Turkey may surprise you

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Destinations, Travel Guides

Turkey is not all about kebabs and men with moustaches selling carpets; it is a very historic land with lots of culture and scenery. Naturally for many holiday makers, the beach is the attraction and Turkey is not short of those, but it has mountains cities and ancient architecture too.

For the beach lovers perhaps Lara is the place which is in the district of Antalya; Lara is lively and has been described as the Las Vegas of Turkey for clubbers. But it is for one of the longest sandy beaches in Turkey curving elegantly into the Gulf of Antalya that many come here for. It cannot be denied that the beach is rather “trendy” just asking for you to stretch out beneath the glorious sun and splash in the inviting cool and shallow waters. With plenty of beach bars and cafes for you to retreat when the mid-day sun suggest you should be having a snack and a cooling drink, it is in these where you will find cuisine of all tastes be it Turkish or European, is all catered for.

But there is much more than beaches in Turkey, you will find that Turkish culture embraces dance, opera, cinema and music, in most of the bars and restaurants you can be treated to an evening of jazz from the rooftops whist enjoying a few beers. In Istanbul you can take in the atmosphere of the markets, bars and shops, perhaps the historic sites on the Aegean coast are more attractive, you can see the ruins of Troy here and the Black Sea is the place if you want to be away from the usual tourist attractions, enjoy the wild even adventurous feeling of this area.

Looking for glorious sunshine, you will get it in Turkey right through from March into November, Turkey will surprise you have no doubt.

Picture: annie_stru

Madeira for couples and singles

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Destinations, Travel Guides

There may come a time in life when you have to holiday alone and it is a great “bone of contention” that a single traveller has to pay a supplement to the travel company because they are not sharing a room with someone. Obviously tour companies book a number of rooms in hotels and set their prices accordingly, so when a person ask for a room on their own, often the company will charge a huge supplement, often this can be the price two people would pay.

Now the way that most hotels work both here in the UK and more often in Europe is to charge for the room, irrespective of how many people are occupying it. With this in mind, if you are a single traveller you will find that there are companies that will cater for singles and the prices are usually competitive.

An example is a trip to Madeira which is one of Europe’s most beautiful travel locations with many thousands of tourists returning year after year. This Portuguese Island is an all year round summer climate and wonderful fauna and flora and is also virtually crime free and one of the safest holiday destinations in the world, surely an ideal place for a single to holiday. From wonderful parks and gardens with exotic flowers to seascapes with blue ocean and towering cliffs to rustic villages in quiet valleys breathtaking scenery and mountains which are more that the height of those found in Scotland for example.

One of the pleasures of an island holiday is that the ocean is never too far away! Spend your days exploring the coastline of majestic cliffs, a trip to pebbled beaches and beautiful rock pools, Porto Santo offers miles of golden beaches and all round Madeira is blessed with an almost perfect climate, you are sure to return.

Picture: Gertrud K.

The beautiful island of Phuket

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Destinations, Travel Guides

Phuket, Thailand is one of the most magical places in the world.  Ironically, people were reminded of the beauty of Phuket through one of the ugliest disasters that befell the island, the Asian tsunami in 2004. Today, there are no traces of the devastation and, in fact, many believe that Phuket recovered so well that it is actually more alluring today than it was before 2004.

This paradise destination is located in the Andaman Sea to the west coast of Thailand.  The fastest way to get there is by plane from the capital city of Bangkok, the cheapest is by train, the least practical is by inter-city bus, while the most romantic is by sea. 

Bangkok is about 840 kilometres away.  Getting there by land will take about 12 to14 hours, which is a good thing for those who want to see the countryside.  Buses can be hailed at Bangkok’s southern terminal station or at the Khaosarn Road.

Cruise ships are slow, which is why it is perfect for travellers who are not in a hurry but would love to enjoy the journey as much as the island.  Cruising from Bangkok to Phuket is the most popular cruise package in the country simply because the waters are lovely and the island destination is the best that Thailand can offer.

The island of Phuket is home to the most pristine Asian beaches, lovely seaside restaurants, pulsating bars and nightclubs, ancient temples, and simply the most beautiful views and sights.  The island has 17 white sandy beaches, the three most popular of which are Karon Beach, Patong Beach and Laem Singh Beaches.

Meanwhile, two religious attractions are the buddhist temple of Wat Chalong and the Big Buddha on Nekkerd Hill.  Two destinations worth visiting are the nearby Phi Phi Island, and Pang Nga Bay for its emerald green water, limestone cliff formations, and intriguing island caves.

Picture: Charlie Pryor

Things to see and do in Portugal

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Guides, Travel Tips

Portugal in a beautiful country with a vast array of thing to do for the eager tourist. Here are our top destinations and attractions to see in Portugal:

1.    Ericeira – approximately 22 miles northwest of the capital Lisbon, Ericeira is a popular seaside resort with a range of sandy beaches and is home to Portugal’s largest surfing association. This traditional Portuguese town still has its old charm and is a great destination for those who want to chill out and relax or want to hit the surf.
2.    Feira de Barcelos – the Feira de Barcelos is a weekly market held in the main square in Barcelos. It features a plethora of local pottery and traditional handicrafts, as well as seasonal fruit and vegetables. Attracting tourists and visitors alike, Feira de Barcelos is a must see for those who want to get a feel for the culture and tradition of the area.
3.    Museu Gulbenkian – this museum in Lisbon is full of historical artwork and sculptures from all over the world including oriental and classical art from Egyptian, Greco-Roman and Armenian cultures. It houses some of the best gold and silver objects and furniture in the world and is well worth a visit when you’re in the city.
4.    Bom Jesus do Monte – The Bom Jesus do Monte just outside the city of Braga is Portugal’s most photographed church. It is most famous for its Baroque stairway that twists and turns its way up 116 meters to the church entrance. The church is an important tourist attraction for the city of Braga and offers a range of great photo opportunities and vast views of the city and surrounding countryside.
5.    Monastery of Batalha – the Monastery of Batalha is a marvel of Gothic design and took over a century to build. Finished in 1517, this huge monument was built to commemorate the Battle of Aljubarrota (1385) in which Portugal gained its independence. It is a must see attraction for anyone with an interest in history.

Picture: Loredana

Ideas if you missed out on your summer sun

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Destinations, Travel Guides, Travel Tips

If, for whatever reason, you missed out on your annual summer sunshine holiday, there are plenty of places that you can enjoy lovely sunshine before the long winter nights draw in. As the next week or so closes the Mediterranean resorts begin to empty and package deals and flight prices also begin to drop, so now is the time to grab a late deal.

September in the Mediterranean resorts are still pretty reliable as far as the weather is concerned, but later, although it can be very pleasant, it can break and you could find yourself having to find somewhere out of the rain instead of reading on the sun bed. If you wish to go in October, then the answer is to go a bit further south than you might in earlier months and for example Cyprus may be a safer bet than Majorca or Corfu. The Canaries is always reliable for sunshine in the later and very early months of the year, but of course it is at this time that the Islands are very popular and the prices still hold.

Cyprus is an excellent late summer destination and whilst the major towns of Limassol and Larnaca have attractions, getting into the Limassol foothills, as well as into the capital Nicosia is no more than a couple of hours away on excellent roads.

Malta offers plenty; blue skies, blue seas not forgetting the delicious Mediterranean food. Steeped in history Valletta is a perfect place for a base for sightseeing across the Island. In the town itself, you can stroll around soaking up the atmosphere and taking in all that the Grand Harbour Valletta, which is protected on all four sides by vast sixteenth-century bastion walls, has to offer.

Lanzarote has been busily transforming itself from a cheap and cheerful destination into something a bit more up-market; it can be described as eco-friendly, offering cycling, walking, surfing and excellent local wines. There are plenty of sunshine spots fabulous beaches and a handful of idyllic waterside fish restaurants.

Further afield but with virtually guaranteed sunshine in the 20’s centigrade in the winter Florida has not be called the “Sunshine State” for no reason. We would not recommend the high summer but in the period March to early May and mid-October to late November it is near perfect.

Picture: luc.viatour

Things to see and do in York

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Destinations, Travel Guides, Travel Tips

York is one of the most important historical cities in England and has been the backdrop to many a major event throughout its history. York was founded by the Romans in 71AD where it has been an important city ever since. Here is our guide to the best places to visit in York.

York Minster

No trip to York is complete without a visit to the impressive York Minster Cathedral. It is the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and still dominates York’s skyline. Free guided tours of the cathedral are offered every day except Sundays every hour between 10am and 3pm; you can also climb the towers 275 steps to experience the spectacular panoramic views of York.

JORVIK Viking Centre

The JORVIK Viking Centre is a must see for those visiting the city and is one of the most popular visitor attractions in the UK outside London. Take a walk through reconstructions of Viking streets and see archaeological finds that show how the Vikings really lived.

The JORVIK Viking Centre is open daily from 10am to 5pm and admission starts from £6.75.

National Railway Museum

During the 19th century York became the hub of the Railway network and is now home to the largest railway museum in the world, the National Railway Museum. The museum houses a huge collection of locomotives and railway equipment and is a great day out for the whole family.

York Dungeon

York Dungeon is not for the faint hearted or indeed small children, but its well worth a visit for for the older clientele. The dungeon experience lasts for around 70 minutes and takes you on a journey through more than 2000 years or York’s darkest history.

The experience brings together a cast of actors, special effects and scenes where you will come face to face with York’s most sinister characters and learn a bit more about York’s darker side. Tickets start from £11.40, but are considerably cheaper if you book in advance online.

Picture: Neil Melville-Kenney

Visit Disneyland Paris’ 20th Anniversary celebrations

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Europe, Travel Destinations, Travel Guides

If you’ve started thinking about booking your summer holiday for this year, you need look no further. Whether you are a family with small children or they’re growing up, this is the perfect holiday for you: Disneyland Paris. What child doesn’t want to visit Disney? And what could be better than going to Disneyland Paris, the closest Disney Park to home, and in the year of the 20th Anniversary celebrations?

Disneyland Paris is the most recently opened of the Disney Parks, in April 1992. The 20th Anniversary celebrations began in April 2012, but due to their popularity, they have been extended until September 2013. So what extra things are there to see and do over the summer?

The most exciting thing for park guests is the Disney Dreams evening show. Once the sun has set, the show begins with a fantastic array of lights, colours, lasers, water and fireworks. The main event in the show is Sleeping Beauty Castle, which through the magic of Disney and technology is transformed from its normal self into the waterfall from the Lion King, Notre Dame Cathedral and a lantern covered night time sky. It follows in the footsteps of Florida’s amazing Fantasmic show using water screens to project all of your favourite characters and bring them to life.

The park will also boast extra magic hours for guests, opening its doors earlier and staying open later into the night so that everyone can enjoy the magic of the celebrations a little longer every single day.

Disney Magic on Parade is another feature of the celebrations for the anniversary, with the usual daily parade transformed with a fantastic new soundtrack and floats. The characters even dress up for the occasion in specially designed costumes.

Brand new for the 20th anniversary are new meet and greet opportunities with some of your favourite characters. Mickey Mouse awaits each and every guest who would like to meet him in his own private rehearsal room. While you queue, there are shorts of Disney cartoons to keep the kids occupied. Make sure to meet the Disney Princesses in their brand new pavilion near It’s A Small World too.

Picture: Tom Bricker

The Original Package Holiday Destination – Benidorm

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Destinations, Travel Guides, Travel Tips

Spain is the most popular destination for holidaymakers from the UK looking for a week in the fun. Benidorm has always been a firm favourite, from the first package holiday destination and first holiday abroad for many, it caters well for sun seekers. It might have had its ups and downs in recent years, but it’s defiantly on the up again now!

It seems that Benidorm proving to be popular still with many travellers, it was the original package holiday destination. Back in the early 1960’s Benidorm was a small village, during the reign of Franco, there was a modesty restriction in place, so clothing such as bikinis were banned. You can really imagine that today! Spain’s glorious beaches were going to waste with locals and only a few travellers taking advantage of the region.

Benidorm’s Mayor Pedro Zaragoza had some forward thinking though and persuaded Franco to life the bikini ban, so he could open the gates to holiday makers. Even before the nearest airport was open the Mayor of Benidorm was busy designing his town with wide avenues and good access roads, to cope with the influx of tourists he was expecting when the local airport finally opened.

When Alicante airport opened in 1966, it paved the way for tourists to flock to the seaside resort of Benidorm, which was more than ready to welcome, tourists on their first package holidays in the sun. To stop urban sprawl, planners opted for high rise hotels and apartments for tourists, which is why Benidorm looks more like a mini Manhattan, that a traditional resort town. It’s instantly recognisable from the moment you fly in past the Mediterranean coast to Alicante airport. God knows where the early tourists thought they were heading!

Over the next couple of decades, Benidorm’s popularity as a summer holiday destination grew and grew, it has always held a place in many Brits heart, because for many it probably was their first holiday abroad, somewhat exotic compared to the UK. However with such growth and such popularity comes some problems…..

By the late 80’s and early 90’s Benidorm was starting to get a bad reputation, for ‘larger louts’ and rowdy behaviour, as the rise of the cheap package holiday made it a more attainable destination for all classes. Luckily though in the last ten years, the popular summer holiday destination has been working hard to clean up its image and the fact that other resorts in Spain such as Majorca and Ibiza as well as Greek destinations, became popular a lot of rowdy tourists dissipated to those resorts.

Now Benidorm focuses, on its great history and pushing its great Spanish culture, no longer seen as a home away from home, Benidorm is getting back to its Spanish roots. It’s also a great family friendly destination, with safer streets and great family orientated hotels. So once again Benidorm is shining as a holiday hotspot.

Picture: Dara Robinson

Luxury holiday in the Maldives

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Travel Destinations, Travel Guides, Travel Tips

From watersports to honeymoons, the Maldives is a destination for letting go and enjoying life.  This tiny collection of 26 small islands or ‘atolls’ in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka and India, can boast of having been a free nation for most of its history.

Atolls

Atolls are ring-shaped coral reefs that have grown completely around the shoreline of an island, and are a natural phenomenon found only in the warm water of tropical regions.  With turquoise lagoons and a multitude of marine life, they are a haven for castaways and watersports enthusiasts alike.

Watersports enthusiasts visit the Maldives for the incredible scuba diving and snorkelling possibilities: for snorkelers, the waters around the Maldives are among the best in the world.  For others, the islands of the Maldives are about doing as little as possible, and these remote islands are the perfect destination to escape everyday life for a luxurious, stress-free break.

Activities – from adventure to indulgence

From the amazing beaches of pristine white sand, soft corals and blue lagoons, Maldives holidays from ITC offer simple pleasures, but not without luxury: Robinson Crusoe never had it so good!

Imagine being cast adrift on an island where you can spend the morning in your private spa, take lunch in a coconut grove and afternoon cocktails on your personal sundeck overlooking the azure sea of the Indian Ocean.

Note that the Maldives is a Muslim country, and visitors should respect national customs and dress accordingly.  Alcohol is however readily available at all resorts.

Picture: Chi King

Western Mediterranean Cruises

Author: jayzep  |  Category: Cruise Holidays, Travel Destinations, Travel Guides

When days get longer, thoughts turn to sunshine and to holidays.  Well, think no more and book a late   cruise deal to sail off into the sunset on a 14-night Mediterranean cruise in the middle of March.

An example of a March cruise itinerary sees the cruise ship embark from Southampton for a relaxing    3-day sail to Barcelona, capital of Catalonia, famed for the yet unfinished cathedral of Antonio Gaudi.  For the football fans a visit to the Nou Camp is a must while other highlights include the Ramblas, the cable car to the summit of Montjuic and, of course, the delicious local wines and tapas. 

The next port of call is Cannes with its film festival glamour.  Everything in Cannes is the epitome of chic from the stunning architecture of the hotels to the luxury brand boutiques and the million dollar yachts anchored in the harbour.  Take a stroll along the beach-front or through the Old Town and be prepared to be captivated.
 
The next destination on the itinerary is Rome, centre of one the world’s greatest ever empires and home to one of the biggest religions in the world.  Few places can rival the eternal city for history – from the ancients through to the Renaissance to modern times; it’s a city that needs more than the one day allocated to be truly appreciated. 

After a day chilling out at sea, the cruise ship stops at two Spanish cities – Palma in Majorca and Cartagena in the region of Murcia for gentle sightseeing and buying last minute souvenirs. The last stop is the rock of Gibraltar – known to the ancients as one of the Pillars of Hercules and considered to be the very edge of the known world.  Today it is more famous for its wonderful views across to Africa, and its resident monkeys.

Picture: Jacrews7