Easter family holidays. What to watch out for.

Easter is a time for a family get together and family getaways too. The extended weekend makes it a great time to take some time off without taking too many days off work too. It’s long been a time for short breaks in cities and a time to catch some early sunshine before the peak time summer months.

Travel advice

Travelling with family is a very different proposition to travelling with a friend or family member. There’s a lot more to consider at every stage of your holiday. For instance its best to book as early as possible to give you the widest range of options on accommodation, resorts, location, etc. The closer you leave it to the dates you want to go, the less options you’ll have if you have your heart set on one particular destination.

When booking flights pay close attention to the times they depart and arrive. If you’re taking young children with you then you may find that flights that are very late or very early will cause the most upset to them. Afternoon flights and mid morning flights are best.

Consider booking an all inclusive family holiday so that you have a lot less things to worry about when you arrive. Your entire family can enjoy the resort and its facilities without worrying about the costs of eating, drinking and activities (if they are included).

Research is a must when travelling with a family. No matter what age your kids you’ll want to know they’re catered for. Does your destination of choice have enough things to entertain both the kids and the parents? If anything happens what are the emergency services like, hospitals and means of returning home if there is a problem?

If your kids are old enough, involve them in the research process so you can gauge the kind of activities and tourist attractions they might be interested in. I personally love science museums and in my experience kids love them too. Every major city seems to have one these days so if you’re looking for a city break they’re a great way to see more of the city and keep the kids happy. While beach holidays are more about the resort than the country or town you’re in, it’s still worth escaping the tourist traps for at least a day and finding other activities.

Festivals and Events

One important thing to think about is what festivals and Easter events are happening in the place you’re thinking of going to. Easter is an important time especially in European countries with many major cities hosting special religious events. These can be quite a tourist attraction so if you feel your children would also enjoy the event its worth researching where is the best place for you to watch it. Equally festivals and events can be overcrowded and sometimes overly energetic situations to take young children in to. If you’re looking to take the family away on a city break and want to avoid crowds its worth checking to see if there are any events on that you may wish to avoid.

Transport

Depending on the type of trip you’re taking you need to be aware of what transport you can use while you’re there. Hiring a car is often the best way to get around especially when you have kids to  look after. Almost every hotel can help you arrange a hire car if you want one but you’ll often save money by booking online before you arrive.  Make sure they can supply car seats if you need them and if you have to drive on the opposite side of the road to what you’re used to, take extra care as it can take some getting used to.

If you plan to use public transport I recommend getting a tourist card that offers discounts over 24 hours, 48 hours or 72. You’ll be able to see a lot more in a shorter space of time and make the most of your kid’s energy before they start to complain of tired legs. Tourist cards usually cover entrance fees to museums too as well as subways and some overground trains as well.

Be prepared

Wherever you decide to go make sure you’re prepared for any eventuality. There are lots of ways to make the trip easier for you and your children. Involve your kids in the booking process too and you’ll stand a much better chance of every member of the family having a great time!

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.

 

 

Review of La Résidence Phou Vao: Laos in the Low Season

On a balmy Saturday afternoon in late April, my friend Carter and I arrive at La Résidence Phou Vao in Luang Prabang, Laos. As we sip on a welcome drink of dark fuchsia hibiscus juice, one of the hotel’s managers, Sai, explains that Phou Vao translates as “Hill of Kites” in Lao, telling us: “This is the place where the kings used to come to play with their kites.”

Nowadays, Luang Prabang plays home not to kite-flying kings but travelers in search of a peace and calm somewhat harder to find in other corners of Southeast Asia. With hardly another guest in sight, things appear especially quiet today. Almost by accident, Carter and I have arrived in Laos in the low season – but we couldn’t have picked a better time to visit.

Arrival

Our trip from Bangkok was not exactly seamless: an overnight train to the border, followed by bus journeys from Vientiane to Vang Vieng, and from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang. When we finally arrive, we are met at the bus stand by a driver from the hotel. He offers us cold towels, bottles of even colder water, and fresh macaroons, in perfect pastel shades of green and yellow. The only thing Carter and I regret is that the ride to the hotel is so short.

After dropping off my bags, I sit down with Sai for a longer chat and take my first sip of the hotel’s signature cocktail. Fittingly named “Simply Laos,” the drink features Lao-Lao whisky, hibiscus flower, honey water, lime juice, and egg white, and is garnished with a couple of dried hibiscus seeds. “You will not find this anywhere else in Laos,” Sai tells me. Although I’ve only been in the country some 24 hours, I have a feeling he’s right.

La Résidence Phou Vao

Room

Located on nearly eight acres of lush, verdant land are just 34 rooms – even in high season, the hotel could never get too crowded. Split between 32 junior suites and 2 suites with separate sitting areas, the rooms are further differentiated by the view they offer: garden view, mountain view, or mountain and pool view. With a vista of layered hills from our mountain view balcony and two pools less than a minute’s walk away, Carter and I still count ourselves lucky.

Our luck continues inside the room, where modern comforts such as a free-form terrazzo bathtub and Nespresso coffee machine meet locally sourced rosewood floors and fresh frangipani flowers placed across our beds, filling the air with their sweet fragrance. There’s a simplicity and openness to the design that is natural yet elegant. At night, hid inside the folds of my mosquito net, it feels like I’ve been transported to another world entirely.

Dining

On our first night at the hotel, we dine al fresco along the edge of the infinity pool. As lanterns glow in the trees above us, we try out classic Laotian dishes: pork-stuffed bamboo shoot for a starter and aor lam for the main – what our server Lavang explains as Laos-style ragout, complete with coriander, lemongrass, garlic, mushrooms, beans, and a choice between beef, chicken, or pork. We end the meal with a crème brulee as a tip of our hat to the French.

But it’s over breakfast each morning that Carter and I linger even longer, filling our plates with a spectrum of tropical fruits, homemade yogurt, freshly baked baguettes, mango and papaya jams, and piquant Luang Prabang sausage. We then head to our favorite table overlooking the terrace, where the pool gives way to the jungle below, the golden stupa of Phousy Temple glinting on a distant hilltop. As many lattes as we can manage round off the perfect meal.

Dining at La Résidence Phou Vao

Spa

Hidden down a palm-lined walkway, the Mekong Spa offers a range of treatments, including a traditional dry massage called Sip Sen. “Monks used to do this for the royal family,” I am told by the spa manager. They also keep several areas of the spa open for guests to use free of charge – any resident, it seems, can get the royal treatment.

Carter and I have the spa’s smaller pool and footbath to ourselves, as well as a steam bath that we try out. Another spa employee, Mr. Onnsy, advises us to do three sessions of 10-15 minutes inside the sauna-like room, each one followed by a quick dip in the pool. As the sauna’s air grows thick with steam – potent with lemongrass, eucalyptus, camphor, peppermint, ginger, and turmeric – we sink back and let the heady haze wash over us.

Luang Prabang

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995 – and thus preserved by careful design codes – Luang Prabang is a sleepy mix of French colonial architecture, towering coconut trees, and nearly three dozen temples, and is bordered by two rivers: the Mekong and the Nam Khan. It’s the kind of place where a Sunday afternoon is best-spent sipping coconut shakes at a riverside café, followed by a quick hike up Mount Phou Si to catch the sunset.

My favorite glimpse into the local culture, however, is on our last morning, when our wake-up call comes at 5:15am. The hotel’s shuttle service – which offers free rides into Luang Prabang throughout the day – makes a special early trip, dropping us off in town to see the daily alms giving. A blur of orange appears as Buddhist monks make their way through the streets, receiving offerings of rice and food for that day’s meals.

It’s a tradition that takes place every morning across Southeast Asia, and to witness it here in Luang Prabang is a lasting image I’ll carry with me.

More Information

With many thanks to Orient Express for their hospitality at La Résidence Phou Vao in Luang Prabang. For more information visit:

Easter Travel – 10 things you need to know when booking a family holiday

The Easter holidays are an exciting time and a time in which you might want to spend taking a well-earned family holiday. Whether you choose to holiday within the UK or abroad, there are plenty of choices for Easter travel.

Taking inspiration from the religious celebrations, here are the ten commandments of Easter travel that you should follow:

  • Remember the Easter holidays are a very popular time for family travel, so book your holiday as early as possible. There are some great deals to be had by booking early and once your holiday is booked, you can put some thought into other preparations. There are plenty of Club Med holidays for various locations throughout the world, so take a look early to see if you can bag a family holiday bargain.
  • It can be easy to forget the actual travel to the airport or train station when booking a holiday and if you have to travel a great distance then this could be your downfall. Consider travelling to stay in a nearby hotel the day before if the flight is early in the morning to save you time and stress.
  • Factor the cost of travelling to the airport here and your destination abroad, into your holiday budget. That way, you can ensure that you have enough money with you to pay for taxis, buses or trains.
  • Always leave yourself plenty of time when travelling to the airport. Getting there early will put you in the best position to clear all the necessary checks and it’s always better to be 20 minutes early and have to entertain yourself in the lobby, than be five minutes late and miss your flight!
  • When you travel from the airport to your hotel at your holiday location, time the journey to ensure you have plenty of time for travel on the way back.
  • Traffic can be particularly busy on the lead up to the Easter holidays, so keep an eye on travel websites to check levels of traffic or delays on the rails where applicable.
  • Try and book your holiday when fewer people will be travelling throughout Easter. Try your best to book travelling a few days into the holiday to prevent being caught up in the hectic shared travel timetable.
  • When moving around a busy airport/train station/bus station with your family, keep a close eye on your children as it is easy for them to get lost in a crowd. This can be a terrifying experience for both a child and their parents and is something you definitely want to avoid.
  • If you are travelling by car to your holiday in the UK, make sure your vehicle is in good working order. A breakdown is not a good way to start or end the holidays.
  • Most importantly, bring along items to keep your children amused on the journey to your location. Bored children can make a journey seem even longer, so it is important to keep them entertained.

Wherever you plan to go at Easter, have a fantastic family holiday!

Celebrate the Holi festival in Nepal

Nepal is a beautiful country, landlocked in Asia between India and China. Due to its place within the Himalayan Range, tourism is the largest industry in the country and there are certainly a wealth of sites to visit for a truly magical vacation.

March offers a great opportunity to explore Nepal. Whilst Autumn is deemed high season, the Spring brings great weather to the country, with temperatures in Kathmandu averaging highs of 20C (68F). There are occasional rains but you’ll find the country a lush, green landscape, perfect for trekking.

Here’s my guide to why March is the best month to visit.

Holi festival

Holi is celebrated across Nepal and neighbouring India during the beginning of March and is a moveable feast depending on the dates of the full moon. This Hindu Festival lasts for a week and celebrates the arrival of spring. It is a colourful affair, with the abiding image of Holi celebrations being participants covered themselves and anyone nearby in colourful, scented powder which certainly adds to the excited party atmosphere.

The Terai is a great place to experience the Holi celebrations, particularly in the cities of Biratnagar and Birgunj and the capital Kathmandu. The Terai stretches across Nepal and into neighbouring India and are located to the south of the country. As well as the explosion of colourful powders, Holi is celebrated with impressive bonfire and the installation of the ‘Chur’, a ceremonial pole which is decorated with colourful material for good luck. There are also comedy contests and shows organised to add to the festivities.

Spiritual Nepal

After celebrating Holi, be inspired to explore the spiritual side of Nepal as there are many Hindu and Buddhist sites to visit. Most notably, there is Lumbini, the birthplace of Gantam Buddha. Located in the Rupandehi District of Southern Nepal, this is one of the most important and sacred sites for Buddhists and forms one of the main pilgrimage points. Lumbini is a UNESCO listed area and features the ancient ruins of the monasteries, the sacred Bodhi tree and of course the Mayadevi temple which marks Buddha’s birthplace.

Other great Buddhist spiritual sites within Nepal include the Golden Temple in Patan and the impressive Bodhnath Stupa, located on the outskirts of Kathmandu.  It is the largest Stupa in Nepal and one of the most important Buddhist sites within the country. For a taste of the Hindu culture, visit the Pashupatinath Temple. Located in the east of Kathmandu, this is one of the most important Hindu temples in the world and is another UNESCO listed site.

Natural Nepal

Nepal is dominated by the Himalayan Mountain range which carves its way through the country. This range attracts so many tourists and mountaineers for the sheer fact that it contains 8 out of  the 10 tallest peaks in the world. The tallest, and most famous peak is Mount Everest.

This area is made for climbing, trekking and hiking though hiking the taller mountains is something that is not for the amateur climber. There are ways to explore Everest without climbing it though, which means you’ll still get to experience this iconic goliath. To appreciate the sheer scale and beauty of the mountain and the range it’s within, I would recommend taking a flight available from Kathmandu Airport which will take you for a sightseeing tour over the Himalayas. Alternatively, take a trek up into the foothills of Everest, visiting the Rongbuk Monastery which is a climb suitable for novices. If altitude sickness isn’t a problem, continue up from here to the Everest Base Camp which sits at 17,000 feet above altitude. This is one of the most popular treks within the region and it’s worth organising a guide to take you on your way and to ensure your safety. Guides can cost from as little as US$10 per day.

  • Visit taan.org.np for a list of registered guides and companies to climb and trek with

Explore St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean

For a long time the thought of a Caribbean holiday meant either flying to Jamaica or Barbados for a week and lounging in the sun at a beach side resort. While this does sound pretty awesome there’s a lot more to the Caribbean worth exploring, St Vincent & The Grenadines is a country high on our list. Here’s why…

Beautiful islands to explore

With 32 islands to explore in St. Vincent & The Grenadines there’s  so much more here than just a beach holiday. The lush green tropical landscapes are just aching to be explored and there’s many ways to get about in this island nation. On the main island of St. Vincent there’s a hive of activity all over the island, from the bustling airport to the capital city of Kingstown. There are some great resorts here including the semi-private Young Island Resort just 200 metres from the main island. A short boat ride away and you’ll be checking in to your own private cottage, swinging in a huge private hammock and even taking a dip in your very own plunge pool.

Aside from the main island of St Vincent the most popular island to visit is Bequia (pronounced Bekway). Just an hour by local ferry to the south of the main island, its easy and cheap to get to. You can also fly there in just 10 minutes from various scheduled and chartered planes. Bequia has a small population of just 4500 but is big on Caribbean culture and heritage. Dubbed “The real Caribbean” its much less developed than its main island neighbour and you’ll get a much more relaxed and quiet experience here. There’s some wonderful hotels and resorts here to suit all tastes too. From the resort style complex of the Bequia Beach Hotel, with its wide range of cottages, rooms and villas, to the Boutique styling of the Sugar Reef Hotel with its beach front rooms and its plantation house rooms with stunning unbroken views of the surroundings.

While you’re there it’s worth taking a day trip or two around the island to meet some of the locals and sample some of the local food too. There’s no shortage of sea food here and the Lobster dishes are especially good. The turtle sanctuary is an interesting excursion and situation near the Sugar Reef too.

Trekking and snorkelling

If sitting on a beach or lounging by the pool bores you then you’ll find lots of great activities to get stuck in to here. No visit to St. Vincent would be complete without a trek up La Soufrière Volcano. Situated in the north of the main island its not only a challenge to reach the top but offers great views of the island on your way up. Be warned this trek is not for the feint hearted and requires a fair amount of fitness. Having said that you can trek at whatever speed you like, I was able to reach the top in 2 hours 30 minutes but I’ve heard its possible in an hour if you’re really fit and a leisurely 4 hours if you’re not. Either way when you get to the top the views inside the volcanic crater are immense. Having laid dorment since the early 1900s there’s lush vegetation and a few steaming vents of sulphur too. You’re guaranteed to see hawks and lizards along the way as well as some beautiful flowers and trees including bamboo forests.

If trekking really isn’t your thing then snorkelling sure will be. While St. Vincent is a mostly volcanic island there are still some amazing coral reefs worth exploring. None more impressive than the Tobago Cays, situated a few miles from Union Island near the private island resort of Palm Island. Admist the tiny beach islands is a shallow patch of water just a couple of meters deep, home to some beautiful and very colourful coral. Day trips from Palm Island  are the perfect way to explore them and you’re sure to meet some of the local wildlife too. As you drift around the coral you’re sure to see turtles, trumpet fish, lobsters and all manner of colourful fish. The shallow waters make snorkelling very easy even for beginners, just be sure to apply the sun cream in generous quantities as the equatorial midday sun is a lot stronger than you think.

Great weather in April

Speaking of sunshine, St Vincent & The Grenadines is not only blessed with beautiful tropical weather it also escapes the wrath of hurricanes that barrel their way through the Caribbean each year. While the tropical rains are a common occurrence throughout most of the year April is actually the driest month. Your days will be filled with sunshine and the occasional fluffy clouds to  give you a break now and again. Temperatures hover around 29C (84F) with fairly low humidity so while the days are hot its never too uncomfortable. Pack your sunglasses, sun cream and flip flops!

More information on St Vincent & The Grenadines

For the latest information on “SVG” head on over to the official Facebook page of Discover SVG, you can also follow them on twitter @DiscoverSVG.

This post was created during the SVG Live Liming Week, a blog trip project to explore the very best of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The best ideas for Mauritius holidays

Mauritius in the Indian Ocean is a small island with a big reputation for its paradisiacal setting and weather, festivals, religions and cultures. The cultural harmony and contrasts are especially impressive in a world where people usually seem to be at each other’s throats, and here you’ll find Catholic churches, Islamic mosques, Indian temples and Chinese Pagodas happily rubbing shoulders with one another. The island seems to have an enchanted, protective aura about it. In April the weather is still pleasantly humid and warm and there is only the occasional shower, and one of the highlights of the season is the colourful Ugadi Festival which sees in the Telegu New Year.

Ugadi Festival

The Hindu New Year gets off to a vibrant start on Mauritius with the exuberant Ugadi Festival on April 11th, when people take ritual purification showers and decorate their houses with rangolis and mango leaves. They prepare traditional meals such as Bevu Bella and the climax of the day takes place in hindu temples across the island when Panchanga Sravanam is celebrated. There are also various associated events and market stalls are set up for the tasting of traditional cuisines.

Museums, beaches and waterfalls

Mauritius is famed the world over for being an island paradise rich in natural beauties. The beaches are exceptionally fine stretches of white sand, as you’d expect, but there are numerous hidden treasures as well. Head out to Grand Baie Beach, which as well as being great for strolling and chilling out at the Veranda Hotel also has lots of local boats that you can rent to take a trip around the island and explore its coves and more secluded spots.

The National History Museum is always worth a visit. It’s situated close to Mahebourg town centre and played a prominent role in the local action of the Napoleonic naval wars, when both the French and British commanders of the battling fleets ended up here for treatment after an engagement. It contains loads of wartime memorabilia such as cannons, grape-shot and a pile of wine bottles from one of the British ships.

Tamarin Falls

You can take a local guide out of Henrietta to find these exquisitely beautiful series of waterfalls and take a swim in the lagoon at their base. They’re located close to the Tamarin Falls Reservoir and are a bit of a climb to reach, but well worth the effort. From Henrietta head for Curepipe and then walk uphill for just over a mile.

Blue Penny Museum

It’s probably fair to say that most visitors to Mauritius are not stamp collectors. The name comes from the Mauritian one and two-penny stamps, which are a cause celebre in the stamp world, the mere mention of which is guaranteed to get the heart of any dedicated philatelist fairly pumping with excitement. But you’ll be pleased to learn that there’s more to this museum than its impressive stamp collections, fine as these may be. There are also many great exhibits about the island and its eventful history, colonisation and settlement. It’s the best museum in Port Louis and is overflowing with antique maps, engravings and photographs from various periods.

  • Address: Caudan Waterfront, Port Louis
  • Opening times: Mon-Sat 10.00-5.00
  • Tickets:  150 MR adults
  • Website: bluepennymuseum.com

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.

 

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