Human castles may make UNESCO World Heritage list

You gotta love Spain. Not only do they like having giant tomato fights and getting chased through the streets by bulls, but they build giant castles out of people.

That’s right. Not content with having some of the best castles in Europe, the Spaniards like constructing living towers up to ten people high. Called a castell, the tradition originated in the region of Catalonia in the 18th century.

A bunch of strong, big castellars make up the pinya (base) and support their teammates as they create level upon level with progressively fewer (and lighter) people. Once a level is complete, the people who make up the next one climb up the backs of the others and take their place. Then the top person, called an enxaneta (rider) climbs all the way to the very top and, supported by only two people, raises a hand with four fingers up to symbolize the Catalan flag. The enxaneta and the very top levels are often made up of children to lighten the load on the bottom levels. Then the castell disassembles itself from the top down by each level climbing back to the ground. Only when everyone is safely back on the ground is the castell considered a success.

It’s an unusual tradition and now the castellars are applying to get their art on UNESCO’s list of “intangible world heritage”. The list includes examples of rare cultural practices that are relatively unknown and unpracticed outside a certain region. Check out the website for more bizarre and amazing practices around the world.

Inca Trail? Not this summer.

World travelers just can’t get enough of Peru’s famous Inca Trail. But has the Inca Trail had enough of them? It may come as surprise to anyone still planning summer travel to Peru, but the world-famous path to Machu Picchu is completely sold out for the 2008 summer travel season, with the next available opening in September 2008.

As veteran Peru trekkers might know, the Peruvian government began imposing restrictions in 2005 on the number of hikers who could take the path each day to no more than 500. Couple this with the insane popularity of Machu Picchu on globetrotter “must-see” lists and increasingly affordable airfare deals and you have a serious supply and demand problem on your hands. While this quota is helping to preserve the impact of human visitors on this priceless cultural artifact, it’s certainly frustrating news for anyone planning their trip to Peru around a stopover at the site.

If it turns out the big, bad Peruvian government has thwarted your travel plans this summer, don’t despair just yet. As this article article points out, there are a few alternative routes to the famed Inca Trail including the Salkantay Trail, which also climaxes at Machu Picchu, along with the scenic Lares Valley and the spectacular Colca Canyon.

And if you’re still dead set on that Inca Trail trek? Give it another try in the off-season. You might even have that million-dollar view at the top all to yourself.