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14 great things to do with kids in Dubai

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Dubai is a fantastic destination for families with lots of things to keep your little angels engaged and happy – which of course makes for happy parents too! Here are some of the best activities for families and children in this very child-friendly city:

Desert safari

A typical desert safari is thrilling for adults as well as youngsters and includes dune bashing –a rollercoaster ride in an SUV going up and down the sand dunes – dinner at a desert camp with entertainment, camel rides, henna painting and a falcon display. Most popular companies for this sort of safari include Desert Rangers and Arabian Adventures.

desert-safari

Since dune bashing is not suitable for children under 8 years old the alternatives include a Platinum Heritage safari – the most upmarket in Dubai –  which doesn’t involve dune bashing but does include crossing the desert in vintage 1950s Landrovers and getting up close with wildlife such as rare Arabian oryx and gazelles. Or, for a bespoke safari, choose Destination Insight who will design a trip just for you which can include dune bashing or not depending on the age of the children. There’s also the option to spend a night camping in the desert and falling asleep under a million stars.

Wild Wadi

Dubai’s original water park is a thrilling day out for adults and children alike and a great way to keep cool in Dubai’s searing heat. With the largest number of rides of any water park in the country, there’s something for all ages from the thrilling Burj Surj to a lazy river to surfing rides.

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There are also plenty of sunbeds and shade for when the excitement gets a bit too much.

Ski Dubai

It might be 45C outside in summer but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw snowballs! Experienced skiers and snowboards can hit the slopes, including the world’s first indoor black run. Non skiers can have fun in the Snow Park which offers tobogganing, a snow cavern and good old snowball fights.

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Ski clothes are included in the cost of entry but bring your own hat and gloves. Ski Dubai is in Mall of the Emirates so there’s the opportunity to combine a visit there with shopping and eating in the mall.

Kidzania & Sega Republic

In the world’s biggest mall, Dubai Mall, you’ll find a city built to kiddie scale where children can role play performing adult jobs. From police officer to doctor to journalist to bank teller, children work and earn ‘kidzos’ currency which they can spend in the shops in this mini city. Ideal for children from ages 5 to 12.

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Also in the mall is Sega Republic, an indoor amusement park with amusement games and video and arcade games, Sega Republic is sure to keep older children happy for many an hour.

Ice skating

The ice skating rink in Dubai Mall is right in there amongst the 1200 shops and is suitable for beginners to advanced skaters and offers classes as well as evening disco sessions.

ice-skating

If your kids fancy a break from shopping for a while this might just be the answer.

Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

Also located in Dubai Mall, the 10 million litre aquarium tank hosts over 140 species of sea creatures including over 300 sharks and rays.

aquairum

Watch from outside in the mall for free or pay to walk through the underwater tunnel, do a snorkel cage dive or get there in there with the fishes and do a shark dive.

Beach camel ride

Back on dry land, kids will be thrilled with the camel rides available on the beach.

camel

Just head for Dubai’s most popular beach, the JBR beach, and look out for the ships of the desert. Short rides are available for 50 dirham.

Abra ride

In old Dubai parents will love exploring the gold, spice and textile souqs but for youngsters the best thrill is getting out on the water of Dubai Creek.

abra

Hop onto a public abra – traditional wooden water taxi – with the locals who use it to commute back and forth across Dubai’s busy waterway or hire your own abra for an hour and glide up and down the Creek spotting cargo dhows and other water traffic.

Zabeel Park

The beautiful Zabeel Park not only offers greenery, boat rides, and a barbeque area but also an interactive Technology Zone where kids can learn as they play.

zabeel

Creekside Park

Situated alongside Dubai Creek, this park offers a welcome green space offering children’s playgrounds, mini golf, go-karts and picnic areas. It’s also home to Children’s City, an area where children from 2-15 can play, discover and learn about the world we live in.

creekside-park

For an elevated view of the park and Dubai Creek, hop on the cable car for a ride 30m above the ground.

Burj Khalifa

Zoom up the world’s tallest tower in one of the world’s fast lifts for panoramic views across Dubai.   Children will be thrilled with see how small the buildings and cars look from so high up. There are also fun and educational exhibits about the building’s construction.

burj-khalifa

Sunset is the most popular time to visit the ‘At the Top’ observation floor so it’s best to buy tickets as soon as they become available online, 30 days in advance.

Dubai Fountain

Directly beneath Burj Khalifa are the huge musical fountains which shoots water up to 500ft in the air.   Best viewed after dark, there are shows every half hour until late in the evening and you can even take a boat through the fountains.

fountain

Designed and built by the same company who built the fountain at Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas the Dubai Fountain is similar but, this being Dubai, is bigger and taller.

Dinosaurs

From ultra modern Dubai step back in time to visit the DubaiDino at Dubai Mall, a real Diplodocus longus.

dubai-dinosaur

This 24m long beast from the Jurassic period was shipping to Dubai from its original home in Wyoming, USA and is a must-visit for any budding paleontologists in the family.

Kids’ clubs

If the running around gets too much for you and a day of hotel relaxation beckons then the kids will love to join in the fun of your hotel’s kids’ club.

kids-clubs

Many Dubai hotels have kids’ clubs with the Sinbad Clubs at Jumeirah hotels generally considered to be the best with their well trained staff and excellent facilities.

Candice Bain is Founder at Desert to Jungle.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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5 great reasons to visit Umbria right now

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With its rustic elegance, Italy’s central Italian region of Umbria is considered the “green heart of Italy”. One of Italy’s most famous regions for green scenery, olive oil and wine production, and Medieval hamlets, it has been the focus of attention since the August 2016 earthquake which hit a fault line through the regions of Umbria, Le Marche and Lazio. While we sympathize with what has been lost, the region and the locals need your support now more than ever. Here are a list of some of our favorite things to do in the area.

Umbria

1. Etruscan wine tasting

On an excursion to Orvieto, ViniCultural Tours offers a rare opportunity to visit a vineyard and learn about ancient Etruscan wine production.

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At Il Palazzone you will see how wine is aged in chestnut barrels using the same type of wood from a 2,500 year old method, and watch the owner crush grapes with his feet. In addition to the Etruscan wine, Il Palazzone produces several Orvieto DOC wines and “slow wine” that adheres to the Slow Food Association’s principles of sustainable agriculture. After touring downtown Orvieto and the city’s Gothic cathedral and Etruscan caves, the day ends with lunch on the veranda over-looking the sweeping hills of Umbria.

lunch

2. Assist in making olive oil

The Marfuga olive oil mill is located in the valley near Trevi, one of Italy’s most famous regions for olive growing due to its soil quality and micro-climate. With over 18,000 olive trees that they hand pick to make their oil, it is no surprise they could use assistance in the process.

olive-trees

For those looking to get their hands dirty and experience the Italian countryside and farm production first hand, the mill offers the opportunity to assist in the hand-picking process during their harvest from October to December. Visitors can learn the techniques they have been using to make homemade olive oil since 1817.

olive-picking

It’s also possible to attend a tour of the production plant at the mill without getting your hands dirty and enjoy a tasting from their array of award-winning oil. They also have a great boutique store where you can shop for products created using their olives and oil, such as marinated artichokes and cosmetics.

3. Tour Spoleto

Located along the Ancient Roman roadway, Via Flaminia, the medieval hamlet of Spoleto is built on Roman ruins dating back to 200 B.C. which are visible under the city’s contemporary marketplace.

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The city not only offers great Roman ruins such as an intact Roman house with mosaic floors believed to have belonged to Emperor Vespasian’s mother, and a Roman amphitheater, it also has a stunning Medieval tower and aqueduct, and its Duomo is one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in central Italy.

spoleto

Each summer in June and July, the historical setting of the city becomes a stage for one of the country’s most important opera festivals called the Festival di Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds). The festival comprising opera, dance and round table discussions on science, has been held annually in Spoleto since the 1950′s.

4. Fattoria di Vibio Resort and Spa

Set in an area renowned for greenery in the area of Monte Castello di Vibio, the Fattoria di Vibio Spa offers the perfect setting to pamper yourself. Located near the natural park, Parco Fluviale del Tevere, which is renowned for mountain biking and trekking, the spa allows you the relaxation you need after a long day in nature.

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Cool off in their swimming pool set among cypress trees with views of the Umbrian hills, enjoy a massage, or a hydro-massage in their infinity pool.

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Their restaurant offers hearty meals including fresh pasta with wild boar and all dishes are made using the region’s famed olive oil and accompanied with local wines such as Sagrantino, native to the region.

5. Summer Jazz Festival

Each Summer, dating back to the 1970s, Umbria hosts one of the most important jazz festivals in the world. In the past the festival has hosted such illustrious musicians as Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Sting, B.B. King, and Prince. More recent performers include Lady Gaga and George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelick.

jazz

The Summer jazz festival is concentrated in the region’s capital, the stunning hilltop town of Perugia which is also famous for its fall chocolate festival. A smaller Winter jazz festival takes place annually in the town of Orvieto.

Greg Grant is Owner of Hosted Villas.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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10 things to learn while you travel

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Experiential travel is the best kind – and what better way to get under a destination’s skin than by learning a new skill under the guidance of local experts? From cooking and dancing to surfing and diving, via a multitude of handicrafts, here are some suggestions for educational, practical activities to try out on your next trip.

Make a hammock in Belize

In Punta Gorda, in Belize’s quiet district of Toledo, barefoot children chase chickens in the yard of an unassuming farmhouse. Stepping over its threshold, you’ll meet a Maya family who make their living weaving baskets, fans and hammocks.

You’re put to work in the garden, collecting freshly harvested henequen plants, then the tutorial begins. It’s intricate, absorbing work, stripping down the plants’ strands and spinning them into a thin thread. Each hammock can take weeks to weave and complete by hand – miss one loop, and everything has to be unwound. You’ll be surprised at the skill and speed of the children lending you a hand – this is the family trade for many Belizean Maya, and they start young.

Tranquility Bay Resort, Ambergris Caye

Cook ceviche in Peru

Ask any Peruvian what their national dish is, and they will say ceviche. Learning how to make this plate of fish delicately marinated in citrus juices and spices is a great way to see one of the best elements of Peruvian cities – the markets. A half-day cookery class typically begins among the market stalls, prodding and assessing the local produce, sampling tropical fruit, and visiting the fishmongers – you need the freshest catch for a good ceviche. It’s a vibrant, noisy, delicious alternative to going to a supermarket.

The shopping expedition over, a top chef will school small groups of students in how to prepare ceviche, before you all sit down to a collectively prepared gourmet lunch.

Ceviche is a typical fish dish

Scuba dive in Koh Tao, Thailand

The little-developed island of Koh Tao is an excellent place for first-time divers – the currents are gentle and the marine life is varied and accessible. On a ‘Try Dive’, an instructor will teach you safety checks and other basic diving skills, before you embark on a shallow dive up to 32 feet (10m) deep. Even at this depth, there’s much to see. Look out for eels, groupers, barracudas, turtles, nudibranchs and neon yellow boxfish.

There’s an added bonus to diving here too. Since so many visitors are busy exploring the underwater riches of the island’s waters, the beaches remain relatively quiet – ideal for relaxing post-dive.

Scuba diving in Koh Tao

Take a pastry-making class in Morocco

Set in a former almond warehouse in the heart of Essaouira, l’Atelier Madada offers oriental pastry workshops in a relaxed, informal setting. Here, you’ll learn how to make traditional delicacies such as almond-based gazelle horns and orange blossom biscuits. These pastries are found throughout Morocco and are primarily served to welcome guests and celebrate special occasions.

You’ll watch as the cook prepares the various ingredients, before putting the ingredients together yourself and working the dough into the correct shapes. The distinctive gazelle horn is particularly tricky to master. While they’re cooking in the oven you can sip a customary mint tea, before taking your creations home.

Moroccan gazelle horns and biscuits

Explore fabric printing near Jaipur, India

Bagru, a village about 19 miles (32km) from Jaipur, has a thriving hand-printed cloth industry. Its simple designs use uncomplicated techniques and earthy shades of natural dye. Textile enthusiasts can learn about the printing, washing and boiling processes before heading to the Chippa Mohalla (printers’ quarter) to see all these methods in action. Here, you’ll observe block printers at work as they hand-block fabrics, and make natural dyes and printing inks.

While the finished fabrics dry in the sun, you can breakfast and drink tea with the artisans, before creating and printing your own patterns under their guidance.

Tie die process in Araveli

Milk cows in Sri Lanka

Jim’s Farm, in Sri Lanka’s central province, is a working farm with three villas dotted amongst palm tree and pepper plantations. During your stay you can take a tour of the farm and learn traditional farming techniques. Each afternoon at milking time, there’s even the chance to try your hand at milking one of the farm’s cows.

Perched on a rickety stool right behind the cow, one of the farm staff will show you the technique. It takes a few pulls before you get anywhere, but luckily you’re not expected to fill a whole bucket.

Jim's Farm in Pallepola

Cook, craft and dance at Araveli Cottages & Tented Camp, ME to WE, Rajasthan, India

Staying at Araveli, a Free the Children sustainable development project, equates to an almost total immersion in Rajastani handicrafts, food, and dance.

There are lessons in the art of tie-dyeing, block printing and painting. For the more gastronomically inclined, the camp’s head chef leads classes in how to make the much-loved local afternoon snack of samosas and masala chai. Munch on them while taking in a Bollywood-style dance show. The energy and dexterity of the dancers is a joy to watch, but be warned: after the performance is over, you may be asked to join in with the encore.

Bollywood style dance show at Araveli

Make necklaces and help farmers at Minga Lodge, ME to WE, Ecuadorian Amazon

From morning nature walks to water-based birdwatching aboard wooden canoes, Minga Lodge is a place for those who love activity. The women’s group in Mondaña Town will teach you how to make ornaments and trinkets using local natural objects. Some are beaded designs, but you’ll also learn how to make necklaces out of dried vegetation. These are then sold at local markets, providing an alternative income for the women.

Across the river in Bellavista Village, you can help a local farmer harvest his rice. It’s strenuous work, involving a lot of thwacking movements. Then it’s time to assist cacao producers in pruning their organic trees. With the help of the local shaman, you’ll try and spear a cacao pod with a blow-pipe.

Grls of San Miguel training to craft necklaces

Cook Cajun cuisine in New Orleans, USA

The city of New Orleans is a melting pot of different cultures, and this is demonstrated in the city’s cuisine. French, Spanish, Cuban and Mexican influences are all thrown into the mix, creating the dishes the city is known for: jambalaya, Cajun chicken and the hearty po’boy sandwiches.

The best way to experience Cajun food is with a hands-on cooking class. The New Orleans School of Cooking, a family-owned business, aims to acquaint visitors with the styles, methods and ingredients used in traditional Louisiana cooking.

In a full demonstration and cooking class, you’ll be shown how to make a meal from scratch. Specialties include gumbo, chicken creole and pralines, and classes are led by chefs with a maximum of ten participants. You’ll eat what you cook, washing it down with an Abita – a locally brewed beer – or Deep South lemonade.

French Quater of New Orleans in the USA

Surf on Bondi Beach, Australia

Wide white sands and foaming swells have made Bondi Beach hallowed in surfing lore, but it’s not just a place for experienced wave riders. The instructors here are specialists in helping beginners get going, too.

With a local Bondi surf dude as your teacher, you’ll don your wetsuit and head down to the beach to master basic surfing techniques on dry land. Once you know the simple movements, you’ll paddle out and start catching waves. Your instructor stays with you, and if you’re struggling to catch a wave by paddling alone, your tutor will help propel you into the crest of the wave. No matter your reservations or ability, you’re likely to be able to stand up on the board – not bad for your first ever surf lesson.

Bondi Beach in New South Wales in Australia

Craig Burkinshaw is Founder of Audley Travel.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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Wildebeest time: permanent safari camp or mobile safari?

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About this time of year the shout goes out that it’s ‘wildebeest migration time’ and the ‘crossings are happening’. Those who love safaris will know what’s meant, but to say it’s ‘migration time’ isn’t quite true as the migration is a year-round phenomenon.

Salas Camp Wildebeest Masai Mara Kenya

Roughly one and a half million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra live within the Serengeti ecosystem. This area traverses the Tanzania-Kenya border and includes Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. The herds migrate across the plains throughout the year following the best grazing, moving roughly clockwise, although no pattern can really be relied upon with wildebeest.

wildebeest migration map Africa

As they head into the northern reaches of the Serengeti National Park, generally between July and September, the Mara River provides a barrier to their progress. Its high banks make access difficult while strong currents ensure a treacherous crossing. Crocodiles lurking in the muddy waters simply add to the dangers. Even when animals make it to the other side there’s a chance they might be crushed by the weight of numbers trying to climb up narrow channels.

Wild Frontiers wildebeest river crossing

These river crossings provide an added drama to a day on safari already filled with wildlife such as: prides of lions, dazzles of zebra, or towers of giraffe.

Singita Sasakwa lodge Serengeti Tanzania infinity pool

Those wishing to experience the wildebeest migration have a couple of accommodation options. The first is to stay in one of the permanent camps and this perhaps offers greater luxury – you’ll find dining and lounge areas, pools and bigger rooms. You might have to travel further but your bed will probably be bigger and there’ll be a greater variety of wines and spirits on offer!

Singita Sasakwa Lodge Serengeti Tanzania Suite Bedroom

The second option is to stay in a mobile safari camp. These are necessarily simpler than a fixed camp, since they move throughout the year to follow the herds across the plains. However simple in a safari context doesn’t mean boy scout simple; you might not have a pool or a library, but choose correctly and you’ll have a tent you can stand up in, a bed, somewhere to keep clothes, and your own private bathroom with loo and shower. You’re also likely to be right in the thick of the action.

Singita explorer mobile camp luxury bedroom suite Serengeti Tanzania

However you choose to stay and whatever time of year you visit, the wildebeest migration is one of the greatest sights in the natural world and makes a good safari experience great.

Richard Smith is Operations Director at Aardvark Safaris.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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5 reasons to safari in South Luangwa National Park

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Located in Zambia, just over the border from its small neighboring country Malawi, South Luangwa National Park is one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world.  Known for its incredible variety of wildlife, the park guarantees constant sightings of hippos, antelope and crocodiles. With over 60 different animal species and 400 bird species, South Luangwa has one of the highest wildlife densities in Southern Africa. Sadly, rhinos were poached out of the area in 1987, which means the park can’t boast the Big 5. However, this is no reason not to prioritize a visit – South Luangwa is just as ideal for the first-time safari goer as the expert African explorer. Here is why…

Leopards 

South Luangwa hosts the world’s densest naturally occurring population of leopards! This means that guides can practically guarantee a close sighting for every single visitor.

South Luangwa Leopard

This traditionally elusive and mythical species is always the treasure hunt of a safari – having such regular access is a unique asset for the park.

Birding paradise

The park lies at an ideal natural crux allowing for the viewing of both traditionally eastern African birds as well as southern African species. South Luangwa provides spectacular bird life all-year-round. Not only does the park welcome visiting species, it has a host of resident birds. Including, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Miombo Wren-warbler, Nyasa Lovebird and White-breasted sunbird.

Carmine_Bee_Eater_Luc_Viatour

A highlight for anyone visiting South Luangwa in late August and early September is the arrival of southern-carmine bee-eaters. This gorgeous and brightly colored species arrive in the thousands to breed. Watching these small, rainbow colored bird’s swarm out of their riverbank nests is an unforgettable site that even non-bird enthusiasts will find magical beyond description.

Walking and canoeing safaris

Did you know that the walking safari was invented in South Luangwa?! This means that several luxury lodges offer guided walks through the park at optimal viewing hours.

Canoeing safari South Luangwa

Enjoying a walking or canoeing safari affords visitors a completely different perspective than the traditional game drive. Visitor’s safety is a top priority and safari goers are able to take note of the small details of the flora, fauna and insects that you otherwise may go unnoticed.

Seasonality

The park offers several distinct viewing seasons. The dry season (July-November) tends to be the most popular as it is easy to spot the dense wildlife in the clear bush. However, the rainy (December-June) spring hosts baby animals, flowers and unforgettable rejuvenation.

Warthog South Luangwa

Any time of year offers something unique – the seasons are relatively predictable and reliable tour operators can give you a better idea of the year’s predictions and wildlife migration based on annual park measurements.

Variety of quality accommodation, guides and researchers

The park, resorts and facilities mostly employ locals. This means, as a visitor, you are able to engage with and support the local community. There are also many active internationally recognized research initiatives taking place throughout the park – this means your visit is also directly contributing to overarching conservation goals.

Mfuwe_Lodge_Dining_Area

The various lodges throughout the park offer many world-class amenities as well as private viewing opportunities. There are lodges and resorts speckled both inside and outside the park; it is well worth taking the time to stay at multiple locations to get a taste of the diversity of which the park is so well known.

Javier Luque is a Co-Founder and Director of Your African Safari.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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Why I would like to be in the Canadian Rockies right now!

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First of all, the sun is probably shining as you read this whereas in London, the sky is grey. Secondly, I could be outside enjoying a good meal with a backdrop of amazing scenery and doing all sorts of exciting activities. Thirdly, I could be watching an elk strolling across a grassy meadow or a black bear at the side of the road causing a bear jam.

Coouple at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Here are just some of the outdoor activities I, and you, could be doing.

Lake Louise

To enjoy the scenery, you do not have even have to be energetic, a stroll along Lake Louise or a visit to the Glacier Skywalk will get you reaching for the camera and exclaiming “oh look at that”. The colours of the lake, the ancient glaciers and the jagged peaks of the mountains are all jaw-dropping amazing

glacier skywalk

To get the adrenaline going, I think we should look at some of the activities that be enjoyed in the Rockies.  There are so many but my favourite would certainly be riding.  There are some great opportunities to put on your cowboy hat and ride across the countryside.  You can choose between an hour or two strolling along the Bow River or a three or five day backcountry ride either camping or staying in rudimentary lodges up in the mountains.  Both are suitable for first time riders.

Riding

If you are prepared to get wet and have a really good laugh, there is no better way than a whitewater rafting trip.  Again, there are choices.  Gentle rafting along the Kananaskis River or a high energy rush down the well named Kicking Horse River. No experience is necessary but for the Class III or IV rapids you will be moving pretty fast and it can be quite bumpy and energy sapping.

Rafting

Any fishermen out there?  Grab a rod and go for one of the many streams and lakes to find a variety of trout. Check locally because you will need a licence but once in the possession of that you can fish just about anywhere.  Even if you don’t catch a lot, just the scenery should keep you entertained. This picture was taken on Lake Minnewanka on which you can also take a boat cruise.

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Walking, hiking and cycling are everyday activities taken up several notches.  A gentle stroll around Moraine Lake or a helicopter assisted hike in the high alpine. Both these extremes and quite a lot in between are all possible.  Similarly, rent a bike and pedal along the back valley road or use one of the ski lifts for some totally awesome mountain biking.  An oft used phrase, but there really is something for everyone in the Canadian Rockies and I, for one, would love to be there right now.

Hiking

Sandra Potter is Founder of Frontier Travel.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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Why Canada will wow you this Winter

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Canada is one of the best places for an awesome winter experience. From adventures like dog sledding, snowmobile tours and ice fishing, to relaxing in a Nordic spa and eating deliciously hot comfort food, Canada is great in the wintry season. Picture yourself in the mountains surrounded by crisp white snow and elegant pines as you take in the fresh air and open vistas or having fun ice skating with friends and family on the world’s largest skating rinks. If this sounds like you, then look into a trip to Whistler in British Columbia, to the mountains of Alberta or to Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. They are truly magical places to visit and know how to take on the cold winter months.

Whistler

At the top of our list of things to see when visiting Whistler is the Olympic Park. Admire the mountainous landscape and learn about the incredible history behind the 2010 Olympic and Paralympics Games. You can imagine yourself an Olympian for the day as you take part in extreme sports such as cross-country skiing, tobogganing, base boarding, snowshoeing and fat tire biking. If you are a keen shot, you must book yourself in for a lesson at the Biathlon shooting range. With a safe and skillful instructor, you are sure to hit a bulls-eye!

Olympic Park

For a fantastic view of the entire park, be sure to have a cross country ski to the top of the ski jump. If this view isn’t enough for you, then there is no better scenic experience than zip lining. Fly through the vast expanses of open air and admire the craggy mountains peaks, old growth forests and deep valleys. Perhaps not one for the faint-hearted, this one-of-a-kind experience explores an intricate network of trails and boardwalks ready to get the adrenaline pumping as you fly between each of the high-altitude peaks.

Ziplinig

As the Guinness Book of World Records-holder for the longest and highest lift, take a ride on Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak Gondola. Travelling from Whistler to Blackcomb Mountain, enjoy a stunning 360-degree view of Whistler Village, towering volcanic peaks, lakes, glaciers and the coastal rainforest. Following this, you can dine on the rooftop of the restaurant before making your way down the mountain.

A uniquely Canadian way to explore the forests and trails surrounding Whistler is to go dog sledding. Wrap up warm and snuggle under the fur blankets as you embark on a magical journey through the snow. Wind in-between trees as you race across the landscape pulled by a team of exuberant Arctic sled dogs, mastered by an expert guide. Available by night, the Whistler Snowmobile Tour allow you to dart across the magical landscape as the moonlight gleams above. Children can also try their very own Mini-Z snowmobiles on a specially designed track.

Dogsledding

Alberta

 

Alberta loves the season of winter so much that it has a festival dedicated to the season. Winter City in Edmonton (running from the end of January to the beginning of February) has ice carving lessons, an ice sculpture competition from artists around the world, deep freezer races and ice skating accompanied by an orchestra! Getting bigger every year, the event now has winter activities including snow tubing and cross-country skiing.

Alberta

Another fun event is the Canadian Finals Rodeo, also in Edmonton, which takes places in early November when it may not be quite cold and snowy enough for all winter activities. This five-day event includes a full range of events and entertainment including bareback riding, steer wrestling, roping, saddle bronc, barrel racing, bull riding and live concerts.

Edmonton

Ice walks are also very popular amongst visitors to Alberta, particularly if you are after a slightly less heart-racing activity. Banff’s Johnston Canyon and Maligne Canyon near Jasper are our favourite destinations as the frozen waterfalls and other natural winter sculptures boast an atmosphere of true tranquility and natural beauty.

Canyon

In the heart of Banff National Park, the enduring resort of Lake Louise has been a favourite winter retreat for more than a century. The beautiful glacier-fed lake freezes over in winter, its icy surface surrounded by high peaks and overlooked by the impressive Fairmont Chateau. The lake’s frozen surface becomes the setting for a range of winter activities from ice skating, snowmobiling and ice climbing to helicopter tours and ice fishing. For a unique and iconic experience, take a horse-drawn carriage ride across the glittering ice before warming up with a hot chocolate in the Fairmont hotel. To warm chilled bones, you can even relax in their lavish spa!

Horse and carriage

Ottawa

Strap on your bladed boots and glide along one of Canada’s most famous World Heritage Sites: the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. In winter the canal freezes over to become the world’s largest skating rink. The vast space allows you to skate along almost eight kilometres of ice as you begin your fun from downtown Ottawa all the way to Dows Lake, breathing in the fresh breeze and taking in the snow-dusted city.

Iceskating

Winterlude is one of Ottawa’s best festivals and spans over three weeks in January to February. The special highlight for children is the SnowFlake Kingdom, the largest snow playground in the world. Located in Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau, it has a fantastic collection of huge snow slides allowing hours of entertainment to be had!

Winterlude

For a much more soothing and relaxing time, take a trip to Nordik Spa-Nature where North America’s largest spa offers a variety of pristine relaxation areas. Ten minutes from downtown Ottawa, you can enjoy the ‘Therman Cycle’ which alternates between hot and cold dips for a serious detox. For a day pass, you can have access to Nordik’s seven baths, eight saunas and an infinity pool.

Whether you are an adventure-seeker or looking for a relaxing break, Canada is an awesome place to visit in winter. There is always something for everyone in the beautifully snowy landscapes of Whistler, Alberta and Ottawa.

Kathryn Munro is Managing Director at Canadian Affair.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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Why a cruise might not be what you expected

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If anything is synonymous with luxury and glamour, it is a cruise. Seeing the most beautiful places on Earth while being wined and dined in a floating hotel is heavenly. Unsurprising then that a cruise features on so many of our holiday wish lists. But along with their obvious charms, cruises often come with reservations and stereotypes attached.

Will the atmosphere be horribly formal? Do I really have to adopt evening dress? And although floating into the sunset on a golden retirement holiday sounds appealing, what if I want to go when I’m younger, or take the kids with me?

These worries are understandable, but don’t be put off.

For me, the turquoise waters, drifting icebergs and vast glaciers of the Inside Passage are sights so sublime that everyone should see them. So read on to put those fears to bed and finally book that Alaska cruise.

Because the truth is, a cruise might not be what you expected at all…

The Gilded Age

Time to rethink the stereotype that a cruise must wait until you’re retired. Couples of all ages and even families with children are warmly welcomed. The atmosphere on board, although respecting privacy, invites community. Cruise lines like Celebrity offer great packages for families, and Holland America Line has youth and teen activities specifically designed for younger guests. You’ll find there is plenty on board and off to create a wonderful holiday for all ages.

A formal affair

The atmosphere on board most cruises will almost certainly be more relaxed than you were expecting. In fact, it is anything but stuffy. During the day the dress code is always casual, and you’re welcome to wear your swimsuit by the pool or wander in your shorts on the deck (weather permitting!) It isn’t until the evening that formal rules may apply. Even then, you’ll have a choice of places to dine or relax that suit your style.

The question of dress

One of the biggest worries for cruise-goers is what to wear. Some leap at the chance to dress to impress, but others are daunted by the thought of donning a tuxedo or evening gown on their holiday. On a seven day cruise it is typical to have three casual, two informal and two formal evenings, meaning there’s an evening to suit everybody’s style whilst keeping the glad rags for special occasions.

There is a difference between casual and informal; whilst casual invites jeans and t-shirts, informal requires sport jackets for men and casual dresses or trousers for women. On formal evenings, gents can suit up and ladies can dazzle in their best dress if they wish. However, Alaska cruises tend to be a little more relaxed than their Caribbean counterparts, so what you’d usually wear for a special meal out is fine.

Pack like a pro

Packing is always a daunting task as you battle thoughts of unpredictable weather and the urge to pack more “just in case”, but often cruise lines publish a comprehensive packing guide to ensure you travel economically. In general, sportswear such as athletic shorts is often recommended, appropriate for both the indoor fitness centre and the pool area, whilst cover-ups over swimming costumes are essential if venturing away from the pool. Casual clothes such as jeans, shorts, skirts and t-shirts are always a good option for day wear and for venturing off the boat into town, whilst for evenings you should be prepared for both informal and formal occasions (suits, dresses etc.)

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If you’re sure to encounter particularly challenging climates, the cruise line will issue specific clothing guidelines. For example Holland America Line, a company experienced in travel to Alaska, recommends you bring clothes that can be layered to suit the more wet and windier climate along with the warmer and dry days. They recommend waterproofs, hats and gloves, warm layers and sturdy walking boots, along with suitable formal evening wear and casual wear.

Essential extras

Aside from your wardrobe, do pack some essentials for the day time. We recommend a pair of binoculars, sunscreen, books, camera and an extra (big) memory card! Conveniently, cruise ships provide charging points and accessible WIFI so tablets and laptops are welcome.

Dining in style

Cruise ships have multiple dining spaces on board ensuring an atmosphere that will make you feel in total comfort whatever your mood. There is usually a main dining room which is the most formal and requires the smartest attire in the evenings. Alternative options such as grills will be more relaxed, while pool-side bars provide the most informal dining options – usually with delicious cocktails too. Some cruises allow casual dining in their alternative restaurants even on formal evenings, or if you really want to kick back, room service is always an option.

Awesome activities

Fears of cabin fever can be put to bed. The on-board preforming arts, live musicians and bands, cinemas, theatres and circus shows will certainly keep everyone entertained. Cruise activities can include table tennis, swimming, pool volley ball, basketball, yoga and boot camp to name but a few. Indoor activities range from trivia contests to interactive video games to casinos. Dance lessons, art classes, spas and Jacuzzis can help you unwind.

Weathering the storm

If you’re concerned your down jacket isn’t Arctic ready, relax. Summer in Alaska isn’t as cold as people think. Certainly pack warm layers and jackets for windy days on deck or excursions on land, but as the weather can be similar to the UK summer, pack some lighter layers similar to your British summer weekend.

The Alaska cruise season runs from May to September. The warmest months are in June, July and August where weather is typically 15-20°c. It can sometimes be rainy so bring waterproofs in case, and have a hat and gloves for crisp days.

When to weigh anchor

If you are desperate to see wildlife in Alaska, plan your cruise in the summer months as you will have a better chance of seeing whales, bears and eagles on your excursions. May and September cruises are cheaper and you will enjoy fewer crowds, but may have colder weather. Choosing the best time for the weather can be tricky as even in summer, the weather can vary. Sometimes cooler temperatures in Alaska are unavoidable so embrace and enjoy them!

All aboard!

In putting the common misconceptions of a cruise holiday to one side, the full potential of this luxury escape can be realised. A cruise offers something for everybody, making it suitable for parents, grandparents, children, thrill seekers and chillers. You can maintain independence on board but with the convenience of having supper cooked for you and entertainment provided – not to mention excursions in the most stunning, far-flung locations. What’s not to love?

Kathryn Munro is Managing Director at Canadian Affair.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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4 reasons to make Uganda your next safari destination

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Uganda, aptly nicknamed ‘The Pearl of Africa’ by Winston Churchill after his visit in 1907, is rapidly gaining a reputation for being a top-safari destination. It can now hold its own against safari behemoths like Tanzania, South Africa and Botswana. This landlocked country is home to 10 national parks and is also where the Nile River starts. If that hasn’t swayed you to put Uganda at the top of your list, here are four reasons to consider Uganda for your next safari.

The price of a single-entry tourist visa has just halved

Exactly one year ago, Uganda raised the price of its tourist visa from $50 to $100 USD. In July of this year, the government reversed this increase to help promote tourism.

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The price reduction puts it back on a level playing field with major safari destinations such as Kenya and Tanzania, which also have a $50 single-entry tourist visa (Tanzania price is $100 for US citizens). It also helps it compete with countries like South Africa and Botswana, which don’t require any fees for stays up to 90 days.

Uganda is part of the East Africa tourist visa

For $100, visitors can purchase a tourist visa that is valid for up to 90 days and allows them entry to Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

Uganda border

This is particularly attractive for those planning longer safaris and saves time at border crossings.

All of the Big Five can be seen in Uganda

A big lure for many safari goers is the opportunity to see all of the Big Five: buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino. Parks such as Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley currently feature four of the Big Five, the rhino can only be found at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

Lionness Kidepo

The rhino sanctuary is less than two hours from Murchison Falls and is en route to Kampala, making it possible to see all of the Big Five. On 11th June of this year, a male hippo was born who has yet to be named. They are taking suggestions until September.

Uganda is one of only three countries where you can see mountain gorillas

Uganda, along with DR Congo and Rwanda, is home to the last remaining populations of mountain gorillas. Uganda has two parks where the mountain gorillas can be tracked/trekked: Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga. Between the two parks, nearly two-thirds of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas can be found.

Bwindi gorilla

Also, a portion of all tracking fees go back to the local communities to help with school supplies and to supplement local farmers, whose crops can sometimes get eaten by neighboring gorillas.

Whether you’re interested in seeing big game, visiting a rhino named Obama at a rhino sanctuary or trekking mountain gorillas, Uganda will not disappoint.

Javier Luque is a Co-Founder and Director of Your African Safari.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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Top 3 ways to experience the desert Outback of Los Cabos, Mexico

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Los Cabos, Mexico might best be known for glorious beaches, hot nightlife, luxury resorts and shimmering views of the turquoise Sea of Cortez. While it’s true that the ocean and beach are Cabo’s primary draws for the millions of visitors who visit each year, the dramatic desert environment of Baja California Sur offers a unique setting to explore. Dry and arid throughout much of the year, annual rains brought by tropical storms can result in vibrant, green landscapes during wet months. Tucked amongst the rugged environment are local ranches, traditional villages and stunningly lush natural palm oases fed by springs. Among the most striking aspects of the desert scenery in Los Cabos are the soaring cardon cacti dotting the terrain. This cactus is the tallest species of cactus in the world, can live for hundreds of years and is an unforgettable sight for Baja visitors. If you’d like to venture away from the beach for a day-trip to see the desert backroads of Los Cabos, here are 5 great ways to explore:

1. ATV tour

If you want to really experience the desert while getting the adrenaline pumping, hop aboard an all-terrain vehicle for a guided off-road excursion to explore the stunning wilderness scenery. Many vendors offer local tours, but it’s best to choose a reputable tour operator focused on safety as well as fun. Amigos Cabos Moto Rent is a recommended operator. Their excellent guided tours will take you through mountainous landscapes, along rugged dusty trails and through spectacular dry arroyos culminating at breathtaking Migriño Beach. Another great local tour operator, Rancho Carisuva gives you the opportunity to ride a 450 Honda ATV over trails through the desert to a breathtaking overlook with views of the Pacific Ocean. Accompanied by their friendly, professional guides, you’ll catch glimpses along the way of the region’s unique flora and fauna.

ATV rides in Los Cabos Mexico with Amigos Cabo Moto Rent

2. Outback and camel safari

Although you wouldn’t expect to see camels in Baja Sur, a new variety of camel riding tours offer a one-of-a-kind way to take in the views of the desert ecosystem. These hardy animals are well-known as desert denizens in other parts of the world, so they adapt extremely well to the climate and environment of Los Cabos. The respected team of Cabo Adventures offers a great Outback & Camel Safari which combines an off-road tour aboard open-air 4×4 Unimog vehicles, a nature walk to learn about the local ecosystem and an unforgettable camel ride along the beach dunes. Along the way you may catch sight of caracaras (a spectacular regional bird of prey), vultures, foxes and deer – and maybe even a whale in the Pacific Ocean!

Camel Ride Tours with Cabo Advnetures in Los Cabos Mexico

3. Mountain biking tour

If you’re a biking enthusiast, you can’t go wrong with the Mountain Biking Tour led by Cabo Adventures. Upon arriving at the ranch headquarters for the tour, you’ll meet your guide and learn about the amazing flora and fauna of Baja. This area is rich in wildlife, including hawks, roadrunners, ospreys, quail and deer. You’ll be outfitted with a bike, helmet, gloves and water before setting off on this memorable ride through the desert trails.

Mountain Bike Tours with Cabo Adventures

Julie Byrd is the Vice President of Sales for CaboVillas.com.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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