Urquhart is one of the most picturesque castles in Scotland as it sits overlooking Loch Ness. The castle is in ruins but there is still plenty to see and some excellent photo opportunity's.
A must see on any trip to Loch Ness.
A diverse Caribbean universe: more than a dozen isles, each a world of its own, like satellites orbiting the double suns that are Grande Terre and Basse Terre. These two islands make up the "mainland" of Guadeloupe, two butterfly wings, divided only by a narrow channel, but completely unlike one another. In the east, on Grande Terre, sugar plantations dominate the flat terrain. Mountainous Basse Terre in the west plunges from the 1500m high peak of the Soufriere volcano down to the turquoise blue Caribbean Sea below: blanketed in dense rainforest, it has gorgeous golden beaches in the north, and natural wonders in the south, like the sea-bed hot springs in the Jacques Cousteau diving area
This is Wolf County - one of the few remaining areas in Portugal and indeed in Europe! We spent four days based in Castro Laboriero exploring the national park, high, rocky and rugged with wild horses and the remnants of traditional peasant agriculture. We had a sunset/moonlight guided walk through a high plateau with leading wolf conservationists and journalists Pedro and Anabela Alarcão (www.ecotura.com), extensive views of wild horses, Hen Harriers and other birds of prey, a Wild Cat, neolithic rock carvings, and as for the wolves - plenty of excremental evidence but that was all!
Far North of Portugal up against the Spanish-Galician boarder, Eastern part of the Alto-Minho. From Oporto, travel Northwards up the coast to Viana Do Castelo, take the A27 then N 203 East.
It's Canada's most beautiful journey: drive from Vancouver through the Rocky Mountains (the most spectacular mountain/driving experience) to Calgary, and stop off at the Icefields, Sulphur Mountain and Peyto Lake to soak in all the glories of the Canuck wilderness. There will most likely be bear and definitely deer and elk spottings too, which the kids will like.
Easter aside, another great time to be in Calgary is July, when the Stampede features six massive rodeo events and chuckwagon races. How can you refuse real cowboys in chaps, deep-fried Twinkies with Coke and generally calorific Western fun? Calgary is reknowned for not only its oil industry but the best beef in Canada, so steak all round.
Go to America. Then bear north.
It's a wildlife centre which supports its work of helping endangered species by keeping wild cats. They have lots of different cats from cheetahs, to servals to African wild cats - and you can go into their compounds with the guides and it's fascinating.
The top bit for me was being able to stroke a baby cheetah and then to walk two teenage cheetahs. They are on a harness and walk along with you. They alternate sitting on the ground purring and refusing to move with leaping off into the undergrowth to chase random small squeaky things. It was a wonderful experience and I got some great photos!
We went on the sunset cheetah walk (pre booking essential - it was full the first time we tried) then had a glass of wine with the owner, who was charming - and heard all about the work they do.
Unreservedly recommend the place.
It's based about 20 minutes east of Plettenburg Bay - near Birds of Eden and Monkeyland.
The Great Ocean Road, or the B100 to give it its official and less romantic name, is a 151-mile stretch of coastal highway between Torquay and Warnambool in Victoria, Australia. Hire your preferred mode of road trip transport in Melbourne and allow at least three days to do it justice.
The vividly picturesque route snakes around sheer cliffs and bypasses sandy beaches, including Bells Beach made famous in the film Point Break (although the Bells Beach scenes were actually shot in Hawaii). If you want to surf, Bells’ neighbour, the fabulously named Winkipop Beach, has better waves according to a local in a wetsuit.
The Great Ocean Road does exactly what it says on the tin; but don’t be fooled by the name – it’s not all sea views, beaches and cute seaside towns (of which Lorne is the nicest, so base yourself there if you’re looking for a place to stay), parts of the route head inland where you’ll drive through rainforests, past waterfalls and over green hills covered in sheep.
The main tourist spots on the route are situated at Port Campbell National Park – home to the majestic Twelve Apostles and other rock formations formed by years of sea erosion. You can also take the Gibson Steps down to a secluded beach and visit the graveyard at Loch Ard Gorge, which houses the victims of a 19th Century shipwreck. All well worth a pitstop.
Another highlight is the straight-out-of-a-storybook lighthouse at Aireys Inlet where 1980s kids’ TV series Round The Twist was set. Don’t let the resident cockatoos pilfer your cream tea though!
But the real magic of the B100 is its population of non-human inhabitants. It’s the perfect setting to spot some of Australia’s native wildlife, without having to go to a zoo. If you head to the Golf Club in Anglesea in the late afternoon/early evening, you’ll be privy to the sight of hundreds of kangaroos feeding on the greens. But don’t get too near, unless you want to be growled at! Koalas can be found in the Great Otway National Park forest area. Your best bet is to take a quiet side road and look up – you’ll see lots of white, fluffy bottoms in the gumtrees. If birds of paradise are your thing, stop for tea at the café in Blackwood Gully where you’ll be treated to raibow-coloured parrots flit ting around the gorgeous landscaped garden. Whale watching is also possible between June and October.
Great Ocean Road (B100)
btwn Torquay and Warnambool
But what a countryside. Trust me, if you are willing and able to make the effort, an amazing array of beaches, flora and fauna await you at Wilson's Promontory.
We travelled from Melbourne by coach to a small town called Foster where we stayed in a nice little hostel. The lady that ran the place was kind enough to drive us to the 'base camp' which is where we got the necessary permits to access the Prom.
We stocked up with as much as we could carry and set off. You must do your homework before you even get there. Know where you're heading and don't stretch yourself too much. When you find a nice campsite, pitch your tent and explore the locale.
The chances are, you may even have an entire beach to yourself overnight if you catch it in the right season and it's not too busy. We once spent an entire evening in one of the places called Oberon Bay with a beach about five times the size of Bondi all to ourselves. Truly magical but as I said before, it's a lot of effort because everywhere can only really be accessed by foot and you must carry everything with you.
The facilities at most the campsite are basic so you need to take water with you and also water purification tablets for any top-ups you get while you're exploring.
We followed a circuit around the coastline which took us about three days which I think was enough. It meant we had access to all of the bays and beaches that were on offer.
Wilson's Prom is a very remote part of Australia but is very lush and green which is an amazing contrast to the red dust and rocks of other less accessible parts of Oz. Even though the Great Ocean Road is in itself a very nice place to head to, make the effort to head towards Wilson's Prom and you will not be disappointed.
Possibly one of the greatest beaches in Australia. One of the only beaches I have been on where you have to wear sunglasses to look down as well as up! The white silica sand stretching along the coast makes for an awesome sight. Of course, unlike some places, you won't be alone but the beach is big enough to find your own quiet spot. There is no shade of any kind so make sure you dress appropriately and take lots of sun block!
The beach can be reached either from nearby Hamilton Island or even from Airlie Beach on the mainland. Both of these places are a little bit too swamped by tourism in my opinion so you should really only go for the Whitehaven experience.
Remember to make sure you take only photos and leave only footprints as this place is truly unspoilt by the modern world.
Google map: tinyurl.com/npam7x
This is a small family run hotel in the real wild of the Pindos Mountains. The people who run it are immensely kind and helpful. For example I had flu when I went there and they provided a constant supply of lemon and honey (local natch) without charge. Most vegetables are grown organically in their garden, but guests don't get to eat the sweet corn - the bears get it first - so now they just plant plenty of maize to keep the bears happy. Babis (Dad) is very knowledgeable about the area and knows where Lynx etc are to be seen. The hotel is very plain and simple, no frills, except kindness and helpfulness. Plus Mum's cooking, using local ingredients and recipes is wonderful. She probably makes the best cake in northern Greece.
Babis or Vassili (son) will take you on wonderful walking expeditions to see the mountains from right up close. The river (crystal clear and freezing cold ) repays exploration. The area is absolutely "undeveloped" so the only people you will meet in the mountains are shepherds. The hotel is near to the famous church of St Nikolaous (which uniquely has two domes, and also the most spectacularly sited bridge in Northern Greece. Babis will explain how to get to Spilaio as the gorge is called where you can see this marvel.
The main thing that makes this hotel stand out is that it is run by local people who love Mikrolivado and all its wildlife and who are just glad that you have come there and love it too. There are no asphalt roads except the one leading to the hotel, but there are tracks for motor vehicles and hire cars can negotiate these, they don't need to be 4X4.
Mikrolivado is authentic Greek wilderness.
www.mikrolivado.gr/ (website in Greek) phone 0030 24620-25688 (very remote sometimes doesnt work all that well) fax the same. You will speak to Vassili Nanios, who speaks English. There may a moment of panic if someone else picks up the phone, but then they will find Vassili and all will be well. The nearest the nearest town is Grevena, in the Pindos mountains in Epiros, Northern Greece. There are no trains there, but you can get buses from Thessaloniki (nearest airport) or taxi from or Grevena. Best with hirecar though.
The view from the top is fantastic, overlooking the city plus Bruny island and the outlying areas for up to 50 miles on a clear day. Be aware that as this is a mountain the weather can and does change very dramatically and quickly, so be ready to don waterproofs etc.
Well worth the trip up and for the energetic lots of trails along the mountainside.
Google map: tinyurl.com/n9v68a
Forget those factory-line safaris where you sit in a cramped minibus following a line other minibuses through a crowded wildlife park. If you want a genuinely wild experience, you need to do it on foot. A walking safari through the South Luangwa National Park is a unique experience, staying in comfortable bush camps, each day exploring a new section of the park and experiencing the raw thrill of encounters with animals in the wild.
Head into the Los Llanos back-waters for a few days - one of the most ecologically rich areas on the planet.
You'll be sure to see Cayman, Piranhas, Anacondas, pink river dolphins, and thousands of bird species.
Set alongside a large man made lake in an idyllic position. It's quite isolated and the long rough access road means you cant go anywhere fast. But for anyone wanting to just chill out then this is a great place.
7665-880 Santa Clara a Velha, Portugal
and website is
Rambling B&B establishment set on the side of a hill overlooking a large lake. Boats available for guests to use. The proprietor, Frank Mclintock, is slightly eccentric and fusses over the guests. Food is cooked on site and in so many ways you are made to feel as is if you are a guest staying with a friend. The area has a lot of wildlife and Frank is a keen birdwatcher. The remoteness and isolation will really help you to forget the outer world.
Quinta do Barranco da Estrada: 7665-880 Santa Clara a Velha, Portugalhttp://www.paradise-in-portugal.comNearest train station is at Santa Clara. Nearest airport is Faro
Although Sea Isle is a great vacation town, there is a village that is virtually unknown, even to most people in Philadelphia. Cape May Point at the very southern tip of New Jersey, has gorgeous beaches surrounding a small charming village that is known worldwide for bird and butterfly migrations. A vacation at “The Point” is a vacation like no other. A quiet place for families or couples who are looking to renew their connection to nature and calm their spirit. A true holiday getaway.
The historic town of Cape May with highly rated restaurants and wonderful little shops is a mere two miles away. An early morning walk to Cape May for breakfast takes you past the Nature Conservancy’s South Cape May Meadow, a significant birding area. As the sun comes up over the Atlantic Ocean you can watch dolphins frolicking just offshore. It may just be the most beautiful two miles of beach on the entire coast.
One of the nicest homes for rental can be found in an online search of “SeaScape Cape May Point”.
Viengchampa is a tour operator based in Vientiane with links all over the country. They organised a trip I took in southern Laos in September 2008 very efficiently. I only had a few days to spare and wanted to get a reasonable overview of the southern provinces without the hassle of organising it myself and Viengchampa were great. They use local guides who really know the area and all of them spoke good English and were very competent. Everything happened pretty much when they said it would and they were flexible enough to allow stops whenever a place looked interesting. Highly recommended.
We've just returned from an amazing break at Villa San Raffaello in the stunning Le Marche region of Italy. Skiing locally at the newly upgraded ski resort just above Sarnano (new lifts, bars and swish ristorante) and then returning to a beautifully restored apartment and toasting our toes in front of the fire.
This place has it all, a superb villa set in acres of farmland with jaw-dropping views and a great medieval town within walking distance (vibrant, many restaurants and named one of the most beautiful in Italy), the National Park on your doorstep and it's eco friendly too. The owners have a tree planting scheme to offset carbon from your flights and provide free organic veg during the summer months.
We have travelled to this area in the summer as well and the place is alive with festas, places to visit and things to do. Sarnano is a focal point for this part of Le Marche and this villa is ideally positioned to take advantage of the best of the region. The pool seems very big too (covered during our visit) and has those same views of medieval towns and the Mountains beyond.
I found the place on Trip advisor where they have many glowing reviews
0039 0733 657945
Via Case Rosse 278, Sarnano, MC 62028, Le Marche
Try "villa San Raffaello" on google maps
Yosemite Valley may have the famous sites - Half Dome, El Capitan, and of course the waterfalls. But it also has the tourist hordes and the intense heat. It shouldn't be missed but once you've been and seen, head out of the valley and then north-east toward Tuolumne Meadows. About an hour's drive through the spectacular Sierra Nevada scenery, the road skims the shores of Lake Tenaya. Instead of passing it by like the majority of the park's visitors, park your car and get out. The clear mountain air and almost complete absence of sound or other human presence, makes this remote, crystalline lake a supremely tranquil location. I visited in late summer, when the valley was suffocating in 100-degree heat, but Lake Tenaya, at a considerably higher altitude, was pleasantly warm, and it's shallow waters cool but not freezing. Standing waist-deep in its waters, surrounded by white-sand beaches, pine forests and silver mountains, I could not imagine anywhere closer to paradise.
Yosemite National Park, ask at the visitor centre for a map and/or directions.
A superb camp on the banks of the Luangwa River run by Robin Pope Safaris. Intimate, atmospheric and superb walking safaris and game drives in the national park. Hard to fault.
This is an amazing place, a bus trip out of the city, where you can see great waterfalls, go for a hike, swim and then get a great meal at the cafe. While you wait for your food, sip endless glasses of mint tea, and take in the views and then tuck in! I had a lamb tagine (amazing) cooked in an earthenware pot in the ground. Super cheap too!
Just outside Marrakech
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