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Dominican Republic

Wed, 23 Apr 14 16:09:49 BST

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Holidays

The Dominican Republic offers visitors a chance to experience the idyllic beaches, natural beauty and year-round sunshine of a Caribbean island, all at good value for money and with a distinctly Latin American twist. Situated in between Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico, and sharing the island of Hispaniola with its' neighbour Haiti, the Dominican Republic retains its' Spanish heritage, being the site of the first Settlement in the New World when Christopher Columbus discovered it in 1496, and has managed to hold onto its' natural beauty and simple charm, despite the influx of tourism and development. More and more visitors are discovering the appeal of the Dominican Republic, with its numerous all-inclusive resorts, friendly locals and laid-back atmosphere.

The resorts

The major resort area in the Dominican Republic is the Punta Cana region, which accommodates more than half of all visitors to the region. Situated on the east coast, and served by the airport of the same name, the region of Punta Cana emcompasses a multitude of smaller resorts, housing a large number of all-inclusive resorts and hotels. The beach at Punta Cana stretches for an amazing 50km - the longest uninterrupted stretch in the Caribbean- and boasts fine white sand and calm turquoise waters. Further north in the Dominican Republic lies the Amber Coast, named for the abundance of natural amber deposits found throughout the area, and the popular resorts of Playa Dorada, Sosua and Cabarete, together with the regions' capital, the port city of Puerto Plata. Playa Dorada, 'the golden beach', offers plenty of all-inclusive resorts along the wonderful beach and an array of watersports, whilst serious thrill-seekers should head to Cabarete, the world-class windsurfing and kitesurfing capital of the Caribbean. Along the south coast lies the capital Santa Domingo, with fabulous opportunities for shopping, dining and soaking up the vibrant local culture, along with other developed resort communities, such as Juan Dolio and Boca Chica.

Hotels & resorts for all, from honeymooners to families

Holidays in Dominican Republic are all about the idyllic tropical atmosphere - the fabulous white sand. the swaying palm trees and the crystal-clear blue waters - all of which add up to the perfect ingredients for a holiday full of complete rest and relaxation. For those looking for a little more activity, the resorts of the Dominican Republic offer facilities for all manner of watersports, from windsurfing and kitesurfing, to scuba-diving and snorkelling in the coral reefs found offshore. There are plenty of excellent golf courses to choose from and activities such as horse-riding and river-rafting, to bowling and go-karting. There is accommodation to suit everyone, from romantic and secluded couples resorts for honeymooners, to complexes packed with facilities and activities for families, and guests can choose to stay within the secure and luxurious confines of their all-inclusive hotels, or explore the real Dominican Republic, with its' stunning landscapes and friendly local people. An ideal winter destination, the best time to visit is between the months of November and April, in the 'cool' season when the tropical climate is at its' best (temperatures in the eighties) and the days are dry and sunny.

Dominican Republic Weather

The heavy rainfall from May to August is enough to keep much of the island green and fertile. There is very little rain in November and December. For sun-worshippers this really is a paradise with temperatures particularly high in coastal areas and the climate often referred to as ‘the endless summer’. In winter, coastal regions generally experience highs of around 28°C during the day and lows of about 20°C in the evening. This compares to around 31°C during the day and 22°C at night in the summer, when the humidity can make it feel considerably warmer. As you would expect, the mountain regions are much cooler.

Dominican Republic All Inclusive

All inclusive holidays to Dominican Republic allow guests to relax and enjoy the colourful Latin American atmosphere from a secure and luxurious base, with the option of venturing out to explore the real character of the area in local towns and villages, too. Although there are a wealth of accommodation choices available, many visitors find the convenience and ease of an all inclusive holiday can't be beaten, and there are a great number of options for their stay, all at varying prices and styles. There are no hidden extras to worry about with the price generally featuring all meals and drinks, and use of hotel facilities, including water sports in the warm coastal waters of the Atlantic - a major attraction. The main resorts that offer all inclusive holidays in Dominican Republic include those in the Punta Cana region on the east coast, where there are numerous hotels lining the long stunning beachfront, which also boasts the longest coral reef in the country - perfect for snorkelling or scuba-diving. Other all inclusive holiday resorts are situated along the Amber Coast further north, such as Playa Dorada, Calabrete and Sosua, and all offer a relaxing base with plenty of amenities throughout the hotels.

More useful information

Egypt Red Sea Holidays

Wed, 23 Apr 14 15:39:36 BST

Colourful tropical fish in the Red Sea
Superb beaches and amazing diving

Red Sea holidays are based in a varied series of classy beach resorts along the Sinai Peninsular and the Gulf of Suez in Egypt. The justly named Red Sea Riviera features a beautiful rugged coastline, amazing beaches, a wonderful climate and stunning unforgettable desert and mountain landscapes.The beaches are an undoubted highlight of any break here: soft white sand, swaying palms and warm sparkling turquoise water. The Red Sea has an excellent reputation for diving and attracts scuba divers and snorkellers from all over the world. The region has extraordinarily rich coral reefs and dive sites teeming with exotic marine life including turtles, manta rays and dolphins. The diving here attracts beginners and experts alike, with qualified professional instruction, perfect conditions and an inexhaustible variety of sites. There is also tremendous windsurfing, kite surfing and waterskiing in trendy resorts like Dahab. The superb climate and classy hotels make winter holidays on the Red Sea an increasingly popular choice with golf fans. Getaways here could also include horse and camel riding, trekking and  adventurous desert safaris.

A great choice for discerning travellers

Holidays on the Red sea are increasingly popular with discerning travellers. The area has fashionable and elegant beach resorts, lively nightspots, trendy Bedouin-influenced hang-outs and quiet spectacularly set romantic wilderness resorts.Local holiday accommodation is sophisticated, with many hotels offering luxury spa and health treatments. Fine varied dining includes world cuisine alongside superb local Middle Eastern and Turkish influenced food with plenty of enticing options for vegetarians. The Red Sea has a surprisingly wide range of nightlife, with cosy trendy cafes, local live music, pubs, Sinai desert parties, and a fashionable clubbing scene. There is excellent shopping in local bazaars and glitzy modern shopping centres. No holiday here should miss out on the incredible array of excursions on offer. Red Sea breaks could include visits to splendid natural parks and the famous ancient sites in Cairo, Luxor, along the Nile and even Jordan and Petra.

A fantastic variety of resorts and atmospheres

Many families holidaying here choose the elegant village-style resort of Makadi Bay or Naama Bay. Red Sea holidays in Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada feature amazing reef dives and lively nightlife. El Gouna is a traditionally-styled purpose-built island resort with trendy relaxed bars. Dahab and Nuweiba offer Red Sea breaks with a marked  Bedouin desert influence. For a quieter romantic experience, try charming smaller  resorts like El Quesir, Soma Bay, Abu Soma or Taba. The up-and-coming southern resort of Marsa Alam offers tranquillity, amazing dive sites and wonderful wilderness landscapes.

Africa

Tue, 25 Mar 14 12:14:06 BST

Africa

Africa Holidays – Jungle, desert and beautiful beaches

Trying to summarise Africa is a bit like trying to count the grains of sand on a beach; you could spend a thousand years at it and still never come close. This huge continent is home to a wealth of different peoples, cultures, religions and traditions. Dusty, Arabic northern medinas, chaotic, colourful West African markets, secluded, palm fringed beaches looking out across the Indian Ocean, endless plains where lions roam… the diversity of landscape is only matched by the diversity of its inhabitants.

As such, there is perhaps no other destination on earth that offers the holidaymaker so much choice. Holidays here can mean pampered, all-inclusive luxury in Sharm el Sheikh, exhilarating safaris in the Gambia or laid-back beach holidays in Kenya. The range of sights to see is equally impressive; it’s safe to say Africa has more than its fair share of the world’s wonders, both man-made and natural. From the soaring Table Mountain in South Africa to the majesty of the Pyramids in Egypt, to the vast emptiness of the Sahara Desert… there’s enough to keep you busy on a lifetime of holidays.

The weather and when to go

Africa is the second largest Continent on earth. As such, it is no surprise that seasons change from country to country. As a general rule, the best time to visit the northern destinations such as Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia will be outside the peak summer months of June - August, as these months are stiflingly hot.

West Africa is generally hot all year round, with a dry season that lasts between the end of October-March. The end of this season gets particularly hot, and the harmattan wind, blowing dust out from the Sahara, is also a factor. The rainy season tends to fall between April-July along the coast, with a second shorter rainy spell between September-October. Inland, there is only one rainy season from July-September.

East Africa sees its hottest temperatures during the dry season between December-March. These are the best months for safaris here. Kenya has two rainy seasons; the longer April-June rains and the shorter November-December rains. The coastal areas can get incredibly wet and humid over this period, so bear this in mind if you’re after a beach holiday here.

Southern Africa’s dry season is over the cooler months of May-August. This is the best time for a safari in this region, particularly at the end of the season when temperatures heat up a bit, as nights can get very cold the further south you go and at higher elevations. The rainy season in southern Africa is the region’s hottest period, generally stretching from November to March. Over this period, the heavy rains can force some of the more remote safari camps to close – particularly in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia.
African giraffes


Getting the best deal

Getting best on a holiday to Africa will of course depend on the country you are visiting. There are a set of general rules for getting the cheapest prices for accommodation and flights that can be applied to any situation. First of all, find out when the high and low seasons are for the destination you intend to visit. These will vary greatly from place to place; for example, in Egypt the peak times to travel are over the Christmas/New Year period, in November and in April.  On the other hand, Kenya’s peak season is arguably July-October, when large numbers of wildebeest and gnu migrate across the plains of the Mara.  Find out when the peak season’s are, as these will be the most expensive, and opt to book your holiday on the shoulder months either side of these. You will get the benefit of cheaper prices as well as some of the benefits the peak season offers.

For those booking with a UK-based tour operator, travelling outside the UK school holiday periods of Easter, July and the half term dates will see much cheaper prices. Generally, booking as early as possible will also give you more opportunity to nab the best deals before they sell out. Take a look here for our best late deals and offers to African destinations.

Travel preparation for a holiday to Africa

Africa is a diverse, beautiful and potentially dangerous place to visit. There are a number of things you will need to arrange and safety items you should take. Here is a checklist of the most important things to remember when you visit.

  • Arrange good quality travel insurance. This is an absolute must.
  • Look into what inoculations you will need – Malaria is particularly prevalent in Africa, as is Dengue Fever and Yellow Fever.
  • You may need a visa for entry to your destination – check the Foreign Office website for information on visa requirements
  • Look on the Foreign Travel Advice website for information on the most up to date travel advice for your intended destination. Parts of Africa can be politically volatile

Bulgaria

Mon, 24 Mar 14 15:32:42 BST

The beautiful Lake Zabecko in Bulgaria
Fine beaches along the coastline

Bulgaria is located in the eastern region of the Balkans and is bordered by the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Greece, Romania and the Black Sea. Bulgaria's Black Sea coastline and eastern frontier is nearly 400 kilometres long. Fine beaches can be found all along the coastline. Varna, St. Konstantine and Golden Sands offer fine sand; Nessebar and Sunny Beach have golden sand. Other well-known beaches include those at Bourgas, Albena, Elinite and Pomorie.

The Black Sea is ideal for swimming

The beaches in Bulgaria tend to shelve gently into the sea and this together with the lack of tides makes the Black Sea ideal for swimming and safe for children. Perhaps of all package holiday destinations from the UK, The Black Sea is unusual for its low level of salt. Black Sea water is 18 parts per thousand salt compared with 36 in the oceans, 39 in the Mediterranean Sea and 42 in the Red Sea. The Black Sea enjoys a mild climate with low rainfall with an average summer temperature of 28C to 30C and sea temperature of 24C to 26C. In the summer months of July and August there are around ten hours of sunshine a day.

Fantastic value for money

Bulgaria offers fantastic value for money and a family package holiday can be taken here for less than in most other countries in Europe. You'll also find superb sandy beaches many with EEC Blue Flags. The countryside has magnificent mountain ranges with wild fauna and flora, lush forests and mineral springs. Keep checking our late offers and deals. To make your holiday even more affordable, take advantage of our low deposit scheme.

For the early birds, paying a low deposit at time of booking makes any holiday much more affordable.

Weather in Bulgaria

Bulgarian beach resorts continue to rise in popularity due to an enviable hot and sunny climate during summer months. Humidity is low with average temperatures reaching upwards of 26C and 11 hours of sunshine per day. The climate here is typically Mediterranean, hot and dry, with offshore breezes but can be interrupted by the occasional thunderstorm or light rain. The climate inland is more variable with lower temperatures at altitude and although annual rainfall is low, it is evenly distributed throughout the year.

All inclusive holidays at top Black Sea resorts

Most of Bulgaria’s all inclusive hotels are based in beach resorts like Sunny Beach and Golden Sands on the Black Sea coast. You will also find plenty of cheap all inclusive hotels in resorts like Bourgas and Albena. Also look out for bargain breaks in family resorts like Varna and Nessebar. Cheap all inclusive accommodation can be found virtually anywhere along the Black Sea coast. Many of the cheapest hotel deals are to be found in spring and late summer when the mountains are a delight and the Black Sea resorts are much quieter.

More useful information


View Bulgaria in a larger map

Majorca Beaches

Tue, 11 Mar 14 18:14:48 BST

Orange Beach ShotDid you know that Majorca has 208 beaches? So you’re hardly going to be struggling to find a cracker. In fact, you will be ridiculously spoilt for choice.

The vast majority of beaches are sandy and, this summer, 43 have been awarded Blue Flag status thanks to the quality of the water and beach. There’s disabled access on 60 of the beaches. And for those with no body hang-ups, the island has an official nudist beach, at Playa del Mago, near Portals.

What are you waiting for? As they say in Spain, vamos a la playa!

The top 10 beaches in Majorca

Alcudia

In the heart of one of the most popular resorts among visitors to Majorca is a long, long sandy beach. It leads from the bustling harbour at Puerto Alcudia – with its numerous shops, cafés and restaurants – for several kilometres towards Playa de Muro. Hotels front the beach and there’s a boardwalk for the first stretch. It’s a lovely Blue Flag, fine white sand beach and great for kids, with shallow swimming, watersports and boat excursions.

More information in this guide to beaches in Alcudia.

Cala d’Or

The busiest resort in the southeast of the island, there are several coves with little hideaway beaches within easy reach. But it’s worth going a little further and heading for Cala Mondrago, a protected beach in a National Park with a hinterland of pine forests. It’s a really beautiful beach, with a gentle slope into clear waters - great for snorkelling. Get there early – the first bus leaves Cala d’Or at 8.30am and the ride takes about 20 minutes.

More information in this summary of Cala d'Or's beaches.

Cala San Vincente

There are four small bays to swim off in the north of the island. Cala San Vincente is close to Pollensa, and a really lovely environment with amazing crystal clear water. It’s a fishing village and there are small restaurants perched over the beach – recommended for a seaside lunch. If you want even more seclusion, take the sign-posted path for Cala Barques and head onwards to Cala Castell, a lovely secluded bay – the best quiet beach on Majorca.

Read more in this breakdown of Cala San Vincente, with star ratings.

Playa de Muro

This beach was singled out for special distinction by the Blue Flag judges for its top beach security and life saving. So now you know it’s safe, check out the long, sandy almost unspoilt beach east of Alcudia and tuck yourself away in the sand dunes. There’s also a natural park behind the beach. Also known to Majorcans as Casetas des Capellans, there are great paellas to be had from the beach shacks.

More information in Annie Bennet's Telegraph review of Playa de Muro.

Magaluf

The best bucket-and-spade, beer and breakfast resort on Palma. It all started here in the 1970s and someone forget to tell them to pack it in. It’s a rites-of-passage place for late teens, with all that entails. There is a kilometre-long sandy beach with great swimming and plenty of choice of bars and cafés. Check out the new ‘Wave House’ and try your hand at surfing on special machines.

More information on the Magaluf Wikipedia page.

Cala San Vincente

Puerto de Soller

An antique tram takes visitors down from the town of Soller to the beach, where there is a perfect horseshoe bay overlooked by excellent restaurants and smartly renovated hotels. It’s a bay gouged out of the mountains and the only resort on the west coast. And it’s a lovely little place, and one of several ports on the island with a Blue Flag. Two beaches are found around the natural harbour and the best is Repic, furthest from the port itself. But it’s narrow and can get crowded in summer.

More information on the Puerto de Soller Wikipedia page.

Palma

The capital has a selection of beaches nearby and Cala Mayor is possibly the best choice, two or three kilometres from the centre on the western end of the city. It is a purpose-built resort and there are several restaurants, plus the home of celebrated artist Joan Miró. The beach is popular with families, with fine sand and a family-run snack bar serving excellent paellas – must book on Sundays.

Read on for more information on Palma beach's facilities.

Porto Cristo

Another lovely little Majorcan beach to receive a distinction from Blue Flag judges, this time for its environmental education. An urban beach, with a bay and facing a marina, this is tennis star Rafa Nadal's summer spot (he’s from Majorca). It’s a beach in the middle of a small, ex-fishing village, quiet resort often described as ‘sleepy,’ with terrace restaurants above the beach.

Check out this 360-degree tour of the beach.

Puerto Pollensa

This beach has probably never had a bad word said about it. It’s in the far northwest of Majorca, down the road from the lovely town of Pollensa. There is shade from the trees on the beach, easy-going restaurants abound and the beach is very gently sloping – ideal for toddlers. Check out Tolo’s Restaurant which is a favourite with all the cycling teams that train there, and Tamarells snack bar where David Cameron’s children had lunch last summer – great paella dishes.

See this guide to Puerto Pollensa's beaches for more information.

Santa Ponsa

Awarded Blue Flag status four years ago, this little beach in the southwest is five kilometres from Magaluf. It has a beautiful, large sandy beach backed by pine trees, with excellent swimming. It’s great for families, with facilities and plenty of cafés on or near the beach. Popular with daytrippers from Palma and a buzzy spot, without the serious, full-on holiday mentality of Magaluf.

For further information on all Mallorca’s beaches and facilities in English, head to the MallorcaBeachGuide website.

Author:

Majorca

Tue, 11 Mar 14 16:58:31 BST

 

Magical Majorca: The holiday Island that lacks for nothing

 

If a small island in the Mediterranean has more than four million olive and almond trees, you can correctly assume that it hasn’t developed an agricultural industry overnight.
Majorca (Mallorca in Spanish) is blessed with a temperate climate and rich soil that ensures abundance. There is rain in the mountains and food in the sea. The island does not want for much.
 
Poet Robert Graves and composer Frederic Chopin were among 19th century tourists who discovered this irresistible combination early. “A sky like turquoise, a sea like Lapis Lazuli, mountains like emeralds, air like heaven,” wrote Chopin.
So when jet planes and package holidays were invented a century or so later, Majorca was ripe, like the orange and lemon trees that swathe the island in colour.
In the 1960s, purpose-built resorts like Formentera and Magaluf shot up. The money poured in as Britons and Germans rapidly made the island their favourite affordable holiday destination, drawn by empty beaches, sunshine and a quick three-hour flight.
 
Sombreros, stuffed donkeys, waterparks and English breakfasts were introduced, bars lined the beaches and Ivor Biggun wrote that song that started: “Uno, dos, tres, suzi Quattro…”
The combination still helps pull in six million tourists every year, with stag and hen parties flying into Palma airport, along with the Spanish Royal family and actor Michael Douglas (he and Catherine Zeta-Jones have got a place in Deia).

 

 

 
The island caters for all, and is non-discriminatory as tourism is now its biggest earner. Waterparks and beach clubs have been added to golf clubs and shopping as leisure options. It’s a holiday island plenty of activities and sights to keep visitors occupied.
But the old way of life has never been subsumed. Fishermen still potter around the harbours, a wooden train still chugs daily from Palma to Soller and 70 markets still operate across the island.
 
Old towns like Alcudia and Pollensa continue to be oblivious to the hordes. They’ve seen the Romans and Moors come and go: a few tourists won’t cause a fuss. Catalan and Spanish is still taught in the schools, and Majorca’s own language is a variation of Catalan.
Majorca has simply evolved, and continues to do so. Richard Branson turned four mansions into La Residencia Hotel in the 1980s to put luxury on the island map, and new boutique hotels continue to open regularly, both in Palma and across the island.
In Magaluf, hotels now boast surf simulators and infinity pools to attract a glitzier party crowd. Quality entertainment and food is now order of the day.
 
There are more than 2,500 restaurants on the island, from small bars to top class eateries, which celebrate the local cheeses, hams and preserves. Or try the Majorcan sausages, kidneys or sea bass with a snifter made from the island’s own white wine grape, Prensal Blanc.
The expression ‘agro-tourism’ was coined in Majorca, when grants enabled vast numbers of old farm barns and buildings to be transformed into villas and self-catering pads in the 1990s, most with pools set into gorgeous landscapes.
Many such properties were old olive farms. Given the economics, tourism won out – you’ll now see many of the century-old olive trees dug up, bagged and ready to be exported to the UK for planting in a nice country garden.
 
But it’s a scratch on the landscape, and Majorca is now looking to promote its natural attractions to offer a greener, leaner form of tourism. More than 40 per cent of the island is protected, with walking, birdwatching and cycling popular pursuits.
The topography of the island attracts competitive cyclists too: I’ve never seen so much lycra on the roads as in the past five years. The clean air and climate pulls in sports teams, and a swimming and triathlon training centre opened in Colonia Sant Jordi recently.
The mountainous landscape of the north and west of Majorca, covered in oak and pine, has long demanded shepherd trails that now double as established hikes, from a few hours to a week.
 
Then relax on beaches such as Es Trenc and Es Carbo, both close to Palma itself but with no cars allowed, so they remain relatively quiet and unspoiled.
Or rather than taking a week or two lazing on a beach, eating well or hiking the island, simply head to Palma for a break: it is one of the best cities in the Mediterranean for a relaxed weekend.
 
La Seu Cathedral, the house of local artist Joan Miro and Es Baluard, and the museum of contemporary art provide a solid base for cultural pursuits.
Journalists of a certain age (55+) rarely fail to use headlines along the lines of ‘Majorca has had a makeover’ - but the truth is that the island has just kept on reinventing itself to cater for all tastes. And long may it continue to prosper.

Author:

 

 


View Majorca in a larger map

Weather

Temperatures in the school holidays are fierce, above 30C. It’s a typical Mediterranean climate – hot and dry summers, and mild winters. The winter averages 14C, while late autumn is a temperate 18-23C. The coast gets 300 days of sun a year, and what little rain there is will be found in the Tramuntana mountains.

When to go

Majorca is packed in the school holidays. Never mind double dip recessions, the island is still party central for six weeks of the year with Britons, Germans – and now, the. Russians. Better to travel in April/May when blossom swathes the island in scent and colour, or September/October when the Mediterranean is at its warmest.

How to get there

Flights to Majorca take three hours, and there are departures from nearly 30 airports across the UK. British Airways, easyJet, Vueling, Flybe, Jet2 and Ryanair operate scheduled flights, and several charter companies fly during the summer. The time difference is one hour ahead of the UK.

Airport transfers

Nowhere on Majorca is more than an hour’s ride from the airport, with Puerto Pollensa furthest away of the big resorts. Prices for a private taxi range from £25 to Palma (a 20-minute journey), £50 to Soller (30 minutes) and £75 to Alcudia or Pollensa (one hour). Shuttle buses cost £5 to Palma, £15 to Magaluf and £20 to Alcudia and Puerto Pollensa.


Spain is still one of the most budget-friendly destinations for holidaymakers, and in fact regularly tops the list of cheapest places for a break in the sun.
The Balearics have a long-established reputation for abundant, cheap self-catering accommodation. Majorca offers hundreds of apartments, villas and rooms fitted out with kitchens and kitchenettes, particularly in the busier resorts of Alcudia, Puerto Pollensa and Cala Millor.


If you’re looking to save money on your holiday, opting for a self-catering break in Majorca is arguably one of your best options. For a start there is a wealth of self-catering packages available here, often at bargain prices. You can check out our Late Deals Calendar to find out the cheapest prices we’re currently offering.
And as well as the choice on offer, there’s the fact that Spain has some of the cheapest prices for food on the Continent – so your weekly shopping bill will be minimal(especially in comparison to what you would pay in the UK).


Of course, there will be times when you feel like treating yourself to some paella or tapas in an authentic Spanish restaurant - and why not. With the money you’ve saved on self-catering, there’s no need to feel guilty about an extravagant meal out here or there.

Majorca General2

Tue, 11 Mar 14 16:36:53 BST

 

Magical Majorca: The holiday Island that lacks for nothing
 
If a small island in the Mediterranean has more than four million olive and almond trees, you can correctly assume that it hasn’t developed an agricultural industry overnight.
Majorca (Mallorca in Spanish) is blessed with a temperate climate and rich soil that ensures abundance. There is rain in the mountains and food in the sea. The island does not want for much.
 
Poet Robert Graves and composer Frederic Chopin were among 19th century tourists who discovered this irresistible combination early. “A sky like turquoise, a sea like Lapis Lazuli, mountains like emeralds, air like heaven,” wrote Chopin.
So when jet planes and package holidays were invented a century or so later, Majorca was ripe, like the orange and lemon trees that swathe the island in colour.
In the 1960s, purpose-built resorts like Formentera and Magaluf shot up. The money poured in as Britons and Germans rapidly made the island their favourite affordable holiday destination, drawn by empty beaches, sunshine and a quick three-hour flight.
 
Sombreros, stuffed donkeys, waterparks and English breakfasts were introduced, bars lined the beaches and Ivor Biggun wrote that song that started: “Uno, dos, tres, suzi Quattro…”
The combination still helps pull in six million tourists every year, with stag and hen parties flying into Palma airport, along with the Spanish Royal family and actor Michael Douglas (he and Catherine Zeta-Jones have got a place in Deia).

 
The island caters for all, and is non-discriminatory as tourism is now its biggest earner. Waterparks and beach clubs have been added to golf clubs and shopping as leisure options. It’s a holiday island plenty of activities and sights to keep visitors occupied.
But the old way of life has never been subsumed. Fishermen still potter around the harbours, a wooden train still chugs daily from Palma to Soller and 70 markets still operate across the island.
 
Old towns like Alcudia and Pollensa continue to be oblivious to the hordes. They’ve seen the Romans and Moors come and go: a few tourists won’t cause a fuss. Catalan and Spanish is still taught in the schools, and Majorca’s own language is a variation of Catalan.
Majorca has simply evolved, and continues to do so. Richard Branson turned four mansions into La Residencia Hotel in the 1980s to put luxury on the island map, and new boutique hotels continue to open regularly, both in Palma and across the island.
In Magaluf, hotels now boast surf simulators and infinity pools to attract a glitzier party crowd. Quality entertainment and food is now order of the day.
 
There are more than 2,500 restaurants on the island, from small bars to top class eateries, which celebrate the local cheeses, hams and preserves. Or try the Majorcan sausages, kidneys or sea bass with a snifter made from the island’s own white wine grape, Prensal Blanc.
The expression ‘agro-tourism’ was coined in Majorca, when grants enabled vast numbers of old farm barns and buildings to be transformed into villas and self-catering pads in the 1990s, most with pools set into gorgeous landscapes.
Many such properties were old olive farms. Given the economics, tourism won out – you’ll now see many of the century-old olive trees dug up, bagged and ready to be exported to the UK for planting in a nice country garden.
 
But it’s a scratch on the landscape, and Majorca is now looking to promote its natural attractions to offer a greener, leaner form of tourism. More than 40 per cent of the island is protected, with walking, birdwatching and cycling popular pursuits.
The topography of the island attracts competitive cyclists too: I’ve never seen so much lycra on the roads as in the past five years. The clean air and climate pulls in sports teams, and a swimming and triathlon training centre opened in Colonia Sant Jordi recently.
The mountainous landscape of the north and west of Majorca, covered in oak and pine, has long demanded shepherd trails that now double as established hikes, from a few hours to a week.
 
Then relax on beaches such as Es Trenc and Es Carbo, both close to Palma itself but with no cars allowed, so they remain relatively quiet and unspoiled.
Or rather than taking a week or two lazing on a beach, eating well or hiking the island, simply head to Palma for a break: it is one of the best cities in the Mediterranean for a relaxed weekend.
 
La Seu Cathedral, the house of local artist Joan Miro and Es Baluard, and the museum of contemporary art provide a solid base for cultural pursuits.
Journalists of a certain age (55+) rarely fail to use headlines along the lines of ‘Majorca has had a makeover’ - but the truth is that the island has just kept on reinventing itself to cater for all tastes. And long may it continue to prosper.
 

 

Author:

View Majorca in a larger map


Weather

Temperatures in the school holidays are fierce, above 30C. It’s a typical Mediterranean climate – hot and dry summers, and mild winters. The winter averages 14C, while late autumn is a temperate 18-23C. The coast gets 300 days of sun a year, and what little rain there is will be found in the Tramuntana mountains.


When to go
Majorca is packed in the school holidays. Never mind double dip recessions, the island is still party central for six weeks of the year with Britons, Germans – and now, the. Russians. Better to travel in April/May when blossom swathes the island in scent and colour, or September/October when the Mediterranean is at its warmest.


How to get there
Flights to Majorca take three hours, and there are departures from nearly 30 airports across the UK. British Airways, easyJet, Vueling, Flybe, Jet2 and Ryanair operate scheduled flights, and several charter companies fly during the summer. The time difference is one hour ahead of the UK.


Airport transfers
Nowhere on Majorca is more than an hour’s ride from the airport, with Puerto Pollensa furthest away of the big resorts. Prices for a private taxi range from £25 to Palma (a 20-minute journey), £50 to Soller (30 minutes) and £75 to Alcudia or Pollensa (one hour). Shuttle buses cost £5 to Palma, £15 to Magaluf and £20 to Alcudia and Puerto Pollensa.


Spain is still one of the most budget-friendly destinations for holidaymakers, and in fact regularly tops the list of cheapest places for a break in the sun.
The Balearics have a long-established reputation for abundant, cheap self-catering accommodation. Majorca offers hundreds of apartments, villas and rooms fitted out with kitchens and kitchenettes, particularly in the busier resorts of Alcudia, Puerto Pollensa and Cala Millor.


If you’re looking to save money on your holiday, opting for a self-catering break in Majorca is arguably one of your best options. For a start there is a wealth of self-catering packages available here, often at bargain prices. You can check out our Late Deals Calendar to find out the cheapest prices we’re currently offering.
And as well as the choice on offer, there’s the fact that Spain has some of the cheapest prices for food on the Continent – so your weekly shopping bill will be minimal(especially in comparison to what you would pay in the UK).


Of course, there will be times when you feel like treating yourself to some paella or tapas in an authentic Spanish restaurant - and why not. With the money you’ve saved on self-catering, there’s no need to feel guilty about an extravagant meal out here or there.

Majorca Restaurants

Tue, 11 Mar 14 15:58:59 BST

Poolside at El Olivo

Main image: El Olivo

The stunning scenery, beautiful climate and glistening waters of Majorca are a major draw for holidaymakers each year, but those aren’t the only things pulling in the visitors. As one of the Med’s top holiday destinations, Majorca has also established itself as a wonderful place to sample some of the best and most authentic Mediterranean food around.

From beachside bistros to restaurants tucked away off the beaten track, the island is bursting with gastronomic delights just waiting to be discovered. Below you’ll find ten of the island’s very best restaurants, providing culinary experiences that you’d be mad to miss when on holiday in Majorca.

 

Ca Na Toneta

Ca Na Toneta dish

Majorca is rapidly turning into one of Spain’s top foodie destinations and Ca Na Toneta is keeping up with the trend and setting a gold standard for restaurants all over the island. The menu offers up deliciously fresh options, with ingredients sourced locally and the restaurant itself it delightfully charming and friendly.

21 Carrer Horitzó, Caimari,

Tel 00 34 971 515226

http://www.canatoneta.com/en

 

Opio, Puro

Opio dessert

For elegant dining and impressive menus book a table at the Puro Hotel’s restaurant. Serving up gourmet dishes each evening, this crisp, chic eatery is bound to impress even the most fussiest of foodies.

Carrer de Montenegro, 12, 07012 Palma de Mallorca, Islas Baleares

Tel 00 34 971 425450

http://www.purohotel.com/en/

 

Ca’n Carrossa

Ca’n Carrossa interior

This unmistakably Spanish restaurant is arguably the best dining spot in Lloseta, Majorca. The entire menu is comforting and delicious but the main highlight is its fish dishes, which are unparalleled in this area of Majorca.

Carrer Nou 28, Lloseta

Tel 00 34 971 514023 https://www.facebook.com/CanCarrossa

 

El Olivo

La Residencia gardens

If you’re searching for a superb restaurant with a romantic Mediterranean feel then El Olivo at La Residencia is the perfect place. With several awards under its belt, breathtaking views of the island and an impressive wine list, you’ll fall in love with El Olivo straight away.

Hotel La Residencia, Son Canals s/n, Deià

Tel 00 34 971 639011

http://www.hotel-laresidencia.com

 

Simply Fosh

Simply Fosh dish

With a seasonal menu of Spanish and Mediterranean classics with a twist, beautiful sun terrace dining and fresh new recipes being added to the menu constantly, Simply Fosh is a first class choice when eating out in Majorca. Don’t miss the loin of hare with poached pear and be sure to make a reservation before you go.

Hotel Convent de la Missió, La Missió 7

Tel 00 34 971 720114

http://www.simplyfosh.com/en/

 

Es Moli de’n bou

Tomeu Caldente creations

Es Moli de’n Bou is one of the top restaurants in Spain and is run by Michelin starred chef, Tomeu Caldentey. Go here for mouth watering flavour combos and stay for the wine pairings and minimalistic atmosphere.

Protur Sa Coma Hotel, Calle Liles, Sa Coma

Tel 00 34 971 569663

http://www.esmolidenbou.es

 

Es Guix

Es Guix terrace

Tucked away off an empty, rustic street you’ll find the gorgeous restaurant Es Guix. Expect Spanish classics and delicacies packed full of home cooked flavour.

Escorca, Lluc

Tel 00 34 971 517092

http://www.esguix.com/

 

La Bodeguilla

La Bodeguilla dish

This sensational family run restaurant serves up superb tapas and mains all through the week. Spread over two storeys La Bodeguilla is always buzzing and the wine shop is well worth visiting too.

Sant Jaume 3 E - 07012 Palma de Mallorca

Tel 00 33 971718274

http://www.la-bodeguilla.com/

 

Misa

Misa starter

One of Palma’s best-loved restaurants, frequented by real foodies in Misa. The restaurant offers gourmet dinning at affordable prices and is perfect for a quick lunch or a long, indulgent dinner.

Carrer de Can Maçanet, 1, 07003 Palma, Illes Balears, Spain

Tel 00 34 971 595301

http://www.misabraseria.com

 

Ca'n Joan de S'Aigo

Ensaimada and hot chocolate

For a breakfast to remember head to Ca'n Joan de S'Aigo to sample the sweet treats on offer in this enchanting building in Palma, which is actually the island’s oldest ice cream parlour. Get the breakfast ensaimada, a scrumptious sweet pastry dusted with icing sugar and a cup of their signature hot chocolate and soak up the atmosphere at this cute and idyllic spot on the island.

10, 07001 Palma, Illes Balears

Tel 00 34 971 710759

 

Author: 

Incekum

Tue, 11 Mar 14 09:53:07 BST

Incekum Holidays – Ideal for a peaceful beach break

A small, sleepy town on Turkey’s southern Turquoise Coast, Incekum is a great choice for couples looking for a truly laid-back break, or families with small children. Holidays here revolve firmly around the beach – regarded as one of the best on the south coast. Think soft golden sand stretching off long into the distance and crystal clear aquamarine waters. The beach curves into a sheltered bay and shelves gently into the sea, creating an ideal safe environment for paddling little ones. The town itself consists of a handful of tavernas and restaurants focused around the small commercial centre known as Avsallar Village, as well as a smattering of souvenir shops. A world away from the frenetic pace of larger resorts such as Antalya in the west; you won’t find blaring discos or neon strip lighting here.

The majority of hotels at the resort are well-equipped 3 and 4-star hotels, many of them all-inclusive orientated. Those looking for a livelier night out could visit the vibrant town of Alanya around 15 miles away and easily accessible by taxi. Popular activities around Incekum include walking the coastal paths nearby, boat trips, excursions to historical sites such as the ancient Amphitheatre at Aspendos and watersports including parasailing and windsurfing.

When to go

For beach holidays, the best weather in Incekum will be seen in the peak summer months of June-August. This will also be when the resort is at its busiest and most expensive, however. Those looking to take part in activities such as walking, horse-riding and cycling would do better to travel in either March-May or late-September-October, when the weather is cooler and such activities are for more comfortable.

If you visit the resort in September/October, you may get to see the Alanya Jazz Days Festival held at nearby Alanya, while May-June sees the Alanya Tourism and Art Festival with traditional folk music, dancing and plenty of delicious Turkish food.

The weather in Incekum

As a rule, Incekum holidays will see slightly lower temperatures than those further west in resorts such as Lara and Belek. This can actually be a blessing, especially in the peak summer season. The spring months of April-May see average temperatures of 21-25C, with 8-10 hours of sunshine per day. The summer months between June-August heat up to 29-32C, with around 12-13 hours of sunshine a day. September starts of equally hot at around 30C, before cooling off for the beginning of autumn in late September-October to 26-30C. November-March is considered the winter season, with an increased chance of rainfall and temperatures ranging from 16-21C.

Getting the best deal

You will find some fantastic bargains and lower prices if you visit Incekum during the ‘off-peak’ months of March-May or late September-October. June-August is the peak season and will see the highest prices. Try to avoid the notoriously expensive school holidays periods of Easter and half term if you can. Booking as early as possible often means you get better prices, as the lowest priced rooms in the most popular hotels tend to sell out fast. Alternatively however, if you are willing to wait till the last minute you can get some cut-price bargains on cancellation holidays.

All-inclusive holidays in Incekum are a good way of saving some money; many of the hotels in the resort cater predominately for all-inclusive guests. Opting for this board option means the majority of your holiday spending is already accounted for, leaving you with little else to pay for while you’re away. Find the best prices we have to offer by looking at the deals below or alternatively by visiting our late deals offers here.

Airport and transport need to know

Holidaymakers on their way to Incekum will fly into the Antalya International Airport (AYT). This is a spacious, clean and modern hub, with three terminals; T1 & T2 are for international flights, T3 is for domestic. You’ll find a huge range of shops selling everything from duty-free alcohol and tobacco to luxury clothing and watches. There are shops, bars and restaurants servicing the Arrivals, Departures and lounge areas. The main ones are open 24 hours. Cashpoints are found at Terminal 1 and currency exchange facilities are available at both international terminals.

It takes just over 4 hours to get to Antalya Airport from the UK. You can fly from a number of airports, including London Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester and smaller regional hubs such as Bristol and Leeds Bradford.

Incekum is around 105km away from Antalya Airport, and it takes just under 2 hours to reach there by road. You can take a taxi from the outside the Arrivals hall at the international terminals. There will be a queue fort taxis and a large sign showing the prices to the various destinations. A taxi to Incekum will cost around €80. You can pre-book taxis in advance through Antalya Airport Taxis.

It may well be worth hiring a car private car for the duration of your holiday, to be picked up at the airport. This can be arranged through a number of reputable companies at relatively reasonable rates of between €25-40 for a day, depending on the type and size of car. Argus Car Hire are one such company. Speed limits are around the same as in the UK, you must be 21 to drive and you should drive on the right.

There are no public buses that run to Incekum from the airport.

The best beaches in Incekum

The beaches along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast are simply stunning. Many are of fine golden sand, but some may also be of pebbles. All are in pristine condition, with the majority having been awarded the EU Blue Flag for cleanliness. Often they tend to be small coves, backed by pine forests, with warm, shallow waters.

Incekum beach

Incekum beach is typical of the beaches found along this part of the coast. It has warm, crystal clear waters that remain shallow for many metres and soft golden sand. For this reason, it is a great beach for those with children. You’ll find sunbeds and parasols here, as well as a range of watersports including windsurfing and parasailing.

Cleopatra beach

Supposedly given as a gift by Mark Anthony to Queen Cleopatra, after whom the beach is named, Cleopatra beach is a long, golden sandy beach located to the west of the headland that divides Alanya. This beach is around 15 miles from Incekum and easily accessible by taxi or dolmus. Another good choice for those with children, the sand is fine and the water shallow, with no rocks. There’s a lifeguard here, as well as sunbeds, parasols, and watersports as well as beach bars and cafes.

Keykubat beach

Also located in front of Alanya is the popular Keykubat beach. This one is situated on the eastern side of Alanya’s dividing headland. It is a large, curved bay that is popular with both tourists and locals. The beach has sunbeds, parasols and lifeguards, as well as plenty of beach bars and shops in the near vicinity. There are also a variety of watersports on offer here, from jet skis to banana boats.

Colakli

Wed, 05 Mar 14 17:11:33 BST

Colakli Holidays - A small, laid back resort close to Side

Colakli is a small, laid-back resort on the southern coast of Turkey in the Antalya region. Don’t come here expecting frenetic clubbing or bustling crowds; this resort is all about peace, quiet and relaxation. Huge beaches of soft white sand shelve gently into the warm aquamarine Mediterranean waters, providing an excellent place to top up your tan. The seafront has an attractive promenade packed with beach front bars and restaurants; a great place to watch the sunset with a refreshing cocktail.

If you fancy a change from the chilled-out pace of Colakli, the historic old town of Side is just 4 miles further up the coast. Here you’ll find a vibrant nightlife scene, and attractive harbour, two long sandy beaches and numerous cultural attractions including the crumbling Roman Temple of Apollo and huge 15,000 seat Amphitheatre.

Windsurfing and canoeing are popular activities to try, or you could hire a traditional Turkish sail boat (gulet) and explore the sandy coves along the coast. This is a great option for older couples or families with small children who are looking for a quiet, peaceful location, but with easy access to the larger, busier resorts in the region. Younger couples and families with older children may find the Colakli a little too quiet for their tastes.

When to go

If you’re a beach lover who likes the sun hot, Colakli holidays are best taken in the summer months of June-August when temperatures are at their highest. This is peak season however, so holiday prices will be more expensive and the crowds will be bigger. For those who prefer a cooler climate, spring and autumn offer plenty of sunshine at lower temperatures, less crowds and lower priced accommodation. These seasons are also more favourable for outdoor pursuits such as hiking and cycling.

Lovers of jazz, opera and ballet should consider visiting the resort in June. Around 40 minutes’ drive away at the huge ancient Roman amphitheatre in Aspendos, the Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival and Aspendos Jazz Festivals annually at the beginning of summer.

The weather in Colakli   

The hottest months in Colakli are between June-August, with average temperatures of 30-33C and highs periodically hitting the late 30’s and even early 40’s. You will see long sunny days over these months, with 12-13 hours sunshine a day on average. Spring (April-May) is cooler at between 21-25C, as is autumn (late September-October) at between 27-31C. November-March is considered the winter period, but even at this time you’ll see 17-21C up to December, and 15-18C from December to March. Winter sun holidays are definitely on option here, although there is an increased chance of rainfall and the resort will virtually empty over this period.

Getting the best deal

To get the cheapest prices, you should consider visiting outside peak season. If you do wish to travel in the summer months and don’t have to travel over the school holidays, June will generally be cheaper than July. April-May and September-October are considered off-peak, and will see lower accommodation rates as well as the chance to pick up last minute bargains. Last minute bargains are less easy to come by in the peak summer period, as demand is higher. For peak season bookings, you’re more likely to save money by booking as early as possible, as the most popular hotels will sell out fast.

Consider an all-inclusive holiday to Colakli. All your meals and drinks are paid for upfront, giving you a tighter rein on your holiday spending. On the other side of the coin, a self-catering break is a good way to save cash for those who are happy to prepare their own meals while away. Find the best prices we have to offer by looking at the deals below or alternatively by visiting our late deals offers here.

Airport and transport need to know

The nearest airport to Colakli is the Antalya International Airport (AYT). This is a bustling, modern hub with three terminals; two international (T1 & T2) and one domestic (T3). There is a good selection of bars, restaurants and shops servicing the Arrivals, Departures and lounge areas. You’ll find money exchange facilities at both international terminals, and cash machines at T1.

Flights operate from numerous UK airports to Antalya, including from London Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, Edinburgh, Manchester and Cardiff, and smaller regional hubs such as Leeds Bradford and Bristol.

You can catch a taxi to Colakli from outside the Arrivals halls at the international terminals. There will be a large, unmissable queue of taxis with a sign indicating the prices to the various resorts. Before you get in the car, make sure you have agreed the price with the driver to avoid a shock when you get to the resort. You should expect to pay around £50 or the journey, and it will take just under an hour.

A cheaper way of getting a taxi is to take a shared one – these generally come in the form of a minivan and you will share the cost of the journey with other passengers. The cost the journey in a shared shuttle taxi is around £15 per person. The journey is likely to take longer however, depending on how many stops have to be made and where. You can expect the journey time to increase by up to 50 minutes when taking this option. Private taxis and shared taxis can be pre-booked from reputable companies like HolidayTaxis.com.

Many people opt to hire a car for the duration of their holiday. Provided you are happy to drive on the right hand side of the road and you don’t mind navigating your way to the resort, this can be a good way of getting to Colakli from the airport. You can expect to pay between £20-£35 a day depending on the model and size of car. Companies such as Argus Car Hire and others at the airport will arrange this service.  

The best beaches in Colakli 

While Colakli itself is fairly small and low-key, it benefits from being close to some larger, lively resorts nearby. As such, while Colakli’s own beach will be more than enough to keep beach-lovers happy, there is also the opportunity to explore more of the coast nearby – particularly at neighbouring Side.

Colakli beach

Colakli beach is a seemingly endless stretch of fine, golden sand stretching into the warm blue Mediterranean. Many of the larger beach front hotels have their own ‘private’ stretch of beach, and the public beach area in the front of the resort proper can become very busy in peak season. Fortunately however, due to the beaches size you just need to walk 10 minutes down along the coast and you can be completely alone.  You’ll find plenty of sun loungers and parasols here, as well as an attractive promenade lined with beach cafes, bars and small restaurants. The beach also has a variety of watersports, from banana boast to pedaloes.

Side’s Sorgun beach

Around 20 miles up the coast from Colakli you’ll find the bustling beach resort of Side. There are two large, popular beaches here, each with its own distinct character. The eastern of ‘Sorgun’ beach (named after a nearby village) is the less-developed of the two, offering peace and tranquillity. It is backed by sand dunes and has plenty of amenities, from sun loungers and parasols to watersports including jet-skiing, parasailing, windsurfing and banana boating.

Side’s Kemer beach

The western beach, also known as the Kemer beach, is the better of the two for admiring the sunset. It stretches for around 10km and is more developed than the Sorgun beach, with cafes, beach bars and restaurants lined along the promenade behind. This beach is favoured by families due to the calmer waters and fewer rocks.

USEFUL LINKS:

http://www.taxfreetravel.com/Antalya%20Airport

Hurghada

Wed, 05 Mar 14 16:30:16 BST

Take a look at a selection of luxury hotels in the Hurghada Region

Hurghada Holidays – Bustling and action packed

Previously a sleepy, unassuming fishing village located on the western shores of the Red Sea, today Hurghada is unrecognisable from its humble beginnings. Nowadays you’ll find a bustling, boisterous city sprawling for 24 miles along the coast, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Egypt. Think bars, nightclubs, hotels of every size and shape, restaurants, cafes… everything a large, modern tourist hub needs. A kernel of the old village can be seen in the small town centre, with its bazaars, mosques and markets, where a vestige of Egyptian local life remains.

Hurghada is a great place to look for a budget holiday, as accommodation here tends to be more cheap and cheerful than high end luxury. For a more upmarket, 5-star experience, try the resort of Soma Bay 27 miles south.

The resort is something of a mecca for watersports, with windsurfing, kitesurfing, deep-sea fishing, sailing all popular pursuits. That’s not to forget the scuba diving, which is rated as some of the best in the world. Combine this with quad biking in the Sahara, Bedouin feasts under the stars, boat trips to the secluded Big and Little Gifton islands, camel safaris and a frenetic nightlife scene, and you’ve got quite a holiday!

When to go

The best time to visit Hurghada is arguably between October-April, when temperatures are a comfortable 20-30C and there’s plenty of sunshine. Over this period, Christmas and New Year, April and November are the busiest and most expensive. The summer months of May-September are far hotter, and not really ideal for excursions into the desert or strenuous activities such as cycling. Summer has the benefit of cheaper holiday prices however.

Scuba divers will find the summer months the best time to visit, with warmer and clearer sea waters and more fish around.

There are a number of events held in Hurghada throughout the year. February sees the Hurghada International Fishing Festival, with anglers from all over the world competing in fishing events. This month also sees the Hurghada International Festival – a 12 day festival of sporting competitions, from triathlons to marathons. March sees the Egypt Yoga Festival.

The weather in Hurghada

While Hurghada has a typically Egyptian hot, dry climate, it’s actually much cooler in the summer than resorts such as Luxor or Aswan, making it a popular destination for Egyptians looking to escape the heat of their home cities in July and August. There are two distinct seasons here – winter and summer – both of which see lots of sunshine and warm days. Winter is between October-April and sees average temperatures of between 21-30C, with 9-10 hours of sunshine a day. Summer is between May-September, with temperatures ranging between 33-34C and highs well above 40C.

Getting the best deal

Hurghada holidays between October-April will be cheaper when booked as early as possible. The best priced rooms in the most popular hotels tend to sell out fast, so it’s advisable to get in there quickly. Having said this, there is much more budget accommodation in Hurghada than resorts such as Soma Bay, so generally speaking rates here will be lower.

The summer months see some great deals and offers available, particularly if you book at the last minute around April- May. Avoid the UK school holidays periods of Easter and half term. All-inclusive holidays to Hurghada can also be a good idea to keep your eye on holiday spending, with all meals and drinks paid upfront as part of the price. Find the best prices we have to offer by looking at the deals below or alternatively by visiting our late deals page here.

Airport and transport need to know

Visitors to Hurghada will benefit from having an international airport right on their doorstep, making transfer times into town minimal. The Hurghada International Airport (HRG) is a clean, modern and compact hub which is well served by a number of UK airports, including all the main London ones, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham, as well as smaller hubs such as Exeter and Leeds Bradford.

Flight time to the airport from the UK takes between 5-6 hours, depending on your departure airport, and the time difference is GMT+2 (+3 between April and September).

The airport has two terminals, one of which has only recently been completed. Both are well served by cafes, restaurants and duty free shops, as well as car hire businesses and telephones. Disabled facilities are limited here; however wheelchairs can be arranged from the airline counters. You should inform your airline if you require any special assistance before you fly.

The majority of Hurghada hotels will offer a transfer from the airport as part of your holiday package, however getting to the town from the airport under your own steam is no hassle. Taxis wait outside the Arrivals hall. They operate on a fixed price basis, with a taxi into Hurghada town centre coasting around 25LE. You should be sure to agree on a price before you get in the car, and agree on a currency to pay in. Be aware that airport taxis drivers have been known to rip off unsuspecting arriving tourists, so be prepared to haggle. The journey into town only takes around 25 minutes.

A cheaper option is to catch a public bus from outside the airport. Buses take around the same time as a taxi and will take you to downtown Hurghada (El Dahar). The fare will be around 5LE – make sure you have the correct change or thereabouts, as the driver is unlikely to be able to give change for large notes.

Alternatively, you can arrange car hire from the airport through reputable companies such as Europcar. You can hire a vehicle from around £225 for a week, depending on the make and model of car.

The best beaches in Hurghada

The beaches in Hurghada are essentially privately owned hotel stretches of golden sand. Guests are intended to use the stretch of beach directly outside their hotel. You will not find large public bays such as Naama Bay and Shark’s Bay in Sharm el Sheikh here, however many hotels will allow you to use their beach for a small fee of around 25LE per day. Once on the sands, you’ll find sun loungers, parasols, and a variety of water sports put on by the hotel. Popular beach include the Old Vic and Dream Beach. Please be aware, topless sunbathing is illegal in Egypt.


View Hurghada in a larger map

Tunisia Resorts

Wed, 05 Mar 14 16:27:16 BST

Tunisia Resorts

Djerba Island

In the country’s south, the largest North African island and according to Homer’s Odyssey once domain of the near terminally indolent ‘Lotus-Eaters’, Djerba is reached by frequent ferries or across a causeway road from the mainland.  The main town of Houmt Souk is a warren of wandering cobbled alleyways preserving amongst their twists and turns an exotic mix of Arab, Berber, French and surprisingly, vestigial Jewish cultural influences.  Most modern hotels are found in the northern Zone Touristique, the area of the best beaches, leaving other parts of the island much less influenced by tourism development.  Currently there are no direct flights from the UK, though domestic connections via Tunis are trouble-free. Find out more about Djerba Island.

Gammarth

Only 20km from Tunis, the resort of Gammarth has long been a convenient bolthole for well-heeled city residents, a fact reflected in the preponderance of expensive villas and luxury hotels, many enjoying views across the Bay of Gammarth towards the hills of Sidi Bou Said. A wide strip of white sand beach extends for some 15km, in part public and in part exclusively for residents at five-star properties.  As well as the beach, the main attractions of Gammarth are its quieter character, reputation for excellent seafood restaurants, and proximity to Tunis and the sights of the Carthage coast. Find out more about Gammarth.

Hammamet

One of the country’s oldest resorts this former fishing village can now claim pre-eminence amongst Tunisia’s commercial tourism offerings.  However, though Hammamet is not an obvious choice for those earnestly searching out ‘authentic’ Tunisia, the beaches are excellent, the town has resisted being subsumed by high-rise development, and its popularity maintains a wide range of good value accommodation of all standards.  Hammamet’s honesty as a tourist resort grows on you, making it ideal for families and a comfortable introduction to North Africa for first time visitors - it does possess charm - a late afternoon stroll amongst the souvenir shops of the medina ends naturally at the characterful Café Sidi Bou Hdid, sipping mint tea or a cold beer whilst overlooking the Gulf of Hammamet - it’s called a holiday. Find out more about Hammamet.

Hammamet Yasmine

Completed at the end of the 1990s, a few kilometres south of ‘old’ Hammamet, this purpose built resort was designed to cater specifically for beach-loving international tourists.  Infrastructure, hotels and even a medina, was built from scratch without the complication of a previously existing town.  There’s no doubt that planners succeeded in creating a calmer more coherent environment, for the most part without the characteristic North African tumult of other organically grown resorts.  However, perhaps for this reason, amongst the ranks of four and five star all-inclusive hotels, Hammamet Yasmine’s soul is hard to find. Find out more about Hammamet Yasmine.

South from Tunis, almost equidistant between Sousse and Sfax, the unassuming town of Mahdia was once the capital city to a 10th century Fatimid Caliphate that extended across North Africa to the Middle East and even included Sicily.  Fatimid fortifications are a major feature of Mahdia to this day.  The emphatic structures of Al Bor El Kabir – the Big Fort – and the substantial city gate both shout empire building engineering.  The town’s medina is contained within a peninsula jutting out in to the Mediterranean, another defensive strategy, and provides a fascinating focus for visitors.  A profusion of leafy squares and narrow shady alleys invite exploration and days easily slip away drinking mint tea at any one of the many cafes.  Elsewhere, Mahdia’s Zone Touristique, where most hotels are sited, is located outside the medina and stretches along the coast, fronting onto an expansive beach that’ll more than satisfy desires for sun and sand. Find out more about Mahdia.

Monastir

Hometown of first president, Habib Bourgiba, whose independence struggle wrested the country from colonial French control, Monastir has long held a special significance amongst Tunisians, reinforced since the 2011 revolution.  Bourgiba’s sizeable mausoleum is one of the town’s key sites, along with the nearby 8th century Ribat of Harthema – garrison of holy warriors – a body double for ‘old’ Jerusalem in Monty Python’s Life of Brian.  In another part of town the yacht marina is a focus for cafes, restaurants and evening strolls and makes a pleasant excursion even for those without the least intent to leave dry land.  For shoppers, Monastir’s medina lies mostly enclosed by fortified walls, though these impressive bastions haven’t held back redevelopment within that somewhat dilutes its appeal.  Though there is a local beach most tourist hotels lie outside the town along the better sand of the northern suburb of Skanes – referred to below. Find out more about Monastir.

Port El Kantaoui

Some 10km north from Sousse, Port El Kantaoui centres on a yacht marina and was purpose built in the late 1970s complete with apartments and a number of luxury hotels, the needs of high-end European tourists in mind.  Walking through the fresh stonework of the castellated arch that marks the entrance to the marina, it’s impossible not to feel a certain sense of unreality.  However, the marina is pretty, there’s a beautiful beach, the restaurants are excellent and there’s probably more bar and club-centred nightlife present than at most resorts.  Possibly because of the way Kantaoui has interpreted Tunisia, the resort also attracts young metropolitan Tunisians who seem to appreciate it even more than foreigners. Find out more about Port El Kantaoui.

Skanes

Monastir’s Zone Touristique, its northern suburb of Skanes, has developed into resort in its own right, and if it’s a beach holiday you’re after this is the place to be.  A wide swathe of golden sand stretches from Monastir through Skanes and beyond, shelving gently into the sea, making the beach ideal for swimming and popular with families.  Some larger hotels have co-opted stretches of sand for their private use which, as in other areas, could be interpreted as unsympathetic, but it does mean regular clean-ups and maintenance.  Nightlife is concentrated around individual hotels as are dining opportunities.  For more variation it’s worth taking a trip into Monastir. Find out more about Skanes.

Sousse

A university town, Sousse combines top class sandy beaches such as the 10km Boujaffar with an historic old centre in a relaxed resort that offers more depth than many tourist destinations.  The bastions of Sousse’s kasbah have long overlooked the town.  Likewise, the fortified 9th century ribat, from whose watchtower holy warriors looked out across rooftops towards the sea, scanning for marauding European ships.  The World Heritage medina and its thronging crowds may take a little getting used to, but the concentrated wafts of alternately fragrant and malodorous fruit, vegetables, fish and meat have a memorable intensity you don’t get at Tescos.   Elsewhere, Sousse’s catacombs date from the 2nd to the 5th centuries, a 5km labyrinth of 15,000 tombs, of which a doubtfully illuminated section beyond cobwebbed iron gates is open for less permanent visits. Find out more about Sousse.

Tunisia Things to do

Wed, 05 Mar 14 16:26:08 BST

Tunisia Things to do

A recumbent pose close by a cool drink might be a starting point, midpoint, or even an end point, but for all but the most dedicated of beach bums Tunisia has much more to excite than the heady smell of SPF50 in the morning.  Here’s just an idea of what’s on offer.

Diving

Tunisia’s coastal waters have generally good visibility and in places coral formations are surprisingly fecund for the Mediterranean, attracting rich marine fauna.  Numerous dive operations offer shore and boat dives for novices and advanced divers during the long June to October season.  Ship and plane wrecks are a particular feature of Tunisian diving, a reflection on the scale of WWII battles fought in this part of North Africa.

Try Mehari Diving Centre (c/o Tunisie Voyages, Route touristique, El Morjène, 8110 Tabarka; +216 78 67 14 44) for Tabarka’s 20 reef tunnels, a stand-out location off the north coast. Elsewhere, Hammamet and Monastir offer wreck dives for advanced divers - try SAAM Dive Base (8, rue de Bizerte, 4001 Sousse; +216 98 59 17 24).

Windsurfing

Surfers can set their sails and wet their boards to a satisfactory extent along many parts of the coast.  However, the southern island of Djerba has developed a justified reputation for reliable conditions – steady north easterly winds, not too strong, and from June to September ideal conditions for novice and intermediate windsurfers.  Further north, close to Tunis, Sidi Bou Said provides more challenging water and wind, and has become a regular venue for the IWA African Windsurfing Championships.

For lessons and gear hire in Djerba try Club Mistral & Skyriders (+216 75 75 57 600) near Houmt Souk’s SAS Radisson Hotel.  In Sidi Bou Said try Club Nautique de Sidi Bou Said (6, Rue Kennedy, 2023 Port de Sidi Bou Said; +216 71 74 03 81).

Parascending

Most popular beach areas offer solo or tandem parascending, some outfits being attached to larger hotels whilst many others are independents.  There’s no denying the buzz of being dragged a couple of hundred feet aloft over the ocean behind a speedboat, but it’s up to the individual to satisfy themselves of the operator’s competency before handing over any cash and taking to the air.

Desert

Tunisia’s beaches aren’t the only parts of the country where sand gets everywhere.  A self-styled ‘Gateway to the Sahara’, the distinctly dusty southern town of Douz had made an attribute of its position at the fringes of the Grand Erg Oriental – North Africa’s 100,000 square kilometres of Saharan sand sea.

Considering the depravations and the inherent incompatibility of human life with vast expanses of hot, arid and inhospitable sand, it’s remarkable that so much romance is attached to desert travel.  Perhaps it’s the solitude, the dunes, the challenge, or perhaps it’s the camels?  Some say ‘the desert gives by taking away’ – find out yourself if that’s true for you.

Siroko Travel (+216 71 96 52 67) and Ghilane Travel Service (+216 75 470 692) run camel trekking tours from Douz, that is camels carry supplies, tents, water and luggage but not people – riding is an optional extra.  Trips range from two or three-day circuits, bivouacking in the dunes, to 100km six-day route marches to the oasis of Ksar Ghilane.

Pegase (pegasesahara.com; + 216 75 47 07 93) organise 4x4 and quad bike safaris, heading out for daytrips or longer overnight excursions.  The company also takes to the air with microlight and delta plane flights over the dunes – certainly a different perspective, even if it’s one that scares some passengers rigid.

Aeroasis (+216 64 52 577) offers tranquil views from above air via hot air balloon over the desert, flying from Douz and Tozeur.  The cool of very early morning offers the best lift and calmest air, so it’s a case rising before dawn in order to launch on time.  However, hanging silently at a thousand feet whilst watching the sunrise over a sea of dunes is truly memorable, a sight worth a little lost sleep.

Ranch Nomade (+216 93 36 05 65) operate horseback trails from Douz and their base at the oasis of Ksar Ghilane. Barb and Arab mounts are matched with riders of all abilities and hacks vary in length from daytrips and overnights to epic ten-day expeditions.

Mountain biking

If you’re not afraid of hills the cooler climes of northern Tunisia are increasingly being sought out by adventurous mountain bikers, both independently and on organised tours.  Outside the cities, roads can be surprisingly friendly for cyclists, quiet and well maintained.  However, some drivers - those of louage taxis in particular - are a menace, not leaving enough space and travelling too fast.  At road margins watch out for tarmac that ends abruptly in a substantial drop to a rocky verge.  Further south, except for specialist trips with vehicle support, possibilities are generally limited to circular rides.  The availability of water and cyclists’ carrying capacity being limiting factors.

The non-profit International Bicycle Fund has some good background information and Tunisia Off the Beaten Track (tunisia-off-the-beaten-track.com) provides another independent, first person resource on biking routes.

Birdwatching

The northern forests and marshlands of Lake Ichkeul National Park and the coastal areas around Cap Bon are rich birding areas, being both the first and last stops for trans-Saharan migrants.  Further south, beyond Douz, the arid landscapes of Jebil National Park fall within the Sahara and are key habitats for characteristic desert species.  Northern lake specialities include endangered White-headed Duck, whilst desert birds feature the commonly sighted Temminck’s Horned Larks and more elusive Houbara Bustard.

Try Becasse (38 bis, Rue de Cologne, Appt 10, 1002, Tunis; +216 71 795 957) who organise tailor-made, expertly-escorted natural history tours for individuals and groups across Tunisia.

Hiking

The Atlas Mountains don’t stop at Morocco and continue their 2,500km march across North Africa to Tunisia, peaks still hitting a respectable 1,500 metres on arrival.  A top destination for walkers is the Khroumirie Mountains in the country’s northwest.  Close to the border with Algeria, verdant cork forests rich in flora and fauna see an extensive network of trails ideal for walking exploration.  Here, the green vistas and diverse plant and animal life are a reflection of a temperate local climate and though it can chuck it down, and be oppressively humid, the extremes of summer heat are absent, making the region a year-round destination.

Try Siroko Travel (+216 71 96 52 67) for northern mountain walking tours in and around Ain Draham.  Organised hikes generally involve baggage transfers by vehicle leaving walkers to take in the views unencumbered.

Golf

If your visions of Tunisian golf are coloured by one big Saharan-style bunker, think again. Well-maintained courses replete with neat fairways, manicured greens and extensive 19th hole refreshment facilities already host regular international competitions.  Of 12 courses, most lie in the country’s north close to the resorts of Monastir, Port El Kantaoui and Hammamet, though even Djerba and Tozeur in the south have courses laid with desert-adapted grass.

Tunisia First (+44 1276 600100) can book rounds and reserve tees at most of the country’s courses.  Preferential green fees are available to guests staying of certain hotels, along with discounts for multiple players or rounds.

Tunisia Sightseeing

Wed, 05 Mar 14 16:24:57 BST

Sightseeing in Tunisia

A short flight and reliable sunshine have long drawn British travellers to enjoy Tunisian hospitality, and today as the country faces up to the challenges of its hard-won democracy visitors are more welcome than ever.  Tiny in comparison to its neighbours, Tunisia’s diversity of culture and landscape exceeds expectations.  From archaeological sites recalling turbulent ancient history, to timeless medinas still open for business, to holy cities, salt lakes and sand seas – there’s much more to Tunisia than just a suntan.

Beach Life

For some pallid northern Europeans a week getting intimate with Mediterranean sun and sand is the prime objective, and that being the case Tunisia’s coastline is been blessed with a stunning collection of golden and white sand beaches.

Some like El Haouaria’s sandy coves and rocky inlets at the tip of the Cap Bon peninsula have relatively few tourist facilities, presenting a surprisingly wild aspect of what is hardly an undiscovered coast.  Elsewhere, if you’re one of the ‘beautiful people’ you’ll fit right in with the chic and fashionable weekend crowd that spills out from Tunis to populate the sands of nearby La Marsa.  On the other hand if you’re like me, the 10km of Boujaffar between Sousse and Port El Kantaoui are ideal for families and have all the watersports and beachside cafes you’d expect.  Whatever your beach criteria you’ll find the boxes ticked somewhere in Tunisia.

Carthage

Just outside central Tunis, the earliest origins of Carthage are still debated, though settlement by the seafaring Phoenicians in the mid-8th century BC is one of the less contentious theories.  An important trading port, Carthage became embroiled in violent struggles for influence, wealth and territory.  The Punic Wars, three of them from 264 BC to 146 BC, saw the fortunes of Carthage and Rome ebb and flow, witnessing epic sea battles and campaigns by great Carthaginian commander, Hannibal, in mainland Italy.  Eventually, Carthage was conquered and razed by Rome, though later its prosperity was in part restored as a compliant Roman port.

Today the expansive, multi-layered archaeology of foundations, columns, streets and mosaics make up another of Tunisia’s World Heritage sites.  Size makes the site impossible to appreciate in one visit but licensed guides are on hand to bring the stones alive in the re-telling of at least some of Carthage’s tumultuous history.

Chott el-Jerid

It’s unlikely that even Richard Branson will be offering trips to Mars any time soon.  However, if you fancy a taste of other-worldliness Tunisia’s Chott el-Jerid, Sahara’s largest salt lake (5,000 square kilometres), comes close and has been subject to scientific study by those researching the possibility of life on Mars.

Almost bone dry except in winter, the lake’s crust of sun-baked sodium chloride hides reddish earth and sand with a high iron content.  Driving the paved P16 road allows a safe traverse of the lake and gives some good views, but stepping out into the heat and onto the salt is the only way to fully appreciate how ill-suited humanity is for such an environment.

Djerba

Djerba is said to be the island of the ‘Lotus Eaters’ visited by Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey.  Though contemporary Djerban menus don’t feature lotus - deep fried brick a l’oeuf, mountains of couscous and an incendiary dollop of hot Cap Bon harissa being much more du jour – Djerba’s charms make it’s still likely you’ll find it difficult to leave.

Regular car ferries shuttle back and forth from the mainland, and a causeway too provides easy road access.  The main town of Houmt Souk caters to tourists but has not sold its soul and retains enough hidden mystery along its myriad winding alleys and cobbled streets to keep visitors intrigued.  Elsewhere, Djerba’s beaches are excellent, the best lying on the north-east coast close to the Zone Touristique.

El Djem

Built around 200 AD, in its day this amphitheatre of immense proportions allowed up to 35,000 citizens of the Roman Empire to enjoy spectacles of the arena in up-to-the-minute comfort.  However, instead of preening eunuch boy bands, deified lip-syncing divas and excruciating ingenues of The Empire Has Got Talent, El Djem’s headline acts often invested their hearts and souls in grizzly farewell performance.

For the most part untouched for centuries, El Djem suffered the ravages of a local construction boom in the 17th century, its beautifully finished stones proving a handy resource for jobbing builders.  Today, despite this opportunist vandalism the amphitheatre remains better preserved than that of Rome and regularly hosts summer festivals and classical music concerts.

Kairouan

Tunisia’s holiest city was for centuries an important centre of Islamic learning, it’s said by some that four visits to Kairouan are equivalent to one pilgrimage to Mecca.  Certainly the city has its share of mosques, the most significant being the Great Mosque of Kairouan dating from the 9th century, and in part constructed with stone taken from the ruins of Carthage.

Elsewhere, a stroll through the town’s Medina is a chance to sample its renowned sugary pastries, and if your surroundings seem familiar it’s perhaps because Kairouan had a cameo appearance as Old Cairo in scenes from Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Matmata

If you’ve ever walked any distance in the full sun of a North African summer, the cool wisdom of Matmata’s troglodyte dwellings soon becomes obvious.  Though not unique in its underground architecture, Matmata does have excellent examples of dwellings still in use by local families – residual income earned by declaring open house to passing tourists being particularly welcome.

Of particular interest to Sci-Fi cinema buffs is the troglodyte Hotel Sidi Driss (+216 5 230005), location for ‘Luke’s homestead’ on Tatooine in Star Wars.  The hotel is fairly simple, with shared rooms and plumbing that might make a wookie moan, but some set dressing is still in place and it’s worth a look if you’re a fan of the franchise.

Sahara

Gateway to the Sahara, the dusty southern desert town of Douz was once a significant stop for immense 1,000 camel caravans of 16th century trans-African traders. Today Douz’s small but informative Museum of the Sahara describes these vast undertakings, the lifestyle of past times, and the social structures of the region’s indigenous tribes.

If it’s sand you’ve come to see, Douz has it in spades, from arid scrubby plains to seemingly endless dune seas of the Grand Erg Oriental. Though camel caravans are still in evidence their number and size are both much reduced, catering solely to tourists hoping to recapture the romance of desert travel.  Local operators also employ 4x4s, quad bikes, hot air balloons, microlight aircraft and horses in Sahara explorations that vary from an afternoon picnic to week-long 100km treks.

Sidi Bou Said

About 20km from Tunis, amongst wandering cobbled streets, Sidi Bou Said was once a place of pilgrimage for adherents of a Sufi holy man.  Later the village became an artistic colony, its cafes and characteristic blue and white buildings providing a muse for the likes of Paul Klee, Henri Matisse and August Macke.  Writers too were drawn, Simone de Beavoir and Jean Paul Sarte both visiting, and Andre Gide being resident during the WW2 liberation of Tunisia.

Though now dependent on tourism, more than a whiff of Sidi Bou Said’s bohemian ambience lingers on, particularly towards late afternoon when the light changes and day-trippers depart.  Excellent restaurants invite exhaustive indulgence and emptying alleyways beckon contemplative after dinner strolls.

Sousse

Sousse has a bigger personality than its resort hotels and top class sandy beaches might suggest.  A university town and a high-tech manufacturing base, tourism is important but not essential, and perhaps this is the key to the city’s relaxed atmosphere.

The bastions of Sousse’s kasbah have long cast a concerned eye over the town, beyond rooftops and out to sea.  Likewise, in the fortified 9th century ribat, by climbing the watchtower you’ll be following in the footsteps of holy warriors tasked with protecting Sousse from marauding Europeans. Crowds surging through the World Heritage medina may seem initially overwhelming but once accustomed to the intensity, future supermarkets shops will pale in comparison.  Elsewhere, underground, Sousse’s 5km of catacombs date from the 2nd to the 5th centuries, a subterranean labyrinth of 15,000 tombs – a short section is open to the public.

Tunisia

Wed, 05 Mar 14 16:22:51 BST

Hammanet Seafront, Tunisia

Tunisia – Mediterranean Africa

 It’s easy to categorise Tunisia as just another beach.  Indeed for a time the country’s tourism marketing seemed focused solely on its sandy shores ignoring that they were one and the same with the North African coast.  Certainly Tunisia does seaside very well.  However, beyond the Mediterranean, landscapes vary greatly, from oak forests, gentle rolling hills, vineyards and mountains to salt lakes, unforgiving arid planes and endless dune seas. 

Together with a contemporary melange of Arab, Berber, French and African cultural influences, rich Roman ancient history, significant WW2 heritage and a pre-eminent roll in the ‘Arab Spring’, Tunisia reveals itself as a far more complex and intriguing destination than at first glance.

Bordering Algeria and Libya, Tunisia is similar in size to England and Wales combined, with a population of 10 million, 30% of whom are concentrated in just four coastal cities – Tunis, Sfax, Kairouan and Sousse.  Lacking the petrochemical punch of its neighbours, tourism has been a Tunisian mainstay. 

The beaches of Hammamet, Monastir, Boujaffar, Gammarth and others have long been tempting escapes for pallid northern Europeans.  Upmarket hotels offer international levels of comfort and as the country fights to rebuild its tourism numbers, flight and hotel packages are even better value then ever.

Elsewhere, headline sites of antiquity such as the remarkable El Djem amphitheatre, the multi-layered ruins of Carthage, and the intestinal medinas of Tunis and Sousse see Tunisia chalk up more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other African country except Ethiopia.  A consequence of this rich concentration of dramatic backdrops, both manmade and natural, is Tunisia’s A-list cinematic celebrity status, playing staring rolls in George Lucas’s Star Wars franchise, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient and Monty Python’s timeless satire, The Life of Brian.

At two and a half hours flying time, getting to Tunis or Enfidha from London or a slew of UK regionals is hardly a long haul. Ferries from mainland Italy, France and Sicily further strengthen northerly connections and it’s not uncommon to see European cars zipping along Tunisia’s modern peage, drivers quite likely en route to chic holiday villas.

In the country’s south-west, the unstoppable sandy tsunami of the Grand Erg Oriental’s spills over from Algeria, part of a 100,000 square kilometre sea of dunes.  Step forward the somewhat gritty tourist town of Douz whose reputation as ‘The Gateway to the Sahara’ has been built upon sand, offering desert adventures, from day-trips to an oasis, to 4x4 safaris, horseriding hacks and hard core 100km camel treks.

However, that’s not to say the country runs entirely on souvenir ceramics, stuffed toy camels and backshish.  If you choose to holiday in Tunisia it’s possible your Beneton shirts are coming home to mama, your rental car was bolted together in one of Tunisia’s 60 assembly plants and if you jetted in on an Airbus aircraft it’s likely its avionics were ‘Made in Tunisia’ too.

In 2011, after 24 years of Western-backed dictatorship, the popular uprising of the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ saw kleptocratic former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his much reviled wife Leila book a one-way, last minute, all-inclusive package to sunny Saudi Arabia.  Though the process of political reconstruction is still ‘work in progress’, since late 2011 the country has been administered by a democratically elected coalition led by the moderate Islamic Ennahda party. 

In Tunisia today French chic and Arab exoticism swirl around each other in a heady cocktail of secular European, Arab and Islamic living.  A coastal strip of easy-going Mediterranean relaxation proffers breezes, bikinis and Bacardi and Coke, whilst inland the Muezzin’s calls are more regular than disco bass beats, and in the places in between remnants of ancient empires are reminders of human frailty and time’s relentless passage. 

Against all this, beyond the coastal resorts and beyond the villages, where the tarmac runs out and roads become tracks in the sand, the vertigo-inducing emptiness of the Sahara awaits in grand indifference.


About the author

is a travel writer and occasional broadcaster. From time in Khartoum as a sub-editor for the Sudanese News Agency, via Beirut’s chic restaurants and Benghazi’s cigarette smoke-filled cafes, Nick’s desire to get off the beaten track finally led him to relocate to the wilds of Northumberland in 1997.

Weather

Northern Tunisia’s climate is often described as ‘Mediterranean’, a short spring and dry, hot summer up to 35 Celsius, followed by a brief autumn and mild winter.  Further south, Africa’s continental weather patterns dominate, the seasons being truncated into a long summer with highs in excess of 45 Celsius towards the Sahara, followed by a short rainy winter season.  In the northern mountains of Ain Draham heavy winter snowfall is common, and in 2013 for the first time since 1962 snow has been reported as far south as Matmata.

When to go

Many visitors choose to visit Tunisia in the heat of summer when daytime activity is necessarily limited to seeking out any patch of deep shade that combines a sea breeze with total immersion in a cool drink.  That said, if watersports are your pleasure this isn’t an issue  - sea temperatures start heading the right side of 20 Celsius from late May and only drop back down in mid-November.  Away from the sea the surprising fertility of the north is best appreciated from mid-March when burgeoning green growth fills the fields with new life before the arrival of summer’s desiccating heat.  However, if ancient life is of more interest, Tunisia’s archaeological sites see fewer crowds and lend themselves to more considered interpretation during the occasionally rainy or overcast days of winter.  Further south, the tail end of the year is also the season for all forms of Sahara exploration, most longer 4x4 safaris and camel treks running from November to March.

How to get there

Two Tunisian international airports are currently served by direct flights from the UK – Tunis and Enfidha.  No direct flights operate from the UK to Djerba, the country’s southern gateway, but domestic connections via Tunis’s modern airport are usually straightforward.  Inevitably fewer bargains are available during peak periods such as school holidays – flexibility is the key.  International car ferries serve La Goulette (Tunis), Bezerte and Sfax from Genoa, Civitavecchia and Salerno in mainland Italy, the French port of Marseilles and more regularly from Trapani and Palermo in Sicily.  Most routes can be booked through Southern Ferries (southernferries.com) or Via Mare (viamare.com).

Airport transfers

Airports transfers are usually part of a holiday package but if making your own way to a resort whilst weighed down by baggage it’s worth arranging transport in advance.  A2B Transfers (a2btransfers.com) and Resorthoppa (resorthoppa.com) offer shuttle buses and pre-booked taxis from most airports.  Obviously you can just grab cab on arrival but some longer journeys are expensive and taxi drivers have gained a deserved notoriety for refusing to use meters and overcharging.  Local buses are very cheap, less than a Dinar, and can be just the trick if you’re simply heading downtown.


View Tunisia resorts in a larger map

Travel preparation for a holiday

Here are some additional useful tips to help you plan your holiday to Tunisia.

  • Tunisia is one hour ahead of GMT. The country does not adjust the clocks at the onset of summer or at other times.
  • The flight time is two and half hours from the UK, three from Ireland.
  • The official currency is the Dinar (TND), which trades at approximately two to the GBP. Foreign currencies can be easily exchanged on arrival. ATMs are available in the main cities and towns, though check with your local bank on fees.
  • Currency cannot be taken out of the country, so don't change or obtain much more than you need. If you need to change it back to Sterling you should be able to do at the airport or your hotel, but the commission is very high, around 30%..
  • The official language of Tunisia is Arabic, though most people also speak French. Being close to the Peninsula, Spanish is also widely spoken, and you’ll find English-speaking staff in the resorts and tourist areas. 
  • The cost of eating out in Tunisia varies widely, from 100 TND for a seafood meal for two in the resorts to less than half that in a perfectly acceptable brassiere style restaurant serving merguez (spicy lamb and beef sausages) and salad. Street food such as Tunisian pizza can be picked up for a few Dinar. Like most Arabic countries alcohol is expensive. Local wines, such as the gris blend (akin to a light rosé) tend to be cheaper – and often very good!  
  • Entry requirements: All EU and US citizens only require a passport with 90 days validity. Australian, SA and NZ visitors travelling independently do require a visa, which can be obtained upon arrival. However the travel forums are reporting it can take hours for the transaction. If you can, apply for the visa at your local Tunisian embassy before you leave to save time.
  • Unlike neighbouring Morocco, non-Muslims are allowed to visit Tunisia’s mosques. However do respect local custom by dressing appropriately – woman should keep arms and shoulders covered.
  • For official Tunisia tourist information click here - Come To Tunisa
  • The Foreign and Commonwealth Office reports that most visits to Tunisia are trouble free, yet given the recent political unrest in the country there are some common-sense things to consider. For the latest information the latest on the Foreign Travel Advice website.

Take a look at a selection of our top 4 star family hotels in Tunisia