I’ve sometimes heard travelers brag about not using a guide book.  Not me.  As a woman traveling alone, my guide book gives me a sense of confidence and security.  It allows me to revel in anticipation before the trip starts, leads me to other travelers who will tell me of places that are not in any book and gives me a heads-up about places that I personally will not enjoy. Getting the most out of your travel guide book means making it your comfortable and indispensable travel companion.

Belizean dreaming. Photo by Caitlin Regan.

Getting the Most Out of Your Travel Guide Book – Step 1: Choose the Right Book

Moon Guides, Rough Guides, Lonely Planets – there are a lot of good guide books out there.  Making the best choice for you depends on how you travel and how you’re going to use your book.  I enjoy the hardback feel and the beautiful photos in Eyewitness guides when I’m planning a trip, but it would never work for me on the road.  When selecting a guidebook make sure that it is appropriate to your brand of travel – your budget, your most likely mode of transportation etc.  Over the years, I’ve developed brand loyalty to my favorite line of travel guides.  They are not necessarily the best guidebooks out there, but the fact that I know their layout – know that there is a “Getting There and Away” section, and that “Sleeping” and “Eating” come after “Sights” saves me a lot of time.

Beloved LPs! Photo by Phil Whitehouse.

Getting the Most Out of Your Travel Guide Book – Step 2: Create an Itinerary

I have never followed any of the suggested itineraries in a guide book.  But I have partially followed all of them.  I use the itineraries, and the “best of” lists at the beginning of each section to find out what places I want to visit.  (Looking at tours online can also help you get an idea of a country’s not to be missed destinations.) This gives me a loose plan for my travels.

Most days, I may or may not stay in hotels/hostels recommended in the guide book.  But if I’m arriving in a new city late at night, I like to have plan.  In this case, I use my guide book to identify my lodging and call ahead of time.

Getting the Most Out of Your Travel Guide Book – Step 3: Prepare Your Book for the Road

“Hey- how come your Lonely Planet is smaller than everyone else’s?” a fellow traveler in Central America asked me.  It was due to a premeditated and benign act of butchery.  I’m a big believer in packing light.  So knowing that I was only going to travel in three countries, I carefully and precisely cut my book in half.  I then made a few post-surgical adjustments- reinforcing the binding with packaging tape and covering the back-page with clear contact paper.  Finally, since the part of the book I would be carrying did not include the index, I used to Post-it flags to mark the different countries, maps, and other pages I knew I would want to access frequently.

Getting the Most Out of Your Travel Guide Book – Step 4: Bring Accessories

Next, I pack a few small items (most of which are useful to have along anyway) as accessories to my guide book:

  • I take some extra Post-it flags and stick them in the inside cover.  Chances are good that there will be other pages I will want to flag.
  • Always carry a writing utensil.  My favorite is a two-sided pen – ball point on one end, highlighter on the other.
  • Pocket knife – you’ll use this in Step Five, and also to open your wine, cut pieces of fruit, spread cheese on bread, etc.
  •  Scotch tape – also for Step Five.  You don’t need the bulky plastic dispenser, just a small roll of tape.

Getting the Most Out of Your Travel Guide Book – Step 5: Use and Abuse

I’m sure many of the librarians out there probably sentenced me to hell after Step Three, but that was just the beginning.  After all, this is not a coffee table book.  It is meant to be used and abused.  Wanting to feel lightweight and unobtrusive as I explore a city, or a ruin or a museum means carrying as little as possible.  So the night before I open my book to the map page (and possibly a few other pages relating to my present local) and carefully score them with my trusty pocket knife.   Then I tear these pages out and carry them in my pocket as I explore the city.  No need to look like a tourist with my nose in guidebook, no need to obtain another, bulky, difficult-to-fold map.  I am ready to go.

When I leave this city I will tape the pages back into the book and cut out the pages for my next destination.

 Hope you’ll take a page from my book and make the most of yours!

Disney, oh how I love you. From a fascinated child replaying Cinderella and daydreaming of meeting my own Prince Charming to a young adult captivated by the magic and majestic greatness of the Disney theme parks. All in all Disney is my secret obsession (I even have a tiara tattooed to the back of my neck mostly because of my obsession with the Disney Princesses.) and my goal is to travel to each and every location of Disney’s theme parks.  Altogether there are 5 Disney resorts around the globe (and one more coming soon!) as of now I have been to the 2 in the US. There is:

  • Disneyland Resort California, USA; Glide through the skies of the Golden State while on Soarin’ Over California or if you’re more into the horrifying Hollywood scene be prepared for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s California Adventure Park. Continue throughout the resort to Disneyland Park and you will find a little bit for everyone; a mysterious Indiana Jones Adventure, an exploring out-of-this-world adventure at Space Mountain and/or some flight lessons with America’s beloved elephant on Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
  • Walt Disney World Resort– Florida, USA; Travel through and experience 11 different cultural nations within Epcot, race down one of the tallest and fastest waterslides in the World at Disney’s Blizzard Beach, be captivated by the wide range of extraordinary animals and safari attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, get a glimpse of behind-the-scene action of Hollywood at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and fall in love with all your favorite characters where fairytales do exist at Disney’s  Magic Kingdom Park.
  •  Disneyland Resort Paris Paris, France; Say Bonjour to all the wonder and excitement within Europe’s only Disney location. We all know It’s a Small World but on this cheerful musical tour in Fantasyland you’ll be singing and dancing along to the multinational dolls around the park, travel through space a second time on Space Mountain: Mission 2, prepare yourself for the wildest train ride on Big Thunder Mountain and ‘Ahoy Mateys!’ live out that childhood fantasy of becoming a pirate on the Pirates of the Caribbean thrill ride.
  • Hong Kong Disneyland Resort Hong Kong, China; Be a part of Andy’s toy box with Woody and Buzz in Toy Story land where you feel like the size of a toy yourself, discover the futuristic realm of out-of-this-world rollercoasters and alien friends strolling through  Tomorrowland, create your own jungle adventure in Adventureland like Tarzan and attend a magical Broadway-like performance based on “The Lion King”, visit all your favorite Disney Princesses within their castles in Fantasyland and wrap up your visit with a stroll down Main Street, U.S.A. and experience one of their exciting parades.
  • Tokyo Disney Resort– Tokyo, Japan; This is the newest Disney location and has made quite an impression already. Altogether there are seven theme parks within this Disney resort including Critter Country where you can experience the thrills of Splash Mountain, Westernland that hosts the old western feel as well as the majestic Mark Twain Riverboat,  Adventureland lets you show off your daring personality in the Jungle Cruise, meet all your favorite Disney characters and visit the magic of all that makes Disney what it is in Fantasyland, get a little crazy with Chip and Dale or be Minnie’s guest at her quaint cottage in Toontown, fast forward into a land of space adventure and aliens in Tomorrowland and get a little taste of history from around the world in World Bazaar where you can browse through the Disney Gallery or take a tour by the Omnibus.

Coming soon:  Shanghai Disney Resort!

Now perhaps visiting every Disney location isn’t on everyone’s bucket list of things to do but come on, this is the Happiest Place on Earth and it’s now available 5 different places around the globe, how cool is that?! It’s time to cater to that inner child of yours and let loose with all the excitement and magic that Disney offers to all their guests. Whoever has been to at least one of their grand resorts knows what I’m talking about, admit it you’d go again right?!

Cyprus captivates all its visitors right from the get-go with a kaleidoscopic mixture of cultures, history and beauty of all the surrounding countries it lies within. So as the unique past of the island itself is intertwined with Greek mythology, the tourist industry is right up top of the island’s economy and most vendors will more than likely cater to your photo-opt needs. So I’d say it’s time to catch up on some Greek mythology from the history channel and check out what’s there to do in ‘The island of Aphrodite’.

Getting There: Plane or Ferry – There are two international airports in Cyprus; Paphos and Larnaca as well as a variety of ferry ports that are located throughout the island. Cyprus has a little bit of everything and depending on what you are interested in doing during your stay that determines what airport you should fly to, even if you have found that it is easier to find cheap flights to Paphos than to Larnaca (I’m sure you don’t want to drive all around the island once you get there). From some countries like Turkey, Greece, Israel, etc. you also have the option of taking a ferry to different parts of the island and can find plenty of deals that way as well.

Where to Stay: Overview of Cities- If you’re planning on partying it up and toga parties are the only lessons you’ve learned from the Greeks then Ayia Napa (close to Larnaca) is the place to be. Here you will be able to find a variety of vibrant nightclubs, bars and awesome beaches. Paphos is best for the history buffs out there and here you’ll find Roman mosaics and ancient remains to fill your mind with wonder. A more modern outlook of Cyprus includes the cities Lefkosia and Lemesos and here there is plenty of hustle and bustle to keep you on your toes. For the mountain climber adventurists out there, the Troodos town of Platres offers cool mountain hide-aways but stay quite barren besides during the month of August. There are countless villages located in the hillsides that have stayed trapped in time despite the growing tourist population. If you are looking for the pre-novelty filled Cyprus, Northwest towns like Polis and Latchiare your paradise.

Troodos Mountains by Leonid Mamchenkov

Main Attractions: For Everyone In Your Group- Coral Bay beach is one of the most loved tourist beaches on the island and for good reason. For all you divers out there, this is the place to be! This is the classic ‘holiday in the sun’ type of family beach resort that offers plenty of family-oriented watersports and activities as well as plenty of places to eat and drink at the beach. Petra tou Romiou (The Rock of the Greek) is a must-see no matter the reason of your vacation. According to Greek legends this is where Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, rose from the waves and thus represents the ‘birth of Aphrodite’. Besides the historical lesson you will find at this site, the location itself is gorgeous and I bet 99% of tourist guides will have a picture of this attraction in their brochures. St Hilarion Castle is a great place to revisit all the magical romance history has to offer. The castle is situated on the top of the Kyrenia mountain range and has been very well preserved by the locals. Being a Disney-fanatic myself I found it interesting to know this was believed to be the inspiration behind Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle. Ayia Napa (as I mentioned briefly earlier) is great for party-goers and has become Cyprus’s modern clubbing scene since the late 70s. Here you can find plenty of restaurants, bars and fun things to do after your historical tours have bored you for too long.

      There are hundreds of other places to see and things to do in this historical yet diverse island of Cyprus. If you’re looking to travel and experience ancient ruins and unwind on a resort style beach the same day, get your fanny pack geared up for this awesome island. When you get back, make sure to tell me how it goes!

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Well in this case… “When in Jordan, play as the Romans play.”  Downhill from the towering Citadel is Downtown Amman’s Roman Theatre, still very much in tact since it was first built during the reign of Antonius Pius (138-161 CE). Personally I am not too much of a history buff and to be honest had no idea a theatre with the capacity of 6,000 people even existed within this extremely dense city of Amman. It was not until I started a search of all the ‘cool and interesting places to see in Amman, Jordan’ (yes, that is what I actually typed in the search engine) that I came across the must-see tourist attractions of this lovely city. Upon stumbling across this information I became so determined to pack up my camera and sight-see through history that I was living just 15 minutes away from. However, this is what really happened…

Hot, sunny and plain out exhausting could easily describe the ’15 minute’ drive (apparently 15 minutes away means an hour sitting in polluted traffic) to Downtown Amman. Today, of course, our car’s AC decided it was going to take a break and have the stale air coming from the windows do its job. So let’s just say the car ride to Amman’s Roman Theatre was not at all pleasant and it is safe to say probably ruined my appreciation for history until the weather cools off a bit.

Alright, so my state of mind was pretty clouded at the time due to the month of August’s hot intense weather climate. Looking back now and browsing through my pictures I’ve come to realize how beautiful and extraordinary the Romans’ creation really is. Downtown Amman is altogether the daily hustle and bustle  that anyone would see if they visited a city that was full of this many people. But as soon as you trek your way past the King Hussein mosque (after admiring its beauty and capturing a few pictures) and continue to push your way through the crowds of smoke and Arabian men attempting to lure you into their shop you will find a piece of history standing right before your eyes.

When it comes to admission expenses I was only required to pay 1 JD (a little less than $2) which will probably be the most affordable price you will pay throughout your entire trip in this city (even less than the taxi fare). Included in the price is admission to two miniature museums which are quite interesting if you like to browse through ancient artifacts and see back in the day wardrobe selections. More than likely there will be beggars aka ‘tourist guides’ that will offer their hosting skills but this really isn’t necessary and although they advertise a variety of different languages they ‘speak’ it is safe to say 99% of the time they only know how to say Hello and Money in that language . Guests in the theatre are allowed to walk around as they please and if you want to hike your way up to the towering top you’re more than welcomed. However, I cannot stress the importance of holding on to the nearest railing or step that’s closest to you since most of the steps are not exactly the modern definition of leveled.

For all you history buffs out there Amman’s Roman Theatre is a must-see. It is not very often history just presents itself to you in tact and just lightly touched by Mother Nature. Although August’s scorching sun may not have allowed me to be as enthused at the time, this definitely qualified as a ‘cool and interesting place in Amman’ that I had searched for to begin with. Perhaps this Spring I will venture to explore the various historical sites also found in Downtown. Has any of your travels not been what you’d imagine they would be?

The first picture that comes to mind on hearing the word “Maanipaai” is verdant green paddy fields that stretch as far as eye can see. The area retains its natural beauty, charm, simplicity and tranquil atmosphere which makes it a perfect paradise location.

Manipay originally known as “Periyapulam” is a town located 12 kilo-meters south east of Jaffna, bordering Valikamam North, South, West and Nallur.  Origin of Manipay is so ancient that it has been veiled in the mist of time.  One can see many profiles of nature in this area which is noted for its scenic beauty.

This bustling affluent town of Manipay is located in the Valikaaman division in the Jaffna district. Valikaamam literally known as “the sandy village” has a land area of 278 square kilometers representing twenty seven percent of the Jaffna district.  A Large part of Valikaaman is dry and sandy with brilliant sunshine all year round. The most common tree is the palmyrah palm with its elegant fan like fronds.  The vegetation in the area comprises of semi and thorny scrub with pockets of dense forest.

Manipay which belongs to the Sandilipay divisional secretariat has a population of 56,520.  The region is the fourth most populous division in Jaffna peninsula. The people of Manipay have their unique character.  They are a kindred society unified by a common history.  The ties and obligations felt by individuals to their community reflect the tradition of strong family ties. Intelligent as well as hard working the people of the area are tolerant and respectful of each other. People of the area indulge themselves in some form of art such as dancing, music or painting.

The area was ruled by the Chola empire, Ariya chakravathi dynasty, the Portuguese (1617 to 1658), the Dutch (1658 to1795) until the British conquest.  The British period of colonial rule shaped the future of Manipay in significant ways.

Manipay has historically been the home of many significant individuals.  Mudaliyar E Nannithamby , father in law of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Mudliyar Namasivayam, father in law of Ponnambalam Arunachalam, Sir Arunachalam Mahadeva and Honourable Justice Siva Selliah, V.Manicavasagar were the prominent personalities hailing from Manipay.

Manipay offers abundant human resources at a competitive cost, with a literacy rate of almost 89 percent backed by an excellent educational frame work.  There are forty one primary and secondary schools and sixty one pre schools in the area.  Manipay Hindu College and Manipay Ladies College are the prominent educational institutes in the surrounding area.  The Manipay Public Library is an important place symbolically.  There is a well kept play ground known as “Sella muththu play ground” for the youngsters of area to engage in various sports activities.

The three prominent land marks dating from British times are the Green Memorial Hospital founded by Dr Samuel Fisk Green in 1864, the Roman Catholic church of Saint Peter and Paul and the Anglican church.

The surrounding area of Manipay is dotted with ancient kovils ranging from sprawling complexes with towering grupams and madapams. The large open aired complex of Marathady pilliyar kovil situated in the centre of the town and the Suthumalai Amman kovil North of Manipay are the best known and most significant kovils in the area.

Away from Manipay town has a wealth of magnificent inland landscape for nature lovers.  The scenery as it unfolds during the trip to “Idekundu” is breathtaking.  The sleepy paddy fields in the “Idekundu” area come alive with an abundance of indigenous and migratory birds and is simply amazing.  The “Valukkai Aru” a seasonal river located few kilometers south of the town is encircled by variety of walk paths.  From here you can get a good view of the country side.  From Manipay one can also visit Jaffna, Kopay, Chunnakam ,Tellipai and Kokkuvil.

Manipay is renowned for its agriculture. The area has the basic attributes for successful agro based industries namely rich alluvial soil, an adequate water supply and abundance of cheap labor. The area has divided agro industry into food crops, cash crops, long term crops, and vegetables and fruits.  It is aided by irrigation from limestone wells.  Paddy, coconut, chilies, onions and palmyrah are the main agro based industries.  The area is also famous for its distinctive tasty mangoes.

In Manipay all field crops are raised largely by natural rain fall.  Water from the underground water tables lies near the surface. The area has more than thirty lakes and several ponds.  True to their endeavor to protect unspoiled ecological wonders, Manipay farmers use mainly organic fertilizer and crop rotation cultivation.  Planting for most parts occurs during the north east monsoon season.  The months of March to July are also the season for palmyrah to flower.  The tappers climb these trees twice a day and slice the flower and collect a fresh drip of syrup in to the pot.  The palmyrah syrup is used for producing toddy and treacle.  Manipay is a leading area in the production of cows and goats milk.  Poultry is another sector which is improving in quality and quantity.  Fresh water fisheries are carried out in perennial and seasonal tanks.

Manipay offers one of the most business friendly environments in Jaffna.  The four Banks, the Manipay public market, the countless boutiques and small and medium businesses located in the area play a vital role in the day to day lively hood of the community.

An excellent administrative framework has been outlined by the Valikkamam South West Pradeshiya Sabha located in the centre of the town.  The Pradeshiya Sabha initiated various projects to alleviate the problems and improve standards of living of the community.

A wide range of accommodation is available in the area to suite different lifestyles.  One feels welcomed by the hospitality of the smiling people of Manipay.  With its remarkable history and unrivalled settings, no wonder Manipay has always been a prime destination for travelers from all corners of the country.

FAR from any continental land mass, the islands of Maldives have long been linked to a string of pearls set in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean.  The country is situated 500km from the Southern tip of both Sri Lanka and India.  Though rising from a common plateau, the country comprises 1190 islands located along a 512 mile stretch.  It is formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls stretching in a north-south direction off India’s Lakshadweep islands.  All these Islands have flat terrain with an average elevation of one meter above sea level.  Located in the equator, the country’s climate is tropical.  The population of the Maldives presently stands at 298,842 (2006), scattered across the 199 inhabited islands.  Male’ the capital of the Maldives is situated in the Kaafu Atoll.  It is a bustling affluent island which houses the intellectual elite as well as the seat of the government.

Malé, pronounced as “Maa-lay” is the capital city of the country.  It is located at the southern edge of North Male’ Atoll, known as Kaafu Atoll. The city is a small island of 1.77 square km.  One third of the population is located in this small island.  It is the heart of all commercial activities in the country.  The urbanized island is divided into five divisions Henveiru, Galolhu, Maafannu, Macchangolhi and the island of Vilingili (VilliMale’).

Many government buildings and agencies are located on the waterfront.  The Male’ International Airport is on adjacent Hulhulae Island which includes a seaplane base and a domestic base for internal transportation.  Several land reclamation projects have expanded the Hulhulae Island. The social and economic backgrounds from Haa Atoll in the Northern tip of the Maldives, to Seenu Atoll at the Southern end are vast and diverse.

Addu or Seenu Atoll which is at the southern end of the Maldives is situated 400 miles south of Male’.  The atoll is heart shaped and comprises Hithadhoo, Mardhoo, Feydhoo, Gan, Villingili, Huludhoo and Medhoo islands.  Most of the islands are formed from coral rising from the plateau. The capital of the Addu Atoll is Hithadhoo. It is the second largest island of the Maldives.  All of the Addu islands are connected to the other through a causeway.

The total population of Addu Atoll is just over 28,707.  The dialect spoken in this atoll is Addu bas.  The language differs from the official language Dhivehi.  Addu Atoll has several places of interest.  These include the Gan war memorial, Gan garment industrial zone, 900 year old Kogannu cemetery in Meedhu Island and the bustling city of Hithadhoo.  Villingili, Feydhoo and Mardhoo are all year round beach destinations with brilliant sunshine, dry weather and perfect sea conditions.

“Haa” is the first letter of the Maldivian alphabet. The first letter of the Maldivian alphabet represents the northern most atolls in the Maldives.  Haa Atoll is divided into two separate atolls for administrative purposes.  This unique group of forty two Islands in the northern Maldivian archipelago is located approximately 300 kilometers from the capital city, Male’.  It is also the closest atoll to Sri Lanka and India.

Haa Alif Atoll, also known as Thiladhunmathi has sixteen inhabited islands.  The largest inhabited island is Baarah with a land area of 248.80 hectares.  The smallest inhabited island is Hathifushi with a area of four hectors.  The rest of the twenty six islands of this atoll are uninhabited.  Some of the more commonly known uninhabited islands are Alidhoo and Huraa (which is famous for its migratory birds).  Manafaru and Dhonakulhi ,Dhapparu, Dhapparuhuraa, Govvafushi and Umaraiffinolhu are the lesser known uninhibited islands of Haa Alif atoll. The atoll has a total population of 19,349 according to 2007 census.

The People of the Maldives are unified by a common history.  They are also united through a common language, Dhivehi.  The language has its roots in Sanskrit.  The countries first settlers were Aryan immigrants from India who were believed to have colonized Sri Lanka around 500B.C.  External nations influenced the Maldivian life significantly.  In 1153 A.D the Persian and the Arab travelers converted the people of this Island nation from Buddhism to Islam.  After the conversion of the first known king of the Malay dynasty to Islam, the rulers became known as Sultans.  The Malay or Thimuge dynasty lasted for 235 years.  Under the rule of 29 different Sultans the Hilali dynasty prevailed until the Maldives became a Republic.

The country gained its Independence from Britain in 1965.  Since independence Mohamed Amin Didi, Ibrahim Naasir and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom were the three Presidents of the nation.  His Excellency the President, Mohamed Nasheed has been governing the country and overseeing its administration since 2008.

The Maldives has passed 42 years of independence.  The growth and achievements of the Maldives since independence are outstanding.  The economy of the country has grown at an annual rate of 7.5% GDP(Gross Domestic Production).  The per capita income of Maldives had increased from USD 377 in 1978 to USD 2401 in 2004.  Its literacy rate in 2007 is ninety eight percent and is the greatest asset of the country.

The economy of the country increased tremendously as a result of booming tourism industry and due to the mechanization of vessels used in fishing.  The Maldives has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles and Fishing is the main traditional livelihood of the Maldivians.

The fisheries industry in the Maldives plays a major role in the countries exports.  The traditional boats used for fishing are called Dhoni.  The fishing industry provides job opportunities to a vast majority of the Maldivian islanders.  It is the second most important profitable sector in the economy which employs about 11% of the total work force.  Of the fish catch sixty percent of the catch is skip jack tuna.

The tourism sector in the Maldives which had an astounding success story is entering a new track with fresh dimensions.  Tourism in the country has become a major industry generating wealth and employment opening the minds of both visitor and resident to different ways of life.  The expansion of tourism in the country continues to achieve spectacular gains.  More than 675,000 tourists visited the country in the year 2007.  The Maldives has made the optimum out of almost 100 island resorts.  These resorts are covered with lush green vegetation with numerous palm trees, sandy beeches, shallow lagoons and reefs with multi colored fish.

Agriculture is another sector in the Maldives which has been recently growing in quantity and quality.  The government has introduced a range of incentives to enable farmers to boost production and attract direct foreign investment to the Agriculture sector.  Planting is done during the South west monsoon season.  Coconut, Banana, Chilies, Cucumbers and Papaya are the main agro based crops which are grown in the islands of the Maldives.

The Maldives with an economic growth sustained by vibrant private sector activity has been a strategic trading location.  The country offers one of the most business friendly environments in South Asia.  Total foreign ownership is welcome in most areas of the economy.  The private sector plays a vital role in traditional areas of public investment such as transport, energy and telecommunication.

The Maldives an equatorial tropical land of legendary beauty is encircled by sun drenched beaches, multi-colored fish, serene lagoons and offshore islands.  Welcomed by the hospitality of the smiling people and its remarkable history and unrivaled settings, no wonder the Maldives has always been a prime destination for travelers from all corners of the world.

(Abdul Hafeez of the Maldives provided information related certain Atolls)

From a six seated twin otter plane, out of Wellington International Airport, came an exhilarating view of the glorious New Zealand coastline, spectacularly beautiful landscape, vast mountain chains, steaming volcanoes, lush rain forests, wilderness lakes and much more attractions. New Zealand is an Island situated two thousand kilometers South East of Australia across the Tasman Sea .  The 268,021 square kilometer Island nation is separated into North and South Islands. Wellington often called windy Wellington is the capital city of the country.  It is located at the southern edge of North Island.  The country with a 4.3million population has a unique and vibrant culture with eleven official languages.  Nearly eighty percent of the population are Europeans, fourteen percent are Maoris and rest are Asians and Pacific Islanders.

In New Zealand majority of the population is concentrated to sixteen main towns. The country is one of the most recently settled major landmasses in the world.  According to the recent findings the Maoris inhabited the country around 800AD.  Around eight hundred years later the Western world discovered New Zealand in 1642.  The first European to set foot on New Zealand soil was Captain James Cook of Great Britain in 1769.  Settlers from Britain started to arrive in the 1830’s, and by 1840 Treaty of Waitangi handed sovereignty of the country to Britain.  One hundred and seven years later, in 1947 the country declared independence.  Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of State and Prime Minister John Key has been governing and overseeing the countries administration since 2008.

The country hosted and won many sporting events.  The 2011Rugby World Cup is one of the premier events on the New Zealand and world sporting calendar. The national rugby team, the All Blacks are well known for the haka a traditional Maori dance that is performed before the start of international rugby matches.  The country also has traditionally done well in the sports of cricket, rowing, yachting and cycling.

In the North Island of New Zealand there are road journeys that will keep you in touch with the sea every step of the way.  Touring country by train is an exercise in relaxation, plus you’ll see parts of the country that aren’t visible from the road.  Auckland is often called “the city of sails”.  The city’s landscape is dominated by volcanic hills, the twin harbors, bays, beaches and islands. Auckland is today one charismatic and cosmopolitan city.  The city is blessed with a massive racing and cruising ground that’s wrapped around a fabulous collection of islands.  Strolling through the city one can expect the unexpected and enjoy sounds of Auckland’s street musicians.

Wellington the capital of the country has a reputation for its picturesque natural harbor and green hillsides .Visitors are charmed by a city which gracefully combines eras and cultures.  The circular conical executive wing of New Zealand parliament building known as “Beehive” on the corner of Lambton Quay and Moles worth Street , the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum ,the National Library, the Westpac Stadium, Victoria University, St James’ Theatre and the 116 meter high Majestic Centre on Willis Street are iconographic land marks in the city.  The State Highway 1 and 2, Ngauranga Interchange and Johnsonville-Porirua Motorway are the main four major high ways that connect Wellington with rest of the towns in the North Island.

One can make the leap to the South Island by ferry from Wellington.  The Cook Strait ferry docks in the historic port town of Picton, where you can catch the Tran Coastal railway south to Christchurch.  At first you’ll enjoy views of the Marlborough wine area before the track turns to follow the coast.  The scenery is remarkable, with the Kaikoura Ranges rising steeply on one side and the Pacific Ocean swells washing over a rocky coastline on the other.  This fantastically scenic rail trip is one of the world’s greatest journeys across the Southern hills that link the city of Christchurch to the rugged West Coast.  The Transalpine covers 223.8 kilometers.  Christchurch called the Garden City is the largest city in the South island and perhaps the most attractive city in the country.  The city with widespread public gardens and parks with shallow river twisting though the city centre and paved walk paths on Cathedral square is a place to go for some in line skating.

The Queenstown is ravishingly beautiful to the visitors and is blessed with an ideal climate. The countless mountains, rivers, lakes, with forests are the perfect place to wonder and browse. Northland, Rotorua , Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui, Marlborough Nelson, Tasman, West Coast, Canterbury, Otago, are other main towns not to be missed.

New Zealand is a developed country with a literacy rate of 99 percent and is the greatest asset of the country with an abundant supply of resources.  The economy of the country has grown at an annual rate of 4 percent GDP (Gross Domestic Production).  The per capita income (nominal) of the nation is $27,017 in 2008; New Zealand is a developed country that ranks highly in international comparisons on the Human Development Index (HDI).  It is ranked among the world’s most livable countries in the world. The service sector is the largest sector in the economy contributing 68.8 percent of GDP to the economy.  Dairy products accounted $7.5 billion of total merchandise exports in 2007.  The three hundred million dollar fashion industry has expanded rapidly from hand full of factories ten years ago.  The expansion of tourism in the country continues to achieve spectacular gains.

The country and the people have the perfect attributes and credentials as a warm and generous host.  It is a haven for those seeking peace, rejuvenation and entertainment as well as a recreational area for thrill seekers and adventurers.