What Is Sustainable Travel and Why Is It So Important?

Consumers around the world have become more eco-conscious—concerned about increasing, and increasingly extreme, weather events and natural disasters. As a result, ecotourism is becoming a popular travel choice among vacationers keen to reduce their carbon footprint. “Overtourism” is a relatively new phenomenon that describes exceeding the visitation capacity of a particular attraction or destination. Overtourism can cause damage to historical sites and the nearby environment, culminating in a decreased quality of life for locals. 

As the travel sector recovers from the catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of overtourism are being felt in popular, but congested, destinations. The UN World Tourism Organization, working in collaboration with private and public sector partners, celebrates World Tourism Day on September 27. The event is a platform for exploring the social, environmental, economic, and political impacts of tourism. 

The day highlights the need for sustainable tourism. It establishes a framework for engaging the public and the travel industry in supporting goals that prioritize protecting the environment, addressing climate change, and advancing economic development in tourism-driven societies. A National Geographic survey of 3,500 adult US travelers showed strong support for sustainability. However, the challenge lies in helping vacationers to take meaningful actions.  

Conducted in 2019, the study found that while 42 percent of US travelers would be willing to prioritize sustainable travel in the future, just 15 percent of these travelers were familiar with what sustainable travel really meant. The UN World Travel Organization defines sustainable tourism as travel that “takes full account of its existing and future environmental, social, and economic impact, addressing the needs of visitors, host communities, the environment, and the industry.” 

There was already an uptick in sustainable travel even prior to the arrival of COVID-19. In April 2018, Booking.com conducted research on sustainable tourism, with interesting results. The report showed that 87 percent of travelers wanted to travel sustainably, although just 39 percent always managed to meet that standard. A significant 43 percent of participants admitted that they “never, rarely or sometimes” actually traveled sustainably. 

In 2019, Greta Thunberg made history by sailing to New York on a racing yacht for the UN Climate Action Summit. Fortunately, there are more modest, yet collectively impactful ways to make travel more sustainable. Examples include transitioning away from air travel in favor of rail and avoiding hotels that use single-use plastics. Whether you are traveling for a family vacation or on business, the practical applications and principles of sustainable travel are the same: facilitating the efforts of travelers to reduce the negative impact of their travels on the environment, the economy, and society. 

The way we travel has a huge impact on the environment. Travel is responsible for approximately 5 percent of global warming according to a recent study. Air traveling in particular accounts for a large proportion of travel-related CO2 emissions. However, sustainable travel is about more than just emissions, with tourism also leading to overuse of water, improper waste disposal, and degradation of land. There are numerous actions vacationers can take to mitigate the social, environmental, and economic impact of their trips.  

One example is using trains rather than planes for short journeys to reduce carbon emissions. For every kg of CO2 created by rail travel, traveling the equivalent distance by air generates 22kg of CO2. Against this backdrop, in May 2021, the French government passed a bill abolishing intercity domestic flights for routes of less than 2.5 hours in duration. The move was designed to promote rail services in place of air travel as part of the country’s efforts to decrease its CO2 emissions 40 percent by 2030. 

Also recommended is supporting air travel operators that implement carbon sequestration initiatives. These actions offset CO2 emissions and lessen operator’s impact on the environment and local communities. Consumers can also choose travel industry players that are taking decisive action to make the tourism industry more sustainable. For example, several leading hotel groups have pledged to phase out single-use plastic toiletry bottles. You may also prefer airlines that use alternative sources of energy, like biofuel blends, as a replacement for fossil fuels. 

COVID-19 drove a huge shift in public consciousness, with today’s consumers placing increased emphasis on sustainability. Today, governments all over the world are revamping their rail infrastructure, seeking to persuade their populations to adopt more environmentally friendly travel choices. Tourism is an incredibly important part of our global culture, enabling people to explore different parts of the world, meeting others from all different walks of life, and experiencing new activities, cultures, and traditions.  

Tourism benefits both travelers and communities alike, and it can be a huge force for good when implemented in a sustainable way. Sustainable tourism seeks to provide solutions to global challenges faced by the tourism industry today, driving economic viability, social equity, employment quality, and local prosperity, respecting and protecting the cultural heritage, authenticity, traditions, and uniqueness of host communities. 

4 Amazing Ancient Ruins in Turkey and the Famous Legends Behind Them

With a reputation as the world’s largest outdoor museum, Turkey is home to numerous historically important ancient ruins. 

Located at the junction between East and West, Turkey was once a powerful hub targeted by a variety of ancient civilizations through the centuries, from the Romans and Greeks to the Persians and Huns. These ancient settlers created some remarkable monuments and cities, many of which still stand to this day. From Ephesus to Troy, read on to learn more about four of Turkey’s most fascinating ruins. 

1. Ephesus 

One of the most significant sets of ruins in all of Turkey, Ephesus is shrouded in legend. Some say that these impressive structures were commissioned by an Ionian prince, while others credit the city’s creation to the Amazons, a tribe of female warriors that inhabited Anatolia in around 2000 BCE. According to legend, the Amazons were the daughters of Ares, the Greek god of war, and Harmonia, the goddess of harmony. 

Today, with its towering columns and slick marble streets, the ancient city takes visitors on a journey back through time. Ephesus was once regarded as the most important trading center in the whole of the Mediterranean region. It survived numerous attacks and changed hands multiple times between conquerors. 

The well-maintained Library of Celsus ranks among the site’s biggest attractions today. Its two-story columns and marble facades demonstrate the scale of what was once a sprawling city. Nearby, the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is well worth a visit. 

2. Göbeklitepe 

One of Turkey’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Göbeklitepe is set on a small hilltop, where its pit of ringed megaliths offers some insight into mankind’s early cultural beginnings. 

A site of worship, the pillars with lavishly carved animals were erected around 12,000 years ago during the Neolithic era, when humans still led a hunter-gatherer existence. The discovery of Göbeklitepe disproved the previously accepted theory that settled villages and agriculture came long before the arrival of religion. 

Located 30 miles from Turkey’s border with Syria, Göbeklitepe’s 40-plus T-shaped monoliths stand as high as 18 feet, with intricate carvings that are said to symbolize the power of religious devotion. Experts believe that 250 more pillars may remain covered. While some pillars are blank, others feature incredibly detailed totem-like carvings, depicting people, symbols, and numerous animal species, including spiders, insects, birds, snakes, wild boars, bulls, foxes, scorpions, and lions. 

3. Cappadocia 

Located in Turkey’s Central Anatolia region, Cappadocia is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the nation’s most famous natural wonders, Cappadocia is one of the most extraordinary natural landscapes on Earth, featuring ‘fairy chimneys,’ a distinctive geological feature created by the erosion of a volcanic landscape by wind and rain. 

The region’s human history is equally impressive. Carved into the rock is a vast underground city that dates as far back as the fourth century. Some of these structures were capable of accommodating tens of thousands of people. Experts believe that these ancient structures were created by Christians sheltering from Arab invasions at a time when the area formed part of the eastern edge of the Byzantine Empire. 

4. Troy 

What Troy lacks in surviving temples, columns, and amphitheaters, it more than makes up with historical significance. Homer’s Iliad, penned in the eighth century BCE, featured Troy as a backdrop, telling the story of a Greek king’s capture here following the 10-year Trojan War. 

Visitors to Troy follow in the footsteps of Achilles, who was shot in the ankle and died at the western gate, which is still discernible today. Also visible at the site is a line of blackened rock where Greek kings razed the defeated city. 

Though the ruins of Troy are not as visible in comparison with other archaeological sites from the same era, they evoke an energy and excitement all of their own, having been a place of pilgrimage for many kings over the years. Augustus, Julius Caesar, Xerxes, and Alexander the Great were all said to have visited Troy to honor Greek heroes and legends of the past. 

Today, the main entrance incorporates a huge model wooden horse, reimagining what the original Trojan horse may have looked like. Troy is not really one city but nine, each built on top of the last. The earliest settlements date back to around 3000 BCE.  

The new Troy Museum, 800 meters from the archaeological site at Tevfikiye village, is open to tourists year-round. Opened in 2018, it exhibits archaeological treasures recovered from Troy, along with finds from other nearby sites. Highlights include the Polyxena sarcophagus, a statue of the Greek god Triton, and various gold necklaces, bracelets, and coins.  

What Qualities Are Required to Become a UNESCO World Heritage Site? 

An abbreviation for “United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,” UNESCO contributes to security and peace by promoting international cooperation in education, culture, science, information, and communication. The organization promotes the sharing of knowledge and the free flow of ideas with the goal of accelerating mutual understanding. UNESCO programs also contribute towards United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

In 1942, during World War II, the governments of several European nations united in the fight against Axis powers gathered in the United Kingdom for the Conference of Allied Minsters of Education. Although the war was far from won at this point, those countries joined forces seeking ways and means to rebuild their education systems after peace was restored. 

The movement rapidly gained momentum, acquiring a universal character. The United States, along with several other governments, also decided to join. 

In November 1945, a UN Conference was convened in London with the aim of establishing an educational and cultural organization, World War II having only just ended when the conference opened. The 44 nations that joined the organization intended it to embody a genuine culture of peace, establishing an “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind” to prevent another world war in the future. 

UNESCO later spearheaded the concept of “world heritage” in response to the threatened destruction of the Ramses II temple in Abu Simbel, Egypt, to make way for the construction of the Aswan Dam. Internationally recognized as one of the world’s most important cultural monuments, the site and its inestimable archaeological remains were rescued from demolition by global action initiated by UNESCO, setting in motion international discussion regarding the need for a global convention to protect important cultural and natural heritage sites around the world. 

In November 1972, UNESCO adopted a convention safeguarding the world’s cultural and natural heritage. The convention was created with the intention of protecting sites of “outstanding universal value,” a term that is intended to describe locations that are so exceptional in terms of cultural or natural significance that they transcend national boundaries, and are deemed to be of common importance for current and future generations of humanity. 

To be considered for addition to the World Heritage List, sites must satisfy at least one of the following criteria: 

  1. Represent a masterpiece of human creation. 
  1. Exhibit an important interchange of human values, within a cultural area of the world or over a span of time, on developments in architecture, monumental arts, town planning, landscape design, or technology. 
  1. Bear a unique or exceptional testimony to a civilization or cultural tradition. 
  1. Be an outstanding building, technological or architectural ensemble, or a landscape that illustrates significant stages in human history. 
  1. Be an outstanding example of a traditional settlement, sea-use, or land-use that is representative of one or more cultures, or human interaction with the environment, particularly if it is vulnerable to the impact of irreversible change. 
  1. Be tangibly or directly associated with living traditions or events, beliefs, ideals, or with literary and artistic work. 
  1. Contain superlative areas of exceptional natural beauty, natural phenomena, or aesthetic importance. 
  1. Be outstanding examples representing major stages in the history of the earth, including the development of landforms, significant ongoing geological processes, the record of life, or significant physiographic or geomorphic features. 
  1. Be outstanding examples representing significant ongoing biological and ecological processes in the development and evolution of terrestrial, coastal, marine, and freshwater ecosystems and communities of animals and plants. 
  1. Contain the most significant and important natural habitats for in situ conservation of biodiversity, including sites that contain threatened species of outstanding value from the point of view of conservation or science. 

Operational guidelines for implementation of the World Heritage Convention delineate criteria for inclusion on the World Heritage List. To qualify, sites must be of outstanding value and meet at least 1 out of 10 selection criteria. 

12 of the earliest additions to the World Heritage List were: 

  1. Nahanni National Park, Canada 
  1. L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Park, Canada 
  1. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador 
  1. The city of Quito, Ecuador 
  1. Rock-Hewn Churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia. 
  1. Simien National Park, Ethiopia 
  1. Krakow’s historic center, Poland 
  1. Bochnia and Wieliczka Salt Mines, Poland 
  1. Aachen Cathedral, Germany 
  1. The Island of Goree, Senegal 
  1. Yellowstone National Park, United States 
  1. Mesa Verde National Park, United States 

UNESCO convenes annually to decide the next troupe of sites to be added to the World Heritage List. Sites nominated in 2022 included the Frescoes of Padua in Italy, a collection of fresco cycles painted between 1302 and 1397, the site providing a visual record of the evolution of creative expression through the 14th century. 

Another nomination for inclusion in 2022 was Thailand’s Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex, a vast forest area situated on the Thailand-Myanmar border that is home to an array of tropical plant species, as well as endangered animal species such as the Asian Giant Tortoise, Asiatic Wild Dog, Asian Elephant, and Siamese Crocodile.

5 Astounding World Heritage Sites in the MENA Region and the Near East

From the Pyramids of Giza to the prehistoric cave art of Tassili n’Ajjer, Algeria, the Middle East boasts some of the most important cultural attractions in the world. Serving as invaluable symbols of religious, cultural, and national identity, these historic sites attract visitors from around the world

Home to some of the earliest human settlements, which were established as mankind migrated from Africa, the Middle and near East provides links to the Spice Route, Silk Road, and other early trading routes. However, after decades of conflict, the future of many of these important historic sites has been placed in jeopardy. 

In recent years, UNESCO has strived to preserve the MENA region’s rich cultural heritage, making ambitious efforts to repair or re-create what has already been lost. In this article we explore a selection of highly impressive Middle Eastern UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

1. The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt 

The sole surviving Wonder of the World, the Pyramids of Giza need little introduction, ranking among the best-know monuments on earth. The site’s extraordinary pyramids, funerary monuments, and temples are must-see attractions that draw sizeable crowds throughout the year. Although the three main pyramids—Cheops, Mycerinus, and Chephren—are the most famous, there are more than 130 others located throughout the country. 

Also known as the Great Pyramid, Cheops is believed to be constructed from more than 2 million stone blocks ranging in weight from two to more than 50 tons. Historians still speculate how exactly these blocks were moved to their current location. They believe that more than 100,000 people were involved in the Pyramids’ construction. 

While experts once thought that the Pyramids of Giza were built using slave labor, some historians now believe that they may have been constructed by paid workers. Like all Egyptian pyramids, the Pyramids of Giza are located on the River Nile’s west bank, since it is on this side of the river that the sun sets in the evening, symbolizing the realm of the dead. 

2. Palmyra, Syria 

According to UNESCO, Palmyra was one of the ancient world’s most important cultural cores. Indeed, the city has been described as the heart of several ancient civilizations, merging local traditions with Persian and Greco-Roman influences. 

Of the six UNESCO World Heritage Sites currently located in Syria, every single one has sustained damage in the country’s decade-long civil war. Palmyra suffered some of the heaviest damage after ISIS took control of the region in 2015, destroying the 2,000-year-old pagan Temple of Baalshamin, as well as the Mesopotamian-era Temple of Bel. 

Palmyra attracted as many as 150,000 visitors annually before the civil war started in 2011. Russian-backed Syrian forces eventually drove ISIS from the site. However, to date, reconstruction efforts have been limited due to continued conflict in the region. 

3. Ephesus, Turkey 

The most famous and frequently visited ruins in the nation, the ancient city of Ephesus is in Turkey’s Central Aegean region near the contemporary city of Selçuk. The excavated remains reflect the region’s checkered past, from classical Greek to Roman times. 

Ephesus was originally founded in the 10th century BCE by an Athenian prince. Under the stewardship of Androklos and his successors, the city expanded and prospered, until it was assaulted by the Cimmerians and ravaged in 650 BCE. 

Highlights of the World Heritage Site include the Temple of Hadrian, which was finished in 118 CE; the derelict shell of Library of Celsus; the Cave of the Seven Sleepers; and the classical theatre, where historians believe that Saint Paul preached to the pagans. 

4. Al Aqsa Compound, Jerusalem 

Long recognized as the heart of Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—the old city’s steps, alleyways, and cobbled streets are filled with history. Jerusalem under occupation, and soldiers are a common sight. Despite this, the city continues to thrive, with significant numbers of international tourists visiting year-round. 

The Al-Aqsa compound is in the center of Jerusalem, filled with beautiful stones and olive trees. The Dome of the Rock can even be seen. When the call to prayer rings out, religious pilgrims and locals alike flock to the mosque. With guards stationed at the door to the compound, tourists are usually only granted entrance one day a week, usually on a Sunday, although this is subject to change at any given time. 

5. Tassili n’Ajjer, Algeria 

Situated on a vast plateau in the Sahara, the Tassili n’Ajjer National Park contains one of the world’s most amazing collections of prehistoric cave art. Comprising somewhere in the region of 15,000 engravings and paintings spanning approximately 10,000 years, this ancient artwork provides precious early records of animal migration, climatic changes, and the evolution of humanity. 

The collection includes examples from distinct rock art traditions, including works from the “round head” period that is the oldest artwork on site. These pieces are engraved representations linked to ceremonies and rituals conducted by the hunter-gatherers of the day. Newer, 3,000-year-old illustrations from the cattle period depict social aspects and daily life in prehistoric times. 

Encompassing eroded sandstone “rock forests” make the landscape look alien and unfamiliar. As a result of these unusual formations, Tassili n’Ajjer National Park is also of considerable geological significance. 

Exploring the Rich History of the Idyllic Greek Island of Spetses

The ancient Venetians called the Greek island Spetses Isola de Spezzie, which translates to English as the “Island of Fragrance.” The moniker is attributed to the many aromatic herbs found in the island’s mountainous regions. 

Forming part of the Argosaronic Islands alongside Aegina, Poros, and Hydra, Spetses sits at the entrance of the Argolic Gulf and is the southernmost island of the group. Like Hydra, Spetses played a crucial role in the Greek Revolution of 1821. It is also the birthplace of Laskarina Bouboulina, the renowned female naval commander. Bouboulina was the first woman to achieve the rank of admiral, and she led her fleet to victory in the Greek War of Independence. 

Spetses was one of the first Greek islands to attract international tourists. Today, it can be reached by ferry from the Greek port cities of Piraeus or Kosta. A beautiful island offering both tranquility and a cosmopolitan edge, Spetses is home to numerous picturesque beaches and bays, boasting a charming old harbor and various interesting historical sites. 

Mesolithic flint spearheads have been discovered in the town of Zogheria on Spetses island. Historians believe they were left by inhabitants of the Fraghthi cave on the mainland who ventured to the island in search of drinking water. Spetses’ earliest inhabitants are believed to be seafarers who stopped off as they passed the island on their journey from the Peloponnese to the Cyclades. 

Near the end of the Mycenaean Era (around 1170 BCE), Spetses was attacked by the Mycenaeans. Experts believe that the ancient inhabitants of Spetses played an important role in the Battle of Salamis. The island was also attacked by the Athenians during the Peloponnesian War. 

Spetses was an important naval base for mainland cities; it was relied on by both the Greek and Roman empires. However, the island’s coastal regions were eventually abandoned by locals following repeated attacks by Ottoman pirates. It is believed that most inhabitants of Spetses fled, seeking refuge in the coastal towns of the Peloponnese, which were defended by Rome at the time. 

Following the division of the Byzantine Empire, Spetses came under Venetian rule. In 1460 the Venetians were replaced by Turks. 

Later came a wave of Arvanite refugees fleeing the Peloponnese, settling in the bays of Agioi Anargyroi and Zogheria. These new island inhabitants started cultivating the land and imported livestock. They quickly realized the significant demand for the island’s pines and built small ships to transport timber across the Mediterranean. By 1715, the community at Kastelli had started to take shape. 

Cooperating with the Russians in the Russian-Turkish War of 1768 to 1774, the Greek Coalition turned Spetses’ sizable merchant fleet into a mighty naval power, revolting against the Ottoman Empire during the Orlov Revolt. In response, the Turks destroyed the only village on the island of Spetses in 1770. 

Spetses played a major role in the Greek Revolution. With the courage and patriotism of Spetsiots hailed as unbeatable, the island was the first to respond to the revolutionary call in 1821. Spetses pledged its powerful fleet in the fight to repel the Ottoman Turks, participating in the liberation of Mani, Nafplio, Monemvasia, and Messolongi. It also played a major role in the siege and conquest of Tripolitsa. 

The Spetses fleet also sailed to Crete to attack the Egyptian fleet, which was allied with the Ottoman Turks. Powerful Spetsiot ships were used to transport supplies across Greece throughout the Greek Revolution, carrying weapons and munitions to other islands that joined the fight for liberation. 

Following her husband’s death, the Spetsiot captain Laskarina Bouboulina took command of his fleet, becoming an active member of the secret revolutionary organization Filiki Etairia. She led many important battles, sacrificing her fortune to finance the war and earning a place as one of the most celebrated heroes of the Greek Revolution. Born in 1771, Bouboulina lost two husbands to pirate attacks throughout her lifetime, using the fortune and ships she inherited to fuel Greece’s fight for independence. 

Today, some of Spetses’ most popular attractions include the old harbor, Baltiza. Located 1.5 kilometers from Spetses’ new harbor, Dapia, Baltiza was an important shipbuilding center in the 18th and 19th centuries. Standing to the right of the old harbor, the Baltiza lighthouse is one of the oldest lighthouses in Greece. 

Housed in the Mansion of Hatzigianni-Mexi, a prominent 19th-century tradesperson, the Museum of Spetses exhibits a variety of items cataloging the history of the island of Spetses from ancient to modern times. In addition, the private Bouboulina Museum is located in the home of Bouboulina, displaying a collection of household furnishings and personal objects that belonged to the Spetsiot hero. The traditional mansion is well worth a visit in itself, particularly for the main saloon’s intricately carved wooden Florentine ceiling. 

Travel Focus: Exploring the Rich History of the Greek Island of Hydra

Lying in the Aegean Sea between the Argolic Gulf and the Saronic Gulf, Hydra forms part of the Saronic Islands. With just a narrow strip of ocean separating it from the Peloponnese, the name “Hydra” stems from the Greek word for water, earning its name from the many natural springs found on the island. 

Consisting of the islands of Hydra and Dokos, along with several uninhabited islets, the municipality of Hydra covers an area of just over 64 square kilometers in total. Hydra is a province in the Piraeus Prefecture. Its main town, Hydra Port, consists of a crescent-shaped harbor surrounded by shops, restaurants, galleries and markets catering to locals and tourists alike. Here, steep stone streets lead away from the harbor, with most local residences and tourist accommodation found on this area. Other villages on the island of Hydra include Kamini, Palamidas, Mandraki, Molos, Vlychos, and Episkopi. Hydra’s economy is largely dependent on tourism, with domestic travelers accounting for a sizable proportion of visitors. Catamarans and hydrofoils from the port city of Piraeus on the Greek mainland serve the island, stopping first at Poros, then Hydra, then Spetses. 

By law, motorcycles and cars are banned from the island of Hydra. The only motor vehicles allowed are rubbish trucks. Popular modes of public transport include horses, donkeys, mules, and water taxis. However, the inhabited part of Hydra is so compact that most people walk everywhere. 

Idyllic destination 
Built in the shape of an amphitheater overlooking the ocean, Hydra is one of the most idyllic destinations in all of Greece. Its narrow cobblestoned streets are flanked by traditional stone mansions and secluded squares, lending Hydra a very distinctive atmosphere. 

Thanks to its great naval and commercial past, the island has seen exceptional economic growth. Hydriots made a significant contribution to the 1821 War of Independence, the island putting the weight of its powerful fleet behind several critical sea battles. Another impressive fact about Hydra is that the tiny island has produced five Greek prime ministers. 

Lavish stone mansions commissioned by prominent families were built on Hydra by Italian artisans. Today, most of these mansions serve as museums. The island is also home to six monasteries and 300 churches. 

Walking along the waterfront in the heart of Hydra Port, visitors encounter monuments, mansions, museums, churches, canons, and statues of local heroes. There is also the old gunpowder store, as well as numerous shops and cafes. The upper part of the town’s picturesque winding streets lead visitors to the several residential areas, including the old neighborhood of Kiafas. 

Renowned in the yachting world 
In the yachting world, Hydra is renowned, attracting groups of sailing boats in the summer that moor in the harbor, alongside dozens of powerful speedboats. 

Hydra was made famous by the 1957 movie, Boy on a Dolphin starring Sophia Loren. The island has several excellent beaches, including Limnioniza, which many locals cite as the finest beach on the island. Visitors have to work hard to get there, however, since it is reached via a two-hour hike. 

Relatively little is known about Hydra’s history until the beginning of the Ottoman rule. Historians believe that the island’s first settlers were Mycenaeans, with excavations suggesting they settled the island in ancient times. 

First major historical event  
The first major historical event recorded on Hydra took place in the 15th century. Following the fall of Constantinople, island inhabitants started moving inland, hiding in the mountains to escape from invading Turks and pirate raids. Around 1460, Hydra welcomed refugees from Epirus, Evia, Crete, Kythnos, Albania and Asia Minor. 

During the 17th century, Hydra started to build a powerful merchant fleet. However, the plague of 1792 decimated the island’s population, with many of those who did survive moving away. This improved during the 18th century, when the island became powerful and prosperous again due to its fleet, trading with other regions of Greece, as well as Spain, France, and America. Many Peloponnese fleeing the Russo-Turkish War settled here in the 18th century. 

The Hydriot fleet’s superiority reached its peak during the Napoleonic wars, during which Hydra effectively monopolized sea transport throughout the Mediterranean following creation of its Merchant Marine Academy. The islanders fortified the harbor of Hydra Port with bastions of cannons to protect the fleet during the Greek Revolution, with many wealthy sea captains providing economic support for the Revolution and using their vessels as warships. In fact, the heroism of Hydra’s inhabitants combined with the superiority of its fleet is credited as a driving force behind the Revolution’s success. 

Today, Hydra attracts international jet setters, having served as a vacation retreat for many famous names over the years, including Aristotle Onassis, Leonard Cohen, and Maria Callas. Boasting world-class museums and stunning architecture, Hydra also has a traditional side, with the picturesque enclaves of Vlichos and Kaminia providing visitors with an authentic taste of village life. 

7 Iconic US Attractions That Draw Visitors from All over the World 

The United States is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery on Earth. From the dazzling sights of New York City to the nation’s top national parks, here are seven spectacular American attractions. 

1. Niagara Falls 

Located on America’s border with Canada, Niagara is one of the world’s most famous waterfalls, where colossal amounts of water flow from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. 

Niagara actually consists of three separate falls. The largest section, Horseshoe Falls, has a 187-foot drop. The second section on the American side of the river is called American Falls; it incorporates an 89-foot drop. Finally, the Bridal Veil Falls section has a drop of 78 feet. 

Summer is the most popular time to visit Niagara Falls, as the warm weather and blooming gardens enhance the experience. However, some visitors come during the depths of winter, when the falls transform into a winter wonderland of snow-covered shores and ice-covered trees, railings, and street signs. 

2. Times Square 

Located in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, Times Square is visited by more than 39 million people each year. It is situated at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Broadway, covering the area from W. 42nd to W. 47th Streets. One of the most visited tourist locations on Earth, it is a must-see for any visitor to New York. 

Many types of shows and events are hosted in Times Square each year, including the famous ball drop on New Year’s Eve. 

3. Union Station 

Renovations to the tune of $160 million were undertaken to Washington DC’s Union Station in the 1980s following decades of dilapidation. Since reopening in 1988, it has emerged as a must-see location for tourists visiting the nation’s capital, enchanting and enthralling them with its imposing architecture while offering plenty of shopping opportunities and world-class restaurants. In addition to being one of the largest transport hubs in the country, Union Station is steeped in history. 

The building, completed in 1908, was designed by architect Daniel Burnham, who is also responsible for the jaw-dropping Main Hall that continues to dazzle visitors to this day. The Main Hall underwent further restoration after an earthquake in 2011 and reopened in the fall of 2016, showcasing its original Beaux Arts splendor. 

4. Mount Rushmore 

One of the most famous landmarks in the world, Mount Rushmore is a national memorial situated in South Dakota. Depicting the faces of four former American presidents, Mount Rushmore was constructed in the early 1900s. Each face was created by blasting and carving the side of a rock face. 

Visitors continue to admire the colossal representations of Presidents Jefferson, Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt at the site to this day. At the base of the monument, the short Presidential Trail offers visitors better views, as well as an interesting perspective on the landmark. 

5. Grand Canyon 

Located in Arizona, the Grand Canyon was carved by the Colorado River over millions of years. One of the most visited locations in the whole of the United States, if not the world, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long with a width of 18 miles and a depth of over 1 mile. 

This expansive attraction draws more than 5 million visitors annually, 83 percent of whom are US citizens. The South Rim is popular among tourists, as it offers ample hiking opportunities and the thrill of white water rafting and helicopter rides. 

6. Florida Keys 

Lying just off Florida’s southern coast, the Florida Keys are a chain of islands coveted by tourists seeking a tropical vacation. In addition to the picture-perfect, white sandy beaches, the region also offers a variety of marine activities, including sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving. 

The southernmost point in the continental United States, Key West was popular with literary giants like Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway. It was also home to US President Harry S. Truman’s Little White House winter retreat. 

7. New Orleans 

New Orleans showcases the amalgamation of the diverse cultures that have shaped the region’s culture, with strong French and Spanish influences still visible in its architecture, history, and art. Visitors can also enjoy classic Caribbean and Cajun cuisines while listening to soulful, soothing jazz. 

Highlights include Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, the French Quarter, and the Garden District. Steamer boat cruises down the Mississippi River are also a fun, relaxing way of seeing more of the city. 

With convoys of colorful floats and hundreds of dancers flooding the streets, Mardi Gras is the ideal time to visit New Orleans.  

3 Corporate Giants That Fell Afoul of Attacks By Cybercriminals

The revenue generated by a multibillion-dollar company not only benefits its shareholders, but it also helps to boost the GDP of the business’ home country, as well as potentially bolstering other economies around the world. Typically, such a company will employ tens of thousands of employees, providing them with a source of income, and enabling them to contribute to the public purse through their taxes, as well as generating economic growth via their spending. 

The positive economic impact of large-scale businesses is not limited to who the company pays. Companies also benefit the customers they serve, with household names like Google, Walmart, and Amazon enabling millions of consumers to access the products they want and need, be that for entertainment, or to help them generate an income. 

With billions of dollars in play, a big corporation is an obvious target for criminals. With large workforces often dispersed across multiple countries, they are high profile, dealing in huge sums of money, making them an attractive prospect for hackers and scammers. 

Regardless of the motive behind a cyberattack, the impact is always negative. Ransomware attacks can result in companies losing significant amounts of money, while leaked documents and files relating to upcoming products can potentially cost billions, particularly if they fall into the hands of a competitor. However, the most harmful and lasting consequence arises in a security breach where users’ personal information is made public. This information could range from something as basic as names, ages, and phone numbers to taxpayer identification numbers and bank details. Should this sensitive information fall into the wrong hands, the effects could be dire. A poll by Poneman Institute revealed that among participants who had been a victim of a data breach, 65% reported a subsequent lack of trust in the company, while 27% ceased doing business with them completely. 

Although small and medium-sized businesses are an easier and therefore more common target, for criminals who do manage to infiltrate a large corporation, the financial rewards can be vast. In this article, we look at three of the biggest companies to fall afoul of cybercriminals. 

1. Adobe 

In October 2013, Adobe announced that its IT infrastructure had been breached on a colossal scale. Infiltrating 38 million active accounts, hackers not only accessed names, logins, and passwords, but also credit card numbers and expiration dates. 

To access this data, the cybercriminals exploited a security breach related to security practices around passwords. Rather than being chopped, as recommended, the stolen passwords had been encrypted. Fortunately, this rendered any stolen bank data unusable due to the high quality of Adobe’s encryption. However, the cybercriminals targeted Adobe not just for customer information, but for product data, and the 40 GB of source code they managed to steal was the most worrying problem of all for Adobe. 

2. Yahoo 

2013 marked a busy year in cybercrime, with not only Adobe falling foul of hackers, but Yahoo too. However, in the latter case, it was not until four years later that the true scope of the breach was revealed. 

In August 2013, hackers accessed 3 billion user accounts. Investigations revealed that the attackers accessed account information such as plaintext passwords and security questions and answers, although bank data and payment card details were not exposed. 

The attack represented the largest breach of any company’s computer network, potentially providing hackers with the requisite information required to break into government computers around the world. 

Despite revelations over the true scale of the attack hitting the headlines in 2016, Verizon went ahead with its $4.48 billion acquisition of Yahoo, albeit shaving $350 million off of its original offer. 

3. Marriott 

A security breach at the hotel group that opened up in 2014 was not spotted until 2018. It came to light that a lapse in security exposed the personal information of some 500 million guests of the Starwood hotel group, a Marriott subsidiary. The implications were huge, with information accessed ranging from names, phone numbers, email addresses, and mailing addresses, to payment information, passport numbers, and even details about users’ Starwood Preferred Guest accounts, a high-end card program launched by American Express for regular travelers. 

In the United Kingdom alone, Marriot was fined $123 million by authorities for the breach. In July 2022, the hotel group revealed that it had become the victim of another attack, with another unknown actor breaching one of its properties, stealing 20GB of files. In this episode, however, the hackers only managed to breach just one property, gaining access to its network for a limited time. 

Exploring the History and Stunning Beauty of the Lakshadweep Islands

Translating from Malayalam to English as “one hundred thousand islands,” the Lakshadweep Islands form India’s smallest union territory, covering a total surface area of just 32 square kilometers. Its 36 islands have been severely impacted by climate change, with one island lost completely due to sea erosion. 

Unlike many Indian Ocean archipelagos, the Lakshadweep Islands have no aboriginal inhabitants. Scholars have proposed several different theories for the settlement of the Lakshadweep Islands, and archaeological evidence suggests that the region has been inhabited by humans since around 1500 BCE. 

Today, the islands are home to more than 60,000 people spread across 10 islands of the archipelago. Over the centuries, the Lakshadweep Islands have changed hands several times. 

The islands were mentioned in Buddhist Jataka stories dating to the sixth century BCE. In the seventh century, Islam was introduced to the region; it remains the majority religion today, with most of the indigenous population belonging to the Shafi school of the Sunni Muslim sect. 

Ethnically similar to the Malayali people found in the nearest Indian state, Kerala, most islanders speak Malayalam, although on Minicoy Island the most spoken language is Mahl. The Lakshadweep Islands are served by an airport on Agatti Island. The most popular occupations are coconut cultivation and fishing, and tuna is the Lakshadweep Islands’ main item of export. 

The Lakshadweep Islands’ capital is Kavaratti Island, which had a population of 11,210 as of the last census in 2011. Popular with snorkelers and scuba divers, the region is home to a diverse range of rare and exotic marine life, including lionfish, butterflyfish, rainbowfish, and surgeonfish, as well as sea turtles, giant clams, sea cucumber, and live corals in every color imaginable. 

Read on to learn more about some Lakshadweep Island attractions that astound and enthrall visitors from all over the world

1. Kadmat Island 

One of the archipelago’s most popular islands, Kadmat is spread over 100 meters and houses just one small village. In fact, on Kadmat Island, humans are easily outnumbered by sea turtles. 

Visitors to Kadmat Island can enjoy a variety of watersports, including scuba diving, snorkeling, and paragliding. The island is also renowned for its stunning sunrises and sunsets.  

To avoid torrential monsoon downpours, it is advisable to visit Kadmat only during the winter months (i.e., between October and March). 

2. Bangaram Island 

Bangaram Island lies 150 kilometers from Kadmat. Here, visitors can take a stroll or simply laze on the beach beneath the swaying palm trees, enjoying the unhurried pace of life while surrounded by the breathtaking spectacle of the region’s sparkling coral reefs. 

Inhabited by just 10 people, Bangaram covers 1.2 square kilometers and is the largest island in its atoll. Famous for its beautiful lagoon, the island boasts a luxury tourist resort that presents an array of activities, including night cruises across Bangaram’s perennially calm waters. 

3. Kavaratti Island 

A must-see for any visitor to the Lakshadweep Islands, Kavaratti Island offers cool, refreshing air, white sandy beaches, and brilliant blue lagoons to elevate the soul. Here, tourists can explore the Urja Mosque and Jamath Mosque among other fascinating island attractions, such as the Kavaratti Island Marine Aquarium. 

Like the rest of the Lakshadweep Islands, water sports are popular here, particularly parasailing, water skiing, snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing, windsurfing, and water biking. In addition, a tour on a glass bottom boat is an excellent way to experience the island’s diverse marine life. 

4. Agatti Island 

Poised at the top of the Lakshadweep Islands, Agatti is just 8 kilometers long, making it easily traversable on foot. The natural beauty of this beach paradise with its sugar-white sands enthralls all who venture here. 

Despite being home to a population of just 8,000, Agatti is one of Lakshadweep’s most populous islands. The locals speak Malayalam and English. Featuring one of Lakshadweep’s most beautiful lagoons, Agatti Island is open to tourists, but a permit is required to visit. The island’s airstrips provide visitors with breathtaking views across the Arabian Sea on their approach. 

5. Thinnakara Island 

Famous for its palm trees, white sands, and crystal-clear azure waters, Thinnakara is perfect for romantic getaways and idyllic family vacations alike. After nightfall, the navy-blue skies are perfect for stargazing after sampling signature local dishes such as biryanis, idlis, and dosas. 

Featuring stunning marine flora and fauna as well as swaying palms and picture-perfect lagoons, Thinnakara’s beaches glow blue at night as phosphorescent plankton washes onto the coral sands, creating an unforgettably enchanting display. 

5 of Asia’s Most Impressive Natural Wonders

Home to internationally renowned cuisines, ancient temples, and fascinating architecture, Asia attracts travelers from all over the world, year upon year. From the fast-paced, exciting streets of Tokyo and Bangkok to the picture-perfect beaches of Halong Bay or Koh Phi, the continent has something to suit all tastes and budgets. In this article, we explore 10 unforgettable natural wonders in Asia, including Myanmar’s Southern Inle Lake, and Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia.

1. Mount Everest (Tibet and Nepal)

The ultimate ambition for any climber, even reaching Base Camp is a major achievement for most mere mortals. Mount Everest is the Himalaya Mountains’ most prominent peak, forming an almost impenetrable boundary between Tibet and Nepal.

The Tibetan side of the mountain occupies a remote region of Tingri County in the Qomolangma National Nature Preserve. Rich in rare species, this national park is home to 2,000 plant species, 206 bird species, and 53 species of mammals, including the elusive snow leopard.

Meanwhile, the Nepalese side of Mount Everest is located in the remote district of Solukhumbu, near Kathmandu, a region famed for its extensive trails and stunning scenery that incorporates some 120 named mountains in total.

2. Southern Inle Lake (Myanmar)

Southern Inle Lake presents travelers with an unforgettable opportunity to experience untouched traditional villages and visit stunning ancient monasteries, as well as some very old wineries.

Although perhaps not best known for its viticulture historically, Myanmar is home to an up-and-coming winemaking industry, the country producing circa 37,500 cases of wine annually. Nestled in the lowlands near Inle Lake, located in the fertile Shan State region, the Red Mountain Estate is home to 400,000 grapevines imported from Spain and France, producing impressive Shiraz, Pinot Noire, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Southern Inle Lake is a wildlife sanctuary situated in a unique wetland that is known for its “floating gardens,” incorporating swamp forests, natural floating islets, deciduous and evergreen forests, and grasslands. The region is home to numerous rare and interesting bird species, including greater spotted eagle, purple heron, Indian shimmer, and lesser whistling ducks. The Pandaung Hill Tribe resides nearby, a local indigenous people who are famous throughout the world for their long-necked women, who wear brass coils around their necks.

3. Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park (China)

Created through the movement of tectonic plates combined with weathering of sandstone over millions of years, China Danxia was recognized by UNESCO in 2010. With several viewing platforms offering breathtaking vistas across these rainbow-colored rocks, the Zhangye Danxia landform is the largest, covering more than 3,200 square feet in total.

Known locally as the “Rainbow Mountains,” Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park’s landforms are a natural masterpiece, its vibrant mountain ridges resembling an upended color palette, its steep red cliffs, many of which stand several hundred meters high, striped with reds, browns, oranges, greys, and golden tones. 

4. Taman Negara National Park (Malaysia)

Established in 1938, Taman Negara spans the three Malaysian states of Terengganu, Kelantan, and Pahang. Dating back some 130 million years, Taman Negara is believed to be one of the oldest rainforests in the world, second only in age to Australia’s Daintree rainforest.

Taman Negara’s canopy walkway provides visitors with a unique perspective, enabling them to interact with the rainforest in a completely different way. Reputedly Malaysia’s longest suspension bridge, the walkway spans some 530 meters, and is a great way of admiring the forest canopy, providing glimpses of hornbills and other rare birds through the branches of the towering trees.

Standing 334 meters tall at its summit, nearby Bukit Teresek affords visitors spectacular views across Taman Negara, standing amidst a sea of rainforest on all sides. Experienced guides are available locally to escort tourists, pointing out local flora, fauna, and wildlife.

Taman Negera National Park is home to the Orang Asli indigenous people, who know the jungle intimately, harvesting sandalwood for export to some of the world’s most renowned perfume houses. They also forage from the jungle, using traditional hunting methods such as darts, and making fire without matches or lighters.

5. Ban Gioc-Detian Falls (China and Vietnam)

Just as Niagara Falls separates the United States and Canada, so Ban Gioc-Detian Falls form a border between China and Vietnam. Surrounded by green forest interspersed with karst rocks, these mighty twin waterfalls tumble in tiers to the powerful Quay Son River below. While the vertical drop is comparatively modest, it is the width of the cascades that makes Ban Geioc-Detian Falls such an impressive sight. 

You might expect such a stunning attraction to be overrun with tourists, but this is not the case, the site attracting mainly domestic visitors from China and Vietnam. Ban Gioc-Detian Falls has stayed largely off the radar of international travelers, although some intrepid backpackers are beginning to add the attraction to their Vietnam itinerary, and for good reason. Measuring 30 meters high and 300 meters across, Ban Gioc-Detian Falls is one of the most awe-inspiring sights in all of Asia.