India Holidays

India is huge and diverse country, from the Himalayas in the north to the heat of Kerala in the south, and the global cities of Delhi and Mumbai in the centre. There is so much to see and different areas have different cultures and weather so it is best to think of India as regions when planning a trip as different parts will be best at different times of the year, and hoping to see all of the country in one trip is extremely ambitious.

Beach Holidays in India

Whether you are only looking for a beach holiday, or just want to add on a few days of beach time to a trip around India there are several high quality options. Most of the beach resorts in India are on the west coast – taking advantage of the warm waters of the Arabian Sea.

Kerala Beach Holidays

Kerala – to the south of the country – has over 600km of coast line. The most popular beaches are located around the city of Kovalam. To the south of the city is Lighthouse Beach – a lively area with lots of bars and restaurants. There is a good range of hotels in the area to choose from.

To the north of Kovalam there are quieter, less visited beaches. The area around Mararikulam has great beaches that you may have completely to yourself. There are less hotels than to the south, but if you are looking for quiet and beautiful beaches then Marari Beach may be better suited than Lighthouse Beach.

Goa Beach Holidays

Goa is to the north of Kerala, and is India’s most popular beach holiday destination. The beaches to the north tend to be livelier with lots of bars and hotels, whilst the south is quieter and the hotels are more spread out.

Morjim Beach to the north has a number of beach bars and is a nesting place for sea turtles. The nearby beaches of Candolim and Calangute are popular and have a good range of luxury beach resorts.

Further south the beaches of Mobor and Palolem offer a beautiful and quiet setting for a beach holiday, with a choice of a few luxury resorts.

Cities and Cultural Sites in India

India is one of the best and most varied countries in the world to travel round. It has some of the oldest surviving cities in the world, a large part of the highest mountain range in the world, and national parks with tigers and leopards. Add to that a culture influenced over the years by Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam and a tumultuous history including being the home of the Mughal Empire and the jewel in the crown of the British Empire and it is clear to see why it is so popular.

Himalayas and Foothills

In the far north of the country are the Himalayas. These mountains and their foothills are home to secluded monasteries, cool hill towns and tea plantations. This is a great area to go trekking.

Leh

The city of Leh is the capital of the Ladakh region and sits at 3500m above sea level. The town centre is a great example of medieval Tibetan architecture, and there are lots of monasteries in the surrounding mountains.

Alchi

Alchi is a village home to an old Buddhist monastery and temple complex. Construction on the complex is believed to have started in the 10th Century and the site is one of the most important in the region.

At over 3000m above sea level treks from Alchi to nearby villages afford great views and access to other mountain monasteries.

Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj

Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj are best known for their preservation of Tibetan life and culture – and particularly as the location of the Tibetan government in exile. The Tsuglagkhang Complex in Dharamshala is the Dalai Lama’s Monastery and the largest Tibetan Monastery outside of Tibet. The Dalai Lama usually lives at the monastery for a couple of months each year.

Although the town and monastery are the main reason for visiting, the forests around the towns are home to leopards as well Himalayan Eagles, and are great for trekking.

Shimla

Shimla is over 2000m above sea level and was used as colonial retreat to get away from the heat. The town still has lots of remnants of its colonial past including churches, schools, town hall, and a post office.

Apart from wandering through the colonial centre, many people visit Shimla for its access to the Himalayan foothills. Climbing the surrounding hills gives great views, and you are likely to stumble upon old temples.

Darjeeling

Darjeeling is a colonial hill town in the north east of country, at the foot of the Himalayas. The town had two uses – one as a hub for tea plantations and the second was to allow the British to escape the summer heat. Many of the colonial estates and bungalows are still intact.

The town is overlooked by Mt. Kanchenjunga – the third highest mountain in the world. The area around Darjeeling has lots of monasteries – both trekking and mountain biking are popular.

Northern India and The Golden Triangle

Northern India is home to India’s most visited sites – Agra, Delhi and Jaipur, which make up The Golden Triangle. However, the area has a lot more than just those sites to offer – from colonial Calcutta to rural Rajasthan and the Sikh holy city of Amritsar.

Agra and the Taj Mahal

Agra is a city set on the Yamuna River that is most famous for the Taj Mahal. However, it has more than just that – there is also a fort and other Mughal monuments and tombs.

The Taj Mahal, which means Crown Palace, is a memorial to Emperor Shah Jahan’s wife. Construction began in 1623 and it took thousands of people 20 years to build. Today it is the most iconic site in India thanks to its scale and the intricacy of its decoration.

Across the river from the Taj Mahal is Kachpura Village. The area has a number of ancient Mughal Monuments, including a mosque, as well as great views over the river of the Taj Mahal.

Agra Fort is a few kilometres away from the Taj Mahal. The large 16th Century fort was built using sandstone. The fort contains several palaces including the Mirror Palace, which was used as a prison for Shah Jahan (the Emperor who built the Taj Mahal) when he was imprisoned by his son. The Shah Burj – a tower at the fort – was also used as a prison for him, and from there he spent his days looking across at the Taj Mahal.

The Itimad-ud-Daulah, known as the Baby Taj, is the mausoleum of an important official in the Mughal Empire. It is thought to be the inspiration for the real Taj Mahal and is quieter than the main site.

Delhi

Delhi is the capital and political centre of India. It has been a powerful city for over 1000 years, and is one of the oldest surviving cities in the world – having been destroyed and rebuilt 11 times.

Delhi has two main parts. Old Delhi was the capital during the Mughal period and today is a chaotic area with lots of bazaars. New Delhi was the capital built by the British – this area of the city has colonial-era parliament buildings and most of the luxury accommodation.

The Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India. The mosque was built in the 17th Century under orders from Emperor Shah Jahan and took 6 years to build. The huge inner courtyard can hold 20 thousand people and you can climb the minaret for great views of the city. The mosque is in the Chandi Chowk area of the city, which has lots of lively bazaars.

Near to the Jama Masjid is the Red Fort. Also built by Shah Jahan, the fort was the Emperor’s ruling palace. The scale of the fort is impressive, and the gardens within its walls are well kept. The buildings within the fort include a bazaar, official functions rooms and the residences of the imperial family.

Humayun’s tomb was the first large Mughal Structure built in Delhi asa memorial to Emperor Humayun. Its design has similar elements to the Taj Mahal, although it was built around 50 years before. The gardens of the tomb are immaculate and the whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Qutub Complex is a group of 13th Century Buildings that include a mosque and some tombs, and most notably the Qutub Minar. The Qutub Minar is a minaret that at 72.5m was the highest building in the world when it was built.

Other sites that are worth visiting in Delhi include the huge Gurudwara Bangla Sahib – the main place of Sikh worship in the city – and the Raj Ghat – a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.

In New Delhi the Rajpath is a boulevard along which major national processions take place. The road is surrounded by green lawns and colonial buildings and runs from the President’s residence to India Gate (a WWI memorial to Indian Soldiers).

Jaipur

The third corner of the Golden Triangle (after Agra and Delhi) is Jaipur. Designed by an 18th Century Maharaja to be his perfect city, Jaipur has lots of Royal Palaces and Gardens. The city is nicknamed the Pink City because it was painted pink in 1876 in celebration of the Prince of Wales’ visit and the tradition has lived on.

The city has a network of wide streets ideal for Royal processions that link the central palace to other palaces and temples. In the older, narrower streets there are several bazaars that were originally used to sell decorative artwork for the Royal Palaces. Artists continue to use the same techniques today and sell their products at these bazaars.

The Amber Fort is 11km from Jaipur and was the seat of power for Rajasthan in the 17th Century. The Palace is a large network of passageways around three courtyards, linking temples and royal quarters. The most famous room is the Sheesh Mahal or Mirror Palace – filled with thousands of mirrors so it can be lit with a single candle.

Jodhpur

Jodhpur is to the south west of the Golden Triangle but is a good choice if you have a few additional days. The city is dominated by the Mehrangarh Fort, which was built in the 15th Century on top of a rock, and now overlooks the city. A short walk from the fort is the senic Jaswant Thada – a collection of Royal cenotaphs next to a small lake.

The old town of Jodhpur is full of blue buildings and a lively market connected by narrow passages. There are lots of historical buildings and monuments dotted amongst the city and it is a great place to wander round.

Khajuraho

To the south east of the Golden Triangle is the temple complex of Khajuraho. Dating back to the 10th Century the complex has 21 temples – they are most famous for their intricate Kama Sutra stone carvings. The complex is better preserved than buildings from the same period elsewhere in India due to its remote location protecting it from attack.

Amritsar

Amritsar is Sikhism’s most holy city. The highlight of the city is the Golden Temple, which is the spiritual home of Sikhism. The temple was built over 400 years ago and over 100kg of gold was used in its construction. Surrounding the temple is the Amrit Sarovar – a lake that pilgrims bathe in.

The ‘Going to Bed’ ceremony is a must see if you are in Amritsar. The Sikh Holy Book is taken in a Palanquin through the crowds before returning to its overnight location. Thousands of pilgrims attend the ceremony daily.

Varanasi

Varanasi is one of the oldest still surviving cities in the world, and is the holiest city in the world for Hindus. The city is on The Ganges River, which is the scene of daily ceremonies – from morning ablutions to puja chanting in the evening. Families come to Varanasi to cremate relatives on the Ganges. Leading down to the river are 84 sets of steps or Ghats that are the main location for the religious activities.

The buildings of the town are colourful and the streets are extremely lively. The experience of visiting Varanasi is best described as intense.

Central India

Central India is less visited than both the north and the south. Whilst the north has the Golden Triangle and Himalayas, and the South has the beaches and backwaters of Kerala, central India has the best wildlife and national parks.

Mumbai

Mumbai is the largest city in India and its commercial centre. The sprawling city has lots of different areas – some of which are more worth exploring than others.

South Mumbai is the most popular place for tourists, and is the most desirable place to live (real estate is priced similar to Manhattan). There are lots of bars, restaurants and shops and most of the tourist sights are in this area. There are a number of colonial buildings including the Fort St. George, Mumbai Railway Station and The Gateway of India. The Gateway was built to commemorate the visit of King George V. For a more modern view, Marine Drive is worth a visit for its Art Deco architecture. There are also lots of lively street markets around the city.

One of the best sights in Mumbai is the Haji Ali Dargah: a mosque and tomb located on a small island in Worli Bay, just off of south Mumbai. This 19th Century Tomb was built to house the remains of a Muslim Saint and is visited by thousands of pilgrims everyday. You can reach the island at low tide across a causeway from south Mumbai.

To the north of the city there are some ancient sites including the ancient Buddhist cave temples of Kanheri, and the Ancient Hindu Temples at Jogeshwari.

Mumbai has a number of beaches but the sea is dirty and the currents can be strong, and wearing swimsuits is not seen as acceptable on these beaches. However, walking along the seafront is a good way to spend a few hours.

Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad is the largest city in Gujarat, a state in the West of India. The city centre is filled with old, narrow streets lined with lots of wooden buildings, including ornately carved temples. The old town is filled with lively bazaars – especially the night market – that are famous for selling textiles.

One of the most important sites in Ahmedabad is the Sabarmati Ashram. Gandhi lived here twelve years and was the start point for his 1930 march for Independence.

Calcutta

Calcutta was the capital of India under the British Raj during the 19th Century. The city still retains a lot of its colonial heritage – including the Victoria Memorial and the churches of St John and St Andrew.

The city is built on the banks of the Hugli River, an offshoot of the Ganges as it makes its way into the Bay of Bengal. Stretching over the river is the Howrah Bridge leading to Howrah Junction Railway Station – India’s oldest train station.

Ranthambhore National Park

Ranthambhore National Park is to the south of Jaipur and Agra in Rajasthan. The park is one of the best places in the world to see tigers. It is one of India’s oldest tiger sanctuaries and is located on the former hunting grounds of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Monkeys, deer and lots of bird species also live in the park.

Sasan Gir National Park

Near to Ahmedabad, Sanan Gir National Park is unique in India. Instead of tigers the park is the last place where the Asiatic Lion can be found in the wild. The numbers of lions in the park has been increasing since its formation in 1980. Today the population is around 650, up from less than 300 in 1997.

Bandhavgarh National Park

Banhavgarh is relatively small national park to the west of Calcutta, buts its thick forest mixed with open marshland make it a good habitat for tigers, as well as boar, jackal and sambar.

Kanha National Park

Kanha is a large national park, many times the size of Bandhavgarh. The park contains lots of wildlife – including tigers, leopards, wild dogs, and sloth bears (although these are generally only seen at dawn or dusk).

Tadoba National Park

Tadoba National Park has one of the broadest ranges of wildlife in India. In addition to tigers, it has leopards, sloth bears, hyenas, wild dogs, jungle cats, and chausingha. The Andhari River flows through the park, and is surrounded by hills of teak and bamboo.

Pench Tiger Reserve

Pench Tiger Reserve is a relatively new national park. Apart from tigers, the park also has jungle cats and langurs.

Southern India

Compared to Northern India, Southern India is very relaxed and peaceful. Whilst the north has the most famous sites (Taj Mahal, Jaipur etc.) the south has the natural beauty of the Kerala backwaters, well preserved colonial towns and lesser visited ancient monuments.

Kochi

Kochi (also known as Cochin) is a city in Kerala, on the west coast of India. The city was an important spice trading port from as early as the 14th Century, and has been occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch and British at different times.

The city is spread over several islands. The Fort has some well-preserved colonial buildings, and is the most historic area of the city. The wide, tree lined streets connect the major sites – including the Mattancherry Palace, old warehouses, churches and a synagogue.

Restaurants and stalls serve great fish, owing to the importance of fishing to modern day Cochin.

Munnar

In the hills to the east of Kochi is the town of Munnar. The town is around 1500m above sea level, and has a cool climate that is great for growing tea. The hill town was a popular colonial escape from the heat, and is a great place for trekking. Nearby is Anamudi – the highest mountain in Southern India.

Kerala Backwaters

Many people come to southern India for the Kerala Backwaters. The backwaters are made up of 5 large lakes linked by thousands of kilometres of rivers and man-made canals. Most people choose to do either a single day or multi-day tour on a boat. You can also go shopping at floating markets or fishing.

Chennai

Chennai – formerly known as Madras – was a key British colonial town, although its roots go back to Portuguese and Armenian traders. The British developed the town into a major trading centre in the 17th Century. As part of this they built Fort St George in 1644, making it the first British built fort in India.

There are temples in the area that pre-date the British Colonisation, including the 7th Century Kapaleeswarar Temple.

Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram is an ancient stone carving centre. This legacy is shown through its impressive temples and bas-reliefs. There are many temples to explore in the area – from the large Shore Temple to many incomplete temples and ruins.

Pondicherry

Pondicherry is a French colonial town that has retained a lot of its French influences – from buildings to police uniforms. It was also heavily featured in The Life of Pi. Pondicherry is one of the most relaxed towns in India, and is a great place to explore on bike.

Nearby is the Ashram (spiritual community) of Auroville – one of the most famous in India.

Madurai

Madurai is one of the oldest cities in India – having been in existence for over 2000 years. The most important site is the huge Hindu Meenakshi Temple. The Temple consists of 9 Gopurams (towers) and the façade is decorated with lots of colourful religious images.

The town also has a museum dedicated to the life of Mahatma Gandhi that is a great place to learn about his life.

Mysore

Mysore was the capital of the Kingdom of Mysore, which only joined India in 1950 after the country gained independence from Britain. The city is more relaxed than many others in India, and combined with a cooler climate makes it a great stop for a few days.

The centre of the city is the Royal Palace. This large, extravagantly decorated building is still home to the Maharaja of Mysore, but much of the palace is open to tourists.

Ooty

Ooty was a colonial hill station popular for its cooler climate – its popularity shown by the presence of a race track and a golf course. The town centre retains its colonial charm, but the main reason people visit the town is to go walking in the surrounding countryside. There are a number of peaks that you can climb, dense forests to explore, or tea plantations to wander through.

Possible India Itineraries

As India is such a large country with so many sites there are a huge number of possible itineraries. Below are some suggestions as a start point but please get in contact to discuss the perfect itinerary for your trip. These itineraries can also be combined with a holiday in The Maldives or Sri Lanka.

The Golden Triangle

The most popular India itinerary is based around the Golden Triangle. Fly into Delhi and spend a few days there visiting the sites of the old town before heading to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. From Agra finish off the triangle by heading to Jaipur.

If you have extra time them you can easily add on a beach holiday in Goa or Kerala, a trip to see tigers at Ranthambhore National Park, or head north to the Himalayas.

The Himalayas and Its Foothills

Heading into the Himalayas offers great trekking opportunities, amazing views and the ability to explore Tibetan Mountain monasteries. Delhi is the best starting point – from there head north to the town of Shimla – a colonial hill town at 2000m above sea level. From Shimla you can head further into the mountains to Leh, which at 3500m above sea level is a great place to explore the mountains, and you can also visit the Alchi Monastery. Heading back down from the mountains to the foothills you can stop off at Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj – the home of the Tibetan Government in exile. The Sikh Holy City of Amritsar, although not in the foothills, is a good place to stop on your way back to Delhi.

North East India

From Delhi head East, first stopping off at the Hindu Holy City of Varanasi on the Ganges River. From Varanasi you can continue heading east to the colonial city of Calcutta on the Bay of Bengal. After a few days in the city, head north to the foothills of the Himalayas and stay in the town of Darjeeling – surrounded by tea plantations.

Indian Tiger Safari

Central India has a large number of National Parks that are great places to spot tigers. From Delhi you can head south to Ranthambhore National Park (stopping at Agra on the way if you want to see the Taj Mahal). From Ranthambhore you can continue to head south to India’s largest national park – Kanha, where in addition to tigers you can see leopards and sloth bears.

From Kanha you can either head back north to Delhi, head west to Mumbai, or south to the beaches of Goa and Kerala.

Southern India and the Kerala Backwaters

If you want to explore the more relaxed southern part of India the best place to start is Chennai due to its flight connections (Bangalore is also well connected). From Chennai head south to the relaxed French Colonial town of Pondicherry. From Pondicherry you can head west to the ancient city of Mysore, before heading south to the cool hill town of Ooty.

After Ooty you can carry on south to the Kerala Backwaters for a few nights, and finish off your trip on the beaches near the city of Kochi.

Where to Stay in India

India has a large range of mid and upmarket hotels. There has been a lot of growth in luxury accommodation in recent years, and in particular places that let you stay in historical buildings – whether it is an old fort or a tea plantation bungalow.

When to Go to India

When to go to India is a complicated question and depends on the area you want to visit. From October to April is a good time to visit anywhere in India – it is hot enough in the south for a beach holiday, but not too hot in central and northern India to make sightseeing unbearable. May can be too hot and humid for many travellers.

June to August is monsoon time for most of India, however it is a great time to head to the Himalayas.

The best time to visit southern India is from November to January, when the weather is at its best for a beach holiday.

Getting Around

The best way to get around India is by private car with a driver for shorter distances, and flying for longer distances. Public transport can be chaotic, however there are some great luxury train options. River cruising is also a popular and luxurious way to get around – especially around the Kerala Backwaters.

Getting to India

Delhi and Mumbai are the easiest places to enter India – with many daily direct flights from the UK. Several other cities also have direct flights from the UK including Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Iceland Holidays


Iceland is a country full of natural wonders. From volcanoes to fjords, hot springs to lava fields, Iceland is full of dramatic scenery and constant surprises. Add to that the chance to see the Northern Lights and its clear to see why Iceland is increasing in popularity as a holiday destination.

Where to Go in Iceland

Most visitors stay in the south west around the city of Reykjavik. This is the most populated area of the country and is close to many of the most famous sights, however there is a lot to see elsewhere, so if you have time it is worth exploring more of the island.

South Iceland

South Iceland is home to the capital city and over two thirds of the country’s population, as well as its main tourist sights in The Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon. It also has the country’s international airport, so unless you come by boat, this will be your first destination.

Reykjavik

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the most northerly capital in the world. It is a city full of colourful buildings, great restaurants and lively bars. There are a number of museums in Reykjavik that are worth visiting if you are interested in the history of the country.

A popular trip from Reykjavik is to go swimming in the Blue Lagoon. The lagoon is geothermally heated to around 37 degrees Celsius – roughly the same as a hot tub.

Golden Circle

To the east of Reykjavik is the Golden Circle, which is made up of three of Iceland’s most famous sites: Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and Haukadalur geothermal area.

Thingvellir spans the border between the North American and Eurasian Tectonic Plates. The park is popular for hiking and you can even go diving in the crack between the two plates. Thingvellir was also home to the oldest Parliament in the world – it first sat in 930AD and lasted until 1798.

Gullfoss is a large two-tiered glacial waterfall to the east of Thingvellir. It is regularly claimed as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.

The final part of the Golden Circle is the Haukadalur geothermal area. The area has two geysers – Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir was the first geyser to be described in print and led to the English word. Today Geysir’s eruptions are infrequent at best and can be years apart. Fortunately neighbouring Strokkur erupts at least every 10 minutes.

North Iceland

The main city in north Iceland is Akureyri, which is the largest city outside of the Reykjavik area but is still home to only 14,000 people. The town has some bars and restaurants and can act as a hub to explore the surrounding area.

Northern Iceland has lots of natural features to explore. There are numerous lava fields including the Eldhraun Lava Field, which was formed from the biggest lava flow in the world. There are also lots of waterfalls – Dettiffoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe.

On the north coast is the village of Húsavik, which is one of the best places in Europe to go whale watching. Minke and Humpback Whales are frequently seen in the sea around here.

Elsewhere in northern Iceland there are lots of hot pools and lakes, and it is a great area for hiking.

West Iceland and West Fjords

West Iceland is the location for most Icelandic Sagas and it has the dramatic scenery to go with them. The area has volcanoes, fjords, forest and lakes as well as Iceland’s highest waterfall – Glymur.

Stykkisholmur is the largest town in the region (although it only has a population of 2000 people).

Snaefellsjokull is a large volcano, the crater of which was the setting for Jules Verne’s novel ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth.’

Northwest Iceland is an area called the West Fjords. This area is very sparsely populated and is the least visited part of Iceland. It is very cold and its northern most point almost touches the Arctic Circle.

East Iceland

The east of Iceland tends to be warmer and have better weather than the rest of the island. This makes it a great area for hiking and boat trips through the fjords. The main hub for the region is the town of Egilsstadir.

The region is home to puffins, and is the only place in the country where there are wild reindeer.

Possible Itineraries

Reykjavik and the Golden Circle

This is by far the most popular itinerary. Spend a few days in Reykjavik enjoying the bars and restaurants, as well as a swim in the Blue Lagoon. From Reykjavik you can do the Golden Circle as a day trip.

Reykjavik and North Iceland

If you want to see more of Iceland than the south, in addition to a few days in Reykjavik and the Golden Circle, you can fly or drive up to Akureyri and spend a few days exploring the north of the island – including a whale watching trip.

The Ring Road

If you have a couple of weeks then a great way to explore the country is to drive the Ring Road that goes around the edge of the whole island – apart from the West Fjords (although this is a worthwhile detour). You will be able to see everything from the Golden Circle to the volcanoes of western Iceland and the fjords of eastern Iceland.

Where to Stay

There are lots of hotels all around Iceland – even in the more remote parts such as the West Fjords. However, in more isolated areas luxury hotels are not always available.

When to Go

Summer is the best time to visit Iceland – the weather is warmest from June to September and days are longest – sometimes the sun is still up at midnight. You can also go in winter – it adds to the dramatic scenery but not everywhere is accessible.

Getting Around

The best way to get around is to hire a car

Getting There

There are lots of daily flights to Keflavik airport (just south of Reykjavik).

Greece Holidays

Few countries in the world have as much to offer as Greece does. Lively islands surrounded by sand, secluded mainland beaches and hundreds of ancient archaeological sites for those in search of some culture.

Beach Holidays Greece

Beaches, and particularly those on the famous Greek Islands, are the main draw for visitors to Greece. Few countries have the range of destinations that Greece has – from the quiet beaches of mainland Halkidiki to the party islands of the South Aegean – Greece has something for everyone.

South Aegean Islands

The South Aegean Islands include a lot of the livelier islands that are popular with people seeking nightlife as well as beaches. However, not all towns are full of clubs, and even on the busier islands it is possible to find quieter beaches and towns.

Kos

Kos has almost 300km of sandy coastline and its beaches are it biggest draw. However, the island also has some ancient ruins, great terrain for cycling and a party scene.

Kos Town is home to Greek, Roman and Byzantine ruins, as well as having lots of bars and restaurants that become lively at night. The town has a harbour lined with bars and cafes and guarded by a 15th Century Castle.

Around the island there are a number of luxury hotels and resorts with private beaches that offer a wide range of water sports.

Santorini

Santorini is probably the most beautiful of the Greek islands – famous for its white-washed towns perched on cliffs overlooking the sea and its stunning sunsets.

As other Greek islands have become more popular with backpackers and island-hoppers Santorini has emerged as a luxury and exclusive option. The island is home to lots of luxury and boutique hotels.

The most popular places to stay on the island are the iconic towns of Thira and Oia. These towns have lots of bars, restaurants and stylish shops.

Beaches on Santorini are darker than other islands due to its volcanic formation. However, despite the colour the island still has great beaches. The town of Perissa is on a 7km long beach that has lots of water sports, whilst Kamari has a Blue Flag beach.

Mykonos

Mykonos is one of the smallest yet most popular Greek Islands. Its popularity is partly due to its beautiful beaches and reputation as a destination for celebrities, and partly due to its famous nightlife.

Mykonos Town is the main town on the island. It has a maze-like layout of streets winding down to a colourful harbour. The town is also home to some of the islands’ iconic windmills.

Ornos Bay is home to one of the best beaches on the island and is great for families. Other top beaches on the island include Elia Beach and Agios Stefanos.

For a livelier beach head to Paradise or Super Paradise – where the beaches are full of bars and water sports. At night these beaches become the centre of the party scene.

Rhodes

Rhodes is one of the largest Greek islands. The east coast has most of the beach resorts. Towards the north of this coast there are several lively resorts, whilst there are quieter resorts towards the southern end of the coast.

Lindos is a village towards the southern end that has a beautiful beach with clear water. The village itself is home to ancient architecture and is car free – giving it a peaceful feel. Just south of Lindos is Pefki – a quiet Blue Flag beach that is another great option for a quiet beach holiday.

On the north coast of the island is the resort of Ixia, which offers an escape from the busier eastern coast and is a great spot for water sports. It is also close to Rhodes Town – an ancient city and capital of the island. The city is home to many sites including the Acropolis of Rhodes, Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, and several other archaeological sites.

North Aegean Islands

The North Aegean islands are much quieter than their southern counterparts and the towns are much more authentic. You will find pristine beaches, traditional Greek bars and restaurants, and undeveloped interiors.

Thassos has the best beaches in the area. Golden Beach is backed by bars and a good range of hotels.

Samos is a relatively undeveloped island with a lots of beaches. The interior is great for hiking and is covered in jasmine – giving it an unforgettable smell.

Other islands with good beaches and luxury resorts include Skopelos and Skiathos.

Crete

Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and has a long coastline with lots of beautiful beaches. There are a number of main areas on the island – ranging from lively to laid-back. The interior of the island is mountainous and contains ancient Greek and Roman archaeological sites.

Agios Nikolaos is one the most popular holiday destinations on the island. The old town is well preserved and has lot of bars and restaurants, but is still quiet and relaxed compared to other places in Crete.

Elounda is one of the best places on the island for luxury hotels. This lively town has a man-made sandy beach that looks out on Spinalonga Island. The beach is good for water sports and snorkeling.

Chania – on the north coast – has lots of beaches, including several Blue Flag ones. Chania itself is an attractive old town with some good nightlife but more tasteful than you’ll find in Malia or Heraklion.

Ierapetra is a city at the south of Crete and contains an old Venetian fort. Surrounding the city are lots of long beaches – often viewed as the best on Crete.

The Palace of Knossos, near the capital Heraklion, is one of the archaeological highlights of the island and is the legendary site of the labyrinth used to house the Minotaur.

Ionian Islands

The Ionian Islands are off the west coast of Greece. There is a mixture of quiet towns and beaches – particularly on Kefalonia – and lively party islands, such as Zante.

Corfu

Corfu has a mixture of lively resorts with lots of bars and a party scene, and quieter resorts perfect for a relaxing luxury beach holiday.

The north is home to the quieter towns and resorts. Around the towns of Gouvia and San Stefanos there are luxury resorts on quiet beaches.

If you want to stay somewhere with good nightlife, the areas of Sidari and Roda are good options. The towns have plenty of bars and clubs, but you can still find quiet beaches and coves nearby.

Other Ionian Islands

There are a few other Ionian islands that are great for a beach holiday. Kefalonia has long beaches and a laid back atmosphere, whilst Zante is a livelier island but with some quieter areas and stunning coves.

Mainland

The Greek Islands attract most of the attention when it comes to beach holidays in Greece. However, there are great destinations on the mainland, and the lack of attention means these tend to be quieter and less developed.

Halkidiki

Haldiki is made up of three peninsulas on the north eastern part of the Greek mainland. The area is not as well-known as other parts of Greece and receives less visitors.

The western most of the three peninsulas – Kassandra – is the main beach destination in Halkidiki. Hanioti is the main tourist town, however the best area for luxury resorts is Sani, which has a great beach and marina. Kalithea has the best nightlife in the area.

The other two peninsulas are less suited to beach holidays – Sithonia is great for walking and discovering isolated coves, whilst Athos is mainly an out-of-bounds Monastic Republic. That said you can visit the beaches at the northern end of the Athos peninsula or go on a boat trip to catch a glimpse of the Republic from the sea.

Peloponnese

Peloponnese is at the southern end of the Greek mainland. The area has lots of beach resorts that tend to be quieter than those on the islands.

Loutraki is one of the best beach resorts in Peloponnese. It is relatively quiet and has a good range of luxury hotels, as well as a 4km long Blue Flag beach.

Messini – to the southwest of the peninsula – has beautiful beaches, as well as medieval castles and towns. The area is less visited by tourists so is an ideal spot if you are looking for a relaxing beach holiday with some culture.

If you want a really secluded and luxurious holiday then Costa Navarino is the perfect spot. There are only a couple of hotels here.

The area also has lots of culture – including the ruins of Sparta and the original location of the Olympic games (see culture section below for more).

Cities and Cultural Sites

As home to one of the greatest civilisations ever seen Greece is full of ancient archaeological sites and ruined cities.

Athens

Athens is the capital of Greece, and as the centre of the Greek Empire is seen as the birthplace of Western Civilization. The city is full of historic archaeological sites and museums.

The Archaeological Promenade is 2.5 mile pedestrianised route that links all the main ancient sites of Athens.

Other important sites nearby include the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which has several huge columns still standing, as well as Hadrian’s Gate and the Panathanaiko Stadium – home to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

Athens is not just about the ancient ruins. The modern city has lots of art galleries, as well as great restaurants and nightlife.

Olympia

Olympia is an ancient town in Peloponnese that has archaeological sites dating back 3000 years. The city was the birth place of the Olympics Games and even today the torch for each new games is still lit in this ancient city.

Sparta

Also in Peloponnese, the ancient city of Sparta is famous for being home to fearless warriors. The city is now marked by an archaeological site and museum. Unfortunately not much of Sparta remains standing – partly due to the lack of defensive walls, which they believed they did not need.

Mystra

Less than 10km from Sparta are the Byzantine ruins of Mystra. The ruins are an old fortress town containing churches, palaces and libraries. The town was built on a hill and you can wander through the narrow alleys that wind their way up past the surprisingly well preserved ruins.

Possible Itineraries

Island Hopping

Island hopping between the Greek islands is an extremely popular holiday choice. The range of islands means that there are no standard itineraries – whether you want to explore the quiet Northern Aegean Islands or hop between lively Kos and stylish Santorini we can help plan the perfect trip for you.

Athens and Peloponnese

If you are looking for a mixture of culture and beach start your trip with a couple of days visiting the sites of ancient Athens before heading down to Peloponnese to a secluded beach resort. From the beach resort you can explore the nearby sites of Sparta, Mystra, and Olympia.

Where to Stay in Greece

Greece has long been a tourist destination and has lots of accommodation to suit all budgets.

When to Go to Greece

The weather is warm from May to October. The hottest and busiest months and July and August, so if you want to avoid crowds its best to go outside of those months. If you plan on mainly sightseeing then June and September will be best as you’ll avoid the crowds and the hottest weather.

Getting Around

If you plan to travel around a lot on the bigger islands or the mainland then hiring a car is easy. Otherwise on smaller islands and for short trips taxis are easy to find. Getting between islands can be done on frequent ferries, or by private boat.

Getting to Greece

There are lots of daily direct flights to Greece from most major UK airports.

Cuba Holidays

Cuba is the largest Caribbean Island but it is not a typical Caribbean destination. Whilst it does have the beaches you would expect, it also has lively historic cities and national parks. Cuba is great holiday destination if you want a mixture of beach and culture.

Cuba Beach Holidays

Cuba has a very broad range of beach resorts from areas with well-developed all-inclusive resorts to more isolated beaches hosting hotels with a Cuban look and feel. All resorts have great diving and snorkelling.

Varadero

Varadero is the biggest beach resort in Cuba and has a lot of 4 and 5 star all-inclusive hotels. The resort runs the full length of a 12km peninsula, with hotels lining each side, and is only a couple of hours’ drive from Havana.

Aside from sunbathing there are plenty of activities. Varadero is a great place for diving, with more than 30 dives sites near the peninsula. Boat trips are popular: there is lots of snorkelling if you don’t fancy diving, and dolphins are frequently spotted (even from the shore). There is also lots of non-motorised watersports including windsurfing and kitesurfing, however motorised watersports such as jet skiing are banned.

If you are looking for non-water based activities then there is a golf course nearby.

The area has a large selection of bars and restaurants that provide great nightlife.

Cayos

The Cayos are a string of islands on the north coast of Cuba. The islands are much less developed than Varadero and there is a greater emphasis on nature.

Cayo Santa Maria is the most popular island and has the most resorts and hotels. The island has over 10km of beach and on the south side there are lagoons where you can spot flamingos.

In the waters off the Cayos is the world’s second longest barrier reef (after Australia’s), which provides great snorkeling and diving opportunities.

Guardalavaca

Guardalavaca is towards the east of the island and is much quieter than Varadero and low key compared to Cayo Santa Maria. There are few resorts so the beaches are very quiet and the area is more authentic. The best resorts are to the west of town on the Playa Esmeralda.

As with Varadero and the Cayos the diving and snorkelling is excellent.

Jibacoa

Jibacoa is a fishing village to the east of Havana and is closer to the capital than any of the other major beach areas. Jibacoa only has a few all-inclusive resorts but is becoming more popular with tourists who want a beach holiday within easy distance of Havana.

Cities and Cultural Sites in Cuba

Cuba has a long and interesting history, the island was first settled over 6000 years ago, in the 16th Century Spain colonised the island, and more recently Fidel Castro and Che Guevara led the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s. This history has left its mark in many ways and travelling round Cuba is a great way to understand some of the key global events of the past century.

Havana

Havana is Cuba’s capital and largest city – the Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The streets of Havana are filled with 1950s cars (due to a ban on imports after the revolution) and the Spanish colonial buildings now have tired facades. This all adds to Havana’s attraction and sense of history.

Many of the former palaces in the Old Town have been converted into museums – the most interesting of which is Museum of the Revolution. There are great views along the Malecón (the sea wall), along which are some old forts built to defend the city against pirates. On the land side of the Malecón are shops, restaurants and bars, which are a great place to watch the sunset.

Havana has lots of open air restaurants and cafes that are great to eat and drink at during the days and enjoy the atmosphere of the city. At night the bars come alive with music – mainly salsa and jazz – and the clubs open, including the famous Tropicana Cabaret.

Trinidad

Trinidad is the best preserved colonial town in the Caribbean. Originally founded by the Spanish in the early 1500s the original colonial houses and cobbled streets are largely still intact.

The town’s fortune was built on the slave and sugar trade and in the area around Trinidad there are the ruins of plantations and estates from the period.

To the south is one of the best beaches on Cuba’s southern coast – the Playa Ancón – and to the north are the mountains of the Sierra del Escambray – a great place for hiking.

Although quieter than Havana, there is still a good nightlife scene with many bars hosting live music.

Viñales

Viñales is a small colonial town in western Cuba, however the big draw for visitors is the area around the town. The Valle de Viñales is home to tobacco plantations interspersed with limestone outcrops.

The area can be explored by hiking, driving or on horseback. In addition to the plantations there are previously inhabited caves that are worth visiting.

Baracoa

Baracoa was Cuba’s first capital. It was founded in the early 16th Century but is now a small city of 80 thousand people. The city was only connected to the rest of Cuba by a road in the 1960s and still remains hidden and out of the way – very few tourists make it over to this eastern extremity of Cuba.

Baracoa is enclosed on three sides by forest covered mountains, and on the fourth by the sea. The town itself has three old forts built to protect it from pirates.

Fishing and trekking are the main activities for visitors to Baracoa.

Santiago de Cuba

Santiago is a former capital and the second largest city in Cuba. The city is now famous for its music and its rum, and was pivotal in Castro’s revolution.

Music is everywhere in Santiago – even more so than elsewhere in Cuba – and the city has a Carnival every July. The city is famous for its rum (a perfect accompaniment to the music) and it is the home to Bacardi and many other brands.

The mountains around Santiago were where the revolutionaries had their original camp and Castro led an attack on the Moncada Barracks in the city at the beginning of the revolution. Santiago is great if you are interested in the history of the revolution, as well as hiking in the mountains where it began.

Cienfuegos

Cienfuegos has a different feel to most of the other cities in Cuba. The architecture is French colonial, as opposed to the Spanish colonial architecture seen in Santiago, Havana and elsewhere. This difference in architecture is most noticeable in the wide tree-lined boulevards of Cienfuegos.

The city is in a beautiful sweeping bay – a location that has earned it the nickname ‘The Pearl of the South’. Outside the city are the El Nicho waterfalls that are worth a day trip.

Remedios

Remedios is a small city close to the north coast in central Cuba. It is one of the oldest cities in Cuba and still retains a lot of its colonial buildings and streets. It is not on most tourists’ itinerary but there a few boutique hotels and it is a great opportunity to see one of Cuba’s historic cities without the crowds.

Other Cities and Cultural Sites

There are many other places in Cuba that are worth visiting including the eco-tourism focused area of Las Terrazas and the inland city of Camaguey, which was built with maze likely alleys to confuse any potential attackers.

Potential Itineraries

Most visitors to Cuba want to see the main cities and spend some time on the beach. We have come up with some itineraries to suit, but as always these are only ideas and are fully customisable.

Havana and Varadero

A popular itinerary includes a few nights in Havana before heading for the beach. The most popular beach destination is Varadero as it is close to Havana, but Cayo Santa Maria or Guardalavaca are also possible.

The Best of Cuba

If you want to see the main the sites before relaxing on the beach we suggest spending a 2-3 nights in Havana, before heading to Vinales to see the tobacco plantations, caves and limestone outcrops. From there you can head to the extremely well preserved Trinidad and then on to either Cayo Santa Maria, Varadero or Guardalavaca for some time on the beach.

You can add in additional destinations such as Santiago and Baracoa to extend this itinerary or to replace the time on the beach.

Where to Stay in Cuba

The main cities have a variety of hotels from boutique hotels to faded luxury hotels. An increasingly popular option are Casa Particulares, which are private homes offering a B&B style service and is seen as a good way to meet Cubans. Accommodation for beaches is primarily all-inclusive resorts.

As restrictions on private enterprise are reduced more and more small hotels are cropping up providing a greater variety of accommodation.

When to Go to Cuba

Cuba is hot all year round and there is no month where we would recommend against going. However, August to October is hurricane season so tends to be wetter and at risk of storms, but rainfall is generally short lived.

Getting Around Cuba

The best way to get around Cuba is by car – buses are slow an unreliable. Renting a car is easy but does not work out much cheaper than hiring a car with a driver.

Getting to Cuba

There are some direct flights from the UK (although not daily), otherwise you will need to change in either Spain or the USA.

Croatia Holidays

Croatia’s coastline is dotted with beautiful beaches and islands as well as stunning historic cities. It’s rare to get both so close to each other, which makes Croatia a unique place for a holiday as it has the perfect mix of sun and culture. Inland there are great national parks and the lively capital city of Zagreb.

Croatia Beach Holidays

Croatia has almost 2000km of coastline and over 1000 islands dotted in the Mediterranean Sea. Although most of the beaches are either pebble or rock, the clear blue seas make Croatia a very popular destination for beach holidays.

Dalmatia

Dalmatia is at the southern end of the Croatian Coast. The area is famous for the beautiful cities of Dubrovnik and Split, and the islands just off the coast – including the stylish Hvar.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is at the southern end of the Dalmatian coast. The amazingly well preserved old town has marbled streets and narrow alleys connecting medieval churches and palaces. The tiled orange roofs of the city make it instantly recognisable as the location used for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones.

The most popular activity in Dubrovnik is walking along the top of the fort’s walls. The 2km continuous walk gives great views of the city and the sea below.

Dubrovnik has several beaches close by. Banje beach is the closest and sits just outside the old town. Lapad beach is around 4km from the main part of town and is backed by lots of bars and restaurants.

Lokrum Island is only 10 minutes away by boat and has a rock beach that is less busy than those on the main land. The island is also home to a Benedictine Monastery.

For a longer day trip from Dubrovnik you can head to the Elafiti Islands. These are a small archipelago off the coast of Dubrovnik and are much quieter than the city and beaches around it. There are three main islands – Sipan, Kolcep and Lopud, which combined have a population of around only a thousand. Ferries take you to the islands from Dubrovnik or you can do a private boat tour.

Split

Split is the second largest city in Croatia and the largest city on the coast. The city is centred around Diocletian’s Palace – a 3rd Century Palace that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Elsewhere in the old town you can still see Roman walls and temples.

The city is very lively at night, with lots of bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

On the mainland near Splut there are a number of beaches. Bacvice beach is very close to the town but tends to get very busy, especially in summer. There are some beaches slightly further away from Split that are less busy in summer including Kastelet, Kasjuni and Bene.

A lot the popular Croatian islands are near the city so Split is a popular start point for boat trips either as a single day trip or part of an island hopping itinerary.

Makarska Riviera

South of Split is the Makarska Riviera – a 60km stretch of coast. The Riviera is home to some of the best beaches in Croatia and is broken up by a number of towns including Makarska itself, Brela and Tucepi.

There are a number of sandy beaches along the coast, which is rare for Croatia. Brela is one of the best areas along the coast for beaches and luxury resorts.

Hvar

Hvar is an island near Split. Hvar is one of the most famous Croatian islands and is known for its small coves, old towns and nightlife. The main town on the island is Hvar Town, but there are a number of the small towns and villages including Stari Grad and Jelsa.

Hvar Town has 13th Century walls and an old fortress, with stylish bars and restaurants surrounding a modern marina. Stari Grad is quieter than Hvar Town and as the oldest town in Croatia is full of historic buildings and streets.

Around the island are lots of hidden beaches where you can sunbathe or go swimming in the clear water. The centre of the island is home to small vineyards and olive groves.

Korcula

Korcula is an island half way between Dubrovnik and Split. The island has lots of beaches – in the north they tend to be rocky, but at the south of the island you can find some sandy beaches near the town of Lumbarda.

The main town on the island is also called Korcula and has lots of bars and restaurants, but does not have as much nightlife as Hvar. The town itself is a well-preserved medieval town.

The hilly and amazingly green interior makes Korcula very popular with cyclists.

Brac

Brac is a large island near Hvar. Similar to Hvar the island has lots of small isolated coves. Bol and Supetar are the two main towns on the island.

Bol is a good place for watersports – kitesurfing and windsurfing are popular and you can book dive trips as well. The town also has one of the best beaches on the island – Golden Horn.

Other Places in Dalmatia

There are a number of other popular towns in Dalmatia that are surrounded by beaches, including Podgora, Podstana, Igrane and Podaca.

Istria

Istria is at the north end of the Croatian coast and the area was previously part of the Venetian Republic. Consequently a lot of the towns and cities have an Italian feel to them due to their architecture. Outside of the towns there are lots of small vineyards many of which offer wine tasting.

Rovinj

Rovinj is an old town set on a narrow peninsula at the centre of the Istrian coastline. The town climbs up from the sea to the Cathedral of Sv Euphemia that sits on the top of a hill at its centre. The town is full of narrow alleys and Venetian architecture.

A 15 minute walk from the town there are lots of small coves that form Lone Bay. The coves have shingle beaches and most of them have beach bars and restaurants.

Porec

Porec is a small town to the north of Rovinj. The old town still contains a number of Roman structures, but the most notable site is the Byzantine Euphrasian Basilica – built in the 6th Century.

There are a number of beaches in the area – particularly between Porec and Zelena. Naturally the beaches are rocky but there are a number of man-made beaches that make swimming easier.

The city is lively with lots of bars, restaurants and clubs.

Pula

Pula is a city at the southern end of Istria. The centre of the city is a square called the Forum, which has been built on the old Roman Forum and still has the remains of a 1st Century temple, in addition to the impressive 10th Century City Hall.

The main site in the town is the Roman Amphitheatre, which was built in the 6th Century and is one of the largest surviving Roman Amphitheatres.

To the south of the town there are a number of beaches. These are a mixture of rock, pebble and shingle beaches. The slope into the sea is gentle making it a great place to swim and snorkel in the shallow water.

Other Places in Istria

There are a number of other popular areas for beach holidays in Istria. Rabac has one of the best beaches in the area, whilst Vrsar is a small fishing town with a number of nearby luxury resorts. Umag is a small town with lots of upmarket hotels and a great marina.

Cities and Cultural Sites

Whilst the coast of Croatia combines great beaches with culture, some time away from the coast can be very rewarding.

Zagreb

Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and its largest city. The oldest part of town – known as Upper Town – is a beautiful medieval old town with lots of old churches and gates still intact. Most of the sites are around the main square.

The 19th Century Lower Town is home to most of the bars and restaurants. This area is very lively at night with lots of bars playing live music.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park is a forested area with 16 interlinked lakes. The park is north of Split and is quite near the coast – making it a good option for a day trip. The main attraction of the park is hiking – the terrain is quite hilly and you will pass lots of waterfalls on your way up the hills and be rewarded with great views from the top.

Possible Itineraries

Croatia is a relatively small country and is very easy to get around. Dubrovnik is on everyone’s must see list, but apart from that itineraries vary a lot depending on whether you want to go island hopping or head inland to national parks and Zagreb. We can help you plan your perfect trip based on what you want to do and how long you have.

Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik

If you want to see the best the Dalmatian Coast has to offer start off with a couple of nights either in Split or just to the south on the Makarska Riviera. From here you can catch a boat to the stylish island of Hvar and enjoy great nightlife, before heading south – again by boat – to the beautiful city of Dubrovnik.

Where to Stay in Croatia

Croatia has a large range of upmarket and luxury hotels – whether you want a boutique hotel in the centre of Dubrovnik or a peaceful island retreat.

Getting Around Croatia

The best way to get around on the mainland is to hire a car. Getting between islands is possible by ferry or by private boat hire. Once on the islands taxis are available on the bigger ones, and on the smaller ones you can cycle or walk.

Getting to Croatia

There are direct flights from the UK to Split, Dubrovnik and Zagreb from London, whilst other UK cities have direct flights to Dubrovnik only. Flight time is around two and a half hours.

When to Go to Croatia

The best months for Croatia are from May to September. If you mainly want to look around the old cities the months of May or September are best as its cooler and less busy. July and August are the hottest months and the best months for a beach holiday.