Tag - Hot holidays

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Purple Pick: Costa Blanca Beaches
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Purple Hearts Malaga Holidays
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Purple 10: The sexiest bars in the world
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Travel tips: The top city beaches
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Purple Hearts: Cuba Travel Guide

Purple Pick: Costa Blanca Beaches

With three times the number of EU Blue Flags (highly sought after ratings that show the beaches are clean and safe) than any of the other Costas, the Costa Blanca, or white coast as it translates to in English, boasts 170 miles of unforgettable sandy beach. Sit back, and enjoy our guide to the best Costa Blanca beaches.

A Sunbather's Guide_1 A Sunbather's Guide_2 - Copy

There are an enormous variety of coastal resorts to choose from – Javea, Calpe, Benidorm, Valencia and the capital, Alicante, to name but a few – and it’s important to notice that every year many of their beaches receive the prestigious European blue flag, setting the standard for the entire area. However, if you’re a real sunbathing expert, then now is the time to listen up. We’ve narrowed down the endless list of beautiful beaches to the best of the best.

El Carabassí (near santa Pola)
First is El Carabassí, a vast virgin beach of pale, golden sand, bordered by wetlands, salt pans and enormous dunes. Mostly attended by multi-generational Spanish families (equipped with a mind-boggling array of chairs, tables, loungers and windshields) the beach is thankfully quieter towards its southern end – an officially designated nudist zone. The beach slopes very gently, so the water is shallow for quite a way from the shore, deeming it extremely safe for children. However for those choosing to venture a little further out, rewards are waiting in abundance. Here you will find excellent conditions for windsurfing, snorkelling and swimming and some glorious reefs. A quick tip – the beach is lined with shacks serving locally-caught fish, paellas, snacks, ice-cream and ice-cold beers, but it’s preferable to make like the Spanish and take a picnic of wine and fresh fruits.

Poniente Beach (Benidorm)
Poniente Beach, just west of Levante, is a mammoth golden curl of excellent fine sand. Slightly less crowded than Levante, but with plenty of facilities close at hand, Poniente boasts a more relaxed and laid back feel – and a bit more space. Cafes, bars and shops make up the promenade and there’s a wide choice of hotel and apartment accommodation in the surrounding area if you’re looking to extend your stay.

Playa de El Saler (Valencia)
El Saler is a 30-minute bus trip from the centre of Valencia, but well worth the journey. It is a blue flag beach with amazing quality sand and the cleanest of water. Unfortunately this also makes it one of the busiest beaches during the summer months, but it is picturesque nonetheless.

Read more: Best beaches in the Algarve

Cala Pope Tango (Javea)
A wonderfully unique cove, this rustic beach is comprised of both sand and small pebbles, which are great for exploring. Although fairly unspoilt, you can still enjoy a spot of diving and the cove has safety flags and buoys to advise on swimming conditions. There are also ample facilities nearby, including some great restaurants and a bar for when all that swimming works up an appetite.

Cala Grandella (Javea)
No list of beaches in the Costa Blanca would be complete without some mention of the horseshoe-shaped, Blue Flag awarded cove of Grandella. Small at just 160m, but full of character, the beautiful cove consists of shingle, pebbles and rocks, complemented by clear waters that are perfect for swimming. The beach has ample facilities to enrich your day: a lifeguard is present at all times with safety flags to indicating swimming conditions; canoeing is available; sunbeds and parasols are up for hire; diving and snorkelling are also popular; shower and toilet facilities are present and a great bar and restaurant overlook the bay. Expect calm, sapphire water, flanked by a dense forest of emerald Aleppo pine trees. Perfection.

Les Rotes (Denia)
Just south of the centre of Denia, Les Rotes is five little bays, each set against the backdrop of the Montgó nature reserve. Marineta Cassiana at the beginning is a sandy beach, whilst the following beaches of El Trampoli, Punta Negra, Arenetes and La Cala are a string of rocky coves with clear turquoise waters. The main sandy beach near the harbour attracts mostly families with small children, but if you’re looking to avoid the tourist heave and hive, or don’t like getting sand in your sandwiches, then the rocky coves are a stunning alternative, La Cala, a nudist beach, offers fabulous conditions for snorkelling and scuba diving with plenty of fish and plant life to discover.

Purple Hearts Malaga Holidays

Malaga in sunshine from PurpleTravel_2Malaga in sunshine via @ gotardo 

Drenched in sunshine, there’s a reason it’s called the Costa del Sol. Did you know there are at least 300 days of sunshine every year on the Costa and it gets up to a balmy 27 degrees in the summertime. Its regional capital Malaga is no different and is the right mix of nightlife, beaches, shopping and total relaxation.

If the weather isn’t enough to convince you how about the price? It’s cheap as chips on Malaga holidays 2014, especially if you know the right places to go. And that’s before we start on the native Malaguenos. The friendliest people on earth? Only one way of finding out.

Beaches in Malaga

Malagueta_from_PurpleTravel

Malagueta via @ Ari Helminen

The obvious first choice is Playa de la Malagueta, the blue flag town beach. A busy beach, with good facilities and easy to get to. Get to the Playa Las Acacias early as it’s a popular choice. Great for kids with its sheltered sandy coves and it’s huge so there’s plenty of room for everyone. Beside the El Candad marina you’ll find the Playa Palo with a good atmosphere and lots of facilities and bars. Further on from the city there are great beaches to discover like the Santa Amalia in Fuengirola, El Padron in Estepona and Casablanca in Marbella. So really it’s up to you!

What to do in Malaga

Malaga Bullring from PurpleTravel

Along with Seville and Madrid, Malaga is at the heart of bullfighting in Spain. Although clearly the sport is not for everyone, the bullring at Plaza La Malagueta draws throngs throughout the throngs of locals during the season (April to September.) Malaga Bullring via @ mer de glace 

Malaga is the birthplace of the legendary painter Pablo Picasso and the Picasso Museum houses a selection of his works, with a detailed audio tour added to it. The café and shop are worth browsing in too. There’s also a Museum of Dollhouses in Malaga, a cute collection that’ll impress any little princess. Learn all about the history of the area at the Museo de Artest Populaires or treat yourself at (our personal favourite) the Wine Museum of Malaga. Retreat from the hectic streets by visiting the Renaissance city Cathedral or take a walk in La Concepcion –  Jardin Botanico (the Botanic Gardens.)

Day trips from Malaga

Night view of the Alhambra

The imposing Alhambra Palace in nearby Granada is one of Spain’s most important attractions. It’s part cathedral, part castle and part palace and has inspired poetry, music and even mathematics. You’ll definitely need to get tickets in advance to make sure you get in. Night view of the Alhambra via @ Teosaurio

Mijas and Nerja are two delightful little villages very close to the city. They have small lookout points, offering beautiful views of the Costa. Furthermore there are plenty of smaller resorts to discover nearby. Travelling west from Malaga City, you’ll find Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Marbella. Going East you’ll get to Rincon de la Victora or Torre del Mar. Most of these are just a few minutes on easy connections by train and are well worth going to for an evening out eating or exploring.

Family fun on Malaga Holidays 2014

Juzcar

Visit the town of Juzcar. In 2011 all the residents got together and painted every building a lovely sky blue, in honour of the Smurfs movie. Juzcar image via @ manuelfloresv

Worth a look if you’ve got the time. The Aventura Amazonia in Marbella is an action packed activity park with 83 challenges and 20 zip lines. Enough to keep little ones busy for hours. Selwo Adeventure in Estepona has over 2,000 animals from across the world and also offers some activities, like zip wires. Aqualand in Torremolinos is the biggest waterpark on the Costa, big enough to spend the whole day and just minutes from downtown, it’s a top choice.

Shopping in Malaga

Sales in Malaga run on and on and on, even in the classiest shops in the centre of town. Start with the fancy designer shops around Calle Marques de Larios. The marble boulevard just screams big bucks. Well worth an afternoon out is the Mercado Central de Atarazanas for a riot of colour, the freshest in fruit and vegetables and yummy cheese (and a great tapas bar in the corner.) It’s ideal for stocking up if you’re self catering.

In the heart of the city you’ll find the Smile Bank, a cute shop selling all sorts of funny souvenirs, cute t-shirts and personalised gifts. If you need a hat, fedora, sombrero or panama (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) Go to Ricardo del Cid Fernandes on Calle Caldereria, an old school favourite.

Green fees in and around Malaga

Golf courses abound in Malaga from approximately €17 at the Casares Costa Golf designed by Juan Carlos Martinez to €65 at the La Cala Resort and plenty in between.

Nightlife in Malaga

There are some great bars, music venues and of course, clubs in Malaga and the surrounding areas offering everything from a quiet drink in a cosy snug to dancing on the table all night long. The ZZ Pub is a favourite with locals and has lots of live bands. Mane in nearby Benalmadena is open late, has free entrance at the weekend and you can expect pumping dance music all night. The Velvet Club on Calle Juan de Padilla 22 has great music and prides itself on its midweek parties, but note they close at 3am. If karaoke is more your thing, head for Dixie’s on Salvador Allende 9. A small, friendly establishment, run by locals, it is a great place to get your night started.

Hen and Stags in Malaga

Lads enjoying a stag party
Malaga’s also an up and coming hen and stag party destination. With a tonne of clubs, cheap bars and booze and loads of activities like, a fiesta meal (with stripper) for the ladies or very special nights out for the lads, with added dancing for the groom to be, you and your gang can have as much fun as you want.

You Should Read… The Perfect Stag and Hen Parties

Cheap eating in Malaga

Fancy Octopus lunch in Malaga SpainMalaga is a delicious taste of Spain and one of the most surprising things? The prices. One visitor who has just returned from a short trip to the city was delighted to find: “abundant coffee and wine at €1.50 so you can savour a stop frequently.”

Malaga has delicious Spanish cuisine and great international choices too.  Start with a trip to Tapeo de Cervantes, C/Carcer 8, for reasonably priced, excellent quality food. Arguably the best bargain tapas place on the Costa del Sol! For something special, the Restaurante Amador at Calle Bandaneira 6 is a quality establishment offering beautiful, fresh Spanish food along with delightful views. For seafood Marisqueria el Kaoba is a mid priced must. Finish your evening with a stop at Malaga’s top sweet shop, Cafe Lepanto at Calle Marques de Larios 7.

Octopus Lunch in Malaga via @ Ewan-M

Where to stay in Malaga

The Barcelo Malaga is just a few minutes from the city centre and right on the handy AVE high speed rail line, so it’s a great choice for couples who want to soak up the sunshine and relax. The Hotel Las Vegas is right on the waterfront at La Malagueta beach and all rooms have a full or partial sea view. The Malaga Centro is in a great location as its name suggests and just a couple of minutes to the beach. Hotel Domus, just five minutes from Pedregalejo Beach and with simple rooms, this is good value choice, but is a little further from the city centre (4km.)

For more cheap Malaga holidays give Purple Travel a call on 0207 993 9228.

Purple 10: The sexiest bars in the world

  1. Moon at the PalmsLas Vegas There is colour changing glass tiles, a retractable roof, and you’re in VEGAS, baby!!
  2. 360 Bar, Jumeirah Resort, Dubai Nothing cheesy here, Jumeirah’s 360 club is all about the music, playing cutting edge tunes, with international DJs and themed nights.
  3. Rooftop Tapas BarSan Miguel, Mexico Al fresco dining is the idea here, with the dramatic city views and magnificent sunsets the perfect accompaniment.
  4. Top Mountain Star, Austrian Alps Finish off a day’s skiing with this James Bond-esque bar, right on top of a snowy mountain.
  5. 360 Istanbul, Turkey the hippest bar in Istanbul, the 360 prides itself on its amazing cocktail menu, not to mention the panoramic views.
  6. Woolloomooloo, Central Hong Kong half steakhouse, half bar, all view. This is an unmissable spot if you’re passing through Hong Kong.
  7. The Nest, Nairobi Delicious martinis or scented shishas are the side dishes to the perfect views.
  8. Franco’s Bar, Santorini, Greece Santorini is the home of the ultimate sunset, so what better place to enjoy it than the white terraced rooftop of Francos?
  9. Gravity Bar, Dublin, Ireland This is the most stylish bar in Dublin where you can knock back a pint of the black stuff while enjoying full 360 degree views of the Irish capital.
  10. The Top Bar, Adriana Hotel, Hvar, Croatia Featuring wrap around views of the ancient city, the harbour and the islands, this is one for the sophisticated amongst us

Are we missing something from our list of sexiest bars in the world? Is there a new one that we’ve forgotten this year? Let us know your choice in the comments below.

Travel tips: The top city beaches

If you’re interested in a beach holiday, but you want a little something on the side then why not go for a city beach break. We reckon it’s a great way to combine some sunshine with a bit of sight seeing, the bar and food choices of a city, with the loungers and sunshine of the coast. Here are our top choices for city beaches – if you’ve got others we’d love to hear them…

Barceloneta Beach, Barcelona: We think Barceloneta is a definite winner. Just at the end of the Ramblas, it’s got a buzzing atmosphere, loads of foodie jaunts and you can even get yourself a massage if you’re feeling really lazy.

Ipanema, Rio: the sexiest beach in the world or what? A place for some serious beautiful people watching, locals flock here every weekend, so it can be crowded, but with miles and miles of white sand and under the Two Brother’s mountains it offers a great mix of stunning scenery and epic views.

Dubrovnik, Croatia: The city is right on the sea, so it’s perfect for a little sun soaking. A word of warning though, most are pebble beaches, but don’t let it put you off. You can relax in the beach bars, grab a kayak and go explore or just totally unwind under a beach umbrella on your own stretch of paradise.

Miami Beach, Florida: Quite possibly the most famous city beach in the world, Miami is where the bold and the beautiful, the old and young come to top up their tans, sip on a cocktail or just soak up the atmosphere. The beach has even got its own workout equipment right there – just in case you feel the need to soup

Copenhagen, Denmark: The Danish city might not be your first choice for a beach break, but it’s got a lot going for it. Choose from not one, but two beaches nearby that you can easily get to by just hopping on the local train. The water’s crystal clear, the white sand is a sight for sore eyes, and the sea temperatures are a refreshing 20 degrees or so. Definitely worth a try.

Venice, Italy: There’s more to Venice than stunning views, gondola rides on the canal and the glorious history that makes this city famous. It’s also home to one of Italy’s best kept secret beaches, Venice Lido. Just minutes from St. Mark’s Square, it’s an island that’ll give you the chance to rub shoulders with the rich and famous under the gorgeous Italian sunshine.

Venice Beach, California: Another Venice, but this one is a little different! Famous the world over thanks to Pamela Anderson and that red swimsuit, there are actually over 20 beaches to choose from in Los Angeles. Venice is filled with fortune tellers, artists and was home to some of the early beach poets. Now you might be lucky to rub shoulders with some Hollywood elite applying their suncream.

Jumeirah Beach, Dubai: Dubai is a city of true contrast, from the stunning, eye-wateringly tall Burj Al Arab 7 Star hotel, to the exquisite sandy beaches, it’s got something for everyone. Jumeirah is about 25 minutes from the city centre, it’s usually pretty quiet and is ideal for children as it’s shallow and quite safe. The water is crystal clear and the sandy beach is just perfect. What more could you ask for?

Purple Hearts: Cuba Travel Guide

Upon arriving at Cuba, Christopher Columbus remarked that it was “the most beautiful country human eyes have ever seen.” Yet for tourists, the country is a land of continuous confusion; its economy is struggling at best, yet its cultural history is rich and diverse; its landscape is filled with relic and dust, but its architecture is indisputably magnificent; it is considered dangerous and even saddening, yet at the same time, utterly compelling, like the moment when you pass by a car crash and cannot help but slow down to take a closer look. You may even say that these mysteries and parallels are what make Cuba an attractive destination choice. They map out its troubled history like wrinkles on an aged face – a product of years of genocide, slavery, invasion, counter-invasion and revolution – adding both a character and a melancholic beauty.

The words ‘Cuba’ and ‘politics’ have gone hand in hand for more than half a century now, headed by Fidel Castro and his communist regime. However, unlike the grey, barren dystopia of archetypal communist countries, Cuba is an exuberant, romantic milieu, where art, music, literature and creativity are the dish of the day. The Cubans themselves are a nation of artists; from doers to dreamers, sceptics to sages, poets to philosophers. To put things into perspective, here is a review from one of our customers:

“We visited (Cuba) some 18 years ago, and the most attractive and memorable aspect was the pride our guides had in their country and the things they were showing us. A simple doctor’s surgery was described as cutting edge, a somewhat decrepit university as the equivalent of Oxford, and so on. That aspect was enchanting, as they obviously had so little yet treasured what they had.”

The Cubans have shaped their country into the captivating, impenetrable, paradoxical nation it is. However with tourism on the rise, and therefore a huge injection of capitalism pumping through Cuba’s socialist veins, now is the time to travel to this unique country, before its beauty fades into an increasingly globalized world. And if you need some inspiration? We’ve created this Cuba travel guide to ensure your holiday is the best it can be:

Food
Cuba is inhabited mainly by people of African and Spanish origin, which is reflected in the cuisine. Food in Cuba is therefore unlike the rest of the Caribbean, relying heavily on onions and garlic for its flavourings, rather than spices. To find delicious food, head to the casas, rather than the restaurants, which can be somewhat hit and miss and where service is generally quite poor. The real adventure however, is eating at peso places (the national money), which serve the cheapest and most interesting food around. A meal for three people with beers will only cost around $4. Just look for a line of Cubans and jump in it – there’s sure to be something delicious at the end.

Places to go
Havana
Cuba’s sultry capital is one of the finest examples of a Spanish Colonial city in the Americas. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, Havana was once one of world’s most beautiful areas, but as the city deteriorates and tourism influxes, the city is in a state of change; now, behind the crumbling colonial façades, are hidden boutique hotels, cocktail bars and fine dining eateries.  Head for Old Havana to explore the original churches and reconstructed mansions, or to Malecon road for a lively meeting place. or try one of these fantastic new restaurants for a slice of modern Havanan culture:

Atelier: ForCaribbean and European dishes; Good
for groups and well-priced.
Café Laurent: Spanish cuisine with other European influences; the speciality is seafood.
Doña Eutimia: Traditional Cuban food; one of the specialities is the classic ropa vieja (pulled beef in a tomato sauce). About £15 for two.
San Cristóbal: Cuban and international cuisine; pork in mustard sauce is a speciality.

Guardelavaca
Thepeaceful region of Guardalavaca is home to some of Cuba’s most idyllic, powdery beaches. Crystal clear waters, filled with an abundance of marine life, make it a popular destination for snorkelers and divers, while swimming with dolphins is a not-to-be-missed opportunity. Traditionally famous for its sugar production, if you venture away from the beach, you can drive through roads lined with fields of sugar cane plantations. Although its main industry is now tourism, Guardelavaca has retained an authentic Cuban feel and you never feel too overcrowded.

Varadero
Varadero is Cuba’s largest beach resort, set on a 12-mile long peninsula of stunning white sandy beaches and clear Caribbean water. Despite being a beach resort, the area is still not as commercialised as many other Caribbean locations. After it was first visited in 1870, Varadero rapidly grew into an exclusive resort for the Havana elite, visited by many celebrities, including Al Capone.
This tourism boom, which has never wavered since, has meant that Varadero is a long way from being the ‘real Cuba’, but for a great beach holiday, this is surely one of the best in the entire Caribbean.

Cayo Coyo
Cayo Coco Cuba is occupied by one of the world’s largest coral reefs – second only to the Great Barrier. Like Varadero, Cayo Coyo is a magnificent beach resort, boasting fifteen miles of virgin beaches and azure seas, perfect for indulging in a spot of Cuban deep sea fishing. If you prefer to stay on dry land, the dramatic mountainous backdrop offers some fantastic hiking or horse riding opportunities, rewarded by spectacular views. If you travel by car through the linking causeway, you can make a stop off at Parador la Silla, about half way across, which is home to hundreds of bright pink flamingos. Hotel-wise, we recommend Playa Coco, a modern, spacious hotel set right on the beach or Tryp Cayo Coco, designed like a traditional Caribbean village. For something even more luxurious, Melia Cayo Coco hotel has everything you could ever want – perfect for honeymoons or romantic couples break.

Trinidad
Founded in 1514, Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to an extensive colonial history. Expect to see locals riding on horseback down cobbled streets, past rows of houses painted in pastel pinks, yellows and blues. The renovated elegant mansions of the past are now enchanting museums, whilst original church windows are like works of art.

Santa Clara
Santa Clara is the home of the monument, museum and mausoleum of revolutionary, Ché Guevara, whose body was only returned from Bolivia in 1997, some 30 years after his capture and execution.

Things to do

Jardin Botanico Nacianol, Havana
A well-kept collection of tropical plants that includes poinsettias the size of Christmas trees, hibiscus, bromeliads, coleus and bougainvillea. Open daily.

Museo De La Revolucion, Havana

Refugio 1, between Avenida de las Misiones and Zulueta, Habana Vieja, Havana. To learn a bit about the country’s history, visit the housed in a huge, ornate, dome-topped building which was once the presidential palace. The spirit of the greatest revolutionary of them all, Che Guevara, lives on in posters, statues and murals such as the one on Plaza de la Revolucion.

Partaga Cigar Factory, Havana
Industria 520, Habana Vieja, Havana. A national treasure that hides behind the Capitolio in Havana’s main square, Partagas – formerly the second largest cigar factory in Cuba – is worth a visit.

Muse Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana
Opened in its current location in 1954, the National Museum of Fine Arts 50,000 strong collection of artworks has been divided into two separate buildings: the Cuban art collection (Arte Cubano), and the international collection (Arte Universal). The international collection is a passable survey of world art but the main draw is the building itself.

Call Purple Travel on 0207 993 9228 to find out more about holidays in Cuba.

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