The Cultural Landscape of Sintra, Portugal

Just 30km west of Lisbon, lies the amazing cultural landscape of Sintra, with structures dating back to the Moors of the 8th century. This area is located right inside the verdant forest of a large national park which stretches all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It has a long history of Portuguese architecture and culture, first occupied by the Romans, then the Arab Moors, who built a precipituous castle atop a mountain overlooking the plains all the way to the Atlantic. It used to be the playground for the Portuguese royals of the 12th-20th century, and many aristocrats owned and built properties here. The outcome is, the place is littered with palaces, stately homes, beautiful buildings, gardens, monuments and houses of worship. As such it plays host to thousands of visitors who drop by every year to savour the essence of Portugal. Spectacular Sintra earned the coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, so we decide not to miss it. (May 2014)

The Historical City of Evora, Portugal

Just 130km east of Lisbon, along the main expressway to Madrid, lies the historical city of Evora, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Evora is famous for its well-preserved Roman, Gothic and Baroque buildings, thus compressing 2000 years of history in a compact place. It is late evening as we drive into town, on the way back from Elvas to Lisbon. Its quaint narrow cobblestone lanes and whitewashed buildings are relics of its Moorish past, and always a pleasure to saunter along, as we bump into one spectacular building after another. (May 2014)

The Old Garrison Town of Elvas, Portugal

Elvas is an ancient town located 220km east of Lisbon, just 10km away from the Spanish border. Its importance as a heavily fortified garrison town, guarding the vital Lisbon-Madrid road in the 17th-19th century, earned it the coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012. (May 2014)

Lisbon, Capital of Portugal

A couple of HD slideshows of our walkabouts in Lisbon, Portugal, during a May 2014 trip. An interesting city full of character, and immensely rich in history and culture. Portugal was a world power in the 15th-16th century, during the golden Age of Discovery, and Lisbon was the launch-pad. (May 2014)

The Nuri Pyramids and the Wondrous Nile

We have stayed in Marawi for two nights and today we have to leave our cosy, modern hotel on the bank of the Nile for three destinations — the Pyramids of Nuri, a Nile orchard and our lodging in Dongola, some 180km northwest of here, which means another desert-crossing before the day ends. (March 2014)

The Pyramids of the Royal Cemeteries of Meroe

From the ruins of Musawarrat es-Sufra, it’s a 25km dirt track to get back onto the sealed Khartoum-Atbara road, and another 50km northwards before we get to this icon of Sudan — the Pyramids of Meroe, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of the largest archaeological sites in the world, comprising three large zones of pyramids (royal tombs) built between 8th century BC and 350 AD. (March 2014)

Crossing the Bayuda Desert to Musawwarat es-Sufra Ruins in Meroe

Today we travel 450km to the ruins of Musawwarat es-Sufra in Meroe, on the other side of the Bayuda desert. The Kingdom of Kush started on this side of the desert in 11th century BC, with its capital at Jebel Barkal. In 300 BC, the capital was shifted 280km southeast to Meroe, and it lasted till the kingdom ended in 350 AD — this is called the Meroitic period of the Kingdom of Kush. (March 2014)

The Ruins of Jebel Barkal in Northern Sudan

We visit the crown jewel of ancient Nubian history, the ‘holy mountain’ of Jebel Barkal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once made capital of the ancient Kingdom of Kush (11th century BC to 350 AD), it is surrounded by amazing ruins of temples, palaces and pyramids. (March 2014)

Italian Motorways and Cinque Terre

We leave France to enter Italy via a spectacular motorway comprising tunnels and viaducts. Overnighting at a quaint village along the Mediterannean coast, we have our first taste of authentic Italian cuisine. The following day we explore Cinque Terrre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (September 2013)