There are more than 8,000 varieties of camellias at Pazo de Mariñán

Stroll through the Spanish Springtime Camellias in Galicia

Celebrate Spring with uplifting walks through the Camellia adorned gardens of Galicia as part of Adagio’s (01707 386700, www.adagio.co.uk) new seven-night gentle walking holiday ‘Pazos and Gardens of Galicia’.  

This Spanish region is famed for its traditional Pazos manor houses, once the homes of kings and nobility, and their impressive gardens, which are especially abundant with fresh Camellias in April.   

Showcasing some of region’s 8,000 varieties of Camellia, highlights include a visit to Pazo de Mariñán, taking in its magical camellia walkway flanked by the aromatic eucalyptus, bay trees and lavender, and the 17th century Pazo de Rubianes with over 800 varieties of Camellia surrounded by hectares of vines. 

In addition, the holiday takes strolls along pilgrimage paths and visits the pretty coastal village of Combarro. A guided walk through the old streets of Santiago de Compostela includes the must-see Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, one of the most important religious structures in the all of Spain, as well as the Alameda Gardens, a haven in the city for rich varieties of flora and fauna. Then round off the week with a boat trip on the Ria inlet whilst sipping local Albariño wines.  

Departing 7 April 2019, Adagio’s (01707 386700, www.adagio.co.uk) seven night Pazos and Gardens of Galicia starts from £1385/person including flights, en suite half board accommodation, two lunches, activities as outlined in the itinerary and local transport.  The holiday also departs on 5 May, 9 June and 22 September in 2019.  

For more details see:  https://www.adagio.co.uk/page/Pazos-and-Gardens-of-Galicia or find out more about Ramblers Walking Holidays ‘Pazos and Gardens of Galicia’ at Turismo de Galicia’s stand at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show (1-7 July 2019).


Shearings Holidays offers a new gourmet tour of Ireland

A Taste of Ireland – Shearings Holidays Launches New 'Gourmet Ireland' Tour

Monday, 21 January

Fancy exploring Clonakilty with a food writer to learn more about the local produce of this vibrant Irish foodie hub? Want to enjoy a taste tour around a Willy-Wonka inspired garden where everything is edible from the topiary to the trees? All this and more is now possible on a new 'Gourmet Ireland' tour from Shearings Holidays. 

Ireland is renowned for its hospitality, and at the heart of that is its food. The food scene in West Cork is built on authenticity, from time-honoured whiskey production techniques to heritage recipes and traditional farmers' markets. This new tour includes a range of excursions to ensure everyone gets a real taste of Ireland.

Highlights include:

Clonakilty food tour – this walking tour visits a wide range of food producers from meat, cheese, ice cream, beer, chocolate, bread and of course the Clonakilty Farmers' market. Food writer Kate Ryan will connect the group with people, places and stories that make the award-winning town such a foodie hub. And of course there are tastings along the way.

Glengarriff, the Garden of Re-Imagination – enjoy a taste tour around this Willy-Wonka inspired paradise where everything is edible. There is the opportunity to taste rare edible delights from the pink flamingo tree to Dahlia tubers & barberries.

Kinsale - considered the gourmet capital of Ireland. Visit the Kinsale Farmers' Market and spend time enjoying the town.

There is also time to enjoy the Midleton Jameson Distillery Experience and visit Mizen Head - Ireland's most southwesterly point.

Priced from £1590 per person, this tour is available on selected dates in May, June and September 2019. It includes return flights from Stansted and transfers, five nights half-board at the Clonakilty Park Hotel and all of the trips mentioned. A range of other airports are available, supplements may apply.

Call 0344 874 8220 or visit www.shearings.com  


Step towards a 'New You' in 2019 with Ramblers Walking Holidays

Take the first step towards a 'new you’ in 2019 by booking one of Ramblers Walking Holidays 2019 walking breaks. Ranging from gentle ambles to more strenuous hikes ascending some of the world’s most majestic peaks, Ramblers Walking Holidays also feature a great selection of activity breaks such as its new Alpine Activity Adventure to get you on the move.  

Set in a Swiss picture postcard alpine villages with the Toggenburg mountains and Lake Constance just on the doorstep, fresh mountain air is complemented with a week of mountain hiking and stimulating activities ranging from getting back in touch with nature on barefoot alpine walks and power-assisted e-bike rides around the lake to relaxing sessions of yoga and immersive walks on an intriguing sound trail.    

With the opportunity to pick up health tips on an informative medicinal plant trail and cruise across the lake to Mainau Island also included, Ramblers Walking Holidays (01707 331133, www.ramblersholidays.co.uk) one week Alpine Activity Adventure starts from £1,865/person  including flights, transfers, half board en suite accommodation, a local guest card, use of hotel’s spa facilities and local transport.   

Other popular activity and wellness holidays include Women’s Activity Week and Mindfulness in the Mountains as well as Bad Hofgastein, a new walking holiday based in a traditional Austrian thermal spa village.


The Dominican Republic prepares to welcome tourists... and the huge humpback whales!

Samaná prepares for the humpback whale watching season in the Dominican Republic

Friday, 28 December

The observation season of Humpback Whales officially begins on January 15 and ends on March 31, when thousands of people gather in the town of Samaná to observe these cetaceans that migrate from the northern hemisphere to the waters warm of the Caribbean.

It is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 specimens of humpback whales arrive in the territorial waters of the Dominican Republic, concentrating on the limitations of the Marine Mammal Sanctuary located in the Banks of La Plata and La Navidad and the Bay of Samaná.

You can even get in the water to watch the whales breaching

This year, the economic dynamics of Samaná are reactivated this year with the arrival of more than 60,000 tourists (national and foreign) who rent one of the approximately 100 boats belonging to the Samaná Bay Owners Association (Asdubahisa).

Each year the arrival of tourists increases to observe the seduction behaviour that the males perform to attract the female, which has given birth to a one-ton weight calf, in order to mate and return once again, as they have done for millions of years for this season in which they flee from the cold temperatures of winter.

In 2016, Samaná received some 55 thousand people, in 2017 it increased to some 57 thousand, while this year, the figure of the previous year was also surpassed.

As every year, the Office of Tourism Promotion (OPT) in Germany of the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic (Mitur) has called the contest for the new edition (9th), of its On-line action "The Whisperer of Whales 2019", where the winner will live an unforgettable three to four week stay in the Samaná peninsula.

The contest is aimed at those who wish to be ambassadors of humpback whales between January and March 2019 and communicate in the Social Networks about the diversity of the Dominican Republic.


You can stroll along the Dutch Flower Strips in the fields close to the town of Lisse

The Flower Strips in the Netherlands are all part of Holland in Bloom

Thursday 20 December 

When you think of the Netherlands, an iconic image immediately springs to mind: ‘flowers’. Some places in the Netherlands are particularly famous for flowers: Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Flora Holland in Aalsmeer and the flower strip between Haarlem and Leiden. But you can also see and smell the blooms in the bustling city of Amsterdam!

The Flower Strip is one of the most popular and unique attractions in the Netherlands as every spring the entire region bursts into vivid colour as bulbs shoot and millions upon millions of flowers blossom.

From Leiden to Haarlem, bold beautiful stripes of colour flame across the landscape. After the crocuses, it’s the turn of the tulips, daffodils and hyacinths – an impressive display that continues into May and beyond. In late summer the gladioli, dahlias, carnations and asters stage a second show of colour. 

Visitors flock from around the world to experience row after row of blooms stretching to the horizon. You’ll catch an eyeful on many of the trains heading southwest from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol – and even from your aeroplane when you’re coming into land – but the bulb fields truly deserve a closer look. 

Stretching for 20 miles between Haarlem and Leiden, the Flower Strip (called the Bollenstreek or Bulb District) is home to the world famous Dutch tulip fields. Spreading as far as the eye can see across the provinces of North Holland just west and southwest of Amsterdam are fields of colourful flowers in all varieties, including (of course) the ubiquitous tulip.

The earliest flowers bloom in January, with the show lasting until late May when the late-blooming lilies finally depart. The best time to visit the Bollenstreek is from mid-March to mid-May, which is classed as the core season. The best time to see tulips is mid-April, when the Tulip Festival takes over Amsterdam and the famous flower parade embarks on its 40km route to Haarlem.

Keukenhof Gardens and the flower auctions

One of the biggest attractions in the region is the Keukenhof Gardens, the world’s largest flower gardens and a home to more varieties of tulip than you can imagine. Visit from late March onwards to see a jaw-dropping floral spectacle of more than seven million bulbs in bloom over 80 colourful acres. Real flower buffs should also pay a visit to the flower auctions in Aalsmeer to get a true grasp of the industrial scale of the Flower Strip.

Tickets for Keukenhof Gardens start from €18 for a 'Skip The Line Pass'. There is a regular public transport coach from Amsterdam to Keukenhof including ticket at €29.

How to visit the Flower Strip

Getting to the Flower Strip by public transport is a breeze. Regular buses run from Amsterdam and Schiphol to various points within the region, or alternatively you could take the train to Leiden or Haarlem and cycle from there. Find out more about getting to the Flower Strip, including public transport and excursions. 

Biking the bulb fields

To explore the area at your own pace, a bike is by far the best option. You can rent bikes – from Rent-a-Bike Van Dam – at the main entrance of the Keukenhof for €10 a day, including a cycle route. In total there are four signposted and marked routes, ranging from 5km to 25km long. For the real green-fingered fanatics, there is also a longer ‘Bulb Route’, a bum-numbing 35km. 

Many visitors also rent a bike in Amsterdam and then take the train (bike day passes are available) to Leiden and cycle up to Haarlem before catching the train back to Amsterdam (or vice versa). The tulip field cycle route between Haarlem and Leiden is well signposted and stretches for around 35km of flat, easily bikeable paths. Don't forget to stop at Keukenhof Gardens on your way. 

Exploring by foot  

The ‘Wandelnetwerk Bollenstreek’ is a network of marked hiking routes through the region. Follow the hexagonal signposts past green pastures and colourful bulb fields, savour the views from atop wooden stiles and navigate the waterways on pulley-operated ferries. Free maps are available at the local Visitor Information Centres.