3 Destinations to Escape the Cold this Winter

We all want to get  away to warmer climates in winter, but outside the summer tourist season, you might not know where to go. European favorites like Italy, Spain, and Portugal get cold in the winter months too, so this is the time to travel further afield. Here are three great destinations for a winter break:

1.      Mexico

For a sun soaked haven where you can forget the stress of work and home, look no further than Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Stunning beaches, aquatic attractions, historical sites – this part of Mexico has it all.

Riviera Maya is a gorgeous stretch of coast on Mexico’s easternmost edge. With more to do than you’ll ever be able to pack into one trip, it has every reason to be one of the go-to areas in Mexico for sun-seekers. In Tulum, you can visit fascinating Mayan ruins and get a glimpse ancient history. Or, if vibrant bars and restaurants are more your thing, head for up-and-coming Playa del Carmen.

For something entirely different, head north of Riviera Maya to Cancun. Off the coast of this buzzing city, far beneath the breaking waves, is an underwater museum. MUSA is an artificial reef made up of over 400 intriguing sculptures. Join a tour with a diving company in Cancun, and you’re in for a truly unique experience.

Image by Marcin Chady used under Creative Commons license CC by 2.0.

2.      Cuba

Eclectic and energetic, Cuba is a destination that promises adventure. Wherever you go, you’ll be greeted by a lively, friendly atmosphere that you can’t help but fall in love with. Best of all, you can reap the benefits of a Caribbean climate. Temperatures here rarely drop below 20 degrees Celsius, and winter is the driest season.

No trip to Cuba is complete without a visit to the capital. In Havana’s patchwork streets, you’ll get a sense of the country’s diverse history in the colourful blend of architectural styles. Dance and music are a huge part of Cuban culture, and Havana is the best place to experience this. Visit on weekend, and join in with the Saturday Rumba, where locals and visitors alike take to Calzada Street to dance.

Once you’ve finished sightseeing and you’re ready to relax, Cuba has plenty of beach destinations to choose from. Varadero is a favourite. Located on the Hicacos Peninsula, this resort boasts 20km of pristine golden sand for lounging and clear waters for swimming.

Image by Bryan Ledgard used under Creative Commons license CC by 2.0.

3.      Canary Islands

If you want warm weather without travelling quite so far, the Canary Islands promise beach weather even in the depths of winter. Each island has its own appeal, but there is definitely one to fulfil your holiday needs.

Fuerteventura lies across the water from the Western Sahara, and like its desert neighbour, it has no shortage of sand, and seven Blue Flag beaches to its name. The golden sands around Correlajo, in the north, are some of the most popular with visitors.

For a trip that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Mars, visit Lanzarote and explore the lunar landscape. The island is home to one of the longest lava tunnels in the world, and in Timanfaya National Park, you can see the impressive Fire Mountains for yourself.

Image by Son of Groucho used under Creative Commons license CC by 2.0.

Where would you like to go on your winter escape? Share your thoughts in the comments!

7 reasons Cape Verde should be on your holiday hit list

Think crystal blue waters and whitewashed sands, with dramatic rocky backgrounds. Sounds like paradise, right? Well, that’s just one quick reason why Cape Verde should be on your “To-Visit” list of great getaway locations! Here are seven more suggestions:

1. Not Everyone Thinks of Cape Verde

About 500 km to the west of Africa, Cape Verde is a ten-island archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean. Overlooked due to the popularity of the Caribbean (for Americans) and the Canaries (for Europeans), it’s a volcanic paradise with fewer tourists. If you’re looking to venture away from well-trodden tourist beaches, then look no further.

2. Warmth in Winter, Sun in Summer

No matter what time you’re looking to holiday, Cape Verde is sure to have the weather sorted. The temperature ranges from 21-29°C throughout the year, so you’re sure to be kept toasty whenever you visit. To top it all off, you won’t need to worry about the horrible humidity that goes hand-in-hand with many popular holiday destinations, as there is a light Atlantic breeze to keep the conditions just right.

Picture credit to Rey Perezoso on Flickr

Picture credit to Rey Perezoso on Flickr

3. Diverse Destinations

The main resorts of Cape Verde are located on the islands of Sal and Boa Vista, but don’t be afraid to venture further afield. Boa Vista boasts exotic wildlife from tropical birds to loggerhead sea turtles that you can sometimes find in the shallow waters. But the island has got sights to see too.

You can hike to the striking wreck of cargo ship Cabo Santa Maria, or see Forte Duque de Braganca, or maybe catch some rays on the red and tan sand dunes. Alternatively, set your sights on Sal, where there are whitewashed sands galore and perfect windsurfing waves. The island capital Espargos or the town of Santa Maria offer sun, sea, sand and much more!

4. So Much to See

Heat things up with a visit to Pico Do Fogo, the highest peak in Cape Verde, situated on the island of Fogo. Drive up the dramatic volcano, and marvel at the island’s views – breath-taking! Or, savour the seas – the foaming Atlantic waves are perfect for windsurfers, surfboarders and scuba divers alike. The islands offer so much culture too, from the incredible indigenous music to the bustle of local town markets.

5. Tasty Treats

Calories don’t count on holiday, so make the most of the Cape Verde cuisines. Dine on freshly caught lobster, or broaden your horizons and try the traditional dishes of the area, cachupa or pastels. Stay fresh with exotic local fruits during the day too – your taste buds will certainly thank you.

Picture credit to Pascal Subtil on Flickr

Picture credit to Pascal Subtil on Flickr

6. Friendly Faces

Known for being extremely helpful and friendly, the Cape Verde communities will welcome you with open arms. Pop by the harbour to hang with the locals, and find out what Cape Verde living is all about!

7. Scenery Beyond Compare

It’s without a doubt that Cape Verde has some of the most stunning backdrops, and whether you’re sitting on the beach or getting up close and personal with them, they are a holiday delight. Lush mountain ridges meet volcanic towers, and make the most stunning silhouettes when sunset arrives.

Cape Verde has it all, and it’s waiting for you. Go explore its offerings – you won’t be disappointed!

Top Ideas for Day Tours from Jakarta

JakartaJakarta is a dynamic city that is becoming more and more popular each year thanks to its many different assets such as monuments, restaurants and a variety of ethnic groups, religions and cultures. This city, located in the archipelago, is also known for being a place of contrast due to the fact that it has all the means of modern transportation and accommodations, but it also maintains the status of a province. High quality accommodation like the Grand Whiz Kelapa Gading is easy to find particularly with the advent of simple online hotel booking websites. There are so many places and things to do in Jakarta; here are some ideas for your day tours:

Old Batavia
In the 16th century, this place was known as “the Jewel of Asia”. It was originally popular for being a trading harbor, but today is an inter-island harbor, where one can mostly find Maritime Museums of old Dutch ships and the many types of boats used in the archipelago like Museum Kesejarahan and the Fine Art and Ceramic Museum. These places usually display such rare items as Indonesia’s old historical documents and Dutch period furniture.

Glodock
Situated very near to Batavia is Glodock, also known as the largest Chinatown region in the country; a marketplace where you’ll find fascinating things such as souvenirs, traditional food (including snakes), temples, a catholic church, live eels being transported by vendors and more. This is the place to get know their culture firsthand.

Ragunan Zoo

Taman Safari Indonesia CisaruaIt’s a very trendy recreational and educational option because the animals (such as the Komodo lizard, tapir, anoa, Java tiger, banteng, wild ox and brightly colored birds) are laid out into exhibits with lush tropical setting and special attractions including a huge primate house, so it’s especially popular for people travelling with family. Open daily from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. The zoological garden is most crowded on Sunday and public holidays.

Taman Safari Indonesia Cisarua
If you prefer to take a closer look to these animals in a more interactive way, the Taman Safari is for you. This park is located outside Jakarta, on the way to Puncak. Visitors can ride in a car and drive through the lush garden landscaping where they’ll be able to see wild animals approaching freely. In addition to this, there are also kids’ rides, reptile shows, petting zoos, pony rides and more.

The Jungle
The Jungle Water Park JakartaThis is a very particular water park because it’s placed in lush greenery in the breezy climate of Bogor (on the outskirt of Jakarta). The park offers multiple attractions such as a hot water pool, kids’ pools, the lazy river, wave pools, big sliders that are fun for everyone, and so much more. If at some point you feel like getting out of the water, you can always visit the 4D Theater, the freshwater aquarium or the bird park.

Jakarta is the perfect place for you to get away from your everyday routine, get energized and appreciate the wonders of the world in a fun and interactive way. Spectacular views, fun rides, historic places, exotic flora and fauna, and so much more; Jakarta is definitely the place to find it all.

7 Reasons You Should Include Portugal on Your European Tour 

Europe is a continent of thrilling variety. From the classical grandeur of the great Italian cities to the cosmopolitan clamor and pulse of London, you’ll never get bored on a trip to the old world. Whether you’re a first time traveler to Europe or a seasoned explorer, there are many reasons to visit Portugal. Here are 5:

The History

Portugal has a long and proud history – much of it connected with the sea and oceangoing trade. You will find historical monuments, old fortresses and fishing communities all along the coast that reward investigation and who could forget that it was from here that Christopher Columbus set sail for the new world in the 15th Century.

The Culture
Porto desde puente

 

Portugal’s culture is colourful and captivating, with many traditional and modern festivals for travellers to enjoy. Almost every village in the country has a festival to celebrate the harvest where you can expect dancing, food and traditional music. The country also plays host to some mega music festivals during the summer, featuring some top line-ups. The country’s art galleries, museums and landmarks are among the most fascinating in Europe.

The Climate

Portugal is often said to have the best climate in Europe. Because of its position in the south west of the continent, lapped by the Atlantic ocean it has pleasant year round temperatures. Winters are never too cold and hot summers are freshened up by a cool sea breeze.

Lisbon
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Portugal’s lively and historic capital is a place of gothic splendour and enviable nightlife. It is a stunning place to look at, spread over a series of picturesque hills. Take a tram through the city and stop off at must see destinations like the UNESCO listed Monastery of Jerónimos and the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian..

The Seafood

With 800km of coastline and the biggest fishing zone in Europe, it’s no wonder that he seafood in Portugal is world renowned. Codfish has been popular for centuries and salted cod (known locally as Bacalhau) is delicious. Dourada, Sardinhas and Robalo are also excellent, and exceptionally cheap. Go for Salada de polvo (octopus salad) if you’re feeling adventurous.

The Douro Valley

Portugal is home to one of the most famous wine producing regions in the world, the Douro Valley. This is a feature destination on most Portugal tours, with local wine tasting high on the agenda. Love port wine? Try it at the source whilst admiring the beautiful landscape that it came from.

The Algarve
Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal
Famous for beach holidays and golf holidays, the Algarve is also a place where you’ll find  pretty villages, sublime shopping and rugged scenery. It could be the perfect place to stop and relax when you’re galloping through a busy European tour.

If you hadn’t thought of going to Portugal before, maybe it’s time to think again! Here are some ideas from a Portugal tour specialist.

Images by rodrigomezsbalavenise and martingarri used under Creative Commons License.

Why do YOU Want to See the Strip?

gamblingI lived in Las Vegas for six years and still travel there every few weeks. Yes, you read that right. And I love showing off my adopted hometown! Even more exciting? Hearing from someone who has never been – but is planning a trip:
Hello! My name is Steve, and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never been to Las Vegas. I live in Europe, and I do a lot of traveling around – I especially love to visit the ruins of old castles hidden among the mountains. I’ve been to a series of countries – I have visited the vast forests of Moravia and the crags of the Pyrenees, I’ve crossed the Old World from one end to another… but I’ve never been to one of the most famous tourist destinations in the United States.
But I plan to do it this year. It is my New Year’s resolution.
Why? Certainly not for gambling.
Living in Europe has its advantages. For example, the fact that you can get free slots in your living room here thanks to the all-powerful internet. The gambling regulations in Europe are more
liberal than in the US, which means that I can satisfy all my gambling needs – if I want to – without the need to leave the house. Or put on pants for that matter.
No, gambling is not my reason to want to see the Strip. It’s the thing most visitors call the “WOW factor” that attracts me to the Sin City.
And I think I’m not the only one to think so. I’ve read news reports about how the number of tourists arriving to Las Vegas grows year after year (for last year it easily exceeds 42 million) and how the revenues generated by casinos is declining. It seems that the visitors going there are no longer interested in hitting the slots or spending their time (and money) at the baccarat table, but in the other attractions the Las Vegas Strip has for them.
So why do I want to see the Strip?
First of all, it’s the shows that sound the most attractive. I would love to see David Copperfield performing live on stage. I would love to observe the Cirque du Soleil acrobats in their “natural habitat”. I would love to attend a musical, then leave happy and explore a series of pubs on my way to the hotel. I’d even go as far as to have dinner at The Colosseum while listening to Celine Dion, even if I will never forgive her for “My Heart Will Go On”.
Not that I wouldn’t have enough entertainment back home. But hey – where else can you see so many amazing performances in one place? Where else could you see so many celebrities perform in one night? Where else can you find such an amazing abundance of entertainment crammed into a single city?
So, now you know – this is why I want to see the Strip.
What are your reasons?

Enjoying Cruise Ship Dining

Two weeks on a cruise ship can be a dream holiday, but if you’re a picky eater, you might find yourself having a few sleepless nights over what food to expect. The good news is, cruise ship dining tends to come with a huge amount of variety and if you’re sensible about it, you can really make the most of your culinary experience while on board.

DSC00328

First up, if you’ve got dietary requirements and you’ll need your food to be specially prepared, this shouldn’t be a problem. Do your research to find out which cruises will be happy to help out with this (this should include most of them!), and be sure to let them know what your requirements are when you book. That way you can you relax and enjoy your cruise without having to pester the waiter every mealtime.

It’s also good to remember that dining rooms on cruise ships vary a lot when it comes to cuisine, dining style and formality. Big liners will have a main dining room with table service by a waiter and a formal dress code, as well as a number of casual buffets, cafés and bars. Smaller liners, for example river cruises, are likely to be more limited in the dining options they offer — just something to bear in mind if you’re looking to go on a culinary adventure.

Another thing to be aware of is that not all food on cruise holidays is included in the package price. You can expect breakfast, lunch and dinner to come free with your ticket, but usually only if you’re eating in the main dining room. Alternative eateries around the rest of the ship will likely cost extra, as will most drinks — which means sadly you’ll have to shell out for your wine!

Ultimately, your dining experience on a cruise ship can be anything you want it to be. If you have a little extra cash, you can take advantage of the alternative restaurants or, if you’re keen not to go over the package price, you can stick to the main dining room — a great place, incidentally, to make new friends. If you’re into more casual buffet dining, which could be wise if you have young kids, make an effort to keep the other guests sweet by adhering to the long-established etiquette: no line-cutting, no eating on the move, and certainly no hands in the buffet trays! If you do have little ones, it’s also a good idea to have a word with them about acceptable behavior before taking them into any dining areas.

Fruits and Tarts -- Formal Brunch Aboard the Celebrity Equinox, 12-09-2011

If this is your first time ever on a cruise, it’s the perfect opportunity to sample everything on offer even if it means spending a little more. After all, taking a cruise is all about treating yourself to the finer things in life. Bon appétit!

Images by Noodles and Beef and Corvair Owner, used under Creative Commons license

Bringing European Christmas Traditions Home

Europe has been a hot spot for travel since the days of the Grand Tour. The myriad of countries in close proximity make it a haven for cultural exploration and history, which makes it really tough to return home empty-handed. If you want to provide the perfect souvenir for friends and families, think about bringing back some holiday-inspired food and drink traditions!

Dinner

Turkey

In Belgium, it is common to have a special Christmas Eve dinner that includes a pre-dinner drink, followed by a starter course that usually contains fish before getting to turkey as the main event. Turkey also features heavily in Greek Christmas dinners, so if you want to change up your preparation, make the stuffing with ground lamb, raisins and chestnuts.

turkey and gleaners 08

 

Roast Pork

In Denmark, roast pork is most often the star of the Christmas feast, though recently duck and goose have also become popular. This is a good way to have something a bit more alternative for dinner and impress your friends with a truly European food tradition. If you want to go the extra mile, include boiled potatoes, red cabbage and gravy.

Seafood & Lentils

In Sicily and southern Italy, many traditional Roman Catholics fast on Christmas Eve, but come Christmas Day there’s a feast to be had. Typically, they celebrate by enjoying the Feast of the Seven Fishes, where seafood is the star of the meal. In other parts of Italy, lentils are a big part of the holidays, especially around the New Year because legumes were once seen as a sign of prosperity.

Dessert

Christmas Cookies

For some non-traditional Christmas cookies, look to Greece, where they have melomakarona, as well as kourabiethas. Melomakarona is dominated by cinnamon, cloves and orange and are dipped in syrup after being baked, then topped with sprinkled nuts. Kourabiethas is a sugared shortbread cookie made with toasted almonds and rolled in confectioner’s sugar.

Mince Pie

Across Britain and the UK, you’ll find people enjoying mince pies as Christmas comes around. These tasty little morsels are filled with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon and are as fragrant as they are delicious.

Mince Pies 9

Bûche de Noël (Branch of Christmas)

If any country can be trusted to produce an indulgent treat for Christmas, it’s France! Their Bûche de Noël is a cake fashioned to look like a yule log, often including meringue mushrooms to add authenticity. Chestnut is a traditional flavor to try.

Bobka

In Poland it’s unlikely that you could make it through a Christmas celebration without sampling their sweet bread, Bobka. It is usually eaten during the Christmas Eve feast after a long day of fasting and is served with other traditional foods like beet soup, herring and boiled potatoes.

Drinks

Mulled Wine

From Germany’s gluhwein to mulled wines across Europe, this is an absolute Christmas staple. It’s ideal for warming up any guests you have over and is easy to make — just grab some of Tesco’s finest wine and heat it slowly with a combination of spices.

Tricolor Drink

Try this one at your own risk! This colorful drink is made of crème de menthe, vodka and whiskey. It works a treat at Christmastime.

These European traditions will bring some extra flavor to your Christmas!

Images by Nesster and fenwench, used under Creative Commons license 

A New Wave of Wine Coming from the Balkans?

Just like Chile and California have become increasingly popular sources for quality wines in the past, it is now the turn of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe to make itself known around the world. Two traditional wine-making countries, Romania and Bulgaria, are returning into the spotlight with their high quality and affordable prices. And some of the wines you will find there are special, traditional assortments, not to be found anywhere else.

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Romania and Bulgaria were both major wine exporting countries in the Sovietic era. Both countries were under the heavy influence of the Soviet Union back then, but they had strong commercial ties with the West. Romania and Bulgaria have each exported on average 50 million bottles of wine to the UK alone, not to mention other European countries. And after the fall of the Communist government in the late 1980s, both countries saw their exports plummet to not more than one tenth of the past quantity.

Make no mistake – the countries’ potential to produce quality wine is still there, but apparently the industry lacks investment and expertise. Luckily, foreign investments in the traditional wine producing regions of the countries have put them back on the map. One of the companies to recently emerge on the global wine scene is Cramele Recas, a winery in the West of Romania, built on investment from a British company. It has both budget wines and high quality products, available in shops and restaurants all over Europe.

I’ve recently had the occasion to taste one of the traditional Romanian wine varieties, Tamaioasa Romaneasca (Romanian Muscatel). It is a sweet and aromatic wine, perfect for a dessert. I’ve spent quite some time in its company while courting Lady Luck with the Canadian Royal Vegas online slots, and I must say it has made me wonderfully dizzy. Not dizzy enough not to be able to focus at the slots I was playing. The slots at Royal Vegas are colorful and exciting enough to capture my attention and tie me to the screen for hours. Its game variety is amazing, and its latest games – like Bridesmaids, which I loved as a movie – are both appealing and entertaining. Besides, The Canadian Royal Vegas casino has its way to keep me interested in its offers and return for more day after day. And, as it turns out, the Tamaioasa is the perfect wine to pair with its perfect games.

Wine lovers, I recommend you keep an eye on the Balkans for an emerging new line of wines. The industry in these countries might be slow in recovering from the shock of the changing regimes, but it has the potential to amaze our taste buds with some unique and special assortments.

The Best Experiences in the Riviera Maya

The Riviera Maya stretches from the most-famous town Cancun all the way down to Tulum (where I just visited for the first time in January!) with many great places in between. You’ll really want to see it all. At the top, and the place you’ll most likely fly into, is Cancun. It’s the biggest city and where you’ll have the most urban fun. It’s also the place to do shipping and go clubbing. South of Cancun, it gets more relaxed and takes you all the way down to the most relaxed spot, Tulum. In Cancun you’ll take pictures of you and your friends, elsewhere you’ll take pics of you, your friends, the beach, the water and other great natural areas.

Cancun is known for their big hotels and bigger clubs. If that’s your thing, you’ll have a great time. There are streets full of clubs and it’s easy to walk to take a short cab ride wherever you want to go. But Cancun also has beaches. So, if you like clubbing and fancy restaurants but also like the beach, you may just want to stay in Cancun. We recommend staying at an all inclusive resort that will give you access to beaches and will take care of all your needs.

If you want a more relaxing experience, head south from Cancun. There are plenty of beaches to see, islands to travel to, and outdoor things to do. If you don’t want to keep changing hotels, make your life easy by finding a good all-inclusive spot, like the world-famous Barcelo, which offers many options, in the middle of the Maya Riviera and take day trips. All-inclusives offer everything from insider info and advice, to the ability to plan all of your excursions during your stay.

You’ll definitely want to see Tulum. Often those who travel to the Maya Riviera say it’s their favorite spot. If Tulum is too far for a day trip, make sure you plan at least one day and night in this beautiful area.

Besides clubbing, shopping and the beaches, there are many interesting things to do in the Maya Riviera that you can’t get in many places or anywhere else at all. You’ll want to see the Mayan ruins, particularly Chichen Itza, the large pyramid. It’s a little west, so you’ll take a day trip to see it and your guide will show you other things along the way.

These are just some of the many things to do in the glittering Riviera Maya! And don’t leave paradise without capturing it all. See you on Instagram?

 All Include Outdoor Instagram Tips

Three Wine Tour Destinations That You Should Visit Now

Langhe Roero and MonferratoWine tours have become extremely popular over the past years because they are both fun and informative. Plus, they can take you to wonderful parts of the world where you’ll have an unforgettable experience.

Whether you’re a wine lover or not, going for wine tours is a must if you’re longing for a weekend or week-long escapade that is just one for the books when it comes to all-out fun. On the other hand, if it’s your first time to have one, it would be best to take note of the top three wine destinations out there.

Advintage Wines in New Zealand is on top of our list because of its rich history when it comes to producing wine. It is known nowadays for being a shop for affordable wines online, but it should be noted that it wasn’t always this way. It came a long way – from being established in a, say, boring village (Hawkes Bay) with a population of 10,000.

Knowing more about Advintage’s success story is a great way to jumpstart your wine tour. So sign up for one and achieve a first-hand experience of its humble beginnings and proud past by visiting its bricks and mortar store.

Rhone Valley, in France is another wine haven that you should consider for a wine tour. The second-largest wine-producing place in the country is not only vastly diverse, it also boasts of world-class vineyards and captivating villages. While in Rhone Valley, make sure to visit Côtes du Rhône Villages and their surrounding landscapes. Aside from breathtaking sights the said attractions will take you deep into the region’s wine culture.

There you have it: the top three wine destinations that you shouldn’t miss if you want to achieve a wine tour that is one for the books. Rest assured that you’ll have the time of your life if you include the above-mentioned destinations in your travel plans. Whether you’re a wine lover or not, you won’t regret your decision if you visit Advintage Wines in New Zealand, Piedmont in Italy, and Rhode Valley in France.

 

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