Experience Portugal: a Celebration for All Senses

Europe is definitely a magnificent place and what makes it truly great is the fact that it is as diverse as the fish in the sea. From East to West and from North to South, there will always be something unique to experience as you travel from country to country. And although there may be things that connect the entire European continent, every single place in the Old World will bear a mark of uniqueness and greatness.

Portugal is a place where the sun shines and where the people are wonderful to spend time with. All in all, it can make for a great travel experience and there are at least 3 things that will make you feel like you have stepped on a small piece of Heaven as soon as you set foot on Portuguese land.

Algrave Coastline (creative commons)

Algarve Coastline (creative commons)

The Sandy Beaches: a Holiday for Everyone

The magic atmosphere of the Portuguese beaches. In between Europe and Africa, both Portugal and Spain have something very special about their own culture and their beaches can be among the best you have ever seen precisely because they blend in the old and the new, the North and the South and the relaxing atmosphere with the summer entertainment. Basically, regardless of what type of beach you enjoy, there will be at least one in Portugal to make you feel great: windsurfing on the Praia de Guincho, chill atmosphere on the Alentejo coastline, and so on.

Sweet Weather to Warm Up Your Soul

There is nothing to be compared with the wonderful weather around these places either, which will definitely make for a great escape even if you visit Portugal in the winter, where the temperatures can get as high as 15 Celsius degrees. In between hot and not too hot and in between dry and wet, this weather makes for perfect holidays.

Caparica Beach, Portugal (creative commons)

Caparica Beach, Portugal (creative commons)

Amazing Food You Will Want to Take Home with You

Last, but not least, you will get to experience the marvellous Portuguese cuisine. Although it may not be as widely known as other cuisines of Europe, the Portuguese dishes truly deserve a place in the top most interesting and delicious ones in the world. You may be familiar with piri-piri chicken, but as soon as you will try out other types of Portuguese cuisine dishes, your taste buds will be in for a party. Whatever you want your food to be like, there will be something to suit your taste. From fish and seafood to pork and from special tarts to delicious pasta, there is a great diversity of foods you will just have to try out.  And if you take these dishes with one of the world renowned Portuguese wines, you will be left truly heart-warmed by the amazing grace and deliciousness this place has. If you want to get to Portugal and experience this on your own skin, then click here and find out more.

 

 

Madeira’s top five views

Rocks on the coast of Madeira by Jsome1 (Creative Commons)

Rocks on the coast of Madeira by Jsome1 (Creative Commons)

As holidays in Portugal go, they don’t come much more scenic than a trip to Madeira. This compact island in the Atlantic Ocean packs quite a visual punch thanks to its rugged coastline, mountainous interior and lush, tree-lined landscapes – making it the ideal place for an active walking getaway with Monarch.co.uk

Being a mountainous island, sweeping views are plentiful so you won’t have to search hard for a jaw dropping vista to capture on camera. Let’s take a look at the five best lookouts on the whole island:

1. Pico Ruivo

The most obvious place to go for the best view of a place is its highest point – after all, if there’s nothing taller, you can enjoy an unobstructed 360-degree view.

On Madeira, this title goes to Pico Ruivo, a more than 6,000ft tall peak located in the centre of the island. There are three trails up to the summit, of varying difficulty, but the sensational views to every corner of the island from the top are worth the effort.

Hikers should be aware that weather conditions can change rapidly at such altitudes and the presence of cloud could obstruct your view, although seeing the cloud base far below the summit is breathtaking in its own right – creating an otherworldly feeling.

2. Funchal cable car

A less strenuous way to see a good panorama in Madeira is by riding the Funchal cable car from the capital city up the steep hillside behind it. As you gain height, you’ll see the whole town spread out beneath you with the sparkling ocean beyond, where giant cruise ships cut through the water.

Once at the top, you can enjoy a stroll around the beautiful botanical gardens, which have some pretty impressive panoramas in their own right.

3. Levadas

One of the most popular ways to take in Madeira’s natural beauty is by hiking along one of its many levadas, or irrigation channels. Cut through the mountainous landscape several hundred years ago for practical rather than tourism reasons, these channels and the narrow paths running alongside them pass through some stunning sections of countryside, where trees and wildflowers thrive in the shadow of jagged mountains.

Varying in length and difficulty, you should easily be able to find a walk to suit you and your family’s preferences.

4. Valley of the Nuns

Hidden away between the mountain summits, the village of Curral das Freiras (the Corral of the Nuns) enjoys an isolated but spectacular position. Looking down from the viewpoint above the town, one gets a stunning contrast between the tiny white buildings and the rugged green peaks.

By all accounts, the drive to the head of the valley is quite hair raising along narrow, twisting roads, but if you put your faith in the driver and keep your eyes open you’ll enjoy some amazing scenes during the journey.

5. Santo da Serra golf course

Even if you’re not an avid golfer, it’s worth playing a round at Santo da Serra near Machico for the scenery alone. This undulating championship course in the north-east of the island enjoys a fabulous hilltop location with stunning views of the ocean, although the winds that whip across the mountain add to the challenge posed by the narrow fairways.

 

Five Advantages of Booking Group Accommodation Over a Normal Hotel

Luxury holiday home, UK

Large group accommodation may not be appealing to people who are used to staying in hotels because most of them are self catering properties. If you are travelling as a group there are unique advantages of staying in large group accommodation rather than staying in normal hotel rooms.

1. They are cost effective 

One of the advantages of travelling and staying as a group is that you get to stay in large group properties which most of the time come at a discounted rate. The larger the group the better the deal per person than if you stayed in different hotel rooms. If you share the total cost of the holiday accommodation and compare the price with that of a hotel room, you might be surprised at the amount of money you will be saving and that could even help you engage in other activities.

2. You get closer to your friends 

If you all booked a hotel for your group, it would be difficult to get rooms that would be close to each other, you might even get rooms that are scattered all over different floors of the hotel. This means that a lot of time will be spent trying to remember which rooms or corridors your friends may be situated and you may not even get to spend as much time with your friends as you might have hopped. This could be disappointing especially if your friends live in far off places and you rarely see each other. Therefore staying in large group accommodation allows you to spend time together because you share common spaces such as the sitting rooms or theatres.

3. Great for hosting group parties 

Unlike hotels, group accommodation mainly acts like a private home and even remain so when you rent them. You can arrange for great parties here away from crowds, it would be like having your very own house party only here you are away from home. You will not be interrupted by annoyed people in the room next door like in a hotel due to the loud music because large group accommodation is generally like a private home.

4. Share the chores

Most group accommodation is self catered which means you have to cook and maintain the house by yourselves. You can share chores such as cleaning and cooking with your friends, in fact you get to sample your friends’ secret recipes and also share your own. Since you will be cooking for yourselves the atmosphere is more relaxed unlike in the hotel rooms where meal times are set and you have to dress appropriately at such times. In a these kind of properties you may sleep in depending on how busy the night was and have breakfast in your pajamas just like at home.

5. Spaces are huge 

Unless you are a millionaire and staying in one of the expensive hotels in a private suite, normal hotel rooms are not as spacious as large group accommodations. You get the added advantage of sharing large kitchen spaces, have many bedrooms and enjoy staying in large living rooms which are perfect for a party.

Three Tourist Destinations Which Have Escaped The Arab Spring

Oman

Muscat Oman Royal Opera House by Hussain Al Bahrani (CC)

Muscat Oman Royal Opera House by Hussain Al Bahrani (CC)

Oman is one of the most touristic destinations in the Middle East, though it is not as appreciated as it should be. Nothing whatsoever reflects the Arab spring as the country enjoys peace within its borders.

Muscat is Oman’s beautiful capital that is sparkling white due to its white washed buildings crowned with golden minarets and bordered by the blue waters of the Arabian Sea and brown mountains. It is a blend of the old and the new with the old side of town retaining its old charm as the new side catches up with modern establishments. This city defies its location as a desert city because it has green well manicured gardens that are cool and calm.

The legendary city of Sur welcomes you to its coastal environs which have striking traditional dwellings and presumed to be the home of the legend Sinbad. This town also is blessed with a stunning coastline with sparkling white beaches, rugged towering cliffs and sculpted rocks which have been subject to the harsh elements of weather.

Jordan

Jordan as tourist destination has been disadvantaged by being surrounded by protesting neighbors. Though it has maintained peace within its borders the Arab spring has had a huge impact on its tourism industry.  It is however endowed with numerous attractions that as you explore them and discover the peace that prevails within the country, you will be less aware of the Arab spring.

On luxury trips to Jordan you will find Amman, the fascinating capital of Jordan situated in a hilly area between the desert and the lush fertile valley of Jordan. Contrasts of this city do not just end here but form just the beginning, it is a city with a rich past that is depicted on the streets where old buildings stand comfortably rubbing shoulders with the very new ones. The down town area is much older, more traditional and culturally rich than the heart of the city. Here you will find smaller family run businesses that sell anything from jewelry to regular household items.

Petra, Jordan ©Lucie de Belkova, Flickr Creative Commons

Petra, Jordan ©Lucie de Belkova, Flickr Creative Commons

Morocco 

Morocco is a top notch touristic destination that has remained calm and cool amongst warring neighbors. It is famous for its intriguing cities, laidback seaside towns, the golden sands of the Sahara desert and the High Atlas Ranges.

A tour of the vibrant city of Marrakech reveals the peaceful nature of the Moroccans as you will interact with the friendly Berbers as you haggle prices in the souks, enjoy the peaceful Majorelle Gardens and visit the ever colorful Djemma El Fna square where nothing but enchanting thrills happen, from fire eating to snake hypnosis.

The city of Meknes is charming and historical built in a Spanish Moorish style with impressive walls and magnificent gates. It is one of the imperial cities of Morocco which is near the ancient Roman ruins.

Explore the relaxed seaside town of Essaouira and you would forget all about the cares of the world. The pace of life here is calm and it is a popular destination for water sports.

 

China, a travel through space and time

Fortunately nowadays China opened the gates for the world, so we can discover the endless treasures of its gifted land and multi-millenary history enjoying spectacular China holidays.

Speaking about the grandeur of China, did you know that in 1405 AD imperial China organized a sea expedition of 317 ships and 28000 crewmen and was by far the biggest naval power in the world? Some historians pretend that they even discovered America. However, the Chinese stopped their expeditions around 1430 and remained in a long state of isolation which lasted for many centuries.

And you can find out thousands of historic facts that are absolutely overwhelming about the Chinese people who invented the silk, the gun powder, the paper, the astronomic instruments and a lot of other things that actually changed the world.

Shanghai (creative commons)

Shanghai (creative commons)

Choosing your tour

Let’s speak of the practical things. First, China is pretty far away both from Europe or America, so if you consider going there, indulge yourself with a complete tour experience instead of just going to one or two places and then come home. Wendy Wu China Holidays are perfect for people who want to see a lot of attractions and enjoy themselves at the same time.

Second, China covers an immense area of land and it’s pretty different from the rest of the globe, given its specific culture and form of government. That said, it is highly advisable to go there only on tours organized by very experienced companies.

There are a few things obligatory to take into account when choosing a tour operator: they must have an extensive experience so as to offer only verified services, they must ensure you have good access to the main attractions and local guides that will accompany you on your way through the huge territory, they must take care of obtaining your visa. And don’t forget about the comfort either, as you will be traveling a lot of days and you don’t want to be carried by some small or overcrowded vehicles where you can barely move your feet. Wendy Wu China Tours are one such operator.

So think of your Chinese adventure as a once in a lifetime experience, and choose an all inclusive tour.

China's Forbidden City (creative commons)

China’s Forbidden City (creative commons)

Historical sights

Some places have an overwhelming historical and religious importance and have no equivalence in any other civilization: the Forbidden City in Beijing which was the house of the imperial families for centuries, the Terracotta Army of 8000 warriors, 130  chariots and 670 horses buried along with the emperor Qin Shi Huang around 210 BC, the biggest statue of Buddha in the world finished in 907 AD and measuring 71 meters in height and 28 meters in width, and the famous Great Wall meandering on the high mountain slopes.

The big cities

You should not miss the major metropolises of Beijing, Shanghai and Xian which had a bursting growth over the past three decades and display the incredible economic power of the Chinese people. The energy in the atmosphere and the diversity of leisure and entertainment opportunities are amazing. Also, these cosmopolitan urban areas offer you the chance to purchase charming goods found nowhere else in the world, at a very good price.

Bell Tower, Xian (creative commons)

Bell Tower, Xian (creative commons)

Nature and ancient tradition

The picturesque nature will fulfill you with its splendor on the course of the Yangtze River, cutting its way through the rock of mountains and creating some of the wildest canyons in the world, and landscapes are teeming with wildlife, especially some very rare species like the panda bears. Looking for more adventure, you can climb on the Tibetan Plateau and breathe its pure air or even camp at the foot of Everest Mountain itself.

Let’s not forget to get a glimpse on the ancient traditions by visiting some charming villages spread across remote valleys which may share with you their simple and meaningful human experience, and also by getting to the monasteries of the Buddhist monks.

The Five Best New Destinations For Budget Travellers

Latvia 

Latvia is one of the pearl states of the Baltic, which has an intricate mixture of different cultures due to its strategic location, which in the past has left it at crossroads with influences from other countries. These influences have inevitably led to the shaping of this fascinating nation. It is a country that allows you to get intimate with nature and bask on its glorious sandy beaches. Latvia is a relatively cheap destination and can fit all budgets; the capital city Riga has numerous budget accommodations including hostels, bars and restaurants where you can enjoy local sea food. It is also a common stop for travellers using the Eurail Pass to travel around Europe as it offers a cheap, but hugely interesting stop.

Armenia

Monastery of Sevanavank, Lake Sevan, Armenia. Author Vigen Hakhverdyan

Monastery of Sevanavank, Lake Sevan, Armenia. Author Vigen Hakhverdyan

Armenia is not a destination that many think of when planning a holiday, its position on the pinned between the Arab and Western cultures does not help it either. However there is an advantage of visiting such unusual places because you will definitely be able to travel on a budget due to lesser competition. As you stroll around Yerevan the capital city you can hop in a restaurant and sip quality coffee at surprisingly low prices, view ancient city monuments for free, enjoy good wine at affordable rates, after all grapes are locally grown, stay in good hotels on a budget and travel to the countryside by bus on unbelievably low fares. Because of this, it means you can live like a king and effectively take a luxury holiday in Armenia whilst still on a low budget. And it’s certainly worth a visit.

India

India is a country of extremes, from lush green hill stations to wild and dry desert atmosphere, vibrant colors, rich scents and flavors to enchanting spirituality. It is a country where poverty and wealth are never far away from each other; but it is one of the most affordable and impressive destinations on the planet which is why travelers budget flock here each year to experience the spicy diversity of India. When travelling during off seasons, you are likely to great deals on hotel accommodation.

Montenegro

Montenegro, also known as Black Mountain, is a magical country and the newest in the world but also oozing with history from its colorful past. Though a popular destination, it is definitely not cheap, but it is still possible to get the best of this fabulous destination on a budget. There are a lot of activities which are free in Montenegro like soaking up in the sun on the beaches of the Budva Riviera, visit the historical and pilgrimage site Ostrog Monastery, trek in the Prokletije Mountains or enjoy the UNESCO World Heritage town of Kotor. You can stay in the Kotor hostel which is located within the mighty historical walls of this ancient town, and there is plenty of other cheap accommodation in Montenegro, some of which you’ll find here.

Indonesia

Bali_Indonesia_Ubud_Monkey_Forest_by_Mutante

Bali, Indonesia, Ubud, Monkey Forest by Mutante

Indonesian Islands are very alluring to any traveler seeking a paradise holiday but still remain one of the most affordable destinations in Asia. Hotels, food and transport are relatively low charged in terms of US dollars making it an ideal destination for budget travelers. Accommodation remains the greatest worry while on budget but if you confine yourself to the lesser visited areas like Java, Sunatra and Nusa Tenggara you will find an air conditioned hotel room at a low price. In an island like Bali everything is highly priced due to competition.