Hagia Sophia – The World’s Most Amazing Building

Massive interior of Hagia Sophia

Not so coincidentally, my favorite building in the world is in my favorite city in the world. Hagia Sophia, consecrated in 537 A.D., is one of the architectural greats. Considered simultaneously the greatest construction of late antiquity as well as the Byzantine world, Hagia Sophia reigned supreme as the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years until the construction of the Cathedral of Seville. In reality, there was nothing in the entire world that could compete with it from an architectural standpoint. (And there still isn’t in my mind.)

The Ottomans did their best to out-construct the wonder sitting in their backyard. And if we are talking about exteriors only, many would argue they succeeded with the Blue Mosque. But nothing compares with the cavernous interior of Hagia Sophia. There is something magical about the construction and the light, which clearly comes through in photographs; it almost looks computer generated. The building fills me with awe every time I see it.

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Plan your Visit to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper

Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper in Milan

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is arguably the second most famous painting in the world after the other da Vinci masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. The superstar 15th-century mural is probably the most duplicated painting on the planet. It shows up on posters, placemats, calendars, mouse pads and any other flat surface humanity can print a picture on. It’s everywhere, and it has become one of Milan’s most famous attractions. For that reason, The Last Supper tickets are in high demand. Unfortunately, many visitors never get to see this artwork.

Access to The Last Supper is strictly limited to protect the fragile painting. Entry is only allowed every 15 minutes with a maximum of 30 people at any given time. This means visitors must pre-book online well in advance to secure a spot to see it. Continue…

The Complete Guide to Hiking Torres del Paine

UPDATED Nov. 2019: A lot has changed since we visited Torres del Paine in 2015. Trekkers doing the O and Q circuit can only hike counterclockwise, and all campsites and refugios need to be booked in advance including the free CONAF campsites. Note that Campamento Torres will still be closed during the 2019/2020 season due to maintenance. Read on for more details.

After several months of indulging in amazing luxury experiences in Peru and Argentina, Tony and I were craving a good challenge and decided to hike the O circuit around the Torres del Paine Massif. It had been way too long since we did a multi-day trek on our own, so hiking Patagonia without a guide was just what the doctor ordered. Continue…

Trujillo – Pyramids, Plazas and Playas

Huaca Arco Iris

As we mentioned in our post on Caral, much of northern Peru is gloriously neglected by the country’s mass tourism. It’s a vast area filled with colonial towns, great food and the crumbling remnants of unknown ancient cultures. It’s an adventurer’s paradise waiting to be explored.

As we bused north on the paved Pan-American highway to Trujillo, the number of seductive dirt tracks luring travelers off the road to remote archaeological sites was almost too much to bear. We passed a number of remote ruins which I would have loved to visit including Paramonga, the fortress of Chanquillo, and Sechin. Thank god for visa limitations, or Thomas and I would be here for another six months combing the desert, side valleys and mountains for hidden treasures.

But it’s just a fact of life, there is no way to see everything in Peru because this country is overwhelmed with world-class Continue…

Iguazu Falls – Which Side is Better, Argentina or Brazil?

Iguazu Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. Almost twice as tall as Niagara Falls and only rivaled by Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls, the jaw-dropping Iguazu Falls leaves even the most seasoned travelers in awe (and yes, I’m talking about us). The 82-meter-high cascades of foaming water span an incredible width of 2.7 kilometers. At any one time, there are between 150 and 300 falls depending on the water level. Witnessing the power and noise of the falling water shrouded in perpetual mist is an unforgettable experience, an experience made even better by the incredible Continue…

20 Fun Things to Do in New Zealand

Mitre Peak Milford Sound, New Zealand

Although we’ve been traveling for decades, we have never made it to New Zealand. It’s simply inexcusable. Considering the island nation screams adventure travel, it just doesn’t make sense. We love glaciers, beaches, wildlife and epic landscapes, so New Zealand is the ultimate dream destination. The fact is, we just haven’t gotten around to it.

To give ourselves a little nudge, we have come up with a bucket list of 20 great things to do in New Zealand. Continue…

Things to Do in Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Grandmother and granddaughter at Tambomachay near Cusco

Many tourists whoosh through Cusco and the Sacred Valley on a whirlwind itinerary which leaves their heads spinning. While some might be content to shoot through as they tick off items on their bucket list, Peru’s most famous city and its surrounding valleys offer up a virtual smorgasbord of activities for those with longer attention spans.

During our more than two months in the area, we’ve had some time to get acquainted with not-so-little Qosq’o (Quechua name). What we’ve discovered is one of South America’s most unique and appealing towns in one of the continent’s most unique and appealing regions. No wonder UNESCO declared Cusco a World Heritage Site. Here’s just a tiny sample of all the great things to do in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Continue…

The Five Best Day Trips from Madrid

Day trips from Madrid: Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain

Madrid as a destination far exceeded our expectations. After spending three weeks in Spain’s booming capital, we were completely hooked on one of Europe’s most enjoyable cities. Not only are there millions of things to do in Madrid itself, the city offers easy access to all kinds of attractions in the surrounding countryside. If you love walled towns, medieval castles, and Roman ruins all with an accent of Castile, Madrid is the perfect hub to kick back and do some day-tripping.

While most of the more popular destinations can be reached by public transportation, renting a car in Madrid will give you a lot more flexibility and comfort. From our experience, car rentals in Spain are particularly easy and affordable. During our time in Madrid, we did five different day trips to nearby towns, all recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So without further ado, here’s our list of the five best day trips from Madrid, including our personal favorites. Continue…

Kyoto Autumn Leaves: Japan’s Most Colorful Season

Kyoto autumn leaves at the Eikando Temple

I’ll admit that our trip to Japan was a bit last minute, but that doesn’t mean our timing was totally random. For years, we’ve been wanting to experience one of the country’s most stunning natural spectacles, the Technicolor fall foliage season. Autumn leaves? Don’t you mean cherry blossoms?

No, while most Westerners associate the country with the world famous spring cherry blossoms, many Asian tourists are equally drawn to Japan’s gorgeous fall colors, which for religious and cultural reasons have become something quite unlike anything else on the planet. Continue…

The Ultimate Guide to the Perito Moreno Glacier & Los Glaciares National Park South

 Los Glaciares National Park: View over the Perito Moreno Glacier

After our adventure tours of the world’s greatest ice flows in Antarctica and Tierra del Fuego, our latest destination is the superstar of Patagonian ice, the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier. Located in the southern reaches of Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park, the Perito Moreno Glacier is famous for its very active calving; and even better, visitors can get up-close and personal with all the action. And while the Perito Moreno Glacier might steal the spotlight, there are several other up-and-coming starlet glaciers that will literally take your breath away. Continue…