We so enjoyed putting together the Fun Facts Travel Notebook for our incredible hotel partners, particularly with the wonderful feedback we received from you, that it seemed an opportune moment to introduce a similar series from our Destination Management Specialists, highlighting a selection of lesser-known facts about the remarkable counties they live, breathe and work in every day.
If you’re anything like me – researching and writing down fun facts before you travel allows you to learn a little about where you’re going, increasing the anticipation of new discoveries. It certainly gives me a sense of familiarity that is intensified when my exploration becomes a reality, conveying a sense of place and breathing life into a destination.
So, onwards we go, imagining incredible destinations while the world remains in our hearts and minds and future travel adventures are a little closer to becoming a reality.
Did you know: New Zealanders are more commonly known as ‘Kiwis’. This affectionate nickname was given to New Zealand soldiers during World War I when their soldiers wore a uniform with an outline of the New Zealand national bird depicted on their upper sleeve, the same location as where US soldiers display the US flag today.
Something fun: The national bird of New Zealand, the kiwi, is a rather strange creature that is completely flightless, only comes out at night, and has nostrils at the tip of its very long beak. Although smaller than a chicken, they are relatives of the emu!
Must do: Although extremely rare, it is possible to track down a kiwi in the wild with a Department of Conservation ranger at the bird sanctuary on The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, a luxury lodge in the Hawke’s Bay wine region.
Did you know: The lush green rainforests of the World Heritage Daintree National Park in Tropical Far North Queensland is the world’s oldest tropical rainforest – at approximately 180 million years old it is tens of thousands of years older than the Amazon.
Something Fun: Riverdrift snorkeling! Floating down the tranquil Mosman River on an inflatable raft – looking out for tropical fish and turtles below, or gazing up at the spectacular rainforest canopy above. A fabulous way to immerse yourself in the rainforest and great day out for all ages.
Must do: The Rainforest has enormous cultural and historical significance for its traditional owners, the Kuku Yalanji people. Learn about the Daintree Dreamtime legends from a local indigenous guide or walk through the rainforest and its coastal fringes in the company of a local Aboriginal elder, learning their traditional hunting techniques, foraging for bush medicines and sampling some fabulous bush tucker.
Did you know: A houseboat is called a ‘Kettuvellom’ in the local language. The crafting of a Kettuvellom is an interesting process – the boat is constructed from a range of materials, which include jack wood, bamboo poles, beaten coconut fiber and coir rope, and then smearing the surface with a resinous black substance made by boiling cashew nuts.
Something fun: Take a day trip on the tranquil backwaters of Kerala, a southwestern coastal state of India. Board your exclusive Kettuvellom and sail along palm-fringed canals and lakes, passing little creeks where tiny settlements of thatched houses nestle below palm trees on diminutive patches of land. The waterways are seething with dragon-shaped dugouts with graceful sails and covered boats transporting copra (dried coconut) and cashew nuts from local villages to the ports before returning to Fort Cochin.
Must do: Witness coir making, toddy tapping, fishing and rice growing along the palm fringe banks. You will also see papaya, jackfruit and cassava (tapioca) growing. Local temples and churches are encompassed on this interesting cruise.
Did you know: Mehrangarh Fort is one of the largest in India, located in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. History suggests that the fort was built around 1459 by Rao Jodha. This incredible fort is situated 125 meters above the city – inside there are several palaces known for their intricate carvings and sprawling courtyards.
Something fun: Ventours will privately transfer guests from the grand Umaid Bhawan Palace to the regal Mehrangarh Fort for a thrilling zipline experience. This enthralling Mehrangarh zipline ride lets you glide serenely over the majestic Mehrangarh Fort. You can behold stunning vistas of the ‘Blue City’ of Jodhpur along with an aerial experience of two desert lakes and the Rao Jodha Eco Park.
Must do: Take a trek through the Rao Jodha Eco Park and enjoy the best view of this astonishing fort from the ground.
Did you know: Adam’s Peak is considered to be the most sacred mountain in Sri Lanka standing at 2,243 meters. The peak is a country landmark holding great meaning within several religions thanks to an intriguing depression at its summit known as Sri Pada or the Sacred Footprint. Buddhists are convinced the impression belongs to Lord Buddha whilst the Muslims claim it is the footprint of Adam, and the Hindus believe it belongs to Lord Shiva.
Something fun: Sri Lanka is considered to be one of the best safari destinations outside of Africa with a profusion of wildlife that can be seen throughout almost 60 National Parks and Reserves located across the country. Sri Lanka claims to have the largest leopard population in the world and is also home to the Sri Lankan Elephant that can be appreciated in their natural habitat. Not forgetting the Sloth Bear and the awe-inspiring Blue Whale, the largest in the world that can be observed during an ocean excursion.
Must do: Visitors can fly over the heritage city of Kandy, with a fly-by past the famous Adam’s Peak and World’s End at Horton Plains National Park on a helicopter adventure of a lifetime taking in this incredible sacred mountain.
Did you know: The Himalayas can actually be seen and are shared by five different countries – Nepal, Bhutan, India, China and Pakistan. The North of Nepal is home to eight of the ten tallest mountains in the world, the most famous and the world’s tallest mountain is, of course, Mount Everest.
Something fun: Nepal is home to an enormous variety of flora and fauna and is also the setting for some of the rarest genera of wildlife, including the one-horned Rhino, the Bengal Tiger, the Red Panda and not forgetting their national flower, the Rhododendron.
Must do: No journey to Nepal is complete without an Everest flight. The Dwarika’s Resort in Dhulikhel offers a one-hour morning helicopter flight to showcase an awe-inspiring panorama of some of the world’s highest peaks. Ventours can even arrange an extraordinary breakfast on top of the world taking in the astonishing vistas from this incredible vantage point.
Did you know: Turkey gifted tulips to the world. It is uncertain where the first tulips were grown, but what is known is that the Ottomans popularized the flower and facilitated their introduction to Europe. An export of Tulipmania, the seeds of the world’s first speculative bubble were sown when a Flemish Ambassador to the 16th-century court of Suleyman the Magnificent brought back bulbous flowers to Holland. Turkey also introduced coffee and cherries to Europe.
Something fun: Visit the Pera Palace hotel in Istanbul and enter the 2nd elevator built in the world after the elevator in the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It is in perfect condition and still in working order.
Something fun: Istanbul has the second oldest subway in the world called Tunel Funicular. It can transport people from Karakoy to the famous Istiklal Street. Built in 1867 by a French engineer, Eugene-Henri Gavand – this 90-second ride is still in use today and fun to explore and enjoy for a little bit of nostalgia! Can you guess the oldest?
Must do: The Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s oldest and biggest shopping malls dating back to 1455. The Grand Bazaar was established shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople with 61 streets lined by more than 3,000 shops occupying nearly 333,000 square feet. You can never explore it all, but you can try. The Grand Bazaar draws millions of people per year to experience this maze of purveyors.
Did you know: Cornwall is the most South West county in England and boasts the longest coastline in the country, extending 433 miles.
Something fun: With more than 75,000 cows in Cornwall, the county makes the most delicious ice cream for which Cornwall is renowned together with their delectable clotted cream for the best afternoon tea!
Must do: Explore the amazing island world of St. Michael’s Mount and discover legends, myths, and over a thousand years of incredible history. Take a stroll across the granite causeway to an island where modern life meets layers of history, discover a medieval castle, a sub-tropical paradise, and a close-knit island community. Delve into the history of a fortress, a Priory, a harbour, and a home.
Did you know: From Dorset to East Devon, the Jurassic Coastline is a stretching landscape of golden beaches, jagged cliffs and quiet coves. Not only famous for its outstanding beauty but with over 180 million years of history, this World Heritage Site is of great geological importance. It’s also a wonderful stop en route to Cornwall.
Something fun: Dinosaur remains, along with sea creatures such as Ichthyosaurs, known as a ‘Sea Dragon,’ have been found in this area of the country by people of all ages. The Natural History Museum in London is full of fossils discovered at Lyme Regis in Dorset.
Must do: Everyone is welcome, from geologists to fossil-enthusiasts and in just half a day’s journey from London, Original Travel UK recommend staying a couple of nights in one of their favourite hotels in Dorset. With a private expert by your side, head to the beach to scavenge and unearth a piece of prehistory – which is yours for the keeping. You’ll most probably find Fool’s Gold Ammonites and Belemnites – either way, you’ll learn skills to help you do this again in the future.
Did You Know: Marseille is the second-largest city in France and the capital of Provence on the French Riviera. This is the oldest city in France, originally founded by the Greeks in 600 BC. A captivating city with a vibrant cultural scene surrounded by incredible countryside and dramatic landscapes.
Something Fun: One of Marseille’s most iconic sites is Notre-Dame de la Garde or “La Bonne Mère” – this Catholic basilica is positioned high above Marseille and is said to watch over sailors, fishermen and the entire city. Visit Notre-Dame de la Garde and enjoy the incredible port views from the top of the La Garde during a visit to Marseille.
Must do: Provence is highly regarded for its abundance of intensely fragrant and colourful lavender fields – the wondrous sight of the fields in bloom is extraordinary. A visit to the Lavender farms, distilleries and the Lavender Museum in Coustellet is a must-do for any lavender lover with the opportunity to explore the history, cultivation and impact of this fabulous crop on the area.
Destination Focus: New York City
Did You Know: With its history and cultural diversity, New York City is a cosmopolitan city like no other. The oldest building in the city, the Wyckoff Farm in Brooklyn, dates back to around 1642. In the Big Apple, as many as 800 languages are spoken by its culturally and ethnically diverse population.
Something Fun: Broadway, the bright beating heart of the city’s performing arts scene, offers more than long-running hits, bold musicals, and fascinating dramas. You can tour historical theatres, the backstage of a popular show, and do a meet and greet with cast members. The pre-theatre dining choices are as limitless as your cravings.
Must do: You cannot miss New York City’s most famous landmarks and museums. New York’s Big Three Sightseeing Program will take you on an excursion exploring the most popular triangle in the world: Central Park, Times Square, and Rockefeller Center. An after-hours tour of the MoMA and The Met will complete your visit.