Vietnam Holidays

Vietnam is one of the best all-round holiday destinations in the world. It has interesting history and culture, dramatic natural wonders, lively cities with good bars and restaurants, and beautiful beaches.

Beach Holidays in Vietnam

Vietnam doesn’t have the same reputation as a beach holiday destination as Thailand but it does have a number of popular and beautiful beach areas with luxury resorts.

Central Vietnam Beach Holidays

Danang and Hoi An Beach Holidays

Around the cities of Danang and Hoi An there is over 20km of sandy beach. One of the most popular areas near Danang is My Khe – a beach that has recently undergone some development and now has a range of luxury resorts to choose from.

Further south is Cua Dai beach. The beach is lined with luxury resorts and palm trees, and is only a short drive away from the city of Hoi An (see below for more on the city).

Nha Trang Beach Holidays

Nha Trang is Vietnam’s most popular beach resort. There is a long beach in front of the main town but it is often very busy and not as clean as it used to be. The good news is that there are some quieter beaches nearby.

There are lots of bars and restaurants in the main town and along the beach, and Nha Trang has a reputation as being a party town.

Bai Duong beach is a couple kilometres to the north of the main beach but is much quieter and cleaner. The beach is smaller but has a number of resorts and is within walking distance of the bars and restaurants of the main town.

Ninh Van Bay is on a headland overlooking Nha Trang – it is only reachable by boat and is home to a peaceful luxury resort.

Doc Let Beach is around 50km north of Nha Trang and is much quieter, with a few hotels and a long beach.

The area around Nha Trang is the best place in Vietnam to go diving from and there are lots of dive centres in and around the town.

Southern Vietnam Beach Holidays

Mui Ne Beach Holidays

Mui Ne is a town to the east of Ho Chi Minh City. The area around Mui Ne has lots of beaches including the 10km Ham Tien beach. The sea is warm and generally good for swimming in, although it can be rough at times. The area is good for surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.

Compared to Nha Trang Mui Ne is much quieter, although development has increased recently so there is a good range of resorts, as well as bars and restaurants in the town.

On the outskirts are red and white sand dunes that you can explore by dune buggy.

Phu Quoc Beach Holidays

Phu Quoc is a large island closer to Cambodia than it is to Vietnam, however you can only access it from Vietnam. The island is ringed with beaches and has a densely forested interior.

The island has become more popular as a beach destination but there are still quiet areas and secluded beaches. The sea around the island has great sites for diving and snorkelling.

The island also has an interesting history. It was fought over by Vietnam and Cambodia and was the site of a prison camp in the American war. There is a history museum on the island and you can visit the prison camp.

Cities and Cultural Sites

Vietnam has a fascinating history. Most recently it is known for its fight for independence from France (the French War) and its fight between north and south over communism (the American war). During the 19th and early 20th Centuries the country was a key part of the French Empire but ruled as a protectorate by the Nguyen Dynasty from Hue. Before that it was ruled by a series of frequently warring dynasties, including a period of Chinese rule from the 1st to the 10th Centuries AD. There were also a number of separate Kingdoms – the most famous of which was the Cham Dynasty.

This tumultuous history means there are a lot of cultural sites in the country – whether it is ancient capital cities or remnants of the American and French wars. Add to that amazing natural wonders and lively cities and you will find yourself overwhelmed with things to do and places to see in Vietnam.

Northern Vietnam

Sapa

Sapa is a hill town right in the north of Vietnam. The town is 1500m above sea level, however, most visitors use Sapa as a way to explore the surrounding mountains, which are home to hill tribes.

From Sapa you can go on single or multi-day treks that take you into the mountains, through villages and past rice terraces.

Hanoi

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and its second largest city. The city is centred around the old quarter and nearby Hoan Kiem Lake. This area is a mixture of French and Vietnamese architecture and is home to temples, a cathedral and old prison as well as several museums. Hoan Kiem Lake is a great place to wander around and admire the Tortoise Tower on an island in the middle – a reference to a legendary tortoise that lives in the lake.

The Ba Dinh district is home to the city’s political sights. These include the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly building and Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. At the Mausoleum you can go inside (you have to walk in pairs behind a soldier) to see Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body. The area is also home to the Ho Chi Minh Museum – but don’t worry if you miss this one as there is one in almost every city.

At night Hanoi is lively with lots of bars and restaurants. Hanoi is the best place in Vietnam for Bia Hoi, which means fresh beer. Sellers set out small plastic chairs and tables on pavements around the old town, and sell this locally brewed beer very cheaply.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay is one of the top sites in Vietnam. The bay has almost 2000 limestone islands rising from the sea to create a dramatic natural wonder. The majority of the islands are uninhabited but the area is populated by floating villages – where families keep fish farms in nets under their homes.

The best way to see the area is on a traditional Vietnamese Junk. You can stop off to go kayaking – one of the best experiences is kayaking through limestone arches to lagoons hidden in the middle of some of the islands.

Cat Ba town on Cat Ba Island is the main town for Halong Bay – there are lots of hotels, bars and restaurants here if you are not sleeping on a boat. The island is also a national park home to the Cat Ba langur – one of the rarest primates in the world.

Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is a small city south of Hanoi. The town itself does not have much in the way of attractions but the area surrounding it is full of interesting sites to explore.

Tam Coc is an area with limestone rocks (similar to Halong Bay) crossed by numerous waterways. You can go on a boat trip (small rowing boats only) along the waterways and through the caves that have been carved out of the rocks over thousands of years.

15km from Ninh Binh is the ancient capital of Hoa Lu. The city was capital in the 10th and 11th Centuries and some of the buildings are still standing. Its location amongst limestone cliffs and rivers is one of the key attractions.

Phat Diem Cathedral is another popular trip from Ninh Binh. This huge French-built cathedral mixes European and Vietnamese styles and was built in the late 19th Century.

Central Vietnam

Hue

Hue was the imperial capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945. The city is split by the Perfume River – the Citadel and old city are to the north, and the new city – with most of the hotels, bars and restaurants – is to the south.

The Imperial Citadel is the main attraction in the city. Inside the Citadel there are lots of temples, palaces and gardens – although many of these were damaged in the French and American wars.

Along the river outside of the city are the tombs of several Emperors. These impressive structures can be seen on a boat trip, or you can cycle along the river to see them.

The city has a good selection of bars and restaurants, and south of the river is lively at night.

From Hue you can also visit the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) where some of the biggest battles of the American war took place.

Hoi An

Hoi An is a beautifully colourful city in the middle of Vietnam. The city is on a river, and the best thing to do is wander round the old town and admire the mixture of French, Japanese and Vietnamese architecture. There are lots of cafes and bars to stop off at, especially along the river.

The most popular sight in the city is the Japanese Covered Bridge and its Pagoda – a beautiful 17th Century wooden bridge.

Near to Hoi An are the Cham ruins of My Son. My Son was the capital of the Cham Empire from the 4th to 13th Century. The site was chosen as it has a natural defence in the form of a ring of mountains around it. Some of the temples are still standing, although many were destroyed in the American War when it was used as a base by the Viet Cong.

There are beaches nearby – see the beach section on Hoi An and Danang above.

Dalat

Dalat was originally a city for the French to escape the heat of Ho Chi Minh City. Set in the mountains, it has very different scenery to the rest of Vietnam. The area around the city is great for hiking, mountain biking and canyoning.

One of the most popular sights out of the city is Thien Vien Truc Lam Monastery, which can be reached by either by cable car or a 4km hike.

Southern Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City – previously known as Saigon – is the largest city in Vietnam and is more dynamic and cosmopolitan than Hanoi.

Most of the tourist sites are in the French designed District One, which has wide tree-lined boulevards and several parks. The Reunification Palace, which was the Presidential Palace of South Vietnam, is in this area. Nearby is The War Remnants Museum, which covers the Vietnam War. To give a flavour of what you will find inside, it was originally named the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes. There is also the obligatory museum dedicated to the life of Ho Chi Minh.

The city still has some French Colonial buildings, the most impressive of which is the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Around an hour and a half outside of the city are the Cu Chi Tunnels. These small tunnels were used by Viet Cong in the American war to hide, and the network at Cu Chi is over 120km long. The area has been preserved and you can learn about life at the tunnels, as well as crawl through one that has been enlarged for tourists.

Mekong Delta

To the south of Ho Chi Minh City the Mekong River splits into nine to form the Mekong Delta. The delta is best explored by boat and you can stop off in some of many towns and villages, and shop at the floating markets.

Possible Itineraries

North Vietnam

If you plan to visit North Vietnam you can spend a few days in Hanoi before heading north to the mountains around Sapa to go hiking or mountain biking. From Sapa you can head to Halong Bay for a two-day cruise amongst the limestone islands. And finally onto Ninh Binh, where you can see ancient palaces, and take a boat trips through caves.

South Vietnam

Start in Ho Chi Minh City with a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels and a boat trip around the Mekong Delta. From there you can head north into the hills for the city of Dalat where you can go hiking. From Dalat make your way down to the coast and stop off at the beachside resorts of Mui Ne.

The Best of Vietnam

To see all the main sites in Vietnam start with a few nights in Hanoi followed by a boat trip around Halong Bay. From there head south to Ninh Binh for a couple of days exploring the countryside around the city. From Ninh Binh head south along the coast to the old capital of Hue, where you can explore the Citadel. Then spend a couple of nights in Hoi An, which is a short distance south of Hue.

From Hoi An you can either head to the beaches at Nha Trang (if you want more nightlife) or Mui Ne (if you are looking for a quiet beach holiday). From the beach head to Ho Chi Minh City and a tour of the Mekong Delta by boat.

Where to Stay in Vietnam

Vietnam has a large number of hotels that tend to be very good value for money. In some of the less visited places high-end luxury can be hard to come by but the quality of accommodation is generally very good.

When to Go to Vietnam

The best time to visit Vietnam is November to April as during these months the whole of the country is at its driest. From May to September central Vietnam still has good weather, but the north and south tend to see more rain.

Halong Bay is best seen in March and April.

Getting Around Vietnam

A car and driver is the best way to get around Vietnam, although there are trains that link most of the bigger cities.

Getting to Vietnam

There are a few direct flights to Hanoi from the UK with Vietnam Airlines. To use a different airline or get to a different city you will need to have a stopover.

USA Holidays

The USA is a vast country home to countless different landscapes and some of the most famous cities in the world. Whether you are looking for a beach holiday, an adventure holiday or a cultural tour of towns and cities we can build the perfect itinerary for you.

USA Beach Holidays

The USA has some great beach holiday destinations. From the party beaches of Florida to luxury retreats on lesser-known Hawaiian islands there is a destination to suit everyone.

Florida Beach Holidays

Florida is a great place for a beach holiday and has lots of variety – ranging from quiet luxury retreats to lively party beaches.

On the west coast facing the Gulf of Mexico is the popular resort of Clearwater – great for fishing, snorkelling and dolphin watching. To the south of Clearwater is the 7km long St Pete Beach – near the city of St Petersburg.

Further south still on the Gulf Coast is the quieter luxury area of Longboat Key. Behind the beautiful beach there are lots of great shops, restaurants and bars.

Captiva Island is towards the southern end of the Gulf Coast. The island is quieter than most other resorts in Florida and is great for water sports. Near to Captiva Island is the city of Naples. There are lots of beaches in the area and it provides a great base to explore the Everglades and other parts of Southern Florida.

On the eastern coast of Florida, facing the Atlantic, is the city of Miami. Famous for its Art Deco buildings and lively South Beach, Miami is a great place for a beach holiday if you are looking for a mixture of sun, nightlife and shopping.

Fort Lauderdale is just up the coast from Miami. The long beach is backed by lots of bars and restaurants, but is more low key than Miami. Behind the beach there are lots of waterways and canals.

North of Fort Lauderdale is the barrier island of Palm Beach. The area is home to a lot of luxury hotels and is one of most upmarket resorts in Florida.

To the south of mainland Florida are the Florida Keys – a long line of islands stretching out into the Gulf of Mexico. The most popular destination is Key West – right at the end of the line of islands. You’ll find beautiful beaches, lively towns and great diving opportunities.

Hawaii Beach Holidays

Hawaii is famous for its stunning volcanic islands, beautiful beaches and surfing scene. There are 8 main islands in Hawaii and several smaller islets and atolls. Each of the major islands offers something different to visitors.

The island of Oahu is home to Hawaii’s capital – Honolulu. The island is home to over 85% of the state’s population and is home to Hawaii’s most popular resort – Waikiki. Waikiki is a district of Honolulu with over 2km of beach that is home to a lot of resorts, bars and restaurants and is the liveliest resort in Hawaii. Elsewhere on Oahu the north of the island is particularly popular with surfers for its big waves, whilst the west of the island is quieter and is a great place for snorkelling and swimming.

Big Island – officially called Hawaii – makes up over half the land mass of the State of Hawaii. The island is home to the most active volcano in the world and is great for hiking and astronomy as well as beach holidays. The west of the island – around the town of Kona – is the best area for beaches and has lots of resorts. The waves are smaller here than elsewhere in Hawaii making it great for swimming, snorkelling and learning to surf.

Maui is the second largest island in Hawaii. The most popular resorts are on the west of the island. Kapalua and Kaanapali have a range of luxury resorts that offer spas, water sports, golf and tennis. Nearby is the town of Lahaina that has lots of bars, restaurants and clubs that become very lively at night. On the south side of the island there are luxury resorts along the beautiful beaches near Wailea and Makena. These areas are quieter than the west of the island but there is still a lot to do including surfing, sailing and golf, making it an ideal place for a luxury beach holiday in Hawaii.

The other islands are less visited and tend to be quiet. Lanai is a small, scarcely populated island that is home to a few luxury resorts, whilst Molokai is one of the least developed islands – perfect for a quiet and more traditional Hawaiian beach holiday.

Where to Go in the USA

The 50 States (and other territories) that make up the USA cover a huge area and have very different climates, terrain and cultures.

New England

New England is made up of the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. These states are mainly rural and sparsely populated, but are also home to some of the oldest cities in the USA.

Travelling around New England is a mixture of small-town America, some large and old cities including Boston, and rural areas with national parks such as Acadia and White Mountain National Forest.

Boston was founded in 1630 and is one of the most culturally important cities in the USA and has lots of museums and historic sites. The city is easy to explore on foot, and the Freedom Trail takes you to the most important areas of historical interest.

Cape Cod on the east coast of Massachusetts is a beautiful seaside area with great seafood and whale watching opportunities. To the south of Cape Cod is the exclusive Martha’s Vineyard – a beautiful island full of great restaurants and beaches.

The Mid-Atlantic

The Mid-Atlantic region includes New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The area includes two of the most important cities in America – Washington D.C. and New York City, however, the area also has a beautiful coastline and beaches, as well as interesting rural areas and communities.

New York City is one of the most famous in the world. There is so much to do in the city, from walking the famous streets of Manhattan – past Wall Street and Time Square to Central Park – to exploring Brooklyn and its many craft breweries and bars. Some of the best museums in the world are in New York, particularly the Met and the Guggenheim. Plus a trip to New York wouldn’t be complete without a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. The city also has great bars and restaurants – it’s possible to spend weeks in New York without seeing everything you want to.

New York State has more to offer than just the city though. Upstate New York is home to the impressive Niagara Falls, and the lakes, rivers and forest around Lake Placid – home to two Winter Olympics.

New York isn’t the only major city in the area – Washington DC as the capital of the USA has the major political sights including the White House, The Capitol Building and the National Archives where you can see the original Bill of Rights, Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

The centre of Philadelphia has retained many of its original features dating back to the 17th Century with cobbled streets and old houses. The city was once capital of the USA and was where the Declaration of Independence was written. In addition to its history, Philadelphia is known for its food and particularly its cheesesteak.

Outside of the major cities the area has a beautiful coastline – best seen along the boardwalks in New Jersey or the beaches of Delaware.

Further inland there are vast rural areas, especially in Pennsylvania where large areas are dedicated to farming. There is a large Amish community in Lancaster Country, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Wilds is a heavily forested area in northern Pennsylvania that is great for hiking, cycling, horse riding, canoeing and seeing wild Elk.

In south Pennsylvania is Gettysburg – site of a famous Civil War battle and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

South East (The Deep South)

The South East is often simply called The South or The Deep South. There are arguments over where it begins and ends, and which states it includes and doesn’t. It is separated from the South West by its history – especially relating to the Civil War. States included in the South East (or Deep South) are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Florida.

Travelling through the Deep South is a unique and varied experience. From the beaches and Everglades of Florida, to the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, to the jazz-filled city of New Orleans.

New Orleans is a highlight of any trip. The French Quarter is the old part of the city and is full of colourful Creole-style buildings with balconies overlooking the streets. This area is lively both day and night – with lots of high-quality restaurants and bars with exceptionally high quality live music, particularly Jazz. The French Quarter is not the only interesting part of New Orleans though – venture into the Uptown area to see the impressive colonial style and Victorian mansions along St Charles Avenue. These are best seen from the St Charles Avenue Streetcar, which has been running since 1835.

New Orleans isn’t the only Southern city with amazing live music. Nashville in Tennessee is famous as the home of country music and you’ll find a great selection of bars with live music in the city. There is also the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Johnny Cash Museum. It’s not just about music though – numerous craft breweries and distilleries have opened that offer tours and tastings.

Not far from Nashville is Memphis – the blues capital of the world. Beale Street is the main destination for tourists with lots of high-quality blues and rock n roll bars. However, the biggest draw is Graceland – the former home of Elvis Presley, which is on the outskirts of the city.

Savanna in Georgia is one of the oldest cities in the South and is the best surviving example of antebellum architecture. The city centre is full of historic houses and old streets and combined with moss trees it does give Savanna a historic feel that you rarely get in the USA. Nearby is Tybee Island – a small island ringed by beautiful beaches with lots of beach bars and seafood restaurants.

Across the South nearly all of the many cotton plantations used slaves to work the fields. Many of the plantations houses – usually large mansions – are still intact and have been converted into museums where you can learn more about the history of cotton farming, slavery and the Civil War.

Straddling the border of Tennessee and North Carolina are the Great Smoky Mountains, also known as the Smokies, which form a national park that is home to wild bears. The Smokies are part of the Appalachian Mountains that stretch down the east of the USA. The scenery in the mountains is stunning and is best seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway – a long road that passes through Virginia and North Carolina along a ridge, reaching over 1800m above sea level with frequent viewing points.

Alligators are something many people associate with the Deep South and there are lots of opportunities to see them, whether it’s on a swamp tour in Louisiana and Mississippi or a tour of the Everglades in Florida.

Aside from cities, monuments and nature the South is famous for its food, drink and hospitality. Whether its shrimp and grits in Savannah or Gumbo in Louisiana; craft beer in North Carolina or whiskey in Kentucky everything arrives with a smile.

Midwest

The Midwest is the region that has historically fueled the USA through both manufacturing and farming. The area includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.

In many ways the Midwest is home to stereotypical small-town America, but it also has great cities, including Chicago, and the amazing Great Lakes.

Chicago is the largest city in the Midwest and looks out on Lake Michigan. The city has some great architecture including the Willis Tower – once the tallest in the world. The best way to see the architecture is by boat tour. Chicago is one of the best cities in the USA for restaurants – the quality of food and service is exceptional. At night the city earns its place as the start of Route 66 with lots of live music, especially blues, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll. During the summer the beaches are a great place to spend the day.

Elsewhere in the Midwest Minneapolis is famous for its theatres and art galleries, Milwaukee has an attractive city centre and the Harley Davidson museum, whilst Detroit has the Henry Ford museum and lots of bars playing music inspired by Motown.

Outside of the cities, the Midwest is covered by farmland, national parks and lakes – including The Great Lakes, which have over 20% of the earth’s fresh water. The water is calm and clear and is great for fishing, swimming, and kayaking.

The Ozarks is a large plateau filled with mountains, rivers and man-made lakes. The Lake of the Ozarks is 92 mile long man-made lake in the northern part of the Ozarks. The area is popular with tourists for its fishing, swimming, boating and kayaking. There are lots of golf courses around the lake. Some parts of the lake are very quiet, whilst others have a party scene – either onshore at some of the many bars and restaurants, or on the lake at Party Cove.

South West

The South West is made up of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. The area is very influenced by Spanish and Mexican culture. The terrain is mainly rugged cattle ranches and empty deserts that make driving through the states a thrilling experience.

Austin is the state capital of Texas. The city is famous for its alternative cultures and the university plays a big role in the city. Rainey Street is one of the main areas for nightlife and has old bungalows converted into new bars selling local craft beers and other drinks. There is lots of live music around the city at night, and it is one of the best places to have a southern barbecue.

San Antonio in Texas is the most historic city in Texas, famous for its missions. The Alamo is the most famous mission thanks to the 1836 battle that played a pivotal role in the Texas Revolution. There are several other missions close to the city – four are located in the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.

Santa Fe is a city perched high on a plateau in New Mexico. The city is the USA’s oldest state capital (founded in 1607) as well as its highest (at over 2100m). The city has a distinctive architectural style. Many of the buildings in the centre are built in the Pueblo style – an earth coloured mix of adobe bricks and sun-dried earth that gives the buildings rounded edges and a soft look. These buildings are centred on the main square, which also has an impressive cathedral. There are lots of museums in the city covering American Indian art and history, Spanish colonial art and history, as well as a museum dedicated to Georgia O’Keeffe who was a resident of the city.

Salt Lake City in Utah is known for the being the headquarters of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church. The headquarters are an impressive temple in Temple Square – the most visited site. However, the city is also a great base from which to explore the amazing surrounding countryside. There are mountains and lakes around the city that are great for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and climbing. In winter there are ski resorts near to the city – it hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The Grand Canyon is one of the USA’s most impressive natural wonders. The canyon is surrounded by a national park, and you can see it from either the north rim, south rim or on a trek through the canyon itself. The scale is hard to imagine without seeing it – in some places the canyon is over 1500m below the rim.

A key economic activity of the south-west is its cattle ranches. These cover enormous swathes of land and vary from rolling green hills to dry, rugged terrain on the plateaus of New Mexico. Many ranches welcome visitors to stay and experience the life of a cowboy, as well as exploring the amazing scenery on horseback. Going to a rodeo is another great way to understand their way of life.

The south-west is the home of the old Wild West and nowhere brings the Wild West to life like a ghost town. There are many of these dotted around the desert and plateaus of the south-west – often left almost exactly as they were back in the 19th Century. Wander around the deserted buildings and down the dusty main streets to get an idea of what life was like in south-west a few hundred years ago.

Although not everyone’s idea of a good destination, Las Vegas, Nevada is one of America’s iconic cities. Even if you don’t fancy playing poker in one of the casinos, Las Vegas can still be worth a visit to see this surreal city. There are lots of good bars and restaurants around the city, as well as the famous pool parties. It is also a good place to explore the Grand Canyon from.

The Great Plains

The Great Plains contains some of the least densely populated states in the USA – North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.

There are a number of interesting cities including Oklahoma for its museums, Lincoln for its alternative feel and live music, and Sioux Falls for its city centre waterfalls that give the city its name. However, the main reason to visit the areas is to escape cities and explore the vast and empty countryside.

The Great Plains is a huge area of flat land covered by grasslands and prairie that stretches across these states. The area is primarily used for farming and ranches and has an interesting Native American history.

The Badlands National Park in South Dakota contains canyons, domes and jagged rock formations climbing out of the Great Plains. The rugged terrain is one of the richest fossil beds in the world – including fossils from rhinos and sabre-toothed cats.

The Black Hills are a mountain range also in South Dakota. Their name comes from their forest cover and dark rock. The area has lots of caves – Wind Cave National Park claims to have the densest cave system in the world. There are also lots of rivers and waterfalls that are great to explore on hikes, and at night the lack of light pollution makes this an excellent place to star gaze.

Mount Rushmore is an iconic monument in South Dakota. The monument has the faces of four presidents – Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln – carved into the white rock. Each of the faces is around 60ft high. The monument took 14 years to complete – starting in 1927 and finishing in 1941.

The Rocky Mountain States

The Rocky Mountain States of Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and Idaho are named for the Rocky Mountains that run through them. The area is famous for its national parks and outdoor activities.

Towns and cities in the region are mainly used as bases to explore the surrounding countryside. That said, Denver is a lively and fast growing city with lots of museums, and Boulder attracts a lot of serious athletes as well as alternative cultures.

The biggest attraction in the area is Yellowstone National Park, which straddles Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. It was the first national park in the world and contains lots of geysers and hot springs. The park has over 300 geysers – two-thirds of all the geysers in the world. It’s not just thermal activity that attracts visitors though – the park is home to bears, wolves, lynx, elk, moose and many other mammals.

Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado contains some of the best archaeological sites in the USA amongst its desert landscape and canyons. The park contains the remains of 1400-year-old dwellings built into caves.

Other national parks in the region include the Glacier National Park in Montana that has the most scenic mountains lakes in the whole of the USA, and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming that is particularly popular with climbers.

Custer in Idaho is a great example of a ghost town. Founded in 1879 it prospered thanks to mining, growing to a population of 600 in the 1890s. However, the mining declined and so did the town, which was abandoned by 1910.

In winter the Rockies are a great place to ski. There lots of resorts in the mountains including the famous Aspen.

Pacific North West

Oregon and Washington make up the Pacific North West. The interior is filled with forests and mountains, whilst the coastal areas have beautiful beaches and cosmopolitan cities.

Seattle is the largest city in the northwest. The city is surrounded by water, with Elliot Bay to the west and Lake Washington to the East. Pioneer Square is an area with cobbled streets and lots of bars and restaurants at the centre of the city. The city is famous for its art and music and has lots of museums.

Portland, Oregon has a great music and art scene and is one of the best places in the USA for craft beer and wine – with other 70 breweries in the city.

Mount Rainier National Park surrounds the huge Mount Rainier volcano, which rises to 14,410 ft. The park has lots of hiking trails and is not far from Seattle. There is also the Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument in Washington that commemorates the 1980s eruption of the volcano.

Oregon is a great place for outdoor activities. Mount Bachelor and Mount Hood are ski resorts in winter, and popular hiking destinations in summer. Wallowa Lake attracts visitors who want to go boating, fishing and hiking.

California

California has the highest population of any state in the USA. From north to south the state is over 800 miles long and its terrain is hugely varied – from mountainous forests to arid deserts. California is also home to some of the USA’s most visited cities and national parks.

San Diego is a city at the southern end of the Californian coastline. Pacific and Mission Beaches are in the centre of the cities coastline and are great beaches backed by restaurants, lively bars and nightclubs. To the south is the laid-back Ocean Beach, and to the north is the more upmarket beach area of LaJolla. The beaches offer water sports, including surfing and sailing.

To the north of San Diego is Los Angeles. The main attractions in the city are Hollywood (including Universal Studios Theme Park) and the area around Venice Beach, where the seafront has the iconic outdoor gyms and behind the beach there is a beautiful network of canals and boardwalks. Technically outside the city, but still considered part of Los Angeles is Santa Monica Beach and its famous pier, and slightly further away is the surfer’s paradise of Malibu. In the hills behind the city are the famous mansions of Beverley Hills.

Santa Barbara sits further up the coast from Los Angeles. The city dates back to 1782 making it one of the oldest in California. Originally founded by a Spanish Priest, the main sight in the town is the beautiful 18th Century Santa Barbara Mission.

Between Santa Barbara and San Francisco is the region of Big Sur. Big Sur is famous for its dramatic scenery and cliffs as you drive along next to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way there are lots of quiet, small beaches and coves that you can stop at. Away from the coast it is a great area for hiking with lots of mapped out routes. Carmel is a town at the southern end of Big Sur – it has beautiful beaches, golf courses, spas and is a great place to hike from.

San Francisco is an iconic city in northern California. Famous for the impressive Golden Gate Bridge, steep city streets, Alcatraz Prison and a very liberal attitude there is a huge amount to see and do in San Francisco. In addition to that city has famously good nightlife, with lots of bars and restaurants.

North of San Francisco are the famous redwood forests and the Redwood National Park. Some of the trees are over 2000 years old and the national park is a great place to go hiking through these historic forests.

Away from the coast in northern California is Napa Valley. Napa Valley is the most important wine growing region in the USA. You can explore the valley by bike, stopping off for tastings at vineyards along the way.

East of San Francisco is the Yosemite National Park – one of the most visited national park in the USA. The park is famous for its dramatic granite cliffs, waterfalls and bears. There are lots of hiking trails in the park.

Death Valley National Park is in the Southern California Desert. It is the largest National Park in the USA and is one of the hottest places in the world, with temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius common in summer. The park has mountains that rise to over 11,000 feet near to Badwater Basin – the lower point in the park at almost 300 feet below sea level.

Alaska

Alaska is the largest state in the USA and is popular with people looking for outdoor adventures. Hiking is the most popular thing to do, although other activity based holidays are possible including rafting.

The state has lots of national parks with incredible wildlife and scenery including Denali – the USA’s highest mountain. Wildlife is everywhere in Alaska with a huge population of black and grizzly bears, lynx and wolves. In the sea around Alaska you may catch sight of a humpback whale, whilst the rivers are home to salmon. If you’re lucky you’ll see the brown bears catching the salmon as they descend the rapids.

Possible Itineraries

Most holidays to the USA involve self-drive either in a car or an RV. This means that itineraries can be extremely flexible. It’s generally best to stick to one region to limit the amount of time you need to spend driving.

One popular itinerary is down the coast of California, stopping at Napa Valley, San Francisco, Yosemite, Los Angeles and San Diego.

If you are big on jazz, blues and country music then travelling from Nashville to New Orleans via Memphis and Clarksdale is a great trip.

Let us know what you are looking for and we will tailor make an itinerary for you.

Where to Stay

The USA has a vast range of accommodation from boutique city centre hotels in New York to luxury spa retreats in Napa Valley.

Getting Around The USA

If you plan to travel around a particular region then hiring a car or an RV is a great option. You can drop these off either where you picked them up or at a different destination. If you plan to visit a few of the larger cities only then flying is very easy.

Getting to The USA

There are lots of daily direct flights from the UK to many cities around the USA.

When to Go to the USA

You can visit the USA anytime, however, the north gets very cold in winter. The hottest months are July and August, for travelling around the south April or May are great months as there is lots of sunshine but it doesn’t get too hot.

Sri Lanka Holidays

Sri Lanka has a huge amount packed into a small island: long beaches, ancient cities and temples, and national parks filled with elephants, leopards, bears and more. Sri Lanka is a great holiday destination if you want to combine travelling with a beach holiday.

Sri Lanka is increasing in popularity for tourists and the whole of the country is now accessible to tourists following the end of the Civil War in 2009.

Our travel experts can help you plan and book the perfect bespoke Sri Lanka holiday. All of our itineraries are 100% tailor-made so we will find the best places for you to stay and make sure every part of the trip matches your specific needs.

Beach Holidays in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has lots of options for beach holidays, ranging from small isolated beaches with a single hotel, to larger resorts with a mixture of luxury and more basic accommodation.

Sri Lanka South West Coast Beach Holidays

The south-west coast between Tangalle and Bentota is the most popular and most developed area in Sri Lanka for beach holidays. If you plan to visit Sri Lanka just for a beach holiday then this is the area to stay – it also has the advantage of being close to the airport.

The area is good for diving, with many places able to organise trips. There are also whales, turtle farms and some good beaches for surfing.

Galle / Habaraduwa Beach Holidays

Galle, and the nearby town of Habaraduwa, is surrounded by lots of beaches with a range of accommodation including lots of luxury beach resorts.

Aside from the long, palm fringed beaches (which you will find all along the south-west coast) the area is popular for its proximity to Galle (see section on Galle city below) and its turtle farms and whale watching.

Along the coast there are lots of bars and restaurants, as well as watersports. This area is probably the most developed and liveliest in the south-west and is ideal if you are looking for some nightlife.

Tangalle Beach Holidays

Further east along the coast from Galle is the town of Tangalle. The area around Tangalle is less developed than Galle, however, new luxury resorts have been opening. Fishing remains one of the main industries in the area and it is famous for its unique style where the fishermen sit on top of a wooden pole embedded in the sea floor.

Although the area is becoming more popular as a beach destination, it is much quieter than the areas around Galle.

Bentota Beach Holidays

Bentota is halfway between Galle and Colombo, making it a great place to either start or finish your holiday as it is the closest beach resort to the airport. There a number of luxury resorts in the area, but the town has not yet been taken over by tourists.

Visitors benefit from access to both the sea and the Bentota lagoon. The area is particularly good for water sports with lots of waterskiing, windsurfing and surfing.

Sri Lanka West Coast Beach Holidays

North of Colombo on the west coast there are a few beach holiday options. These are generally not as good as elsewhere in Sri Lanka, but are a good option for a few days if you are travelling around the island.

Negombo Beach Holidays

Negombo is only a few kilometres from the airport, so makes a good first or last stop on your trip around Sri Lanka.

There are hotels along the beach in Negombo itself or others to the north of the city that are more isolated. The beaches are long and safe for swimming, and there are some good dive sites nearby.

Negombo is a lively city with good nightlife, some interesting colonial architecture and a very busy fish market.

Kalpitiya Beach Holidays

Kalipitiya is much lower key than other beach resorts in Sri Lanka. Located in the north-west the area has only recently started to develop as a location for beach holidays. There are several luxury options (although all are unusual in their own way), and at only 2 hours’ drive from the airport, Kalpitiya is a good option if you are looking for a less visited location for a luxury beach holiday in Sri Lanka.

The area is great for kitesurfing, as well as whale and dolphin watching.

Sri Lanka East Coast Beach Holidays

Much of the east coast has only been accessible to tourists since the civil war ended so is less developed than the south-west, however, it has some of the best beaches on the island and several new luxury resorts have been built. So if you are looking for a quieter holiday in Sri Lanka this may be a better option than the South-West coast.

Arugam Bay Beach Holidays

Arugam Bay is at the south-east point of the island and has the best surfing on the island. Renting a board is easy, and there are lots of surf schools for those who want to give it a go. The town primarily caters to backpackers but there is some more upmarket accommodation. As expected for a backpacker town there is good nightlife.

Kumana National Park is very close to Arugam Bay and can easily be done as a day trip.

Batticaloa and Passikudah Beach Holidays

Batticaloa is halfway up the east coast of Sri Lanka. Most of the beach resorts in the area are on Passikudah Beach to the north of the city. The beach at Passikudah slopes very gently down into the sea – you can walk out a long way and still be able to stand comfortably. The water is so clear that as you walk out you won’t need snorkelling equipment to see the colourful marine life. Take a boat further out and you have a good chance of being able to spot dolphins.

From Passikudah the colonial fort city of Batticaloa is only 30 minutes’ drive away, and the ancient city of Polonnaruwa just over an hour away.

Trincomalee Beach Holidays

The consensus amongst Sri Lankans is that the best beaches on the island are around the northeastern city of Trincomalee. Most of the beach resorts are at Uppuveli or Nilaveli. The beaches are great for sunbathing, snorkelling and surfing. There are good dive sites nearby as well.

Trincomalee itself is worth a visit. The city was highly sought after by the Portuguese, Dutch and British due to its deep port. The Portuguese Fort is a testament to how important Trincomalee was to the colonial powers. The most popular site in Trincomalee is the Koneswaram Temple – originally built over 2000 years ago this Hindu temple has been destroyed and rebuilt several times and is one of the holiest sites in Sri Lanka for Hindus.

Cities and Cultural Sites

Sri Lanka has been inhabited for hundreds of thousands of years, with its first real kingdom – based at Anuradhapura – beginning around 2500 years ago. For the following 2000 years the capital moved around a lot as kingdoms fell due to internal and external attacks. Around 500 years ago Portugal began to colonise the island, followed by the Dutch and British. Sri Lanka gained partial independence from Britain in 1948, before becoming a full republic in 1972. This history – combined with its religious diversity – makes Sri Lanka a very interesting destination with lots to see.

South West Sri Lanka

Colombo

Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka and its largest city. Its location near the airport makes it a good place to spend a few days at the beginning or end of your holiday. The city has a modern commercial feel, but there are areas and sites of cultural interest.

The fort area contains lots of colonial buildings and hotels, including the Old Dutch Hospital that now houses several good bars and restaurants. Along from the fort is Galle Face Green, a long open stretch by the sea that is popular with kite flyers and is a good area for a walk.

There are a number of lakes in the city. Bere Lake has a small, peaceful island in the centre that you can reach by a small footbridge. At the edge of the lake is the Seema Malaka Temple, and nearby is the Gangaramaya Temple – one of the most important in Colombo.

There are a few museums in Colombo – the best is the National Museum, which covers Sri Lankan history in a lot of detail, and is the best museum of its type in the country.

Colombo is a lively city with lots of bars and restaurants. The Old Dutch hospital is a good place to start (and the Ministry of Crab in particular) but there are plenty of others spread out around the city, covering a variety of cuisines.

Galle

Galle was initially occupied by the Portuguese when they first began colonising the island. The Dutch took over and built most of what is seen in Galle today, including the fort, before the British gained control.

Galle is a very well preserved fortified colonial city. Just walking around the old town stopping in the many bars, cafes and restaurants is much of the attraction. There are also lots of shops selling jewellery and clothes. At sunset everyone heads to the ramparts of the fort, which overlook the sea and provide a great spot to watch the sun go down.

Aside from the fort there are churches and temples that are worth visiting, as well as the impressive lighthouse.

The bars and restaurants are lively at night – especially at the Old Dutch Hospital.

There are lots of beaches nearby with beach resorts, or there are plenty of hotels in the centre of the old town. Galle is one of the most popular destinations on a Sri Lanka holiday for its mixture of culture and beach.

Hill Country

The Hill Country occupies the south-central part of Sri Lanka and has been very important over the years both as the seat of power and for growing Sri Lanka’s primary export – tea. The area is now popular with visitors for its history and trekking opporunities, and has a range of destinations from the cultural capital – Kandy – to the colonial town of Nuwara Eliya.

Kandy

Kandy was the capital of Sri Lanka until the early 19th Century when the whole island became a British colony. Its location in the mountains explains why it took so much longer to be reached by colonial powers than the coastal cities. Today, Kandy is still the cultural capital.

The main attraction is the Sacred City, and at its heart is The Temple of the Tooth. The temple is around 300 years old and is made from wood with an impressive golden roof. The Sacred City, which includes other temples and a Royal Palace, sits next to a large lake that has a path all the way round.

The city centre has lots of shops and is a good place to buy jewellery as it is better value than other big cities. There are also some colonial buildings in the centre, some of which have been converted into bars and restaurants.

If you are interested in understanding the history and culture of the island, then visiting Kandy is a must for any Sri Lanka holiday.

Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is a small Colonial Hill Station around 2 hours’ drive from Kandy. The town is surrounded by quiet tea plantations and was used by the British as an escape from the heat.

Built in the 19th Century, Nuwara Eliya has been nicknamed ‘Little England’ due to its architecture and surrounding golf clubs.

Outside of the town there is great trekking through tea plantations and past waterfalls. Horton Plains and World’s End are accessible from the town, which make it popular with visitors interested in seeing some of Sri Lanka’s most dramatic scenery.

Ella

Ella is a small hill town towards the west of the hill country. There are great views from the town through Ella Gap, which is a break in the mountains that allows you to see down to the flat land heading towards the coast.

The town itself appears to mainly cater to tourists and has a backpacker feel – there are lots of bars and restaurants with live music. The main attraction is the trekking outside of the town – with lots of waterfalls and tea plantations.

Cultural Triangle

The cultural triangle in north-central Sri Lanka is the ancient heart of the country. The area was the location of several kingdoms stretching back 2,500 years and today has lots of amazing archaeological sites that rival Angkor Wat and Bagan. If you are interested in the history of Sri Lanka, and particularly the ancient history, then a few days spent in the cultural triangle on your Sri Lanka holiday will be very rewarding.

Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura was the capital of Sri Lanka from the 4th Century BC. Today, there are many archaeological sites spread around the area, including both on the open plains and hidden amongst the forest. In addition to the temples and palaces there are large man-made water tanks, which are very impressive considering their age.

The most important site at Anuradhapura is the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi (Sacred Bodhi Tree), which is believed to have grown from a cutting of the Bodhi tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment. The site is still used for pilgrimage – in contrast to any of the sites at Polonnaruwa – and seeing thousands of pilgrims wearing white heading to the shrine is part of the experience.

In the forest a couple of kilometres away is the huge Abhayagiri Vihara monastery. The Stupa at the centre is over 100m high and is surrounded by many other ancient buildings and ruins.

Cycling around Anuradhapura is a great way to see it, or you can hire a tuk-tuk for the day. If you just want to see a few sites around the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi then you can walk between those easily.

Sigiriya and Dambulla

Sigiriya Rock is Sri Lanka’s most famous site and a must-see on any holiday to Sri Lanka. On top of the 200m sheer-faced rock is a 1500-year-old Palace Complex – with several (now ruined) buildings and pools. The view from the top is amazing, but the most incredible part is how the palace was built – something we still don’t know the answer to. The builders somehow managed to carry enough materials to build a palace complex up a sheer cliff face.

Today the climb is easier as they have installed steps. It takes from 20 minutes to an hour depending on how busy it is and your fitness, but there are plenty of places to rest, and plenty of monkeys to take your mind off the climb.

The ancient gardens at the foot of the rock are beautifully landscaped and are worth walking around either before or after climbing the rock.

Near to Sigiriya is the town of Dambulla. Dambulla is famous for its ancient cave system, which has been lived in and used as a shrine since at least the 1st Century BC. There are 80 caves in total, of which 5 are filled with statues of Buddha (and a few kings). There is a huge 50m reclining Buddha in one of the caves.

Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa took over from Anuradhapura as the capital of Sri Lanka. The archaeological site is more compact than Anuradhapura and the palaces and stupas are better preserved, however, unlike Anuradhapura, it is not a pilgrimage destination.

The Sacred Quadrangle contains many ruins packed into a small area and is the highlight of most people’s trip to Polonnaruwa.

As with Anuradhapura, the best way to see the sites is by bike, cycling between the main sites as well as exploring the surrounding jungle and stumbling upon hidden stupas.

North Sri Lanka

Until recently northern Sri Lanka has been out of bounds to tourists due to the civil war. Visitors can now access the east coast (including Trincomalee and Batticaloa) as well as the north of the island, although the infrastructure is not as good as it is in the south.

Jaffna

Jaffna is the main city in the north, and sits right at the top of the island. Jaffna is not a common part of most visitor’s holiday itineraries but this is likely to change as infrastructure improves.

The city itself has some interesting sites – including Hindu temples and a colonial fort. But the main reason that people visit is to see a different side to the island – Jaffna is predominantly Hindu (compared to the Buddhist south).

Sri Lanka Safari and National Parks

Although a small island, Sri Lanka has some of the best national parks in Asia and Sri Lanka safari holidays can be a great way to see stunning scenery and rare wildlife. The country has 22 national parks, with a history of wildlife reserves that stretches back 2300 years. There is lots of wildlife to be seen in Sri Lanka – elephants, leopards and sloth bears are particular highlights.

Yala National Park Safari

Yala is the most popular national park for a safari whilst on holiday in Sri Lanka. This is partly due to its convenient location on the south coast, and partly because it is the best place to spot leopards. Yala has one of the highest densities of leopards in the world. However, they are shy so it can be hard to spot them – the best time is at dawn or dusk.

In addition to leopards, there are lots of elephants at Yala. Sloth bears, buffalo, crocodiles and monkeys all live in the park, as do many species of bird.

Udawalawe National Park Safari

Udawalawe is just south of the hill country, making it a convenient location if you heading from Galle to the hill country (or vice versa). The park is the best in Sri Lanka for elephants, and is also very good for birds. It can be hard to spot much other wildlife (apart from the ever-present monkeys) but visitors sometimes see leopards, crocodiles and sloth bears.

Horton Plains

Horton Plains is a plateau at the south of the hill country best known for the view from World’s End – a stunning 800m drop off to the villages and tea plantations below. You will need to walk several kilometres to World’s End as they don’t allow vehicles in the national park, and to have the best chance of seeing the views you will need to get there early in the morning before the mist descends.

Wilpattu National Park Safari

Wilpattu is the best park in Sri Lanka to see slowth bears. The park is also home to barking deer and visitors can occasionally see leopards.

The park is near to Anuradhapura and can be done as a day trip if you are spending time at the archaeological site.

Minneriya National Park Safari

Minneriya is most notable for the large congregation of elephants the arrive at the reservoir in the park between August and October. Outside of these months your chances of spotting elephants is lower, but the park can still be worth a visit for its diverse scenery.

Minneriya is close to Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya and can be done as a day trip from either.

Gal Oya Safari

Gal Oya is a less visited national park towards the east coast. The park has a large reservoir that is great for spotting elephants, crocodiles and birds and there are occasional leopard spottings as well. You can do the safari in a jeep or on a boat.

Possible Itineraries

Sri Lanka is a small country with lots to see and do so there are lots of options depending on how much time you have and what you are interested in.

Sri Lanka Beach and Safari Holiday

If you want a beach holiday with something a bit different then staying at a resort on the south coast between Galle and Tangalle is a great option as it means you can easily visit Yala National Park for a day safari. If you stay closer to Galle then you can easily explore the well preserved old town as well.

South Sri Lanka and the Hill Country

If you want a bit of everything – culture, trekking, safari and beaches – in a relatively short amount of time on your Sri Lanka holiday then this could be a good option. Start in Colombo or Negombo (due to their proximity to the airport) and head up to the cultural capital of Kandy for a couple of days. From Kandy head to Ella or Nuwara Eliya for trekking through tea plantations. From there you can either head south to the coast between Galle and Tangalle (with the option of a safari at Uda Walawe or Yala), or head east to the surfers’ paradise of Arugam Bay.

The Best of Sri Lanka

If you have a few weeks then you can take in most of the sites. Starting from Negombo (with a couple of days on the beach to ease you in) head to the cultural triangle to see Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa. From here continue to head north to the Tamil city of Jaffna right at the north of the island. Making your way back down the east coast, you can stop at Trincomalee for some of the best beaches on the island, before heading to Gal Oya for a safari. From Gal Oya head into the hill country, first stopping at the cultural capital of Kandy, before trekking in Nuwara Eliya. From Nuwara Eliya head down to the south-west coast to finish your holiday in a luxury beach resort.

Where to Stay in Sri Lanka

There are luxury resorts in Sri Lanka, but the country is growing in popularity as a holiday destination, and the infrastructure is trying to catch up. There is more demand for 4 and 5-star hotels than there is capacity at the moment, so booking a few months in advance is really important.

The luxury accommodation comes in a mixture of luxury beach resorts, safari lodges and hill or tea plantation retreats.

When to Go to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a good destination any time of year, but the best places to go vary – especially if you are planning a beach holiday.

The south and south-west are best between December and April. Outside of these months the sea is rougher and the weather is less predictable. From May to November the east coast has good weather, so if you are there in those months and want some beach time Trincomalee or Batticaloa are the best options.

Getting Around Sri Lanka

Hiring a car with a driver is the best way to travel around and relatively cheap. Hiring a car is possible but the driving can be chaotic so is not advised if you are not used to it. Buses and trains are very cheap but are not always reliable, and are usually extremely busy. That said, a short train journey through the hill country is a great experience.

Getting to Sri Lanka

There are direct flights to Sri Lanka from London with Sri Lankan Airways, or plenty of other options that involve a brief stopover.

Visas and Vaccinations

A visa is required for UK Passport holders to visit Sri Lanka for a holiday. Whilst visas are available on arrival, it is better to get them online before you depart to avoid any unnecessary delays. More information can be found here: Sri Lanka Visas Information.Sri Lanka is considered a low-risk area for Malaria. No vaccines are required, but there are several you may want to consider – you can find out more here: Sri Lanka Travel Health Information.

Mauritius Holidays


Mauritius is a small island in the Indian Ocean famous for beautiful beaches and clear seas. The main focus of the island is luxury resorts but it also has an interesting colonial history, as well as great opportunities for water sports, diving and boat trips.

Beach Holidays in Mauritius

MauritiusDifferent areas of Mauritius offer different things. Whether you are looking for a quiet time lying on an undisturbed beach, or a livelier holiday with great nightlife there is an area of the island for you.

Grand Baie Beach Holidays

Grand Baie, at the northern tip of the island, has the best nightlife on the island and is great for water sports. Whilst the beach in the city itself is busy with boats, there are a number of hotels and resorts around the area on quieter stretches of sand. The town is easy to reach from these resorts, giving you access to the nightlife and restaurants.

Flic en Flac Beach Holidays

Flic en Flac is one of the longest beaches on the island and hosts a large number of hotels and resorts, as well as a town of the same name. Although still lively, it is more suited to families than Grand Baie. The west coast, where Flic en Flac is situated, is great for diving and dolphin watching.

Le MorneLe Morne

Le Morne is at the south-west point of the island. Due to its slightly secluded location, it is quieter than other beaches and resorts and tends to have more luxurious hotels. The seclusion means that outside of hotels there are very few bars or restaurants. The local area is a hotspot for kitesurfers.

Belle Mare Plage

Belle Mare Plage is the longest beach on the island and is on the east coast. Its location means that it can be windier and currents can be stronger on the east coast compared to the west coast. There are a lot of resorts along here – including a number of exclusive resorts with great bars and restaurants. The wind means that it’s a great place for sailing and windsurfing, and the island’s best dive spot – The Pass – is nearby.

Day Trips and Cultural Sites in Mauritius

Iles Aux Cerfs Days Trips

Iles Aux Cerfs is a small island off the east coast of Mauritius. The islands have probably the best beaches in Mauritius and have loads of watersports available. You can also play golf on the island or go to some great restaurants.

Boat Trips in Mauritius

The generally calm seas around Mauritius are great for boat trips, whether you are going snorkelling, on a sunset cruise, or just a tour of the island. The boats come in all shapes and sizes – from speedboats to luxurious catamarans, with most offering drinks and food on board.

Black River Gorges National ParkBlack Gorges National Park

It’s not all sand and beaches in Mauritius – the island also boasts a fantastic national park. The Black River Gorges National Park is home to a number of endemic bird and plant species and is covered in a thick forest. The park has great walking trails that are the best way to see it.

Port Louis Days Trips

Port Louis is the capital of Mauritius. With a population of just 150 thousand people it is small by global standards, however, it can still feel extremely lively and busy, particularly at the Central Market. There are also some good bars and restaurants along the seafront.

Where to Stay In Mauritius

Mauritius has a range of accommodation from some good value 3-star resorts up to extremely luxurious 5-star resorts. If you go in off season you can get some big discounts on the hotels.

When to Go to Mauritius

You can go to Mauritius at any time of year. December tends to be peak time, whilst January, February and March are popular despite high chances of cyclones. The rest of the time tends to be quieter and cooler, but temperatures rarely fall below 20 degrees Celsius.

We would recommend April and May, and September to December as the best months to go to Mauritius.

Getting Around Mauritius

No two places in Mauritius are more than two hours away from each other, so you can cover a lot of the sites on the island in a day. The best ways to get around are either to hire a car and driver for the day for a reasonable price, or a hire a car and drive yourself.

Getting To Mauritius

There are frequent flights to Mauritius, although most involve a few hours stopover. Direct flights take around 12 hours, whilst those with stops tend to take 16 to 20 hours.

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.