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.


Feeling inspired? Why not try an arts and crafts break with HF Holidays?

Brush up on your skills on a Landscape Painting Holiday

For anyone feeling inspired by Sky Arts’ Landscape Artist of the Year winner, Richard Allen, leading walking and activity holiday provider, HF Holidays, has a selection of beautiful countryside painting breaks.

Step out into picturesque destinations that are sure to inspire and benefit from the knowledge of experienced tutors as holidaymakers can explore the region with a range of artistic techniques.

Highlights from HF Holidays’ 2019 Landscape Painting Holidays can be found below and for more information, or to request a brochure, head to www.hfholidays.co.uk/art

Landscape Painting Holidays in the Scottish Highlands

The imposing peaks and stunning lochs of the Scottish Highlands make the region an ideal base for a landscape painting holiday. Explore the very best of the local area and settle down in one of the many spectacular viewpoints to paint, with all equipment provided free of charge. Whether you’re a complete novice or a painting prodigy, this break is designed to suit all abilities, with expert tutors on hand every step of the way to offer advice and answer any questions. Stay at HF Holidays’ 4 star country house, Altshellach and enjoy hearty evening meals and access to an indoor heated pool.

Price: Six nights departing 12th April 2019 from £739pp which includes full board accommodation, all transport to and from painting locations, painting equipment and tuition from HF Holidays’ expert guides.

Landscape Painting Holiday in Southern Yorkshire Dales

Delve into the Yorkshire Dales in search of the perfect backdrop and painting inspiration, with the sweeping fields and rolling hills creating plenty of opportunities to get creative. Visit spectacular vistas and explore a range of outdoor painting skills, with an enjoyable learning atmosphere. On tailored walks that show off the highlights of the region, discover Yorkshire’s gorgeous colours, beautiful gardens and historic buildings before bringing them to life on canvas with expert help available. Stay at HF Holidays’ 19th century country house, Newfield Hall, a superb setting in the heart of Malhamdale.  

Price:Three nights departing 2nd August 2019 from £375pp which includes full board accommodation, all transport to and from painting locations, painting equipment and tuition from HF Holidays’ expert guides. To book, visit www.hfholidays.co.uk or call 020 8732 1250.

* Places are limited on these holidays so book now to avoid disappointment. For more information on HF Holidays, please visit www.hfholidays.co.uk or call 020 8732 1250. 


Children will enjoy the fun aspect of skiing at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis in Austria

It's family fun all the way when you ski at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis in the Tyrol

The skier's paradise of Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis is located on a sunny plateau high above the Tyrolean Inn Valley, framed by the mighty 3000-metre Samnaun mountains and the Ötztal Alps.

Here, at 1,200 to 1,400 metres above sea-level, winter sports fans can enjoy 460 hectares of snow, 162 metric kilometres / 214 skiable kilometres of perfectly groomed runs (80% of which can be covered by artificial snow), 68 lift and cable car systems, 52km of maintained cross-country skiing trails and cross-country routes, toboggan runs, freeride slopes and numerous fun areas.

Major investments for Winter 2018/19 mean that ski holidays just get better and better here. The completion of the second of three “Dorfbahn” railway construction phases, the new viewing platform on the Masnerkopf at 2,828 metres above sea-level, a fairytale conveyor lift and an additional winter hiking trail are just some of the news that will get winter lovers' hearts racing.

With the Kinderschneealm Serfaus children's entertainment centre, Murmli Park Serfaus and Berta's Kinderland Fiss-Ladis, excellent ski schools, all-day childcare, separate children's restaurants and many other family-friendly attractions, one can safely say that Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis is also the perfect family ski region, and has indeed been commended several times by well-known online platforms and companies (Skigebiete-test.de, Best Ski Resort, etc.) as the most family-friendly resort in the Alps.

The key here is that winter enjoyment does not just stop at the quality of the slopes. Tuck into culinary delights at special themed mountain restaurants and break up the day at numerous so-called "Feelgood Stops".

With 2000 hours of sunshine p.a. there is always a reason to remove the goggles and absorb your surrounding in Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis. The best time of year for this might just be from mid-March to mid-April as part of the Sensation Weeks, when the spring sun and great deals mean happy days for all!


The best view of Munich's Oktoberfest isn't from the big wheel or the flying swings but from the tower of the nearby St Paul's Church

Taking a look around Munich's traditional Oktoberfest

By award-winning travel writer and photographer Stuart Forster

 

Aficionados of the Munich Oktoberfest will tell you that the best way to experience it is inside one of the tents with a Mass, a one litre glass of beer, in your hand. But one of the best views of the Theresienwiese, the site of the annual festival, is from the tower of nearby St Paul’s Church.

Inside the Roman Catholic place of worship you’ll be able to experience a very different kind of mass to those served in the tents of the Oktoberfest. The airy, neo-Gothic edifice was designed by George Hauberrisser, the architect who also drew up the blueprints for the Neues Rathaus, the New Town Hall, on Marienplatz.

Part of Munich’s skyline

St Paul’s was built between 1892 and 1906 and its twin spires, which rise 76 metres on the western side of the church, are an integral part of Munich’s skyline. The tower that’s open to visitors dwarfs them by 21 metres, reaching 97 metres into the sky.

The narrow observation platform is at a height of 45.5 metres, providing a vantage point over the Theresienwiese and the rooftops of the Bavarian capital.

I didn’t count them, but have it on good authority that 252 steps run between the church and the observation platform. Despite it being an apparently calm day down at ground level a stiff breeze was blowing up there.

 

All the fun of the fair

The shrieks of people riding the roller coasters and the whirr of fairground rides rose through the buffeting wind. Looking down from the tower of St Paul’s makes it clear that the Oktoberfest really is much more than merely a beer festival. Locals are proud of the fact it’s the world’s biggest Volksfest or people’s fair. In 2014 6.3 million people visited, downing 6.5 million litres of beer. Many, though, come only to enjoy the fairground rides.

Heading up the tower allows you to observe the crowds ambling along Wirtbudenstrasse, the broad street running between the festival tents. Many of the women wear Dirndl dresses and the men Lederhosen, some of which are cut in the style of breeches and others reaching to the knee.

 

Spectacular in the evening

This, arguably, is a place best visited before you head into the tents for a beer. I visited during the middle of the day and was impressed by the views. Yet I imagine it’s a fantastic spot during dusk, when the evening sky is blue and the colourful lights of the rides and tents are visible.

If you enjoy photography, the tower of St Paul’s Church a good spot to click photos from an elevated position and offers a good alternative to the steps by the statue of Bavaria.

You can read more about Munich's annual Oktoberfest on Stuart Forster's Go-Eat-Do.com website at //go-eat-do.com/2015/02/the-best-view-of-the-munich-oktoberfest/

 


Enjoy the wonderful coastline of Malta

Adagio launches its 2019 brochure with several new themed holidays featuring gardens and rail tours

As specialists in gentle walking with small groups, Adagio (01707 386700, www.adagio.co.uk) has launched its new 2019 brochure, with a selection of 32 different holidays, including eight completely new itineraries which feature two new garden themed holidays and a rail journey. 

In conjunction with the brochure, the company has also launched a dedicated Adagio smart phone and tablet app making it easy for clients to follow their itinerary, check the weather and tap into other useful information whilst they are on the go.

Stretching from the Scottish Outer Hebrides to the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Cyprus, exciting new additions for 2019 include the Pazos & Gardens of Galicia, which takes in some of Galicia’s most impressive properties at the height of Camellia season; an exploration of the Douro Valley as part of Portugal by Train; and, from the Città di Castello on the banks of the Tiber, a journey into Artistic Umbria.

Based on the premise that one of the most relaxing ways to explore a destination is on foot, each of Adagio’s travel rich itineraries have been carefully designed to cater for clients who are active but want a more leisurely paced holiday. Immersed in the regional history and culture, with the opportunity to savour authentic local cuisine, they include plenty of time to experience each destination from the inside out under the guidance of an experienced Adagio leader. 

 Sitting alongside leisurely-paced Adagio favourites such as Flavours of Hidden Spain, Bologna – La Grassa and An Ionian Jewel, six ‘Adagio Plus’itineraries are also included.  With a slightly more active countryside element and longer walks than on the standard Adagio holiday, popular choices for these include alpine hiking in the Chamonix Valley on Magnificent Mont Blanc and mountain walks to medieval villages, megalithic monuments and Romanesque churches from the northeast Spanish village of Berdún as part of Picnic in the Pyrenees.

For more details check out Adagio www.adagio.co.uk or call  01707 386700 for a new 2019 brochure.