Monthly Archives: November 2011

Exploring the North Coast: Backpacking in Darwin, Australia

Darwin is not the first place backpackers think of when booking an Australian tour. For a start it’s right at the very northern part of Australia, in an area known as the ‘Northern Territory’. It can be extremely humid and has a tropical climate (air conditioning is essential here).

As a city, Darwin is difficult to get to by road if you’re on the Western, Southern or Eastern coasts as it is so remote. Most likely you’ll need to fly, internal flights are easy to get and should be fairly reasonable in price.

Downtown DarwinThe city itself is multicultural for Australia, the original Aboriginal inhabitants of Darwin were the Larraka people, and over the decades the small outpost has grown significantly into a medium sized city with a population of around 127,000 people. It was only a few generations ago, that Darwin consisted of mainly tin roofed buildings. The city was devastated by Japanese bombers during World War II, and then again the city was partially destroyed during a terrible Cyclone in 1974. What you will see today is a mixture of architecture, much of the city centre is fairly modern.

Nightlife

Darwin has a number of bars and clubs which are mostly policed by door staff along Mitchell Street, it can be a little rough at night and these are there to protect backpackers mainly. Some venues operate an ID system where you are photographed before entry.

Most of the bars and clubs are commercial with the occasional acoustic musician or band. There are one or two live music venues hidden away but these will need some research if you want something slightly out of the ordinary and it’s advisable to take extra care when venturing off the beaten track (you may notice a high police presence in places).

If you fancy something a but quirky then watching the sunset at the Sailing Club overlooking the Timor Sea can be a stunning occasion. There is a bar and sometimes live music, from rock to reggae, it is strongly recommended on a sunny evening.

Sunset in Darwin

Culture

If you’re looking for something to do in Darwin during the day then a visit to The Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery is a must (near to the Sailing Club). East Point Military Museum is also an interesting find, as is Darwin Aviation Heritage Centre.

Darwin Sailing Club

Mindil Beach is great for the markets and other events which take place and the hippy vibe is really worth experiencing. There are several beaches around Darwin which are also beautiful, if not a little wild. Darwin has its share of saltwater crocs and deadly box jellyfish so swimming is not recommended.

There are plenty of parks and gardens around Darwin, although not quite so fancy as Melbourne or Sydney. Cullen Bay is worth checking out for some of the harbour restaurants and you can find information on the many types of cruises which depart from Darwin.

Many people use Darwin as a stepping stone before continuing to wild and fascinating places such as Kakadu National Park (a must see), Litchfield National Park and Katherine Gorge. In reality, Darwin really is worth an extra few days to experience this northern tip of Australia, it make be a long time before you get chance to return, if at all, so make the most of it (you need to experience just one thunder storm).

5 Things Not to Miss in Darwin

  • Sunset Market at Mindil Beach
  • Experience the outdoor cinema at the end of the Esplanade
  • Hit the crocodile farm
  • A trip to The Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery
  • An evening at Cullen Bay

This is a guest post from Nick Byng who writes the holiday blog, Blog About Holidays, and has travelled extensively, backpacking across Canada and Australia. 

Backpacking in the Backwaters of Kerala, India

The waterways and coast of Kerala are filled with plenty to amaze and absorb travellers.

A relatively small state of India, Kerala nevertheless has plenty to offer the backpacker who wants to spend time among tropical greenery and exotic wildlife. Situated on the lush Malabar Coast of south-western India, Kerala is well-known for its eco-tourism offerings, bustling fishing communities and traversable canals, and older backpackers arranging travel insurance over 70 will do well to make long term plans, because there is plenty to fill weeks or even months of travelling if you’re up to it.

soorya houseboatBoating in the backwaters

The backwaters of Kerala, a chain of lagoons and lakes interconnected by canals, are among the biggest drivers of travellers to the state. There are plenty of opportunities to take a cruise with local providers, particularly in the town of Alleppey, which is known as the “Venice of the East” for the miles of canals that provide a unique way of exploring the town. In August, the backwaters also play host to the annual Snake Boat Race, which regularly attracts hundreds of participants in colourfully-decorated canoes.

Kerala has a predominantly tropical climate, with flora and fauna to match: depending on where they travel, visitors can expect to see crocodiles, flying squirrels and Indian porcupines. It is recommended to make some time in your backpacking schedule to visit one of the state’s numerous conservation areas for the rare opportunity to see Bengal tigers, lion-tailed macaques and Indian sloth bears.

Getting about in the towns

The state of Kerala is very densely populated, even by India’s standards, with villages that line almost the entirety of the coastline – this makes sticking to the coast a good strategy if you’re worried about finding a place to stay for the night. Elephants are a common sight on the highways, and coastal trekkers may wish to pay a visit to the elephant sanctuary at Guruvayur, which keeps several dozen elephants which are regularly painted in bright colours for religious ceremonies.

elephant in Kerala, India

Although Kerala’s coast tends to be more village than sand, Varkala Beach offers a tranquil escape for the crowds, and is regularly visited for the water spouts and spas that line the cliffs adjacent to the Arabian sea. According to local belief, a dip in the waters here washes away all the sins of one’s life.

There are many religious festivals in Kerala and even if you’re only there for a few weeks, it’s likely you will see at least one. The biggest festival is Onam, the harvest festival, which falls between August and September and lasts for ten days. Expect to see plenty of dancing in the streets, energetic outdoor ball games and feasting while the festival takes place.

Five things not to miss in Kerala

  • Travelling in a houseboat along miles of canals
  • Exploring Fort Kochi, an ancient fishing port with stunning Jain temples
  • Enjoying the view at the Athirappilly Waterfalls
  • Getting close to elephants and tigers at Periyar National Park
  • Taking a dip in the waters on Varkala Beach

Athirapally waterfalls

For more great places to go backpacking in this part of the world check out the Asia Destinations page or the Top Backpacking Destinations Facebook page

This is a sponsored post

Travel Blog Reflections: My 7 Links

What seems like many moons ago now, I was invited to take part in Tripbase’s My 7 Links Project by both Todd Wassell and Loredana at Travel Moments and have finally got around to putting together my selection.

It’s a great idea to encourage bloggers to look back through old posts and revisit them. So often great content gets buried amongst the newer posts being written and lost into the oblivion that is the world wide web, never to be seen again.

I’ve tried to unearth some old favourites below, hope you enjoy them as much as i’ve enjoyed sifting through the archives!

MY MOST BEAUTIFUL POST
Mazy Marrakech – A Photo Diary

Travel in Marrakech

Morocco is a beautiful country, with Marrakech at its heart providing a feast for the senses. With vibrant colours everywhere, amazing things happening wherever you look and stunning backdrops aplenty, it made sense to do a photo diary to cover my time there. Every photo is incredible, and not because of my ability as a photographer! it’s easy to take great pictures when the subject is so beautiful.

MY MOST POPULAR POST
7 Travel Destinations Not to Miss in 2011

Taj Mahal

They say people like posts with numbers in the title and this proved to be the case here. At the start of the year i wrote about 7 great destinations for people to get on their list for travel in 2011 and it went down a treat. With loads of interest coming from both Facebook and Google the post continues to get a lot of visits which is always nice!

The destinations in the list included Turkey (which i visited myself this year) and Honduras, a place close to my heart after spending my gap year there. Hopefully it will continue to be a favourite for the last few months of the year and then i’ll have to write another!

MY MOST CONTROVERSIAL POST
Brilliant Backpacking But At What Cost? – London, England

I’m not one for controversy really, i’m a guy that likes to keep the peace so there aren’t that many contenders for this one! However, when i wrote my piece on London i did get some stick on Twitter suggesting that London wasn’t really a suitable place for backpackers as it was too costly and not very good for travellers on a budget. I disagree wholeheartedly as whilst the costs of accomodation, food and drink may be higher than other spots, there is so much to see and do for free that you have very little extra to spend money on. That’s my opinion anyway, without wishing to cook up a storm!

MY MOST HELPFUL POST
11 SEO Tactics to Avoid on Your Travel Blog

SEO can be a controversial subject amongst bloggers (maybe this should be in the last section!) but as someone who works in the seo industry I am certainly a believer in making sure you are doing everything right on your blog from an SEO perspective. Otherwise you’re just shooting yourself in the foot. This doesn’t mean doing anything underhand, just making sure that your blog is as accessible as possible, you aren’t missing link opportunities and that you have an eye on SEO when you write your posts. Hopefully there were some useful tips in this post for the folks reading it!

THE POST WHOSE SUCCESS SURPRISED ME
Kuala Lumpur – Backpacking Photo of the Week

Kuala Lumpur Petronas Towers

I always think of photo posts as a great way to keep the blog updated without necessarily expecting much interest from people. I certainly love seeing people’s travel photos so it was great to see this photo post in particular get a lot of slightly unexpected interest.

THE POST I FEEL DIDN’T GET THE ATTENTION IT DESERVED
7 Reason Why Voluntourism is the Best Way to Travel

I found my love for travel whilst volunteering in Honduras so it’s a subject very close to my own travel experience. Admittedly this post was written fairly early in the life of Top Backpacking Destinations so my readership wasn’t particularly big but has never got the interest that i thought it would do (insert violin playing here). Looks like i’ll have to scrub up on my writing skills and whip up an even better one!

THE POST THAT I’M MOST PROUD OF
Backpacking in Narnia – Patagonia, Argentina

Patagonia Argentina

I don’t know if it’s because it is such a fantastic place, because of the way i wrote the post or the fact that it was the first time i was retweeted by Lonely Planet, but this post has always brought me a little bit of happiness and enjoyment. It’s hard to do somewhere this amazing justice through a blogpost so it was nice when it seemed to generate a lot of interest.

If you haven’t been to Patagonia then it’s time to book your ticket…

MY NOMINATIONS
I’m way behind the game but will still pass the baton to the 5 folks below who all have great sites and who i’d love to see unearth some of their classic material…

Four Jandels
Scribbles of an Electronic Gypsy
The Drifters Blog
Quiet Wanderings
Round We Go

I look forward to seeing some old gems…

Visiting Melbourne – Australia’s Cultural Capital: Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne, on the southern coast of Australia, is often called Australia’s most “European” city. With a reputation for art, music & culture there’s no wonder why it gets such an esteemed accreditation. Some of Australia’s greatest museums are located in Melbourne. The city is often compared to its northern rival Sydney, but the two are so dissimilar it’d be hard to pinpoint what they share in common besides the Aussie slang.

Melbourne,2011

Things to do in Melbourne

Melbourne’s city centre is crowded with art galleries, cafes and museums. With the ever-popular city trams, it’s easy to get around the city. In fact, on the Queen of England’s visit to Melbourne in October, she even took a ride on the tram!

The City Circle tram that runs a circular route through most of downtown Melbourne is free and a great way to get an introduction to the city. Along the route, you’ll find plenty of places to stop and visit. A main point of interest is the Flinders Street station—a 19th century train station still used as a main transport hub for Melbourne.

Flinders Street runs alongside the Yarra River which has many local apartment buildings, trendy stores & shopping centres. Consider staying in a holiday apartment (or flat) near Flinders Street so you’ll be close to the action (and on the free tram route!). Federation Square on the banks of the Yarra River is home to some unique architecture and open spaces, often used for entertainment & cultural purposes.

Places to visit from Melbourne
If you want to escape the city a little bit, there are plenty of day trips from Melbourne. Maybe instead of staying in a downtown Melbourne apartment (or flat) , look for a place a little farther out of town. The Great Ocean Road is one of Victoria’s most popular destinations. The scenic drive winds along the coast and eventually leads you to the 12 Apostles – giant rock formations just off the coast.

The Great Ocean Road

5 things not to miss in Melbourne
Whether you decide to stay in Melbourne or take a day trip outside the city (either to one of the many wineries in the region or to Phillip Island to see the local penguin population), you can use Wimdu to find somewhere interesting to stay. But no matter where you end up on your holiday, don’t miss these must-sees in and around Melbourne:

• Queen Victoria Market
• Stroll & shop along the Yarra River & Flinders Street
• Take a wine tour in Victoria
• Rent a car and drive the Great Ocean Road
• Day trip to Phillip Island

Melbourne Skyline

For more destinations in Australia see the Asia and Australasia destinations page or check out the Top Backpacking Destinations Facebook page