Category - Purple Hearts

Purple Hearts is your personal online travel and tourism guide, with tips, advice, photos and need-to-know information about cities all over the world – from Purple Travel

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Purple Hearts: Playa del Carmen Mexico
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Purple Hearts: Prague Travel Guide
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Purple Hearts: Bodrum Holiday Resort
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Purple Hearts Gambia Holidays
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Purple Hearts: Croatia Travel Guide

Purple Hearts: Playa del Carmen Mexico

Daydreaming about holidays is one of our favourite things and there might not be a better place than Playa del Carmen Mexico.

Found on the stunning coast of Riviera Maya, just a stone’s throw from the (in)famous resort of Cancun, Playa (as it’s known locally) is a haven for honeymooners, families looking to relax, couples who need a break and cruise ships that dock nearby. Temperatures are generally above 20 all year round, reaching a height of the mid 30s in the Summer. Playa del Carmen Mexico is number two on TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice for Mexico, and features in the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards this year . While the beaches are simply to die for, regularly topping the top 25 in the world lists. Playa comes at number 12, while nearby Tulim is third on TripAdvisor’s yearly ‘Top 25 Beach Destinations in the World for 2012.’

There’s a big focus locally on keeping the area’s charm of a small fishing village and colony for artists. Basically it’s a smaller, less touristy version of Cancun. There is a Fifth Avenue where you can stock up on Louis Vuitton or Chanel, but there are also unspoiled beaches, hammocks swaying in the breeze under coconut trees, stunning sea views, great Mexican food and history by the bucket load. Don’t knock Playa ‘til you’ve tried it.

Things to do in Playa del Carmen

Snorkelling/Scuba The offshore Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, (the second biggest reef in the world) is right there on your doorstep in Playa del Carmen. You’ll find lots of dive shops throughout the resort, while there’s open water scuba a little further down the coast in Cozumel.

Get married or go on honeymoon Mexico might actually be the most romantic place ever. They make weddings and honeymoons an art form. Take all the hard work out of it and simply enjoy the ultimate beach wedding or the most luxurious romantic honeymoon you can image in Playa del Carmen. We’ve even put together this Mexico Honeymoon guide to help you get started!

Meet some monkeys The Jungle Place is a spider monkey sanctuary where you can go and meet these adorable little animals. Although a little out of the way, according to TripAdvisor, it’s well worth the trip.

Splash some cash on Quinta Evenida Playa’s fifth avenue has become a firm tourist favourite, with 20 blocks of cobblestone streets to explore. It’s got tonnes of shops if spending is your thing. Even if it’s not, it’s a great place to have some delicious local grub and is a safe place to spend an evening out.

Nightlife Not as wild as Cancun, but still with plenty on offer, most clubs in Playa stay open all night, and some of the best ones are actually on the beach, so you can enjoy a cocktail and sunset as well as sunrise views.

See the cenotes these are huge naturally occurring spring water sinkholes. Historically they were very important to the Mayan people as they were a channel to communicate with the gods. Found all over the Yucatan peninsula, the clear water, which is around 200 feet deep in some, is perfect for swimming or diving, in fact you might not have a better swimming experience in your life. Read more about cenotes in our Purple Picks: Mythical Hotspots.

BPM: Or beats per minute. The BPM Festival is a trance lover’s dream and is taking place in January, 2013 in Playa. It’s got everyone from Carl Cox, Sasha, and John Digweed on the lineup. Click here for more details.

Get close to nature at the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve just an hour or so outside of Playa you’ll find a great day out for the ecologically minded. Locally run, it offers tours of the Mayan ruins at Muyil or a float down the river through mangrove trees. There’s also a local nature guide pointing out the local flowers and animals. They’ve just introduced a chewing gum tour too.

Go to this amazing beauty salon (in Mexico City) It might be a little out of the way for a Brazilian, but we just had to include this beautiful beauty salon. The amazing colours are soothing and beautiful and certainly enough to distract while you’re getting seen to.

Visit Tulum The nearby resort is a history buffs paradise. The pre Christopher Columbus walled city is right on the water and is easily the number one attraction in the area. The big temple on the site, and the many smaller buildings and huts give a good glimpse into life hundreds of years ago.

Go in the dark: How amazing does this sound? Xplor is an adventure park, where you can go ziplining or go in all terrain trips under the moonlight. It’s an exclusive after dark experience especially for meetings and groups form 8 to 11.30 at night.

Where to stay in Playa del Carmen

Stess buster Bluebay Esmerelda an onsite spa, spacious rooms, snorkelling and windsurfing just down at the beach, and 15 minutes from Fifth Avenue. All inclusive at the Bluebay Esmerelda is the ultimate in stress free holidays.

Couples getaway Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya Hotel & Spa If we could use one word to describe the Sirenis it would be gorgeous. The modern hotel is right on a picture perfect sandy beach, the crystal clear water is home to a coral reef, and the palm trees are the perfect shade from the hot sunshine.

Family favourite Sandos Caracol Eco Resort & Spa Just a look at the brige rooms, great gardens and exotic surrounds and you can tell the 5* Sandos Caracol is a fantastic choice for all the family. The watersports centre offers something for everyone, while a kids club and teens club means everyone is catered for, as mum and dad chill out in the hot tub.

Best Budget Hotel Bananathis is right on the famous fifth avenue, so it’s a great choice for sampling the local nightlife and culture. With an outdoor pool and the beach just a stone’s throw away, as well as tonnes of eating options nearby, it’s a great choice for you and your pocket.

Best for the beach Ocean Maya Royale this one is so close to the beach, its pools are built into the sand. The recently refurbished hotel offers a little bit of luxury, with its Despacio Spa Centre and sea view rooms. Perfect for going from beach to bed in no time.

You Should Read… Our top 6 hotels in Jamaica right now.

What to eat in Playa del Carmen

There are around 75 restaurants throughout Playa, so make sure you get on that plane with an empty belly! From the pizza in the street places that are open until 6am, to the super fancy, delicacy serving delights of Quinta Avenida, here are some of the top places to eat and the top dishes to try.

Stuffed tacos You can pick these up on practically every street corner, whether it’s seafood, chicken or chorizo, these traditional lunchtime meals are usually around two or three dollars, so stock up.

Chocolate Mexico is famous for it. What did you mean you didn’t know that ? Try the most amazing brownies at the Ah Cacao Chocolate Cafe on Fifth Avenue.

Breakfast The family owned Kaxapa Factory between 10th and 15th Avenues does a tasty breakfast or brunch and its Venezuelan inspired dishes are to die for.

Birds We don’t mean to eat! The parrots on the balcony create a wonderful atmosphere at the Xulam, Mayan Fisher on 10th Avenue. A great choice for traditional Mayan fare.

Fish Kool Fish Restaurant on Fifth Avenue is a seafood lovers dream. It’s great value and offers wonderful fresh seafood with that traditional Mexican twist.

Although it’s in Mexico, there are also plenty of well known chain stores including a Cheesecake Factory. Now, we’re not saying it’s worth a trip to Mexico just for some cheesecake, but ‘when in Rome…’

You Should Read…  Mexican foodie dictionary

Images courtesy of Riviera Maya DMO.

Purple Hearts: Prague Travel Guide

Prague’s huge popularity was once down to 20p pints and cheap flights on EasyJet. And today, although not the bargain it once was, its appeal continues to grow. A fascinating history combined with a stong architectural credibility, ensures the Czech capital is as compelling a city break as ever. Take the city centre, for example. Here you will find examples of almost every architectural trend of the last two centuries, including Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, neoclassical, art nouveau and cubist. And for those who venture beyond the medieval lanes of the Old Town and the Castle District, a hub of modern culture fashions the landscape, from lively bars and beer gardens to clubs, live music venues, and cutting-edge art galleries.

However, Prague travel does have its negatives. The good places are often the most difficult for an unknowing tourist to scope out; too many people, serious traffic jams and heaps of tacky commercialism mean Prague’s secret treasures are less ‘hidden gem’ and more Mission Impossible. In fact, many travellers return from Prague considering it nothing more than ‘Magaluf in a city break’. With this in mind, we wanted to create a Prague travel guide that would seek out the best of Prague, so you won’t waste any valuable holiday time and can avoid getting ripped off with the crowds.

Czech in: the sights worth visiting in Prague

Charles Bridge
This spectacular 15th century bridge is the connecting structure between the ‘Lesser Town’ and the old town. Adorned with 30 statues of saints and lined with old fashioned lanterns, it is the perfect spot for a romantic stroll.
Purple Tip:
Avoid visiting during the middle of the day when the crowds flock across the bridge to grab some snaps of the ‘entertainers’ and craft stalls that line the bridge.

The Astronomical Clock
The striking astronomical clock of the town hall, which also features a calendar painted by the famous Czech painter Josef Manes, and the procession of the 12 apostles who appear through the wooden doors that open at the top, is a must-see in Prague. The clock displays four times: central European time, old bohemian time, stellar time and Babylonian time.
Purple Tip:
Visit early (9am is best) to avoid the crowds and make sure you arrive on the hour to view the show of the apostles.

The John Lennon wall
One of the more unusual sights in Prague is the graffiti-covered, featuring an image of John Lennon’s face. Despite having never visited Prague, he became a hero to young Czechs, anti-communists and peace activists, particularly after his murder in the 1980s when western music was banned here. Since the collapse of communism, visitors from all over the globe have added messages of peace, creating an impactive statement set against the soft palette of the more traditional buildings of Prague.
Purple Tip:
You can find some really fascinating messages on the wall if you look closely.

The castle
The Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Having survived invasions, fires, wars and rebuilds, the castle displays a striking mix of architectural styles. It is currently the seat of the president of the Czech Republic, and every hour, on the hour, visitors can witness the changing of the guard.
Purple Tip:
If you catch the changing of the guard at midday, you can see the military fanfare, too.

You should read… Top Sights to see in Prague

The Jewish Quarter

The harrowing story of Prague’s Jewish community begins as far back as the 13th Century, when the Jewish Quarter was created. Jews had extreme restrictions placed upon them and were not allowed to live in any other area, causing it to become known as The Prague Ghetto until 1781. Important historical buildings, including synagogues, The Jewish Town Hall and the Jewish cemetery remain on the grounds.
Purple Tip:
The Jewish cemetery is a must-see for history fanatics. It is the oldest burial ground in the world, and where some 12,000 graves are piled on top of the one other.

Kampa Island and Kampa Museum
 Opened in 2002, the Kampa Museum holds an extensive, permanent collection of Central European art, as well as some impressive temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Situated on Kampa Island, on the left back of the Vltava River, the modern gallery is the home of a large chair sculpture by artist, Magdalena Jetelova, which is situated outside the museum and is a prominent landmark visible from across the Vltava.
Purple Tip:
Include the visit into your exploration of the Lesser town and enjoy lunch in the museum’s elegant riverside café.

Czech these out: things to do in Prague

Grab a coffee
Prague’s chicest and most atmospheric cafes are mostly all on the first floor, meaning great views and fewer tourists. Expect to find a picturesque setting of period interiors, such as in the Grand Café Orient above the Cubist Museum, where the coffee is dependably wonderful and the cakes are decorated with love. Similarly, the Café Louvre, with its abundant natural light, numerous elaborate mirrors, fine pastel shaded walls and light furniture, was a favourite with Kafka and Einstein. Try one of their legendary hot chocolates, so thick that you can stand a spoon up in it.

Have a wild night out

Clubbing and anarchy goes hand-in-hand in Prague; with almost no safety regulations or political correctness, you can expect bar-top stripping, grungy interiors and rampant stimulant use in many of the capital’s bars. Venue such as Staré Mêsto on a Friday night, hip art bar Cross Club and live music venue, Bordo, all organise seriously cool events, such as short film festivals, experimental rock nights and 90s throwback tributes. Újezd is a smoky three-storey madhouse, filled with badly amplified rock and a young dreaded Czech crowd and Wakata, a true teenage wasteland, houses art exhibitions and live bands.

Czech, please: the Prague food scene

In a country where the national dish is roast pork, dumplings and sauerkraut, you better leave your diet at home. Traditional Czech meals are not only heavy, but also on the salty side, however, they are always tasty. There’s also some serious pig lust going on here, so vegetarians – do your research (and see below). Here’s our pick of the best places to get your fill in the capital:

Clear Head
Clear Head is a vegetarian restaurant located in a 15th-century house on what is said to be the shortest street in Old Town Prague. This welcoming former teahouse serves a rotating menu of feel-good foods, including hearty soups, Indian-influenced cuisine and colourful entrees.

Bohemia Bagel
Recommended by the NY Times, this bagel joint is life-saving for anyone craving something familiar amongst the midst of menu items you cannot pronounce. Bohemia Bagel serves up bagel sandwiches, burgers and diner classics like huevos rancheros and pigs in a blanket.

Celeste restaurant
Serving up frill-free French cuisine, this wavy riverfront building designed by Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunic, resembles a couple – often called Fred and Ginger – in midstep. Gwendal Le Ruyet, the head chef, who spent five years working with Alain Ducasse, uses mostly local ingredients and intense flavours. The top floor of the building provides unparalleled views of the Vltava River and Prague Castle.

Allegro
For unrivalled Italian cooking in Prague, head to the Four Seasons Hotel. Although a little on the pricey side, chef Vito Mollica’s seasonal dishes are worth emptying your pockets for. Expect dishes such as slow-roasted veal with Alba truffles and aged Modena balsamic vinegar.

Enjoyed our Prague travel guide? Visit Prague on a great value city break in 2014 with Purple Travel. Visit our website for more or call 02079939228.

Purple Hearts: Bodrum Holiday Resort

We started counting on two hands all of the beautiful, adventurous, beachy and sunny places to go in Turkey and well, we completely ran out of fingers (and toes!) There is so much to do in this historic mish-mash of East and West from spending time on the mesmerising beaches to strolling around thousand year old ruins.

Bodrum, picture courtest of GoTurkey.co.uk

There isn’t a place where this is more evident than in the Bodrum holiday resort, which is home to the perfect mix of old and new, ancient and modern, museums and discos. Here’s the latest in our weekly feature with your full guide to Bodrum and its many amazing avenues for fun.

A city of two halves, Bodrum is the site of the famous ancient city of Halikarnassus, one of the old Seven Wonders of the World – but it was destroyed by earthquakes in the Middle ages. A big sailing town, it’s the place where the Turkish elite go to holiday and draws tonnes of British visitors every year. One half of the city is home to beach clubs, bars and cafes, with miles of beaches to choose from while the old side is home to the fancy yachts that sit at the Marina and exclusive shops that stock expensive foods and drink. So let our handy guide help you find out where to go and what to do.

Do

Family affair: If you’re looking to get away with the kids this summer, Bodrum is top notch. Go for an all inclusive option and your little prince or princess will have the time of their lives. Most of the hotels and apartments have pools especially dedicated to little ones, while boat trips, safari jeep adventures, the many beaches and nearby waterpark will leave youngsters itching to come back for more.

Turkish Hamam from Wikipedia

Into cycling? Join a bunch of other biking fanatics and take the cycling high road from Izmir to Bodrum. The tour is organised by a non profit group and led by expert local guides who will bring you along the sea front and lakes and past ancient sites like Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the World.) There’s more info here.

Hamam: Also known as a Turkish bath this is *the* place to go and completely chill out. First thing is a nice sit down in a warmed room, before being scrubbed to within an inch of your life by an attendant who is there just for that reason. If that sounds a little on the groovy side, head for a roll around the nearby mud baths instead.

Nights out: In the immortal words of, erm, Usher, I like to say ‘yeah’ really loudly to the beach clubs and bars of Bodrum. Home of some epic nights out, there are tonnes of clubs to choose from just by the water’s edge. Usually opening around 10, Bodrum’s nightlife is centred on the bars, restaurants and clubs we’re all familiar with in holiday hotspots. It’s actually a nice mix though, of clubs for hardcore party animals and beach bars for a quiet, chilled out drink. Halikarnas is one of our top picks, the outdoor venue is massive, holding around 4,000 people and has some of the best foam parties of the summer.

Haggle: Bodrum’s home to a heap of bazaars open six days a week. There you’ll be able to test your negotiating skills over everything from a needle and thread, to fruit up to beautiful hand painted silk scarves, silver jewellery and leather goods.

Get to the Greek: A quick trip across the water will leave you on the sandy shores of Kos or Rhodes, two of the most famous Greek Islands. These are great for a day trip to spectacular beaches and great lunches.

Huh?

Camel wrestling: Yes, you did read that right. Every year down the Aegean Turkish Coast, the locals like to indulge in the furious sport of camel wrestling. It’s not that well known amongst us, but it should be! The travelling festival starts with a camel beauty pageant (!!) where the entrants are dolled up with bells and banners before moving on to the main event of fighting it out over a female. There are three ways which a winner can be crowned – making the other scream, fall over or retreat.  It may sound very strange, but there are actually strict rules in place to stop a match and protect the animals and all are specifically trained for the event.

See

The pools of Pamukkale

The pools of Pamukkale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pamukkale: is a stunning naturally occurring phenomenon that looks like candy floss. Kids and grownups will get a kick out of a day trip to the mountain where you can take a swim in the hot springs. It’s often said, but a trip to the unique surrounds of Pamukkale will be unforgettable.

Bodrum Castle: The historic building is actually the symbol of the whole region. Built by the Knights of St. John, it’s also home to the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. Far removed from the idea of stuffy old relics, the museum offers plenty of chances to get your hands dirty and features the remains of underwater excavations from all along the coast. It includes the Uluburun Shipwreck, one of the richest ever discovered.

Blues Cruise: Take one of the so called Blue Voyage trips boat trips that give you the chance to leap into the turquoise salty waters of the Aegean. They usually include a trip to secret coves and secluded beaches as well as anchoring in the middle of the water so you can test your swimming skills. If you get one with lunch cooked on board, it makes the perfect day out to top up your tan with minimal effort.

Ballet boost: If you’re lucky enough to be in town in August, you’ll be able to catch the renowned International Bodrum Ballet Festival. From August 8th, you’ll be able to see some stunning performances in the festival which has been running over 10 years.

 Hot

Beach shoes

Bodrum beach: the bit that stretches between Bodrum Castle and Halikarnas is great for swimming and has plenty of loungers but is a little on the pebbly side.

Ortakent: Just down the road from Bodrum town, you’ll find Ortakent, a little beachy beauty spot that’s over a mile long. Considered by many as one of the best on the whole peninsula, it is chock-a-block full of facilities (restaurants, beach bars, changing areas) and that means lots of people too!

Bitez: sheltered by a bay, Bitez tends to draw an older crowd thanks to its gorgeous location backed by tangerine orchards, its gently sloping sands and unbelievably clear waters. Hop in one of the handy dolmus buses and you’ll be there in no time.

Tropical Camel Beach: I’ll admit, I didn’t think I’d ever write something that included so many references to camels, but this one is worth it. It’s usually not so crowded, with a lovely long stretch of sand, plenty of umbrellas and loungers and a handful of delicious fish restaurants. The really great news is here you can actually take a camel ride on a separate part of the beach. Now that’ll make a good profile picture.

Turgutreis: Ideal for little chislers, this beach, although not very sandy, is quite shallow so it’s safer for the little one in your life. It’s also home to a lovely new marina, that is perfect for people watching.

Baklava picture from Wikipedia

Eat

From doner to mezes and baklava to kunefe, Turkish cooking is an absolute treat. Since you’re by the sea, some of the fantastic fish restaurants are not to be missed either. Of course it varies across the country, but Bodrum has its fair shares of great traditional eateries. Have a go of a Dolma (meaning ‘stuffed thing’) which is generally a mix of meat and veggies wrapped in vine leaves or pastry. There are almost too many types of kebabs to count, from steamed to grilled, with meat or vegetarian, spicy or mild, you can’t leave without at least having sampled a few.

Of course no trip to Turkey is complete without a taste of some powerful Turkish coffee. This stuff will knock your socks off! Well, almost as much as the local spirit Raki, with its aniseed flavour. Also known as Lion Milk, that’ll give you an idea of its effects!!

Purple Hearts Gambia Holidays

Gambia

Image via @ Aleutia 

It may be easy to miss tiny Gambia on the enormous map of Africa – it’s completely enveloped by Senegal – yet surprisingly, Africa’s oddly-shaped, smallest country is also one of its most accessible. Gambia holidays are just six hours away from most major European destinations, there is no time difference (hurrah – no jet lag) and it is an affordable way to feel as though you’ve travelled somewhere incredibly far away and incredibly exotic.

Its nine main resorts (Bakau, Cape Point, Kololi, Fajara, Kotu, Brufut, Bijilo, Senegambia and capital, Banjul) offer some excellent activities for tourists, including stunning nature reserves, such as Kiang West National Park and River Gambia National Park (aka Baboon Island), informative excursions through the historical slave trade islands of St James Island or Jufureh and immense stretches of white sands across the entire coastline.

Accordingly then, this week, Purple Hearts… our guide to Gambia holidays. Enjoy!

Food:
Gambia has a wealth of restaurants that are rapidly gaining an international reputation for their high quality and expert chefs. From casual beach bars to formal gourmet dining, from Italian to Lebanese, you’ll easily find something to suit your taste. However for the adventurer within you, have a go at the local dishes. These are extraordinarily rich nutrition-wise, containing fresh, in-season vegetables provided by the local producers’ gardens. Try Pepeh Soup, a tasty, thick stew prepared with fish or beef or Domoda, a typical mandinka dish made from groundnuts, which form a wonderful piquant peanut paste (Domo means eating whilst Da means the stew pot). Nyombeh Nyebbeh, if you can pronounce it, is a very popular dish made with cassava, beans and fried red snapper.

Places to go:
Banjul
Banjul
is peaceful, exotic and rich in history. Located on St Mary’s island at the mouth of the Gambia Rive, the city is a former centre of the slave trade, exhibited particularly well in the exhibitions of the Gambian National Museum and the collection of paintings and statues in the African Heritage Museum. For a slice of some modern Gambian culture, tourists can take a trip to the famous Albert market, brimming with the beautiful colours and inviting aromas associated with African life.

Bijilo Forest Park
One of the several forest parks in Gambia, Bijilo Forest Park is primarily a nature reserve. Easily accessible from Kololi, just short of the coast near the Senegambia tourist area, this park is famed for its huge species of birdlife and of course, its mischievous monkeys.

Bakau
Bakau is a tiny, densely populated coastal town tucked away on a low cliff between Banjul and the Atlantic. Home to a vibrant, mixed community, the town offers a definitely down-to-earth atmosphere, despite its central beach doubling as a busy fishing centre. The best beach in the area then, is at nearby Cape Point, where the sand is the well-kept and the environment is relaxing. Fajara beach to the west, is, on the other hand, a favourite spot for impromptu beach football matches (but not so great for sunbathing). However, Bakau’s most famous attraction has to be the Katchikali crocodile pool. The pool is even sacred to the local Mandinka tribe, who believe that bathing in water from the pool will cure infertility. But if you’re interests are less cathartic, you’re can great some great snaps of the family of docile-looking Nile crocodiles lazily sunning themselves the pool.

Things to do:
Sail on the River Gambia
Gambia is named after this majestic river, which slices like a knife through the country, splitting it into two halves, fringed by mangrove swamps and jungle forest. Several species of birds, monkeys and other wildlife can be seen along the river, including dolphins (seen up river), crocodiles and hippos (spotted in the fresh water sections of the central River and Upper River Division). Reptiles to watch for are snakes (including pythons, cobras and mambas), and other reptiles such as lizards (including the large monitor lizard), geckos and tortoise. Grab your camera and jump on one of the boat trips, which run regularly year-round.

Go wildlife-spotting
Although the birds of Senegambia are one of the region’s main attractions, baboons and three types of monkeys (vervet, patas and red colobus) also inhabit the country, particularly present in the Abuko Nature Reserve. In fact, Gambia has six national parks and reserves, plus several forest parks, which have been set aside to protect representative samples of main habitat types and their associated fauna. In the forest areas you also may see oribi and duikers (small members of the antelope family), while drier grassland areas are occupied by cobs, roans, waterbucks, derby elands, warthogs and bush pigs. River Gambia National Park, aka Baboon Islands, is a 580 hectare park established mainly as a rehabilitation sanctuary for chimpanzees. Visitors are not permitted on the island.

Visit a Holy Forest
Makasutu Cultural Forest, now an all-in-one excursion comprising of a guided forest walk, a boat ride, bird watching, and cultural entertainment galore,  has an incredible history. Meaning ‘holy forest’ in Mandinka, legend has it that tribal wars took place in this forest centuries ago, during which a King was killed and his head, crown and throne all buried in the forest. The local community avoided the area, for another reason however; the legend has it that the forest was home to a more sinister resident: the devil himself.To read more about Makasutu, click here.

Roots excursion
Depart from Banjul on your cruise ship for the day, where you will enjoy a delicious lunch while visiting a series of historical sites. Beginning at Albreda, which used to be a French trading post during the slavery era, you’ll visit the freedom flag pole and a slave museum. From here you proceed onto Juffureh, hometown of Kunta Kinteh, the famous slave who was forced into slavery in the mid seventeen century and on whom Roots was based on. You then come to the main hightlight of the roots trip, the visit of the Kinteh clan. Experience a 2-mile sea cruise to Kunta Kinteh Island, which was used to keep slaves before they were shipped to Goree Island. The most characteristic thing is the dungeon remaining on the Island, one of an original fourteen once used to punish slaves who rebelled, by chaining their hands and legs and serving them only one meal a day in order to weaken them.

For more information or to book cheap Gambia holidays get in touch with the team at Purple Travel.

Purple Hearts: Croatia Travel Guide

Purple Hearts…  Croatia Travel Guide the Croat d’Azur, if you will

The Dalmatian Riviera stretches along the Croatian coastline between Split and Dubrovnik, intersected by a small outcrop of Bosnia with some notable bad architecture and not much else. Boasting more islands than any other Mediterranean country except Greece, Croatia is not only naturally beautiful, but also extremely private, having all in all, around 125,000 inhabitants scattered across 48 islands – some 670 remain deserted. This, combined with some of the best sailing in the world, endless beaches, hidden coves, dramatic withstanding Roman ruins and a cuisine that packs a punch to their Italian neighbours, Croatia is a brightening star in the Mediterranean. Yet, ironically, most of Dalmatia is comprised of a throwback to simpler, non-commercialized roots and its chic beaches are just the tip of the iceberg for what the Riviera has to offer. With this Dalmatian Riviera travel guide, you can find out that little bit more about why so many people are in love with this beautiful holiday destination. Discover more in our Croatia Travel Guide.

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Image via @ Sean MacEntee

Croatian cuisine is certainly one its big attractions. Renowned for a superb selection of fish and seafood, as well as a distinctive Italian influence – rizot is risotto, prsut  is prosciutto, for example – it’s not just the scenery that beckons tourists back each year. The secret is in its simple preparation and easy digestibility, with essential ingredients including sheep´s cheese, salty sardines, roasted lamb, beef cooked in tomato sauce (salsa), and sautéed greens with potatoes.

Drink: Do not forget the wine, Croatia’s most famous export. Known for its special taste of the south, a taste that has been perfected over centuries, the secret recipes for winemaking are passed down from generation to generation in middle Dalmatia, produced in the families´ wine cellars. A wine connoisseur’s dream destination.

You should read… Purple Hearts Dubrovnik

Places to go:
Brač
Brač’s grey, mountainous centre provides a rugged, unfinished contrast to the alluring abundance of greenery, red-tiled roofs and clear blue water of the Adriatic Sea. Although first known for its quarries, which provided the stone for the White House, the island of Brač is now most celebrated for its beaches. Zlatni Rat (the Golden Cape) is hyped as the best beach in Dalmatia, perhaps because, aside from a few bearded gelato sellers, it remains almost completely uncommercialised.  The nearby wind-surfing haven, harbour town of Bol, however, is a tourist hub. Skrip, home to the Brač Museum, is well worth a visit, as is the community winery, Poljoprivredna Zadruga, which produces some of the best wines on the island.

Split 
Over on the mainland lies Split, home to the 416,000 square-foot Roman Emperor Diocletian’s villa, circa 305 AD.  About 3,000 people live in the 220 buildings within the old palace walls, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Summer is the best time to visit, when a month-long festival of performing arts fills theatres, squares, and galleries all over the town. Marrying the past with the present, the local children play alongside monuments like the Cathedral of Sveti Duje (Saint Domnius) and the Baptistery of St. John (Jupiter’s Temple).

Hvar
The epicentre of Dalmatia’s ‘fabulous’ scene.  Here you will find huge yachts cruising by, complete with bikini-clad women sunbathing topside, shortly followed by pods of playful dolphins. You’ll sip on a Chai latte or some other new-fangled mocha-choca-ino, stirring the blueberries into your morning soya granola with the rest of the seaside glitterati.

Vis
Just a short ferry ride away from Brač, Vis is the antithesis to Hvar’s hipster scene. But with a rich history, stretching back to Greek and Roman times, Vis is brimming with natural beauty, including over 500 varieties of flourishing herbs thrive, which make exploring the island very much a sensual experience.

Korčula
The eponymous town within the island of Korčula is its biggest selling point. Expect a hopelessly quaint town that reflects a distinctly Venetian charm.

Activities: Diving is available all over the Riviera, allowing visitors to explore 1,000 years of maritime history, reflected in the sunken ships found in waters off Vis. There’s even a B-17 bomber that went down in 1944. Windsurfing and sailing are also a must. Or why not explore the hilltop ‘ghost town’ of Humac on Hvar with its spectacular views of the Adriatic, then hike down to the Grapceva Spilja Ice Cave. The Festival of Sword Dance, which runs throughout July and August, is Korčula’s recreation of a battle between two 16th-century armies, featuring soldiers dressed in flowing red and black uniforms, who each duel with genuine metal sabres in a tightly-choreographed frenzy, all to the accompaniment of a big brass band. Vanka Regule is a game in which participants free-dive, windsurf, long-distance kayak and jump bikes into the sea. It takes place in July in Sutivan on Brač.

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