Secondly, if you don’t follow us, then you’ve been missing out on our weekly Fun Fact Friday! Here we share little-known nuggets about the countries and destinations we visit. It’s been more than a year since we started doing this, so for our blog this week, we thought we’d look back at the best entries from our year of fun facts. Maybe you’ll learn something that will come in handy the next time you’re fighting for the top prize in a quiz. Or maybe you can impress relatives around the dinner table this Christmas. So read on for our year of Fun Fact Friday.
It is thought that the Sahara Desert has grown in size by more than 10% in the last 100 years, and it’s largely down to human-driven climate change.
People are fighting back the advance of the desert, with projects such as the Great Green Wall. It’s being planted across the width of the African continent, and it is hoped that this will stop the advance of the desert, as well as removing tonnes of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The 8,000km wall of trees should also reduce drought, famine and provide income for local people and habitats for wildlife.
If you’re planning a visit to South Korea then you’re probably excited to explore bustling Seoul, the historic DMZ and perhaps the southern island of Jeju. But you may also want to stick around for a bit at the airport…
Incheon International Airport was named the world’s best for 10 years in a row between 2005 – 2016. There’s an indoor golf course, a spa, casino, ice skating rink, indoor gardens and a museum, as well as plenty of bars and restaurants.
British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill loved Marrakech. He was a keen artist in his free time, and one of his paintings of the city, “Tower of Koutoubia Mosque” was recently sold by the actress Angelina Jolie for a whopping $11.5 million!
The remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard is home to approximately 3,000 polar bears, meaning there are around 400 more bears here than there are people.
Although commonly referred to as being in “Eastern Europe”, Lithuania is actually the geographical centre of Europe according to the French National Geographic Institute. To be precise, it’s in the small village of Purnuskes, and there’s a monument there to mark the exact location.
Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt is one of the largest religious buildings to ever exist. It was continuously added to by around 30 different pharaohs, and from start to finish, it took around 1,500 years to complete! After the Pyramids of Giza, it is the most visited site in Egypt.
The famous “Lost City” of Machu Picchu in Peru was never truly lost. Plenty of local people knew of its existence and it was actually a local innkeeper called Melchor Arteaga who took explorer Hiram Bingham to the site in 1911. Local Quechua farmers were even still farming the terraces when Bingham arrived!
Did you know that the Table Mountain cable car in South Africa is nearly 100 years old! It opened on 4 October 1929, taking a first load of (presumably very nervous) passengers up to the summit of Table Mountain.
Halong Bay in Vietnam is home to approximately 1,600 people. But they don’t live on the 2,000 or so islands which dot the bay. Instead they reside in four floating fishing villages scattered across Halong! Some older residents have never even set foot on the mainland in their entire lives.
Delhi’s Red Fort is one of the most popular attractions in the city, but did you know that it used to be white? The fort was commissioned in 1638 by Emperor Shah Jahan, the same man responsible for the Taj Mahal. And it was originally white, built from limestone. After many decades, during the British rule of India, the white limestone was weathered and chipped, so the fort was painted red to preserve it!
Did you know that more than 97% of the Galapagos Islands archipelago is protected as part of the Galapagos National Park. This is good news because much of the flora and fauna here is found nowhere else in the world, so it’s important to protect it. The other 3% of the archipelago is home to the 25,000 human inhabitants of the islands.
Nepal’s 2021 rhino census revealed a 16% increase in the population of Greater one horned rhinos present in the country. For a species that was once on the brink of extinction, this is a remarkable turnaround. The 950 square kilometre Chitwan National Park has been crucial to this, offering rhinos a safe haven with protection from poachers.
The Cu Chi Tunnels complex was 121 kilometres long, booby-trapped, and equipped with dormitories, kitchens, medical rooms, weapons rooms and more. The tunnels were used by the Viet Cong to move around undetected. And even heavy bombing from American B-52 bombers couldn’t collapse the network, though some tunnels were heavily damaged. They were crucial to the success of the Viet Cong, despite being infested with rats, snakes, scorpions and venomous centipedes.
It’s estimated that every year more than 250,000 wildebeest perish on the Great Migration. The main causes of death are drowning and predation by lions and crocodiles. The good news is that because the herds number in the millions of individual animals, these losses are totally sustainable! And they help to support the entire ecosystem.
You may never have heard of it, but did you know that Masada is Israel’s second most popular attraction? Reached by cable car, this hilltop fortress and palace was built by King Herod in the years 37 – 31 BC. It also boasts incredible views of the Dead Sea.
A species of Galapagos giant tortoise not seen in 100 years has been rediscovered on the island of Fernandina! The 50-year-old female tortoise, named Fernanda, has been confirmed to be a “fantastic giant tortoise”, the first seen alive since 1906. Previously thought to have been another species washed to the island by extreme weather, she is now confirmed to be from a separate species. And tracks seen on the island suggest that there may be others. It is hoped that a male individual may also be found to help save the species from extinction… again!
While 90% of the world’s glaciers are retreating in the face of man-made climate change, Argentina’s Perito Moreno glacier is bucking the trend. It’s advancing by as much as 2 metres per day, and scientists cannot entirely agree on why. It is thought that the steep angle of the glacier may be protecting it from the worst of global warming.
Petra has many nicknames, including the ‘Lost City’ and the ‘Rose City’. It is often called the latter because of the red-pink hue that the site takes on at sunrise and sunset. It’s a great time to visit, as you also avoid the midday desert heat, and crowds are fewer at these times.
Petra is generally open from 6am to 6pm in peak months, but it is sometimes possible to get in even earlier for the sunrise!
The explorer and merchant Marco Polo was born in Korcula, in modern-day Croatia. At the time it was part of the sovereign Republic of Venice. Polo was one of the first Europeans to travel to Central Asia and the Far East. He left at 17 and travelled for 24 years as part of the court of Mongol ruler Kublai Khan. He returned with stories of mythical beasts such as unicorns (Indian rhinos). And he introduced Europe to the concept of paper money. Polo wrote about his travels during a stint in prison, and his book “The Travels of Marco Polo” has been widely debated. Some believe the stories are exaggerated, but there is no doubt he travelled more than most in the 1200s.
Near the famous Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan, is a statue with a heartfelt and memorable story behind it. Hachiko was an extremely loyal Akita dog who waited outside Shibuya station every day for his owner in the late 1920s, before the two walked home together. However one day, the owner didn’t return, as he sadly passed away.
But this didn’t deter Hachiko, who returned to the station every day for more than nine years, hoping that today was the day his master returned. This carried on right up until the dog’s own death in 1935.
Hachiko became a local celebrity after his story made the news. People would sit with him at the station and feed him treats. And some even flocked from across Japan and beyond to see him. Hachiko’s story became famous in Japan and the loyal pup is revered even today as an enduring symbol of loyalty and fidelity.
Ramses II is one of Egypt’s most well-known pharaohs. One of the reasons for this is that he lived a remarkably long life, in which to cement his legacy.
Dating of his mummified remains has estimated that the king was aged 90 or 91 when he died in around 1213 BC. This is quite incredible when you consider the lack of modern medicine. He outlived all of his wives and many of his children, and ruled Egypt for more than 66 years!
One of Ramses II’s most significant accomplishments was the temple of Abu Simbel, dedicated to himself and his favourite queen, Nefertari.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall in Iceland is 60 metres high and is famous for the walking trail which goes directly behind the cascade. But did you know that geologists believe the top of Seljalandsfoss once marked the coastline of Iceland? This means sea levels would have been around 60 metres higher than they are today!
The Serengeti is home to many kopjes. These rock formations are made from exposed granite. They protrude from the grassy plains, having been shaped over millions of years by the elements.
Kopjes are a popular resting spot for lions and are thought to have inspired Pride Rock in the 1994 Disney classic The Lion King. Specifically, the Simba Kopjes, which are the tallest kopjes in the park and are named after the main character in the film.
Croatia is known for its long summers, beautiful islands, and stunning weather. But did you know that Hvar is the sunniest island of all? With more than 2,800 hours of sunshine per year, it’s the perfect place to visit if you’d like to enjoy a hot European summer!
When the Vikings arrived in Iceland sometime during the 12th century, they set about lopping down just about every tree on the island. As a result, later generations had very few raw materials with which to build their houses. So for a time, turf roofs were commonplace in Reykjavik and across the country. A few examples survive around Reykjavik and beyond, although these turf houses have mostly disappeared. And reforestation efforts are slowly but surely underway to undo some of the Vikings’ damage.
Hoi An is one of the most popular destinations with our travellers to Vietnam. One of the main reasons for this is that much of the town is pedestrianized – no cars, and even Vietnam’s famous mopeds are banned from some areas. This makes Hoi An peaceful, and a much nicer place to explore. As well as getting around on foot, you can also take to the canals, or hop on a bicycle to explore.
Riding camels across the rolling dunes of the Sahara is always a highlight for travellers on our Morocco tours. The dunes stretch away endlessly for hundreds of kilometres in all directions… or do they?
In fact, sand dunes and sheets cover only around 25% of the Sahara’s actual surface. The desert also has numerous other land features including salt flats, gravel plains, plateaus, and even mountains where snow has been recorded.
There you have it. A year of fun facts. We hope you enjoyed this round up and maybe even learned something! Make sure to follow us on social media for the next Fun Fact Friday!