Greek IslandsThe Avengers: Age of Ultron Filming LocationsPlitvice Lakes

The new UNESCO World Heritage sites 2014. Yep, last year we failed to publish this post on time, but all good things are worth waiting for. Also the qualities of these new 26 inscriptions (plus 4 extensions) are -supposedly- timeless.

You know that no one makes UNESCO lists look as good as we do. You can also review the places that achieved the recognition in 2011, 2012 and 2013 following these links.

Including these new properties, the list has already more than a thousand sites, 1,007 in total:

Grand Canal China

White Pocket, Arizona (psychedelic) dream

The geography of the USA is presenting yet another unique and twisted landscape to discover. White Pocket is located in a remote area of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Due to the difficult access to the area, it doesn't receive many visitors yet. Also it has been a bit overshadowed by other famous neighboring attractions, like The Wave in Coyote Buttes.

You can find all the practical stuff about how to go to White Pocket and a map, in the link included at the end of this post. Now we just sit back and enjoy these selected photographs:

White Pocket
It's time to say thanks and hello to Marijana Bulatovic, who discovered me this awesome place.
Image by John Fowler

White Pocket Arizona
Marijana also gave me some advice: Try to be there for the sunset. If you go at noon, that's no good for photography.
Image by Dave Soldano

How to go visit White Pocket
But the best it's to have both sunset and dawn: stay for the night!
Image by John Fowler

White Pocket Tour
The Sphinx of White Pocket.
Image by John Fowler

White Pocket permit
To go to White Pocket you don't require an advance permit, as you do to visit the famous The Wave.
Image by John Fowler

South Coyote Buttes
So you better go before the park management limit access, at some point soon. This image belogs to the nearby South Coyote Buttes. Image by John Fowler

White Pocket Landscape
The variety and shapes of the sandstone formations are out of this world.
Image by Jason Corneveaux and John Fowler

White Pocket Vermilion Cliffs
We are in Arizona, but the base camp to visit White Pocket is the town of Kanab, already in Utah.
Image by Marijana Bulatovic.

White Pocket Wave
When it rains, it has to be quite dangerous here...
Image by Mikka Pineda

How to go to White Pocket
For directions to the White Pocket and practical information, you can check this page.
Image by John Fowler

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Hormoz, the island of colours in Iran

The small ferry from the regional capital landed in an instant. Passengers rush to go back to the shade. Once the stampede of mopeds has delivered everybody home, it's only me and a scorching sun of 40 degrees. It's summer, it's midday, and there's no turning back: Today I left my shelter in Bandar Abbas, to explore an extremely arid island in the south of Iran. There's not much info about how to do it, and at this hour I can only ask for directions to some goats sitting in the shadow.

The only visitable monument highlighted in the guides, is an old colonial Portuguese fort in serious decay. There's no sign of life around the crumbling walls, and I'd say that the entrance door has been closed for business since the Persians took over. It doesn't matter. I'm looking for the geological features that make this island a unique place in the world. They are somewhere into the 16 sq miles of Hormuz.

Very soon a taxi driver, blessed with an excessive tanning and a modern air-conditioned van, locates my position. He will drive me through the unpaved road that encircles Hormuz. Negotiations to agree the price start soon. First we are visiting a young lady that has been appointed as translator. Her English is as good as my Farsi, but I get a more than fair quote. Vehicle and driver will be at my exclusive service for a couple of hours.

Hormuz Island carpet
A couple of miles out of town, we find the first surprise. It's the beach where the largest soil carpets in the world are often displayed. This fabulous mythological bird was created for a festival, thanks to the workshop in Hormuz of the artist Ahmad Nadalian.

Island of colours
But before we go back to the artistic scene of Hormuz, let's continue our tour.
On the seashore, silver-plated sand shines like metal.

Hormuz Geotourism
The car stops for the next view. But it's what's on the ground that catches the eye. I don't know much about stones, but I read that this place is a top destination for anyone into geotourism.

Iran Island of colours
Shortly we arrive to the area known as the Rainbow Valley.

Hormuz Island
I'm going to spend a lot of my limited time here, wondering around salt caves, crusty rivers and weird rocks.

Geology Hormuz
Everywhere I look is potentially interesting. It's like if all the range of colors and shapes were around here.

Rocks of Hormuz
Hormoz Island is considered a unique mineralogical reservoir, due to the incredible variety of rocks and minerals found in this small area. You can read more from a scientific point of view in this paper from some Iranian universities presented in the journal Scientific Research Publishing.

Island of rainbow
Back to the car, the landscape is changing completely every few meters.
Hills that look very different from each other, are adjacent almost without space for transition.

Island of colours Iran
The island is considered a fine example of a salt dome. This is like a mushroom of salt that has been forced upwards... but it's better explained in Wikipedia :]

Hormuz Island Red coast
Another feature of Hormuz is the variety of coasts. In the north there are sandy beaches. In the southeast there's an area with beautiful cliffs. This image belongs to the Red Coast, where the shore has a high iron concentration. Sea waves are also colored in red, creating the effect that the beach is bleeding.

Colored island Iran
Many colorful layers and a few dramatic cliffs into the ocean later, one more surprise awaits me: a series of small salty azure lakes.

Iran Island colors
I'm running out of time and the communication with my new friend is severely limited. I'm wondering if there are still more delights to come.

Hormoz Island
But apart from coming across the classic bike loaded with five members of a family, soon we're back to the only settlement on the island. Pictured in the background, the fortress built by the Portuguese, that captured the island in 1507.

Artist House Hormuz
Also if you have the chance, try to find the museum and gallery of Ahmad Nadalian. There is a map with the location on this page linked. Check it ahead, it's not easy to find.

Soil carpets
The house is a meeting point for artists, who can also stay there for a while. This carpet was made in 2013 by 30 people who worked on it during a week. The composition had 1,400 square-meters before to disappear over time.
Image by Kazem Ochizi

Museum Hormuz
Leave your message cycling in the sand. Ahmad Nadalian is an internationally recognised environmentalist artist. His work and carvings can be found in many countries around the world.

Strait of Hormuz
From the space, the Strait of Hormuz itself looks like a painting. We edited an original satellite photo from the Nasa database, to get this gorgeous view. Our island is the ball closer to the land on the top (the large one looking like a dolphin is Qeshm island).

Bandar Abbas Woman
Image by Ahmad Nadalian

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The biggest monument in Europe: Völkerschlachtdenkmal

Leipzig October 1813. More than 600.000 soldiers from almost all the corners of Europe are about to clash in one of the bloodiest battles in history. 100,000 killed and a century later after the massacre, a massive landmark was erected on the battle field, not far from the place where Napoleon once issued his orders. The famous French Emperor suffered here a severe defeat that had to change the fate of the continent, forcing him to abandon his control over Germany.

The colossal structure of concrete and granite is 300 feet high (91 meters). In German it received the long and intimidating name of Völkerschlachtdenkmal, but it's also known as the Monument to the Battle of the Nations. At first it was designed as a memorial to commemorate the end of the battle, viewed also as a victory of Germanic people. This was part of the process that had to help creating the spirit of the country, to establish the future state of Germany.

But the winds of the times were blowing in a slightly different direction. The temptation was too obvious, and when they emerged, the Nazis put their hands on the pantheon. The monument soon became the meeting point for Hitler's rallies in Saxony:

Monument to the Battle of the Nations

Where was The Avengers: Age of Ultron filmed?

The second part of the Hollywood blockbuster The Avengers, is the most international Marvel movie yet. The filming took place basically in five countries: Italy, South Africa, South Korea, United Kingdom and Bangladesh.

The movie shows an impressive cast of stars, including Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff or Black Widow), Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark or Iron Man) (Robert Downey Jr.), Samuel L Jackson (Nick Fury or the S.H.I.E.L.D. boss), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers or Captain America), and Chris Hemsworth (Thor). No contains spoilers!

The Avengers filming locations in Italy

The Avengers castle

Kuril Islands: 101 Fabulous volcanoes in Russia's Easternmost territory

There’s almost no tourism here. The brutal beauty of many of these frontier islands is reserved to sporadic military patrols, local fisherman and to the fearless wildlife. This is the extreme east, we're right on the edge of the rim of the Eurasian plate. On the line where this plate is slowly engulfing the Pacific one. A small lost world, where the most remote islands are almost left at the mercy of the elements.

Kuril Islands are about 100 volcanoes (40 still smoking) on 56 islands, which only 7 are inhabited with no more than 20,000 souls. They belong to Russia and you need a special permission to enter each island. Independent travel to some of the beautiful deserted islands is almost impossible, unless you've got a boat or an helicopter (and a large budget).

As many of this incredible landscapes are out of reach for most of us, we took the opportunity to show some images courtesy of Eugene Kaspersky, who organized a private expedition, touring the islands on a boat. You can find more information, photos and entertaining stories here, on his personal blog.

Kuril Volcanoes

Kayaköy, an abandoned Greek town in Turkey

Thanks to another traveler, I got to know about the existence of a ghost town perched in the mountains in Turkey, near the Lycian coast. I immediately added this promised land to my route, imagining myself cutting weeds with a machete before I could pass through.

Too fast too furious. The place has become already a tourist attraction, and you even have to pay an entrance fee to access to the ruins. But as you can check on the pictures below, definitely worth getting lost in what is left of Kayaköy, since it was finally abandoned more than ninety years ago.

The history behind is a fascinating drama, so 20th century: Once upon a time, it was a mainly Greek village in Western Anatolia called Livissi, living in peace with their Turkish neighbours, that called the same village Kayaköy. But following the Greco-Turkish War, it was decided to separate these communities forever to stop the bloodshed. After the exchange of population between Greece and Turkey in 1923, the remaining Greek inhabitants from the town that survived, were evacuated to Attica region, near Athens.


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