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A Guide to Portugal’s National Events

Tue, Jan 21, 2014

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Portugal is a fantastic destination all year round, but what could be better than to time your visit with one of its impressive world-class events? The Portuguese certainly know how to put on a show and there are festivals and celebrations held during every month of the year.

Many of them are free, making your holiday money go further, but they are all great fun. Read on to find out what you could be up to on your next trip and when to plan it for to coincide with a brilliant event.

Carnaval

Nothing beats a carnival and the Portuguese version, known as Carnaval, is no exception. Held annually in the run up to Lent it is a great opportunity for locals and visitors to let their hair down. If you are thinking of booking your holiday for February or March be sure to make sure you don’t miss out on this period of partying.

One of the great things about Carnaval in Portugal is that it is a truly national affair with parades staged everywhere from Lisbon to Loule and Nazare to Ovar. If you are in town for the event you will not be able to miss it, as the costumes are as loud as the entertainment.

Hot Air Balloon Race

At the beginning of April the skies across Portugal are filled with hot air balloons as teams from all over the world compete to win this epic race. They start off from Vila Pouca de Aguiar in the north and head to Loule in the Algarve over the course of several days.

The teams set off at 7am each day and have usually reached the next town by 5pm, making these times the perfect opportunity to see large numbers of balloons taking off or landing. But the real party not to miss is the final day when everyone celebrates the achievement of completing the journey.

São João Festival

This festival is best celebrated in Porto, where the streets come alive on June 23rdand 24th, with music, dancing and flying vegetables. It is unclear why many of the traditions associated with the São João Festival, but one thing is clear – they are still very much alive to this day.

Throwing vegetables at each other is just one such custom, with others including jumping over bonfires while making a wish and hitting the table with a plastic hammer. Less bizarre activities include eating delicious fresh grilled sardines and drinking.

Moorish Nights

July sees the Moorish influence in the region celebrated with plenty of traditional Arabic food, a souk, music and dancing. It is best experienced at Cacela Velha in the Algarve, which has had a Moorish presence since the tenth century.

As with many festivals the cuisine plays an important role and visitors should be sure to try specialities associated with the occasion. These include harina – a traditional soup and pastilha de frango com amêndoas – a chicken and almond pasty. Afterwards fruit is consumed, along with plenty of green tea.

Lisbon Half Marathon

If all of the events detailed so far sound indulgent then why not set yourself the challenge of completing the Lisbon Half Marathon? It is a great way to see the city as you jog past and is staged twice a year, giving you twice the opportunity to enter. Pick between getting involved in March or September.

CC Beyker_C

Northern Lights Hunting Trip Preparation

Sat, Jan 11, 2014

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The Northern Lights, also called Aurora Borealis in atmospheric science, are spectacular lights, which everyone would wish to have a gaze at them. Many would like to have spend the holidays by having a hunting trip to view the natural beauty that silhouettes the sky brought about by the incredible lights. Hunting of the Northern Lights is necessary because it is not a guarantee that you will have a good sight of the lights during your visit. There are tips you should have before commencing a hunting trip to the North to view the Northern Lights. Below are some of the basics (more at www.theaurorazone.com/) you are required to know while preparing for your trip to have a better view of this natural phenomena.

Choose a Perfect Location

Obviously, to stand a better chance of seeing the lights, you have to choose a perfect destination that is as far North as possible where light pollution is minimal. You can achieve this through a number of ways. For example, you can visit a place like Inari, Finnish Lapland. The place is beautiful free from pollution and its remoteness means that you can quickly find a place to view the amazing sky. You could also visit a big city like Tromso, Norway where you could have a small trip to a remote area away from the city pollution where you could view the lights.

Visit at the Correct Time

Not all times of the year are suitable for paying a glimpse to the Northern Lights. During the summer months, there exists very little darkness even during the night time. Thus, you can best hunt the lights between the months of September and March. The two equinoxes are in fact the best months of seeing the lights. Scientists link the Northern Lights to the Sunspot activity hence by tracking the Sunspot occurrence they are able to know the months the lights are intense. So during the years of Sunspots, the lights are clearer and it forms the best time for anyone hunting the lights to have a proper gaze.

Choose the Right Clothing

Lastly, you obviously know that hunting for the Northern Lights means that you are advancing towards the polar North. This is practical during winter and whether you are at Norway, Finland, Sweden or even anywhere else where you can view the lights’ it is automatically going to be cold. Thermal clothing is preferred and put in mind to use layers once you get there.

Remember that you can either hunt the Lights as an individual or as group. Hunting of the Northern Lights, as a group is fun and quite memorable. As an individual or a group, the aforementioned factors are very important if you want to have a remarkable experience and they should form the basics of your trip preparation.

And if you’re in need, check out some tips for viewing the Aurora!

CC georg-aas

Where To Stay On The Amalfi Coast

Sun, Dec 22, 2013

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The Amalfi Coast is among the most delightful coastline stretches in Europe. In spite of its pronounced place on tourist trail, it still holds a unique charm and local atmosphere. If you carefully look you can evade the mass of visitors and secure your own little slice of paradise. The 43 mile coastline stretches south of Naples and is a spectacular blend of sheer cliffs and deep ravines combined with attractive hilltop towns and endless terraces growing olives, grapes, lemons and almonds.

The best way to tour this area is by booking one of the many superb villas in Amalfi that are accessible to rent (see more here). Famous travel companies, who delight themselves on providing outstanding services and high standard accommodation, provide villas in Amalfi and the neighboring villages. Their properties are usually comfy, well managed and full with all contemporary conveniences. Most of these villas have swimming pools and a compound where you can relax in your own tiny home away from home.

Best Accommodation on the Amalfi Coast

Eden Roc Suites Hotel, Positano

The Eden Roc Suites is actually known as the honeymooner’s dream. The hotel admits freely that it does not offer a barrage of facilities, but what it offers, it does it superbly: twenty four baroque suites; homemade cuisine (this article in the Guardian newspaper has quite a bit on fish pasta that seems astoundingly delicous) dished up in a cozy restaurant; a terrace that looks straight out over the sea.

Le Sirenuse, Positano

Le Sirenuse has 2 claims to fame in the ever-chic Positano. It is possibly the town’s most modish comfort hotel, and it’s possibly the most costly one too. Nights in the hotel goes for £800, but you get back what you pay for: outdoor terrace lounges suspended over the sea; a Michelin-starred restaurant; rooms embellished with beautiful antiques; and bouquets of flowers beautifying just about every corner.

Palazzo Sasso, Ravello

This stylish, antique-packed hotel is a famous hideout for most Hollywood stars. Everything about the hotel is exceptionally impressive; from its location on top of a hill that overlooks the sea, to the spectacular restaurant. The Palazzo Sasso is among the luxury hotels offered by Italy that are purely fit for royalty.

Parco dei Principe, Sorrento

This is a clean-lined hotel that is perfectly located and wonderfully decorated. The hotel was designed by Gio Ponti in 1960’s, and it has since remained more than simply reminiscent of his mod-cool sensibilities. As you would have thought, the location of the hotel is simply as good now as it was a long time ago; elaborate stairs lead down a cliff from the hotel into the sea, where you will find sunbathing area, a pizzeria, and certainly, crystal-clear Mediterranean waters to swim in.

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Sharjah at a Snip

Tue, Dec 17, 2013

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Located in close proximity to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, Sharjah is the capital city of the UAE and happens to be an exotic holiday destination for thousands of tourists from all over the world. (more…)

Stay in an Ice or Snow Hotel in Lapland

Sat, Nov 16, 2013

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Ice hotels are not mere options for accommodation in touristy places, they are complete destinations, especially for those visiting Lapland. If you stay in an ice or snow hotel in Lapland, you wake up to the diffused light of fiber optics at dawn. You are surrounded with ice – some that is present in the intricate designs of furniture and surrounding sculptures and some that is present in the massiveness of solid blocks comprising the walls, ceilings and floors. True that the room you stay in will have a consistent temperature of 23 or even 17 degrees Fahrenheit, true that you will be resting in sleeping bags placed on ice slabs draped in reindeer skin but that is not all. At an ice hotel, you will have the privilege of using everything you need and all of it will be made from ice and snow.

To put it simply, even though ice hotels look rather extravagant and lavish, they basically function like oversized igloos. While solid blocks of ice are used to create the exteriors of these formidable, larger-than-life structures, intricately designed, petite pieces are used to create the interiors. Colourful lighting inside ice hotels transforms a frigid arctic dwelling into a palace where everything glitters, and this is bound to make your stay magical. The ice bar, ice chapel, ice utensils and ice furniture that you have access to inside an ice hotel, will offer you a feel that no other kind of accommodation in Lapland can match. TheWhiteCircle.com, in particular, has a wealth of amazing igloo-like options.

Most ice hotels in Lapland are situated near rivers where workers draw water, freeze the water into ice, cut the ice into large blocks before trucking them into place. Extensively built ice hotels that have a large capacity require approximately five to six weeks for construction. As spring approaches around April, all this work melts away and the hoteliers have to wait till September to start reconstruction.

Even though earlier, ice hotels intended to cater to only those tourists who took a keen interest in novelties and unusual environments, today they have acquired the status of destination hotels, and they have done so in their own right. Travelers no longer want to stay in lodgings close to tourist attractions; they want to be in the midst of it all. People who have already had the privilege of staying at an ice hotel often describe the experience as exhilarating. So if you plan to visit Lapland for your next vacation, make sure to stay at an ice or snow hotel.

CC VisitFinland

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