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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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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 (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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Hiking the Tiger’s Nest

Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan ©PROGöran Höglund (Kartläsarn)/Flickr

Last year we received this wonderful letter from one of our travelers, John Monahan. His beautiful story about a trek to The Tiger’s Nest Monastery—a famous Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temple perched high on a cliff in Bhutan—reminds all of us here at Friendly Planet why we do what we do! This experience will stay with John the rest of his life, and we’re humbled to be a part of it.


Dear Friendly Planet,

I am sending you this because I want to share an experience that I had hiking to Tiger’s Nest monastery high in the Himalayas, the Mecca for Buddhism in this part of the world. I had many good experiences in Bhutan, but this one in particular was really special. You see, I was supposed to spend the last two days in Paro, the town below the monastery, before leaving Bhutan for Bangkok. But my flight in Bumthang was cancelled because of rain and the only road was not passable because of rock slides. Luckily, I was able to get on a late afternoon charter the following day, but that also meant I only had one night in Paro. Turns out, this was not enough time to visit the Tiger’s Nest, because my guide, Karma (I hope that I am spelling his name correctly), said that we would need at least five hours to complete the hike; the flight to Bangkok was at 1PM. So I asked if I could do the hike at 5AM. He agreed, even though he didn’t think that we would make it to the top in time.

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Our Travelers’ Favorite Airports (Infographic)

We asked our travelers on Facebook to weigh in on their favorite airports across the globe. Check out what they had to say!

Havana’s Malecón, a stunning Sea Wall

We think experiencing the authentic side of Cuba is a bucket list item every traveler should check off! That’s why, as one of the first US tour companies to have been awarded a People-to-People license for Cuba travel, we’ve worked hard to send thousands of American travelers to Cuba to participate in unique, inspiring, and affordable encounters with the Cuban people. Recently, we asked one of our fabulous Cuba Tour Managers, Gary White, to tell us about one iconic Havana landmark that really immerses you in the ‘authentic’ Cuba.

Sunset at the Sea Wall ©Ashu Mathura/Flickr

For decades, as a forbidden country to US citizens, Cuba was only in our imaginations. We had seen pictures of 1950s classic American cars plying down the dark streets of a crumbling Havana, or of an enthusiastic Fidel Castro gesturing to the masses as military trucks pulling missiles passed in review. And, of course, the island was riddled with aged women who enjoyed oversized cigars tilting down from one side of their mouths.

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Singapore: Five Cultures in One

Singapore skyline © Singapore Tourism

The sun rises on Singapore, an island-nation only miles away from its neighbor, Malaysia. Morning rays reflect on breathtaking modern architecture, from gleaming towers to fascinating futuristic structures, dotted with glowing colored lights as day breaks. But beneath the rush of this 21st Century wonder there is a treasure trove of ancient cultures, each quietly thriving and making their mark on Singapore. As morning breaks, temple bells and bustling markets ready for the day.

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#FriendlyFiles: Denise explores Ireland!

Recently our Groups Manager, Denise Barnes, traveled to Ireland to meet with our partners on the ground there and experience all that the Emerald Isle has to offer!

Dublin Musicians © Tourism Ireland
I grew up in London, but this was my first trip to Ireland! I can’t believe I hadn’t made the trip before, and from the moment I arrived, I fell in love. Its diversity, people, traditions, and history—and yes, more shades of green than can be counted—made for an unforgettable trip. There were so many amazing experiences, but here are a few that stood out the most:
Epic Ireland, Dublin © Tourism Ireland

1 Epic Ireland: The Irish Emigration Museum, Dublin

Arriving at the Irish Emigration Museum was truly a 21st century experience. It was inspiring to hear and see the stories of millions of Irish emigrants who left for all corners of the globe (including the U.S.) on display as we wandered through this modern museum. With more than twenty exhibits, it helped me really understand more about Ireland and its colorful history—including how Irish emigrants have influenced and shaped the world both in the past and today!
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