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South African culture, history, and heritage in Durban

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Think of South Africa, and images of majestic savanna landscapes and roaming wildlife may come to mind. A South African safari is an unforgettable experience, but no visit to the country is truly complete without a cultural immersion. Luckily, the vibrant city of Durban combines the best of both worlds in the most stunning of settings. Located along the Indian Ocean coast just an hour from Johannesburg by air, Durban offers an eclectic array of activities where you can explore the city’s important role in world history, the rich heritage of its Zulu people, and innumerable natural wonders – from the beach to the bush.

Experience authentic Zulu culture in the Valley of 1,000 Hills

Named for its dramatic surrounding landscape, the Valley of 1,000 Hills has been home to the Zulu people, South Africa’s largest ethnic group, for centuries.

Visitors can take an organized tour deep into tribal lands to experience Zulu culture with its exuberant ceremonies, traditional music, and dancing. You’ll learn about Zulu beliefs and healing practices, break bread with local families, and learn the hidden meanings behind their colorful beadwork. Those seeking a truly transformative experience can arrange one-on-one sessions with the village healer or spend the night with a Zulu family in their home. The natural scenery in the Valley of 1,000 Hills will take your breath away, and the welcoming nature of the Zulu people will stay in your heart forever.

Walk in the footsteps of Gandhi and Mandela

Not everyone is aware that Mahatma Ghandi’s life work was inspired by his experiences in Durban. In 1893, he arrived as a young lawyer, and the discrimination he witnessed personally and against his fellow Indians drove him to start his worldwide movement of passive resistance as he fought for the legal and civil rights of the Indian population. At the Phoenix Settlement, you will see Gandhi’s house and the printing press he used to publish his newspaper, The Indian Opinion. Many of the more than one million Indians living in the city make the pilgrimage to this important historical site alongside visitors from around the world.

Five years after his death, the great Nelson Mandela remains South Africa’s most revered public figure. 2018 marks a year-long celebration of his life and what would have been his 100th birthday on July 18. Honor his work when you’re in Durban by visiting the Nelson Mandela Capture Site, located at the exact spot where he began his “Long Walk to Freedom” after being arrested for anti-Apartheid activism in 1952. The focal point of the site is a striking monument, and an educational exhibition walks you through Mandela’s life and role in establishing a democratic South Africa.

Hit the beach at Umhlanga Rocks

To play amongst the ocean-loving locals, head to Umhlanga Rocks, Durban’s laidback beach village. Located on a picturesque stretch of the Indian Ocean, Umhlanga Rocks beckons visitors with a scenic promenade that passes by local landmarks including Umhlanga Lighthouse and Whale Bone Pier. A walkable downtown area makes dining and nightlife easily accessible from the area’s many upscale boutique hotels and guesthouses, and opportunities to get on the water abound – from surfing to deep sea fishing, scuba diving, whale watching, and kiteboarding.

Discover an underwater wonderland at Aliwal Shoal

Those intrigued by the underwater world can get their adrenaline pumping on Aliwal Shoal. Consistently rated one of the top warm water diving and snorkeling sites in the world, Aliwal Shoal is also the spot to get up close and personal with blacktip reef sharks. Those brave enough can swim or dive alongside these mysterious creatures in the open ocean, but viewing from inside a cage is always an option.

Witness stunning wildlife on a Big Five safari

Back on land, the South African bush is less than four hours away by car. A number of private game reserves offer high-end safari lodge accommodations, minimal crowds, and optimal chances for getting the perfect photos of the “Big Five” – elephants, rhinos, water buffalo, lions and leopards. In iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hippos, crocodiles, pelicans, and flamingos roam Lake St. Lucia, while elephants, giraffes, and leopards inhabit the adjacent grasslands.

Is Durban, South Africa calling you?

Visit www.durbanexperience.co.za to start planning your journey.

Destinations

Rediscover Istanbul: Last Step in Europe, First Step in Asia

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Housed in a century-old neoclassical Turkish prison, Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet offers a genuine Istanbul experience just a few steps from city’s important landmarks in Sultanahmet with the Suite Authentic luxury accommodation package. One can escape to Four Seasons Hotel Sultanahmet to indulge in a memorable Istanbul experience in fall enjoying city’s mild climate, historical attractions surrounding the Hotel, cultural events and festivals, last but not least various shopping alternatives including designer labels and traditional souvenirs. Set in the historical peninsula, the Hotel is neighbour to the city’s most significant souks such as Grand Bazaar and Spice Market.

Although Istanbul has become a year-round destination, fall is a perfect season to enjoy city’s magnificent vistas, traditional shopping stops and designer shops. It is also an ideal time to discover the art scene in the city, such as Contemporary Istanbul, Akbank Jazz Festival or Istanbul Design Biennale. Designed to offer multiple delights to visitors of Istanbul, the Suite Authentic accommodation package includes daily American breakfast in Seasons Restaurant or through In-Room Dining for two and offers 30 percent off the room rate.

The Hotel’s beautifully designed suites relate directly to the rich history and layers of Istanbul, offering a strong sense of place with their breathtaking views of the manicured courtyard as well as St. Sophia and Blue Mosque. With one of the most authentic and one-of-a-kind suite collections in Istanbul, guests can choose from an impressive Executive Suite to two Presidential Suites, St. Sophia and Marmara, each containing a living room with fireplace, dining area for 6-8 guests and three private terraces offering exceptional city views. In their intimate residential setting, guests can truly make themselves at home – whether they wish to lounge around in the living area or enjoy a magnificent Old Town silhouette from their balcony.

Inspired from Istanbul’s heritage, the interior design in suites reflects the footsteps of past empires. Understated Four Seasons elegance and the mysticism of Old Town show itself in the tiny details of each suite. This indigenous indulgence is now offered to ensure a luxury accommodation at Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet. the Suite Authentic accommodation package is valid for three-night minimum stays until March 31, 2019.

Not-to-Miss Attractions in Old Town

Visit Spice Bazaar and Covered Bazaar: Home to the Grand Bazaar, the largest covered market in the world, Istanbul boasts a vibrant and unforgettable shopping scene. More than 4,000 shops on 58 streets feature goods and fine crafts from all over Turkey and beyond, and the Grand Bazaar is one big Aladdin’s cave.

Go underground at the Basilica Cistern: The Basilica Cistern is the largest of the ancient underground water cisterns found across Istanbul.

Visit Hagia Sophia: One of the most visited museums and most prominent monuments in the world in terms of art and the history of architecture, Hagia Sophia should be at the top of a to-see list for Istanbul. Do not miss the upstairs gallery to catch the best views and to glimpse the surviving mosaics, in particular the golden mosaic of the Virgin and Child in the apse.

Visit the Blue Mosque: Also known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the Blue Mosque’s two most striking features are its six minarets and blue domed exterior.

Get a taste of royal life at Topkapi Palace: Topkapi Palace is the largest royal residence in Istanbul and it served as the main residence to the Ottoman Sultans for almost 400 years.

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Destinations

Shop like a local in Guadalajara

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As one of Mexico’s top artisanal hubs, Guadalajara offers the best in culture, cuisine and shopping. Travelers can find everything from expertly crafted pottery to luxe leather goods in unique markets throughout the city. For those who travel the world in search of the best locally-produced, stylish souvenirs, Guadalajara provides the ultimate in retail therapy in a vibrant, festive atmosphere — after all, this is the birthplace of mariachi, tequila, and charrería, the Mexican rodeo!

Follow these tips for shopping, eating, and playing like a local in Guadalajara, and you are sure to leave with as many memories as one-of-a-kind purchases.

Largest indoor market in Latin America

Visitors to the historic center of Guadalajara will enjoy sightseeing with a backdrop of the beautiful architecture of the double-spired Guadalajara Cathedral. This area is home to Mercado Libertad, the largest indoor market in Latin America with three floors and nearly 3,000 stands featuring everything from apparel and handbags to fresh produce and local delicacies. Stop for a meal or browse endless options. Mexican cowboys, known locally as charros, frequent leather vendors in search of saddles, boots, and belts. Across the street in the jewelry market, gold and silver pieces will add just the right Mexican accent to your wardrobe.

The perfect pair

Fashionistas rejoice. Whether it is pumps or loafers, sandals or sneakers you seek, Guadalajara is the place to find the perfect pair of shoes. Make a beeline to Galería del Calzado, a shopping center focused exclusively on your feet. Choose from 64 stores offering everything from jaw-dropping high fashion designs to the hottest streetwear trends.

Galleries galore

In the colonial town of Tlaquepaque, local arts and crafts fill market showrooms and upscale stores where you will find carved wooden furniture, colorful blown glass ceramics and hand-stitched clothing. The downtown area retains the traditional structure of a small Mexican community with a parish street, central market, main square, and many pedestrian-only streets, making this a good place to take a stroll. Catch the daily mariachi performances at the local restaurants and cantinas, some with outdoor seating perfect for people watching.

Bargain hunting

Some of the best bargains can be found among Tonalá’s narrow streets, where most of Guadalajara’s local goods can be purchased. In this neighborhood, you can find some of the best crafts in the country. This includes wide-mouth clay bowls designed to serve a cazuela cocktail, Guadalajara’s signature citrus punch. The area is particularly known for silver and gold crafts, hand-painted pottery, paper-mâché, and clay figurines. On Thursdays and Sundays, bargain-priced merchandise is sold at a vast street market where wholesalers arrive from all over the country to buy in bulk.

Lap of luxury

In the district of Zapopan, the Andares Mall offers shoppers top-of-the-line luxury brands. After a day of shopping, join the locals as they enjoy a pedestrian corridor filled with high-end restaurants and bars near the basilica.

Nature’s products

Just outside of Guadalajara are sprawling agave fields, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the world’s tequila is produced. Drive past fields of the blue agave plant that stretch out over the rugged, hilly terrain, en route to the town of Tequila. After visiting the distilleries and purchasing bottles to serve back home, peruse smaller shops and stalls for necklaces and earrings crafted using blue agave leaves, agave syrup, and figurines made from the obsidian of the nearby volcano.

For more information on Guadalajara, visit www.visitguadalajara.com.

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Why Myrtle Beach is the perfect fall vacation for families

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When it comes to vacation planning, millennial families with young children have the edge over school-aged families — no strict school schedules to obey!

Take advantage of this flexibility while you can, and plan your escape to Myrtle Beach. This oceanside city along the beautiful South Carolina coastline features just about everything families with young children are looking for: family fun, engaging and interactive attractions, delicious food and relaxing places to chill out. Bonus: Now that school is in session, you’ll escape the summer crowds.

To help you plan, here are some of the things that await in Myrtle Beach.

Budget-friendly fun: As promised in the name, Myrtle Beach is the place to make oceanside memories: building sand castles, hunting for seashells and delighting in their giggles as the waves lap their little toes. As it turns out, fall is one of the best times of year to have that beach vacation without breaking the bank. Look for deep discounts and special lodging packages at hotels and resorts. While you search for fun things to do, be on the lookout for exclusive fall promotions. For example, Visit Myrtle Beach is offering a complimentary children’s beach photo session, which will create the perfect keepsake for your getaway.

Beautiful “summer” weather: Even if you feel a nip in the air in your region, the fall weather in South Carolina is still ideal for exploring wide open spaces and enjoying outdoor activities. Brookgreen Gardens features the Lowcountry Zoo, which houses animals in spaces as close to their natural habitat as possible. You’ll definitely want to get way up high and see the beaches and water stretch off into forever from atop the SkyWheel, a 200-foot Ferris wheel that’s right on the beach.

Enriching fun: Myrtle Beach has plenty of kid-friendly places to interact and build new connections to this wide, wonderful world. Kids can get an up-close look at the colorful fish and other sea creatures at Ripley’s Aquarium. After hearing stories about farm life in their favorite picture books, they can see the real thing at the L.W. Paul Living History Farm. Finally, WonderWorks Science Center has more than 100 hands-on exhibits that are designed to both thrill and teach children a thing or two about science.

Peaceful pursuits: While you’re enjoying all this family time (and seeing the smiles on those little faces), be sure to make time for the grownups to enjoy themselves, too, with solo outings at some point in the trip. All around Myrtle Beach you’ll find lots of options to chill and recharge, whether it’s a well-deserved spa treatment or discovering your new favorite wine at a tasting. We’ll lose the thought with this vision of heaven: You and your family relaxing along the seashore seashore. No one’s cranky, no one’s hungry, just … aaaaaaah!

For more ideas and inspiration to plan your fall family vacation to Myrtle Beach, visit www.visitmyrtlebeach.com.

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