1
Off the beaten track: Coral Reefs, the rainforests of the oceans
2
Passport Pass Notes
3
A Night Less Ordinary: A room made from Lego
4
Purple 10 film inspired hotel rooms
5
Amazing Days Out: International Spy Museum
6
Purple Tips: 6 Terrifying Roller Coasters
7
Purple Hearts: What to do in Paphos
8
Digital detox holidays
9
Purple 10: Best Spa Destinations
10
An insider’s travel guide Goa

Off the beaten track: Coral Reefs, the rainforests of the oceans

Stop for a moment to consider the fairytale ‘Finding Nemo’ world of coral reefs. With an astonishing variety of branching, leafy forms and intriguing, unusual sea life, they also play a hugely important role in preserving biodiversity as the home to many cute and amazing sea creatures like fish, jellyfish, anemones and soft corals. Most reefs are formed in long, narrow strips along the edge between shallow and deep water. They aren’t spread across huge areas in the same way rainforests are.

Here at PurpleTravel.co.uk, we’ve found the most impressive coral creations for your eyes only…

634967107233272954ifalos2

634967107237484981ifalos4

634967107235924971ifalos3

634967107243413019ifalos5

  Coral reef scenery with Black-backed butteflyfish (Chaetodon melannotus), gorgonian and Red Sea dwarf sweepers (Parapriacanthus guentheri), Red Sea, Egypt

Find out more about amazing places around the world, in our Off the Beaten Track series.

Passport Pass Notes

Passports are tricky things, we can’t tell you the amount of stories we’ve heard from people who realize they’ve left theirs at home the day they were meant to travel, missing flights because they couldn’t find it, or realising it’s out of date the a week before you leave!!

Passport

Passport image via @ Nathan17

We don’t want your holiday to be ruined by something like that, so we wanted to answer some of your most asked passport questions in one handy place. First thing is, it is your responsibility to keep your passport safe and in good order.

Renewing

It usually takes around three weeks to renew a passport and the price changes depending on how fast you request it. You need to bear this in mind when making a booking and ensure your passport will have arrived well before you leave.
If your passport is going to expire soon, you should think about applying for a new one early. Some countries require a minimum of two years validity on your passport from the date you arrive home.
Our rule guideline is that you have validity of at least six months left in your passport after your return date. If you have specific questions you should contact the consulate or embassy of the country you are travelling to. You can search here for UK guidelines on passport requirements by country.

Safety

It’s a good idea to leave copies of your passport, insurance details, ticket details and itinerary with friends and family at home too.
Lost: If you’ve lost your passport, or believe it has been stolen you’ll need to report it to the local police so you can get a copy of the report. You will need that to get replacement passport papers and for insurance reasons. Get in touch with the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate too.
If your passport is lost or stolen abroad, you will need to fill in an LS01 form (available from the local embassy/consulate.) The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will issue you with replacement documents to get back to the UK.

Emergency passport

If you need to travel urgently, it is possible to get an emergency passport but you will need to show some document verifying your identity and a copy of a police report if it has been stolen. There is a fee involved in this too, so be prepared to pay the price. And not all countries accept an Emergency Travel Document (ETD.)
Similarly if you’ve reported your passport is missing to an embassy or consulate and you find it tucked away in a bag or under a pillow, you won’t be able to use it, as it will have been electronically cancelled. Be warned, if you try to use it, you may be stopped by the authorities.

In addition, whatever happens everything related to passports takes time, e.g. renewing or reporting it as lost, so your travel plans might be disrupted.

My passport says Miss, but I am a Mrs

As long as the gender on your booking corresponds to the gender on your passport, there should be no problem in being able to fly. Being labelled incorrectly as Ms/Mrs or Miss won’t change your booking. UK and most other passports do not actually state the title on travel documents. However, if this is not the case for you, please contact our team immediately by emailing admin@purpletravel.co.uk.

I got married and am in the process of changing my name

Your booking must be in the name that is on your passport. DirectGov has some sound advice. It says if you need to renew your passport it might be better to get one earlier in your maiden name and change it afterwards. Most travel companies won’t allow you on board if your name is different to your passport even if you have your marriage certificate with you.

We would urge anyone in any doubt about any aspect of their passport to contact the Foreign Office for up to date information.

A Night Less Ordinary: A room made from Lego

Legoland Room 1

If your idea of a good night is packed with Lego bricks, towers of all shapes and sizes and little square headed figures all over the place, then head for a night in Legoland in California, USA. Due to open on April 5th 2013, if you thought your home was coming down with Lego bricks, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Legoland California is dedicated to all things colourful and brick shaped, from the blocks that adorn the walls as you make your way in, to the perfectly themed carpets. There are around 3,422 Lego models throughout the hotel, including eight in each room, made from more than three million Lego bricks. In the lobby alone there is a wall of 6,000 minifigures and a family of smoke breathing dragons at the front entrance.

Legoland water park

In the hotel there are three dedicated room types: Pirate with its Jolly Roger flags and Lego pirate parrots, Adventure with a sweeping jungle theme and friendly brick made monkeys and Kingdom where you get a taste of all things King Arthur and the Round Table. It’s probably fair to say these rooms and staying in the hotel fulfil just about every Lego fantasy you could imagine. In fact you could say it’s a Lego geek’s dream right down to the smallest detail. On top of family sleeping areas and dedicated Lego treats for little ones, a trip to the Hotel also offers select entry to rides and attractions within the theme park.

Beyond the hotel you get to splash around in the water park and even build your own raft from soft Lego bricks, or dodge the water cannons, go on a Safari trek, or visit Sky Patrol. Whatever you choose, we’re sure Lego adventurers of all ages will find something to enjoy. There are even mini Lego Star Wars adventure areas, a mini Las Vegas and something called a Coastersaurus, which we are dying to try!

Miniland las vegas

Find out more about hotels you never knew existed in other posts in a Night Less Ordinary.

All images via @ Legoland California.

Purple 10 film inspired hotel rooms

Batman Movie Room from Purple Travel.jpg

#1 This could be our personal favourite. The Batman hotel room built to resemble the Bat Cave. Everything is themed from the tv, shower even to a replica of the utterly cool Batmobile. It’s hard to think of a better start to our list of 10 film inspired hotel rooms.

Twilight themed hotel rooms from Purple Travel

#2 The Pacific Inn Motel, Forks, USA. For the Twi-Hards amongst us, you can sleep under framed pictures of Bella, Edward or Jacob and get a real feel for the town where the novels are set. Even Bruce Wayne would be impressed.

Tron hotel room from Purple Travel

#3 Tron Suite at the ICEHOTEL, Sweden. Around 200km inside the Arctic Circle is novelty enough, but when you find a room made of ice and designed to replicate the imagery from the Disney film Tron: Legacy, then you’re unlikely to forget it.

Pirates of the Caribbean Hotel room from Purple Travel.jpg

#4 Time will probably tell if the Pirates of The Caribbean films will go down in history as classics, but for now Disney has immortalised the films in the form of a hotel room. The pirate experience begins immediately – the doorbell plays ‘yo, ho, ho a pirate’s life for me.’

Star Wars Hotel Room from Purple Travel

#5 Luke Skywalker’s house in Hotel Sidi Driss, Tunisia If you’re a Star Wars fan you’ll recognise the dusty landscape here as that of Tatooine. The rooms are surprisingly cosy, built in a traditional style dug from the sites of the caverns. If you’re not a fan, then this hotel is probably not for you.  Image via @ RapidTravelChai

James Bond Hotel room from Purple Travel

#6 Endless mirrors, golden tickets and an Hammam – very James Bond at the Suite dedicated to 007 at the Seven Hotel Paris Image via @ Seven Hotel Paris

Alive Hotel Room from Purple Travel

#7 Paris has a bit of a monopoly on intriguing hotels, in fact the Seven Hotel has a second one up it’s sleeve with the Alice Room. Dedicated to Alice’s journey through Wonderland, it’s got a rabbit hopping from the wall, psychedelic settings and two toilets with a chessboard in between. Image via @ Seven Hotel Paris

Drive in Cinema Hotel Room from Purple Travel.jpg

#8 At the drive-in a bed for five. Perfect for film buffs, the V8 Hotel in Stuttgart has a car shaped bed (that fits 5) and offers the feel of a drive in movie experience. Image via @ V8 Hotel

50 Shades of Grey hotel room from Purple Travel

#9 It hasn’t quite become a movie yet, but just give it a little while. After the whirlwind success of 50 Shades of Grey, hotels are cashing in on theming up rooms to incorporate all things Christian Grey. The Heathman Hotel, USA is offering a 50 Shades of Grey holiday, you might remember it’s where Ana and Christian had an initial encounter. Just don’t forget to bring your own cuffs and whips. Image via @ Heathman Hotel PDX

Hobbit Hotel from Purple Travel

#10 This is impressive whether you’re a Hobbit fan or not. Much love has been put into creating a dedicated ‘Shire’ experience in the lovely surrounds of Montana from gigantic mushrooms, a troll house, Hobbit trails, and even Gandalf’s hat in the room.  Image via @ Hobbit House of Montana.

Amazing Days Out: International Spy Museum

Intl Spy Museum 1

Gadgets, gizmos, cool cars, and femme fatales: all in a days work for James Bond and for visitors to the International Spy Museum. In Washington DC, you’ll find the spaced dedicated to unveiling the mysterious world of professional espionage, shining a light on double lives, and sharing the sometimes hilarious tricks of the trade that make spies so intriguing (lipstick gun anyone?)

A day at Washington’s most fun museum starts with the Spy in the City tour. We’re pretty sure it’ll be a highlight for any nine year old, or 99 year old! You track your way across the city, solving a series of fiendish clues and complete your mission. The tour is made all the more realistic with all the undercover gadgets you’d expect. Back at base you can explore the museum, which is filled with stories of ingenious, and sometimes ridiculous stories from the golden age of spying in the 50s and 60s, with in-shoe cameras and a replica of a tunnel that run underneath Berlin during the Cold War. There are also much older artefacts like George Washington’s spy letter, and an Enigma Machine used during World War II to send coded messages.

Intl Spy Museum 3

Right now Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains has some of the most famous cars from the franchise, along with a detailed exposition of every Bond Villain and the chance to create your own secret lair! Argo Exposed also brings you behind the scenes of the real life and completely daring mission by Tony Mendez to rescue a group of Americans from Iran by going undercover as a film crew.

Lipstick Pistol Intl Spy Museum

There’s code-breaking and a whole room dedicated to the Enigma cipher museum and it’s constantly updated with new activities – see if you can pass a polygraph test while you’re there. The best bit, is when you take away your spy stories you can be sure they come with some kind of authority, the man in charge of the museum was in the CIA for over 35 years, while the advisory board has two former chiefs of disguise for the Agency as well as a retired KGB general. create your own secret lair! Argo Exposed also brings you behind the scenes of the real life and completely daring mission by Tony Mendez to rescue a group of  Americans from Iran by going undercover as a film crew.

Tickets are $19.95 and children under 6 go free. You’ll find it on 800 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004.

Find out more about cheap holidays to the USA from Purple Travel.

Purple Tips: 6 Terrifying Roller Coasters

Purple Tips: 6 Terrifying Roller Coasters

What does it say about the human race that we are prepared to pay good money to scare the wits out of ourselves? We have our bodies thrown around the sharp corners, tunnels and twists at high velocity, while strapped in with little more than a glorified seat-belt. The adrenalin rush that each trip provides is surely addictive, and with coaster designers becoming ever more innovative in their sadistic desire to scare us half to death, the roller coaster stakes are higher than ever. Here are the world’s top six scariest roller coasters.

Shambhala

Shambhala image via @ Jodi Playa

Wind Shear at Divo Ostrov Amusement Park, Russia

This Russian roller coaster was supposedly designed to make its passengers throw up on themselves. Located at a theme park set deep into woodland, it spins, flips and rocks passengers in all directions for the ultimate stomach-churning effect (just make sure you don’t eat too much before boarding). The ride is one of Vekoma’s Waikiki Wave Super Flip rides (of which there is another in Mexico and one in Australia). The roller coaster can bend in all directions, allowing for diagonal twists and turns rather than just horizontal. One side of the ride moves in a clockwise direction, while the other moves in an anti-clockwise direction, meaning passengers are swung back and forth, hung upside down and tossed around in a vomit-inducing random fashion.

Batman The Ride at Six Flags, Georgia, USA

Batman The Ride has a particularly dark history. A teenager on a church trip was decapitated after entering a restricted area below. The 11-story-high ride was closed after the incident, but re-opened a few days later, only to take the life of a 58-year-old park worker in 2002, when he was in a restricted area while the coaster was operating. The man was kicked in the head by a passenger, who herself was hospitalised, though she ultimately survived the accident.

Shambhala at PortAventura, Spain

As well as being the tallest ride in Europe, Shambala is also the ride with the tallest drop (78m) and longest hyper coaster track (more than 1,650m). Its drop is enough to turn your stomach inside out and choose some of the other roller coasters around the world.

Formula Rossa at Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi

Formula Rossa is currently the fastest roller coaster in the world, reaching a staggering 240km per hour in less than five seconds. The velocity is such that passengers in the front seats are required to wear goggles to protect their eyes from the potential damage caused by a high speed impact with a flying insect.

Expedition Everest at Disney World, USA

This relatively new and relatively tame roller coaster at Disney’s Animal Kingdom still managed to kill a passenger, at least indirectly. A 44-year-old Florida man was unconscious when his cart pulled into the unloading station, and an employee and a park guest immediately tried to revive him. He was later pronounced dead, the victim of a heart attack, at a local hospital. Disney officials determined that the ride was operating normally when the man died. Maybe the surprise near the end of the coaster’s run startled him to death?

Cobra at Tivoli Friheden, Denmark

This amusement park in Aarhus, Denmark opened its new Cobra coaster in June of this year, only to shut it down eight days later after a section of track fell apart, sending a car off the rails and injuring four passengers. The ride’s now closed, as the park decides what to do: scrap it entirely or rebuild it. If it does re-open, we don’t think we’ll be signing up to ride it.

You Should Read… Top 10 Haunted Hotels

Purple Hearts: What to do in Paphos

From picture perfect bays, buzzing nightlife and buckets of sunshine, you couldn’t really ask for a more ideal holiday than on the gorgeous island of Cyprus. Of course, there is the infamous all night partying and up-to-no-goodness of Ayia Napa, the heart-racing history of Limassol, or the perfect blissfulness of Protaras. There are some excellent cheap holidays in Cyprus 2014 if you book early and choose the right hotels. Visit our website for more on cheap holidays in Cyprus, but for now, enjoy our guide on what to do in Paphos. 
Paphos

Paphos (and the whole island) is lucky in that it has great weather, almost the whole year round; the winters are mild and good for topping up that tan with a quick break in January, while the summer absolutely sizzles and is made for days running around the beach, dipping your toes in the warm waters, and indulging in some holiday fun. Legend has it that the Goddess of Love herself, Aphrodite was born from the waves of the island’s beaches and there are many sites dedicated to her. Image via @ Son of Groucho

Aphrodites Rock

What to do in Paphos

First up, we’ve got to mention the beaches, they are gorgeous. Latchi, Pachyammos, or Pharos Lighthouse Beach are all within reach for a day or two soaking up the sunshine, splashing about and grazing over a long lunch at a waterside taverna. A little drive from the town you can find Aphrodite’s Rock (where the lady herself is to have appeared.) A relaxed spot, there’s a pebble beach that you can cool down in, and legend has it, if you swim around the rock three times, you’ll be granted eternal youth. Image of Aphrodite’s Rock by @ Verity Cridland.

Apart from sun, sea and sand the history of the island is plain to see. There is plenty to discover in and around Paphos. It has an Acropolis, (like the one in Athens) Paphos Fort, the Tomb of the Kings or the simply magical Temple of Aphrodite, which dates back to the time of the Myceneans around the 12th century BC. Scattered throughout the area you might even stumble across the remains of theatres, fortresses, tombs and palaces. Image via @ Glen Bowman.

Ancient ruins

For adventurers, or just for anyone look for a bit of activity on Paphos holidaysdon’t miss the Troodos Mountains. There are unspoilt villages scattered throughout, tiny churches and excellent walking or hiking trails. And the views up there? Well, we think it’s hard for words to simply describe it; you have to see if for yourself.

Just a short drive from Paphos centre, you’ll find the Lara Beach Turtle Conservation Station. A serene stretch of sand, where, if you’re lucky you can find leatherback or green turtles scurrying across the sand, and a lovely secluded beach with plenty of greenery. Remember, September is the best time for viewing.

Family fun is plentiful in Paphos from the water sports on offer to the beaches. Paphos Zoo, family cycling adventures, an ostrich farm, amusement filled Luna Parks and (our favourite) the Paphos Aphrodite Waterpark are all close by and ensure there’s a lot to keep kids of all ages busy. George’s Fun Bus is a good day out, with “guaranteed fun.” The tour takes in historic ruins, the Adonis Waterfall and Sea Caves. All in a day’s work really!

There are couple of wineries in the area if you’re looking for traditional Cypriot hospitality, a great lunch and, naturally, lashings of wine. The Kolios Winery, Sterna Winery or Tsangarides are all worth visiting. A fountain of knowledge, the owners provide tasting and educational visitors and offer you the chance to imbibe some delicious wine without feeling too guilty.

Paphos at night

Partying in Paphos

Although not *quite* as wild as Ayia Napa, Paphos has its own alternative clubbing atmosphere. In the last few years, some great bars, cafes, pubs and clubs have sprung up. The Hollywood Music Bar on Bar Street (!) Aces Cocktail Bar on Ayias Anastasias, the themed Flintstones Bar on Dionisiou 2 Kato and the legendary Harry O’s are all worth checking out. For late night partying, Escape Beach Club, Rainbow Club (this one only opens around 2am) and the dance Robin Hood Club all make for awesome nights out. Image of Paphos at night by @ Son of Groucho.

Where to stay in Paphos

A little luxury never goes astray on holidays, so the 5* Hotel Almyra is a top choice. It is five minutes from the harbour, has free Wi-fi and the choice of four freshwater pools, or a dip in the spa. The 4* Capital Coast Resort and Spa is a top Family choice offering bright family rooms, lots of in-house activities and plenty of fun on the nearby beach. For romance or honeymooners take advantage of the Annabelle Hotel. This 5* overlooks the port and has its own tropical landscaped gardens, swim through caves, and marble features. You name it, they’ve got it. For great value we like the 3* Kissos Hotel on Verenikis Street. It’s in the heart of action in Paphos, slap, bang, between two resorts and amongst beautiful gardens. And it is right next door to a great beach, perfect for completely relaxing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat to eat in Cyprus

Closely related to Greek and with influences from Turkey, Italy and the Middle East, there’s certainly something to suit everyone from the fresh food, handy snack souvlaki and delicious fresh fish in Paphos. The Letymbou Taverna is a little bit out of town, but we think well worth the trek. The prices are right and the food is hard to beat.  If you prefer pub grub the Rugby Arms does great breakfasts, snacks or snacks. For fancy, Ficardo Restaurant on Poseidonos Avenue is top class, with fresh fish, kleftico or moussaka just a sample of what’s on offer.

For cheap Paphos holidays in Cyprus this year visit the Purple Travel website or give us a call on 0207 993 9228.

Digital detox holidays

Do you check Facebook before you even get dressed in the morning? Dn’t worry, you can tell us. Do you need to kick your Twitter habit? Or simply relax from Reddit? Are you naked without your smartphone? You need a digital detox!

We’re guessing the thought of going offline for a few days is a little scary, but hear us out. With attention spans dropping and internet addiction on the rise, a tech free holiday is meant to inspire, re-energize and improve your mood. If nothing else, it will at least make you feel popular when you return to a bunch of emails and status updates.

Unplug your computer and head for a little tech free treat, with our top 7 digital detox holidays.

Backspace button

Off the grid weekends in the USA
These Digital Detox guys are spearheading the trend, they think of everything. No watches, computers, phones; devices of any kind are checked from the arrival. This retreat is about recharging your batteries, but not the online kind. Digital Detox offers yoga, meditation, writing workshops (using a pen and paper!) a completely tranquil environment along with healthy simply food. It makes an ideal place to unwind and get inspired.

Distance to wi-fi: it’s not that far, but it’s under lock and key until the retreat ends.

Elephant watching in Kenya
You’re in the middle of the desert, silently watching out for an elephant, a once in a lifetime opportunity, when suddenly a phone interrupts everything and scares Nelly and everything in a 3 mile radius away. If there was a place on earth where phones should be banned, it must be at the Elephant Watch Safari Camp. You don’t want to be *that* person, do you?

Distance to wi-fi: at least a couple of miles. Don’t bother lugging that laptop.

Digital Detox in the Caribbean
The paradise like islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean are serious about the digital detox, asking guests to completely surrender all their tech gadgets on arrival. Hotels around the islands have no TVs, while you’ll be frowned on if you whip out your phone on the beach. It even provides pre-holiday advice on how to survive without technology.
Nearest wi-fi: you will find some access, but your neighbours won’t be impressed.

Enjoy the high life in Morocco
High up in the exquisite Atlas Mountains of Morocco, along with simply stunning scenery, you’ll find a haven of computer free activities at the Kasbah Bab Ourika like expert yoga classes, morning hikes through wild lavender fields, and clear mountain air that makes up for being offline. Don’t worry, it’ll all be waiting for you when you get back.

Distance from wi-fi: How often have you gotten good wi-fi signal up the side of a mountain?

Family tech free in Jamaica
Try Jakes Hotel, it has it all, or rather we should say it hasn’t it all. All of the cottages are without wi-fi, TVs or telephones. This place is about getting completely relaxed at the perfect beaches nearby, finding the ideal masseuse at the spa, or simply taking some time to enjoy life at the ‘chicest shacks in the Caribbean.’

Distance to wifi: Ok, if you really need it, you might find signal in the hotel lobby.

Get beached in Phi Phi
If you’ve seen that movie The Beach, you’ll remember the picture perfect cove, where a bunch of travellers decided to live in idyllic surroundings. Completely removed from society, it was the perfect balm for escaping the rat race (until things turned a little sour, but the less said about that the better!) The beaches in Phi Phi may not be as deserted as they once were, but they are definitely about as tech free as you’ll find in Thailand.

Distance to wi-fi: You’ll be lucky to find patchy reception in some of the bars, but this isn’t one of the big all-encompassing resorts, so you might even forget you once owned a phone!

Surf the Aegean not the web
The cruising season in the Greek Islands lasts from May to October. It’s a place to switch off – because you don’t have any choice. Helping out on a boat is hard work, even if it’s simply sunbathing on deck, (that’s helping isn’t it?) Typically, you’ll travel around the likes of Rhodes, Mykonos, and Santorini. Wi-fi is at a minimum on board, so why not go to the whole hog and leave your phone back in Britain.

Distance from wi-fi: Of course when you land on the islands you’ll find plenty of places to plug in, but a tech free holiday is just what you make it, so switch off and check your mail when you get home.

Image via  here.

Purple 10: Best Spa Destinations

A wise man once said “when we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere.” Well, he probably never had a good rub down or a facial, since none our handpicked, amazing hotels existed at the time. Sneak a peek and feel that quiet and relaxing holiday that awaits for you just a short flight from the UK in our post about the best spa destinations 2014.
Mosaic hotel
#1 The Vine Hotel, 5* Funchal, Madeira Described by its owners as “a hotel with soul, just like good wine,” it does not come as a surprise that this stylish, sophisticated hotel relies heavily on the affluent heritage of the local wine industry. Specialising in Vinotherapy – a rejuvenating massage using grape oils and only natural ingredients – it helps carry your skin to spirits high. Not forgetting that wine is also meant to be enjoyed the old-fashioned way, one can enjoy a glass (or two) of local Chardonnay atop the beautiful Panoramic Bar overlooking the city.

#2 Corallium Spa Costa Meloneras, 4* Gran Canaria, Spain Inspired by the natural volcanic conditions of the island, the Corallium Spa blends old and new by utilising the latest technologies in hydrotherapy, music therapy and aromatherapy among other techniques. Set on a modern spacious site of over 3500m, it offers tailored treatments from all over the world including Shiatsu, or Indian Head Massage, body treatments from the Dead Sea and of course its infamous “Womb Room”, a unique, copper-red area that is said to simulate the absolute peace an unborn baby feels in its mother’s belly.
#3 Eden Andalou Aquapark & Spa, 5* Marrakech, Morocco Deep in the heart of Morocco, Marrakech is a city lost in time with its mosques, markets and palaces. To really feel that off-the-beaten track atmosphere, we suggest heading for one of Eden’s two traditional hammams before taking a relaxing swim at its sensory heated pool boasting a unique zen-like feeling.. The hotel also offers a vast Balneotherapy (massage through moving water) area where a team of professionals will ensure that though your body will eventually leave these mysterious lands, your mind will linger around just a little bit longer.
#4 One & Only, 5* Reethi Rah, The Maldives Overlooking the Indian Ocean, this majestic getaway is a secluded heaven surrounded by coral atolls, white sands and lagoons. The Maldives, an enchanting string of 1,200 islands, is the epitome of an exotic, relaxed destination. With swirling vitality pools, crystal steam rooms, saunas and ice fountains, the very aptly named One & Only Reethi Rah is the very definition of a tropical paradise.
#5 Anassa Hotel, 5* Latchi, Cyprus Anassa literally translates to “queen” from ancient Greek, but in modern Greek it stands for “breath,” which is also highly appropriate given that this wonderful, luxurious hotel, with its classical minimal architecture in earthy blue and white tones, will take your breath away. A luxurious choice for honeymoon or couples getaway, it is a roman-style spa that will take you back to the ancient times and its eclectic selection of Mediterranean delicacies will make you feel like an emperor.
#6 Taj Exotica, 5* Goa, India Far from the maddening crowds of the popular resorts in the northern strip, the Taj Exotica lies on the southwest coast of Goa overlooking the Arabian Sea. Built amongst lush beautiful gardens, the hotel complex offers a unique collection of villas, Mediterranean-style facilities and family friendly activities. Its gorgeous spa facilities, designed around the traditional Indian temple styles, offer a vast range of therapies and treatments to take your body and soul to a magical, faraway place.
#7 Abama Golf & Spa Resort, 5* Tenerife, Spain An imposing presence on a 160 hectare private estate,, the Abama Resort prides itself as being built on a privileged location that enjoys more hours of sunshine than any other place in Spain. Featuring volcanic landscapes, a wide range of rare plant life and breathtaking views, this is the perfect destination for those who like to walk (or golf, if its name was not subtle enough) among a beautiful natural scenery. Its world reknowned facilities offer tailor-made treatments and packages to suit your individual needs, whether it is to relax, feel pretty or get rid of those excess pounds.
#8 Porto Zante Villas & Spa, 5* Zante, Greece Zante is mostly known as a party destination for youngsters, but far away from the bustling boozefest of Laganas lies the award winning Porto Zante. It’s a true haven for those who’d rather combine the crystal clear waters with the privacy and space of a truly mesmerising hotel. Mixing exotic spices and local herbs, the spa offers an extensive variety of innovative treatments and special massage techniques. Afterhours visitors can enjoy the beautiful sunset at the relaxed beachfront restaurant facing the never ending Ionian sea.
#9 Vogue Hotel Avant Garde, 5* Antalya, Turkey Situated in the busy seaside resort of Kemer on the Gulf of Antalya, the Vogue is a modern, luxury hotel with 347 rooms, suites, villas and penthouses. Its spa has, rather fittingly, an Ottoman themed aura and includes a large variety of turkish baths, steamrooms, jacuzzis, aromatic showers and massage rooms. The Turks did it first, so who are we to argue? To complete the eastern experience, one can sample varieties of local drinks and herbal teas at the dedicated spa Vito-Bar.
#10 Premier Le Reve Hotel & Spa, 5* Hurghada, Egypt Close to the shores of the Red Sea, an area blessed with eternal summer, one can find the highly acclaimed Premier Le Reve. With extensive landscaped grounds that offer a beautiful vista and exceptional service, this hotel is among the most popular luxury destinations in Egypt. It offers an astonishing sky pool with a spectacular glass dome (that keeps the water warm using natural sunlight) and vast hammam and relaxation areas that would make even Tutankhamun jealous.

Call the experts now on 0207 993 9228 to find out more about spa holidays this year.

An insider’s travel guide Goa

This is a post by writer Rosalie Cruz, who spent the past few months in Goa, experiencing all that life had to offer there. Read her insider’s travel guide to Goa and find her online on Facebook.

Henna

India has always held a certain magical appeal to westerners. The reasons for that are more than we can list; maybe it’s the spirituality or perhaps it’s the amazing diversity of cultures, spice, food, colour that floods your senses at every turn but the truth is, there isn’t much you can’t find in India. From beautiful palaces tucked away in the deserts of Rajasthan, ageless rituals and the mysticism of Varanasi, the massive city sprawl of Mumbai or Delhi where anything can happen, the beauty of Kerala, the quaintness of Pondicherry. And then there is Goa, playground for Indians and the rest of the world alike.

Goa is quickly becoming the place to be if you’re looking for an amazing holiday at a relatively purse friendly rate. With its peaceful warm waters, stretches of fine sand surrounded by jungle and coconut tree forests, every beach in Goa could make it on a postcard. If you’re not so much into beaches, there is always the thrill of bargaining for handcrafted souvenirs in the many flea markets that dot the area or driving around on a spiffy little Vespa, snapping shot after shot of the architectural gems that remain from colonial days.

But if a beach holiday is what you crave, then Goa has much to offer. Some of my favourite beaches in North Goa are Morgim, Mandrem and Aswen. The three beaches are all part of the same large stretch of fine white sands, quiet warm waters and beach shacks and huts. If water based sports are your thing or you just need something to occupy yourself when you have decided to give yourself a break from tanning, this is the place to be. Surf lessons, para sailing, kite surfing. You name it, they’ll have it.

Dudhsagar Waterfall

Then there is Arambol, also to the North. Home to hippies, yogis and free spirits in general, this beach is the place to be if you’re looking for some serious chill out time with all mod cons. I recommend you stay for sunset and the drum circle that happens at the beach every night.

As you make your way further south, be sure to visit Anjuna. If you’re looking for a party (a trance party I should say) this is definitely the place to be. There is always a party going on in any of the many shacks on the beach. Curlie’s is an institution when it comes to partying in Anjuna but Hippies, Shiva Valley and Café Lilliput should be on your to do list as well. Days here are all about lazing by the beach, spending a Wednesday bargaining at the massive flea market and getting some food before heading out to party all over again.

Vagator, the smaller town neighbouring Anjuna, is said to be the birthplace of Goan Trance and has a much different vibe. Here you’ll end up rubbing shoulders with the people who fell in love with Goa back in the 60’s and have been unable to ever truly leave. All you have to do is pull up a stool at the Mango Tree (renowned for its bad service but still a favourite in the area); I promise you’ll leave with a story to tell. For some trance, try Hilltop or Nine Bar.

Baga and Calangute could well be the places for you if things get a bit too quiet while you bum around in North Goa. Tito’s Lane in Baga will definitely have a bar that suits you down to a T. It’s a great place to mingle and meet some locals. If you time your stay well you’ll be around for Sunburn, a music festival that caters for those who enjoy dance, house and trance music and renowned as one of the best festivals in the world.

Guetta in Goa

Before you leave, make sure you spend a Saturday night in the Arpora Saturday Night Market. Amazing stalls with local crafts as well as clothing and jewellery; designers from all over the world come here to sell their beautiful wares. It’s impossible to resist the urge to shop here, even if you dread the thought of shopping.

Before you leave North Goa, hop on a taxi and head to Old Goa, the district that was once the heart of Portuguese Goa. Beautiful churches and old colonial homes are the most evident remains of the colonial occupation. There is a stunning multi-dimensional feel to the whole state but Old Goa is where it is more evident and best preserved. It’s well worth spending an afternoon walking around with your camera in hand.

Once you hit South Goa, life slows down a bit more. The white sand beaches and warm waters of the Arabian Sea create the ideal place to see life go by. Away from the partying of North Goa, the key word here is “chill.” Palolem Beach, also known as paradise beach is definitely a must during a visit to Goa. And we assure you they don’t call it paradise beach for nothing. Sunset here is like nothing you have ever seen before. Spending the last few days of your holiday here will leave you invigorated and happy.

If after all the beachcombing you still have the time and energy, take a trip to Hampi in the state of Karnataka or Kerala but we’ll tell you all about that in another post.

All images via Rosalie Cruz.

Copyright © 2013. Created by Meks. Powered by WordPress.