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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

Dream Destination – Belize, Part 1

.Each year Marina and I try to put together our dream destination list, a list which is ever growing and rarely gets smaller. While we’ve already checked off some major dream destinations so far this year (Finland, Egypt!) we sure can’t get to everywhere all at once, which is why we have to dream a little bit, something every traveler should do.

We were lucky enough to visit Ecuador and Peru at the end of 2012 and lived briefly in Chile back in 2009, but have yet to truly tackle Central America, the home of this Dream Destination  – Belize.

Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1One of the best parts of traveling is hearing about places we have never been from passionate travelers around the world. Belize seems to keep popping up, so we’ve compiled a list of all the things we have to do when we finally get to Belize. From adventures to the food, excursions to unique hotels, we’ve mapped it all out – and there is so much we broke it in to two different parts!

Belize has the interesting classification as being the only English speaking country in its region while also being part of the Caribbean and Central America simultaneously which makes for a diverse and rich culture, ripe for exploring!

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1. Explore Mayan Ruins

Modern day Belize was the very center of the ancient Mayan civilization, and there is no better place to explore these ancient ruins anywhere in the world. Belize is home to the largest concentration of Mayan temples, artifacts, tunnels, paintings, etc. and you can get lost forever exploring these fascination sites. While the Mayan civilization might have reached its peak 1,000 years ago, decendants of the great Maya still live in Belize, including member of the Yucatec, the Mopan and the Ketchi tribes. 

While there are endless ruins to explore, the Caracol, Altun Ha and Lubaantun ruins are among the most popular and easy to explore. But don’t just take our word for it, check out the top 10 Maya sites to see in Belize and read more about each one. 

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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We have explored ancient temples in Guatemala and climbed the famous steps to Machu Picchu but still have so much exploring to do. There is something about ancient ruins that is endlessly fascinating, and if you let yourself explore and allow your imagination to run wild you are in for a real treat!

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2. Fun in the Sun

When we say head to the beach, we really mean it in Belize. With over 270 miles of stretching white sandy beaches, there are truly endless possibilities for water activities in Belize. Aside from the gorgeous beaches, Belize offers some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world – including the Belize Barrier Reef and the Great Blue Hole, one of the most draw dropping sites in the world, over 400 feet deep.

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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So whether you fancy simply laying on the beach, diving in for a refreshing swim, exploring the sea life with a snorkel or going all in for a dive, Belize has some of the best sea life in the world and we cannot wait to explore all it has to offer. The best beaches in Belize are Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Placencia and Hopkins Bay so take the time to map them out and don’t miss a single one!

Want to go kayaking? Just wait for our part two, where we delve into the jungles!

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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3. The Right Place to Stay

On every adventure the right accommodation is key, and Belize is no different. But with so much to explore and experience we have tried to find the best hotel options that offer both a comfortable and elegant place to stay and a full offering of all Belize has to offer without being over the top or insincere, which is hard to find.

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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Our pick for the best hotel to enjoy the sun and seaside fun is Hopkins Bay Belize, which seems to offer the best of both worlds. With comfortable 1, 2 and 3 bedroom bungalows, it is secluded away from tourist activity, right on the beach and close enough to town to not feet completely cut off from the world, while remaining private and quiet.

While located right on the beach, they offer great fishing, diving and snorkeling tours while also offer complete caving, ziplining and Mayan ruin tours, a list so long we’ll never get through it.

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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Hopkins bay also offers some really great ways to interact with the local Garifuna people in the village just minutes away. Take a Garifuna drumming lesson and learn the rhythms of the village or jump on the back of a bicycle and join in on a cultural immersion tour, both will leave you with special memories of the native people of Belize.

 

4. The Food!

No matter where we travel in the world we are always on the lookout for the most fresh, authentic and real local food we can find, we’ve even taken Thai cooking classes in Chiangmai just to learn how to make a few of our favorite dishes. With the rich diversity of the Central American and Caribbean influences, Belize truly has a unique and absolutely delicious cuisine.

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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We are most excited to try Serre la sus, soup made from coconut milk, onions and fish, which sounds very similar to our favorite Thai soups. Obviously the seafood is of huge popularity, which only makes us more excited to try their local seafood dishes, especially the lobster.

Huge fans of spice and pepper, we’ll be putting local Habanero Pepper Sauce on just about everything and washing it all down with a local ginger beer, hows that for a kick to your palette! (We might even have to add in a bit of world famous Belizian rum!)

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Dream Destination - Belize, Part 1

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On part two of our Dream Destination – Belize series, we’ll explore the jungle, find one of the most hidden and beautiful hotels, jump in canoes and find some true wildlife!

What are your dream destinations around the world? Leave a comment below and let us know where you want to get lost, explore, make memories and when you plan to get there!

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Images provided in part by Flicklr via BrettMike Heller and Shezamm

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

6 Things Never to Take on Vacation

6 Things Never to Take on Vacation

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You’ll find plenty of suggestions for what to take on vacation, the latest gadgets that will supposedly make traveling easier, and other tips on packing (like rolling instead of folding clothes). However, if you really want to make the most of your next trip, focus more on what not to bring. By literally lightening your load, you can enjoy the time, money and effort you put in to designing the ultimate getaway. Isn’t that what holidays are supposed to be about?

First, start by assessing what you’re “addicted” to and challenge yourself to go without it. This might mean coffee as soon as you wake up in the morning, checking your Facebook (at all) and sneaking in those work emails. If you have certain habits or vices that tend to dominate your life, they have no place on your vacation.

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6 Things Never to Take on Vacation

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Here are a few ideas of what to ditch before your next flight:

 

1. Your “work” laptop

Ideally, you wont’ take a laptop, tablet or other major device like this at all. There are some exceptions, such as if you’re required to at least check your work email every other day. However, having your usual work laptop or computer handy will tempt you to try to squeeze in a little daily grind. It’s important for your health and relationships that you truly go on vacation from time to time—work can wait.

 

2. Your smartest phone

Do you really need your phone when you’re traveling around Italy or bumming it on a Mexican beach for a few days? Probably not. Instead, for safety, pick up a local pay as you go phone and make sure family and friends back home have your number. This will let you call cabs, make reservations at local restaurants, etc. but will keep you from browsing Facebook, checking in and basically not being present during your trip. Pack an old school camera instead for snapping pictures.

 

3. A negative mindset

Traveling can be stressful, especially when things go wrong (as they often will). Do you best to flex your optimist muscles and remember that it’s about the adventure, not getting the smoothest check-in possible. It’s a lot easier to embrace your positive side when you’re completely checked out from work and other responsibilities.

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6 Things Never to Take on Vacation

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4. Unreasonable, unbroken-in shoes

Both men and women should pack one pair of dress shoes and be done with it. Otherwise, you’re going to be playing tourist or relaxing and there’s no room for uncomfortable or new shoes. For dress shoes, choose a neutral pair that you know are comfortable. Otherwise, you won’t be able to enjoy your getaway when you’re dealing with blisters non-stop.

 

5. Packed to the brim suitcases

Leave some room—and maybe even an entire bag—for purchases you’ll be making on vacation. This is an often overlooked problem, and the last thing you want is paying for overweight or extra bags on your return flight.

 

6. Your entire makeup bag

For women (and some men), it’s tempting to just toss your entire makeup bag in the suitcase. Instead, have a smaller, travel-sized bag for toiletries and take only the essentials you know you’ll be using everyday and a couple of pieces for dressing up. It’ll be a costly lessons if all your makeup gets lost or broken, and it takes up space that’s better used elsewhere.

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6 Things Never to Take on Vacation

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 When it comes to packing, aim for light and versatile. You don’t really need a brand new outfit for every day you’re on vacation, especially when you’re going somewhere tropical and a swimsuit with a couple of coverups will do.

 

Jenna is a freelance writer who loves the outdoors, fashion, and relaxing with her family. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Beach bliss and tranquility: find your oasis in the Sunshine State

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If you book flights to Florida you will be flying to an area than can boast of having around 600 miles of beaches.  This is the ideal state for sun and sand worshippers.  Some of the coastal spots in this densely populated peninsula are far from tranquil though but as long as you know where to look, you’ll be able to enjoy peace, quiet and total relaxation by the sea.

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Beach bliss and tranquility: find your oasis in the Sunshine State

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Anastasia State Park

Located on the east coast of the state, south of Jacksonville, Anastasia State Park is well worth checking out.  This laidback spot has four miles of beautiful beach for you to explore. Covering 1,600 acres in total, the park is also home to a tidal salt marsh and a maritime, upland hammock.

While there, you can take a refreshing dip in the Atlantic, fish, windsurf, hike, boat, observe the local wildlife and more. You can also hire a bike to get around. The fact that all water vehicles must be non-motorized helps to preserve the relaxed atmosphere of this wide beach.

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Beach bliss and tranquility: find your oasis in the Sunshine State

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Key Biscayne

Heading south down the east coast past Miami, you’ll find Key Biscayne. Despite its close proximity to the bustling Miami Beach, this area benefits from plenty of peace and quiet, in part thanks to the fact that it is located between two major parks.  Crandon Park, which lies to the north of the town and is a former coconut plantation and home to two miles of golden sands. To the south, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park benefits from a mile-long beach complete with a 19th century lighthouse.

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Beach bliss and tranquility: find your oasis in the Sunshine State

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Sanibel and Captiva Islands

Lying off the southern tip of Florida, the Sanibel and Captiva Islands are well worth checking out too. It may be the $6 toll to gain access to these islands but it does help to keep the crowds at bay and the beaches here are ideal for a relaxing escape. Sanibel in particular is renowned for its beautiful sandy spots and it features an abundance of shells. Some of the beaches benefit from picnic tables and showers, and there are plenty of activities on offer, including fishing, shelling and bird watching.

Bear in mind though, pets on Sanibel Island must be kept on a leash, while no pets are allowed on Captiva beaches. Also, it’s forbidden to drink alcohol on the beach from November through May.

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Beach bliss and tranquility: find your oasis in the Sunshine State

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Don Pedro Island State Park

On the west coast of the peninsula, the Don Pedro Island State Park is a real highlight. Reached by ferry or private boat, this secluded spot is the perfect place to unwind well away from the crowds. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to catch sight of endangered species such as gopher tortoises, American oystercatchers, bald eagles or West Indian manatees.

If you get bored of swimming, snorkeling, shelling and sunbathing, you can explore the park’s impressive nature trails.

All of these beaches make superb vacation spots and they prove that, even in the bustling Sunshine State, it’s possible to escape the crowds.

 

Images by Jonathan Goforth, Ines Hegedus-Garcia, Bruce Tuten and Karen Blaha used under creative commons license.

Bangkok Book Of Secrets

Bangkok Book Of Secrets

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Travelling to really far flung and exotic locations has it’s obvious advantages, such as the exploration of a totally different culture from your own, experiencing new food, hearing new music and a different language and seeing monuments you may have previously only dreamt of being near after seeing them in films or photographs. After all, the world is a big place, but as soon as you start to travel a bit, it only takes a few experiences to understand how small it really is. That being said, being comfortable, to a certain degree, is of utmost importance to many people.

There is a price to pay for all of this “exoticness” and life changing experiences and that is that you can never really know what this far flung place is like until you get there and you have to trust that you will know what to do, where to go, how to avoid potential pitfalls and make sure you don’t miss those fantastic off the beaten track spots.

Marina and I have lived in Thailand for quite some time now and have loved exploring Bangkok, both the obvious tourist spots and the not so often seen unique spots you can’t miss.

Read on for the Bangkok book of secrets to help you plan the trip of a lifetime and not miss out on anything that this amazing Thai city has to offer.

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Bangkok Book Of Secrets

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Summary

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and is vastly more populated than other Thai locations. Bangkok has a daytime population of 9 million people, nearly that of Los Angeles, and the madness shows as well as being named the most visited city in the world in 2013.  It is famous for its Royal and Buddhist temples and museums as much as it’s shopping and nightlife so really is a city with something for everyone. Bangkok might sound like an intimidating city to many, and while it is easy to be overwhelmed in many cities, Bangkok (or BKK) as the Thai’s call it, really is able to keep people of all different persuasions entertained, young, old, adventurous and thoughtful.

Dating back to the 15th century, Bangkok was built around the might  Chao Phraya River which winds its way through the heart of the city to this day. While Bangkok has vastly different neighborhoods, it is, in many regards, still a quant city along the river. With the explosion of a metropolitan and hip younger generation, the city is as vibrant as ever, still holding on to its deeply religious and cultural roots while boasting some of the fastest growing trendy neighborhoods, clubs, bars and a happening music scene.

 

Accommodation

Accommodation offers are varied and range from very simple beach huts through to luxury stays at five star hotels such as the Siam Kempinski Hotel. When deciding on your accommodation consider how much time you will spend at your hotel. Is your break mainly about relaxing in a luxurious retreat with generous spa facilities and grounds for relaxation? Or is your break mainly about exploring, using your accommodation only as a base?

Finding the right accommodation will take so much stress out of your trip that it really is of great importance. Luckily Bangkok might have the widest range of accommodation options of any city we have ever been to. If you feel like saving your pennies, there are loads of hostels across the city to house the massive backpacking population that travels through Thailand. Want to step it up a bit but not break the bank? Search for boutique hotels in the Sukhumvit or downtown areas, away from the madness of Khao San Road but still close enough to everything. There are even some amazing 4 star hotels right on the banks of the river, with rooms for as little as $30 a night.

 

Bangkok Book Of Secrets Sights

Damnoen Saduak is the original floating market and despite it’s increasingly touristy vibe is still not one to be missed. While it doesn’t have the charm you might expect from the postcards you have seen, visiting a floating market is a great experience and there is no better place than Bangkok. Chatuchak is another landmark market with over 8,000 stalls trading in a diverse range of merchandise attracting over 200,000 visitors every weekend.

To regain a bit of balance, visit the calming temples of Wat Arun or Wat Po, opposite each other on the river. Both are massively popular to tourists but try to plan and visit them either very early in the morning or in the later afternoon, not only will the crowds have died down but the light will be beautiful and the temperature less intense. Just remember to bring bug spray as the mossies like to bite around sunset!

A trip to the reclining Buddha and Grand Palace cannot be missed either, but remember to cover your legs, both men and woman, and to arrive before 3:30pm, when they stop allowing visitors in. Tickets to the reclining Buddha (Wat Po) are cheap, around 100 baht, and Wat Arun even cheaper, around 60 baht, but be ready to pay 500 baht to visit the Grand Palace, and while the most expensive temple/palace to visit it is well worth it.

Getting across the river is easy as ferry boats cross regularly about every 5 minutes and only cost 3 baht one way, so don’t be stressed about catching the ferry as there are tons of great food and gift stalls around the pier to keep you entertained while you wait. We recommend getting a bowl of 30 baht noodle soup, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Bangkok Book Of SecretsFood & Drink

Tom Yum soup is the one that can’t be missed, a fiery broth like curry topped with kaffir lime leaves that is bound to get the tongue tingling. Thai street food has got a deservedly fantastic reputation and from the stalls it is Pad Thai fried noodles that draws the most interest. For the more adventurous how about eating live Shrimp? If you fancy giving it a bash then ask for Goong Ten, a strangely writhing salad that delivers a salty crunch when you bite. You should even try you hand at a Thai cooking class if you are really interested in bringing home the skills of a Thai chef with your from your holiday!

One thing you will notice in Bangkok are the endless street stalls of a vast variety of foods for every palate. One of our favorites is fresh coconut ice cream, found around many of the Thai temples. For the SUPER adventurous eaters out there, you can always try eating bugs, which you will undoubtedly find at many of the markets or popular food stalls. While not the most appetizing option for many tourists, insects are a long time favorite of many Thai’s and provide a delicious and crunchy snack for those willing to give the crickets, grasshoppers and maggots a try. Sure sounds gross but it really isn’t that bad.

 

Nightlife

If there is one thing Bangkok does well it is nightlife. Whether you are looking for the most insane night of your entire life or a quiet wine bar to sip a glass of red with your spouse, the city provides endless opportunities to get out and relax. The up and coming Sukhumvit area has some of the most trendy new bars, such as Above Eleven, a cool and relaxing bar 32 floors above the streets, and Bourbon Street, the most well known American bar in the city. For the adventurous, there is a Paris themed Absinthe bar hidden inside Sukhimvit 11’s most well known bars, but we’ll let you discover it for yourself, the journey is half the fun with this one, but when you find it and step inside the secret door you will be amazed you are even in Asia.

For the backpackers and college kids, head straight to Khao San Road, made famous by the movie “The Beach” this never ending party street is chalk full of the cheapest bars, hostels, restaurants and night clubs a kid could ever ask for. While it might not be your cup of tea, it sure is entertaining enough to visit, just leave before nightfall if you want to remain sane.

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Bangkok Book Of Secrets

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Transportation

So, “Should I rent a motorbike in Asia” is a common thought we hear from tourists, and a valid question to ask yourself when coming to this part of the world. While not all people feel comfortable driving a motorbike, especially on the wild streets of Bangkok, it really is the preferred and easiest way to get around. If with a family, children or the elderly, you might want to think about renting a car during your holiday, however in Bangkok the tuk-tuks are an especially authentic and cheap way to get around the city. While you might not fit the entire family in one tuk-tuk, there is little less exciting than running around the big city with your friends in tuk-tuks if you have never experienced this exciting Thai way of traveling. For the more traditional you can always hire a car or take the more than accommodating MRT, or metro system which weaves its way through most of the city. But seriously, rent a motorbike, they are great fun and give you a special sense of freedom and excitement.

 

**Extras**

If you really want to have an unforgettable time in Thailand and want to head home with a more permanent memory, head just 30km outside of the Bangkok city limits to Wat Bang Phra Temple famous for its Yak Sant tattoos given by monks in the traditional thai bamboo style. These tattoos are a sacred symbol in the Buddhist religion and many temple goers do not even know the tattoo they are going to receive until it is completed. Definitely for the bold, a yak sant bamboo tattoo is a special way to remember your time in the land of smiles.

Photos provided in part via Flickr and Prachanart Viriyaraks

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

Our Top Picks For Holidays In The UK

Our Top Picks For Holidays In The UK

 

The United Kingdom, composed of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, has always been a favourite European tourist destinations. It’s rolling country sides, vibrant cities, iconic landmarks and outstanding history, draw people in from all over the world. It’s the ideal place for a family holiday or relaxing weekend away no matter what time of year you wish to visit. We’ve loved our time in the UK and while London is amazing, if you are in the UK please make sure to travel outside of the city limits and see all there is, you will not be disappointed!

So check out some of the most scenic spots in the UK and think a little outside the box (or city) the next time you travel to the UK and find yourself in the beautiful nature that is the United Kingdom. There are few places on Earth you can travel through such lush landscapes between the sea, mountains, plans and woods, and none with such rich history.

 

Our Top Picks For Holidays In The UK

The Lake District

As England’s largest national park, The Lake District (commonly known as ‘The Lakes’) is one of the most popular destinations for tourists in the UK. Situated in the County of Cumbria, this stunning mountainous region is visited by around 14 million tourists each year! If you’re keen on hiking or climbing, this is your spot. With rolling hills and lakes aplenty, this is definitely an area to unleash the explorer in you. Having recently being voted the UK’s most Romantic Destination, this little gem also hold host to England’s highest mountain (Scafell Pike) and deepest lake (Wastwater).

Who doesn’t want to experience all the romance of a perfect evening surrounded by beautiful greenery. Sure, England has a ton of rain, but you know what that means…. green everything! Take a chance and plan a summer holiday, you might get a little rain but you’ll never appreciate the sunny days without it!

 

Our Top Picks For Holidays In The UK

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Cornwall

A holiday in Cornwall is perfect for those who want to escape on a relaxing retreat. It’s exquisite natural beauty is incorporated within 296 miles of both coastline and moorland. The peninsula offers golden sandy beaches on the south side and rugged, rocky cliffs on the north. One of the our best recommendations in order to indulge in true Cornish bliss is to stay in a cosy holiday cottage. Not sure weather to go for a quaint cottage or impressive manor house? Check out the fabulous guide from helpful holidays on finding the perfect place to stay. Holiday Cottages offer versatility to have a home away from home – whether that’s by taking along your dog or storing surfboards and kayaks for the next day of adventuring!

Cornwall is one of my favorite places in the UK, and as I have family from the region, I absolutely loved driving through the picturesque towns and villages imaging my relatives living there hundreds of years ago. While it might be easy to get lost along the way, embrace the freedom and simply go where the road takes you, the view will be amazing.

 

Our Top Picks For Holidays In The UK

 

The Scottish Highlands

Our final recommendation for a visit to the UK wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Northwestern parts of glorious Scotland; The Highlands. Whilst it may portray images of men in kilts, tartan and Braveheart, there is much more than meets the eye! For a truly unique experience why not try out Farm Accommodation to really get a taste for agricultural, rural life. If you’re wanting to make life-long friends and discover the ‘true’ heritage of highland crafting and farming, why not take part in the traditions and family lives. With immaculate scenery and a warm country welcome, you will see a whole host of spectacular wildlife including stags, deer, hawks and even seals along the coastline.

So there you have it, some amazing places to visit outside of London and well worth visiting thats for sure. Rent a car, ditch the city for at least a long weekend and venture into some of the most lush, colorful and friendly areas in all of Europe, but bring an umbrella just in case, we always learn the hard way!

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Photos provided in part via Flickr and Martin de Lusenet

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

Most Exclusive Holiday parks around the World

Most Exclusive Holiday parks around the World

Camping is something that most of us grew up doing, at at least dreaming of doing. For us, growing up without iPhones or laptops, camping was a time to be truly disconnected from it all. And while we loved the freedom of unplugging, camping these days still gives you all the enjoyment of nature, but with the emergence of luxury camping, you are able to stay connected while being more comfortable than you ever thought possible in the past. From England to Alaska and Australia, check out some of the greatest exclusive holiday parks around the world.

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Marina and I have been excited to be planning a huge camping holiday to Australia and New Zealand towards the end of the year and are hoping to do some of it in style! While an RV might be a quick way to get around for part of our trip, settling down in a luxury campsite for a week is definitely on the list!

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Holiday parks don’t just stop in the UK, there are a number of caravan sites and holiday parks around the world that you can go and enjoy. Being luxurious, they make it a little different. Gala Bingo have an exclusive givaway this May with up to £50,000 worth of prizes. There are 12 holidays to give away to various Park holidays and also a caravan/mobile home plus two years’ worth of park fees. If you are a fan of camping, or just want to experience something different that the usual sun, sea and sand then why not enter? If you think camping holidays are just mud, tents and insects, then take a look at these:

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Most Exclusive Holiday parks around the World

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Waterside Holiday Park is the perfect place to go if you fancy a trip to the English coast. Located in Dorset its ideal if you just want a short weekend away. Having five start leisure facilities including: swimming pools, kids clubs and a spa to indulge in, it’s definitely a trip that you can take the whole family on.

 

Glamping is the perfect choice for anyone who doesn’t quite fancy sleeping in a tent on the cold, hard ground. Many places across the world offer glamping so if you do want to go abroad, you can always combine this with glamping. These glamping units on the privately owned island in Alaska offer you all the comforts of the indoors, outdoors. You can experience a range of activities while still soaking up the sun.

 

If you like spending time in the forest, these holiday tree houses in South East Carolina are the best way to spend your glamping experience. Cosy up in a tree and spend time as a couple or as a family. The natural surroundings are once again the perfect place to experience the great outdoors while still having somewhere to comfortable.

 

Camping outside in the Great Bush in Australia. What more could you want? Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef offers luxury accommodation in the Australian Cape Range National Park. Here you can see Kangaroos or go whale watching in the sea close by. It’s another perfect place if you want to experience something different to the same hotel year on year.

 

So think about camping the next time you pack up for a family holiday because the times have changed, and camping doesn’t have to mean dirt and bug bites anymore. Although these are a bit more expensive, luxury camping can offer more of an experience than you might imagine, and it’s nice to indulge on something now and again, especially if you can be outside!

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Most Exclusive Holiday parks around the World

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

My First Time: Taking a Cruise

My First Time: Taking a Cruise

 

While growing up ,I always imagined that going on a cruise was a luxury and such an elegant experience reserved for the wealthy. Only the elite could afford to take a cruise and travel that way I thought. I looked up to friends of mine who had experienced this kind of stylish travel. While Jeff and I were planning our crazy 4 month European adventure we had talked a few times about going on a cruise, but I didn’t think we could ever afford it. Jeff was convinced that it could be a great way to explore more of Europe and could potentially save us some money. Jeff also knew how badly I wanted to go on one since I had never done so before.

 

Just a week before I was to meet Jeff in Boston, Jeff called me and said he found an unbelievable cruise deal. It was a 12-day cruise on the Costa Serena. It started in Savona, Italy and went to Barcelona, Cadiz, Casablanca, Tangier, Lisbon, Valencia, Civitavecchia, Rome, and then back to Savona, plus the price was marked down 82%! We knew that for that price we would never be able to go to all these places and feed ourselves for that so we jumped at the opportunity. I was shocked at how affordable it was. I mean to be honest it’s most likely because the cruise industry hasn’t had a very good reputation the past few years and need to reboot their image. The Costa Concordia had sank just a couple years ago and they could use some good publicity. The photos and video of the ship looked impressive to say the least. There was so much you could do just on the ship and with only 3 full days at sea there would be so much to explore at each port. I was ecstatic, finally I would have my first cruise experience and regardless of the negative reputation cruises have gained in the recent past, in my mind it was still the luxurious travel experience I had always imagined.

 

A little backstory may help put this into perspective. Jeff and I are huge Titanic fans and every time we are on a boat, ship or even just swimming in the ocean, we love to quote the movie and comically pretend we are Jack and Rose. Cheesy, I know, but don’t pretend you haven’t done this at least once! Anyway, we were excited to play out these roles on a real ship and even though our cruise was in January in the Mediterranean, where the temperature would be around 55 degrees the whole time, we liked to pretend that ice burgs would be a major threat to our voyage.

 

My First Time: Taking a Cruise
Heading to the port to board the boat!

After traveling through Ireland and England we made our way down to Genoa, Italy where our ship, The Costa Serena, awaited our arrival. As someone who had never been on a cruise a few things stood out to me. With a full ship, approximately 2,500 people, the feeling of disorganization couldn’t be more apparent. We were scheduled to leave the dock at 4:30pm, but didn’t leave until around 6. We waited and waited and when we were finally on board we wanted to purchase the unlimited alcohol package. Since we had saved so much booking the fair and since we would be celebrating my 26th birthday onboard we figured we would just get the package and not have to worry about how much we were spending on drinks. I was surprised to learn that although all your food is included in the booking price, water, sodas and juice were not.

 

When we were looking at the drink packages we were a bit confused. If you purchased the “unlimited” drink packaged you could get most but not all of the alcoholic drinks. You could also get a glass of water but not a bottle of water, for that you would have to purchase a different drink package, yet the water was poured from the same bottle. Under the “unlimited” drink plan you had to pay 2 euro to get a bottle of water. For me this does not make any sense. Later in the cruise I got a pretty bad head cold and not having access to water in my room was an issue for me, but I refused to pay any more for drinks. On top of that we had to purchase the package from a waitress then go wait in a huge line at the Customer Service desk so they could change our Costa Cards to say “extra”. (A Costa Card is a card that is your room key and you assign a credit card to it so that everyone uses this card instead of cash or personal credit cards. They also scan it every time you leave or board the ship)

 

I guess with so many people it makes sense that things would be a bit crazy the first day, but I was a little surprised and how complicated and disorganized it felt. There just seemed to be a lot of miscommunication and confusion, but with a little patience everything worked out and the next day was much smoother.

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My First Time: Taking a Cruise
Standing in the Coliseum in Rome, the last port of call on our cruise.

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First Impressions

The ship itself felt much smaller than I imagined. From the outside it looks massive and I thought it would take us days to explore the ship. Once on board, Jeff and I roamed around and figured out the ship quite quickly. There wasn’t as much on board as I thought there would be. While this ship itself isn’t that old, the decor makes it feel like a cheesy Las Vegas casino. The Greek theme feels very dated and the art tries to have a traditional Greek theme mixed with a “modern” 1980’s style flare that doesn’t quite work. Although the decor doesn’t scream 2014, the ship is impeccably clean and the staff is very polite and perceptive. The next thing I noticed is how much older everyone was. I felt like I was almost too young to be there. Every time I ordered a drink or sit down at a table, everyone, including the staff, looked at me like they’re waiting for my parents to arrive. I understand that a lot of people on these cruises are older, but I think it is odd that I felt I was treated differently although I find this to be true traveling in general.

 

I was impressed with how much activities there were of the ship for everyone. There are many games and actives for kids and teens as well as dancing lessons, Bingo, and theatre shows for the older crowd. There is a sports bar that even played the Super Bowl (which was essential for American passengers such as Jeff).

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My First Time: Taking a Cruise
Jeff and I in our room before we left for dinner on formal night.

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The Rooms

After seeing a room without any windows and a room with a balcony I am pretty impressed with how much space they both had. They were clean, functional and have everything you would need. Of course the rooms with the balconies are much nicer and having natural light is always a plus, the inside staterooms were still nice and a great option if you don’t want to spend the money on the larger room.

Each stateroom is assigned a cabin steward who is there almost 24/7 incase you need anything. They are all very polite and extremely helpful.

 

The Food

There is a buffet that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the food is pretty basic. It’s good food but after 12 days it does get a little repetitive and although it is good it is not exceptional. Every night there is a formal dinner, sometimes with a dress theme,  and the food is much better than the buffet which mostly serves a revolving mixture of pizza, pasta and salad. We were seated at a table with all english speakers which was great to meet other people. We shared our dinner table with 2 Egyptians, 2 Mexicans, and a family of 3 from Honduras.

Dinner for us is the highlight of our day on the ship. Everyone shared about their day in the ports and everyone was learning a lot about where everyone is from and we found ourselves the last table to leave because we are all enjoying the great conversations.

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My First Time: Taking a Cruise
Jeff and I standing in the middle of colorful Valencia, Spain

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Overall

Even though this particular cruise was a bit different than I imagined, I had an amazing time and loved our experience. I really think that cruises are a fun way to see the world and look forward to going on another one soon. We met some amazing people and saw parts of the world I would never have done to before. Cruising really is a great way to travel and although my expectations were a bit off on this particular cruise I feel like I learned a lot about what I would enjoy in the future. We met some amazing life long friends and saw so many places we fell in love with.

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Bio_Photo_MarinaMarina Dominguez is the co-founder of Latitude 34 Travel Blog as well as a photographer and documentary film maker.

As a maturing women, Marina has dedicated her life to travel and new experiences. After working a 9-5 cubical lifestyle, Marina sold everything she owned, left her job and begun a new life with her boyfriend and travel companion, Jeff Johns. Together they relocated to Phuket, Thailand and founded Latitude 34 in which they seek to share their alternative lifestyle with the world. 

Marina is a Visual Journalism graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography where she studied photography, videography and ultimately caught the travel bug. Through creating several international documentaries, Marina realized there was more to the world than work and wanted something more. 

Finally coming Home to Thailand

Finally coming Home to Thailand

In a couple weeks it will be 5 months since we left our little apartment in Thailand and headed for a trip around the world. Now, 137 days and 23 countries later, we are just a couple weeks away from finally coming home to Thailand. While Phuket is our adopted home, we still get excited when we get back to Thailand and this time we have a ton of cities to visit, islands to explore and villages to get lost in. So from Phuket in the South to Chiang Mai in the North, these are the places we are looking forward to visiting in the next couple months.

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Finally coming Home to Thailand

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While we live in Phuket and always enjoy spending days exploring the island, there are loads of smaller islands close to Phuket which are are excited to explore. While we love spending a holiday in Phi Phi every couple months, we have been hearing only amazing things about other, smaller islands in the south of Thailand like Kho Chang and Kho Tao, both of which we plan to visit once we return to Thailand. While we love partying in Phi Phi every now and then, we are excited to visit some more laid back islands and enjoy a weekend relaxing in the sun and not dancing the night away on the beach with college students on a gay year to find themselves. (Note: This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan a gap year, you have to!) We are also looking forward to simply enjoying parts of Phuket we rarely visit like Bangtao beach in the North of the island and getting to know Phuket Town a lot better, where we are planning to move when we get back. We are particularly to enjoy a weekend at the Foto Hotel in Phuket, one of the coolest hotels we have ever stayed at, but considering it is a photography themed hotel, anyone who knows us is probably not surprised.

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“Sukhumvit Soi 11 is an especially popular street and there is even a Paris themed bar hidden in the back of a club which only serves Absinthe cocktails!”

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While the south of Thailand is a beautiful part of the country, we also have a blast in Bangkok and never feel like we have explored all the city has to offer. While we have explored the zoo, Grand Palace and all the don’t miss temples in Bangkok, we are very excited to next explore the up and coming Sukhimvit area during our next visit. Sukhumvit is a hip neighborhood which has transformed from its slightly seedier past, to a new urban city center with hip, fresh and exciting restaurants, clubs and bars. Sukhumvit Soi 11 is an especially popular street and there is even a Paris themed bar hidden in the back of a club which only serves Absinthe cocktails! The last time we visited Bangkok we took the 14 hours bus from Phuket, which proved to be a completely terrible choice, as flight to Bangkok from Phuket can be as low as $35 US if you book in advance, and even under $60 if you book the day of sometimes. For this trip we are excited to book Bangkok hotels with Webjet, a website we have used many times but now offer great deals via their Twitter and Facebook pages, you know us, always up to date with our social media trends and channels.

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Finally coming Home to Thailand

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While the majority of visitors to Thailand will be visiting Phuket or Bangkok, Chiang Mai in the north of the country remains one of our favorite cities in all of SE Asia. Chiangmai lacks the beaches of the south and the big city feeling of Bangkok, but what it lacks in size it sure makes up for in character. Chiangmai has the laid back feeling of a college town but with so much more character. The thai life seems more relaxed, care free and open in Chiangmai, a feeling much welcomed after a busy weekend in Bangkok or the busy beaches of Phuket. Not only is Chiangmai a quieter and in some ways, authentic, it is quite a bit cheaper too. We loved our quick weekend in Chiangmai last year and enjoyed a wonderful Thai cooking class as well as an exciting trip to Tiger Kingdom just outside of the city where we got to play with tigers!

So, while we are sad to see our trip around the world come to an end, we are bubbling with excitement about all the great adventures we have left in Thailand and the memories we have yet to make!

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

Great Resorts To Visit In Ibiza

Great Resorts To Visit In Ibiza

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If you’re planning on treating yourself to that much deserved holiday this year but aren’t too sure where to go, why not jet off to one of the sunny resorts that Ibiza has to offer.

Although the island is known as the party capital of the world, and rightly so, Ibiza is also perfect for families and anyone else looking for a fun, relaxing holiday in the sun.
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Great Resorts To Visit In Ibiza

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San Antonio


If you love clubbing holidays then San Antonio is the place for you, as this popular resort is the centre of nightlife in Ibiza and once you experience for yourself, if you haven’t already, you will understand why it’s the party capital of the world!

This lively resort is home to some of the best clubs and bars in the world and offers a fine selection of entertainment that’s sure to keep everyone happy. Here you will find two of Ibiza’s biggest clubs, Es Paradis and Eden. The Es Paradis club is said to be the most beautiful club in the world, mainly due to it’s Roman themed decor and thanks to many top DJ’s who frequent the club, it is one of the best places to party! Eden is located just next door and is just as impressive as Es Paradis! Thanks to a recent refurbishment, the club is even more sleek and modern than ever before and like the other super clubs in Ibiza, Eden hosts top DJ’s from all over the world, making it incredibly popular in the summer season.

As well as clubs there are some superb bars throughout the resort including the very popular Bar M, which not only offers great dance music in a contemporary atmosphere but also hosts some great indie nights, where you can get a real taste for quality rock music that Ibiza is becoming better known for.

There are some great beaches in the area where you can either relax or take part in one of the popular beach parties that are hosted during the summer months. With soft golden sand and beautifully clear, blue waters, you will have fun no matter what you choose to do!

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Great Resorts To Visit In Ibiza

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San Antonio Bay

If you’re not after a heavy nightlife scene but are searching for a family friendly resort then San Antonio Bay, opposite San Antonio is the place to be.

The beaches at San Antonio are great for everyone and most offer you the chance to rent sun beds and parasols for a very small amount of money. The sand is plenty soft enough for you to lay on should you decide against a sun bed, however it can get rather hot during the day so it’s probably best you take a towel to lay on! The waters are beautifully clear, making them perfect for the many watersports that take place through the summer seasons. Why not try a bit of snorkeling or go all out and buy yourself some diving lessons!

There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to help fill you and the family with energy and plenty of shops that are just waiting for you to have a good browse around! There are also many bars around the resort where you can grab a quiet drink in the evening.

No matter what type of holiday you’re after, Ibiza makes a great destination for everyone!

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Great Resorts To Visit In Ibiza

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Photos curtesy via Flickr from Binu NairJose RamonTrey Ratcliff and Carl

Top Tips for Visiting Rome for the First Time

Top Tips for Visiting Rome for the First Time

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The majestic city of Rome is one of the world’s top tourist destinations. The Italian capital boasts magnificent ancient ruins, world-class shopping, great food and a thriving nightlife. If you are planning your trip to the Eternal City, you will be able to find dozen of cheap hotels in Rome online, just start looking early. With this in mind, here are some top tips for visiting Rome for the first time.

 

1. Be prepared to walk
The best way to explore the eternal city is almost certainly by foot. This however means that comfortable shoes are a must-have alongside a bottle of water, which can be re-filled at the city’s many public fountains, and a detailed city map. Rome’s historic centre is surprisingly compact meaning that you will be able to explore endless charming churches, charismatic piazzas and extraordinary architecture on foot in no time at all.

 

 

Top Tips for Visiting Rome for the First Time2. Visit the top attractions
Rome is home to a number of phenomenal attractions including the unforgettable Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Villa Borghese Gardens and of course the Vatican City. If you are travelling on a budget, it is always a good idea to do some research beforehand in order to establish which of Rome’s main attractions offer free entrance.

 

3. Enjoy the local cuisine
Italy is celebrated worldwide for its splendid food and traditional Roman cuisine is no exception. You’ll be able to sample fabulous pasta dishes such as carbonara or amatriciana, followed by a delightful glass of wine and a classic Italian dessert such as tiramisù. When in Rome, you will want to indulge in a little homemade gelato and perhaps even try some of the newest and most exotic flavours only found in Italy.

 

4. Don’t be afraid to get lost
Although having a good map with you at all times is always advisable, don’t be afraid to explore the city’s many quaint streets and off-the-beaten track locations. Getting lost in Rome is often one of the best ways to discover the city’s hidden gems including splendid ancient churches and the many charming boutiques and quaint cafés situated in pretty Roman piazzas.

 

5. Venture outside the city walls
There is a great deal to see and do in Rome, however should you decide to venture outside the city walls you will certainly not regret it! Enchanting destinations such as Tivoli and the Castelli Romani lie just a short drive from the city and offer awe-inspiring scenery, delicious regional cuisine, splendid parks and world-renowned villas.

 

By taking these top tips into consideration, you will be well on the way to planning the perfect Roman holiday. Be sure to plan ahead in order to really make the most of your first visit to one of the world’s greatest and most exciting cities!

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Top Tips for Visiting Rome for the First Time

 

A City Break in Edinburgh
Photo by AD Teasdale curtesy of Flickr

A City Break in Edinburgh

 

Receiving more than 3.5 million visitors every year, Edinburgh has become the second most visited city in the United Kingdom, being only second to London. The city’s cosmopolitan flair and dynamic spirit have made of Edinburgh one of the top destinations for city breaks in Europe. With its extensive range of leisure and entertainment options and its unrivaled setting, it is not surprising that Edinburgh has been nicknamed ‘the inspiring capital’. Allow yourself to be inspired too and start planning your next city break in the fascinating Scottish capital.

 

Edinburgh’s city centre highlights
A large number of visitors travel to Edinburgh by train or plane. Regardless of how you travel to the city, arranging a car hire in Edinburgh is highly recommended, it can give you the freedom you need to explore beyond the city boundaries, where some interesting attractions are located.

Edinburgh’s city centre is the best place to start exploring everything the city has to offer. Officially split into the new town and the old town, this part of the city is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage site. It is impossible to miss the imposing view of Edinburgh castle as you stand on Princes Street, right in the heart of the new town. The short but steep walk up to the castle is full of surprises and places to visit: the Scottish National Gallery, the medieval quarter near St Giles’ cathedral, and one of Edinburgh’s oldest attractions, the Camera Obscura, where you can enjoy some of the best views of the city.

The streets that lead to the castle are conveniently packed with bistros, pubs, restaurants, and cafes, since chances are that after a morning of sightseeing you will need to refuel. The choices are plentiful, from the finest French or Asian cuisine to informal eateries serving light meals and snacks. Weather permitting; you can also opt for grabbing your favourite takeaway meal and heading to Holyrood Park for a picnic. With its dramatic open spaces and peaceful atmosphere, Holyrood is a must-see for every visitor.

A City Break in Edinburgh
Photo by Shahbaz Majeed curtesy of Flickr

 

An evening out in Edinburgh


Edinburgh’s cultural scene is one of the most active and varied in the country. Theatres, comedy clubs, bars, independent movie theatres, and art galleries are located all over the city, so you will definitely find something to do in the evening, whether you feel like partying or having a quiet night out. Many locals start their evening at the bars near Grassmarket and Leith Walk. The Stockbridge area is often overlooked by visitors despite its great pubs and restaurants. Newington is also a good option, as it is home to several wine bars that range from the informal to the upscale.

Should you be interested in catching a play, you will be pleased to know that Edinburgh has its own version of the West End. There are also other theatres in the Tollcross area. Those who prefer to dance the night away (or watch others do it) will find a number of dace and live music venues along Cowgate, Holyrood Road, and Clarke Street.

 

Exploring Edinburgh’s outskirts


If you are in Edinburgh on a two-day city break, make sure to set some time aside to visit some attractions outside of the city centre. Sitting by the water and dotted with ice cream parlours and amusement arcades, Portobello is a great antidote to the hustle and bustle of the city. Make the most of Edinburgh’s location on the magnificent Firth of Forth by driving to Cramond, from where you can walk over a causeway to charming Cramond Island and relax at one of its beaches. Further west is the Forth Road Bridge, an impressive suspension bridge that links Edinburgh and Fife, commanding spectacular panoramic views over the Firth of Forth.

 

This post was written by Joseph Hyde

Beyond the beach and bars: The real Majorca

Beyond the beach and bars: The real Majorca

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Beyond the beach and bars- The real Majorca_01The Spanish island of Majorca has been an extremely popular holiday destination for quite some time. Although it is easy to associate this sun-drenched Mediterranean archipelago with holiday resorts and package deals, you might not know that Majorca has a rich and intriguing past with plenty of cultural delights left to explore.

Few can argue with the island’s favourable yearlong climate and thanks to its Mediterranean location, you can be sure that the cuisine will be top notch too. But what lies past the shore and the cocktail bar? For those who are prepared to search beyond those enticing Majorca deals and beach resort holidays, a whole alternative island can be found.

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.Beyond the beach and bars- The real Majorca_01

Castles and Ruins

Evidence of habitation in Majorca can be traced back to the Palaeolithic period (6000-4000 BCE), with the Romans also occupying the island in 123 BCE. Therefore, there are plenty of castles and ruins to explore.

The Roman remains of Pollentia in the north of Majorca are a truly impressive sight to behold. Alongside a museum, three areas are open to the public – the theatre, the forum and the residential area of La Portella.

Some of the other most notable sites, such as Parc de la Mar, Castel de Bellver and Palace de L’Almudaina, can be found in the capital city of Palma. However, the quaint rural village of Sineu encapsulates the region’s traditional charm and is steeped in history. Be sure to sample its authentic gastronomy cellars that serve typical Majorcan fare.

 

Nature Parks and Reserves

In addition to the imposing Tramuntana Mountains that scale the island’s west coast, all four corners of Mallorca benefit from stunning scenery, while there are protected natural parks in abundance too. So fans of the great outdoors can go walking, hiking or cycling both on and off-road.

Take advantage of the 3km way marked trail at La Reserva Park in Puigpunyent, which leads you through some fantastic mountain scenery in less than two hours. Along the way, you’ll come across a number of natural wonders from waterfalls and springs to olive trees and wildlife.

Pedal-powered aficionados should definitely check out the east coast’s Cala Millor, as its shoreline routes are truly breathtaking. There is also the opportunity to visit Llevent Natural Park, where steep hills in protected surroundings provide more of a challenge.

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Beyond the beach and bars- The real Majorca_01

 

Sailing and Watersports

Whether you want to relax on the deck of a yacht or get wet and wild in the mild Mediterranean water, Majorca has something for every seafaring individual.

Protected bays and calas in Puerto Pollenca and Port d’Alcudia offer the perfect environment for beginners to learn sailing without having to worry about strong winds or waves. However, if you simply want to sit back and let an experienced sailor take you on a maritime journey, plenty of tours are available.

You can also take part in some scuba diving, fly boarding, wake boarding, motor cruising, kite surfing or parasailing, as a multitude of waterspouts activities are on offer all over the island.

Majorca may not spring to mind when contemplating an outdoor or cultural adventure, but this small-sized Spanish paradise offers more than meets the eye. Along with Canary Islands like Tenerife and Lanzarote, Majorca’s natural topography and history is helping to reinvent the island as a destination for all types of traveller.

 

Images by Cristian Bortes and Tobias used under creative commons license. 

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