The place was extremely accommodating with a parking lot and all. The crew at the Merlin Beach Resort offered exceptional aid to our needs. The resort presented a wonderful stay. The restroom was trendy. We feel gratified to know we got what we paid for
Amazing island hideaway. Totally kicks Zanzibar into touch. The most romantic, most beautiful beach lodge I have ever stayed in, and the food simply blows you away.
There are miles and miles of white sandy beaches, and the whale sharks hang out right by the lodge so you can go throw yourself off a boat and swim around with these amazing animals. Truly a hidden gem. Get yourself there!
The charismatic and very genuine Mohammad Jaleli started fishing overland cyclists off the highway when he was 19, offering them a (somewhat cracked) roof to sleep under in the tiny desert community of Toudeshk Cho. Over eight years, his reputation has grown, and he has now given over a thousand travellers the opportunity to have a real Iranian desert experience. Mohammad founded Silk Road NGO, a charity aiming to preserve the traditional aspects of village life. Despite not being a museum girl, I found Mohammad's tour of the village fascinating - from safe water storage and land irrigation to keeping camels in and cats out, everything to sustain the village has been carefully thought of, and the same systems have existed for generations. An evening trip to the 'moving sands' - wind blasted dunes was stunningly beautiful, and eating with his family in an oasis at the bottom of a mountain we had just scrambled up hugely exciting as it involved spaghetti, rather than the Iranian staple of kebab! Despite being one of so many visitors, I was welcomed by everyone I met as if I was the first foreigner to venture into the village, which I was enormously touched by.
The village is conveniently located on the main highway between touristy Esfahan and Yazd in central Iran - it's very easy to reach, just hop off any bus on that road.
Mohammad charges a phenomenally reasonable $15 USD per night including food, and an extra $15 for the trip to moving sands, 65Km from Toudeshk. Catering largely, but not exclusively, for the backpacker community, he bases his rates on their budget travel, but will quietly accept donations towards his NGO retaining heritage in Toudeshk. He can be contacted by emailing email@example.com or phoning +98 913 9165 752 or +98 913 3654 420. You should secure a visa before making firm travel plans, which is harder for British and American nationals, and read your country’s Foreign Office travel advice.
Google map: bit.ly/i7m9se
Nice accommodation in one of the fisherman villages, St Luce, in the south of Martinique. It is 15 minutes from the beach, has a swimming pool, air conditioning and a wonderful view of the sea and the island St Lucia.
+596 (596) 50 78 40
38 bis Acajou lot. Les Horizons 97232 Lamentin
A lovely B&B in Oaxaca City, centrally located, wonderful friendly staff, beautiful leafy courtyard.
If you want a relaxed, friendly and funky base in Mexico City - stay at Casa Conde in San Miguel Chapultepec. Jacobo and Jorge are fantastic hosts (and cooks), the house is in a great location with a 10-minute walk to La Condesa, 20 minutes on the metro to the Centro Historico and short walk to Bosque de Chapultepec. You can even borrow bikes to spend a day riding in the park and visiting the museums and art galleries. The house is filled with arty riffs on Mexican icons, the famous pinata sound system and is a great place to hang out after a hard day exploring amazing Mexico City. Cannot recommend Casa Conde highly enough - do yourself a favour!
I stayed with the Monteserin family in Bariloche during one week. This is a cheap and wonderful alternative to checking in at a hostel. Living with Silvia and Roberto was very helpful for my Spanish, before visting Bariloche I almost didn't speak Spanish at all, but after spending one week in this place I felt so much more confident with the language. Also, I enjoyed being a part of the Monteserin family, if so even for only a week. Silvia and Roberto are very friendly, very helpful and have a great sense of humor! I loved being around in the house and play cards or only talk with them. You will love staying with them, I promise!
Jaisalmer is a city west of Rajasthan, India, near the Pakistani border. It lies right in the middle of the Thar Desert. Getting to Jaisalmer may seem a bit of far off, but we took the night train from Jaipur, and arrived in Jaisalmer in the morning, happy and well rested. There is a lot to see in the city itself, but we decided to spare a day for a same day return desert excursion. And it was well worth it. If you have more time, you can stay in the desert for several nights as well, within a group. In the excursion my friend and I took, a jeep picked us up and drove us to the edge of the dunes where camels and guides were waiting for us. It is a proper desert, with sand dunes! And travelling on a camel lets you take in the beautiful shapes and colours surrounding you. The camel ride itself lasts at least two hours and by the end of it, you feel like you have had a good long ride. You can jump down and take photographs as you like. I would have loved to stay overnight in the desert to get the full experience if I had time. Maybe in my next visit! One important bit of advice for desert novices, like I was, is to take warm clothing with you, especially if you will stay overnight. The desert can get very chilly. Jaisalmer itself is an impressive place, also known as the Golden City, because of the way its intricately carved stone buildings reflect the light. There are many moderately priced cheerful hotels to choose from. Pick one with a roof terrace upstairs to have your breakfast while you enjoy the views of the fort, the major attraction of Jaisalmer. My friend and I stayed in Shahi Palace, after a recommendation from another traveller, and we were very pleased.
Near SBBJ Bank, Shiv road, Jaisalmer 345001
The Pieria mountains are in the midland of Greece, full of forests of beech, oak and fir trees. Just beside the well-known Mount Olympos. They are a great place for hiking, bird watching, sky watching, flora and fauna, mushroom collecting, skiing and lots of other activities.
The hotel I recommend is Semeli mountain resort, which has a great view. It's only 90 minutes drive from Athens.
The Rushby family went Viking Biking in Denmark, but didn’t meet the Vikings.
But just 35 km south of Esbjerg (DFDS ferry from Harwich) you find a Viking Museum as well as a Viking Centre in Ribe, Denmark’s oldest town. At the Viking Museum your daughter Maddy can crawl into a Viking ship and visit the children exhibition: "Kristine and Rolf" - two medieval children” to play medieval games, put on medieval cloth and armour, etc. At the Viking Centre Maddy can wander round the reconstructed life-size Viking estate, work and talk with the Vikings. She can grind her own flour and bake her own Viking bread, watch the falconer fly his prey birds – and if she is not afraid she can train to be a Viking warrior or try her hand at archery.
Where to stay.
To make your green holiday even greener you can stay at the family friendly Eco Awarded Danhostel Ribe in the centre of Ribe and with an extraordinary view of Medieval Ribe and the Wadden Sea National Park. The hostel is also awarded a cycle friendly accommodation and has received the official Danish Cycle-label “Cycling Denmark” . If you don’t want to bring your own bikes you can rent bikes at the hostel both for adults and children – also the kind of bike Maddy used the last time you were in Denmark. All the hostel's rooms have private facilities.
By the way Legoland is only 60 km from Ribe.
Our stay at Dar Najat began with a pre-arranged transfer on our arrival from Casablanca to Marrakech. From the moment we entered the Riad, Olivier the owner made us feel that his home was ours. Our room on the first floor, was cosy with windows opening onto the delightful courtyard. Olivier then gave us a brief orientation to Marrakech and guided us along the short ten minute walk to Jemaa El Fna, pointing out several landmarks to enable us to retrace our steps on our return.
Our first evening meal was served on the roof top, where we enjoyed Olivier's interpretation of a classical tagine accompanied by delightfully presented starter and dessert, not to mention Olivier's selection of Moroccan wines. You can always rely on a Frenchman to discover the best wines in any country!
One of our experiences was to purchase some of the local cooking ingredients with Sakina the cook. This included an impromtu tour of the Jewish area and some hassle free assistance in puchasing an authentic tagine and some spices. In all, we ate at Dar najat for five of our seven nights and were never disappointed with the food or the wine
During our stay Olivier also arranged a Hammam and a day in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. In summary, we enjoyed a very relaxing week in Dar Najat thanks to the charming and thoughtful attention of our host Olivier and his delightful staffs.
This is a beautifully restored farmhouse and barn that has been converted into four really light, airy, stylish apartments. We stayed in Villa Gigi which accommodated our family of six perfectly. The variety and versatility of room combinations means that guests can vary from the romantic couple (maybe they could re enact Romeo & Juliet from the balcony in Villa Elisa)to a large family group, who will no doubt take full advantage of the superb pool!
We arrived when the festas were in full swing. Full of pagentry, colourful costumes, dancing and quirky games, not forgetting the delicious food and local wine. Our hosts Damien and Sharon were extremely helpful, recommending local places of interest and eateries. If you are looking to avoid the usual high street stores or multinational food chains then Sanarno is for you. It has wonderful old world charm, an open air market and plenty of unique little shops. One of the eateries we tried was Bar Sassatetto, which produced some fantastic pizzas and was really reasonable. Of course the children loved the local gelateria, visiting lake Fiastra to swim and sunbathe and exploring the countryside.It was a very memorable holiday for all the right reasons, so don't be put off by the fact that you will need to hire a car to take full advantage of all that is on offer in the region. The drive from Bologna was straight forward especially with the sat nav. The toll road travels down the Adriatic coast to Civitanova Marche where it turns inland, so its fairly easy.
Via Case Rosse
278 Sarnano 62028 MC
+44 0208 653 5206
Nearest airport Pescara and Ancona
Google map: bit.ly/aiTcyg
We loved our stay at Riad Dar Eliane, perfectly located in the Marrakech medina, just minutes from the souks and the main square. It was quiet, peaceful and beautiful. The owner John was incredibly helpful, giving us a good intro to the city and even a quick tour of the souks. He was always on hand to answer questions or advise us on places to explore. We ate one night on the terrace, a delicious home cooked tagine, sitting under the stars gazing over the rooftops towards the Koutoubia Mosque, a fabulous view and a delicious meal. We ordered wines and beers every night which we drank in the Riad but alcohol is not available in the medina. The breakfasts were fantastic, the other guests were very friendly, and overall it was a great experience. We had a truly wonderful time and I would recommend it to anyone of any age. It is great value, with a wonderful owner and staff and in the perfect location. We loved it and plan to return.
No39, Derb Maada, Azbezt
Westminister Furnival House is the equivalent of a hostel in the middle of London. While some might argue that it's a bit too much like college, anyone who has spent time travelling in South America can appreciate what it has to offer.
Dorm beds, laundry services and common rooms set the stage for a good time with the right bunch of people. It's perfect for having a place to relax after exploring Abby Road Studios and the countless other attractions of London.
Cholmeley Park Highgate Village
London N6 5EU
Google map: bit.ly/9zXtK3
Kate Atkinson in her book 'Started Early, Took My Dog' writes about her hero: "his favourite abbey so far was Jervaulx. Privately owned, with an honesty box at the gate and no English Heritage branding, the ruins had touched his soul in an inarticulate and melancholy place, the nearest thing to holiness foe an atheistic Jackson."
We stayed in the lovely Park House run by the owners of the Abbey, Ian and Carol Burdon - superb accommodation, excellent breakfast and delightful hospitality - thoroughly recommended. We paid £75 a night for two.
New York City wakes to fresh snowfall, the season's first. It's a Saturday in December. You breakfast in the warmth of your hotel's restaurant watching newscasters talk excitedly about the snow as if this is the first time ever that it's fallen. "After this I'm getting my toboggan out and going to Central Park" one gleefully declares.
Outside, picture postcard families shuffle by, towing rosy cheeked children in galoshes and ear muffs carrying imperfectly formed snow balls.
Later, you wander the unusually quiet streets around Soho. There is no traffic. Warm orange light glows out of the festively decorated shops making it feel as though you've stumbled into the Christmas village on your mantel piece. Warm air and smells of cinnamon and orange hit you as you enter, along with animated welcomes "How you all doin' today? Cold isn't it"
Later still and you're in Central Park watching ice skaters glide effortlessly by, framed by New York city skyscrapers. The smell of roasting chestnuts fills the air. What sounds there are are muffled by the snow, but somehow not the echoing sounds of the tourist laden horse drawn carriages passing by and the jingle of the bells of the many jolly rotund Father Christmases collecting for charity at every street corner.
And as you pass through a snowy Washington Square on the way back to your hotel that evening, you stumble upon the local residents choir singing carols by candlelight. You can't help but join in, despite being cold and eager to get back to your hotel to sit by the cosy lobby fire with a hot coffee and warm cookie.
The perfect end to a perfect day in an unexpected winterland.
Jiwa Damai in Bali is a wonderful retreat center in the middle of nature. It is an environmentally friendly ecolodge with a huge organic garden. They practice permaculture, water preservation and biological waste recycling.
They offer beautiful rooms, which are fairly cheap (50 Euro per night per room), a swimming pool with natural spring water, two meditation spots in the jungle and a huge open-air lounge and dining area.
It is very quiet and peaceful, the ideal place to relax. Meals are organic, prepared from their own organic produce. Staff are super friendly and helpful. Excursions and tours are offered.
Banjar Bindu - Mamabal - Badung 80352, Bali - Indonesia
+62 (0)361-898 8384
Hotel, bar and restaurant, overlooking Ganges harbour and with a large organic garden on the property. Great staff and only a five minute walk to the center of town. Good sized rooms, a great place to unwind and if you rise early to see the sun come up over the water.
We discovered this small wonderful guesthouse/hostel on our return trip to Istanbul. It's around the corner from the Galata Tower, in the heart of the Beyoglu district, full of wonderful bars, cafes and a very local vibe. The location is spot on, away from all the tourist touts (Sultanamet) but even better is the wonderful vibe of the 'Rapunzel guesthouse' Its small but perfectly formed! in between a guesthouse and a hostel, basic but very clean, spacious rooms, run by a marvellous bunch of guys and gals. It is just a wonderful place to stay in and also very reasonable for Istanbul. Keep up the good work guys : )
Bereketzade Camii Sok. No:3 Galata / Beyoğlu
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