Friendly Planet Blog

#FriendlyFiles: Peggy on the Modernity of Singapore

Recently, I traveled with my husband and business partner, Ilan, to explore the wonders of Singapore. Here are some of my thoughts on this incredibly modern and endlessly fascinating destination! 

I have to admit that Singapore, while well known in the travel world as an important Asian tourist destination, had never had a position of great prominence on my personal bucket list. Then, an opportunity to visit Singapore appeared in my inbox one morning, with dates that corresponded perfectly with a planned trip to Japan. So Ilan and I decided to have a look for ourselves.

Peggy and Ilan explore Singapore!

First off, whatever your preconception of Singapore, my advice to you is this: Drop it! This island-country was created by deeply passionate people following their dreams and aspirations. It’s a place that serves as a canvas for its people’s wildest imagination of what’s possible. And although the region has been inhabited for centuries, Singapore is officially a young country, just a tad over 50 years old, and has transformed itself from a sleepy fishing village to a hotbed of innovation in cuisine, architecture, design, nature and so much more.

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5 reasons Portugal is trending with travelers

Due to its physical geography and its long history of influence from conquered and conquering societies, Portugal has developed its own unique art, architecture, food and culture that can’t be found anywhere else in Europe. From its fortified wines to its fortified cities, its melancholic music to its traditional tile work, it’s no wonder American tourism to Portugal has increased 17% over the past year. The country is trending in travel in 2017; and here are five reasons why!

1. Feasts of food & wine

Calem Port Wine ©Reflected Serendipity /Flickr

Port Wine. Perhaps Portugal’s most potent contribution to the world is its port wine, named for the city where the wine is made, Porto. In fact, a “port” cannot be called a “port” unless the grapes were grown in Portugal’s Douro Valley and the juice was stored and aged in one of Porto’s wine lodges. Locally referred to as port caves, the most tourist-friendly and accessible concentration of lodges in Porto are located along the river in the Vila Nova da Gaia part of town. Just look for the huge 50s-era signs with English names on them proclaiming the past and present British owners of some of these port-producing lodges. You can do a tasting, and if you’re lucky, even tour the “caves” carved underground where the wine is stored in wooden barrels.

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Get To Know Us: Cuba Tour Managers

Part tour-guide, part problem-solver and 100% friend: our Tour Managers are destination experts and there for our passengers every step of the way, helping to make your tour as safe and fulfilling as possible! Whether to color in your destination with fun first-hand stories or recommend the best restaurant for a night out (and the best way to get there!) it’s no wonder when our passengers return home, one of the first things they rave about is their Tour Manager. We’re fortunate to have a team of Tour Managers who are passionate about our tours to Cuba and can’t wait to share their experiences and expertise with you! Meet Terri, Frank, Tracy and Gary.

Terri Ross

Terri Ross

Where do you call home? New Mexico

How long have you been leading tours to Cuba with Friendly Planet?  3 years

What are some of your favorite Cuban experiences? Whether it’s seeing the joy radiating from the face of a passenger when she was given a student painting at the art school we were visiting or helping my group members bargain for handmade linens to take home as gifts for family and friends — my favorite experiences always seem to revolve around helping travelers experience the real Cuba.

What’s one of the most interesting things to happen on one of your tours? I once helped a passenger propose to his girlfriend! Seeing her tearful happiness as she accepted was so moving.

Interesting Tidbit: I was actually in Havana the day Fidel Castro died!

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10 Hauntingly Beautiful Cemeteries

What makes a cemetery special? Perhaps it’s the size, or the number of tombs? Or is it the age of the graveyard, or the famous people buried there? Are they architectural masterpieces in baroque style, or are they more whimsical? Find out for yourself below, as we celebrate Halloween with a list of ten of the most haunting and beautiful cemeteries from around the world!

Père Lachaise Cemetery © Alexander Baxevanis / Flickr

1 Père Lachaise, France

This one of a kind collection of burial sites located in the heart of Paris is known to be the most visited cemetery in the world. The Père Lachaise opened in 1804 and experts estimate that there are somewhere between 300,000 and 1,000,000 people buried on its grounds. Many celebrities are laid to rest among the grand tombs and mausoleums including Oscar Wild, Frédéric Chopin, George Seurat, and even the Doors’ Jim Morrison!

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Cuba: still legal, and nothing to fear

It’s been a tough five weeks for Cuba, one of my absolute favorite destinations. So I wanted to address the hundreds of travelers we have booked on a Cuba tour, as well as anyone who is still thinking about traveling there.

Travel to Cuba is still completely legal for Americans, and when you go there, you have absolutely nothing to be afraid of. I don’t know if I can say this enough!

Visitors to Havana enjoy a ride in a classic car

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The romantic side of Thailand

There are a lot of incredible reasons to visit Thailand: bustling cities with mouth-watering markets, ancient and adorned temples, rich and flavorful food, bygone ruins to wander, pristine beaches to lounge on, and incredible sunsets. So have you considered it for your next romantic getaway? From “newlywed” to “forever after”, Thailand is one of THE premier places for lovers. With our newest line of romantic getaways you and your partner can experience the Land of Smiles in luxurious bliss. Below we break down for you five destinations in Thailand and why their romantic side makes them tempting for two.

Bangkok

Bangkok ©Adam Selwood - Flickr

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7 things you can’t skip in Turkey!

Situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Turkey has enchanted travelers for centuries. And for good reason! Stunning sun-soaked beaches dotted with quaint seaside towns line the coast. Bustling cities like Istanbul and Ankara charm visitors with incredible food, fascinating cultural experiences, and covered markets full of handwoven rugs, intricately painted ceramics and brass samovars. And with more than a dozen UNESCO World Heritage sites, history comes alive across the breathtaking landscape as ancient cities and ruins are found at every turn.

But, where do you start? We’ve got you covered. Here are 7 things you cannot skip when you travel to this incredible destination.

Ephesus, Turkey © Jason Hung/Flickr Read more…

#FriendlyFiles: Kristin goes to Spain

Recently Kristin, a member of Friendly Planet’s Product Development team, had the opportunity to travel to a destination that’s always been on her bucket list! Check out some highlights from her recent adventure on our Discover Spain tour:

Barcelona ©Ajay Suresh, Flickr

History & Art

Spain is rich in history and culture. Whether I was exploring the ancient cities of Toledo and Cordoba, discovering the towering icon that is La Alhambra, or wandering through the narrow medieval streets of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, it felt like I had stepped back in time!

There is an abundance of art and architecture throughout the country: wander through the opulent jewel that is Madrid’s Royal Palace; explore the fascinating La Alhambra fortress and citadel with its Moorish influence; marvel at Giralda Cathedral in Seville, the largest Gothic cathedral and third-largest church in the world; visit the Mezquita of Cordoba which illustrates a fascinating blend of Roman, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish traditions; and of course, you can’t miss Gaudí’s iconic Art Nouveau architecture throughout Barcelona…and that’s just to name a few!

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Friendly Planet Travelers: Fan Photo Round Up

Each week across our social media channels, we feature traveler submitted Fan Photos! Our travelers LOVE to share their experiences from across the globe: from bucket-list destinations and breathtaking safaris to people-to-people experiences and so much more! Take a look at some of our favorites from the last few months. Friendly Planet travelers: want to submit your travel moments to this running series? Email a few of your favorite photos along with captions to aklein@friendlyplanet.com!

Kenya Safari Express

It’s #FanPhotoFriday! This week’s photos were sent in by Ruth from her Kenya Safari Express tour! Check out her…

Posted by Friendly Planet Travel on Friday, June 16, 2017

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5 Countries Where Game of Thrones is Filmed

UPDATE: We hope everyone enjoyed the Season 7 Premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones and doesn’t if feel like this season is just zipping by?! But we digress… this post is long, and full of spoilers through the end of Season 6.

ORIGINAL POST: Now, down to business. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones then we don’t need to remind you that season 7 kicks off on Sunday July 16. Last we left our lovable band of ambitious thrones seekers, Daenerys Targaryen was on her long awaited journey back to Westeros with Tyrion (and dragons) in tow, Jon Snow and Sansa Stark were reuniting the North, and Cersei Lannister had wrested power from the grips of all challengers. But there’s still so many questions to be answered (like who are the three heads of the dragon?). Unfortunately, aspiring Maesters won’t find much resolution in the lines of this ponderous tome. But what we can offer is a look into the actual filming locations and sets of many of the iconic GOT settings; and while we’re at it, give you some insight into how you can visit some of these places on our tours.



The Dark Hedges ©HBO (Left) ©Paul Bowman/Flickr (Right)

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is to GOT as Kings Landing is to Westeros – that is to say, the buzzing capital of the entire operation. Paint Hall studio in Belfast, located on the original Harland and Wolff shipyard where parts of the Titanic were built, holds the interior sets of Winterfell, Castle Black, Daenerys’s throne room in the Great Pyramid and so much more. But it’s the broad sweeping landscapes and grand castle exteriors that really shape the settings of the show and define the stories of its characters, and it’s here where the country of Northern Ireland steals the show.

The entire series opens in Tollymore Forest Park in County Down where a Night’s Watch scouting party discovers that White Walkers are no longer the stuff of ancient lore beyond the Wall. This same forest is where the Stark children discover six orphaned direwolf pups. Not far from the forest sits 1,000 acres of land belonging to Old Castle Ward. On these lands is Audley’s Castle which serves as the exterior of Winterfell. And who can forget when Ned Stark beheaded a deserter of the Night’s Watch, performed against the backdrop of moors and hills of Cairncastle in County Antrim. Also in this county is Shane’s Castle, whose cellars serve as Winterfell’s crypts, and Cushendum Caves where the Red Priestess Melisandre gives birth to the shadow creature that assassinates Renly Baratheon. But perhaps the site that is most iconic to Northern Ireland and the show is the Dark Hedges, a countryside avenue flanked by beech trees that serves as the Kingsroad leading North to Winterfell and the Wall.

While we don’t visit any of these particular sites on our Best of Ireland, you do spend plenty of time in Northern Ireland’s countryside drinking in the rolling landscapes and ancient ruins that inspired GOT show makers to set their show primarily here. Plus, when in Belfast, you’ll visit the Titanic Belfast Experience, which is located along the same dock complex as Paint Hall studio. And Bonus: on your way to the Giant’s Causeway, from the road you may be able to make out the silhouette of Dunluce Castle, the ancestral seat of the Greyjoys!

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