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Destination Tips

Explore America’s Beauty with an off the Beaten Track Adventure

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America is one of the most stunning, diverse and breathtaking continents in the entire world. Great lakes, canyons, desert, swamps, mountain ranges and electric cities are just a handful of what there is to explore. This makes it the ultimate adventure destination. Often, when people visit the States they will fly in to the major cities, which can be fantastic, but often the most amazing experiences are found off the beaten track and in the lesser explored areas of this great country.

The Ultimate Road Trip

It is the dream of many people to do the ultimate American road trip from coast to coast, but sadly not many people get to experience this. A group of friends, the open road, great music and a breathtaking and varied backdrop is the perfect setting for an unforgettable and eye opening adventure. This is not your typical holiday and a break from the norm, and it is always the off the beaten track expeditions which are the most exciting and create the most stories.

Monument Valley street

Must See Places

There are many highlights to see in America, with a few being absolute musts for those wanting to break the norm. Southern gems such as Nashville, Mississippi and New Orleans provide breathtaking scenery along with a distinctive atmosphere, whilst The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also a must and be sure to take your camera.

St Louis CathedralThe Grand Canyon in California will be the top of many people’s lists and for good reason, but be sure to head into Las Vegas for some fun and games. Yosemite National Park cannot be missed, and a drive through the desert will have you reminiscing about all the great Western films. Driving along the Pacific Coast will give you amazing views and an eclectic mix of brilliant cities and perfect beaches which many visitors miss. Deadwood in South Dakota is a charming town where you get easy access to amazing places such as the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park.Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas

Small Group Adventure Tours

All of this only scratches the surface of what you will find on an American road trip off the beaten path. To ensure you do not miss a thing, it may be in your best interest to use holiday companies like TrekAmerica to plan your trip. These companies organise brilliant small group adventure tours that uncover the best hidden gems in all of America. Additionally, many of these companies can also arrange fantastic activities such as horse riding, white water rafting, mountain biking and more.Monument Valley horseback ridingAmerica is a land of awe-inspiring natural beauty. This landscape is also incredibly diverse, making it an incredible place to explore both in the major cities and everywhere in between. An adventure off the beaten path in America is sure to be an astonishing, fun and life changing experience and a trip out of the ordinary.

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Explore the World’s Hidden Treasures on an Unforgettable Cruise

Sunset koh lanta thailand

There is nothing greater than expanding your horizons and seeing more of our beautiful planet. It can be an eye opening experience and also one which gives you a much greater appreciation for the globe, but unfortunately not many people get to see anywhere near enough of it.

An Adventurous Holiday

When deciding on vacations, it is common for people to select predictable destinations and places they have visited before. Whilst this will still be a great trip, it is also not particularly adventurous and there are many incredible yet often overlooked destinations. One terrific way of seeing areas of the world that not many people get to see is to go on a cruise. With cruises, the journey becomes the holiday and you will be treated to often unseen natural beauty out at sea and along the coastlines.

adventure of the seas cruise ship

What You May See

A cruise enables you to see many amazing things, regardless of the destination. You will gain a better understanding of the size of the globe as you will be travelling by sea and not by air, and this will allow you to see and visit many secluded ports in some of the most wonderful countries on the planet. Whilst out at sea, there is a very good chance that you will see some majestic and colourful wildlife which you would not get with any other type of holiday.

The World’s Hidden Treasures Uncovered

On top of all this, some cruises will allow you to explore and get up close to some of the greatest sights in the entire world. The Norwegian Fjords cruise from specialists such as Bolsover Cruise Club, for example, takes you on an unforgettable trip where you get unparalleled views of the breathtaking Fjords. Thanks to these cruises, anyone can explore and discover some of the more unusual and magical places on the entire planet.

cinque terre.JPGThere are many other brilliant destinations that you could visit and cruises that go around the globe. You could see the Polar Regions, Angel Falls (the world’s highest waterfall), Hawaii, the diverse landscapes of the Middle East, the Black Sea, the Caribbean Islands and many other incredible sights. Not only this, but cruises are also brilliant fun and there are many benefits of going on one.

An Eye Opening Experience

Whilst there is a lot to be said for going on a safe and simple holiday, it is also not particularly adventurous. There are all kinds of breathtakingly beautiful places and things to discover out in the world; seeing these could give you a greater appreciation for the planet and be a real eye opening experience. The best way to explore the world and uncover these gems is through a cruise, as this will take you on a fun and unforgettable journey across the oceans to your destination.

corsica & cruise ships

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Seven restaurants you can’t miss in Dubai

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Dubai is one of those idyllic destinations where a traveller can enjoy sunny weather all-year-around, even when the summer heat may prove a little too much for some (there are still many ways to enjoy yourself indoors with air-conditioning on full blast). Everyone knows there’s no shortage of things to do in trendy and sleek Dubai, there’s a plethora of attractions beckoning your call. Endless skyscrapers, huge shopping malls, a buzzing nightlife, fantastic beaches, stunning resorts, desert safaris and many more unique draws makes Dubai a top destination for virtually every type of holidaymaker.

But Dubai is not only known for its skyscrapers, ultra-luxurious hotels and ambitious malls, but also for its extravagant culinary options and gastronomic experiences. Dubai Holidays is a site with a great collection of restaurants for you to plan your trip as it would be incomplete if you don’t take the opportunity to experience at least one of the top culinary options offered across a variety of quality restaurants. And you don’t have to break the bank either, there’s a tasty meal for every pocket, and even some gourmet delicacies to be found at moderate prices. You can also find freshly-prepared meals expressly hand-crafted to satisfy a variety of dietary conditions – from gluten-free to lactose-free, vegetarian and even vegan, there’ll be a restaurant in Dubai (often more than one) to cater for it all. Be it continental, Emirati, Thai, Mediterranean or Indian, you will find a sea of delicacies to taste.

Let us now go over our pick of hotel restaurants where you can experience some of the best gastronomic experiences in Dubai:

Omnia Gourmet: Designed by Silvena, this celebrated Emirati theme restaurant is the best option for health-conscious diners. Foodies arriving here are welcomed with lush green, mismatched ceramic tiles giving a perfect ambience that echoes the restaurant’s green credentials. The 24 carat gold chocolate sphere is a must- dessert to finish off a healthy meal and the cafe is ideal for those looking for vegan, organic, glute-free or raw cuisine.

Bateaux Dubai: If you want to experience dining by the waterways of Dubai Creek, then this restaurant is the best option to go for. There you can enjoy some finely prepared gourmet dishes and premium beverages with top-notch personalised service.

Zuma: Considered one of the finest restaurants in the world, this Japanese restaurant has a variety of menus on offer. It’s most famously known for its Japanese Izakaya specialties, perfectly complementing the Japanese theme prevailing all-around. If you’re looking for a fine-dining experience with a Japanese twist, then this is the one not to miss.

zuma restaurant
Zuma by Côte d’Azur on flickr.com

Mint Leaf of London: This restaurant is the perfect combination of sweet aromas and an electric atmosphere. Located on the 15th floor of South Tower in the Emirates Financial Towers, this is the place to enjoy a contemporary take on Indian food, not to mention the breath-taking views over the city that can be admired through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

Armani Hotel- Amal: If you’re looking forward to enjoying typical Indian fare then Amal is the right option to go for. Located in the magnificent Burj Khalifa, and part of the exclusive Armani hotel, this elegant restaurant serves some authentic Indian food along with signature luxury.

Entrance to the Armani Hotel at the Burj Khalifa
Entrance to the Armani Hotel at the Burj Khalifa by David Jones on Flickr.com

Pier Chic: Located at Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah, this refreshing restaurant offers high-end Mediterranean seafood for real foodies looking for a fresh taste from the ocean. This romantic eatery is open for lunch and dinner with a menu featuring the finest selection of oysters, scallops, sashimi and lobster. The restaurant also has bar and lounge for those looking to enjoy a nice pre-dinner or apres-dinner cocktail.

Sarband by Nillo’s: This is the best Iranian restaurant in Dubai, and you’ll find it in Century Village. It’s famous for the high standards of its cuisine and its relaxed al fresco setting. It is also known for a reputed Iranian Head Chef who serves classic Persian fare like Khoresh-e-fesenjan. Many expats and tourists in Dubai are frequent diners and come here for simply the best Iranian food anywhere around.

abshar sangak with cheese, walnuts, greens
abshar sangak with cheese, walnuts, greens by Krista on Flickr.com

As you can see after checking out this list, Dubai’s gourmet gastronomy spans a wide variety of worldwide cuisines. Whether you’re visiting during the Dubai Shopping festival, to enjoy the awesome theme parks and eye-opening attractions, or to simply unwind on the beach, you should certainly not miss the most highly recommended restaurants.

Photo credit: All images used via Flickr’s creative commons licensing. (1) Zuma restaurant by Côte d’Azur; (2) Entrance to the Armani Hotel by David Jones; (3)Abshar Sangak with cheese, walnuts and greens by Krista

 

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How to Mix Relaxation and Adventure in Your Cuba Holiday

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Cuba is an incredibly appealing holiday destination, whether you’re after an action-packed vacation or simply seek a relaxing week or two away. As the largest island in the Caribbean you can create a holiday that has everything, from spending a few days exploring the jungles to chilling out on one of its many beaches.

You can create your own personalised vacation to the Caribbean nation or book an all-inclusive one with Cuba Holidays. Either option can help you have a holiday in such a glorious location that is the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation.

Life On Cuba

Beaches

There’s nothing more relaxing on a holiday than lying on the beach, taking in the sun’s rays with an ice cool drink nearby. As a large island, Cuba has many beaches in every corner. Varadero beach on the north side is a popular tourist destination, great for families with many quality hotels and restaurants nearby. Playa Pilar and Sirena beach on Cayo Largo to the south are also scenic beaches, surrounded by blue waters and golden sands.
Postcard from Cuba
Music and Bars

For the fully immersive Cuban experience you will definitely spend a lot of time relaxing in numerous bars and restaurants dotted across the island. From the hustle and bustle of the capital Havana, that could involve the odd dance in the street, to sipping on Cuba libres, music and food play a big part in the country’s culture. Expect to eat plenty of fish and rice based dishes in your downtime, with rum a key ingredient for a lot of meals and drinks.

Mojito

Water sports

Now for the more active side of things. Trinidad de Cuba is the place to go if you love, or just want to try out, some water sports. The sandy beaches are ideal for anyone not wanting to get involved, while clear blue waters are a dream for water-skiing, swimming, diving and just generally having fun in the sea. It’s also a highly picturesque little place, steeped in tradition.

cuba

Trekking

Get up and out into the hills with one of the many great trails around the country. From dramatic landscapes, mountain treks and strolls by the beach, a wide variety can be found, whether you’re after a short jaunt or long hike. The heat can be pretty intense at the heights of summer, so be sure to pack plenty of water and trek to a place that takes in either a lake or the seas to cool off in.

Cuba Cars

Photo credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons license. Title picture: Faces Of Cuba by Bud Ellison; (1) Life in Cuba by Angelo Domini; Postcard from Cuba by Nick Kenrick; Mojito by Jean-Philippe Rebuffet, Cuba by Domenic Scarturchio; Cuba Cars by Angelo Domini

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Jaw-dropping Attractions in Nusa Dua and the Greatness of Grand Hyatt Bali

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Located in the southern peninsula of Bali, Nusa Dua offers so many jaw dropping beauties and attractions. Yes, Bali isn’t always about Kuta. Nusa Dua can also make anyone’s traveling in Bali more memorable. Various 5-star resorts located along the beaches and beautiful public parks along the road make Nusa Dua even more charming. So, what can be done while spending the time in Nusa Dua?

Shopping Heaven

Shopping in Nusa Dua can be a little more interesting. It’s not too crowded like the shopping spots in Kuta but it’s possible to find exotic and high quality stuffs there. In total, there are more than 90 fashion stores around Nusa Dua. Tons of art workshops are available too. What’s even more stunning is the existence of public chairs located all around the area. This is so perfect for those who are so keen on shopping. The travelers can rest for a while on those chairs and then carry on shopping.

nusa dua

Beautiful Beaches
For the beaches, Nusa Dua is really comparable to Kuta. Nusa Dua Beach is the first alternative. Located right behind Bali Collection shopping center, this beach is so perfect for those who want to enjoy shopping and great time on the beach at the same time. This public beach is also so safe for both swimming and sun bathing. Nusa Dua beach has a really famous surfing spot called Mushroom Rock. This area is the favorite for surfers all around the world. If it’s not enough, check the condition around the beach and there will be local restaurants.

Tanjung Benoa
Tanjung Benoa is the next traveling destination in Nusa Dua. Located in Benoa harbor, it takes about 10 minutes driving from Nusa Dua. Water sports and water activities are two most important things to do in Tanjung Benoa. Taste the excitement of parasailing, jet ski, and banana boat.

Culture-related Attraction
Is there any culture-related attraction in Nusa Dua? Of course, there is. Just simply go to the Teater Nusa Dua and travelers can enjoy Devdan Show. It’s a 90-minute performance where travelers can enjoy stunning dances and various cultures in Indonesia in one package. Combination of traditional and modern dancing will certainly keep the travelers in an awe. But it’s not all. Devdan will also catch more attention with world class acrobatic attraction completed with high-end special effect. nusa dua grand hyatt

Great Hotel in Nusa Dua

Yes, it’s not too much to say that those destinations in Nusa Dua can make traveling in this heavenly island complete and memorable as long as the right hotel has been chosen. True, don’t ever be reckless about this matter. Book the rooms in Grand Hyatt Bali Nusa Dua to guarantee the awesome traveling. There are so many awesome things offered by this hotel and it’s impossible to name all of them here. Just learn about how this hotel has private white sand beach. Imagine how the guests are able to enjoy private beach expanding within 650 meters. And the big name of Hyatt is surely out of the question. The facilities and privileges will make staying in this hotel far away from being disappointing. Use the help from Traveloka to book the room with ease and fast.

 

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How to have a successful adult getaway to Disney World

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The days when Disney World was ‘only for kids’ are long gone – these days, up to a third of visitors to the Disney Theme Parks are child-free! Who doesn’t like to channel their inner child, indulge in nostalgia and relive childhood memories or simply enjoy everything Disney. Almost everyone I know loves Disney movies, and everybody grew up with Disney stories, so even if you aren’t a fan of Mickey Mouse it’s likely that you have a favorite Disney character.Disney - Partners at Dusk (Explored)I know several people who visited Disney World as grown-ups, spending several days exploring the parks, and I know that some friends of mine with kids are pushing for Disney vacations because they really want to go, not necessarily their kids (although, which kid doesn’t love Disney World?). Going on a grown-up vacation to Disney World is different than visiting with your family though – you’ll be interested in different rides, different food, and you will find it much easier to whiz around the park without children in tow. So how do you go about planning a trip to Disney World for grown-ups? Here are my top tips for a successful adult getaway to Disney’s Florida Theme Parks (most of these tips are also applicable to family vacations to Disney World, by the way):

Get a FastPass

This is my #1 tip, because there’s only so much standing in line with a bunch of impatient children you can stomach. You beat the queues with Disney world tickets that you can buy online before you even go, and you can choose how many days (or even weeks!) you need a ticket for. Buying advance tickets means that you have admission to all Disney Parks (including Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot Center, the Disney Water Parks, Oak Trail Golf Course, the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex, and more!) for several days, you can visit multiple parks in one day, and, best of all, you can reserve tickets for the rides you want to go on. You can choose the exact time for each ride you want to go on and simply show up there at the time you booked, instead of waiting in lines for hours – and trust me, this will make your trip so much more enjoyable. Since most of these advance tickets are valid for a week or longer (and still worth it, even if you’re only visiting parks on three or four days), it’ll also enable to take a break from the parks for a day or two, and plan other activities instead. Plus: multi-day tickets work out to be much cheaper per day than a single day ticket, and you’ll need at least four full days to visit the main parks.   Magic Kingdom - What Will Tomorrow Bring

Plan your trip thoroughly

Now that you have your tickets, it’s time to make a detailed plan. Don’t just show up! Disney World is gigantic, and there is no way that you can see everything, so you’ll have to plan thoroughly which attractions you want to include and which aren’t all that important for you.

Be realistic with your planning – start with six attractions per day instead of trying to cram in ten (which is impossible anyway). Research all the rides and which one you really want to go on – rides like Space Mountain, Tomorrowland and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are usually the busiest ones at Magic Kingdom; the Rock’n’Roller Coaster, the Great Movie Ride, or the Tower Of Terror are popular with grown-ups at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Look up which park the rides that sound most appealing to you are at, and then plan your itinerary and your route around your must-do attractions.

You can order a free DVD from the official Disney World website (or watch it online) which has plenty of useful information and tips on how to make your trip to Disney World a successful one. If this is your first trip to Disney, I highly recommend watching it.

Another good resource to get you started is Disneytouristblog’s Disney World Trip Planning Guide, which is regularly updated and has fantastic sample itineraries for all parks, and tips on everything from dining at Disney to where to stay.

During your time at Disney, you can always use the free My Disney World Experience app, which tells you where everything is located and also has the locations of the nearest restrooms and restaurants for you – plus wait times for rides, should you not want to opt for a Fast Ticket.Epcot Spaceship Earth Walt Disney World

Include grown-up activities in your itinerary

There’s plenty to do near the theme parks, and you should plan some non-Disney related activities. Since you’ll be on your feet all day long on most days, a spa day might be a welcome change. You can spend one day golfing or mini golfing, include a beach day, lounge by the pool, or take a day trip. There is plenty to see in Central Florida! If you enjoy cocktails, why not head on the Disney Monorail Bar Crawl, which doesn’t only make for some excellent drink experiences, but also allows you to see the various Disney resorts (and their bars, of course) even if you don’t stay there. You can find more information on it in this Yahoo article. Snapshot In Serenity
If you’re into food, you might want to plan some elaborate dinners – while the food inside the park is mostly average theme park fare (and not very healthy) there are some great restaurants in the Disney hotels and around the park. Looking into the restaurant options before your trip and reading some recent reviews will help you make your trip much better (especially if you’re a foodie like me, and food can make or break a trip for you!). There are lots of upscale options, but reasonably priced eateries with excellent reviews can also be found.

Epcot is a must-visit, of course, but can be made into a great travel-the-whole-world-in-one-day experience with lots of international foods to try – and a great place for a travel-themed scavenger hunt for grown-ups.

If you feel adventurous, sign up for the Wild Africa Trek, an animal-filled three-hour guided trek through Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park with lots of exotic animals, and that has you hike through jungle forests, cross rope bridges and have close wildlife encounters that make you think you’re on safari in Africa and not in a Florida theme park.

Avoid school vacation time

Since you’re going on an adult getaway in Disney World, you are luckier than families planning a trip to Disney – you can actually avoid visiting during school holidays! Make sure to check U.S. vacation times before you book anything, and avoid universal holidays such as the Christmas and Easter break at all costs. If you are able to visit during off season, say in November or March, and on weekdays instead of weekends – perfect! You’ll beat the crowds, get better rates for accommodation and have a much more enjoyable experience all around, and this being Florida, the weather will still be pleasant.Soarn' Back to Disney (Explored)

Plan wisely where you’ll stay

There are several Disney-owned hotels in the imminent vicinity of the theme parks, but their price tag is quite hefty. Since you’re able to travel in off-peak times though, you might be able to snatch a great deal on one of the many hotel booking websites out there. If not, find out which of the Orlando hotels offer free shuttles to the parks (most hotels do), otherwise you end up spending lots of money for taxis or for parking, should you decide to rent a car. An advantage of staying in one of the Disney hotels is that you’ll get early access to select parks, and you can stay longer than the regular opening hours. An invaluable benefit if you’re pressed for time! Disney’s free Magical Express even offers complimentary shuttle services to and from the airport to select hotels – see if you can find a good deal for one of these hotels. If you’re looking to save money, make sure to research hotels with a decent breakfast buffet (included in the room rate), and several hotels have free dining options that can save you lots of money, considering that most Disney restaurants aren’t cheap.Daily Disney - Future World Monorail

Have you been to Disney World? Feel free to share your tips for a successful trip to Disney in the comments below!

Photo credit: All photos used via Flickr’s Creative Commons License, unless stated otherwise. Title image by Jeff Krause; Epcot Center by Anothony Quintano; Serenity at the Grand Floridian by Christian Lambert; Soarin Ride by Scott Thomas; Monorail by Joe Penniston.
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Five reasons to visit St Martin

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A couple of weeks ago, I almost bought a plane ticket to Martinique. Why? First of all, I figured a Caribbean getaway from New York in January, around the time when the first blizzard usually hits, seemed like a fabulous idea. Second? I stumbled upon flight tickets for $79! To one of the Caribbean islands furthest away from New York – an absolute steal. It was hard to resist, but I tried to figure out how to get to Colombia from there (take a look at the map- it’s pretty close to Martinique), where I’ll be spending the winter, and couldn’t find a flight that didn’t go back through the U.S.St. Maarten/St. Martin

Researching the island and looking into what to do there got me looking into other Caribbean island getaways though – seeing that I’ll be spending most of next year in New York, there’ll be plenty of chances for island getaways and I should take advantage of the cheap airfare from New York to the Caribbean while I’m there. Another island nation that caught my eye? St Martin! The island looks like a picture perfect Caribbean dream, and when I found private St. Martin villa rentals on the beach, I knew right away which of my New York girls I’d invite to join me for this island retreat. Why did St Martin catch my eye? I’ll give you five good reasons to visit St Martin shortly, but let me give you a brief overview of this Caribbean nation first.stmartin_carisa_01The island is located about 200 miles east of Puerto Rico, and sits just south of Anguilla (only a 30 min boat ride away!). It’s a relatively small island (33.59 mi²) and it is divided in two parts: Saint Martin, the French side in the north, and Sint Maartin, the Dutch side on the southern part of the island. The island has been shared peacefully by the two nations since 1648, and each side has a very different feel to it. The Dutch side is notably more developed and touristy with lots of resorts and casinos, while the French side feels sleepier and more natural.

Here are five reasons why you should visit St Martin:

37 white sand beaches

Despite the island’s compact size, it offers a whopping 37 beaches! All come with white, powdery sand and the inviting turquoise waters that the Caribbean is famous for. Mullet Bay is often regarded as the most beautiful one, but you can find a full listing of all 37 beaches with detailed descriptions here.

Relaxing TouristVisit two European nations

Since Sint Maartin, the southern part, is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Saint Martin in the north is an overseas collectivity of France, you’ll basically get to visit two European nations! The French side uses Euros as their currency, the Dutch side Netherlands Antilles Guilder. There are two different capitals, and you have to call internationally from one side of the island to the other. St Martin is the smallest island in the world that is divided into two nations.St. Maarten/St. MartinThe culinary capital of the Caribbean

St Martin might be tiny, but it has over 300 restaurants! The island is known for its excellent cuisine and there are quite a few gourmet restaurants on the island. But no matter if you’re looking to dine fine or sample local cuisine from a shack on the beach – you’ll love the combination of local Caribbean flavors and European culinary influences. Plus, there’s a surprising number of international restaurants on the island as well. Thai? Indian? Mediterranean? You can sample a different cuisine every night of your stay! Fodor’s has some great restaurants recommendations for St Martin.

Maho Bay: A spectacle for plane watchers

It’s very likely that you’ve seen photos of Maho Bay, a beach on the Dutch side of the island that is famous for its spectacular plane landings and take-offs. Whenever a large plane arrives in St Martin, the plane flies so low over the beach that it seems like people can almost touch it! It’s a spectacular sight unique to St Martin and every visitor who’s even just a little bit fascinated by planes visits this beach at least once to witness a take-off or landing.American Airlines Plane Looming Over Maho Beach

Scuba paradise

St Martin is a paradise for scuba diving – you can do just about any dive you want here. Wreck dives, night dives, reef dives or cave dives – all possible here. One wreck that’s particularly noteworthy is the 1770 British warship HMS Proselyte, which sank in 1801. If you’re not into diving, then there’s fantastic snorkeling along the island reefs which have been declared an underwater nature reserve.

Photo credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons License unless specified otherwise. (1) St Martin by Derek Hatfield, (2) St Martin Villa via Luxury Retreats, (3) Beach by Jorge Quinteros, (4) Border in St Martin by Derek Hatfield, (5) Plane landing by Richie Diesterheft
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So You’re Going To Kosovo…

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During the 90’s and early 00’s, Kosovo was pretty much a no go destination for most holidaymakers. The civil unrest and ethnic cleansing under dictator Slobodan Milosevic meant that international visitors were discouraged from entering the country. Whilst the northern part of the country is still advised against travelling to, the majority of Kosovo, including the capital Pristina or Prishtina, are starting to welcome more and more international visitors. I’ve put together a list of general tips and advice on how to make the most of your trip to Europe’s hidden gem.gračanica monastery

Where to Stay

Most travellers head straight to the capital Pristina when they come to Kosovo. As well as being the birthplace of chart topper and recently announced X Factor judge Rita Ora it’s also where you’ll find the majority of the countries museums, restaurants and accommodation, making it a safe bet for first timers or those who prefer to base themselves in one location and do day trips. Other popular destinations include the cities of Peja, Gjakova and Prizren. It’s no secret that one of Kosovo’s lures is it’s cheap prices. This means even the most luxurious hotels in Kosovo are attainable. If you’re looking to stay somewhere special, look no further than the Swiss Diamond Hotel Prishtina. This five star hotel boasts regal rooms and spa complete with hammam. For those of you looking for a more ‘authentic’ experience however, there are a number of excellent backpacker style hostels, including Hostel Han in the center of Pristina. As well as a fantastic location, the hostel offers spacious communal areas and balconies offering great views across the city from the 4th floor. Pristina, Kosovo, March 2015

When to Go

There’s no bad time of year to visit Kosovo, but the seasons may have some impact on your activities during your stay. It might not be on the map as a skiing destination but visitors to Kosovo in winter should consider hitting the slopes at Brezovica in the Šar Mountain range. During the summer, the mountains also become a popular hiking destination with the option of organized tours. Although it remains unspoiled by mass tourism, the area is known for its good selection of local restaurants. Many tourists like to coincide their trip with local festivities. Independence Day is celebrated on February 17th, and no matter where you’re staying in the country, you can expect parades and street parties. In autumn, there are a number of cultural events, including the Pristina Film Festival, Art Festival and Jazz Festival. Horserider at Šar mountains (Шар-планина, Malet e Sharrit); Mt. Papka in the middle

What to Do

The Ethnographic Museum

Located in a former family home in Pristina, the museum is a good introduction to Kosovo culture and it’s people. The exhibitions include displays of traditional clothing and textiles, pottery and Albanian weaponry.

Sinan Pasha Mosque

Dating back to the 17th century, this Ottoman mosque is the jewel of the historic city of Prizren. Other nearby highlights include the Kalaja Fortress, which offers spectacular views and the nearby Šar Mountains.The Stone Bridge and Sinan Pasha Mosque

Germia Park

Most frequented for its outdoor swimming pool, this tranquil park located just outside Pristina is mountainous woodland frequented by both ramblers and bird watchers. Among the animal species found here are the golden eagle and European tree frog.

What to Eat and Drink

Turkish Coffee – You’ll find many nods towards Turkish cuisine in the Kosovo diet. Visitors can enjoy the sweet caffeine drink at cafes throughout the country.

Ajvar – A vegetarian relish typically made with red bell peppers and garlic. This tasty spread is commonly served with bread during breakfast.

Šar cheese – Available as both a hard or soft cheese, Šar cheese is made in the Šar Mountains using a mixture of sheep and cows milk. Try it with traditional pita bread.

Burek – The Kosovo equivalent of the Cornish pasty, a burek is a baked meat or vegetable filled phyllo pastry topped with sesame seeds.Talaş BöreğiRakia – The flagship alcoholic drink of Kosovo made with wild fruits including grapes.

Already been to Kosovo? Let us know your tips and advice in the comments below.

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons License: (1) Gracanica Monastery by Johannes Zielcke; (2) Pristina by Hectorlo; (3) Sar Mountains by MyBukit; (4) Sinan Pasha Mosque by aljabak85; (5) Burek by *BetüL*
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How to visit London on the cheap

London guards

London is rumored to be notoriously expensive and the British Pound Sterling is usually very strong, making it more expensive to visit this exciting metropole for almost any nationality. Most visitors struggle to keep their costs low when exploring England’s capital, but there are a few secrets to traveling to London on the cheap. In today’s post, I am sharing my best travel tips to stick to a shoestring London travel budget:london museum

Be smart with public transportation

Public transportation will probably be your biggest expensive while you’re in London, but there are some ways to save money on buses and subways. First of all, pick up an Oyster Card instead of paying for single rides each time – trust me, you’ll need one. There is a £5 deposit for the card itself, but you’ll get it back when you leave and return the card.

1. Get an Oyster Card

You have two choices when you buy an Oyster Card: you can buy a daily or weekly travel card, or you can simply add money to the card. That way, the ‘pay as you go’ version, is cheaper if you don’t plan to take a lot of trips during the day (but if you are staying not right in Central London, it’s very likely that you’ll be using public transportation every day). With the Pay As You Go version you’ll pay only £2.30 per ride instead of the full £4.80 fare for a single ticket.

If you opt for the Pay As You Go option, your daily fare will be capped at £6.40 (in Zone 1 & 2, Central London), which is the price of a day ticket. A day is counted until 3am the next morning, by the way. If you’re wondering how much money to put on your card: £20 will usually cover a return journey from Heathrow plus travel around Central London for one 1 or 2 days. If you are planning to stay for 3 to 4 days, put £30 on the card. If your card runs out, you can always put more on it. If you’re spending an entire week in London, your cheapest option is the 7-day travel card (£32.10 vs. £44.80 for 7 daily travel cards).London tube2. Off-peak vs. on-peak

If you don’t want to get an Oyster card, it is still possible to buy (paper) travel cards – they are considerably more expensive though, with £12 for a day pass (compared to the £6.40 cap off with an Oyster Card). If you’re a late riser, opt for a off-peak travel card, which is cheaper than a normal travel card but only allows you to travel after 9.30am, however there isn’t a difference in all travel cards – for example you pay the same price for an off-peak card in Zone 1, but if you stay further outside and need a travel card that reaches until Zone 5, it does make a £5 difference. You can see all the current London fares in this table.

3. Buses vs. subway

You can even save more money when you take the bus instead of the tube – and buses in London aren’t the grimy kind you’ve got in some U.S. city, but new, clean double-decker buses which connect the places that aren’t covered by the subway and train network, but some go on routes parallel to a subway route, and this is when taking the bus is cheaper. A bus ride with an Oyster card is £1.50, no matter if it’s peak time or not. Also: if you use only buses and use a Pay As You Go Oyster Card, your fare will be capped at £4.40, which means every day when you reach £4.40, you’ll ride the rest of the day for free.London market coffee houseSightseeing by local bus

Also – taking the bus is a much better way to see the city, so if you’re not pressed for time, I recommend taking the bus whenever possible. While hop-on hop-off tours are a great way to see London, they can cost an arm and a leg! Instead, there are several London bus routes which pass right by the most iconic sights, which are all included in the price of your day ticket or Oyster card (though there are no headsets, so you might need to do a little background research yourself.

One of the buses that goes by many of London’s sights is bus number 9 and you can hop right on in Piccadilly Circus. The bus passes Trafalgar Square, Somerset House, Harrods, the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall in West London, and finishes at St Paul’s Cathedral in East London.

Another fabulous route for sightseeing is bus RV1 which runs between Covent Garden and Tower Gateway. You can get on it on either end and the route follows the Thames passing the South Bank with the London Eye, London Bridge and even goes right over the Tower Bridge.london tower bridge

Most of London’s attractions are free!

One of my favorite things about London is that most of the city’s attractions are free – including its famous museums, such as the British Museum, the National History Museum or the Tate Modern. (A great way to spend a rainy day by the way, and there’ll be one of those most likely!).

In addition to the free museums and galleries, you can see many other things that are icon

ic London landmarks without paying a penny, such as:

  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Tower Bridge
  • Hyde Park
  • Portobello Road Market & Notting Hill
  • A river walk along the Thames
  • Changing the Guard & the horse guards
  • Big Ben
  • Camden Market and the canals
  • Primrose Hill
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Oxford Street (stick to window shopping though, or visit Primark)

London guardsSo while a trip to London can be pricey, if you feel like you have to do things like Madame Tussaud’s, go inside Buckingham Palace, the London Eye or the Shard for views (which you can get much cheaper when climbing the Monument in the City of London, by the way, which is only £3, or entirely free if you head up to Primrose Hill or Hampstead Heath).

Free Walking Tours

I love free walking tours – they usually give you a great overview of the city, allow you to get your bearings, and at the same time you’ll get some background info and insider tips. Tour guides love to share their knowledge of the city, so don’t be shy if you’re looking for recommendations for a certain kind of cuisine or just a good pub with cheap beer. When you join a free walking tour, you’ll also notice how close most of the city’s attractions are and that most of Central London is surprisingly walkable. I recommend Sandeman’s New Europe Royal London Tour, a 2.5 hour walk that covers Buckingham Palace, No 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column, St James Park and the Horseguards, to name just a few stops. London houses

Use discount vouchers

Before buying anything, check if there are any discount vouchers for the activity, food or drink you’re planning to buy. For example, browse through VoucherBin UK for the latest voucher codes before you set off on your trip.

Discount vouchers are hugely popular in the UK and many restaurants offer meal deals or 2-for-1 dinner vouchers. There are also vouchers for supermarkets if you’re planning to cook for yourself, and it pays off to compare prices in the main supermarket chains (Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose) to see which one has the items you’re planning to buy on offer.london big ben

How to save money on paid attractions

If you’re planning to see some of London’s attraction that aren’t free, consider getting a London Pass which includes over 60 London attractions, including a Thames River Cruise, the Tower Of London and Westminster Abbey. Tip: If you buy the pass through VisitLondon, the official tourist board, you’ll get a 10% discount on it.

If you only plan to visit one or two of the paid-for attractions, check online if they offer an advance booking discount. Most of the attractions offer it – the London Eye for example is 20% cheaper if booked in advanced.

If you’re planning a trip out of town on the train – to Bath or Brighton for example, you should also check out the National Rail website where you’ll usually find 2-for-1 offers for all major attractions (if you buy a train ticket). Train tickets should be purchased in advance, too, by the way: a ticket to Brighton is £22.90 if you buy it on the spot, but it can be as cheap as £11 if you buy it a few weeks in advance. This kind of travel requires planning, but it makes a huge difference on your wallet.London Eye

Cheap West End Theater Tickets

Theater is a fix part of many London visitors’ itinerary, and seeing a play in the West End is well worth the splurge. The best part is that seeing a play or musical doesn’t need to be expensive – I’ve seen plays for as little as £20! Similar to New York, London also has discount ticket booths – head to the TKTS ticket booth in the afternoon to get discounted tickets for the same evening. The Guardian just published a guide on how to get the best deal for West End Theater Tickets.London views from Primrose hill

Food and drinks

First of all: don’t ever spend water on bottled water when you are in London. The tap water in the city is perfectly fine and safe to drink, and not only will it save you some precious Pounds, but you’ll also do the environment a favor.

For a cheap lunch, head to Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Boots and pick up one of their lunch deals, which are as little as £3 and include a sandwich, a drink and an additional item (chips, fruit or something sweet). It doesn’t get any cheaper than this! If you prefer a hot lunch, head to EAT or Pret A Manger for a hot sandwich or a soup. You can get either one for less than £5. All of these places have several healthy food options.

When the weather is nice, it is always a great idea to buy picnic food and eat in one of the beautiful parks – nothing beats an al fresco lunch in Regents Park or St James Park. I highly recommend Portobello Road Market and Borough Market to pick up a quick yet scrumptious meal.

If you’re staying in a hostel with a kitchen, you can buy one of the cheap dinner deals that is offered by all of the supermarket chains for as little as £10 – this includes a starter for two, two main courses and even a bottle of wine! (Tip: If you splurge on the £20 dinner deal at Marks & Spencer, you get the best value for money with a starter, main, a side dish, dessert and wine).

If you prefer to go out, try to find a coupon for 2-for-1 meals or look for a pub with 2-for-1 meal deals. Bread selection at Borough Market

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Dubrovnik — a Diverse Mix of Beaches, Nightlife and History

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Dubrovnik may not be Croatia’s capital city, but it’s undoubtedly one of the country’s heaviest hitters when it comes to charm and culture. Sitting by the Adriatic Sea, this picturesque city attracts visitors from all over, who come to appreciate the medieval sights, atmospheric restaurants and sublime beaches. Dubrovnik holidays are a step back in time without leaving modern life and if it’s beauty spots you’re after then the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ will not disappoint.

One city, two sides

Your first glimpse of the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik, jutting out into the Adriatic, may be all it takes to fall in love with this Croatian delight. The mustard-colored rooftops, winding cobbled streets and Renaissance architecture all work together to exude a distinctly fairy tale atmosphere. But in this city you can admire century’s old Gothic buildings in the Old Town quarter before dining and drinking in some of the most stylish restaurants and bars in the country. It’s a city of exquisite fountains, monasteries and churches but also a nightlife hotspot filled with jazz cafes, wine bars and lively beach clubs.Dubrovnik 038

The beach life

Clear sea waters, pristine sands and secluded beaches may be the reason this stretch of coastline comes with the tourist slogan ‘the Mediterranean as it once was’. There are no private stretches of coastline in Dubrovnik, which allows visitors access to a wealth of beaches, including those on the islands of nearby Lopud and Kolocep. The hot weather from spring to autumn means you can enjoy swimming, boating and diving for much of the year. Banje is one of the most popular city beaches but don’t miss St. James beach, which is one of the best on the coast and provides superb views of the city.

Explore the area

If you can tear yourself away from the city, then make sure a boat trip to the island of Lokrum to check out the beaches and botanical gardens is part of your itinerary. Alternatively, you can take a thrilling ride on the Dubrovnik cable car to the top of Mount Srđ for unparalleled views of the city and the Adriatic islands. Spend some time exploring the pretty little traditional villages on the islands of Kolocep and Mljet, where you can dine on the freshest catch of the day in the authentic waterfront restaurants. Back in the city, don’t forget to walk around the two-kilometer medieval city walls at least once — they provide the perfect photo opportunity.Dubrovnik wallsThis Croatian hotspot will definitely hit the right note whether you’re looking for romantic getaway or a fun, beach and city destination to enjoy with friends. The weather is warm and sunny from spring through autumn, which is ideal if you’re looking for a low-season travel option.

Images by Pero Kvrzica and nicocrisafulli, title image by Thomas Mues. All images used under Creative Commons license.

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