Fantasy Friday – Beauty has an Address: Oman

Yep – that’s the saying on the official tourism site for Oman. And wow, does it ever look beautiful there. I mean WOW!

Here’s my agenda, someone please book it for me? And pay? Thanks!

1. Bandar Khayran Reserve

This reserve is at a distance of 30-40 minutes by boat from Bandar Al Rawdha Marina, located in the heart of Muscat. The boat ride is made even more pleasurable with the accompaniment of some dolphins which swim alongisde the boats. As a visitor, you’ll enjoy seeing the rocky mountains and the white-washed small houses that overlook the majestic sea. You’ll also pass Al Bustan Palace Hotel and Barr Al Jissah Spa.

Coral reefs permeate the Bandar Al Khayran waters, considered home to many diverse organisms and fish. The place is abuzz with divers, especially with the presence of more than 22 diving locations, each with its own charm and beauty.

2. Hawiyat Najm Park

The park is situated in the Dabab area of Wilayat Qurayat, Muscat Governorate, and can be reached via the road linking Qurayat to Sur. It is a deep natural depression filled with water, called Hawiyat Najm.  The locals say that a meteor fell on this spot of land, resulting in the natural depression and forming a small lake.

3. Old Muscat

Reminds me of Matera, Italy

Old Muscat is located along Muttrah Corniche from Port Sultan Qaboos to Al Bustan Beach, while passing through Muscat.

When you set foot in Muscat, you’ll be swept over by a feeling of love and exhilarating joie de vivre as every inch of Muscat relates to its visitors an ancient tale of love between man and the Sea of Oman.

Muscat is surrounded by a wall on its southern and western sides. The wall, with its round towers, was built in 1625, while the mountains and the Gulf of Oman have remained its natural walls to the north and east.

Muttrah Corniche is coastal road which connects Muttrah through Gate, Muscat Gate Museum and the old neighbourhoods.

More photos of Oman’s beauty:

 

 

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The “Swiss Riviera”

Yes, Switzerland has mountains.  And cows.  And chocolate.  But it also has something else, that is lesser-known:  a little bit of Italy!  Switzerland is composed of 26 cantons (like provinces or states), most of which are German-speaking (swiss german, that is), some of which are French-speaking, but only ONE of which is solely Italian-speaking.  That is the canton of Ticino (or Tessin, in French).  I have had the fortune of visiting this beautiful canton twice, and I would jump at the chance to go again.  It is a wonderful combination of Italy and Switzerland – mountains, delicious food, warm weather, palm trees (!), and just all-round gorgeous.  As my descriptions clearly fall short, I will let the photos speak for themselves:

A sidewalk terrace in Locarno, Switzerland.

Polenta, being cooked outside in a big copper pot.  I had mine with Gorgonzola cheese – mmm!
 Flora from one of the Islands of Brissago near Ascona, Switzerland.  Take the local ferry to get there!  Here is a particularly interesting flower I saw:
The view of Lago Maggiore and the Alps (from Locarno) – does it get any better?
 Waiting for the ferry (to go to Ascona)…
I ate that delicious polenta with this superb view – no wonder it was so good!
 A little local culture – there was a Rolls Royce club meeting while we were there.
Another shot of lovely Ascona, Switzerland.
 You need to take a short funicular ride above Locarno to see this monastery – well worth it!
On the way to the Val Verzasca for a hike, we stopped at this huge dam, and yes, it was used in the James Bond film Golden-Eye! (Apparently – haven’t seen it…)  If you are a thrill-seeker, you can bungee jump off the dam…
This is a photo from our hike down the valley of Verzasca – this was a fantastic hike.  We took a bus up the valley and then hiked back down.
The aqua colour of the River Verzasca – it’s as chilly as it looks!

As you can see there is a lot to be seen in Ticino, Switzerland.  Go explore!

You must (fon)due this hike!

This is a hike I have had the privilege of doing twice, and it is not far from Neuchâtel, Switzerland, where I live.  In this hike, you essentially hike up and down what is called the “Creux du Van”.  The Creux du Van is a huge rock formation (apparently called a rock “cirque”:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creux_du_Van) that you spend a tough 30-45 minutes hiking straight up, followed by a leisurely hike down (1-2 hours).  Here is a link describing the hike:  http://activityworkshop.net/hiking/switzerland/creuxduvan.html . It is describing a slightly longer hike (don’t be thrown off – it doesn’t take 7 hours as it is listed!!!)

Despite the difficult hike up (known for its 13 switchbacks – believe me, you count them as you go) the view you are rewarded with (if there’s no fog) is stunning!  Not only that, but you are also greeted by the sound of swiss cow bells, because there are a few farms up top.  After the hike you can stop at Ferme Robert for a classic Swiss dish – cheese fondue!  Not a bad way to finish it all off, I can assure you.  Eat your fondue one of the typical ways, with a nice cup of hot tea.  Ferme Robert even has a little natural history museum upstairs, if you’re not already sold by their cheesy specialty!  (http://www.ferme-robert.ch/)
Here are a few photos I took on my first hike (the weather was so foggy the second time, I didn’t bother taking any):
Happy Monday!

northkate