Monday, 31 October 2016

Iran - The Gem of the Middle East

Just some of the stunning architectural detailing

Iran. Often when you mention to a friend or family member that you plan to travel there or have an interest to, it is often met with WHY? Unfortunately many people think of Iran as dangerous and part of the ‘Axis of Evil’ thanks to the media and frosty relations with the US and West. However, nothing could be so far from truth when experiencing one of the oldest nations and cultures in history.

First of all, let’s talk about the incredible hospitality and generosity of the Iranian people. This is probably the first thing most visitors mention when describing their travels around Iran. Iranians are some of, if not the most, friendliest and most-welcoming people to encounter in your travels. This makes a huge difference when travelling in a foreign land, and it is these genuine interactions with locals that really stick with you.

Secondly, the culture and history is probably one of the most richest the world. From ancient Zoroastrian temples, Achaemenid Empire ruins (Persepolis being the highlight), centuries-old Islamic architecture and Silk Road towns, plus the natural beauty of the mountains - there is so much to see!

You will be rewarded generously by pushing past the stereotypes that most people have of Iran. Not only will the incredible sights blow you away, but so to the Iranian people. For all your Iran travel information contact Blue Dot Travel.

Book your trip to Iran with Blue Dot! Click here.

Location of Iran

Ancient Persepolis
Iran is filled with stunning architecture

The elaborate tile work never fails to catch the eye and impress

Mixing it with the locals for tea or coffee is a must

A traditional Persian house and garden

Yazd skyline


Bam Citadel
The perfect combination of tradition and modernity

Monday, 24 October 2016

The Tribes of the Omo Valley, Ethiopia

Karo tribes people


The Omo Valley, in the remote south-west of Ethiopia, is a vast river basin fringed in the far distance by mountains. Life here has largely stood still.  No Ethiopia trip is complete without visiting the Omo. 

There are a number of tribes in the region living a subsistence life with their cattle, goats and some basic crops.   Most of the zebu cattle use the dry river beds as highways to and from the Omo, which has the only flowing water in the region.

The villages for the Karo and Hamar tribes are divided into family compounds, surrounded by fences made from sticks and thorn bush. If a man has more than one wife, the wives share a house while he lives in a separate dwelling.

The distinctions between people from the Karo, Hamar and Dassanech tribes in dress and ornamentation are fascinating, and their behaviour is largely unchanged over hundreds of years. Customs vary between the tribal groups, but it seems that boys get some schooling while girls are completely uneducated by our standards.

The Karo men go in for white ochre face and body painting. Both sexes pierce under their lower lips to insert a feather or a piece of wood or metal. Boys are presented with a Kalashnikov when they reach a certain age, to defend their families against lions and those rascally tribesmen across the river. Bare breasts and chests are the norm.

The women of the Hamar tribe are unselfconscious, and hold themselves proudly aware of their sexuality. They love their bead work, and wear asymmetrical skirts made from tanned goatskin. The older girls and women wear their hair in a helmet style, with a multitude of twisted ringlets anointed with a mixture of butter and red ochre.

Most of the men wear abbreviated hip wraps, and they sport a number of head and neck ornaments. The men carve small stools our of acacia wood. These also serve as head rests at night. It’s common to see a Hamar man carrying his rifle over his shoulder with his stool/pillow dangling from his hand.

Your Ethiopia trip will be filled with memorable experiences. 

Book your trip to Ethiopia especially for Timkat festival with Blue Dot! Click here.

The Omo Valley

Karo tribesmen                                     Dugout canoes on the Omo River

Typical thatched round houses made from acacia wood
Karo tribesmen sitting on wooden stool which doubles as their pillow when they sleep

Oh how the Karo men like to dress up

Hamar tribe woman

Mursi Tribe

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Nuraghes from prehistoric Sardinian culture


No one can visit Sardinia without becoming aware of the island’s ancient Nuraghes, built between 1500-1200 BC. They are Bronze Age circular towers built with local rock without mortar of any form. We visited the Nuraghe Losa which contains a tall inner chamber that tapers like the bee hive tombs in ancient Greece. Originally it would have had a second chamber above it, and a terrace circling the top of the tower. 

Unfortunately local builders over the centuries have used Nuraghes as a quarry. What survived was buried in soil and bushes. These mounds are slowly being excavated, with an estimated 7,000 Nuraghes in Sardinia. The larger Nuraghes had secondary towers and were surrounded by the circular foundations of huts. The bigger complexes look rather like ancient castles.

Where you have villages you also have cemeteries. In the case the Nuragic people they had communal burials once thought to be Giants’ Tombs because of their length. Some speculate that the tombs were built on sites of special power designed to improve well-being. Although one could be sceptical about how such powers could assist the well-being of the dead. 

I have to admit that my lower back felt considerably more flexible after about ten minutes propping up the stone at the false entrance to the tomb.   

Why not take advantage of our private Sardinia vacation packages or join one of our small group tours.

Book your trip to Sardinia, plus Corsica and Malta with Blue Dot! Click here.

Map of Sardinia

 One of the 7,000+ nuraghes discovered on Sardinia
 Looking for somewhere interesting for a wedding?

The typical shape of a nuraghe is a truncated cone

The nuraghe interior is lined with smaller stones
Nuraghes are the main type of ancient megalithic edifice in Sardinia

 There is no consensus on the function of nuraghes

The origin of the word nuraghe is uncertain and disputed

The size of the stones diminishes with the nuraghe's height

Each nuraghe contains tonnes of stones

The tallest nuraghes stood 25-30 metres

These sturdy structures stand only by virtue of the weight of the stones

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Sado Island - Japan's most precious gem


Sado Island, one of Japan’s smaller islands, is rarely visited by the European Tourist. In fact, it’s very difficult to find anyone – even in the hotels – who speak anything other than Japanese. And this is one of the island’s charms – it’s unspoilt.  Japan tourism is booming and this is one of the unique destinations Blue Dot Travel take you to.

After travelling by shinkansen (fast train) from our previous destination, we arrived by a one hour Jetfoil boat ride to cover the 70kms from the mainland to the port of Ryotsu on Sado Island. Our traditional Azuma Ryokan hotel was an hour by bus from the port.

The island is famous for its traditional taiko drums. They come in a great variety of sizes, and the Kodo taiko group has achieved international acclaim. Two of the drums are hollowed out sections of an enormous 600 year old tree. You’d need to be fit and energetic to do justice to these drum specimens.

The island’s coastline is very rugged, showing evidence of its volcanic nature. The tiny port of Shukunegi is a case in point. Once an important trading and ship building centre, an up-thrust of jagged rocks during an earthquake rendered it useless as a port. Now it is best known as an historic village with quaint wooden buildings.

A half day trip to the gold and silver mine was definitely worth the visit. It is no longer operating, ceasing all works in the 1980’s but the display of the Edo era tunnels and workings is very well exhibited. It’s hard to imagine what the workers endured but the museum gives you an insight!

Back to Tokyo – where we started - was the final destination. Our finale included dinner with three Geishas in attendance. It was a rather surreal experience. Their English was almost non-existent, as was our Japanese. But communication did take place, and we were introduced to a couple of traditional Geisha-style games which further broke the ice.

Travel Japan and you will be rewarded.

Book your trip to Japan, including a visit to Sado Island with Blue Dot! Click here.

Map of Japan
Where to go in Japan? - There is so much to see

 Gardeners at the Kenrokuen Gardens, Kanazawa

Traditional Japanese wedding dress

Cherry blossoms at Kanazawa Castle

Taiko Centre for a hands-on drumming experience

Cherry blossoms in March

Japanese shrine

Squid anyone?

Some of our Blue Dot Travel drummers

Traditional Taiko drum - a full work out!

Friday, 7 October 2016

Sri Lanka


It’s no wonder that Lonely Planet recently named this island-nation the “hottest destination on the planet to visit”. And they weren’t talking about the weather! There are so many reasons that it simply, must be on your bucket list.  Pull up a map of Sri Lanka and start planning your next adventure.

First, there’s the wildlife. If you are lucky (and there’s a good chance you will be), you’ll spot a plethora of wildlife from your safari truck in one of the national parks. Elephants, deer, crocs, buffalo, wart hogs, monkeys, shrews, heaps of bird life and even leopards. You can be forgiven for feeling like you’re in Africa. 

Secondly, there’s the varied landscapes. You will see pristine beaches, wooded forests, savannah-like plains, lowland forests, wetlands, rocky plains, tea plantations plus more. For a relatively small island – about the size of Tassie – there’s a vast difference of landscapes across the regions. 

Next, there’s the food. OMG (as my teenage daughters would say), this place is for foodies. Hotels have the choice of local dishes and western style. The quality of the local produce and in the hotels is very high. They must hire all the best chefs. Be sure to try the local fish ambul (curry), a Sri Lankan specialty. Personally, I was addicted to the dhal and naan bread. (Is it wrong to have it for lunch and dinner)? Make sure you try the egg hopper for breakfast. It’s like a very light pancake which you mix with egg and all sorts of local condiments like ground coconut, chilli and onion. 
Sri Lanka also has history galore – ancient history and colonial history. The Portuguese, Dutch and Brits all had a role in her development. However, it’s the people that make this island a must-visit. Whether they are Singhalese, Tamil or Moor they will greet you with a smile and want to converse with you. They are also very proud people. And when they work out you are Australian, a discussion on cricket is mandatory.
For a small island, it sure packs a punch!  

Our Sri Lanka holiday packages are tailored for small groups, private groups (of 4 or more) or family tours. 

Discover beautiful Sri Lanka and book your trip with Blue Dot! Click here.
Map of Sri Lanka
Buddhist statue in ancient city of Polonnaruwa
5th century fresco wall paintings of Sigiriya rock fortress in Sigiriya
Meet our friends
Sri Lankan Axis deer
Warthog parade
The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Traditional net fishing on the beaches of Negombo, Sri Lanka
Fish drying on coconut mats on the beach
Up and coming cricket players - any time ... anywhere
Tea production is one of the main sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka
Deliveroo - Sri Lanka style
Anyone for cricket?
Sri Lankan local