Aral Sea, Uzbekistan

Aral sea
photo by Arian Zweger

Muynak was once an important port city on the Aral Sea, in Uzbekistan. In the 1950s, after the Second World War, the Soviet Union drained the Aral Sea for irrigation of the cotton fields, during the Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature.

Uzbekistan is now one of the main producer of cotton in the world, and Muniak has become a large boat cemetery in a salty desert land.

The Great Blue Hole, Belize

the great blue hole

The Great Blue Hole is located near the Lighthouse Reef atoll, in the Belize Coral Reef Barrier, the second largest coral reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia; it is considered one of the best scuba diving site in the world.

The hole is almost perfectly circular in shape, 300 meters wide and 120 meters deep. It was formed as a limestone cave during the quaternary glaciation (when sea levels were much lower), flooded after the oceans’ level raising.

Recently, some scientific studies, by analysis of the amount of aluminum and titanium deposited in the Great Blue Hole (lower levels of aluminum and titanium in soil and sediments correspond to periods with fewer precipitations) have demonstrated that between 800 d.C. and 1100 d.C. two periods of drought created the preconditions for the decline of the Maya civilization.

Bosawàs Reserve, Nicaragua

The Bosawás Biosphere Reserve, located in the northern part of state Nicaragua is one of the most unexplored tropical forests in the world. Designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve since 1997 and approximately 21,800 km² in size, the reserve is the second largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere, after the Amazon Forest in Brazil. His name is derived from the Bocay River, the Mount Saslaya and the Waspuk River.
 
The Bosawás Biosphere Reserve is the homeland of the indigenous communities of Sumos (Mayangna) and Miskito (about 40,000 people), who live by hunting and fishing, protecting the biodiversity of the area.
 
Owing to his high botanical diversity, within the Bosawás reserve lives more than 200,000 insect species and a rich variety of animals like quetzals, guacamayas, harpy eagles, pumas, jaguars and the rare Baird’s tapir.
 
Actually the reserve is in real danger due to the deforestation by non-indigenous settlers that in the last years has reduced by 29% the forest area.
 
The Mayangna people and some organizations for human rights denounced the current situation to the Organisation of American States to stop that environmental damage. 

Tren a las Nubes, Argentina

tren a las nubes

The Tren a las Nubes is a tourist train that runs onto one of the world’s highest railway, in the eastern part of the Salta-Antofagasta railway line, also known as the “C-14”, connecting the Argentine Northwest with the Chilean border in the Andes mountain range, over 4.000 meters above sea level.

That railway track was made to facilitate the transportation of ore between Argentina and Chile, especially saltpeter, of which this area is very rich. The railway construction started in 1921 and the first race of the Tren a la Nubes dates back to 1972. Nowadays the train track is one of the most popular touristic routes in South America.

The railway line has 29 bridges, 21 tunnels and 13 viaducts. The most spectacular view is definitely the viaduct Polverilla: the curved viaduct is 224 m long and 64 m high; here it justifies its name: it is not uncommon, given the height, to see clouds beneath the track, making surreal the train trip that seems to run in the sky.
There are many stops along the way (some with markets selling artisan goods and locals offering regional food), including the town of Ingeniero Maury, (78 Km from Salta), so named in honor of the engineer Richard Fontaine Maury born in Pennsylvania, creator and director of the railway works.

Richard Maury took over the project discarding the rack system commonly at the time. To ensure the safety of passengers and goods he arranged the tracks in a special way so that the train, running through a system of zigzags and spirals, never lose contact with the soil underneath.

Currently, the train route has been reduced to the round trip from San Antonio de los Cobres to the Polvorilla Viaduct.
The complete circuit 2016 (217 km) is served by bus and train: it departs by bus from the city of Salta every Saturday (from April to September; in July also makes midweek departures), crossing Campo Quijano and Governor Solá to reach the spot Alfarcito, through the Quebrada de las Cuevas and then plain Muñano to reach San Antonio de los Cobres, where the travelers boards on the train to the Polvorilla Viaduct.
The train journey takes an hour to the viaduct, at 4.200 meters above the sea level, after 30 minutes back to San Antonio de los Cobres where passengers return to board buses to the city of Salta.

World’s best scenic train rides map
www.trenalasnubes.com

Redwood National and State Parks, U.S.A.

Sequoia comparison sclae
 
Hyperion is the name of a Sequoia Sempervirens, the world’s tallest known living tree located in the Redwood National and State Parks, California (Western U.S.A.). It is 115,61 m (379.3 ft) high.

 

redwood
photo by Kai Schreiber


The biggest tree in terms of volume (
1.487 mc) is General Sherman, a giant Sequoiadendron Giganteum located in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park in Tulare County, California (U.S.A.).

It is also the longest-lived of all trees on the planet with an estimated age of 2.300 – 2.700 years and his name is in honor of William Tecumseh Sherman, a general of the American Civil War.

Orkneys Islands, Scotland

Skara Brae
photo © mytouristmaps
The Neolithic village of Skara Brae is located near the Bay of Skaill, 15 km North from the city of Stromness, on the west coast of Mainland island (Orkneys Islands, Scotland). 


Thanks to the layer of sediments that have hidden and protected the village until 1850, the Neolithic village is kept in perfect conditions despite 5000 years of age (its origins predate the construction of the pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge) and it is considered today one of the best-preserved prehistoric villages in the world.

In 1999 it was recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

In the movie
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Indiana Jones talks about Skara Brae to his students during a class at Marshall College.
 

At Orkney Islands / Scotland’s Northern coast, you can watch orcas and whales and have a swim in awesome sandy beaches (…beware of the freezing water!).

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok
photo © mytouristmaps
Capital and biggest city of Thailand, Bangkok holds the Guinness World Record for the longest name: his ceremonial name “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahastan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit” means “City of angels, the great city, the city of eternal happiness, the impenetrable city of God Indra, the magnificent capital of the world equipped with precious gems, the happy city, abounding in a great Royal Palace, which is similar to the divine house where reincarnated Gods reigns, a city blessed by Indra and built for Vishnukam”

Boundless, hot, smiling and animated by a vibrant nightlife, Bangkok has been elected by the magazine
Travel + Leisure the “best city in the world in 2008”.
 
Don’t miss to taste the typical street food and watch a ping-pong “match”…