Northstar Travel & Associates's Blog

Islay: Home to the Peatiest Single Malts on the Planet Islay's delicious single malts. read more
Scotland, the home of Golf A few facts about Scotland and why it is the Home of Golf. read more
A Wee Dram or Two at Glenmorangie Distillery, Tain The beauty of distillery’s whiskies and their distinctive taste and style. read more
Eilean Donan Castle King of the Highlands The history behind Eilean Donan, one of the most famous and beautiful castles in Scotland read more
North Coast  Highway 500 Travel Itinerary Spending five days driving around Scotland’s north coast, taking in beautiful sites and visiting magnificent places. read more
Visit the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum in Fife An exquisite museum dedicated to Andre Carnegie. read more
Get on your bike and cycle Scotland! Mountain biking is hugely popular in Scotland and the country is home to some of the best cycling ranges and trails in the UK. read more
Duart Castle, Argyll: Home of the MacLean Clan Explore the historic Duart Castle which has been the base of the McLean clan for over 400 years. read more
Get Thee to a Convent in Old San Juan El Convento, originally a 17th century Carmelite convent, has been listed as one of the world’s best places to stay by both Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazines. read more
Marrakech: Feast for the senses Marrakech is an ancient caravan town, a gathering place where Arabs and Berbers mingle with Sahara nomads and mountain people. read more
The Ultimate Operatic Experience in Venice Live opera in the 12th century Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto on the Grand Canal read more
The Best Ride in Venice

By Anita Draycott

Venice has been flabbergasting visitors for centuries. Entering the city via the Grand Canal is a staggering experience whether it’s for the first time or the tenth. Walt Disney could not have improved upon this architectural fantasy of Romanesque and Renaissance palaces, domed churches and arched bridges, all bathed in that rich radiant light that is Venice’s alone. Hop vaporetto number one at dusk, just as Venice’s iconic lamplights are casting their mauve glow against the misty sky. Pass the floating palaces, their grand salons illuminated by Murano-glass chandeliers and their lacy facades seeming to melt into the watery mirror below. Fantasize about masked balls at Carnevale.

Venice and it's flabbergasting sights.

Meet the Tequila Goddess and Beware of the Snake Bite The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, a tequila bar in Scottsdale. read more
Chihuahua: Take a stroll down memory lane in Batopilas

By Anita Draycott

Batopilas, a small town nestled in the Western Sierra Madre at the bottom of a cliff has tales to share. It’s home to beautiful plazas and bridges built of rope and river rocks, but the main surprise is a beautiful aqueduct built in the 19th century.

Walk its streets and Batopilas will reveal stories about the discovery of silver deposits and its glory days during the Porfirio Diaz era when its most notable buildings were erected, such as the impressive City Hall, built around 1890 and the San Miguel and Shepherd Haciendas. Visit La Bufa mine, where the mining entrepreneur Alexander Robert amassed a fortune.

Saint Michael Archangel Temple is another emblematic building with a triple dome that dates back to the 17th century. To reach the temple, you need to travel 8 km on foot from the town to the Satevo Valley. It’s a bit of a hike but the views are worthwhile.

The warm climate of Batopilas is ideal for the tropical and semi-tropical vegetation. Expect to find orange, mango, avocado and papaya orchards. Likewise, it is not uncommon to find bougainvillea, tabachines and ceibas along the streets.

From La Bufa viewpoint, located in the surrounding area of a Tarahumara community called Quirare, you’ll get a fantastic view of the canyons, the Batopilas River and the minerals at La Bufa. Another viewpoint is Piedra Redonda, where you can admire the Banana Canyons.

Along the Batopilas River you can set up camp and take a refreshing dip. Close by, the La Bufa bridge, which crosses one of the canyon’s deepest sections. You will soon discover that Chihuahua, the largest Mexican state, has a multitude of charms, attractions and surprises.

That’s Entertainment in Myrtle Beach Myrtle’s plenty of theatre venues. read more
Boo! The Ghosts of Charleston The Ghosts of Charleston. read more
You must bring the kids to Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia

One of the most unique amusements parks in the world, the Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia, is an amazing park which will make your kids squeal with delight, and scare everyone a little bit.

Crocosaurus Cove is located in Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory.  The city faces the Timor Sea and is an Australian gateway to Southeast Asia. In fact, the city is closer to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Brunei, East Timor and Palau compared to Canberra, the capital of Australia. Darwin might be remote, but its remoteness is why you should be visiting Darwin with the entire family. It is a city where you and the entire family can have lots of fun adventures that will make your kids want to stay longer. The Darwin International Airport is your gateway to the city and its numerous attractions. It is located 13 kilometers from the city proper and is served by a number of domestic and Asian carriers.

The kids will be so excited to visit the Crocosaurus Cove that you must visit it as soon as you are settled in. Located right in the heart of the city, the Crocosaurus Cove is the home to about 2,000 crocodiles including the largest saltwater crocodiles in Australia. You can swim with the crocs, hold a baby croc, fish for crocs and even feed the big crocs. We are pretty sure that the kids will love these experiences, although the adults can be scaredy cats! The Crocosaurus Cove also features a turtle sanctuary, and a world of crocs museum. After a trip to Crocosaurus Cove, you and the family can visit the other top attractions of the city including Douglas Hot Springs, Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Wave Lagoon, Berry Springs Nature Park, Magnetic Termite Mounds, Crocodylus Park, Aquascene, and a number of beaches where you can enjoy water activities.

Darwin might be thousands away from your home country, but it is worth the long and tedious journey especially when it becomes one of the most unforgettable trip of the entire family.  Consult your travel agent for more details. 

Eat as much Ice Cream as you want in Le Mars, Iowa

If you are planning to take a trip to Sioux City in Iowa, or to Omaha, Nebraska, you must take a side trip to Le Mars, Iowa, where you can have as much ice cream as you want!

Known as the “Ice Cream Capital of the World”, Le Mars is a small city located northeast of Sioux City and right on the Floyd River. The ice cream industry that the city is known for began in 1913 when Fred H. Wells opened a milk route. He and his sons opened an ice cream manufacturing plant in 1925, but in 1928, their name and the plant was sold to Fairmont Ice Cream. After a few years, in 1935 to be exact, Wells and his sons decided to start manufacturing ice cream again. Since they could no longer use their name, they decided to put up a “Name That Ice Cream” Contest, and the winning name was "Blue Bunny". Today, the ice cream plant is the world’s largest family owned and managed dairy processor, and the largest manufacturer of ice cream in the world. The plant produces 75 million gallons of frozen treats! Le Mars is 16 miles from Sioux City, 45 miles from Vermillion, South Dakota, and 107 miles from Omaha, Nebraska, making it ideal for a day trip, or if you are passing by on your way to other cities, do stop and enjoy a few hours of ice cream fun.

There is nothing much to see in Le Mars unless you are an ice cream lover, and who doesn’t love ice cream! The city is all about ice cream! There is only one place in the city you must visit, the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor also known as the Ice Cream Capital of the World Visitor Center. It is  located in the heart of the business district of le Mars. The first floor is probably the sweetest place in the world. This is where your eyes will pop out with the wide selection of ice cream treats you and the kids can enjoy! The second floor has more seats and features interactive kiosks and exhibits that highlight the history of the Wells Company, as well as historical photos. It also has a specialty gift shop where you can buy souvenirs.

Le Mars might be a small town but it is the Disneyland for ice cream lovers! Take a side trip to Le Mars when you are in the area, just make sure your belly has a lot of space for ice cream! 

Spend a Night in a Yurt at the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Mongolia

Have you ever wondered how it is to live a nomadic life?  The Gorkhi-Terelj National Park in Mongolia is where you can spend a night on a Yurt and enjoy a bird’s eye view of how it is to live a nomadic way of life.

Gorkhi-Terelj is one of the national parks in Mongolia. Situated 1600 meters above sea level, the park is one of the favorite destinations in Mongolia because of the numerous activities you can experience. Many westerners became interested to visit the park when it was shown on the television program “The Amazing Race” during its tenth season. The park is just 80 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, where the Chinggis Khaan Interntational Airport is located.  It is served by a few carriers including Air China, A-Jet, Hunnu Air, Turkish Airlines, Korean Airlines, MIAT, Aeroflot, and Aero Mongolia. From Ulaanbaatar, you can take a bus or car.

There is so much to see and do at Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. You can enjoy breathing in its beautiful scenery, take photos, go hiking and rock climbing, be up close and personal with some is its wildlife, view its  fantastic rock formations, go swimming in a glacial lake or in one of its  natural hot springs, bird watching, and enjoy a horseback or camel ride. Although there are some tourist camps in the park, you must experience spending a night or two in a Yurt, a portable round tent with a detachable hood,  a traditional dwelling place of the nomads.  The Yurt camp is where you can interact with the locals, savor traditional Mongolian dishes, and have some Arkhi or milk vodka.

Spending a few days Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is the best way to learn about the culture and way of life of the Mongolians. It is one of the places you must not miss if you take a trip to Mongolia.

 

Hampi, India, once one of the largest and richest cities in the world

India has hundreds of attractions, natural wonders, historic landmarks that are really awesome. Some of its attractions are known worldwide and have been visited by millions of tourists. Whether you have been to India or its going to be your first time to visit, you must not miss the village of Hampi.

Once one of the largest and richest cities in the world, Hampi is a village located in northern Karnataka, India. It used to be a part of the capital city of the Vijayanagara Empire which had an army composed of more than a million men. During 1500 AD the empire capital had about 500,000 inhabitants. An important tourist destination in India, Hampi does not have an airport. The nearest airport is the Hubli Airport which serves the cities of Hubli and Dharwad. It links these cities to the major cities of India. The village is 216 kilometers from the airport. You can take the train or the bus to Hampi from the city of Hubli where the airport is located.

Hampi’s group of monuments has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the remnants of which are evidences of the last great Hindu Kingdom. There are more than 1600 surviving remains that royal and sacred complexes, forts, shrines, temples, riverside features, pillared halls, memorial structures, defense check posts, gateways, water structures, and stables. Must visits are the Vithala Temple Complex, Monkey Temple, Statue of Ugra Narsimha, Virupaksha Temple, Group of Monuments at Hampi, Lotus Palace, Balakrishna Temple, Queen's Bath, and the Underground Temple, just to name a few. Aftr a visit to the numerous historical sites, you can shop for some souvenirs at the Akash Art Gallery & Bookshop and dine at the Mango Tree, Hampi’s most popular restaurant.

A visit to Hampi will open your eyes to its glorious past and its significance to the world.  It will make you envision a city that was once filled with people who were living in opulence. 

Test your Fishing Skills in Samoa

Want to catch some yellow fin, blue and black marlin, and sailfish while on a vacation? You must take a trip to Samoa and fish with the locals, take some pictures of your catch, and have a tasty seafood lunch or dinner.

Located in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, Samoa is composed of numerous islands, the biggest of which are the Savai'i and  Upolu islands. The country used to be under the rule of New Zealand until it declared its independence in 1962. The country is halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, and is known for its rainforests, lagoons, beaches, volcanic mountain peaks, and an abundance of fishing areas. Samoan and English are its official languages so you do not have to worry about communication barriers. Your gateway to Samoa is the Faleolo International Airport located in the island of Upolu, about 40 kilometers from Apia, the capital city of Samoa. The airport is served by Air New Zealand.

Once you step into Samoa, you will be wondering why you haven’t taken a vacation in this nature lover’s paradise. Its attractions are all about appreciating and exploring its islands just the way they are. Its attractions include To Sua Ocean Trench where you can spend hours jumping off the platform; Afu Aau Waterfall where you can enjoy cooling down; Alofaaga Blowholes where you can have fun throwing coconut husks and watch them shoot in the air; Swim in an underwater tunnel at Piula Cave Pool; and slide down the rocks at the Papaseea Sliding Rock. Samoa was the home Robert Louis Stevenson until his death, and his colonial homestead has been turned into a museum which features his personal belongings as well as his library. If you plan to go fishing in Samoa, professional fishing operators are on hand to help you find the best spots. It is highly possible that this is where you will be able to fish your biggest catch!  

What are you waiting for? Prepare your fishing rods and swimwear, and bring the entire family to a Samoa!  

Top 5 Under-the-Radar Holiday Destinations

Some places can get too crowded, leaving you stressed rather than de-stressed on a holiday. Situations like these make you want to go somewhere else. Perhaps somewhere that's off the beaten path. In every part of the world there has got to be a vacation spot that is often overlooked. This list of under-the-radar destinations may help you find that quiet spot for your next holiday.

Anguilla in the Caribbean is a peaceful, harmonious place to be in. There is no port for cruise ships, keeping its quietness and calmness. Locals don’t even allow Jet Skis on the island as to avoid noise pollution. Haiinan Island is known as China’s Hawaii. This tropical island off China’s southern coast offers gorgeous beaches, a volcano park, a Shaolin Buddhist temple, and an ancient Hainanese village. Housing a string of coral encircling a beautiful lagoon, Rangiroa offers world-class diving experience. This place is the 2nd largest atoll in the world.

Travelers who are skilled in survival skills should visit the Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska. This place is nearly untouched with a wilderness park that spreads across 8.4 million acres. There are no established roads, trails, or campsites, making it a challenge to reach. Kobarid in Slovenia is a picturesque town surrounded by mountains and green pastures. More than just a picture perfect site, Kobarid has a lot of history in it starting from Iron Age to World War I.

From water to land activities, our world has a lot to offer that not everyone is aware of. Leave the stress away and visit these unknown places for a change.

Explore the Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations in Jamaica

When going to Jamaica, most vacationers think about the resorts that line the island's northern coast. It's not surprising that most travelers will head to that direction because Jamaica is known for exactly that: lounging in the pool, basking in the sun, or enjoying the buffets. But if you're tired of the usual Jamaican scene, why not try exploring the off-the-beaten-path destinations in the island?

It takes an adventurous spirit should you want to explore the other side of Jamaica. However, we can assure you that it's an adventure worth taking! Here are some of the destinations you can visit:

  1. Port Antonio: Located in the eastern side of the northern coast, you can enjoy a slow-paced stay in this local secret destination with lush and green secluded beaches. But, Port Antonio is not just about the beaches. You can try waterfall hikes here or go bird watching. You might also want to try dining on authentic jerk cooking.
  2. Southwestern Jamaica: Just a 90-minute drive from Montego Bay, Southwestern Jamaica is less isolated than Port Antonio, but can still offer you a less crowded vacation spot. Some of the activities you can join are a safari excursion on the Black River, a tour of the historic Appleton Rum Estate, and a relaxing dip at YS Falls. You might also want to visit Treasure Beach, which is the site of Lovers Leap where two Jamaican slaves were said to have leapt to their deaths.
  3. Pelican Bar: A 20-minute boat ride out on the sea, Pelican Bar stands on stilts. Guests can enjoy a frosty Red Stripe and some fresh-caught seafood here.
  4. Mandeville: When you think of Jamaica, you think of beaches. However, land-locked Mandeville is something else. Here you can find the Caribbean's oldest golf course, the Manchester Golf Club, which dates back to 1868. Expect an English vibe when you visit this place, with cricket games and English-style pubs all over the place.
  5. Flower Forest and River Head Adventure Trail: Go to this ecotourism attraction and enjoy a 130-acre tropical forest and 40 acres of landscaped gardens. Follow a hiking trail along Little River and feast on the beautiful sights that include dozens of tropical plants, flowers, and birds. At the end of your hike, you will find yourself in a 14-foot deep pool where you can relax and enjoy the view.

Experience Jamaica differently by exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations. Book your holiday with a travel agent today and get the best deals!

The Undiscovered Walkers’ Paradise That Is Fogo Island

Spend your next holiday in the fourth largest island in the Cape Verde archipelago: Fogo Island! What's the fuss about unforgettable holidays there?

Fogo Island is one of the islands of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. It is especially popular among nature lovers and walkers with the numerous walking paths in the island that lead to Mount Fogo. The best place to start is in the town of Cha das Caldeiras. The walk up the mountain may take you six hours (wear comfy clothes and bring water!), but you won't notice your tired feet as your eyes feast on the stunning views and fertile lands featuring an impressive variety of flora. Right at the center of the island is the highest point of Mount Fogo, an active volcano that stands at 2,829 metres. Wine is produced right inside the crater of the volcano by the townsfolk of Cha das Caldeiras while coffee is grown in the outer slopes of the mountains. Both of these are a must try during your holiday in Fogo!

When in Fogo Island, don't expect 5-star accommodations as most hotels are small, three-star bed and breakfast establishments or privately owned home rentals. This shouldn't be a problem, though, because you're in Fogo Island for the great outdoors. Aside from exploring the island by foot, try bird watching, get to know the locals, or even join some of the local festivities. You will surely have an interesting travel story to tell your buddies when you're back home!

To make the best of your Fogo Island holiday, book your trip with a travel agent. What are you waiting for? Adventure awaits!

Visit Branson in style, with adventure and history

A place where great history lies. Untold stories behind the very famous sunken ship that keeps every generation amused, attached, and touched by it. An adventure of a life time excellent for kids and kids at heart. Walk through a trail with thousands of lights that will surely keep you in awe. Experience the city of Branson like a celebrity.

The newest and most luxurious attraction that Branson has to offer to their guests: Branson Limousine Wine & Shine Tour. Enjoy your afternoon stay in style and comfort with your friends or your other half. Visit local wineries and discover Copper Run Distillery’s handcrafted rums, whiskies, and moonshine. However, if you’re planning to visit Branson with your family, the Track Family Fun Parks await. Go-kart your way through high tracks or twisting and turing tracks. Experience higher, banked curves track with the whole family and ride the Road Course Track that can hold more karts all at once.

An interactive museum that brings back the memories of Titanic can be enjoyed by the whole family as well. Get to know the stories of those who were lost and those who survived in the Titanic Museum Attraction. As the day comes to an end, experience The Trail of Lights and see different displays of light, sound, and motion according to their themes.

Branson, Missouri will definitely let you remember your stay because of all the fun and interactive attractions they have. Make sure you don’t miss out on these adventures by booking with a travel agent ahead of time.