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Vacationing in January - the month you need a holiday the most

I do not think there is a month when you need a vacation more than in January.

You may have indulged a bit too much in December and are not feeling great about your weight – add to this the end of festive cheer, bleak darkness and chill with no end in sight and an overall grumpy disposition.

So here’s the best and easiest New Year’s resolution you can make: book some uplifting time away.

Whether you are looking for the sun or snow, we have a few suggestions below of countries which are absolutely fabulous in January.

The weather in January is absolutely perfection – warm, dry and sunny – in the tropics and the southern hemisphere, such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and St Marteen (Saint Martin).

Or you can visit Europe which is pretty with many places having a dusting of powdery snow in January – such as Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Czech Republic and Lithuania.

Southern Florida is also another great winter-sun break, with 21 – 22C / 70 – 72F weather during the day in Orlando and a few degrees warmer in Miami. It is definitely mild enough to get away with some cheeky cocktails alongside South Beach. 

So what are you waiting for!? Welcome in 2017 with cheer and adventure. 


The hidden gems of Lithuania

Although a small country, Lithuania is packed full of history and beautiful scenery that you won’t find anywhere else!

The Curonian Spit is an incredible natural beauty that not many tourists have heard of. The spit of land is located in the Baltic Sea and shared by Lithuania and Russia. The area is home to tiny but stunning Germanic villages, rare wildlife and sand – lots of sand! The spit has the highest drifting sand-dune in Europe – Parnidis Dune which has the average height of 35 metres although it can attain a height of 60 metres. Apart from the dunes, the spit also has some of the best beaches on the Baltic Sea.

Just a 15 minute car drive from the Lithuanian city of Šiauliai is the Hill of Crosses. Quite literally, it is a hill with crosses on it. The amount of crosses is unknown, although it was estimated to be 100,000 in 2006. The origin of what started the practice of leaving crosses on the hill is uncertain however it is believed that the first crosses were placed on the hill after the 1831 uprising with people continuing to place crosses on the hill to this day.

Another great reason to visit Lithuania is Trakai Island Castle. The castle is around an hour car journey from Vilnius. Trakai is a huge castle built on its own island which has been beautifully restored. We do highly recommend taking the time to simply wander around the castle grounds and taking in the grandeur of the place.

Lastly, we’d recommend that you make a stop at Grūtas Park (also referred to as Stalin’s World) which is a Soviet memorial park. The park is owned by an entrepreneur who began purchasing Soviet monuments and memorials when Lithuania reclaimed its independence in 1990. The sculpture gallery garden has been created into a Soviet Gulag, with barbed wire and observations towers. 


Picturesque Porvoo, just beyond Helsinki

Finland has an array of towns and cities you must visit, with Porvoo, located just beyond Helsinki, being one of these gems.

Porvoo is the second-oldest town in Finland, charming visitors with its historic gems, designer shops and fine dining.

Located just a hour from Helsinki, Porvoo is a great day-trip destination.

As soon as you arrive in Porvoo, the town’s principal landmark is clearly visible – Saint Mary’s Cathedral. The cathedral, with origins dating back to the 13th century, is rich in history.

There is an aroma of tar that still hangs in the air, in and around the cathedral, a reminder that it has been bombed, burgled and burned many times over however each time it has been restored to its former glory.

The cathedral is surrounded by a charming old town, with some quaint houses being over 100 years old.

From the Town Hall Square, you will enter a neighbourhood of delightful boutiques – antique stores, handicraft shops, toy shops and more, giving you the most original selection of items in Finland.

And you cannot leave Porvoo without trying its famous chocolate. The Brunberg Chocolate Factory, which was founded in 1871, still sells its truffles with its competitor, Pieni Suklaatehdas, having a storefront near the cathedral. We honestly couldn't tell you which one has the best chocolate, we recommend that you visit both to decide for yourself!


Prague in the Snow

Surely, there is nowhere prettier in the snow than Prague with its beautifully preserved antique streets - like a fairytale – and festive Christmas markets where cinnamon-scented rolls (known as Trdelník) and too much mulled wine (known as svařák) makes you purchase strange and quirky presents and way too many Christmas decorations. There are several Christmas markets in Prague, with the market in the Old Town Square being the largest and most well-known.

Although pretty, do be aware that Prague is also very cold in December, which only makes its richly decorated restaurants seem all the cosier. Sit in its Art Nouveau interior cafes or trendy underground bars where you can warm yourself with roast game and wine.

If you’re travelling with children, or are a big kid yourself, then we’d recommend that you spend some time at Prague Zoo (voted the 4th best zoo in the world). In winter, the zoo features a Christmas program which is great even without the kids, you just need to be an animal lover.

And if you’re in Prague on the 5th of December, don’t miss out on seeing St Nicholas (Mikuláš). St Nicholas, or Mikuláš, is usually accompanied by devils and angels who come to find children who have been naughty as well as children who deserve a treat. The Mikuláš tradition is usually staged in every square of the Christmas market where you can see them roaming the streets.

Lastly, what is a winter paradise without some ice-skating? Prague has a number of good ice-skating spots, such as the Ovocný trh which is usually less busy or head to Prague 3 where you can skate under the giant TV Tower. 

Winter, specifically Christmas, in Prague is absolutely stunning, helping you to recapture the magic of the Christmas season. 


Dominican Republic - luxury or adventure?

Need advice on where to go on your Dominican Republic adventure?

Santo Domingo, the oldest city in the “New World” and also the biggest city in the Caribbean, is full of energy, history and culture.

Santo Domingo is the centre of everything in the Dominican Republic, from clubs to some of the oldest surviving buildings in the Caribbean.

You must see Malecon, the seaside walkway which stretches along the Caribbean and is particularly enchanting in the evenings. 

Zona Colonial is the oldest part of the oldest city of the Americas which is beautiful with cobbled streets, museums and churches to explore.

If you get tired of the tourists crowds, there are many deserted beaches as well as Playa Limon where you can find cave paintings at El Pomier.

For those a bit more adventurous, you can take a brisk climb up Pico Durante which is the Caribbean’s most weighty peak. The picture point at the top of ocean views is not to be missed.

There are also a large variety of sailing sports off of Cabarete which is one of the best kite surfing destinations.

Or you can also very easily make your Dominican holiday one of luxury with coconuts, palm trees and clear waters at one of the many all-inclusive resorts. 

We would highly recommend a bit of both worlds - mixing in luxury and adventure.  


Experience where the locals go and do in Rome

In general, many tourists don’t visit any of Rome’s beautiful parks. Villa Pamphili, in particular, is the largest public park in Rome and is probably also the most well-kept and beautiful. Go for a walk – or even a run – to get a sense of where the locals escape to.

After a long walk, why not experience one of the largest parts of the Italians life and culture. I am obviously talking about food. Instead of merely dining at a delicious local restaurant, we recommend taking a cooking class such as Mamà – Laboratori di Cucina near the Salaria. The classes are in Italian so it helps if you can speak a bit or bring a friend who can translate for you. There’s even prosecco to enjoy while you’re cooking – and lot’s of it!

If you’re looking for adventure, we could recommend that you rent a hire car and drive to Bomarzo. The private park dates back to the 16th century when a rather eccentric prince, Vicino Orsini, commissioned grand statues of mythical creatures – mostly of monsters and dragons – which are spread throughout the park.

Or if you want to journey by bike, then pedalling around Villa Borghese is a must. Villa Borghese is a landscaped garden and the third largest public park in Rome. You can access the park from several districts in the city, being Pinciano, Flaminio and Salario.

After a long day of sightseeing, enjoying a gelato is the best way to wind down. Remember to say ‘yes’ to panna which is whipped cream! You’ve done a lot of walking / cycling so you won’t need to worry about the calories. 


Not to be missed stops in Florida

Dreaming of your next holiday to Florida and want to get started on your check-list of where to go? Then we've got the perfect destinations for you!

Everglades National Park, Florida

Certainly an attraction not to be missed during your visit to Florida is the Everglades National Park. The park is an adventurers dream with hiking and canoe trails, tram and airboat tours, wildlife watching and camping.

Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida

You can’t go to Orlando without taking a trip to Disney World – whether you are travelling with children or not! You must first understand that Disney World is huge with 4 main theme parks and 2 water parks, you could spend several weeks here before you see and do everything on offer!

South Beach, Miami, Florida

South Beach’s reputation as a trendy and sociable scene is well deserved with its sun and sandy beaches, relaxed lounges and lively dance clubs (many operating until dawn). We’d also recommend that you take a stroll through South Beach’s Art Deco district which has over 800 candy-coloured art deco-style structures.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Known as the ‘Venice of America’ or the ‘Yacht Capital of the World,’ Fort Lauderdale is home to over 50,000 private yachts making it a dream destination for boaters. Every year the city hosts the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show which is the largest show of its kind in the world. 


What happens to your car when winter strikes

Whilst driving abroad it's important to adhere to the driving laws in that country. Failure to do so could result in a fine or temporary loss of your vehicle.

Wherever you drive, you are responsible for equipping and controlling your vehicle correctly. You may be liable to a fine if you impede the normal flow of traffic or cause an accident as a consequence of not adapting your vehicle (tyres/snow chains) to suit weather and road conditions.

In Italy from November 15 to April 15 in many Italian provinces it is mandatory to travel equipped with either winter tyres or snow chains on board specific to the type of vehicle rented. The following rental stations are already equipped with winter tyres or chains with no extra charge:

  • Green Motion Bologna Airport
  • Green Motion Bologna Railway Station
  • Green Motion Milan Railway Station
  • Green Motion Milan Malpensa
  • Green Motion Venice Airport
  • Green Motion Venice Downtown
  • Green Motion Venice Railway Station Mestre

We recommend you check in advance whether your travel itinerary or any stretches of road you may drive through fall under this obligation.

Winter tyres are made from a different rubber compound so they don’t harden when it is cold, providing increased grip on the road and greater safety.

Motorists will benefit from using winter tyres whenever the temperature dips below seven degrees centigrade. They are suitable not just for snow-bound roads but are effective on slush, ice, frost and even wet roads, providing improved road handling and reduced stopping distances.

Snow chains

Snow chains are compulsory in some parts of Europe (depending on local conditions) although different countries have different snow chain laws, so it is important to check these before travelling abroad.

The use of snow chains is taken very seriously in relevant countries, with heavy fines potentially issued for failing to carry them. In addition, if your vehicle is involved in an incident where snow chains should have been used, it is automatically considered to be your fault.

To be on the safe side, you should always carry snow chains when visiting the countries outlined above and use them wherever and whenever necessary.

Only use snow chains when the road surface is covered in snow or ice. If you try to use chains on a road that has been cleared of snow and gritted, you risk damaging the road surface and your vehicle.

We cannot be held liable for any loss howsoever arising as a result of any errors or omissions in the information below.

Country Snow Tyres Snow Chains
Belgium There is no legal requirement for the use of snow tyres. You are permitted to use snow chains where there is ice or snow, but this is not a mandatory requirement.
Cyprus There is no legal requirement for the use of snow tyres.
Finland Whilst travelling in Finland between 1 December and 31 March it is a legal requirement
to use snow tyres.
You are permitted to use snow chains but this is not a mandatory requirement.
Greece There is no legal requirement for the use of snow tyres.
Iceland Between 1 November and 14 April and it is a legal requirement to use snow tyres.
Ireland There is no legal requirement for the use of snow tyres. You are permitted to use snow chains but this is not a mandatory requirement.

Italy In Italy from November 15 to April 15 in many Italian provinces it is mandatory to travel equipped with either winter tyres or snow chains on board specific to the type of vehicle rented. We recommend you check in advance whether your travel itinerary or any stretches of road you may drive through fall under this obligation. You should carry snow chains when travelling in Italy. Road signs across Italy indicate when snow chains are compulsory.
Latvia If your vehicle weighs less than 3.5 tons, then between 1 December and 1 March it is a legal requirement to use snow tyres. You are permitted to use snow chains but this is not a legal requirement.

Lithuania Whilst travelling in Lithuania between 10 November and 1 April it is a legal requirement to use snow tyres. You are permitted to use snow chains but this is not a legal requirement.

Netherlands
There is no legal requirement for the use of snow tyres. You are permitted to use snow chains where there is ice or snow, but this is not a mandatory requirement.

Serbia Whilst travelling in Serbia it is compulsory to use snow tyres. You should carry snow chains when travelling in Serbia.

United Kingdom There is no legislation requiring the use of snow tyres. You are permitted to use snow chains but this is not a mandatory requirement

Please be safe this winter, and do everything you can to avoid a winter automobile accident. Contact your Green Motion branch for more information on how to stay safe this winter throughout your travels.

We strongly recommend you check The European Commission which has additional information on international traffic rules concerning winter tyres.


​Travel back in time in Romania

Travel back in time in Romania where you can visit quaint villages sprinkled with haystacks and horses within the Transylvanian countryside. Here are some tips on travelling through Romania.

The towns look like storybooks with our top recommendations being Sibiu located in the Transylvanian region and is as idyllic as they come, Timisoara which is the historical capital of the Banat region and Brasov whose Bran Castle inspired Bram Stoker to pen Dracula.

The mountains are seducing such as the Carpathian Mountains which are home to one of Europe’s largest undisturbed forests. Around 60% of the population of European brown bears live in the Carpathian Mountains as well as 400 unique species of mammals.

Everyone hitchhikes which means no one will think that you are a serial killer for trying to catch a ride, however as many of the locals also hitchhike you will have some competition! Much easier to rent a car from Green Motion Bucharest.

Vampires are real – how else do you explain all of the charming and beautiful Romanian people?


Itching for a magical and snowy vacation

As the chill starts to settle in and fairy lights adorn our favourite stores and shops, you may start to get the itch for a magical and snowy vacation.

The below destinations represent some of the best places for a winter ski holiday.

Cypress Mountain in Vancouver, Canada

Cypress is an easy 30 minute drive from downtown Vancouver and offers a stunning variety of runs, moguls and backcountry skiing options. It’s a great place for learners and also for those who are more experienced. One of the best things about Cypress is its proximity to downtown Vancouver, so if you can’t afford to stay in the resort you can still drive up and spend the day skiing, tubing, and / or sledging and then spend the evening in a lovely lodge bar before you make your way back to Vancouver. 

Aviemore in Scotland, United Kingdom

Aviemore is a good place for beginners as the conditions in Scotland can be flexible. The beginners section is at the top of the mountain instead of the bottom – giving you stunning views and real-life experience. If you can cope with the Scottish icy wind, you will find skiing elsewhere relatively comfortable, noting that there is a café adjacent to the beginners area, in case you need a well-earned hot chocolate break.

Bialka Tatranska in Poland

Another great place to learn skiing or snowboarding is at Bialka Tatranska, a small mountain resort around 2 hours’ drive from Krakow. The resort has a nursery slope, beginners slope and multiple runs. If you’re an experienced skier, you may find the resort a bit small but if you are a beginner there is plenty to keep you occupied as you learn and progress.

Aprica in the Camonica valley, Italy

Aprica is a beautiful place with charming hotels and apartments and fabulous scenery. There are 50 km runs available, with the runs being a variety of easy, intermediate and difficult. The slopes are perfect for skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and cross country skiers. So what are you waiting for? 


​Tiny churches to visit around the UK

If you are looking for a peaceful place to worship / meditate or are just wanting to admire some English architecture, then we have some tiny churches below that are far from the beaten path.

St Thomas à Becket in Fairfield

Located in a rather lonely but lovely corner of Romney Marsh, you will find this church which is surrounded by beautiful desolate surroundings. The church was recently featured in a TV adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations. Overall, the church is as it would have appeared in the 18th century, with minor adjustments due to time and its conservation.

The Italian Chapel in Orkney

In 1942, the small isle of Lamb Holm became home to around 1,200 Italian soldiers who were brought to Orkney. The prisoners lacked a chapel and, after some persuading, they were given permission to build one. They did a magnificent job by fashioning an alter out of concrete and installing windows with painted glass.

St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate in Winchester

Often overlooked by visitors due to its location – tucked away in a side street – this Medieval church is a place of peacefulness which may come as a surprise as it is located in the very heart of Winchester. The first record of the church was in 1264 with a report stating that it was burnt down by citizens during an argument with the local priory. In 1539 it was rebuilt as a parish church.

St Fursey’s in Sutton

St. Fursey’s is the smallest, and probably the strangest, working church in England. It was built in a garden which belonged to its priest, Father Stephen Weston. The church was constructed in 1998 after Father Stephen became disillusioned with the Anglican Church and decided to join the Antiochan Orthodox church. However, as there was no English-speaking Orthodox church in his district, he set about constructing his own.

Costa Rica - your wildlife paradise!

If you’re a lover of wildlife, then Costa Rica is your paradise. You can see turtles nesting on the beach, monkeys swinging through trees as well as the resplendent quetzal bird.

The eco-friendly country has a well-earned reputation as a wildlife and adventure holiday destination. Over 25% of the country is designated as protected areas where you will have plenty of chances to see howler monkeys, toucans and sloths – as well as countless other wildlife.

Nearer to the centre of Costa Rica you will find fiery volcanoes, such as the Poás Volcano, Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and Irazú Volcano – as well hot springs – perfect for relaxing in after a hard day’s exploring.

If you hike up into the cloud forest, you can find a wealth of wildlife, from hummingbirds and squirrel monkeys to the already mentioned famous resplendent quetzal bird.

Corcovado National Park is to the south which is one of the most biodiverse regions in the Americas. The region has unspoiled beaches as well as countless wildlife – including the jaguar.

The Pacific Coast, on the other hand, is home is the alluring jungle-fringed beaches and stunning hotels, making it a good way to end your time in Costa Rica. 


​Best places to visit in September

Why not take advantage of 2016's last stretch of sunshine, convincing yourself that summer is still well and truly alive for another week with a last minute holiday to get you through until the Christmas festivities begin.

There are many advantages if you take your European summer holiday in September. The sea and skies are still blue, the water is still warm and since most tourists are back home, everything is much quieter, not to mention you can get better deals.

Sicily, Italy

To be honest, is there ever a bad time to go to Sicily? The warm breeze which blows from Africa across the Mediterranean keeps Sicily hot well into autumn however it does cool down slightly, allowing you to enjoy exploring Sicily's charming and decorative towns. Sicily’s beautiful beaches are hardly every crowded in September and it’s a great time of the year for fresh produce.

Milan, Italy

You may be surprised to learn that it rains more in Milan than it does in Manchester, however September has the fewest rainy days of Milan’s yearly season and you will have an average temperature of 24 C / 75 F. You can go shopping for the newest fashion season or spend your time in Milan’s many chic cafes and restaurants.

Corfu, Greece

The most pleasant times to visit Corfu are either April to May or September to October. The Ionian Sea is beautiful in September, where a morning swim is a warm and delightful experience. The island’s forest areas are still green and inviting for afternoon naps beneath its olive and oak trees.

Cotswolds, United Kingdom

The Cotswolds are one of the loveliest places in the UK to visit – no matter what time of year it is, with its drystone cottages surrounded by wild gardens; its dribbling waters and wild birds; soothing landscapes and charming villages. September time brings in the harvest when the local produce it at its sweetest – enjoyed best in a local tea shop or pub. 


​An Italian road-trip

The beautiful country of Italy offers the perfect backdrop for a romantic and rustic road-trip.

Begin your journey with a visit to Florence, the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region and the birthplace of Renaissance, before taking off into the Tuscany countryside.

The next stop is Orvieto, a hilltop town well known for its Gothic cathedral, caves and Classico wine. If you leave your car at the bottom of the hill, you can park for free and make your own way up to the Medieval town.

If you don’t mind taking a slight detour, Rome is less than 80 miles from Orvieto…

We next recommend that you loop around some of Italy’s lesser known (and less crowded) but equally as beautiful coastal towns, starting with Talamone which is a fishing village with an impressive castle looming over it.

From Talamone, hop back into your rental car to the beaches of Marina di Grosseto and the Riserva Naturale Scarlino in Follonica, both being worthy of stopping for.

Then head back towards Florence, stopping first in Siena and Castellina in Chianti which is known for its vineyards and wine. 

If you manage to complete the entire trip without any detours, which will be difficult as the region has many distracting and enchanting towns and stops, the journey is around 340 miles.


​Roadside attractions in Ontario, Canada

Quirky and fun roadside attractions not only offer a bit of a breather during long trips but they also are a great representation of the cultural background of the area you are visiting.

Below you will find a list of 6 Ontario roadside attractions that you are going to want to stop for.

1.) Wawa Goose Monument
The Wawa Goose Monument is Algoma’s most famous roadside attraction. Located on Highway 17, Wawa has been welcoming visitors since the 1960’s.

2.) Algomy Red Chair
This 18 ft, fire truck red wooden Muskoka chair is just west of Thessalon. The chair was built by high-schoolers and is the largest Muskoka chair in Northern Ontario.

3.) Winnie-the-Pooh Statue
White River is the home of the real black bear which inspired A.A. Milne to create her most beloved character, Winne-the-Pooh. There is now a statue of Winnie to commemorate the writer and her bear.

4.) Arctic Watershed Marker
The rather unique marker on Highway 129 in the Mississagi Valley is simply a cool and fun roadside attraction where selfies are a must!

5.) The Loon Dollar Monument
The big “Loonie” located in Echo Bay is dedicated to the artist, Robert R. Carmichael who is responsible for the Loon Dollar design.

6.) Canadian Bushplane
It would be rather difficult to miss the Canadian Bushplane Museum, with its huge bushplane displayed just outside the museum’s doors. In the museum you will not only be able to take pictures of real bushplanes but you will also be able to explore inside of them.


Inexpensive and quieter holiday destinations

If you’re trying to find somewhere new to explore, we have a few gems for you where you’ll find less crowds, some good deals and bucket-list worthy sights!

The Scottish Highlands are filled with endless moors covered in heather, hazy skies and locals with thick accents who love to share a good laugh in a pub. You must explore Britain’s largest national park - Cairngorms National Park – with particularly reference to the parks southern edge. Take a stroll around the rugged Highland tracks, enjoyed on a pony or mountain bike, or fish for wild brown trout or salmon in the Scottish peaceful lochs or rushing rivers. Stop off at Scotland’s traditional distillery, Eradour, to warm up after a day spent exploring outdoors.

Cesky Krumlov, one of the Czech Republic’s oldest villages, is only a 2 hour drive from Prague and is set in Bohemia, a valley south of the Blansko Forest, surrounded by the Vltava River. The village has developed throughout the years around its 13th-century Gothic castle which is now used as a famous performing arts location. The cobblestoned streets are lined with Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance buildings which now host cafes, B&B’s and art galleries. The best way to fully experience the town is by taking a ride on the Vltava River by boat.

If you’re into your food, then Birmingham in the UK is the place for you. The city is very passionate about their inventive cuisine and locally sourced ingredients. The Balti style of booking Kashmiri curries in artisanal amounts rather than in one large pot was created and honed here in the 1970’s. The district, Balti Triangle, serves these delicious varieties at inexpensive prices. There is a great variety of restaurants and cafes available, from Indian to Italian, Chinese and contemporary English dishes – you will certainly be spoilt for choice.

Split in Croatia is where history comes to live on the Mediterranean. The roman emperor, Diocletian, built an impressive palace (completed in A.D. 305) and to this day it remains one of Europe’s best collections of Roman ruins. Split has done a rather remarkable job of preserving its past; making it a perfect destination if you want to completely immerse yourself in history or you can create a balance of nightlight and beaches with visits to the city’s Roman ruins, medieval forts and Romanesque churches – many dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries. 


Visit the magical city of Prague

The magical city of Prague is filled with bridges, gold-tipped towers, cathedrals and church domes which are beautifully reflected in the swan-filled Vitava River.

Prague’s medieval architecture is a lovely mixture of walled courtyards, cobbled streets and church spires – all of which are in the shadow of Prague’s royal 9th century castle.

However, don’t be fooled – Prague is very much a vibrant and modern city filled with art, music, restaurants and events which cater to the independent traveller’s desire for excitement and exploration including theatre, art and music.

Many regard Prague as one of the most delightful and alluring European cities, being a popular tourist hot spot.

What to see

A visit to Prague isn’t complete without seeing the seat of Bohemian Kingdoms as well as the presidency of Václav Havel. From here, we would recommend St. Vitus Cathedral and the Prague Castle however if history isn’t your cup of tea, you can also just commune with the country’s history in one of the many medieval pubs located in the Staré Město district.

You can also see Prague’s modern district at Náplavka, a Vltava riverbank in Nové Město where pop-up bars, music and a farmers market attract international travellers of all ages.

Best time to visit

Prague is transformed in the spring as the sun starts to warm people’s faces and plants begin to blossom. June to August, while usually receiving the best weather, also has the most visitor traffic. Autumn is also a lovely time to come as most of the tourists are gone and the weather is much cooler. If you are looking for a winter get-away, the snow-capped medieval spires are beautiful in winter.

Local customs

By law, you are required to always carry a personal ID in the Czech Republic, so make sure to keep your passport with you!

You can address the locals by using ‘dobrý den’ for ‘good day’ or ‘dobrý večer’ for ‘good evening.’ However most Czech’s in Prague do speak English – but that’s no excuse for not trying new things! The locals will appreciate your attempts to speak their language, even if it’s just ‘prosím’ for ‘please’ or ‘děkuji’ for ‘thank you.’ 


15 spectacular places to visit in Scotland

Scotland is not just the land of Braveheart, haggis, and sheep herders. It is filled with castles, stunning lochs and mountains, beautiful parks, and welcoming locals. If you spend time in the bustling cities, you can visit the University of Glasgow, admire the view of Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat or walk through one of the country’s many museums. Wherever you are, you’ll find yourself occupied with rich culture and history. Make sure you visit the highlands for some of the most stunning views and landscapes in the world.

Visit Edinburgh – Edinburgh is a glorious city filled with beautiful cobblestone streets, parks, museums, history, a castle, and maybe even ghosts. There’s a lot to do here and, after a long day of sightseeing, spend the evening in pub, hanging out with great locals.

Spend an Afternoon at Edinburgh Castle – Not only is this castle beautiful, but it’s an important Scottish monument that provides a fascinating history of the city.

Taste good pub food – Pub food is often the best in the country, which is why you see many locals eating lunch or dinner here. Since it’s so affordable, it’s also a good way to eat out. Pubs are a great place to try good beer, food, and even haggis.

Visit Glasgow University – The university houses an art gallery, museum, and dates back all the way to 1451. You can take walking tours and marvel at the architecture.

Puzzle over Rossyln Chapel – Figure out the Da Vinci code at this historic chapel with its intricate art work and symbolism. The place raises a lot of questions: why is there corn on the wall if it wasn’t discovered until centuries later?

See the Cathedrals – The cathedrals in Scotland are marvelous with their unique Gothic architecture and imposing heights. One of the best is Glasgow Cathedral.

Try the local markets – Scotland is full of farmers markets where fresh produce lies at your fingertips. The bigger cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh have several of them, but you can usually find smaller markets in towns outside of the cities as well.

Play golf – The Scottish invented golf. If you’re not lucky enough to play a round at St. Andrews, there are plenty of immaculate-kept greens to keep any golf player happy. Try to play during the low season (between November and March) if you want the lowest prices.

Try to find Nessie – Visit Loch Ness and try to find the famous monster that is said to be swimming in its depths. When you get tired of that, simply cruise around this amazing lake. The hills nearby provide for good hiking too.

Visit Melrose Abbey – Robert the Bruce’s heart is said to be buried here in the ruins of this Cistercian abbey. The abbey was repeatedly destroyed by the English in the 14th century. The ruins are surrounded by beautiful rivers and are also known for their decorative artwork.

See the Cuillins – This dramatic mountain range dominates Skye and has attracted walkers, climbers and artists for centuries. There are two peaks (red and black) and this can be done as a daytrip or a longer two-day hike.

Explore the Scottish Highlands – Visit the highlands of Scotland for gigantic mountains, rugged terrain, glaciers, lochs, and kilt-clad Scotsmen. For centuries, people have carved out a living here. While the land may be harsh and unforgiving, it’s beautiful landscape and you haven’t seen Scotland until you’ve been here.

Get your history fix in Dundee – Dundee is a bustling student city with a lot of interesting museums. It is known as Scotland’s center of “jute, jam and journalism.” The jute museum is surprisingly interesting. You can also visit Discovery Point to learn about the famous Antarctic expedition that launched from here on the RSS Discovery, which you can actually board at the visitor center.

Visit the Mystical Smoo Cave – The sleepy town of Durness is the access point for Smoo Cave, a coastline cave complex that can be explored on a tour. The cave is eerie and mysterious, and evidence from charcoal samples show that it may have been inhabited over 4000 years ago. It’s not the most impressive cave in the world, but there’s something about it that peaks your imagination.

Head to the Isle of Arran – In the southwest of Scotland, this isle is a popular tourist destination for its charming scenery, good walking trails, and quaint villages. Visit Brodick Castle; go for a hike or a trail ride; keep a look out for seals and golden eagles, and just enjoy the scenery.


The 6 best Greek islands for families

The best Greek islands for families, whether your children are after sandy beaches, wild water sports, unspoilt island life or history and culture.

1. Rhodes, Dodecanese 

If you’re after a bit of R&R, Rhodes’s east coast has a 30-mile stretch of well-maintained golden-sand beaches with warm, shallow water down its eastern coast. 

The coast’s big modern hotels, offer all-inclusive packages: meaning everything is on your doorstep – kids’ clubs, water sports facilities, babysitting, wellness, restaurants and cafes, so you can switch off and truly relax. If you do venture out, don’t miss the magnificent Unesco-listed Rhodes Town on the island’s northern tip, which will take you back through the centuries, with its medieval fortifications and car-free cobbled alleys.

2. Crete

Europe’s oldest civilisation built palaces decorated with magnificent frescos and enjoyed the curious sport of bull leaping on Crete from 3000BC to 1400BC. The Minoans’ capital, Knossos, was partially (and controversially) reconstructed by early archaeologists, making it unusually accessible to children. Finds from Knossos, such the bizarre Snake Goddess, are displayed at Heraklion Archaeological Museum. Kids will also love visiting the (slightly spooky) Dikteon cave on the Lasithi Plateau, which the ancients considered the birthplace of Zeus, with its stalactites and stalagmites.

3. Corfu, Ionian islands 

Head to Corfu for a spot of swimming and sunbathing on one of its varied beaches: sandy Glyfada, on the wild west coast; nearby Paleokastritsa, with its sheltered pebble coves; or Sidari on the north coast, with its peculiar rock formations and warm shallow sea. There’s also Aqualand water park in the island’s lush green interior.

4. Paxos, Ionian islands

Measuring just seven miles long and three miles wide, this is your archetypal Mediterranean island hideaway, with amazing turquoise sea and lovely white pebble beaches. The pace of life is slow and leisurely in its three small towns, Gaios, Lakka and Loggos, which are connected by marked trails. Chill out on the east coast beaches - Monodendri is the best - or hire a boat and explore the limestone cliffs and caves along the west coast. Antipaxos, a tiny island two miles to the south, has two lovely white sandy beaches and is served by regular taxi-boats.

5. Zakynthos, Ioninan islands

If you want to avoid the crowds of an all-inclusive, but have teens who need to mingle, head to the Peligoni Beach Club on Zakynthos. The island’s dramatic coastline will thrill your family by day – Navagio (Shipwreck beach), a blissful cove backed by plummeting limestone cliffs, is unmissable – and Peligoni Club offers families with teenagers round-the- clock activities – and options for socialising in the evenings. It has a cafe-restaurant, pool, tennis court and gym, and a series of decks leading down to the sea, for sunbathing, swimming and organised water sports, including sailing, windsurfing, SUP, water-skiing and wakeboarding. After dark, they stage barbecues, parties, live music and quiz nights.

6. Lefkada, Ionian islands

Lefkada is Greece’s top water sports destination. Besides having a large marina in Lefkaka Town, used as a base for dozens of yacht charter companies, Lefkada is a prime spot for windsurfing. Vasiliki Bay, in the south, is exposed to local thermal winds, creating conditions perfect for beginners in the mornings, and more experienced surfers in the afternoons. It’s also possible to try sea kayaking in Vasiliki. Meanwhile, back in the north, near Lefkada Town, you have kite-surfing at Milos (aka Agios Ioannis). And then there are Lefkada’s spectacular west coast beaches, including Kathisma and the must-visit Porto Katsiki, which has just re-opened following damage in the November 2015 earthquake.


Finding More than Dracula in Romania

People think of Romania as the land of gypsies and Dracula, but there is much more to the country than that. Romania is filled with beautiful, medieval cities, wonderful castles, and picturesque farmland. There’s no Dracula tourism in this country. You’ll be able to explore this great country without the crowds.

Wander through Alexandru Borza Botanic Gardens – Located in Cluj Napoca, this is a massive botanical garden with rolling green hills, an observation tower, a rose garden, and even a Japanese garden.

Get a cultural immersion in Maramures – This medieval region of Romania is a favourite. Peasant culture is still thriving, and there is an interesting blend of traditional music, hand-made wooden structures, and colorful textiles to experience.

Hike at Mount Tampa – Towering above Brasov, this is one mountain that is riddled with interesting history. It’s easy to hop on a cable car, and check out the view from the top, as well as explore with the defensive fortress. Many people like to go hiking here and visit the Brasov sign.

Visit the Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral – As one of the most religious countries in Europe, it should be no surprise that there are churches, cathedrals, and monasteries everywhere, many of which date back several centuries. This particular cathedral in Bucharest still has all of its original interior paintings and icons, in addition to some beautiful frescoes.

Explore Bucharest – With several centuries of architecture in this city, there is a really interesting display of old and new. There are plenty of museums, cemeteries, historical sites, shopping centers, and architectural sights to check out here.

See the wildlife at Northern Dobrogea – Here there are tons of wildlife and exotic birds to see, but you still have a bit of the city to keep from being entirely secluded. There is a decent selection of restaurants and entertainment spots, including theater and opera houses.

Shop at a traditional crafts fair – Every year during the month of June, there is a huge craft fair held in Bucharest. People come from all over Romania to sell goods and provide demonstrations. You can see pottery molding, woodcarving, glass blowing, rug and textile weaving, embroidery, and egg painting.

Visit the Danube Delta – Flowing over 1,700 miles from its source, this is Europe’s second largest and best-preserved delta. There is so much wildlife to see here, and the hiking is surreal. You can go bird watching and fishing as well.

Explore Brasov – A favorite place in Romania, this historic city is the launching pad for trips to “Dracula’s castle.” There’s great hiking around here, a beautiful historic center, and beautiful medieval streets.

Trek in the Fagaras Mountains – For those of you that are major hiking enthusiasts, this is one of those awesome multi-day hiking experiences. Taking you along the main ridge of the Fagaras, the route is one of the longest and continuous high-mountain traverses in Europe. You will trek over Moldoveanu, Negoiu, and Vista Mare that are three of Romania’s highest peaks.

Celebrate Hora de la Prislop – Held every August, this festival is a celebration that brings together Transylvania, Moldova, and Maramures. Known more commonly as the Dance at Prislop, you can probably guess that there is lots of traditional dancing and singing, beautiful costumes, parading, and awesome feasting.

Set up base at Baia Mare – If you are wanting to check out a bunch of the traditional villages, this is a good place to start. It is easy to access many of the famous valleys from here, including Iza, Viseu, Cosau, and Mara – all of which are riddled with interesting villages.

Hunt for Dracula in Sighisoara – Founded during the 12th century, this town is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. A world heritage site, there is a mass of towers, ornate churches, and burger houses to see throughout the cobbled streets. This is also the birthplace of Vlad Tepes, otherwise more commonly known as Dracula.

Visit Peles Castle – Not too far from Brasov is Sinaia, the site of Peles Castle. The castle itself was constructed between 1873 and 1914 as a getaway spot for the monarch. The building is lavishly decorated, and serves as a great indication of the luxurious lives these rulers enjoyed. A visit to the ground floor of the castle costs $6 USD, but goes up in price for tours of additional floors.

Tour a salt mine — Salina Turda is the salt mine in Turda which has been converted into a subterranean museum. The mine dates back centuries and was used heavily during the Middle Ages. The layout of the museum is really neat and looks almost futuristic. If you’re in the area, this is worth a visit.


Take a trip to Miami this Summer

From the classic splendor of Coral Gables to the parade of vanities that is South Beach, few American cities are so vibrantly beautiful — and so profoundly aware of it. Miami legally belongs to the United States, but it's also the cultural capital of Latin America, and the lingua franca here is Spanish in all its myriad accents: Cuban, Nicaraguan, Colombian, Puerto Rican. The last decade has seen the ascendancy of several cultural institutions, including the symphony and Basel Art Fair, and a resurgent downtown in the Design District. Outside of the city, several lavish resorts offer self-enclosed experiences popular with families and those looking for some straightforward rest and relaxation.

When to Visit Miami
March through May is typically the most pleasant time to visit Miami. Spring is filled with sunshine with temperatures ranging from high 70s to low 80s. Hurricane season (and the hottest time of the year) runs June to November. Expect afternoon showers in summer and fall.

Where to Eat in Miami
Miami has a diverse population to provide culinary inspiration, but this has not always been reflected in the quality of the cuisine. Things have improved recently as the city has become a crossroads and financial center for Central and South America. Inspired by new energy, ingredients and traditions, chefs are creating food that is well worth exploring.

Mandolin
One would think, given the city’s proximity to the sea, that Miami would be jumping with good seafood restaurants, but that turns out not to be the case. Mandolin proves an exception, drawing on the cuisines of Turkey and Greece. In this pleasant, light-washed space, look for mezzes such as the Greek sampler of tzatziki, eggplant purée and taramasalata, or marinated grilled octopus. The simply delicious mains might include fresh whole fish grilled with olive oil, lemon and oregano; a classic moussaka; or grilled lamb chops with an orzo pilaf.

Il Gabbiano 
Miami doesn’t generally bring to mind Italian food, but this restaurant on Biscayne Bay is the Southern sister of esteemed Il Mulino in New York. Look for classic appetizers such as clams casino and arugula salad. The terrific pastas include a fine spaghetti alla carbonara and fettuccine alla Bolognese. The array of main courses features dishes such as veal saltimbocca, chicken scarpariello and roasted branzino. Service is excellent. Closed Sunday.

Palme d'Or 
A makeover has taken the signature restaurant of The Biltmore in Coral Gables from stuffy to stunning. The seasonal menu is as contemporary as the décor. Look for starters such as tangerine-poached Alaskan king crab with sweet peas, carrots, mint and onions; or creamy egg with langoustines and sea urchin. Main courses might include black sea bass and razor clams with a bouillabaisse sauce and a fregola pasta ragout, or prime beef tenderloin and braised Kobe beef cheeks with carrots, potatoes, sauce daube and aged balsamic vinegar. Closed Sunday and Monday.

OLA
Small-plate aficionados will be delighted by the Nuevo Latino flavors at this bright and simple space in South Beach. To begin, an astonishing variety of ceviches might include salmon with white soy sauce, citrus juices, chili-spiced cucumber, tarragon, red onion and crispy garlic. A starter could be the chicharrón plate, featuring crispy rock shrimp coated with rice and corn flour in a sweet-and-spicy sauce with micro cilantro. Among the main courses, you might find filet mignon churrasco.

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
Michael Schwartz’s airy, modern bistro is a Design District favorite. Schwartz cites Alice Waters as an inspiration, and his creative menu emphasizes unpretentious, locally sourced dishes at reasonable prices. It changes frequently, but look for selections such as house-made country pâté with cornichons and apricot mostarda; stracciatella with heirloom tomatoes, basil and extra-virgin olive oil; and slow-roasted and grilled Harris Ranch beef short rib with roasted cipollini onions, romesco sauce and hazelnuts.

Sightseeing in Miami
Don't overlook these iconic sightseeing attractions while visiting Miami:

• Pérez Art Museum Miami
• Art Deco Historic District
• Adrienne Arsht Center
• Fairchild Botanical Garden
• Little Havana
• Faena Forum
• The Wolfsonian
• Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts Gallery
• Fisher Island
• Bass Art Museum


The Ultimate California Road Trip

Dreaming or planning your big adventure across California? Thinking of heading to the West Coast for the blissful sun, breathtaking coastline and dramatic national parks? Well, look no further! We have decided to share an ultimate Californian road-tip that will hopefully help you master your very own trip!

1.) Sequoia National Park, South Sierra Nevada
Head to Sequoia National Park to experience the breathtaking beauty and dramatic landscapes that are present within Tulare County! See some of the largest Trees you can ever see! Truly spectacular!

…oh yes, keep an eye-open for General Sherman!

2.) Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles
Nestled on the side of Mount Hollywood in Los Angeles, the Griffith Observatory is a great place to explore the extra terrestrial world that can be viewed within the observatory itself. This world-famous landmark has, since its opening, always been free – so there is no excuse to find a few free hours to explore the mighty wonders that await your eyes! The planetarium is “out-of-this-world” and the views of downtown Los Angeles are as equally spectacular!

3.) Pier 39, San Francisco
Take a stop at Pier 39 in San Francisco. This once working and trade pier has now been transformed into an open are of restaurants, shops and seals that bathe along the front! Take some time to eat some clam chowder from the markets on, and around the pier – it’s delicious!

4.) San Diego Old-Town
San Diego is an amazing place to experience some great Californian Wines and Mexican cuisine! when you visit, make sure you take a trip to the Old-Town ahistoric State Park, which dates back to the early 19th Century!

One of the best Mexican restaurants is, Oscar’s Mexican Sea-Food!

5.) Mono Lake & Mono County
Based in Mono County, this relatively shallow but dramatic lakes formed over hundreds of thousands of years. Mono Lake is a great place to stop for an hour or two! Take a picnic or just relax against the waters edge! Just don’t dare drink this lake water! Its high-salt content makes this lake a unique and very salty body of water!

6.) Route 66
No trip to California would be complete without a trip upon a portion of the infamous, Route 66! Take this historic road west from the ocean and head towards the Arizona and Nevada Border! There are many awesome places to eat (and sleep) along the way! Just make sure to pack lots of water , as the dry and arid dessert can be unforgiving!

7.) Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada
Visit Vikingsholm for an awesome look at a modern day castle, nestled within the hills surrounding Lake Tajoe!

8.) Asilomar State Beach, Monterey Peninsula
100km west of Hollister (no, not the shop… the town) is Asilomar State Beach! Situated in Pacific Grove, the beach is famed for its breathtaking sunsets and camping opportunities!

9.) Temecula, Riverside County
Temecula is an inland city that sits neatly between San diego and Los Angeles. This area is famed for its wine-region! Why not book something extra special like a hot-air ballon ride! Or take in the many award-winning wineries that blanket this region!

10.) Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino County
Perched within the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake and town is one of the best places to go to see a different side of California. Its relaxed atmosphere, provides a perfect place to really be at one with nature – there are some great camping opportunities too, if you feel like!

11.) Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada Mountains
Yosemite. Is. Spectacular! Pack some comfortable hiking shoes and take a trek up the mountains.

Don’t forget to keep an eye-open for El-Capitan and some of the other famous landmarks while your in the park!

12.) Big Sur
Head south (or north) down the Big Sur – this coastline drive, which starts close to Monterey is a spectacular coastline where the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the ocean. Not only is it dramatic, but it makes for one of the most scenic drives.

13.) Santa Monica Pier & Pacific Park, Los Angeles
For some old-fashion fun in Santa Monica, why not head to the double-jointed pier that juts out into the Pacific Ocean! Best of all, you can explore the pier for free. Just make sure to take a few dollars to ride some of the most awesome rides in the city!

14.) Redwoods State Park, Humboldt County
Head to this state park in Humboldt County to see some of the tallest Redwoods in the world! Rising almost 100 metres high, these trees are an epic reminder of how awesome nature is! What is even more interesting is that these trees can live for over a 1000 years!

15.) Alcatraz, San Francisco
Ever wondered what it’s like to be marooned on an island within a high-security and infamous prison? Well, now is your chance! Take a short boat ride from Pier 39 straight to incarceration! Okay, that might be a little too dramatic, but its a significant site to visit in California, which housed some of the most infamous criminals in the country!

16.) San Francisco Cable Cars
No journey to San Francisco would be complete without a journey on the cities cable car network! Head up and down the hills of the city and enjoy a tour of the city! It’s a great way to explore many areas of the city… and it’s a fun ride too!

17.) Marin County, Muir Woods
Just over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Muir Woods is a spectacular place to explore the local habitat of many of northern California’s wildlife! Head here for a few hours on your way north or south along along the coastal roads!

18.) Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
For a truly American sporting event! Submerse yourself within a baseball game at the Dodgers Stadium! There is so much passion in the stands!

19.) Death Valley National Park
Located in Eastern California, Death Valley is one of the driest and hottest areas in all of the United States! In the height of Summer, Temperatures can reach up to 45-50 degrees! Plan, prepare and be responsible when continuing your road-trip through Death Valley!


Things to see and do in Paphos, Cyprus

Want to explore what Paphos has to offer? Well here are the best things to see and do in this historical and culture-packed Cypriot resort.

The town of Paphos is located at the south-western tip of Cyprus, between the Toodos Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the fact that it attracts scores of sun seeking tourists every year, Paphos has a fascinating history and is renowned as the birthplace of Greek goddess Aphrodite.

Evidence of the island’s past, which includes the main archaeological sites as well as most hotels and tavernas, can be found in lower Kato Paphos by the sea. The Old Town of Paphos as well as the commercial centre and industrial district are located further inland.

But if you are planning on exploring these areas in the near future, what are the best things to see and do? Well, here is a quick guide that also includes how to get there and the best time to visit.

Explore Paphos Archaeological Park

Featuring a unique collection of artefacts that date back to the 2nd Century BC, the Paphos Archaeological Park is a must-see attraction for history buffs. Monuments on display include the basilica of Chrysopolitissa, the Hellenistic theatre and the Saranta Kolones (forty columns).

Wander around Paphos Old Town

On a laid-back afternoon, head to Paphos Old Town and stroll around the local market, where you can find everything from fruit and vegetables to jewellery and lace. In addition to the arts and crafts, you can also sample some local wine, as production goes back as far as 6,000 years. In fact, Cyprus boasts the oldest named wine which is still being made today – Commandaria.

Visit the Tombs of the Kings

Carved out of solid rock and with frescoed walls, this is the last resting place of top officials and members of Paphian aristocracy. Although each individual would have been buried alongside their jewellery and other significant belongings, the Tombs of the Kings were looted many years ago, leaving behind a mysterious stillness.

Take a walk along the coast

From the Tombs of the Kings to Geroskipou Beach there is a paved coastal path that allows you to witness Paphos in all its beauty. More adventurous types may also want to walk all the way from the airport to Coral Bay, just remember to keep cool and stay hydrated.

Out of the city

If you find yourself wishing for some time outside of the city, the district of Paphos has plenty of options. Akamas is a national park just outside city limits and is one of Europe’s most beautiful sites. There is a rich diversity of flora and fauna in the area. A particular favourite among visitors are the loggerhead turtles, which are a protected species and often come to the region to mate. As well as turtles there are plenty of other animals from foxes and hedgehogs through to several species of lizards and snakes.

Akamas is also deeply connected to the mythical past of Paphos. As previously mentioned, Aphrodite is believed to have been born in the area and when you spend time here you can visit the Fontana Amorosa. This is where Aphrodite is rumoured to have met her lover Adonis and the Fontana Amorosa is said to be her Fountain of Love. According to legend, anyone who drinks from this spring is overcome with a youthful sense of desire. Set on the Akamas Peninsula, the amazing Anassa Hotel puts you at the heart of this enchanting landscape and offers a host of luxurious amenities including a decadent spa.


Five reasons to visit Malta in summer

Beach escape or city break? History and culture or warm waters and hidden coves? If decision-making is a problem, head to Malta in summer and do the lot.

Malta International Arts Festival

When 10 July to 3 August
Where Island wide
What A three-week cavalcade of alfresco drama, dance, music and art events celebrating local talent and international artists from across the creative spectrum. This year marks the festival’s 10th birthday, and 2015’s highlights include classical ivory-tickling from pianist Noriko Ogawa; a multidisciplinary music tribute to Marco Polo; an original choral piece featuring 18 hydraulic jacks; and contemporary interpretations of traditional Maltese poetry, prose and song.

Delicata Wine Festival

When 6–9 August
Where Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta
What You didn’t know they made wine in Malta? Well, why would you? Very little makes it out of the country, as the Maltese tend to drink it all themselves. All the more reason to seize the chance for a sampling at this three-night winery-hosted event, enhanced by live music, fine food and a tipsily sophisticated party atmosphere. Grab a glass and taste-test more than 20 wines crafted from Malta and Gozo’s homegrown grapes – including the islands’ unique varieties: gellewza and girgentina.

La Notte di San Lorenzo

When 9 August
Where Grand Harbour, Valletta
What Lucky for Malta that St Lawrence was roasted alive in Rome in 258 AD, else the skies above Valletta would be disappointingly empty on 9 August. To mark his martyrdom, Valletta gathers by the harbour to watch one of the year’s biggest firework displays (and the Maltese love their pyrotechnics), kicking off at 10pm.

Valletta International Visual Arts Festival

When 1–7 September
Where St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, Valletta
What Malta is well known for the Baroque beauty of its buildings and its wealth of ornate churches, but contemporary art? Not so much. Now in its second year, Viva is an initiative intended to yank the archipelago’s creative scene into the modern day and earn Malta a place on the contemporary visual-arts map. Featuring exhibitions of local and international artists and a programme of workshops and talks, it’s an intriguing opportunity to see how a country goes about changing its outlook on art.

Isle of MTV

When 28 June 2016
Where Floriana, just outside Valletta
What One for the forward planners, this – possibly the biggest live-music event in the middle of the Med, MTV’s free annual concert in the Granaries of Floriana entices crowds of 50,000 or more to see the latest up-and-coming acts from around the world alongside established names from the contemporary scene, and as 2016 marks the show’s 10th birthday, anticipation is running high.



Holiday guide to Costa Rica: beaches and adventures

This small country is perhaps the best in Latin America for a tropical adventure, thanks to its mysterious jungles, incredible wildlife, active volcanoes and glorious deserted beaches.

We have defined the essential itinerary for Costa Rica: Manuel Antonio for the beach, Monteverde for cloud forest, Tortuguero for turtles, and Arenal volcano for outdoor adventure. Add in the sandy beachfront in Guanacaste and you have the perfect holiday.

There is plenty of adventure on offer. From pelicans flying over your hammock, lightning over a silver sea, pink orchids against turquoise houses, a passing cowboy with silver stirrups, the white sand and deep blue sea that stay in your memory.

San José

Old San José has its sights, from Museo de Jade (Plaza de la Democracía) and Museo del Oro (beneath Plaza de la Cultura), both with unrivalled but unsung pre-Colombian treasures, to the warren of the Mercado Central, and the pay-to-view grandeur of the Teatro Nacional.

Start at the city’s western edge with a visit to Museo de Arte Costarricense in the old air traffic control building of what used to be the airport, then head down Paseo Colon.

Corcovado rainforest

A quarter of Costa Rica is protected parks and reserve, but the crown jewel is Corcovado national park, 164 square miles of rainforest in the Osa peninsula, fringed by empty Pacific beach. Remote and largely impenetrable, it’s home to five species of cat (jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay and jaguarundi) plus tapir, sloth, monkeys, boas (there are lots of snakes: wear boots) and almost 400 bird species. Here’s your best chance of spotting Costa Rican wildlife – and the waters are rich with dolphins and, seasonally, pods of whales.

Access is with guides only, and reservations need to be made well in advance. Hikes range from easy day trips, mainly around San Pedrillo, to multi-day treks with overnights at Sirena, a magical, ultra-basic ranger station.

Cloud forests

Monteverde is the classic cloud forest choice, and the most child-friendly, with sky tram, sky walk and, for over-eights, canopy zip lines. If you are travelling south, San Gerardo de Dota, 46 miles from the capital and 2,200 metres above sea level, makes a top stopover. The (heated) wooden cabins at Trogon Lodge lie inside the country’s newest national park, Los Quetzales, a vast birdwatchers’ paradise, home to flame-throated warblers, emerald toucanets, green violetear hummingbirds and motmots, turquoise cotingas as well as trogons and quetzals.

Worth noting that Central America’s foremost ornithologist, the late Alexander Skutch, chose to live just down the road.

Costa Ballena beaches

Costa Rica has two coasts and more than 300 beaches, some the domain of turtles. But there are two areas that have everything, from surfer bars to top-end retreats, party beaches to silent jungle. The first is the jungly Costa Ballena on the Central Pacific, extending 18 miles down Highway 34 from the grey-sand surfer town of Dominical to mini gastroville Ojochal.

Southern Caribbean beaches

The second beach area is the more laid-back eight-mile stretch of Caribbean coast between lively Puerto Viejo and sleepy Manzanillo. All the palm-fringed white-sand beaches, turquoise sea, parrots, jungle cabins, nightlife, surf camps, gingerbread beach cottages, and pancake breakfast joints a person could possibly need are here. This coast, settled by West Indian fishermen in the 19th century, is English-speaking, and that vibe still dominates, despite a steady influx of more excitable jungle lovers. The obvious thing to do is read in a hammock and visit a beach cafe.

Arenal, the essential volcano

Volcán Poás is easier to visit (it’s virtually a drive-in) and Volcán Rincón de la Vieja is wilder, but Arenal is unmissable. Only one thing beats the thrill of seeing Arenal erupt, and that’s seeing it erupt while you’re sitting in a hot spring. The hot spring industry sprang up as a way of entertaining frustrated visitors who arrived to find the perfect cone shrouded in cloud.


The Ultimate Guide to Iceland

Iceland’s main attraction is its countryside, so whereas it’s perfectly fine to walk or cycle within the capital city, the best way to get out of the city and explore the nature is to go by car.

Iceland has a paved ring road around the island, accessible by car. There is only one lane going each way and there are very few cars on the road. Traffic jams are unheard of in Iceland.

If you’re adventurous and plan on taking a self drive tour to access some of Iceland’s highlands, then you’ll need to be driving a 4x4. Take notice that off-road driving is illegal in Iceland, as it damages the delicate nature, and is punishable with very high fines, which will likely be more than the cost of your entire trip.

A lot of the Icelandic highlands are only accessible in 4×4 jeeps and you can get huge fines if you drive a normal rental car into these areas. The highland roads are usually marked as F roads but Kjölur, which is not an F road, is also included. So if you plan to visit any of those areas or drive on F-marked roads you definitely need a four wheel drive.

Things to be aware of when driving in Iceland

These are some of the most common causes of road accidents in Iceland. By familiarising yourself with them you will reduce the chance of you being involved in an accident. Above all else, please drive carefully and sensibly. 

  • Damage to wheels and tyres by flat or under inflated tyres.
  • Exiting the marked road as a result of icy conditions or visual distractions.
  • Domestic animals on or crossing the road.
  • Damage to doors when opened in extremely windy conditions. In a storm, you can expect average winds at 50m/s (112 mph).
  • Losing traction on gravel roads. This is particularly common where the asphalt road suddenly turns to a gravel road and the driver has not reduced speed to compensate for this.
  • Driving into sand and/or snowstorms or fording rivers.

Weather in Iceland

The weather can be unpredictable and harsh in Iceland, so we recommend that you check the forecast whenever possible. The weather can change every 5 minutes, from sunshine to a snow blizzard, even in summertime! (Snow blizzards are not likely on the Ring road in the summertime, but much more so the further into the highlands you go!)

In summertime (June to August) the nights are bright and the temperature is around 10-20°C (up to 25°C). Rain and wind can always be expected though.

It is rainier and windier during spring and autumn (April, May and September, October).

In wintertime, November until March, there may be icy, snowy, foggy, windy conditions. Storms have been known to break windows in cars and leave people stranded in the countryside.

To drive Iceland safely, many cars have ‘year-round’ tyres. In the wintertime it’s mandatory for cars to either have year-round tyres or winter tyres.

Where to go in Iceland

The country is mountainous and weather conditions change rapidly. The nature is breathtakingly beautiful and many people choose to explore new things like going on a glacier hiking tour or an ice cave tour.

1. Whale Watching

The gentle marine giants can be seen from the different locations in the country including Reykjavík. Several companies organize the 2-3 hour whale watching tours.

2. Geysers

Due to the volcanic activities underneath the surface, a lot of geysers, underground springs and thermal pools are scattered all around the country. To see a powerful hot stream shooting from the ground is definitely exciting.

3. Landmannalaugar

The multicolored rhyolite mountains, lava fields and the Hekla volcano make it a popular tourist destination. The striking landscapes look like a different planet. Hiking and horse riding are among the most popular activities here.

4. Maelifell Volcano, Myrdalsjökull Glacier Park

The perfect cone makes Maelifell a classic looking volcano. During the warm season, snow uncovers a lavish green surface, covered with moss. There is plenty to do and see in the park, full of volcanoes, hot springs and other beautiful sites.

5. Kirkjufell Mountain

Near a small town of Grundarfjörður in the western Iceland, the mountain beautifully sticks out in a plain landscape. In the surroundings of this striking mountain one can find small waterfalls and admire the Northern Lights at night.

6. Skaftafell Ice Cave, Vatnajökull National Park

The land of ice – the country is literally covered in ice and snow. The overwhelmingly beautiful ice caves attract adventurers. The travel agencies organize trips to the glaciers, from where the caves can be visited.

7. Blue Lagoon, Grindavík

A geothermal spa offers the most relaxing natural bathing experience you’ve never had and is a most tempting attraction, located only 40 minutes away from Reykjavík. The water from the underground hot springs reaches 37–39 °C and is beneficial for health and skin.

8. Aurora Borealis

The northern phenomenon is also among the most popular attractions. The dazzling lights are especially bright this year, due to the increase of solar activity. The lights are best admired in remote places, away from the urban lights.

9. Hallgrímskirkja

The unique church is situated in the middle of Reykjavík. It is the tallest and most recognizable building in the country. The architecture was inspired by the Black Falls – another Icelandic natural wonder.

10. Gullfoss Waterfall

The gorgeous waterfall is one of the most popular attractions in the country. Located in the canyon, which forms three step terraces, river Hvítá plunges creating a powerful stream and Gullfoss. There are no rails – just a natural surroundings.


8 Reasons to Visit Warsaw this Summer

Rather than being centred on an old market square, Warsaw is spread across a broad area with diverse architecture: restored Gothic, communist concrete, modern glass and steel.

This jumble is a sign of the city’s tumultuous past. Warsaw has suffered the worst history could throw at it, including virtual destruction at the end of World War II – and survived. As a result, it’s a fascinating collection of neighbourhoods and landmarks. Excellent museums interpret its complex story, from the joys of Chopin’s music to the tragedy of the Jewish ghetto.

It’s not all about the past, however. Warsaw’s restaurant and entertainment scene is the best in Poland. You can dine well and affordably here on cuisines from around the world, and take your choice of lively bars and clubs. This gritty city knows how to have fun.

#1 Rich culture and architecture

Warsaw will take your breath away with its historical sites and spots. Full of baroque churches and cathedrals, parks and philharmonics – everyone can find something that they enjoy, that’s for sure! You will spend hours exploring the unique architecture and ruins of the Old Town still recovering from the World War ll. Warsaw is a mixture of old and modern city. Some of the must-see places are Historical Museum of Warsaw, the Palace of Culture and Science and, of course, the Royal Castle.

#2 Authentic Polish cuisine

Where else can you experience the real taste of Polish cuisine if not in the capital city? Warsaw has a lot to offer in terms of food. There are thousands of local restaurants around, where you can order a plate of Polish dumplings (pierogi), have a potato or cheese cake, taste fresh Polish cheese and bread or have a pint of beer with jam-filled doughnuts. Warsaw is also the place where some of the best chocolate is made!

#3 Affordable prices

Warsaw, although it is not the cheapest city in Poland, is a budget friendly place. With its affordable prices, you can fully enjoy it without spending much. Budget travelers often cannot believe that beer can cost less than 5 zloty ($1.50) and you can have dinner in a nice restaurant for less than 15 zloty ($4.50).

#4 Great weather conditions

Although winters can be very cold, autumns are very mild and summers are hot. Therefore, the best time to fully enjoy the city would be May – October. At this time you can enjoy some ice cream treats!

#5 Hospitable locals

Locals in Warsaw are open-mined and friendly, willing to point you at right direction or translate something for you. The reason being, they want you to feel like home and have great memories from your stay in Poland.

#6 Best place to experience the old-but-new

Warsaw Castle’s “The Royal Castle – from Destruction to Reconstruction” exhibit. Inside the castle, you can also see the collection of paintings of the Old Town that architects used to help reconstruct things almost exactly as they had been before.

#7 The green spaces

For a city that was nothing but rubble 69 years ago and was then under Soviet rule for years, one doesn’t necessarily expect to find a lot of green spaces. And yet Warsaw is FULL of parks and gardens and other green spaces. Lively green spaces, too.

#8 The famous residents

As far as art and science goes, Warsaw actually has contributed a lot! Composer Fryderyk Chopin was born here. All over the city you can find benches that will play his music when you walk by/sit down on them. And physicist/chemist Marie Curie also called Warsaw home. Not only did Marie contribute to the study of radioactivity, but she was the first woman to ever win a Nobel Prize.

Overall, Warsaw is a great and interesting city. It’s not especially touristy, yet still offers up all the amenities a tourist would need.

So, if you’re looking for a slightly-less-obvious place to visit in Europe, consider Poland — and, more specifically, Warsaw!


Travel guide to... Family holidays in Italy

It is not just the gelato bursting with sweet flavour. Or the al dente pasta smothered in Nonna’s tomato sauce. Or the chariot-grooved Roman streets, gladiator battlefields and other “Horrible Histories” relics. It is the graceful warmth and gentle humour showered on young visitors that makes Italy so appealing for families with bambini in tow.

Italy’s 20 regions could practically be different countries, so varied are they in landscape, culture, temperament and, of course, cuisine.

The focus for families is naturally on the coastline, which stretches for a staggering 4,582 miles. The coast extends from quaint villages of Cinque Terre, down through the theme parks of California-style Rimini, to the cluster of bijou islands bejewelling the Bay of Naples, and Puglia’s superb sand-laced shores - ideal for bucket-and-spade holidays.

On the tip of the boot’s toe, is Sicily and the tiny Aeolian Islands – seven specks of volcanic wonderment ringed with black-sand beaches. Part of a huge 200km volcanic ridge that runs between the smoking stack of Mount Etna and slumbering Mount Vesuvius near Naples, these unique volcanic islands are a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Islands & beaches

Italy’s second-largest island, Sardinia, is a long-time favourite – I challenge anyone, young or old, not to be instantly smitten by its fjord-like coves, aquamarine waters and swashbuckling sand dunes.

Fishing village Cala Gonone in the gin-clear Golfo di Orosei on the eastern coast; Stintino with its rainbow of pastel-hued cottages brightening Sardinia’s northwest tip; and Santa Teresa di Gallura in the northeast are beautiful, off-the-radar beach spots where families can kick back on white sand in relative peace.

In the Bay of Naples, Procida is a paradise island with colourful houses stacked on the seashore and sun-bleached beaches backed by lemon groves. Its proximity to Naples and the ancient ruins of Pompeii makes it ideal for families looking for a dual-centre holiday combining island beach-chic with blockbuster sightseeing.

Puglia is one long swath of gorgeous golden sand. The Greeks founded coastal settlements here in the 8th century BC and seaside villages on the Salentine Peninsula retain a Greek flavour with their rabbit warrens of dusty parched lanes. Beaches around the Baie dei Turchi near Otranto are sensational – perfect sand castle material.

Adrenalin rush

The island of Sicily sizzles with outdoor fun for all ages. Wish Sicily has a new collection of villa holidays with outdoor activities organised for over-eights, including body rafting, river trekking and canyoning across icy rock pools and black lava walls in the volcanic Alcantara Gorge, near Taormina on the Ionian Coast. Or head to the green depths of rural Tuscany, another beautiful region that begs outdoor action.

History lesson

Romulus killed Remus on Palentine Hill and Christians were fed alive to lions; the capital, Rome, beats school textbooks hands down.

When enthusiasm for ancient monuments wanes, visit the International International Sports Hall of Fame & Museum, a museum dedicated to the world’s sporting heroes, which opened this year on Piazza D’Aracoeli. Or engage young artists in a day sketching their own Rome travel journal with an artist and Sketching Rome Tours

Water world

Plan ahead and Venice, with its weathered web of calle (lanes) and canals, can be fun for families. Get acquainted with the city with a cruise aboard a public water bus (No 1) past ancient churches, palazzi and James Bond film sets on the Grand Canal – then dabble yourself in one of the city’s oldest traditions.


Milan to Venice: Driving through Italy

Taking a road trip from Milan to Venice is a great way to see the beautiful Italian landscapes, and experience cultural and regional diversity along the way. You have the freedom to create your own itinerary and explore the many beautiful towns, cities, and attractions throughout Italy. Driving through Italy is easy – with a number of expressways and large roads connecting cities and towns, driving is far and away the most efficient means of transportation. It’s also possible to take a train from Milan to Venice, or fly across, however, the train ride takes over six hours to make the journey, and you don’t get to stop at any of the enchanting destinations along the way.

MILAN

Milan is the fifth-largest city in the European Union and is recognised worldwide for being a design and fashion capital. It’s set apart by its glamour and passions – football, opera, and fashion. 

Visit the Duomo – A Gothic cathedral, this looms over the Piazza del Duomo. With over 3,500 statues, 135 spires, and 5 bronze doors, it is not surprising to find that it took 500 years to complete. You will be left speechless by its magnitude. Take the elevator up to the roof, and if you’re really lucky, it might be possible to view the Alps (and of course the city of Milan). The city’s symbol Madoninna is also perched atop the roof so a trip above the cathedral allows for a closer inspection.

Admire the Last Supper – This Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece resides in the church of Santa Maria della Grazie. The painting surely speaks for itself as it captures the moment that Jesus reveals that one of his disciples will betray him. Surviving despite the trials and tribulations that history has put it through, this fresco has been preserved remarkably. Book in advance, if not months in advance, if you are expecting to go during the peak season.

Go shopping – If you are looking to spend some serious money or even just to do some serious window shopping, then you have found a kindred spirit in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele 11. This is an intense shopping establishment of formidable grandeur that took 12 years to construct. It’s home to fashion giants such as Prada and Gucci.

Visit the Opera – Are you an opera-lover? Do you want to see opera at its finest? Then surely you will have already heard of La Scala. Treat yourself to one of these tickets and experience some of the best acoustics and performers in the world. Or perhaps you would just like to view this fantastic theater? Cut a few corners, and just go to the Musuem at La Scala instead where you will be allowed to a sneak view in the theatre.

Explore Sforzesco Castle – Experience your Milan quota of the fine arts in one day at the Sforzesco Castle. Built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, the castle now houses 12 mini-musuems and a vast archive – in essence it serves as a visual feast for the eyes! Collections include everything from the Renaissance period, Michelangelo’s unfinished last work and Civiche Raccolte d’Arte Antica (a sculpture gallery), to the Musuems of Musical Instruments and Antique Art.

Watch some football – If you are an avid football (soccer) fan, then book yourself tickets to a match at San Siro stadium. As any football fanatic will know, San Siro is one of the world’s best-known stadiums and Milan itself is home to two football teams – AC Milan and Inter. Head there during the football season and it is likely that you might see either of these two playing in these famous grounds.

Tour the canals – Surprised to hear that there are canals in Milan? Well there are, two to be exact. Do not expect the canals of Venice, though. Although designed by the great Leonardo da Vinci, Milan’s canals are not of the same cut as those of Venice. Based in the Navigli district, they are very enchanting and to be enjoyed during the summer months when you can take a lazy boat trip whilst gazing upon the charming artist havens. Or, spend your time dining in the restaurants on its perimeters. This is a great neighborhood and makes for a restful break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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DRIVING ROUTE

Head south out of Milan on the A1 and merge onto the A14/E45, then drive for about an hour towards the city of Piacenza. Take a stop off in this ‘Pleasant Place’, as it was called by the Romans, and visit the Ricci Oddi Galleria d’Arte Moderna and its collection of modern art, the restored 13th Century town hall, and wander around the exquisite historic centre Palazzo Farnese.

Continue just 50 minutes southeast on the A1 into the city of Parma. One of Italy’s most prosperous cities, here you can sip on Sangiovese wine, watch impressive classical music shows, and enjoy the cobbled streets of the glamorous city of Parma. A city that is famous for Lamborghinis, Verdi, and ham and cheese, it’s imperative that you eat, drink and soak in the cultural atmosphere of Parma for at least a few hours on this route.

Drive for one hour onto the quaint city of Bologna. Filled with cafes, museums, and medieval and Renaissance structures, Bologna is home to the world’s oldest university, some of the nation’s finest restaurants, and serves as a hub for start-up tech companies in Italy.

Just under an hour from Bologna, the city of Ferrara is a commonly overlooked tourist attraction in Italy that is definitely worth a visit. The city still maintains its medieval city walls, and was once home to the powerful Este clan–the arch enemies of Florence’s Medici family. Take time to visit the Jewish ghetto here dating back to World War II, which is the largest and oldest in the region.

The final leg of the journey is a two-hour drive directly to Venice, but you can stop off at the city of Padua on the way if you prefer an additional destination detour.

After your drive from Milan to Venice you will be looking for somewhere incredible to stay for the night. One of the best hotels in Venice has to be the Ca’vendramin Di Santa Fosca, with incredible canal views and a unique roof terrace. The five star hotel is in a prime location–close to the Rialto–and is set in a 16th century palazzo with its own private jetty out onto Venice’s famous canals.

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VENICE

With its historical canals, gondolas, and winding streets, Venice, Italy is considered one of the most romantic and visited cities in the world. The city is almost always on everyone’s “must see” list – and judging by the crowds, people do a good job of crossing it off their list! I find Venice to beautiful, fun, and a great place to get lost in. 

Enter Basilica San Marco – St. Mark’s Basilica is the third building on its spot on the Piazza San Marco. Two other churches were there previously, the first built to hold the stolen bones of St. Mark. The current is filled with amazing mosaics, domes, statues, and the High Altar that supposedly contains some of the saint’s remains.

Tour the Doge’s Palace – A series of 120 doges ruled Venice, and their incredible three story palace predates the Renaissance. The facade features beautiful arches and pink and white marble. The palace is located on St. Mark’s Square. The inside of the palace is remarkable, and filled with artwork. Tours will take visitors across the Bridge of Sighs to the nearby prison cells, one of which once housed famous Cassanova.

Take a Gondola ride – Some may say the gondolas of Venice are a tourist trap, but so are a lot of other fun things! A gondola ride can be very romantic if taken around dusk.

Go explore Lido – If you want to escape the city, Lido is an island between Venice and the sea that has a beach on where you can relax. Cabanas can also be rented.

Visit Murano island – Close to Venice, nearby Murano island is the home of the famous glass blowers of the famous Murano glass. Although the island is filled with souvenirs, it is an educational and fun afternoon learning and watching how the glass is blown.

Visit the markets – Venice has great markets where you can buy some delicious food at a fraction of the cost than at the restaurants. The morning fish market is a favourite. Head there early to watch the restaurant owners pick their fish and stay for the old ladies picking their dinners. There is also an organic produce market on Mondays.

Explore the Peggy Guggenheim Collection – This is a huge, avant-garde collection of art, comprised of more than 200 artists. There are countless pieces by surrealists, abstract expressionists, and Italian futurists. In addition to works by Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, and various other big-name artists, the collection also includes local works.

Climb the Campanile di San Marco – Built in 1912, this tower is actually a replica of the original Bell Tower of St. Mark. It is said that every last detail of the structure is a match. You can climb up through the inner workings and get a great view of the city.

Watch the Voga Longa – Held annually on May 23rd, this is a marathon rowing event in which thousands of people come out to participate. At over 1,500 vessels strong, this tradition originated as a protest to the increasing amount of power boats throughout Venice waters. In order to receive recognition, you have to row 20 miles in under 3.5 hours.

I Tre Mercanti – For the foodies out there, this food gallery can be found just a stone’s skip away from St. Marco’s Square. The specialty here is Italian dishes but the cool part is the number of regional specialties from around Italy. There are over 97 pasta sauces here! It’s kind of like heaven, really, especially the tiramisu.

Take a trip to Burano – Another one of the islands around Venice is Burano, which is known for its colorful, block-like buildings. The government actually regulates house-painting on this island. Wander the streets, and admire the many art galleries and shops along the way.


Five Hidden Travel Gems in Mexico

Get off the beaten path to explore these five hidden gems in Mexico.

Mexico is one of the most visited countries in the world and is especially popular with visitors from the United States and Canada – Cancun is the most popular international destination for American travelers. 

The ancient country of Mexico has it all: cultural festivals, beach resorts, sleepy colonial towns, Meso-American ruins, a touch of the Spanish here and a touch of the Meso-American there, all basking in decadent sunlight, clear waters and perfect climate. But how much do tourists know this huge country? Beyond the beach towns, the luxury golf courses and the famous ruins of Chichen Itza, there’s a whole two million square kilometers to explore and a history spanning back to 1500 BC to wade around in. For a much more enlightening stay, a traipse into real history and scenery entirely unique to Mexico, check out these five hidden gems in Mexico.

The colonial city of Guanajuato

Between the sun, the mountains and the beach are the narrow cobblestone alleyways of the colonial-era city of Guanajuato. Located in North-Central Mexico, this charming and perfectly preserved inland town is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. From afar, it looks like a compact assortment of colorful preserved buildings with a slight European flair, but a closer inspection will reveal indispensable examples of neoclassical and baroque-style architecture and historical monuments all lodged a rich history that is essential to the history of Mexico. The town was founded half a century ago in 1559 and blossomed as a silver mining city. Aside from learning its historical significance in the various museums around town, visitors can check out the annual Cervantino festival, a performing arts festival honoring the author of Don Quixote, and kiss in the famous Callejón del Beso, an alleyway so narrow that two partners can share a kiss between opposing balconies.

Copper Canyon makes the Grand Canyon look like an etch in flimsy stone

There are the kind of tourists who go to Mexico to lie on a beach at an all-inclusive resort sipping on cocktails, who take a day to check out the ruins before going back to work on their tan. And then there are the kinds of tourists who go to Copper Canyon in the northeastern corner of Chihuahua. Four times the size of the Grand Canyon, the Copper Canyon’s network of six arresting deeps are most certainly worth a trip on the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railway between the cities of Mochis and Chihuahua. 

On this 14-hour journey, passengers get truly breathtaking views of forests, lakes, colorful mountain faces and traverse 86 tunnels and 39 bridges. Travelers are welcome to hop off and hike through the woods, camp, spot birds and visit the indigenous communities.

History, luxury, and natural beauty blend in Cuernavaca

Located 85 kilometers from Mexico City, Cuernavaca, known as the "City of the Eternal Spring," is scented by local wildflowers like bugambilias, jacarandas, lilies, jasmines and more, and is home to a rich and colorful historic center that is full of plazas and colonial buildings. Outside of central Cuernavaca, gorgeous natural color abounds in its mountains, volcanos, meadows and rivers, including Teopanzolco, an archaeological site upon which pyramidal rectangular structures sit. Inside the town are luxury spas, restaurants, cafés and the unmissable Cuernavaca Cathedral.

Riviera Nayarit, a beachgoers paradise

Just ten minutes from the Puerto Vallarta airport, the Riviera Nayarit is a terribly underrated beach escape. The city itself is essentially 192 miles of town-spotted coastline between the historic port of San Blas to Banderas Bay in Nuevo Vallarta. With one foot on the illustrious Western Sierra Madre and one foot dipped into the Pacific Ocean, Riviera Nayarit has the perfect weather for any kind of beachgoer – the areas of Sayulita and Matanchen Bay are a surfer’s dream while San Blas is a quiet and friendly little town that still harkens back to its early Spanish colonial days.

Valladolid should be one of the natural wonders of the world

Further inland from the heavier populated and larger tourism hubs of the coastal Playa del Carmen and Cancun, Valladolid has never been considered a must-see stop – at most, it’s a day trip or a stop on the way to Chichen Itza. However, those who can drag themselves from the beach resorts truly have something special to explore – Valladido is a small town full of historical charms, sweeping mountainous landscapes and the ruins of Ek’ Balam, a pyramid taller than the biggest in Chichen Itza and much less of a tourist magnet. The famous Cenote Dzitnup, located about seven kilometers southeast of Valladolid, is a mysterious underwater sinkhole that drips and sputters clear turquoise waters illuminated by a skylight.


Costa Rica, the Pura Vida

Costa Rica is one of the hottest destinations to visit in 2016 as British Airways launches the first direct flights from the UK to capital San Jose in May. But is this small Central American country worth the 11-hour flight?

If you love abundant wildlife (lovable sloths, fascinating sea turtles and colourful hummingbirds are just the beginning), amazing adventures in the land of rainforests, volcanoes, waterfalls and beaches, there are many reasons why you will fall in love with Costa Rica...

1. There is a Caribbean and Pacific Coast. Choose from the laidback Caribbean side famed for its idyllic black sand beaches or the spectacular sunsets and upscale hotels of the Pacific beaches.



2. It's one of the happiest countries in the world. Costa Rica consistently ranks high in the happiness index based on life satisfaction, average life expectancy, sense of purpose, social relationships, financial situations and community involvement.



3. Thomson and British Airways are bringing Costa Rica closer to UK tourists. Thomson launched the first direct flights from London Gatwick to Liberia in November 2015, while BA's direct flights to San Jose commence from May 2016.

4. There is no army. Costa Rica's military was abolished in 1948 and today, the budget previously assigned to its army, navy, air force and heavy weapons is dedicated to security, education and culture.



5. It's the hummingbird capital of the world. There are more than 50 species of the vibrantly-coloured and energetic birds famous for their rapid-beating wings. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Los Quetzales National Park are some of the country's hummingbird hotspots.



6. 25 per cent of the country is protected land. There are 26 National Parks, 58 wildlife refuges, 32 protected zones and eight biological reserves. Costa Rica's environmental protection and sustainable ecotourism has been hailed a model for other countries.

7. 'Pura vida' is the law of the land. It means 'pure life' and is used as a greeting or as a way of saying thanks.

8. Gallo pinto (rice and beans) is the national dish. It makes for a delicious breakfast dish served with fried or scrambled eggs.

9. There are more than 121 volcanic formations and seven of them are active. Arenal is one of the best-known volcanoes, while Poás, Irazú and Rincón de la Vieja are also worth exploring.

10. The colon is Costa Rica's currency but US dollars are widely accepted. For those who like to use the local currency, £1 will currently buy you 787 colones.



11. It's the 13th largest coffee exporter in the world and most of the coffee production takes place in San José, Alajuela, Puntarenas, Heredia and Cartago. Touring a plantation is a must if you are a coffee lover!



12. Sea turtles love it. Costa Rica's coast is home to dozens of important nesting beaches for leatherback, green, hawksbill and olive ridley turtles.

13. One of the world's most beautiful birds, the Resplendent Quetzal, is found in the cloud forests of Monteverde. Famed for its vibrant shades of greens and reds, the striking bird is easier to spot in Costa Rica than other parts of Central America thanks to the protected forests.



14. UNESCO recently declared the mysterious Diquis Stones a World Heritage Site. The stone spheres crafted by the pre-Columbian Diquis people are found in the Osa Peninsula.



15. The Parque Nacional Isla del Coco featured in the opening sequence of Jurassic Park. Cocos Island is home to some of the most untouched landscapes in the world and the best diving in Costa Rica.

16. Sodas are family-run restaurants that serve home-cooking for just a few dollars. The small eateries serve up the likes of casado, gallo pinto and stews.



17. The golden toad was once a national symbol of the country. The vivid orange or golden-coloured toad was only found in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve up until its last sighting in 1989.



18. Costa Rica's national flower is the orchid and there are more than 1,400 species. Blooming season is from January to April and the flower is found in tropical forests, on shorelines and on top of mountains.

19. The sun rises and sets at around the same time every day of the year. Sunrise is at approximately 5:30am and sunset is at 5:30pm.



20. Basilisk lizards are not your average lizard and can be seen running on the surface of water. Jesus Christ lizards, as they are also known, have large, long bodies and are found in the rainforests of Costa Rica.



21. Dia del Boyero is a celebration of beautifully decorated oxcarts which takes place every second Sunday of March in Escazu. The festival's highlight is a parade featuring over 100 oxcarts and many more oxen pulling the carts.


10 of the best alternative city breaks in Europe

If you’re after a fresh city break look beyond the usual big names for more cool culture and great sights. Here’s our list for 2016:


Valletta - Malta
The island of Malta itself is a sight to behold but within the walled city of its capital, Valletta, built by the Knights of St John in the 16th century, there is plenty more. Malta’s oldest fort, Fort St Angelo, and the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum – an incredible burial complex cut into rock – are some of the unmissable sights, but the city isn’t without contemporary touches, such as Renzo Piano’s city gate, completed two years ago; and in 2018 Valletta will celebrate the title of City of Culture. Along the narrow, bustling, Strait Street you’ll find bars and live music, elsewhere restaurants, including the unpretentious Da’ Pippo Trattoria (+356 2124 8029), serve delicious Italian cooking, while chic bistro Guze – in a 16th-century building – specialises in local cooking, with rabbit and pork dishes, alongside staples such as pasta and risotto.

Wrocław - Poland
It may seem tricky to pronounce but don’t let that stop you discovering this passionate Polish city with a radical history: this spans from venues such as the Song of the Goat Theatre to post-punk commune Centrum Reanimacji Kultury. This year Wrocław is Europe’s capital of culture, with a programme ranging from specially curated Film Operas to a major summer concert with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. While the contemporary side of the city – such as art and party space Neon Side Gallery – are a worthy distraction, don’t let that stop you exploring the city’s past; the old town, full of bridges and parks, is a beautiful place to explore, as is the village-like Cathedral Island, dotted with gothic architecture.

Marseille - France
Since Eurostar launched direct trains from London last May, this chic city in southern France is just 6.5 hours away. In the oldest area, Quartier du Panier, you’ll find independent cafes and shops – such as classic soap shop La Grande Savonnerie – and contemporary galleries along rue Sainte and rue Grignan. As well as beautiful historical sights, such as the huge neo-Byzantine church Nôtre-Dame de la Garde, you’ll find a younger, edgier Marseille by exploring places like art and social space Friche La Belle de Mai, which has a rooftop bar and open-air cinema throughout the summer. 

Dubrovnik - Croatia
A picturesque city – and the main shooting location for King’s Landing in HBO’s Game Of Thrones – Dubrovnik’s terracotta rooftops tumble down to the blue Adriatic. Among them there’s lots to enjoy, from drinking fresh pilsner in the bars of the old town to a visit to an ancient (still working) apothecary at the Dubrovnik monastery. For history, it’s also worth visiting the Homeland War Museum, which you can combine with a cable car ride to the top of Mount Srdj Also, the Museum of Modern Art is excellent. Culinary indulgences can be found at acclaimed restaurants such as 360°, while beach-side bar and club Banje is among the swankiest of the city’s cocktail hangouts.

Sarajevo - Bosnia
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Dayton peace agreement, which ended four years of war and the devastating siege of Sarajevo. Though its history – including as the flashpoint for the first world war – remains an important part of its present, the Bosnian city, which often draws comparisons with Istanbul, is a beautiful and diverse place to visit, with cobbled streets to explore and excellent cafes serving traditional, slow-brewed coffee and delicious burek (stuffed pastries). To get a grasp on the city under siege, visitors should investigate the Tunnel of Hope – a museum on the site of the city’s wartime supply line – and also visit memorial museum Galerija 11/07/95, which attempts to explain the Srebrenica tragedy. For the city’s creative side, start at the ambitious Ars Aevi Museum of Contemporary Art, before checking out some of its smaller galleries, such as Duplex100m2, which focuses on the country’s emerging artists. The Pivnica HS brewery, which also has a restaurant, is a good place to sample local award-winning beer.

Girona - Spain
An hour’s drive from the beautiful coastline of Costa Brava, should you wish to combine a trip with some beach time, Girona offers visitors a serving of Catalan culture without the swarms of tourists that descend on Barcelona during peak season. Pro-cyclists have long used the city as a training base, Dan Craven recently recommended cycle cafe La Fabrica as a place to get tips on where to ride. Things to take in, when you’re not checking out the modernist architecture, include the ancient cathedral and the museum dedicated to the city’s Jewish history. Michelin-star restaurant El Celler de Can Roca is an obvious indulgence, while the long-running Sunset Jazz Club is among the places to get dancing.

Bologna - Italy
If ever there was a place to binge on Italian food, then it’s here, in a beautiful university town brimming with classic trattorias – from smarter Ristorante Biagi to cheap local haunts such as Trattoria Anna Maria; both places have staff who have been there for decades. Although dining, along with its aperitivo culture and abundance of religious architecture, is the main draw for most visitors, Bologna also has a younger, radical side: the Libreria modo infoshop is a good starting point to find out more about the scene as is social centre XM24, which has regular events, such as a weekly organic market every Thursday. If you visit in November, make sure your trip coincides with one of Bologna’s leading cultural events, the Bilbolbul international comic festival, which takes place in venues from museums to homes.

Brno - Czech Republic
Tourism to the Czech Republic often feels concentrated on Prague, so a visit to Brno, the country’s second city, allows you to take full advantage of this – expect a city break free of stag dos! The most important attraction is the baroque Cathedral of St Peter and Paul, while other sights include the spectacular Moravian Karst and caves – a network of more than a thousand underground caves and gorges. Among the city’s many museums and galleries is the Moravian Gallery, where there are collections of visual art and graphic design. Still, as in Prague, the affordable food and drink is a major draw; so knock ‘em back at one of the city’s pubs, such as Výčep Na stojáka, and feast on delicious local cooking at restaurants such as Soul Bistro or Simplé. New bars such as cocktail joint Super Panda Circus and gastropub Lucky Bastard Beerhouse are part of a growing collection of modern urban hangouts.

Tallinn - Estonia
A medieval city on the Baltic, Tallinn is a quaint destination and, while airlines continue to offer flights there from as little as £90 return, it’s a great choice for a budget weekend break. Pulling together Baltic, Russian and Scandi culture, the old town is a Unesco heritage site where you’ll find the magnificent, onion-domed St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The city is also home to a large art museum, the Kunstimuuseum, so there’s plenty more to Tallinn than cheap beer – and whole areas to explore beyond the more obvious, boozy, tourist trail. The city’s most interesting district is Kalamaja, a creative neighbourhood where abandoned spaces are being repurposed. A highlight is Telliskivi Creative City, a factory complex now occupied by exhibitions, shops, cafes and performance spaces, such as restaurant and venue F-Hoone.

Graz - Austria
With a strong cultural heritage, Austria’s second city is a beautiful red-roofed university town in the southern state of Styria. It is home to impressive museums, from the unique Museum of Perception – where you’ll find eye-boggling art pieces – to the striking Kunsthaus Graz, a museum with a space age facade that resembles a giant illuminated alien blob. Another piece of impressive design to check out is the Island in the Mur created by the artist artist Vito Acconci, which has a cafe and performance space. The student population means there is a good nightlife scene from cafe/bar Blendend to bar and venue die Scherbe.


Reasons to Love Belgium

From classic Belgian waffles to fanciful delights like Mini-Europe amusement park, this little country is big on culture, cuisine, and creativity.

Belgium pops off the map, alive with modern, artistic lodgings, unconventional museums, and beloved regional food and beer. During a 10-day trip through Brussels and Wallonia, I made sure to hit the most popular travel sites, including Waterloo, Bastogne, and Brussels, but I also made a point to stray from the traditional spots…and I was glad I did. Ready for a grand tour?

Brussels: Chocolate, waffles, and…beer!

Brussels is the home of the European Union and a truly international city. The beautiful Grand-Place and infamous Manneken Pis are must-sees, but for a different perspective, take a bike tour with Pro Velo; it’s a unique way to admire the city’s diverse architecture and chat up a local (provelo.org). Pass designs by some of art nouveau’s most famous architects, Victor Horta and Paul Hankar. Stunning glasswork by artist Ernest Delune at Rue du Lac 6, often seen in art history textbooks, is a highlight, as is the Horta Museum, a World Heritage Site.

Ingesting and investing in some chocolate while touring Brussels is crucial for any visit. Laurent Gerbaud has some outstanding chocolates, many mixed with tart and sweet dried and candied fruits (chocolatsgerbaud.be). Gerbaud’s interactive workshops offer students the opportunity to make and taste their own concoctions. His shop also has a café, so take a seat and enjoy the full chocolate experience. It’s close enough to do some oh-so-convenient chocolate shop–hopping at Place du Grand Sablon, where many of Belgium’s top chocolatiers have stores.

For another sweet Brussels fix, walk a few feet from the popular Manneken Pis statue to feast on a Brussels-style waffle with chocolate, whipped cream, and strawberries at the Waffle Factory (wafflefactory.com). When in Brussels…

Next up: a trip to the Atomium, a bizarre remnant of the 1958 World’s Fair, which might be the very definition of interesting and offbeat. This structure symbolizes an iron crystal expanded 165 billion times and houses an exhibition space. Nearby is another find, Mini-Europe, where you can walk among famous European monuments in miniature, including Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower (minieurope.com). Kids are the perfect audience for Mini-Europe—as are adults on the hunt for funny photos.

Dinant: Paddle through town and discover a new way to make music

The fairytale-like setting that makes up Dinant is marked by a grand 13th-century church on the banks of the Meuse River, backed by an imposing high cliff where the Citadel rests. To take in nature, go kayaking on the nearby Lesse River with Olivier Pitance of Dinant Adventures (dinant-evasion.be). Small rapids turn to quiet currents and revert back again as you paddle and float by rock outcroppings, lush forests, and medieval castles.

In town, don’t miss the House of Pataphony, where you can expand your mind making music with everyday objects you wouldn’t normally think to “play,” from a chandelier made of cutlery to antique keys (pataphonie.be). The wildly inventive museum was dreamt up by instrument maker Max Vandervorst. It makes sense that it’s located in Dinant, the home of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone. You can visit his home, now a small interactive museum (sax.dinant.be). Stay nearby in a castle at La Saisonneraie (from about $168 per night, lasaisonneraie.be), a former château in Falaën that tempts guests with exceptional croissants for breakfast.

Liège: Forward-thinking art and cuisine, plus Belgium’s biggest market

Start your morning trying Liège waffles at the best place in town, Maison Massin (Rue Puits-en-sock, 6-8- 4020 Liège). It’s where the locals get their waffles. Choose from traditional Liège waffles, sugary, chewy waffles that are ovular and unevenly shaped, or more embellished versions such as grilled strawberry or rhubarb. Sunday is market day in Liège, and whatever you’re craving or coveting, you’ll find it at La Batte, the oldest and largest market in Belgium. Local produce, cheese, fish, clothing, and books are all ripe for the picking at this riverside shopping mecca (liege.be).

From the market, walk to Curtius Brasserie to sample Belgian craft beers (lacurtius.com). En route, you’ll want to snap a photo of the Mount Bueren stairs, an epic 374-step staircase located just beside “Brasserie C.” Once inside the beer hall, there’s an exciting energy. Started by young entrepreneurs, this Belgian brewery is housed in a former monastery. You can take a tour of the production area and pair cheese or meatballs with beer on the lovely outdoor terrace.

Avant-garde art lovers, your new haunt is the Cité Miroir, an unusual cultural venue (citemiroir.be). Exhibitions are held in a 1930s building once home to public baths and a swimming pool: The remnants of still remain—works of art in themselves. Locals may tell you they learned to swim there.

For dinner in Liège, you have to try boulet, a traditional beef-and-pork meatball that’s highly popular in the region. One of the best places to feast on boulet is Amon Nanesse, where large meatballs are served up in sweet sauce consisting of a mixture of pears and apple syrup, wine, onions, and peket, a local spirit (maisondupeket.be). Naturally, boulet is best complemented with a heaping helping of crispy fries. I had a boulet connoisseur introduce me to this filling dish: Sebastien Laviolette, from la Confrérie du Gay Boulet, is part of a guild of folks who make it their mission to secretly taste test meatballs at restaurants throughout the region and rate the best.

Durbuy: Europe’s coolest small city? You decide.

One of Durbuy’s claims to fame is its title of “smallest city in the world”.

Durbuy is a charming combination of cobblestoned medieval streets, historic sights, and lovely shops. There’s a local count here who still lives in a castle overlooking the town and the Durbuy Topiary Park (topiaires.durbuy.be). Billing itself as the “largest park in the world devoted to topiary that is accessible for the public” (that’s quite the moniker), there are more than 250 plants, some more than a century old.


10 of the world’s best eco-friendly luxury hotels

Who says luxury and eco-consciousness have to be mutually exclusive?

These days, going on a green break doesn’t mean sacrificing the comforts which you’ve come to expect on a holiday of a lifetime.

Many hotels with five-star service are starting to place a greater amount of emphasis on sustainability in a commitment to reduce their carbon footprint and, ultimately, help the environment.

From foraging in the Swedish wilderness for leaves to brew your morning cup of tea, to relaxing in your own above-water villa in the Maldives, why not have a look at some of the incredible holidays you could take whilst still looking after the environment?

The Whitepod Eco Resort, Switzerland

This resort, located in the Swiss Alps, offers the chance to sleep in luxurious pods in the middle of your own winter wonderland surroundings. The pods are low impact which means the utilise minimal water and electricity and only use renewable resources wherever they can.

whitepod.com

The URBN hotel, China

The URBN hotel is China’s first carbon neutral hotel and it has plans in store to reduce its carbon footprint even further in the future. The decor of the hotel is made from recycled or locally sourced materials and they also make use of energy efficient lighting and cooling systems.

urbnhotels.com

The Hix Island House, Puerto Rico

The Hix has become renowned for its environmentally friendly practices. The hotel uses solar panels to power both their electricity and hot water, they also use recycled water from the guests’ showers and basins to feed the guavas, bananas and papayas growing nearby.

hixislandhouse.com

The Ramada Eco Beach Resort, Australia

Undoubtedly one of the front runners in eco-tourism, the Ramada Eco Beach Resort does everything it can to encourage eco-friendly behaviour, from self-sustaining solar power to their very own on-site water recycling plant. The resort even offers the opportunity for guests to use energy monitoring systems in their eco-villas to monitor and adjust their individual consumption.

ecobeach.com.au

The Proximity Hotel, America

This Northern Carolina hotel currently has over 70 different sustainable practices in place, making them one of the highest rated green hotels in America. The building uses nearly 40% less energy than a conventional hotel or restaurant and water usage has been reduced by 33% through the use of high efficiency plumbing fixtures, saving two million gallons of water in the first year alone.

proximityhotel.com

The Saffire Freycinet, Australia

The Saffire was created for the purpose of rejuvenating an area which had been previously damaged and limit any further impact. Since setting up, the Saffire Freycinet has implemented many sustainable practices such as installing energy efficient water usage and lighting, natural cycle air flow systems and double glazing. They have also spent a lot of time helping to recover the native plants to their natural form.

saffire-freycinet.com.au

The Park Hyderabad, India

This relatively new building was created with the aim of encouraging sustainability. To aid the green aspect of the architecture, a unique metal screen cladding was used around the exterior of the building. This gives the structure a modern look and also maximises the use of natural light for both lighting and heating, reducing the need for electricity.

theparkhotels.com

The Campi ya Kanzi, Kenya

The Campi ya Kanzi in Kenya was built using only local materials that had fallen from trees naturally. The also only employed local Maasai during the construction. The energy is sourced through photovoltaic panels and their water, which is their scarcest resource, is sourced from the rain using their special catchment system.

maasai.com

The LeFay Resort, Italy

The LeFay Resort in Italy boasts some incredible figures for their consumption of renewable energy, including: 100% for electrical energy, 85% for thermal energy and 100% for room cooling and air cleaning. They also take part in measures to improve their waste management, water saving and social responsibility.

lefayresorts.com

Urnatur, Sweden

This Swedish stay offers accommodation which takes you straight back to nature. From staying in tree houses to foraging for leaves to make your own cup of tea. The heating is either solar powered or powered by wood collectied from storm fallen trees.

urnatur.se


How to go green when you travel

Traveling green takes a little extra effort at first, but it soon becomes second nature and those extra steps can enhance every trip you take. Not only will you feel better about your travels, but you’ll also leave a more positive impression on the place you visited and often have more meaningful experiences along the way.

We believe responsible travel is a force for good: it can open hearts and minds, give us a broader understanding of the world, and inspire us to make a difference; but when you consider the environmental impact of commercial aviation, the sometimes negative effects of tourism on other cultures, and the trail of strained resources travelers can leave behind, tourism doesn’t look so pretty.

Here are our tips for going green with ease and making travel better for everyone.

Choose an ethical travel destination

Independent nonprofit organization Ethical Traveler ranks destinations each year by their environmental protection standards, social welfare and human rights record. 

By visiting countries on these lists, your tourism dollar supports their efforts to create sustainable tourism industries, and encourages other destinations to follow suit.

Choose a green hotel

Look for certified green hotels that are in LEED Certified buildings, use renewable energy, recycle, use environmentally friendly cleaning products and offer options for guests to make an impact (such as not having the sheets changed daily).

There are several certification programs - the better-known ones include Green Key Global, Green Globe International, Green Seal and EcoRooms & EcoSuites. Staying in smaller, locally run hotels and B&Bs is often the greenest method around, making your stay environmentally and socially responsible as well as being a more direct boost to the local economy.

Choose a green tour company

Going with an independent local guide can often be the best way to ensure your money is doing the most for your destination’s economy.

When looking for a tour company look for the following:

  • The company proudly promotes their ethical practices.
  • They use green office products.
  • You can tangibly see how they contribute to the community.
  • They respect the local flora and fauna.
  • They take destination-specific social and political issues into account.

Drive Green

Sometimes it can be hard not to require the need of a car when travelling. There are car rental companies who offer low emission, electric and hybrid vehicles in countries worldwide. Green Motion Car Rental specialises in the offering of low emission vehicles for daily rental and are in over 22 countries worldwide.

Eat locally sourced food

Support the region's farmers, get a more authentic taste of the cuisine and cut your carbon footprint even more. Look out for restaurants advertising local produce or, if that’s not possible, eat local dishes at mom-and-pop-style places that will most likely use what’s produced nearby. Whatever you do, don’t eat endangered species like turtle or over-harvested shellfish.

Carbon offset

Calculate your carbon offset via this handy calculator at Sustainable Travel. While it's better to concentrate on shrinking your footprint in the first place, a contribution to carbon offset programs will help by funding reforestation and renewable energy projects.

Donate

Now that you’ve experienced a place, met its people and seen what is needed the most, why not make a donation to one of the region’s grass-roots organizations? Perhaps you found this on the road or researched it as an afterthought, but there’s always a way to give more back.


A trip to San Diego - 'America's Finest City'

San Diego calls itself ‘America’s Finest City’ and its breezy confidence and sunny countenance filter down even to folks you encounter every day on the street. It’s the nation’s eighth-largest city, yet we’re hard-pressed to think of a place of any size that’s more laid-back.

What’s not to love? San Diego bursts with world-famous attractions for the entire family, including the zoo, Legoland, the museums of Balboa Park and SeaWorld, plus a bubbling downtown and beaches ranging from ritzy to raucous, and America’s most perfect weather.

With 70-degree days, countless beaches and a scenic spot in Southern California, sun-filled San Diego is the ultimate place for road trips.

San Diego is very spread out so you’ll almost certainly want to rent a car. To pick the best area to stay, think about how you want to spend your time. For laid back beach towns, Solana Beach and Encinitas are perfect. If you’re in town for margaritas and a good time, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are best. Most people will be happy staying in the Gaslamp downtown or on Coronado Island, since there’s a great mix of things to see and do in both places.

Downtown, and specifically in the popular Gaslamp Quarter, there are a handful of fantastic rooftop bars where you can kick back with a cocktail in the open air. J6 Bar, which attracts people who fancy themselves trendsetters, is the sleek fourth-floor lounge and pool area of the Hotel Solamar; Altitude Skybar, 22 floors up atop the Marriott, brings in a mixed crowd of tourists and locals.

For a hike that's both rewarding and easy, make your way to Torrey Pines State Reserve. The Guy Fleming Trail, named for a longtime nature guide and activist, is a six-tenths-of-a-mile loop that skirts along sheer cliffs overlooking the ocean. At the north end of the trail, a bench offers a view that on clear days extends as far as Santa Catalina island. Tip: An hour before sunset, the admission price is cut in half.

For a world-class sunset, go to the place named for it, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. From high atop craggy rocks, the ocean and sky seem endless, and the light is extra dramatic. Don't leave without walking along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and checking out the five-foot-high peace sign, 40 feet above the sea on a rock, near Froude Street. The artwork appeared mysteriously last spring, and while it's illegal, people like it so much that no one has taken it down. "The goal was to make the piece 'organic' to the surroundings, as if it had sprung from the ocean," the anonymous artist says at peacerocks.info. "Mostly, it was intended to reflect whatever peaceful insights and wishes each viewer projected upon it."

Opened in 2004, the Petco Park baseball stadium has brought in record attendance and served as the cornerstone for the revitalization of downtown. The Padres' ballpark is a home run for many reasons, including decorative waterfalls, lots of bougainvillea, and menus with tacos from local favorite Rubio's.


A beginner's guide to ski

Have you ever imagined yourself rocketing down a ski slope, leaving a spray of white powdery snow behind you?

Are you jealous when friends post endless pictures of fun winters of mulled wine and cheese in front of a heavenly mountain backdrop? Are you ready to take the leap (so to speak) and enjoy your first alpine adventure, but you don’t know where to start? If so, then read our manual for your first time foray into the snow-sport world.

Before you go, here are some quick-win tips if you don’t even know where to start…

Choose a great beginner resort
Some resorts are perfect for a novice. Knowledgeable, English speaking ski instructors, accommodation near the ski lifts, resort après ski and facilities for when you’re not on the slopes are all things you should consider.

Think about what to wear
It’s all about layers. Wearing thick cotton or wool jumpers will be cumbersome and eventually sweaty so try to avoid them. A good thermal base and thin extra layers are the best way to keep both warm on the snow and cool in the sun.

Prepare your body
Make no mistake about it, skiing is a sport. And your body (especially your legs) will thank you if you exercise in the run up to your trip. There are many online guides to getting ‘ski-fit’ but even a few weeks jogging before you go will help get you ready.

Try before you fly
There are many great indoor slopes in the UK these days and a lesson or two before your holiday will not only show you a few basic essentials but also prepare you for the feeling of being on skis - as well as the dreaded button lift!

Pre-book your extras
There are 3 essentials you will need to get on the mountain: a lift pass, lessons and equipment. Arranging, paying and queuing for these things on day one however can be a frustrating experience which can be made easier by booking before you go.

Ok, so you’re ready to go, but where should you visit for your first ski adventure?

Best for Beginners: Méribel, France
Perfectly positioned as a springboard for the whole Three Valleys ski area, Méribel offers over 150km of pistes within its own right as well as access to a total of over 600km of pistes for the entire ski region. With the majority of runs designated as beginner/blue level, it’s the perfect place for new skiers to enjoy and practise their skills across a powder play-land. Ski schools are available onsite and the ski and snowboarding instructors are able to offer lessons in most of the world’s major languages.

Best Yet to Come: Glenshee, Scotland
While not as snow ready just yet as some of the others to follow, Glenshee Ski Centre is a great resort to hold out for once the natural snow starts to settle. Located just north of the Cairnwell Pass, it’s not only the largest ski centre in Scotland but the largest snow sports resort in the entire UK! The season usually goes from December to April and its 40km of pistes, 22 lifts and 36 runs in total are open every day of the week, leaving plenty of time to explore. If you’re after lessons, the Glenshee Ski and Board School offers a variety of classes and a nice collection of restaurants and cafes completes the resort for relaxing times off the powder.

Longest Season: Ruka, Finland
Besides those glacier ski resorts that can stay open year round, Ruka boasts the longest season in Europe. The slopes open in October through to May, making the season at least 200 days – and they sometimes stay open even into June! It’s the largest ski resort in Lapland and has runs for each and every level. They also offer night skiing on Fridays 7-11pm from December to mid-April. You can expect well-groomed slopes covered in a good layer of powdered snow thanks to the snow cannons – in fact, in their entire history, Ruka has never had to close their slopes early due to poor snow conditions. The resort was even awarded the title of Best Ski Resort in Finland 2013 in the World Ski Awards and it’s not hard to see why, when you could be skiing beneath the Northern Lights if you hit the slopes between October and February!

Easiest Access: St. Moritz/Corviglia-Marguns, Switzerland
The biggest ski region in the Engadin, this one goes from Suvetta to St. Moritz and further on to Celerina. Here you’ll have access to 22 lifts to get you around the resort – in fact, they can handle nearly 30,000 people every hour. Not only that but most of the hotels are situated directly beneath the ski slopes or just a short train ride away, as in St. Moritz-Dorf, where you can take the Chantarellabahn. It is recommended to come by car, as you can park directly beneath the slope on many occasions.

Best Off-the-Beaten Path: Kvitfjell, Norway
This resort in the holiday region of Lillehammer has “only” 29 km of pistes but is still among the 10 biggest ski resorts in Norway. You can enjoy a choice of 9 lifts to get you around and there are pistes of every difficulty ranking from beginners to pro. The most recommended slopes are Vestsideløpa, Panoramaløypa and Olympiabakke, where you can do a spot of night skiing. The pistes are covered in a lower of artificial snow in October for the start of the season and you can ski right through until the end of April.


10 Unmissable Sporting Events for 2016

All eyes are on Rio this year, with around 15,000 athletes descending on the Brazilian city for the world’s largest sporting event: the Summer Olympic & Paralympic Games. Away from the South American spotlight, the year’s sporting calendar is as busy as ever – here are 10 events to look out for.

1. Cycling: The world’s best return to Lee Valley

UCI Track Cycling World Championships – London, 2-6 March

Four years ago London’s newly built velodrome became one of the epicentres of the 2012 Olympics, the crowd noise almost launching the venue into orbit as Team GB racked up gold medals. Now the planet’s top track cyclists are back, laying down markers for the Rio games at the first World Championships to be held in the UK for eight years. Sir Bradley Wiggins and Laura Trott are among those likely to figure.

2. Cricket: Can anyone beat Sri Lanka?

ICC World Twenty20 – India, 8 March-3 April

Ben Stokes’ swashbuckling innings in Cape Town seemed more in keeping with Twenty20 batting than Test Match cricket, and he won’t have to wait long for a fitting stage for his talent. The biennial World Twenty20 arrives in India in March, with England initially up against the West Indies, South Africa and reigning champions Sri Lanka. The latter are still ranked number one in the world – but how will they fare without the talismanic presence of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene?

3. Tennis: The defence of the Davis Cup title begins

Great Britain v Japan, first round of Davis Cup – Birmingham, 4-6 March

The British team’s Murray-inspired exploits in November became one of the biggest sports stories of 2015, resulting in a first Davis Cup triumph for no less than 79 years – and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award for the current World No 2. But can they repeat their success this year? GB have been handed a home tie in the first round, drawing Japan in Birmingham. A formality on paper, but where British tennis is concerned, anything goes…

While you’re there… Splash out on a meal – Birmingham has more 2016 Michelin stars than any UK city outside London.

4. Motor Racing: Hamilton looking to cement pole position

Formula One season – 20 March-27 November

Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to become the first British driver to win three consecutive Formula One world championships when the season begins in March. But with the schedule being expanded for 2016 – partly due to a new race in Azerbaijan – will he have the stamina? On a related motorsport note, this summer also sees London’s Battersea Park witness the culmination of another Formula E season.

5. Horse Racing: Richard Johnson steps into McCoy’s shoes

Invictus Games – Orlando, 8-12 May

When the international Invictus Games were first held in 2014 – counting some 300 wounded or sick armed personnel as its competitors – the event had the full works: BBC coverage, a royal patron and a closing concert headlined by the Foo Fighters. This second edition is likely to draw just as much attention, taking place over five days at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.

6. Football: Europe’s powerhouses go head to head

Euro 2016 – France, 10 June-10 July

By the time this season’s implausibly tight Premier League race finally comes to a head in May, the European Championships will be just weeks away. The tournament takes place in France, and home advantage means the host nation stands as one of the favourites to lift the trophy – along with Germany, Spain, Belgium and, among the eternally optimistic, Roy Hodgson’s England.

7. Boxing: Fury vs Klitschko Part Two

The list of people eager to take a swing at Tyson Fury is a long one, but the man officially entrusted with the duty in 2016 is Wladimir Klitschko, the fighter who the UK’s controversial new heavyweight champion defeated in November. No date or location has yet been set for the rematch, although when it rolls around you can expect the pre-fight media hoopla to be as entertaining as the bout itself.

8. Golf: Will Europe make it four in a row?

Ryder Cup – Minnesota, 30 September-2 October

The heroics of Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and co at recent Ryder Cups means European fans have become accustomed to success. When golf’s biggest occasion returns again in the autumn, however, Davis Love III’s American team will be desperate to reverse the trend. And with current World No 1 Jordan Spieth spearheading the US charge, the event is likely to be as hard-fought as ever.

9. Rugby Union: The latest north-south global showdown

Autumn Internationals – 5 November-3 December

Last year’s World Cup was roundly dominated by southern hemisphere teams – not one Six Nations side made the semi-finals – so when New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina return to these shores in the autumn, their hosts will have a point to prove. Will the absence of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter make the All Blacks vulnerable? Can Wales finally topple Australia? And will Eddie Jones’ England prove resurgent?

10. Ice Hockey: Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate turning 100 years old

The Maple Leafs are expected to unveil both a new logo and new uniforms in time for the 2016-17 season which will be their 100th as a franchise in the National Hockey League. It's all part of the Leaf's plans to go all out in celebrating their centennial season.

While you’re there… With Cardiff, Rome, London, Paris, Toronto, Edinburgh all seeing action, you’re culturally spoiled for choice. 


Top 10 Wild Swims in Italy

Taking a trip to Italy this year? Why not visit some of the prettiest places to swim out in the open with our list of the top wild swimming locations.

Best for Hot Springs: Fosso Bianco, Bagni San Filippo, Tuscany

Hidden in the woods, a hot spring flows down the huge white calcareous rock face into a set of stunning hot pools. Just relax and enjoy this magical place, in winter or summer.

Best for Blue Pools: Laghetti D'Avola, Syracuse, Sicily

Two perfect rocky pools with an incredible colour, surrounded by a breathtaking canyon full of waterfalls, wildlife and flowers. The best place for river scrambling and an aquatic mini adventure.

Best for Waterfalls: Cascata Plera, Tolmezzo, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

A waterfall drops into a true blue pool over the this funnel of rock. The air is always fresh, with the small droplets suspended in mid-air.

Best for Jumping: Torrente Ceronda, Valleys of Turin, Piedmont

In the middle of a wild and quiet forest, hold your breath and dive between the rocks into a large turquoise pool.

Best for Waterside Food: Lago di San Domenico, L'Aquila, Abruzzo

In the magnificent scenery of the Gole del Sagittario, this enchanting green lake is perfect for a picnic. Most eerie and magical at sunset.

Best for Kids & Families: Le piscine dell'Auro, Metauro Valley, Le Marche

In this magnificent valley the river Auro flows from one waterfalls to the other, in a series of easily accessible natural pools. The rocks are great for sun bathing and the water is warm and pleasant.

Best for Canoeing & Boats: Lago di Ledro, Trentino

Exploring the beaches of this beautiful lake by canoe, the best way to enjoy the stunning valley.

Best for Wild Camping: Foppiano, Fiume Taro, Emilia Romagna

In one of the most beautiful valleys of the Appennini, the River Taro's clear water offers a great opportunity to dive and swim. There are many beautiful villages around and wild camping in the forest.

Best for Canyons: Torrente San Michele, Lake Garda, Lombardy

Start your adventure in Campione del Garda and paddle up through the gorge of San Michele, where small pools, waterfalls, and rock channels are great fun.

Why not book car hire to ensure you can explore more than one of these beautiful outdoor pools on your italian getaway.


Our Top Car Hire Escapes: Marathons

Running overseas is a great experience and breaks the routine.

If your 2016 New Year’s resolutions involved travel and fitness, then read on! We’ve travelled the world to find some of the long-distance running events that appeal the most to us, so if you need an extra incentive to get fit this year, take a look at these five stunning marathon locations. Then lace up your running shoes – and book your car hire!

Athens Marathon
The closest you’ll get to the original marathon, the Athens Marathon, follows in the footsteps of Pheidippides, who is said to have run from Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. to report that Athens had won the Battle of Marathon. Taking place in November, this marathon traces his (ultimately fatal) path over tortuous hills to the triumphant setting of the white marble Panathenaic Stadium.

Niagara Falls International Marathon
Prepare to cross the border in October with the Niagara Falls International Marathon which starts in Buffalo, New York and finishes in Ontario, Canada. Join 1,500 runners as you make your way over the International Peace Bridge (the only hill on the course) before entering Ontario for 18 miles on the Niagara Parkway. There’s a stunning photo finish at the brink of the breath-taking Niagara Falls.

Cancun Marathon
The Marathon of Cancun is at its 31st edition with an absolutely beautiful and scenic racecourse that you will never forget. You will run along of the bay of Cancun, by the lagoon and resort. A Mariachi band will be waiting for you at the finish line to help you forget that you’ve just ran a marathon (or even the half marathon). Marathon Cancun has become a night marathon; this is the greatest charm of the event and purely for the participant’s satisfaction. With a perfect flat racecourse, you can finish without too much difficulty.

London Marathon
The London Marathon (known through sponsorship as the Virgin Money London Marathon) is a long-distance running event held in London, United Kingdom and part of the World Marathon Majors. The event was first run on the 29 th of March 1981 and has been held in the spring of every year since. Since 2010, the race has been sponsored by Virgin Money. The most recent event was the 2015 London Marathon on the 26th of April 2015. The marathon is run over a largely flat course around the River Thames and spans 42.195 kilometres (26 miles).


There are many marathons which are held worldwide, why not apply to give your trip away a healthy twist! Need car hire on your travels? Why not visit greenmotion.com and book an environmentally friendly car which will help keep the planet green.


The Best Road Trips in Italy

With snow-topped peaks, rugged coastlines, rolling green countryside and everything in between, car hire in Italy is a great way to explore everything the country has to offer. Taking a road trip in Italy is more than just a means to an end; with landscapes this beautiful, the journey itself becomes the destination.

Plan your Italy road trip in Tuscany

While the iconic cities of Florence and Siena are best enjoyed on foot, if you’re going to see anything of the “real” Tuscany in between, hiring a car is a great way to go.

The winding Via Chiantigiana is easily one of the prettiest road trips in Italy and well maintained, besides making for a comfortable and easy drive. The landscape here is peppered with picturesque natural landscapes, castles and fortified towns, and while it’s entirely possible to squeeze the drive into just one day, you’re going to want to take full advantage of the region’s abundant vineyards. Overnight stops are a must! Heading south out of Florence along the smooth and straight Via Senese will take you out onto the Via Chiantigiana, where the first stop is Greve in Chianti, the gateway to the region. After a stroll in the main square, take a detour to the west and the charismatic walled town of Montefioralle, perched on a hilltop. Make sure you have your camera at the ready! From there, it’s back to the main trail, through the town of Panzano – the ideal place to stop for a bite to eat – and the historic Castellina. Finally, weaving your way through the thick forest, you’ll head west to the ancient wine-producing town of Gaiole. Here you can enjoy the fermented fruits of the land at the nearby Castello di Brolio castle with its very own wine shop.

All road trips lead to Rome

What could be better for a road trip in Italy than following in the tracks of an ancient Roman road?

The Via Cassia, running all the way from Florence to Rome, is fringed with cypress and pine trees and many more twists and turns than its Roman roots might suggest.

At around six hours’ drive time from Florence, there are plenty of highlights and worthwhile detours along the way to break up the journey. Heading south from Siena, it’s around 30 miles of good road to the Etruscan town of San Quirico D’Orcia where medieval ruins, the alluring vistas from its hilltop location and the quiet retreat of the Leonini Botanic Gardens will tempt you off the road. Further south as you pass through the commune of Abbadia San Salvatore, follow the signs for another ancient road, the Via Francigena, which was once the main route to Rome for pilgrims setting out from Canterbury to visit the tombs of St Peter and St Paul. For a breath of fresh air, make a stop at Lake Bolsena, or carry on south to the ancient town of Sutri, standing on the edge of Bracciano National Park. All these attractions and more await on the long road to Rome.

An Italy road trip with a difference in Sicily

It may look small, but little Sicily is packed with things to see and do and hiring a car is the best way to visit all of the major sights at your own pace.

Two days in topsy-turvy Palermo is more than enough to get a taste for the place before you strike out east by car along the pretty coastal road, a motorway of sorts. The traditional route through the middle of Sicily via the A-19 is currently closed and looks unlikely to reopen any time soon. Happily, the alternative is the beautiful, if slightly slower, SS120, a local road that winds its way through the island’s rugged peaks and green valleys. Break for lunch in Cerda where the homely cuisine of the Trattoria Nasca 2 features an ingenious array of artichoke dishes. By the time you hit Tremonzelli, you’re back on the Autostrada and it’s plain sailing all the way to Catania, where you can park in the port and take the shuttle to the centre for a stroll around the Piazza del Duomo square. Then it’s just a 40-minute drive along one of the most spectacular roads in Sicily to the south side of Mount Etna. At Rifugio Sapienza you’ll swap your car for a cable car to cover the rest of the sensational journey to the top. Get ready for your first glimpse of the awe-inspiring crater, road trips in Italy don’t get much more explosive than this!

Explore the lakes with the ultimate Italy road trip

What do you get when you combine a landscape of lakes, mountains and forests with excellent Autostradas and an 80mph speed limit?

It’s the recipe for a fantastic road trip in Italy’s Lake District. While the local roads around the lakes themselves can tend to be twisty and narrow, the major roads linking one to the next are a dream for any road trip enthusiast. Milan makes a great jumping-off point for road trips in northern Italy. From here it’s an easy hour-long drive up the Statale 36 to Lecco and then on to Bellagio, the pearl of Lake Como along the shores of the lake itself. Bellagio is one of the best places to spend the night, with brightly coloured houses overlooking the lake and mountains. Heading southwest towards Lake Magiorre, the brand new A36 motorway saves you the trouble of heading back into Milan, dropping you straight onto the lovely A8 – the “Road of the Lakes” – leading up towards the elegant town of Stresa. Take the time to enjoy a boat ride out to Isola Bella Island, almost entirely covered by the luxurious palace and gardens of the Palazzo Borromeo. Back on the A8, you can carry on west into the colourful woodlands of Val Grande National Park, for the grand finale to your road trip in the Italian lakes.


Greece: Meze and mythology, hedonism and history

Greece is not only beautiful with its ocean landscapes, distinct architecture and delectable food, but it’s also is a popular location for all the family. As one of the continent’s most popular destinations during the summer times, people from around the world flock to its famous islands for the sun, and to the cities for the history. It’s warm; it has delicious food, beautiful islands, and lively and friendly locals. It’s the perfect summer destination.

Visit the Acropolis – Located in Athens, this magnificent temple is a great place to learn about Athen’s history while you get a great view of the city and the nearby ruins.

Explore the past – Greece is where western civilization began and everywhere you turn, you will find ruins that are thousands of years old. Start in Athens with the museums, the Acropolis and surrounding ruins, and then set off to explore the ruins of Delphi, Sparta, and Crete. If you love history, you’ll love Greece.

Explore the beaches – From Crete to Santorini to Corfu, the Greek islands are some of the best in the world. Soak in the sun, admire the white sand and blue-roofed houses, and just relax. Santorini is famous for couples, while Ios is great for parties. Some off the beaten path islands include Rhodes, Kos, or the ones in the far east. During the summer, most of the islands are full so book early. 

Attend the Hellenic Festival – Every summer, the Hellenic Festival in Athens has concerts and performance theater, including reenactments of Greek tragedy. It’s one of the country’s top cultural events and if if coincides with your visit, you’ll see just how proud the Greeks are of their past.

Olympia – See the ruins of Olympia, the place where the famous Olympic games all started. There is also a great reconstructed Temple of Zeus here.

Meteora – Located mid-way through Greece, Meteora is famous for its monasteries that sit atop sheer rock mountains. They are a stunning sight to see and worth the steep trek up to the top. Although more than twenty monasteries used to perch on the steep rocks, only six remain today.

Take in the sun in Corfu – The Greek Islands may get all the press but sunny Corfu on Greece’s west coast is also a good place to enjoy the beach too. It’s a popular destination for young backpackers.

Delphi Ruins – Delphi has always been a place of historic and spiritual significance. This is where the omniscient Oracle would contact Apollo and give advice to those seeking good fortune. Although the eternal flame no longer burns inside, a visit to the Temple of Apollo is obligatory.

Melissani Cave – A boat tour will take you into these caves, where you can admire the magical quality of ultramarine water and monumental walls that surround you.

Mount Olympus – Mount Olympus is the home of ancient gods. From here the gods would control the lives of mortal men. Any climb to Mount Olympus starts from the town of Litochoro. A walk up this mountain will be strenuous and mystical and you’ll see why Greeks thought it was this mountain from which the gods ruled.

Hike the Samaria Gorge – For the outdoor enthusiasts out there, this is considered one of the best hiking experiences in Greece. While it isn’t the shortest or easiest trek, the Samaria Gorge does promise beautiful landscapes, fantastic photo opportunities, and a great workout. Most people come to Greece for the beaches so you’ll find very few people cluttering up the trail.

Patra Carnival – Every year in mid-January, the city of Patra is host to what is basically a month-and-a-half-long party. There are a slew of events, both major and minor; increasingly crazy weekends; and various costume parades, which even feature floats. It’s usually a good idea to make hotel reservations well in advance for this shindig.

Archaeological Museum of Heraklion – The number one attraction on Crete, this museum also happens to be Greece’s second largest archaeological museum next to the museum in Athens. There is a stunning collection here, which highlights the Cretan civilization (dating back from Neolithic times, through to the Roman empire).

Santorini – Many consider it to be the most spectacular island. Aside from the beautiful landscape and volcanic presence, it is a great place for beachside camping, winery tours, scuba diving, and more.

Temple of Olympian Zeus – When you are exploring Athens, this is a great archaeological site to stop at. This temple is massive and took over 700 years to construct (dating back to the sixth century). There are a number of Corinthian columns still standing, though many have fallen. It’s quite an impressive sight.

Endless miles of aquamarine coastline, sun-bleached ancient ruins, strong feta and stronger ouzo – the Greek landscape thrills, for more information on renting a car to explore Greece, visit greenmotion.com to ensure you help keep the planet green.