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Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month #34 – April 2014

April has always been a good month in the world of travel for the team at Not Just a Holiday, we always seem to find ourselves on an epic adventure somewhere in the world. The changing of the seasons into Spring fills us with a renewed optimism that warmer weather and outdoor fun is on its way. This month we feature a few season related articles including Nat Geo’s 10 magnificent gardens, Best Beaches in the world, and The Guardian’s warm weather finder!

We also look at articles featuring; technology’s impact on travel, unknown European towns, on the road in Kyrgyzstan amongst others, before signing off in our usual fashion with our holiday of the month. This month we look a little closer to home at the beauties on offer in the British coastal town of Brighton.

First, we present to you our top ten articles of the month!

dubai1Photo courtesy of the_dead_pixel.

1. An insightful post by Lonely Planet reveals the truths behind 10 of the world’s wonders. Find out the stories behind ancient wonders such as Stonehenge, Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, or the more recent tales behind modern marvels such as the Burj Khalifa.

2. Through April we hopefully start to see glimpses of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, thus focus in the world of travel begin to move on to summer themes. Trip Advisor are on the ball with their Best Beaches in the World 2014 list; featuring 25 top spots from across the globe, it is topped by Baia Do Sancho in Brazil.

3. The BBC Travel series, On The Road covers a fascinating blend of destinations over its 20 episodes. One that stuck out for us was the Central Asian destination of Kyrgyzstan, from trips to local livestock markets to home-stays near the Uzbekistan border it makes a captivating watch.

4. With Spring upon us, the natural world enters arguably its most beautiful stage, flowers begin to blossom and landscapes are transformed. It is also an exciting time for the gardening world and National Geographic has compiled an article featuring 10 magnificent gardens, our number one is Kenroku-en in Japan.

5. Remember the world of travel in those pre-internet days? We often take for granted the ease of travel in the modern age but it has only been 25 years since the birth of the internet. The Guardian offer a fascinating article on 25 years of the web creating a travel revolution, where would we stay in a world without TripAdvisor!

 bavaria1Photo courtesy of John-Morgan.

6. We stumbled across an interesting blog post on walking in Bavarian mountains, author Andy Jarosz depicts this mystical landscape in South Germany, complimented with a couple of majestic photos. Worth 5 minutes of your time for sure.

7. With such a great quantity of the world’s population moving and holidaying more than ever, eco-tourism ventures have emerged offering tourists the opportunity to offset some of their carbon footprint and give something back while traveling. Eco-accommodation is a large factor of this new trend and Lonely Planet list their top 10 eco stays around the globe; from tree houses in Tanzania to solar-powered ‘earthships’ in New Mexico, it is most definitely an inspiring article!

8. A useful tool we discovered this month was The Guardian’s ‘destination finder’ tool. Allowing you to search by temperature it is perfect for seeing where in the world to head for sunshine and warm weather right now.

9. Ever felt like escaping to the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles from a neighbouring country? Ascension Island is your answer; situated in the Atlantic Ocean midway between South America and Africa it is an extremely remote island. Getting there isn’t easy, flights from a military base north of London offer 10 civilian spots per flight, but for this tropical paradise it seems worthwhile.

10. With so many countries and cities packed into a relatively small area, some of Europe’s smaller cities often get overlooked in the world of travel. Trip Advisor has compiled a list of 10 breathtaking European destinations you may never heard of, and we must admit a few even stumped us! We shall be adding Dolceacqua, Hallstatt and Gruyeres to our must-visit list!

 

Holiday of the Month – Brighton, UK

One of our favourite British destinations is the seaside classic; Brighton. Drawing visitors for centuries, it is still a popular spot for a multitude of reasons and appeals to a diverse mix of visitors. Although it has a year-round appeal, we believe the best Brighton days are in the sunshine and as we push on through Spring, a warm day on Brighton beach is hard to top in England.

Famous for its iconic piers, Brighton seaside is a quintessential British sight enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Brighton’s significant LGBT community gives the city a unique and liberal feel which attracts a mix of visitors keen to embrace the friendly atmosphere. Steer clear of chain stores and pubs on West Street and Western Road and you will experience the true unique nature of Brighton’s boutique and bohemian shopping and nightlife. The Lanes and North Laines are two enchanting shopping regions crammed full of one-off stores along winding lanes, at the weekends its hard to move but its worth the venture.

Brighton Pier is a must-see, although some elements feel almost cheesy, it provides outstanding views across the beaches and out to sea and is a prime example of nostalgic British tourism. Away from the seaside the main sight is the impressive, Royal Pavilion with its Indian influenced architecture and accompanying gardens. Built in the 18th century as the official summer residence for the British Royal family, it has since become a museum and a unique site in Brighton that is extremely easy on the eye. All in all its hard to top Brighton for a local weekend getaway.

brighton pierPhoto courtesy of Bev Goodwin.

 

Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month #33 – March 2014

March is upon us, spring will soon start to set in and we can finally say goodbye to this grey weather! Wishful thinking somewhat, for now the Not Just a Holiday team are enjoying the tail end of winter. This months post has been one of our most enjoyable to write in a while, some awesome articles have found their way onto our laptop screens and our holiday of the month filled us with joy reminiscing over an old favourite destination.

Following the Sochi Olympic Winter Games that caught the world’s focus last month, we look at a few Russian themed articles including Nat Geo’s guide to exploring the largest nation, and Kronotsky Zapovednik nature reserves in East Russia. Also featured this month; The Independent’s guide to Memphis, the most beautiful countries in the world,  a submarine hotel, and much more!

We conclude in our usual style with our holiday of the month, which this month sees us reviewing one of our favourite Asian mega-cities that draws us back time and time again with its variation of appealing factors; Hong Kong.

Lets get the ball rolling with our top ten travel experiences of the month gone by:

BezengiPhoto courtesy of Ilya Schurov.

1. Russia was firmly in focus throughout the world of travel in February due to the Sochi Olympic Winter Games. It is a huge country to explore with an incredible range of scenery, National Geographic’s Russia Guide and gallery is an inspiring read and has us itching to explore the worlds biggest nation.

2. Another Russia themed article that caught our eye was BBC Travel’s guide to Kronotsky Zapovednik nature reserve. Restrictions have only recently been eased to allow visitors to begin to explore the largest complex of protected nature reserves on the globe. Home to a stunning valley of geysers, and countless brown bears, Kronotsky is itching to be explored!

3. Experience some sunshine this Winter without having to endure a long-haul flight. The Guardian lists a range of top destinations just a few hours away from Western Europe to escape the winter blues.

4. With the world of travel becoming ever more competitive, innovation is often used to differentiate and appeal to consumers. One travel company has taken this to a new extreme, offering a night in a submarine hotel. Unfortunately we have been priced out, at nearly $300,000 a night, it is a little out of our reach!

5. During some downtime in the office we stumbled across this gallery of travel photos on Pinterest. Images of lakes in Japan, houses in Italy, rock pools in Canada, fields in China, we could go on – check the album out for yourself!

ScotlandPhoto courtesy of Eusebius.

6. Rough Guide readers recently voted their most beautiful countries in the world. The accompanying slide-show showcases the beauty of each country, the top spot took us by surprise but we think its deserved.

7. Anyone who has road-tripped across the States will have certainly noticed the countless roadside advertisements attempting to draw you off the road to capitalise on passing trade. Some however are worth pulling over for, CNN lists 8 roadside curiosities you shouldn’t miss. We will attempt to tick a few off the list on our USA road-trip this summer.

8. If you are going to splash out on a luxury hotel, make sure it houses an epic swimming pool! Trip Advisor has compiled a captivating list of jaw-dropping hotel pools from around the world . Our personal favourites included the mesmerising pool in the Maldives and the impressive complex in Udaipur, India.

9. Memphis, Tennessee is one of our favourite American cities, a fascinating 20th century history shaped by the civil rights and rock and roll movements, there is heaps to see. The Independent’s guide this month had us reminiscing past trips and planning future ones, its a must-visit on any Stateside jaunt.

10. The ‘top 2014′ themed lists are still circulating the world wide web, our favourite from the last 28 days was Lonely Planet’s top 10 extraordinary hotels for 2014. Our top choice would be the Free Spirit Spheres in BC, Canada.

Holiday of the Month – Hong Kong 

An urban metropolis as concentrated as Hong Kong may not suit everyone’s idea of a short break, but Hong Kong has a lot more to offer than its seemingly endless sprawl of skyscrapers. On the south side of the main ‘Hong Kong Island’ there are an array of beaches providing the perfect escape from a day shopping in Central HK or a night meandering through the bustling streets and night-markets of Kowloon.

Hong Kong harbour is one of the most iconic sights associated with Hong Kong and its easy to see why, from any angle the reflections across the body of water dazzle from the towering skyscrapers looming over both banks. Victoria Peak, known locally simply as The Peak, offers unforgettable views across the harbour towards Kowloon and is worth seeing both during the day and after nightfall when the landscape is lit up with lights and neon advertising signs in every direction. A trip on the Star Ferry across the harbour is a must do, it is outrageously cheap and gives another perspective on the harbour in a locals style setting.

HK HarbourPhoto courtesy of Roger Wagner.

Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month #32 – February 2014

This month we feature major February themed articles including visiting the host city of the Winter Olympics; Sochi, as well as National Geographic’s list of worldwide February events. There are more 2014 themed ‘to-visit’ lists appearing every day, we take a look at a few of our favourites; 52 destinations to visit and Lonely Planet’s top 10 USA destinations for the current year. This months featured Holiday of the Month is the Serbian capital of Belgrade. We give our view on why it is emerging as an Eastern European favourite with great value for money and a fascinating history.

Kicking things off in our usual fashion, here are our top 10 travel experiences of this year so far:

Sochi, RussiaPhoto courtesy of Gregory Smirnov.

1. The world’s attention this month will be focused on Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Often referred to as the Russian Riveria, gaze through a beginners guide to Sochi courtesy of the Huffington Post, to see why you should visit even if you can’t make it in time for the Olympics.

2. Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in India or the New Zealand Fringe Festival in Wellington. All are happening this month and are just some of the top events worldwide in February as listed by National Geographic, do something unique this February.

3. Easily the most stunning photo gallery we have seen this year is Rough Guide’s ’20 of the worlds most impressive natural phenomena’. Astonishing shots of wildlife across the world it will be sure to have you gasping in amazement, our top snap had to be the Scandinavian Northern Lights.

4. Aeon Film features an incredible time lapse video travelling along the Panama Canal from the Pacific to Atlantic in under 5 minutes of footage. Definitely worth 4 minutes and 34 seconds of your day!

5. The USA is prominent in the world of travel and destinations across The States continue to feature in varying top travel lists. Lonely Planet go one step further with their Top 10 USA destinations for 2014, we are going to try and make it to them all over the next 11 months.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/seanpritchard/Photo courtesy of Sean Pritchard.

6. Continuing the 2014 ‘to-visit’ theme, check out NY Times’ 52 destinations for 2014. If you are likely enough to have the spare time, this will give you a weekly travel fix for the remainder of the year! A few we would like to tick off included; Seychelles, Quang Binh – Vietnam, & the Mekong River – Southeast Asia.

7. The so-called Tornado Alley of the USA’s Midwest is hit by hundreds of Tornadoes annually, its often hard to get a good shot however. BBC Future has put together a gallery of phenomenal photos taken over the last decade by local photographer Mike Hollingshead.

8. Another spectacular photo gallery we viewed this month featured 50 mind-blowing undiscovered destinations. Displaying countless inspiring photos from around the world, our bucket-list just increased ten-fold.

9. When travelling on a budget, gaining value with eating out is always a bonus. The Guardian features an article listing 6 pay-what-you-want restaurants from across the globe! From as far afield as Melbourne, Vienna and New Jersey, hopefully you will find you way to one this year.

10. With the World Cup this year and the Summer Olympic Games in 2016, Brazil is ever becoming a more popular destination with travellers from all corners of the globe. Trivago’s recent top 10 places to visit in Brazil is worth a read if you are planning a trip anytime soon.

Holiday of the Month – Belgrade, Serbia.

Serbia’s capital has not always been the subject of positive news in the past two decades, however the situation has stablised in the 21st century and the bustling city has emerged as an Eastern European favourite with backpackers. There are of course relics of communist rule still scattered throughout the city and on the surface Belgrade can seem gritty and hostile in places. The city centre however is over-flowing with cafes, restaurants and Western retail outlets, nestled between an abundance of historic architecture from Belgrades colourful past. Kalemegdan Citadel has dominated the city for centuries, the impressive fortress dates back to Celtic times, it is now a popular destination with tourists and locals alike relaxing in its park surroundings.

One absolute must-see for Belgrade is the Nikola Tesla Museum close to Tasmajdan Park and the towering Sveti Marko Church. The museum provides a fascinating insight into arguably one of history’s most important scientists, there are even interactive demonstrations of his work.

Despite its size and stature, Belgrade is an extremely affordable destination to visit, especially for Western tourists. Its renowned nightlife draws party goers from across Europe, keen to take advantage of the cheap drinks in Belgrades many bars and clubs, notably along Skadarska and by the banks of the Sava River. Serbian cuisine, like many neighbouring regions, has been shaped by various occupying empires throughout the ages, mainly Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian bringing their own cultural dishes. This gives Serbia an exciting blend of tastes for visitors to sample, often found for incredibly good value, adding to Belgrades all-round affordability.

Cathedral of Saint SavaPhoto courtesy of Brian Pocius.

Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month #31 – January 2014

Welcome to 2014! Happy New Year from all at Not Just a Holiday, we are excited for all of our travel prospects this coming year, we hope you have a prosperous 2014 wherever your travels may lead you! This month we feature a range of end-of-year themed articles from across the world wide web, such as; National Geographic’s favourite 2013 photos, and the best 10 islands to visit in 2014.

Other articles examined this month include; Thailand’s top budget beach hotels, 20 abandoned places across the world, and 15 charming Italian villages. We conclude with our first holiday of the month for 2014; The Canadian Rockies.

We kick things off as usual with our top 10 articles of the month gone by.

Havana

Photo courtesy of gustaffo89.

1. Trip Advisor concluded last year by compiling a list of destinations on the rise in 2013. The top 10 includes destination as far apart as Kathmandu, Havana and Fortaleza in Brazil. Several have made it on our 2014 bucket list.

2. In a photo summary of 2013, National Geographic featured their favourite photographic memories from the past 12 months. Our personal favourite was an arial shot of a lake in Poland, the collection is definitely worth 5 minutes of your time.

3. 2014 has been declared the International Year of Small Island Developing States by the UN. To coincide with this, Lonely Planet has posted their top 10 Islands to travel to this year. See for yourself the beauty these islands possess as well as some of the environmental issues that have caused the UN take note.

4. This year is of course the 2014 Football World Cup in Brazil, featuring 32 nations from across the globe. The Independent looks at these nations in a different light and has started a series listing their to visit each of the 32 countries this year, starting with the host country.

5. Technology has vastly changed the world of travel, especially in the last two decades. Embracing technological advances can often be handy on the road and with a large quantity of Western travellers equipped with SmartPhones, apps have sprung up for nearly everything. Check out these top 10 travel apps to take with you on the road in 2014.

Hashima Island - Japan

Photo courtesy of chrisluckhardt.

6. 20 cool abandoned places in the world on imgur is one of the most fascinating photo collections we have seen in a long time. From Siberian mines to Japanese theme parks, the photos are simply breathtaking and often remarkable and hard to believe!

7.  A relaxing hotel on a budget? They are in abundance across Thailand’s beach resorts, check out The Guardian’s 10 best-value Thai beach hotels.

8. Italian countryside provides some of the finest culture in Western Europe, small villages rich in history dot the hillsides across the North and South alike. Explore 15 charming small Italian towns listed on Buzzfeed last month.

9. Sweden’s world famous Icehotel in the village of Jukkasjärvi, Swedish Lapland has opened for its 24th season with a range of new sculptures from over 1,600 tonnes of ice! See a full gallery of photos with The Guardian for the certain inspiration to visit.

10. BBC Travel’s ‘Around the World’ series has shown some truly inspiring destinations in its 11 episodes so far. Episode 9 really stuck out for us as the team visited Chile; a fascinating blend of old and new.

Holiday of the Month – Canadian Rockies – Western Canada

The Canadian Rockies provide some of the finest mountain scenery and skiing anywhere on the globe, so it’s no surprise that thousands flock to its renowned resorts each year. Fortunately due to the mountains vast area it rarely feels overcrowded especially at the larger ski resorts such as Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. Banff and Jasper National Parks form a large chunk of the region and their respective towns of Banff and Jasper form ideal bases to explore from. The Icefield Parkway that connects the two regularly makes top scenic driving lists and its easy to see why with endless mountains on either side, stunning lakes such as Peyto and Bow, and the magnificent Columbia Icefields keeping your eyes entertained throughout.

The town of Banff is just a 90 minute drive from the city of Calgary, home to the nearest international airport, making it a popular initial destination in the Rockies. Featuring the best range of accomodation, shops and nightlife, Banff is perfectly equipped for travellers on a range of budgets and needs.

The impressive mountain range is not just a winter destination, during the summer the abundant wildlife and breathaking hiking trails attract another section of the tourist market to marvel in the beauty.

Banff - Canadian RockiesPhoto courtesy of irakshiv.

Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month #30 – December 2013

With just two weeks left of 2013, the world of travel is focusing firmly on the coming new year. This month we feature a few of these articles as Lonely Planet lists their top cities for 2014, the ultimate adrenaline bucket-list, and an increased chance of catching the Northern Lights this winter.
Cape Town

Photo courtesy of coda.

1. As we enter the final weeks of the year, one eye is firmly on the prospects for 2014. Lonely Planet compile their top cities for 2014 featuring old classics and upcoming gems, between us we are going to try and visit all 10.

2. Despite being the second largest country in the world, Canada is often left in the shadow of its southerly neighbour when it comes to travel talk. Discover 50 Canadian places of a lifetime  spanning across all of the ten provinces.

3. Alternative sights of Brighton, as listed by Rough Guides. Head to the south coast for a range of cocktails, cabaret and a new haircut!

4. Despite how well connected the modern world is in terms of being able to sample food from across the globe without leaving your hometown, nothing quite beats sampling local cuisines. Trip Advisor have put together a top 10 of travelers favourite restaurants from around the world, not surprisingly France appears more than once!

5.  Every city has its gritty areas but often with a little investment these areas transform into über popular districts for instance Soho in New York or Camden in London. Have a look at some recent revamped districts from cities across the world.

hanoi

Photo courtesy of sebadella.

6. South-east Asia is synonymous with backpacking and the majority of long-term travelers have passed through the likes of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam at some point. Yet it is still worth writing home about and The Guardian’s guide to backpacking in the region has us eager to book a trip out there again!

7. In recent years there has been a significant emergence of conservation tourism across lesser developed nations. Discover how the two mix in Namibia as the New York Times show the positive affects occurring.

8. Are you an adventure or adrenaline junkie? You may wish to take a look through the ultimate adventure bucket-list. If you are into heights, snow, water or mountains you will find yourself adding these to your list.

9. With winter imminent, the possibility of catching the Northern Lights increase ten fold. This year NASA are predicting increased solar activity making it a great winter for the Aurora Borealis.

10. Beautiful and bizarre bridges – more than just for practical use, there are many bridges that have become artwork in their own right. Check out BBC Travel’s top 6.

Holiday of the Month – Sydney, Australia

Despite the distance, Sydney makes a perfect city break, year round. Iconic sites, world famous beaches and a renowned nightlife ensure that any trip to Sydney will be action-packed from start to finish. Scale the habour bridge, marvel inside the impressive opera house and explore the highlights of Darling Harbour, before retreating to Manly or Bondi for some afternoon surf. Complete each day by letting loose in Kings Cross or Oxford St for some of Sydney finest bars and clubs. The only thing you will be short of in Sydney is time to fit everything in!

The Olympic park from the 2000 summer games makes is a worthwhile excursion, tours of the unique ANZ stadium are insightful to say the least. The stadium has the capabality to alter pitch size so to suit AFL, rugby and cricket, plus it’s also where England lifted the 2003 Rugby World Cup! A tour of Sydney harbour offers the perfect opportunity to catch those postcard shots of the bridge and opera house, whilst also offering some background history of the area. With the Southern Hempisphere entering the summer season, now is an ideal time to visit Sydney if you want to enjoy its fine climate and utilise the profound beaches.

Sydney HarbourPhoto courtesy of Lao Wu Yei 2.

Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month #29 – October 2013

October represents a change in the mindsets of most people, the summer is definitely gone, its starting to get chilly and the high street is beginning to focus on Christmas! October does however represent a beautiful period in the natural world as the autumn is setting in and the trees become a mix of oranges, reds and browns. Not Just a Holiday is embracing that this month with a look at spectacular sunsets across the globe and the top spots to photograph in Canada this autumn. 

We also look at tours of the Holy LandHans Kemp’s Burmese gallery, and the worlds strangest hotels. We conclude as usual with our holiday of the month, which last month saw us travel to the Czech capital of Prague to remind ourselves why it is so popular!

Firstly here are our top 10 travel articles from across the world wide web this month:

5323297773_5ab7d0e59f_z

Photo courtesy of MarkinMonko.

1. Discover the Holy Land with National Geographic’s local expert Aziz Abu Sarah on his recommended 12 day itinerary. Famed for its rich history you will find that Israel has plenty to offer to the modern day traveller as well.

2. With autumn imminent landscapes across the northern hemisphere transfer into a sea of red, brown and orange. Add to this a beautiful sunset and you are left with a spectacular sight. Trip Advisor lists 10 of the most spectacular sunset locations across the globe, try and get to one this fall.

3. Fancy staying in a hotel shaped like a dog or in a hotel for one with an underwater bedroom? Check Rough Guide’s gallery of the worlds strangest hotels and marvel at unique accommodation they have discovered, we would personally like to try out the Mirrorcube in Sweden.

4. With an abundance of nature and wilderness, Canada can provide some of the finest autumn scenery possible. Read 8 top spots to capture the best scenery, courtesy of Toronto based newspaper The Globe and Mail.

5. Spending money helps the economy wherever you are in the world, so when you are abroad especially in lesser developed nations make sure you indulge in what the locals have to offer. Liz Boulter did exactly that in Vietnam; see the beautiful pieces she picked up and the good it is doing for Vietnam locals.

Kerala Beach

Photo courtesy of mehul.antani.

6. Escape to the Indian coast this winter for some budget sun revelling. The Guardian gives their guide to the top budget accommodation along the Kerala coastline.

7. Ever been watching a movie and wished you were actually there? Check out Lonely Planet’s guide to the locations of your favourite films and tv shows. You could find yourself reliving Breaking Bad in New Mexico or Lord of the Rings in New Zealand or many others!

8. Photographer Hans Kemp’s collection of shots from across Burma is truly breathtaking. He portrays the definitive beauty of the hidden Asian paradise as well as capturing Burmese people in their everyday life from working the fields to worshiping at one of the many elegant temples.

9. If you are looking for something closer to home this autumn, hop over to France to what is described as France’s best kept secret; the central province of Beaujolais. It is a producer of many exquisite fine wines and some very pleasant scenery!

10. Finally this month, have a look at some delicious dishes that aren’t the easiest on the eye, the list includes our Canadian favorite, Poutine.

Holiday of the Month – Prague, Czech Republic.

Despite its growing reputation as a party city, the stunning architecture and rich history make Prague a fascinating capital to visit. There are of course stag-do parties attracted by the cheap and quality Czech lagers, but venturing further than Wenceslas Square will eradicate most of that! Plus early autumn is a great time to visit, the summer prices have dropped back to more pleasing rates, whilst the weather is still mild in comparison to the bitter winters the Czech capital is subject to later in the year.

The city is dominated by the Vltava River which cuts through Prague creating a natural centre point, helpful for gauging your bearings. The east side of the river is home to the old town and some of the most impressive architecture on offer. On the west side of the Vltava is the Mala Strana district at the foot of Prague Castle. The castle itself makes for incredible viewing but the views across the city are truly spectacular, worth the hike up the hill. The John Lennon wall is also found in the Mala Strana district and is definitely worth a place on any Prague itinerary to read through the endless messages of peace from fans who come from every corner of the globe.

Lennon Wall

Photo courtesy of Mataprada.

Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month #28 – September 2013

Well August went too quickly!

Fortunately we were blessed with some fine weather and consequent sun tans that will no doubt fade in the next few months. Although September can be unpredictable in the UK, there are plenty of destinations across Europe and further afield where sun is still guaranteed. In this month’s Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month we feature articles from across Europe including a Southern Italian paradise and alternative theme parks in Scandinavia. European’s of course often venture beyond the  boundaries of the continent, we look at Europeans in the USA, 20 North American hiking trails and 10 natural swimming pools from around the globe.

There is also a photography theme to this months post with one of National Geographic’s Photos of the Day in Kazakhstan and travel photography tips from the BBC.

Finally, we conclude with our holiday of the month; Hangzhou in China. See why Chinese tourists have been flocking there for decades.

Porto SelvaggioPhoto courtesy of Yellow.Cat.

1. Porto Selvaggio, Italy is the last destination in The Telegraph’s hidden seaside destination series. They have arguably saved the best until last with this Italian paradise located on the ‘heel’ of the boot that Italy resembles. Described as the Cornwall of Italy, it is a stunning natural park free from mass tourism allowing you to truly absorb the natural beauty.

2. Canada is second only to Russia in terms of land mass size, so it’s hardly surprising that there is a lot of hidden gems to explore. Reader’s Digest asked their readers to submit their favourite obscure destinations and compiled them into 13 stunning Canadian places you never knew existed.

3. Spain is notorious for trouncing the UK with its hours of sunshine. Therefore instead of hoping for an Indian summer in the UK, head to a budget beach hotel on the Costa Brava or Costa Dorada this autumn.

4. It has been 50 years since Martin Luther King’s famous speech in August 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in DC. The Independent traveled to his hometown of Atlanta, GA to see how much has changed. They provide a fascinating read and guide to Luther King’s home city taking in Atlanta’s cultural highlights and top places to visit.

5. We all know the appeal of Six Flag’s or Disneyland, but there are some fascinating substitutes to the mainstream parks as Lonely Planet shows in Eight alternative theme parks from around the world. From as far apart as Finland and Singapore, there is a terrific geographical range.

To Sua Ocean TrenchPhoto courtesy of Dave Lonsdale.

6. Our favourite ‘top 10′ list we have seen this month has to be 10 natural swimming pools, compiled by Trip Advisor. They are all stunning in their own right, unfortunately we have only made it to one of the list so far; Blue Lagoon, Iceland. However the other 9 are certainly on our must-visit list, from Samoa to Laos, we are going to have to cover a lot of miles to get to them all!

7.  European’s in the states; see which American cities have been favoured by European visitors this summer.

8. North America has some of the finest terrain, outstanding landscapes and accompanying facilities for hiking, worldwide. National Geographic give their top 20 hikes from across the states, even suggesting the best time of year to go. Utah, Texas, Colorado are just a few of the states covered.

9. For all those budding travel photographers, BBC Travel offers some top travel photography  tips as part of their Road Less Travelled video series.

10. The Baiterek Monument in Kazakhstan was the subject of a National Geographic photo of the day recently, it looks spectacular!

Holiday of the Month – Hangzhou, China

Hangzhou has long been a popular destination with Chinese tourists and is a strong economic power in the Zhejiang province, visiting the city it is easy to see why. It is surrounded in natural beauty; the mountains in the west, the coastal bay to the east and the Qiantang River which flows through the southern part of the city. The finest example of its natural aesthetics must surely be the West Lake which provides the centre piece of the city and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Hangzhou is just an hour south of Shanghai via train, which provides international connections making Hangzhou easily accessible to the international traveler. This also assists with keeping Hangzhou an economic power as it has been for over 1,000 years, exporting goods across the globe. This gives the city a modern spin, amongst the temples and pagodas you can find a strong Western influence in the nightlife and shopping districts. The best sights however are away from the city centre, with Temples dating back over 800 years, elegant pagodas such as Baochu Pagoda, and the Xixi National Wetland Park the only preserved wetlands in China and home to an abundance of wildlife.

Hangzhou TemplePhoto courtesy of Dale Ellerm.

Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month #27 – August 2013

The summer is escaping too quickly! It is already August, the children are off for the summer, beaches across Europe are bustling with holidaymakers, and we are stuck in an office! Okay the last part is not true, we are embracing summer too! This month we keep one eye on the summer related articles which inundate our social media news feeds with beach hopping around the UK and top ten days out in the city. 

This month’s post looks at the latest updates from the Mongol Rally, the world’s best hiking trails, and the latest additions to the UNESCO World Heritage List. We conclude as usual with our holiday of the month, this month sees us exploring the Rocky Mountains and Denver, CO.

To commence, feast your eyes on the top 10 travel articles of the month:

BeachPhoto courtesy of giulia p.

1. The pleasant weather does not last long in the UK, so embrace that and head to the coast for a spot of beach hopping. Cornwall, Lincolnshire and the  Highlands are three examples of the beauty that can be found on British coasts.

2. After recently venturing across the US mid-west ourselves, former park ranger Nevada Barr’s guide to Utah, Nevada and Colorado had us reminiscing about our trip immediately. These 3 states have some of the most remote yet spectacular scenery, worth driving through hours of nothingness to find!

3. National Geographic compiled the worlds 20 best hikes from a group of enthusiasts. The list spans across the continents ensuring there is at least one trail we can all get to. The pictures accompanying the article are equally sublime.

4. The 10th Mongol Rally is well and truly underway with some teams already completing it! Follow the progress as teams drive across Eastern Europe into a mix of Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, China and eventually Mongolia!

5. Roughing it in a car across Russian desert clearly is not for everyone! For a more relaxed getaway, try the 100 boutique hotels for under £100 list.

 Sagrada Família, BarcelonaPhoto courtesy of hammershaug.

6. What is the most beautiful building you have ever visited? Does it make Lonely Planet’s list of the world’s most beautiful buildings? Even they have admitted it is impossible to actually compile a true list, but they have given it a go with their top 10. Of these our favorite has to be Sagrada Família in Spain.

7. Searching for a destination to interest your children whilst also appealing to yourself? Look no further than Paris. As you well know there is tons to see as an average tourist in Paris, but you’ll be pleased to hear its a great place to take your children, New York Times shows you why.

8. If you are limited by time and stuck in the city most of the summer, fear not The Independent has put together a guide for the top ten days out in the city.

9. Five new natural wonders of the world. UNESCO latest additions to the World Heritage List include a desert in Namibia and an Italian volcano.

10. After 5 years on the road with their 4 children, Jenn Miller tells the story of her family’s travels as her husband, Duane, seeks to make a living as a musician.

Holiday of the Month – Denver, Colorado.

After coming across endless miles of the flat and dull plains that constitute the state of Kansas, Denver appears like the promised land opening up in front of you. Although it’s a bustling city, the real highlights of the area lie in the outstanding natural beauty that surrounds it in the form of the Rocky Mountains. Denver however provides a perfect base to explore from; it is just an hours drive up into the Rocky Mountains National Park.

The city certainly has a relaxed feel, cannabis has recently been decriminalised in the state of Colorado, but this adds to its liberal feel as a city. There are countless bars to get lost in and lots of fine eateries also. One must-visit is Sam’s No. 3 diner on Curtis Street, established in 1927 this spot is known for having the best breakfast in town and has early itself a ton of awards along the way.

If you have the time, an excursion up to Red Rocks Amphitheater is well worth the effort. One of the most unusual and picturesque venues, photos do simply not suffice in capturing its elegance. It is also said to have some of the best natural acoustics anywhere in the world.
Red Rocks Ampitheater
Red Rocks Ampitheater. Photo Courtesy of halelinda.

Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month #26 – July 2013

July is here! We are over half way through 2013, it seems just a few weeks ago we were discussing winter breaks and Christmas getaways but here we are with summer in full flow.

June saw some of the Not Just a Holiday team heading off to Glastonbury, which fortunately had more sun than rain this year in which to enjoy an eclectic mix of music and perhaps a few too many of the local ciders! Whilst it was back to reality for most of the revellers, one of us is heading out to live in Canada as of Friday, so expect some featuring Canada’s highlights in the coming months!

This month we cover a range of destinations and articles from across the globe, from as far afield as Wolverine chasing in Mongolia, to Houseboats in San Francisco.  There is something for all budgets and tastes and, as usual, we conclude with our holiday of the month, which this month saw us exploring Langkawi, Malaysia.

Here are our top 10 travel articles of the past 30 days:

Dubrovnik Beachphoto courtesy of pottster

1. Croatia became the 28th member of the EU on the 1st July, but British tourists have been flocking there for many years. The Independent gives the countries highlights on why Croatia should be your destination of choice this summer.

2. Searching for wolverines in Mongolia, not your average expedition. Conservationist Gregg Treinish and his team trekked across Northern Mongolia in search of the elusive weasel. Extracts from their diary can be viewed via National Geographic, an insightful read to say the least.

3. To celebrate 40 years since Lonely Planet founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler wrote the first Lonely Planet book, two current of their current writers are trekking from London to Sydney to follow in their footsteps. Keep up with them on their across the planet: 40 years, 40 amazing experiences blog.

4. A 700 year old city has been recently discovered in Cambodia, The Guardian joined the excavation team mapping out the vast urban landscape. The findings are impressive to say the least, the ruins show connections across the Angkor region stretching over 100 kilometres.

5.  Would you take your child to Belize or Morocco? Read through Frommers Exotic but Kid-Friendly: 6 Top spots for family vacations to find out how easy and safe it is to take your children to some of the more adventurous travel destinations.

Sausalito Houseboatsphoto courtesy of Anouska Stelmach

6. San Francisco is renowned for its liberal and slightly peculiar nature. If you are planning a visit any time soon, why not embrace that by staying on a stylish houseboat in Sausalito! Proof that San Fran’s counter-culture spirit is still alive and kicking!

7. What better way to see a city and get your bearings than a free walking tour! A few months back we told you of our free walking tour in Sarajevo, now The Guardian has given an article of their top 6 cities where you can embrace free walking tours to see a city even on a tight budget.

8. South-East Asia has some of the most affordable food you can find on the typical backpacker route. Hostelbookers lists 8 foods to try in Thailand, none of the them will cost you more than a couple of pounds,  in currency or weight!

9. July sees the start of the annual Mongol Rally where budding adventurers drive beaten up vehicles from London to Ulaan Battar. You can follow each teams progress on the ultimate challenge via The Adventurists official site.

10. For something closer to home, staycations are ever growing in popularity. TimeOut looks at the best British breaks for those with limited time this summer. Whether it be walking, beaches, camping or outdoor adventure, this guide is a good place to start!

Holiday of the Month: Langkawi, Malaysia.

A cluster of over 100 islands, 30km from West coast of mainland Malaysia, Langkawi is an idyllic destination with a year-round hot climate. The largest of the islands, Pulau Langkawi has an airport for international connections via Kuala Lumpar. Once you have escaped the surrounding airport area, it is possible to seek out some cosy and quiet beaches which feel a lifetime away from the usual hustle and bustle of a tourist strip.  There is also a range of tourist orientated attractions in the surrounding areas but undoubtedly the highlight of the island is its beaches with nearby relatively cheap accommodation.

It is also possible to catch a ferry to Thailand from the main port of Kuah, making it one of the easier border crossings into Thailand from north Malaysia. Langkawi is therefore a perfect destination to pass through on the typical South-East Asia over-land route of Singapore to Bangkok.

Pulau LangkawuPhoto courtesy of Timparkinson

Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month #25 – June 2013

Welcome to June’s edition of Favourite Travel Experiences of the Month. May was a busy month at Not Just A Holiday, members of the team took Euro-city trips to Eindhoven and Berlin as well as canal boating in Worcestershire. More exciting times lay ahead in June as some of us are off to Glastonbury, embracing the festival season in maximum style!

As its June we are embracing the theme of enjoying the sunshine, including; cycling in Cornwall, a yoga retreat in Greece and the vast natural scenery of the USA.

To kick things off as usual, here are our Top 10 Articles of the Month.

cyclingPhoto courtesy of owlnwolf

1. It could be argued that there is no better way to exploit the amount of time spent in the great outdoors than setting off on an epic bike ride. This month The Guardian analyses Cornwall’s finest cycling challenges, all accompanied with outstanding scenery!

2. Although you can’t guarantee the sun, Glastonbury Festival returns for 2013 and there is little more satisfying than sipping a crisp pint of Brother’s Cider in front of the Pyramid Stage. Lonely Planet give their guide on tips for enjoying England’s biggest music festival.

3. Greece’s Silver Island is the true definition of a relaxing break; a yoga retreat on a private island coupled with a Mediterranean climate. Discovering this luxury destination will surely maximise your time in the sun this summer.

4. Soaking up the sun in some of Europe’s outstanding cities doesn’t have to be expensive. Barcelona is an idyllic destination and Hostelworld give you a head start on money saving with their top 15 free things to do in Barcelona this summer.

5. Summer travel in the USA incorporates a wide range of scenery from oceans to desserts, mountains to canyons. The Huffington Post summarise their country into 7 magnificent photos, we are personally hoping to tick a few off our list in the coming months.

Sushi Dai - TokyoPhoto courtesy of kslee.

6. 4.30am, time for sushi? It is in Tokyo. Take a look at Matt Swinden’s video of locals queuing in their numbers for sushi at the crack of dawn! 

7. If you have not yet come across this blogger, then Digital Nomad is something to check out. Blogging for National Geographic, Andrew Evans is described as a Digital Nomad; always travelling, always wired. Browse his recent trips to Texas and Scotland and gain some true inspiration from this serial blogger.

8. Following the release The Great Gatsby, The Guardian reveal their top choices of bars for cocktails and jazz in New York City.

9.Turkey is unfortunately making the news recently for all the wrong reasons with civil unrest in many regions. Don’t let this put you off your travel plans though, The Independent give their FAQ on the recent and developing Turkey situation. Definitely worth a read before you book or cancel a trip.

10. Walking tours that sample the local food, an excellent method of burning the calories off! Feast your eyes on the top 10 walking tours for globetrotting foodies. From Hanoi to Brick Lane there is an eclectic blend from all corners of the world.

Street Food, Hanoi, VietnamPhoto courtesy of Luj Moarf.

Holiday of the Month – Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

Whether you are an avid country music fan or just have an interest in ‘the south’ culture, Nashville is an essential stop on any American road-trip. Bar hopping on Lower Broadway you’ll find live music in abundance from mid-afternoon right through to the early hours, there is no escaping it. Wherever you are you’ll also be sure to find aspiring musicians scattered in bars and hostels, looking to get their break here. Some of the real Nashville gems however can be found on the outskirts of the city, former White Stripes front-man Jack White has his Third Man Records label set up just south of the centre and a personal favourite hang-out is ‘The 5 Spot’ bar in East Nashville which feels like stepping back in to the 1950′s.

Nashville is also a great place to sample some of the deep south’s renowned cuisine such as Southern fried chicken or pulled pork and if you have a bit of spare time, the Jack Daniels distillery makes for an insightful day trip. Located in Lynchburg just a 90 minute drive south, the working distillery provides a chance to see behind the scenes of the world’s biggest selling American whiskey.

nashvillePhoto courtesy of munabril

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