Immunity to Corona persists for years

Immunity to the Coronavirus lasts at least a year and probably even years. In fact, the defense against the disease is getting stronger, especially after vaccination. That is the encouraging outcome of two new studies.

In both studies, research was done among people who were exposed to the Coronavirus last year and the first group to have had a vaccine. Cells that preserve a memory of the virus remain in the bone marrow and can produce antibodies when needed, both teams of scientists found.

The key is the so-called memory B cells that are created in response to an infection with SARS-CoV-2. They are so powerful that they even stop variants of the virus. Rockefeller University in New York, which did one of the studies, saw a powerful response from the body to the disease. Strongest in people who were sick at first and then received a vaccination.

The reaction to vaccination alone is slightly less strong, but also good for at least a year of protection and probably more. It may be that over time, a repeat injection is needed to maintain immunity, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, also in the US, saw.

These scientists also saw an increase in the number of B cells in the bone marrow. This means that over time the body no longer has acute protection against Corona, but can produce enough antibodies against the disease if necessary.

How do you smartly pack your suitcase?

Whether you’re on a city trip to a European city, or going on an expedition to Antarctica, make the right luggage or crack your trip. To save your packing stress, we selected seven useful tips from our new book How to Pack for Any Trip. This way you know for every trip what you really shouldn’t miss and what you should leave at home.

Where are you going? On a world tour!
How do you pack your backpack when planning a trip around the world? Think carefully about what is really essential and what you can easily leave behind. If you need sturdy hiking boots and a thick coat for New Zealand or South America at the start of your trip, but don’t need them anymore if you’re passing through Asia or the Pacific, then consider sending these things home when they’ve become completely redundant.

Essential your bag

Rope: You can use a bungee or parachute rope to attach things to the outside of your backpack. You can make it a clothesline, or use it to attach your suitcase to the roof of a bus.
Caps in: does your roommate snore incredibly hard? Bring earplugs! You can also use this one if you want to snap an outing during that long stopover on the airfield, or during a long train journey.
Travel trilogy: the golden formula for packing light is “the rule of three”: three pairs of socks, three underpants and three T-shirts; one to wear; one to wash and another to dry.
Where are you going? The big city!
While the experience of a city trip may not be that different from the home front, a cultural destination still requires a well-thought-out packing strategy. Your mobile phone is perhaps the most essential item in your bag: you can wander around the city looking for that one restaurant, that show or that hotel, by using interactive maps and other useful apps. And the destination may be “hot”, but the weather is not always that. Here too, layers are the best option, for a look that is both comfortable and stylish.

Essential your bag

Comfortable shoes: you want your shoes to be fashionable, but they should also be easy to walk if you are going for miles of walking around the city.
Sunglasses: not because the sun always shines, but because life in the city requires tight sunglasses.
Cashmere sweater: this soft garment takes up almost no space and offers the perfect protection against the heavy air conditioners in hotels and on the plane.

Do not carry the load alone: a sturdy tractor backpack or backpack is best for this situation.
Quick-drying material: in the tropics it can be fresh at night, so you will need layers. Make sure they are quick drying (not cotton), otherwise you will get clammy and cold.
Don’t give them a chance: insect spray with DEET and an ointment against the itch are must-haves.
Where are you going? Antarctica!
You’re going to brave freezing temperatures. But actually, since most trips to Antarctica take place aboard a cruise ship, you spend most of your trip to the icy south in the comfort of a well-equipped ship. Short excursions are done by motorboat or on foot. So it is actually not necessary at all to purchase a large amount of specialized material. Investing in a good pair of insulating, waterproof boots is a good idea.

Essential your bag

A parka: most ships provide parkas for each passenger, which you can take home afterwards. So leave that thick down jacket at home and save space in your suitcase
Chill out: cruising to Antarctica is usually informal and casual, so you can leave your prom dress at home. Each shipping company uses its own dress code, inform you about this before departure.
Far away: bring your best binoculars and a camera with a good zoom, to discover every nook and cranny of your surroundings.

Where are you going? The wilderness!
Nature and elements are at once fantastic and unpredictable. You will often be miles away from the inhabited world, so carrying a protective kit with you is necessary. Advances in the design of hiking boots mean you can leave those clumsily clunky mountain shoes at home, but a quick-drying, wind and waterproof jacket deserves a place in your backpack. Large plastic dirt bags, lockable plastic bags in different sizes and/or waterproof bag protection bag help to keep your belongings dry.

Essential your bag

Temperatures will fluctuate depending on the weather type, season and altitude you are at. So use the layering technique!

Base layer > wear tight-fitting undergarments. Merino wool is the warmest material and does not need to be washed as often.
Middle layer > combine a fleece sweater with quick-drying walking pants.
Outer layer > a breathable water and windproof jacket and pants.
Extra warmth > a down jacket for the night; also provides comfort on cold, clammy days.
Where are you going? Trek through the desert!
From the Great Basin and the Mojave Desert in the US to the Moroccan Atlas Mountains along the Sahara: take a desert trek at high altitude and it soon becomes clear that not every desert consists only of sand. Those who plan an active trip should definitely take into account the extreme temperature differences; also provide good footwear and equipment that can handle rugged, rocky and unprotected terrain. The more skin is exposed to the sun, the more evaporation (and dehydration) occurs. Protect yourself well!

Essential your bag

Go organic: opt for biodegradable soap and lotions. If you want to increase your chances of wildlife spotting, don’t use scented deodorant or perfume.
Solar energy: in these sun-drenched parts of the world, a solar-powered charger gets more than enough rays. Wi-Fi and phone signals are limited, so while your devices will be fully charged, their use will be limited. Consider a GPS as a backup, and maybe a compass is also nicely taken.
Where are you going? The Big Five!
The tiny charter plane that takes you deep into the African bush fully determines how to pack. For those who quickly take too much with them: the luggage restrictions are as ruthless as a lion in search of prey, you will have to limit your packing to about 10 kilograms. And in this small soft weekend bag (roll cases you can forget) you need functional equipment, a camera and perhaps also some strategically chosen outfits.

Essential your bag

Camouflage: increases your chances of coming face to face with wild animals by becoming one with the bush, with neutral clothing in earthy tones.
Protection: Buy some garments that are UV protective and pre-treated with insect spray.
Camera equipment: sturdy binoculars, a compact camera, lenses with large zoom range, extra batteries, memory cards, a charger… All these things will soon take up a lot of space in your luggage. Still, it’s worth considering another extra item: a rubber air blower to remove grit and sand from the camera lens.

Don’t tell anyone: 3 secret wonders of the world

Our planet is full of extraordinary places you may not have known existed. We’ll tell you three of them – a selection from Lonely Planet’s new book full of secret wonders of the world.

Glowworms of Waitomo
New Zealand has no shortage of otherworldly quirks. But of all the strange attractions, Waitomo’s glowworm caves are perhaps the most surreal. Visitors descend from enchanting forests into an underground cave discovered 120 years ago by the local maori chief, Tane Tinorau. Then they board a boat and float across the underground River Waitomo, a glow-in-the-dark wonderland known as Glowworm Grotto, where thousands of tiny critters emit a turquoise glow. Here the ceiling of the cave turns into a psychedelic planetarium with an immeasurable galaxy of living lights. The arachnocampa luminosa may be called worms, but they are not; they are mushroom mosquitoes, an indigenous species in New Zealand. They thrive in the humid caves, giving light at the larval stage and the imago stage (that is the last stage an insect reaches during metamorphosis). Although they are found all over the country, there is nowhere as large, flamboyant a colony as in the caves of Waitomo.

Rocking at the end of the world
High in the Ecuadorian jungle is a tree house on the edge of a gorge. Casa de Arbol is actually a place where earthquakes are measured, built to keep an eye on the active volcano Tungurahua next to it. Yet it is the coarse swing, a plank that hangs from a branch with two ropes, that attracts the daredevils. There are no security measures – no harness, no net – so those who drop off above the gorge put their lives on the line. The reward? A dizzying view of the canyon’s bottom and perhaps a glimpse of an erupting volcano as you swing over the edge.

To get to the swing from the town of Baños, you have to drive 10.5 kilometers on a steep, winding mountain road.

Lake Hillier
Look at any map and the lakes are probably colored blue. But if you were to draw Middle Island, part of Australia’s unknown archipelago Recherche, you’d need a pink crayon (preferably bubble gum pink) to colour in the most striking landmark truthfully: Lake Hillier. Scientists don’t know exactly how the lake turned so pink. After all, it stands in stark contrast to the deep blue waves of the Southern Ocean, a few meters away. Unlike most colored lakes, the hue of Lake Hillier is not a reflection of the soil, nor is it affected by the color of bacteria in a given season. In fact, the water stays as pink as you put it in a bottle.

Middle Island is part of a nature reserve where tourists are not allowed to visit, but you can still admire Lake Hillier on a two-hour helicopter ride from Esperance in Western Australia.

Discover the 8 most beautiful beaches on Crete

The popular island of Crete is a popular holiday destination for nothing. On this Greek island you will find beautiful nature reserves, cozy seaside resorts and beautiful beaches. It is therefore the ideal island for a holiday full of sun, sea and beach. This way you can already tip off the top 8 most beautiful beaches on Crete, so you will have an unforgettable holiday!

1. Balos Beach
In the northwest of Crete lies the lagoon of Balos. This is perhaps the most beautiful beach on the island. Thanks to the white sand and turquoise seawater, you feel like you are somewhere in the Caribbean instead of Europe. Fortunately, you don’t have to fly far for this spectacular beach, Crete is only a 3.5-hour flight from the Netherlands.

2. Chrissi Island
Chrissi Island is located on the southernmost part of Europe and can be reached by boat. From the port of Ierapetra you are within an hour on the beautiful island of Chrissi. It’s a popular day trip but the spectacular beach makes the trip well worth it. The beach on Chrissi island is easily one of the most beautiful beaches on Crete.

3. Elafonisi
The famous beach of Elafonisi should of course not be missing from this top list of the most beautiful beaches on Crete. The beach not only consists of beautiful white sand, but in some places the sand turns pink through the shells. This special colour combination make this beach a real ‘must’ during your holiday on Crete. It is therefore no wonder that the beach has been one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe for years.

4. Preveli
According to many, the beach of Preveli is the most beautiful beach on Crete. This has everything to do with the breathtakingly beautiful surroundings. The small river that flows slowly into the sea, the high cliffs and the green palm forest in combination with the white sand and the blue sea form a beautiful picture. Especially from the parking lot you have a spectacular view over this beautiful beach.

5. Falasarna
If you want to enjoy the sun on the beach, falasarna is the place to be. Here you will find a beautiful, large sandy beach where you can relax. Here too, the shells regularly provide a pink glow, which is a beautiful contrast to the turquoise sea. Falasarna is therefore also one of the most beautiful beaches on Crete.

6. Agios Pavlos
The beach of Agios Pavlos is a beautiful beach located behind sand hills. It therefore takes some effort to reach this beautiful beach, so you first have to cross a verge area. But then there’s something, the beautiful Agios Pavlos beach has not yet been discovered by the general public. This way you can enjoy the beautiful sandy beach and the blue sea in peace.

7. Matala
Matala beach is a popular beach among holidaymakers. What makes this beach extra special are the white chalk cliffs in the background. Here you can visit the Matala Caves. In addition, you will find several taverns on the beach where you can eat delicious food with your feet in the sand! Stay on the beach until the evening, you don’t want to miss the sunset here!

8. Vai
Vai is the most famous palm beach in Crete. This beach is located on the east side of Crete and is quite secluded, but is well worth it. This beach owes its name to many palm trees that stand in the area, so “vaia” is the Greek designation for palm branch. The contrast of the green palms, the light-colored sand and the blue sea make this beach a real winner.

These are the top 8 most beautiful beaches on Crete. Are you going for popular Elafonisi or would you rather climb to the remote Agios Pavlos? Or rent a car and take a road trip along the most beautiful beaches on Crete. Can’t wait to discover this beautiful island? Then view all holidays to Crete.

10 free outings in Stockholm

Stockholm may have the reputation of an expensive city, but you can also enjoy yourself with a smaller fair. There are plenty of free experiences and activities to discover. We selected ten outings in Stockholm that (almost) don’t have to cost anything.

Mix with locals at Tantolunden Park Just a two-minute walk from trendy Hornstull in western Södermalm is Tantolunden Park; in spring and summer the beating heart of Stockholm. In these warmer months, the park becomes lively and challenging: Stockholmers like to go here for a picnic, to work out in the open-air gym, or to swim at one of the park’s beaches. In winter, the harbour freezes and you can see local daredevils skating from a safe spot along the coast.

Discover the medieval streets in the Old Town CentreThe Old Town of Stockholm (Gamla Stan) is the perfect place to start your exploration. During the day, let yourself be carried away in the hustle and bustle of main streets such as Västerlånggatan and Stora Nygatan and stretch your legs from wall to wall in Stockholm’s narrowest alley: Mårten Trotzigs Gränd. It’s best to explore by evening, when the glow of the street lanterns reverberates on the cobbled streets. Whichever way you go, it’s always a good choice.

Take a free walking tourA walking tour is a good option for the budget traveler who likes to get under the skin of a city. Free Tour Stockholm offers three different tours exploring all parts of the city. Local guides love to share their knowledge and experience, really getting to know Stockholm’s history. Wander the alleys of Gamla Stan, visit trendy Södermalm or opt for a tour of the modern boroughs. The tours are free, but if you have had a lot of fun with them you can of course give a tip.

Visit Moderna MuseetOn the island of Skeppsholmen, right in front of the old town, you’ll find Moderna Museet, a museum that gives colour to this somewhat meaningless part of Stockholm. With pieces by world-famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol, the museum’s permanent collection grants access to a variety of modern art from 1840 to the present day. Recommended is the free audio tour app, for more insight into the art pieces as you walk through the spacious rooms.

See ancient artifacts in the

Royal Armoury

Enter a forgotten world of imperial excess in the Royal Armory (Livrustkammaren). This museum is located in the middle of the Royal Palace itself and does not know its equal. It is sweden’s oldest museum, founded in 1628 by King Gustav II Adolf to house his spoils of war. The collection includes everything from chivalrous weapons and crown jewels to platinum carriages and even a chronological journey through the royal fashion choices. What you should definitely not miss is the king’s stuffed war horse!

Enjoy a first-rate viewIt won’t be long before you realize that Stockholm is every photographer’s dream. From the rocky mountains of Södermalm you have a fantastic view over the water and the old town. Snugly located behind the streets of old Södermalm you will find Monteliusvägen, a scenic route that runs dangerously high over the cliff. Sit back on a bench and take in the views, or wander along the winding paths up for the perfect panoramic photo of this wondrous city.

Stimulate your senses at Östermalm’s Saluhall Although Scandinavian cuisine is originally quite rural, modern Swedes have learned to enjoy more refined things these days. At Östermalm’s Saluhall you can try it out for yourself. Take a taste of Swedish delicacies such as sour herring and the national cheese favourite Västerbotten, or enjoy the variety of international delicacies they offer. This indoor market is the ideal environment way to dream away, surrounded by grandeur. It is the perfect starting point to get to know the emerging district of Östermalm better.

Stand in the pose for the Changing of the GuardLive a piece of Swedish history by watching the Changing of the Guard at stockholm’s Royal Palace. The change takes place in the courtyard of the palace and members of the Swedish army perform this impressive ceremony daily at 12.15 pm (on Sundays at 1.15 pm). It is an important and appreciated tradition: the bodyguard has been based in the palace since 1523. The Changing of the Guard can be seen all year round, but check the schedule (forsvarsmakten.se), because there are also special occasions with marching or salute shots.

Discover the wonders of nature at Naturhistoriska RiksmuseetThe Natural History Museum shows off nine permanent exhibitions, where you can discover your origins by learning about our ancestors – fun for both children and adults. Explore the secrets of the Swedish wilderness or marvel at the museum’s collection of animals – these specimens have been collected by Swedish scientists for over 200 years.

Visit the governmentThe Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) is not to be missed, conveniently located between the old town and the shopping main street (Drottninggata). You even have to go under the arches of the building if you want to move between these two areas. It is the ideal place for a photo, amidst many of the city’s attractions. But while you’re there, take the chance to join the free tour of Parliament (riksdagen.se). A tour takes about 45 minutes; be on time as there is only a limited number of places available.

Walk to the End of the World

The remote southern Andes is home to perhaps the most impressive wild landscapes in South America. Stroll in the shadow of the granite peaks of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, feel the icy winds of Argentina’s immense Perito Moreno Glacier, and experience a world of superlatives.

It sounds like a thunderstorm in the distance, I hear deep rumblings and the occasional loud bang, mixed with the constant sound of running water: no rain falling, but hundreds of invisible rivers and waterfalls making their way along slopes of ice. Like many travelers before me, I had already formed an image of Perito Moreno before I ever saw the ice mass. I saw the towering scottish and immense wall of arguably the most famous glacier on earth pass by on Instagram, postcards and in books. But how the glacier would clump, I had no idea.

‘Experiencing this glacier up close, it really does something to you,’ says nature guide Fabian Haedo. ‘There are many impressive glaciers in the world, perhaps even more beautiful and larger than Perito Moreno. But it’s the location that makes this glacier so famous.’ Perito Moreno is located in the Argentine National Park Los Glaciares and is fed by the South Patagonian Ice Field, which covers the southern part of the Andes on the border between Chile and Argentina. Perito Moreno glides between two foothills of the mountains into a flooded valley, where the ice mass comes to a standstill just before the Magallanes Peninsula. The slopes of the peninsula form a natural vantage point and several hiking trails have been created to admire the glacier up close.

‘Every two lakes on either side of Perito Moreno are separated every so many years by the glacier, which can crawl forward up to two metres a day. And because of the pressure, this separation breaks again once in a while, a spectacular sight. The last time it happened was last year, so the passageway is now clear, filled with broken icebergs. Shall we take a closer look?’ I follow Fabian towards a footpath that descends along the slope, while an icy wind rises that rages towards us over the white plains of Perito Moreno.

 

A week earlier, I and photographer Jurrien boarded a rented 4×4 in the Chilean town of Puerto Natales, the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park, neighbor of Los Glaciares National Park. Together, the parks are among the heavyweights of the vast and inhospitable Patagonia region, which covers two countries.

Just outside Puerto Natales, the Patagonian steppe extends in front of us. There doesn’t seem to be a human being to confess. The clouds brought in by the strong westerly winds over the Pacific Ocean linger around the high peaks of the Andes, so there is little precipitation on the steppe east of the mountains. It is a rugged and unpopulated landscape with infinite skies. Here and there we pass an estancia with giant patches of soil and a few stray sheep or horses. And then snow-capped peaks loom in the distance, the landscape becomes more rolling, and shrubs and even trees appear along the road. We have entered the domain of the mighty Andes.

At that very moment we see a few large shadows sliding down the dirt road. Jurrien reaches for his camera: two black birds hover far above us on the wind, their wide wings spread wide. They are so big that from the car I can distinguish the pointed feathers at both ends, like outstretched fingers. With a wingspan of more than three meters, the Andean Condor is one of the largest birds in the world. The birds circle higher and higher, and although they do not flap their wings for a moment, they still travel a huge distance in a minute. We follow them through the air until they disappear behind a distant hilltop and then continue – the peaks of the Andes beckon.

From the banks of the wide Serrano River, just outside the gate of the national park, we finally see them in full glory: the granite peaks of Torres del Paine are set against the horizon. Here we meet hiking guide Alain Pernau. He will share some hiking tips with us before we head into the park on our own. ‘Patagonia is hugely vast and remote. And then to come across such a place here, almost at the end of the world, that’s so special,’ alain says. He points towards the snow-capped peaks in the distance. ‘Torres del Paine is known for the beauty of the granite peaks, the spectacular mountain landscapes. But it’s even more than that: you’ll find glaciers, forests, the steppe and wildlife, from cougars to guanacos, their prey. And all this concentrated in this one place.’

Alain is from Santiago, where he studied ecotourism. ‘It’s a beautiful city, but I love being outside. Here I walk hard almost every day in the park with the most amazing views. And every day is different. Most visitors come to hike the Circuito W, named after the W-shape of the three valleys that you cross in three days. And that is certainly a very nice route, but there are many more hiking trails in the park, which are often a lot quieter. On the less visited routes you can still experience the park and the landscapes in silence.’

Driving through Torres del Paine alone is an amazing experience. One crushing landscape after another unfolds, from milky blue lakes, fed by mineral-rich glacial water, to hills covered in gnarled trees.

And always there are the peaks where your gaze is drawn, created by years of erosion, like whipped cream peaks whipped up into strange shapes. The landscapes are legendary and therefore not exactly unknown. With our 4×4 we can happily discover the landscapes at our own pace and pace, away from the masses.

With Alain’s advice in mind, we start our first day of hiking with one of the less visited, shorter routes. We park the car at Lago Grey on the west side of the park. The wind is strong, as almost always in Torres del Paine. The first part of the walking route leads through a dense forest, where above us the leaves rustle, but it is otherwise quiet. The air smells like earth and we only meet a few other hikers. And then we step out of the edge of the forest, up a vast pebble beach on Lago Grey, where the wind has completely free rein. Waves pound the shore and leave chunks of ice on the beach. It is the remains of the immense icebergs that we see floating further down the lake and that are broken off from the Grey glacier, just visible in the distance. The lake and glacier honor their name today; They’re as gray as the clouds above. The icebergs are bright blue, some the size of our car, but under the influence of the elements they will melt in just a few days until the little ice cubes that wash up on the beach. It’s beautiful, but also sad to see. The Grey Glacier is highly subject to the global retreat of glaciers due to global warming.

Half folded against the rock hard wind I feel the splashes of the breaking waves on my face. The word inhospitable seems to have been invented for this place. And yet certain animals feel at home here. At the end of the walk we pass a suspension bridge swinging in the wind over a churning river. When crossing, I hold on to the railing when I spot movement on the shore in front of me: a fox emerges from the thickets. He calmly walks towards the river and bends his head to drink undisturbed. After a final lick with his tongue he looks up and with a swing of his tail he disappears between the trees again in an instant.

The further east of the park we go, the rarer the vegetation becomes. It is drier here, a climate that suits the steppe, and the constant wind sweeps over the plains and hilltops. Today we walk from Lake Pehoé to the Cuernos vantage point. The walk starts at a waterfall, where the wind whips up the falling water and catches the sunlight in a rainbow. The path leads over a hill from here and we look out over a desolate valley. Forest fires lit by inattentive visitors are a constant danger in the park and this is where things went wrong a few years ago. Black and white lacquered skeletons of trees form a nasty sight. However, as we cross the valley, we see that the landscape is recovering. New shoots make their way between light green grass and moss. A delicacy for the park’s famous grazers.

A harem of about ten guanacos moves between the tree carcasses. Their reddish fur is coarse and stands in all directions in the wind. They are heavily built, the largest of the wild llama species. They look very comical, especially when chewing, but they are well adapted to this rugged landscape. With their big brown eyes, they keep a close eye on us, and their long ears turn in all directions, constantly focused on danger. And there is danger, because there are about a hundred cougars living in and around this park – the guanaco forms their natural prey. Alain told us that two weeks ago he spotted a cougar mother with three cubs during his run. We are wary while walking, but the chances of encountering a cougar during the day are very small.

Soon our attention shifts back to the stars of Torres del Paine: the granite peaks of the Painemassief that gave the park its name. From the Cuernos vantage point, the dark mountains extend towards the blue sky above Lake Nordeskjöld. This landscape is so unearthly, it has almost something surreal to be able to walk through. Walking through the natural beauty of the park I feel at the same time void and connected to the elements around me.

On the last day of our trip, nature guide Fabian captures this feeling in words, standing at the vantage point of Argentina’s Magallanes Peninsula closest to the Perito Moreno Glacier. We’re still about 100 yards from the immense wall of ice, and yet it feels like we could almost touch it. The azure buds have become whimsical shapes up close: I’m going to see church towers in them, fingers and even faces.

‘The landscapes of Patagonia are so grand, so overwhelming. And to be able to get so close to such a glacier – that does something to you.’ Fabian smiles. ‘I can tell you all kinds of facts, that Perito Moreno is bigger than Buenos Aires, for example, and that the edge is more than 60 meters high. But to stand here, to be able to see the strange shapes of the frozen peaks and the vast ice fields with your own eyes – it is almost emotional. Even for me, I have been working here as a guide for eight years now and come from the neighborhood, from El Calafate, but Los Glacieres National Park and Perito Moreno in particular remain so special to me. These landscapes, I’m connected to them. And I hope that we can all make sure that they are preserved.’

Make it happen
How to get thereTorres del Paine and Los Glaciares, the park of which Perito Moreno is a part, may be neighbors – they are located in different countries and the distances are great in Patagonia. To Puerto Natales, the port city for Torres del Paine, the easiest way to fly is from Santiago, in about 3 hours. With KLM you can fly to Santiago from Schiphol airport in about 18 hours with a stopover in Buenos Aires. To El Calafate, the port city for Los Glaciares, the easiest way to fly is from Buenos Aires, also in about 3 hours. With KLM you can fly directly to Buenos Aires (skyscanner.nl) from Schiphol airport in about 13 hours.

The Route Pick up a rental car in Puerto Natales to discover Torres del Paine on your own and easily drive to the starting point of the various dayhikes. Consider two extras: four-wheel drive because of the mostly unpaved roads, which sometimes have quite a few holes, and a car with a large tank because there is no refuelling option in the park itself. The park pass for Torres del Paine costs approximately €25 and is valid for three days. After your visit to the park, you can choose to take the car across the border to El Calafate at an additional cost, but there is also a good bus connection between Puerto Natales and El Calafate. The journey takes around 6 hours. From El Calafate on Lake Argentino it is about a 1.5 hour drive in a rental car to Perito Moreno. The park pass for Los Glaciares is approximately €10 and is valid for one day. You can also choose to turn your trip around and visit Perito Moreno first.

When to goIn the winter months of the southern hemisphere, many hiking trails in Torres del Paine are impassable due to snowfall. Summer, from December to February, is high season, and the busiest. Spring and autumn are a nice alternative. In October and November you have a lot of daylight and a chance of good weather, and in March and April you will see beautiful autumn colors in both parks.

Pure life in Costa Rica

Pure life In the northwest of Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula juts into the Pacific Ocean. This region is one of the largest blue zones in the world – here people live to be on average 90 or even 100 years old, and that in good health. Not surprising, because pure life is the ultimate motto here.

Respect for nature
About ten shields glisten in the morning sun on the beach. Traces of small pinball machines spread behind them, until another wave washed rinsing that takes the adventurers with them. I pay close attention to the fact that I stand behind the turtles that have just crawled out of their eggs, because the seawater constantly moves the rather helpless bugs.

I’m standing on tambor bay beach on the west coast of Costa Rica, where the young animals have just been evicted by volunteers from Tambor Bay Turtles. ‘It’s always a special moment to release them into the sea,’ says Iratxe Casado with a smile on her face. ‘It’s a nice conclusion to the efforts we’ve made. Now we can only hope that they will survive the dangers of the sea.’ The turtle project was set up by locals in the region who were concerned about the ever-shrinking population of sea turtles. Volunteers collect eggs from the nests on the beach at night before being eaten by other animals or even trafficked by humans. At a special hatchery (breeding ground) they can then hatch safely. This increases the turtles’ chances of survival from 10 percent to as much as 80 percent.

It is one of the many protection projects in the country; when you drive along the coast you will see signs with turtle rescue on the beach in many places. It says a lot about the respect and love that the people of Costa Rica have for their animals and nature. Sustainable living has been the norm for years and the country is happy to lead by example for the rest of the world: Costa Rica aims to be CO2 neutral by 2021.

Pura vida
The wind is good that morning and it turns out to be the perfect time to go surfing. Half an hour’s drive from Tambor Bay is the charming backpacker village of Montezuma, a former fishing village. In the late 1980s it was barely reachable due to the bad road to it, but now it is a popular destination for surfers. Why that has come soon becomes clear to me when I take a short walk along the wild coast of the Playa Grande with the local surf instructors to the best surf spot (for beginners): the route is beautiful. Lush palms rustle in the wind and colorful signs adorn the trees with lyrics such as: save the ocean, I

Arriving at the surf spot, one of the instructors climbs up the trunk of a palm tree with a smooth movement and begins to deftly chop off coconuts. Fresh fruit is prepared and a little later I already enjoy fresh coconut milk and juicy pineapple with my surf shirt. I understand very well that you can fall in love with this place, as happened with Laura Planus, the French owner of the surf school. ‘When I arrived here alone as a woman, I never felt unsafe,’ she said. ‘Everyone here is always friendly, helping each other and looking out for each other. It’s real life with the motto Pura Vida.’ in Costa Rica

Pura Vida. A statement you hear several times a day in Costa Rica. It does not translate well and can be used in multiple situations, but it means as much as ‘enjoy life’ and ‘seize the day’. Casual passersby greet each other this way, you shout it when you cheer or use it to answer the question ‘how are you?’ After lying in the water on my surfboard for an hour and resting on a tree stump with a new coconut in my hand, I feel the meaning of Pura Vida down to my toes.

To see more of the country it is inevitable to spend some hours in the car. Although the sun shines invitingly (despite the predicted tropical rain showers – which actually turn out to be unpredictable) I really enjoy the time on the road. The views are breathtaking and the nature along the asphalt beautiful. I dream away from white sandy beaches with swaying palm trees and the hilly and tree-covered meadows where colourful horses are quietly grazing in the shade.

The ride ends at the Tempisque River, where I board a tour boat near Ortega. The 144-metre long river runs through Palo Verde National Park in Guanacaste Province and is the ideal spot for wildlife spotting. Today’s great mission: to see crocodiles.

Quietly we sail along the banks of the river and soon it is hit. Well camouflaged and motionless like a clay-sculpted statue, there are several crocodiles on the side of the water. They lie so still that it scares me when one of the animals suddenly closes his wide-open beak and the water runs out.

It is sometimes just as good to ting, but also in the trees there is a lot to see. Small black and white capuchin monkeys swing between the high peaks and make for an entertaining show. They move smoothly from tree to tree and make dizzying jumps. With binoculars pressed against my nose, I see languid iguanas sheltered in the branches of overhanging greenery and also a spoonful of a spoonful sits quietly between the leaves; a fruitful tour for animal lovers like me.

Traditional lunch
Lunch is almost ready when we return to Ortega. In the small village, the indigenous Chorotega culture is still alive and well – we drive past simple but brightly colored houses scattered among the cows and palm trees, where the laundry outside in the sun flutters on the line. The casado, as this extensive lunch is called, is prepared in a restaurant that has been run by the same family for seven generations and where the dishes are prepared in a traditional way. While enjoying a glass of refreshing fruit lemonade, I watch as the cook, a small woman with friendly, dark eyes, deftly grinds corn in a hand mill. She hands me a ball of dough, which I have to knead a flat tortilla from. Meanwhile, chicken is baked in a large pan and the tortillas also end up on the wood fire. The table is set with palm leaves that serve as plates and colorful bowls filled with delicious-smelling dishes. It says fried cheese, chicken with potato and egg, crispy fish, bean sauce, salad, fried banana and rice – of which the crunchy, fried leftovers from the pan are especially favourite. Enjoying all the rich flavors that are typical of the country, there is no doubt for me: in this way I also want to turn 100.

Make it happen
How to get thereFrom Amsterdam and Brussels you fly to Liberia (skyscanner.nl) with a stopover. From there it is about a 1.5 hour drive to the Nicoya Peninsula.

Pura vida
The wind is good that morning and it turns out to be the perfect time to go surfing. Half an hour’s drive from Tambor Bay is the charming backpacker village of Montezuma, a former fishing village. In the late 1980s it was barely reachable due to the bad road to it, but now it is a popular destination for surfers. Why that has come soon becomes clear to me when I take a short walk along the wild coast of the Playa Grande with the local surf instructors to the best surf spot (for beginners): the route is beautiful. Lush palms rustle in the wind and colorful signs adorn the trees with lyrics such as: save the ocean, I

Arriving at the surf spot, one of the instructors climbs up the trunk of a palm tree with a smooth movement and begins to deftly chop off coconuts. Fresh fruit is prepared and a little later I already enjoy fresh coconut milk and juicy pineapple with my surf shirt. I understand very well that you can fall in love with this place, as happened with Laura Planus, the French owner of the surf school. ‘When I arrived here alone as a woman, I never felt unsafe,’ she said. ‘Everyone here is always friendly, helping each other and looking out for each other. It’s real life with the motto Pura Vida.’

Pura Vida. A statement you hear several times a day in Costa Rica. It does not translate well and can be used in multiple situations, but it means as much as ‘enjoy life’ and ‘seize the day’. Casual passersby greet each other this way, you shout it when you cheer or use it to answer the question ‘how are you?’ After lying in the water on my surfboard for an hour and resting on a tree stump with a new coconut in my hand, I feel the meaning of Pura Vida down to my toes.

Pure life in Costa Rica© Hosted by Lonely Planet Pure Life in Costa Rica
Wildlife
To see more of the country it is inevitable to spend some hours in the car. Although the sun shines invitingly (despite the predicted tropical rain showers – which actually turn out to be unpredictable) I really enjoy the time on the road. The views are breathtaking and the nature along the asphalt beautiful. I dream away from white sandy beaches with swaying palm trees and the hilly and tree-covered meadows where colourful horses are quietly grazing in the shade.

The ride ends at the Tempisque River, where I board a tour boat near Ortega. The 144-metre long river runs through Palo Verde National Park in Guanacaste Province and is the ideal spot for wildlife spotting. Today’s great mission: to see crocodiles.

Quietly we sail along the banks of the river and soon it is hit. Well camouflaged and motionless like a clay-sculpted statue, there are several crocodiles on the side of the water. They lie so still that it scares me when one of the animals suddenly closes his wide-open beak and the water runs out.

It is sometimes just as good to ting, but also in the trees there is a lot to see. Small black and white capuchin monkeys swing between the high peaks and make for an entertaining show. They move smoothly from tree to tree and make dizzying jumps. With binoculars pressed against my nose, I see languid iguanas sheltered in the branches of overhanging greenery and also a spoonful of a spoonful sits quietly between the leaves; a fruitful tour for animal lovers like me.

Traditional lunch
Lunch is almost ready when we return to Ortega. In the small village, the indigenous Chorotega culture is still alive and well – we drive past simple but brightly colored houses scattered among the cows and palm trees, where the laundry outside in the sun flutters on the line. The casado, as this extensive lunch is called, is prepared in a restaurant that has been run by the same family for seven generations and where the dishes are prepared in a traditional way. While enjoying a glass of refreshing fruit lemonade, I watch as the cook, a small woman with friendly, dark eyes, deftly grinds corn in a hand mill. She hands me a ball of dough, which I have to knead a flat tortilla from. Meanwhile, chicken is baked in a large pan and the tortillas also end up on the wood fire. The table is set with palm leaves that serve as plates and colorful bowls filled with delicious-smelling dishes. It says fried cheese, chicken with potato and egg, crispy fish, bean sauce, salad, fried banana and rice – of which the crunchy, fried leftovers from the pan are especially favourite. Enjoying all the rich flavors that are typical of the country, there is no doubt for me: in this way I also want to turn 100.

Make it happen
How to get thereFrom Amsterdam and Brussels you fly to Liberia (skyscanner.nl) with a stopover. From there it is about a 1.5 hour drive to the Nicoya Peninsula.

On-site transportationTo see more of the country, it is convenient to rent a car. Most roads are well maintained, but during the rainy season between June and November a 4×4 is recommended. Always pay close attention to wild animals that walk along the road. At Liberia Airport you will find several rental companies.

Travel tips At Surf School By the Wave in Montezuma you can take surf lessons in groups or with a private instructor. In addition to using a surfboard and shirt, fresh fruit is also included in the price (from €40; surfbythewave.com). The family-run Palo Verde Boat Tours offers boat tours of the Tempisque River with an experienced guide. Afterwards there is an extensive lunch ready in their restaurant in Ortega.

Learn moreOur guide Costa Rica provides inspiration and practical information to plan your trip. On visitcostarica.com you will find several suggestions for travel routes in the country

The 5 most beautiful national parks in America

America is a fantastic holiday destination and owes this to the various national parks, among other things. Some of those parks are even among the most beautiful parks in the world. Do you want to experience a unique holiday? We are happy to introduce you to the most beautiful parks in the United States.

If you want to visit a national park of America, you must apply for an ESTA before leaving for this country. How to do that easily and quickly, we are happy to explain to you.

Everglades National Park in Florida
Everglades National Park is the largest park in America and is 1.5 million hectares in size. Every year it attracts over a million visitors. This vast landscape is home to several wildlife: crocodiles, panthers and manatees. The transport is done via a so-called swamp boat. Hiking, cycling and canoeing are also possible. Visiting this park is an important highlight during your visit to Florida.

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
Yellowstone National Park covers an area of 8983 km², making it one of the largest national parks in the United States. What immediately stands out is the mountainous landscape including volcanic activity. The park is even on top of a huge dormant volcano. It is one of the largest and most dangerous volcanoes in America. Furthermore, in this stunning beautiful nature reserve you will find countless active geysers and heat sources. You really must have seen this national park on a tour of the United States.

Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is located in the eastern U.S. state of California. The park is over 3,000 km² in size and attracts more than three million visitors annually. The valley is formed by a glacier and looks amazing. You will come face to face with Half Dome, El Capitan and large waterfalls. This area is home to hundreds of bird species and mammals. Of course you don’t want to miss any of this.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah and is known for its impressive geological rock formations. Visiting this park might be one of the highlights of your trip through America. Enjoy the jagged landscape with its phenomenal views. The limestone and sandstone has an almost magical look and so it feels like you are being enchanted. The beautiful color mix at sunset will therefore stay with you forever.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the United States. It is also one of the seven natural wonders in the world. Part of the Earth’s crust was pushed up here millions of years ago. In this way, the Colorado Plateau was also created. The area is huge and very impressive to look at with your own eyes. Let the grandness of this area affect you from different viewpoints or book a helicopter ride and view the park from the air.

Do you have plans to travel to America? Then check the travel advice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in advance. That way you can be sure that you travel safely and responsibly to America, even in this corona era.