December 2017 –
Month: December 2017

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, Utah

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With vistas rivaling the Grand Canyon’s but hosting far fewer sightseers, Utah’s Canyonlands National Park owes many of its mighty rock formations and sculpted ravines to the same force of nature that carved out Arizona’s wild spectacle – the Colorado River. So remote are some places within Canyonlands’ 527-square-mile sedimentary paradise that park officials insist on permits and advise visitors to go old school and bring detailed maps, as smartphones won’t find a signal in these vast expanses. Of course, not everything is that far off the beaten path: This beautiful sandstone arch is the highlight of a walking trail marked 'easy.'


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An alpine lake in the Pirin Mountains of Bulgaria

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One of Bulgaria’s natural treasures, the Pirin Mountain range is a place of many moods. As placid and calm as it is here, it’s frequently buffeted by fierce seasonal storms. These tempests must’ve made quite the impression in ancient times—the range’s name derives from Perun, the god of thunder and lightning in Slavic lore. Of course, mountain storms bring snow, and that’s a good thing if you’re looking for world-class skiing. (Hint: Make this nearby town your base for winter recreation.)

Known for its lush forests (the oldest tree in Bulgaria, a roughly 1,300-year-old pine, grows here), the range is also beloved for hundreds of blue lakes dotted throughout, called ‘the eyes of the mountain’ in Bulgarian folklore. We definitely like what we see here.

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A pier at Kenjeran Beach, Surabaya, Indonesia

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  1. During its colonial heyday, Holland controlled Surabaya, and by the 19th century the city had become the biggest settlement in the Dutch East Indies. Surabaya may not have the same name recognition as Hong Kong or Singapore, but for a good stretch of time this city on the island of Java competed with them as a hub of global commerce. Indonesia began its battle for independence here at Surabaya in 1945, earning the city its nickname, ‘City of Heroes.'

    An old local legend posits that the moniker ‘Surabaya’ comes from the names of a shark and crocodile who pitched a terrible battle over territory here. Let’s hope you encounter neither combatant should you wade into the waters around this pier.

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The shore of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic

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  1. On the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic lies Punta Cana, a swath of coastline immensely popular with visitors seeking that perfect combination of sun, sea, and sand. Paradise on earth brings with it a generous choice of lodgings: The area’s balnearios (seaside resort towns) offer tens of thousands of rooms. A bloom of megaresorts and the ensuing tourist influx aside, the bright blue waters, warm breezes, sugary-sand beaches, and (of course) lanky, leaning palm trees fashion Punta Cana into one of the finest living picture postcards of the Caribbean.

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Bellevue Beach in Denmark

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Found north of Copenhagen on Denmark’s Øresund strait, Bellevue Beach is the result of a 1930’s government directive guaranteeing vacations. Where to spend this mandated time off? The shore is always a good idea, and the young Danish architect Arne Jacobsen won a competition to design pretty much everything for the new resort at Bellevue Beach. From ticket stubs to the performing arts center, the young Jacobsen had a hand in it all, and much of his work is still intact and enjoyed at this beach today, including this long-legged and whimsical lifeguard tower.

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View over the Val d’Orcia, a region of Tuscany, Italy

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When you daydream about a quiet life in the Italian countryside, you’re probably thinking about this place. The Val d’Orcia, aka Valdorcia (‘Valley of the Orcia River’) has appeared in prose and paintings—especially from the Renaissance onwards—and as a backdrop in many films. It also has UNESCO World Heritage Site protection as a natural, artistic, and cultural park. This fertile, fabulous place is not only beautiful to look at, it tastes great, too. Along with plenty of swoon-worthy Tuscan cuisine, Val d’Orcia produces some of the region’s finest wines, including the celebrated Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

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The Milky Way Galaxy in the night sky

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  1. For a long while astronomers believed that all the stars in the universe were contained inside the Milky Way Galaxy. But when Edwin Hubble turned his eyes heavenward in the 1920s – with help from a very powerful telescope – he proved that what were previously thought of as mere nebulae were actually other galaxies. And there are lots of them out there. Around 170 billion of them spin through the observable universe, so perhaps it’s not surprising that our own home galaxy is due to collide with its nearest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy. But, there’s no need to put on your crash helmet just yet. At the rate we’re speeding toward each other – around 70 to 80 miles per second – it’s going to take a while for the smash-up: about 3 to 4 billion years.

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The Sahara Desert

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sahara desert

  1. The Sahara Desert, a few miles outside of Ouargla, Algeria

    If you hadn’t guessed it, we’re in the midst of Earth’s largest hot desert. This particular portion of the Sahara Desert’s 3.63 million square miles is near Ouargla, Algeria. It may be surrounded by towering sand dunes and desolate plains, but the city’s home to more than 100,000 people, a thriving petroleum industry, and a large university. There’s also an oasis here that’s surely an appealing sight during July, when the average temperature hovers around 109 degrees Fahrenheit. The place has also inspired a song: Legendary bluesman Memphis Slim penned a tune in tribute to Ouargla and its oasis that was released in 1971.
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Sunset – Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located southeast of India and northeast of the Maldives.

The island is home to many cultures, languages and ethnicities. The majority of the population is from the Sinhalese ethnicity, while a large minority of Tamils have also played an influential role in the island's history; Christians in both groups are recent converts who have kept the traditional culture. Moors, Burghers, Malays, Chinese, and the aboriginal Vedda are also established groups on the island.

Sri Lanka's documented history spans 3,000 years, with evidence of pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years. It has a rich cultural heritage and the first known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, the Pāli Canon, date back to the Fourth Buddhist council in 29 BC. Its geographic location and deep harbours made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to the modern Maritime Silk Road.

Sri Lanka was known from the beginning of British colonial rule until 1972 as Ceylon. Its recent history has been marred by a thirty-year civil war which decisively ended when the Sri Lanka Armed Forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.

The current constitution stipulates the political system as a republic and a unitary state governed by a semi-presidential system. It has had a long history of international engagement, as a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the G77, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Along with the Maldives, Sri Lanka is one of only two South Asian countries rated "high" on the Human Development Index (HDI), with its HDI rating and per capita income the highest among South Asian nations.

The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital and largest city,


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