Category Archives: Destination Guide

Dream Destinations Where You Can (probably) Escape Christmas

If you are looking for an alternative Christmas getaway without a hint of festive jumpers, tinsel and chart-topping Christmas hits, you could try these tantalising destinations.

Laos

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This is one of the few destinations where the commercial chaos that surrounds Christmas just doesn’t feature, unless you are in one of the big cities. This is partly because Laos doesn’t have a large Christian community, but also because it is still a relatively “untouristy” place and hasn’t taken on western traditions to please throngs of holiday-makers. As such, the big day passes by just like any other day here.

Morocco

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Unless you check into a hotel that is catering for holiday-makers who want to celebrate Christmas in the sun, Morocco is a great place to avoid the festivities due to it being a Muslim country.  While the tinsel and turkey won’t feature, do be mindful that shopping might, as tourists flock to the souks in search of something different to take home and gift at Christmas.

Maldives

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This is one destination where you can guarantee yourself a white Christmas – in the form of sand instead of snow. And while there may be a splattering of festive decoration in some resorts, it is nothing more than an acknowledgement of the time of year and is not a precursor to a day of festivities. There is the added benefit that the more secluded your tropical oasis the easier it is to forget it is Christmas altogether.

Russia

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This is one for those who want to get away from Christmas without getting away from winter, just make sure you don’t stay long past the 25th! The catch here is that Russia does in fact celebrate Christmas, but on the 07thof January – which means there is a chance that festive lights and the like will be on display, but the day itself will just about pass by with out the usual festive fuss.

The Best Things To Do For Free In New York City

As one of the most expensive cities in the United States, it makes sense that travellers would enjoy things to do for free during their stay. After all, the more money you save, the more money you have to spend on something else!

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  1. Guided Tours of Central Park – Free tours by Central Park Conservancy.
  2. Catch the Staten Island Ferry – Unlike the East River Ferry, this is absolutely free!
  3. Visit the Federal Bank Gold Vault – Free tours available on weekday afternoons.
  4. Brooklyn Brewery Beer Tour – Free tours every half hour during weekends.
  5. Visit an Art Gallery – Head to Chelsea for a huge choice of places to visit.
  6. Get Fit at Bryant Park – Loads of free activities to join in during the summer.
  7. Relax in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden – Free entry on Tuesdays only.
  8. MoMA – The admission fee is waived on a Friday night, so you get on for FREE!
  9. Grand Central Whispering Gallery – Part of a 90 min free walking tour every Friday.
  10. Take The High Line – An elevated park 30 ft in the air, often host to art and events.
  11. Kayak the Hudson – Free kayak hire on a first come, first served basis in Queens.
  12. Socrates Sculpture Park – Films and art on Wednesdays during the summer.
  13. American Museum of Natural History – Free for the last hour of opening.
  14. Brooklyn Museum – Free on the first Saturday of the Month.

 

Wilderness City Breaks in the USA

This oxymoronic idea of a city break is surprisingly achievable. Here are some of the city breaks to book if you want a slice of adventure within easy reach of 5-star comfort and a cold beer at the end of the day.

San Diego where surfing and city life goes hand in hand. Image by skeeze CC0

Salt Lake City

Wilderness fun: skiing. City fun: Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

Ski season runs from November through to April, and while there are a number of world-class resorts less than an hour’s drive away, there is fun to be had on a number of lesser-known trails and runs within just 3 miles of the city itself. The top to-do in Salt Lake City is a visit to Temple Square, the headquarters of the Mormon community and home to a majestic 19thcentury Temple. Time your visit right and you’ll get to hear the Tabernacle Choir perform in the neo-gothic assembly hall. Salt Lake City in a nutshell!

Seattle

Wilderness fun: scuba diving. City fun: live music.

Seattle is known for a pretty decent night-diving scene. The harbour lights in the distance make for a beautiful backdrop, and the diving lights are known to attract harbour seals who want to come to play. Keeping with the evening theme, Seattle is well known for being the birthplace of grunge music, and today it still boasts an impressive music scene. There are plenty of live music venues around the city, which makes having a post-dive beer and boogie easy.

Washington D.C

Wilderness fun: kayaking. City fun: craft brewery tours.

The Potomac River, which starts in the heart of Washington DC, is a veritable theme park for kayakers. It has flatwater, class 2 and 3 white water rafting, slalom sections and falls reserved for only the most adept of paddlers. Back on dry land, you can experience the joys of a different type of liquid altogether – beer! The city has a serious up and coming craft brewing scene, all of which are open to enjoy, or you can get in on one of the local brewery tours and make sure you don’t miss a drop.

San Diego

Wilderness fun: surfing. City fun: Gaslamp Quarter.

From August to November, San Diego’s 70 miles of glorious sandy beaches have the best surfing action. Jolla Shores is one of the most popular, a more gentle and safe place to enjoy the autumnal swells.  Head to Black Beach if you want something a bit more challenging! After a day of sun, sand and sea, head to the Gaslamp Quarter, the historic heart of San Diego. The old town has a young vibrant scene, plenty of laid-back bars, clubs and eateries all wrapped up in rich Victorian architecture.

Phoenix

Wilderness fun: mountain biking. City fun: dark bars.

Arizona is right on the edge of the biggest patch of wilderness in the Southwest, and within that is seemingly endless miles of trails to explore. If you’d like to be back from the middle of nowhere before bedtime, and of course experience the most fun possible on these trails, then go by mountain bike! Residents of Phoenix like to escape the long days of intense sunshine by frequenting places known as Dark Bars. These watering holes have lighting so low that you’ll struggle to see your drink, and the air con so high you may wish you’d packed a jumper. This is exactly what’s needed after a day in the desert!

DON’T FORGET YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE! With worldwideinsure.com you can get a whole heap of activities and sports covered as standard. Get a quick online quote or speak to one of our advisors.

Three of The Best Halloween Holiday Destinations for 2018

Looking to put some spook into your October holiday? Check out these freakish and frankly quite terrifying Halloween themed breaks happening this year!

New York City, USA

© Joe Buglewicz courtesy of nygco.com

Deja Voodoo at the Annual Village Halloween Parade

In October, New York goes all out to celebrate Halloween with as many as 50,000 people joining in the annual Village Halloween Parade on 31stOctober. This year the parade is celebrating 45 years of spooktastic fun! It gets rolling at 7pm and heads north up Sixth Avenue to 16th Street featuring a wealth of wacky costumes and the sounds of numerous live bands. If you want to join in the parade, a creative costume is a must!

Gothenburg, Sweden

© Liseberg Amusement Park

Cirkus Bisarr at Liseberg Amusement Park

A trip to this Swedish theme park in October holds an extra eerie treat as around 200 actors scare visitors in specially constructed horror houses and alfresco horror areas! Visitors are warned to expect the deeply unsettling, involving creepy clowns, zombies, monsters and blood-splattered surgery rooms and prisons. What we love about this event is that the experiences have been divided up into Horror Experiences and Terror areas of which there are 4 horror houses and 1 horror attraction in the former, and 2 horror areas and several mysterious, wonderfully cosy areas for the younger ones in the latter. Open days: 12-14, 19-21 and 26-31 Oct, and 1-4 Nov.

Tarragona, Spain

© PortAventura

Halloween at Port Aventura World

This resort is host to one of the biggest and best Halloween parties in the world staged over a whopping eight weeks! Promising everything from absolute terror to spooky family fun visitors can experience terrorific shows, creatures from the beyond, passages of terror, clusters of monsters roaming freely around the resort, blood-thirsty menus, and a fantastic parade that will take over the streets as night falls.All the parks, hotels and restaurants will be decorated with giant pumpkins, bats, ghosts and other terrifying creatures that take visitors to “another world” and a realm of fun. Two special nights will also be held during this new season: “Night of the Vampires” on 13th October and “The Great Night of Halloween” on 31st October.

X Marks The Spot – Lost Treasure Holidays

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Bored with your regular package holiday? Why not go on an altogether different kind of adventure where you could hunt for lost treasure during your break!

Destination: New Orleans

The lost treasure: The loot of pirate Jean Lafitte

Jean Lafitte was known for plundering merchant ships in the Gulf of Mexico and stashing the loot to retrieve later. It comes as no surprise then that, following his sudden death in the 1820s, word got out of treasure to be found. Two locations have been identified – Lake Borgne off the coast of New Orleans, and 5km east of the Old Spanish Trail near the Sabine River in a gum tree grove!

The best time to head to New Orleans is in April when the music festival season starts. The weather is pleasant at this time of year, but there are likely to be hints of the extremely hot days in store during the summer months. October is another key time to visit, not only has the weather cooled off a little, but there is a great carnival atmosphere around Halloween. 

Mardi Gras Image by skeeze CC0

Destination: France

The lost treasure: A golden owl originally to be exchanged for a 1 million francs

In 1993 Max Valentin hid a golden owl somewhere in the French countryside. His aim was to inspire everyone in France to become a professional treasure hunter and his carrot on a stick, so to speak, was for what would have originally been a 1 million franc reward, in the form of a more valuable replica owl, to whoever found it. Max – not his real name by the way, he was actually author Regis Hauser – went on to dish out 11 clues, apparently one person came very close to finding it in 1999. Max Valentin died in a car crash in 2009 taking the precise location with him, but it has been announced that the reward will be honoured to whoever finds the owl.

France is huge – so where should you go if it is your first visit to the country? Paris is top of the bill, followed by the Loire Valley; Provence, and the French Rivera are also absolute musts! The Alps! Got to squeeze the Alps in, and it would be an absolute shame if you missed some key winemaking regions such as Champagne, Burgundy, or Bordeaux.

Provence Image by kirkandmimi CC0

Destination: New Mexico

The lost treasure: 16 tonnes of gold

While you might have trouble getting the gold back in your suitcase, finding the buried treasure of Leon Trabuco and co. in the New Mexico Desert will certainly spice up your Instagram stream! Story goes that in the Great Depression Leon and his associates predicted that the price of gold would explode sometime soon, so they decided to keep hold of as much as they could by burying it in the desert. While Leon was right, gold became worth LOADS, he didn’t foresee the Gold Reserve Act coming into force, which basically made private ownership of gold illegal and they were unable to sell their stash. When he died Leon took the exact location of the gold with him.

New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment, but there is even a place within this land that stands out from its neighbours – Taos. The landscape here is powerful,  behind the town are snow-capped mountain peaks, volcanic plateaux that spill dramatically into the Rio Grande Gorge, and the skies are HUGE. Expect magnificent sunsets, dreamy blue skies, and spectacular storm clouds capable of dwarfing these epic vistas.

New Mexico Image by mdherren CC0

Destination: Key West

The lost treasure: $200 million+ of gold and silver.

Raging hurricanes are fairly common in this part of the world, and back in 1622 they sealed the fate of a number of cargo ships passing through. It is said that these ships were in fact carrying an unusual cargo – gold and silver, to the tune of $700 million no less in today’s money. In 1985 a whopping $500 million worth of this treasure was found buried less than 160 kilometers off the coast of Key West leaving experts convinced that there is still plenty left to find!

Key West, AKA the pathway to paradise, is billed as a tropical oasis ideal for diving – made all the more enticing at the thought of finding $200 million worth of treasure! Lionfish, angelfish and stingrays are just some of the fish you’ll find in the reefs here, plus dolphins and turtles make the Keys their home too. The crystal clear water, along with occasionally turbulent weather, also makes this the place to be for wreck diving, presently tours take in the newly sunken Vandenberg, a 520-foot U.S. military missile-tracking ship.

Key West Image by nextvoyage CC0

Lagom – The Swedish Goldilocks Principle for Globetrotters

Lagom – a Swedish word that has no direct translation. It more or less means not too much, not too little, just the right amount. It can be applied to every aspect of life – whether that be the amount of cream you have in your coffee, the way you dress, how you decorate your home, or how you travel! Here are some top travel tips that we think hit the lagom vibe.

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Take an extended break

In Sweden it is common for people to take three to four weeks off in the summer to enjoy the weather. While this isn’t an option for everyone, the key is to make sure that you take more days than you think you need to enjoy your holiday. So, if it is a weekend city break you are going on, add an extra day either side to prepare, and to come home and relax after travelling. Going on a longer holiday? Same principle – take more days than you think you need, you’ll be glad of it when your itinerary is approaching capacity.

Plan a sensible itinerary

Cramming in sightseeing and activities to a pre-booked holiday is not adhering to lagom. You don’t want to do so little you feel like you are wasting time, but you also don’t want to be rushed off your feet trying to fit everything in – you want balance. Before you book your holiday decide what it is you want to do, how much time you ideally need to enjoy each activity to its fullest, and also how long it will take to get from A to B to C… Then add some time for doing NOTHING – only with space in your schedule can you embrace something spontaneous, or take some time to rest between adventures! Once you know that, create your itinerary and book your holiday. If it feels like there is too much for the holiday time you can take, remember you can always come back another time!

Get close to nature

Lagom is about keeping things simple, something a spell in the great outdoors can provide in abundance, but remember we aren’t aiming for extremes! Enjoy outdoor activities that are within your skill-range, environments that aren’t going to cause discomfort, and above all, remember to dress for the weather. There is a saying “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”

Eat fresh, eat local

You can also use the concept of lagom to enjoy the local cuisine – in moderation of course. So, bingeing on steak and red wine in Argentina is not lagom, but indulging in a fine cut with a reserve occasionally during your stay is. Choose items off the menu that do not have a negative impact on the wellbeing of local wildlife or ecosystems – something to be mindful of in places where the popularity of seafood is leading to an overfishing problem. Finally, only eat what you need, no need to go large, order big, or have three courses when two will do.

Choose ethical travel

Low impact and ethical travel is on the rise. This encompasses a wide range of tourist activities that take the excessive side of tourism into account, things like damage to flora and fauna, overcrowding, and negative impacts on the economy and the life of locals. Wherever you travel make sure that you are adding to the local economy during your stay, that you leave as little trace as possible while you are there, and that you are mindful of the impact of your presence in everything you do.

Fun Things To Do In Gothenburg On A Short City Break

Summer in Sweden is the perfect time for a short city break and with a wonderfully short flight from the UK, Gothenburg is the ideal destination!

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Take A Paddan Boat Tour of the City

The low, wide Paddan tour boats are an idyllic way to explore the city, and learn about the sights from a tour guide. The canal boat goes around most of the 17thCentury canals in the city, passing sightseeing hotspots, harbours, and passing under many beautiful bridges!

Kayak The Gothenburg Archipelago

While there are seal safaris, fishing, and island hopping tours available for visitors to explore this beautiful archipelago just an hour from Gothenburg, kayaking is arguably the best way to explore the area. There are guided tours available for all abilities, plus you can choose to add swimming or fishing to your paddling adventure.

Go To The Fish Church

Feskekôrka is a fish market with the architectural qualities of a church, hence the name! As well as drawing visitors who want to see this sublime building – an architectural experiment built in 1874, Feskekôrka is also the place to go for top quality fish and seafood that is as fresh as it gets.

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Explore The Universeum

This is Scandinavia’s largest science centre, a whopping 9,000 square metres of flora, fauna, and fun. Over seven levels there is room for a tropical rainforest, home to 25 metre tall kapok trees with a suspension bridge, a 1.4 million litre aquarium with sharks and rays, plus monkeys, sloths, and caimans to name just a few. It even has room for visitors to step into a space station.

Check Out The Parks And Gardens

Gothenburg is a compact city, which makes it easy to pass from one splendid public garden to another. The Botanical Garden is one of the largest in Europe, and close by is Slottsskogen, the main park in Gothenburg. Just outside of the city you’ll find historic estates with impressive garden spaces, open for the public to enjoy. Don’t forget that in Sweden there is a right to roam, so visitors can go and explore any open space, as long as they pay attention to the “do not disturb or destroy” policy that comes with it.

Visit Gothenburg Museum of Art

It just won the title Museum of the Year in Sweden thanks to its diverse art collection. So as well as being able to view Rubens, Munch, Picasso et al, visitors can expect a variety of workshops, temporary exhibitions and lectures over the three floors of this stunning museum.

Popular Destinations Capping Tourist Numbers

Cheap travel is more accessible than ever, couple that with Airbnb maximising the number of places to stay and it is a recipe for disaster as far as locals are concerned. While tourism can help boost the economy it appears that there is a tipping point when the locals themselves can no longer afford to stay, or enjoy the life they once led. Here are a few popular destinations that are capping their tourist numbers, and why they have chosen to.

Barcelona

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Last year 32 million people visited Barcelona, vastly outnumbering – and irritating – the 1.5 million permanent residents. It isn’t just the drunk and disorderly antics that are causing concern, it is also the rise in apartment bookings, leading to rent hikes which many Barcelonans cannot afford. The fury of the locals has resulted in anti-tourist graffiti, and residents storming the beach area and holding protests along Las Ramblas.

To combat the rise in visitors, and to keep the residents happy, the authorities have introduced a special plan for tourist accommodation. This will limit the number of new hotels spaces (currently at 75,000 beds) that can be introduced, and limit the number of tourist apartments. The latter may be more difficult however as authorities estimate that half of the 100,000 beds available to rent in apartments are actually illegal ones.

Dubrovnik

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This beautiful city’s World Heritage Site status is at risk due to extreme overcrowding by tourists. UNESCO requested numbers within the medieval city’s walls to be capped at 8,000 visitors a day after peak times saw in excess of 10,000 people cramming the ramparts. As with Barcelona, such crowding has led to disgruntled locals who have chosen to protest.

Plans put in place include limiting the number of cruise ships that can arrive at the port at any one time, and lowering the limit of visitors to the medieval city even further than UNESCO recommendations to just 4,000 per day. While the Mayor acknowledges that this could see a reduction in revenue to the tune of a million Euros over two years, it should improve the happiness of Dubrovnik’s residents, and also enable the city to retain its World Heritage status.

Mont Blanc

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Overcrowding is becoming such a danger that France recently issued a cap on the number of visitors to the Royal Route of Mont Blanc. While this cap is only temporary, it is something that may come in to play regularly in the future.

The reason for the restriction on numbers is safety and pollution. There are more people than ever attempting the summit, many of whom do not have enough experience, which has led to deaths. There is also the issue of pollution from overcrowding – especially as the shelter at the summit, the Gouter, is frequently exceeding its 120-person capacity. The recent cap was in place for 8 days, and only permitted experienced climbers who already had permits to access the summit.

Santorini

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Two million visitors a year isn’t helping preserve the charm of this idyllic destination, especially when close to half the number of visitors are cruise liner day-trippers adding very little to the local economy.

To combat the impact the Mayor has imposed a limit of just 8,000 tourists per day, but some fear that the overcrowding is also due to a rise in the number of residents. As more tourists arrive on this Greek Island, more people come here to live and work – but the infrastructure isn’t there to support the fastest-rising population in Greece, creating much discontent.

Maya Bay

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For four months this year the idyllic Maya Bay in Thailand is closed to ALL tourists. This has been enforced to allow the surrounding reefs to recover from the impact of 5,000 people a day seeking paradise.

The huge numbers of visitors are down to the success of The Beach, a film about an untouched backpacker paradise. Back then, this bay really was an unspoilt gem, but today it is a far cry from the image in the film. Temporary beach and bay closures has worked well in other Thailand beauty spots, but ideally a permanent closure is what is needed in extreme cases – which has an obvious impact on the much-needed tourist revenue for locals. One compromise could be to have a daily cap on visitors once Maya Bay opens again in September, or at least closing the bay to sightseeing boats, one of the biggest polluters in this part of the world.

Things To Do In Russia Instead Of Watching The World Cup

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With World Cup fever in full swing we thought we’d share some interesting things to do in each location of the tournament. Great for a bit of sightseeing before or after a match, or as a way to escape the footballing throngs!

Nizhny Novgorod

The Chkalov Stairs is a monumental flight of steps – 560 in total – in the centre of Nizhny Novgorod. The steps have been built in a figure of eight shape, and connect Minin and Pozharsky Square, the Upper Volga and the Lower Volga embankments, and offer spectacular views of the surrounding area. This is the place to go to chill out and take in the views, for locals as well as visitors to the area.

Kazan

Kaban Lakes is a huge body of water rife with rumour of treasure! According to legend, this lake has hidden gold, looting by troops of Ivan the Terrible, that once belonged to Khan’s Queen Syuyumbike. Treasure aside, visitors will be blessed with beautiful views of sweeping cityscapes that are great from the shore, and even more impressive if you take a tour on a paddleboat.

Samara

Stalin’s Bunker is a top attraction in this city, and while Stalin was never actually here, it is packed full of everything that would have been required had he needed to come. Top tips for visiting include to wear comfy shoes, as this attraction is either 8 or 16 floors below ground (depending on your sources), and also brush up on your Russian as there is no English version of the guided tour. There is an excellent bar and restaurant at the facility where you can get your strength after burning all those calories on steps!

Sochi

Mount Akhun is the highest point in Sochi. Follow the long and winding road to the top and you’ll reach an observation tower that delivers breath-taking views of the Black Sea and surrounding forests as well as the Matsesta and Khosta rivers, which flank the mountain. Top tip is to go on a clear day, otherwise all you’ll see from the tower is fog.

St Petersburg

There is so much to see here that it is recommended that you jump aboard a tour. These will give you a fly-by experience of Russian Imperial palaces, the Peterhof Fountain Park, the Hermitage Museum and includes a canal cruise through the ‘Venice of the North’. For an added dose of Russian culture, get tickets to see a ballet.

Moscow

St Basil’s Cathedral is the number one attraction in Moscow. It was built by Ivan the Terrible in the 16thCentury, and borders the second must-do thing in Moscow, Red Square. The Cathedral is a colourful architectural delight, featuring nine separate chapels, each with a unique design and capped with its own individually shaped and coloured dome. Fun fact – it wasn’t always this colourful, it was once white to match the Kremlin, with the domes painted gold. The colours began to be added in the 17thCentury to reflect the colours that described the Kingdom of Heaven in the Book of Revelation.

The Worst Holiday Destinations In The World To Visit in June

Ever planned a badly-timed break? Spent your Round The World Trip visiting every destination in the wrong season? If you are thinking of a last-minute getaway this month, you’ll do well to avoid the following locations!

Dubai, UAE

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In June in Dubai it is really really hot, and really really humid, which makes really really hot feel like a bath in a volcano. Basically the seasonal high of 40°C combined with 58% humidity makes it feel like a searing 59°C! That is hotter than the hottest place on earth! If you must go, stick to indoor activities – thankfully quite easy due to the many luxury shopping malls and the world’s largest aquarium.

The Everglades, Florida

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June marks the start of several seasons in the Everglades – The Wet Season, The Hurricane Season and the Mosquito Season, not the most sought after combination on anyone’s travel itinerary! Plus the thunderstorms at this time of year can last for hours, so you’ll find yourself hiding for cover most of the time. FYI, the best months to visit are December to April.

Havana, Cuba

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Hot, wet and very very windy. June in Havana marks the start of the Hurricane Season, and the stats say it will rain on average for half the month. We all know that wind and rain are the number one enemies of enjoying a Cuban cigar, so save your trip for another time, ideally between December and May.

Death Valley National Park, California

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This destination holds the impressive Highest Recorded Temperature In The World title, and guess when it was recorded? Yup, June – a whopping 56.7°C! The previous record of 58°Crecorded atEl Azizia, Libya, and held for around 90 years, was deemed to be inaccurate by as much as 7°C because the measurement was taken over tarmac, not a true representation of the desert terrain.

Don’t forget your travel insurance! A well-chosen policy can help you out when Mother Nature decides to scupper your travel plans. Bad weather can mean cancelled flights, long delays, and in extreme cases the need for replaced belongings and even repatriation! Speak to our travel insurance advisors to make sure you’ve got the cover you reallyneed for your next break!