Japanese food is renowned the world over for its subtle taste, exotic textures, and meticulous presentation. Part of the fun of visiting Japan is indulging in this delicious culinary concoction. In fact, it might be the ultimate destination for a foodie traveller. But while dishes such as sushi and tempura have made an international impact, there are hundreds of other local Japanese recipes ready for visitors to sink their teeth into.
Breakfast is an entirely different situation in Japan. The most common Japanese breakfast is a combination of miso soup, grilled fish, pickles, and rice. Saying that Western-style buffets are also available in most tourist hotels.
Sushi and Seafood
It’s a myth that sushi and seafood are synonymous. What makes sushi, well, sushi is the way the rice is prepared with vinegar. It can then be served with meat, fish or vegetables.
The most common varieties of sushi are described below:
Maki – the seaweed is on the outside of the rice and other ingredients
Temaki – seaweed is wrapped loosely around all other ingredients in a cone shape
Uramaki – sometimes called ‘inside-out’ sushi, you’ll find the rice on the outside of the seaweed (and other ingredients in the middle)
Sashimi - slices of raw fish and seafood on their own
Nigiri – hand pressed rice topped with an ingredient, this is the oldest type of sushi and was created in Tokyo
Rice is considered an essential part of Japanese cooking, and many main meals come with a side-serving of rice. Rice-based snacks are also very popular. Such as Onigiri, which is a palm-sized triangle of rice filled with soy, tuna, salmon roe, or sour umeboshi (pickled plum), all wrapped up in a sheet of crisp seaweed (also called nori).
Noodle dishes are also very popular in Japan, and three main types of noodles you’ll come across are: soba, udon and ramen. Soba are thin noodles made of brown buckwheat flour and can be served hot or cold. Typically hot soba noodles are served with tofu, vegetables and chicken – combined with a hot broth. Cold soba noodles are laid on a bamboo screen bed, with a cold sauce for dipping.
Udon noodles are much chunkier and made with plain wheat flour. Yakisoba and yakiudon are the most common dishes udon noodles are found in, where the noodles are fried (often in a thick soy sauce) along with seaweed flakes, meat and vegetables.
Ramen noodles, made from yellow wheat-flour, are usually served in big bowls in a steaming oily soup and typically comes in three varieties: miso (flavoured with fermented bean paste), shio (a salty soup) or shōyu (a broth made with soy sauce).
Vegetarian and vegan
While Japan might have been the country that brought the world tofu, plant-based diets are not that common in Japan. While it is easy to avoid dishes with meat or fish in them, it’s hard to find something where the broth doesn’t contain a by-product.
Like most international cities, however, Tokyo has a splattering of vegetarian restaurants and more restaurants are creating 100% vegetarian dishes. You just need to plan ahead. Kyoto, however, is the most vegetarian-friendly place in Japan. It’s an ancient city that has deep Buddhist routes – where Zen Buddhist temple cuisine, which is entirely vegan, is still served today.
Japan has a sweet tooth and dessert is a big part of its culture. However, Japan was making desserts before sugar was readily available in the country and, as a result, fashioned unique desserts that were based on rice and sweet beans.
One of the most popular desserts in Japan is mochi – which can be a dessert in its own right or mixed with something else. Daifuku is mochi with a sweet filling, ranging from black sesame to strawberry. Mochi can also be turned into an ice-cream. Another popular option is Dango: chewy Japanese rice dumplings served on a stick that can be toasted over a campfire. Small crepe shops are also a common sight in Japan, with their crepes usually served as a cone containing elaborate fillings.
Japan’s most famous alcoholic beverage is undoubtedly sake (also known as nihonshu). If you’re not familiar with it, officially it is a rice wine but tastes more like beer. Two varieties exist - sweet (amakuchi) and dry (karakuchi) – and while there’s technically three grades of sake, these grades are mainly used for tax purposes and don’t indicate the quality of the beverage.
Sake is traditionally served in small square bowls and drank with a meal. You might be asked if you want your sake heated up but most sakes taste best cool. As a final note, sake is 15% alcohol and one small box is more than enough to get someone tipsy.
You’ll also spot the beverage shōchū, which is a cheaper version of sake. It’s potent, ranging between 25 to 50 per cent alcohol. Premium brands can be served straight like traditional sake, while budget-friendly bottles are served with cocktails.
While sake might be Japan’s official drink – beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage. Ironically the first ever brewery was set up to please American expats, and Japanese locals had to be bribed into drinking it. These days, Japan boasts four big-name breweries: Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo and Suntory – each of which churns out several varieties of lager and ale-type beers. Local craft beers are also becoming more popular.
If you’re not drinking alcohol, tea is very common. Green teas in Japan are graded. Bancha, the lowest grade, is for everyday drinking. While Sencha is medium-grade and served in upmarket restaurants. While gyokuro, the highest grade, is served during special occasions.
Ordering and etiquette
Restaurant and dining etiquette is different in Japan. When you are initially seated, you’ll be handed an oshibori (a damp, folded hand towel, usually steaming hot though sometimes cool in the summer) and a jug of water will usually be automatically brought to the table.
Most Japanese restaurants will give you chopsticks by default, but in tourist places, forks and knives are usually available (though you might have to ask for them). Chopsticks, however, come with their own rules of etiquette. You should use different ends for your own plate and taking food from communal dishes, and shouldn’t use them to point at things. Also remember to not stick your chopsticks upright in rice, as this is an illusion to death.
As for tipping, it is not usually expected and service charges are automatically added to bills.
Have you been to Japan? Tell us about the best meal you ate and anything you think first-time visitors should know.
London is a city that has survived mad monarchs, unidentified serial killers, plagues, and a colossal fire – so it’s no surprise that a number of vengeful spirits haunt its streets. Whether it is eerie mansions, spooky cemeteries or creepy museums hosted in historical buildings, ghost hunters will find plenty of macabre sites to test their fear levels. Here are just 10 of the best.
1. Tower of London
Not only is the Tower of London a prominent structure in London, it is also the home of several royal ghosts. Henry VIII had two of his wives executed there. While the young princes Edward V and Richard of York, Arabella Stuart and the famed White Lady are all believed to have met their end there (with their souls trapped forevermore).
2. Hampton Court Palace
Catherine Howard – one of the wives Henry VIII executed at the Tower of London – is also said to haunt Hampton Court Palace. It is here that Henry put her under house arrest but she escaped from her guards and ran down the gallery, only to be dragged back to her room screaming. Many visitors have reportedly heard her screams.
3. Britain’s most haunted theatre
While theatres appear to be a natural habitat for ghosts (there’s barely a theatre in Britain that doesn’t claim to have a resident spook) the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane has claimed more than its fair share. The theatre we know now was built in 1812, but it’s actually the fourth building to have been constructed on the site with underground foundations dating back to the 18th Century.
It’s most famous resident is The Man in Grey. Legend says that the Man in Grey is the ghost of a knife-stabbed man whose skeletal remains were found within a walled-up side passage in 1848. He is also said to be dressed as a nobleman of the late 18th century: powdered hair beneath a tricorne hat, a dress jacket and cloak or cape, riding boots and a sword. He’s most commonly found haunting the upper circle of the audience seats.
4. London Dungeon
When you’re done exploring London’s most haunted sites, it’s time for some live historical re-enactments. This Halloween the London Dungeon are switching up their legendary Jack the Ripper experience and exploring the theory that the infamous East End Killer was, in fact, a woman!
Admission to The London Dungeon is included in Merlin's Magical London Ticket, which includes entry to Madame Tussauds London, Coca-Cola London Eye, SEA Life London Aquarium, and Dreamwork's Tours Shrek's Adventure! Price is £55 per adult & £40 per child (3-15yrs). You can order it through us when you book your London break.
5. Old Operating Theatre Museum
Operating theatres are creepy at the best of times. Let alone an operating theatre that was in use before surgical anaesthetic was invented in 1846. It probably comes as little surprise that many of the patients died and are said to haunt the building. You’ll find this operating room on the top floor of St Thomas Church, not far from London Bridge Underground Station.
6. St Bartholomew’s Hospital Museum
If hospital history really fascinates you, here’s another gruesome step back in time for you. Barts is the oldest hospital in Britain (dating back to 1123), and its left wing has been turned into a museum with displays of old surgical equipment, marble heads and dusty documents (including one signed by Henry VIII). You’ll it not far from the museum of London.
7. Highgate Cemetery
This expansive graveyard opened in 1839 and eventually became the final resting spot of 170,000 people, including Karl Marx, Charles Dickens and Douglas Adams. There’s been a few ghostly sightings over the years, including The Highgate Vampire who is said to be 7 foot tall, dark, have piercing eyes and wear a long black coat and top hat.
8. Greenwich Foot Tunnel
While the Greenwich Tunnel doesn’t officially have any resident ghosts – it’s still a creepy place. Constructed between 1899 and 1902, it runs under the Thames River for 370 metres between Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs – and even the lightest footstep produces strong echoes. Not somewhere you’d want to walk by yourself.
9. Bleeding Heart Yard
Legend says the courtyard’s name memorialises the murder of Lady Elizabeth Hatton, whose family owned the area around Hatton Garden. The story says, that her body was found here on 27 January 1926, “torn limb for limb, but her heart still pumping blood.” There’s also a nearby French restaurant called The Bleeding Heart.
10. Liverpool Street Station
While the station itself might look modern, in 2015 a suspected plague pit was uncovered underneath. Also, back in the year 2000, a Line Controller who was watching CCTV footage noticed a man dressed in white overalls standing on the East-Bound Central Line platform - despite the fact that it was 2:00am and the station was closed! The Station Supervisor went to the platform to investigate and once there, found no trace of the man whatsoever. He had simply vanished into thin air, never to be seen again.
If you’re not a seasoned cruiser, cruise and adventure are not two words you might necessarily associate with one another. But adventure cruises – or expedition cruises, as they are more commonly known by in the cruising world – are becoming increasingly more common as cruising enters the mainstream and travellers yearn to discover more exotic parts of the world.
Expedition ships are fitted with a high capacity for fuel and food and made with shallower hulls to ply new, previously uncharted waters. They also prove that “roughing it” and “adventure” are not synonymous, with some of the world’s most-respected luxury cruise lines owning a dedicated expedition ship within their fleet.
But where to? Expedition ships have the benefit of being able to reach corners of the world that train or plans can’t. Unlike other modes of transport, there’s very little water or land still unchartered by the world’s many cruise lines. If you’re an adventurous traveller (or even an experienced cruiser) who has exhausted many of the usual bucket-list destinations – now is the time to explore further afield with this selection of adventurous cruises.
Celebrity Xpedition to the Galapagos Islands
There are many reasons why the Galapagos Islands should be on everyone’s bucket list, but one stands out in particular: it is home to a vast number of endemic species. The ecological system here is so profound that it even inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Its remote location has allowed many rare species to thrive, and the lack of natural predators has brought about a harmonious relationship between humans and animals – so the animals don’t fear travellers.
The Celebrity Xpedition sails only to the Galapagos Islands and knows the waters well. The smaller, 96-passenger ship is the perfect place to relax after a day exploring – whether it’s in the library, the sun-soaked sunrise desk, or the Blue Finch Bar on the Panorama Deck.
The Galapagos Islands are not the only beautiful cruise destination in the South Pacific. Whether it’s the famous beaches of Fuji, the aquamarine life of the Conflict Islands, whale watching in Vava'u, or the peacefulness of the uninhabited Mystery Island.
The South Pacific isn't overrun with cruise ships, so picking one is usually a simpler task than booking a European or Caribbean cruise. It is also a popular destination for Repositioning Cruises as they switch between their Alaska and Far East itineraries. Most itineraries focus on one particular part of Oceania - usually French Polynesia, Melanesia or Micronesia.
Mekong River Cruise
It’s not just ocean cruises that are travelling into new waters - several river cruise lines offer incredible itineraries along the Mekong River. These include AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld, and Viking Cruises. Most of the itineraries take two weeks and usually include hotels stays on post and pre-cruise (it’s also the perfect excuse to book a twin-centre with somewhere in the Middle or the Far East). The majority of Mekong River cruise tours start and end in Vietnam, beginning in Hanoi and ending in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) or vice versa. They include a flight to Siem Reap and a sail on the Mekong, with ports in Cambodia and Vietnam.
Antarctica is the ultimate bucket list destination – and it’s becoming more accessible than ever. Silversea, Scenic, G Adventures and Hurtigruten are just a handful of cruise lines that venture into the most southern continent of the world. Antarctica Cruises typically start in Argentina and usually stop off at a few ports in South America (including the Falkland Islands) before entering the icy waters of Antarctica. How many nights you’ll stay in Antarctica will depend on the itinerary (and how far you’ll be allowed on land).
Northern Polar Regions
From the most southern point of the world to the most northern. If you want to explore the Arctic, you have plentiful options – in terms of both destinations and cruise lines. Since the Arctic is not technically a landmass in its own right, Arctic cruise destinations are any country that lies within the Arctic Circle. This includes the northern regions of Norway, Sweden, Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Canada, Russia and Alaska. Such a vast area is home to a rich array of wildlife, including polar bears (nicknamed Kings of the Arctic) whales, seals, walruses, Arctic foxes, musk oxen, reindeer and numerous birds. Saying all this, the most popular cruise itinerary is northward along the Norwegian coast toward Spitsbergen.
In terms of cruise ships, you’d be pleasantly surprised how many cruise lines offer itineraries into the Arctic Circle. Cunard, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Costa and Holland America Line all offer cruise lines that pass over the Arctic Circle. Hurtigruten is considered the expert at Arctic Cruises, however, and provide passengers with highly immersive experiences.
Eastern Russia with Silver Explorer
Remember we mentioned that even luxury cruise lines have a dedicated expedition ship? The Silver Explorer is Silverseas offering. It comes with everything you would expect from the ultra-luxury cruise line (from two high-end restaurants, Zagara Beauty Spa, and the Connoisseur’s Corner) but also comes equipped with a strengthened hull and a fleet of 12 Zodiac boats.
The destinations it sails to are wide-spread. Most famously it visits Antarctica, with itineraries that vary between 10 days to 18 days. Other destinations include the South Pacific, Greenland, and South America. But it’s most unique itinerary is to the East of Russia. The sailings vary between 12 days to 29 days, with most of the itineraries including a stop off in Alaska and Canada – and a trip over the International Date Line.
Prague is a popular city for a weekend city break, and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s just under two hours from the UK, boasts an easy-to-navigate airport, and the city centre doesn’t sprawl too far. It also has plenty to see and do - whether you’re a history buff, beer-drinker, or foodie.
When you pass through customs and have collected your luggage, hop on the AE airport shuttle. It runs every 30 minutes and – for quite a reasonable price – will take you right into the city centre. You can buy a ticket from the transportation stand once you arrive at the airport. Then you are free to enjoy your entire weekend in Prague – and we’ve even pulled together this quick itinerary for you.
Visit the Charles Bridge
Potentially the most recognisable structure in Prague but, because of this, the crowds can build up quickly. So make sure you get there first thing, especially if you want to get some good pictures.
Breakfast at Café Louvre
Once the crowds start to arrive it’s time for you to fuel up for the rest of the day. We recommend trying out the historical Café Louvre, which is 10 minutes away and usually opens its doors at 8am (which is quite early by Prague standards). Their breakfast menu is extensive with six pre-made breakfast plates (small, Czech, French, Hangover, Northern, and Fit), as well as a generous list of smaller plates (including pancakes and scrambled eggs).
Explore the Old Town
You can’t visit Prague and bypass the scenic Old Town. There is a long list of buildings and sites to keep an eye out for, including the Astronomical Clock, the Church of Our Lady before Týn, the Old Town Hall, the National Gallery and the Church of St. James the Greater. Make sure you also take the time to explore the side streets and tiny alleys.
Only a stone’s throw away from the Old Town lies the Jewish Quarter – which is one of the best preserved Jewish quarters in Europe. The must-visit sites are the Old Jewish Cemetery, Pinkas Synagogue, and The Jewish Museum.
Diner at Lokál
The Old Town is filled to the brim with appetising restaurants that locals and visitors love – but if we were to choose one it would be Lokál. Here you can enjoy hearty, homemade Czech cuisine made in the slow, good old-fashioned way without artificial ingredients. The smoked meat on the menu is even prepared at their very own butcher shop!
Relax at the end of your final night with a tipple at the Hemingway Bar. The drinks menu here is one of the most extensive in the city – with a specialty in absinthe, champagne, and rum. In fact, there are 200 rums behind the bar!
Breakfast at Cafe Savoy
Start your second day with breakfast at one of Prague’s oldest and most successful restaurants. Café Savoy is housed in a building that dates back to 1893 (remember to look up and admire the Neo-Renaissance ceiling). They have a generous breakfast menu, which includes continental, English, and French breakfasts; as well as 11 different ways to have your eggs. They also offer 5 small plates if a big breakfast isn’t your thing.
When you’re fuelled up, you’re in a great location to explore Prague Castle. Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful, it is also the largest coherent castle complex in the world and dates back to the 9th Century. It’s currently the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic, and was once a seat of power for kings of Bohemia and the Holy Roman emperors.
Your basic fare to enter the castle is 500 CZK and there are tours available at an additional cost.
John Lennon Wall
Sixteen minutes on foot (and back towards the Charles Bridge) you’ll find the colourful John Lennon Wall. After the 1980 assassination of John Lennon, an unknown artist drew a portrait of John Lennon on the wall, and quickly after followed other Lennon and Beatles-inspired graffiti. The wall has been painted over a few times, and the original John Lennon portrait is now lost under years of graffiti. Today, the wall represents a symbol of global ideals such as love and peace.
Now it’s time to relax a little and enjoy incredible views of Prague from the beautiful Letná Park – where you’ll find some incredible hidden gems. At the base of the park, you’ll spot a very large ticking metronome which is where the world’s largest monument to Stalin once stood (it was blown up in 1962). To the right of the metronome is the Hanavsky Pavilion, where you’ll find cute little neo Baroque cast iron structure built for the Jubilee World Exhibition in 1891, where you can now stop for a cake and cappuccino. You can also dine at Belcredi, a fine dining establishment situated in an Italian style Palace, or relax with a beer at Letná Beer Garden.
Explore the New Town
Prague might be a city drenched in history with beautiful cobblestone streets, but it also has a modern side too. We recommend you spend a late afternoon just exploring the New Town, and see where it takes you. Some key sites include Dancing House, Wenceslas Square, Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral, and the National Museum of Prague.
Dinner at The Globe
When you’re finished admiring the buildings of the New Town, it’s time to treat yourself to the local foodie scene. There are several delicious restaurants to choice from, but we recommend The Globe. It opened in 1993, and since then has become a Prague institution. The building it is hosted in dates back 115 years (don’t be fooled by the term “New Town” – it’s just newer than the Old Town) with red dramatic walls featuring original art that can be purchased, high windows, a gallery and a courtyard for al fresco dining. There’s also a bookstore at the front of the building (the restaurant was originally famous for being the first English bookstore in Prague), which includes international newspapers.
The Prague National Theatre
End your weekend in Prague with a performance at The Prague National Theatre. On any given night you’ll find opera, drama or a ballet, and the venue is home to a number of bars and restaurants. Also, the building itself is beautiful and blends different architectural styles together, most notably Renaissance Revival architecture.
Have you spent a weekend in Prague before? Let us know how spent it in the comments below.
If you’re looking for a luxury, all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean – Sandals ticks all the boxes. Not sure if it’s for you though? Have a look at these 10 reasons why you should stay a Sandals Resorts on your next Caribbean adventure.
1. Pristine beaches
All of Sandals Luxury Included® resorts face onto a beach on the leeward side of the island, where coral reefs create calm waters that are perfect for swimming and watersports.
2. Sumptuous rooms and suites
You’re spoilt for choice with a variety of room types available at Sandals Resorts. Some of the favourites include Over-the-Water Suites, Millionaire Suites, Skypool Suites, Private Villa Suites, and Swim-up Suites.
3. 5-Star Global Gourmet™ Dining
Sandals boast up to 16 restaurants per resort – which is more than any other all-inclusive resort. Guests have the opportunity to discover and experience new and diverse delicacies every day with up to 23 types of international cuisines available.
4. Premium Spirits
Sandals Luxury Included® promise also includes premium top-shelf spirits – such as Bombay Sapphire, Finlandia, Cointreau, and Johnnie Walker.
5. Premium House Wine
The house wine at Sandals Resorts is none other than Robert Mondavi Twin Oaks®. Six varieties are served and were specifically selected for Sandals Resorts.
6. Free Scuba Diving
Sandals Resorts includes scuba diving as part of the Luxury Included® experience. Certified divers can dive twice daily, but if you’ve never dived before, Sandals’ brief introductory PADI Resort Certification Programme* will have you experiencing the Caribbean underwater world that same day.
7. Day and Night Entertainment
Sandals knows how to party – whether that’s at one of the many exclusive resort bars or one of their extravagant themed nights set on the white-washed beach.
8. Championship Golf
If you stay at a selected Sandals Resort in Jamaica, Bahamas and Saint Lucia, then you’ll be treated to unlimited rounds of golf without the green fees^. Best of all, free round-trip transfers are included form nearby Sandals Resorts.
9. Unrivalled Service
Sandals Resorts boast a higher staff-to-guest ratio than any other all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. Plus, they have a partnership with the Guild of Professional English Butlers to train their butlers to the highest standards.
10. Stay at One, Play at All
Sandals guests don’t have to stick to their own resort! With the exclusive “Stay at One, Play at All” exchange programme, guests can enjoy all the amenities, services, entertainment, bars and restaurants at other nearby Sandals Resorts, including round-trip transfers; available in Jamaica, Saint Lucia & Barbados.
If you’ve stayed at a Sandals Resort, which was your favourite amenity or inclusion?
*At Cost. ^T&C’s Apply.
One of the things that set Aruba apart from the other Caribbean islands is its buzzing capital of Oranjestad. While Aruba still has everything you would expect from a Caribbean getaway – white-sand beaches, dazzling sunshine – the capital adds Dutch-colonial culture, eclectic nightlife, and incredible shopping. Here are 5 things that you must do while in Aruba’s capital of Oranjestad.
1. Swim at Surfside Beach
Aruba is home to several beautiful beaches, but if you’re staying in Oranjestad we recommend Surfside Beach in the Downtown area. It is home to the warm shallow waters that the Caribbean is famed for, but also boasts many Kwihi trees that create shaded areas to relax. There’s also a floating waterpark for the kids, beach bars for the adults, and beach beds for rent.
2. Learn about the island’s past at Fort Zoutman
If you want to step back in time and explore Aruba’s history – you need to visit the oldest structure in Aruba. Built in 1798 by the Dutch army, it was originally a military fortification. The Willem III Tower was added to the west side of the fort in 1868. The fort and tower were restored and re-opened in 1983 as the Historical Museum of Aruba.
3. Wander around the National Archaeological Museum
Oranjestad is home to several fascinating museums, but the National Archaeological Museum is considered one of the best. Housed in the former home of the Ecury family, it displays indigenous artefacts dating from as far back as 2500 BC and provides a glimpse into life on the island prior to European settlement. The museum also contains an exhibition of contemporary island artists who use historical themes in their pieces.
4. Shop at Renaissance Mall
This is the island’s premier shopping district and is located right in the midst of downtown Oranjestad. Aside from 60 shops (which includes Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Michael Kors, and Cartier) you’ll also find entertainment options and restaurants.
5. Enjoy a day trip to the Donkey Sanctuary
You’ll have to travel slightly outside of Oranjestad for this one, but it is well worth it. It’s a non-profit organisation dedicated to saving the island’s donkeys, which used to be a main source of transportation. You can purchase a feed cup at the sanctuary, or you can bring your own carrots. You’ll find it in the Santa Cruz region, and is open Monday to Sunday from 9:00am - 4:00pm.
Have you ever been to Oranjestad? What was your favourite attraction?
Nothing brings families together like exploring somewhere new and creating lasting memories you’ll all laugh about around the dinner table for years to come.
Kids grow up fast these days and making the most of those shared moments is key. So, with that in mind, here are three incredible places you can all enjoy that offer something a little different to your typical European holiday.
Did you know, Borneo is home to half of all known plant and animal species in the world? Meaning there’s nowhere better to see a huge array of wildlife. Be sure to hop aboard a Kinabatangan River cruise where the kids will love spotting the local jungle inhabitants like macaques, crocodiles, pygmy elephants and orangutans!
Other highlights include the historic temples and harbourside market of Sandakan, the caves of Sarawak and the beaches of Lankayan where green turtles come to lay their eggs all year round.
If your tribe are always up for a challenge, how about tackling the four-day hike to Machu Picchu together? Trek passed early Incan settlements, reach the dizzying heights of Dead Woman’s Pass and camp high in the clouds surrounded by the stunning Andean mountain range.
After successfully completing the trail, remember to make a pitstop at Aguas Calientes, which is home to soothing hot springs and a great selection of delicious restaurants. The nearby city of Cusco, with its traditional craft markets and fascinating museums is also a must-visit!
Immerse your family in the buzz of Marrakech’s world-famous souks and let the kids test out their bargaining skills as they barter for a pair of traditional slippers or a carved wooden camel. Before reviving yourselves with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in the Djemaa el-Fna main square.
Venturing into the Atlas Mountains to explore Berber villages, taking a trip to the pretty pirate port town of Essaouira and getting involved in a hands-on bread baking class all help make this trip great fun too!
Intrigued by what you’ve just read? Then get in touch to talk to us about how we’re working with our friends at Intrepid Travel to bring you the best family breaks to destinations across the globe.
If you think idyllic paradise islands don’t truly exist – you clearly haven’t been to The Islands of Tahiti.
Located in the South Pacific The Islands of Tahiti is comprised of 118 beautiful exotic islands. When Captain James Cook and his crew returned to Europe after having stumbled upon The Islands of Tahiti, people were captivated with the illustrations of the unusual flowers and fauna – and the European fascination with these South Pacific Islands began.
And the allure hasn’t ended. The Islands of Tahiti is still the destination of choice for couples, families and individuals looking for seclusion, romance and escapism. Here are 10 reasons why Tahiti should be on everyone’s bucket list.
1. It’s the home of the water bungalow
Those water bungalows that are now an essential part of any tropical island? They are Tahitian.
In 1967, the first three overwater bungalows were built at the Bali Hai Hotel on Raiatea, followed by the overwater bungalows on Moorea and at Hotel Bora Bora. Five decades on, there are now 884 overwater bungalows across the islands.
2. The rare black pearl
The Islands of Tahiti is one of the few places in the world where you can find the rare black pearl. They are found in black-lipped oysters, which are larger than most other oysters resulting in larger pearls than you might be used to. Tahitian pearls can actually be a charcoal grey, silver, or dark green colour instead.
3. Whale spotting opportunities
Between July and November, humpback whales migrate from the icy waters of the Antarctic to the warm waters of Tahiti. French Polynesia is actually a Marine Mammal Sanctuary, and there are strict laws about approaching the animals. Book yourself a boat tour to witness these impressive mammals in the wild.
4. It’s a beautiful diving location
Whales aren’t the only fascinating creatures wandering through the French Polynesian currents. There are 1000+ species of marine life within the surrounding waters, including 20 shark species. Because of its exceptional biodiversity, scientists consider the Polynesian sea zone to be the “richest aquarium on earth”. The waters are also a warm 80°F with a visibility of 30m.
5. Some of the world’s best surfing
We’re not done talking about The Islands of Tahiti’s fantastic waters quite yet. Keen surfers will know that Tahiti is home to some big waves – including Teahupoo, which is considered the most powerful break in the world thanks to its size, force, power, and coral reef below. Don’t worry, if you’re not a surfer you can still take a sightseeing boat out to observe this incredible force of nature.
6. Adventurous rainforest
When you arrive in The Islands of Tahiti, it’s tempting to sit down on the white-powder beach and stay there for the duration of your holiday – but The Islands of Tahiti has an adventurous core. Book a 4x4 safari through lush rainforests and the Papearii and Papeeno Valleys and stumble upon villages and hidden rivers on The Islands of Tahiti, or seek out sacred altars and old World War II artillery on a guided hike around Bora Bora's Mount Otemanu.
7. The food is an exotic blend of Asian, French and Tahitian
You’ll discover plenty of new flavours and smells in The Islands of Tahiti. Alternate between delicious local dishes like Poisson Cru (marinated raw fish salad), traditional French fare like Bouillabaisse (fish soup) or Asian-influenced Chow Mein stir-fried noodles and wonderful mixed-culture dishes like Poulet Fafa (chicken with taro leaves). Remember to also try some fresh fruit and order some imported French wine to sip on during dinner!
8. Traditional tattoos
If you’ve got some ink, you’ll be in good company as the word tattoo actually derives from the Tahitian word tatau (the literal translation is “light tapping”). The practice of tattooing in French Polynesia goes back 2000 years and was traditionally used as a way to distinguish between tribes, chiefs, princes and kings. There were even “tatau” ceremonies that could last several weeks.
9. Dazzling night sky
With a remote location in the Pacific Ocean, far away from light pollution, you’ll find the clearest night sky you’ll ever witness. Keep an eye out for famous constellations, most notably The Southern Cross, Scorpio and The Pleiades.
10. It’s incredibly romantic
With gorgeous beaches, clear night skies, and gorgeous food – we don’t really need to explicitly tell you that Tahiti is perfect for a romantic break with your partner. It also makes for a beautiful backdrop during a proposal, wedding, or honeymoon! (There are 33 places to get married in Tahiti, including same-sex marriage).
If you’re thinking of visiting the Caribbean soon and want to choose an island of the livelier variety: we recommend Barbados.
Not only does Barbados boast beautiful beaches and perfect blue waters, but the island is also home to myriad festivals and events. 2018 has been a particularly great year with more planned before December hits, plus the 2019 calendar is already filling up. Here are just seven of the best events to attend in Barbados.
Food and Rum Festival – (18th – 21st October 2018)
Barbados is considered the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean, so it only seems fitting to start our list with a food festival.
Every October the organisers pull together a selection of events designed to excite the taste buds while offering a variety of other colourful experiences to stimulate the other senses. This year join the UK’s celebrated Michelin Star Chef Tom Aikens in Barbados for an amazing four-day experience. The line-up includes:
Thursday Festival Opening with the Oistins Bay Gardens Cook-Off
Signature Rum Event
Saturday afternoon Polo Rum Spirits, and canapes
Fine dining events on Saturday night that pair international chefs with local top chefs
Beach Party at the Hilton Resort Barbados along with a final fine dining dinner at a signature local restaurant.
Open Water Festival - (7th – 11th November 2018)
The waters that surround Barbados are absolutely sublime and offer perfect swimming conditions. Every year, in early November, Carlisle Bay comes alive with hundreds of swimmers from all over the world as they take part in the Barbados Open Water Festival. The 2018 event will offer 1.5K, 5K and 10K swims.
Swimming conditions and the beauty of the island aside, there is a wonderful camaraderie among the swimmers at this event with its laidback island-life setting and the highly popular pre-event practices and social sessions leading up to the swim races. It’s this mix of fun and competition in a remarkable location that has resulted in excellent reviews and many repeat visitors.
Run Barbados Marathon Weekend - (7th – 9th December)
If you’re looking for a scenic place to go for a morning jog, Barbados certainly ticks the boxes. The route for the 2018 Run Barbados Marathon Weekend includes Bay Street where the Government Headquarters and the Prime Minister's office are located, Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown Boardwalk, Kensington Oval, Charles Duncan O'Neal Bridge, Independence Square, and – of course – beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea.
Barbados Sailing Week - (16th – 24th January)
Sailing has a long history in Barbados with the first organised race around Barbados held on January 1st 1936. Starting at the Barbados Cruising Club, the route leaves through the historic Carlisle Bay, passes the deep water harbour and then begins a 20-mile tight reach in calm water up the platinum coast of Barbados passing the homes of the rich and famous.
Then it curves around the top of the island where sailors will pass the Atlantic Ocean, and will face a good 7 miles of tricky currents, wind shifts and big waves. Eventually, they will slide down the 18-mile long south cost and finish up at the south-west point of Barbados.
Sugar & Rum Season - (February 15th – March 31st)
Both sugar and rum form a significant part of the Barbadian Heritage, and this festival invites you to experience the history of both.
From rum distillery tours to sugar and rum cooking classes, chocolate making classes, mixology shows, spa treatments, street and beach parties, cane factory, windmill and rum shop tours, the Barbados Sugar and Rum Season is steeped in history and authenticity.
St Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway Opening
This isn’t a festival or yearly event – but the opening of a historical attraction. Once upon a time, Barbados used to boast a train service that ran from the capital city of Bridgetown to Bellepaine, St. Andrew on the east coast.
In January 2019, the St Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway will be opened, (in a million dollar project) and visitors to the island will once again be able to experience Train rides in Barbados.
2018 Year of Culinary Experiences
After all that, you’re going to need some food - but not to worry, the food scene in Barbados offers a delicious mix of culinary experiences. Keep your eye out for the re-DISCOVER logo in restaurant windows (there’s also an app you can download), where you can enjoy a 3-course dinner (including a ½ bottle of wine) for US$50 per person (note that an advanced e-booking must be made). There are also 40 restaurants offering a 40% reduction on lunch menus.
An exciting calendar of Culinary Experiences, including World Food Day as well as the Barbados Food and Rum Festival has also been launched. Alongside weekly and monthly events such as Hasting Farmers Market, Oistins Fish Fry at Oistins Bay Gardens, and a Sunday Jazz Lunch at Eastpoint Grill.
Everything is more extravagant in Abu Dhabi so it’s no surprise that its national airline, Etihad, is a step above the rest.
Guests are offered the choice of four different class types – ranging from a seat in economy class right through to a private three-bedroom suite (we’re not joking). If you’re looking at booking a holiday to Abu Dhabi (either as a standalone destination, or a city-break before you fly onwards to another exotic location) here’s everything you need to know about picking the correct class-type for you.
Etihad Economy Class offers more than what you would expect. Aside from the usual amenities such as in-flight entertainment (including live TV channels) and sleeping kit (with fleece, neck pillows, and headset) – you’ll find a Flying Nanny who will provide a helping hand with the little ones on long-haul flights. You’ll also be treated an in-flight meal, with options for everyone, including a choice of three main courses and a vegetarian option as standard.
Business Class with Etihad is not business as usual, with spaces where guests can work, rest and play. You’ll love the comfortable seats with in-seat massage facility, adjustable headrest and footrest, plus – on-board our A380/787 Dreamliner - adjustable seat firmness. If you’re on a long-haul flight you’ll also enjoy a fully-flat bed (up to 6 feet 8 inches) with direct aisle access.
To help you maintain concentration, Etihad Business Class also offers Dine Anytime menus that allow you to eat at a time that suits you. There’s also a Food & Beverage Manager to guide you through the extensive menu options and make wine and beverage recommendations.
You haven’t really experienced a First Class Flight until you have flown First Class with Etihad. Enjoy privacy from other passengers with a sliding divider, as well as noise-cancelling headphones and turn-down service with stylish loungewear, all-natural mattress, duvet and bed linen, soothing pillow mist and pulse point oil. There’s also a personal refreshments cabinet in your Suite or Apartment.
Elsewhere on-board you’ll also find an Inflight Chef, who will cook personalised meals for you at a time that suits you. On the A380 you’ll also enjoy the added luxury of an in-flight bathroom with full height shower and exclusive amenities.
Travelling with one other person for a special occasion? Book yourself a place in the Residence, the only three-room suite on a commercial airline. The living room has a luxurious leather double-seat sofa and two dining tables, while the bedroom boasts a 6-foot 10-inch double bed, with designer Italian bed linen. You’ll also find an en-suite shower room with full-height shower, bathrobes, and a vanity unit with magnifying make-up mirror and hairdryer.
But luxury surroundings aren’t the only reason to travel in The Residence. While on-board you’ll be looked after by a Savoy-trained Etihad Butler and Inflight Chef. While on the ground you’ll also enjoy access to a Lifestyle Concierge service (who will look after you when you arrive) and a VIP Travel Concierge service (which includes private check-in and lounge).