Bruges, Belgium – take a note

Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flandersin, the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country.

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The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO since 2000. Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact. It is a oval-shaped  city which is sometimes referred to as The Venice of the North for its many canals. Bruges has a significant economic importance thanks to its port and was once the chief commercial city in the world. Bruges is well known as the seat of the College of Europe, an elite university institute for European studies.

Something curious about Bruges is that its most famous landmark is its 13th-century belfry, housing a municipal carillon comprising 48 bells. The city still employs a full-time carillonneur, and you may want to take a note of this – he gives free concerts on a regular basis.

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Joana and Rodrigo, a couple of engineers who enjoy traveling, went to Bruges on a weekend escape and they have best suggestions and plans to do in Bruges. Don’t miss out tomorrow’s post where they will share it all with us!

“The city has countless beautiful corners, gardens and plazas and if you like chocolate, Brugge has a LOT to offer, there are chocolateries everywhere.”

Joana & Rodrigo

Country: Belgium

Country’s capital: Brussels

Official language: Dutch, French and German

Currency: Euro (£1 = 1.29€; §1 = 0.90€ )

Population:  117,170 inhabitants

Total area: 138.40 km2

Goa, India – take a note

Goa is a state located in the South western region of India. It is by area the smallest state of India and the fourth smallest by population. With beautiful beaches Goa is one of India’s richest states and it was ranked the best placed state by the Eleventh Finance Commission for its infrastructure. It was also ranked on top for the best quality of life in India by the National Commission on Population.

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Panaji is the state’s capital and Vasco da Gama, named after the Portuguese navigator who discovered India, is the largest city. The historic city of Margao still exhibits the cultural influence of the Portuguese, who first landed in 1498 and conquered it after. Goa is a former Portuguese province and it was not until 1961 that it was annexed to India being no longer Portuguese overseas territory.

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Mãe de Deus Church

Goa is visited by a large numbers of international and domestic tourists each year for its clear water beaches, places of worship and world heritage architecture. It also a wide variety of flora and fauna making the landscape even prettier.

Tomorrow Manuel, a Portuguese student and traveler, shares his experience with us about a place he has truly enjoyed and even went back a second time! Don’t miss out!

“Goa was the place where I felt for the first time the real meaning of peace. It was the first time I was in a very different reality but felt comfortable with it.”

Manuel Ribeiro

Country: India

Country’s capital: Goa

Official language: Konkani

Currency: Rupee (1€= 73.5 INR ; £1 = 94.4 INR ; §1 =67.6 INR )

Population: 1,817 millions

Total area: 3.702 km²

Dublin, Ireland- take a note

Dublin is the capital and largest city of Ireland. The city is in the province of Leinster on Ireland’s east coast. The capital of Ireland is known as the Viking’s city. It was found as a Viking settlement becoming Ireland’s principal city following the Norman invasion. There is a Viking museum to visit in Dublin and also a variety of Viking tours where you can get to know more about the Vikings and Ireland.

Ireland’s capital is also famous for hosting one of the world’s biggest St. Patrick’s parade. The whole city dresses up in green and on the 17th of March there is a big parade and celebrations everywhere.

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Dublin is beautiful city full of history, arts, industry and it is also a centre for education. The people are very nice and friendly in general and you will entertain yourself easily in their live music bars while drinking a Guinness or the famous Irish coffee! Yet there is a tiny down side – rain! It rains quite often and the temperatures even in the summer rarely pass the 20ºC.

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Tomorrow I will be posting about my experiences in the city of Dublin. It is a city I truly enjoyed and I have in fact been there more than once already. It is worth a visit just for the hostility and kindness of their people!

“Dublin is such a great city! Small enough to walk everywhere and with a lot of nice things to explore. Their bars are just the best I have ever been to with their amazing live music! Can’t wait to go back there again!”

Carolina Lopes

Country: Ireland

Country’s capital: Dublin

Official language: English and Irish

Currency: Euro (£1 =1.41 euro §1 = 1.11 euro)

Population: 527.612 inhabitants

Total area: 115 km²

Tallinn, a capital to explore

I am a student of nursing and for my Erasmus program I have chosen to go to Tallinn. I am going to share with you my experience in this beautiful city so I hope you enjoy!

TRAVEL TO TALLINN – ESTONIA

  1. AIRPLANE to Talinn Airport (companies such as Ryanair fly there)

From the airport to the centre

  1. TAXI FROM £5/6.3€/$7 (duration: 10 minutes)
  2. BUS FROM £1.40/1.80€/$2 (duration: 15 minutes)

Travel around Talinn

  1. BUS and TRAM from £4.8/6€/$6.8 the weekly pass for both

Note: There are also rent-a-cars at the airport yet it is easier and quicker to move around Tallinn by bus, taxi, tram or foot!

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Starting with food, to taste some good Estonian food, you definitely have to try number 1 Trip Advisor restaurant “Rastakevus”. It has a beautiful and cosy environment and the staff is really pleasant. I will just let you know they have the most delicious homemade pumpkin seeds bread with some butter to die for. And guess what…. It’s on the house!

Rastakevus Restaurant

Prices in average: £7/8.8€/$9.9

For a cheaper meal there’s a Greek restaurant called “Pitas” that has the most delicious pitas/kebabs I have ever tasted. And it can be a good meal after a night out because they are open 24 hours! And don’t forget to bring your student card because they have good discount.

Pitas Restaurant

Prices in average: £2.45/3€/$3.5

Now for desert! It doesn’t look like much from the outside (or the inside really) but “Kompressor” has a full menu of delicious and GIANT crepes. It’s a place to indulge in your sweetness for sure. But if you don’t like sweets so much, you can always try the salty ones (bacon, cheese, ham and so on).

Kompressor Restaurant

Prices in average: £3/3.8€/$4.2

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I don’t have much experience to tell you about hotels because all my stay in Tallinn was in a student’s residence. But when my friend’s parents came to visit her they stayed in a really picturesque hotel named “Von Stackelberg”. The stone walls and the wood gives it a beautiful ambience, that’s makes you feel like a northerner.  It’s located near the old town and has some really good reviews.

Von Stackelberg Hotel

Prices from: £49/62€/$69 per night per person

It has also sauna/steam room, day spa, library, café, among other facilities.

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sightseeing

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Almost all of the landmarks and museums to see are in the Old Town, a place you will find very medieval. To see all the old town and museums I recommend 2 days. You can get a map of the city in one of the souvenir’s shops and see how to get to every landmark. To see the entire city you should climb to St. Olaf’s Church and you will have a great view of the all city. Also there are two viewpoints in the Old town where you can get a beautiful view of the Old Town and the Baltic Sea.

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There is also a beautiful park “Kadriorg” with beautiful gardens, a palace an art museum. This one you have to take a tram from the old town to get there.

About 50% of Estonia is covered in forest and it was ranked the cleanest air in the world by World Health Organisation 2011 report.

You will find the people in Tallinn very reserved and not to smiling, this in manly because they got out of the soviet oppression quite recently and also because their history tells that in ancient times they lived very apart from each other because of the big forests.

 

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Tallinn, Estonia – Take a note

Tallinn is situated on the northern coast of Estonia, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland (as seen on map). Tallinn‘s Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is ranked as a global city and has been listed among the top 10 digital cities in the world (these are cities that use digital technologies to improve the quality of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption). The city was also a European Capital of Culture for 2011. Approximately 32% of Estonia’s total population lives in Tallinn.

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For many year the city used to be called Reval (this lasted from the 13th century until 1918 and also during the Nazi occupation from 1941 to 1944).

Tallinn is the financial and business capital of Estonia and over half of Estonian GDP is generated in Tallinn. Most profit comes from tourism, information technology and logistics.

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During the winter months, temperatures tend stay below zero and it can go down to -4.3ºC in their coldest month which is February. In the summer the temperature goes from 19 to 21 °C (during daytime) and 9.6 to 12.7 °C during nighttime.

This Friday on the blog Carolina’s journey in Tallinn will be posted and being Carolina an Erasmus student she definitely knows already all the best stops in the city!

“You will find the people in Tallinn very reserved and not to smiling, this in manly because they got out of the soviet oppression quite recently and also because their history tells that in ancient times they lived very apart from each other because of the big forests.”

Carolina

Country: Estonia

Capital: Tallinn

Largest City: Tallinn, 439,286 habitants

Official language: Estonian

Currency: Euro (£1 =1.42 euro)

Population: 439,286 habitants

Total area: 159.2 km2

President: Toomas Hendrik Ilves (2006)

A Magic Island called Santorini

During our summer holidays we have chosen to visit the Greek islands and Kamari, a little place in the east side of Santorini ended up as being the best choice. The reason we have chosen Kamari was because when comparing to price/quality with all the other places in Santorini this was the one who they thought the best.

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After two airplane scales and a whole days stuck in traffic we finally made it to Santorini where we had a driver waiting for us to take us to the hotel. In that moment we were introduced to the driving style in Santorini which is let’s say quite more relaxed than what we are used to in Portugal. In this moment we knew right way these were going to be very fun holidays!

TRAVEL TO SANTORINI – GREECE

  1. AIRPLANE to Athens Airport (airlines such as Aegean Airline or British Airways flight there)
  2. METROFROM £0.80/1€/$1.1 –  E. Venizelos Athens TO Piraeus Port (duration: 1h30)
  3. BOATFROM £14.10/18€/$20 – Piraeus Port TO Thira (Santorini) (duration: 7h30)

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Once we arrived at the Makarios hotel the owner told us a place where we could go eat something. The next day would be exploring day. Kamari is the number one choice for tourism in Santorini. It has a lot of black sand beaches and the water temperature is around 25ºC. It has a big amount of restaurants by the sea, some locals’ houses and many hotels and hostels. This area lives out of tourism during the summer and the prices in general are slighter higher than what we are used to in Portugal. The people is very welcoming and nice always ready to help.

MAKARIOS HOTEL

Prices from: £70/88€/$99 per night per room with all inclusive rate plans: breakfast, lunch and dinner, snacks, drinks from 10.00-22.00

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On our second day we decided to explore the strongest touristic points of Santorini: the capital Fira and its mystic sunset and the Oia (pronounced Ía) maze of white houses. It is easy to travel in the island and we have chosen to do it by bus that quickly took us to Fira which was very crowded of people.

TRAVEL IN SANTORINI

  1. RENT A CARFROM £26/33€/$37 per day (prices may vary as there are many local car rental companies such as Coolcars, easy rentals, Santorini Holiday Cars and visitors can also rent from international companies such as Budget Rent a Car or  Hertz)
  2. TAXIFROM £32/40€/$45  (one way taxi to any village from the port or airport)
  3. BUSFROM £1.30/1.60€/$1.80 (Note: in the winter buses stop running at midnight every night of the week and start running again at 5am.  In the summer months buses run until 4am from Fira to the main resorts.)

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We started by exploring the inside of the capital. We found a stunning landscape to a caldera within an endless and strong blue sea.

Just a bit underneath it we saw a “Donkey Station”, yes that is right, a station with donkeys to take tourists down and up the hills. To be honest they did not have a very happy face but it definitely gives more to the scenery of the island. They won’t move out of the way unless we hit them which made us being literally stuck between a donkey and a wall.

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RIDING DONKEYS IN FIRA

You can ride a donkey up (or down) the caldera from the main port.

PICK UP POINTS: Fira and the old port

Price: £3.50/4.50€/$5 one way per person

Duration: 25-35 minutes

Note: There are many controversy as many tourists have been poorly treated by the donkey owners along with some issues on whether the donkeys and well taken care of or not. Other ways to go up and down from Fira to the old port is by cable (£3.50/4.50€/$5 one way) or foot!

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We kept on exploring the capital and along with astonishing landscapes we also found beautiful churches and old buildings. It is a good place to quickly fill up your camera memory card. We had lunch at a local hospital where we had to pay for service charge which we never do in Portugal! So we thought they were a bit too business oriented per say.

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After lunch we caught the bus and after 20 minutes of travelling we got to Oia. We started exploring the area which is just like as seen on photos: mazes with a million corners of white and blue houses over a hill that ends in a deep blue ocean. Oia seems like taken from a movie. There is really something magic in the air of that place and the art crafts stores are in each corner. We even almost made part of a wedding photo shooting!

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After 3 hours of exploring we went to eat at a local burger place and we went to book the place where we were going to watch the sunset. The sunset is a very busy moment in Oia and 3 hours before the sun sets there are already many people saving the best spot to watch the moment. Coming from a place with a beautiful sunset (Ericeira, Portugal) we didn’t find this sunset prettier than what we are used to yet the amount of people gathered to contemplate it made us think who we should value more what we have at home.

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We spent the next days in Kamari resting and enjoying the beach, the pool and the local restaurants.

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Santorini, Greece – take a note

Santorini is a Greek island in the southern Aegean Sea. It is officially called Thira and is the largest island of the archipelago with the same name – Thira. It belongs to the Cyclades group of islands. The municipality of Santorini includes Santorini and Therasia and four uninhabited islands – Aspronisi, Christiana, Nea Kameni and Palaia Kameni. 

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Santorini is essentially what remains after an enormous volcanic eruption that destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single island

It is the most active volcanic centre in the South Aegean Volcanic Arc and it is also where one of the largest volcanic eruptions happened about 3600 years ago. The Minoan eruption which occurred during the Minoan civilization and many say be the source for the legend of Atlantis.

Now a days Santorini is very famous for tourism and this is in fact its main source of wealth followed by agriculture. The island holds a small but quite successful wine industry.

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Tomorrow André and Marina travel experience in Santorini will be shared with all the best suggestions on where to go, what to see and eat among many other things!

“Santorini is a “little” paradise that everyone should visit. It has good beaches, good food, good architecture but above all of this Santorini is truly a magic island.”

Marina & André

 

Country: Greece

Capital: Athens (Greece capital)

Largest City: Athens, 3,090,508 habitants

Official language: Greek

Currency: Euro(£1 =1.41 euro)

Population:  15,550 habitants

Total area: 90.623 km2

President: Prokopis Pavlopoulos (2015)

Bright Lights, Big City – New York

This week Natalie Schlager will be taking us to the magic city of New York. Natalie is an american girl from the state of Minnesota. She has always enjoyed travelling and last year, in the summer of 2014, to celebrate her graduation from high school, her parents took her to New York. It has always been a dream of hers to visit the city so she was beyond excited for finally having the chance of doing so. She now considers the big apple one of the best places she has ever been to and here she shares her unforgettable days discovering New York with us!

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New York City skyline

She chose the City Club Hotel to stay with her parents. It is in a great central location and only two blocks away from Times Square.

There were countless places to eat within walking distance, as well as things to do just as close. This cute little hotel was “once a stately private political club” (cityclubhotel.com), which I thought was so cool, as a history-lover! The building was small but not cramped, and the service was excellent, always willing to answer any questions, give directions (and shortcuts!), and take care of anything else we needed.

The best food they found while walking around New York was not at fancy restaurants. The best food was found in the street from the street vendors she thought.

One thing that I recall in particular was a small bag of nuts that were covered in sugar and cinnamon and broiled to a tasty crunch. We liked them so much that we went to the vendor the following day as we had to get more to snack on, as well as to take back home to share with some friends!

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Ice Cream food truck

The Red Flame Diner goes as a suggestion to have your breakfast. It is a more traditional place and a fun restaurant with Natalie promises you great food.

I will always remember eating here because this is where we first experienced the “New-Yorker” stereotype with one of the servers. A fun memory, for sure!

As things to see while in New York the city has a huge variety of places visit and sightseeing!

One thing that my family and I really enjoyed was visiting Ellis Island. We took a ferry there, which was a fun experience within itself! Having an interest in history, our visit to Ellis Island was absolutely fantastic. I definitely hope to visit again someday. Another fun place we visited was Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. It’s not everyday that you bump into someone, turn around to apologize, and realize it’s Johnny Depp… but just a wax figure version of him, unfortunately, ha!

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Musicals are a must go as while in New York as Broadway is world wide known for amazing amazing shows all year long. Natalie and her family had the opportunity to see not only but three musicals! They went to If/Then, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Matilda. They did not only the show but they also had the exciting chance to meet Idina after the performance of If/Then at the stage door as well as Neil Patrick Harris at Hedwig stage door. As to her favourite she could not decide and she says she loved them all!

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We, of course, had to visit Central Park, as well. We took a lovely horse-drawn carriage ride through the park. It was the perfect way to spend a beautiful afternoon!

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Grand Central Station is also a very famous place to visit while at New York and one Natalie affirms it is definitely Grand and with a lot of beauty and character.

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A more emotional place they visited was Ground Zero. They ended up not going to the museum because there was too big of a line but they did get to visit the structures of water surrounded by the names of the victims.

This was a very interesting place. New York City is very loud and busy, but in this one place, it was so quiet it was eerie. This was a very interesting and sobering place to have visited. I do recommend that anyone visiting the city goes there.

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There are many good ways of getting around the city such as cabs galore or the the subway which they found fairly easy to navigate. If you choose a central hotel walking is also a good option.

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The mystic New Orleans, Louisiana

Filipa Alexendra is a 21-year-old studying in England who went to do an year placement in the U.S.A. During her placement she had the chance to visit many places in the United States but New Orleans was the one she fancied the most.

Street bands play all around the city, they play mostly jazz and blues.
Street bands play all around the city, they play mostly jazz and blues.

In this vibrant city Filipa found her favourite place to eat – Acme Oyster House. New Orleans is all about seafood and oysters mostly, and Acme is the best one to eat these! It is a very small place and usually you will find a big queue to be seated, but it’s worth the waiting. Her suggestion to order are the seafood soup and charged grilled oysters.

View from Filipa's hotel (Marriott downtown) to the Mississippi river
View from Filipa’s hotel (Marriott downtown) to the Mississippi river.

Her fabulous view from the 35th floor of her hotel Mariott downtown room was what Filipa named as the best sightseeing as she could see the whole city from there! Filipa strongly advises Mariott New Orleans downtown hotel to stay at.

“Not the cheapest, but was not crazily expensive, really nice rooms and pool, huge breakfast buffet.”

Some must sees are the St . Louis Cathedral on Jackson square and Garden district.

St . Louis Cathedral
St . Louis Cathedral

Garden district is also very beautiful, with the old and sophisticated houses.

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Garden District

New Orleans is full of night life and Filipa specifically recommends – Bourbon street, a street full of bars with mostly live music, where you can also drink outside.

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Bourbon street, main street of bars and nightlife.

The city is fairly easy to visit by simple walking since the must sees are all close to each other. Since most streets do not allow cars, renting a bike is a suggestion Filipa makes.

French quarter streets (a neighbourhood full of French influences on buildings and food)
French quarter streets – a neighbourhood full of French influences on the buildings and the food.

All over the city can be found interesting little patios which sometimes are simple patios or other times are used for a specific propose. The one shown below for instance was being used as an art gallery.

Art gallery in a patio.
Art gallery in a patio.

“New Orleans is the witchcraft city, you can actually feel the energy in this city, and it’s very mysterious, with plenty of voodoo and witchcraft shops and people reading palms and cards on their little stands on the street.”

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Handmade art and craft market at night – there are buckets with chalk around the place so people can write on the floor.
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A poem written by a street man on a typing machine.

Along the Stuart Highway to Uluru, AU

Niklas Keller is a young German who is passionate about travelling the world. After finishing his high school, Niklas decided to take a GAP year to Australia where he volunteered and travelled for an year! During that year he had the chance to visit Uluru where we went on a exploring trip!

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This is about a car and camping trio in the Northern Territory, Australia’s least dense populated state or Territory. The NT has an area four times as large as Germany but only has about 180 000 inhabitants. 120 000 of these live in Darwin and it’s surrounds at the North Coast, where we started our trip.

Darwin NT’s capital is a very modern but also remote city and Australia’s smallest capital.

This article however focuses on the Stuart Highway. A street that cuts the continent in half connecting Darwin to Adelaide in South Australia.

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If you start from Darwin you have to take on about 1500 kilometres to get to Alice Springs, the famous desert town. If you continue south for a few hundred k’s you get to a turn off to the west, which takes you along another 400 kilometres directly to Uluru. So basically fi you start in Darwin you only need to do one turn to get to Uluru!

Driving through bushfires

Along this drive are a lot of beautiful, funny, creepy, weird and most of all fun things to see!

Remote funny places

I have selected just a few of them to show you.

out in the dessert

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First of all, don’t be surprised if you find yourself driving through a bush fire. In certain times of the year there a fires laid on purpose to burn old wood and other fuel laying around so that they don’t feed one of the bigger fires during the fire season.

Another thing you will most likely encounter are kangaroos, wallabies and other animals crossing the road, so always watch out and have two people sitting in front that always watch out, seriously that is important, you will see a lot of animals that did not make it and they have a certain size, they are a danger for you too!

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Kangaroo crossing the road

Wallaby

One of the most beautiful nights we had was the night at the devils marbles. A giant field of  big round rocks randomly laying around in the desert. Like most nights we camped at a national park public camp site. They usually don’t have more facilities than a toilet, but they are cheap and most times in the middle of nature, apart from wild camping, you can’t get closer to nature when staying out in the country.

Camping at night

One of the best things about the dessert are the stars, which you can see exceptionally clear and bright since there is no light pollution and almost no moisture in the air. Time your trip with a new moon and you are set for one of the best night skies you have ever seen!

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While on your drive take time to stop every now and then and just enjoy how far away you are from everything! The best way to do this is just to take one of the many dirt roads and see where it takes you, but always mind your cars abilities, it can get VERY rough! We tried to find an old gold mine, but we could not and found ourselves in the middle of nowhere.

Morning athmosphere

One of the best and most famous highlights other than Uluru is Kings Canyon, which is between Alice Springs and Uluru. There you can do a 3-hour walk, which takes you around the rim of a beautiful canyon. Watch out for little lizards and other things!

Random Gorge

Kings Canyon

When you finally make it to Uluru,  it is important that you take time just to appreciate how massive this one solid rock really is! Like an iceberg there is only about 1/8 of it visible from above the surface.

Sunset at Uluru

Around Uluru there are a lot of interesting places and things to do. Make sure that you do the Mala Walk, where a ranger tells you about it’s significance for nature and the local people. Also there is a cultural centre where you can learn a lot about local and regional indigenous culture! You can also do a walk around Uluru and always keep an eye open for cool little places and indigenous wall paintings!

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devils marbles

Lizard

near Uluru

When around Uluru you have to watch the sunset and also to get up for sunrise! These are just magic and also Katja Tutja, a rock formation about 50 k’s north of Uluru, is definitely worth the drive at sunset.

Sunrise

The drive through the Northern Territory with the rewarding destination Uluru is a great adventure! It does take a lot of effort to get there in the first place and also the driving when you are there is a lot of work, but it’s an absolutely magnificent experience and you will see a lot of things you just can not see in Europe.

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gumtree forrest at uluru

P.S.: When you are at Uluru: Pleeeeeease don’t climb it! I know it looks ridiculously tempting, but it’s actually quite dangerous and more important, one of the most offending things you can do to the indigenous people of the region.

By: Niklas Keller