Category Archives: Travel

New hotels on Larnaka horizon

A host of new hotels are on the horizon for the Larnaka region of Cyprus – including resort hotels, boutique establishments and even lodgings in historic, listed buildings, expanding the choice of accommodation available to visitors.

At present, there are 25 applications approved or under consideration across the city centre and beyond, whilst several units already under construction will soon be opening their doors to welcome their first visitors.

In particular, the Voroklini-Pyla coastal area (also known as Larnaka-Dekeleia Road) is seeing a luxury resort boom along its strip, starting with the 2022 season openings of the Radisson Beach Resort Larnaca and the Solaar Boutique Hotel.

The 5-star Radisson Beach Resort Larnaca will have a 404-bed capacity and rooms with private pools, a spa, four food and beverage outlets and event venues.

The Solaar Boutique Hotel & Spa (where the former Michael’s hotel stood) will have a 114-bed capacity, three private villas, luxury spa, rooftop restaurant and conference room with sea views.

Another three deluxe establishments along the same strip are in the approval process pipeline; a four-star hotel with apartments on the site of the former Beau Rivage Hotel; an adjacent five-star complex, and a further luxury hotel east of Golden Bay Beach Hotel. The addition of further high-star hotels along this particular area of the coastal road will also tie in with the area’s upgrading and further new development following the removal of the oil refinery tanks.

The beauty of accommodation in Larnaka region has always been its diversity, and with the increase in hotel units continuing to provide a balanced mixture of grand resorts for luxury laid-back relaxation, and quirky city establishments for the traveller who likes to explore, visitors are sure to find somewhere that is perfect for their ideal holiday!

For more information visit https://larnakaregion.com

Teeing up the best of the west of Scotland

The iconic lighthouse on Turnberry Golf Course, which is open to the public

The west coast of Scotland has many famous sons, and no, we’re not talking about Donald Trump and his offspring. Yes, Trump does own the famous Turnberry golf course, but this part of the world, Ayrshire, with its rugged coastline and secluded beach is famous for other Scotsmen and women.

King of Scots Robert I, better known as Robert the Bruce, was born at Turnberry Castle, he defeated the English during the first war of Scottish independence, while poet Robert Burns, also known as the National Bard and the Bard of Ayrshire, is also a native as is Alexander Fleming, who credited with discovering penicillin. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also hails from Ayrshire.

So there’s quite a history to the area and it attracts tourists looking for peace and quiet away from the madding crowd. Or, golfers looking for some of the finest courses in the world.

Our visit took us to a mobile home site halfway between the small village of Turnberry and the town of Girvan, just a stone’s throw from the sea. The views from the site, operated by Park Holidays are spectacular with the iconic Ailsa Craig dominating the view. Described as a huge volcanic plug of rock, it sits in the Firth of Clyde, 12 miles from the mainland.

It is famous for its  “blue hone” microgranite, quarried to make curling stones that feature in the Winter Olympics.

It was also a feature during coverage of previous Open golf championships, with cameras taking lingering shots of its brooding presence in the distance.

The site itself features a number of carvan styles and we were lucky enough to bag a bit of a bargain, with one of the lower grade ‘Bronze’ grade caravans costing us just £230 for the week.

An added bonus was that we were automatically upgraded to a range-topping eight-berth when we arrived.

Facilities are decent enough, with laundry, waste disposal, play areas, small shop and bar/restaurant available.

The Firth of Clyde waves lap onto the beach at Girvan, the ninth hole at Turnberry, St George’s Square in Glasgow an autumn sunset from the campsite and the brooding Ailsa Craig in the distance

The bar looks out over Ailsa Craig and hosts evening entertainment depending on what stage of the season you are there. It was still going reasonably well in late September.

There is plenty to see and do within the immediate area, particularly if you are a fan of ancient buildings with castles.

Further afield, Glasgow is less than 50 miles away and can be reached by rail if you have had enough of driving. It’s a beautiful city and well worth a visit, with Glasgow Central one of the most iconic railway stations in the UK.

More locally, there are golf courses everywhere with Turnberry just a couple of miles away, while other Open courses like Troon and Prestwick are just up the coastline.

The most picturesque of course is Turnberry with the iconic lighthouse, built by the family of the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, in the middle of the course and Ailsa Craig in the distance. Public footpaths allow people to wander up the lighthouse and the runways which were used during the Second World War are still part of the course, although now unused.

Just next to the lighthouse, are the still visible ruins of Turnberry Castle, home of Robert the Bruce who defeated the English in battle. It is located between the 9th and 10th holes of the Championship Ailsa course.

Slightly further afield is Culzean Castle and Country Park is the perfect place for a family day out, while if you fancy a wee dram, a specialist whisky shop is nearby.

Turnberry itself offers some small beaches with rolling sand dunes and its flora, fauna and wildlife in general give the designation of Site of Special Scientifc Interest (SSSI), so well worth bringing our binoculars along. While Ailsa Craig still dominates here, further in the distance are the Isle of Arran.

While the site shop is small, carrying necessities, there is a boutique farm shop just down the road and for a more substantial shop in the small town of Girvan is about three miles away.

It’s a picturesque little town with a small harbour and a long promenade with access to beaches.

It hosts a large supermarket and the railway station for that trip to Glasgow.

We had postponed a foreign holiday and, given the huge rise in staycations during the pandemic, we were lucky to find somewhere as picturesque and relaxing. A first holiday in Scotland, definitely not the last 

FACTFILE

Park Holidays UK, a major group of 40-plus parks in England and Scotland. Due to the popularity of holiday home ownership, there are currently no plans to provide any letting facilities in 2022. However, says the company, it’s likely that some holiday home owners will wish to make their accommodation available for sub-letting next year – and by the end of December, details will be known and published on the company’s website (www.parkholidays.com).

Voyage of discovery on a Nile river cruise

A beautiful twilight scene on the Nile at Aswan

October half term, November and December Nile cruises from £1,295 

Holidaymakers looking for some hot autumn sunshine can now book a seven-night Nile cruise departing from Luxor after Egypt was removed from the Government’s red travel list last month. 

Specialist tour operator, Discover Egypt has availability for departures on 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 November on board the five-star MS Tulip for £1,295 per person, plus limited availability for the October half term from 25 October for £1,495 per person. Weekly departures in December also cover the festive period. 

The five star luxury river cruiser MS Tulip

The price includes return flights from Heathrow to Luxor, transfers in Egypt, full board cruise and 10 guided excursions to see some of the top ancient sites along the Nile.

These include the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor, the Temple of Horus at Edfu, and the Ptolemic Temple at Kom Ombo.

The cruise also stops at Aswan for the chance to visit the High Dam, the Old Granite Quarries, the Unfinished Obelisk and the Temple of Philae on Agilika Island. 

The five-star MS Tulip was added to Discover Egypt’s programme in 2018 after being totally refurbished and features 50 guest cabins and a chic interior, with a large sun deck, swimming pool, sauna and small fitness suite, plus a deck bar, lounge bar and main restaurant. 

Top from left, clockwise, a spectacular Luxor at night, the temple at Abu Simbel, the Temple of Hapshepsut, the Horus at Edfu and the mask of the boy king Tutenkhamun

Most standard cabins have a panoramic opening window with balcony rail and the upper deck terrace suites have private sit-on balconies to enjoy the views. There are also two single cabins that can be booked without a single supplement. 

Discover Egypt also offers pre or post cruise stays in Cairo, Luxor, Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, El Gouna and Soma Bay for those that want to explore more of this fascinating country. 

Temperatures in Egypt are around 33 deg C in October and 28 deg C in November, making it a great time to visit with hot days and balmy evenings. 

For more information and to book contact Discover Egypt on 020 7407 2111 or www.discoveregypt.co.uk

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Chance to hit the beach

Larnaka upgrades top tourist spots

As travel restrictions are gradually lifted, tourists visiting Cyprus are promised a treat when they visit beaches at a favourite spot for visitors, according to the Larnaka Tourist Board.

Summertime in Larnaka region is synonymous with lying on a beach or swimming in the sparkling sea, and according to the tourist board, the new upgrades and improvements made on several popular organised coasts will really enhance your beach time.

Larnaka City 

Beachgoers can ‘surf on the sand’ with free WIFI services available on the beaches of Finikoudes (the famous palm-tree beach parallel to the town centre), and at tranquil Kastella (located behind the ice-cream parlours that bridge Finikoudes with Mckenzie beach). The action is part of the EU-wide ‘WiFi4EU’ initiative. 

Larnaka Region 

Voroklini: Voroklini’s coastline has been beautified with the planting of palm trees, whilst a shade has been installed at the children’s sand playground. On Yiannades (Gold Fish beach), sunbathers will soon be able to borrow books from the new, wooden boat-shaped library to read as they lounge. The Community Council has also placed 240 new sunbeds and 120 new umbrellas on the beach.

Larnaka Kitesurfing Beach (Softades): The island’s only dedicated kitesurfing beach has had new greenery planted. Famous for having the most optimum weather conditions for the sport, the beach again played host to the ‘King of the Kite’ kitesurfing championships organised by Kahuna Surfhouse (August 5-8).

Upgrades are continually made on organised coasts of Larnaka region as part of the annual ‘Enriching and Greening Larnaka’s Beaches’ initiative that aims not only to maintain Larnaka region beaches in pristine condition, but also to offer added facilities and leisure options for all the family. 

It is also important to note that it was recently announced that Cyprus has once again come first across Europe for having the cleanest bathing waters – an honour that the island consistently holds for its sparkling seawaters.

This handy map of Larnaka region’s coastline will also help you find your perfect spot.

Buses go green with hydrogen

Sutton Coldfield residents will soon be travelling on a greener form of transport when a fleet of hydrogen powered buses take to the road in the autumn.

Birmingham City Council has unveiled the first of its 20 new hydrogen buses, which are set to be in operation later this year.  They have been purchased as part of the council’s Clean Air Hydrogen Bus Pilot, which looks to ‘kick-start’ the hydrogen market as a viable zero-emission fuel.

Hailed as another solution to tackling the city’s poor air quality and a key step towards achieving the council’s net zero carbon target.

Speaking in Centenary Square where the first bus was unveiled to colleagues today, Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, Councillor Waseem Zaffar said: “Fuel cell buses offer a practical solution for cities to decarbonise public transport and immediately improve air quality. 

“The delivery of the first bus is great news for our city and the rest of the region. It means that we can now work with our partners at National Express to start testing the buses, training drivers and adding livery design before rolling the buses out for the public in Autumn this year. 

“This is a significant step towards our net zero carbon target and will provide Birmingham with a leading role in informing debate on supportive policies for zero emission public transport at a local and national level.”

The buses, which are made by Wrightbus and are the world’s first zero-emission hydrogen fuel-cell double deckers. They will be operated in Birmingham by National Express – the first in England (outside of London).

It’s intended that Birmingham’s Clean Air Hydrogen Bus Pilot will be the catalyst for the next generation of hydrogen buses, hydrogen production and re-fuelling infrastructure development.

It has been funded through OLEV (Office for Low Emission Vehicles), GBSLEP (Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership), Birmingham City Council and JIVE project funding from the FCH JU (European Funding from the Fuel Cell Hydrogen Joint Undertaking) under grant agreement No 735582.

The FCH JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe Research.

The council have also collaborated with ITM, who will be producing and dispensing the hydrogen fuel from the new re-fuelling hub at Tyseley Energy Park.

Dreams of escape to Lanzarote

Sunshine virtually guaranteed all year round

The latest wave of Covid-19 has put a bit of a damper on thoughts of flying abroad for that dream holiday, but the Canary Islands is almost unique in being an all-year-round destination and good weather all but guaranteed.

A favourite is Lanzarote. It  is the Canary archipelago’s south-easternmost island. Although it covers no more than 800 square kilometres, it offers strikingly diverse landscapes. The legacy of the volcanic eruptions that took place in the 18th and 19th centuries is a spectacular scene of singular form and beauty. Next to unexpected landscapes made up of volcanic caves, lakes of lava and craters, lie beaches of golden sand and transparent waters.


What is more, the spectacular natural heritage has been jealously guarded by the people of Lanzarote; and not in vain, since the island was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993. Furthermore, in 2015, it became the first destination in the world to receive Biosphere Responsible Tourismcertification.


In Lanzarote you will find everything from the liveliest tourist towns, with their top  hotel facilitiesand recreational areas, to unparalleled landscapes, spots showing no trace of human presence, and solitary islets for the enjoyment of silence.


The Parque Nacional de Timanfaya, (Timanfaya National Park), a lovely succession of volcanic landscapes, is one of the island’s greatest tourist attractions, together with the Art, Culture and Tourism Centres created by the local artist César Manrique. The original cultivation systems of the farmers of Lanzarote, who learned how to overcome the island’s sterility and encourage the lava to exuberance, are another focus of attraction to visitors.


The benign climate, with its average annual temperature of 22º C, is also worthy of mention, since it makes Lanzarote the perfect destination for the practice of all kinds of outdoor sports.

SADDLING UP FOR A RIDE THROUGH TIME

Larnaka revamps Thematic Cycling Routes 2021 to encourage sustainable mobility

As Europe begins to re-open for foreign travel, the Larnaka Tourism Board has updated its Larnaka Thematic Cycling Routes to encourage sustainable mobility and showcase the variety of attractions across the region.

Larnaka is a cyclist’s paradise with its excellent year-round climate, unique cultural attractions, stunning vistas, and variety of fauna and flora. Adults and older children/teenagers alike can enjoy cycling in fresh clean air, with challenging, yet varied and picturesque terrain. 

Now with these thematic routes, a bike ride can also be combined with a piece of history or tradition. There are eight themed cycling routes that can be downloaded from the website and include a map, distances, altitude differences, degree of difficulty, the type of bike that is recommended to be used, plus the various points of interest.

Below are the key highlights for each of the eight routes:

Neolithic Route – the oldest cycling route in Europe, this 28 km route focuses on the antiquities of Choirokoitia and Kalavasos Tenta Neolithic Settlements, plus the villages of Tochni, Zygi, Maroni and Psematismenos.

Wine & Gastronomy Route – a 54 km route covering the picturesque villages in the mountainous province of Larnaka, such as Lefkara, Kato Drys, Skarinou and Choirokoitia, with opportunities to visit traditional wineries, silversmith artisans and a Halloumi cheese workshop. 

Multi-religious Route – this 18 km route visits various places of worship of various religions within the city. Although the island has strong ties to Christianity throughout its history, a basic characteristic of Cyprus is the peaceful coexistence of several other religions, including those of Catholics, Muslims, Armenians and Maronites.

Venetian Towers (Eastern) – Constructed over 500 years ago, the Venetian Watchtowers acted as an early warning system against naval attacks and remain intact in four separate villages within the district. This 46 km route includes watchtowers at the villages of Pyla and Xylofagou.

Venetian Towers (Western) – This 17 km bike tour takes cyclists to two watchtowers in the western area of Larnaka at the villages of Pervolia and Alaminos.

Camel & Donkey Route – This 50 km route introduces cyclists to the island’s furry friends – an integral part of daily life just 60 -70 years ago – and offers a unique insight on how the locals would move around the island in olden days. It includes suggested visits to Camel Park Mazotos and the Golden Donkeys multi-site farm in Skarinou.

Wheat & Bread Route – This 60 km route showcases the region’s long history of traditional bread-making as it passes through golden wheat fields and takes in a beautifully-restored flour mill, which now serves as a time capsule of Athienou town’s bread-making tradition.

Larnaka Birdwatching Route – This 11 km route is recommended between November and April. With its location on the south-eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus attracts more than 370 different bird species during their migration from Africa to Europe – and back again. This is one of the best areas on the island to observe these majestic birds, and this route offers the opportunity to visit Voroklini Lake, Larnaka Salt Lake, Larnaka Marina and Larnaka Medieval Castle. 

For more information visit: www.larnakaregion.com/page/thematic-cycling-routes

For more information on Larnaka Tourism Board, visit www.larnakaregion.com

Ramping up spending on top end holidays

Sandy Lane in Barbados is among the places seeing an upsurge in spending

Travellers are splashing out on higher-level upgrades as they look forward to returning to their holidays, more than a year after the pandemic first struck, according to tour operator Pure Luxury.  

Dubai and Barbados are among the destinations luxury travellers are investing more, including an increase of nearly 200 per cent in the average price per night of rooms booked at Sandy Lane Barbados with Gold Medal’s trade-only luxury brand.

Similarly, the average price of rooms sold at Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf has increased by nearly a quarter, while bookings for villas at the resort grew by 14 per cent compared to a month ago. 

The bookings jump has been driven by the launch of Next Level Luxury, a campaign by Pure Luxury to help agents proactively upsell and “tap in to the desire of customers to travel in style when things reopen”. 

The operator produced a 22-page mini brochure featuring 24 offers in destinations in the Caribbean, Dubai & Arabia, the Indian Ocean and the Far East, with deals and offers also promoted across social media and via e-shots agents could share with customers.

“The Next Level Luxury brochure has gone down well, especially among those who have saved over the last year and a bit, and now want to spend more on holidays,” said David Walker, owner of agency, The Travel Snob, part of Not Just Travel. “It’s been a great tool in sending both to those clients that reached out initially to talk later about a trip, and to those regulars who I like to say book ‘wherever they fancy, whenever they want’.”

Overall average value of bookings made to key destinations such as Dubai, the Caribbean and Mauritius via Pure Luxury have been 29 per cent, 56 per cent and 67 per cent higher respectively than they were four weeks ago, suggesting agents have been able to leverage offers to encourage higher spend, said Nick Hughes, Gold Medal’s director of sales.

“It’s great to see the Next Level Luxury campaign deliver on its objectives to help agents inspire consumers to take their holiday to the next level of luxury,” he said. “We’ve heard from so many agent partners that their customers are dreaming of how they can make their next holiday extra special – whether that’s turning left on the plane as a special treat, or splashing out on bigger, better accommodation.”

The campaign was initially launched in response to the already rising numbers of high value, luxury bookings the operator was identifying – average booking value had increased by nearly a third over a four-week period.

Pure Luxury then ramped up the tools to inspire agents’ higher-spending customers, focussing on premium room types such as club, suites and villas that come with added value benefits such as club lounge access, butler service, activities or private areas, pools and beaches.

Lidl a step nearer to completion

The view from what will be the car park for the new Lidl in Mere Green

Work is gathering pace on the new Lidl supermarket being built in Mere Green.

The roof is now on with brickwork in place, filling in the steel skeleton of the new building. The car parking area, seen from the picture above is now laid with just final resurfacing before the opening of the store in a matter of weeks.

The store looks to be on schedule for completion by the end of the spring, but the German owned store are tight-lipped about the opening date and how many jobs will be created.

The new supermarket will on the site of the former industrial site in Mere Green Road, which has lain derelict for more than 10 years.

The store has not met with universal approval with fears of traffic chaos, further exacerbated by new of a new Aldi store set to be built on the old Waitrose site on Belwell Lane.

It does seem inevitable there will be a big increase in traffic on the busy stretch of road, with Mulberry Walk virtually fully open with gym, shops like Poundland, bars and restaurants, together with existing supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer. With a busy garage also at Mere Green island, it looks like delays will be on the way.

Early bird spring offers for Greek luxury resort

By Bill McCarthy

One of the top holiday resorts on Greece’s lesser-known Western Greece mainland worth considering for a summer break, is the 5-star Aldemar Olympian Village Beach Resort in Olympia. Consider heading here for a five star seascape, located in one of the most scenically beautiful areas of the country. 

We experienced the delights of western Greece and this luxury resort on a visit in May 2019

The 5-star Olympian Village Beach Resort in Olympia, Western Greece is located in a historic region, home of the Greek gods and the Olympic Games, filled with ancient temples and Byzantine monasteries, this is a stunning hotel complex overlooking the sea.

There are great offers from UK’s tour operators including jet2holidays, easyjetholidays and British Airways Holidays or visit the resorts own web site for holiday packages too, with  a 10 per cent early booking, spring offer throughout April: an ‘exclusive, fully flexible’ offer.

While uncertainty stills surrounds international travel for UK holidaymakers because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Aldemar team in Olympia is gearing up for its Summer Season 2021. Covid protocols are in place as they were last year, implemented for the safety of both the hotel staff and guests, throughout their stay.

It is a visually stunning hotel complex that stretches along (5 kms) sandy beach, surrounded by dozens of pools and beautiful gardens.

This part of Greece is one of the greenest and its natural wonders range from breathtaking mountains to ancient pine forests. The UK PR for this resort refers to this area as ‘Tuscany without the price-tag’ and as she’s partly Italian, we took her word for it when we visited, only to discover that indeed it was just that too and more!

The sprawling, low-rise five-star complex is situated in a secluded area near the village of Skafidia, just 30 kms from Ancient Olympia, hence why this area of Western Greece is also referred to as the ‘Olympian region’ of Greece. 

There’s accommodation to suit all budgets, from hotel-style rooms to apartments, family bungalows and even luxurious, top-of-the-range presidential suites with their own pools. 

Sit on the patio and in the distance is the island of Zante/Zakynthos and a little further north, Captain Corelli’s Kefalonia. Daily ferries can transport those eager to have their Greek Island fix, to both. The ferries depart from the port of Kyllini which is a 40 minute taxi ride away from the resort hotel.

Out and about Olympia is a must see. It was a major Panhellenic religious sanctuary of ancient Greece, where the ancient Olympic Games were held. The site was primarily dedicated to Zeus and drew visitors from all over the Greek world 

The Olympic Games were held every four years from the eighth century BC to the fourth century AD. The archaeological site held over 70 significant buildings, and ruins of many of these survive, although the main Temple of Zeus survives only as stones on the ground and a single column. 

Further afield is historic Sparta, Patras and Kalamata, all a full day trip. But if touring is not you thing. The resort has plenty to keep all ages entertained and relaxed. 

What’s on offer for early bird bookings

  • Welcome Package: Μineral water and Aldemar bath set (soap, shampoo, shower gel, nail file, shower cap, cotton buds, and sewing kit).
  • Free Internet Access
  • Complimentary bottle of wine in-room on arrival
  • Free use of beach and pool chairs & umbrellas
  • Free use of slippers during your stay in the hotel (for VIP & Family rooms bathrobes and beach towels are also available to use during your stay in the hotel) 
  • FREE Mini Club. For children aged 4-12, seven days a week, 10:00 – 18:00, multilingual supervisors (upon request).
  • Entertainment activities, Mini Buffet at the Mini Club “ALDY”, including a selection of sponge cakes, sandwiches, juices, water, one ice cream per child, children’s play area and mini restaurant.