Colourful Norwegian dive sites hold their own with the tropics

Colourful Norwegian dive sites hold their own with the tropicsBergen, Norway - Diving trainees should read no further. "You can have tanks and lights," said Ove Glenjen of Nemo Classic Diving, the diving centre at the marina in Grimstad, a suburb of Bergen on Norway's fjord coast. "We don't want to know what you do with them."

Wilderness adventures in Sweden's Abisko National Park

Abisko, Sweden - The blackish-blue river gurgled its way to the valley. Birch leaves shone bright green, and crimson lichen clung to a granite boulder. The evening sun still hung high in an azure sky as a campfire crackled. A resting hiker, wreathed in smoke, poked at his baking potato.

The wilderness in Abisko National Park, 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, is idyllic. Sweden established the park in 1909, the year it became the first European country to enact nature conservation laws. To mark the centennial, Sweden has declared 2009 the Year of Nature.

Jutland's west coast: Sand, surf and (sometimes) perfect summer days

Henne Strand, Denmark  - The wind had shifted to south-west overnight and a stiff breeze bent the grasses in Henne Strand's dunescape. Wind-whipped white clouds galloped, in an unending herd, high above the North Sea to Denmark's west coast. Their shadows flitted over the mounds of sand. On this Sunday afternoon, though, the sun definitely had the upper hand.

The surf pounded the packed sand where a young woman and her daughter struggled to get a kite flying. Several beach strollers, in shorts and barefoot, watched until the kite had climbed into the sky.

Map allows fans to trace venues in writer Stieg Larsson's trilogy

Map allows fans to trace venues in writer Stieg Larsson's trilogy Stockholm - A new map allows fans of the late Swedish writer and journalist Stieg Larsson's best-selling thriller novels to trace venues in Stockholm used as a backdrop in the trilogy.

The map is marked with some of the places in the Swedish capital linked to Larsson's protagonists journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander.

Asia's Pamir Highway: an insider tip to "the roof of the world"

Khorugh, Tajikistan  - The air tasted dusty and Tajik folk music blared from the Russian-built, all-terrain Lada, which was bumping along Central Asia's Pamir Highway with seven passengers at 30 kph. Glacier massifs towered above, and the stony desert had a sprinkling of yurts.

While tourists swarm over the neighbouring Himalayas, not many have heard of the Pamir Highway, an insider tip among mountain lovers.

Averaging 4,000 metres in height, the Pamirs, known as "the roof of the world," are the second-highest mountainous area in the world. They are situated mainly in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan, and extend into China, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. Many peaks exceed 7,000 metres.

St Lucia: a banana-flavoured Caribbean delight

St Lucia: a banana-flavoured Caribbean delightCastries, Saint Lucia  - Just about everything grows luxuriantly in St Lucia. Children heading to school pick mangoes and papayas from trees along the way. On the banana plantations, stems bend under the weight of thick clusters of fruit. Banana ketchup, sweet and spicy, is a popular souvenir for visitors to the Caribbean country, one of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.

Visiting the old outback haunts of an Aboriginal water colourist

Alice Springs, Australia  - Aboriginal art to many tourists in Australia means paintings on bare rock and the Rainbow Serpent creation myth rendered in rich colours with the dot technique. Aborigines and watercolours hardly seem to go together.

But Albert Namatjira, who ranks as one of the most significant Aboriginal artists, painted the outback in beautiful watercolours. The 50th anniversary of his death falls on August 8 this year - a good reason to visit his old haunts in the West MacDonnell Ranges near Alice Springs which is the heart of arid Central Australia, or the "Red Centre."

Nature tours in green, wet London

London  - It does not take long before a little canal water splashes into your lap. Your arms are already wet. At this point, Winston Churchill's legendary prescription for long life comes to mind: "No sports!"

If you set out to explore London by kayak with Danny Gillard, you cannot expect the kind of comfort you would get in a Venetian gondola as you have to handle the vessel yourself. That, however, is the appeal of Gillard's Thames River Adventures, which show the English capital from angles completely different from those found in travel guides.

Manipur hosts Tourism festival 2009

Manipur hosts Tourism festival 2009Imphal, April 28: People in militant-prone Manipur had a pleasant change attending the recently held Tourism Festival 2009 here, which highlighted the rich culture of the state while giving a fillip to its tourism sector.

The ten-day Tourism Festival attracted a large number of people from within the State and neighbouring areas of the region.

Foreign counties like Thailand, Myanmar, Pakistan and Vietnam also participated in the festival showcasing their unique indigenous products.

Moscow looks remarkably familiar - but mind your p's and h's

Moscow looks remarkably familiar - but mind your p's and h'sMoscow  - The letter "f" looks like an upright line with two ears, "h" stands for "n" and "p" for a rolled "r". Visitors to Moscow have to get to grips with the basics of the Cyrillic alphabet, if they want to make the most of their stay.

It may sound daunting, but it is a modest hurdle to take and most visitors should encounter few difficulties in the Russian capital, a city which has a very familiar feel to it, especially to western Europeans.

Italy's elegant Forte dei Marmi still lures the jet set

Italy's elegant Forte dei Marmi still lures the jet setForte dei Marmi  - At the turn of the century, the Tuscan coastal town of Forte dei Marmi became hugely popular with artists, aristocrats and intellectuals from all over Europe.

Moroccan city of Meknes offers a trip back in time

Moroccan city of Meknes offers a trip back in timeMeknes, Morocco  - Surrounded by peacefully undulating green hills, the northern Moroccan city of Meknes offers travellers a trip back in time in the framework of imperial grandeur.

Located on the edge of the Atlas mountains, the city of nearly 1 million residents is lesser known as a tourist destination than Marrakech, Agadir or Fez.

It is, however, becoming increasingly popular among visitors to the north African kingdom where their numbers have doubled to about 8 million annually since 2001.

SAS to test mobile phone boarding pass

SAS to test mobile phone boarding pass Stockholm - The SAS Group, operator of the joint carrier Scandinavian Airlines, has launched a trial service allowing passengers to check-in and obtain a boarding pass using only their mobile phone.

Passengers flying between airports in Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Helsinki, London Heathrow, Oslo, Stavanger and Stockholm can use the trial service from April to July 1, the group said.

"Currently, approximately 10 per cent of SAS passengers check in via (text message) SMS," Lars Sandahl Sorensen of SAS said.

Kerala shrine attracts millions during festive season

Kerala shrine attracts millions during festive seasonMalayatoor (Kerala), Apr 25: The St. Thomas International hill shrine in Kerala''s Malayatoor is a symbol of communal harmony as it attracts millions of devotees from all religions during the festival season.

During April and May, people from all age groups and religions carry a wooden cross to share the pain and hardships that Jesus went through the way to crusification at Mount Calvary.

Jaipur restaurant sends out social messages with mouth-watering dishes

Jaipur restaurant sends out social messages with mouth-watering dishesJaipur, Apr 25: A restaurant in Jaipur has initiated an awareness drive to motivate people to exercise their franchise in the ongoing elections.

The restaurant, ''Virasat'' apart from offering mouth-watering dishes, sends a unique mind-boggling social message with each dish served to its guests.

There is a separate team of cooks in this restaurant which makes special dishes and garnishes the message on the top of a delicacy which says "Cast Your Vote" and "Vote Do".

Singapore's visitor arrivals tumble 13 per cent in March

Singapore's visitor arrivals tumble 13 per cent in MarchSingapore - Visitor arrivals in Singapore tumbled 13.2 per cent year-on-year in March to 790,000 as the global economic crisis puts the brakes on the city state's tourism industry, the Singapore Tourism Board said Thursday.

However, the decline was not as sharp as in February when visitor arrivals in Singapore fell 15.2 per cent to 689,000, the lowest number in four years.

Tourism festival organised in Manipur

Tourism festival organised in ManipurImphal, Apr 22: The ten-day long Manipur Tourism Festival 2009, organised by the state''s tourism department, witnessed a significant participation of visitors from across the country and abroad.

The festival, which concluded on Tuesday, was aimed at highlighting the art and culture of northeast Manipur state.

Visitors from Thailand, Pakistan, Vietnam and Myanmar expressed great enthusiasm and contributed actively to the festival.

Jim Csuthathip Thavesuk, a stall owner from Thailand hoped that she would get a good response in this festival.

Scotch whisky festival marks 10th anniversary

Scotch whisky festival marks 10th anniversaryAberlour, Scotland  - The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival in north-east Scotland is marking its 10th anniversary this year with an expanded programme, Ros Lewis, the festival's coordinator, said in Aberlour.

She noted that the festival, from May 1-10, would be twice as long as usual. Its approximately 350 whisky-inspired events will range from whisky workshops and art exhibitions to cooking shows with the theme "whisky and food."

Skating-mad Dutch mark centennial of Eleven Cities Tour

Skating-mad Dutch mark centennial of Eleven Cities TourLeeuwarden, Netherlands  - The pride of Friesland, a northern province of the Netherlands, is a cross - the Eleven Cities Cross, to be precise. Arend Hansma, a 60-year-old Frisian, is among those who have been awarded one after reaching the finish line of the Elfstedetocht or Eleven Cities Tour, the world's toughest ice-skating marathon.

Jordanian reefs in Gulf of Aqaba a feast for divers' eyes

Aqaba  - Your heart beats faster as the shadowy object appears before you in the deep blue Red Sea - first the outlines of the bow, then the superstructures and mast pointing diagonally toward the water's surface, and finally the rail, overgrown with corals and sponges.

The Lebanese freighter Cedar Pride is lying on its port side in the Gulf of Aqaba like a beached whale, a feast for the eyes of wreck divers. It is the biggest gem in Jordan's glittering crown of reefs, which is what King Abdullah II, then Jordan's crown prince, probably imagined it would be when he had the damaged ship deliberately sunk in 1985.

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