World Guides Travel Blog

December 2013

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 20, 2013


Photo of snowy mountains in Aspen, Colorado, USAThis Christmas, in the South-West of England, it is probably safe to say we won't be getting any snow. In fact, we're more likely to get an awful lot of rain and wind. No surprise there, then. But there are some places in the world where, quite frankly, you would be disappointed to find no snow during the festive season.

One town that is usually not short of a snowflake or two is Rovaniemi, located on the Arctic Circle, in Finland. Every Christmas, thousands of families flood to the small town to meet Santa, who travels down from the mountains to welcome the children. Traditionally, Santa makes the epic journey by sleigh; its runners cutting their way through the snow with a seasonal swoosh.

This year, though, that vital ingredient of a white Christmas - snow - was worryingly slow to arrive. Well, it did arrive, back in October, but then disappeared again. There were even concerns that Rovaniemi would experience what is known as a Black Christmas, when there is no snow at all. The last one was in 1986. If the same had happened this year, it wouldn't have been just the children who were disappointed. This most northerly of tourist destinations - complete with Santa's own office, post office and reindeer sledding activities - is a vital part of the local economy. Last year, around half a million people arrived in the town at Christmas time.

Thankfully, snow did arrive in northern Finland in time for the festivities. However, scientists in Scotland have issued a warning that a lack of snow at Lapland's capital may become a more regular occurrence. Climate change may mean that, by 2050, the permanent snow cover season will be even shorter and that winter snows will melt ever earlier. Which means, of course, that Santa will eventually have to find a new way of getting down that mountain to deliver his presents.

Posted by Sue at 15:39:25 on 20/12/2013

December 15, 2013


Photo of the famous castle at Disneyland, Anaheim, California, USAAnother year draws to a close and, out there, there is already an awful lot of number-crunching going on. The latest of a rash of annual reviews to catch my eye is a list of Facebook's most popular check-in sites in 2013. More and more people are forsaking the good old picture postcard to share their location with family and friends. Instead, they are using Facebook's check-in feature to say 'wish you were here'.

Facebook's list of the top 25 most checked-in locations makes for fascinating reading. The list includes, of course, some old tourist favourites, notably that icon of family entertainment, Disneyland. It appears that we all love Disneyland, whether it is in California, Florida, Paris, Hong Kong or Tokyo. Then there are those classic tourist destinations that everybody aspires to visit at least once in their lifetime. In Italy, lots of travellers checked in from the Piazzo san Marco in Venice, whilst, in India, the Golden Temple in Amritsar proved to be particularly popular. Surprisingly, it came in ahead of the Taj Mahal.

Meanwhile, some of the world's most iconic music and sporting venues haven't been left out. Few Facebook users seem to have been able to resist the temptation to tell their friends that they actually managed to get tickets to London's O2 Arena or at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia.

Cool places to hang out in 2013 also included Iceland's geothermal Blue Lagoon and the luxurious Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Perhaps best known for its SkyPark, the Marina Bay Sands resort comes complete with an impressive Olympic-sized infinity pool. Perched 55 storeys above the world's most expensive hotel, you would surely be forgiven for wanting to let everyone know exactly where you were.

Posted by Sue at 11:40:09 on 15/12/2013

December 8, 2013


Picture of Mandela Square in Johannesburg, South AfricaMany tributes have been paid to the late Nelson Mandela today. Among them is a statement released by South African Tourism, that anti-apartheid icon, Mandela, 'single-handedly put South Africa on the map for billions of people around the world'.

The end of apartheid in South Africa brought tourists in their droves. By the 1980s, the trickle of visitors to the country had practically dried up. In 1993, three years after Mandela's release from prison, just over 3 million tourists arrived from overseas. By 2012, that figure had shot up to over 9 million.

Today, South Africa's top tourist destinations include Robben Island, where Mandela was famously imprisoned for 27 years. This bleak island off the Cape coast is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; thousands visit each year.

Museums that tell the apartheid story are also popular with visitors who have embarked on the Mandela trail. Among them are the Apartheid Museum and the Hector Pieterson Museum, both in Johannesburg. There is also the site of Mandela's arrest in 1962, which is now the site of a monument and a tourist destination in its own right. Lilieslief Farm, in the north of Johannesburg, once played a vital role in the ANC's struggle; today, it is a museum that is certainly worth a visit. At the heart of South Africa's successful tourist industry is Soweto. Guided tours include a trip to Vilakazi Street, where Mandela lived during the 1940s and 1950s.

Mandela's legacy is far-reaching. Thanks to the 'Mandela effect', South African tourism has been totally transformed. And as a result, millions more will, no doubt, continue to tread in the great man's footsteps, eager to see how and where he changed the course of history.

Posted by Sue at 16:20:32 on 6/12/2013