Your big adventure
Need inspiration for your holidays in 2013? Here's 10 suggestions each for adventure holidays, skiing, city breaks, great train journeys, family holidays, honeymoons, volunteering, walking, food and watersport destinations. Sandra O'Connellreports
Blaze a trail to Burma
Burma’s top of everybody’s must-see list, now that it has opened up to tourism. This 15-day tour will get you on the road to Mandalay (and Bagan and Yangon), with stops to visit magnificent temples, enjoy a riverboat cruise and treks through alpine villages way off the tourist trail. Priced from €2,095. intrepidtravel.com
Gallop Peru’s Sacred Valley
Stay on a ranch in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and leave the pedestrian tourist herd behind as you make your assault on Machu Picchu. The 11-night tour costs from €3,720. zarasplanet.ie
Pedal through Asia
Cycling is a great way to travel – the slower you go the more you see. Take a 17-day cycle trip round Laos, Thailand and Vietnam (don’t panic, only little bits of each), along narrow roads shaded by jungle vines, through shimmering rice paddies and up into mountains to explore villages and temples. Priced from €1,760. exodus.co.uk
Dive into Malta
Malta suffered greatly during WWII and one of the legacies is that it’s got some of the best war wrecks around, accessible from both shore and boat dives. Scuba Travel has dive holidays here, including flights, from £475 (€583), including UK flights. scubatravel.com
Walk on the wild side
Sunway’s Great Kenya Safari has all the best aspects of a Kenyan safari, including the Masai Mara, the flamingos of Lake Nakuru, the foot hills of Kilimanjaro and the red elephants at Tsavo. That’s your (big) five a day looked after then. Prices from €2,709, including flights and full board accommodation. sunway.ie
Gorillas in your midst
Catch up with the cousins on this four-day, once in a lifetime, trip to Rwanda to see that country’s most famous residents. The tour includes accommodation, transport, guide services and airport transfers. They’ll even train you how to behave when you finally meet. Priced from €2,099.
Celebrate the sun
What could be more appropriate than to escape the Irish summer for Inti Raymi, the Incan Festival of the Sun, celebrated every year in Peru, with the biggest festivities taking place in Cuzco. An 11-day trip with award winning adventure specialist Tucan costs €1,699. Pray for sun with the Peruvians and put in a good word for the poor benighted folks back home.
Madagascar by boat
What could be more adventurous than wending your way around Madagascar? White water rafting your way through its rapids, that’s what. Start deep in the canyons south of the remote Isalo National Park, watching lemurs and avoiding crocs, before finishing up with a chance to catch your breath on a beach. This 13-day tour only price starts at £1,895 (€2,325).
Elephants in Nepal
Lonely Planet has Nepal as one of its best value picks for 2013 and Irish company GTI Tours has a great 16-day walking and cultural tour showing you why. Stay in four- and five-star hotels, taking in Kathmandu, Nagarkot and Chitwan National Park, with jungle safari and elephant rides too, from €2,699. gti-ireland.com
The land of fire and ice is a geography lesson come to life. Check out the world’s youngest island, walk on lava fields and ice sheets, check out the hotsprings and the freezing waterfalls, on a 10-day boat trip circumnavigating it, with breaks to go birding on the Arctic Circle, kayaking into fjords and hiking remote stretches of coast. Tour only price starts at $7,990 (€6,024).
FAMILY HOLIDAYS, TRAIN JOURNEYS AND VOLUNTEERING
Make a splash on the Algarve
Portugal’s Algarve is terrific for families, with four water parks to choose from, not to mention all those soft sandy beaches. A seven-night stay at Villa Vargues, in Vilamoura costs €1,566 in July. Book before February 4th and get free car hire, travel insurance and welcome pack. jamesvillas.ie
Camp in a Castell
Castell Montgri campsite in Spain is the perfect base from which to tour Catalonia, including day trips to Barcelona, Lloret de Mar and the Aquadiver and Waterworld water parks. Keycamp has 14-night stays online at time of writing, sleeping two adults and three children, for €1,000. Flights extra. keycamp.ie
Villa treat in France
For a home from home, if your home were a five-bedroom villa with pool, then Villa Rustica is a perfect spot. Sitting snugly between Antibes and Juan Les Pins, it has matching grown ups and kids pools, is a shell’s throw from the beach, and well located for scenic train journeys up the coast to Monte Carlo. Priced from €3,500 to €7,750 a week. holidayhomesdirect.ie
Snow fun at Easter
Easter comes early this year, with the kids off from March 22nd to April 8th, which means a ski holiday could be in order. All that snow will certainly make it easy to organise the egg hunt. Topflight has a range of ski options available on those dates, including seven nights BB in Soll, Austria, for around €579 per adult. topflight.ie
Summer comes early
The really savvy holiday shopper knows that Easter can be a great value option for the family summer holiday too. Falcon has 14-day, all-inclusive breaks including, at time of writing, the Orquidea Hotel, Bahia Feliz, Gran Canaria from €1,121 per person, based on two adults and two children. falconholidays.ie
Let’s go Lanzarote
Five nights at the five-star Princess Yaiza hotel in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote will give the kids a burst of sunshine after a long dark winter. From €384 per night during the second week of the Easter school holidays, based on a family of four. Flights for the same group come in at around €800 with Ryanair – as long as you wear your luggage. princesayaiza.com
Make it mid-term
For the midterm break, Sunway has special offers for Club Med ski breaks in Les Arcs, Les Deux Alpes and Avoriaz, all in France. Prices start at €1,779 for grown ups (and over 12s) and €1,524 for under 12s, on an all-inclusive basis, including flights, departing February 10th for a week.
Theme park heaven
Because it’s so darn hot in summer, spring is a better time to do the Orlando theme parks. Head out for the February midterm to the self-catering Orlando Metropolitan Resort, in the International Drive area, for €1,987 for seven nights, based on two adults and two children sharing, including flights. Car hire will be around €150 extra. cassidytravel.ie
Get soaked in St Tropez
Kids judge holidays by the quality of the pool. At Pachacaid, a campsite breezily high in the mountains behind St Tropez, they have their own water park with a spaghetti junction of slides, chutes and flumes. A week’s stay in a three-bedroom mobile in early June is €525. pachacaid.co.uk
Dizzy at Disney
Book a two- three-or four-night break to Disneyland Paris by the end of January and you get two days (and nights) free, for travel between the end of April and August. Combine this with free hotel and park ticket offers for under sevens and you’ve got a great value deal. abbeytravel.ie
Glacier Express, Switzerland
Travel between St Moritz and Zermatt to see not one but two Unesco World Heritage regions, plus 91 tunnels and 291 bridges. The highlight, literally, is the 2,000m Oberalp Pass. Second class tickets from €120. glacierexpress.ch
The Ghan, Australia
Cross the red continent from Adelaide to Darwin, covering 3,000km in just two days. Despite the brevity, there are plenty of opportunities for whistle stop tours of such places as Alice Springs and Uluru. Seat only tickets from AUS 647 (€512).
Train to the Clouds, Argentina
Officially it’s the train from Salta to La Polvorilla but Train to the Clouds better reflects the fact that you’re being hauled up to 4,200m above sea level. The 400km round trip takes 15 hours but feels much, much longer, perhaps because of the way time stands still while you cross all those matchstick-style bridges and viaducts. As for the clouds in question, look down. Tickets from €134. trenalasnubes.com
Palace on Wheels, India
Take a journey through time as much as through India, in carriages designed for maharajahs. A cruise on rail, the week-long package begins and ends in New Delhi and takes in some of Rajasthan’s best known sights along the way, including Jaipur, Jaisalmar and Udaipur. Singles from $595 (€449) including all meals, tours and elephants. palacetours.com
Rovos Rail, Africa
One month. One continent. Five stars. Once a year South Africa’s luxury train firm Rovos Rail stages a cross-continental spectacular from Cape Town to Cairo. Includes great tours along the way, from sunset cruises on the Zambezi to game drives across the Serengeti. Prices start at $48,500 (€36,600). rovos.com
Trans-Siberian Express, Russia
The mighty Trans-Siberian Railway runs from Moscow to Vladivostok, over the Urals, across the Steppes and alongside Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake. That’s eight time zones and 6,000 miles in a leisurely two weeks. From €15,995 for a single. gwtravel.co.uk
Orient Express, Venice
By comparison the Orient Express looks positively cheap. Yet the Venice-Simplon Orient Express is a by-word for luxury and likely the only train you’ll ever board where they expect you to dress for dinner. Cross the Alps in style and then recover from your commute with a few days at Venice’s fabled Hotel Cipriani, in a package priced from £5,535 (€6,800).
Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu
If you thought Machu Picchu couldn’t be topped, you’d be right, other than, perhaps, arriving in style. The Hiram Bingham runs a daily round trip between Cusco and the world’s most famous Unesco Heritage Site. Think polished wood, gleaming cutlery and an observation bar car with panoramic views,for $599.
Blue Train, South Africa
For a shorter African adventure, that’s long on luxury, this one takes just 27 hours to cross from Cape Town to Pretoria, heading out of this world with luxury suites offering down duvets, double beds and full baths. Choose from a range of themed trips, from game parks to golf courses. From €1,190. bluetrain.co.za
Flam Railway, Norway
This one’s a tiddler by comparison but packs a punch on two fronts – it’s the steepest railway track in the world and it has, arguably, the best scenery. The tiny line spans only 20km but what a 20km that is, down from the top of a mountainous plateau to one of Norway’s most dramatic fjords. Tickets €35. visitflam.com
Save the sea turtles
What did sea turtles do before humans came to mind their eggs? Ponder it as you patrol the beaches of Costa Rica guarding the little critters. Then call in a baby sitter and head off on hikes through misty cloud-forests and rafting down rivers. Stay 15 days, departing July to November, from €1,859 per person. sunway.ie
Big game reserved
Enjoy the call of the wild for two to 12 weeks on this South African wildlife conservation expedition. Staying on the Karaongwe Game Reserve in the Limpopo province and the Zimanga Game Reserve in Kwazulu-Natal, your job is to help determine the impact of reintroduced animals on game resrves. The stay costs €1,409 to €4,242.
Get physical in Kenya
If you spend your working week chained to a desk, the idea of doing something physical on holiday can be appealing. How about helping to build houses in Nakuru, Kenya from Monday to Friday, and your weekends exploring national parks? Stays can last up to three months, priced from €699 for a week, excluding flights. i-to-i.com