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  1. 10 of the best beaches in the Algarve

    If you’re looking for a holiday destination that offers golden beaches, a stunning coastline and warm waters, then look no further than the Algarve. Located in southern Portugal - where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean – the Algarve is well-suited to beach-bums looking for isolated alcoves with sleeping fishing villages. But the best bit? The Algarve has been awarded 50 Blue Flag awards over the years thanks to their dedication to providing clean and safe beaches for holidaymakers. Here are just 10 of the best beaches in the Algarve. Arrifes Beach, Albufeira Sometimes referred to locally as Praia dos Três Penecos (beach of triple rocks in English) because of three large isolated rock formations that dominate the horizon, this beach is as beautiful as it is popular. To reach it, there are wooden steps from the car park that descend into the sands. The beach is also home to a bar (that is closed in the winter), toilets, showers and – in the summer – it is patrolled by lifeguards. Praia da Luz Praia da Luz was originally a traditional fishing village, which has slowly become a popular beach destination with luxury villas. Its beach extends the whole way along the urban town. Along the beach you’ll find windsurfing and diving schools, as well as discos, restaurants and shops. Praia da Dona Ana, Lagos This was once described as the ‘Best beach in the World' by magazine Condé Nast Traveller. In typical Algarve style, it is nestled between golden cliffs where it will catch the sun but also avoid Atlantic winds. But having Blue Flag status also means that it has all the facilities you would expect as well as including a cafe built into the cliff-side. Oura You’ll find this golden stretch of sand located down a hill from the resort town of Oura. Home to a promenade lined with cafes, bars and some nice restaurants, Oura beach is a little more laid back than the beaches closer to Albufeira town itself. It also stretches for 2km when the tide is out so you’ll always find plenty of space. Olhos d’Água If you’re looking for a relaxing Algarve holiday in a quaint tourist town, we recommend Olhos d’Água. The main beach here is lined by old fisherman huts and surrounded by the characteristic red sandstone cliffs. There are also a series of small cove beaches that surround Olhos de Agua. After this the coastline opens up to the beautiful Praia da Falésia beach, which extend for 5km and leads to the stylish town of Vilamoura. Praia do Amoreira, western Algarve If you’re looking to get away from it all, we recommend this isolated spot. Perfect for naturalists, with endless rock pools harbouring starfish and sea urchins. Plus, the undertow current creates amazing waves for surfers. There’s also no restaurants or bars nearby, so we recommend taking a picnic. Praia do Barril, eastern Algarve If you’ve seen images of numerous metal anchors positioned permanently into the sand – here is where you’ll find them. Known as the Anchor Graveyard, the anchors were left by the tuna-fishing boats that once fixed their large nets there. But history isn’t the only thing you’ll find here – Praia do Barril beach itself is really popular with windsurfing and sailing. Praia do Martinhal, western Algarve This another beach that is perfect for sporty types looking for activities. Surf, body-board and windsurfing are popular in the azure waters, while volleyball and football are regularly played on the sands. But if you’re not feeling too confident yet, there’s a surf school where you can sign up for lessons. There are also restaurants and cafes nearby where you can sample some of the Algarve’s fresh seafood. Praia do Armado, western Algarve If you’re a pro-surfer (or like to watch pro surfing) then this is the Blue Flag beach for you. This is Portugal’s premier surfing beach and the venue for many national and international body-boarding and surfing competitions, with its own surf school on site. There is also beach bar on site. Praia da Marinha, Lagoa You could argue that we’ve saved the best for last. It is widely considered to be one of the best beaches in Portugal, having won countless awards and being regularly used in tourist board campaigns. However, the beach is a bit out of the way and requires a car plus a walk down some steep steps – though this does mean that there is significantly less people. Praia da Marinha is about half an hour’s drive from Albufeira in the Lagoa area, and is well sign-posted.
  2. 5 things to do in Napa Valley

    There’s no arguing that Napa Valley is primarily famous for producing some of the world’s finest wine. But this scenic county in central California is much more than just wineries and rolling vineyards. Located north of San Francisco, Napa Valley works as a day-trip or as a relaxing end to a busy city-break in one California’s urban hubs. Aside from the obvious wine tasting tours (which are considered some of the best in the world) you’ll also find plenty of laid-back activities as well as beautiful outdoor pursuits in this beautiful but popular county. Here’s just a taster. 1. Sip fine wine We’re going to start with the obvious though. Napa Valley is home to more than 400 wineries, some owned by multigenerational families, others by massive corporations – and a few by celebrities. Shortlisting the best wine tasting experiences in Napa is another blog post entirely – but an insider tip is to move away from the large wineries along Highway 29 and head to the hills, where a plethora of medium- and smaller-sized wineries awaits. Also, most wine tours are by appointment only so remember to research and book before you go. 2. Treat your taste buds Wine has always been the perfect accompaniment to delicious cuisine, and Napa Valley isn’t short on that either. The Oxbow Market is the perfect place to try some regional food and wine, including fresh seafood and locally made jams. If it’s high-end sit-down dining that you’re looking for, then head to Yountville – which potentially has one of the world’s highest concentration of fine-dining restaurants. 3. Rent a convertible Take advantage of California’s sunny weather and hit the Silverado Trail on the east side, which curves through the landscape from Napa to Calistoga. Plus, Calistoga is a hot springs town – making it the perfect place to rest after a day of driving. 4. Explore the great outdoors If you’re into hiking, head to Westwood Hills Park and try the three-mile long trail. Alternatively, tackle the five-mile path to the top of 4,343-foot-high Mount St. Helena in Robert Louis Stevenson Park, outside Calistoga. 5. Admire some art Originally a winery, the 217-acre Di Rosa now displays an impressive collection of works by Bay Area artists. It’s well worth a visit, and official guided tours highlights the 125-year-old residence and sculpture garden. Then in the evening, head to the Cameo Cinema, a historic cinema house in St. Helena, which dates back to 1913 and showcases a mix of indie, foreign, and first-run Hollywood films. If you’ve been to Napa Valley, what is your favourite thing to do?
  3. 6 romantic activities for couples in Prague

    Prague is the perfect city break for a romantic weekend. Unnervingly beautiful but also filled with fine-dining restaurants, there’s plenty of little date spots hidden within the city. If you and your beloved are heading off to the Czech capital sometime soon, here’s our top six romantic activities for couples in Prague. Stroll Through Petrin Park For an affordable date, take your sweetheart’s hand and walk through Petrin Park. A mere 10 minutes’ walk from the Charles Bridge, the park surrounds its namesake hill and is a popular recreational ground for the locals. Popular spots include the Rose Garden, Petřín’s lookout tower, Štefánik's Observatory and the Mirror Maze. Vintage Car Ride If your sweetheart isn’t a fan of walking for hours, hire one of the city’s many vintage cars - but don’t worry, they come with a driver so you can snuggle up in the backseat. The drivers are also trained tour guides so they can verbally illustrate the history and significance of all the sites you pass. Admire the city from above Prague is a beautiful city, and the skyline is the perfect backdrop to a romantic evening (or even a proposal). There’s an abundance of beautiful look-out spots to choose from, including attic bars and riverside restaurants to historic look-out towers. Secure your love with a padlock Just like many of Europe’s key cities, Prague also has two bridges decorated in padlocks. The first one can be found in the district of Mala Strana and after a wander you’ll find the small padlocked bridge over one of the canals. Or head over to Naplavka, and walk along the metal train bridge that is a stone’s throw away from Prague Castle. Take a River Cruise around the city’s canals Take the scenic route through the city on board a river cruise and admire the buildings on the banks of the Vltava River. There are a few liners to choose from, plus you can really treat your other half with a special dinner cruise. Purchase jewellery made with local ruby gems If you’re jewellery shopping in Prague, keep an eye out for the labels Czech Garnet, Bohemian Garnet or Turnov Garnet. This is the trade name for a type of Garnet called Pyrope that historically is mined in the north of the Czech Republic and has the deep red colour and from Latin it translates as Fire-Eyed. If you’ve been on a romantic weekend getaway to Prague, let us know what your favourite activity was?
  4. 10 historical sites to visit in Croatia

    There’s a reason why Dubrovnik and Split were the perfect places to bring King’s Landing to life – it’s because they themselves are historical cities with beautiful monuments and fascinating buildings. We’ve already shared a location guide to all the Game of Thrones filming spots at the end of Season 6 – but there are plenty more historic buildings that are worth scouting out when you land on Croatia’s shores. Here are 10 historical sites to get you started – some of which ended up on the television show and some that are still waiting for their famous debut. 1.Dubrovnik’s City Walls Dubrovnik’s city walls showed up in many Game of Thrones scenes and were actually one of the primary reasons producers chose this city to bring King’s Landing to life. Surrounding most of the city, they are actually considered to be one the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages, as they were never breached by a hostile army during this time period. In 1979, the City Walls (along with the Old City of Dubrovnik) joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. 2. Diocletian’s Palace The Diocletian’s Palace forms about half the old town of Split, so it’s very hard to not notice. Originally constructed as an ancient palace for the Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 4th Century, its size means that it more closely resembles a fortress (in fact, one half of the structure did house the military garrison). 3. Pula Arena Rome is home to the world’s most famous amphitheatre – but some of its walls have fallen down. The Pula Arena on the northern coast of Croatia, however, still stands in its original glory. It is also the best preserved ancient monument in Croatia and even made its way onto the Croatian 10 kuna banknote. 4. Hvar On the surface of it, the island of Hvar is where young yachters hang out and sunbathe (it’s actually the sunniest spot in Croatia). But when you wander beyond the harbour you’ll find a world of abandoned ancient hamlets, craggy peaks, vineyards and lavender fields. Top sights include the Tvrdalj, St Stephens’ Square and St Stephen’s Cathedral. 5. Lovrijenac Just outside the western wall of Dubrovnik, you’ll find Fort Lovrijenac (or St. Lawrence Fortress in English) - an ancient fortress and theatre famous for its plays and importance in resisting Venetian rule. Originally the Venetians wanted to build a fort in the same spot and would rule the city if they had succeeded. The people of Dubrovnik built the wall within three months so, when the Venetians returned with their building materials, the spot was already taken. 6. Dubrovnik Cathedral Dubrovnik's Cathedral (full name Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin) dates back to the 7th century and was built on the site of seven other previous cathedrals (nearby archaeological excavations have actually found the foundations and walls of two older churches). Even though the building is fascinating itself, it’s the Treasury that is most interesting to history buffs. The treasury holds 182 reliquaries, including relics from the 11th to 18th centuries. Its most important possession is the gold-plated arm, leg and skull of Saint Blaise (patron saint of Dubrovnik). 7. Euphrasian Basilica A beautiful example of Byzantine art and architecture, this 6th-century Euphrasian Basilica is found in the coastal resort of Poreč. Its most striking feature is its golden mosaics, especially the one above the apse depicting Christ and the Apostles. It was also built on the site of a Roman villa whose floor mosaic can still be seen in the Basilica garden. 8. Salona Roman ruins Salona was once the provincial capital of Dalmatia in the time of Diocletian and the Salona Roman ruins are one of the largest Roman settlements in the region. It is believed that a community of 60,000 people lived here, but fled when the city was sacked by Avar and Slav tribes. What you see in the ruins today is the base of the amphitheatre, trunks of columns and gravestone carvings scattered around an extensive archaeological park. 9. Trogir Cathedral Trogir Cathedral is considered a work of art and effortlessly blends Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Which isn’t surprising as it dates back to the early 1200s and took more than 400 years to build. The cathedral tower is 47m high and is one of the most noticeable buildings in Trogir’s skyline. 10. Walls of Ston Did you know that Croatia is home to the second longest stone wall in Europe? If you didn’t, you do now. It clocks in at 5.5km and surrounds the ancient city of Ston, and dates back to the 14th Century. And for more history head inside and explore Ston itself, where you’ll find narrow quiet streets and noble ancient houses.
  5. There’s no denying that the quality of smartphone cameras has increased over the last few years. In fact, the market for point-and-shoot cameras is decreasing as more and more people would rather just carry their smartphone around for impromptu photos. And while smartphones are definitely more convenient, they do come with a lot fewer features. But with these ten tips, you’ll have beautiful smartphone photos that rival camera-taken photos – and one attractive Instagram feed. 1. Shoot horizontally There are times when a photo is best taken in portrait mode (to be uploaded later to your Instagram story, for example) but generally landscape/horizontal works best (and is easier to crop if need be). 2. The rule of thirds still apply Some photographers argue that composition is more important than camera quality – and we are inclined to believe them. If you’re unfamiliar with this golden rule of perfect photography, it’s the idea that your photos will look better if the subject is one third in (from any side) rather than right in the middle. Many smartphones now have a grid overlay to make it easier to follow this rule of thumb. 3. Use bursts for action shots If you’re trying to capture some cute snaps of your little ones, or photograph your friend bungee jumping, turn on the burst feature. Not all phones have this feature but if you do have it, it will take lots of consecutive snaps that you can pick your favourite from later. 4. Take a few shots Even when your friend isn’t skydiving or your kids aren’t frolicking in the sand – it’s always a good idea to get a few shots, no matter what you’re doing. Even if it’s a holiday selfie against a famous landmark, take a few different shots, from different angles with different facial expressions – and then decide later which one you want to upload. 5. Extra make-up If it’s an Instagram-perfect selfie you’re looking for, remember that make-up is less noticeable on camera than it is in real life. If you’re wanting to look glammed up in photos apply a little extra product so the details don’t get lost. 6. Remember to focus Many modern smartphones allow you to touch the screen in order to focus in on your subject. Doing so prevents fuzzy images and adds depth to the most basic image. 7. Try and not zoom While zoom can be a handy feature, it also reduces camera quality. If you can get physically close to your subject, do so. But if your subject is far away, take one image zoomed in and another without the zoom that you can crop later, and then decide which is best. 8. Think about lighting Natural lighting is almost always the best option, so if you want some great shots of the kids it’s best to play outside. However, the midday sun can be harsh in photos and many photographers only shoot in the morning or late evening. If rounding up your children at these times is an impossible feat then opt for some gently shaded areas (ever noticed how fashion bloggers are always taking photos in alleyways and small streets? That’s because these places are the perfect balance between sunny and shaded). 9. Edit it afterwards Even the most experienced of professional photographers edit their photos afterwards. Whether it’s adding some contrast, adjusting the clarity or creating a hue – apps such as Instagram, VSCO and Snapseed are your best friend. 10. And keep the lens clean We know this sounds like the most simple of tips – but is important. A dirty lens can create blurs or even marks on your photo. Take a soft lens cloth on holiday and wipe your camera lens each morning before you head out. If you use your smartphone abroad for photos, what are your top tips?
  6. A beginner’s guide to the Azores

    In the North Atlantic - 900 miles from the coast of Portugal – lies one of the world’s best-kept secrets. Beautifully rugged with giant craters, the nine islands that make up the Azores are an outdoor enthusiast's dream. Are you unfamiliar with this hidden adventure-filled paradise? Here’s everything you need to know. What to do Whale watching The Azores is currently one of the world’s largest whale sanctuaries and is home to large numbers of blue whales, sperm whales, dolphins and sea turtles. Taking a day trip on a boat is a must while visiting the islands (and if you’re here on a cruise, remember to stand on your balcony as you sail into port). Outdoor adventure sports Thanks to the islands’ volcanic origins, the Azores is home to an uneven landscape that is perfect for hiking, cycling and canoeing in the waterways. It is also home to some of the world’s best diving spots. Bird watching The Azores is home to the Azores bullfinch, one of the rarest birds in Europe – and as such has become a popular bird watching destination. Explore the cities The Azores isn’t all ethereal landscapes and lush forests. Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel is the Azores main urban hub. With a population of 68,809 it’s not the biggest city you’ll ever visit but you’ll still find beautiful Mediterranean architecture as well as restaurants, bars and clubs. How to get there Azores is already a popular cruise destination and regularly pops up on Atlantic Islands itineraries. If you prefer land holidays there are a few direct flights available from London. Though typically you’ll need to book two inter-connecting flights that change in Portugal. Direct flights take four hours and the islands are behind the UK by one hour. When to go The Azores is a year-round destination but is in its prime during the summer. This is when whale-watching is at its best and the warmer weather lends a hand to the outdoor pursuits the islands are known for. Typically the temperature hovers between 13 and 25 degrees throughout the year. Other important information Nationals of EU member countries do not require visas The official currency is the Euro Portuguese is the official language, though most locals who work in the tourist industry will speak English.
  7. Ask any cruiser why they prefer cruising to land holidays and you’ll hear phrases like “great value for money” and “can budget easily”. Which is true. Within the cost of your cruise you’ve already paid for several destinations, your room and usually some kind of dining. Many cruise lines also sell All-Inclusive packages that offer better value for money than many hotels. Below are five cruise lines whose all-inclusive packages are amazing value for money and allow you to get on with your holiday without worrying about your bill at the end. Saga Cruises Saga Cruises specialise in small-ship experiences for the over 50s – with some of the best inclusions at sea. All meals (including speciality dining), a choice of wines with dinner, all onboard gratuities, 24 hour room service, shuttle buses and WiFi are included in the price. Most impressively however is the door-to-door chauffeur service. If you’re staying less than 250 miles from Dover, Portsmouth or Southampton, Saga Cruises they will pick you up (and even carry your bags). NCL Every passenger on board an NCL cruise will have entertainment, aqua parks, sports facilities, kids clubs and complimentary dining included. However, any passengers that opt for Premium All-Inclusive will receive no extra charges for premium beverages, speciality coffees, soft drinks, bottled water and any tips related to all-inclusive services. Also – if you feel like treating yourself – passengers who stay in The Haven® or suite accommodation will be treated to gourmet dining, 250 minutes free WiFi per suite and $100 onboard spending money per suite – at no extra cost! Marella Cruises Three ships in the Marella fleet are all-inclusive by default: Marella Explorer, Marella Discovery and Marella Discovery 2. But if you have your eye on one of their other ships, you’re still in luck. We are offering a free all-inclusive upgrade on summer 2018 cruises on Marella Spirit, and a free all-inclusive upgrade on winter 2018 cruises on Marella Celebration and Marella Dream. Plus upgrade to all-inclusive for only £10 per person, per night in summer 2018 on Marella Dream and Marella Celebration. Regent Seven Seas This super-luxury cruise line might not be the cheapest at face value, but when you learn what is all included in the fare you’ll realise that sometimes paying a bit extra is worth it. The usual things like 24-hour room service, dining, WiFi, shore excursions, and gratuities are included. But with Regent Seven Seas you’ll also received complimentary access to the fitness centre, spa and speciality restaurants as well as unlimited beverages, including premium spirits. Most river cruises We’ve already mentioned Saga (who offer both ocean and river cruises) but generally speaking river cruises are very generous with their inclusions. But if it’s fully all-inclusive that you are looking for we recommend Scenic Tours , Tauck, Uniworld and Crystal River Cruises. Uniworld, for example, includes all gratuities, exercise classes, shore excursions, bicycle hire, WiFi access, onboard entertainment, in-suite butler service, all dining and premium beverages. While Scenic River Cruises include WiFi, complimentary beverages, all gratuities, and shore excursions. Which All-Inclusive cruise line is your favourite?
  8. 8 reasons to stay at the Roosevelt in New York City

    The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City is almost as famous as the city itself. Built right in the heart of Manhattan, and named after a famous President, its grand opening was earmarked by the Jazz Age. Since then it has earned a reputation as an iconic New York City hotel. Needless to say, everyone who has ever stayed in this classic hotel can attest to its beauty and elegance. If you were to ask them to name their favourite amenity or feature it would likely be one of these eight. 1. The prime location Located on Madison Avenue, some of NYC’s most energetic attractions lie right on the hotel’s doorstep. The Rockefeller Centre and Grand Central Station are literal seconds from the front door. While Central Park and the Empire State building are mere streets away. 2. Elegant rooms… There are a total of 1,025 rooms at the Roosevelt Hotel, polished to perfection with dark mahogany furnishings and traditional wheel back chairs. To add to the sophistication, the beds are made with triple layer sheets and a golden duvet. 3. …with modern amenities Catch-up with work or family back home with the high-speed wireless internet, or relax after a long day with Cable TV and in-room movies. When it’s time to leave your room and explore the city, make sure you’re impeccably groomed to cosmopolitan standards with your own hairdryer, iron and ironing board. 4. 24 hour Fitness Centre The Roosevelt Hotel also caters to holidaymakers who like to maintain their fitness regime while away. Use of the fitness centre is complimentary and includes fruit, water, towels, magazines and newspapers. 5. Five dining options Whether it’s a filling breakfast to start your day or a sumptuous dinner to celebrate a special occasion, The Roosevelt Hotel delivers. Choose between a special evening dinner in the Roosevelt Grill; or reward your taste buds with the legendary Roosevelt burger in the Madison Club Lounge; or stop for some convenient bar food at Vander Bar; or nibble away on the finger food in mad46 – plus there's room service! 6. Rooftop bar Mad46 is an iconic Manhattan establishment and many New Yorkers consider it the place to be seen on a Friday night. Its rooftop location is the perfect place to soak up the Big Apple’s exhilarating atmosphere while still high enough off the ground to feel like a calming oasis. Make sure you pop up to the Roosevelt roof at least once during your stay. 7. Fascinating history The Roosevelt Hotel first opened in 1924 and - while the hotel has added modern amenities - the elegance of the 1920s still fills the air. Named after Theodore Roosevelt, the architects chose the colonial architectural style because of the President’s fondness towards this period. It was also the location for the first ever broadcast of Guy Lombardo’s much-loved New Year’s Eve tradition of singing “Auld Lang Syne” over radio. 8. It’s a Hollywood film set Film buffs will recognise the exterior and interior of the hotel. It has made an appearance in several famous movies and cult-favourites such as Maid in Manhattan, Malcolm X, Wall Street, French Connection, The Boiler Room and 1408.
  9. How to pack for an African safari

    Packing for a holiday can be difficult, but packing for an African safari comes with additional confusion. Apparently, it’s warm but I need to stay covered? Are khaki colours a fashion choice or essential? How much bug spray do I bring? Is it true that it gets cold in the evenings? What about cultural dress codes? As someone who has been on safari in Kenya , Botswana and Zambia my personal safari packing list have improved over time. The first time I went on safari back in 2012 I had no idea what to bring and ended up borrowing clothes off my mum as she had made better choices than myself. But earlier this year I took a trip to Kenya and this time I was actually quite impressed with my own safari packing skills. Here is exactly what I packed, so you can get it right the first time. Daily Outfits There are three things to keep in mind when choosing what clothes to bring with you: Neutral colours so not to attract attention from animals Layers that you can add or remove as the temperature changes Protection from the sun My favourite safari outfit is khaki shorts, a loose-fitting white top, white trainers and a thin hoody to throw on top in the cooler evenings. I also took a small rucksack with me for day trips that had sunglasses and a sunhat in it for the midday sun. Be aware that you’ll be jumping in and out of high trucks, so shorts work better than dresses. If you’re a guy, the same rules generally apply. Three quarter length shorts and a shirt will work well. Plus sunglasses and comfortable shoes. Swimwear It depends on where you are staying, but some safari resorts have swimming pools. Many people still opt for fashionable swimwear so feel free to wear the same bikini or trunks you bought for last year’s Caribbean or Mediterranean beach break. Also remember flip flops or sandals as the paths back to your room might be rockier than you’re used to. If you’re doubling up your safari with a beach stay (such as the Kenya coast, Zanzibar or Mauritius) clothing choices here will be the same as any European or Caribbean resort. Bring along a nice pair of sandals and maxi dress, or a casual shirt, for the evenings. Sleep wear It’s cooler at night, so I would recommend full-length pyjamas. Camera It’s not uncommon to see people taking pictures with a DLSR camera (and a high-zoom lens) but I personally prefer a good point and shoot camera. I took my DLSR on my first safari but it is bulky to carry around and I didn’t always have to time to play with the settings when a leopard was sneaking past. I prefer something that easily slips in my pocket, isn’t highly valuable and does most of the work for me. A lot of phone cameras are also high quality these days, and many of my Kenya photos were taken on my Samsung. I’d recommend everyone takes a camera of some kind but it is really up to you. (A note on DLSRs if you’re considering buying one for safari: DLSR cameras don’t automatically take better pictures, and if you don’t know how to work yours, or own a suitable lens, you might end up with photos that aren’t any better than if you’d used your phone) Other technology I also took my tablet and iPod. The first of which I only used once as I was so busy. My iPod came in handy though when we were driving long distances between safari camps. Also remember to pack all of your chargers and spare batteries. The plugs in Africa also change depending on what country you are in – so double check before you pack. Toiletries, Medications and Beauty Products A full face of make-up will melt in the sun, but foundation, mascara, some concealer and neutral lipstick is still quite normal on safari. As with any other holiday remember your basic toiletries: antiperspirant, shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush. On our first night we stayed in a Tented Camp where we were only allowed a short shower and there wasn’t much time for a beauty regime. But every other resort we stayed in had en-suite shower rooms with no restrictions on shower time. If you like to glam it up on safari, I’d recommend picking your resort carefully. And yes, you’ll need bug spray. One bottle should easily do you for a week. Spray it on your clothes as well. Remember to check with your GP and travel clinic if you’ll need anti-malaria tablets. The important and legal things If you’re a UK citizen, you’ll need your passport to get into most African countries. As for visas, this depends on the country. For Zambia I had to send my passport off in advance, have it stamped and sent back to me. For Botswana the safari company offered day visas and for Kenya I had to pay $50 dollars for an entry visa at airport border security. Remember to check the Gov.UK website for up-to-date information. Some African money (such as Zambian Dollars) are what is known as a closed currency and you cannot change in advance. So you’ll need to stop by a bank machine as soon as you arrive. If you’ve already been on an African safari, do you have any items you’d recommend bringing? Or do you have a packing mishap to share? Let us know in the comments!
  10. Last week we published our top 10 destinations that are set to be big in 2018 – but what if you don’t want to visit the same place as everyone else? If you’re looking for somewhere off-beat, we’ve rounded up five destinations that aren’t overrun with crowds but still have a solid travel infrastructure. But you’ll need to be quick, these places will catch on eventually. Tasmania Witness a different side to Australia on the southern island of Tasmania. While the mainland boasts shining cities, Tasmania has remained true to its rugged routes. The scenery is beautiful and hikers will adore the selection of short forest trails and multi-day adventures. Plus, water sport lovers can explore the rocky coastline and winding rivers via kayak, raft, yacht or cruise boat. Then when evening falls, keep an eye out for the native Tasmanian Devils (and the legendary Tasmanian tiger). Cambodia Angkor Wat has been bringing in the travellers for decades, but generally it’s Thailand and Vietnam that attract the crowds to South East Asia. However, a string of luxury hotels have recently opened up in Cambodia that will allow visitors to explore other, mostly untouched, regions – some of them boasting quiet crystal-white beaches. Faroe Islands Much closer to home this time, the Faroe Islands are a low-key option for people wanting to explore the Northern Hemisphere. Cruises especially are becoming more popular - especially as part of a wider Scottish Isles and Iceland itinerary. Despite their remoteness, the Faroe Islands are much more than just rugged mountains: their easy-access to fresh seafood has resulted in an impressive selection of restaurants - one of them even boasts a Michelin Star. Bolivia We predicted in last week’s blog post that Argentina is set to become South America’s biggest tourist hub. But if you’re after some Latin American charm without big crowds, we recommend Bolivia. Sometimes referred to as the Southern Hemisphere’s Iceland thanks to the ethereal Salar de Uyuni salt flat, this is easily the continent’s most fascinating country. The cultural hub of La Pas (up in the scenic mountains, no less) has also recently emerged as a foodie capital. Egypt Tourists have been wary of Egypt for a few years, but the country is finding its feet again. Visitor numbers are climbing at a steady enough pace that you won’t be alone in your adventure but you’ll be able to enjoy an leisurely stroll around the main attractions. On top of that, even more Egyptian artefacts have been recently discovered: last summer archaeologists uncovered an ancient pyramid and a pharaoh’s head! Let us know in the comments what off-beat place you’ll be visiting this year.
  11. Top worldwide sporting events of 2018

    Enjoy both travel and sport? Then 2018 has plenty of opportunities for you to combine your love of the two. Whether it’s the heavyweight events like the World Cup or something a little more niche, the sporting world has a busy year planned. Here are just a few of the biggest world sporting events happening in 2018. 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia The FIFA World Cup is always massive, with fans flocking to the host country every four years. This year it is Russia’s turn. Twelve stadiums will be used for the matches, all of which will be in European Russia (including two stadiums in Moscow). England is the only UK team to qualify, and their first match will be held on the 18th of June in the Volgograd Arena in the south of Russia. 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea It’s time for the Winter Olympics again, and this time it will take place in Pyeongchang County during February. The Alpensia Resort in Daegwallyeong-myeon will be the focus of the games, and will host the ski jumping, snowboarding, bobsleighing, biathlon, alpine skiing and cross-country skiing (as well as the opening and closing ceremonies). The east coast city of Gangneung will also be stepping in to host the indoor events. If curling, ice hockey, speed skating or figure skating are your winter sports of choice then this is the city to travel to. Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast It doesn’t feel as though it’s been four years since Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games, but here they are again – but this time it’s on the sunny Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. The majority of the stadiums will be located within the city (and are only a 20 minutes’ drive from the Athletes Village) with only track cycling, shooting and the preliminary rounds of basketball held elsewhere (Brisbane and Cairns/Townsville respectively). Superbowl in Minneapolis One of the biggest annual sporting events (not even just in America) is the Superbowl. It will be held on the 4th of February this year at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, though it is not yet known what teams will be playing. US Open The US Open is the modern version of one of the oldest tennis championships in the world and continues to attract the crowds. Details of this year’s US Open have not yet been announced but traditionally it is held on the last Monday in August, and continues for two weeks into September, with the middle weekend coinciding with the Labor Day holiday. Wimbledon We can’t forget about the UK’s very own tennis championship, can we? It’s the oldest tennis championship in the world and is regarded as the most prestigious. This year’s tournament will begin on the 2nd of July. 2018 Sailing World Cup in Denmark If you’re a sailing fan you won’t need to travel very far as this year’s Sailing World Cup is being held in Denmark. While the crowds for this are not massive, the performance of the teams is used to qualify countries for the next Olympics (which will be Japan 2020). European Sports Championships in Glasgow and Berlin This is Europe’s biggest inter-sport championship and this August it will be split between the iconic German city of Berlin and Scotland’s very own Glasgow. Athletics, aquatics, cycling, golf, gymnastics, rowing and triathlon will all be represented. Tickets are not yet available but you can sign up for alerts.
  12. There’s something about a new year that brings about the plan-making in us. Maybe it’s purchasing a new diary with fresh pages, or maybe now that the festive season is over our minds turn to what’s ahead. If you use January as an excuse to map out your year, you’ve probably already thought about what countries you would like to visit. You’re not the only one as January is one of the most popular times of year to book, with airlines and hotels offering an array of early bird discounts. If you’re short on inspiration, however, here are our predictions on what destinations will be must-visits over the next 12 months. 1. Japan Japan is an island full of wonders. Whether you’re looking for sky-high cities, fascinating culture, or stunning natural landscapes, you’ll find it in this two-island destination. The country also boasts an impressive bullet train service, making it an excellent choice for a touring holiday if you can’t choose between the popular cities of Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto. 2. Vietnam Vietnam is the perfect mix between old-school oriental charm and modern-day buzz. Its capital, Hanoi, is a mixing bowl of French and Asian culture and boasts a European feel with a lively old quarter. Down in the south though you’ll find tranquil beaches in the resorts of Hue, Nha Trang and Hoi An (but if you begin to crave the city, the bustling Ho Chi Minh City can also be found in the south). 3. Argentina South America is a once-in-a-lifetime destination, and Argentina is currently its hotbed. Get lost in the infectious spirit of Buenos Aires where you can tango until seven in the morning. Then take a trip to the breath-taking Iguaza Falls on the Argentinian and Brazilian border. And remember to pop by the Andes. 4. Italy Thanks to its generous offering of tourist hotspots, Italy makes this list every year. Whether it’s the canals of Venice, iconic buildings of Rome, the shopping in Milan, the scenic views of Lake Garda, or the rich architectural heritage of Genoa – Italy offers something for every traveller. 5. China China is a fascinating country, whether you’re looking for city lights or iconic world wonders. Celebrate modern China in the city of Shanghai, with its high rise buildings, the charming People’s Square and first-class Grand Theatre. Then explore the oriental temples of Beijing, before moving onto the ancient sites of Xi’an - including the Terracotta Warriors. 6. Croatia Croatia has seen a surge in popularity over the past few years, largely thanks to Game of Thrones. But this beautiful country is more than just the real-life location of the Red Keep and the House of the Undying. It is home to eight national parks, that are overflowing in fauna and flora, and the striking Postojna Caves. 7. Cuba In 2017, the Cuban travel industry opened up and we’re predicting a rise in holidaymakers (especially from cruisers). A little bit different from the other islands in the Caribbean, Cuba boasts a unique, Latin-shaped history with an energetic atmosphere, as well as sunny beaches. 8. Thailand Thailand is always popular, and for good reason. Whether it’s the exotic aroma of lively Bangkok or the relaxed beaches of Koh Samui, Thailand offers something for beach-bums and city-lovers. 9. South Africa If you’ve never been to Africa before, South Africa is the perfect place to start off. The city of Cape Town has plenty to offer such as Table Mountain, Robben Island and a modern waterfront with shops and restaurants. After you’ve explored the city, get back into nature with a safari in Kruger National Park or a shark diving expedition in Gansbaai. 10. India There are many sides to the country of India, but all of them are equally amazing. Feel the buzz in the bustling city of New Delhi, admire the Taj Mahal in Agra, or relax on the beaches of Goa. Whatever India you choose in 2018, we guarantee you’ll love it. Where are you escaping to in 2018?
  13. Every year the world becomes easier to explore, and 2018 will be no exception. In the new year several UK airports will be launching new flight routes to some of the world’s most desirable destinations. Some of these new routes will provide holiday makers with more options on the times and days to fly – while others will offer UK residents the chance to fly direct to parts of the world previously only available with a stopover. Have a look at the list below and let us know what destination you’ll be jetting off to. 1.Seattle and Portland The north-west USA has never been the easiest place to get to from the UK, but that will change in the 2018. From May, UK jet-setters will be able to fly to Seattle twice a week from Manchester. Also in May, British Airways will launch the only direct flight between the UK and Portland, via London. 2. Nashville The Deep South of America will also become more accessible to British travellers with five flights a week to Nashville from London Heathrow with British Airways. 3. Buenos Aires Gatwick to Buenos Aires is a new flight route from low-cost airline Norwegian Airlines. It will start in February and will be the first South American route for the airline. 4. Seychelles Next year, one of the world’s most desirable holiday destinations will become more accessible to UK holiday makers. Launching in March, British Airways will be offering twice-weekly flights from Heathrow to Mahé – making it the only direct flight from the UK to these beautiful islands. 5. Ukraine Explore this eastern state with a new direct flight from Wizz Air that will be flying into the capital of Lviv three times a week from Luton. 6. Amritsar, India In 2013 Air India launched a successful flight to New Delhi and in 2018 it will continue that success with a direct flight to Amritsar (the first from the UK). So far no start date has been announced but it will leave from Birmingham and will run twice a week. 7. Doha It’s not just the big English cities that will benefit from new flight routes in 2018. Welsh jet-setters will be happy to hear that Cardiff airport will be offering flights to Doha from May onwards via Qatar Airways. 8. Boston Another USA flight route, but this time from Birmingham to Boston. Starting in April, the midlands of England will welcome four flights a week to New England with Primera Air. 9.Genoa If you’ve already been to Venice, Rome and Milan – set your sights in Genoa for 2018. Because from March Easyjet will be offering two flights a week from Manchester airport to this underrated Italian city. 10. Perth, Australia Finally, we have what will be 2018’s biggest and longest serviced flight. Qantas Airways have announced that they will be launching the world’s first non-stop flight route to Perth, Western Australia. It will take 17 hours and will leave from London Heathrow.
  14. Staff Travel Diaries: Kenyan Safari

    To say Kenya is a once-in-a-lifetime trip is an understatement. Located along Africa’s eastern coast, it is home to three of the continent’s most notable national safari parks, plus has a beautiful shoreline overlooking the Indian Ocean. Even though Kenya was not my first trip to Africa (having previously been to Cape Town, Zambia and Botswana) I was really excited to be given the chance to see a different side the continent and explore this iconic country (and try and spot some of the animals I hadn’t managed to on previous safaris – namely the lion and leopard). You might be aware that Kenya took a bit of a hit when the UK government issued a travel ban in 2014 warning against all but essential travel to Kenya’s coast. Even though it wasn’t the whole country, the areas effected included the beach resorts just south of Mombasa. The UK government has since lifted the ban and Kenya is now considered a safe place for British travellers. The Kenyan Tourist Board has been working tirelessly to get the number of UK tourists back up to its previous levels – and to do so they recently invited 30 British travel agents to explore the country, with myself being put forward to represent Barrhead Travel. I don’t think I need to explicitly tell you that this was an amazing experience – so I’m going to let my travel diary do that for you. Day 1 – Nairobi National Park After a seven hour flight, the last thing you want to do is to drive another four hours to your hotel. Thankfully our first day of adventure was Nairobi National Park – a sprawling savannah that surrounds the capital city where animals roam freely. Even on the short journey from the airport to the park we seen giraffes wandering in the distance. Our accommodation for the night was the Nairobi Tented Camp, the only accommodation right in the heart of the park. If you’ve come to Africa for adventure, this is where you’ll find it: there’s no fences so animals can just stroll in, you can hear animal sounds in the night and the staff have to give you a safety briefing when you arrive (no walking outside in the dark by yourself!). Saying that, the camp was still comfortable with proper beds, en-suites in each tent and complimentary Wifi. After we’d shaken off our jet lag we were taken to the nearby David Sheldrick's Elephant Orphanage, just in time for its afternoon feedings. Elephants aren’t typically common in Nairobi – with this being one of the few places to get a glimpse of them – and are taken here away from threats before being slowly re-introduced to the wild when they are three years old. One tip for when you go on safari is to do more than one game drive as different animals prefer different times of day. While we were travelling between the camp and the Elephant Orphanage, giraffes and warthogs were front and centre. However, when we went out for a late afternoon game drive we saw something a bit different. The expert game drivers known where certain animals hang out and keep each other informed of where certain animals have been seen that day. He took us to a section of the park where another guest had been lucky enough to see a lioness in the morning. The game drivers also have sharp eyes for things moving in the bushes and were able to see what we couldn’t: a lioness resting under a large bush with her cubs. After our final game drive of the day, we closed our first night in Kenya by relaxing around the campfire with a beverage of our choice (gin, wine and certain beers were included in the price) while the sound of hyenas was heard in the distance. The next morning we were awoken at 6am to catch out flight to Tsavo. A fairly simple and mundane thing usually – but not when you’re in a safari park. The break of dawn is the perfect time of day for lion spotting, and sure enough there was one strolling along the road side in the early hours! How is that for a morning commute? Day 2 – Tasvo National Park On day 2, we left behind the exotic and dusty colours of Nairobi for the reddish hues of Tsvao National Park. Our accommodation for the night was Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge – my favourite accommodation of the trip. The stand-out feature of the lodge was its restaurant and relaxation area looking out over a watering hole where animals come to drink (you can also ask reception to wake you up if a certain animal comes to drink in the night!). It’s located close to the Tanzanian border and on a clear day you can see the peak of Kilimanjaro climbing over the horizon. One my previous holiday to Africa, it was a lion and leopard that I hadn’t been lucky enough to see. In Nairobi, I was fortunate enough to tick a lion sighting off my bucket list, but the leopard was still on the list. Until we went out for our evening game drive in Tsavo that is. The game driver told us we would be lucky to see one, but nevertheless he took us to all the places in the park that were popular with leopards (volcanic rock for example) and there the leopard was – just chilling by the roadside! Day 3 – Mzima Springs and Glamping At the start of Day 3, the organisers told us not to head to the restaurant for breakfast as they had something extra special in mind. Instead, we were taken straight out for an early morning game drive, where they parked the car at the bottom of Lion Rock. Turns out our breakfast was taking place here – an experience guests can actually pay for! They even took chefs with them and there was full buffet complete with hot food and an omelette station! Afterwards, the game drivers from Kilaguni Lodge took us out for one last trip, to Mzima Springs to see the hippos. Hippos aren’t always the easiest animal to spot (I hadn’t seen any of previous trips to Africa) as they much prefer to bask in the water, so a trip to some springs is a must if you want to meet any. The springs themselves are set up with pathways and lookouts perfectly positioned for hippo spotting – and sure enough there was a small collection of them floating right in front of a lookout. At Mzima Springs we were met by the manager from Severin Safari Lodge who was going to take us on to the next leg of our journey. This time we were heading to a luxury tented camp that was the definition of glamping and was designed with relaxation in mind. My tent had its own en-suite with private shower and toilet, double bed, and porch area while the wider camp had an open-air building that included a reception, library and dining room as well as separate buildings for a swimming pool and spa area, hall for events and a gym! We went out for another game drive that evening – and spotted another leopard jumping up volcanic rocks! As a special touch, the manager of the tented site arranged for the game drivers to take us to one of the highest nearby peaks in the park for some champagne and nibbles with fantastic views of the breath-taking landscape. Day 4 – Diani Beach While Kenya is typically associated with safari holidays, it is also an amazing beach destination with an eastern coast that overlooks the crystal waters of the Indian Ocean. We were greeted at the Baobab Beach Resort by enthusiastic native African dancers, and were handed fresh coconuts with the tops cut off for a refreshing drink. We were promptly given a tour of the resort which was massive and would be perfect for a wide range of holiday makers. Africa wasn’t new to me, but this was my first ever glimpse of the stunning Indian Ocean that the Baobab Beach Resort looks out on to. One of my favourite activities during the trip was the jet skiing that they had arranged for us that afternoon, which was another first. It was potentially the most invigorating but terrifying thing I had ever done, but after 30 minutes whizzing about the shoreline you pick up pace and find a speed that works for you. Day 5 – Mombassa Our stay in Mombassa was short, and generally most people book a hotel here to be closer to the airport on their final night. We stayed at the Sarova Whitesands that also overlooks the Indian Ocean and it is a fantastic all-round beach resort perfect for a wide range of travel personalities. As the sun set on our final night in this beautiful country, the manager of the resort invited us for a private drinks reception in the beach hut with all drinks on him. Afterwards we headed to the restaurant and helped ourselves to the generous buffet options before relaxing back in our rooms ready for our journey back to the UK with Kenyan Airways! As a final note, I’d like to personally thank you everyone at the Kenyan Tourist Board (both in the UK offices and the HQ in Nairobi) for inviting Barrhead Travel to be part of this educational trip. It’s a beautiful country and shows a different side to the multifaceted continent of Africa. Everyone needs to be put it on their bucket list, even if they’ve already been somewhere else in Africa before.
  15. A beginner’s guide to Cape Verde

    .Looking for a package beach holiday that is wrapped up in authentic charm and lacks mainstream tourist crowds? Cape Verde could be your calling Found off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, this former Portuguese-colony has become a popular option for package holidays (and cruises). But the islands aren’t your typical flop and drop beach holiday either. The ten islands are volcanic and at different stages of erosion: ranging from more than 2,800m high to as low as 390m. Visually this has resulted in a landscape that is a mix of flat desert to brooding volcano to abandoned beaches. Culturally, the islands pack a punch. Aside from their mix of Africa locale and distinctive Portuguese history – the islands were a historic transatlantic port of call picking up cultural traditions from all who passed through. Sound like your kind of holiday? Here’s what to expect from your first holiday in Cape Verde. What to do Sail around the islands It would be a shame to come to Cape Verde and only see one island. Boat tours are commonplace and will take you round some of the key beauty spots as well as abandoned alcoves. Try your hand at windsurfing The trade winds in Cape Verde are a steady Force 4 to Force 5, making it the perfect conditions for windsurfing. In fact, national teams even practice here (Tortuga Beach is the top spot). Keep an eye out for whales and turtles If you visit in spring or early summer, turn your binoculars towards the Boa Vista horizon. Humpback whales are not uncommon at this time of year. While in June and September, you can spot loggerhead turtles on Ervatao Beach. Cast your fishing line Fishing is still a massive part of local life – and the visitors can join in too. Fishing lessons are available for beginners but deep-sea excursions are also available for the pros. Where to stay Most of the tourist hotels are found on Sal or Boa Vista. All-Inclusive is very common in Cape Verde, but half-board and self-catering does exist (though less common). How to get there Cape Verde is only six hours from the UK. Amílcar Cabral International Airport is the main international airport in Cape Verde and is around 17km from Santa Maria. It's also a very popular stop off on transatlantic cruises. There are also regular flights between the islands. Taxis and mini-buses are also common and a great way for people looking to explore outside their resort. Final tips: · The language spoken in Cape Verde is Portuguese. · The currency used in Cape Verde is the Cape Verdean escudo. · Cape Verde is 1 hour behind GMT/UK time. · You’ll need a visa to enter Cape Verde from the UK.