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.

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

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