crowds of 'end of the world tourists' heading for popular Mayan sites in Central America before it is too late. Floods of doomsday visitors have laid siege to the ruins of Tikal, where it seems there is barely a spare hotel room to be had.

All this interest in the Mayan legacy, with all its mysteries, has to be a good thing. Tikal's towering limestone temples and palaces found amidst the Guatemalan jungle, are among some of the best-preserved examples of this ancient civilisation.

Further image of the Machu Picchu remainsLikewise, the ruins of Copan in Honduras, first discovered in the 16th century, include what is thought to be the longest Mayan inscription. More than 1,800 glyphs can be deciphered along a vast stairway. Less well known but equally impressive are the ruins at Quirigua in Guatemala, which include a collection of carved sandstone stellae that are reputed to be the best examples of their kind.

It has to be said that speculation about the end of the world has been given short shrift by modern Mayans, who are quick to point out that it is not so much about the end of the world as the start of a new era. Friday is the start of a new 394-year cycle - the 14th, as it happens. So, it is not a case of waiting for the apocalypse - it is more a case of waking up to a new dawn. Plenty of time, then, to finish that Mayan tour, stroll along the Inca Trail, and then perhaps explore Machu Picchu.

Posted by Sue at 12:08:33 on 21/12/2012

December 15, 2012


Photo of woman reading a book in the Red Sea, by Patrik NeckmanWith the Christmas holidays less than a fortnight away and the frenzy of present-buying reaching a crescendo, the thought of lighting the fire, grabbing a festive tipple and opening the front cover of a book is truly tempting.

To my mind, there can be few better ways of spending the Christmas holidays than working through a stack of books. This year, I've got a yearning to indulge in my love for travel-related yarns. There is no doubt that reading about somewhere else in the world can help to light up those long winter nights and offer some much-needed inspiration. After all, if you can't get away in person, you can still travel far and wide in your imagination.

This year, I've started to scan the bookshelves and form my very own library by my armchair. Travel-themed writing crosses a multitude of genres, from books that allow you to travel across cultures and continents, to books that transport you swiftly and efficiently back in time, as well as space.

I bought Colin Thubron's 'To a Mountain in Tibet' for a friend a couple of years ago and instantly regretted having let it slip through my fingers before I'd had chance to get further than the first page. So this year, I've made sure I've got my own copy. The book follows Thubron on his personal pilgrimage to one of the most sacred mountains in the world. His journey takes him into the company of monks in their dilapidated monasteries and to the base of a summit that has never been successfully scaled.

'On the Road' by Jack Kerouac is an icon of a book, but sad to say, one that has been sat gathering dust on my bookshelf for far too long. It truly deserves another airing this Christmas. The call of Africa is answered by the likes of 'Out of Africa' by Isak Dinesen, a book that creates a vivid picture of life on a coffee planation in British East Africa in the final days of the British Empire. Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' follows the protagonist Marlow as he experiences the wilderness and darkness of the African state of Congo.

'The Call of the Wild' promises freezing days and even colder nights. When I was young, it succeeded in whisking me off to the harsh environment of the Yukon and l'm sure it'll do so again. Taking me to Mediterranean climes and the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War is Laurie Lee's masterpiece 'As I Walked out one Midsummer Morning'.

As I contemplate the stack, which is definitely growing bigger by the day, it occurs to me that they are not just a handful of books, they are a whole lot of adventures just waiting to happen.

Posted by Sue at 10:21:02 on 15/12/2012

December 9, 2012


Photo of Rome's Colosseum and the adjacent Arch of ConstantineIt has happened to me once or twice and I'm sure that I'm not alone. You arrive at your chosen day trip or holiday destination with a view to visiting a particular historic monument. Instead of the expected picture-perfect view - the one you've seen on all the postcards - you find that its four ancient walls are shrouded in a not-so-pretty covering of ironwork.

Temporary works on historic sites are an annoyance if they have sent your sightseeing plans awry. However, they are a necessary part of the heritage industry. Without the occasional historic overhaul, the world's most ancient buildings would be in a sorry state indeed.

View of Rome's famous Colosseum remainsTake Rome's Colosseum as an example. Recent news that it will be obscured by protective scaffolding for the best part of three years was greeted with a mixture of relief and dismay. The Colosseum has been in need of repair work for quite some time now. In fact, it was last overhauled 70-odd years ago. In the meantime, weather and pollution damage have taken their toll, as have the footsteps of the hundreds of thousands of people who visit each year. Recently, largish chunks of masonry have fallen from the building, giving city officials many a sleepless night. So too have worrying reports that the Colosseum is tilting 'leaning tower-style' on its southern side.

The multi-million euro project to restore Rome's most-visited ancient monument is expected to begin shortly, so if you want to admire an unimpeded view of the Colosseum in all its ancient glory, then you will need to act fast - or be prepared to wait until 2015 when the covers are scheduled to come off. In the meantime, a cast iron barrier will be erected to preserve these iconic Roman ruins and protect passers by from walking too close.

All is not lost, though. In the case of the Colosseum, the site will remain open to the public, albeit with more limited access than usual. Work has been planned in phases so that Rome's tourists won't miss out completely. And when restoration is complete, it is promised that there'll be even more to see than before, including a new underground section.

Posted by Sue at 13:17:40 on 9/12/2012

December 1, 2012


Photo of Hobbiton, Wellington, New ZealandHere in Middle England, Middle Earth fever has well and truly set in. The release of the first in 'The Hobbit' trilogy has also whipped up something of a frenzy in New Zealand, the country that serves as the quite magnificent backdrop for the film. The city of Wellington has even, by all accounts, restyled itself as 'The Middle of Middle Earth'.

A lot of people are counting on the film in New Zealand, not least those involved in the country's tourist industry. There is no doubt that watching a film on the big screen can inspire large numbers of people to head off to see a place for themselves. The additional tourism revenue that is expected to be generated from Hobbit-related holidays will arrive at just the right moment. Lately, international visitor numbers - which shot up dramatically in response to the release of the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy in 2001- have started to drop off.

Picture of Hobbit houses in Wellington, New ZealandFor fantasy film buff's who are keen to follow in the footsteps of characters from 'Lord of the Ring's, must-see locations have to include Aoraki Mount Cook, which stood in for Middle Earth's Misty Mountains, or Tongariro National Park, a fair substitute for Mordor, with its distinctive and other-worldly volcanic landscape.

Film location holiday hotspots are nothing new. In the 1960s, the 'Sound of Music' inspired a generation to visit Austria's city of Salzburg. 'The Beach' led to the discovery of an idyllic island in southern Thailand known as Ko Phi Phi Le. And no doubt it probably didn't go unnoticed that many a swashbuckling scene in 'Pirates of the Caribbean' was shot amidst the stunning, unspoiled islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Posted by Sue at 9:34:46 on 1/12/2012