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:
If you’re holidaying in Spain, particularly Andalusia or anywhere nearby, you’ll be wanting to check out the incredible Alhambra Palace. It is easily one of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe, certainly the most famous in Spain and the town of Granada offers a little shelter from the punishing summer heat of Seville or Cordoba, and is only a couple of hours from Malaga. The two parts of the complex, the Alhambra and Albaycin are seated on two opposite hills and showcase medieval Granada at its most magnificent.
Chichen Itza Cancun is one of Mexico’s biggest and most famous tourist sites. 125 kilometres from Cancun and Cozumel it is a major landmark on the Yucatan Peninsula. Filled with huge temples, ancient carvings and a fairly fatal football pitch, Chichen Itza was a place of trade, culture and history for the Mayan people.
The Temple of Kukulkan, or El Castillo, pictured above was built under specific astronomic specifications. The structure is one of a whole series of temples, pyramids and other structures sacred to the Maya people. There are 365 steps, one for each day of the year. Each side has 91, which with the top makes 365 again, a reference to the year. During the spring and autumn equinoxes, a snake shadow falls on the temple. As the sun sets the snake gradually slithers down the steps.
Nicknamed ‘Music City USA’, Nashville is the epicentre of country and western. Visitors to the Deep South can attend a live recording of Grand Ole Opry (a country music and variety show) at Ryman Auditorium, one of Nashville’s most significant music venues, or head to the Hall of Fame, an educational museum, dedicated to country music’s extensive history.
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, which kind of makes it the birthplace of music itself. Visit in spring, around the end of April to early May, for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, (aka the Jazz Fest), which is one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world and also features a variety of other music types that were influenced by jazz, including indigenous Louisiana music, such as Zydeco. However, you don’t need to visit in spring to enjoy great jazz in New Orleans – from street musicians and funeral bands to all of those huge bars off of Bourbon Street; music is a central part of life in The Big Easy.
Feeling blue? Head to Memphis. Home to Elvis, the blues and Aretha franklin, Memphis and rock ‘n’ roll are synonymous. Beale Street is the most famous and most musical street in Memphis, and it is where you will find most of the live music venues. You should also stop by Sun Studio, the site where Elvis recorded his very first song (‘That’s Alright Mama’) in 1954.
Jamaica conjures up images of beaches, rum and of course, reggae. Bob Marley was born in Jamaica’s Nile Mile and fans can visit the Museum of Bob Marley in Kingston for a walk through the reggae king’s life. In the ‘40s, Errol Flynn, the Hollywood bad boy, declared Jamaica ‘more beautiful than any woman I have ever known’ and today it’s no different. Palm-fringed beaches, coconut cocktails, the uplifting sounds of reggae and crystal blue seas make Jamaica a paradise that’s not just for reggae-lovers.
Although punk primarily has its roots in the political and economic, London’s angry, rebellious, opinionated (and unemployed) late ‘70s youth surely deserve some of the title. London is not only where punk music began, but also where punk fashion emerged, and from one shop in particular – SEX – the Camden store owned by Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood. This in turn bred the Sex Pistols, pioneers of the punk movement. Their fans included an outrageous bunch of young punks known as the Bromley Contingent, who formed a large portion of the London Punk scene, including The Clash, The Slits, Siouxsie Sioux, Generation X and X-Ray Spex. And thus, punk was born. Today, you can still see the dregs of the movement, sitting on a bridge at Camden lock, spitting at any passer-by who so much as glances at them, let alone takes their picture.
Everyone loves Motown, it’s hard not to. And in that same breath, it’s hard not to love Detroit. Home to both the highly successful music label and the music that it produced, Detroit exported a large majority of the gospel-inspired R&B singers and groups that populated the radio waves in the 1960s, cutting their records on the Motown label. The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Supremes, Smoky Robinson and the Miracles, and Stevie Wonder forever link Detroit to this very popular musical style. Check out the Motown Museum if you’re ever in town.
With 450 years of magical fables, lavish estates and rich traditions, Jamaica‘s natural charm is sure to inspire you. For history fans looking for the top historical sites to visit in the Caribbean here’s our top 5 Jamaica.
Once known as the ‘Wickedest City on Earth,’ Jamaica’s famed Port Royal is undoubtedly one of the island’s most captivating historical sites still standing and during the late 17th century was one of the largest towns in the English colonies. Due to its prime geographic location in the middle of the Caribbean, the town was once a haven for buccaneers and pirates, including the infamous Sir Henry Morgan. From Port Royal, these privateers preyed upon and plundered the heavily laden treasure fleets departing from the Spanish Main.Visitors to Port Royal can tour the buildings and even see a few artifacts remaining from that great era.
The most famous Great House in the Saint James Parish, and probably in the whole island, Rose Hall was built by John Palmer in 1770 on a hill, two miles east of Ironshore. Named after his wife Rose, the house attracts over 100,000 visitors per year. It’s made more famous by the legend of ‘The White Witch Of Rose Hall’, where Annie the wife of John Rose Palmer is said to have murdered all three of her husbands, before being strangled by her slaves who all also destroyed the house. After nearly a century in 1966, John Rollins, a wealthy American bought the property and restored the house to its former grandeur. The story goes that her ghosts still haunts its halls.
It marks the spot where Columbusis said to have put his foot when he first came to Jamaica. Decorated with cannons and maritime artifacts this small park is a tourist favourite, as visitors from all over the world gather to learn about the history of Jamaica.
The museum is dedicated to the reggae musician Bob Marley or Robert Nesta Marley. Located at 56 Hope Road, Kingston 6 it’s the former place of residence of Marley. Also home to the Tuff Gong record label which was founded by The Wailers in 1970, it’s one of the famous Jamaica’s historical places of visits especially by thousands of Bob Marley fans. It was also the site of a failed assassination attempt on Bob Marley in 1976.
Jamaica loves its lighthouses! Just check out this list: Plump Point Lighthouse, Portland Point Lighthouse, Lover’s Leap Lighthouse, Negril Point Lighthouse, Folly Point Lighthouse, Galina lighthouse and Morant Point Lighthouse. These lighthouses were mainly built in the 19th century. They exhibit an extraordinary construction style. Even today they continue to offer aid to ships and sea goers.
1.Pythagoreion and Heraion (Πυθαγόρειο και Ηραίο Σάμου) Samos Island The remains of the ancient fortified port Pythagoreio, as well as the Heraion, temple of the Samian Hera, have been listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1992.
2. Metéora(Μετέωρα) – Metéora, literally means “in the heavens above,” and you’ll realise why the moment you arrive. It consists of six Greek Orthodox monasteries built on huge natural sandstone rock pillars in central Greece. Metéora was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988.
3. Corfu Old Town (Παλιά Πόλη της Κέρκυρας) – The Old Town of Corfu Island features two forts designed by renowned Venetian engineers and is filled with neoclassical, as well as Venetian influenced buildings. It is considered to be home to some of the best and most authentic remaining ruins in the world. The Old Town of Corfu has been included among the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 2007.
4. The Acropolis of Athens (Ακρόπολη Αθηνών) – Quite possibly the most famous of the lot, the Acropolis is a huge collection of architecturally perfect buildings, natural landscapes, the historic and dramatic Parthenon and was the scene of some of ancient Greece’s most important moments. You shouldn’t leave Athens before you see one of the most important expressions of Greek architecture, listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites since 1987.
5. Olympia (Ολυμπία) – The ancient sanctuary of Olympia is famous for giving the name to the Olympic Games and as a sanctuary of the gods, Zeus in particular. In the Peloponnesos region, it was listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1989.
6. Mycenae(Οι Μυκήνες) – Thanks to the famous Lion’s Gate and Treasury of Atreus, the archaeological site of Mycenae has been listed as a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site since 1999. Found in the Peloponnesos region, it’s an important site dating back to the 15th and 13th century BC.
7. Delos(Δήλος) – Greek mythology tells us Delos was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis; so, the sacred island was one of the most important pan-Hellenic sanctuaries. Listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1990.
8. Ancient Theater of Epidaurus (Αρχαίο Θέατρο Επιδαύρου) – The excellent acoustics and almost perfect condition gave the ancient theater of Epidaurus a place among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1988. It’s a highlight to visit and enjoy a performance with the crowds in summer.
9. Delphi (Δελφοί) – In 1987, the sanctuary of Delphi, where the oracle of Apollo spoke, and was once called the ‘naval of the world’, was included among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
10. Rhodes Μedieval Town (Μεσαιωνική πόλη της Ρόδου) – The Medieval Town of Rhodes, also known as the Town of Knights, was once a great stronghold where knights fell and bitter battles fought. It is an outstanding example of an architectural heritage illustrating the island’s history. Rhodes Town was listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1988.
Get the best deal for cheap holidays on your favourite historic holiday of discovery right now from Purple Travel. Call today on 0207 993 9228 for more.
Planning your next city break, but looking for something a little more unique? Lisbon is just a couple of hours away from the UK and is all about relaxing over a coffee, dancing all night, soaking up the vibrant atmosphere and eating delicious food and maybe, just maybe indulging in a few bargains. Here’s our Lisbon Destination Guide.
Lisbon’s built up on seven hills, so it’s good to get your bearings first. Head up to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, or Saint George Castle to take in the spectacular sights. The extraordinary views over the whole city and the river Tagus offers an impressive introduction to Portugal. If you fancy staying on the move, then the Lavra Funicular is a relaxed route to the beautiful Torel Gardens. Over 120 years old, it’s a bit of a city treasure and is a wonderful and romantic afternoon jaunt.
If you’re taking the kids with you, don’t miss out on the Oceanario de Lisboa, the city’s aquarium or have a go at some experiments in the Pavilhao do Conchecimento, or science museum. There’s also Lisbon Zoo with over 2,000 animals as well as live shows. We reckon you’ll find something to impress kids of all ages in the city.
Portugal has a long history of art and culture and Lisbon has no shortage of fantastic museums and galleries. Contemporary pieces can be seen in the Chiado museum and Modern Art Center. The city’s churches are packed with history and can easily be seen on foot. Sao Roque and Carmo Church are two choices. The Tile Museum and Decorative Arts Museum are popular picks – and more interesting than you might think. Remember, these are just a handful of the wonderful museums Lisbon is famous for.
The Bairro Alto neighbourhood is made for Saturday strolling in the sunshine. If you’ve arrived on a Friday and checked in, head for the great atmosphere and traditional architecture to get a feel for the city. Its winding streets, lead to open terraces where you can sip on a coffee and soak up the sunshine. As a former red light district though, despite renovation, it might not have good vibes for everyone. The lower neighbourhood of Baixa is lovely for strolling around too. The beating heart of the city, it is a haven for foodies who can choose their own fresh lobster straight from the tank, or walk hand in hand in glorious sunshine.
Bars like Visita Virtual on Rua D Pedro V reflect Lisbon’s laidback atmosphere while cocktail friendly Bairrazza Bairro Alto offers some of the best Caiprinhas in town (so we are told!) If you want something quite different for a night out, head for art and culture space Arte & Manha, a hip (dangerously so!) bar/gallery/venue and restaurant. There you’ll find everything from Fado, jazz, samba and Latin nights, offering a place to lounge until 4am most nights. If you’re after gigs in Lisbon, visit Ask Me Lisboa for the latest updates on listings.
For something completely different, you could always visit the sexiest toilet on earth! In Terrerio do Paco via the very lovely PortugalConfidential blog.
The ultimate in city breaks, of course our Lisbon Destination Guide wouldn’t be complete without checking out some cool and trendy hotels. We like the 4* Turim Alameda, or the more budget friendly 2* Duas Nacoes Hotel. Both offer excellent service and great locations. For the ultimate in luxury you could always head for the 5* Epic Sana Lisboa in upscale neighbourhood Amoreiras. Epic by name, epic by nature! Finally the 3* America Diamonds, has a top notch top floor restaurant offering great views and a modern design at decent prices.
We love the laidback cool of Lisbon, whether you’re enjoying the best in delicious desserts or sipping on a freshly brewed coffee, it’s a city of wild contrasts not least in its food choices. Check out the Goan cuisine which is super hot and spicy at Restaurante Nau do Restelo, or grab some tapas in the gorgeous Adega Victor Horta. There’s always Largo Resutarant in Baixa offering a sophisticated experience or super trendy at Manifesto in Santos. For more on how to eat like a local in Lisbon, check our foodie guide here.
If you’re a caffeine addict, you’d be best to learn the word bica, which means coffee in Lisbon (thanks to a slogan when coffee first arrived in the city). But this is not your ordinary coffee, smoother than its Italian brother; it’s roasted in a lighter way too and can be thoroughly enjoyed accompanied by a little sweet pastel de nata, a famous Portuguese pastry. Cafe Nicola and Cafe Martinho de Arcada, both downtown are both great choices while, you could soak up the great outdoors with a bica at Quiosque Galveias on Rua do Palacio.
It might not be as famous as Italy’s other cities like historic Rome or Pisa with its leaning tower, but we think it’s fair to say Florence is a cultural, artistic and romantic capital all its own. Find out more in our guide to Florence things to do:
View Larger Map
The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is a small city filled with architectural marvels, cultural delights, breathtaking masterpieces, stylish Florentines and an atmosphere you could dip a spoon into. The birthplace of the powerful Medici family, Florence became a haven for aristocrats, architects and artists. A who’s who reads something like Botticelli, Michelangelo, Andrea del Sarto and possibly the greatest of them all Leonardo Da Vinci. That’s quite a lot of name dropping and we’ve barely hit the tip of the iceberg.
With its luscious jungles, dazzling seas, and exotic mangroves, the string of islands that make up the Florida Keys is this year’s hottest destination. Attracted by its stunning coral reefs and the bountiful coloured fish that make them their home, thousands of tourists return to as the charming communities of Key West and Key Largo every year. Choosing which islands to get to while you’re there is difficult when you’re not in the know, so we’ve put together a travel guide to help you along the journey. Welcome to Florida Keys Holidays.
Bahia Honda Key | Tropical Bahia Honda Key centres mainly around its eponymous state park, known for its pristine beaches, wonderful snorkelling opportunities and perfect sunsets. Take a picnic with you to the beach and spend a relaxing day, dipping into the sea and enjoying the balmy breezes that caress its shores. This remote island is an excellent place to see shorebirds and other wildlife, with a nature centre dedicated to the island’s plants and animals.
Big Pine Key | Big Pine Key is a refuge to rare and endangered animals. Its authentic back country atmosphere and National Key Deer Refuge, make it a beautiful place to holiday. Big Pine is also the jumping off point for numerous snorkelling and diving charters to Looe Key reef, the perfect remedy if you feel like taking an offshore adventure.
Conch Key | This stretch of Florida Keys is dominated by the fishing community, and home to both rustic fishing villages and boating elite. Conch Key itself is a tiny fishing village, but you can quickly hop across to Duck Key, if you’re looking for a more upscale community.
Duck Key | Small, secluded, yet central to Miami and Key West,
Duck Key is known for its beautiful sunsets. Also home to Hawks Cay, one of the region’s most popular marina resorts, Duck Key is the ideal destination for those looking for a relaxing getaway.
Grassy Key| Legend has it that this remote little key was not named after its abundant vegetation as the name would suggests, but after an early settler who went by the name of Grassy. However, this doesn’t take away from its greenery – the Key is fileld with shrubs and native trees.
Islamorada | Isla Morada is Spanish for Island Home, named so by the early settlers who immediately found this island to be cosy and homely. This well-known fishing village is the perfect place for snorkelling, sunbathing and swimming.
Key Largo | Key Largo is the first of the Upper Keys that can be reached by car, and at 30 miles long, it’s also the largest island in the chain.
Key West | Close to Miami, and just 90 miles from Havana, this end-of-the-line community is like nowhere else on earth. This is the land of eternal holiday, where no one has a care in the world and all you have to think about is what you want for lunch or which cocktail you’ll choose.
Little Torch Key | Little Torch Key and its neighbour islands, Ramrod Key and Summerland Key, are good jumping-off points for divers headed for Looe Key Reef. The islands also serve as a refuge for those who want to make.
Long Key | Long Key is the ideal destination for those looking to avoid the masses and enjoy some ecological history.
Marathon | Marathon is a busy town – or at least busy when compared to other communities in the Keys. However, the island also lacks a certain charm when compared to its counterparts…
A guided tour of Ernest Hemingway’s home is filled with amusing anecdotes of the writer’s life. Built in 1801, Hemmingway lived in the house between 1931 and 1942, writing about 70% of his life’s work, including classics like For Whom the Bell Tolls in its rooms. You can even see some of his belongings including some books, with photographs along the way to help you visualise his day-to-day life.
Audubon House and Tropical Gardens
See the works of ornithologist John James Audubon in this three-story house, which was built in the 1840s for Captain John Geiger. Today, it commemorates Audubon’s 1832 stop in Key West while he was travelling through Florida to study birds. The self-guided tour of the house and gardens and the art gallery of lithographs of the artist’s famed portraits, is one you’ll never forget.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Construction of Fort Zachary Taylor began in 1845, but was halted during the Civil War. Finally completed in 1866, the fort was also used in the Spanish-American War. Guests can either take a 30-minute guided walking tour of the redbrick fort, a National Historic Landmark, at 12pm and 2pm, or self-tour anytime between 8am and 5pm.