Classic Vacations launched a new program called “The Real Deal” under which it will post weekly offers of special packages guaranteed to be “at the absolute lowest price available,” according to the company. Each offer will be unique and hotel packages may include a private dinner on the beach for two, car rental, spa credits, an extra night or a buffet breakfas
“In our ongoing commitment to provide travel advisors the most extraordinary partnership in the industry, we launched The Real Deal to offer them unsurpassed value that is easy to book and will make their customers loyal,” said Greg Bernd, Classic’s newly appointed to vice chairman, industry relations. “Our product management team does substantive research to confirm that the destination, hotel, season and price are currently in demand, then they hand-craft the offer to ensure it is one-of-a-kind and at the lowest possible rate.”
The special packages will be available in limited quantity and will be available for booking for one week each. Classic will also provide 25 weekly “manager’s specials,” which are guaranteed to be “the best deals of the week available anywhere.” New deals will be posted every Monday.
Explore the great outdoors of Innsbruck and its 25 holiday villages with our free Mountain Hiking Programme.
Mountain biking Nordketten Mountain Range © Innsbruck Tourismus
Mountain biking Nordketten Mountain Range © Innsbruck Tourismus
Hiking in the outdoors of Innsbruck © Innsbruck Tourismus
Hiking in the outdoors of Innsbruck © Innsbruck Tourismus
Innsbruck on the map
Innsbruck’s Mountain Hiking Programme is provided free of charge by Innsbruck Tourist Office to anyone who stays at least one night in Innsbruck or its holiday villages. The programme starts at the end of May and includes mountain hikes with certified mountaineering guides from AlpinSchule Innsbruck , free hiking bus, rental hiking boots and backpacks, 40 different itineraries and a total of 1,220 km of mountain hiking trails. You can choose between a rather gentle hike and one of moderate difficulty, tailored to the individual physical shape. Walking in Innsbruck and its holiday villages caters to all tastes!
Famous for its glorious mountain scenery, Innsbruck is the perfect holiday destination to get active and fuel up on fresh country air with summer hikes. Explore high-alpine terrain in the company of a certified hiking guide from the world-renowned AlpinSchule Innsbruck. Hop on a designated hiking bus for an unforgettable nature experience with Innsbruck’s complimentary Mountain Hiking Programme. No other city in the world offers a similarly attractive, free hiking programme in a truly unique setting.
On the seven kilometre long Zirbenweg (stone pine path) above Innsbruck, at 2,000 metres above sea level, you can enjoy a gentle hike taking about two and a half hours along almost flat paths leading through stands of centuries-old stone pines and take in the spectacular panoramic views across the Inn valley.
Or enjoy the spectacular aerial views of one of the most attractive sections of the Adlerweg trail, a hiking track stretching through the entire province of Tyrol, leading from the Hafelekar cable car station along the Goetheweg trail to the remote Pfeishütte. This challenging alpine hike for the more experienced visitors is among the most beautiful hikes in the greater Innsbruck region.
Another option for a leisurely hike with all the family is the Innsbruck Alpine Meadows Walk, meandering across the surrounding foothills and the holiday villages of Natters, Mutters, Götzens, Birgitz, Axams and Grinzens. You can choose whether your path leads you to the alpine pastures of Götzner Alm, Mutterer and Birgitzer Alm or Axamer Lizum.
And last but not least: Don’t miss the lantern hikes with live Tyrolean music at a mountain hut on Tuesday nights.
Spring has finally sprung, and there’s no better way to experience the season’s beautiful weather and blooming flowers than onboard a small ship river cruise. Right now, travelers can receive 2-for-1 cruise fare on two of Blount Small Ship Adventures most popular itineraries, with the Atlantic Coastal Waterways and Chicago to Big Easy itineraries. The current deals include:
Atlantic Coastal Waterways: June 7, 30
Guests can receive 2-for-1 cruse fare on spring sailings of the Atlantic Coastal Waterways: Florida to Rhode Island itinerary, with savings of up to $6,899 per person, based on double occupancy.
Chicago to Big Easy: May 15, June 2
Guests can receive 2-for-1 cruise fare on spring sailings of the Chicago to Big Easy: Chicago to New Orleans itinerary, with savings of up to $6,899 per person, based on double occupancy.
All Blount cruises include three meals daily with menus that are fresh, creative and often reflect the local cuisine, refreshments and snacks 24 hours a day, with complimentary wine and beer during lunch and dinner. Blount cruises also feature a BYOB policy, with mixers and set-ups for cocktails available throughout the day.
For more information, call 1-888-618-4770.
Just last week TripAdvisor’s latest rankings of the world’s most popular cities found Istanbul on top. Despite a year highlighted by civil unrest in Taksim Square, the city managed to leap 11 places to number 1. On many of the old walls of Istanbul, the plaster is worn away so that you can see beneath the surface to layers of red brick, field stone and old bits of marble from the churches and palaces of Old Constantinople. For all of its new found modernity, Istanbul is not a city of glass and polished steel, but a place where 2,400 years of urban activity have made it as comfortable as a favorite pair of jeans. Napoleon once said if the world were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.
So where do you begin to talk about things to do in a city that was the most important capital in Europe for 1,700 years and under three distinct empires: Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman? In fact, the 20th century was the only century since the year 324 that Istanbul wasn’t a major power. The good news for Turkey is that it’s well on its way to being one again. Istanbul is almost as invested in the future as it is in its glorious past. So let’s begin with modernity.
Turkey’s economy, the 17th largest in the world, has been on a roll for several years and its geopolitical position between Europe and the Near East is making it once again a crossroads for trade and culture. The city is currently building one of the world’s largest airports to handle 150 million passengers annually. The mega six-runway airport will be spread across 30 square miles northwest of Istanbul. Operations at the new Istanbul airport will begin with the opening of the first stage, with a capacity of 90 million, in 2017.
Of course, rail is where the smart money looks when it looks at the future of transport and Istanbul is currently testing the first phase of a new high-speed train to Ankara. Just last week, Thales was awarded a € 10 million contract to install a new signaling and telecommunications system. The system is running between Istanbul and Eskehir, about two-thirds of the total distance.
Last October, on the 90th birthday of the Turkish Republic, Istanbul unveiled its $4.1 billion Marmaray Transport Corridor, a 48-mile rail link running beneath the Istanbul Strait. You can call it the “missing link” because it was the last missing piece of an unbroken rail line that now extends all the way from London to Beijing.
Things to Do in Istanbul
The Sultanahmet area of Istanbul is basically what was the old Byzantine city of Constantinople. Thus it is the center of the city’s illustrious history and the home to Emperor Justinian’s Church of the Divine Wisdom or Hagia Sophia. Back in 537, when Justinian’s builders had completed the church, its great dome, once covered in four acres of gold leaf, was said by one ancient visitor to appear “suspended from heaven by a golden thread.”
When the Ottoman Turks captured the city in 1453, all of Hagia Sophia’s gold as well as all of the mosaic- and jewel-covered interior had already been stripped by the Venetian-led Fourth Crusade in 1204. Despite the destruction, the soaring heights of the interior still takes your breath away when you enter. For Greek Orthodox Christians it is their lost Vatican, the navel of their faith.
From Hagia Sophia you can look across several acres of garden to what is the Ottoman answer to the great church, the Blue Mosque. Completed in 1616, over the grounds of the old Byzantine palace, the Blue Mosque is to tile what Hagia Sophia was to mosaics. The interior of the mosque is covered with blue Iznik tile.
Inspired by the great dome of Hagia Sophia, Ottoman architects (including Sinan who is the acknowledged master) gave the city its signature skyline of domes and minarets. Nearby Topkapi Palace is a 183-acre compound that was home to 24 Ottoman sultans between 1453 and 1850 as well as 4,000 political and military advisors, cooks, musicians, eunuchs and harem girls. The palace and the harem in the palace attract about more than 2 million visitors per year.
Beneath Sultanahmet are the chambers of the 1,700-year old Binbirdirek Cistern. When you enter this vast and shadowy chamber, supported by a multitude of columns, you can’t help but feel as if you’ve entered the densely populated realm of the city’s long past.
The grounds of the old Hippodrome are still open, surrounded by tea shops and retail stores selling leather and carpets. Up the hill from the Hippodrome is Constantine’s Column, a landmark worth mentioning because it was erected at the precise moment that the Roman Empire became a Christian, thus it’s arguably the most important mile post in Europe. Local legend holds that the original cross of Jesus is buried beneath it.
A few blocks away is the world’s largest covered bazaar. The Kapali Carsi, in business since 1461, is an amazing maze of 3,600 shops, crowding around 36 streets, which if lined up end to end would stretch 40 miles. It has police stations, a hospital, a multitude of restaurants and 18 separate gated entrances.
In 2010, Istanbul upgraded and renovated several cultural institutions such as museums and performance spaces in order to host the city’s year as European Cultural Capital. New museums and performance spaces were also added. Architect Frank Gehry is waiting for the go ahead to get started on the Suna Kiraç Cultural Center, an opera house and performance space.
Many visitors will spend days just exploring the mosques and other architectural landmarks in the city. Istanbul’s lesser known palaces include Maslak Kasri, the Sultan’s hunting lodge and resting place, as well as Malta Kosku which was built in the mid-19th century by the Sultan Abdulaziz in a heavily forested park and used as a mansion for the Sultans and their ladies.
When the people of Istanbul want a day to relax in a little country they often take a ferry to the Princes’ Islands, a chain of nine islands where there are no cars. People get around on horse-drawn carts. Heybeliada Island is home to restaurants and stores. The island’s landmark is the hilltop Hagia Triada (Holy Trinity) Monastery, dating back to 1894. Buyukada (Great Island), is covered with villas climbing up the pine covered slopes of a hill.
One of the largest parks in Istanbul, Emirgan has several tulip gardens and a special garden was established in the park in the 1960s to revive the city’s tradition of tulip cultivation. Although tulips are associated with Holland, commercial cultivation of the tulip began in the Ottoman Empire. The flower slowly entered the Turkish culture as it has been utilized as a motif in the traditional sewn Ottoman garments, the Sultans’ carefully crafted tulip-embroidered caftans, and even received its own name during the historical period known as Tulip era (Lale Devri).
Traditional Turkish steam baths, or hamams, are Ottoman institutions that have been part of the Turkish lifestyle for centuries. Istanbul’s best known hamams are the Suleymaniye Bath in Istanbul, a mixed hamam (men, women and families may bathe together) built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1550; and the Cagaloglu Turkish Bath near the Hagia Sophia in Old Istanbul, which dates to 1741.
The world’s best off-road triathletes will soon arrive in New South Wales for the inaugural XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship on April 25-27, 2014. This premier event will be held just a few hours south of Sydney in the beach side town of Callala Beach, on pristine Jervis Bay. Described as a “mountain biker’s heaven”, the spectacular coast line of the Jervis Bay area will provide a fitting location to host this unique triathlon event for the next three years.
The triathlon includes a 1.5k swim at Callala Beach, a bay renowned for its white sand beaches and clear turquoise water; a 29k trail bike ride through eucalyptus forests in the Nowra State Forest; and a 12k run on a single track with heavy growth under feet and undulating fire roads. The weekend will also include a sprint distance off-road triathlon, trail runs, kids’ events, camps, clinics, and social gatherings.
With over 500 kilometres of coastline south of Sydney including beaches, national parks and a hinterland of rainforest and hidden valleys, XTERRA isn’t the only adrenalin experience you can have in the idyllic South Coast. From Stanwell Park to Wollongong, Shellharbour to Batemans Bay, Bermagui and Merimbula, adventure awaits in the region.
Boating, jet-skiing, windsurfing or simply swimming: if you love water sports the South Coast offers plenty of choice. Merimbula Bar, Wreck Bay near Jervis Bay, and Killalea State Park near Kiama have challenging surf waves with Killalea State Park one of Australia’s National Surfing Reserves, featuring 250 hectares of pristine coastal reserve.
Other popular water activities include fishing, diving and snorkelling, sailing, canoeing and kayaking. Bushrangers Bay near Shellharbour is one of the State’s best scuba-diving centres and Shoalhaven Gorge in Morton National Park is one of the country’s best flat-water kayaking destinations. Further south, offshore from Narooma, you can swim and snorkel with seals at Montague Island Nature Reserve.
National parks and nature reserves along the coast provide plenty of rugged landscapes for adventure activities on land. Explore the wild coast, beaches and woodlands of Ben Boyd National Park on foot or get fit to climb.
The gorge at Bungonia Creek is the deepest in Australia and among the most dramatic in the world. Rock climbing, caving, abseiling and canyoning are available at Bungonia to experienced or supervised adventure seekers. There are also five walking tracks ranging in degree of difficulty, and bush camping is permitted in certain areas.
Further south the Light to Light Walk knits together some of the most sensational scenery on the Sapphire Coast. The 31-kilometre, three-day walk links the lighthouse at Green Cape and Boyd’s Tower, both within Ben Boyd National Park. Features of the walk include towering cliffs shaped by a pounding sea, headlands, beaches and sheltered coves.
Cycling is also popular on the South Coast with many cycle ways passing through the region’s most picturesque areas. Action-packed bike trails in national parks can be found in Deua, from Greenpatch in Booderee, Morton and Murramarang national parks.
Australian Cycling Holidays run family cycling holidays on the NSW South Coast. The self-guided multi-day tours combine a love of cycling with stunning scenery and accommodation. The Bay and Back 2 ½ day tour sees guests cycle from the banks of the Shoalhaven River to the pristine Waters of Jervis Bay and includes accommodation, bicycle hire and luggage transfer.
Adventure in the air is also popular in this region. Bald Hill at Stanwell Park is one of the best coastal hang-gliding locations in the world; take advantage of the location and the experienced instructors to enjoy the thrill of your life. Or make the most of blue skies and sandy beaches with NSW’s only beach skydive, Skydive the Beach, North Wollongong.
Experience adrenaline pumping aerobatic flights over Wollongong beaches in a 1943 Boeing Stearman with Southern Bi-planes. Bigger, faster and more robust than a Tiger Moth, the open-cockpit, scenic adventure flight will leave you buzzing for days.
The South Coast is a spectacular region of New South Wales, and the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship provides a great opportunity for athletes and their supporters to explore the great food, wine and recreational activities in the region.
For more information go to www.xterraasiapacific.com or http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/south-coast/jervis-bay-and-shoalhaven/jervis-bay
Backyard Travel, Asia’s most innovative travel company, has today released details of a new tailor-made tour entitled ‘Diverse Bali: Ancient Traditions to Cultural Delights.’
Backyard Travel’s eight day, seven-night tour allows the chance to delve deep into Bali’s natural beauty, ancient arts and fascinating history.
The tour includes guided visits to the most serene temples on the Island including the iconic Taman Ayun, the mystical Pura Gunung Kawi and the beautiful water temple of Ulun Danu. Travellers also have the opportunity to experience leisurely guided walking and cycling tours through local villages, green rice terraces and fruit farms and the opportunity to immerse themselves into local life and support a community-based tourism project.
As well as great cultural experiences ample time is given for relaxation with a snorkelling trip to the stunning Menjangan, visits to some of Bali’s best beaches and a memorable BBQ dinner under the stars on the shore of lake Batur.
On the final day the tour concludes with a cooking class in Ubud where an expert local cook will give travellers a lesson on cooking tasty Indonesian specialties.
“This new tour is ideal for those who want to delve deeper in local Balinese culture”, said Backyard Travel’s General Manager Maeve Nolan. “The wonderful island is explored in depth, giving travelers the opportunity to discover Bali’s stunning natural beauty and huge diversity”.
About Backyard Travel
Bangkok based Backyard Travel is an online travel company specializing in tailor-made tours to Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Japan and China. For more information about Backyard Travel, visit www.backyardtravel.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/BackyardTravel.
With its timeless countryside, quiet roads and frequent ferry crossings direct from the UK, Denmark is the perfect choice for those seeking the convenience and freedom of a self-drive holiday. The country is blessed with a picturesque, rolling scenery of unspoiled farmland, forests and heaths, not to mention mile upon mile of pristine coastline – much of which can be encountered by following the 3,600km Marguerite Route.
The Danes have long been fond of exploring this way-marked, long-distance touring route through their own bucolic backyard and now, thanks to VisitDenmark’s newly-launched English-language website (www.visitdenmark.co.uk/selfdrive), British holidaymakers will find it easier to join the locals in discovering the pleasures of the open road.
With Royal Approval
The Marguerite Route is marked along its way by characteristic marguerite (daisy) road-signs and was cleverly designed to take in some of Denmark’s most scenic countryside and prettiest towns and villages without drivers ever seeing the same view twice. A major inspiration for the leisurely route was Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (affectionately known as Daisy) herself, whose favourite drives and destinations are incorporated into the journey. Until now, details of the lengthy drive were only accessible to Danish speakers, but VisitDenmark expects the new English-language website will encourage more Brits to come and discover the Queen’s favourite spots at their own, unhurried pace.
Accessibility and Accommodation
To make the site as useful as possible to self-drive visitors, it includes pertinent information on arriving in Denmark with DFDS Seaways, who operate a regular overnight sailing from Harwich in Essex to Esbjerg on the West Jutland coast.
To ensure that the accommodation is as memorable as the beautiful scenery, drivers’ attention is drawn to a choice of characterful recommendations, as chosen by Small Danish Hotels who offer a hand-picked selection of castles, inns, hotels and manor houses in each area.
The route itself is broken down into manageable sections as it passes through each region of Denmark, with attractions to enjoy along the way and downloadable E-brochures or Google maps available for each one.
Hidden gems of Jutland
On arrival into Esbjerg the Marguerite Route steers drivers through Jutland and on via the island of Funen to Zealand. On the West Jutland coast, the route goes past the Wadden Sea National Park, one of Denmark’s most ecologically important areas that’s home to birds, seals and native oysters. It also takes in Denmark’s best preserved medieval castle Spottrup Borg with its towering 9-metre ramparts and double moat to withstand the most effective cannons. Nearby Nymindegab Kro is a traditional Danish inn (one of the Small Danish Hotels) whose elevated location overlooking the North Sea makes this the perfect place to stay awhile.
Further north, as the route passes through North Jutland it allows visitors a chance to get close to nature in this extensive area of dunes and heaths and reaches as far north as Skagen at the very top of Denmark where the two seas, the Kattegat and Skagerrak meet.
Away from the coast, other highlights along the Marguerite Route include the fairytale forest of Rold Skov – Denmark’s largest forest, home to scenic lakes, ancient trees and rare wild orchids. Closer to Aalborg lies Lindholm Høje, home to Scandinavia’s largest Viking burial ground with more than 700 well-preserved graves.
There’s more natural beauty to be found among the Silkeborg lakes and on the Gudenåen River in East Jutland, where activities away from the road include swimming, canoeing, kayaking and some of the best angling in northern Europe. Take in the pretty town of Randers with its quirky replica of Elvis’ home Graceland and stop further south at Vejle, often labelled as ‘Denmark’s cosiest town’. Close by is the historic town of Jelling where the two eighth-century runic stones hold special significance for Danes as the one erected in AD983 by Viking King Harald Bluetooth is known as the ‘birth certificate of Denmark’. Denmark’s second city Aarhus ‘the city of smiles’ offers numerous attractions including the National Open Air Museum of Urban History and CultureDen Gamle By where visitors can see what it would have been like to live and work in a 19th century Danish town.
Funen, Denmark’s second largest island is situated between Jutland and Zealand. Characterised by gently rolling hills, its largest town, Odense, was the birthplace of author Hans Christian Andersen. The south Funen archipelago of islands are linked by small bridges and ferry routes for cars providing a scenic meandering route past historic manor houses and ancient castles. These include Egeskov Castle, one of Europe’s best preserved renaissance castles built on oak rafts rammed into the surrounding lake.
The furthest reaches of the route take in the island of Zealand where green hills contrast with some of the best beaches in Denmark. Alongside the route it is possible to explore Denmark’s Viking history and at Elsinore, about an hour north of Copenhagen stop at the newly opened M/S Maritime Museum which bears testament to the town’s seafaring past with a seashell shaped museum inside the old dry dock. Alongside the Maritime museum is the UNESCO listed Kronborg Castle, known across the world as Hamlet’s Castle. Winding its way back along the beautiful coast and overlooking the Øresund, the narrow strait of water that divides Denmark from Sweden, the route reaches the vibrant and cosmopolitan capital, Copenhagen. For fans of the TV series ‘The Bridge’ a short detour might include a drive across the now iconic Øresund Bridge to Malmo or complete the journey on the quiet little rustic islands of Møn, Lolland and Falster at the southern point of Denmark.
As well as providing holidaymakers with the freedom of the open road, a self-drive experience in Denmark also offers excellent value for money by avoiding the costs and hassle of flying and the luggage restrictions that entails. Drivers can therefore fill their boots with designer Danish homewares, local produce and other souvenirs to bring home – another highlight of taking the slow road along the scenic Marguerite Route.
DFDS Seaways provides a overnight ferry crossings 2 to 5 times a week (depending on the time of year) between Harwich and Esbjerg in West Jutland, with prices starting from £117 per person, based on two people and one car travelling one way with a sea view cabin.
Where to stay
Small Danish Hotels offers beautiful inns, modern hotels and fairy tale castles along the Marguerite Route www.smalldanishhotels.dk
With its other 2014 departures sold-out or filling rapidly, General Tours World Traveler has added another prime-season autumn departure for its popular Small Group Journey, From Japan’s Inland Sea to the Alps. This new October 9 date is now available for booking; as with its September 18 departure, the only other 2014 date with space still available, General Tours guests will experience town and countryside during the lovely autumn season.
Hewing to its 67-year heritage crafting original, culturally-rich itineraries, From Japan’s Inland Sea to the Alps is an 11-day trip featuring 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Miyajima Island, Nara, the Alpine hamlet of Shirakawago and Hiroshima. Lead by an experienced, English-speaking native-born Trip Leader, extensive sightseeing is enhanced with unique Small Group Discoveries that engage travelers more deeply with Japan’s history, culture and natural beauty:
- Enduring traditions in art and culture are experienced firsthand during a luncheon with Geisha and sake tasting in Takayama, an Alpine town also famed for its splendid Edo-period homes.
- An intimate guided stroll in Kyoto’s historic Gion district, where Geisha traditions first began, offers penetrating insight into ancient traditions that still endure in modern-day Japan.
- An early-morning visit to Tokyo’s exciting Tsukiji Fish Market offers guests the rare chance to see the top chefs vying for the finest and freshest seafood.
- Guests then join one of these chefs to learn the art of preparing restaurant-quality sushi.
- Japan’s reverence for aesthetic beauty is explored in some of the country’s loveliest places including the celebrated Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa, Mt. Fuji and Hakone National Park.
General Tours also offers Southern Horizons of Japan and Okinawa, two Private Journeys with travel-any-day flexibility and chauffeured sightseeing showcasing the diversity of two Japanese islands not often found on other tours.
$500 Savings on all Small Group and Private Journeys
General Tours guests can save $500 per couple ($250 for solo travelers) when they pay-in-full at time of booking for any of these Small Group and Private Journeys to Japan. This discount can be combined with all of General’s other offers including Family & Friends savings of $50 to $200 per person when 3 or more guests travel together.
For more information, visit www.generaltours.com or contact your local travel agent.
The 2014 North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival (26 April to 4 May 2014) has some surprises in store with several new walks offering a different perspective on the peaceful moors that seem so familiar today. www.exmoorwalkingfestival.co.uk
Exmoor at War (2 May £3) is a short but very informative new moorland walk. It is well-known that 70 years ago Exmoor was one of the training grounds used by troops ahead of D Day, but who knew that chemical weapons training was once carried out near Brendon Two Gates? The Brendon Hills also rang to the sound of more than 200 workers toiling in the mines and on the railway taking iron ore from the hills to Watchet Harbour for shipping to Wales. Learn about this fascinating history and marvel at the Victorian engineering on the West Somerset Mineral Line walk (27 Apr Free)
The Festival offers a choice of over 36 guided walks ranging from short strolls to challenging full day walks, all showcasing North Devon and Exmoor and the surrounding countryside to its very best advantage.
More than a third of the walks are new this year including Combe Martin’s Silver Days walk (26 April £6) which explores the story of the town’s silver mines, once a key part of the Royal coffers, and the intriguingly-named Bottoms, Scruffets and Castles (3 May £8) takes walkers in and around Dunster and includes ascents, descents and amazing views.
For those who enjoy a good discussion as they stride along there is an opportunity to join the Talking Book Club (2 May £3). Participants are asked to read The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane beforehand, and the book will be discussed whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery around Dulverton along the way.
The Lundy Island Discovery walk (26 April £39 adults; £22 Children including boat ticket) is making a welcome re-appearance at the Festival. Lying 12 miles off the North Devon coast this unspoilt island, undisturbed by cars, is home to a fascinating array of wildlife amidst dramatic coastal scenery. Exploring with a knowledgeable guide means that walkers will uncover Lundy’s history as well as discover the best places to spot the flora and fauna of this peaceful paradise.
The popular Abandoned Exmoor; Flowerpot Men, Secret Coves and Old Mill as well as the intriguingly named Talking Trees guided walks are all back this year too.
The longest stretch is the Classic Exmoor Walk at 10.9 miles (28 Apr £8). A spectacular route above Lynmouth which encompasses all that is so breathtaking on Exmoor in the spring and a fitting way to laud the National Park’s 60th anniversary this year.
Festival Organiser Bryan Cath says, “I would like to thank all our guides, wardens and rangers for their continued support. The Festival would not be able to continue without support from the Exmoor National Park, the National Trust and the Crown Estate Dunster. To help keep costs down for the Festival many of the guides are offering their services for free. This has enabled us to keep the Festival going and I am most grateful to those guides. It’s going to be a good year.”
For more information on the Walking Festival visit www.exmoorwalkingfestival.co.uk and for more things to see and do and places to stay in the area see www.Visit-Exmoor.co.uk
For further information about the Exmoor Tourism Partnership, contact Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager at Exmoor National Park Authority (DTJames@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk / 01398 323 665)
April, May and June rank among the very best months to enjoy a walking holiday in Europe. Temperatures are pleasant and rainfall generally low; the countryside, warmed by spring sunshine, comes alive with fresh greenery and delicate flora, and birdsong fills the air.
Walking-holiday specialist On Foot Holidays has picked out three favorite self-guided trips that are especially enjoyable at this time of year: Andalucia, a nature-lovers’ paradise, Slovenia for softies, and the Ligurian Hills for enthusiastic seasoned walkers to blow away the winter cobwebs.
Best for nature lovers… ANDALUCIA, SPAIN
A seven-night, self-guided Andalucia walk offers glorious hillside hiking in the rugged Grazalema National Park, a UNESCO biosphere reserve near Cadíz, taking in the region’s fabled White Villages along the way and ending in the Moorish citadel of Ronda. The region is a haven for birds and wildlife, boasting one of Europe’s largest expanses of cork-oak forest, along with olive and almond groves. In springtime, walkers can expect to see an abundance of flora and fauna in the meadows, mountain pastures and lush river valleys, from honeysuckle and iris to wild peony and periwinkles, and from ibex and deer to eagles and griffon vultures.
The self-guided trip costs from $ 1,032 pp (two sharing) including B&B, one evening meal, five picnics, luggage transfers between hotels and route information. Walking, from four and a half to six hours per day, is classified as medium to hard. Flights extra.
Best for beginners… KARST, SLOVENIA
Late spring, with its profusion of wild flowers and butterflies, is an ideal time to walk in the gentle Slovenian countryside. The eight-night Slovenia itinerary, perfect for those who want to take it a little easy, includes three to five hours’ hiking per day. Each day’s walk covers between four and nine miles; some can be shortened if preferred, by hitching a ride with the luggage. Begin in Slovenia’s pretty capital, Ljubljana, head west into the Karst, an area of woodland hills, meadows, vineyards and traditional villages, all with a spectacular mountain backdrop, and end in the vibrant Italian seaport of Trieste. After the first night in the city, stay on working farms, tuck into delicious home-cooked fare such as venison medallions, rabbit stew and honey ice-cream, and sample an array of local specialities including wine, hams, herbs, olive oil and fruit.
The self-guided trip costs from $ 1,160 pp (two sharing) including B&B, five evening meals, six picnics, route information and luggage transfers between accommodations. Walking is classified as easy. Flights extra.
Best for experienced walkers… LIGURIAN HILLS, ITALY
Perfect for seasoned walkers, the Ligurian Hills itinerary is a testing, self-guided hike with spectacular views that also offers the chance to experience warm local hospitality and culinary traditions. Follow the old “Via del Sale” (Salt Road), starting in the Po Valley, through the vineyards and meadows of the Oltrepo Pavese region, nicknamed Little Tuscany, then travel across the foothills of the Ligurian Apennines, which tumble down to the Mediterranean, ending in the charming fishing port of Camogli on the Italian Riviera. The first two days, walking through vineyards and woods are a warm-up for the challenges ahead: a swift climb to over 3,000 ft, followed by four days of high ridge walking at the scene of Hannibal’s march on Rome in 218 BC. This itinerary is best enjoyed in late spring, after the snow has melted from the hills.
The self-guided, eight-night trip costs from $ 1,432 pp (two sharing) including B&B, five evening meals, six picnics, route information and luggage transfers between hotels. Flights extra. Walking, from four to eight hours per day, is classified as medium to hard.
For more information contact On Foot Holidays at (011)44 1722 322 652 or visit www.onfootholidays.co.uk.
On Foot Holidays features predominantly linear, self-guided walking holidays in France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Portugal, Germany, Slovenia and the UK’s south-west. Each walk has been designed by a ‘Route Adviser’ – a person who lives locally and has painstakingly developed an itinerary through varied countryside, packing in as much culture as possible en route and seeking out the most welcoming small hotels, farmhouses and village rooms.
The emphasis is very much on good food and wine after a day’s walking.
On Foot Holidays is a member of AITO (the Association of Independent Tour Operators).
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