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7 of the most beautiful UNESCO heritage sites in Portugal

Visit | Posted by Super Trooper Permalink

A common definition of heritage refers to a “special possession” and a legacy to be celebrated now and preserved for future generations. UNESCO works to encourage the recognition, protection and conservancy of natural and cultural heritage sites around the world. The main criteria for a site to be considered worthy of is their outstanding value to humanity.

For over 35 years Portugal has been an affiliate of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and there are 15 registered locations scattered across its landscape, both rural and urban. This is remarkable, especially given its size, but it’s no surprise as Portugal has long been revered for its beauty and cultural significance.

We’ve chosen 7 spectacular sites to give you a taste of what makes Portugal so special.

Lisbon

As a city Lisbon hits all the marks: it’s opulently attractive, has a multi-layered history and is positively bursting with things for visitors to see and do. Chief among the attractions are two UNESCO World Heritage monuments located in Belem on the Tagus River that stand as tributes to the Portuguese Age of Discovery. Often called “the jewel” and the penultimate symbol of the age, theJerónimos Monastery was built in homage to the discovery of a sea route to the Orient and its lush ornamentation is still considered the finest example of the exuberant style of Manueline art. Jutting into the river downstream, the Tower of Belem stands sentry for visitors to bask in its military architecture and the spectacular panoramas of the river.

Sintra

As the summer residence of Portuguese royalty the town and cultural landscape of Sintrahas many magical charms that are well celebrated by more than just UNESCO. Tucked in lush forested hills, Sintra is still home to palaces, lavish estates and a Moorish castle that boasts staggering views across Lisbon. Blending local and exotic flowers and fauna, the town embodies a gorgeous combination of parks and gardens that has influenced landscape architecture around the globe.

The north

The Historic Centre of Porto is a maze of winding streets and alleys that offer a glimpse into the city’s past as well as views of the Douro River. Its Praça da Ribeira is a wonderful spot to sit in and soak up the atmosphere while watching the world go by.

The smaller city of Guimarães has been a part of Portugal’s national identity since the 12thcentury. Its technical traditions and distinctive architecture illustrate the city’s progress and its integration into its surrounding landscape. It’s been named part of Heritage of Humanity and a European Capital of Culture due to its outstanding preservation and future-oriented policies.

The Alto Douro Wine Region has been a regulated wine producing area since 1756, the oldest of its kind. The wine produced today from its fertile land is recognized worldwide for its quality as well as a manifestation of the backbreaking evolution of winemaking. The landscape, both literal and ethnic, has been a crossing of cultures for centuries and has been carefully cultivated by countless generations to bring it to its current venerated position for legions of wine lovers to explore and enjoy.

The south

In one of the loveliest, most gratifying cities in Portugal, the Historic Center of Evora is a circuit of medieval walls, 16thcentury palaces and mansions that are all under UNESCO protection. The cityscape offers a glimpse into understanding both the history and the culture of the country and its influence on the architecture of Portugal as well as further afield, such as Brazil.

Algarve

Although it’s known more for sun seekers than culture vultures, the Algarve has its own version of historic places to visit. Albufeira might top the package-tour list but it has a very pretty picturesque old center with whitewashed buildings lining every narrow, twisting lane. If you want to escape the crowds altogether, make the trip to the beautiful Olhos de Agua beach to beat the heat and take respite in its sandy beach and lapping waves. There perfect destinations if you’re looking for a sunshine getaway at the last minute.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites are universal and belong to every individual and Portugal has many truly “special possessions” waiting to be explored!

Images by littlemisspurps, AiresAlmeida and Sean MacEntee, used under Creative Commons license

Top 7 hidden gem destinations to explore in Europe this year

Visit | Posted by Super Trooper Permalink

Summer is just around the corner and you might be one of the many people who just haven’t had the time to get round to booking a holiday yet. Never fear – last-minute bookings are straightforward and exciting, and they often take you to places never before considered. If you’ve got Europe in mind, take a look at these off-the-beaten-track, up-and-coming destinations and see what deals you can find. You could be off on an affordable and entertaining break in no time at all!

Image by Dennis Jarvis via Flickr

1. Bulgaria – Plovdiv

Nestled in between Greece and Istanbul, Bulgaria maybe the lesser known neighbour but it is an equally good host. You could head to the sunny resorts along the Black Sea coast, or, soak in the fascinating culture in the city of Plovdiv. Wander along the cobbled streets and take in the Roman, Byzantine and Thracian influences. Explore the Roman amphitheatre, ruins of Eumolpias and Church of Sveta Bogoroditsa.

Image by Sue Tupling via Flickr

2. Croatia – Korcula

With Dubrovnik fast becoming a holiday hotspot, you should escape tourist crowds by heading to Korcula island – you can get there by ferry from the mainland! The picture-perfect landscape is built up with red roofed houses, medieval squares and quaint churches, set against dense, green forests. Visit St Mark’s Cathedral, the House of Marco Polo and Land Gate.

3. Croatia – Istria

Shared with Italy and Slovenia, Istria is a triangular peninsula with cute villages and hilltop settlements. Walk through the cobbled piazzas of Rovinj and Novigrad, check out Roman relics in the port of Pula and make your way inland to wander around pretty hilltop towns such as Motovun and Groznjan.

Image by Vera & Jean-Christophe via Flickr

4. Iceland – Reykjavik

The perfect blend of Nordic charm, natural beauty and cosmopolitan lifestyle, Reykjavik is the world’s most northerly capital city. Enjoy a picnic in front of the Parliament building at Austurvöllur, pay a visit to Reykjavík Art Museum, or catch some live music as part of its vibrant nightlife. Iceland’s capital is also a UNESCO City of Literature, so take a pen and paper along, in case you get inspired.

5. Malta – Mdina

Small in size but perfectly formed, Malta has a big offering of destinations for the perfect getaway. Mdina is a city on the island with a history that stretches over 4000 years. The ancient walled city displays fine examples of medieval and Baroque architecture and you should go to the catacombs, St. Paul’s Grotto and the Domus Romana Roman villa.

Image by dr_zoidberg via Flickr

6. Malta – Valletta

The capital of Malta, Valletta (or The Fortress City), has cosmopolitan offerings in a hugely interesting, historical setting. Take in the beautiful gardens, such as The Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens and Hastings Gardens. St John’s Co-Cathedral and Museum is also a must see, with its beautiful Baroque art.

Image by Trish Hartmann via Flickr

7. Montenegro – Kotor Bay

Nestled in between Croatia and Serbia, Montenegro is a small country with Adriatic Sea coasts. The Bay of Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage site, offering relaxed fishing spots and a mountainous landscape to get the adrenaline pumping. As its popularity increases, so do the region’s hotel and dining options.

Pick any of these destinations and you’ll have plenty to tell all your friends when you talk about the European gem you discovered this summer. Do you have a well-kept holiday destination secret that isn’t on the list? Share it below!

Sun, Sea & Sangrias : Must-Visit 2016 Beach Holidays

Visit | Posted by Super Trooper Permalink

The short grey days of the cold winter months are slowly giving way to the brightness and warmth of spring and for some, it is time to cast their thoughts on this year’s summer holidays. For those that prefer beach holidays, the choices available out there may seem overwhelming when all you want is to find somewhere nice to relax and unwind in the sun. With that in mind, this post takes a look at some of the best beach holidays for summer 2016 and will help you to narrow down your options.

 

Depending on your circumstances you may be looking for a special secret retreat, a business holiday destination, family friendly beaches, or even the best places for a party atmosphere. See below for a selection of some of this summers’ best beach holidays:

 

Family Friendly Beaches

For those going on holiday as a family, the best options will tend to be all-inclusive resorts where children can enjoy themselves and make new friends during the holiday. Here are some standout options:

 

  • Karavostási, Greece: Featuring a secluded 500 metre sandy beach that borders clean, deep blue seawater, Karavostási is an idyllic location for the perfect family holiday.
  • Makarska Riviera, Croatia: Well known for its beaches, Makarska in Croatia is another family-friendly destination worth looking into. There are boat rides to the surrounding islands available, as well as beaches that lead onto turquoise sea shallows where youngsters can paddle.

 

Secret Escape and Business Holiday Beaches

 

Whether you are looking for a personal secret retreat, or a location for a respectable business holiday, there are many ways to find the ideal spots. Business holidays from Just Fly Business who specialise in secret escapes are just some examples of the options available. If you are looking at going down the road less travelled and avoid crowds of tourists, beaches such as Palagruza and Mlget in Dalmatia, Croatia are up there as some of the best choices for some privacy and tranquillity.

 

Palagruza is a remote and barely habited islet situated between Italy and Croatia while Mlget escapes the summer crowds despite being home to the pinewood and saltwater lakes of Mlget National Park.

Party Beaches

 

While for some the summer holidays by the beach are a time for relaxation, others prefer to get away from everything and let loose. Some of the best lively beaches include the obvious candidates from Ibiza such as Playa d’en Bossa, but there are other less known gems also worth considering. The leader in party spots, Ibiza is home to some of the best nightclubs and hotels in the world, and has beautiful beaches that lead onto the Mediterranean.

 

Other notable party locations include the Sanxenxo Resort in Galicia, Spain, Santa Teresa Gallura in Sardinia, Italy, and Hania in North-west Crete, – all of which offer beautiful beaches as well as a lively night scene.

 

The key to finding that ideal place is through canvassing family, friends and colleagues then narrowing down your options through online checks until you find your preferred choice. If you are looking for the best beach holidays for summer 2016, hopefully the options listed above provide a good place to start your search.

Places to Stay at, on a Cheap Holiday to Turkey

Visit | Posted by Super Trooper Permalink

There is no place better than Turkey, to enjoy the fusion of both the eastern and western cultures. From landscapes to historical buildings, mountains to beaches – you can surely enjoy a cheap holiday to Turkey without compromising on the fun. The main attractions present in the country are completely free, so pack your bags and get your ticket to explore the culture of the land, but before that, make sure you book a place to stay at.

Turkey doesn’t lack in luxury, but if you have a limited budget, here are the places you can stay at. These will surely provide you with a relaxing sleep after you have spent all day in the adventurous activities that the country has to offer.

Büyük Londra Hotel

The Büyük Londra Hotel was built in 1892 and is the only remaining historical landmark of Pera Palace before its modernization. Travelers coming from the Orient Express used to stay here in earlier times. The cost effective rooms in the hotel have all the basic necessities, and the hotel consists of a lobby, bar made out of dark wood, overstuffed chairs, and ornate etched-glass. You can easily book a room in this hotel where personalities from the Turkish Independence war used to stay. Can it be made any more exciting?

Hotel Niles

Located at a short distance from the old city in Istanbul, this hotel is made in a traditional style and has a professional touch to it. It offers scrumptious breakfast, a roof terrace, amazing views of the Sea of Marmara, green courtyards, and much more to its guests. The rooms consist of flat-screen televisions, safe-boxes, and free Wi-Fi as well.

Dort Mevsim

The hotel means Four Seasons in English and is a 2-star hotel situated in Pamukkale. The hotel is run by a single family and provides parking, Free Wi-Fi, a pool, sun loungers, and delicious Turkish food to its customers. The ancient Roman ruins of Heliopolis and white travertine terraces are also situated nearby. The rooms in the hotel have balconies, and Ottoman-style carpets and bed covers decorate the interior. You can even sit by the poolside and enjoy a barbecue after a tiring day of exploration.

Hanedan Hotel

The interior of the hotel is the mixture of modern and Ottoman and is run by four friends. It is located in Sultanahmet from where you can easily commute to all the stunning historical buildings. The place is quiet and private and features air-conditioning, heating, amazing landscape views of Princes Islands, Aya Sofya, and the Sea of Marmara. The beds are four-poster, draped with chiffon with polished wood flooring. The place is located in the ideal area which reduces traveling time and offers more sightseeing opportunities.

A cheap holiday to Turkey may seem like an unrealistic expectation to you, considering that it is part of the European Union, but don’t be fooled by its grandeur. The country offers much to see at good rates. Visit it for yourself to know what you are

10 Reasons Why Montenegro Isn’t All That

Visit | Posted by Super Trooper Permalink

Small in size and shrouded in a long history, Montenegro is somehow emerging as a favourite for all-inclusive holidays. Situated in the Balkans, it received a peak level of tourism in 2007, which almost equalled its pre-war volumes. Take a look at these ten facts on why there tourists have got it so wrong about the Adriatic coastline, rustic traditional cuisine and diverse natural landscape.

1. The history is boring

In its turbulent history, Montenegro has been ruled by Illyrians and Romans who have battled against Huns, Slavic tribes, Venetians and Ottomans. There are plenty of sites to tell the story, especially on a half hour drive along the coast. Here, visitors can snub prehistoric rock art, Roman mosaics and even a Venetian naval town. There is also a Roman Catholic chapel and Serbian Orthodox Church. No, not fascinating at all.

2. There are not many activities to do

Watersports are a great way of exploring a new country’s coastline and pumping some adrenalin with fellow travellers. Unfortunately, in Montenegro, there are only a few on offer. Groups take bookings for water rafting on Tara River, scuba diving clubs take people on dives around the remains of a submerged town and a kayaking adventure takes place in the Blue Cave. There are also online activity opportunities like hiking and skiing… but that’s about all.

3. It’s basically a less expensive Croatia

Croatia is a gem on the Adriatic ocean, so why would you want to go to a cheaper version of it? Yes Montenegro offers similar views, landscape, cuisine and activities, with the company of less tourists, as well as having cheaper flight and accommodation rates. But it’s just not the same as actually being in Croatia, is it?

4. Far too mountainous

Montenegro actually translates to ‘Black Mountain’, so you should obviously expect mountains.Durmitor National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with pretty lakes, dramatic peaks and lots of fellow backpackers. There are also lots of fjords that have been crafted from ancient glaciers — popular with hikers and swimmers. In the north of the country, the skyline is busy with craggy rock ranges and erupting peaks.

5. The food’s pretty standard

Sometimes you just want a classic British meal and you won’t find that here. You’ll find strong Italian and Balkan influences on menus throughout. The north is known for its juicy lamb dishes and the coast makes the most of its fishy produce. A favourite local dessert is doughnuts served with honey and figs.

6. Such a lacklustre coastline

The views of the Adriatic really aren’t all that. Need proof? Take a look at this photo. Eugh!

7. There isn’t a good choice of restaurants

When night falls, it’s natural to want to get involved with the locals at a restaurant and bar.Restaurant Koliba Bogetici, Langust, Przno, .Konoba Stari Grad, and Stari Mlini are renowned for serving traditional grub to happy customers but wouldn’t you prefer a McDonald’s or something?

8. Kotor is not worth a visit

The walled town of Kotor, which sits at one side of the Vrmac massif, is like something you would find in a kids fairytale book. It’s all quaint houses and welcoming atmosphere, nothing like the comforting confines of a reliable and overcrowded resort. The Bay of Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but that’s no big deal.

9. You definitely don’t want to take a boat out to Our Lady of the Rock Island

Nobody enjoys a boat trip out on crystal clear waters during a sunny afternoon with friends. This island is home to the 16th centuryGospa od Skrpjela that’s decorated with traditional interiors and artefacts that some people might find interesting.

10. It’s not very popular

Just because more visitors are enjoying a visit here every year, doesn’t mean that you should take their word for it. It’s probably wiser to go to the usual European destinations that you’ve visited many times before.

Of course, you might actually be tempted by intriguing history, incredible landscapes, warm welcomes and action packed watersports. If that’s what you’re into, make sure to book for next year and find out for yourself whether or not the hype is to be believed.

 

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