Category Archives: Destination Guide

Venetian Flare – A Truly Indulgent Venice Travel Guide

Venice Travel Guide

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The Jewel of Italy, the Most Beautiful City in the World, the City of Masks, the City of Bridges, Queen of the Adriatic…  or quite simply – Venice. If you are yet to visit, this city promises to offer arguably the most fairy-tale, surreal and romantically hued experience. Here’s what’s not to miss when you go.

Art

A short paragraph will never do the presence of art in Venice justice, but the fact that just one building, the Santa Maria dei Miracoli, was built to house just one painting gives you an idea of how art is celebrated, respected and revered in this glorious city. Art of all forms and eras can be found here, welcomed by a culture that lives and breathes creativity!

Architecture

Piazzas, palazzi, priceless marbles, churches, and basilicas line the streets of Venice, testament to centuries of opulent architectural experimentation and devotion to creating exquisite spaces. The uniqueness of the style here can be found in the fact that Byzantine mosaics sit beside Islamic arches and Latin influenced gothic buildings. Enough to send history buffs bonkers, and fill the hearts of any visitor with utter joy.

Venice Travel Guide

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Boats

There are NO cars in Venice at all. It is an archipelago of over 100 islands set in a lagoon connected by around 400 bridges. This means wherever you go, you have to walk, or go by boat. Gondolas are not the only option! Venice is home to a number of styles of boat, from traditional wooden boats, through to powered ferries. Hiring a kayak is a great way to get around, and yes, if you do want to do the Venetian thing and go by Gondola – be prepared to pay for it!

Beaches

Golden sandy beaches aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Venice, but, there are several! Blue Moon is a public beach on the Lido – a 7 mile long sand bar, and free to use. The others will cost to access, but the price you pay is well worth it for a luxurious beach experience! Remember – it is illegal to swim in Venice’s waterways, so definitely head to the beach if you want to cool off in summer.

Backstreet Bars

Bacariare simple bars where you can go grab a glass of wine, beer or maybe a cocktail and tuck into some tapas standing up. They are usually small, dark spaces where people can enjoy a beverage or two, and when the space gets full people quite simply spill out into the street outside.

Venice Travel Guide

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Fine Food

The food in Venice is unique thanks to its aquaculture and influences from the spice routes back when the city dominated marine trade. If you are pushed for time in this stunning city go and get yourself Venetian tapas aka chichetito sample as much as possible. The Venetians are also known for producing some tantalising sweet treats too, the frittelle, which appear around carnival time, are not to be missed!

Fashion

If you like flamboyant, velvet, and especially flamboyant velvet, Venice is the fashion centre for you. Hit up Pied a Terre for gondola slippers and Nicolao Atelier for something suitable for carnival. Don’t forget your plague death masks either – they are a must if you plan to go full Venetian with your flares!

Museums

The Museum of Madness is a delightful example of the Venetian penchant for the weird, the wonderful, curiosities and oddities – packed full of psychiatric paraphernalia from back in the day. The Natural History Museum is also worth a visit for its diverse and impressive collection of bizarre specimens.

Don’t forget your travel insurance! Whether you need insurance for water sports while you are in Venice or just want to make sure you are covered should something go wrong  – we offer competitively priced comprehensive single trip and annual travel insurance, and on family policies kids go free!

The Most Beautiful Towns in Southern France

Southern France offers glorious Mediterranean sunshine, an unrivalled peace and some of the most stunning sights and views on the planet. Here are some of the most gorgeous towns to visit or stay in the South of France.

Gordes (Vaucluse, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)

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A beautiful hillside town adorned with Romanesque terracotta roofs and winding narrow pathways. Head to Gordes on a Tuesday morning, when the locals open their shutters to sell the locally produced cheese and wine. Nearby is the famous Sénanque Abbey, surrounded by some of the most beautiful lavender fields, tendered by the resident monks.

Lauzerte (Occitanie, Tarn-et-Garonne)

Another hill-top treasure sitting proudly over the Occitanie countryside. During the day visit the idyllically peaceful town square featuring cafes, bars and a quirky piece of pavement art! On Thursday evening in summer, the Marchés Gourmands takes over the square for an evening of food, drink and entertainment and then take in the sunset over the nearby hills.

Carcassonne (Aude, Occitanie)

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This medieval fortress town is Europe’s largest walled city. Famed for its spires, walls and beautiful bridge, be sure to visit in the evening, when these stunning landmarks are lit up.

 

St Tropez (Var, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)

As famous for the St Tropez sun tan as it is as a destination for the rich and famous. Located on the French Riveria, sample the local historical landmarks, gaze up at the millionaire’s yachts, or just catch some rays on the nearby Pampelonne beach.

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur)

An absolute must for Van Gogh fans everywhere. Saint-Rémy-de-Provenceinspired his ‘Starry Night’ painting. You can visit the Monastery of Saint-Paul de Mausolé, which was once an asylum where Van Gogh was treated. Beyond the art connection, there are winding streets, elegant fountains and an abundance of cafes that you will have come to expect from this sun-drenched part of France.

Rocamadour (Occitanie, Lot)

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Imagine a fantasy French village – and Rocamador is it. Integrated into the hillside, Rocamadour is Instagram ready from every angle! For a unique experience visit the nearby monkey forest, where Barbary macaques (normally found in Gibraltar) roam freely in the woodland or Grotte Préhistorique des Merveilles, with cave art over 20,000 years old.

 

Don’t forget your travel insurance! Even if you are travelling within the EU and you have an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) it only offers limited protection. You could still be asked to pay towards treatment, and it certainly doesn’t help if your passport gets lost or stolen!

Best Bank Holiday Weekend Breaks Abroad

Tallinn Image by Noiisha CC0

What makes for a great place to enjoy a bank holiday break abroad? We think there are four things that could make a destination the ideal getaway for a long weekend. It either has to be easy to get to, not far to travel to, feel totally different from the UK, or the journey must have a distinct air of adventure. Here are four destinations to tick each box!

Easy to get to:  Tallinn, Estonia

Forget choosing a destination with a lengthy transfer the other end of a tiring flight – go to Tallinn, the city centre is just 3 miles from the airport! You’ll be out of baggage and in the hub of this gorgeous cobbled old town in as little as 20 minutes. Tram No. 4, departs every 6 minutes, and Bus No 2 every 20 minutes and both cost just 2 euros to ride.  The flight from the UK is approx. 4 hours.

What’s so great about Tallinn? It’s got a fairy-tale feel, uber-Instagrammable architecture, is the best-preserved Medieval city in Europe (and a word heritage site), and has just the right mix of peaceful, with a vibrant cultural feel.

Not far to travel: Amsterdam

Your options here are a 40-ish minute flight, which handily puts you just outside the city, or to spend just under 4 hours on just one train that takes you right to the centre. The reasons for Eurostar-ing it are compelling – no liquid restrictions, no extra luggage charges, no waiting in an airport lounge or baggage collection (likely to add an extra 3 hours to the flight time anyway!), and impressively, the train emits 80% less greenhouse gasses per passenger than a flight.

What’s so great about Amsterdam? The city is small, so it is easy to experience all the delights it has to offer on a weekend break. Top of the list would be the canals, the coffee shops, the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House. If you are feeling thrifty, take a look at the things you can do for free in Amsterdam.

venice

Venice Image by Free-Photos CC0

An adventurous journey: Venice

Sleeper trains are the new cool. Romantic – if you ditch a couchette for a private compartment, better for the environment and less stressful than flying, great value for money because your ticket price pays for travel AND accommodation, and it is the most effective use of precious time on a short break. The Thello sleeper train to Venice departs Paris in the early evening – a short ride from London on Eurostar. Travellers tend to get their sleepy head on with a glass of fine wine to compliment the views. Arrival in Venice is perfectly timed to enjoy one of the city’s unique treats, frittelle and a coffee as a late breakfast, great fuel for a full day ahead.

What’s so great about Venice? Apart from being considered the most beautiful city in the world. Four hundred bridges connect 118 islands, all formed by canals in a shallow lagoon. There are no cars whatsoever in this Gothic water world, everyone and everything goes by boat or on foot.

Feels totally different to the UK: Sicily

The ancient Roman ruins along with many other World-Heritage worthy sites gives Sicily a distinctly far-flung-shores feel for a relatively short flight time of 3 hours. It’s also blessed with 1,000km of dreamy coastline comprised of sandy beaches and dramatic rock formations. The long, hot and sunny days of spring, summer and autumn are distinctly different to the UK, but avoid winter as the weather tends to be wet and windy.

What’s so great about Sicily? The diversity of architecture and culture. Greek, Italian, Arabic and Spanish influences are abounding in the cuisine and in the sights of Sicily. A walking street-food tour comes highly recommended where you can chomp on chickpea fritters, stuffed rice balls and a local delicacy – the veal offal sandwich.

Calorie-Burning Bucket List – A Year of Adventure Travel Ideas

Looking for a new way to pick a bucket-list destination? Why not sort by step count, or how many calories you’ll burn! Here are 12 “Bucket List Burners” to add to your itinerary.

JANUARY

Run a Polar Night half marathon in Norway – 39,996 steps, 1,676 calories

The sun won’t rise until the end of the month, so when you set off for this run at midday it’ll be under a night sky, and maybe the northern lights.

Tromso CC0

FEBRUARY

Ski the longest ski run in Vallée  Blanche, Chamonix – 54,000 steps, 2,667 calories

It takes about 5 hours to ski from the top of the Aiguille du Midi peak down into Chamonix, where you’ll fully deserve that 1,000 calorie cup of Raclette!

Vallee Blanche CC0

MARCH

Walk the Camino de Santiago, Spain – 960,000 steps, 41,760 calories

If you walk 20 miles a day, you should complete this epic trail in about a month. The 420 mile walk is well worth it if you like an experience with ever-changing vistas.

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APRIL

Hike Italy’s Cinque Terre – 8,448 steps, 1,600 calories

Follow trail numbers 587, 598, then 507 for a hike that’s relatively easy on the legs, and totally pleasing on the eye with uninterrupted coastal views.

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MAY

Hike around Uluru, Australia – 13,728 steps, 1,600 calories

The 6.5 mile perimeter walk should not be seen as an opportunity to scale the rock. Attempts will be met with hostility, and will be illegal from October this year.

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JUNE

Hike through Yosemite National Park, USA – 15,206 steps, 2,286 calories

It’ll take roughly 8 hours to cover the 7 mile trail mostly due to the fact that the path takes you 2,700 feet up to the top of the tallest waterfall outside Hawaii.

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JULY

Climb Mount Kilimanjaro – 103,488 steps, 13,549 calories

This 7-day adventure will take you to the heady height of 20,000 feet, that’s just 15,000 feet below the space that aeroplanes fly!

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AUGUST

Run a marathon at Angkor Wat – 52,400 steps, 3,429 calories

By running a marathon you can see everything this place has to offer (40 ancient temples, forests and rice fields) in just 5 hours as opposed to a full day.

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SEPTEMBER

Cycle the Bolivian “Death Road” 711,480 steps, 3,048 calories

The 5 hour cycle ride on Yungas Road is safer than ever! The narrow road flanked by sheer drop one side, and sheer cliff the other is largely free of the trucks that once took the same route.

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OCTOBER

Trek the Inca Trail, Peru – 54,912 steps, 11,888 calories

It will take 4 days to complete this 26 mile trek through the Andes to Machu Picchu passing historic ruins and the iconic Amazonian cloud forest.

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NOVEMBER

Walk (some of) the Great Wall of China – 47,000 steps, 2,515 calories

It would take 10 months to walk the entire thing, but if you take the most popular stretch from Hexi Village to Gubeikou and Panlong you’ll be done in just two days.

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DECEMBER

Go on a Gorilla Trek in Rwanda – 10,560 steps, 500 calories

Volcanoes National Park is big on adventure even if it isn’t on steps, within 5 miles you can expect to see endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

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Don’t forget your travel insurance! Worldwideinsure.com cover a wide range of activities as standard, with plenty of options to add-on something more challenging should adventure call!

Like to Party? 5 Fun-Packed Destinations for 2019

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What makes a great party destination? It’s a tricky question to answer, since a night of fun is often down to the company you keep. However, there are some destinations where the party clientele is more open – where meeting people is easier. And when you balance party people (24 hour or otherwise) with great bars, clubs and festivals – not to mention idyllic beaches or eye-popping cityscapes – you may well have a shindig worthy of your memoirs.

This year, we think you should consider the following party hotspots…

Athens

While you may think Greek parties are typified by the sambuca-drenched beaches of Mykonos, the capital Athens is actually the true party heart of Greece.

That said, it’s not easy to pinpoint exactly where you can expect the party to happen. Great parties seem to flare up suddenly – so you’ll need to root out where the action is. Bear in mind that things don’t even get going until 1am. It’s worth pencilling in a few Athenian nights to seek out some memorable evenings, and in the unlikely event you don’t find any, you can console yourself – and your throbbing head – with a delicious Athenian gyro (a kind of Greek taco).

Marrakech

Morocco in general is a conservative country, but that doesn’t mean you can’t track down a superb party. Take the Oasis Festival, for instance, a boutique music event on the outskirts of Marrakech that runs from mid-September 2019. In the unlikely event you don’t like the tunes, you can stare in wonder at the mighty Atlas Mountains in the distance. If you just fancy a music-centric bar or club, Marrakech has a good deal, such as L’envers which specialises in underground sounds. There are also numerous pool parties organised at hotels around the city (where the general public can’t see or hear what’s going on) by the likes of Moroko Loko.

Haad Rin, Thailand

Thailand’s monthly Full Moon Party has attained legendary status, thanks to the host town’s ravishing beaches (Haad Rin on Koh Pha Ngan), together with the sheer scale of the party and hedonism on display.

Many Full Moon veterans say it was one of the best parties they’ve ever had – yet often it’s a once-is-enough kind of vibe due to the costly and hard-to-get accommodation, and the general lunacy of it all.

But for those who desire large-scale beach-side mayhem, the Full Moon Party is a must-do. Afterwards, you can recuperate elsewhere, perhaps in one of Thailand’s numerous national parks, or a quieter corner of Koh Pha Ngan itself.

Mexico City

For a real taste of the Mexican party scene, we don’t recommend Cabo or Cancun (although they are fun in their own right). We say explore the nation’s capital city which, when the sun goes down, plays host to a myriad of EDM clubs, as well as cosy little bars where ice-cold beers combat the balmy temperatures. Best of all, Mexico City is considerably cheaper than the beach resorts, where the Mexicans you meet aren’t just serving drinks at the party – they are the party.

French Concession, Shanghai

The Gallic grandeur of Shanghai’s French Concession is a treat in itself, but behind the elegant façades are a plethora of super-cool clubs and laid-back beer-holes. Consider Tattoo Family, which combines cocktails and tattoos, for sure a risky business model – especially for the clientele. For more social beer-tasting head to the dive-esque Dada, or the retro-video-game-themed Arcade, offering low-cost cocktails which are ideal before you head to a club. Speaking of which, mid-size Arkham is one of the best-loved, attracting big-name DJs and cool bands. The French Concession is staying true to the uniqueness of its colonial-quarter past, with an ever-growing number of bohemian bars and European-style clubs that are a rarity elsewhere in the city. Visit it in 2019 – it could be quite a year!

Canary Islands Guide: Which Is Best For Kids?

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Each of the three main Canary islands – Tenerife, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote – offer a thrilling selection of activities for children. The only tricky part is choosing which island – and which activities.

All three islands benefit from year-round warm temperatures and all are located in the Spanish time-zone – so no jet-lag to worry about! Read our guide on the various child-friendly draws of these astonishing islands…

Tenerife

Image by Hans CC0

Most Canary-bound flights arrive at Tenerife, the archipelago’s biggest and most developed island. But while the south is indeed a resort-land of hotels, restaurants and theme parks, there are still large protected swathes, covering no less than six vegetation zones including UNESCO-listed Teide National Park, where you’ll find Spain’s loftiest mountain. The amazing outdoors, combined with reliable sunshine, means there’s lots to do.

Aside from trekking Teide National Park, you can go whale and dolphin watching, try caving in Cueva del Viento, and visit the strange stone pyramids at Pirámides de Güímar Ethnographic Park. There are also some top-notch theme parks, such as Park Siam, a Thai-themed water park, and Aqualand – you can guess what happens here! Both of which provide hours of amusement to smaller visitors. And of course, if ‘doing’ gets a bit much, you can try ‘being’ for a while – on one of the island’s lovely golden beaches.

Top tip: While it’s sunny year-round, the island does have annual rains, which affect parts of the island at different times.

Fuerteventura

Image by PhilSchreyer CC0

Stunning sandy beaches are the main draw of Fuerteventura, where older kids – and adults, of course – can try their hand at various water sports, including paddle boarding and windsurfing. Hopping in a pedalo is great fun for younger children. Inland, you can go off-road in a 4×4 and explore the rugged hills of the island’s interior, stopping for a dip in one of the beautiful natural lagoons.

Back by the sea, consider taking a boat trip to Los Lobos, a lush green island where hundreds of smiling seals have made the pretty beaches their home. Other animal-based draws include horseback riding – and even camel riding. Fuerteventura is also home to Acua Water Park, offering huge water slides along with crazy golf and go-karting.

Top Tip: You can rent a car on Fuerteventura, but the island has a good, low-cost public bus system, which reaches most parts of the island.

Lanzarote

Image by neufal54

Lanzarote’s largely volcanic landscape stands in contrast to its greener neighbours. The dramatic, rippled-lack lava fields are a sight to behold – but there’s plenty of traditional fun-time draws here too. For kids and grown-ups the fantastic beaches are a winner, with windier stretches for water sports, such as Costa Teguise, and calmer spots perfect for younger children, like Puerto del Carmen.

For attractions, the Rancho Texas animal park is a fun day out, while the Pirate Museum captures the imagination with its depictions of the Canaries’ pirate-ravaged past. And then there’s the water parks – Aquapark Costa Teguise and Aqualava Waterpark in Playa Blanca, the latter of which is best for smaller children and toddlers. For older kids and teens, there’s paint ball and plenty of teen-focussed parties in the resorts.

Top tip: It’s easy to spend your entire break in one of the very well developed resort areas – see Puerto del Carmen, Costa Teguise and Playa Blanca, but do explore the island’s many other draws, not least its mesmerising volcanic vistas!

 

Best for kids…

Of course, all three islands offer a wealth of activities for smaller travellers. But if you’re planning a longer trip you might consider hopping on a ferry – or even taking a flight – to one of the other islands. But, chances are, one island will be more than enough for a fun-packed family holiday!

 

Kids Go FREE on Family Travel Insurance at worldwideinsure.com! Give us a call 01892 833338 or get a quote online!

4 Amazing Destinations for Some Pre-Summer Sun

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If you don’t like queuing – at airport check-in desks, art galleries or ice cream shops – then booking a holiday before the peak summer season is a wise move. But aside from fewer crowds, travelling before (and after) the summer holiday madness will also bag you cheaper air fares and hotels.

Here are four of our favourite pre-summer sun destinations for 2019, covering some of the top priorities for those looking to escape the UK’s unreliable weather and high prices (not to mention its relentless politics!).

Best for a classic beach break: Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

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For ravishing beaches, it doesn’t get much better than the Algarve, which draws thousands of Britons each year. Even in peak summer season it’s affordable, but there are bargains galore in the shoulder seasons of May and September. The port town of Lagos is a good bet, steeped as it is in the Age of Discovery; many epic nautical adventures began here. The town offers crumbling churches, charming squares and cobbled lanes, all of which are protected by mighty 16th-century walls. Nearby are a host of stunning beaches, where you and yours can enjoy a variety of water sports and boat trips along the rocky coast. Expect superb (low cost) seafood and plentiful nightspots. Visit in April or May and you’re sure to have plenty of idyllic sandy stretches of beach to yourself. Great for folks of all ages, but particularly families and couples.

Best for Culture: Rome

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If you’re not careful, the Italian capital can deliver a cultural overload, such is its wealth of historic monuments and art galleries. Once known as the caput mundi (capital of the world), after a day exploring Rome you’ll understand why it had such a huge impact on global history. Boasting the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain – to name but a few attractions – Rome demands a little planning. Give yourself several days to wander its old streets, or, if you’re pushed for time, decide which places you want to see in advance. The beauty of visiting before the summer season is – you guessed it – fewer crowds. Indeed, it’s challenging indeed to relax in peak summer, such is the tourist footfall. Go early and go slow(er) – enjoy the pavement lifestyle with a latte and a gelati. Rome is great for couples and solo adventurers, but could prove too busy for those with younger children.

Best for families with tweens and teens: Canary Islands

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Comprising three main islands – Tenerife, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote – the Canaries deliver a vast array of activities younger family members will love. Most eye catching – to mini travellers at least – are the numerous theme parks and water parks. Add to these go-karting, snorkelling, whale watching and boat trips, and you’ll soon understand the Canaries = active. But there are more laid-back pursuits too: chilling out on some of the many fabulous beaches (which are edged, incidentally, but very shallow and calm waters – great for younger kids); and even a museum that brings to life the islands’ pirate-ravaged past. If possible, visit before the peak summer season gets under way, and you’ll dodge some serious crowds (and prices).

Best for night-life: Berlin

You don’t have to love techno to party in Berlin, but it helps. Here they take their partying seriously – yet with bucket-loads of imagination. Of course there are world-famous mega-clubs like the Berghain, located in a former power plant – which would be regarded as rather unorthodox in any city, but things get odder still in the German capital, with About Blank, which, along with two vast dance floors, boasts a big garden with a secret party bungalow. Those two, however, are rather costly, so if you’re watching your euro-cents, try Stattbad Wedding, a disused swimming pool that now hosts recurring parties. Salon zur Wilden Renate, meanwhile, is one of the most off-beat of all – a maze of junk-filled rooms where people get together to dance, talk – and whatever else takes their fancy. This labyrinth of former residential homes offers many secret rooms – some of which, say the club’s head honchos, have not even been discovered yet. What’s more, these mysterious rooms are located in the heart of the city. The German capital’s party scene is for techno-heads and party animals of all ages – after all, it’s Berlin, where rules are frowned upon.

Visit in April or May and you’ll likely brush shoulders with more Berliners and fewer tourists, making you feel that bit cooler!

Ice Hotels – The Coolest Place To Ignite The Fires of Passion!

What better way to revel in romance than cosying up in an Ice Hotel! These ephemeral and magical places with an otherworldly feel are the perfect place for love

©ICEHOTEL. icehotel.com: ICEHOTEL 28, 2017-2018 Art Suite Daily Travellers. Design Alem Teklu & Anne Karin Krogevoll. Photo Asaf Kliger. 

ICEHOTEL, Sweden

This hotel has just opened its doors to its 29th incarnation! It is a hotel and art exhibition rolled into one, made of ice from the river Torne, created each year based on a new design. It’s billed as a place to discover silence, the northern lights, cloudberries, kettle coffee and we think it’s just the place for romance! Visit icehotel.com for more info.

©ICEHOTEL. Art Suite 2016. Love Capsule by Luc Voisin & Mathieu Brison. Photo Asaf Kliger icehotel.com 

The Ice Church next to the ICEHOTEL opens every year on 25thDecember. When it is formally handed over to the Swedish Church for weddings, renewal of vows and even baptisms!

 

©©ICEHOTEL. icehotel.com: Ice Church 2015 In the Glade Photo byline Design Tjåsa Lucia Gusfors, David Andrén, Johan Andrén & Erik Törner Photo. Paulina Holmgren. 

Hôtel de Glace, Canada

© Hôtel de Glace

This hotel is just 20 minutes north of Quebec City in Canada. It’s huge snow vaults and breath-taking ice sculptures are unique masterpieces created afresh every year by some of the best ice sculptors in the world. The hotel is open to visitors, guests, and for weddings. Head to Hotel de Glace for more info!

© Hôtel de Glace

Hotel of Ice, Romania 

Set in the Fagaras Mountains, Romania, this hotel is built every year in less than a month from snow and ice blocks that are extracted from Balea Lac, the largest glacial lake in the area. The hotel’s vision is to be somewhere couples can escape for a mix of romance and adventure – there is even an ice church for weddings. More over at Hotel of Ice.

©Hotel of Ice

DON’T FORGET YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE! We offer wintersports travel insurance for a huge range of snow-filled activities. Get a quick online quote or speak to one of our advisors.

Chinese New Year Travel – Myths Busted and Tips Shared

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February 05th2019 welcomes in the Year of The Pig. Those in the know say that you should wear the year’s lucky colours – red, yellow, and green, and keep an image of a pig nearby – but what do they say about actually visiting China at this exciting time of year?

1. Everything is closed for weeks.

No, not everything. Yes, shops, schools, restaurants and factories can be closed for as long as three weeks as people travel far and wide to be with family. Businesses generally take a week off and banks and restaurants have a couple of days shut down – but it is rare that a closure will affect you if you are a tourist. Most places popular with tourists will be open, although some may have limited opening hours.

2. It is a really expensive time to travel in China.

Yes, it is and the trains and busses will be packed. Most city workers get a week off which they spend with family usually in rural areas, which they get to by public transport.

3. Don’t travel by train.

Unless you like the feeling of being packed into a sardine can! Travelling by train is the most popular form of transport because it is both cheap and efficient – an unusual concept here in the UK – seats will not be available, in fact you’ll be lucky if you find standing room.

4. Tourist attractions are empty.

Pretty much! Most people head home to be with family and eat, so are not focussed on day trips and excursions. Opening times may be limited.

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6. It’s a great time to observe local customs.

Yes! Chinese New Year is the best time to go and rub shoulders with locals. Not only are there loads of cultural activities taking place at this time of year, but generally the mood is far more jovial and inviting than at any other time of year.

7. It’s too cold for tourists at this time of year.

That all depends on what you wear and where you go! Yes, it is very cold in the northern parts of China at this time of year –15°C, but head to Shanghai, for example, and you could be experiencing relatively balmy temperatures of as much as 9°C!

8. It is more difficult to get a flight or hotel room compared to the height of the tourist season.

Totally true. Those in the know advise that if you want to experience Chinese New Year in China that you book all accommodation, flights, and other travel, and even restaurant bookings, many months in advance. If you are looking for a more relaxed experience of this magnificent country, even going in the height of the tourist season in summer is a better option!

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DON’T FORGET YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE! Get a quick online quote or speak to one of our advisors.

The Warmest Places in Europe To Visit This Winter

Done with the chilly weather already? Can’t wait until the warm winds of summer breeze over your newly tanned skin? How about fast-forwarding to blue skies and high temps by holidaying in the warmest places in Europe this winter!

Canary Islands

It’s a bit of a cheat this one, as the Canary Islands are just off the coast of Africa, but still classed as Europe. As such, definitely the warmest place to go in Europe in January – 21°C? Yes please! The warmest (and less windy) of the four islands are Gran Canaria and Tenerife. Both islands are very similar, and offer way more than the presumed tourist hotspots, however – if you are looking for beach action, Gran Canaria trumps Tenerife, if you are looking for historical quarters, Tenerife is the place to go.

What to do in the Canary Islands: If you are in Tenerife, get yourself up Mount Teide, the world’s third tallest volcanic structure!In Gran Canaria, visit the epic Maspolomas Dunes, and maybe ride a camel while you are there.

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Madeira, Portugal

The warm subtropical climate of Madeira is an instant draw for throngs of tourists in the summer, but in the winter it is an equally delightful, and altogether quieter paradise. Visitors can expect temperatures of 16°C upwards, and it has been known to get as warm as 21°C in January! Word of warning though, January is probably the wettest month of the year here

What to do in Madeira: As an archipelago of four islands, the best things to do here include getting out on the water to enjoy some sports and watch the amazing marine life in action! The stunning coastlines make for some awesome hiking action too.

 

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Cyprus

Get out of the wind, and obviously down from the probably snow-capped mountains and you could be enjoying temps of 16°C to 20°C in Cyprus during January.The good news is that the sea is usually still quite warm too at this time of year, making a quick dip from an empty sandy beach could be a dream come true this time of year!

What to do in Cyprus: Fancy a bit of eternal youth, or maybe a pepped-up love life? Get yourself to Aphrodite’s Baths just near the quaint fishing village of Latchi. While you can’t bathe in them any more, you can splash yourself with the legendary waters, plus, the trails and gardens here offer amazing views. 

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Seville, Spain

Did you know that this city was awarded the accolade of being “Europe’s Greatest City in Winter”? Okay, that might not just be due to being an almost balmy 17°C in January, but it certainly helps! This is the place to go if you want to be seduced by cultural experiences and a mix of jaw-dropping architecture.

What to do in Seville: Go to the historic centre. This is where you’ll find a Moorish Castle next to a Gothic Cathedral, and Baroque churches – nestled amongst medieval lanes.

 

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Malta

Sightseeing, boat trips and al-fresco dining during the winter months in Malta is a tranquil and rejuvenating experience, thanks to blue skies and sunshine. Expect this Mediterranean gem to provide temps of around 16°C, often raised by warm winds blowing across from the Sahara. Do note that like Madeira, it can get pretty wet during January, but the bursts of rain are usually short.

What to do in Malta: Take a Grand Harbour Tour, it is a stunning way to see the historical sights and take in some spectacular views. The commentary during the trip is a great way to learn about the area too.

 

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Don’t forget your travel insurance! Even if you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), it has its limitations and only offers a certain amount of help with costs of medical treatment abroad. The Government recommends that travellers take out private travel insurance too. To find out more, visit the EHIC advice page.