Just off the southern coast of mainland Greece lies the oldest submerged city in the world, Pavlopetri, which thrived for 2,000 years during the Bronze Age. The ancient city of Pavlopetri has an almost complete town plan with streets and buildings, making it unique in terms of underwater cities.
Initially inhabited in 3,500 BC, with a surface larger than 60 acres, its buildings are divided into smaller spaces and in some cases, courtyards. At least six prehistoric streets are noticeable and the submerged architectural remains extend to the islet of Pavlopetri, where ancient ruins are still evident. Moreover, among the immersed ruins there is also a cemetery.
The secrets of Pavlopetri were brought to light by an international team of experts, using the latest technology to investigate the site and digitally raise it from the seabed. The team scoured the sea floor for any artifacts that have eroded from the sands, discovering thousands of fragments, each providing significant clues about the everyday lives of Pavlopetri inhabitants. From the buildings to the trade goods and the everyday tableware, every artefact sheds light on this long-forgotten world.
Off The Beaten Track: Seeing The Northern Lights 2014
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are one of the most amazing and awe inspiring natural phenomena you will see in your entire life. Yes, we know that’s a big statement and we stand by it! Here’s the Purple Travel guide to the Northern Lights 2014.
The natural light show is caused when collisions between charged particles in the ionosphere release mass energy and light in multiple colours, which will leave your jaw on the floor. The mysterious Northern Lights 2014 are a wonder to behold and their magical as well as atmospheric formations completely win over anyone lucky enough to actually experience them.
Oh! You lucky things, there’s still lots of time to book as winter 2014 has been characterized as the “Solar Maximum Period” and therefore predicted to be the best aurora season in many years. Bear in mind though the lights are visible only under dark skies between the months of September to April, preferably under a clear, cloudless sky.
Usually seen between 5pm and 2am, it is important to be away from artificial light (and to bring a thermos of coffee with you!) No month guarantees better sightings than another but December to February offer the longest hours of darkness, while the months of autumn and spring are likely to offer more stable weather conditions and often see more aurora activity.
If you head for the area known as the auroral oval that sits above the Arctic and sub-Arctic, you’ll have the best chance of seeing the lights. The best options and most easily accessible of these destinations are Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Canada. Our top choices include the Hotel Ranga in the Iceland’s southern countryside, the Aurora Sky Station at Abisko in Swedish Lapland or just outside Tromso in Norway.
Northern Lights tours are popular and give visitors the best chance of catching the lights. There are actually plenty of options for anyone willing to spend a few days in the icy landscapes. A romantic Northern Light Cruise could be a good honeymoon option, or the Northern Light tour will give the ultimate Arctic Circle Experience.
An absolutely spectacular sight, Vikos Gorge or Vikos Gap is located in the mountainous area of Epirus, in the Northwestern part of Greece. In fact, it is the second deepest Gorge in the world, after the Grand Canyon in the USA.
The steep walls of the Gorge rise to a height of 1,040 metres in several places, providing breath-taking views of this unique natural phenomenon. The Voidomatis River crosses the Vikos Gorge providing a beautiful natural backdrop. This part of Greece hasn`t changed in hundreds of years and is a really amazing place for wildlife and hiking.
The Gorge of Samaria
The Gorge of Samaria is the longest one in Europe, after the French gorge of Verdon. It is an area of stunning natural beauty. Rare flora and fauna have survived in this area and are protected. The mountains that have formed it are wild, high and steep. You will pass through forests of ancient cypress trees and pines and descend between vertical cliffs.
The path starts from Xyloskalo (near Omalos) in the White Mountains at an altitude of 1,230 meters and comes to an end at the village of Agia Roumeli at the Libyan sea. Walking through the gorge usually takes anything from 3 to 5 hours, without breaks.
Fancy something really different on a holiday? Head for the simply stunning Waterfall restaurant at the Villa Escudero in San Pablo City, Philippines. Lunch is served on bamboo tables, as the crystal clear water runs underfoot. After indulging in a delicious lunch of local favourites, you can work off the calories with a little bamboo rafting, hiking or dancing. For anyone who prefers a more sedate afternoon activity, the bird watching is second to none.
Off the beaten track: Getting high (tea) in Amsterdam cafes
Slowly, slowly the Dutch are beginning to appreciate a good ol’ cuppa. If you’re over the brownies, hate the smoke of the coffee shops and just want to enjoy a proper cup of tea, then let Purple Travel help you out.
True tea rooms are hard to find in this, ahem, coffee focused country. Too often do the Dutch serve up some questionable green concoction in place of your well-deserved PG Tips. While tea in Amsterdam is may seem like the boring option, we can safely say that the below venues are helping to polish tea’s image and finally set it free from its dull reputation.
What: A traditional English tea room offering a selection of Grand cru loose leaf teas from De Eenhorn. Don’t leave without: Ordering Eggs Benedict, just because you can – Greenwoods are responsible for Amsterdam’s first ever cooked English breakfast.
Best bit: Greenwoods can provide picnic baskets for customers on request. Either take out on a hired boat for the day or impress a date in one of Amsterdam’s many parks. All freshly made on the day and with a choice to suit your tastes.
Price: Pot for one is €4,95, pot for two is € 7.95.
What: A cute spot in Haarlemmerdijk serving up real deal teas, all arranged in transparent boxes where you can scoop the tea of preference in a little bag. Don’t leave without: Trying at least three of their 60 flavours, which range from the standard Earl Grey to the spiced grandma’s apple-pie. This place puts England to shame. Best Bit: The organic cookies to dip in. Price: Reasonable – but depends on which tea you would like.
The Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
AMSTEL HOTEL What: A royal setting to enjoy a proper high tea. Don’t leave without: Getting a slice of cake too. Best bit: The beautiful setting, the handmade shrimp croquettes and the excellent explanation provided about each of the teas. Price: High tea will set you back a small fortune and even just a tea is pretty pricey at €7,50, but you do get a full pot..
HILTON HALF MOON LOUNGE What: A large, traditional English-style living room that overlooks the Hilton Marina and garden. Don’t leave without: Giving into the burgers – they’re something else, seriously. Best bit: Proper tea with actual leaves and large sofas – a perfect place to relax, read or catch up on emails. Price: It’s the Hilton, need I say more?
Looking ahead for next year’s summer holiday? If you’re after something more authentic but still have a budget to stick to then Purple Travel have picked the best cheap holidays in emerging and undiscovered destinations that won’t hurt your bank balance.
With many tourists flocking to visit the souks of Marrakech or the budget-friendly holiday destination of Agadir towards the north, there lies a little secret a bit more south of this and it’s called Essaouira and really comes at no extra cost either. We can tell you that it is truly one of the most beautiful Atlantic coastal towns that is renowned for being more laid-back than its more popular neighbours. The best time to visit is in Spring and Autumn, before and after Ramadan. Film lovers will be especially pleased to hear that Essaouira has been the setting of Orson Welles’ Othello and Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. While outdoor enthusiasts will love the choice of low cost activities and water sports available. Due to a renewed interest in Morocco, chic boutiques and quirky riads have been popping up all over the place, making Essaouira the new cheap and chic place to stay. It is also close to Marrakech for those who want to combine a beach holiday and a city break. Those interested in world music will be pleased to hear that Essaouira plays host to two music festivals. The Essaouira Alizes Festival in April which showcases classic and contemporary Moroccan music and the Gnaoua & World Music Festival in June where local and international artists come together for dancing, music and culture.
Taking a cue from its North African neighbour, Tunisia has new offerings for tourists who want simple and charming experiences and friendly prices. Since Tunisia is more of a newcomer on the block than Morocco it is actually more affordable. Mahdia just south of the busy resort of Monastir, is a coastal city associated with the fishing silk weaving and olive industries. It is certainly one of Tunisia’s most picturesque cities and has many historic attractions such as the ruins of the ancient city of Punic, the Fatimid port, the first Fatimid mosque (dating back to the 10th century) and an Ottoman port (16th century). If you book a cheap holiday to Tunisia it means you have more cash to splash on activities such as diving and Mahdia surely is Tunisia’s top diving site and wreck diving in particular. Holidays in Mahdia are great for honeymooners and great for first-time visitors to Tunisia who will get a taste of this exotic country without being overwhelmed.
Yalikavak is a harbourside town with an ultra-modern marina yet has still managed to maintain a small and sleepy exterior – so far. I’ts located on the Bodrum peninsula not too far from the bigger resort of Bodrum itself. Visitors looking for cheap holidays to Turkey will be more than pleased by Yalikavak’s offerings. The small sandy beaches are perfect for spending days in the sun and so far many beaches remain uncrowded, perfect for families. For extra beauty, lay on the beach until sunset and see the sun drop behind the horizon. The market at Yalikavak draws people from all over the Bodrum peninsula, seeking out shopping bargains on retail items but also on fresh produce but to get a bargain be prepared to haggle.
Taking a spot all of its own is the country of Montenegro, this is perhaps definitely the most off the beaten track destination in our list. Budva, is the poster child of tourism here and there’s good reason why. Explore the atmospheric old town before parking yourself down on one of the 35 beaches. By night Budva transforms itself with numerous beachside bars so if you’re in for a night on the tiles then Budva is the place to be and really may not be suitable for families. Elsewhere along the Riviera and in other resorts Montenegro has remained quieter and more atmospheric. For example the Bay of Kotor is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe and Kotor itself is an ancient fortified town with UNESCO World Heritage status. Further down the coast from Budva is the Montenegrin south coast where you’ll find Ulcinj, a predominantly ethnically Albanian town with a splendid location, for exploring the south of the country.
Tourists have been visiting the Algarve for years and years but away from the busy airport, golf resorts, and really cheap package deals lies something more authentic. Olhao, a small fishing village is a perfect example of the cultural mix that can be found in Southern Portugal thanks to the maritime hisotry and Moorish occupation. Olhao is known for its square-shaped whitewashed houses with Moorish features. In the late 18th century, the town was flourishing and so local people started to build new houses in a Moorish style. Another draw of Olhao is the chance to take a watertaxi to peaceful offshore beaches such as Armona, Farol and Culatra. Away from the coast lies Monchique, a forested market town known for its production of aguardiente, a potent brandy and the perfect base to explore the Algarve’s lesser known inland beauty.
#1 Budapest The Hungarian capital is set to have a busy year amongst hipsters thanks to the release of Wes Anderson’s film The Grand Budapest Hotel (even though it was mostly filmed in Germany!) The city’s filled with architecture, baths, boutique hotels and laid-back cafes. It’s a must-do value city break. Makes a nice addition to our 2014 travel bucket list.
#2 The Greek Islands We especially love Ikaria, where your holiday can make you live longer and eternal favourite Crete, where you can visit the hippie village of Matala or go family friendly in Heraklion.
#6 Brazil Book cheap holidays to Brazil right now because cities like Rio and Sao Paolo are set to see a huge influx of visitors thanks to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Instead of watching from your armchair, make 2014 the year you go there in person.
#8 Havana, Cuba It’s always been said, Cuba is a place to visit before it changes! Choose it for 2014 and get in there now before it’s too late and see the 50s cars, the old-time atmosphere and the eclectic accommodations on offer.
#9 Cork, Ireland Not only is the city of Cork a hive of activity, but the surrounding countryside has some of the most spectacular scenery Ireland has to offer. Go to Clonakilty for black pudding, Inchydoney for the beach and island hop to Sherkin.
#10 Gulet Cruise, Turkey Fed up with the idea of hitting the bars of Kusadasi or Bodrum? You could opt for a traditional wooden boat cruise instead on your holiday in Turkey. The boat takes you to tiny, hidden beaches, deserted bays and well away from the crowds.
#12 Balearic Islands With new routes from Heathrow and London City Airports in particular, the sun-drenched islands of Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca play host to perfect 2014 summer holidays. There are stylish hotels, boutique farmhouses-turned-villas and an incredible choice of things to do to suit any budget and of course, Ibiza is always a top 2014 party holiday destination.
#13 Mexico If you really fancy Mexico, but you’ve already been to Cancun, try Puerto Vallarta. Once a spring breakers paradise, the resort is now more famous for its boutique hotels, great beaches and variety of diving spots.
#14 Cape Verde The former Portuguese colony is a beaut. It’s got Latin spirit by the bucket load thanks to its close proximity to West Africa. Go to Boa Vista for stunning beaches and loggerhead turtles for an unforgettable addition to your 2014 travel bucket list.
The Italians love being helpful. Even if you are only asking for street directions, you’ll end up listening to all possible options, which one the locals would take and precisely why. In the end, one thing is for sure, you’ll be changing your initial destination as their suggestion will always be better than yours! Well, what can you do… passionate, strong-minded and original, Italians are like this! After all that’s why they’re so much fun. But be careful! There are certain things you’d better be conscious about when visiting Italy!
Here’s a list of DON’Ts that’ll guarantee you a great holiday in Italy this year.
ClubHotel Riu Ocho Rios: Seriously, this is one fabulous Jamaica hotel. Right on the beach of Mammee Bay in Ocho Rios, the ClubHotel is surrounded by woodlands and waterfalls. It offers the perfect mix of total relaxation and endless activities. The hotel is very close to Dolphin Cove, where a guide will take you to swim with dolphins (or even sharks!) and the Dunn’s River Fall, one of the most beautiful in the world is perfect for a day trip.
Best on a budget
Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort & Spa, Ocho Rios: Diving, waterfalls, plunge pools, powder soft sandy beaches, is that your idea of a good time? Then the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort and Spa is just the ticket. This all inclusive 730 room palace has plenty of restaurants, bars, kids club and boutiques, all in the beautiful, Caribbean surrounds that Jamaica is famous for.
Great huts: If you’re feeling a little adventurous about your holiday, how about a night away in a hut or a tree house? Yes, we did say hut, but don’t let that put you off. These Great Huts are off the beaten track luxury accommodations, with stunning cliff side views and hammocks everywhere. Choose from the different amazing structures on offer, you can even stay in the Queen of Sheba hut! We’re sure it’s fit for a queen.
Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica: A Victorian style hotel, right on the beach, you can go from bed to beach in just seconds. Here it’s all about complete relaxation in the sunshine. The 840 room hotel has a spa, excellent restaurants and on top of the white, sandy beach there are three interlinked pools to swim in, countless loungers, beach umbrellas and towel service. Everything is looked after at the Gran Bahia Principe.
The Sandals Montego Bay: is surrounded by a tropical setting and right on a white sand beach, offering a slice of heaven for your holidays. Here, guests can experience the true Caribbean spirit and chill out all day long, tasting mouthwatering cocktails.
Perfect for kids
Breezes Trelawny Resort & Spa, Falmouth: This gorgeous hotel is really a sight for sore eyes. With four (count ‘em!) swimming pools to choose from, two water slides and that absolutely perfect, white sand and stunning blue waters that Jamaica is famous for, it’s a hotel that’s really close to our hearts. It’s just a couple of miles from the centre of Falmouth where you’ll find a mix of history and shopping, restaurants and bars. You couldn’t ask for more!