10 Beautiful Reasons To Visit Crete

By Sasha Heseltine, Viator.com
May 13, 2014
View of Elounda from Spinalonga Island, Crete
Courtesy <a href="http://mybt.budgettravel.com/_View-of-Elounda-from-Spinalonga-Island-Crete/photo/10405868/21864.html" target="_blank"> gte157q/myBudgetTravel</a>

This article was written by Sasha Heseltine on behalf of Viator.com.

Famous as the cradle of civilization in the eastern Mediterranean, Crete was settled 9,000 years ago by the Minoans—today, the island is scattered with ancient ruins, dramatic mountain scenery, and numerous sandy beaches. Here's my list of ten of the most beautiful places on the Greek Island of Crete.

Heraklion Ramparts
The mighty 13th-century Venetian ramparts that wrap around the old harbor in Heraklion give the best views of the short but fortified Koules Fortress as it stands over the harbor mouth. Closer inspection of this formidable edifice reveals a Lion of St. Mark carved into the stonework above the main gateway; this motif for Venetian power can be seen all over northern Italy and the eastern Mediterranean.

Chania Old Town
Chania is Crete’s prettiest town and has an ancient heart crammed with synagogues, mosques, and churches, plus charming buildings of Turkish and Venetian origin clustered around the harbor promenade. Artsy boutiques, bars, and tavernas line the waterfront alongside the domes of the Mosque of Hassan Pasha and the Venetian Great Arsenal.

The Minoan site of Knossos showcases the remains of the world’s earliest sophisticated civilization, a city that flourished for thousands of years as the biggest trading power in the eastern Mediterranean. The Neolithic and Bronze Age site is the most impressive on Crete, despite some of the villas and sections of King Minos’s gigantic palace, originally built around 2,000 B.C.,having been rather haphazardly redecorated in the early 2000s.

The Minoan remains at Malia may not be as well known as Knossos, but they will almost certainly be quieter despite the party-reputation of the adjacent town. There’s plenty to explore, including the knee-high remains of a vast palace complex and imposing pillared villas, some with luxurious bathing halls, all nestled into olive groves although the sea views have been spoiled in places by the protective carapace placed over the complex.

Samaria Gorge
Starting from Omalos, the legendary Samaria hike in the White Mountains wends through a narrow, rocky gorge for 11 miles (18 km) before ending at Aghia Roumeli. From there, little ferries take hikers to the village of Chora Sfakion, where buses and taxis connect with Heraklion and Chania. Samaria Gorge is only open in the summer but gives walkers the chance to see wild goats, carpets of wild herbs, and birds of prey playing in the thermals.

The cute coastal village of Loutro can only be reached only by boat or on foot; it has remained a delightful and traditional white village and spending the day there is like experiencing time travel. It’s Crete’s biggest secret with nothing much to do but swim, enjoy a lazy lunch at a taverna, and watch the ferries, which run several times a day from Hora Sfakion.

Arkadi Monastery
The golden-stoned monastery church at Arkadi near Rethymnon is beautiful to look at with its Venetian carvings and exotic bell tower—it also tells a story symbolic of Crete’s struggle for independence. In 1866, more than 1,000 people took refuge here during the island’s rebellion against Turkish occupation. When the Turks stormed the monastery, its gunpowder stores were ignited and hundreds of the refugees were killed. Those who escaped the explosion were massacred by the Turks; a memorial marks the spot where they died.

Panagia Kera
Seemingly stuck together from a miss-match of tiny round chapels and three triangular gables, the interior of this little Byzantine church above Meseleri is entrancing for its mass of faded frescoes. Inland from Agia Nikolaos, it also has far-reaching views over Mirabello Bay on the north-east coast.

The arid islet of Spinalonga was a leper colony until 1957, immortalized in Victoria Hislop’s book The Island. Today it’s uninhabited but can be visited by a short boat hop from Elounda. Spinalonga’s deserted streets, old stone dwellings, fortifications, and cemetery all have a brooding, tragic beauty as they slip slowly into dereliction.

Matala Beach
One of Crete’s most famous beaches, Matala, hit the big time in the 1970s when mobs of dazed hippies descended on the island from all over Europe. Still popular but no longer quite so bohemian, the sandy beach has a backdrop of honeycomb-colored cliffs pockmarked with caves and a laid-back village with plenty of low-key tavernas serving seafood. Catch the sunset right over the islet in the middle of the bay.

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7 U.S. Pub Crawls You Will Never Forget (No Matter How Much You Drink!)

The following article was originally written by Jeremy Crider on behalf of trivago. Whether you're looking for a way to celebrate National Poetry Month (marked every April in the U.S.) or simply searching for a fun alternative to the typical sight-seeing tour during your next vacation, hotel search site www.trivago.com has your 2014 pub crawl calendar covered. From more than 20,000 zombies sloshing in the streets of Minneapolis to a peddling party through the streets of Portland, to a day of drinking and reciting poetry during a walking tour of Manhattan, these seven unique pub crawls in cities across the U.S. are sure to quench your hankering for hops. Zombie Pub Crawl—Minneapolis, MinnesotaWho: Zombies. Well, people dressed as zombies—thousands of them, in fact.What: Zombie Pub CrawlWhere: Downtown Minneapolis, MinnesotaWhen: Saturday, October 11, 2014Why?: Why do you need a reason to dress like the undead and literally crawl around Downtown Minneapolis once a year? What began with just 150 zombie enthusiasts in 2005 has ballooned into one of the world's largest annual gathering of zombie lovers. The Zombie Pub Crawl—once crowned the "World's Largest Gathering of Zombies" by the folks at Guinness World Records—is expecting some 25,000 people in 2014. If you're hoping to make an all-day event of the occasion, you can also participate in the ZPC's 6.66K run and watch in horror as some of the world's best eaters tackle the World Brain-Eating Championships. In 2013, Joey Chestnut, the world's #1 ranked competitive eater, demolished the competition by eating 54 "brain tacos" created by Andrew Zimmerman, host of the Travel Channel series, "Bizarre Foods." Need a hotel in Minneapolis? Click here for options. Freedom Trail Historic Pub Crawl—Boston, MassachusettsWho: History buffs or tourists looking for an excuse to drink while learning. What: Freedom Trail Historic Pub CrawlWhere: BOSTIX Booth at Faneuil Hall in Boston, MassachusettsWhen: Every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.Why?: Boston is steeped in hundreds of years of history, and there may be no better way to walk the same streets as native Ben Franklin (and Ben Affleck for that matter) than while buzzing on Sam Adams. The weekly pub crawl, which is led by an 18th century costumed guide, takes guests on a stroll through the past while visiting four of the city's most famous drinking holes—Union Oyster House, the Point, the Green Dragon, and Bell in Hand. The 90-minute crawl includes light snacks and costs $43 per person. Don't forget to make a reservation—this history-packed pub crawl fills up fast! Need a hotel in Boston? Click here for options. Music City Pub Crawl—Nashville, TennesseeWho: Music lovers, cowboys, cowgirls and brides-to-be. What: Music City Pub CrawlWhere: Downtown NashvilleWhen: Tours available daily. Reservations required.Why?: Nashville is home to the music industry and Tennessee is home to Jack Daniel's Whiskey, so a pub crawl through the heart of Music Row is almost a rite of passage when in town. Popular with tourists and local brides-to-be, the Music City Pub Crawl has become a sought after alcohol-filled attraction. The two-and-a-half-hour guided walking tour stops at three watering holes in downtown Nashville. Each stop on the tour takes a lighthearted look at Music City's past and drink specials are available to wet the whistle at every stop. Groups of 6-15 people can reserve a guide for the night as they take in the sights and sounds of Nashville with a stiff drink in hand. Need a hotel in Nashville? Click here for options. Pirate Pub Crawl—Anchorage, AlaskaWho: Lads, Lasses and all sorts of Scallywags who want to support a great cause.   What: Pirate Pub CrawlWhere: Downtown AnchorageWhen: September 2014 (Date, TBA)Why?: Aye, this here annual party isn't just an opportunity for the people of Anchorage to celebrate their inner pirate; it's also a fundraiser to support the Blood Bank of Alaska. Since 2010, hundreds of mateys have shined up their swords and put on their best sailing garb for a night of drinking and treasure hunting at pubs in the heart of Downtown Anchorage. From 7:00 p.m. into the wee hours of the night, the "land lubbing" pirates crawl from one drinking destination to the next collecting stamps on their official Pirate Pub Treasure Crawl Map. At the end of the night, the philanthropic pirates with the most stamps are entered to win some serious loot—80,000 airline miles! Who needs the Jolly Roger when you can fly first class? Need a hotel in Anchorage? Click here for options. The Greenwich Village Literary Pub Crawl—New York CityWho: Book lovers looking for an atypical tour of one of Manhattan's most famous neighborhoods.  What: The Greenwich Village Literary Pub CrawlWhere: Begins at White Horse TavernWhen: Saturdays at 2:00 p.m.Why?: If you're looking for an alternative to the double-decker bus tours NYC is famous for, The Greenwich Village Literary Pub Crawl may just be your cup of tea. Famous for its contributions to America's bohemian culture, Greenwich Village has been home to some of the world's literary greats. During the two-and-a-half-hour walking tour of the neighborhood, crawlers will visit bars that were beloved hangouts for many writers and stroll through the historic district of The Village, all while reciting  some of the poems and prose that were written there. Speaking of poetry, lovers of verse can celebrate National Poetry Month by joining a tour dedicated to the many poets who have helped make the Village the most literary neighborhood in the nation. According to owner and tour guide, Eric Chase, attendees will toast to "poets who literally, or should we say "literarily" changed the world in a tiny corner of Manhattan." Need a hotel in New York City? Click here for options. BrewCycle Portland—Portland, OregonWho: People looking to burn off calories while simultaneously consuming them. What: BrewCycle PortlandWhere: All rides start at 1425 NW Flanders St. in Downtown PortlandWhen: Tours offered daily. Reservations required. Why?: What's not to love about BrewCycle Portland? You can avoid getting a beer gut and take a tour of Portland, all while enjoying some of the city's best craft beer. This two-hour tour includes stops at three of Portland's most popular local breweries aboard a giant, people-powered bicycle-bar. According to owner, Andrea Lins, "One thing people are usually surprised about when it comes to our brewpub crawl is that it's actual work! While that varies depending on who you are pedaling with, the northwest hills are slight, but challenging. People should come ready to pedal!" If you're up for an athletic endeavor, guided tour and night out on the town, BrewCycle Portland is a great option for seeing this popular Pacific Northwest city. Need a hotel in Porland? Click here for options. The Christmas Crawl: The Official Tacky Christmas Sweater Bar Crawl—Washington D.C.Who: Owners of tacky holiday clothing searching for fun and acceptance.What: The Christmas Crawl: The Official Tacky Christmas Sweater Bar CrawlWhere: DuPont Circle—Northwest Washington D.C.When: December 6, 2014 Why?: Celebrate the holiday season by sporting a tacky sweater and drinking with thousands of strangers in our nation's capital. Since 2011, The Christmas Crawl has taken over DuPont Circle, a neighborhood in Northwest Washington D.C. In 2013, 11 participating bars offered up more than 40 drink and food specials for thousands of partygoers wearing their finest (and funniest) tacky Christmas outfits. According to organizers, even more party perks are being offered this year and crowds are expected to be even larger. Finally, the perfect opportunity to put your grandmother's handmade Christmas gift to good use! Need a hotel in Washington D.C.? Click here for options. Hotel search site trivago compares the prices of over 700,000 hotels on more than 150 booking sites (including Expedia, Priceline.com, Travelocity, and Hotels.com), saving millions of users an average of 35% per booking—and lots of time. From beaches to business, Trivago has your next trip covered.

Budget Travel Lists

5 Ways to Experience Oahu From Above

This article was written by Kyle Ellison on behalf of Viator.com. In a word, the island of Oahu is gorgeous. Yes, there are freeways, high-rises, and sprawls of development which climb like ivy up the terraces of the Ko’olaus, but there is also the ever-present fusion of nature where sky, sea, shoreline, and summit all form a tableau of tropical perfection. While you can experience this beauty in many forms on all different corners of the island (a sunrise from the shoreline of Kailua comes to mind), one of the best places to bear witness to the island’s beauty is with a bird’s eye view from above. More so than on any other Hawaiian island, Oahu has opportunities to soar high above the peaks for an aerial view of the island. So whether it’s whirring above the battleships of Pearl Harbor, silently gliding over the beaches of the North Shore, or plummeting through the air at cheek-flapping speeds, here are some of the best ways to experience Oahu from above. ParasailingWhen it comes to parasailing, many people erroneously equate the activity with being scary, terrifying, and extreme. On the contrary, instead of looking at the height of the parachute and immediately thinking “scary”, you should instead be looking at your private perch and instead be thinking “silent.” Think about it—when was the last time you were 500 feet away from even the slightest sound? As your toes are tickled by the moving breeze and the royal blue waters of Maunalua Bay stand in contrast to the green of the mountains, parasailing on Oahu becomes one of the most serene ways to get an aerial view of the shoreline. SkydivingIf you’d rather crank the adventure dial all the way to the realm of the extreme, Oahu is the most popular place in Hawaii to throw yourself out of an airplane. Much of the skydiving takes place on the North Shore above reefs which thunder with surf, and you can also get views of Mt. Ka’ala as it rises gently from seashore to summit. From the brisk altitude of 14,000 feet where you’ll exit the door, you can occasionally see Honolulu, where the pace of the city moves as quickly as the thump of your adrenaline-fueled heart. GlidingIf flapping cheeks and ultimate free fall seem just a bit too intense, a more mellow way to experience the beauty of the North Shore is with a calming glider ride above Dillingham airfield. From an elevation of about 3,000 feet, slowly glide back down to the airfield without the use of a motor or propellers. These rides can be as “mild or wild” as you want them to be, and while many people opt to simply take in the sights from high above the North Shore, there are also the options to do acrobatic loops or even pilot the glider yourself. Soaring above the shoreline of Waimea Bay and gazing towards the wilds of Ka’ena, this is a panoramic journey of Oahu’s beauty that is as silently stimulating as it is scenic and serene. SeaplaneUnlike Alaska, Canada, or even the Caribbean, one type of plane you rarely see in Hawaii is an old-fashioned seaplane. With these “flying boats”, you have the chance to explore the perimeter of the island after a take-off from Ke’ehi Lagoon. On a one-hour Oahu seaplane tour, you can circle the island from the crater of Diamond Head to the island of Chinaman’s Hat. Soar above the peaks of the jagged Ko’olau mountains, and gaze down on fields which are pregnant with pineapples as they tan in the sunshine below. On your return to the waters of Ke’ehi Lagoon (which is conveniently located next to the airport), you can also fly over the waters Pearl Harbor where it’s still possible to see the outlines of ships as they rest in their watery graves. HelicopterOf course, when it comes to viewing the island from the air, few things will ever be able to rival the sights on a helicopter tour on Oahu. These whirring choppers can hover in valleys where fixed-wing aircraft can’t venture, and it’s the hands-down best way to get views of waterfalls which are otherwise completely inaccessible. From the comfortable confines of the helicopter cockpits with their expansive, wrap-around windshields, this is truly an experience where you can spend an hour not knowing which way to look. After all, when you have morning clouds tickling the peaks of the mountains off the left side of the chopper, and ribbons of surf which are breaking on the reefs so clearly it seems you could touch them, a helicopter tour is a visual feast of color, topography, and adventure. One final tipGranted, there are a number of factors that determine if your session above Oahu is going to be a success. One, of course, is weather, and it’s vitally important to schedule your adventure for the early morning hours. This is when the skies are clearest and offer the best chance for views, and it’s also the time when the winds are light and you can expect the least amount of turbulence. Also, while winters in Hawaii are far warmer than the rest of the mainland U.S., there can still be precipitous winter storms which can roll through during the winter. The thick clouds which linger over the island can greatly reduce the visibility, although the plus side is that the mountains can turn into dripping walls of water. In order to ensure the best conditions for your aerial foray above Oahu, be sure to keep an eye on the near-term weather forecast for and idea of the upcoming conditions. This way, in the event you have to reschedule, you can still do so within the terms of the contract of the tour or activity you book. On most days, however, the skies above Oahu are brilliantly blue and open for aerial adventure, and the myriad jewels of the island of Oahu like a canvas beneath your feet.

Budget Travel Lists

7 Things to Do in Vernazza (Besides Hiking)

This article was written by Jessica Spiegel on behalf of Viator.com. Most of the people who have been flocking to the pretty town of Vernazza in the Cinque Terre for decades do so because of the famous hike that connects Vernazza with other towns along the coast. Hiking remains the top thing to do in the Cinque Terre, but it’s by no means the only thing to do. Here are 7 other things worth checking out. The BeachBy many accounts, Vernazza has the prettiest harbor of all the Cinque Terre towns—and although none of the beaches in the Cinque Terre are particularly noteworthy, Vernazza’s harborfront beach can be a lovely place to spend a sunny day. The beach in Vernazza has the benefit of being entirely public, so there aren’t any umbrellas or beach chairs set up that you’d have to rent. You just need to find an available spot on the beach, put down a towel, and enjoy the sun and sea. Doria Castle TowerOne of the features that makes Vernazza so picturesque from the trails on either side of it is the Doria Castle Tower that sits on the promontory overlooking the harbor. Built in the 11th century to help protect Vernazza from pirates, it now serves as a gorgeous lookout point. Boat ToursIn addition to hiking or taking the train between the villages of the Cinque Terre, there is also boat service connecting the towns during good weather. You don’t have to think of it as transportation, however. Hop on a boat in Vernazza and ride back and forth along the coast for lovely views of the villages and cliffs from the water, a vantage point many visitors never get. Wine TastingUp and down the cliffs in the Cinque Terre you’ll see vineyards, so why not sample some locally-grown wine while you’re in Vernazza? Much of the Cinque Terre wine is white, and one of the best-known wines is a sweet wine called sciacchetra that’s often paired with biscotti for an afternoon snack. Visit any of the wine shops (called “enoteca”) in Vernazza to see what’s local and get some Cinque Terre wines to bring home. Church of Santa Margherita d’AntiochiaThe bell tower and pretty tiled dome of the Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia are part of what makes Vernazza’s harbor so picturesque, so don’t miss visiting the actual church. No one knows when the original church on this site was built, but it could be as old as the 11th century. Major architectural changes were made in the 17th and 18th centuries, with more restoration work in the 20th century. ShoppingEvery Cinque Terre village has ample shopping options open during the high season, and Vernazza is no exception. In addition to the wine shops listed above, there are shops selling local foods (such as pesto and olive oil) and plenty of postcards and souvenirs. Many of the souvenirs are similar from town to town in the Cinque Terre, so if you’re in the area for a few days you can browse shops in each town to find unique gifts or mementos. VoluntourismIn October of 2011, Vernazza and Monterosso were both heavily damaged by the mudslides that resulted after torrential storms. The towns have recovered incredibly well, thanks in large part to the help of volunteers who spend part of their vacations restoring the villages and the hiking trails. There are still projects that are ongoing in Vernazza and throughout the Cinque Terre, so if you’re interested in doing some good work during your stay check out the Save Vernazza website.

Budget Travel Lists

5 Tips for Navigating NYC's Outdoor Food Markets

When it comes to artisan food in New York City, summer means one thing: a myriad of open air food markets, [our favorite is Madison Square Eats, visit #MadSqEats for more info] where small batch food purveyors and local chefs serve up everything from ice cream sandwiches and wood-fired pizza to charcuterie and macaroons. But you'd better get there fast: just like the warm weather, these temporary markets only last so long. Here are five tips to help you fill your plate this season. Be Part of the CrowdSince each of the city's outdoor food markets is a showcase for several dozen different food vendors, deciding which to choose can be a real challenge. However, don't be afraid to follow the crowd. When it comes to food, New Yorkers have seen it all, so if a particular vendor boasts a lengthy line, there is probably good reason. After all, some things in life—especially savory bites and sweet treats—really are worth the wait. Paper or PlasticMany of us don't think twice about swiping our debit cards. However, be sure to visit the ATM before making a market trip. While some vendors are equipped to accept plastic, many run cash-only operations. Having cash in hand will ensure you avoid a worthless wait in line. Plus, you'll have a few spare dollars to add to the tip jars (you'll want to after tasting the delicious food!). Think SmallThe only real problem with open air food markets is that there is so much excellent food to try! Avoid the temptation of purchasing a full meal and instead give yourself the space to sample a variety of offerings. Many vendors offer half sizes of their well-known menu items, or single servings of their most popular specialties (think one cookie versus a package of three). There's no need to choose when you can have a small bite of it all! Ask QuestionsWhen eating out, diners do not often have the chance to step inside a restaurant's kitchen. However, at the city's open air food markets, the kitchen is on full display, and the chef is typically the one serving your food. While you wait and watch him assemble your order, don't be shy about striking up a conversation and asking questions related to the dish, the ingredients, or even the chef's inspiration for his menu. Embrace the opportunity to learn something new about your food and the people preparing it. ExperimentThink of the city's open air food markets like playgrounds for chefs: unlike at their brick and mortar storefronts, these temporary markets are an opportunity for them to experiment with new menu offerings with very little risk. Say so long to all your culinary inhibitions and take advantage of unusual seasonal ingredients, new cooking traditions, and eclectic menu offerings while they last! Who knows: you may just be biting into the next big thing! This article was written by Angela Brown, a freelance writer and a co-owner of Mayhem &amp; Stout, a New York City-based artisan sandwich company. She is the voice behind the food blog The-Chefs-Wife.com, where she writes weekly narratives inspired by her experiences owning and operating a piece of the NYC food community.