The Most Unusual Wellness Experiences from around the World

One of the fastest growing sectors of the global tourism industry, wellness tourism caters to vacationers who want to keep up with their healthy lifestyles while they are away on vacation, for example, participating in meditation, or yoga. With an increased public appetite for outdoor activities, sleep enhancement, transformative experiences, and digital detox, we explore a selection of venues from around the world offering one-of-a-kind wellness experiences. 

David Geithner in Sweden

Open-Air Cold Baths – Sweden 

The ideal place to observe the northern lights through the winter months and the midnight sun in the summer, Arctic Bath is a luxurious hotel and spa that invites guests to immerse themselves in the natural elements while leaving behind a minimal environmental footprint. Here, visitors can experience an invigorating open-air cold bath, revitalizing them from the inside out as they take in the natural beauty surrounding them. The retreat also offers a variety of different treatments from certified therapists, including Swedish arctic massages, an intensive treatment for stiff, tired muscles that is combined with stretching and rocking exercises. 

When the human body is exposed to extreme cold, this sudden shock activates the same “fight or flight” response that is triggered by danger or stress. This in turn leads to the release of noradrenaline, a stress hormone that improves alertness and concentration. Research from the UK suggests that swimming in cold water can speed up metabolism, boost the immune system, improve circulation, and help participants gain a better night’s sleep. The surge of adrenaline created by immersion in cold water releases powerful endorphins, reportedly creating a feeling of euphoria, warding off depression and anxiety, and helping us to better manage stress. 

Radon Therapy – Austria 

A source of natural radon, Gastein’s thermal waters have attracted international attention for their purported health benefits. Often used for rehabilitation after illness, radon therapies can reportedly help alleviate symptoms of some chronic conditions, as well as help people to cope with psychological stress. 

Kurzentrum Bad Hofgastein treatment center features tubs holding 480 liters of spring water maintained at a comfortable temperature of between 36 and 38°C. Due to the buoyancy of warm water, the bather becomes almost weightless while relaxing in the tub for between 15 and 22 minutes, allowing the natural radon content to be absorbed through the skin and respiratory passages. Radon baths reputedly restore rhythm to the nervous system, stimulate cell renewal, and kickstart the metabolic system.  

Guests partaking in radon thermal sub-aqua therapy can supplement the treatment with a pressurized water-jet massage, or Glisson sling. Sub-aqua therapy is commonly used in the treatment of neurological complaints, post operative conditions involving weakened musculature and limited mobility, and degenerative ailments of the joints and spine. 

Silent Retreat – United Kingdom 

We live in a frenetic world today, bombarded by digital media from the moment we wake until the moment we sleep. Silent retreats offer an opportunity to escape the stresses, strains, and struggles of daily life, abandoning all manner of external communication, and focusing on the simplicity, stillness, freedom, and joy in each present moment. 

Situated in the tranquil settling of Sharpham House, surrounded by the scenic, rolling countryside of Devonshire, England, this retreat is intended for individuals who have prior experience in mindfulness meditation. Although spending extended periods in silence may seem a daunting or awkward prospect, participants often discover that the experience is conducive to creating a surprisingly rich sense of connection, enabling them to experience stillness and quiet, letting go of the usual social conventions, while still enjoying supportive company. 

Guests do not have to spend their entire stay in silence. Each morning, there is an opportunity to connect with their home group and share experiences if they choose, in addition to some guided meditation sessions. The rest of the time, the retreat is in silence, including during group activities, such as walking and nature connection, as well as at mealtimes.  

Forest Bathing – Japan 

Known as shinrin yoku in its native Japan, forest bathing is the simple practice of walking through the forest, observing nature, and breathing deeply while remaining calm and quiet. Forest bathing is an excellent activity for adults and children alike, encouraging participants to engage in gentle outdoor exercise, experiencing the restorative, soothing influence of their natural surroundings while teaching mindfulness and concentration at the same time. 

Located in the untouched beech forests of Nagano, Japan, the Mindfulness in Nature & Forest Therapy Retreat offers seven-night experiences focusing on techniques, training, and practice. Guests spend a session guided by Naoko Ito, an experienced forest therapy practitioner, as well as half-day and full-day excursions to regions steeped in Japanese history and tradition. Located near a hot spring, nestled in the mountains near Odiya Onsen, the hotel is surrounded by wild forests, providing a lush, tranquil setting. Nearby Mount Akashina towers above Odani village, providing a stunning backdrop. 

6 of the Top Wineries to Visit in Asia 

Asia is perhaps one of the most underrated wine-growing regions in the world. There are several wineries across the Asian continent producing wine that competes at the highest level. From India to China, we look at Asia’s wine-growing heritage and some of the sumptuous wines produced on the continent. 

1. Sula Vineyards – India 

Dubbed the “Napa Valley of India,” Sula Vineyards was established in 1999 by Rajeev Samant after he discovered the vast potential of his family’s land in Nashik, India (not far from Mumbai), a region renowned for producing high-quality table grapes. Boasting incredibly fertile volcanic soil, the area has significant regional variations in terroir, from heavy clay earth to weathered basalt. Nashik’s temperate climate makes it the perfect environment for viniculture. Sula Vineyards produces whites, reds, rosés, and sparkling wines. 

Enveloped by nature, this enthralling winery is an ideal picnic spot. Visitors can also partake in winery tours, tasting sessions, and gourmet dining. Sula Vineyards has been recognized with a variety of coveted industry awards, including a Gold Award for its Chenin Blanc 2019 from the India Wine Awards; a Silver Medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2020 for its Dindori Reserve Viognier; and 90 Points for its Shula Shiraz 2019 in Wine Enthusiast’s 2020 Best Buying Guide. 

2. Banan Winery – Cambodia 

Located 12 kilometers from Battambang, Cambodia, on the banks of the Sangkar River, Banan Winery grew from vines introduced from France. Today it encompasses eight hectares of land. 

Named after the nearby Banan temple, the winery was established in 1999 by Leng Chan Tol and her husband, Chan Thai Chhoung, who taught himself to make wine by reading books translated from French to Khmer and reaching out to experts for advice. By 2004, the couple had managed to bottle their first batch of wines. Today, Banan Winery produces 10,000 bottles of their Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon blend annually, along with the smooth, golden Phnom Banon Brandy.  

3. Changyu Pioneer Wine Company – China 

It may surprise you to learn that China has more grape-growing acreage than France. In fact, the country ranks as the world’s sixth-largest wine-consuming nation and the seventh-largest wine producer today. Some of the world’s most prestigious wineries, including Château Lafite-Rothschild, have invested in China’s up-and-coming viniculture industry. 

Founded in 1892, Changyu Pioneer Wine Company plants its vineyards with vine cuttings imported from France. Today, Changyu covers 35,000 hectares of China’s best wine-growing regions, including parts of Yinjiang, Liaoning, Ningxia, and the Penglai peninsula. Incorporating eight chateaux, including Yantai Chateau Changyu-Castel, the Changyu Pioneer Wine Company operates China’s oldest and largest professional international winery. 

4. Hatten Wines – Indonesia 

World famous for its ripe, fruity rosés, Hatten Wines has been producing award-winning wines on the island of Bali since 1994. This family-owned vineyard aims to produce quality wines that complement Indonesia’s spicy food and tropical climate. 

Guided by esteemed Australian winemaker James Kalleske, Hatten Wines’ portfolio has expanded over more than 20 years of experimentation, adjustments, and reinvention. Today, Hatten Wines has a solid international reputation, crystalizing its position as one of the main players in the Asian winemaking market when it claimed the Asian Wine Review’s 2017 Winery of the Year Award. 

5. Monsoon Valley – Thailand 

Occupying 560 rolling acres, the Monsoon Valley estate is located near Thailand’s border with Burma, offering fantastic views across the lush green Hua Hin hills. 

Monsoon Valley was founded by wine-loving entrepreneur Chalerm Yoovidhya in 2001 as part of his vision to inspire a Thai wine culture. After returning from studies abroad, Yoovidhya recognized the potential of establishing a vineyard in his beloved native Thailand. After creating his first vineyard in Khao Yai, an area of Thailand with a long history of grape-growing, Yoovidhya realized that the area’s rich, fertile soil and climate conditions were perfectly suited to producing Shiraz. Following his initial success in Khao Yai, Yoovidhya started exploring other areas of Thailand that showed potential for producing great wines. 

Lasting from June to October, the monsoon season is when farmers collect water to sustain them through the dry season. It is considered a life-giving period in Thai folklore, as without the rain, no agriculture would be possible in Thailand. Monsoon Valley’s characteristic label symbolizes the fertility and prosperity the monsoon rains bring to the region. 

6. Red Mountain Estate – Myanmar 

Situated in Myanmar’s Southern Shan State, Red Mountain was established in 2003, when its founder imported 400,000 vines from Spain, France, and Israel. The Red Mountain Estate started production in 2007 and releases more than 16,000 cases of wine a year, from reds like Malbec, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon to whites like Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay. 

Myanmar’s only winery, Red Mountain is a popular stop for tourists visiting Inle Lake. They often negotiate the 30-minute journey by bicycle, although tuk-tuks are also available. 

7 of the Best Wildlife Hotspots in Southeast Asia

From Borneo to Vietnam to Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia is home to a myriad of diverse and exciting species, including elephants, orangutans, leopards, bears, tigers, and the mighty saltwater crocodile. From Taman Negara National Park in Malaysia to Donsol in the Philippines, we share seven locations in Southeast Asia where visitors can observe rare species in the wild.

1. Komodo National Park, Indonesia

As you might guess from the name, Komodo National Park is the home of the endangered Komodo dragon. In fact, the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, and Gili Motag are the only locations in the world where Komodo dragons live in the wild.

Measuring up to three meters long and weighing in at a staggering 150 pounds, an encounter with these gargantuan creatures is a truly unforgettable experience. Trekking tours are available locally, with experienced guides helping visitors to track not just Komodo dragons, but monkeys, wild boars, eagles, and yellow-crested cockatoos.

2. Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia

Since 2017, Malaysia has redoubled its wildlife protection efforts. Taman Negara National Park, the country’s first officially protected area, is where Malaysian conservation first started. Taman Negara National Park presents opportunities for close encounters with elephants, tigers, clouded leopards, and rhinos.

One of the world’s best preserved primary rainforests, Taman Negara covers more than 1,600 square miles. Taman Negara National Park is populated by more than 50 bird species, including the eye-catching great hornbill, whose colossal size and bold colors have earned it a prominent place in local tribal ceremonies and rituals.

3. Kinabalu National Park, Borneo

This UNESCO World Heritage Site takes its name from Borneo’s tallest mountain, the 13,435 feet-high Mount Kinabalu. It provides a habitat for more than 4,500 different species of flora and fauna, most endemic to this area. As a result, Kinabalu is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Home to the Bornean orangutan and the rare proboscis monkey, Kinabalu National Park also hosts several varieties of gibbons and tarsiers. Covering more than 290 square miles and encompassing four separate climate zones, Kinabalu National Park is one of the most important biological sites in all of Southeast Asia.

4. Donsol, The Philippines

Located off the carefree fishing island of Luzon, from November to June each year, Donsol Bay plays host to one of the largest whale shark populations on Earth. Over the course of three or four hours in Donsol Bay, visitors can enjoy swimming with multiple whale sharks. High up on the bucket list of many divers, sharing the water with a spotted fish the size of a small moving. Is a truly unforgettable wildlife experience.

Protected by WWF Philippines since 1998, Donsol has established itself as a thriving ecotourism destination, its community-based tour guides working closely with local authorities to facilitate human encounters with these majestic creatures in a safe, environmentally-conscious way.

5. Cardamon Mountains, Cambodia

Covering more than 4.5 million acres of prime rainforest, the Cardamon Mountains was designated a wildlife corridor by the Cambodian Government in 2016. Today, the region is prime territory for Asian elephants, Malayan sun bears, Asiatic black bears, clouded leopards, and Indochinese tigers.

In fact, scientists believe that the Cardamon Mountains could host thousands of as-yet undiscovered plants, animals and more. These species may disappear from the planet without substantial conservation efforts.

6. Ranthambore National Park, India

India has made significant progress with its conservation programs in recent years, particularly in its efforts to protect tigers. Ranthambore National Park presents the ultimate opportunity to observe these majestic creatures at close range.

Attracting thousands of international tourists, this national park is one of the biggest and most impressive in the whole of India. In addition to watching tigers in their natural habitat, visitors can also encounter hyenas, wild boars, and leopards around Ranthambore fortress.

7. Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka

A designated wildlife sanctuary since 1938, Minneriya National Park provides travelers with ample opportunity to observe a plethora of rare and interesting wildlife. Visitors may spot Asian elephants and spotted deer, to torque macaque and purple-faced langur, to rarer, more endangered creatures, like leopards and sloth bears.

Situated within Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, the national park is best known for its phenomenal elephant migration, which is one of the finest wildlife experiences in all of Asia. From June to September, as many as 300 elephants gather at the ancient Minneriya water tank.

Covering more than 21,000 acres, Minneriya is a four-hour drive from Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. With a diverse topography comprising scrub plains, rocky outcrops, wetlands, and evergreen forests, Minneriya is home to a cacophony of exotic birdlife, hosting almost 170 bird species in total, including hornbills, jungle fowl, and kingfishers, which are frequently spotted fishing in the shallow waters surrounding the water tank.

These Are 8 of the Hottest Trends in International Travel in 2022 

Traveling abroad could continue to present challenges for unvaccinated people. However, fully vaccinated travelers will find many countries far more accessible in the months ahead. The stop-start nature of international travel still presents potential difficulties, emphasizing the necessity to plan for multiple eventualities and purchase comprehensive travel insurance.  

That said, there is cause for cautious optimism among travelers today. With many operators providing fully refundable bookings and free date changes, consumer confidence is rapidly returning. Against that backdrop, from milestone travel to ecotourism, we look at eight popular travel trends emerging in 2022. 

1. Long-Haul Vacations 

General consensus among travel experts is that it will take at least another year or two for global aviation to return to pre-COVID levels. Despite this, long-haul flights are seeing something of a revival.  

With tourism restarting for fully vaccinated visitors to the United States, several airlines have launched new routes to US cities. Examples include Finnair’s flights from Helsinki to Seattle; Lufthansa’s fares from Munich to San Diego, and British Airways’ new routes to Portland, Oregon. 

2. Milestone Travel 

As we navigate the post-pandemic world, experts are noticing distinct changes in the way people vacation these days. Consumers are generally taking fewer, but longer breaks. While short-haul and domestic flights remain an important way of checking in on family or enjoying a minibreak in a new city, travelers are increasingly seeking out travel experiences that have real meaning, fulfilling lifelong dreams, or marking personal milestones. 

3. Responsible Travel 

With a third of global consumers prioritizing responsible travel in 2022, vacationers are seeking innovative new ways of offsetting their carbon footprint. They are also interested in supporting businesses and communities in the countries they visit. A strong trend has emerged for more intimate, immersive adventures. Vacationers now have a prime opportunity to drive positive change in the regions they visit. 

Walking treks and similar experiences are proving popular in 2022, providing vacationers with authentic, up-close experiences as they move from place to place. Meanwhile, sustainable tourism hubs like Costa Rica, Hawaii, and Belize all remain popular choices, while eco-activities like glamping and stargazing are becoming more popular with vacationers. 

4. Family First 

After years of missed birthdays, holidays, weddings, and other important family occasions, consumers are anxious not to miss a moment with their loved ones. 2022 has seen a substantial increase in multi-generational family trips, with searches for accommodation with cribs rising by 65 percent this year according to Hotels.com.  

Parents are also seeking out resorts that offer childcare options, as well as connecting rooms. All-inclusive properties with excellent kids’ clubs and educational programs for children are currently experiencing intense demand. 

5. Personal Development 

With social isolation triggering introspection for many people throughout the pandemic, self-improvement remains a strong theme in 2022. This is characterized by the Great Resignation, with millions of people worldwide quitting their jobs and carving out new, more fulfilling career paths, leading many down the route of entrepreneurship.  

In response, a wide variety of personal development retreats are now available around the world. Examples include Heartbreak Hotel in Norfolk, England, which helps women heal following a relationship breakdown as well as Aerial BVI in the British Virgin Islands, touted as an “incubator for positive transformation.”  

6. Wildlife Tourism 

With increased respect for the fragile interdependence between humankind and nature, greater scrutiny is being applied to wildlife tourism. Travelers are increasingly turning their backs on exploitative animal experiences. Instead, they are favoring adventures that enable them to observe nature in its correct habitat, at a deferential distance, learning more about species and habitats from experienced, eco-conscious guides. 

7. Workations 

With many people still working remotely for at least some of the working week, “workations” have become increasingly popular. One recent survey revealed that 24 percent of respondents could work from anywhere. That percentage rises to a staggering 46 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds. With increasing numbers of people set to combine work and travel in the year ahead, the world is their oyster. 

8. Wellness Retreats 

Evidenced by Google search results, selfcare has become increasingly important to vacationers. How wellness is incorporated into a vacation depends to a great extent on personal taste. Some people prefer checking into high-end resorts and spas, and others favor a no-frills experience at an authentic Himalayan yoga ashram. 

Health and wellness resorts are the perfect antidote to a 24/7, always-on lifestyle. They offer the perfect opportunity to pause and reflect, and to relax both the body and the mind. From taking charge of wellness goals to improving fitness, trying out holistic therapies, or even beating insomnia, there are wellness retreats available for every need, budget, and interest. 

Online Privacy: What Is It and Why Is It Important? 

From media and communication, to research, to politics and governance, the internet has changed the world in a myriad of profound ways. Right now, 5G technology is being rolled out in numerous countries worldwide. This is prompting many experts to question how high-speed connectivity could impact consumers’ online privacy. 

Privacy on the web remains a pertinent issue, and it could become even more of a concern in a world of high-speed connectivity. Many governments have tightening legislation to protect the privacy and personal data of internet users from unwarranted access. Nevertheless, cyberthreats like hacking, phishing, and cyberbullying are on the increase. 

Online privacy is important because it: 

– Protects your identity and ensures confidentiality, shielding your personal data from theft. 

– Keeps you safe from social media data breaches. 

– Defends personal and business reputations. 

– Helps maintain social boundaries. 

– Ensures your freedom of speech and right to express yourself. 

– Limits your exposure to abusive behavior from other internet users.  

-Reduces the power and influence one web user may exert over another. 

Broadly speaking, the term “online privacy” describes the protection of personal information, communications, and browsing footprints of web users. The term refers to the proper handling of data as stipulated by legal regulations that dictate how personal information is collected and shared. 

These laws place restrictions on websites in terms of how they gather and what they do with personal data. The overriding objective of such legislation is to ensure that people visiting websites do not incur a violation of their privacy, or a breach of their right to anonymity. 

Imagine what would happen if data and digital footprints relating to individuals, businesses, and governments were open to public scrutiny? The internet is a double-edged sword, holding the global economy together while simultaneously keeping privacy under lock and key. Biometrics, passwords, and authentication keys make the internet a safer place for us all to enjoy. 

In an internet age, our data is incredibly valuable to companies because it enables marketers to understand and influence us. Despite a general assumption of privacy and data ownership, we actually have very little control over the systems gathering increasing data about our internet activities and real-world lives. 

We have even less control over what they do with that information. Against this backdrop, it is critical for everyone who uses the web to have a rudimentary understanding of internet privacy and the following issues. 

1. Comparison Culture 

Before the internet, we checked in on family and friends in person. Prolific use of social media has caused us to assess our relationships, possessions, and choices against an ever-growing set of standards.  

We read statuses and posts, constantly comparing ourselves to both friends and strangers, measuring ourselves against their purported status and successes. The problem with this is that social media influencers, and even our friends to some extent, project a sanitized version of themselves online that elides over mess, struggle, and dissatisfaction. 

To try to keep pace, we tend to overshare, giving away information about our private lives to gain social currency, effectively fueling our own manipulation. The Cambridge Analytica scandal highlights how information freely released to social networks is used to influence and manipulate web users. 

2. Marketer Tracking 

According to a survey by Adlucent, 71 percent of respondents reported a preference for ads tailored to their shopping habits and personalized interests. Marketers increasingly deploy targeted advertising campaigns as an antidote to “banner blindness,” with most of us having become so accustomed to generic online advertisements we tend to tune them out. 

As we browse the internet, marketers track our activities. They collect information on us that we cannot control. Web users are increasingly coming to demand a more equitable balance between profiling and privacy. According to a report from Statistica, the tides have been turning for some time. Ad-blocking rates increased by approximately 27 percent in 2018, and have continued to rise ever since. 

The simplest thing that web users can do to stop marketer tracking is use ad-blocking, or move away from big tech web browsers like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, transitioning to privacy-respecting alternatives, like Firefox or Brave. Despite protests from Facebook and other advertisers, Apple has already taken a stand against app tracking in its Safari browser, implementing an opt-in approach to advertising-related ID sharing. 

3. Cybercrime 

Web users need to protect their privacy to shield themselves from identity theft, financial fraud, cyberstalking, spam, and scams. They can achieve this by: 

– Storing as little personal information as possible in online accounts, avoiding sharing credit cards numbers and phone numbers, etc. 

– Regularly scanning their computer for viruses and malware. 

– Keeping operating systems and software updated. 

– Ensuring that all devices are physically secured. 

– Refraining from storing personal data online, or at the very least, protecting it with data encryption. 

Online security breaches can be disruptive and costly for both businesses and individuals. It is vital for web users to protect themselves from attack by paying heed to the personal data they share online, ensuring virus protection software is installed and up to date, and creating strong unique passwords for each account. Businesses can support staff by operating cyber security awareness programs and informing employees of good online privacy practices. 

Travel Focus: Exploring Seven Wonders of the Modern World 

Selected by Hellenic travelers, the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were fabled in art and poetry, leaving the imprint of ancient civilizations on history through human imagination and technical skill. Of the original Seven Wonders, just one remains: The Great Pyramid at Giza. This article looks at seven architectural masterpieces still in existence today, exploring some of the world’s most iconic landmarks and buildings. 

1. Great Wall of China, Huairou District, China 

The Great Wall of China is indisputably one of the world’s most impressive feats of construction, although a great deal of mythology and misinformation surrounds it. Rather than consisting of a single wall, it actually comprises several walls that were joined together over the centuries, each of which was originally built to protect different regions from attack. 

According to local legend, construction of parts of the Great Wall started in the 7th Century BC, although experts say it is unlikely that these early walls survived. Claims that it is visible from the moon are also untrue. Nevertheless, at 5,500 miles long, the Great Wall of China is undoubtedly one of the most impressive structures on Earth. 

2. Colosseum, Rome, Italy 

The ultimate symbol of the mighty Roman Empire, this gargantuan amphitheater hosted bloody, gladiatorial battles for more than four centuries. In its heyday, more than 50,000 spectators would gather here to watch gladiators wage war with ferocious creatures, and each other, at this spectacular venue. 

Beneath the arena’s floor runs an elaborate network of tunnels, where gladiators and beasts paced, waiting for combat. Off limits for more than 2,000 years, these tunnels were opened to visitors in 2021, enabling ordinary members of the public to walk in the footsteps of giants, imagine the roar of the crowd, and envision the brutality and ingenuity of one of the greatest empires in human history. 

3. Taj Mahal, Agra, India 

Built by a Mughal Emperor to commemorate his beloved wife, the Taj Mahal is the jewel in the crown of Indian architecture. With an emphasis on symmetry and balance, this astounding building took 20,000 workers and 16 years to construct. 

According to legend, Emperor Shah had intended to build a second Taj Mahal across the river, constructing the second building from black marble rather than white, but conflict with his sons interrupted his plans. Attracting more than a million tourists each year, the Taj Mahal would cost somewhere in the order of $94 million, and take at least two years to construct today. 

4. Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka 

Nicknamed Lion’s Rock, this ancient palace was hewed into a vast mound of rock in the 5th Century AD. Constructed at the behest of King Kashyapa, the 660-foot-tall fortress still features colossal stone lion paws at the base, between which start the 1,200 steps to the top. 

Originally featuring a vast lion’s head, the palace is open to the public today. Visitors brave enough to tackle the dizzying staircase to the summit of this crowning citadel are treated to glimpses of frescoed caves and breathtaking views from the top. 

5. Machu Picchu, Peru 

Built at an altitude of 2,350 meters, Machu Picchu’s construction still confounds experts today. It is known that no wheels were used to transport rock to the site. Ancient masons created buildings using a technique called “ashlar,” cutting stones to fit flush next to one another. They are aligned so closely it is impossible to fit even a pin between the stones, which could be the reason why the ancient city has endured for so long. 

In ancient times, Machu Picchu was home to a thriving Incan civilization, comprising around 200 buildings in total. At the top of the city was the temple, the rest divided into social housing following a strict caste system, with a royalty area, and a “popular class” district to house the “lower class.” 

6. Parthenon, Athens, Greece 

One of the world’s most famous buildings, construction of the Parthenon started in 447 BC. The main purpose of the structure was to house a huge statue of Athena Parthenos crafted from gold, silver, and ivory. 

The Romans later looted the site, taking the statue to Constantinople, where it was sadly destroyed. In its lifetime, the Parthenon has served as a temple, church, mosque, fortress, and even as a powder magazine. Perched atop a hill looking down on the Greek capital, this iconic landmark attracts visitors from all over the world. 

7. Moai, Easter Island  

Crafted by Polynesian colonizers between 1250 AD and 1500 AD, these ancient monolithic statues are located on one of the world’s most isolated islands. 

Still standing when Europeans arrived in the region, though later cast down during conflicts between clans, the moai represent deceased ancestors, and are regarded as the embodiment of powerful chiefs. Paro, the largest of all moai, stood 10 meters tall, weighing a staggering 75 tons. 

What Are the Lasting Repercussions of COVID-19 on Tourism and Travel?

With countries all over the world closing their borders in short succession, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a collapse in the international travel industry, the likes of which had never been seen before. According to World Tourism Organization data, international arrivals tumbled by 73% globally in 2020, with 1 billion fewer vacationers travelling compared to 2019.  

Prior to the pandemic, travel and tourism were among the most important income-generating sectors in the global economy, accounting for over 320 million jobs worldwide and 10% of global GDP. As COVID-19 spread, massive revenue losses had a devastating impact on tourism-dependent economies, jeopardizing between 100 and 120 million jobs in the sector globally. 

Throughout 2021, this “travel shock” continued, with restrictions in international travel continuing to keep tourists away. Between January and May 2021, tourist arrivals were down by a further 65% compared with the same period in 2020. In early 2022, there’s still substantial uncertainty about the tourism industry’s recovery worldwide, thanks to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.  

Many smaller countries’ economies are heavily dependent on tourism.   

Countries that rely heavily on international tourism tend to be smaller nations, with a GDP in the middle to high-income range. Many are small island economies, such as St. Lucia and Jamaica in the Caribbean, and Samoa and Fiji in the Pacific. Prior to the arrival of Covid-19, revenue from international tourism accounted for around one-quarter of these islands’ GDP, peaking at 50% of GDP in popular vacation destinations like the Maldives and Aruba. 

In addition, several larger economies are heavily reliant on international tourism. In Thailand and the Dominican Republic, tourism accounts for 8% of the GDP. In Croatia, tourism revenues accounted for more than 15% of the nation’s GDP between 2015 and 2019.  

Experts warn that these and other economies that rely heavily on tourism are likely to feel the impact of the pandemic for some time. 

Irwin LaRocque is the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community. His predictions for economic recovery are somewhat pessimistic: he pointed out at a virtual event that he and the rest of the community could not find a way out of the tourism slump they had fallen into, at least not yet. 

Countries the world over are scrambling to lure visitors back while simultaneously trying to avoid new outbreaks. Still, many industry experts share LaRocque’s outlook: they predict that global tourism receipts are unlikely to recover to anywhere near 2019 levels until 2023.  

Tourism can fight poverty.  

All over the world, the pandemic has crystallized the importance of tourism in fighting poverty.  

In sub-Saharan Africa, the development of regional tourism has been a key driver in closing the gap between rich and poor, with tourism-reliant countries increasing their per capita GDP by around 2.4% between 1990 and 2019. This represents a significant increase in growth compared with non-tourism-dependent nations, according to data from the International Monetary Fund. 

Despite the economic impact, there may be an opportunity to “build back better.”  

Nevertheless, while the pandemic had devastating economic consequences for tourism and the countries that depend on it, many cite the crisis as a prime opportunity to retool the entire industry. It’s clear that there’s a real need for governments and private companies to rethink how tourism impacts local communities, natural resources, and ecosystems. For example, some industry experts contend that the slowdown provides an important opportunity to advance the transition to a carbon-neutral, more sustainable model of tourism. 

In a report published in August 2020, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) highlighted the role played by tourism in advancing Sustainable Development Goals, emphasizing the sector’s relationship with cultural and environmental goals.  

The UNWTO report also pointed to the need to reimagine global tourism to promote sustainability and ensure that the economic benefits of tourism are distributed fairly. To that end, the document included a roadmap to help governments rebuild their tourism industries, while placing people and environments at the center.  

The recommendations encompassed five priority areas:  

  1. Managing and mitigating the crisis: Governments and the private sector need to implement coordinated solutions to protect livelihoods and jobs; instill confidence through safety in all tourism operations; and promote inclusive socio-economic recovery. 
  1. Boosting resilience and competitiveness: Governments must support the development of tourism and travel infrastructure and cultivate a supportive business environment for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) operating at the local scale. Domestic and regional tourism should also be promoted.  
  1. Digitizing the tourism ecosystem: Government-funded recovery packages can include provisions to maximize the use of technology in the tourism industry, encourage people to create new technology solutions, and promote digital skills training in the tourism workforce. 
  1. Fostering sustainability: The tourism industry must take steps to become carbon-neutral in order to align with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Government investments in the tourism industry should foster sustainability—for example, through the creation of new protected areas, investments in green energy, and by requiring companies to give up unsustainable practices if they accept government financial aid. 
  1. Forming partnerships: To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, cooperation will be a must. Recovery plans should include governments, development partners, and international finance institutions working together.    

7 Types of Cybersecurity Threats to Watch Out for in 2022

Throughout 2021, cybercriminals found new ways to infiltrate the data systems of telecommunications companies, medical networks, and even law enforcement agencies. 

Times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, provide the perfect environment for unscrupulous individuals who wish to take advantage of disorder and upheaval for financial gain. The healthcare sector has been particularly vulnerable, costing providers more than $20 billion in ransoms, lost revenue, and lawsuits in 2020 alone. That same year, 600 clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare providers were targeted in 92 ransomware attacks. 

Similarly, 2021 saw several high-profile attacks on organizations around the world, with just six ransomware groups responsible for a staggering 292 attacks against organizations, accumulating more than $45 million in ransom money. In late April 2021, a breach of the Colonial Pipeline disrupted gas supplies across the American East Coast, creating panic and chaos. 

As 2021 draws to a close, experts share seven rising cybersecurity threats predicted to soar in popularity among criminal groups in the year to come. 

  1. Increased Implementation of AI 

AI plays a rapidly evolving role in virtually every aspect of our daily lives. Machine learning has paved the way for impressive advancements in cybersecurity, while AI has been integral to building automated security systems, as well as face detection, natural language processing, and automatic threat detection. 

Just as cybersecurity companies use AI to enhance their products and services, cybercriminals use it to help them develop increasingly sophisticated attacks. AI has been used by hackers to develop smart malware and attacks capable of bypassing the latest security protocols.  

  1. Mobile Hacking 

Research indicates that 2019 saw a 50 percent increase in mobile malware and hacking attacks. Mobile malware may not have reached the same scale as traditional desktop malware, but it is on the rise, particularly on the Android platform. 

Mobile devices are particularly enticing for state-sponsored cyber teams due to device capabilities and the information stored on them. When information about threats is leaked, like the recent Stuxnet computer worm, cybercriminals learn how to emulate the cyber teams’ techniques and formulate more and more sophisticated attacks. 

3. Teleworking Attacks 

As working from home becomes the new norm for many businesses worldwide, the surge in employees working remotely has created considerable opportunities for hackers. Remote desktop software such as Netop, TeamViewer, and Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol have all revealed major security vulnerabilities in testing. 

Brute-force attacks, where hackers guess remote account passwords, are on the rise. Cybercriminals are also employing tactics such as phishing and similar scams, targeting business email accounts. 

According to the FBI, these sorts of scams caused more than $1.8 billion in business losses in 2020 alone. The onus is on employers to ensure they arm remote workers with effective cybersecurity protection as well as the training they need to identify and deal with cyber threats. 

  1. IoT Vulnerabilities 

In an era with increasingly more devices connecting to the Internet, router security is all-important. In 2019 3 out of 4 IoT attacks occurred via infected routers. 

IoT devices are inherently vulnerable to attack. Every new device you add to your home or work network increases risk. From smart appliances you control with your mobile phone to baby monitors, almost no device is safe from hijacking and DoS attacks. The key to protecting your home or workspace from hackers lies in encrypting your Internet connection and masking your IP address to deter this type of attack. 

5. Weaponizing Deepfake Technology 

A portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake,” deepfakes are synthetic media in which an existing video or image is replaced with someone else’s likeness. Leveraging powerful AI and machine learning techniques, deepfake technology generates or manipulates visual or audio content with the ultimate objective of deceiving the viewer. 

Cybersecurity specialists predict that cybercriminals will increasingly rely on this technique to manipulate stock prices, steal money, and influence people’s opinions via social media. 

  1. Social Engineering Threats 

Not all data breaches, leaks, and corporate hacks are perpetrated by sophisticated hackers using advanced technical approaches. In fact, many arise as the result of simple social engineering threats. Cybercriminals manipulate their victim’s trust to gain access to information, using human psychology rather than technological know-how to achieve their goals. 

7. Automotive Hacking 

Modern cars come with a plethora of automated software seamlessly linked by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology, which, unfortunately, renders them vulnerable to hacking. Experts predict that instances of criminals gaining control of vehicles through hacking will rise in years to come as the use of automated vehicles increases. To avoid this scenario, lawmakers are calling for increasingly stringent cybersecurity measures. 

7 Unforgettable Experiences No Visitor to Vietnam Should Miss

With its awe-inspiring landscapes, expansive history, and fantastic food, Vietnam attracts tourists from all over the world. In this article, we explore seven unique Vietnamese experiences no visitor should miss.

1. Sample the street food.

Famed the world over for its fragrant herbs and spices, Vietnamese street food tempts the senses with an array of exciting aromas and flavors. Regardless of the time of day, you will see locals of all ages gathering outside store fronts or beneath market awnings. Vendors offer pork belly patties, savory sticky rice, egg coffee desserts, and, of course, pho, the staple salty broth made with chicken or beef, fresh herbs, and silky rice noodles.

Some of the cheapest and best places to eat in Vietnam are found in the traditional open-air markets. There, single-dish stalls, run mostly by women, peddle delicious dishes of home-cooked fare following secret family recipes that have been handed down from mother to daughter over generations.

2. Learn more about Vietnamese history.

The history of Vietnam is tumultuous and complex, the Southeast Asian country having been invaded and riven numerous times. Today, a strong colonial influence remains, visible in everything from the coffee and food to the architecture.

Interwoven with our own past, Vietnamese history is not only fascinating, but important to learn about. Numerous monuments and museums in the country today are dedicated to the Vietnam War. More than 60 percent of the population of Vietnam was born after the war ended in 1975. Today, the country may have moved on, but the sacrifices made on both sides are still commemorated across the nation, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City.

3. Explore the world’s largest cave.

Situated in Quang Binh province, a region of barely penetrable jungle near the border with Laos, Phong Nha National Park is riddled with hundreds of vast caverns, including the world’s largest cave, Hang Son Doon, an underground expanse so tall a skyscraper could fit inside.

Phong Nha is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts cavers from all over the world. With local guides for hire and rental gear available, you can find everything you need to explore this underground marvel. 

Alternatively, for those who prefer to stay aboveground, the region is also famous for trekking. The surrounding jungle is dotted with imposing waterfalls, and monkeys and flying foxes are frequently spotted in the vicinity.

4. Visit Cai Rang Floating Market.

Located in the south of the country, this world-renowned floating market is staged on the Cai Rang River, 6 kilometers from the center of Can Tho. In days gone by, when travelling by road was still a major challenge, Cai Rang Floating Market played a critical role in meeting the needs of local people. 

Nowadays, Vietnam’s road traffic infrastructure is much more developed. However, the floating market lives on, serving as an important economic, cultural, and tourist center.

Cai Rang is a great place to sample the local fare, its floating restaurants presided over by chefs with 40+ years’ experience, ready and waiting to serve delicious dishes like hu tieu and banh mi to locals and visitors.

5. Visit a traditional village.

Today, Vietnam is world-famous for its picture-perfect beaches and lively nightlife. By venturing to the northwest, however, visitors can get a taste of a much less touristy part of the country and sample authentic village life.

Sapa is home to several Vietnamese ethnic minorities, including the Dzao, Jarai, Bahnar, and Hmong. Each of these peoples has its own language and signature clothing, as well as its own customs and traditions. In Sapa, families live in stilted houses in differing architectural styles according to their ethnicity. They provide visitors with a tantalizing taste of their culture through traditional poetry, music, and song.

6. Immerse yourself in nature at Ban Gioc Waterfall.

Situated 360 kilometers from Hanoi in Northeast Vietnam, Ban Gioc Waterfall is without doubt the most spectacular waterfall in all of Vietnam, if not the whole of Southeast Asia. It stands 30 meters high and 300 meters wide and sits on the border between Vietnam and China. The waterfall is fed by the Quay Son River and empties via numerous rivulets across multiple terraces, creating an unforgettably enchanting vista.

Although domestic and Chinese travelers are regular visitors, particularly on national holidays, the waterfall is largely untouched by international tourism. Foreign travelers rarely venture this far from the beaten track.

7. Cruise the Mekong Delta

The Mekong River starts in China, flowing through Laos and Cambodia, traversing Vietnam’s southernmost reaches, and emptying into the South China Sea. The Mekong Delta’s tributaries and rivers form a tropical maze through rice farms and towns. 

From cruise boats, visitors look out across an expanse of lush green rice fields dotted with stilted wooden houses. Local men and women sell produce from small boats, providing snapshots of the traditional Vietnamese way of life.

The Mekong Delta is home to a myriad of rare and exotic wildlife, the Mekong River itself holding three times more fish species than the mighty Amazon. Popular with ornithologists, this region of Vietnam is home to more than 1,000 bird species.

5 of the Best Vacation Destinations for Cultural Tourism

For some people, the notion of the perfect vacation is simply two weeks in the sun, doing absolutely nothing. Others see a vacation as a prime opportunity to immerse themselves in a new culture and experience a different way of life.

“Culture” is a broad concept, of course—it refers to the customs, language, cuisine, art, and shared history of a particular group. In addition, culture is everywhere; there’s nowhere you can go that doesn’t have a culture. Still, in some places, the culture just seems more tangible and alive. Here are a few of these destinations.

1.         Paro, Bhutan

Bhutan is a landlocked kingdom sitting atop the mighty Himalayan range, which renders it accessible only to a fortunate few. Combining colorful religious festivals with spectacular natural surroundings, this land of fluttering prayer flags, red-robed monks, and vast monasteries perched on cliffs harks back to a long-forgotten era, and a much slower, calmer pace of life.

The Paro valley stretches from the confluence of the Wang Chhu and Paro Chhu rivers at Chuzom, to Mount Jomolhari on the Tibetan border. One of the widest valleys in Bhutan, Paro is swathed in fertile rice fields, with elegant traditional houses dotting the valley and surrounding hillsides. The idyllic scene is dissected by a crystalline, meandering river.

Paro town’s central plaza is adorned with a small amphitheater that hosts events throughout the year. With more than 155 monasteries and temples in the region, some dating back to the 14th century, Paro is an excellent place to see Bhutan’s history.

The region is also home to one of the country’s most iconic sites. High above the oak and rhododendron forests perches Taktsang Monastery. Known as the Tiger’s Nest, this extraordinary temple is a sacred shrine dedicated to Padmasambhava, who brought Buddhism to Tibet. 

2.         Tikal, Guatemala

Many regard Tikal as the world’s most impressive Mayan site, despite the fact that just a small proportion has been excavated from the thick jungle that surrounds it. Comprising some 3,000 ancient buildings, including a palace, dwellings, tombs, altars, and an impressive nine-story pyramid, Tikal once formed the heart of the Mayan Empire. Today it sits in its own national park, having been assigned UNESCO World Heritage Site status. In its heyday, the site is believed to have been home to almost 100,000 people, making it one of the most important cities of its time.

The Mayans performed ritual human sacrifices at Tikal. This archaeological wonder was also used for farming as far back as 1000 BC. No one knows for sure what caused the city’s demise, but many researchers attribute its abandonment to deforestation and drought.

3.         Bilbao, Spain

From the early 1900s, Bilbao was one of the most important cities in Basque Country. Despite its cultural development and expansion being interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, the city quickly recovered its capacity to generate wealth, attracting immigrants from far and wide with its flourishing industry.

Following years of economic growth, the region’s steel and iron industry fell into a deep crisis toward the end of the 20th century. City officials were forced to reimagine the foundations of its economic development.

After years of financial uncertainty, Bilbao reclaimed its reputation as one of Europe’s most dynamic cities. It is brimming with amenities and focused on urban and environmental regeneration. Today, it is home to the Euskalduna Palace and Guggenheim Museum, the latter being one of the most iconic and praised works of contemporary architecture. These buildings have become icons of this vibrant metropolis.

4.         Florence, Italy

Florence is the most enchanting city in Tuscany, if not the whole of Italy or Europe. Internationally renowned as the birthplace of the Renaissance, it is home to the world-famous Uffizi Gallery, which houses works by both Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. If you have the means, you should visit Florence at least once in your life.

Other unmissable attractions include the Ponte Vecchio, Piazza del Duomo, and Boboli Gardens. Although it is a city, Florence retains a small-town charm and a slower, calmer pace of life. The city center is flooded with pedestrians rather than cars, idly strolling or sitting in piazzas, watching the world go by.

5.         Abu Dhabi, UAE

The United Arab Emirates consists of seven emirates in total, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the two that most Westerners are familiar with. Both are modern, cosmopolitan cities, but Dubai is flashier and fast-paced, while Abu Dhabi is often described as a bit lower-key and more representative of traditional culture in the UAE.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque is the largest mosque in the whole of the UAE. Both a place of worship and an icon of Islamic culture, it is widely praised as Abu Dhabi’s most beautiful building. Covering almost 30 acres and capable of accommodating more than 40,000 people, Sheikh Zayed Mosque is also one of the largest places of worship in the world. The construction took more than a decade to complete and combines traditional and modern architecture.