Category: Europe

A beginners guide to Ski holidays

February marks high season for skiing, with conditions perfect to enjoy a great holiday on the slopes. There are many myths attached to ski holiday and they can seem daunting if you’ve never taken one before. Here’s my guide to ski holidays for the beginner.

Ski-holiday myths

There are a number of myths surrounding the idea of a skiing holiday but there is honestly nothing to worry about. The traditional idea of a ski holiday is that it’s an expensive, luxury holiday that only the rich and famous can afford, but this is far from the truth. Whilst there are high-end ski trips available, there are ways of having a cheap ski holiday too. Book your trip well in advance to get a great rate or choose a small resort to save some money. Ski resorts with less runs often have cheaper ski passes. You can even hire ski clothes and helmets online. These days there’s lots of accommodation choices so with enough research and preparation you can bring the costs down dramatically.

As with any activity holiday, there is an element of risk involved but the resorts do everything they can to keep their visitors from harm. If you’re a novice skier, there are fantastic ski classes available across the resorts to give you confidence in the sport and to keep safe whilst on the slopes. The cheapest option is ski school where you learn as a group on shallow runs or “baby slopes” as they’re often nicknamed. For a more intense and rewarding learning programme its best to hire a personal instructor who can build your confidence quickly.

Where to stay

The idea of taking a ski holiday brings to mind staying in a log cabin or a chalet, but there are a number of varying accommodation to choose from in whichever resort you decide to visit. Hotels have sprung up in the resorts and towns and villages that surround them, but for me, a stay in a chalet provides the authentic ski holiday experience. Chalets can be small and intimate or large, which makes them perfect for a group holiday. Hire a self catering chalet to share both the expense and the cooking for a memorable trip with friends. Use a reputable site, such as PurpleSki.com to book your accommodation without worry. Chalets really are the ultimate ski holiday experience, gorgeous log cabins with warm and comfortable surroundings, the perfect place to return to after a fun day on the slopes.

What to pack

As a beginner, there really isn’t any point worrying about what ski equipment to buy and take on holiday with you. You can hire your skis and poles from the resort which will certainly lesser your luggage upon departure! Items such as helmets, boots and goggles are best bought to ensure a comfortable fit though they are also available for hire. If you plan on taking numerous ski holidays in the future then buying is always cheaper. Be sure to buy a helmet too and don’t worry about not looking cool! All the boarders are wearing them these days!

Other items to include in your suitcase include a warm jacket, trousers and thermal base layers so that you can stop the moisture settling in one place. Thick ski socks are also advisable as well as gloves to protect your hands from the elements. Sunglasses are vitally important as whilst it will be cold, the sun when it comes out on the slopes is particularly fierce. To this end, also ensure you pack suncream and lip balm. You’ll be surprised how much sun you’ll get while up on the slopes. Some people even sunbathe at the mountain top cafes and bars!

Top ski destinations for February

Europe and North America offer some fantastic opportunities to ski throughout the winter months. February sits right in the centre of high season so you’ll find many places primed for skiing and snowboarding.

Europe’s Alps offer some of the finest skiing in the continent. Stretching across France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Germany, Slovenia, and Liechtenstein. The range is home to some of the tallest skiable peaks in the world including the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. Top resorts within the Alps include Zermatt in Switzerland which is home to the Matterhorn and a traditional Swiss village which makes for a picturesque place to stay. Les Trois Vallees is an impressive place to visit, home to the famous Meribel resort and a ski pass which allows you to ski across the interlinked valleys, one of the largest ski areas in the world.

If you’re looking to save on your trip, try Bulgaria for your skiing break. An up and coming destination, the prices here are substantially lesser than their Alpine neighbours. Borovets, nestled within the Rila Mountains, is a great place to take a family break or for a beginner to try their hand at skiing.

North America can certainly match Europe’s skiing resorts, with a number of iconic destinations clustered around the Rocky Mountains. In Canada, visit the resorts in Jasper and Banff for a trip into the Rockies amongst some of the most stunning natural scenery in the world, including Mount Columbia, Lake Louise and  the Columbia Icefield. For somewhere less crowded, visit Red Deer to ski in the canyon which is every bit as thrilling but much cheaper than the well-known resorts. Within America, visit Colorado or Utah for your pick of top skiing destinations.

Romantic getaways for Valentine Surprise holidays

St Valentine poses a problem for all lovers, trying to think of that perfect gift to best show just how much that special person means to them. This year, why not forget the flowers or the chocolates and give your valentine a romantic break that will give them memories to last a lifetime. Here’s my pick of favourite retreats to whisk your lover away to.

Florence, Italy

Make your loved one feel special by hiring one of the many luxury villas in Tuscany, Italy to stay in. Florence is a breathtakingly beautiful city nestled within one of Italy’s most luscious provinces and is the perfect place to stay. Temperatures average around a brisk but comfortable 10C (50F) and you’ll be treated to some Mediterranean sun which just adds to the atmosphere of this special place. Visiting out of peak season means you’ll see the sights without worrying about the crowds.

Whisk your loved one on a tour of the city’s art museums and galleries to see one of the finest collections of art in the world. I would definitely recommend The Uffizi, one of the oldest art museums in the world and home to paintings from Boticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Rembrandt. For more iconic artwork, visit Piazza della Signoria to see a copy of Michelangelo’s David. Take a scenic, romantic walk along the banks of the River Arno or climb to the top of the Bell Tower in the heart of Florence to admire the view of this magnificent ciy. It’s almost the perfect place to propose…

Aspen, Colorado

There’s some fantastic last-minute breaks available if a trip further afield would blow your valentine away. Aspen, Colorado is a magnificent venue especially if you enjoy keeping active on your holidays. This world-famous ski resort is a favourite break for Americans and offers a romantic winter break.

There isn’t much in life that is more romantic than a break away ti a wooden lodge or log cabin. From the decor to the roasting log fires, everything about staying here is utterly enchanting and you’ll be longing for the evenings to draw in so that you can relax in your wooden haven together. During the day, there’s much fun to be had with skiing, snowboarding and hiking available. Head to Glenwood Hot Springs to relax amongst the warm water of the pools. For something a little different, you can hire out horses to explore the area by horseback or book onto a camping trip and get back to basics sitting around the campfire and camping out underneath the stars.

Paris, France

We couldn’t ignore the most romantic city on the planet could we? This is truly a city for lovers and has arguably seen more proposals than any city in the whole world. In spite of this, any surprise trip to Paris is met with heart stopping excitement and will make your Valentine feel on top of the world. At just over an hour away from London by air or two hours by Eurostar, it’s the perfect place to spend a blissful weekend away from home.

There’s the obvious romantic spots in Paris. A trip up the Eiffel tower is a must, especially around sunset although this is the busiest time to visit. You can also ascend the Arc Du Triomphe which has arguably better views, mainly because you can see the Eiffel tower! You can have dinner at one of the beautiful Parisian cafes you’ll find all over the city and for lunch try Place de la Contrescarpe or my personal favourite Place des Abbesses.

Some cities just ooze romance and there is no better way to treat your loved one than an unforgettable romantic holiday.

Holiday ideas for the month of March

While the dark winter months are perfect for skiing and some winter sun, the summer months enjoy peak tourism numbers and an abundance of festivals and culture. March sits at the end of the winter period and is often overlooked as a prime time to travel. Well here’s a few ideas for you if you’re looking for something to fill those spring evenings with.

Bodrum, Turkey

Bodrum enjoys a mixture of cultures where the old world collides head on with the a new modern lifestyle. It’s not lost any of its character thankfully and the Aegean coast has no shortage of ancient history to keep you coming back. In recent decades Bodrum has become the place in Turkey for the rich and famous to hang out. With new marinas and promenades, night clubs and restaurants, it looks more at home along the French Riviera.

The most impressive landmark here is the Castle of St Peter which boasts some of the best views of the entire area. It also houses a museum of underwater archeology which is well worth checking out. Temperatures are around 17C with little rainfall, perfect weather for exploring.

  • Check out flights to Bodrum here

Honshu, Japan

Japan is well worth a visit in March and for one good reason. The cherry trees blossom with pink and white petals that are a sight to behold, attracting millions of visitors to the sub-tropical province of Okinawa. Think of it like trees covered in candy-floss. By the end of March the blossom is in full bloom as far north as Kyoto and Tokyo too. This beautiful occurrence lasts only a few weeks so be sure to make the most of the pretty parks and amazing Japanese culture too. Expect temperatures around 15C with occasional rain and overcast skies. This won’t detract from the beauty of the Cherry Blossom though so you’ll be sure to have a fantastic time in March.

Dublin, Ireland

A city that’s perfect for a short-break or long weekend and the spiritual home of St Patrick’s Day.  Be sure to check out the famous Guinness factory tour, worth doing even if you don’t like the taste of the black stuff. There’s some great city tours that cover all the major landmarks and teach you much of the history of this amazing city. During the celebrations there’s also street parades and you’ll see many of the city’s landmarks are light up green too.

Austin, USA

March is a great time of year to visit the city of Austin in Texas. Home to the ever-expanding arts festival known as South by Southwest, or SXSW as it’s often called. This ten-day festival is filled with everything from musical performances to film premieres, tech conferences and seminars, art installations and street parades too. While an official ticket to the entire festival will cost you around $600 there are a lot of fringe events happening that mimic much of the core of the festival. You’ll find every bar, venue and even cafes are getting in on the act with art events and music gigs. If you have the budget then the full event is well worth it but even if you don’t, Austin is the place to be in March.

Best time to visit Crete in Greece

The largest of the Greek Islands, Crete has long been a holiday destination of choice for many Europeans. It’s sleep villages and vibrant resorts give this island a wealth of all that you’d want from a sunny holiday. It also boasts some great weather even in the early months of the year. So here’s our guide to why we recommend Crete in April.

Heraklion

You’ll find most of the big resorts and hotels in the bustling Heraklion region. Famed for its vibrant nightlife, restaurants and some of the more popular beaches on the island. Its highly likely you’ll stay at one of the resorts here or even a boutique hotel in Crete. Its a great place to go shopping for some local items and there’s so many great restaurants along the coast here you’ll be spoilt for choice. Hersonissos, Stalis and Malia are the biggest resorts here.

Samaria Gorge

Known for its “World Biosphere Reserve”, Samaria Gorge is the perfect place for those looking for some easy treks, a nature excursion or other outdoor activities. You’ll find it in south-west Crete and its really easy to get to. There’s regular local buses or you can ask about excursions from your resort. The entrance fee is just 5 euros and helps to preserve this national park. Tours from  hotels usually cost around 20 euros.

Fun for the family

Crete is a great destinations for families and all the big resorts are well prepared for children. Many have family friendly pools and the large beaches offer a great space to let you kids run around. There’s also a couple of fantastic aqua parks here filled with pools, fountains, tubes and other entertainment to entertain the kids. The best is probably the Acqua Plus Water Park in Hersonissos. Easy to get to and costs 24 euros per person.

Traditional Greek towns

For something a little more laid back and Greek style head to the towns of Chania and Rethymnon. Chania has an abundance of pretty Greek architecture and if you’re looking to buy something local as a souvenir this is probably he best place on the island. It’s market is filled with trinkets and locally crafted objects. Rethymnon still retains its rustic and historic looks. The Venetian fortress here is well worth exploring and a walk through the town’s avenues and streets is a great way to unwind and get some exercise. You’ll find a few quieter hotels and guesthouses here away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist areas. 

Weather in Crete in April

April is a great time of year to visit as it’s generally a little quieter this time of year than the peak around july and august. Temperatures are usually in the low 20C with peaks around 25C and lows around 17C. While sunshine isn’t guaranteed all day every day you’re more than likely going to have a healthy number of days with sunshine and warm enough temperatures to sunbathe too. These comfortable temperatures lend themselves to exploring more of the island and getting some decent exercise too.

A guide to the real Ibiza island in Spain

Ibiza is notoriously known as the party capital of Europe, with millions of revellers every year heading for the island to enjoy the nightlife. However, there is so much more to the island than having a good time and with tourist season peaking from May through until October, April offers the perfect opportunity to discover the true Ibiza.

Ibiza Island

Situated off Spain’s Eastern coast, Ibiza is one of the largest of the Balearic Islands. Its location within the Mediterranean Sea provides it with a beautiful climate, with temperatures during April reaching average highs of 19C (66F) though they have been known to climb to 23C . Sunshine usually lasts for at least 8 hours daily though be warned there is a risk of showers during April, as with any European destination. Accommodation in Ibiza is rather varied, with hotels, resorts, apartments and villas all readily available. Packages have become increasingly cheaper thanks to low-cost airlines flying direct into Ibiza Airport.

If you’re lucky enough to visit Ibiza during Easter, then you should definitely head for Ibiza Town to watch the celebrations including processions featuring elaborately displayed floats. Other celebrations during the month include Festa Sant Fransesc on April 2nd and St. George’s Day on April 23rd.

Beachlife

April provides a great opportunity to enjoy Ibiza’s beautiful beaches in the peace and tranquility they provide outside of the tourist boom. Beaches such as Las Salinas and Cala Compte are always popular to visit, but there are many other options if you want to enjoy something particularly special from your beach break.

Visit Benirràs Bay close to sunset as it is truly one of the best places on the island for a magical sunset experience. Here you’ll find ‘God’s Finger’, a monolithic island which provides a spectacular backdrop for the sunset. For an idyllic day away from it all, I would definitely recommend visiting the beaches at Cala Llentrisca and Cala Llarga. Not only is the sand golden and the sea beautifully clean and clear, but you can choose between relaxing on the beach or exploring the waters. Both beaches are wonderfully untouched by tourism providing the perfect chance to relax.

Ibiza Activities

Ibiza’s coastline provides some great opportunities to enjoy the surrounding sea, with diving, snorkelling, sailing and surfing all available to try your hand at. Cala Nova is particularly popular for surfers whilst you can dive both natural habitats and wrecks off the Ibizan coast. It’s not all about the coast though as inland Ibiza also offers great activities to enjoy, including horse riding and treks through the northern part of the island.  Alternatively, take a driving tour of the island or exercise your lungs by taking a trip around by mountain bike.

Historical Ibiza

There can only be one place to start if you’re looking for the historic side to the island and that’s in the heart of Ibiza Town. Here you’ll find the historic port, the beautiful Inglesia de Sant Rafel and the impressive Ibiza Castle. Just outside of the town, you’ll find Sa Caleta which has a true historic gem to explore. Here you’ll find the ruins of a Phoenician Settlement which dates back to 654BC.

Cultural Ibiza

To truly delve into Ibizan culture, I would recommend heading away from the main island and taking a trip West. Here you’ll find the small island of Es Verde and Atlantis which sits opposite it. Both are caught up in famous myths and legends which mysteriously tie the two together. Many people believe that the uninhabited Es Verde is the site of the mythical Atlantis, was discussed in Homer’s Odyssey and is believed to be home to a giant. Ibiza’s actual Atlantis is quite a trek to get to but well worth it once you do. Here you’ll find a series of carvings plain to see in the rocks that surround the beach, with faces and dragons looking out at you.

Ski the 3 Valleys in France

The Three Valleys is the largest ski area in the world, boasting 8 luxurious resorts. With acres of space to ski and snowboard, beautiful pistes to admire the view from and luxurious ski chalets to enjoy, The Three Valleys has to be the ski destination to visit in March.

The Three Valleys

Les Trois Vallees is situated in South-East France and is a vast ski area in the French Alps. The area has grown from its initial roots and now encompasses four valleys: Saint-Bon, Allues, Belleville and Maurienne.  Within this, there are 8 resorts which visitors can choose to stay and ski in. To help you make the most of the area, The Three Valleys have a fantastic ski pass which allows you to ski in all parts of the area for the week that you visit.

In March, you will find the Three Valleys within its peak season which runs from December through until April. March sees average highs of 4C (39F) and there is great snowfall, particularly across the higher peaks in the valleys. Amongst the snow, there are days filled with sunshine so ensure you have your protection against the rays packed alongside your skis.

The Resorts

What makes this area so great is that the 8 resorts that make up the Three Valleys are all wonderfully unique. At the very heart of the region, you’ll find Meribel which has a wonderfully British atmosphere that mixes perfect with its Alpine charm. If you’re looking to stay in a traditional chalet, Meribel is certainly the resort to choose. Visit Purple Ski to get a feel for the chalets available and immerse yourself in the Alpine luxury.

At the summit of the valleys, you’ll find Val Thorens which is the highest resort in Europe at over 2300m altitude. It is certainly a laid back resort and there is much to keep you occupied off the slopes including the biggest nightclub in the Alps and great restaurants. Alternatively, for sheer luxury, choose to stay in the Courchevel resort. Here you’ll be treated to elegance at every turn in each of its five villages. Even if this isn’t your resort of choice, try to visit to sample some food from one of the 6 Michelin Star chefs located here.

The Slopes

Of course you take a ski holiday to enjoy the slopes as well as the resorts! The Three Valleys is home to 600kms of pistes which offer a wide range of skiing opportunities. All the resorts offer ski lessons for those who are trying their hand at skiing for the first time and there are a range of slopes for all abilities to enjoy.

Serious skiers are recommended to visit St Martin-de-Belleville which is a small, traditional resort perfect for experienced skiers. Meribel also offers great off-piste skiing opportunities which are not for the faint hearted as well as a great snowpark to snowboard at.

If you’re visiting with the family, then I would definitely recommend visiting Les Menuires as they have a great deal set aside for families to enjoy including 4 fun zones. Alternatively visit La Tania for the gentle side of the Three Valleys.

Valley Activities

Obviously, it isn’t all about the skiing here in the Three Valleys. Other great ways to enjoy the Alpine snow include snowboarding, tobogganing and even heli-skiing. Dog sledding is great fun for the whole family and on offer at a number of the resorts including Saint Martin-de-Belleville or simply take a ride in one of the region’s gondolas to admire the views.

Away from the slopes, why not treat yourself to a spa break in the Brides-les-Bains resort or a visit to the wellness centre in the picturesque village resort of Orelle. Each resort has great opportunities to shop and fine restaurants to eat in. Finally for some culture, visit the Meribel Museum which delves into the history of this fine resort or the art galleries of Courchevel.

 

 

Top 5 Spectacular Train Journeys

Riding the rails has never been so comfortable and with some of the world’s most spectacular terrains to see, you can leave the books and crosswords at home. A relaxing journey, a chance to see a myriad of destinations and stunning scenery all await you on our hand-picked guide of the best train journeys around the globe.

The Rocky Mountaineer in the Canadian Rockies

If historical adventure is your forte then the train journey of the First Passage to the West has more than enough to whet your appetite. The Canadian Rockies will allow you to retrace the steps of 19th century explorers to where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was built, as well as seeing the famous Spiral Tunnels on your way from Calgary or Banff to Kamloops. Then you are off to the coastal city of Vancouver through winding river canyons and lush green forests, on to the rushing waters of hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon. In April you can enjoy highs of 14˚C on the Rocky Mountaineer.

The Bergen Line in Norway

As one of the most scenic train lines in the world, the  passes glaciers, fjords and snow-dusted peaks, on its journey from Oslo to Bergen. It has the most spectacular stretch over the Hardangervidda which is Europe’s highest plateau. The 182 tunnels along the track were carved by hand using a workforce of 15,000 men to complete, and it was not an easy task with parts of the line climbing to 1200m. If you travel the Bergen line in April, you can expect averages of 8˚C for a mild climate. The Norwegians view the Bergen Line as a means from A to B but anywhere else this would be called a wonder of the world.

For more info on the Bergen Line, click here.

The Bernina Express from Davos, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy 

Travel through the Southern Alps without missing a second of awesome scenery on the Bernina Express. Travelling at just 20mph the train takes you to the heights and depths of the line passing dizzying chasms and moving through the mountains via 55 tunnels. The glass-roofed panorama car provides spectacular views as it climbs 2,253m over the Albula pass to St Moriz. So impressive is the engineering of this track, that is has become a Unesco World Heritage Site. While in Switzerland you can expect highs of 13˚C, while in Italy you’ll find a mild but pleasant 18˚C.

For more info on the Bernina Express, click here.

The Blue Train from Pretoria to Cape Town, South Africa

If you fancy taking in the beauty of South Africa, The Blue Train takes you from Pretoria to Cape Town where you can enjoy the breath-taking scenery of waterfalls, wild ostrich and fields of sunflowers. Along the way you will make a stop at the diamond mines of Kimberley while at night you can watch the moon rise above the desert lands of the Karoo. Then you pass through some of the world’s finest vineyards while enjoying some of its produce on board, before coming to the famous Table Mountain. While on this train of luxury and opulence, you can happily crack open a window to let in the pleasant 19˚C temperature you can expect in April.

For more info on The Blue Train, click here.

The West Highland Line from Glasgow to Mallaig, Scotland

Experience the wildness of Scotland on this stretch of track from Glasgow to Mallaig. After leaving the city behind, the road to the isles track reaches 411m providing some lofty views of the rugged landscape. You will pass through the banks of Loch-Lomond as well as some beautiful waterfalls and the inhospitable Rannoch Moor. As your journey progresses you will see Ben Nevis as it rears over the track, then you will see the 100ft high viaduct made famous in a selection of the Harry Potter films. As to be expected in Scotland, you can expect no more than around 8˚C but the beauty of Britain at its wildest will surely make up for the lack of warmth.

For more info on the West highland Line, click here.

Great wildlife holidays for Spring

Wildlife breaks are a fantastic way of spending your holiday. Safaris have never been more popular, with tourists desperate to see a wide range of animals all within their natural environment. To ensure you get the best experience and stay safe, use a company such as Wildlife & Wilderness who specialise in putting together the trip of a lifetime. Here’s my guide to the best wildlife holidays you can take in April.

Namibia

Kenya is usually the first place that springs to mind when thinking about safari but Namibia is fine competition for its African counterpart. Sitting on the West Coast of Africa, Namibia offers a wide range of landscapes to explore including desert, dunes, mountains and grassland. During a trip here, you’ll be able to see elephants, white rhino, leopards and cheetahs living amongst many other species. Not only is the wildlife spectacular, but the scenery is simply magnificent. April is a great time to visit with the air fresh and clear and the landscape at its greenest.

There are many must see places to visit in Namibia for your wildlife holiday. Sossusvlei Pan offers the chance to see the highest sand dunes in the world and the UNESCO listed Welwitschia Plains gives you the chance to see the unique Welwitschia plants, some of which date back over 2000 years. Both sites sit within the Namib-Naukluft National Park which is the largest game park in Africa. Another favoured national park is Etosha which will give you the chance zebras, white lions and wildebeest wandering the landscape. Once you’ve explored the land, it’s time to explore the Skeleton Coast which looks out to the Atlantic Ocean. It is a fine place to see the seal colonies as well as the many shipwrecks that scatter the coast.

Poland

Spring is a great time to visit Poland as the country looks at its most beautiful. Temperatures during April average 8C (44F) and you’ll benefit from minimal rainfall. The weather at this time of year is perfect to go bird-spotting, especially as you’ll be in time for the migrating animals and birthing season.

There are two places in Poland which rival anywhere in the world for wildlife holidays, Biebrza National Park and the Bialowieza Forest. Located in Northeastern Poland, Biebrza is the largest national park in Poland. Most famously, it is home to the Biebrza Marshes which is the prime spot for bird spotting. Here you’ll be able to see many species of ducks, geese and birds, as well as  elks and beavers. The Bialowieza Forest straddles Poland and Belarus and is Europe’s last primeval forest. Protected by UNESCO, the forest gives you the chance to see Bison as well as woodpeckers in April. Other great places to see wildlife in Poland include the Pieniny Mountains and Roztocze National Park.

Australia

Australia is famed for its unique wildlife and ecosystems which make it an obvious choice for a wildlife holiday. To see some of its most famous inhabitants, head to Adelaide and South Australia. Here you’ll be able to see wallabies, possums, platypus, emus, wombats and of course Kangaroos. April sees Australia in Autumn, with temperatures in Adelaide averaging 16C (61F).

From Adelaide, the must see destination has to be Kangaroo Island. It is the third largest island in the country and home to a wide range of natural sites. Visit Seal Bay to see the sea lions and seals that live here, take a tour of Flinders Chase and Parndana National Parks or explore the Murray Lagoon and sand dunes of Little Sahara. Other great places to visit from Adelaide include Nullabor Plain, Lake Gairdner and the Head of the Bight where you’ll be able to see whales swim nearby.

Uganda

Once a notorious part of the world, peace has once again returned to this beautiful nation which offers up the opportunity of a lifetime for a primate safari. There really is no finer place to see them in their natural habitat than in this part of Africa.  During your time here, you’ll see chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and baboons, as well as a wide range of wildlife. During April, temperatures average 27C (80F), with low humidity in the air.

I would recommend starting in the west of Uganda, taking in tours of the Kibale Forest National Park, especially taking the Kanyanchu Trail to see the daily Primate Walk . From here make your way south, taking time to visit the Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home to one of the oldest rainforests in Uganda.

 

Take a spring break in Cardiff, Wales

Wales’ Capital Cardiff is a fantastic destination for a weekend break. Perfect for those who like some culture, some sport and some entertainment, Cardiff is set against the backdrop of the beautiful Welsh landscape. Here’s my guide to the best that Cardiff can offer.

Cardiff Capital

Located in East Wales and not far from the border with England, the Welsh capital Cardiff is the base for many of the country’s important buildings including the national stadium and Welsh Assembly. In relative terms, Cardiff is a mere infant of a city having only been granted that status in 1905. The city is easily accessible from air, rail, sea and road with London a two-hour drive away along the M4 motorway. Temperatures in April reach highs of 12C (54F).

Cultural Cardiff

Go to Cardiff for a cultural break and you’ll find your weekend filled with many interesting and different sites to see. Take your exploration of Cardiff’s cultural history up to date by heading for Cardiff Bay and to the Millennium Centre. This beautiful building is the cultural home of the city, hosting theatre performances and exhibitions daily. You can even take a tour of the centre itself, taking in the backstage areas and exploring the design of this iconic building.

For some spiritual respite, there are a number of cathedrals and churches within the city to visit. My top choice would be Llandaff Cathedral, which is not only an inspiring Gothic building but also is linked to the Cathedral School which was the school as featured in Roald Dahl’s biography ‘Boy’. Nearby, you’ll also find the Norwegian Church where Dahl was christened.

Historic Cardiff

For me, the obvious place to start was at the National Museum and Art Gallery which delves deep into the city’s past both historically and artistically. See moon rocks, prehistoric skeletons and one of the finest art collections in Europe. The perfect accompaniment to the museum is a trip out to the open air museum of St Fagans Natural History Museum. Both museums are free of charge to enter.

Make sure you also take the time to visit both Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch. Both are excellent and very different examples of the widespread castle architecture that is spread across Wales.

Cardiff’s Doctor

For anyone who is a big Doctor Who fan, Cardiff is a must see destination. Since the programme was brought back to the small screen in 2005, Cardiff has been the base for this iconic programme and there are many Doctor Who locations to visit in the Welsh capital. Take a tour of the shooting sites before heading off to The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay. Step into the Tardis, explore actual sets and costumes used in filming and come face to face with some of the Doctor’s arch enemies.

Sporting Cardiff

2014 sees Cardiff become a European Capital of Sport and by visiting its Millennium Stadium, it’s easy to see why. Cardiff is the home of the national rugby and football teams, as well as the country cricket team and Cardiff City Football Club. Whilst here, try to get tickets to see a rugby match at the national stadium for a truly spine-tingling experience. Your alternative destination is the previous national stadium at Cardiff Arms Park for a chance to see the national sport played out in front of roaring, passionate fans.

Cruise the Arctic Circle for an unforgettable holiday

There is more to travelling the globe than picking the hotspots. So once you begin to tire of lazy beach life, set your sights on one of the coldest regions on Earth, the Arctic Circle.

April in the Arctic promises highs of -12˚C during the day with a drop to around -19˚C at night, but with this chilly climate comes a wealth of wildlife that is too good to miss. Polar bears, humpback whales, walrus, seals and puffins will be waiting for you as well as the spectacular glaciers and icy blue waters.

The best way to explore this mystical region is by cruise, fitting in all the destinations you wish to visit in one trip. While in the Arctic Circle you can see such places as Spitsbergen, Greenland and the Canadian Arctic, getting a real taste of life at the top of the globe.

Greenland

With the impressive titles of largest island and northernmost point of land on Earth, the remote towns and ice fields of Greenland are a must-see stop-off on your cruise. This area consists of cliffs as high as 2000 metres as well as grand mountains and numerous glaciers. The coastline is heavily dented with numerous fjords and is home to the Inuit people. Dependant on your time in Greenland, you can enjoy a wealth of activities including a journey over the magnificent snow-covered landscape while dog sledding or enjoy the hot springs for some relaxation and rejuvenation. From here you can also visit the islands of Baffin Bay where you can whale watch and see the Beluga whale. There are also many plant and tree species there which thrive on the bay shores for those who want to see all that arctic nature has to offer.

Spitsbergen

As the most accessible region in the Arctic Circle, the Svalbard Archipelago is located 600 miles from the North Pole and is a magical world of spectacular glaciers, snow-capped peaks and endless ice. With deep fjords winding through beautiful meadows, you will not be disappointed by the panoramic views. Also known as Spitsbergen, this is a great destination to see arctic seabird colonies including the Puffin. You can also see the Arctic Fox, the Svalbard reindeer and the southern vole. As well as marvelling at the wonderful nature and wildlife of this area, you can also enjoy the breath-taking experience of an ice cave tour where you can walk along the passages formed by the melted water under the glacier.

Canadian Arctic

Some cruises also take you through the Northwest Passage on to the north of Canada, and into the realm of the Polar bear. You can also spot reindeer, snowy owls and even the endangered northern right whale known as the bowhead. If you fancy something a little sporty that will bring you up close and personal with the Arctic Ocean, then kayaking could be just what you’re looking for. Nanavut is a world-class destination for this and the venues are endless. Take this opportunity to touch an iceberg and watch as the marine life swims past you including the mighty walrus. You can also visit Hudson Bay which is a large body of saltwater in north-eastern Canada. It is the second largest bay in the world and is perfect for a spot of fishing in the clear water lakes and stocked ponds.

With stunning scenery, unusual wildlife and a break from the ‘sun, sea and sand’ norm of the package holiday, a cruise around the Arctic Circle is definitely something to tick off the bucket list. All you need to do is pack your thermals, charge up the camera and say goodbye to a holiday tan.

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