holiday travel

 

Best Holiday Travel Destinations For Easter Breaks

The long Easter weekend is a great time to take off for a short break. The weather too starts getting warmer in America and Europe, opening up loads of holiday destinations to choose from.
Below is our pick of holiday travel ideas for your Easter break. The destinations have been chosen for the quirky customs and unique traditions that are followed in the various cities. New York is also great place to visit for Easter weekend breaks and you can read all about its famous Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival.

Jamaica Easter Carnival

The Jamaica Easter Carnival kicked off in 1990 and has gained in popularity over the years. More than 100,000 revelers flock to Kingston for the Carnival which begins with Beach Jouvert on Easter Sunday. Jouvert means daybreak and the parade begins in the early hours of the morning when it’s still dark outside. The Carnival ends with the colourful Road March which is a costumed street parade where top local and regional bands play calypso and reggae to the crowd’s delight. Soca parties are also the rage throughout the island. The carnival is quite a spectacle and it’s a fun way to spend your Easter break.

Kingston is the capital of Jamaica and most people tend to avoid it because of the adverse publicity it has received about crime. Just be a little careful and you should be fine. There are plenty of nice nightclubs and restaurants around Kingston which make it a lively town.

But it’s not only Kingston that celebrates Easter in true Caribbean style in Jamaica. There’s some parade or the other happening somewhere on the island during the Easter Carnival week. Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril also have some wonderful entertainment and parades.
Another Easter tradition in Jamaica is eating bun and cheese. The buns are spiced with cinnamon and are sprinkled with lots of raisins. They are generally eaten with processed cheese and you will see supermarket shelves packed with buns and cheese around Easter.

Trekking, snorkeling and diving are some of the activities you can do in Jamaica. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the stunning beaches in Port Antonio, Montego Bay and Negril.

Weather in Kingston in March and April: Temperatures range from 24°C to 28°C. There’s an occasional light shower during the day.

Semana Santa, Seville, Spain

The Holy Week, or Semana Santa, preceding Easter Sunday sees processions by the brotherhoods of the church making their way from their churches to the Cathedral. The penitents wear robes and hoods and walk alongside two to three elaborate wooden floats. The first float usually depicts the scene of the Passion with Christ and the second, a grieving Mary. Some of the floats have exquisite sixteenth century statues decorated with gilt and silver and are often accompanied by bands playing flamenco style hymns.

At midnight on Thursday, the biggest processions leave their churches and wind their way through the night to arrive at the Cathedral on the morning of Good Friday. This is definitely the highpoint of the week. Up to 60,000 monks participate in the processions during Holy Week.
Although the parades have a religious and solemn flavour, you will see bars and restaurants packed with local families till late into the night. Grandparents and grandchildren too stay up late.

Apart from the Easter processions, take time to walk through the narrow alleys of Seville’s old town and eat at a local tapas bar. You will see some of the best bullfighting and flamenco performances here. Seville is easily one of Spain’s must-visit places, both historic and stylish at the same time.

Weather in Seville in March and April: Temperatures range from 9°C to 24°C.

Read more about how to spend your Holiday Nights In Madrid.

São Brás de Alportel, Algarve, Portugal

This is a small town in the eastern Algarve and is more commonly known simply as São Brás. It is ringed by hills and looks down at the coast from an escarpment. The old town has a church and the Episcopal Palace. On Easter Sunday, the town comes alive and draws visitors for its unique Easter ceremony.

The streets are paved with fresh wild flowers arranged in interesting patterns and a Torch Procession, or Festa das Tochas, proceeds through the streets. Men carrying torches made of flowers walk or run through the streets. Their leader cries, “Christ is risen” and the others respond with cries of “Hallelujah”. Similar ceremonies used to take place in other Algarve towns in the 18th and 19th century but now the tradition is alive only in São Brás.

After the procession you can walk along the flower strewn streets or make your way to other towns of the Algarve. At the crossroads in the main town square, you can head north to Lisbon, south to Faro, east to Tavira and west to Loule.

The Algarve coast is truly picturesque with sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs and towns with whitewashed houses. Most of the resorts are not exactly pretty but the wonderful setting draws huge crowds in summer. During Easter you can enjoy the Algarve without the teeming tourists, although the water can be a bit cold.

Weather in the Algarve in March and April: Temperatures range from 17°C to 20°C.

Also read about the Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival in New York.

Posted by on November 30th, 2009

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Easter Parade And Easter Bonnet Festival In New York

NEW YORK - MARCH 23:  A bonnet peeks above the...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The Easter Parade began in New York City around 1870 and has grown to become an extravagant and quirky New York tradition. For centuries, Easter Sunday was when people use to don new clothes and bonnets and go to church. The Easter Bonnet was introduced by composer Irving Bennet when he referred to the New York Easter Parade in a musical composition.

So if you are wondering what to do during the Easter break, head to New York for your holiday travel. Get into the Easter spirit with native New Yorkers and walk down to 5th Avenue to participate in the parade or to just watch the drama. The Easter Parade is without the traditional floats and marching bands but it’s a unique New York experience nevertheless. Loads of tourists from all over the world flock to see the Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival and some even participate with their own versions of fancy bonnets.

A Bonanza of Easter Bonnets and Easter Baskets

If you are pondering about what to wear for the parade then that really depends on whether you want to be creative, zany, outrageous, make a political statement or just have fun. Remember this is New York where anything goes. The focus of your attire of course should be your Easter bonnet. Some people simply buy a bonnet from a store while others go to great lengths to create one.

Fashion divas, drag queens, little girls, grandmothers, political activists, artists, you name it…every kind of person of every age and colour walks down 5th Avenue wearing colourful bonnets. Some bonnets are topped with birds made out of paper while others sport live cats. Flowers are a common theme and remind us of spring.

From small and delicate bonnets to large and outsized ones that dwarf the wearer, the imaginative bonnets create a colourful spectacle. Rabbits, dogs, cats, snakes and other pets also join their owners and it’s quite common to see dogs too wearing elaborate hats and bonnets.

A lot of attention is also lavished on fantastic Easter Baskets which the participants carry in their hands. The Easter Baskets are decorated with Easter bunnies, eggs, flowers, birds etc.

The Easter Bonnet Parade in New York is an informal parade where people just stroll down a road that’s closed to vehicular traffic. Even if you don’t want to participate, you can amble along with the participants or watch the fun from a street-side deli. A great spot to watch the parade is from the area around St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Easter Bonnet Parade Route

From 49th to 57th Street along 5th Avenue.

Easter Bonnet Parade Timings

10am to 4pm on Easter Sunday.

New York Weather

Temperatures range from 7°C to 16°C with chance of rain.

Easter Eggstravaganza in Central Park

This is a free event that includes loads of entertainment and activities for kids. Entry is free and kids can join an Easter Egg Hunt, participate in an egg roll race, watch a puppet show, interact with clowns, get their faces painted etc. There’s also a race where kids have to build their own Easter baskets. The Eggstravaganza usually takes place on the South Lawn in Central Park.

While in the Big Apple, discover other fascinating sights and things to do so you can make the most of your New York Holidays.

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Posted by on November 24th, 2009

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Top Three Luxury Resorts For A Holiday On A Private Beach

If you are looking for a pristine private beach where you may not even see another soul, be prepared to pay for the exclusive experience! Below are mentioned some of the most spectacular beach resorts offering an incredible mix of seclusion, location and luxury.

Kamalame Cay, Bahamas

You arrive at this extraordinary island resort in a private ferry or a seaplane. The resort is just off Andros island in the Bahamas and covers an area of 96 acres of lush tropical vegetation. It has a 3-mile long beach and even a fresh water pool and yet there are just 19 villa suites and cottages, ensuring that each unit has a secluded beach on its doorstep. As you can expect in the Bahamas, the island’s private beach is pristine.
A barrier reef, the world’s third longest, is just a mile of the island’s shores, providing the perfect place to dive and snorkel. Kayaking, windsurfing and fishing are some of the other water activities available to the guests. A good spa refreshes and rejuvenates guests after a long day on the beach.
Kamalame Cay has a wonderful rustic feel with an understated luxury. Its 19 villas and cottages are built with local stone and have white washed walls and solid teak Indonesian furniture. Simple but elegant white muslin curtains adorn the wide windows and create an airy and spacious feel.
The seafood is incredibly fresh and the Caribbean cuisine is truly superb. You can enjoy a romantic dinner on the beach amidst tiki-torches and candles.
Best time to visit: Mid-December to Mid-April. Carry a jacket as it can get nippy at night. Temperatures range from 24°C to 29°C.

Amanpulo, Philippines

This is one of Asia’s best beach resorts and it doesn’t just have a private beach – it occupies the entire island of Pamlican.
A short flight from Manila will take you to the island’s private airstrip. From here on, you are in paradise. The beaches are absolutely fantastic and the island is ringed by a 7-km-long reef. You have your own golf cart to explore the private island.
There are 40 casitas, or traditional Philippino houses, situated on the beach, on the hill and in treetops. Each casita is spacious and has a lovely sundeck and a cavernous bathroom.
If you don’t want to stretch out on a mattress on the beach then there’s a 30-meter pool by which you can lounge. The more active guests can go snorkeling, diving, kayaking, fishing or sailing. Meals are at restaurants overlooking the sea. Spa treatments are available in two dedicated casitas, an open air hut or even in your own casita.

The décor uses a lot of wood which gives the resort a warm feel. The service is excellent and the location is simply out of this world. Perhaps that’s why it attracts a lot of honeymooners!
Best time to visit: November to May when the average temperature is 26°C and the weather is dry.

Le Taha’a Private Island & Spa, Tahiti

This is ranked as one of the most exclusive beach resorts in the world. The best way to get to the Motu Tautau coral reef on which it is located is by a 15-minute helicopter ride from Bora Bora. The resort faces Taha’a island on its lagoon side and Bora Bora on its ocean side and offers spectacular views everywhere you look. It comprises 12 beach villas and 48 Over Water Bungalows. All of them are extremely spacious and have been built in traditional Polynesian architecture.
The beach villas have their own private plunge pools, terraces and walled off gardens. The over water bungalows have a wide private deck which leads directly to the lagoon.
The resort’s three restaurants, pool and other public areas face Taha’a island and are nestled between lush coconut groves.
The Manea Spa too has a fantastic location next to a meandering pool and overlooking Taha’a island. A visit is definitely recommended.
The snorkeling near the lagoon isn’t great but you can go diving to nearby dive sites. Kayaks, pedalos, canoes and snorkeling equipment is available for free. The resort also organizes cruises and excursions for its guests.
Le Taha’a is a luxurious and romantic getaway for those who want to escape the mundane. The turquoise waters and soft, white sand on a private beach in the South Pacific make for great holiday travel.
Best time to visit: June to October when the weather is cooler and drier. The average temperature is 24°C to 30°C and the water temperature ranges between 23°C and 26°C.

Read about more Romantic Destinations. and also check out Best Hawaii Beach Destinations and Beach Holiday Destinations for more holiday travel ideas.

Posted by on November 20th, 2009

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Holiday Dubai!

So you have heard of all the incredible buildings and the property development that has been happening in Dubai over the last five years. Yet nothing prepares you for the reality. The real estate projects are on a different scale altogether. Burj Dubai – the world’s tallest building, the Palm Islands – the largest manmade islands in the sea, The World – islands shaped like the different continents, Burj Al Arab – the largest all-suite hotel, to name a few, are all here. The city is glitzy, ostentatious and ever changing. Dubai has some of the biggest shopping malls you have ever seen are here and new ones that are even bigger, brighter, bolder are being built.

The biggest surprise however, is that Dubai is nothing like your idea of an Islamic country. Expatriates from the subcontinent, Philippines, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Japan, Korea and the neighbouring Arab states outnumber the local Emiratis by far. Thus the city has a cosmopolitan culture and you will hear many languages being spoken, the most common of which is English. There are no restrictions on dress, unless someone is dressed truly indecently.

One of the highlights of your Dubai holiday will be the sheer variety of cuisine that’s available thanks to its ethnic mix. You should definitely try the Arabic delicacies on your visit to Dubai. The nightlife is amazing with an interesting mix of nightclubs, lounge bars, pubs and restaurants. All the restaurants and bars that serve alcohol are located in sports clubs or hotels with at least 3 stars. Hotels in Dubai like the Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Emirates Towers, Atlantis, Dusit and the Madinat Jumeirah complex, are as much architecture statements for the city as they are hotels.

Private Beach

The other surprise in Dubai is its excellent beaches. The sand is powdery white and the water turquoise blue. Some of the posh hotels on the Jumeirah beach stretch have their own private beaches. Hotels with a private beach include Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai Marine Beach Resort and Spa, Hilton Jumeira, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, Ritz Carlton, Madinat Jumeirah, Atlantis on the Palm Islands and of course the iconic and super luxurious Burj Al Arab. Parks such as Al Mamzar Beach Park and Jumeirah Beach Park also have nice beaches.

Thankfully there are also a few places that haven’t been obliterated by the building boom. The old markets in Deira and Bur Dubai still retain some of their ancient flavour with narrow, bustling alleys packed with small traders.

Things to do in Dubai:

This over-the-top city is a place to live it up. Here are a few things for you to do on your holiday travel in Dubai:

• Desert Safari: Get into a 4×4 and then hang on for dear life as expert drivers take you over mammoth sand dunes. It’s an incredible experience so don’t miss it. Your desert adventure will be followed by a barbecue and belly dancing at a desert camp.
• Strolling through Bastakiya: This is a small area where old houses with wind towers have been restored and converted into museums, art galleries and cafes.
• Visiting the Spice Souq: Walk down the creek in Bur Dubai and watch Dhows (traditional wooden ships) sailing by. Then take an Abra (a small boat) across the creek and go to the Spice Souq
• Wining & Dining: Thai Kitchen at Park Hyatt for contemporary Thai food, Asado at The Palace for Argentinean steaks, Zheng He at Mina A’Salam for Chinese, Bice at Hilton Jumeirah for Italian… There are hundreds of great places to dine well.
• Mall Trawl: Apart from shopping, check out the ski slope at the mall of the Emirates and the aquarium and dancing fountains on the lake at Dubai Mall. For an upscale venue go to Souq Madinat which has been built like a traditional Arabic souq or market.

Best time to visit Dubai:

November to March. Summers are scorching but come winter, the city comes alive and the weather is perfect for a day on the beach.

Read about the best Romantic Spas, Beaches, Cruises, Ski Resorts and more holiday travel ideas on this site.

Posted by on November 17th, 2009

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Rajasthan Holiday: Places To Visit

Rajasthan, located in the northwest part of India, is the country’s largest state. Most of the area is covered by the Thar desert. The rich culture, magnificent palaces, massive forts, exquisite temples, vivid fabrics, soulful folk music and great cuisine create a rich kaleidoscope of experiences. This is one of India’s most popular tourist destinations.

The courageous Rajput clans ruled Rajasthan and they were as famous for their bravery as they were for their incredible wealth. You will glimpse their treasures and get an idea of their opulent lifestyle as you visit their palaces and forts. Apart from palaces, a lot of the old havelis – traditional residences which are often ornately carved – have been turned into heritage hotels and if you can, you must stay in one of them. Udaipur hotels, including the Lake Palace hotel, are as much tourist attractions as they are luxurious hotels.

Incredible handicrafts, block print fabrics, jewellery, carved furniture etc. make Rajasthan a great place to shop. Things are also inexpensive and tourists, whether local or foreign, flock to the busy markets.

To really appreciate everything the state has to offer, your Rajasthan holiday needs well over a month but there are some wonderful Rajasthan holiday packages of shorter duration that you can choose for your holiday travel.

Best time to visit Rajasthan: October to March

Listed below are the top destinations that should be part of your Rajasthan holidays.

Jaisalmer

The sprawling 12th century Jaisalmer fort sits atop Trikuta hill and dominates the city. Built entirely out of yellow sandstone, the fort rises above the desert below and shimmers with a golden hue and looks breathtaking at sundown. Also called the Golden Fort, life goes on much as it did hundreds of years ago with the exception of motorcycles that can be a nuisance when walking through the fort. It is the only medieval fort that’s still inhabited. You will find many wonderful temples and havelis inside the fort. Many of the havelis built with yellow sandstone have been converted into hotels and guesthouses so you can even live within the fort and enjoy wonderful views of the city and the desert below. Alternatively, accommodation is available on the plateau from where you can gaze up at the fort.
Jaisalmer is located in western Rajasthan in the heart of the Thar desert. So it’s the perfect place from where to go off on a camel safari and spend a night or two in a desert camp. The area around Jaisalmer can also be explored on the back of a camel.
Jaisalmer is an unforgettable experience and you should plan to spend at least two days here.

Jodhpur

Arguably India’s most impressive fort, Mehrangarh, rises above a steep 125-meter high hill and towers over the city of Jodhpur. The impregnable fort has walls that rise to a height of 36 meters in some places. A good audio guide is available free with your entry ticket to the fort.
The fort’s museum is a must-see as it gives you an insight into the superb artistry that went into building the palaces of the kings and also the decadent lifestyle they led. Don’t miss the Moti Mahal (palace of pearls), Sheesh Mahal (palace of mirrors) and Phool Mahal (palace of flowers) which have gold ceilings, royal palanquins, silk paintings, costumes, musical instruments, a throne… You will need at least a couple of hours to see the museum.
The fort offers gorgeous views of the city below. Many houses in the old city are painted indigo blue and the reason behind the blue colour is unclear. Some claim that only the Brahmin houses were painted blue while others claim that it was to repel termites. Whatever the reason, it is the reason why Jodhpur is called the blue city. The old city is a labyrinth of narrow alleys dotted with shops selling everything from spices to handicrafts.
The 347-room Umaid Bhavan palace is at the other end of the city from the fort. It is one of the largest private residences in the world. Work on the palace commenced as late as 1929 and one of the reasons for building such a grand palace was to provide employment to the poverty-stricken and drought hit residents of Jodhpur. It took 15 years to build the palace which is today divided into a hotel, a private residence and a museum. If you can’t stay at the hotel, go there for tea or a meal and visit the museum.
Modern Jodhpur is a bit of a disappointment and it’s best to skip it.

Udaipur

After the desert landscape of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, Udaipur comes as a surprise. It is a city of lakes and palaces with the verdant Aravali hills as a wonderful backdrop. Several palaces, temples and havelis dating back to the 16th century dot the lakes. It is called the city of dawn because it is at its most beautiful when the early morning rays fall on its cream and white structures.
The city has a serene feel and is often called the Venice of the East. Udaipur was voted ‘World’s Best City’ by the readers of ‘Travel + Leisure’ in July 2009. The choice came as a surprise to some but none can doubt its charm and beauty.
The City Palace is one of the largest palace complexes in India as it houses 11 separate palaces. Of particular note are Moti Mahal which is encrusted with mirrors, Manak Mahal or Ruby Palace, Krishna Vilas and Zenana Mahal. The City Palace sits on the shore of Lake Pichola overlooking the Lake Palace.
Lake Pichola has two islands: Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir. The romantic Lake Palace, now a heritage hotel, entirely covers Jag Niwas island. It is the most famous of Udaipur hotels and probably the most photographed hotel in India. Do have a meal here and enjoy the glorious views of the City Palace and its surroundings, that is if you can’t stay here. Jag Mandir also has a palace called Gol Mahal where the young prince Shah Jahan is said to have sought refuge when he was plotting to overthrow his father, Emperor Jehangir.
The other places to see around Udaipur are the Eklinji temple complex where the maharaja of Udaipur prays on Mondays if he’s in town, the 16th century Kumbhalgarh fort, the intricately carved Ranakpur temples and the 7th century Chittaurgarh fort.

Read about the best Udaipur Hotels.

Jaipur

The capital of Rajasthan and its most visited city, Jaipur is a bustling, chaotic city and not as charming as some of the other cities in Rajasthan. The colourful bazaars, grand palaces and hilltop forts though give you an idea of Jaipur’s grandeur. It is called the pink city because the buildings and walls of the old city were built out of reddish pink stone.
The five storeyed Hawa Mahal has intricate latticed windows and was built so that the royal ladies could observe the activities on the street below without being seen. Jantar Mantar is an observatory with an enormous sundial and was built in the 18th century. The City Palace has some fine buildings and artifacts. Amber, or Amer, fort sits on the outskirts of Jaipur on craggy hills. It is an imposing edifice and has some lovely palaces inside.
Jaipur is ubiquitous with shopping so keep aside time to browse. From blue pottery, linens, home furnishings and handicrafts, to rugs, hand printed fabrics, leather footwear and gems and jewellery, you will be overwhelmed by the choice. The prices are reasonable and a bit of bargaining is almost the norm.

More travel ideas and places to visit in Rajasthan: The white marble Jain Dilwara temples in Mount Abu and Ranthambhore National Park to spot tigers in the wild.

Posted by on November 15th, 2009

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Best Hawaii Beach Destinations

Hawaii is made up of over a hundred islands that were formed by volcanic eruptions. It is the 50th state of the United States and is located in the central Pacific Ocean. There are six main islands in Hawaii: Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Hawaii (also called the Big Island to distinguish it from the name of the state).

Because Hawaii is made up of islands, there are an infinite number of gorgeous beaches to choose from. Some, like Waikiki, are in more urban areas while others are in more remote and isolated areas. Lush rainforests, rocky lava cliffs, wonderful waterfalls, pristine sandy beaches, incredible marine life and mild weather make the Aloha state a gorgeous year round holiday travel destination.

Honeymooners, golfers, surfers and beach lovers all love Hawaii. No matter how many pictures and tourist brochures you may have seen, the reality is even more beautiful and breathtaking.

In Hawaii accommodation is available for every budget. You can take your pick from condos and basic bed and breakfast places, to hotels, rental cottages and super luxurious resorts.

Almost all the beaches are great for swimming and snorkeling but we have divided the beaches to give you our top picks for the beaches that are the most scenic and are ideal for swimming, those that offer great snorkeling and those that are the favourite with surfers.

Most Picturesque Hawaii Beaches

Lanikai Beach, Oahu

This beach of golden sand stretches for a mile and is dotted with coconut palms. The sand is powder soft and contrasts beautifully against the deep blue water. The beach is protected by an offshore reef so the water is calm and ideal for swimming throughout the year. Many consider this to be Hawaii’s most beautiful beach and should be a must on your holiday travel itinerary.
Off the shore are the Mokulua islands which not only provide a wonderful backdrop but also attract birds. Apart from swimming and sunbathing, you can also go snorkeling and kayaking.

Kee Beach, Kaui

Where the road ends at the end of Kaui’s north shore is a little piece of paradise called Kee Beach. The sand is reddish gold and the shore has lush vegetation of coconut palms, guava and ironwood trees. The water is clear and calm and the reef lagoon also makes this a great snorkeling site with loads of reef fish and turtles. The sunsets here are spectacular so find a good spot and wait for the sun to go down.

Kapalua Beach, Maui

It’s a crescent-shaped beach flanked by two lava-rock outcrops at either ends and a lush coconut grove around its golden sands. The waters here are tranquil, making them ideal for swimming, especially for families with children. Snorkeling and kayaking can also be done on this small but beautiful beach.

Hawaii has loads of wonderful beaches and some others include the Hapuna Beach and Black Rock Beach.

Best Hawaii Snorkeling & Dive Sites

You can snorkel and dive almost anywhere in Hawaii. The best time to dive is in the summer when the water is calm on the north shores. From November to May the winds are a bit rougher but this is when you can spot whale sharks.

Hulopoe Beach, Lanai

This Hawaii beach is incredibly scenic. There’s a Marine Life Conservation District here because of the myriad schools of colourful fish that flourish here along with spinner dolphins. The reefs and calm waters make this place ideal for snorkeling and diving.
The sea life you will see here includes Butterfly fish, Octopus, Moray eels, Sponges and colourful coral.
This beach is great for swimming and the beach facilities are also good. You can have a picnic on the grassy beach park or even camp here.
There are two Cathedral dive sites just southeast of Hulopoe Bay. They are called Cathedral because of the stained glass effect created by the holes in the rocky walls that are backlit through the turquoise blue water. You are likely to see pods of dolphins on your way to the dive sites.

Hanauma Bay, Oahu

This is a very popular spot for snorkeling and the bay is gorgeous. There are over 50 species of fish to be found even in waist deep water. The bay has been formed by a submerged volcanic crater which makes for a natural cove shielded from currents and winds. Diving certification is required if you want to dive below 15 feet. Visitor numbers are restricted so plan ahead.
The sea life here includes large resident eels, Spotted Eagle Rays, Green Sea Turtles, Octopus and Ulua.
Serious divers head to the nearby Witch’s Brew dive site which is quite a turbulent cove.

Molokini Crater, Maui

This is a sunken volcanic crater that is located three miles off the coast of Maui and can be accessed only by boat. The water is exceptionally clear, making it easy to spot fish to a depth of over 100 feet. Over 250 species of fish are found here and you will see Monk Seals, Whale Sharks, Manta Rays, Spotted Eagle Rays and White Tip Sharks which are harmless.
This is also a great diving site.

Best Hawaii beaches for surfing

Hawaii is rated as one of the best surf spots in the world. In summer it is the south shores that are great for surfing while the north shores are for surfing in winter. The waves on the north are generally bigger than the ones on the south shore and for serious surfers.

Banzai Pipeline, Oahu

Oahu’s north shore attracts all the surf buffs during winter. From October to May, 15 to 20 feet high waves crash into the shore. This can lead to dangerous conditions and even experienced surfers have to be careful. The beach is called Pipeline because the curling waves generate a massive tube. Many non-surfers also gather on the beach just to watch surfers take on the massive waves.
The other popular beaches for surfing on Oahu include Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay.
The same beaches in summer are unrecognizable – the water is calm and ideal for swimming and snorkeling.

Waikiki Beach, Oahu

This famous south shore beach is for beginners and offers great surfing all through the year but especially in summer when the north shore beaches become flat. It also has great boogie boarding breaks.
Waikiki has excellent surfing schools and board rentals.

Jaws, Maui

The locals call it ‘Peahi’ and this spot is definitely not for the faint hearted. You have to be an expert and a daredevil to take on its 70-foot waves. Storm swells originating from Alaska create walls of water and surfers have to be literally towed and dropped into the waves. Water conditions can be quite dangerous.
Even if you are not a surfer do watch the amazing waves from the safety of the cliffs.

Hawaii Weather

There’s not too much difference between the summer and winter temperatures but the peak tourist season runs from mid-December to March. Winters are wetter while it can be a bit hot on the beach in summer.
May to October: 29˚C to 19˚C
November to April: 27˚C to 16˚C
Average water temperature: 23˚C

Read more about other wonderful Beach Destinations around the world.

Posted by on November 10th, 2009

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Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve

The only place you can see tigers in the wild is in India. They have been declared an endangered species and only about 1,200 Royal Bengal Tigers across 18 tiger reserves in India survive in the wild today. Deforestation, encroachment, poaching and over grazing have led to a decline in the tiger population. So before they disappear, do something different for your holiday travel and go on a tiger safari in India.

The Royal Bengal tigers are characterized by their reddish orange fur and black stripes and are found mainly in India and Bangladesh. White tigers are also Bengal tigers but their white fur with black stripes is a result of a faulty gene. It is extremely rare to see white tigers in the wild but you can often see them in zoos. White tiger cubs attract loads of visitors to zoos, which is why many zoos breed them. The Siberian tigers are larger than the Bengal tigers and are sometimes referred to as Snow tigers. They have a thicker coat in a pale gold hue with fewer stripes. The Sumatran tiger is only found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and is the smallest of all tigers.

Ranthambhore National Park

It is located in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan. It is about 12 kms from Sawai Madhopur town and about 165 kms from Jaipur, Rajasthan’s state capital.

Of all the tiger reserves in India, your best chance of seeing a tiger is in Ranthambhore. The Park’s tiger population is estimated at 32 but because the Park area is comparatively small and the forest is dry and deciduous, it is much easier to spot tigers here. That’s why the Park draws many wildlife photographers from around the world.  There are about 40 species of mammals, including leopards, sloth bears, gazelles and jackals in Ranthambhore. Over 320 species of birds and 300 species of plants are also found here.

The forest covers an area of 392 sq.kms. and stretches across hills, plateaus, gorges, lakes and rivers. Some lovely ancient ruins can be glimpsed within the national park. If you are lucky you may spot a tigress walking with her cubs across the ruins or the baby tigers cavorting in the meadows.

The Park is open from October 1 to June 31. Summers are hot and winters, chilly. It is easiest to spot tigers in the months of May and June when water is scarce and the tigers and other animals flock to the few remaining waterholes. Unfortunately the temperatures in May and June can be as high as 45 degree Centigrade during the day. Night temperatures are around 30 degree Centigrade.

Entry to the Park is restricted to only 40 forest department vehicles a day therefore it is advisable to book safaris well in advance through the hotel or resort you plan to stay in.

Ranthambhore Fort

This 10th century fort sits atop a hill and affords superb views of the forest and the Padam Talao lake. Next to the lake is the Jogi Mahal palace. The fort covers an area of roughly 4sq.kms. and you will find some wonderful temples, small palaces and cenotaphs within its premises.
You will see loads of monkeys as you climb the steps to reach the fort which is at a height of 700 feet. The eastern side of the fort is a great place from where to watch birds and occasionally even leopards.
The fort is located within the National Park and the entry to the Park will take you through its Misradhara gate.

Places to stay

Most resorts and hotels are situated quite close to the Ranthambhore national Park. The Oberoi Vanyavilas is consistently rated among the top 10 hotels and resorts in the world by readers of travel magazines like Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure. But naturally it comes with a hefty tariff which few can afford.

A more reasonable and charming place to stay during your holiday travel is the Ranthambhore Bagh. It has 12 comfortable and clean tents plus 10 twin rooms in the main building. The breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets are sumptuous and delicious plus the tariff is a fraction of its neighbour, The Oberoi Vanyavilas.
But the main reason you should choose Ranthambhore Bagh is to meet the owners, Poonam and Aditya Singh, who go out of their way to make their guests’ stay comfortable. Some well-known wildlife photographers choose to live here instead of more luxurious resorts is because of Poonam and Aditya’s warm hospitality. Aditya is a wildlife enthusiast and avid photographer with a wealth of knowledge about the flora and fauna in the region. Poonam trains and employs local villagers and supports various charities and welfare causes. Many visitors, most of them wildlife buffs, visit Ranthambhore Bagh once or twice a year partly to meet Poonam and Aditya.

Posted by on November 8th, 2009

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California – A Heady Mix

California, pronounced and often erroneously spelt as Califonia, is the 3rd largest state in the USA. It is one of the most geographically diverse states with sunny beaches on the west coast, deserts in the southeast, snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada in the east and a fertile central valley.

The state of California is the centre of entertainment, IT, aerospace, wine and agriculture industries in America, making it the richest as well as the most populous state. From beaches to national parks, and from entertainment to technology, California is a heady mix which offers some fantastic options for your holiday travel.

California hotels, restaurants and clubs are some of the best in the country. Nightlife can be exciting and expensive and entry to some clubs is by invitation only. Element is the top rated California club along with The Viper Room, Arena, Zanzibar and Level 3 in Los Angeles. In San Francisco, try DNA Lounge, Medjool and Slim’s.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot to do and see in California during your holiday travel. Here are a few highlights of the most important cities and national parks to help you in planning your California vacation:

California Cities

Los Angeles

Home to Hollywood and the glitz associated with the movie industry, Los Angeles is also called La-La Land for some very sane reasons. LA is vast, complex and an incredible fusion of tastes and cultures. Beverly Hills and Sunset Boulevard epitomize glamour. Malibu, Venice and Santa Monica are its top beaches where you will see some seriously fit and sexy bodies. Chinatown and the Grand Central Market are in Downtown LA. The famous Disneyland Resort is in Anaheim. LA is also home to some great museums like the two world-famous Getty Museums. Take time to visit its opulent shopping malls, clubs and restaurants.
You will need more than two days to fully explore this sprawling city in southern California where traffic jams are a way of life.

San Francisco

You need an open mind to visit San Francisco or else you will be in a perpetual state of shock when you see what passes as routine. The city is beautiful with 43 hills, a fantastic bay area and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Some of the things to do include a visit to Alacatraz – the infamous prison where Al Capone was jailed, a walk along the Golden Gate Bridge, watching sea lions basking in the sun at Fisherman’s Wharf and cable car rides for some spectaculars views of the city.
San Francisco is located about 380 miles from Los Angeles in northern California.

San Diego

A pleasant weather and a wonderful 70-mile coastline means its resident prefer to live their life outdoors. It’s one city that is kid friendly and its Seaworld and San Diego Zoo attract loads of families from all over the world. Visit the Gaslamp Quarter and see lovely Victorian structures converted into fine restaurants and top boutiques. Stroll, swim, go kayaking, surf or watch seals at La Jolla, quite often voted the best California beach. Also explore the 1200-acre Balboa Park which is considered the cultural heart of the city.

San Jose

Once surrounded by farms and ranches, today’s San Jose is where top industrial and computer giants have their headquarters. Yet it still retains its small-town feel. It has some great museums, historical buildings, beaches, bars and restaurants. Silicon Valley attracts the top IT brains from all over the world and its unique population mix adds to the city’s cultural diversity.

Sacramento

The capital of California, Sacramento is best known for its Capitol building and its sprawling gardens. There are tree-lined avenues along the river with several Victorian houses. Because housing is more affordable, some people who work in the Bay Area or in Silicon Valley prefer to live here and commute to work. This is a surprisingly laidback city of southern California.

California National Parks

Although more famous for its glamour and beaches, the state of California is also home to some of the most stunning and diverse National Parks in the country. Below is our selection of the top four national parks in California.

Yosemite National Park

It is located just 200 miles east of San Francisco and covers a large area of the Sierra Nevada mountains. To put it simply, Yosemite National Park’s beauty just takes your breath away. Icy glaciers, tall granite mountains, crystal clear lakes, 1,000 feet waterfalls and wildflower meadows together create a park that’s stunningly beautiful. Giant sequoia trees, some presumed to be more than 3,000 years old, are found here. The Half Dome granite mountain rises up majestically to a height of 8,842 feet.
The Park gets overcrowded during peak summer but go in May and June so you can avoid the crowds and see the cascading waterfalls cascading as they are fed by the melting snow.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

The most incredible thing about the Park is that it is the site of an active volcano. The Lassen Peak volcano last erupted in 1921. When you enter from the south entrance you will arrive at the area known for its geothermal activity. Bubbling mud pots, hot springs and steaming fumaroles create a smoldering terrain surrounded by lush pine forests.
The Park is fully operational for only three months of the year but it is possible to access some parts of the Park all year round. Lassen is located north of the Sierra Nevada mountains and is 200 miles from San Francisco.

Death Valley

As its name indicates, very little grows here. Death Valley is vast – it is the second largest national park in the USA, and barren with sand dunes and rocky mountains. Its lowest point is 282 feet below sea level which is why temperatures rise to a boiling 130 degrees Fahrenheit in summer. The highest point however is above 11,000 feet so nights can get very cold and it also snows high up in the mountains in winter. This extreme climate makes for an interesting experience. Multi-coloured rocks and canyons stand besides pristine sand dunes and snowcapped mountains.

Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park

These two parks are located next to each other and have similar terrains. As their names indicate, Sequoia is famous for its clusters of the gigantic 200-feet plus tall reddish sequoia trees while Kings Canyon is known for its fantastic canyon and the gorges of the Kings river. The parks are less visited than some of the others in California but are definitely not less beautiful. They are located on the southern side of the Sierra Nevada range.

Read more about other interesting destinations like Beaches, Romantic Spas, Ski Resorts and other holiday travel locations on this site.

Posted by on November 7th, 2009

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Alaska Yacht Charter Holiday Travel

If you want to see humpback whales cavorting in the sea, grizzly bears feeding on salmon and mighty glaciers crashing into the sea, the only way to do it is to explore Alaska on a yacht. Cruise liners can also take you along the same routes but a smaller yacht can take you much closer to the shoreline so that you can feel the spray of cascading waterfalls on your face! Yachts can also sail through narrow channels used by local fishermen and stop in remote villages which a bigger cruise liner simply cannot access.

Alaska’s unspoiled wilderness is breathtaking beautiful. You will see bald eagles, porpoises, sea lions and other wildlife in their natural habitat. Aboard a Crewed Yacht Charter or a Skippered Yacht Charter, your captain will be fully aware of glacier activity and can take you to places from where you can watch whales and dolphins. If you opt for a Bareboat Charter and sail yourself, a little research about sailing conditions is advised.

It is impossible to navigate through all of Alaska in a limited period because its coastline extends over 54,000 kms. Mentioned below are the three main sailing routes in Alaska.

The Inside Passage

This typically begins and ends in Vancouver, British Columbia or Seattle, Washington. Over 8 days and 7nights through Southeast Alaska you will sail past British Columbia’s fabulous coastline and visit Alaska’s panhandle ports such as Juneau (the state capital), Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway and Haines and return back to Vancouver or Seattle. The protected Glacier Bay National Park is a must-see.
This is an extremely scenic route that takes you through channels and straits between islands. You will sail past thick forests, glaciers, waterfalls and snowcapped mountains. You will spot many people kayaking in the waters as this area is a favourite with kayakers.

Gulf & Glaciers

Your journey begins in Seattle or Vancouver and you go north to Whittier, Seward or Anchorage through Alaska’s panhandle ports mentioned above, the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound with its awe-inspiring glaciers. This is a one-way journey and you fly back from your last port.

Only Alaska

You can begin and end your yachting holiday in Alaska itself. The wonderful thing about the yacht charters is that you get to explore remote places and sail through less-frequently traveled waterways and inlets. With the right yacht charter company you can plan your own itinerary and go kayaking, hiking and whale watching.

Best time to sail: Mid-May to Mid-Deptember

Read about Greek Islands Yacht Charter Holidays and find out when and where to sail through Greece. Also explore Honeymoon Cruise Destinations for more cruise ideas.

If you would like to find our more about the different types of yacht charters read Yacht Charter Holidays.

Posted by on October 31st, 2009

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Greek Islands Yacht Charter Holidays

There are over 3,500 islands in Greece which means you can never tire of exploring. History, culture, quaint villages, great food and wonderful weather from April to October create the perfect ingredients for a fabulous sailing holiday.

If you go on a crewed yacht charter or a skippered yacht charter, you can plan your route along with your captain and anchor at wonderfully isolated bays. If you plan to navigate yourself and opt for a bareboat charter then take time to acquaint yourself with the islands. Wind conditions can vary vastly along the different islands and some areas are only recommended for very experienced sailors.

The Greek islands are grouped into five island areas. Each set of islands offers something unique in terms of its geography and historic sites.

The Saronic Islands – The coast of the Pelopennese – The Argolic Gulf

This is an extremely popular area for cruise liners and charter boats as it has ideal sailing conditions and islands with wonderful beaches. This area is also perfect for those who are looking for shorter sailing trips.

The Saronic islands include Aegina, Hydra, Poros and Spetses and you will see innumerable yachts around their marinas. If you want a slightly quieter holiday you may want to head to the more unspoiled islands of the eastern Pelopennese.
The historical cities of Nafplion and Tolo and the marinas of Porto Heli, Astros and Leonidio in the Argolic Gulf along the Pelopennese coast offer superb sailing.

Best time to sail: April, May, June, September and October. It can get uncomfortably hot in July and August.

The Ionian Islands

Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Lefkada, Kithira, Ithaki and Paxi comprise the 7 Ionian islands. These islands are very different from those you will see in the rest of Greece. For one, they are truly verdant with lush fields and olive groves. Secondly, their architecture reflects Italian, English and French influences and yet the islands are quintessentially Greek. The beaches are gorgeous and the hillsides covered with pine and maquis.
A lot of fishing is done in this area so navigators should watch out for fishing nets. The winds are generally mild but there can be strong gusts on the eastern side of Ithaki and Zakynthos islands.
Best time to sail: June to September

The Northern Sporades Islands

Evia, Alonissos, Skiathos, Skopelos and Skyros make up the Northern Sporades islands. They are located off the eastern coast of mainland Greece. This is a popular sailing region and has been since ancient times when trade ships passed through on their way to Turkey and the Middle East. The sailing conditions are very good and the region has abundant marine life, ancient ruins and some truly magnificent beaches.

Best time to sail: June to September

The Cyclades Islands

The Meltemi wind is strongest in the peak summer months of July and August and hence this route is only recommended for experienced sailors. If you opt for a skippered yacht charter then your local skipper will be well aware of the sailing conditions.

The Cyclades islands are grouped into three clusters:
The Southern Cyclades Islands: Milos, Kimolos, Folegadros, Sikinos, Ios, Santorini and Anafi
The Middle Cyclades Islands: Serifos, Sifnos, Antiparos, Paros, Naxos, Schinoussa, Iraklia, Koufonissia, Donousa and Amorgos
The Northern Cyclades Islands: Kea, Kithnos, Andros, Syros, Tinos, Mykonos, Delos and Rinia

On these islands you will find the whitewashed houses, sandy beaches and rocky cliffs that you see in tourist brochures. Of late the Cyclades have also become quite famous for their vibrant nightlife.

Best time to sail: May to October.

The Dodecanese Islands

They are located between the coasts of Greece and Turkey and are breathtakingly beautiful. Some of the islands have natural springs and are therefore greener. The weather is mild and the beaches are pristine. You will also find some interesting historical and religious sites on the Dodecanese islands. Rodos, Kos, Patmos, Leros, Kalymnos, Astypalea, Kasos, Karpathos, Nissyros, Symi, Tilos, Kastelorizo and many other smaller islands comprise the Dodecanese.

The Meltemi wind blows here in summer and can be quite strong in the north. The wind is also a bit unpredictable so a little caution is advised.

Best time to sail: April to November

Read about Alaska Yacht Charter Holiday Travel and find out when and where to sail through Alaska. Also check out Honeymoon Cruise Destinations for more cruise ideas.

If you would like to find our more about the different types of yacht charters read Yacht Charter Holidays.

Posted by on October 31st, 2009

Filed under Yacht Charter - Greece | 3 Comments »