While chilly winter days get most people dreaming about an escape somewhere hot, for adrenaline junkies in the UK the darker nights and lower temperatures only mean one thing; snow!
The Scottish Cairngorms are the only place to head after the first covering of snow. While the Cairngorms provide stunning walking scenery throughout the year, it’s during the winter that the mountain range truly comes alive and is the best time to visit.
Skiers who make the trip north certainly won’t be disappointed when they arrive as the mountain range boasts 11 ski lifts and more than 30km of pistes. So, whether you spend a few days or even a week in the Cairngorms, you definitely will not be bored! Snowboarders are also well-catered for in Scotland with a fully maintained snowboard park available throughout the ski season from December to April every year. For those of you braving the snow for the first time, learning in Scotland with English tuition is a great way to build confidence and nail the basic skills. If you visit in mid January make the most of the celebrations for World Snow Day as Cairngorm and the nearby resorts of Glencoe, Glenshee and the Nevis Range will be offering ski taster sessions, sledging or perhaps learn to build an igloo?
Those who haven’t quite found their ‘snow feet’ might consider a trip to the top station of Cairn Gorm itself via the UK’s only mountain railway. Travelling on the mountain railway will take you approximately eight minutes to reach the peak and rewards you with far-reaching views without any of the effort! Recreate the Alpine mood by indulging in a warming hot chocolate or mulled wine in front of a roaring open fire in the summit’s cafe. As the winter sun sinks lower in the sky, make your way back down the mountain and home to your Sykes Holiday Cottages holiday home. With properties located throughout the most popular ski resorts in Scotland, you’ll find it easy to choose the perfect base for your winter break. Snuggle up after a hard day on the slopes or head to Aviemore for some après-ski action.
Aviemore is also a great place to experience some festive cheer if you’re travelling with the children. Whether you choose to feed Rudolph and his friends, go on a sled dog ride or sledge down a snowy hill, the whole family will undoubtedly leave full of Christmas spirit.
If skiing or snowboarding isn’t your thing, the Cairngorms National Park also welcomes many climbers over the winter months. The ever-changing weather conditions in this part of Scotland means on one climb you might be facing powdery snow and the next nothing but slush! The unpredictable conditions are ideal for experienced climbers looking for a new challenge whilst beginners will also find the Cairngorms an ideal spot for a first lesson. Do make sure to check the weather forecast and avalanche risk with the Mountain Ranger service before heading out and only ever climb with the correct equipment.
So while snow sports in Scotland perhaps doesn’t (yet) have the same cachet as a week’s skiing in continental Europe or North America, the conditions are second to none not to mention a much cheaper option than a holiday abroad. For UK-resident guests, choosing Scotland for your winter holiday means you can easily fit in a weekend of adventure and be back at your desk on Monday morning. What more could you ask for? To start planning your winter holiday in Scotland, why not visitwww.sykescottages.co.uk today to view the full range of Scottish holiday cottages?
There are so many different ways to explore beautiful British Columbia with Tailor Made Travel. Breathtaking scenery, a friendly laid-back lifestyle, incredible wildlife and amazing outdoor adventures are the hallmarks of one of Canada’s most varied and spectacular provinces. And it’s all there just waiting to be discovered…by train, by plane, by boat, by car or by motorhome.
Visit tailor-made.co.uk to see a selection of some of our most comprehensive and exciting journeys. Each providing a different way to enjoy and experience the landscape, you can add any of these tours to your Canadian itinerary to create a unique holiday from scratch.
You can choose what you do and how you do it according to your taste, budget and timescales. Our friendly, expert travel consultants are here to help you plan every step of your adventure from selecting the right flights to the perfect accommodation.
Whichever way you choose to do it, do it with Tailor Made Travel.
Fabulous Vancouver Island
9 days from £589 per person
Take to the open road and holiday like the Canadians in a fabulous, well-appointed motorhome. It’s the perfect way to explore the incredible national parks, take in the stunning surrounding scenery, get up close and personal with the wildlife and experience sleeping in some great campgrounds along the way.
Ultimate Pacific Coast
11 days from £1,215
Discover the highlights of the Pacific Coast from the spectacular Sunshine Coast to the natural wonders of Vancouver Island. Staying in some breathtaking waterfront accommodations, with sightseeing and wildlife viewing included, this self-drive tour offers a real essence of city and island life.
Original B&B self drive of British Columbia
15 days from £1,369 per person
This self drive allows for a leisurely pace with ample time to explore the highlights of Vancouver Island. After some “island time”, meander through some of the best loved Parks of Western Canada complete with great excursions including sightseeing, whale watching, bear watching and a walking/hiking tour in Wells Gray Park. Your tour includes lavish breakfasts, excellent hospitality and charming accommodation that reflects the best of British Columbia!
Portraits and Wildlife of Western Canada
14 days from £2,659 per person based on twin share
This 12-night itinerary takes you across the province by road, rail and ship to reveal the hidden sanctuaries that offer the best in wildlife viewing and wilderness activities. Staying in world-class resorts with many of them offering awe-inspiring waterfront locations, gorgeous accommodations and facilities, this breathtaking adventure is truly a journey of a lifetime.
Southern Coastal British Columbia by Floatplane
8 days from £1,372 per person
This delightful soft-adventure itinerary is designed for those wishing to get above it all and travel through the region in a uniquely Canadian way – by float plane. Departing from downtown Vancouver, guests will have several great experiences travelling to Tofino, Victoria and the Gulf Islands before returning to Vancouver. Accommodation features a mix of perfectly located hotels and a fully equipped private cabin. This enables you to be within walking distance of all the major attractions and activities whichever location you are in.
Nothing quite matches the excitement of taking off on a miserable winter’s day and just a few hours later finding yourself on the perfect winter sun holiday, city break or ski adventure.
easyJet’s winter schedule for 2013/14 is on sale now and will be flying to a selection of winter sun, ski and city break destinations which are sure to be exactly what you need to see you through until the Springtime.
The airline’s winter schedule will take off from 27 October 2013 and tickets are available to book online now at easyJet.com. Get in early for the best choice of flights and fares, available up until 2 March 2014.
Whether you’re a beginner looking for a picturesque nursery slope, a seasoned professional seeking a challenge or an après ski aficionado, we pick out our favourite resorts that will offer some of the best action packed Alpine getaways for everyone to enjoy.
Apart from Cuckoo clocks, Switzerland is best known for its skiing and snowboarding thanks to the renowned ski destination of Geneva. Famed for its scenic snow-capped mountains and with more than 200 resorts within 100 kilometres of the city it is arguably one of the greatest skiing hubs in the world.
With the airport located only six minutes away from the Alpine mountains, Innsbruck makes the perfect family ski destination within easy reach of the slopes for everyone to enjoy. Located in between the German and Italian borders, the beautiful city is surrounded by picturesque snow covered scenery for the ultimate winter break.
Other resorts in the Alpine slopes to visit include the picturesque Lyon for its pine-framed slopes and chic French charm or for a more bustling ski break, why not try Grenoble which is famed for its clubs and bars.
Winter breaks in the sun continue to be a popular choice for sun-starved Brits, making it never too early to plan a holiday. If you’re a sun seeker looking for sea and sand – easyJet has it covered. Here are a few of our favourites to help shake off those winter blues.
The beautiful Canary Island of Fuerteventura is just off the coast of Morocco and is drenched in sunshine all year round. Fuerteventura’s gorgeous stretches of beach and amazing sand create the perfect destination for the winter beach holiday, with the clear warm waters perfect for water sports and the nightlife fun-filled and exciting.
Located only 80 miles from the coast of Africa, Lanzarote is a great family focussed winter sun destination offering sunshine from January to December. Lanzarote’s unspoilt beaches are spectacular, from the white beaches of Playa Blanca to the black sands of Playa Quemada. Las Cucharas beach on the Costa Teguise is famous for its windsurfing and other water sports.
For an alternative to the Canaries, head south to Egypt which is fast becoming a popular winter sun destination thanks to its guaranteed sunshine, rich culture and fantastic value for money. The stunning coastal resort of Sharm El Sheikh is located on the tip of the Sinai Peninsula and framed by the barren Sinai desert and crystal-clear waters of the Red Sea. With sun, sea and sand, watersports, horse and camel riding as well as desert safaris, it is one of the best-known spots on the Red Sea Riviera that offers a winter sun break with a difference.
Other winter sun destinations that are sure to have you revitalised after leaving the cold weather behind are the popular Canary Islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife, or try the beautiful Mediterranean island of Cyprus, with its blend of lively city resorts, water parks and rich history perfect for sight-seeing, it’s a great holiday for all the family to enjoy.
With Club Med all-inclusive you can expect stunning locations, superb accommodation, gourmet food, endless snacks and drinks from the bar, fantastic children’s clubs from babies to teens and a multitude of sports and activities. It is all included, so why not learn how to water-ski in Greece, sail in the Maldives, or just sip cocktails on a Caribbean beach…
With a Club Med holiday, expect a premium all-inclusive that is truly all-inclusive…
· Choice of accommodation
· Flights and transfers
· Full-board gourmet cuisine
· Open bar and snacks throughout the day
· A wide range of sports and activities
· Group classes and tuition
· Evening entertainment
· Children’s clubs from babies to teens
· ATOL and ABTA protected for peace of mind
There’s never been a better time to choose Club Med.
Club Med Olympic Games Guarantee
Everyone’s in the sporting spirit this summer. At Club Med you can still enjoy the Olympics from a sun soaked destination. All our resorts will be showing the games and with special Olympic themed events and activities, the whole family can get involved.
Still hoping to get tickets? We are offering free of charge cancellations (subject to terms and conditions) for the duration of the Olympics if you do get lucky and secure a ticket.
Club Med Sports
From tennis to waterskiing, flying trapeze to sailing, Club Med offers over 60 different sports. There’s something to excite the adventurous thrill seekers and also tempt those who prefer something a little more relaxing.
This summer, escape to the sun and discover the world’s largest sports academy!
Our Top Summer Picks
Gregolimano, Greece (4T) – Tennis, Waterskiing, Wakeboarding, Flying Trapeze…
The white sandy headland of Gregolimano, on the island of Evia, juts out defiantly into the blue waters of the Aegean, across from the mountains. In this perfect resort for sport-loving families, the bungalows provide a comfortable environment for parents and children.
Here, beginners and experts can try out exciting new sports and sensations. With GOs trained in their particular activity, you’ll enjoy the highest standards of equipment.
Does your pre-holiday headache start the minute you get the suitcases down from the top of the wardrobe?
From the frustration when the zip won’t close on your bulging suitcase to losing the directions to your airport car park, it can all feel a bit of an endurance test. But I always seem to arrive on the plane with seconds to spare, after a sprint through departures with a toddler under each arm, others seem completely serene. They’ve got plenty of time to relax and enjoy all the airport has to offer. So what’s their secret? I’ve been doing some research and here’s what I found:
Pack like a pro
Wouldn’t it be lovely to arrive at your destination with all your clothes well organised and wrinkle-free? It doesn’t have to be some crazy pipe dream. Here’s how to do it: roll knitted items and put these on the bottom, leaving a space at the wheel end for shoes. Then lay all your non-knitted clothes flat on top of the rolled layer, putting what you want to wear on the first day on the top. Then put pyjamas and toiletries on top of that. Fill zip-lock bags with pants and socks, expelling the air before you put them in. Et voila! You’ll never have to worry about your case bursting open, leaving your underwear trailing on the luggage conveyor ever again.
Organise the kids
When it comes to kids, packing can feel like an overwhelming nightmare of forgotten sun hats and much-loved soft toys. There’s just too much for the human brain to remember. So for the sake of your sanity, repeat the mantra “spreadsheets are your friends”.Mumsnet has some really handy checklists for different types of holiday that you can download as a starting point. Once you’ve got a checklist that works well for you, you can use it time and again, whenever you’re packing for a holiday.
Get the airport parking sorted
Nothing tests a relationship to its limits more than a journey to the airport, particularly if you’re already late and you chose the ‘cheap’ airport parking option with its shuttle bus ride in from miles away. The obvious point is to make sure you leave home really early – allow a good margin for unexpected delays. Think it’ll take you two hours? Give yourself at least three. Don’t worry about the kids being bored at the airport, either, as one way of getting into the holiday spirit at the airport is by pre-booking a child-friendly airport lounge to wait in. They’re surprisingly reasonably priced. Once there, the kids will be entertained and you’ll be able to put your feet up (and maybe enjoy your first drink of the holiday).
If you’re still absolutely dreading the stress of parking at the airport, think about valet parking – sometimes also called meet and greet. Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Manchester, Edinburgh – pretty much all the major UK airports – let you drive up to a passenger drop-off point, unload your car and just leave it for someone else to take care of. They then track your return flight so your car’s ready and waiting for you, as soon as you come out of the airport. The cost of valet parking like this is sometimes only a small amount more than parking the car yourself, particularly if you’ll be away for a couple of weeks.
Do your research
You spend hours poring over holiday brochures and reading reviews online before you choose your holiday destination. Why not apply that to your airport too? Choosing which airport to fly from can make a big difference to your stress levels. Yes, that flight may be cheaper, but if it means five hours to get there and long shuttlebus rides once you’ve parked, is it really worth it? I live in the south of England and my closest airport, Gatwick, is a surprisingly relaxing place to fly from. You can park at Gatwick in the short-stay car park which is right at the terminal, or get just a five-minute shuttlebus ride from one of the long-stay carparks – which usually work out cheaper. If you’ve got an early flight, I find that park and stay at Gatwick can be a good option too. Pitch up at an airport hotel the night before and get a decent night’s sleep. You can all just take your time as you roll out of your comfy hotel bed and straight into the airport next morning. No more waking the kids at some ungodly hour and bundling them into the car in the dead of night.
Now, where did I put my passport?
It’s that time of the year when the atmosphere’s getting a little frosty – and that’s just the feeling around the kitchen table. So the greatest gift you can give this Christmas to your loved ones is a positive frame of mind. What’s the best way of achieving that Zen-like state? Treat yourself to a chilled out summer holiday in winter and come back before the big festive day relaxed and ready to take on anything – even your miserable mother-in-law.
You don’t have to break the bank to go away in winter, either. In fact, there are so many cheap holidays on offer at the moment, you can spend a week on the exotic island of Cyprus and still have money left over. Added bonus: the souvenirs from your beach holiday make for awesome Christmas presents.
Holidays to Cyprus can be the gift you give to yourself. This time of year the sea temperature is an average of 18 degrees – not too hot and not too cold. Ultimate swimming temperature.
With an average winter temperature of 19 degrees, it’s still warm enough for you to spend time in the villages in only a vest top, and it’s the perfect weather for strolling along the pebbly Paphos beach or exploring the Akamas Peninsula and Troodos Mountains. And if you’re a bit of a culture vulture, Cyprus also offers a myriad of ancient ruins dating back to the 12th century BC, fortresses, Roman remnants and impressive tombs, such as the Tombs of the Kings.
Let’s start with cheap flights. A quick pre-Christmas escape from Gatwick to Paphos can set you back as little as £118.
Cyprus offers numerous accommodation options too. Everything from the luxurious five-star Elysium Hotel in Paphos to the Club Coral View Resort in Peyia.
If you’re an ancient history buff, or you like the sound of Arabian deserts, romantic sunsets, majestic ancient temples and camels in abundance, then holidays to Egypt are well within your budget.
At this time of the year, flights are cheap and there are some bargain accommodation packages too. The Pyramids Park Resort in Cairo has rooms from £17 a night and is just a five minute walk from the pyramids.
Capital city Cairo is a great place to start exploring if it’s your first time to Egypt. The pyramids and Sphinx are on your doorstep; the Cairo museum is bursting with ancient artefacts, such as the astonishing gold of Tutankhamen; and the Khan el-Khalili, Cairo’s famous and iconic bazaar, is the perfect place for Christmas shopping.
Luxor also offers the nearby Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. However, the country is not just tombs, museums and temples. For example, Alexandria Coast is known for some of the best beaches and scuba-diving in the world.
There is so much you’ll want to do when you get to Egypt, so plan your trip wisely. If the purpose of your holiday is exactly that – a holiday – then be selective with your activities. Remember, you don’t have to do it in one visit! Downtime is important. You can (and will) always come back.
Wherever you decide to go this Christmas, don’t think of it as a splurge – think of it as a well-deserved Christmas present to yourself that will put a smile on your face and help get you through any Christmas-related tensions with grace.
It’s deep midwinter, the fire is flickering, and in the flames you can see your future: a beach in Bali, whales breaching off Alaska, the Namib Desert by moonlight.
It may be a comforting vision when darkness falls at 4pm each day. But first you have to get there.
It’s sensible to start putting away a regular amount out of your income each month. Set up a standing order when your salary lands and you’ll hardly notice the money has gone. Research your trip thoroughly, and use the plethora of travel websites to plan your route. It costs a lot less to book all your flights ahead, and if possible, your accommodation too, even if you may fancy wandering free as a bird.
Budget for each leg of the trip carefully. If you have paid as much ahead as you possibly can, you can then give yourself a daily budget and predict much more accurately what that spend will be.
There are online calculators to help you plan your costs for each country plus the connecting flights, such as this one onwww.savingfortravel.com. Have some fun researching online – these tips from The Guardian don’t only apply to gap year travellers – and browse through the major guides, such as the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide series, which are excellent on budget travel.
Once you have an idea how much it’s all going to cost, then work out how much you can practically save each month. It may involve sacrifices – no concert tickets perhaps for that favourite band, no drinks after work with colleagues, taking a packed lunch to work and giving up that expensive cappuccino you pick up on the way to work. If you take each regular cost and work out what it comes to each year, you will very likely be astonished at how even small amounts add up. That fancy coffee? Just one each working day (taking four weeks’ holiday into account) at £2.10 will come to an astonishing £504. That sandwich at £3.50 a day? Brace yourself. That’s £840 a year. So just by bringing lunch from home and making coffee in the office, you’ve gained £1,344 a year. Just think how far that would take you!
It’s also worth spending some time planning what you are going to pack. A good backpack will be worth its weight in gold, so see which ones get the best reviews before you buy. Seasoned travellers are worth asking for advice: they will each have their recommendations, from head torches (hands free for putting up a tent in the dark) to lightweight microfibre towels.
While you’re away one of the safest ways to pay will be a credit card. Make sure you have made arrangements for the bills to be paid in your absence by setting up a direct debit from your current account. If you’ll be making a lot of payments via credit card, aBarclays purchase credit card could provide the best rates for your spending pattern.
Many countries don’t take debit cards, so credit cards are a widely accepted option. Unless you’re trekking through the Sahara of course. So before you go, apply for a credit card and you couldconsider balance transfer credit cards or one of many other options available in the market (click here for more info on Barclays credit cards).
A credit card may be a good way of spreading your payments, but bear in mind that you will be charged interest if you do not pay off your balance in full, and late or missed payments may mean you lose any promotional rates and affect your credit rating.
This article has been written for information and interest purposes only and should not be construed as advice or used to make financial decisions. Expert financial advice should always be sought and any links contained within this article are included for information purposes only. Links to third party websites are not an endorsement by us of products and services on such websites. You have entered a website owned and operated by and will be subject to their website’s terms and conditions.
The capital city of Greece, Athens has been called the cradle of Western civilisation, which provides an insight into the length of its history. People flock to Athens for a variety of reasons, which means that visitors there are made up of people from all walks of life. Whether you are a history buff, a culture vulture, a sun-worshipper, or someone just looking for a great time with vibrant nightlife, you will find everything you want in Athens.
How to make the most of your three-day Athens trip
Not everyone who travels to Athens is able to stay for a lengthy period. For those who are only planning to be in the city for a few days, you need to make the most of your short time in this stunning destination.
Day 1 – Explore the local area and enjoy taking in the nightlife
Once you arrive in Athens on your trip, you will be raring to go and explore all this great, dusty metropolis has to offer. You may be more limited for time on your first day, depending on what time you arrive so it is best to stick to more local sights to start. At the centre of Athens you will find Sintagma Square, which is a great place to start. Here, you will find an assortment of historic buildings to explore as well as the arts focused ‘museums in motion’. If you make your way to Kolonaki, you will also be able to do a little browsing at one of the numerous shops. This can be topped off with a refreshing glass of kitron and an excellent mezé at one of the local cafés or restaurants.
Once evening hits, take some time to explore the exciting nightlife here. You will find an array of clubs and bars that will enable you to unwind and really let your hair down. Hugely popular nightclubs such as Loud Mansion provide you with pulsing music and an electrifying atmosphere, with the revelry continuing until the early hours. Psiri is another great place to go to for some raucous revelry, with plenty of options available catering for a wide variety of tastes and preferences.
Day 2 – A day of adventure
With a full day at your disposal, take the time to enjoy excitement and adventure with some serious exploration. A visit to the sites and historical attractions around the Acropolis is a must while you’re in Athens, so this is a great place to head after you’ve kicked off your day with some strong and aromatic Greek coffee and perhaps some figs in honey at your hotel or one of the local eateries. Take in the magnificent ruins, the many temples and the Parthenon as well as the Ancient Temple of Olympian Zeus. Also, keep some time aside to visit museums such as the Acropolis Museum, or for those with kids, the Museum of Greek Children’s Art.
A visit to Plaka will give you a taste and feel of local tradition and culture, allowing you to feel part of this fascinating destination. You can stop off for lunch at one of the local tavernas before resuming your day of exploration and adventure. While in Plaka, head to the tiny neighbourhood of Anafiotika; an attractive and picturesque place where you will find some incredible ancient monuments as well as colourful houses and diverse culture.
Day 3 – Relax and unwind
Your final day in Athens should be reserved for relaxation and fun before you hit the road again (or head to the airport, as the case may be). Athens has some stunning beaches 40 or so minutes’ drive out of town, so slap on your sunscreen, get into your swimwear and head for the custard-coloured sands and azure surf. After your previous day of exploration, you will be ready to kick back and let those aching muscles take a break.
In the afternoon, you can take a stroll around the local shops, which will vary based on which part of Athens you are staying in. Glyfada is a great place to enjoy a unique shopping experience, so hop on a tram or call a taxi and get yourself to this vibrant town. Here you will find a variety of stores where you can pick up all sorts of goods, including local handicrafts and lace. You will also find the Glyfada Golf Course located here, so if you are a keen golfer this is the ideal place to tee off for some gentle and relaxing recreation.
In the evening, it’s best to avoid a late night with partying and clubs if you have an early start the next day. So, head to a local restaurant and enjoy sampling some authentic Greek food such as Dakos (Cretan salad) and Gemista (baked, stuffed vegetables) and maybe a glass (or two) of ouzo, before heading back to your hotel to pack.
Take a package holiday to Greece, and even with only three days in Athens, you can still find time to explore the history, experience the culture and cuisine, enjoy the beaches and nightlife, and even get time to do a little shopping along the way
For most people, the very thought of a trip to the Caribbean tends to conjure up images of turquoise waters, powder white beaches, sizzling sunshine and lush foliage. Happily, this is all quite close to fact. Include a laid-back atmosphere, tropical breezes, sumptuous local cuisine, and a diverse culture, and you’re pretty much spot on.
No matter where you go in the Caribbean, you’ll find yourself having unforgettable experiences and a holiday that will leave you feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and eager to come back and sample more of what the Caribbean has to offer. At The Co-operative Travel, you can choose from a great selection of fabulous Caribbean holidays, each of which has something unique and exciting to offer.
Three top affordable Caribbean holidays with The Co-operative Travel
Many people are keen to escape to a paradisiacal destination and get away from the stresses of daily life for a week or two. However, with the current financial climate the way it is, most people are having to be mindful about how much they spend on their annual holiday. At The Co-operative Travel you can choose from a great selection of affordable yet incredible Caribbean holiday experiences, so you get to enjoy the best of both worlds.
The following Caribbean holidays available from The Co-operative Travel are some of the most affordable getaways available.
Independent since 1902, Cuba is a wonderful, fascinating and unique Caribbean destination, that’s home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. If you want to get up close and personal with paradise on earth, Cuba is the place for you. It’s not simply a destination for sun seekers, idyllic beaches and tropical heat, (though there are nearly 300 beaches on the island if that’s what you want) – it’s also an island steeped in a fascinating and sometimes disquieting history, where visitors can immerse themselves in the unique culture of the place.
When it comes to expense, this island is one of the most affordable in the Caribbean, which makes it a great choice for those looking to experience the region at a non-prohibitive price. There are many incredible places to stay, visit, and explore in Cuba, such as the historic capital city of Havana with its Cadillac-filled streets and candy-coloured buildings, its second city, Santiago de Cuba, or the stunning Cayos islands.
Dominican Republic holidays
The Dominican Republic is one of the most popular Caribbean destinations among holidaymakers, and this is not surprising as it also tends to be the most affordable. This is a place where you will find stunning resorts alongside breath-taking natural beauty. There is a very diverse landscape to take in here, from its incredible coastline to lush rainforests and majestic mountains.
There is also plenty of history and culture to explore in the Dominican Republic, with a range of fascinating historical sites to explore. One of the most significant of these places is the first city in the New World, Santo Domingo, which was discovered in 1496 by Christopher Columbus’ brother, Bartolomeo. The city, one of the most heavily populated in the Caribbean, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers a curious mix of medieval and the ultra-modern in terms of architecture.
Barbados is a Caribbean destination that is enduringly popular with the British. While some of the architecture and even the recreational activities give off a very British feel, the gorgeous landscapes, beautiful beaches and sizzling sunshine will make you think of any place but home. Barbados combines a relaxed vibe and chilled out ambiance with vibrant nightlife, exciting festivities and fascinating culture.
In a blur of red lamé, frilly petticoats and flying pigtails, La Gloria bounces off the ropes, lunges at the retreating back of her opponent and grips his neck with her thighs. He hits the canvas with a resounding thud, landing in an ungainly sprawl.
“Are you afraid?” she cries, as she rests her dainty foot on the back of his head, raising her arms triumphantly to an ecstatic audience.
I’d already watched an ageing but still muscular Mr Atlas, underpants over his tights, take on a fearsome-looking Crow. Then a handsome Aladdin floored The Devil, with help from the 75-year-old referee Ali Farak, as the crowd chucked half-chewed chicken bones and popcorn in their direction, accompanied by jeers and cries of ‘cheaters’.
Finally, over ear-splitting music, foot stamping and impatient whistles, the compère bellowed dramatically into the microphone, the curtains leading to the backstage parted and La Gloria sashayed towards the ring to the biggest cheer of the day.
“Let’s dance!” she shouted, putting her bowler hat, fringed shawl and dangly earrings to one side. Within seconds of the bell, La Gloria and La Muerte – or Death – were locked in a high-octane bout, filled with athletic somersaults, flying fists and hair pulling.
Inspired by the masked wrestlers of Mexico’s lucha libre and the WWF Superstars in the US, Bolivia’s highly stylised take on wrestling is a theatrical mix of acrobatics, cartoon violence and old fashioned battles between goodies and baddies. It’s one-of-a-kind twist? Many of the wrestlers are cholitas, or the country’s indigenous Aymara women.
Bowler hats and pigtails
Cholitas certainly stand out, with bowler hats balanced at an improbable angle, pigtails hanging down their backs and flouncypolleras – full, multi-layered skirts. While the term chola is considered derogatory, synonymous with the country’s lowest social class, the word cholita has begun to have a positive overtone and signifies a woman who’s tough, resourceful and independent.
Each wrestling cholita has her own story. Following her whole family – father, mother and five siblings – into the ring, the diminutive Maria del Carmen Averanga started fighting in 2002, and when she dons her mini pollera, she transforms into the deceptively sweet Cholita Marina, who can execute a mean half-nelson.