It’s started, you’ve started to feel the chill and you know you’ve got months of unpredictable weather ahead of you. Escape to the sun today with Purple Travel and see our pick of destinations to go to if you’re feeling the chill already and want a last-minute bargain for October!
Fuerteventura – If you’re seeking somewhere a little bit quieter than the other Canary Islands then Furteventura could be for you. If you’re worried that there won’t be enough to keep yourself or the kids occupied then fear not, there are plenty of watersports such as surfing and windsurfing to try out and some golf courses to hone your skills at. The best places for windsurfing and surfing are around Corralejo and Jandia, with many expert schools and equipment hire. For golf, there is a 18 hole course at Costa Caleta, with a free bus service running from the centre of Caleta to the course. If you’re more of the beach type, average temperatures of around 25 degrees in October mean you’ll get plenty of sunshine and time to relax on the sandy beaches. Our top pick is the
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.
Buzzing nightlife Pick Cyprus. The birthplace of the Goddess of Love Aphrodite is pretty much bubbling with romance. There are idyllic sandy beaches, trails where the goddess herself is said to have walked, charming wine-making villages and a relaxed atmosphere that’s made for hand in hand walks in the sunshine. By evening, Paphos is a lively town with a mix of traditional tavernas, lively bars and clubs where you can dance all night if you feel like it. The luxury 5* Elysium Cyprus has every aspect of your honeymoon covered, from stunning views, massages to its great location right on the beach. Cyprus sunset image via @ Mrs Logic
Wildlife just a few short hours from the UK, Gambia is the obvious choice for enjoying a lively first few days of honeymoon packages. You can top up your tan in tropical sunshine, relax in sumptuous facilities, explore safari and try to catch the big 5 or meet some of the friendliest people in the world at the Smiling Coast. The 5* Kairaba Beach Hotel is a comfortable choice. Right on the famous Kololi beach and standing in beautiful flower filled gardens, it’s a real home away from home. The only way you’ll notice the difference is by catching sight of the vervet monkeys and wild birds that live in the trees. Monkeys in Gambia image via @ kevinzim
On a budget if you’re going for budget, why not take a long weekend in a beautiful European city. Purple Travel can get great deals on flights to several capitals but Rome has to be one of our favourites. The modern 4* Hotel American Palace is right in the heart of the action, with a nearby metro that will take you to sights like the Trevi Fountain or Colosseum. There’s even a beach about 30 minutes away by convenient public transport. As beautiful as it is by day, it’s even more spectacular by night, as the cosy corners are lit by candlelit, vino is opened and couples take evening strolls under moonlight. Rome is a great choice for a budget conscious honeymoon this year. Image of Rome by @ Moyen_Brenn
Absolute luxury The Sandals Royal Hicaco 5* in Varadero, Cuba, is on 23 acres, in lush greenery and offers lots of choice for couples on their first days of married life. There are three types of suites to choose from and the properties are decorated in a cute 1920s style. Although home to some of the finest beaches on earth, the Caribbean Island is practically made for honeymooners looking to discover its rich culture and heritage. Nights should be spent learning tango, knocking back rum cocktails and learning how to roll your own cigars, in between sunbathing sessions in one of the best honeymoon destinations ever. Image of Cuba by @ darkroomillusions
The ultimate in romance Island hopping in Greece is obviously the top choice for island hopping. With a big boost on drawing visitors, it’s never been better value to head to head to the beautiful Greek islands. We think the Cyclades is a good idea, with Santorini offering azure sparkling waters, and dramatic evenings watching the sunset from the caldera. The Astro Palace 5* Hotelis an elegant and traditional accommodation, with a peaceful atmosphere, but just a few minutes from the island’s main city Fira. The nearby island of Naxos is an absolute gem and not that well known outside of Greece, so you can lay out on unspoilt, empty beaches before tottering to a nearby taverna for lunch. Finish up in Mykonos for a few days of the high life before jetting back home. The Mykonos Grand should be enough luxury for you and your new other half. Image of Santorini by @ Navin75
On the beach Portugal is a big hit with bride and grooms both as a wedding destination and has kick ass honeymoon packages. There are tonnes of flights and the Algarve and Faro in particular are easy to get to. Plus it’s got something for everyone, from golf course, (but c’mon guys!) romantic secluded villages, lively towns and spectacular hotels. The 4* Riu Palace Algarve is right on the beach, one of the most beautiful in the Algarve and has pools, Jacuzzi, hammam and spa on site to make you feel totally relaxed. The on site restaurants or local eateries are great for sampling the absolutely delicious Portuguese cuisine, while its access to picture perfect beaches is hard to beat. Image of Algarve Beach by @ Dan Taylor
Call Purple Travel now for the best honeymoon destinations this year on 0207 993 9228.
Known as the smiling coast, Gambia has a lot to make people happy. Maybe it’s the near perfect weather, how about the endless stretches of golden sandy beaches, or the way the local people go out of their way to make your stay better.
But for many, it’s simply a matter of food. With a rich selection of ingredients and traditional cooking, Gambian cuisine is about as mouth watering as it gets. Here’s the Purple Travel guide for what to eat in Gambia.
A ‘must-eat’ this is made with chicken or (a little confusingly) fish and rice. It’s packed with fresh lemons or limes, onions and black pepper that give a real hit of flavour.
As the name suggests you can’t miss this one! It’s made from a mix of okra, or meat, with palm oil and peppers all boiled together to really get the flavours out.
A typical Mandinka dish, Domoda is made from puréed peanuts and can be made with meat or fish. Usually served with rice and beautiful fresh vegetables.
An unmissable treat, the fresh oysters are mainly collected locally and are super fresh and delicious. It can be found in any of the local restaurants or beach bars, where dishes tend to be prepared with only the freshest and organic ingredients. And the best bit, usually you get a stunning sea view thrown in.
A tasty dish, made with rice cooked with meat or fish and piled high with tomatoes.
These are local BBQs usually found at the side of the road, where you choose your meat joint, whether it’s chicken or goat, it’s thrown on a very hot grill, with plenty of onions and mustard sauce.
Find out more about amazing holidays to Gambia from Purple Travel
Did you know? January is actually one of the best months to book a holiday. Not only is the weather particularly miserable in the UK, but January is also the month in which you can find the best deals throughout the travel industry. While other people are tightening their belts, those who have saved some of their Christmas cash flow can enjoy the year’s best holiday bargains. Let Purple Travel aid your decision with out round-up of 10 best January holidays
For a little bit of sunshine…
1) Tenerife – near-guaranteed sunshine that’s just 4 hours away from the UK.
2) Southern Tunisia – avoid Tunis (which can be chilly at this time) and head to southern Tunisia for a mid-haul getaway that’ll leave you bronzed and refreshed.
3) Mexico – from boutique hotels to haciendas, there are some gorgeous places to stay in Mexico’s Caribbean coast. And with perfect January temperatures, there’s plenty of leeway for exploring ancient sites such as Chichen Itza.
4) Gambia – a charming, low-cost destination with an improved hotel scene.
5) Cape Verde – great value for money and easily accessible, Cape Verde islands are sure to win you over with their diversity and natural beauty.
Or for a cool wintery break…
6) Northern Lights – discover one of the earth’s natural wonders and our top choice for 2013 travel. Read our guide to the best Northern Lights trips here.
7) Sweden – With its winter wonderland scenes, plenty of things to do and see and even an ice hotel, Sweden is an ideal destination for January travel.
8) New York– while the sales are on, head to the world’s best shopping destination to pick up a bargain, grab a bagel or two and enjoy the last of the Christmas buzz.
9) Bulgaria – named the cheapest ski destination, Bulgaria is a great choice for those looking for good value without comprising on the slopes.
10) Italy – stylish skiing doesn’t get much better than in Italy. In January, you may find excellent deals on holidays to Italy’s luxury resorts.
It may be easy to miss tiny Gambia on the enormous map of Africa – it’s completely enveloped by Senegal – yet surprisingly, Africa’s oddly-shaped, smallest country is also one of its most accessible. Gambia holidays are just six hours away from most major European destinations, there is no time difference (hurrah – no jet lag) and it is an affordable way to feel as though you’ve travelled somewhere incredibly far away and incredibly exotic.
Its nine main resorts (Bakau, Cape Point, Kololi, Fajara, Kotu, Brufut, Bijilo, Senegambia and capital, Banjul) offer some excellent activities for tourists, including stunning nature reserves, such as Kiang West National Park and River Gambia National Park (aka Baboon Island), informative excursions through the historical slave trade islands of St James Island or Jufureh and immense stretches of white sands across the entire coastline.
Accordingly then, this week, Purple Hearts… our guide to Gambia holidays. Enjoy!
Food: Gambia has a wealth of restaurants that are rapidly gaining an international reputation for their high quality and expert chefs. From casual beach bars to formal gourmet dining, from Italian to Lebanese, you’ll easily find something to suit your taste. However for the adventurer within you, have a go at the local dishes. These are extraordinarily rich nutrition-wise, containing fresh, in-season vegetables provided by the local producers’ gardens. Try Pepeh Soup, a tasty, thick stew prepared with fish or beef or Domoda, a typical mandinka dish made from groundnuts, which form a wonderful piquant peanut paste (Domo means eating whilst Da means the stew pot). Nyombeh Nyebbeh, if you can pronounce it, is a very popular dish made with cassava, beans and fried red snapper.
Places to go: Banjul
Banjul is peaceful, exotic and rich in history. Located on St Mary’s island at the mouth of the Gambia Rive, the city is a former centre of the slave trade, exhibited particularly well in the exhibitions of the Gambian National Museum and the collection of paintings and statues in the African Heritage Museum. For a slice of some modern Gambian culture, tourists can take a trip to the famous Albert market, brimming with the beautiful colours and inviting aromas associated with African life.
Bijilo Forest Park
One of the several forest parks in Gambia, Bijilo Forest Park is primarily a nature reserve. Easily accessible from Kololi, just short of the coast near the Senegambia tourist area, this park is famed for its huge species of birdlife and of course, its mischievous monkeys.
Bakau is a tiny, densely populated coastal town tucked away on a low cliff between Banjul and the Atlantic. Home to a vibrant, mixed community, the town offers a definitely down-to-earth atmosphere, despite its central beach doubling as a busy fishing centre. The best beach in the area then, is at nearby Cape Point, where the sand is the well-kept and the environment is relaxing. Fajara beach to the west, is, on the other hand, a favourite spot for impromptu beach football matches (but not so great for sunbathing). However, Bakau’s most famous attraction has to be the Katchikali crocodile pool. The pool is even sacred to the local Mandinka tribe, who believe that bathing in water from the pool will cure infertility. But if you’re interests are less cathartic, you’re can great some great snaps of the family of docile-looking Nile crocodiles lazily sunning themselves the pool.
Things to do: Sail on the River Gambia
Gambia is named after this majestic river, which slices like a knife through the country, splitting it into two halves, fringed by mangrove swamps and jungle forest. Several species of birds, monkeys and other wildlife can be seen along the river, including dolphins (seen up river), crocodiles and hippos (spotted in the fresh water sections of the central River and Upper River Division). Reptiles to watch for are snakes (including pythons, cobras and mambas), and other reptiles such as lizards (including the large monitor lizard), geckos and tortoise. Grab your camera and jump on one of the boat trips, which run regularly year-round.
Although the birds of Senegambia are one of the region’s main attractions, baboons and three types of monkeys (vervet, patas and red colobus) also inhabit the country, particularly present in the Abuko Nature Reserve. In fact, Gambia has six national parks and reserves, plus several forest parks, which have been set aside to protect representative samples of main habitat types and their associated fauna. In the forest areas you also may see oribi and duikers (small members of the antelope family), while drier grassland areas are occupied by cobs, roans, waterbucks, derby elands, warthogs and bush pigs. River Gambia National Park, aka Baboon Islands, is a 580 hectare park established mainly as a rehabilitation sanctuary for chimpanzees. Visitors are not permitted on the island.
Visit a Holy Forest
Makasutu Cultural Forest, now an all-in-one excursion comprising of a guided forest walk, a boat ride, bird watching, and cultural entertainment galore, has an incredible history. Meaning ‘holy forest’ in Mandinka, legend has it that tribal wars took place in this forest centuries ago, during which a King was killed and his head, crown and throne all buried in the forest. The local community avoided the area, for another reason however; the legend has it that the forest was home to a more sinister resident: the devil himself.To read more about Makasutu, click here.
Depart from Banjul on your cruise ship for the day, where you will enjoy a delicious lunch while visiting a series of historical sites. Beginning at Albreda, which used to be a French trading post during the slavery era, you’ll visit the freedom flag pole and a slave museum. From here you proceed onto Juffureh, hometown of Kunta Kinteh, the famous slave who was forced into slavery in the mid seventeen century and on whom Roots was based on. You then come to the main hightlight of the roots trip, the visit of the Kinteh clan. Experience a 2-mile sea cruise to Kunta Kinteh Island, which was used to keep slaves before they were shipped to Goree Island. The most characteristic thing is the dungeon remaining on the Island, one of an original fourteen once used to punish slaves who rebelled, by chaining their hands and legs and serving them only one meal a day in order to weaken them.
Are you looking for a holiday that’s a bit different? why not find out more about the myths of the ancient worlds in some of these mystical places…This week we decided to spookify and mystify! There’s a reason for it. In our regular Purple Pick feature, we’re focusing on the beautiful African country of Gambia. We learned they have a Holy Forest so we decided to do a bit of a roundup of mystical or unusual places to visit, so you can go home scared out of your wits or quietly intrigued. Enjoy some of the most magical and mythical places in the world.
Gambia Makasutu Holy Forest
Makasutu is a stunning breath of fresh air, just a few miles from Brikama, it is filled with lush green vegetation, towering palm trees and long stretches of savannah and grasslands. But what really makes it special is its unforgettable history. Established by a pair of English expats, Makasutu is walking with the ghosts of the past. At first the local villagers did not want to sell the land, as it’s haunted by ‘Djinns’ and a kind of pre-historic dinosaur called the ‘Ninkinanka’. It was a very important space to the local tribes, where their wars took place as well as their ancient rituals and sacrifices. Legend has it one poor king who died there was separated from his head, which was buried with his crown and throne within the forest confines. The ‘sacred forest’ is still home to the indigenous people, who may share their palm wine with you if you’re lucky. Image via @ Flickr
The Great Pyramids, Egypt
Perhaps the most photographed and famous ancient site in the world, the Pyramids have been perplexing people for years. The Great Pyramids as they are known are found near the Egyptian capital Cairo, on the Giza Plateau.
But, why were they built? Most people believe they were huge mausoleums for the ancient pharaohs. People believe some of his soul, or ‘ka’ stayed with the dead body. To ensure they carried on to the next life, their body had to be taken care of and so were entombed inside the huge structures for protection and safety.
The crazy thing is, even after thousands of years, no one is even sure how they were made! Most of the theories surround the idea that the rock was dragged there to build the huge sites, much of it carried across the Nile. And think about it, ensuring the Pyramid appears correctly and symmetrical, all the blocks had to be the exact same size. Imagine the precision involved. Not only that, but the sides of the Great Pyramid are aimed nearly exactly true north and probably took at least 100,000 men to construct.
On top of that, the Great Pyramid is the only one of the ancient wonders of the world still standing, so what are you waiting for? Image via @ Flickr
Easter Island Statues
This is probably an easy one. Tucked away in the middle of the South Pacific, you’ll find a tiny island filled with huge heads. Yes, you did read that right. Easter Island’s statues are legendary. Over 800 of the stone carvings dot the Polynesian Island, one of the most remote places on the planet.
The original islanders are thought to have landed on the island 1500 years ago in tiny canoes. They then started furiously carving away by hand, creating hundreds of giant heads that they placed in lines across the island. Go figure.
No one is really sure what it’s all about; some of the statues weigh up to 82 tonnes, why were they transported around the island and how? There are, of course, plenty of theories: one legend tells the tale of an ancient ruler who was able to make statues move using his kingly powers.
New excavations over the last few months have revealed the statues are much bigger than originally thought, with head, shoulders, knees and toes included! Image via @ Flickr
Mexico/Caribbean Cenote in Mayan Civilization
A cenote is a naturally occurring formation that is found across the Mexican Caribbean. It’s actually a sinkhole, or pit of spring water. Ok, a pit of spring water, what’s so special about it? Well cenotes were often used as a place for sacrificial offerings from the ancient Mayan people. It might sound a little Indiana Jones, but many people in the Mayan civilization believed these cenotes to be doors to the underworld and channels to communicate with the gods. Plenty of gold, precious stones and pottery remains have been found there. At the Cenote Sagrado, (sacred cenote) they’ve even found evidence of human sacrifices! It was believed young males were the most common sacrifice because they represented strength and power.
Only some of these places are open to the public, a few are close to Cancun and Playa del Carmen and swimming in them is considered a true holiday must do in the Mexican Caribbean. Image via @ Flickr
It’s probably fair to say Athens is sort of one of the overlooked places in Greece. The islands are where everyone goes and it’s true they are stunningly beautiful. However the historic city has plenty to offer. With the ancient acropolis standing head and shoulders above the city, you can practically feel the history in the air. Everywhere you walk; there are historic sites, teeming with mystical stories from the ancient markets, the original marble stadium, home to the first Olympic Games and temples dedicated to the Gods.
Our favourite story is of how Athina, the Goddess of the city came to be born. The story goes that Zeus ate Metis – Athina’s mother while she was pregnant. A while later, Zeus was troubled by a huge headache, and asked Hermes to fix it. So, he did what any good friend would and swung an axe furiously at his head splitting it open. From Zeus’s forehead leaped Athena, fully formed. That’s pretty cool however you look at it. Image via @ Flickr
That’s our wrap of mythical and mystical hot spots, as always we’d like to hear from you. Do you have any other suggestions? Have you found some place a bit closer to home? Let us know in the comments below.