Located in Cairngorms National Park in the northernmost reaches of Scotland, the Cairngorms Mountains are home to Britain’s only free-ranging herd of reindeer.
One of the best ways to experience the herd in person is with a visit to the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre, located in the mountainside town of Aviemore.
The center dates back to 1952 when Swedish couple Mikel Utsel and his wife Dr. Ethel Lindgren brought two male and five female reindeer by boat from Sweden to the Cairngorms.
Today the herd numbers 150 and visitors can make daily, two-hour pilgrimages into the wooded foothills with a team of herders to help feed and interact with the reindeer.
The center is open to the public from mid-February through early January, and daily trips vary depending on the time of year.
Image Credit: photograph by Dmitry_Chulov / iStock)
The history between the Sami people, an indigenous group inhabiting Arctic Europe, an area that encompasses Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Kola Peninsula, goes back several centuries.
Many Sami work as reindeer herders, passing down their knowledge from one generation to the next, and now some communities invite travelers to visit and learn about this tradition.
After being picked up in Tromsø, a small port city in northern Norway, guests are driven to the Tromsø Arctic Reindeer Experience where they can participate in the Sami way of life.
Visits can include reindeer feeding, reindeer sledding, experiencing a traditional Sami meal inside a gamme (a traditional Sami hut) and listening to stories about the Sami culture’s connection to reindeer, told by community elders.
Priestess of Delphi by John Collier.
For ancient Greeks, Delphi was the center of the world: a site sacred to the god Apollo, where all Greeks united to worship. But at its heart was a dark, strange place: the mysterious sanctuary where the priestess of Apollo prophesied.
The priestess, called the Pythia, sat above a chasm in the earth, which belched forth fumes.
She breathed deeply – some believe that the fumes possessed hallucinogenic properties – and slipped into semi-consciousness.
Her prophecies were opaque, often frantic. This was the Oracle of Delphi: the Greeks’ most famous and most feared window into the will of the gods.
It lay in “a cavern hollowed down in the depths” of the hillside, as the historian Strabo reported, underneath the great Temple of Apollo.
Today, the ruins of the Temple sit on the slopes of Mount Parnassus.
It was destroyed by the Emperor Theodosius I, in 390 CE, in an attempt to eradicate the old pagan beliefs.
Few traces of the Oracle remain, but the site is still an eerie one: mist clings to the hills, and you can almost hear the ghosts of Croesus, Nero, and Alexander.
Ta Prohm Temple, Cambodia (via Wikimedia)
Cambodia is the closest you can get, today, to your own real life Indiana Jones movie. There, the temples of Angkor seem built into the fabric of the forest itself, bats flap their leathery wings in the vaults, and incense drifts down the empty colonnades.
The god-kings of Angkor were at the height of their powers from the 9th century until the 15th century.
In that time, they built the largest preindustrial city in the world in Cambodia: larger than Rome, larger than Alexandria, larger by far than London or Paris at the time.
Wealth was poured into ever more spectacular temples, replete with intricate carvings and statues.
In the fifteenth century, for reasons which still puzzle scholars today, the gigantic complex was left almost entirely abandoned – lost to the jungle.
Ta Prohm Temple, Cambodia (via Wikimedia)
Early Western visitors, glimpsing the astonishing structures looming up amidst the trees, were left almost speechless.
For António da Madalena, Angkor was “of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world.”
Since the 19h century, a slow process of restoration has been taking place. While tourists flock to Angkor today, much of the site remains to be discovered, and the trees loom on all sides, ready to swallow the city up again.
In 2005, German economist Stefan Ziemendorff, who was working on a wastewater project in Peru, took a break from his work to go for a hike in Peru’s Utcabamba valley in search of one of the region’s abundant pre-Incan ruins.
When he crossed into a blind ravine, he spied something unexpected: a towering, two-tiered waterfall in the distance that hadn’t appeared on any map.
The following March, after he had returned to the site with measuring equipment, Ziemendorff held a press conference to declare to the public that he had discovered the third-tallest waterfall in the world.
The two tiers combined, the water plummets 2,531 feet, the height of well over two Eiffel Towers.
Of course, Ziemendorff’s “discovery” wasn’t actually a discovery at all.
The residents of Cocachimba had known about the waterfall since the 1950s. Their town was located practically right beneath it.
They knew it as “Gocta,” after the sound made by howler monkeys in the region.
But they had mostly avoided the towering waterfall due to superstitions surrounding it.
The natural wonder simply blended into the background of their daily life.
Known and loved the world over.
Every year more than 2 million visitors, including many tourists from around the world, stroll across the Christkindlesmarkt – the main Christmas market in the heart of Nuremberg.