3 Perfect Places for an Indian Escape

India’s mixture of exotic and ancient cultures makes it a very fascinating country to visit. The large country has many different types of experiences available to travellers, from relaxing on the beach, getting in touch with your spiritual side or just taking in the beauty and history of the area. With affordable flights available from almost anywhere in the world and cheap prices when you arrive, India is also the perfect budget escape. If you are planning an Indian holiday, Manali, Pune and Goa are the perfect places to experience while you are there to sample a great variety of Indian culture.

Manali
A holiday in India is not complete without a trip to the perfect destination of Manali. Situated on the Beas River in Northern India is popular destination in summer, with its lush green valleys and winding river, and winter, with snow covered mountains.

If you are adventurous, the forests, orchards and gentle winds make it an ideal place to go trekking, mountaineering and skiing. Traditional skiing is available but those who are braver may consider “Yay skiing.” There many campsites along the way to keep you sheltered while enjoying the view. On bright summer days, you can go horse riding, mountain biking or fishing in the Beas river.

Pune
Pune is the second largest city in the state of Maharashtra. It has a very large student population, so if you are looking for a lively and vibrant nightlife then this is the place to be. Pune has great restaurants, museums and it is also known for its hill forts. The panoramic views from these forts are breathtaking. Hotels in Pune are affordable as anywhere in India so it really is a great place to visit on a budget.

Pune’s varied historical background gives it a range of sightseeing options for tourists. Apart from a great social atmosphere, it also has activities or those who prefer more leisurely activities. There are gardens across the city as well as Pasham Lake, a peaceful place to enjoy a quiet day, relaxing and bird watching.

Many travellers come here for the Osho Ashram, found in the leafy surrounds of Koregaon Park. Here you’ll see people moving about in maroon robes, the Osho International Commune is also housed in Pune and many visitors come here to attend meditation programmes throughout the year.

Goa
Goa is a great option if you looking for a good time. As soon as you arrive, you immediately feel the holiday spirit enter your soul. There are many beaches, markets, temples and wildlife that you can see. Although there are many crowded beaches, there are also some unexplored ones waiting for your attention.

For those seeking more adventure, there are caves to explore and fantastic water sports such as jet skiing, parasailing and banana boats that will keep your adrenalin pumping. After a fun-filled day, get ready to party the night away with strobes lights and colourful festivals.

These three places are the perfect destinations to visit because they really show you the extent of the diversity in the country. From ancient buildings to pristine beaches and spiritual awareness, there is a lot to learn and experience from the Indian people.

2013 Cyprus events not to be missed

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and attracts just shy of one million British tourists a year. With 326 days of sunshine each year, mouth-watering cuisine, charming scenery and only a four-hour flight away it’s not difficult to see why the island is a popular holiday destination.

On offer to visitors in 2013 is a wealth of events such as:

March

Cyprus Marathon
Taking place every March in the Paphos area, the Cyprus marathon draws professional and non-professional runners from across the globe, incorporating three different distances – the marathon, half-marathon and the 10 km road race.

Starting at Petra tou Rominou – the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite – the race offers participants the chance to soak-up the panoramic views from the island’s rugged coastline with a large proportion of the course along the Paphos seafront. For more information visit www.cyprusmarathon.com

Easter celebrations
Easter is one of the most fascinating times to visit Cyprus. While the weather is warm (highs of around 18 degrees) without being too hot, the island’s rich religious and cultural heritage comes to the fore over a two-week period that sees the whole of Cyprus transformed into a buzzing celebration of both new life and ancient traditions.

Highlights include lively flower processions and colourful ceremonies, while food plays central role as mouth-watering feasts of spit-roasted lamb and delicious traditional cheesecakes and breads are prepared on key religious days.
Centuries-old ceremonies still dominate the two weeks and villagers across the island invite visitors to join their ancient customs.

June

Kataklysmos / Water festival
The annual Kataklysmos (Water Festival) takes place on the day of the Holy Spirit – 50 days after the Orthodox Easter.

Kick-starting the summer season, all coastal towns from Larnaca through to Paphos come alive over the bank holiday with boat races, swimming competitions, a series of performances by popular Greek and Cypriot singers and dance troupes, as well as the traditional chatista contest – an off-the-cuff repartee of rhyming songs in the Cypriot dialect.

July

Shakespeare Festival
Performed on the ancient stage of the stunning Kourion Theatre – one of the most spectacularly located ancient sites in Cyprus, which enjoys an uninterrupted backdrop of Mediterranean sea – the annual Shakespeare Festival is organised by the Performing Arts for Cyprus Charities. Performances take place daily throughout the month of July.

30 August to 9 September 2013

Limassol Wine Festival
The annual Limassol Wine Festival has been one of the island’s highlights for more than five decades, and is a chance for visitors and locals alike to take part the traditional custom of grape treading as well as enjoy free wine tastings of some of the region’s finest wines – such the famous Muscat and Commandaria grapes. It is also an opportunity to savour flavours of the local cuisine – such as the fasolia yiahni of haricot beans in a rich tomato sauce, accompanied with fresh onions and freshly cooked bread to soak up the delicious juices; as well as enjoy a variety of concerts and theatrical performances throughout the ten-day festival. www.limassolmunicipal.com.cy
September

Ayia Napa International Festival
An annual highlight, the Ayia Napa International Festival, is held in the monastery’s Seferis Square (Plateia Seferi), in the heart of the town. Bringing the community together year-on-year with traditional Cypriot music and folk dancing, all manner of concerts and an abundance of art exhibitions showcasing Greek legends, mythology and archaeology, it really does showcase an exciting alternative for this thriving town.

Preserving Holiday Memories

paddling

The days and moments spent with family often become the most precious of lifetime memories, and in the modern age the best way of capturing those moments is with a photo book or photo calendar.

We all have a camera and we are often at our most ‘snap-happy’ when on holiday. Many of us take 100s of photos on our trips abroad but often they seem to languish there until a memory card is full, at which point they are transferred to a computer where they are promptly forgotten. Time is scarce, and it can be a challenge to process, print, and artfully arrange photos into albums or scrapbooks. Yet there is always a desire to have a tangible memento of special times to be able to re-visit and share with others.

Putting together a photo book could not be more convenient since it is all done digitally on the Internet. A template is provided, so creating the book is as simple as filling in the blanks. Just follow a prompt that is given for each page of the book, inserting the desired photos and text to accompany it. Issues of layout can be adjusted according to individual tastes. After compilation is complete, simply click submit, and your work is done. There is a brief wait while the photo book is being printed by the publisher, and then the finished product is delivered right to your door.

In addition to being a cinch to produce, photo books and calendars are sleek and professional in appearance. With the durability of a book, there is no concern of photos getting smudged, crumpled, or misplaced. The concurrent text that may be featured with the photos eliminates the need of having to stand over someone’s shoulder and narrate; rather, they will be able to independently peruse it just like a story book. Being able to preserve and celebrate moments in time is invaluable, but, thankfully, capturing these memories in such an impressive format is quite affordable.

With such room for personalization, sharing the magic of memories in photo book or calendar form makes for a heartfelt and meaningful gift. Whether commemorating a significant event or documenting family fun, it is not only a gift but also a keepsake to be treasured.

All inclusive holidays see increase in popularity

In these tough economic times it seems that our budgets are being squeezed from all directions. The rising cost of food, fuel and limits on wage increases mean that there has never been a more important time to keep control of our spending, particularly when it comes to taking a holiday.

When you book flights and accommodation you know what the price is, however, it can be difficult to know how much the rest of your holiday will cost. It’s hard to know how much spending money you will need and how cheap or expensive food, drink and activities will be at your resort. While you can always take a look at online resort reviews and talk to travel agents, a good way to keep control of your holiday spending is to take an all inclusive holiday.

All-inclusive holidays have been around for many years and originally were only available to far-flung destinations and luxury destinations. These days, there are many types of all inclusive holidays available. In fact, the market for all-inclusive is expanding – recent research by Mintel showed that between 2004 and 2009 the all-inclusive holiday market had increased by 32%.

So what are the benefits of all-inclusive holidays and who are they suitable for?

  • All-inclusive holidays are suitable for all sorts of budgets, from economy to luxury, and many types of travellers including families and those looking for activity holidays
  • When booking an all inclusive holiday you know at the outset what your holiday will cost as the price usually includes flights, in resort transfers, hotel accommodation, meals and unlimited local drinks
  • As most things are included in the price of the package, you won’t be affected by fluctuating currency – it won’t matter if the value of sterling goes up or down
  • With meals included, you don’t have to worry about where you are going to eat, you can just relax and enjoy your holiday.

Things to watch out for:

  • Be aware that most all-inclusive holidays only provide free local drinks – usually branded drinks are available at an additional charge
  • Although you may have a choice of on-resort / in-hotel restaurants to eat in, if you do venture outside your resort and wish to eat there, you will have to pay for food and drink if you choose to eat outside your resort
  • In a growing holiday market, there’s a whole host of companies providing all types of inclusive holiday packages, so when booking an all inclusive holiday, check what is and isn’t included in the price – some packages include activities, some include late-night, out-of-hours snacks and some packages even include branded drinks.

Always ask your travel agent or check online before booking an all inclusive holiday.

Twelve Reasons to celebrate Christmas in Cyprus

From balmy temperatures to the magic of a Greek Orthodox Christmas, there’s as much to tempt visitors to Cyprus during the months of December and January as at any other time of year.

Just a four-hour flight from the UK, a break in Cyprus remains a popular mid-winter retreat with visitors from Britain – 136,000 Brits alone visited the island last winter.

Twelve of the top winter highlights for visitors to experience in Cyprus over Christmas and the New Year:

  1. Winter warmth
    Average winter daytime temperatures throughout Cyprus rarely dip below 20°C and with 340 days of sunshine a year there are still plenty of rays to catch throughout December and January. Balmy temperatures mean winter can be one of the best times to explore all the island has to offer.
  2. Christmas Day dip
    Adventurous beach lovers can even enjoy the island’s beautiful blue-flag beaches year-round with sea temperatures remaining in the high-teens throughout the Christmas and New Year period – perfect for an invigorating Christmas Day dip!
  3. Traditional Cypriot Christmas
    Christmas (pronounced Christouyenna in Greek) is celebrated with plenty of delicious Cypriot food and the honouring of age-old traditions. Unique to the region is the habit of hanging crosses wrapped in basil and sprinkled with holy water on the front door of a house to ward off the Goblin-like spirits known as ‘kallikantzari’, which are said to make mischief during the twelve days of Christmas.
  4. Marvel in seasonal Byzantine spectaculars
    Christmas is marked in towns and villages across the island with magical processions, usually accompanied by carols, called “kalanda”, which have been handed down from generation to generation since Byzantine times. The major festival on Christmas day is held in Nicosia in Eleftheria (Freedom) Square, while one of the most dramatic services is held in Larnaca on 5 January, when young swimmers dive for a cross, only to return it to the priest.
  5. Make merry with live performance and song
    Cyprus has a colourful year-round cultural scene and winter is no exception. Special concerts and events take place across the island, from local bands, choirs, orchestras, dancers and groups through to Viva Verdi – Moscow New Opera in Rialto, Liamssol (22 December). Nicosia’s Eleftheria Square is one of the main places to catch live acts with performances everyday from 17 – 30 December. At the entrance of the Pafos Mosaics near the harbour there is free entertainment every Sunday.
  6. Treat your tastebuds
    The heart of every Cypriot home is the kitchen so food plays a major role in the Cypriot Christmas celebrations. Loaves of Christopsomo (Christ Bread), normally accompanied by dried figs, nuts and honey, are eaten on Christmas Eve. Familiar dishes such as stuffed turkey, roast chicken and roast lamb are traditionally served on Christmas day. Also very popular are the traditional cakes such as ‘kourabiedes’, a delicious small almond cake coated in icing sugar, ‘melomakarona’, a traditional honey cake, and ‘finikia’, a kind of walnut pie.
  7. A taste of home
    For those for whom Christmas would not be Christmas without a proper dinner with all the trimmings, most hotels also observe UK traditions as well, with festive decorations and traditional British fare.
  8. Celebrate New Year, Cyprus-style
    New Year is an important date for families in Cyprus. The 1st January marks the Feast of St Basil, the region’s equivalent to St Nicholas, and the day is the main date for present giving. Some of the best parties on New Year’s Eve are around the town hall in downtown Limassol, but most big hotels also host parties. No visitor should celebrate New Year in Cyprus without a taste of Vassilopitta, or Saint Basil’s cake, baked with a silver or gold coin to bring good luck to the person who finds it.
  9. Won’t break the bank
    During the winter season accommodation costs in Cyprus are at their lowest. Shopping around should see lower flight costs as well, especially if you can be flexible with your travel dates. Many bars and restaurants in the island’s main tourist destinations offer discounted rates out of season, but with the same excellent levels of service you would expect in the summer months.
  10. Drive time
    Car hire is also exceptional value at this time of year. With a two-day hire from as little as €30, visitors have the perfect excuse to explore the island under their own steam. The Cyprus Tourism Organisation has teamed up with the Travel Foundation to create 6 self-drive routes guiding visitors to some of the most beautiful and special parts of the hidden rural interior of the island.
  11. Boutique wineries
    Six wine routes crisscross the island, taking in some of the best of the 40 or so boutique wineries which have sprung up on the island in recent years. Cypriot wine production dates back almost 5,000 years. Numerous boutique wineries with modern facilities have sprung up in the last 5 years. Highlights include local xinisteri and mavro grapes or the delicious Commandaria sweet white.
  12. Return in better health than when you left
    Wellbeing holidays are one of the fastest-growing areas of the tourism industry in Cyprus. The island has seen a number of exciting new high quality spas and health farms open in recent years. With its year-round good climate and varied terrain, Cyprus offers every kind of activity and opportunity, from hiking and cycling to intense yoga stays and relaxing spa breaks. Added to this are treatments indigenous to the island, such as the chance to be immersed in the healing waters at Ayii Anargyri.

Enjoy Enchanting Edinburgh – 3 Things Not to Miss

Edinburgh is a stunning city with so much to see and do it’s hard to know where to start. No matter how many times you’ve visited you can always go back for more and keep enjoying yourself. There is a fantastic array of pubs and bars, a vibrant shopping scene and some breathtaking architecture on show.

So if you’re a first time visitor and short of time then what should you be sure to see? What are the must see sights? I’ve picked out 3 favourites below that should never be left off the ‘to do’ list…

  1. Climb a volcano!
    A volcano? In Edinburgh? That’s right. And it’s a must visit. Climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat, the tallest of Edinburgh’s hills for a lesson in geology and to experience this unique attraction. Make sure you stop off at Our Dynamic Earth to get the full lowdown.
  2. Hit the Festival
    Edinburgh Fringe Festival brings together the best entertainment from around the world as comedians in particular step into the spotlight to be judged and attempt to elevate their career to the next step. For the visitor this brings a never ending supply of shows to go to and be entertained and the city during this period is more vibrant than ever.
  3. Count down to New Year
    Hogmanay is another time when the city comes to life and the experience for a visitor is taken to the next level. Pick from one of the many luxury apartments in Edinburgh to use as your base and escape from the madness and then prepare yourself for a party like nowhere else. With people everywhere you look, entertainment around every corner and a non stop stream of drinks on tap it’s difficult to not have a fantastic time. Just make sure you keep an eye on the clock…

This is a guest post from Tom at Top Backpacking Destinations, a travel blog with information and tips from around the globe.

Cape Town – 5 Insiders Travel Tips

Cape Town is an incredible city and one which can keep you entertained for days, weeks and months on end. Holidaymakers visit throughout the year to enjoy what the city has to offer, soaking up the sea, mountains and culture.

We all know about Table Mountain, safaris and the world cup stadium, but what else is there to do? Below I share my top 5 ‘insiders’ tips on what to do during your stay in Cape Town which are slightly lesser known…

  1. Go Wine Tasting in Constantia
    15 minutes drive from the city is a fantastic place to go wine tasting and enjoy the stunning grapes this region has to offer. Save the big trip all the way to Stellenbosch and stay in touching distance of town.
  2. Hit the surf in Llandudno
    Whilst the masses flock to Camps Bay, pick up your board and buck the trend at Llandudno. This is where the pros head and has much better waves than Camps Bay. It’s also close to town, has a beautiful beach and a great community feel.
  3. See Lions Head at Dawn
    Most people will go up to Lions Head to see the sun go down and get a beautiful sunset. That’s the best time right? Wrong. Get yourself up there before daybreak and you might well be able get a private showing of the city being enlightened. It’s worth the early start to sample this stunning view in quiet surroundings rather than amongst the usual tourist crowds which flock there for sun down.
  4. Rock Climbing in Silvermine
    Silvermine National Park is a gorgeous area and how better to enjoy it than from above! Get your adrenaline pumping on the side of a cliff and then turn around and soak up the glorious views for miles around. It doesn’t get much better.
  5. Visit a Township for a Braai
    But what’s a Braai I hear you shout! Braais are huge BBQs that are put on in the townships when everyone gets together and has a massive party. Loud music blares out the speakers, masses of meat gets toasted and everyone has fun. All you need to do I bring your own food and beers and soak up the atmosphere.

This is a guest post from James at Come to Cape Town, a Cape Town travel guide. You can follow the latest updates on Twitter and Facebook.

Taking a Weekend Break in Glasgow

Spending a weekend break anywhere is fun, but a city break in Glasgow offers loads to do and a chance to see one of Scotland’s finest cities.

There are a wide variety of places to stay in Glasgow from hotel chains to youth hostels offering a cheap night’s lodgings, and wonderful five star hotels where you’ll be living the life of luxury during your stay.  You could even opt for a self catering apartment.  Whatever you choose, picking somewhere that’s right in the heart of Glasgow will give you the best opportunities for seeing this city during your stay.

For anyone who enjoys visiting museums Glasgow has a wealth of museums for you to explore.  There is the Gallery of Modern Art, Scotland Street School, The Burrell Collection, Pollock House, Riverside Museum, Open Museum and many more, and all these which are run by the council are free to enter meaning you don’t have to worry about overspending or getting your money’s worth.  Glasgow is even home to the world’s first Museum of Religion.

For many people, dinner and a show is a must here in Glasgow, there’s a pretty good theatre scene with a number of different venues you can choose between including the Theatre Royal, Kings Theatre, Tron Theatre and Citizens Theatre and all offer a wide range of different shows throughout the year.  Dining out here can be as varied as you like really, there are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, and most of those nearby to any of the theatres will offer a pre-theatre menu if you’re eating early so you don’t miss your show.

Alternatively you could indulge in a little music.  The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall is very popular, as are the Barrowlands Ballroom and Carling Academy, and each offers some quite different musical styles.

Shopping in Glasgow city centre may help complete your visit, and there’s plenty to choose from with high street stores and designer labels as well as boutiques and specialty outlets.  Some of the best shopping can be found around the Italian Centre, and Merchant Square.

Travelling around Glasgow is nice and easy.  The city is laid out with the streets in a grid style system so it’s quite easy to find your way around on foot.  If you do fancy hopping on a bus however, you can purchase an all day bus ticket which will give you access to all routes across the city no matter how many times you hop on and off.  There’s also a pretty good underground system here too where you can get an all day ticket as well, and there are plenty of taxis for hire if you prefer something that will take you door to door.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh had a great hand in the architecture of Glasgow, and some of his most famous buildings are right here such as the Light House and the Huntarian both of which offer free entry.  Taking a walk round this stunning city you’ll see examples of many Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian buildings that are well worth seeing.  Alternatively, you could hop on a city sight seeing tour bus where all the most important features will be pointed out to you enroute.

Lanzarote Hotels & Destinations: 5 Top Travel Tips

Lanzarote is a beautiful place to travel and has plenty to attract visitors, whether they are on a package holiday or backpacking around the world. There are so many travel destinations out there to choose from that it’s easy to overlook places that are renowned as package holiday destinations, but below are 5 great reasons that should convince you if you ever had any doubts.

  • La Geria Wine region – the La Geria region is a paradise for wine lovers and perfect for couples looking for a beautiful getaway on their holiday. Unlike any vineyard you will have seen before, this will take your breath away.
  • Beautiful Accommodation – Finding a Lanzarote hotel in beautiful surroundings with all the facilities you could possibly need isn’t difficult. There are a huge range of options there, catering for both backpackers on a budget and families looking for luxury.
  • Beaches – Lanzarote is packed with beautiful beaches, not least Playa Blanca where white sands are mixed with winding trails that lead you to stunning vistas of the coastline. Playa Mujeres attracts the most tourist attention and will leave you sun kissed and content.
  • Timanfaya National Park – With an active volcano at its heart, the Timanfaya National Park is often top of the list for people visiting Lanzarote. Taking a trip there is reminiscent of walking on the moon and as the ground under foot warms your feet you can see the lava bursting to get out. Los Hervideros also offers lava based fun that is more than worthy of a visit.
  • Palacio Spinola – Those looking for a culture shot should head to Palacio Spinola. It preserves a colonial atmosphere and was once home to the governor. Head there on a Sunday when the market takes over and musicians in costumes flood into the plaza.

This is just the start, Lanzarote has so much to offer visitors that if you’re bored of the beach, you can check out the history and if that gets too much you can hot things up by an active volcano! Whatever you’re looking for, Lanzarote can certainly deliver.

Caribbean Retreats

Imagine waking to the earthy murmur of the ocean, the sun gently streaming in through the gaping holes of the blinds of your own personal hotel suite…looking out across the beautiful green lawn, the beautifully constructed patio area lit from the glistening reflection of the edge of hotel pool and peering at the incredible golden sanded beach only a few small steps away from the original source of that seducing sound you first awoke to…picture it? Now imagine yourself on a Caribbean holiday!

Located on the outskirts of the capital of the city, Bridgetown, Barbados the hotel Savannah is one of the most romantic beachfront mansions on the whole of the Island. Historically charming, the building is originally divided in to two, split between the main house and the plantation house, overlooking the courtyard and the gardens. With a two-channel pool with a four-storey waterfall, swim-up bars, an indoor lounge, air-conditioned fitness centre complete with aerobics and yoga classes, an open-air fine dining restaurant overlooking the courtyard, the incredible waterfall and a beach bar and grill overlooking the ocean, you wouldn’t even need to leave the hotel grounds…but if you find that you do? The Garrison racetrack, Barbados museum, Quayside Centre and Black Pear restaurant are all within walking distance. Looking to leave the Island? Travel no further than the VH Victoria Resort, Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.

Located on an 18-hole golf course, family run but not exactly family friendly, the Victoria resort is the ideal location for a couple’s romantic, stress-free getaway. Incredibly quiet, the resort has two swimming pools, Gourmet a la Carte restaurant, its own private gym, tennis courts, scuba diving lessons and Tex Mex Beach Club and bar. The honeymoon suites are complete with a Jacuzzi on the balcony and a built-in shower for two. The beach is only 5 minutes away but if you’d rather be swept off your feet you could always a shuttle bus that runs regularly from nine until five. It’s sister hotel, the Gran Ventana is incredibly lively with a popular team for evening entertainment, but nothing beats the intimate, serene setting of the VH Victoria resort, perfect for those special Kodak moments between you and a loved one…For the complete package? Fly over to Negril.

Nestled in the beautiful residence of Negril on the Island of Jamaica, Couples Swept Away is the perfect intimate romantic getaway. With incredible views, breathtaking beaches, gourmet restaurants and luxury spas, the hotel is an adult exclusive. Located on the beach, the hotel offers 24-hour dining, wonderful night entertainment: with eight bars, weekly bonfires, live music shows and star lit movie nights on the beach. With nothing but your loved one to distract you, the gentle heat of the sun, an array of indulgent Jacuzzi’s, kayaking, scuba diving and isolated paddleboats and sailing, there is literally no higher ranking resort on the whole of the Island.

This is a guest post by James Rowland of lowcostholidays.com.