Destinations

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Human trade and culture have traveled through Central Asia for thousands of years. Throughout antiquity, traders, treasures, and tragedies threaded their way through the mountains and across the seas of the region in successive waves, mixing traditions and beliefs from East to West and back again. The modern country of Tajikistan sits high along the northern crest of the Himalayas, and its peaks and valleys have witnessed the rise and fall of religions and empires, from Zoroastrianism and Buddhism to the Mongols and the Soviets. Around each mountain pass is a story, through each tunnel, a tale. It isn’t the cities and settlements of Tajikistan that hold the secrets of time, it’s the places between the places where the whispers shout loudest.

World’s Second-Largest Flagpole, Dushanbe
Karotegin Province
Seven Lakes
Shakhristan Region
Khatlon Province
Zarafshan Valley
Karotegin Province
Seven Lakes
Iskanderkul, named for Alexander the Great. Yes, he was here, too.

Dushanbe (DYU), Tajikistan’s capital city and principal air hub, is served thrice weekly from Istanbul by Turkish Airlines, with onward connections to the United States.

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Russia got Hungary, ate Turkey, fell on Greece and broke China. We learned that little ditty in nursery school, and while it may not have happened in that order, there was obviously some allusion to the Soviet Union’s global sphere of influence during much of the 20th century. As menacing as that may have seemed, the glories of Mother Russia were still extolled to many a traveler, as evidenced by these lovely vintage travel posters. Добро пожаловать!


 

Have you been to Russia?

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Nickname: A Cidade Maravilhosa (The Marvelous City) | Population: 6.5 million cariocas/12 million in metro | Area: 486.5 sq mi | Airports: Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport – Galeao (GIG) and Santos-Dumont Airport (SDU) | Time Zone: -3h from UTC/-2h DST | Famous for: beaches, booties, samba, soccer, Cristo Redentor, crime

Rio de Janeiro is the official calling card of Brazil. No other city in Latin America has been photographed, sung about, or dreamed about more than the Marvelous City. With world-famous beaches, stunning landscapes, spectacular views, hip-swaying music, and scores of tall, tan young-and-lovelies, Rio is the one city that should be experienced at least once in every human being’s life. True, it’s got plenty of social problems and it may not end up being your favorite city in the world, but Rio’s palpable sensuality and peerless natural beauty make it a place that you will never forget.

On arrival: Use the free airport wifi to order a ride via Uber, or take a cab from one of the prepaid taxi offices closest to the terminal exit; insist that the driver uses GPS. The best and least-expensive way to get reais (Brazilian currency) is to withdraw money from the ATM; many Brazilian ATMs do not operate using the U.S. bank card network, but at least one or two will.

Best ‘hoods: Copacabana is the world’s most famous beach, still fun despite being well past its glory days. Ipanema and Leblon hold court as the city’s chic beaches. The beaches of Barra da Tijuca are calmer, but a bit far from the in-town action. Centrally-located Lapa is home to Rio’s iconic samba spots. Santa Teresa’s curvy, cobblestone streets evoke an artsy, bohemian vibe. Flamengo, Botafogo, and Urca offer affordable, interesting dining and lodging conveniently located between the beaches and Centro (Downtown), which is great for exploring during the day. These neighborhoods are part of the Zona Sul (South Zone), which is where most of Rio’s tourist-friendly attractions are located. Be street-smart everywhere.

Best beaches: Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon for swimming, sunbathing, and flirting; Arpoador for great sunset views; Barra da Tijuca for surfing; São Conrado for hang gliding; Prainha for peace and quiet.

Best sights: Christ the Redeemer Statue, Sugarloaf Mountain, Tijuca Forest, Santa Teresa, Selarón Steps, Municipal Theatre, Museum of Tomorrow, Museum of Modern Art, ferry to Niterói, Maracanã Stadium, tour of Rocinha, and the Sambadrome during Carnival.

Best eats: Churrasco (Brazilian barbecue) at Porcão Rio’s, feijoada (the national dish) at Casa da Feijoada, por kilo (Brazilian buffet) at Kilograma or Couve Flor, comida mineira (rustic Brazilian food) at À Mineira, açaí na tigela (frozen açaí) at Bibi Sucos, pork sandwiches at Cervantes, pizza at Mamma Jamma, sushi at Azumi, burgers at Comuna, Brazilian vegan/veg at Vegetariano Social Clube.

Best dranks: Juices at Dona Vitamina or Frutaria Oscar Freire, beers at Espaço Carioquinha or Lapa Café, happy hour at Astor or in the Arcos dos Teles area, views and friends at Bar do Alto, Palaphita Kitch, or Bar Urca.

Best hypes: Any samba school rehearsal, Lapa at night for live Brazilian music and a wild party vibe, upscale partying at 00, LGBT club nights at The Week Rio, Copacabana for New Years (Reveillon) and during Carnival.

Best advice: Remember to be street-smart at all times; leave unnecessary valuables at home. Try to speak a little bit of Portuguese; you’ll make new friends that way. Service in restaurants and other establishments can be slow; try not to let that ruin your trip to one of the world’s most enjoyable cities. Use condoms. Have fun!

And for the ultimate luxury experience in Rio, book an Up in the Air Life adventure today!

Image credit: Christian Haugen via Flickr

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With welcoming cultures, natural and urban wonders, and innumerable experiences to be had, Africa is an inviting, underrated place to visit. Possessing 54 independent countries, each with a complex political, social, and economic history, most places on the continent—in fairness—require US citizens to obtain a visa in advance of any trip. Still, some countries have extended a visa-free* welcome mat that lets Americans simply book and go with passport in-hand, and maybe a pre-trip vaccination or two (after all, in some places, it’s literally a jungle out there). And they’re all no more than one flight connection away from most major American air hubs. It’s time for Africa.

Leopard in Botswana by Gregory Slobirdr Smith via Flickr

Botswana
A nature-lover’s paradise where the river meets the desert, Botswana hosts some of the planet’s oldest landforms and lifeforms. The largest group of Bushmen—who, incidentally, constitute the world’s oldest human civilization—call the country home, roaming the vast Kalahari Desert into which the ancient Okavango River flows. The fertile soils of the resulting delta sustain one of the world’s largest concentrations of game animals, protected by several natural preserves that can be visited by safari.
Fly to Gaborone (GBE) from the USA via Addis Ababa and Johannesburg.

 

Sunset Near Bangui by Afrika Force via Flickr

Central African Republic
Located literally at the heart of the continent, the Central African Republic offers visitors a modest, low-rise capital city with bright marketplace and bustling riverfront, safaris with an immense array of wildlife—including elephants and lowland gorillas—and the lovely, 165-foot-high Boali Waterfalls. Be aware, however, that the country has had more than a few security issues over the past couple of years, leading the State Department to issue a travel warning that has been in effect since April 2016.
Fly to Bangui (BGF) from the USA via Casablanca and Paris.

 

Malabo Harbour by Wapster via Flickr

Equatorial Guinea
Tiny and tropical, this former Spanish colonial enclave has got oil money to spare and gleaming new high-rises and shopping malls to prove it. The capital city, Malabo, is a mix of colonial and modern architectural styles, reflecting its history as a strategic outpost for during the Triangular Trade; Malabo was also a haven for freed slaves during the 19th century. Outside the city, pristine beaches, jungle treks, and the lush Monte Alen National Park on the mainland pack a big punch within a small area.
Fly to Malabo (SSG) from the USA via Casablanca, Frankfurt, and Madrid.

 

Snow in Lesotho by Di Malealea via Flickr

Lesotho
Landlocked and entirely surrounded by the country of South Africa, mountainous Lesotho is called the “Kingdom in the Sky” for good reason. Living in one of the few places on the continent with regular snowfall every winter, the citizens of the kingdom wrap themselves in warm blankets and wear a distinctive conical hat, almost like a crown. Aside from spectacular trekking and horseback riding in dramatic valleys and gorges, Lesotho welcomes visitors with a friendly local culture and a flavor and atmosphere utterly distinct from its more renowned neighbor.
Fly to Maseru (MSU) from the USA via Johannesburg.

 

Essaouira by Caroline Granycome via Flickr

Morocco
One of Africa’s most easily-accessible destinations by virtue of its proximity to the air hubs of Europe, Morocco melds the cultures of Africa and Europe in an exotic, dream-like haze. Buzzing markets, striking architecture, and scrumptious food define cities such as Marrakech, Fez, and Casablanca, while the endless coastline and cool Atlas Mountains provide plenty of opportunity for outdoor diversion. And despite being at one of the world’s oldest crossroads, Moroccans still welcome visitors warmly.
Fly nonstop to Casablanca (CMN) from New York and Washington.

 

Ostriches in Namib Desert by Greg Willis via Flickr

Namibia
Sprawling along the remote, sun-drenched southwestern coast of Africa, Namibia’s ancient landscapes appear more out-of-this-world than down-to-earth. Indeed, the Namib Desert is the oldest on the planet and the country’s Bushmen are among the world’s oldest civilizations. Natural and manmade wonders collide on the Skeleton Coast, littered with the remains of innumerable shipwrecks along the beaches, while Etosha National Park shelters plenty of mammals and reptiles, including the endangered black rhino.
Fly to Windhoek (WDH) from the USA via Addis Ababa, Amsterdam, Doha, Frankfurt, and Johannesburg.

 

Dakar From Ngor by Jeff Attaway via Flickr

Senegal
With a capital city that is one of the most exhilarating and underrated in the world, Senegal serves up a hefty side of sophisticated urban culture along with its beaches and national parks. Dakar’s nightlife, markets, and art scenes are legendary, while historical sites like the “Door of No Return” at Gorée Island and the colonial capital of Saint-Louis harken back to Senegal’s importance during the transatlantic slave trade. Not only are the Senegal’s sites sublime, sunsets from along its 330-mile coastline are spectacular.
Fly nonstop to Dakar (DKR) from New York.

 

The Orbit Jazz Club Johannesburg by South Africa Tourism via Flickr

South Africa
One of the most beautiful countries in the world, South Africa offers up an array of experiences unmatched by any other part of the continent: the urbane pulse of Johannesburg, the natural splendor of Cape Town, the cultural gumbo of Durban, big-game safaris, coastal drives, affordable luxury, and a home-grown house music scene that rivals Baltimore’s and Berlin’s. No wonder one of ZA’s catch phrases is “Better, Together.”
Fly nonstop to Johannesburg (JNB) from Atlanta and New York; fly direct (same-plane w/stop) from Washington.

 

Elder Swazi Warriors by Robert Staudhammer via Flickr

Swaziland
The tiniest country in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, Swaziland packs plenty of experiences within its 6,700 square miles. Traditional Swazi ceremonies and celebrations are held proudly and prominently year-round, culminating in the Umhlanga Festival each August, where young women honor the Queen Mother in full regalia. Safaris and adventure sports also feature high on the country’s to-do list, rendering little Swaziland a memorable place to visit.
Fly to Manzini (SHO) from the USA via Johannesburg.

 

Tunis Sunset by Mashhour Halawani via Flickr

Tunisia
Struggling to recover from two tragic attacks against foreign tourists in 2015, Tunisia still offers broad beaches, thriving marketplaces, and affordable luxury experiences. Many Europeans still book packages to surf and sun destinations, including Monastir and Nabeul, both built on the ruins of settlements from the Roman Empire. The country’s millennia-old history is showcased at the museums and cultural centers of the capital, Tunis, once known as the ancient city of Carthage. Tunisia has indeed been around.
Fly to Tunis (TUN) from the USA via Amsterdam, Barcelona, Casablanca, Frankfurt, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, and Rome.

 

*Visa requirements are always subject to change. Check the US Department of State website for the most current requirements for US citizens.

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Today, I joined the good folks at Up In the Air Life, luxury excursion planners extraordinaire, for a four-day cruise along the Upper Nile River from Luxor to Aswan amid some of Ancient Egypt’s most spectacular sites. Aboard the five-star Sun Boat IV, operated by Sanctuary Retreats, a group of 66 adventurous American travelers mix relaxation with exploration, tackling the striking Temple of Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, the impactful Temple of Horus, while enjoying sumptuous meals, friendly service, and, yes, a DJ imported from New York. After the cruise, we’ll participate in a fabulous last-night all-white affair at Le Meridien Cairo’s elegant Sequoia Restaurant before returning to the States. Full disclosure: Up In the Air Life is covering my participation in the trip, but don’t think I can be easily swayed from writing the truth.

Be sure to follow my dispatches from the road—or rio, rather—here at Fly Brother and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

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This week, I’ll be heading east for an eclectic, exciting three-week sojourn to England, South Africa, and Egypt. The trip is ostensibly for work—I’ve got a media event happening in each place—but there’s obviously a bit of fun to be had as well. Here’s the rundown…

Transit Brunch in NYC with Oneika the Traveller
On Friday, I stop through the Big Apple en route from Miami to London just long enough to catch up with my girl Oneika the Traveller, who, probably against her better judgment, agreed to be a guest on the Fly Brother Radio Show. You can catch the episode this Saturday morning at 10AM Eastern on the Ndustry Entertainment Network.

World Travel Market in London
From Saturday til Tuesday, I’ll be hanging out in Londontowne at the biggest B2B travel fair on the planet, World Travel Market. There will be hobnobbing and schmoozing with tourism bureaus and travel companies from around the world, but also with journalists, bloggers, travelers, and the bartenders and waitstaff, too. It’s a great place for interaction and networking with decision makers in the travel industry, and the event is free.

Victoria Dock by Bill Tyne via Flickr
Victoria Dock from ExCeL London by Bill Tyne via Flickr

Essence Fest in Durban
After WTM and a few afternoons connecting with England-based friends, I’ll head down to the city of the Southern sun, Durban. The first international edition of the Essence Music Festival is happening there next week, which I’ll be covering for the Fly Brother Radio Show. Still, Durbs has other charms, including an intense culinary scene centered around Indian cuisine and a lengthy history as the center of Zulu culture. Quietly, sun-splashed Durban is one of my favorite cities in Africa.

central-durban-by-ernest-white-ii
Central Durban by Ernest White II

Nile River Cruise from Luxor to Aswan
Finally, I head due north to Luxor, site of the historic Egyptian city of Thebes and home to some of the greatest preserved temples and monuments of Ancient Egypt. From there, I’ll sail into Upper Egypt with a group of fly folks on a multiday Nile River cruise organized by travel collective Up in the Air Life, covering the trip in words and images here at FLY, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The cruise ends with a stop in the venerable market town of Aswan before I continue on to chaotic Cairo and home.

temple-of-luxor-by-vasenkaphotography-via-flickr
Temple of Luxor by VasenkaPhotography via Flickr

Be sure to follow along on all the social medias! Have you ever been to any of these places?

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In Venezuela, the Médanos de Coro fan across the northern coast of Falcón state like a scarf in a perpetual breeze. Rippling, undulating, incessantly moving waves of sand rise and fall with the crest and trough of every dune. Grains of sand sparkle in the tropical sun as the expanse of tan and beige and gold stretches toward the horizon, broken only occasionally by fingers of bright green shrubs in interstitial spaces where plants took root before the rainwater could dry. The Médanos lap dangerously at the edge of the crumbling town of Santa Ana de Coro, threatening to swallow the place grain by grain just as the sands of time swallowed the Colombian village of Macondo. Or did that only happen in a book?

Medanos de Coro _ Ernest White II

Medanos de Coro 1 _ Ernest White II

Medanos de Coro 2 _ Ernest White II

Medanos de Coro 3 _ Ernest White II

Medanos de Coro 4 _ Ernest White II

 

The Médanos de Coro begin just north of the town of Santa Ana de Coro, Venezuela, located three hours east of Maracaibo by bus. American Airlines flies nonstop to Maracaibo (MAR) from Miami.

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The beauty of Stockholm is most vivid in the city’s quiet interstices: the shush of an electric blue pendeltåg as it shoots down the railroad track and into a tunnel, the muted hum of designer baby stroller wheels on concrete, the hush of smoke wafting from a cup of coffee caressed in slender, pale fingers. Yes, train horns wail, babies cry, and coffee drinkers chat, but the quietness that permeates the noise in the Swedish capital wraps around you like a blanket against the Nordic air, something warm and sustaining, not stifling.

I experienced this quiet riot first hand, going into a local supermarket for a few grocery items—mjölk for my tea and coffee, and smör with which to cook the eggs and spread on the Wasa multigrain crackers I was also buying. Sweden has several different thicknesses of milk, the least desirable of which, in my opinion, having the consistency of Elmer’s Glue. But I’d learned the names of milk with acceptable levels of viscosity years ago and asked the tall, fashion-forward stockboy where I could find some in the well-stocked but shoebox-sized store. I prefaced my question with a humble, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Swedish,” and he prefaced his response a quiet, reassuring smile completely unexpected from a person under 30. I sensed a combination of pride in his own English proficiency and the surprise of an encounter with a wayward American with a voice vaguely reminiscent of Will Smith’s (so I’ve been told).

Once I scored the right milk, the stockboy peeked around the corner to ask if I’d found everything I needed, his calm, bright solicitousness another example of the quiet beauty that undergirds life in the north. He made me feel welcome in his store, his city, his country, as did the many other newsstand cashiers, coffee baristas, restaurant waiters, postal clerks, and airport bus service reps with whom I interacted in the city. Those quiet spaces between words are when the welcome is warmest.

That is the beauty of Stockholm.

 

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
Fly | Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN) | nonstops from the USA on Delta, Norwegian, SAS, United
Eat | The Hairy Pig or Stockholms Gastabud (Swedish) | Chili Masala (Indian) | Farang (East Asian)
Stay | First – Nobis Hotel | Biz – Lydmar Hotel | Econ – Ånedin Hostel
See | Gamla Stan, Djurgården, Fotografiska, Historiska Museet, the Stockholm Archipelago
Play | Summer: Trädgården and Patricia for clubbing | Year-round: music and/or dancing at Södra Teatern, Stampen, Fasching, Marie Laveau, Bambaataa Bambaataa at Le Bon Palais, The Can Jam at the Hard Rock Café

 

Image by Thomas Fabian via Flickr.

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An hour south of Geneva, where the Swiss Alps meet the French Alps, lies the splendid little city of Annecy. In winter, Annecy’s lake—opaque and unfrozen—reflects snowy peaks down which the begoggled and besweatered whoosh on skis, powered by adrenaline and hot chocolate. But in summer, Annecy itself is the attraction, its lake sparkling and turquoise in the bright Alpine sun, its winding streets humming with tourists from Lyon or Paris, yes, but also with first-year university students from Metz, middle-aged café owners who au paired in New York, pensioners who remember the end of the war, young professionals who commute to day jobs in Switzerland.

Laced with narrow canals, flower-lined palisades, sidewalk cafés, and arcaded boutiques, Annecy’s old quarter looks picture perfect. The preserved, ship-like island prison, the wrought-iron balconies above the pavement, and the commanding Château d’Annecy seem almost Disneyfied in their perfection. But that appearance is only because of the pride the residents take in making sure their town is attractive to visitors and residents alike, a pride which seeps into pleasant, warm interactions that feel downright quaint when held against Parisian aloofness: Anneciens are glad you’re here.

With the opulent L’Impérial Palace hotel and casino crowning its northern extremity, the lake of Annecy becomes the town’s locus of activity during the daytime, especially when the sun is shining: renting a bike or a kayak is the only way to soak in the vibrant energy of the lake, if you don’t know anyone with a catamaran or motorboat. In the evenings, regional French and international cuisines entice hungry diners into intimate eateries and a mix of cocktail lounges, wine bars, and sports bars keep the libations pouring and the interaction lively. Don’t worry if your French is rusty or non-existent; Annecy’s a great place to pick up a few French kisses, I mean, phrases. 😉 And before you go, stop by Chez Apo for a tasty kebab—owners Beatrice and Apo will take good care of you.

Annecy (pronounced ‘an-SEE’), France, is located 22 miles south of Geneva, Switzerland. Fly into GVA non-stop from North America via Air Canada, Swiss International Air Lines, or United Airlines, then take the bus or popular rideshare service to Annecy.

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Table Mountain, Cape Town

“I live in the most beautiful city in the world,” said my buddy Rob, a long-time expat American living in Cape Town. He’s been saying this, in one way or another, for the past several years. And it only took until this year for me to visit and, sooner rather than later, for me to agree with him.

Cape Town spills around the bottom of Africa, just north of where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, so far away as to be on another planet. Table Mountain and Lion’s Head and Cape Point stand, alternately shrouded and ominous or windswept and proud, testifying to the city’s singular place in the world and daring any other pretenders to make themselves known.

Yet despite this singularity of place, Cape Town recalls at once California and Florida and the Caribbean and the Mediterranean and Rio de Janeiro and Savannah: the arid mountains, the pastel buildings and turquoise waters, the lingering sun and undulating landscape, the laid-back atmosphere, the luxury hotels and marinas full of yachts, the unresolved social inequality and unearned entitlement hard-baked into the South African soil, a Southern soil if there ever was one.

The secret to Cape Town’s beauty isn’t that it is so immediately apparent; it’s the elements of the familiar and the unique that reveal the city’s kaleidoscopic aura. I sensed this aura on the rocky flats atop Table Mountain and in the sapphire surf that plays on the beach at Sea Point. I sensed it on the buzzing commercial strips of Bo-Kaap and Brooklyn, districts containing all the various and new South Africas, where the intrepid shopper could procure any good or service, legal or otherwise. I sensed it in laughter- and light-filled conversations with Xhosa radio DJs and Afrikaner waiters, Coloured publicists and Indian receptionists, French journalists and American models, portending, possibly, nascent lifelong friendships.

Which brings me back to Rob, who I’ve known for a decade. Well-versed in my cultural and intellectual leanings, he’s been championing South Africa to me for years, even as I moved to other continents. But it only took a single fantastical moment, stepping off of Rob’s porch at twilight, Table Mountain looming black and matte against a watercolor sky, for Cape Town to prove him right. He lives in the most beautiful city in the world.

—–

Oh yeah, did I mention that I went to Cape Town Fashion Week, and associated parties?
🙂