It turns out March in Istanbul is the perfect time to visit. Actually, scratch that, I would say anytime is the perfect time to go. No wonder it’s been named the best destination to visit in 2014. Living in Athens, it was an easy trip for me and my friend across the Aegean for three days of exploring in the vast (trust me, it’s huge) sprawling Turkish City.
Ok, i’ll throw my hands up and say it was kind of a surprise to realise just how huge the city is. It’s spread across both sides of the Bosphorus. Since we had such a short time, we fancied seeing the obvious ones, this was a taster really, but here’s our highlights:
It’s official, Trip Advisor the world renowned travel site has awarded a host of awards for best destinations 2014. The annual Traveller’s Choice Awards includes the vast city of Istanbul in Turkey which tops the poll, with Rome, London and Beijing following close behind. Each city or place earned its review through the reviews and opinions of visitors the site. “If you’re looking for trip inspiration, look no further than the Travelers’ Choice Destinations,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. “Our global travelers are the tastemakers for uncovering the best places to visit around the world.” The awards in its 6th year picks out 500 of the absolute best places to visit in the world.
But what are these places really like? I’ve asked some of the Purple Travel family to share their thoughts on the top destinations 2014. Some they loved and some… well, you’ll see for yourself. We’d love to hear what you think, good or bad about the official list!
1. Istanbul, TurkeyFantastic city full of sights and culture. The people are so friendly and eager to help. This place has it all. – Gary I think the best of the best way to taste the Turkish food, and experience the Turkish mentality, is to eat this giant hot dog with fish and cabbage at the Bosphorus coast on the Asian part of Istanbul. There are cooks on floating boats, preparing the grilled fish, that are then placed on these huge bagel and stuffed that with cabbage, fried potatoes and mustard. You cannot imagine! Also don’t miss the old guy outside the Blue Mosque who sells bagels and gives you for free La vache qui rit portion! – Soso
2. Rome, ItalyWhat can someone say about Rome, about the Italians, their food and their language? I think my best moments in Rome were when we were walking around from the Piazza di Spagna, to the Colosseum, and the Fontana di Trevi. Suggested hotels-the newly built Caravel hotel (just two stops by bus from Piazza di Spagna) with nice big rooms and a lovely receptionist and Hotel Trevi, with its traditional style in the very centre of the city!!! loved them both, love Rome! – Soso
3. London, EnglandMassive dump, ok for day trips but get out before it chews you up. – Gary
Whether you are looking for a sunshine paradise for the ultimate hen party or simply a relaxing destination to get away to with friends, Tenerife will exceed all your expectations. Golden sands, turquoise blue waters, tax-free shopping, and a nightlife that rivals all others, Tenerife is a true island oasis.
Nestled in the centre of the Canary Islands, the Spanish island of Tenerife has much to offer its visitors. Known commonly as the “Island of Eternal Spring”, a trip to the island promises good weather year round. If you are considering heading abroad for your next girl’s holiday, consider the island of Tenerife, a utopia on Earth.
Want to know a little more about the weirdest tours ever? Every week, we take to twitter to get some cool info about cheap holidays, travel, things to do and gadgets as part of #TTOT. We submitted a question this week and couldn’t believe some of the replies! Burlesque shows, toilet tours and leaf peeping… Find out more in our Travel Talk on Tuesday Storify of weird tours and activities and add your own in comments below! In the meantime you can learn all about the Travel Talk on Twitter community here.
If visiting a real Jurassic Park is high on your bucket list, then listen up? Ok we wouldn’t exactly call Palmersaurus a real Jurassic Park, but it’s the next best thing.
Image via @ PalmercoolumResort
Newly opened, the Australian dinosaur theme park is home to 160 life size robot prehistoric delights, ranging from 22 metres long, to 10 metres tall. There are velociraptors, T-rexs and lots of other ancient carnivores come to life.
The dino theme park is the work of a billionaire mining boss, who’s recently been elected an MP. Clive Palmer is also responsible for an exact replica of the Titanic, aimed at tourists from China. The park rubs shoulders with a luxury golf resort and spa next door, so it really is a culture clash!
Purple 10: Europe’s cheapest cities… as tracked by the European Backpacker Index
It’s official, the list of Europes cheapest cities has just been announced. These 10 cities definitely won’t break the bank, and a combo of cheap flights, transport, hotels and things to see and do, mean the likes of Bucharest, Krakow and Zagreb should feature for your next city break.
Who doesn’t like holidays with a little luxury now and then? Eh… nobody, right?! So, we’ve got the best ideas for swim-up bars. These are more like little slices of luxury (mostly in the Caribbean) where you don’t even need to get out of the pool to enjoy a cocktail or a beer. Could you imagine anything more luxurious? Us neither, that’s why we’ve found the 10 best swim-up bars anywhere. Ever! Enjoy.
1. Catalonia Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Game of Thrones If you’re still reeling from the Red Wedding, then how about a visit to King’s Landing itself to take your mind off it. Croatia’s beautiful capital Dubrovnik is the location for lots of shooting of GoT, and its three hour tour includes the scene of Stannis Baratheon’s Battle of the Blackwater and tales of the Starks, Lannisters and Daenerys Targaryen as they battle for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. The new season of Game of Thrones is just one of the reasons to visit Croatia this year.
There is a feast of local culture scattered around Croatia, from the traditional embroidery of Dubrovnik, the street markets of Zagreb, the folk music of Istria or the ‘klapa’ singers of Split. It is sometimes said, people visit Croatia for the weather but stay for the culture. There is also a wealth of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the Euprhasian Basilica in Porec, the historic city of Trogir and the Plitvice Lakes.
The perfect city break? Dubrovnik might just fit that template. A spotlessly clean, small and friendly city, the whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an upcoming favourite among European elite. The city walls make for breathtaking views and are an easy walk especially if you make it in the morning before it’s too hot. There are summer festivals throughout August, a wealth of history and museums, there are beaches and even some cliff jumping if you’re feeling up for it at Cafe Buza (ask for directions!)
Discover a festival Croatia’s en route to being the edgy festival sister of Hungary, Spain or Portugal, offering plenty of home grown talent and big names this year. It’s more to do with cheap booze, chilled-out crowds, top DJs and beach or boat parties. Discover a Fresh Island on Pag in July, or celebrate the Unknown in Rovinj in September. Croatia holidays are perfect for combining sunshine and festivals in 2013.
Beach party like a boss Holidays in Croatia are synonymous with beach parties. One of the wildest, hottest and hippest beach clubs in Croatia, Carpe Diem in Hvar has restaurants, loads of pools, a creperie, long couches for relaxing on, and wooden umbrellas for a bit of extra luxury. It is worth spending a day and a night soaking up the atmosphere and partying until late.
Get naked It’s well known Croatia is one of the most nude friendly destinations in the world. Paradise Beach on the small island of Rab was established way back in 1934 and is a leading naturist beach. On top of that there are over 30 resorts for naturists throughout the 1,000 islands that make up the country.
Indulge in Heartbreak in Zagreb Heartbreak Museum Mend a broken heart, or at least know you’re not alone in your heartbreak, with a visit to Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships. Home to keepsakes from failed love affairs that have been donated to the cause, it’s less teddy bears and love letters, and more vials of cried tears, a glass horse and…an axe. There’s even a small cafe where you get pull yourself together after the emotional rollercoaster. Ćirilometodska 2, 10 000 Zagreb
Eat, drink and be merry Croatia’s a foodie haven, with a mix of traditional cuisine with added Hungarian, Italian and Austrian influences. On the coast you’ll find the freshest of fish, risottos and seafood pastas, combined with olives and salads. Further inland, you’ll find stews, and lamb roasted on the spit. There’s freshly brewed strong coffee available in most cafes, while a rakijas (a kind of local grappa) finishes off a night perfectly.
A spy museum, all you’ve ever wanted to know about toilets and real life samples from Big Foot, we’ve got 10 really weird museums from around the world for your pleasure.
Want to become a spy? Actually, can we just ask, who doesn’t? Well, now you can, for a day anyway, at the International Spy Museumin Washington DC, USA. We’re talking gadgets, code breaking and generally being a bit James Bond as you learn about the history of secret agents and get to grips with a life of espionage.
Iceland’s Phallological Museum in Reykjavik, is as the name suggests all about biology and takes it very seriously too. It is home to a collection of more than 215 penis specimens from various mammals found in the wild all over the island including a walrus, a rogue polar bear, a whale. There are also four examples from humans, but we didn’t ask where they came from.
We always hear of the priceless art found in countless cities throughout the world, but what about the bad stuff? The Museum of Bad Art in Boston claims to be the only one of its kind in the world. Featuring art that’s ‘too bad to be ignored’ it features plenty of paintings of dodgy blue people, symbols that don’t mean much and some weird uses of nudity.
For all you’ve ever wanted to know about the humble toilet, you could do worse than the International Museum of Toilets in New Delhi. The curators tell us: ‘the toilet is a part of the history of human hygiene which is a critical chapter in the growth of civilisation.’
Athens is well known for its museums filled with thousands of years of artefacts that document the birthplace of science and democracy. We like the Tactual Museum, where you’re actively encouraged to touch everything. There are all kinds of replicas, statues and frescoes that you can get up close and personal with.
The Hair Museum of Avanos in Cappadocia, Turkey is a fairly simple idea, but definitely one of the most bizarre things you’ll see. In a room under an unassuming pottery shop, you’ll find caves covered with a collection of over 16,000 locks of hair from women from all over the world. It’s free to enter, and women can leave a lock of their own if they want.
For the latest information and conjecture on the likes of Big Foot, the Montauk Monster, or the Abominable Snowman, then the Cryptozoology Museum, in Portland, USA is a good place to start. It claims to have ‘actual samples’ of hair and unique pieces of evidence from mythical creatures from all over the world.
Your green fingers will start tingling when you hear about the British Lawnmower Museum. As you would expect, it’s dedicated to all things grass cutting and is home to specialised gardening machines, vintage lawnmowers and all manner of parts and conservation materials from all over the world. A truly British experience.
If you’ve got a weak stomach, it might be best to skip the Paris Sewer Museum. You’re guided through the tunnels and pummelled by historical and factual information about the famous underground areas that have featured in French literature including Les Miserables and Phantom Of The Opera.
Love chips? So do we and so do the Belgians apparently, if the Friet Museum is anything to go by. The ground floor offers a 10,000 year potted history of the humble spud and it’s development into the tasty chip we know and love today.
A living, breathing seafood soup, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the largest structure on the planet made entirely by living organisms. Expect a plethora of odd-looking, colourful and often endangered animals swimming at you from all angles. The reef is a UNESCO World Heritage site, containing some 1500 species of fish. It is without rival, the world’s largest coral reef system, even able to be seen from space. Make sure you get certified before you go though – you’re not Kate Bosworth ok.
Barrier Reef, Belize
Charles Darwin once called this reef “the most remarkable in the West Indies.” Its bubbling, warm waters are home to the world’s largest population of West Indian manatee, and manta ray and spotted eagle ray are fairly common sights. Even hammerhead sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and the oceanic white tip sharks can be spotted by luckier divers (or extremely unlucky, as the case may be). Cuddle with the friendly sea cows (not with the sharks), explore the mangrove-covered islands or swim over to the Big Blue Hole – allegedly the largest sinkhole on Earth. Jacques Cousteau named it his favourite diving spot – no surprise considering this 185-mile-long gigantic wall of unspoilt beauty packs more ecodiversity than any other on the planet.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
You’ll be hard-pressed to find water clearer than the Caribbean waves of Grand Cayman. The island is actually the peak of a mountain, and most of the surrounding former peaks are now underwater, offering sheer drops so you don’t have to go far from the coast to get deep. This also provides shelter from perilous conditions, providing calm and unspoilt beauty for divers. Make sure you check out Stingray City, a series of shallow sandbars, where stingrays have been tamed for years feeding on fisherman’s scraps.
Koh Tao, Thailand
Koh Tao is perfect for the low-budget traveller, as it is a relatively inexpensive place to learn to scuba dive. Thailand’s large Andaman coast offers hundreds of islands, many of which are uninhabited and fringed with spectacular coral reefs. Whale sharks inhabit the waters along with a kaleidoscope of brightly-coloured fish. However, the best bit about choosing Koh Tao is that it has as many nightclubs and bars on the island as there are fish in its sea, so if you’re not a serious diver, and you like your liquid as much in a cocktail glass as you like it enveloping your scuba suit, then this is the place for you.
Although primarily famous for those big hunks of pyramid-shaped mystery erupting from the sand, Egypt is also famous for its incredible diving spots. If you love history and you love diving, this is your spot. An affordable alternative to beaches in Europe or the Caribbean, Egyptian beaches along the Red Sea offer sun-filled holidays and unparalleled waters. The Straits of Gubal are a particularly interesting choice, having claimed dozens of ships over history; shipwrecks, pirate treasure and dead sailors are as much a part of the Sea as the water is and warm, bubbly, tropical coral reefs make the Red Sea feel like one big bathtub.
Although you may have to deal with the teenage shrieks of ‘Spring Break whoooooooo!’, Cozumel is not just a paradise for meathead jocks and bottle blonde cheerleaders. The warm, clear waters of this Atlantic superhighway make it a diver’s dream. The Gulf Stream in particular is a prime scuba spot – the experience lending itself to something on the long the lines of being Superman, only with more fish. But with nineteen distinct reefs to choose from and a host of deep dives that go down as far as 3,000 feet, Cozumel is a scuba diver’s playground. For awesome tunnels, caves and caverns, there are few better locations.