Not so long ago a friend of mine did a fly and drive to Europe trip. The system is run by Peugeot and Renault and consists of you buying a brand new car from them. Well, you lease it actually. You pick the car up in the city of your choice although a Paris pick-up is the one that costs you nothing. The other cities all have a delivery charge. Then, for a reasonable amount, about €30 a day, which also includes complete 100% insurance and roadside assistance, you can tour the continent to your heart’s content for a maximum of 6 months. Continue reading How to Organise an Awesome Fly and Drive Holiday in America.
New Caledonia is a beautiful tropical destination that is very popular with Australian visitors throughout the year. Not only is it very close, but it is also a fascinating destination that combines the tropical vibe with a strong French influence. If you like the sound of that, here is an overview of what to expect.
It’s perhaps not officially known as the coast path of North Wales, but I suppose this visitors’ route through North Wales is exactly what it says on the tin – a path through the iconic region which runs along the coast, or as close to the coast as any path can get.
Here are some must-see stops along the coast path, even if only just to sit in silence and enjoy what the gift of sight has in store for you:
South Stack Cliffs Reserve
If you can look past the fact that some adders call this place home (and if you exercise the requisite vigilance), South Stack Cliffs Reserve makes for the ultimate in birdwatchers’ paradise. You might catch sight of some porpoises along with the adders, but that’ll be during the summer months of the year, a time during which the reserve is in full colour. The cliff leads to Ellin’s Tower, but otherwise, in winter you can spot some starlings waging war on the peregrines, so too some ravens and choughs.
Basically, this is a nature lover’s dream!
If you want to enjoy what is perhaps the best view of the sea within a 10km radius in North Wales, make it a point to scale Princely Castle. A view of the landmark itself is a sight to behold, but explore its gatehouse with its two towers and you will almost be able to feel the history radiating off of the walls.
If you’ve ever been to Italy or you’ve perhaps caught sight of what the mainland European country typically and traditionally looks like, you might think that by some magic portal you’ve perhaps wandered a bit too far, lost your sense of direction and landed up in Italy. Portmeirion was intentionally designed to resemble somewhat of a typical corner of Italy, with Sir Clough Williams-Ellis having built it in honour of the spirit of the Mediterranean.
Seriously, you could take some pictures of the elaborate maze of villas and anyone who is not familiar with this place will totally believe you’ve just been to Italy. There are many secrets waiting to be uncovered, so you’ll have to spend a good couple of hours at the very least to get a full taste of what Portmeirion has to offer.
Minera’s Ancient Mines
The double-layered history of this ancient mine is beautifully preserved thanks to the fact that mining activity ceased as far back as 1914, otherwise the prehistoric lead mining which took place has evidence to back this activity up and date it all the way back to the 13th century. It was only 600 years later though that Minera transformed into the hub of production, otherwise today it’s merely a rustically beautiful and history-filled entry point into some trails which lead into the woods and stretch across the rivers.
The Welsh Mountain Zoo houses some lemurs which you can catch sight of as well, otherwise, you can also discover the intriguing history of the Strait in the Menai Strait as part of the Menai Heritage Experience.
If you’re staying in the North Wales area, it’s imperative that you find the absolute best place to stay at the best price. Take a look at iknow UK for the best places to find holiday cottages in Wales.
Perched amongst the western mountains of Canada’s British Columbia, Whistler Blackcomb plays host to hundreds of thousands of eager boarders and skiers each year. In fact, this is the largest ski resort in North America. Alongside its numerous runs, you’ll find plenty of fantastic winter activities to slake your thirst for adrenalin, take in the scenery, or do a little bit of both at once. Continue reading 5 Fantastic Activities for Winter in Whistler
From a B&B in the Seychelles for £65 a night to a week in Mauritius for £775, Tom Chesshyre has the best deals
1. Asseyri Inn, Hanimaadhoo
This small hotel is run by a laid-back Maldivian couple and comes with great-value rooms decorated with bright art. It’s well off the beaten track on Hanimaadhoo, a northern island reached by flights from “airport island” next to Male, the capital of the Maldives. The owners can arrange diving, snorkelling, water-skiing and boat rides. Trips to Utheemu island are possible, where guests can see the home of the 16th-century national hero Muhammad Thakurufaanu. The inn’s restaurant serves Maldivian dishes such as garudiya, a clear tuna broth. This is for those who want to experience island life, rather than flashy spas and fine dining restaurants. Trips to resorts where alcoholic drinks are available can be arranged.
Details Seven nights’ full-board with daily excursions and air transfers from Male is from £466pp (asseyri.travel/inn)
2. Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, Baa Atoll
Coco Palm has all the trappings of a five-star Indian Ocean hideaway: high-class spa with Ayurvedic treatments, beach bar serving cocktails, restaurant with top quality international food (and Maldivian dishes), plus — of course — some very comfortable villas and suites. Rooms are spread far enough apart so that guests do not feel on top of each other. There is diving, snorkelling, fishing and the chance to stay overnight on a desert island, Robinson Crusoe-style, in a beach hut. The resort periodically releases special offer prices, so it’s one to look out for if you’re after a bargain break.
Details Seven nights’ B&B is from £1,019pp with flights and transfers; book by Wednesday (020 7001 4112 travelbag.co.uk,cocopalm.com)
3. Just Surf Villa, Himmafushi
Thinking of surfing in the Maldives and want to do it with experts on a budget? Just Surf Villa, close to a famous breaking wave known as “Jailbreak”, is the perfect choice. It’s a ten-minute stroll to the shore where the waves, which can rise to 9ft, are found. The villa is run by three expat surf enthusiasts, who set up their business in 2012 after the Maldivian government allowed guesthouses on inhabited islands (previously there had been a ban on tourists staying on islands where locals live). There are eight modern double rooms with air-conditioning, a pool, a barbecue and a kitchen. Or try Aveyla Manta Village on Dharavandhoo, which has 20 great dive sites within a 15-minute boat ride and 16 compact, air-conditioned rooms.
Details Seven nights’ full board at Just Surf is from £560pp, with transfers and guides included, booked through Errant Surf Travel (errantsurf.com, justsurfvilla.com). Seven nights’ full-board at Aveyla Manta Village with flight transfers and 12 dives is from £888pp (aveyla.com)
4. Bandos Island Resort, North Male Atoll
There are some great deals for this classic resort on a small circular island that’s only five miles from the international airport. There is a mixture of standard rooms as well as garden villas and sumptuous water villas. Bandos comes with a high-class spa, swimming pools, cocktail bars and three restaurants. Watersports are available, and the resort can arrange big game fishing, dolphin-watching cruises, as well as day trips to see the markets on Male.
Details Seven nights’ B&B is from £1,099pp with return international flights and speedboat transfer included from Trailfinders (020 7368 1200, trailfinders.com, bandosmaldives.com)
5. Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi, North Male Atoll
Rooms at this resort — a 30-minute speedboat ride from the international airport — come in three categories: comfortable garden rooms; beach villas looking on to a white sand beach; and plush ocean villas with thatched roofs. There is a spa and two open-sided bars. Night-time fishing trips can be arranged as well as trips to see Male.
Details Seven nights’ all-inclusive in a garden villa is from £962pp including flights and transfers from Away Holidays (020 8705 0107,awayholidays.co.uk, adaaran.com/selecthudhuranfushi)
6. Equator Village, Gan, Addu Atoll
Below the Equator in the most southerly Maldivian atoll, Equator Village is a quiet spot with a curvy pool and a little strip of sand. The island of Gan was an RAF base until 1976 and the hotel is made up of the old barracks; the officers’ mess is now the main bar, with a billiard room on one side with the original table and scoreboard that the officers once used. Rooms are plain but comfortable with air conditioning and a whitewashed-pastel look. This is a hotel for chilling out and reading books on a sun lounger, but diving and snorkelling are available, and you can explore neighbouring islands, which are connected by bridge and the Maldives’ longest road (about nine miles long).
Details Seven nights’ room-only is from £984pp with international flights (monarch.co.uk, equatorvillage.com)
7. 20 Degres Sud, near Grand Baie
There are only 36 rooms at this chilled-out boutique hotel set in a series of buildings with thatched roofs overlooking Grand Baie and right by a gorgeous white sand beach. They are in pretty gardens with two pools surrounded by wooden decking. Watersports such as snorkelling, kayaking, windsurfing and sailing are available. Rooms are whitewashed and elegantly designed with four-posters and balconies, some with plunge pools.
Details Aardvark has seven nights’ half-board from £805pp, excluding flights (01980 849160, aardvarksafaris.co.uk,20degressud.com)
8. Le Mauricia, Grand Baie
For a four-star hotel on a budget, Le Mauricia is a great choice. Rooms are large and brightly decorated, many looking out to sea and some with four-posters. There’s a wellness centre with massage treatments and a hammam, plus three good-quality tennis courts, a watersports centre offering waterskiing, sailing and scuba diving, and a gym with personal fitness instructors. Le Mauricia is by a white sand beach, and within a stroll of the restaurants and nightclubs of the centre of Grand Baie. Details Away Holidays has seven nights’ B&B from £944pp including return Gatwick flights, departing on November 3 (020 8705 0107, awayholidays.co.uk)
9. Sands Resort & Spa, Flic en Flac
Overlooking the turquoise waters of Tamarin Bay and with views of the mountain on Le Morne Brabant — a prominent landmark on the west coast of Mauritius — Sands Resort & Spa is a four-star hotel with a spa offering hammam treatments, Ayurvedic massages and “mud body wraps”. Water-skiing, sailing, kayaking and windsurfing are among the complimentary activities, and guests can pay extra for deep sea fishing trips or scuba diving. Rooms are bright and colourful, set around an infinity pool.
Details Tropical Sky has seven nights’ half-board from £1,279pp, with flights and transfers (tropicalsky.co.uk, sands.mu)
10. Coin de Mire Attitude, Cap Malheureux
This charming and chilled out three-star hotel is on the northern tip of Mauritius, between the villages of Cap Malheureux and Grand Baie: the first is a fishing village, while the latter is a tourist village with restaurants and bars. The hotel can organise tours of the island, as well as bike rides and home-made rum tastings and there’s a spa with anti-jetlag massages. Rooms are plain but clean and comfortable. Enjoy a rum cocktail at the laid-back bar, with its palm frond roof, followed by a meal with local Creole dishes at the restaurant.
Details Hayes & Jarvis has seven-nights’ half-board departing on December 8 from £774pp, with Heathrow flights and transfers (01293 735831, hayesandjarvis.co.uk, coindemire-hotel-mauritius.com)
11. Veranda, Pointe aux Biches near Grand Baie
Veranda Resorts operates a series of stylish, adults-only hotels in the north of Mauritius. The Veranda Pointe aux Biches is especially enticing with its policy of inviting guests to remove shoes on arrival — the idea is that people experience a “barefoot break”. There’s a sandy beach overlooked by a series of wooden decks with infinity pools, bars and sunloungers. Rooms are small but elegantly designed, with low rates for Mauritius — from £125 a night B&B, if you book from veranda-resorts.com. There’s a spa overlooking the sea, plus the Foot Loose cocktail bar.
Details Hayes & Jarvis has seven-nights’ all-inclusive from £1,049pp including two complimentary 45-minute spa treatments, airport transfers and return flights from Gatwick on November 10 (01293 735831, hayesandjarvis.com)
12. Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort Mahe
There are some tempting deals this winter to this jolly four-star resort on the northwest coast of Mahe, the main island in the Seychelles, where the capital is found. The hotel has a casino, several restaurants (including a pizzeria) and a bar with live music. Its many activities include tennis, table tennis, watersports and volleyball. Berjaya is on a sandy beach and has two pools. Hire a car to explore Mahe’s interior, including Morne Seychellois National Park, which has a network of hiking trails and is home to the highest peak in Mauritius (905m or 2,968ft).
Details Away Holidays has seven nights’ B&B with return flights from Gatwick from £795pp departing on November 17; a week’s half-board is from £925 (020 8705 0107, awayholidays.co.uk,berjayahotel.com)
13. Valmer Resort, Mahe
Tucked away on the south coast of Mahe, the three-star Valmer Resort is a small, family-run hotel with quiet terraces and courtyards with pools. It’s surrounded by tropical forest and next to the sweep of fine white sand at Baie Lazare. There are 21 smart studios, villas and suites — decorated with splashes of colourful local art. The main restaurant serves Creole dishes, and the ruby-walled bar has an intimate feel. Valmer is a peaceful spot for winter sun and relaxing with a good book.
Details Trailfinders has seven nights’ half-board from £1,099pp including flights and transfers in October (020 7368 1200,trailfinders.com, valmerresort.com)
14. Avani Seychelles Barbarons Resort & Spa, Mahe
Minimalist, contemporary rooms combined with splashes of turquoise and modern art provide the Avani with a chic, sophisticated style — it would not look out of place on Miami’s South Beach. Yet this is in the middle of the Indian Ocean, with some decent rates over the winter. The beach here is of the finest white sand, while there’s also a big pool surrounded by sunloungers, sunshades and palm trees. The resort is on a quiet curve of the coast amid thick tropical forest. The restaurants serve Creole and pan-Asian food.
Details Travelbag has seven nights’ B&B from £1,099pp including Heathrow flights; book by Wednesday (020 7001 4112,travelbag.co.uk, avanihotels.com)
15. Colibri, Praslin
Rooms with a view don’t get much better than this one, overlooking the clear waters of Baie Sainte Anne. The 11 wood and stone rooms don’t have air conditioning but they do have plenty of style. There’s a Creole restaurant on the waterfront, where you can snorkel, and a choice of plenty of excursions, from big game fishing to boat charters. Either hire a car or head to the nearby bus stop to get to the Vallée de Mai nature reserve, or to visit Praslin’s well-known beach, Anse Lazio.
Details B&B rooms cost from £106 a night (00 248 4294 200,colibrisweethome.com)
16. La Passe Guesthouse, La Digue
La Digue’s famous Source d’Argent beach is probably the Seychelles’ most photographed beach. But you don’t have to spend a fortune to bag a room on the small island that’s just three miles by two miles. La Passe is one of a handful of simple guesthouses on the island, and has four rooms, two with air conditioning. You can hire bikes to ride to the beach, and it’s worth paying a tenner to have dinner with the owner, Mary-Anne. Also try Zanboza guesthouse, which has rooms in a traditional Creole house.
Details Rooms cost from £87 a night B&B at la Passe (la-passe-guesthouse.com) and £65 a night B&B at Zanzoba (zanbozaguesthouse-seychelles.com),
17. Cantaloupe Aqua, Unawatuna
A short tuk-tuk ride from colonial Galle Fort on Sri Lanka’s south coast, this boutique hotel sits on a long sandy sweep of beach. Minimalist rooms in ice white have exposed wooden beams, and many feature decks with ocean views. There’s also a fusion restaurant offering a blend of southeast Asian cuisines, as well as a cool beach club with an excellent cocktail list.
Details B&B doubles start from £89 a night (00 94 11 722 1485,cantaloupehotels/aqua)
18. Ozo, Colombo
The Sri Lankan capital is a buzzy melting pot with an increasingly stylish, cosmopolitan air. See it from this 14-storey hip hotel overlooking Marine Drive with arty, contemporary rooms and two restaurants. Even better is the fantastic rooftop bar with panoramic city vistas and an infinity pool. Galle Face Green, the city’s notional seafront centre, is six miles to the north, with sleepy suburbs such as Dehiwala Mount Lavinia in the opposite direction.
Details B&B doubles are from £70 a night (00 94 11 255 5570,ozohotels.com/colombo-srilanka)
19. Stardust Beach Hotel, Arugam Bay
The country’s east coast has opened up over the past few years, since the end of the civil war. While bigger hotel groups are starting to move in, there’s still the chance to get to sleepy little beachside guesthouses offering an authentic taste of Sri Lanka. Case in point is the Stardust. Set on a beach next to Arugam Lagoon, it has colonial-style rooms, rustic beach cabanas and an elegant villa with two two-bedroom apartments. There’s also a seafood restaurant and yoga classes under a thatched pavilion.
Details Room-only doubles are from £45 a night; cabanas from £37 (00 94 63 22 48 191, arugambay.com)
20. Rock Villa, Bentota
Set in a manor house more than 170 years old and surrounded by 2.5 acres of tropical gardens, this boutique hotel has a home-from-home feel — little surprise when you find it was once the abode of Nayantaru “Taru” Fonseka, the interior designer. There are only six rooms, a 50ft pool overlooking mangroves, and hammocks strung lazily from trees around the gardens.
Details Seven nights’ B&B is from £900 per person, including return flights and transfers (020 7819 9770, ampersandtravel.com)
* Tom Chesshyre is author of Gatecrashing Paradise: Misadventures in the Real Maldives (Nicholas Brealey, £10.99)
How to get there
Trailfinders (trailfinders.co.uk) has flights to Sri Lanka from £472pp on Qatar; to Mauritius from £679pp on British Airways; to the Maldives from £560pp with Turkish Airlines; and to the Seychelles from £618pp with Etihad