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10 unmissable summer festivals with a twist
2
Going to TBEX Athens? Here’s a (sort of) local guide
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Purple Tips: Gambia – The Ideal Holiday Destination for Families
4
Purple Pick: The Best Ruin Bars Budapest
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Off the beaten track: Heaven’s Gate
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Off the beaten track: Socotra, a mystical place on Earth
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Purple 10: top 10 free attractions in the world
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Purple 10 film inspired hotel rooms
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Digital detox holidays
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7 Cool and Unique Hotels in Portugal

10 unmissable summer festivals with a twist

Lebowski Fest, 11-12th July 2014, Louisville, Kentucky Dedicated to all things Dude, Lebowski Fest’s been running for a whopping 12 years and offers White Russians, unlimited bowling, costume contests and special guests. The Dude abides at Lebowski Fest and we couldn’t think of a better summer festival.
Jerry Duvall

 Image via @ Lebowski Fest

Full Moon Party, 13th July, 08th September 2014, Koh Phangan, Thailand If we could choose one word to describe the Full Moon Parties of Koh Phangan it would be: epic. Shirtless, shoeless tourists dance all night at the biggest beach party in the world, where you’ll find plastic buckets that hold a litre of vodka and Red Bull. Told you it was epic.

Full moon party

Full Moon Party via @ Wikicommons

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Going to TBEX Athens? Here’s a (sort of) local guide

I was so happy to hear that TBEX, the travel blog exchange will be held in Athens, Greece in 2014. There’s a simple reason for this. Although I’m not from here, it’s been my home for the past three and a bit years. In that time I’ve come to feel very proud of Athens: it’s lively and vibrant, friendly and fun, parties go on all night, food is incredible and so cheap and is nothing like what you see on tv… it’s much more than that. Everyone knows about the sites like Anafiotika, The Acropolis, and Plaka. All incredible sites that I never get tired of… but I wanted to share some practical local knowledge – when you first arrive somewhere, where should you eat, drink or dance? This list is a bit nightlife heavy and I could have kept writing all day – but seriously, who would be still going on page 55? If you’ve got any other questions about local stuff to do or see during TBEX Athens, please feel free to get in touch, I’ll do my best to help out.

11390570636_1d382b8a4a_zImage via @ flickr

Sunset Views

Head for the Acropolis, but instead of turning right up to the Parthenon, turn left and watch out for a metal staircase that leads you up to the open rocks opposite. A free and lovely place to soak up a glorious sunset behind the ancient temple. Known to locals or me certainly) as the slippery rocks, it’s best to wear good shoes up there. There are also lots of bars with great views in Athens, I’ve been to many of them. If you’re in Monastiraki avoid A for Athens. The overpriced drinks and rude staff don’t help you appreciate the view too much. Instead, head for the roof of the AthenStyle hostel for decent value drinks and a panoramic terrace or the cool surrounds of a 6th floor roof bar called Sole e Luna in a hotel in Neos Kosmos, where you can find a sunset to rival the Monastiraki bars and enjoy an expertly made Mojito.

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Purple Tips: Gambia – The Ideal Holiday Destination for Families

Gambia family holidays

Have you ever planned a family holiday trip by throwing a dart at a map of the world? That method might well be the only way many of us would ever hit upon The Gambia as our next family holiday spot. This tiny nation, one of the smallest in Africa, nevertheless offers some marvelous facilities for tourists along the stretch of beach that sits along the Atlantic. If you and your family enjoy the unusual and if they seek exoticism — here it is!

A Unique Culture

Of course the “real Gambia” includes far more than what you can see from your hotel window. Feeling the need for a bit of help from knowledgeable locals? Then you’re in luck, you can find freelance tour guides through the Gambia Official Tourist Guides Scheme. This organization connects tourists staying in area hotels with guides who can help them get more out of their stay. The guides are happy to show tourists the sights and explain the culture.

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Purple Pick: The Best Ruin Bars Budapest

A beer for under £2, a balmy evening and crumbling, atmospheric surroundings. Is this the perfect place ever for a bar? Welcome to the “Ruin Bars” of Budapest. Formerly a semi-legal set up, nowadays the Drinking District is one of the top must-dos on your next city break to Budapest.

Legend has it these bars first came into existence in the early 2000s, when a group of young guys were on the hunt for cheap places to drink and these homemade bars were first brought into existence. This is more or less how it works: derelict buildings are transformed with mismatched chairs. Gardens provide sunny terraces in the summer, with odd bits and pieces doubling up as furniture – one bar has a car instead of a table. Donated art gatecrashes the walls and a healthy dose of cigarette smoke and ten foot tall graffiti stains the walls; this is the real deal.

There’s a real community spirit around the Ruin Bars and the patrons range from retirees stopping by for a coffee, to university students on the hunt for a great bar. Here’s our pick of the best ruin bars Budapest. If you’ve got any more suggestions, we’d love to hear them in comments!

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Off the beaten track: Heaven’s Gate

The Door to Heaven is a cave in the middle of Heaven’s Gate Mountain, which towers over the Zhangjiajie area in China. It is the biggest natural cave in China and was used as a place of worship by the ancient Chinese. The mystical gap in the rocks is a whopping 122m high and was formed when a rock between the two mountains collapsed.

Heavens Gate 3

Image via @ Wikicommons

Image via @ Wikicommons

Image via @ Wikicommons

To actually see the gaping hole in the cliffs up close, visitors will have to make a gruelling trek up 999 steps. The number of the steps was chosen wisely, since for the Chinese number nine means ‘eternal’ or ‘perpetual’. The highlight of a visit is when the clouds shroud the mountain, offering a really mystical experience.

Alternatively, for visitors that won’t think of climbing all those stairs, there is a cable car (the longest in the world) running and a bus that follows a risky mountain journey with continuous bends.

Heavens Gate 2

 Image via @ SeemingLee

For the full experience of Heaven’s Gate, check out this amazing video of a skydiver flying through the mountain cave:

YouTube Preview Image

Off the beaten track: Socotra, a mystical place on Earth

Socotra 1

Socotra tree via @ Wikicommons

Socotra

Image via @ Places to see in your lifetime

For those of you thinking that alien places only exist in Spielberg’s imagination, the island of Socotra stands as solid evidence of a true outer space land right here on Earth.

Actually, Socotra is an archipelago of four islands close to the Horn of Africa. Thanks to its  geographically isolated location and purely tropical climate, it is no wonder that the fauna and flora of this hidden gem are unique in the world.

Socotra’s unearthly images will certainly amaze even the most experienced globetrotter. Once you get there giant mushroom-shaped Dragon’s blood trees, trees that look like an elephant’s foot, and cucumbers, as well as more unusual species of birds, mammals and fish. It’s all so unusual you’ll have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming.

Find out about more amazing places in the world by our Off the beaten track series.

Cowrie Shell

Image via @ Gerry and Bonni

Cucumber Tree

Image via @ Gerry and Bonni

Desert Rose

Image via @ Gerry and Bonni

Socotra 2

Socotra beach via @ Wikicommons

Purple 10: top 10 free attractions in the world

Purple 10: best free attractions in the world

PurpleTravel.co.uk wants to find you a cheap holiday that you’ll never forget. Check out our top 10 best free attractions in the world before you decide on your next break away.

Kensington Roof Gardens1. Kensington High Street Roof Gardens, London – It’s the biggest roof garden in Europe and is home to three different themed gardens, Spanish, Tudor style, English garden. What’s not to like? Image via @ Arripay

Park Guell from PurpleTravel.co.uk

2. Park Guell, Barcelona – The lively Catalan city’s park is a feast for the eyes, with coloured lizards, tiled walkways and Gaudi’s inimitable style everywhere to see.

Berlin graffiti

3. Street art, Berlin – Known as the “the graffiti Mecca of the urban art world” the German capital pops with colour, and design at almost every corner and street. Grab your camera and head for a wander to see the ever changing urban scenery. Image via @ Metric Centro.

St Peters Basilica

4. St Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican – The symbol of the Pope and one of the holiest sites for Catholics across the world, St Peter’s is also home to some of the most breathtaking collections of art in the world with works by Michealangelo. Image via @ RandyOHC.

Smithsonian gardens

5. Smithsonian, Washington DC – The biggest museum complex in the world, this is a whopper – with 19 museums, a National Zoo and nine research centres. Image via @ Wikicommons.

US Capitol

6. US Capitol, Washington DC Visitors can wander around the impressive outdoor area of the Capitol and admire the iconic façade of the building. Image via @ Wikicommons.

Notre Dame

7. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris – One of the most well known buildings in the world, Notre Dame Cathedral is a miracle of architecture right in the centre of Paris. Image via @ Wikicommons.

Grand bazaar

8. The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul – It’s one of the biggest covered bazaars in the world with 58 alleys and more than 4.000 shops. That’s definitely where you’ll find a bargain! Image via @ Wikicommons.

New York

9. Central Park, New York – Spring, summer, autumn or winter, Central Park is a delight for the senses, and an escape from the (sometimes) high prices of the Big Apple. Image via @ Wikicommons.

Hong Kong

10. Symphony of Lights, Hong Kong – A huge light show offers a stunning backdrop to the city every single night. Grab a good place to watch it and soak up the colours, lasers and atmosphere. Image via @ Wikicommons.

You should read… Purple 10 holidays for art lovers

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.

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.

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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.

7 Cool and Unique Hotels in Portugal

As purveyors of “cool,” we at PortugalConfidential.com think we know a thing or two about what’s hip, contemporary and unique in the realms of gastronomy, style and travel.  So, we were up for the challenge when Turismo Central de Portugal suggested we take a road trip to discover some of the cool and unique hotels across their region. We have to admit, we were pleasantly surprised and delighted.

Central Portugal is the area north of the capital city of Lisbon, but south of the second largest city Porto, with the Atlantic Ocean on the west and the Spanish border to the right.  Historic hilltop villages dot the landscape, while city-life can be found in Viseu, Guarda, Coimbra and Aveiro.  The region epitomises the perfect blending of laid-back traditional Portugal lifestyle with that of 21st century design and amenities.  A fine example of this aesthetic can be found in these Seven Cool & Unique Hotels of Central Portugal.

Passado de Pedra is a small rural hotel in the centre of the eastern village of Caria.  The early 19th century home was recently transformed into 6 guest units.  One bedroom is in a former wine press room; a small apartment is now in the old stable.  The main house has four more rooms which can be rented separately or configured for groups and families.  Ask owner Graça for a walking tour of Caria, a village rich in Portuguese, Moorish and Jewish history.

Portugal Confidential - Passado de Pedra

Imagine a medieval village transformed into a boutique hotel. Former village houses are left intact on the exterior, but renovated for 21st century guests on the inside. At Casas do Coro in Marialva, the feel is rustic, but the accommodations are modern, the amenities are luxurious and the service is exemplary.  Select from individual rooms or multi-bedroom houses at this chic hotel.

Portugal Confidential - Casas do Coro Aerial

Sitting on top of one the highest peaks in the Serra da Estrela mountain range, Casa das Penhas Douradas is a high-altitude nature retreat as well as a design hotel.  Mid-century modern elements are reinterpreted in the decor, with birch the predominant material in furniture and cabinetry, while traditional Burel wool fabric, manufactured in a factory down the hill, adds softness and warmth.  Outside, numerous mountain trails offer amazing views of unique rock formations and the valley below.  Inside, relax by the fire in the guest lounge or slip into a sauna in the hotel’s spa.

Casa das Penhas Douradas

Casa de Sé is a small luxury hotel in the centre of historic Viseu.  This sumptuously renovated 18th century building has 12 rooms, each uniquely decorated with antique furniture and decorative objects.  Should guests fall in love with a particular item, everything is for sale.  At Casa de Sé, history, art and luxury cohabitate in harmony.

Portugal Confidential - Casa da Se

Aveiro is often called the “Venice of Portugal” for its canals winding through the city centre.  “Moliceiro” is the name given to the ornately-decorated “gondolas”. With a romantic view to these canals is the boutique Hotel Moliceiro. 49 rooms are available, but we recommend asking for one of the distinctive theme rooms ranging from Chanel, Provence and Lavender to Manhattan, Cosmopolitan and Marrakesh.  Our favourite is the Oriental room with long private terrace.

Portugal Confidential - Hotel Moliceiro Oriental

Villa Pedra Natural Houses, just south of Coimbra, is quiet old-world Portuguese village life completely redefined for the 21st century.  The hilltop village of Aldeia da Cima was literally abandoned for 70 years, until recently discovered by a Lisbon-based designer and architect team.  They gave new life to the village by constructing modern, artfully-designed houses set amongst richly landscaped gardens, pool and even an aviary.  Villa Pedra is perfect for short- or long-term escapes.

Portugal Confidential - Villa Pedra Natural Houses

Think trendy urban boutique hotel snatched-up from the big city and placed perfectly on a large sandy beach in Portugal, and you’ve got Furadouro Hotel & Spa in Ovar.  This modern hotel of 27 rooms features a gourmet restaurant and large full-service spa.  But, of course, the best amenities are the view to the ocean and the sound of waves crashing to the beach.

Portugal Confidential - Furadouro Boutique Hotel Beach & Spa

Learn more about cool and contemporary Portugal at PortugalConfidential.com

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