Stop for a moment to consider the fairytale ‘Finding Nemo’ world of coral reefs. With an astonishing variety of branching, leafy forms and intriguing, unusual sea life, they also play a hugely important role in preserving biodiversity as the home to many cute and amazing sea creatures like fish, jellyfish, anemones and soft corals. Most reefs are formed in long, narrow strips along the edge between shallow and deep water. They aren’t spread across huge areas in the same way rainforests are.
Here at PurpleTravel.co.uk, we’ve found the most impressive coral creations for your eyes only…
Explore, dream, discover, There’s never been a better time to holiday in Greece and on top of the beaches and sunshine, there is plenty to discover. Go home with a tale to tell after visiting one of the huge cave complexes dotted throughout the mainland and the islands.
Cave of Melissani: Found in the beautiful island of Kefalonia, this is an underground masterpiece. Shaped like a ‘B’ a small tunnel brings small tour boats inside the cave where the sun’s rays transform it into a heavenly light show. (Image via @ NikitasPhoto)
Cavern of Perama: Just 5km away from Ioannina city centre in Western Greece, the Cavern of Perama, discovered in the 40s is a real treat. A tour around the imaginatively lightened caves, and awe-inspiring ancient stalactites and stalagmites is well worth the trip.
Diros Cavern: One of the most beautiful lake made caverns in the world, together with Padirac Chasm in Southern France and Jeita in Beirut. Diros Cavern inthe Peloponnese is 14.5 km long, featuring underwater and overland routes.
Cave of the Lakes: In the village of Kastria in Achaia lies the famous Cave of the Lakes, a rare natural creation. Apart from its labyrinth of corridors, its mysterious galleries and its strange stalactite formations, this cave has something exclusively unique that does not exist in other infamous caves. Inside visitors will find a string of cascading lakes forming three different levels that establish its uniqueness in the world.
Cavern of Aggitis River (Maaras): The cave of the springs of the Aggitis River in Drama-Northern Greece features colourful and varied forms of stalactites reflected in the still waters of the underground river. It’s the perfect choice for budding biologists; unique fish species has been found in this cavern, such as Barbus Barbus, Squalius Orpheus and a rare kind of semi-transparent stone crayfish.
Alistrati’s Cave: According to the Greek Mythology, Pluto, master of Hades kidnapped Persephone, daughter of the Goddess Demeter. He led her to what was called the Gates of the Underworld at a ravine. The specific area which is mentioned in these Greek Myths is the same one near Alistratis’ Cave. The cavern lies in a place called Petroto, where Mother Nature decided to demonstrate its power by creating medusa-like shapes. However, what fascinates the most is the huge stalactites forming pure white curtains along the walls.
Cave of the Elephants: The Cave of the Elephants in Chania, Crete is a refuge for the protected species of Mediterranean Seal, one of the most endangered mammals of Europe. Diving in this cavern is a truly magnificent experience as visitors can admire the beautiful décor of stalactites and stalagmites (underwater and above the water surface) and see fossilized bones, which are embedded in the rocks of the cave.
Dragon’s Cave: Sshhh!Located in Kastoria-Northern Greece, this impressive cave with underground lakes was once believed to be a gold mine guarded by a sleepless dragon.
When you arrive in Patagonia, you will soon realise that your travelling experiences are over, as you’ve already reached the end of the world.
The South Pole is just a stone’s throw away and the wild landscapes, along with the (sometimes) unnerving isolation of the Patagonian land really will make you feel like you are somewhere completely different. Shared by Argentina and Chile, it is a place like no other, where rivers rage, glaciers drift and the coastline snakes the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
It is an endless landscape: a mainly flat area of 1,000,000 km² on the very southern edge of the American continent.
Absolute uniqueness:Patagonia isaby-word for one of the last virgin areas on the planet, with utterly stunning scenery that creates a peaceful and quiet atmosphere.
Absolutely off the beaten track: We don’t like to put it too bluntly, but this really is the place to go to escape form civilisation. It’s one of the most sparsely inhabited places on earth, and home to only 1.9 people/km².
Total freedom: that’s the prevailing feeling when travelling in this remote piece of earth.
Where the ground stars and the sky begins, you might never be able to tell in the Bolivian Salt Flats. Near the famous Tunupa Volcano, it’s the largest salt desert in the world, and 3,600 m above sea low. So why venture there? The spooky and stunning scenery will create some of the most envy inducing photos amongst your friends, while for just $15 per day, you can bunk with locals, getting a truly one off experience. Image via @ psyberartist
The whopping Victoria Falls and its surrounding area is a once-in-a-lifetime place to visit. Also known as the Devil’s Pool, September to December provides the ultimate in swimming at the edge of the world. The current at Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe forms a small pool, where visitors can watch over the 355 foot waterfall. But, would you be brave enough?
The Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley has to be seen to be believed. It’s made up of three shallow lakes– Bogoria, Nakuru and Elmenteita. Each of the alkaline lakes is a a protected area and is home to different ecosystems filled with flowers, fauna, birds and animals. The best bit, (we think!) is the huge influx of flamingos that arrive en masse every year. The lesser flamingos arrive in their millions to breed creating one of the world’s most spectacular displays.
This pink bird loves to eat the blue-green algae found at the lakes and it is virtually alone in its taste for this rich harvest. And it’s not just flamingos, the lakes are home to 13 endangered bird species, and larger animals, like the black rhino, wild dogs, lions and cheetahs who wander the shores of the lake.
The Deep South in the USA is known for its hospitality, big personalities and as the birthplace of Elvis, the most famous jazz clubs that side of the Atlantic and food that is out of this world. Join us as we go one of the Great American Road Trips through the Deep South.
Start in Atlanta, Georgia an energetic city that’s home to world class southern hospitality. Rent a car, hop in and get some travellin’ tunes to get you on your way. Visit the High Museum of Art, or hike the Infamous Appalachian Trail to kick-start your adventure. As you pass through you’ll probably recognise bits of it from movies like Driving Miss Daisy, Fried Green Tomatoes and, erm, Deliverance.
In Tennessee, you’ll find Graceland, where Elvis spent the last years of his life. It’s an intriguing and moving place to visit. Fans make the journey from all over the world to pay their respects to the man known as ‘The King’. Sun Studios is like taking a step back in time and blues, gospel, country and rock ‘n’ roll fill the air.
You couldn’t go on a Deep South road trip and not visit Sweet Home Alabama. If there’s time, dip across the border and head for FAME or Muscle Shoals sound studios. These hosted some of the best acts in the world like Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones and Otis Redding. If you go even further, just outside Birmingham a stop by the Talladega Superspeedway will leave your head reeling, in a good way. A stop in Scottsboro at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, where airline lost luggage is unpacked and sold could give you a couple of bargains or something totally weird, so don’t say we didn’t warn you. Don’t forget to order grits for breakfast and ice tea with lunch to fit in, in Alabama.
A stop at the Country Music Hall of Fame and discovering the Grand Ole Opry makes Nashville a great addition to the trip. There is excellent live music in bars throughout the city ‘til late and Biscuits at Loveless Cafe are something an institution. The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis will have you tapping your foot in no time and the city is known for some of the best BBQ, with hundreds of places for a pitcher of beer and some broiled ribs or pulled shoulder pork.
Mississippi’s Highway 61 is called the cradle of the Blues. At the crossroads between 61 and 49 you’ll find the spot where Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for phenomenal guitar playing skills. Clarksdale is home to the Delta Blues Museum and the Ground Zero Blues Club juke joint is within touching distance. The Shack Up Inn is a real taste of southern hospitality.
Head for Jackson and eat at the infamous Two Sisters Kitchen, a buffet style in a traditional 1903 home. The all-you-can-eat price includes okra, cheese grits and skinless fried chicken. After a refuelling like that, the great outdoors might beckon; there are hiking trails, horse riding and activities in the gorgeous countryside around or you could visit your first ever rodeo at the Dixie National Livestock Show.
Continue your road trip to Louisiana to tickle your taste buds with a bowl of gumbo (everywhere has a difference recipe) or alligator sauce picante in Thibodaux. Then on to Lafayette, one of the best known music towns in the States, filled with Creole dancehalls, Cajun rhythms and zydeco music.
Finish up in New Orleans the legendary city of jazz on the Louisiana Delta. There are dozens of clubs to discover in the Big Easy, there are no closing times, so you can stay all night. And with jazz and blues, Latin, R&B, gospel, rock, cajun and everything in between you could stay for months without discovering it all. Go in February or March when you’ll find Mardi Gras, in April there’s jazz and international festivals, while in October there is the Angola Prison Rodeo and Art Festival.
Despite being six feet under, Elvis is still drawing around 600,000 people per year. Graceland in Memphis, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s former estate is a major stopping point for fans who light candles, leave flowers and mourn for the star who died in 1977.
Find it at 3764 Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, Tennessee
Although hailing from Hoboken in New Jersey, Frank Sinatra is actually buried in his adopted home in California. The beloved singer was entombed with two of his constant companions – a bottle of Jack Daniels and a packet of cigarettes. His headstone has one of his most famous lyrics: “The Best is yet to Come,” inscribed on it.
Find it at Desert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, Riverside County, California
In the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery, you’ll find the grave of The Doors frontman Jim Morrison who joined the infamous 27 Club in 1971. The gravesite is apparently haunted by his ghost and has been known to have orgies, parties, thefts and riots. Other famous names buried there include Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde.
Find it at 16 Rue de Repos, Paris
The grave of Michael Jackson at the Forest Lawn on Glendale Avenue in California has the capacity to become one of the most visited the world. The King of Pop who died in 2009, is entombed in the Great Mausoleum there and there’s renewed interest on the anniversary of his death, June 25th every year.
Find it at 1712 S. Glendale Avenue, Glendale, California
Jimi Hendrix’s grave in Renton, Washington has become a main attraction to the town over the years. The memorial has engraved images, including one of a Fender Stratocaster. With fans travelling there all the time, it can get a little busy, but if you’re a Hendrix fan it’s well worth it.
Find it at 350 Monroe Avenue, Northeast, Renton, Washington
Johnny Cash’sgravesite has become a magnet for country, blues and folk fans from all over the world. The Man in Black passed away just four months after his beloved wife June Carter Cash in 2003. The simple memorials in Hendersonville, Tennessee still draw fans from all over the world over 10 years since his death.
Find it at 353 East Main Street in Hendersonville, Tennessee
Even though James Joyce is one of the most famous Irish writers he’s actually buried in Zurich, Switzerland. A small statue of the poet in Fluntern Cemetery is the only thing to indicate his grave. Joyce died after undergoing surgery in Switzerland in 1941.
Find it at Zurichbergstrasse, Zurichberg, Switzerland
A hidden secret in Rhodes, Butterfly Valley Rhodes
The Greek island of Rhodes is famous for its nightlife, its beaches, its weather and its people. But, did you know it is also famous (although mainly locally) for its incredible Butterfly valley?
On the Western side of the island, about 5km from Tholos is the Valley of the Butterflies, or Petaloudes in Greek. This is one of those “that was so worth it” kinds of day trips.
It’s the only natural forest in Europe of Oriental Sweetgum trees, and that’s part of its secret. Butterflies love the scent of them and every August is high season for the colourful insects. You can wander the natural forest, soak up the atmosphere and maybe make friends with a butterfly or two. Kids will love discovering this natural phenomenon, while for mum and dad it’s a peaceful day trip to get some much needed rest and relaxation.
There’s also a Museum of Natural History, found in a restored 1930s Italian house. Inside there is a hatchery, where butterflies are born in stable climate conditions.
Afterwards a stop at one of the nearby villages like Psinthos for a delicious taverna lunch or a refreshing dip at one of the nearby Blue Flag beaches rounds of a perfect afternoon.
How to get there: You can take a bus from one of the local towns or if driving, you’ll find the Butterfly Valley between the villages of Paradisi and Tholos on a small road that leads inland.
Off The Beaten Track: Seeing The Northern Lights 2014
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are one of the most amazing and awe inspiring natural phenomena you will see in your entire life. Yes, we know that’s a big statement and we stand by it! Here’s the Purple Travel guide to the Northern Lights 2014.
The natural light show is caused when collisions between charged particles in the ionosphere release mass energy and light in multiple colours, which will leave your jaw on the floor. The mysterious Northern Lights 2014 are a wonder to behold and their magical as well as atmospheric formations completely win over anyone lucky enough to actually experience them.
Oh! You lucky things, there’s still lots of time to book as winter 2014 has been characterized as the “Solar Maximum Period” and therefore predicted to be the best aurora season in many years. Bear in mind though the lights are visible only under dark skies between the months of September to April, preferably under a clear, cloudless sky.
Usually seen between 5pm and 2am, it is important to be away from artificial light (and to bring a thermos of coffee with you!) No month guarantees better sightings than another but December to February offer the longest hours of darkness, while the months of autumn and spring are likely to offer more stable weather conditions and often see more aurora activity.
If you head for the area known as the auroral oval that sits above the Arctic and sub-Arctic, you’ll have the best chance of seeing the lights. The best options and most easily accessible of these destinations are Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Canada. Our top choices include the Hotel Ranga in the Iceland’s southern countryside, the Aurora Sky Station at Abisko in Swedish Lapland or just outside Tromso in Norway.
Northern Lights tours are popular and give visitors the best chance of catching the lights. There are actually plenty of options for anyone willing to spend a few days in the icy landscapes. A romantic Northern Light Cruise could be a good honeymoon option, or the Northern Light tour will give the ultimate Arctic Circle Experience.