Monday, September 1, 2014

History important on USA tours

When you travel around America today, it's all too easy to forget that, long before the first skyscrapers and highways were built, the USA was a vast wilderness inhabited by native tribes.
As the European settlers who landed on the east coast spread west, these people were, sadly, marginalised and ousted from their land - bringing turmoil to their previously peaceful existence.
While no one can change the past, especially not visitors to the country, as a conscientious tourist it's only right to bear these historical facts in mind as you travel with the likes of Grand American Adventures - especially when visiting places such as Monument Valley in Utah.
At first sight, this region of dramatic geology is a spectacular outdoor attraction in the same vein as the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, but the reality is somewhat different.
Navajo Nation
This is because the beautiful sandstone buttes lie at the heart of Navajo Nation, a semi-autonomous Native American-governed territory, covering some 27,425 square miles of Utah , Arizona and New Mexico.
The region was established by the Treaty of 1868, which followed a rather damning period in American history called 'The Long Walk'. This saw the US Army force thousands of Navajo at gunpoint to walk 300 miles across the desert from their homeland to Fort Sumner, where they were imprisoned.
Four years later, the US government allowed them to return to their homeland and Navajo Nation was established.
In the 21st century, the region is populated by some 250,000 people, who are represented by 88 Council delegates from the 110 Navajo Nation chapters, or communities.
The three-branch system (executive, legislative and judicial) run by the Navajo is considered to be the most sophisticated form of Indian government and proceedings are conducted in the traditional language, not English.
Responsible tourism
As you explore the wonderful surroundings of Navajo Nation, which has formed the backdrop to countless movies, it's obviously important to show respect to the local people, who consider Monument Valley to be a sacred place.
You can do this by sticking to designated trails, asking for permission before taking photos of people and events, and refraining from drinking alcohol, which is strictly prohibited.
By being respectful to the Navajo way of life, you'll be able to enjoy the incredible landscape of Monument Valley in harmony with the local people and your surroundings, which is ultimately what responsible tourism is all about.
However, this doesn't just apply to Navajo Nation. This sort of history-led approach should inform your whole trip to the USA - giving you a greater appreciation of what you encounter and guiding how you go about being a tourist, whether you're motoring down Route 66 or enjoying the music scene in the Deep South.
This doesn't mean you can't go wild and party on Bourbon Street like any fun-loving tourist should do, but it's equally important to take the time to visit the National Civil Rights Museum to learn more about the tumultuous history of the region, which saw black Americans struggle for their rights over many years.

By doing so, you'll leave the USA having enjoyed a much richer experience, which will not only stay with you for many years to come, but also affect your holidays in the future - in a positive way - too.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Orlando: Beyond the theme parks

The popular holiday destination of Orlando is closely associated with some of the world’s biggest and most popular themes parks, which attract millions of people from all over the globe every year. But contrary to popular opinion, perhaps, there is much more to see and do in Orlando than simply hop on board the rides.
Here, we’re going to take a look at the top attractions that the city has to offer, beyond the well-known thrills and spills available at the theme parks. You can hire a car in Orlando and make the most of your stay.
Weeki Wachee Springs
If you’re looking to escape in the world of fantasy but don’t fancy paying theme park prices for the privilege, then Weeki Wachee Springs ought to feature prominently on your list of must-see attractions.
Located approximately one hour and 35 minutes away from Orlando in the car, this charming destination is definitely worth the travel time as it encourages you to believe in the surreal.
That’s because the spectacularly clear waters of the springs feature ‘mermaids’ performing underwater feats. Ever wanted to see a mermaid down a soft drink? Well, this is an opportunity not to pass up.
Among the best of the underwater shows on offer is The Little Mermaid, which takes place in a 500-seat theatre embedded in the side of the springs.
Flagger Beach
Golden sands and spectacular weather are probably what most holidaymakers think of when they close their eyes and think of Florida. And there are few beaches in the state that can match the splendour of Flagger Beach, which is a bit of a throwback to the days before condominiums and high-rise buildings.
The beach itself is distinguished by the reddish colour of the sand and the fact that despite its attractiveness, is considerably less busy than those seen elsewhere in the state. What’s more, it’s worth noting that while the area does not boast many malls or fast-food restaurants, it is home to a wonderful farmers market on Fridays and Saturdays, where you can pick up fruit and veg, among other items.
Located less than an hour from Orlando, this is one attraction that you will not want to miss, because – let’s be honest – it’s not often that you get the opportunity to watch a spaceship take to the skies.
There are a number of great locations in this part of Florida to watch lift-off. Of course, this is sure to be an exhilarating experience for all the family, but especially so if you have young children, who are unlikely to ever forget the experience.
Silver Springs
This set of springs offers a rare insight into life under the sea and in particular, the springs that make up much of the state's landscape. And doing so this way means that you needn't don a wet suit in order to enjoy an amazing view of the beautiful sights of Florida.
What's more, there is also a petting zoo for youngsters, as well as a series of shops and restaurants that can help make your visit all the more enjoyable. But what if you fancy a bit of peace and quiet? Well, the botanical gardens make for the ideal spot to relax and unwind, leaving your everyday stresses behind you.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Why the Med is perfect for last-minute cruises

Cruise Ship Infographic: 9 Superb Mediterranean Holidays In 1 Cruise
Cruise Infographic by Bolsover Cruise Club

Why the Med is perfect for last-minute cruises

We all know how it can be - life gets in the way when you’re trying to organise a getaway and before you know it the summer is upon you and you don’t have a holiday booked. Rather than scrabbling with everyone else for the best available package at a standard sun, sea and sand resort, go on a cruise.

We know what you’re thinking - ‘cruises are for old people’; ‘I don’t want to be stuck with lots of people I don’t know’; ‘won’t I get bored when I’m not visiting a port?’; ‘where can I even go on a cruise anyway?’.

Stop and throw all those preconceptions out of the window because not only are last-minute cruises fantastic value for money, but they could also introduce you to destinations you’d never otherwise have explored.

The Mediterranean is a classic example of a region that’s home to many hidden gems. Incredible beaches, cultural cities and fascinating heritage sites all await if only you’d give yourself the chance to try something different.

If you’re going for a last-minute deal, the Med is a particularly good choice because it’s so close to the UK. You won’t need to travel far, even if you opt for a fly-cruise option, before you meet your ship. Thanks to the wide-scale adoption of the Euro, you’re also unlikely to have to worry about exchanging your currency multiple times. And, of course, it’s an incredibly varied place to explore too.

For plenty of variety, go on an itinerary that takes in some of Europe’s most sophisticated cities and beautiful landscapes - a 14-day journey around Italy’s coastline, on to Croatia, Montenegro, Corfu and finally Corsica.

This particular trip really does feature a little bit of everything, with cities like Rome and Naples providing history in abundance. Florence and Venice, meanwhile, are renowned for being creative hubs and home to some of the world’s most spectacular artworks.

Spend time in Dubrovnik and you’ve got fantastic beaches just a short distance from the city’s amazing Old Town. Kotor in Montenegro is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful fjords you’re likely to see. And in Genoa and Corfu you can sample classic Mediterranean delicacies. Ajaccio in Corsica is the ideal place to relax, with its seafront promenade perfect for a gentle stroll and a profusion of pavement cafes where you can sip a coffee and watch the world go by.

As if fitting nine holiday destinations into one trip (without any stress or hassle on your part, we might add) wasn’t enough, you’ve also got several days at sea during which you can enjoy the delights of your cruise liner.

Modern cruise ships are huge and boast plenty of entertainment for all kinds of travellers. There are theatre shows, clubs, casinos and chic bars to keep you amused after dark, while the day time is reserved for leisurely trips to the spa, refreshing dips in the pool and working on your tan on the sundeck.

So, a cruise is part package holiday, part independent travel with a whole lot more thrown in. You’ll still come home from your break with a tan, but you’ll also have visited far more fascinating places than any of your friends who opted for a single-centre break - and you’re likely to be the envy of all of them once you tell them about your adventures on the high seas.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Top Things to Do in Larnaca

Have you ever heard of Larnaca? It’s not at the top of many traveler’s lists, but it’s an incredible destination off the beaten path and one you should definitely hit if you’re an adventurous traveler! Not only is it the oldest city in Cyprus, but it may be one of the oldest cities in the world. This rugged and charming town has a mysterious and seductive feel that will have you wanting to explore its every nook and cranny. There are plenty of things to do, and this will surely be a visit you won’t forget. You can book your holiday to Larnaca through Thomas Cook. So read on for the top things to do while you’re staying in Larnaca:

Ayios Lazarus
This site is notable as a church built on the site where St. Lazarus’s tomb is kept. Lazarus moved to Cyprus after being chased out of Israel, spreading the news of Christianity after Jesus brought him back from the dead. He was named Bishop of Kition and reigned for years. This church is fascinating to explore and is a remarkable historical site to visit while in Larnaca.

Salt Lake
The “Salt Lake” is in fact a group of four salt lakes that are interconnected and fill with water during winter months. When they are full, flocks of flamingos come to make their home here and feed on the shrimp living in the lake. As the weather warms and summer comes along, the water dries up and leaves a crusty salt layer that can be up to 10 cm thick.

Larnaca Fort
This fascinating site was built back in 1625 by the Ottomans, in attempts to defend the city from attackers. But it was actually more often used as a prison! The fort has a gorgeous location right on the shore line so when you go visit, you actually walk around it by a sea wall. In the fort you can see plenty of archaeological exhibits like suits of armor and other artifacts. In the summertime, the fort and surrounding area are often used for outdoor events like concerts and festivals.

Wreck of the Zenobia
Do you love scuba diving? You’re going to go nuts for Cyprus! There is some amazing diving here and you really can’t miss the wreck of the Zenobia while you’re here. The Zenobia cargo ship sunk 30 years ago and is in great condition, with a number of different dive levels and challenges that will appeal to any level of diver. This is actually considered one of the top shipwreck dives in the world. You’ll see things like the colorful carpets in the lounge and even food still in the vending machines!

This is one of the most important Neolithic sites in the world, and a World Heritage Site as well. At first, it might look like a mess of jumbled stones and rocks but in fact this is the ruins of an ancient civilization. A visit to this site will reveal how people lived 9,000 years ago. And the work is still in progress here, who knows what is yet to be found.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Favourite Island Getaways

I have a confession to make. I spend hours and hours online daydreaming about escaping to various tranquil islands all over the world. There is something magical to me about that turquoise water and soft white sand. Last week I was having my usual coffee-club catch up with my girlfriends. We got onto the topic of island getaways and it turns out that I’m not the only island-getaway fanatic. 

Based on the conversation that unfolded, here are the top island getaways on my bucket-list and why I think you should consider them too:
Phi-Phi Islands, Thailand
Best for the ultimate laid-back island escape. Limestone cliffs give way to beach-fronted jungle and sunlit crystal water. Days are a blend of snorkelling, swimming and savouring Thai cuisine. You can even complete your PADI certification and enjoy some scuba diving. Finish off your day with a sunset massage. There are no flights to the Phi-Phi Islands so once you’re in Phuket make sure to purchase your boat tickets – most hotels and guesthouses can assist you with this.
Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Best for a chic, eco-friendly island experience. Take a coach tour and marvel at the lava landscape inside Timanfaya National Park. Explore shipwrecks, caves and magical marine life while taking advantage of the excellent diving opportunities. Indulge your palate in some wine tasting at El Grifo Wine Museum, the oldest winery in the Canaries. Make sure to book your Lanzarote flights in advance.
Green Island, Taiwan
Best for an activity-filled weekend getaway. This small volcanic Island is accessible from Taiwan by boat or plane. Rent a scooter and make your way around this unusual island with its 16.3km round-the-island highway. It boasts impressive snorkelling and diving options. Visit one of only 3 saltwater hot springs in the world.
Best for sightseeing and photography.  Join an adventure in the sky and indulge yourself in a Seaplane photo flight offering you panoramic views and unparalleled photo opportunities. Relax and unwind in a stilted bungalow hovering over the crystal clear waters. Pamper yourself with a spa treatment. The Maldives is easily accessible from anywhere in South-East Asia, the Middle-East and Europe.

One of the go-to wedding locations for its luxurious tropical weather, soft sandy beaches, incredible resorts and high-quality hotels. If weddings or sunbathing isn’t going to be a huge part of your holiday experience, then Mauritius has a load of historical sights, hiking trails along its lush vegetation and almost unlimited water sports in their warm and azure waters.
Turks and Caicos Islands
Set amongst the Caribbean islands in the region, Turks and Caicos offers incredible food such as fritters and stews made from conches, the islands most famous export. The best place to visit is Da Conch Shack that plays smooth and relaxing music, while you eat a creamy chowder made from seafood caught that very morning, the beer should taste so much better in paradise. The island also has great water activities such as kite boarding on Long Bay Beach, fly fishing as well as night fishing. The low-level snorkelling in the shallow waters of Gibbs Bay is incredible, especially that you can swim amongst the rays.

Alright, no more day-dreaming. I need to make a plan to get on a plane and head to all these destinations sooner than later in my office secluded life and island getaways are the perfect places to renew your mind and fill your heart with the sounds and smells of the summer sun.