Hidden Holidays: Gems of the World

August means holiday time for most and looking online there are plenty of great packages that can help you get that tan without having to worry about where to get dinner. Although there are many inclusive holidays, they all seem to target a group of specific popular destinations repeatedly. Where are the hidden gems of the world? Whilst browsing around for alternative #travellinggoals, I found some beautiful destinations. They may not the seven wonders; but these natural, secret escapes are guaranteed to make your holiday unforgettable.

The Short Hop: Croatia

Photo by Ivan Ivankovic on Unsplash

This beautiful place is located South East Europe and best enjoyed during an off-peak season for the most authentic experience. Croatia is a brilliant option for those wanting to explore heritage and coastal surprises. The coastline boasts breathtaking caves great for avid snorkelers or sea babies. An example of this magnificent seashore is the Blue Grotto based in a small bay called Balun. It is said the best time to go is between 11am and noon when the sun is hitting the cave at just the right angle to reveal the sea of ‘silver’ objects below the gorgeous blue water.

If you are more for land, Croatia is home to some stunning national parks like Palenica and Plitvice. These two walking trails are the most popular, so best enjoyed in the less tourist-y seasons. If you are visiting during the peak times, there are some quieter places for an active holiday. Vis Island was not accessible by tourists before 1989 as it used to be a military base.  All that time away from the crowds has ensured preservation of character. There are wonderful local food and wines to enjoy in the evenings too.

The Long Haul: Bolivia

Photo by Wikimedia

Located in central South America, this place is a stunning destination for those excited to explore some of the world’s most awe-inspiring creations. Bolivia is bursting at the seams with both natural and historical heritage, with spots like the Casa Nacional de la Moneda, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a gorgeous one at that. This destination is also perfect for foodies, with a mix of Spanish cuisine and exotic ingredients that are sure to please your palette.

As if that’s not enough to tempt you, this breath-taking country is also home to the ‘largest mirror on earth’. Salar de Uyuni or the Bolivian Salt Desert is the biggest salt flat in the world and during the rainy season when it floods, the flats create an incredible endless reflection of the skies above it. When planning your Salar de Uyuni tours, keep in mind the season, as winter (August – December) is dry so you won’t see the mirror effect in its full splendour, however it will be drier for the rest of your Bolivian adventure!

City Break: Marseilles

Photo by Wikimedia

Discover a lively scene in Marseille, France and explore boutiques and quaint coffee shops.  Marseille has amazing architecture and historical sites such as the famous Notre-Dame de la Garde or the old port of Marseille, which is great for kayaking adventures. For social butterflies, the Friche la Belle de Mai comes highly recommended as the place to be for the art and social scene. This looks like it would be lovely on a warm summers evening

Much like Bolivia, this place would be a foodie’s dream. There are many gourmet cultural restaurants that cook cuisines from all over the world. Form North African delicacy’s like Le Souk, to Classic French food like Chez Fonfon.

Beach Break: Isola Bella, Italy

Photo by Wikimedia

This is the type of destination that the locals don’t want you knowing about! Going for a beach holiday can be stressful with crowds of people rushing to get the best spot in the mornings. However, you can’t get more quiet or discrete than this stunning little islet. The beach, named Taormina, is a scenic destination full of fun activities like scuba diving and boat trips.

This island originally started out as a small fishing village before becoming a sought-after location featuring the Grand Palace – which looks like something out of a Disney film! This beautiful spot has treasures waiting to be explored like the vibrant garden full of botanical marvels. If you are a music lover, every year this island plays host to the Stresa music festival presenting a variety of classical and jazz musicians.

On my online adventure to find a getaway off the package holiday track, I truly have discovered some real gems! From the biggest mirror in the world, to a man-made island of the utmost beauty – these places have definitely made it onto my bucket list.

Have a dream destination you’d like to share, leave it in the comments!

Essential Questions Before Booking Your Honeymoon

Credit: Pixabay

So, you have planned the wedding of all weddings and the only thing left to do is organise the perfect escape to a romantic destination. The world is your oyster, so where will you be venturing to? Below are a few questions to ask yourself before booking your dream holiday – I know I did! Arranging a wedding can not only be expensive, but they can take precedence over everything – including the all-important honeymoon. Your special holiday can sometimes end up on the back burner, so getting this done first will help lower your stress levels and ensure an amazing trip. Ask yourself the questions below to start planning the ultimate honeymoon!

  1. What do you both like?

Are you both self-confessed adrenalin junkies or do you both prefer a more relaxing setting? It is important that you both are excited and have input. There are ways that you can come to a final decision, you could each write down a list and see if you have any common denominators or simply discuss your ideal getaway – you may be pleasantly surprised with ideas from your fiancé!

  1. What is your budget?

Yes, let’s talk money.  With the world at your feet, it’s time to get down to the logistics and start budgeting. What is realistic that also fits you and your fiancés honeymoon needs? If you have travelled to lots of places already, you may have built up some airmiles. If not, simply shopping around can help you find the best going rate for your holiday. If you decide where you want to go well in advance, booking it as soon as possible means that you could enjoy some super cheap deals.

  1. Is it a good time of year to go?

Many places during the Summer become super busy and if you are looking for a relaxing quiet holiday – you may be in for a shock.  Check out when your ideal destinations have their busiest times of the year, not just for tourists but students alike. Check popular teaching academies areas that are teaching TEFL courses or other educational courses as it could be hotels and tourists can be really packed at these times!

  1. Have you checked the reviews of your accommodation?

The last thing you want is to turn up to your accommodation, and it is not what it looked like in the pictures! This is where review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor come in handy. You can see other people’s experiences to help you decide if this place if for you or if you need to be looking elsewhere. Review sites are not just for checking out what the place is really like, some reviews are handy in finding not so obvious but good places for you to explore!

  1. Have you planned your itinerary?

Are there any attractions or key places you want to visit? Are you wanting to go it alone or is the thought of hiring a tour guide more for you? Check out tourist sites for your destinations, as they will have information of places you can’t miss and ideas for accommodation. Travel blogs are also a great place to find out what you can do, for example, simply search ‘5 top things to do in Bali’ for some ideas!

Are you excited? Good! From my experience, nothing beats a relaxing break in a beautiful location after planning a wedding. Spending that all important time with your new husband or wife, is a great way to kick-start a marriage! And the last thing you want is any nasty surprises, so make sure you are happy honeymooners by getting everything planned and sorted in advance.

Perfect Staycation Locations UK

The sun is shining and the UK cannot get enough of it! The time for holidaying is upon us and I am super excited to take some time out from working life and really relax. Oh, and spend some time with my other half – of course! We are currently having debating whether to go abroad or not. Mike is wanting to escape to the sun however, why run to the sun when you have it right here? There seems to be so much negativity in the news now with regards to travelling and strength of the pound, that I have been searching a little closer to home for the perfect staycation. But first, I need to work on my persuasiveness, so here is a quick summary of staycations are better than vacations!

  • Smaller travel costs – No catching planes or taxis to hotels when we can simply drive there!
  • Easy planning – We know the language and currency
  • Inexpensive – We can easily find the best deals and take things like food from home

Beach Break: Cornwall

Credit: Pixabay

It seems to be that in Cornwall, everything is in walking distance! Falmouth is a tourist hotspot, with cute cafes, pubs and independent shops. I also found that you can catch a boat from Falmouth to St.Mawes, where you can visit St Mawes Castle and take part in water sports if you fancy it. They have lovely sandy beaches, which there is a lack of here in Brighton, and lots of caves to explore!

City Break: London

Credit: Pixabay

Brighton to London isn’t very far, the only thing we have to worry about here is if there is a strike on. London has tons of attractions, from visiting the queen in Buckingham palace to visiting Harry Styles at Madame Tussauds! There are so many places to stay however, with it being the capital and everything – prices will vary. To solve this, you could stay slightly out of London to cut costs, then travel into the city easily with the tube. However, if you are looking for a relaxing holiday, it may not be ideal, as during the summer there are lots of tourists making it busy and crowded.

Relaxing Break: Cotswolds

Credit: Pixabay

No not the shop, but the 800 square mile area of rolling hills which has loads of lively market towns and historic landmarks buried within them! I can picture a long day of exploring, then retreating to one of the traditional Cotswolds cottages in one of the historic villages! It is such a good excuse to get my bike out the shed as this place has so many walking and cycling routes that I would love to explore with my other half.

Active Break: Lake District

Credit: Pixabay

Did you know there are six National Nature Reserves in these 885 miles of land? What I love about this place, is that there are so many types of accommodation, from glamping to hotels! As with the Cotswolds, there are loads of walking routes for all levels. I especially like the look of Helvellyn, a mountain famous for its twin ridges. However, it seems a little steep but I bet it will be worth it for views! For a more organized adventure activity, you partake in a treetop trek and tree top nets – imagine flying and climbing through the trees. You would have to have some guts to do that!

Spa Break: Snowdonia

Credit: Pixabay

I know what you’re thinking – that there are spas closer to home. However, when you go on holiday you want to feel like you’re away! Snowdonia has a range of spa hotels and with breathtaking views – it definitely makes for a romantic holiday for two. The area is also home to a multitude of heritage sites and outdoor activities – bit of a contrast between the two, but I can see how there would be something for everyone. This one could be on the cards depending on how adventurous we are feeling!

All of these locations look incredible and I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that some of them are in the UK. Armed with this comprehensive list and my persuasive skills – I’m pretty sure I have the upper hand in deciding where we will be going this year!

Autumn Days Out in The South of England

Autumn has long been one of my favourite seasons; there are plenty of opportunities to spend some quality time with my hubby and to work on getting rid of those extra calories after indulging in one too many cocktails over the summer.

A lot of people tend to feel a little depressed as those long summer evenings finally come to an abrupt end, and they are left counting the days until reluctantly putting the clocks back and spending their evenings curled up on the sofa. However, it doesn’t have to be this way; there is an abundance of opportunities to get out there and enjoy the crisp autumn sun and the beautiful colours. While the unpredictable British weather can make it a challenge to plan ahead, ensuring that you have a few days out planned means that you can leap out of bed at the first opportunity you get and spend a beautiful day out and about.

Horses In The New Forest

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For those of you who have been to the New Forest, you will already know that two wheels are definitely better than four! When we are children we are all told about the importance of sharing- this is especially the case in the New Forest.

When we are children we are all told about the importance of sharing- this is especially the case in the New Forest.

In this beautiful part of the country, animals certainly are king! A relaxing drive along its beautiful country lanes can be brought to an abrupt end as you come face to face with an unfazed horse or cow. If don’t have the opportunity to be around animals very often, this can be an incredibly rewarding experience that never fails to disappoint. That is unless you are my hubby, of course. He still likes to go on about the time a horse decided to relieve herself on his car bonnet.

Anyway, with this in mind, if you are local to the New Forest then you are better off getting a train to one of the many stations and taking your bike with you. You will have the complete freedom to explore the forest and its surroundings and get some much-needed exercise! It is always a good idea to check ahead that you are able to take your bikes on a particular train; however, most of the time this is not a problem. The only issue is that you have to lug your bike around, luckily there are plenty of carbon fibre road bikes available that are absolutely perfect for transporting with ease. Luckily for me, my hubby finally took notice of my not so subtle hints and treated me for my birthday last month.

My own particular tip would be to get a train to the village of Brockenhurst and start exploring from there. You will find that there are plenty of beauty and cycle routes to keep you busy, there are also plenty of pubs and quaint tearooms for you to refresh yourselves and enjoy some much-deserved rest and relaxation. If you are looking for something a bit more adventurous, then you will find a wealth of kayaking and canoeing opportunities to keep you entertained.

If your husband or boyfriend regularly bores you to death about cars, then treat him to an afternoon at the Beaulieu Motor Museum, which will captivate your interest whether you are car-nut, or not!

Hastings

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Visit 1066 Country

Due to its close proximity to Brighton, Hastings tends to be overlooked by those looking to head to the coast for a day out. However, Hastings is something of a hidden gem, especially the old town, where you will find a rich variety of architecture, ranging from medieval to Victorian.

For the history buffs amongst you, you will be delighted to learn that three of the seven churches that were standing during medieval times are still standing today. That isn’t all, though, the Hasting Fisherman’s museum is well worth a visit and is in a really lovely location. Surrounded by black fishing sheds, this is a delightful location to indulge in some sunbathing on a sunny afternoon.

If you are in need of a dose of culture, then there are plenty of art galleries to pass away the time in. I would particularly recommend visiting the Jerwood Gallery, which opened to an abundance of critical acclaim in 2012. If you are lucky enough for the sun to be shining, then why not treat yourself to a drink in the nearby café, which benefits from stunning beach views.

Finally, there is the old town, known locally as Twittens; it is an exquisite mixture of narrow streets and passageways, most of them were used by smugglers years ago and still make a fantastic place to explore.

Anne of Cleves House Lewes

Source

Go Back in Time

Personally, I have always been a huge fan of exploring the many beautiful old stately homes that we are lucky enough to have scattered across the country. One that I must confess to having particularly fond memories of, is the Anne Cleves House near Lewes. There really is so much to see, you will have the chance to learn all about this beautiful medieval house and the role it had to play in the life of one of England’s most famous kings, Henry VIII.

A particular highlight for me is the authentically furnished kitchen and the garden which is simply stunning! It uses traditional plants and genuine Tudor planting schemes and really is worth the admission fee alone.

If you are lucky enough, like me, to live in the Brighton area, then the many amazing cycle paths that we have to offer you the chance to explore this beautiful medieval house and enjoy the autumn air.

If your hubby is anything like mine then you will be glad to know that there is a delightful tea garden that offers all sorts of refreshments to indulge in and the chance to enjoy a much-deserved break!

Best Family Destinations In 2016

The best family destinations shouldn’t mean something that’s specifically for the kids; it should also be something just as fun for the adults. Parents don’t want to be spending all weekend in a ball-pit, just as much as kids don’t want to be stuck in a vineyard for hours on end. The only solutions is to seek balance!

Finding the balance can be hard, but with careful planning you can achieve this parent-child Zen for yourself. There’s plenty of places across the UK which offer fun, cultural and cool activities for parents and children alike.

Planning your next family trip away? Keep in mind these famous UK destinations which guarantee something for everyone.

Lake District

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/30913371@N07

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/30913371@N07

For families who like keeping active, the UK’s largest national park is a must see destination. Beyond the stunning natural beauty of the Lake District, there’s a wealth of active pursuits with which you can truly take in the sights and enjoy a wide range of special events. You could take a gentle cruise down the Ullswater, one of the UK’s biggest natural lakes, follow the famous mountain biking trails, or simply grab a map and explore.

The Lake District offers plenty of family friendly hotels and accommodation to ensure you have a comfortable stay in the wilderness. I would recommend the Lodore Falls, a stunning family hotel nestled at the foot of the Lake District’s forests, with brilliant views of the Ullswater itself.

Brighton

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hadock/

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hadock/

The UK’s vice capital also serves as a place with countless kid friendly activities. One can get lost on Brighton Pier for hours feeding chips to seagulls, getting henna tattoos or getting lucky on the 2p machines. The rest of the city boasts hundreds of restaurants for all kinds of fussy eaters, as well as plenty of bars and pubs for the adults.

Brighton is within easy reach of London, with a direct train service between the two, and has links from almost every major city in the UK. Remember Brighton during in the summer is where you’ll get those holiday vibes, so avoid the drizzle of the winter seasons for a true holiday at home.

The Cotswolds

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/robbibaba/

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/robbibaba/

Perhaps your family enjoys the more rural aspects of England? If so, there’s no better place to explore the wilderness than The Cotswolds, which itself covers 6 counties (most notably Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire). Cotswolds holiday cottages have always welcomed families and young children, as well as pets such as dogs and cats, so don’t be afraid to bring the entire family!

If you’re looking to blow your children’s minds, there are several nearby shooting locations from the Harry Potter series. This includes scenes shot for both the inside and grounds of Hogwarts School, created from the corridors of Gloucester Cathedral and Lacock Abbey located less than 13 miles away. There are also a range of guided tours available, ensuring you don’t miss any of the highlights.

Alton Towers

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jennyellenbrown/

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jennyellenbrown/

Can’t go to Disneyland? No need to be upset, because Staffordshire’s Alton Towers is just as bold as its Paris-based counterpart. Alton Towers is widely considered to be one of the best theme parks in the world, with some of the biggest rides in Europe set in a hugely imaginative park across a whopping 500 acres of British countryside. Alongside the park’s huge selection of hair-raising rollercoasters is an ‘extraordinary’ golf course, a water park, an aquarium and an outstanding historical spa.

Turning an Alton Towers trip into a holiday is easy with access to the park’s 2 unique hotels. Each hotel has plenty of entertainment for adults and kids to enjoy, as well as a variety of fun, themed rooms ranging from the Coca-Cola room to the Cadburys room. Either way, you’ll be dealing with a sugar rush.

Longleat Safari Park

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/markhillary/

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/markhillary/

Longleat was the first safari park to be opened outside of Africa. Since 1966, it has grown into one of the UK’s best wildlife attractions, providing access to a range of exotic animals living in natural habitats. Based in Wiltshire, the safari is home to range of fantastic beasts including tigers, lions, elephants, rhinos, and monkeys (who will steal your windshield wipers without hesitations).

Wiltshire itself is an attractive county with various other points of interest, including Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. If you’re going to visit Longleat, keep yourself in Wiltshire and enjoy exploring the various sleepy villages that border the likes of Dorset, Oxfordshire, and Berkshire.

My Top Four Holiday Destinations for Summer

So that’s our day of summer for the year then! It was lovely whilst it lasted, it even reached 33°C where I was. But yeah, that’s all the sun England is allowed. Heaven forbid we actually get a nice tan! I pleaded with the hubby and he didn’t exactly say yes…but he said we could “potentially look at going away to somewhere nice – work permitting blah blah blah”. So I, being me – have narrowed it down for him in a very neat little list of my four top holiday destinations for Summer. What do you all think?

Florence

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to visit Florence. I’d consider myself a pretty avid interior design fan, but Michaelangelo took it to another level entirely! The statue of David is iconic, so if we’re going to Florence – we can’t miss the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell’Accademia. The architecture in Florence look absolutely stunning, it really is like something out of a film. In my experience, I find that the way the local city looks after its rich heritage and culture sites adds so much more to the experience. Those are the memories of travel that I can recall the most, the immersive sunset walks along intricate canal systems that look like they haven’t been touched since they were built.

From the reviews and forums I frequent, it doesn’t seem like anyone looks after their rich history like the Italians!

Points of interest:

• Florence Cathedral
• Ponte Vecchio
• Galleria dell’Accademia
• Uffizi Gallery
• Boboli Gardens

Cyprus

Of course, there are incredible points of interest in Cyprus. Gorgeous heritage sites like the Tombs of the Kings, the Savrovouni Monastery and Kyrenia Castle – which are, undeniably, a must visit. However, I feel a little guilty that one of the top reasons why I’m considering visiting Cyprus is because of the beaches! I shouldn’t be though, right? How can anyone argue against those absolutely stunning white stretches of hot sand.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/photo-toms

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/photo-toms

I’m picturing a helicopter excursion when we first arrive to see the sights of Cyprus from above. Then maybe we’ll visit a restaurant and try the local cuisine! At this point I will definitely need a rest. After all, wining and dining is exhausting work. Experiencing the luxury villas Cyprus has to offer is another matter of paramount importance. But compared to the state of the weather in the UK the other 364 days of the year, calling them luxury probably won’t do Cyprus any justice.

Points of Interest:

• Tombs of the Kings
• Nissi Beach
• Kyrenia Castle
• Savrovouni Monastery

The Bahamas

Following on from the postcard perfect beaches of Cyprus with the next best thing. The Bahamas! So this one actually came to me as I was browsing my Facebook newsfeed…PIG BEACH! These adorable little piggies roam free and swim in the crystal clear sea. I even hear Johnny Depp goes frequently, but I won’t tell the hubby about that! Supposedly, some sailors left the pigs in the bay and had planned to return later to cook them but luckily for us they never came back!

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewandsarahtravels

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewandsarahtravels

Nassau and Grand Bahama are both on the bucket list too, maybe we could book a private boat ride across. Weather permitting! I wouldn’t want to be out on the water on a stormy day. Less Home and Away – more Castaway!

Points of Interest:

• Nassau
• Marsh Harbour
• Grand Bahama
• Pig Beach

Seychelles

OK, OK. You caught me – it’s another beach destination, but you can’t seriously expect me to take another week of this gloomy ‘summer’ weather! I was thinking I could top up the tan and a couple of air miles at the same time. How’s that for efficient! Scuba diving, skydiving (eek!) or spending all day on the beach? I just can’t make my mind up, best to do all three I reckon. I could also persuade my husband another way, because I’ve read that the Seychelles is actually sinking! Apparently scientists think that it will be entirely underwater in the next fifty years! I certainly don’t want to miss out, so it’s probably best to go now right? And maybe next year…and the year after. Might be best to go the year after that too just to double check it’s still there!

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jmhullot

Points of Interest:

• Aldabra
• Victoria
• La Digue
• Silhouette Island

Why You Should Support Your Children Travelling

Source: Steve Wilson I’ve known many parents who are terrified at the thought of their children travelling. Whether it’s international terrorism, Ebola, or EU instability, there’s always something that will be a cause for concern out in the wide-open world. … Continue reading