holiday travel

 

Abu Dhabi – The emerging holiday travel destination

The capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi, is by far the richest of the seven emirates that comprise the UAE. It also covers more than 85% of the country’s total area. Abu Dhabi, though more prosperous and far bigger, has always lived in the shadow of its more glitzy neighbor, Dubai. Compared to Dubai, it has a more Arabic vibe and a relaxed and sleepy feel. But that is slowly changing with huge investments in real estate and infrastructure projects.

Here are a few things to do during you Abu Dhabi holiday:

Walk along the Corniche

Beaches, restaurants, cycling tracks, beach volleyball pitches, gardens etc. line the 6-km walk along the Corniche. Take a leisurely stroll and get a feel of the city. The impressive Abu Dhabi skyline provides a nice backdrop.

Go on a Desert Safari

Over two-thirds of the Emirate is desert and the best way to explore it is to go on a desert safari. The safari can be quite an experience. Experienced drivers will take you up and down tall and shifting sand dunes. Dune-bashing is followed by a barbecue at a camp in the desert. Typically, the camp will have some belly-dancing, falconry as well as henna painting. This is a bit touristy but the dune-bashing is a must.

Visit the Grand Mosque

One of the biggest, and probably the most lavish, in the world. This can accommodate over 41,000 people and is decorated with gold, silver and precious stones. Over 3,000 workers and artisans from all parts of the globe worked on it. Magnificent chandeliers in silver and crystal, a hand-woven carpet that’s the biggest in the world and a gigantic dome are some of the main features. Free guided tours commence at 10am, Sunday to Thursday. Visitors are advised to dress modestly.

Dine at The Emirates Palace Hotel

Ostentatious! There’s no better word for it. Gold plating and marble dominate the look. Drop in for a meal or have a drink overlooking the private beach just so you can see what money can do.

Spend a day at Yas Island

After Bahrain, it is Abu Dhabi which boasts a Formula 1 track. There’s Ferrari World for the kids. In winter, the Island hosts music concerts. Some of the biggest names in the music industry have played here.

Saadiyat Island

Situated just 500 meters off the coast of Abu Dhabi, this island will soon be the venue of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Construction is underway for these and other museums and luxury resorts.

There are loads of nice cafes and restaurants in Abu Dhabi. But if you really enjoy clubbing, then head to Dubai which is just an hour away by road.

Best time to visit

November to March when the weather is pleasant and you can hang out at the beach. Summer temperatures occasionally nudge 50 degrees centigrade and you will be confined to air conditioned malls and hotels.

The emirate is being heavily promoted in Europe and the United Kingdom. So lookout for some great deals on Abu Dhabi Holiday Packages.

Read more about other holiday travel destinations and discover interesting and quirky places to visit.

 

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Posted by on February 21st, 2012

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Make the most of last minute cruises

You may have always wanted to experience the romance and luxury of a cruise but felt that it was just too expensive. Well, last minute cruises are a great way to get around the hefty price tag and enjoy your holiday travel.

Cruise liners are typically huge ships that carry thousands of passengers on board. But their size makes it difficult for them to fill up all their rooms. So as the date of departure draws nearer, they start discounting their cruise packages. They have to sail anyway and it is preferable not to sail with empty cabins. Plus the cruise companies make most of their money on extras such as shore excursions, onboard massages and other services. So they are quite happy to offer their cruises at a discounted rate.

This is where you step in.  If you have a flexible schedule and are prepared to compromise, if needed, about the cabin onboard, then a last minute cruise is perfect for you. Contact a travel agent or do an internet search and identify a cruise package that suits your budget. Princess, Cunard Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Disney and Carnival are some of the most respected cruise companies in the world. They are known for their service and amenities and offer a luxurious way to travel and discover the magic of an ocean crossing. So check out their sites and see what they have to offer.

A typical cruise has a duration of about 7 days. Identify your travel destination, decide on your budget and the number of days you want to spend at sea. Then shortlist your options. Now it’s time to take a hard look at the fine print. Check the conditions under which a particular stateroom or cabin is offered. You may be assigned a stateroom with no porthole next to an entertainment lobby or under a dance floor, making it claustrophobic and noisy! Your package may not be all-inclusive and you may have to pay for more extras than you had anticipated. There may be no refunds. The last minute deal may apply only to firemen, military personnel, senior citizens or other specified categories. It’s wise to read the terms and conditions carefully so there are no nasty surprises later.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the best deals are available when kids are at school. So there are great bargains to be had from September to early December. But it’s hurricane season from June to November in the Caribbean and the Bahamas and you don’t want to sail in choppy seas if you are headed there. Weather is an important factor while deciding on your cruise and it’s best to do your homework.

Some great deals are to be had on Christmas cruises. So if you don’t have a big Christmas planned with your family, why not set sail with cancellation cruises? They are a great way to enjoy a memorable Christmas at a price that won’t bust the bank.

If you live in or around New York, keep an eye out for some incredible last minute cruise deals. There are hundreds of cruises from New York to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Trans Panama Canal, Bermuda, Eastern USA, Canada and Europe. You can depart from any of its three ports of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Cape Liberty (NJ).

Read more about the pros and cons of Cancellation Holidays for other holiday travel ideas and bargains.

Posted by on March 16th, 2011

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Valley of the Kings, Luxor

This is one of the most important sites in Luxor and should definitely be included in your holiday travel to Egypt. A great way to arrive in Luxor is by taking a Nile Cruise from Aswan to Luxor.

The Valley of the Kings is located on the west bank of the Nile and is at a 15-minute distance from the dock. 62 spectacular burial chambers for pharaohs are located here. The location was chosen as it was remote and could be guarded from looters and plunderers. Sentries and guards lined the entry to the burial sites. The burial chambers are on the west, where the sun sets, as the ancient Egyptians associated the setting sun with the afterlife. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by on May 12th, 2010

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Lanzarote Holidays

Lanzarote is the fourth largest of the seven islands that make up Spain’s Canary Islands. Tenerife is the largest island. Lanzarote is the easternmost island, located 79kms off the coast of Africa. It’s of volcanic origin and the central part of the island resembles a magnificent lunar landscape. The island gets very little rain and has a mostly arid feel. The north,however, is a little greener than the rest of the island. The south has some of the best sandy beaches. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by on February 15th, 2010

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Cancellation Holidays and Last-Minute Travel Deals

Sometimes it pays to be impulsive and to just take off on a spur of the moment holiday. Apart from a sense of adventure and the joy that comes from something unexpected and unplanned, there are great holiday bargains to be had. And what’s more, you don’t even have to spend hours doing all the extensive planning that goes into a regular holiday. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by on February 14th, 2010

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Malecon – Havana, Cuba

Roughly translated, Malecon means seawall. And in Habana, or Havana, it stretches for a little over 4 miles, providing a fascinating glimpse into the city’s history, culture, architecture and the indomitable spirit of its people. The blue waters of the Caribbean are a wonderful backdrop to the architectural gems that line the route.

Habana is a vibrant place that’s full of contradictions and a walk along the Malecon allows you wonderful insights and should definitely be a part of your holiday travel in Cuba. 50 years of communism have led to a ruined economy but have also led to tremendous innovation from a people grappling with economic hardships. Art, music and dance have flourished and remained distinctive because of Cuba’s relative isolation from the rest of the world.

As you stroll along the Malecon, which is also a kind of social hub for the Habaneros (residents of Habana), you will feel the pulse of the city. There’s always something happening here, by day and by night. You will see children jumping into the sea, people fishing, lovers kissing, musicians playing and tourists taking pictures. People watching can easily keep you engrossed for a long time. In the winter months, very high sea waves crash along the seawall, drenching pedestrians and providing entertainment for children who duck and play with the fury of the waves.

It’s also an incredible sight to see Cadillacs, Russian Ladas and other cars from the 1940s and 50s still gliding, or occasionally sputtering, down the wide avenue. Camel buses and Coco taxis are the other forms of transport. If you are not up to walking the 4-mile stretch, flag down a horse carriage and enjoy a leisurely ride along the Malecon.

There are three main sections that you will pass as you make your way along the Malecon. At the entrance of the bay of Havana in the east, is the Vieja Habana where many colonial buildings have been beautifully restored. Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta and the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro are the main sights along the Vieja Habana section of the Malecon. As you head west, you will pass Centro Habana where the crumbling facades of pastel-hued neoclassical and neo-Moorish buildings and apartments present an intriguing picture of the city’s, and also Cuba’s, past glory and current economic woes. At sunset, the buildings look particularly beautiful, so if possible arrive here to watch the play of light as the sun goes down. In the northwest and beyond Centro Habana is the relatively modern-looking Vedado with high rises, a lot of them Russian inspired. Vedado is where you will find a lot of nightclubs, restaurants and art galleries and it is considered to be the trendier suburb.

Sitting on the seawall and gazing at the fading grandeur of Havana, it’s hard to imagine that Miami is just 90 miles across the ocean.

Havana Carnival

The colourful Carnival takes place on each weekend of July and August. Parades and floats with costumed dancers and musicians make their way along the Malecon to the accompaniment of salsa music. Cuban rum flows freely and thousands throng the malecon and take part in the singing and dancing. A lot of international tourists time their Cuba holidays to coincide with the Carnival.

Posted by on January 28th, 2010

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Top 5 English Country Cottages

One of the best ways to really appreciate the English countryside is to rent an old English country cottage. Most of the time, the views are breathtaking and the cottages recreate an olde world charm that’s hard to beat. Stone walls, slate floors, wonderful fireplaces and the unhurried pace of rural life all add up to create a wonderful holiday.
There are thousands of great English cottages and holiday homes strewn around England, Scotland and Wales and choosing from them can be quite a task. From romantic cottages for couples to sprawling ones for over 18 people, you will find cottages of every size.

Below is our selection of top 5 English country cottages which will make for great holiday travel. The cottages been chosen based on their location and architectural features and are meant for couples or smaller groups.

Mickle Rigg

Location: Sebergham near Caldbeck, Cumbria

A rustic barn has been lovingly converted into a cosy cottage for two. The exposed original oak beams are the main highlight of this English cottage. In the bedroom you will find a comfortable bed squeezed between two such beams. The living and dining area has a vaulted ceiling and you have a great view of Eden valley from here. A log-burning stove lends added atmosphere in the living room. The kitchen and bathroom are modern and the cottage is tastefully decorated. There’s a lovely patio just outside the main door from where you can enjoy gorgeous views over afternoon tea.
High Pike, Bassenthite and Derwentwater are within driving distance. There are also plenty of caves, gorges and gentle fjords to explore in the scenic surrounding area.

Little Hattons

Location: 7 miles between Cirencester and Stroud, The Cotswolds

This detached 18th century cottage is just a stroll away from the Thames and Severn Canal. Pubs line the waterside so, as you can imagine, the location is superb. The cottage is beamed and has a touch of understated luxury. There are two lovely bedrooms on the first floor while a games room equipped with broadband, satellite TV, DVDs etc. is on the second floor. The living room has a large wood-burning stove and the kitchen and dining open on to the garden.
Nearby are the market towns of Bibury, Tetbury and Westonbirt.

The Mill

Location: Rutter Falls, Eden Valley, Cumbria

Imagine being right next to a glorious waterfall! This posh cottage is actually a 19-century water mill. The interior is open plan and the kitchen is quite stylishly painted by artist Christine Leadbetter. The kitchen and dining area opens on to a private garden and riverbank. You can often spot squirrels and dippers scurrying around in the garden. There’s a pull-down double bed and a bathroom on the ground floor as well.
A spiral staircase takes you to the first floor. Heavy white drapes screen off the bedroom area which also has a Victorian bath. The sitting room overlooks the cascading waterfall and has the usual satellite TV, DVD and hi-fi. It also has a lovely balcony where you can sit and admire the great view from up close. Some people may find the sound of the waterfall a bit noisy.
The cottage is close to the market towns of Appleby and Kirkby Stephen. The towns are really picturesque and although close to the Lakes, thankfully get fewer visitors.

Cobblers Cottage

Location: Nayland, Suffolk

It’s an utterly charming 15th century cottage that has been lovingly restored by the owners using traditional materials and techniques. The living room has exposed beams, flagstone floor and the original inglenook fireplace. Antique furniture completes the medieval look. The TV, DVD and stereo are discreetly placed so as not to detract from the period feel. A narrow staircase takes you to the bedroom. Part the heavy drapes at the top of the stairs and you will enter a romantic bedroom with vaulted ceiling, exposed beams and a gorgeous antique bed plus a French armoire. An oak paneled door leads you to a roll top slipper bath.

There’s a nice pub in the vicinity and wonderful walks leading from the cottage to Pilgrim’s Way.

The Music Room

Location: Aveton Gifford, Devon

This detached cottage was originally a music room and hence its name. It has a long open plan living, dining and kitchen and a vaulted stucco ceiling. The living area has an open fire and the flooring is polished wood throughout. An entire wall is flanked by four huge windows with stained glass detail that flood the room with light and give it an airy and spacious feel. At the end of the living room, you climb up 3 steps to the bedroom area which was originally the stage for concerts and recitals. The bed is swathed in muslin drapes for a romantic feel.

There’s a lovely courtyard garden outside and you can drive down to the pretty village of Aveton Gifford which is just a mile away.

For similar holiday travel ideas, check out Log Cabin Holidays.

Posted by on January 26th, 2010

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Top Three Salta Hotels

Salta city has a host of nice hotels to choose from. If you want to explore the city, then book a place near the Plaza 9 de Julio because most of the main sights are within walking distance. If you would like great views and a more tranquil holiday, stay on the city’s outskirts.

Here’s our pick of the three of the best hotels during your holiday travel in Salta, Argentina:

Legado Mitico Salta

This is one of the nicest places to stay in Salta. A private residence has been converted into a sophisticated 11-room boutique hotel. A lot of care has been lavished on its incredibly tasteful interiors. The rooms are large and so are the bathrooms. Each room is uniquely themed around a poet, sculptor or gaucho and you will see the theme reflected in the artifacts and curios in the room. From framed photographs to handwoven rugs and bows and arrows, the feel is authentic Argentinian.
Some of the rooms have small balconies and whilst the hotel doesn’t have a pool or gym, it amply makes up for it with its warm and inviting ambience and lovely décor. None of the rooms have great views but the location is good.
Check out its extensive library for books on Argentina’s history, linger in the courtyard with a book or coffee and sample some fine wine from its cellar at the hotels stylish bar.

Price for a Double Room: US$170-210, inclusive of breakfast

The House Of Jasmines

Located on the outskirts of Salta, this wonderful century-old country lodge is a great place from where to explore places outside Salta city. The property has a fantastic location – 300 acres of pristine countryside with the Argentinian Andes as a backdrop.
The white adobe, red tiled structure is covered with jasmine creepers, hence the name. The interior is done in mostly white and cream with an occasional splash of colour from a rug. The effect is entirely calming and pleasing. You feel as if you are a guest at a colonial country house. The delightful scent of roses pervades everywhere and you will see the flowers in every room. In season, there’s also jasmine.
There are only 7 rooms in the main house and 3 suites in adjacent buildings. There’s also a detached two-bedroom house available for families. All the rooms and suites have four poster beds and beautiful interiors done in whites with a bright blanket or two thrown on the bed and chairs for some colour. There are a few restored antiques in the rooms. Some of the rooms have a balcony or terrace but all the rooms enjoy glorious views of the mountains. You will also enjoy the elaborate dinner rituals and the food is excellent.
There’s also a nice spa and an outdoor pool with great views.

Price for a Double Room: US$215-395, inclusive of breakfast

La Candela Hotel

This hotel regularly receives rave reviews from travelers for its warm service, great location and clean, well-appointed rooms. All in all, it’s good value for money.
The hotel is a remodeled colonial house. While the décor is more modern than colonial, the architecture is well preserved. The highlight of the hotel is its courtyard and pool area. You will enjoy having a meal by the poolside. The rooms are of reasonable size and some of them overlook the garden and pool. There’s also an apartment for a bigger group or family. The bathrooms are clean and the staff is extremely helpful.
The hotel’s trump card is its location. It’s situated within walking distance of the main square and yet you will find that the hotel is located on a quiet street.

Price for a Double Room: US$58-104

Read more about the history and sights of Salta city and browse this site for more holiday travel ideas.

Posted by on December 17th, 2009

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Salta La Linda or Salta The Beautiful

Salta is the capital of Argentina’s northwestern province of Salta. Founded in 1582, it has one of the best-preserved colonial architecture in all of Argentina and a distinctive Hispanic character. Stroll down narrow 18th century cobbled streets and admire the churches, plazas and lovely wooden balconies that jut out into the streets. Most places of interest, such as the Cathedral, the graceful white-washed Cabildo (Town Hall) and the elegant San Francisco Church, are located around the central square Plaza 9 de Julio, making exploring the city quite easy. There are also many nice museums like Museo Historico del Norte (located inside the Cabildo) and the Museo de la Ciudad (City Nuseum) where admission is free and you are requested to leave a donation when you leave.

Take time to visit a peña folclórica (folk tavern) and enjoy an evening of local music and dance. A favourite among the locals is El Boliche Balderrama. Most of the nightlife is in La Balcarce near the train station.

Teleferico a Cerro San Bernardo

A great way to observe Salta is by taking a Cable Car to San Bernardo Hill. The views are glorious and the hills provide a wonderful backdrop to the historic city.

The Train To The Clouds (Tren a las Nubes)

One of the biggest highlights of your holiday travel to Salta will undoubtedly be The Train To The Clouds. Your 15-hour journey begins and ends in Salta and it takes you through the scenic and varied terrain of Argentina’s northwest. From pampas grass to sculptural cacti, and from lush tobacco fields to lunar landscapes, your train adventure will take you from Salta city to La Polvorilla and back. La Polvorilla is situated at 13,845 feet above the mean sea level and the thinness of the air along the route makes it necessary for a medical facility to be aboard your train.
The Train To The Clouds is the third highest train route in the world and you will often see soft white clouds drifting below bridges or clinging to the mountain sides and hence the name of the train. You will traverse through 29 bridges, 21 tunnels, 13 viaducts, 2 spirals and 2 zigzags. The Polvorilla viaduct is spectacular – it is 224 meters long and 63 meters high.

Best time to visit: April to November

The average high temperature is around 22ºC but it get chilly at night and lows range from 3 to 14ºC. The advantage of going in winter is that you will get no rain.

Read about the top three Salta Hotels for a great holiday. Also browse this site for more holiday travel ideas around the world.

Posted by on December 14th, 2009

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Cuenca – The Athens Of Ecuador

Ecuador’s third largest city has a surprisingly small-town feel and a lovely old world charm. You will enjoy strolling through its cobbled streets and gazing at well-preserved colonial architecture. Plazas, churches and whitewashed houses with red tile roofs on the banks of the Tumebamba river create a wonderful setting. Cuenca is easily one of Ecuador’s most beautiful cities and one of the favourite emerging holiday travel destinations.

Cuenca has a rich and varied history. The Canaris lived here from around 500AD and the city was then called Guapondeleg. Not much is known about the Canaris and very little of their architecture survives. Around 1480 AD, the city was captured by the Incas and renamed Tumebamba. The Incas had ambitious plans and wanted to build a city that rivaled Cuzco. But this was not to be as about 50 years later the Spanish Conquistadors defeated the Incas. In 1557 the Spanish rebuilt and renamed the city Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca, or Cuenca for short. The Spanish built some of their cathedrals and palaces on the foundations of the Inca palaces and buildings. At the Todos Los Santos archaeological site you can see the unusual history of Cuenca in the ruins built by the Canari, Inca as well as the Spanish.

There’s much to see and explore in and around Cuenca and its mild climate makes it a great place for holiday travel. Its historic area was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. But apart from museums, churches, archaeological ruins and parks, Cuenca also has some upscale restaurants and galleries.

Your sightseeing should begin in Parque Calderon, Cuenca’s biggest plaza. On one side you will see the Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepcion or the New Cathedral. Work on the cathedral began in 1885 and went on for the next 80 years! Its giant blue domes are at the rear and are visible from many parts of the city. The Cathedral’s bell towers appear truncated and were supposed to be much taller but an error in design meant that the foundation of the cathedral would not have been able to bear the weight of the taller towers.
On the opposite end of the plaza is the Old Cathedral – El Sagrario. It is the oldest building in Cuenca and work on it began in 1557. It is undergoing restoration and serves as a museum.

The Church of El Carmen de la Asunción isn’t open to the public but you should visit it to admire its beautiful stone façade and stroll through the plaza on which it is located. The Plazoleta del Carmen is just a block away from Parque Calderon and is the site of the daily flower market, Mercado de las Flores. Ecuador is one of the largest producers of flowers in the world and you can admire a variety of exotic flowers at the market.

Some of the museums to visit are the Museo Pumapungo for its dioramas and tsantsas (shrunken heads) from the Shuar culture, Museo de las Conceptas for its collection of religious works and crucifixes and the Museo de las Culturas Aborígenes for its collection of of archaeological pieces of over 20 pre-Columbian cultures of Ecuador.

Outside Cuenca:

Parque Nacional Cajas

Just a 45-minute drive outside Cuenca, the Cajas National Park is studded with over 200 lakes and lagoons and covers an area of over 71,000 acres. It is a great place to go hiking and there are many wonderful trails, the most popular among which is the Inca Trail. The Park is a great place for bird watching and trout fishing. The terrain, as well as the flora and fauna, is varied which makes exploring quite interesting. The Parks’ forests have polylepis trees which grow to a height of over 3,000 meters.

Ingapirca

This is the largest of the Inca ruins in Ecuador but is much smaller than Peru’s Machu Picchu. Ingapirca means ‘Inca Wall’. Like Cuenca, the area was already inhabited by the Canari and when the Incas arrived here, they built their temples and houses over the foundations of Canari buildings. The site is dominated by an elliptical Sun temple. The site has some impressive Inca masonry with stone walls which were built without the use of mortar.

Cuenca Weather

The weather is mild all round the year with an average daily temperature of 14.6ºC. The rainy season is from October to May.

Posted by on December 7th, 2009

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