What to Do in Northern Spain This Summer

The overwhelming majority of travellers heading to Spain make an instinctive beeline for the country’s southern towns and cities. Blessed with beautiful beaches and excellent weather for most of the year, it’s easy to understand the pull of Spain’s south. But at the same time, overlooking the true treasures of the north is something of a shame.

On the plus side, the fact that Spain’s north is far less travelled than its south helps it retain a gloriously undiscovered feel about it. And given the fact that Spain is now so incredibly easy to reach from the UK by ferry with Brittany Ferries, there’s really no better place to head for a fantastic holiday of adventure and discovery.

So if the undiscovered north of Spain has caught your attention, here’s a quick rundown of just a few unmissable highlights to check out over the summer:

Picos de Europa National Park

Founded in 1918, Picos de Europa National Park was the very first national park in Spain and was previously known as Montana de Covadonga National Park. A popular region among hikers and anyone with a taste for the great outdoors, the stunning vistas over the national park make it difficult to believe you are in fact still in Spain. The region is dotted with gorgeous traditional mountain villages and settlements, presenting Spain in a rustic, charming light most travellers never experience. There’s a fabulous cable car at Fuente Dé for those who prefer not to strap on their hiking boots and it’s possible to see snow-capped peaks at any time of the year.


Occupying a stunning plot on the Bay of Biscay, the port city of Santander is not to be missed while visiting Spain’s north. Santander is home to some of the most stunning beaches in Spain, which mercifully do not tend to get nearly as crowded as those to the south. The ancient city centre itself is also a truly captivating experience in its own right, with a sizeable arsenal of important museums, galleries and theatres to check out. Food is nothing short of a religion in Santander, making it the perfect place to sample all the regional delicacies you can lay your hands on.

Rioja Wine Region

Continuing with the theme of gastronomic delights, it would be a crime to visit this area of Spain without taking a trip through the home of the country’s world famous Rioja wine region. Home to 500+ wineries which in most instances continue to follow centuries-old crafting techniques, there’s no better way of taking it all in than embarking on a horseback ride through a working vineyard. Needless to say, sampling the very best of what’s on offer comes as standard and it’s impossible not to be blown away by the masterpieces these artisans come up with. But then again, they have been making wine here for over 1,000 years!


A trip to the Asturias province capital also comes very highly recommended. Famed for its important religious monuments and churches dating as far back at the 8th century, Oviedo is in many respects a living museum to Spain’s ancient past. And if you happen to find any of the sights you come across somewhat on the familiar side, it might be because a fair few scenes from Vicky Cristina Barcelona were shot here.


The cosmopolitan, cultural and wholly refined city of Bilbao today is a far cry from its origins as a highly industrialised port city. Bursting with incredibly beautiful buildings and more museums and galleries than a dozen lesser cities, Bilbao is the real deal for culture vultures. Of course, the highlight of the city is the spectacular Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, which is just as impressive from the outside as it in on the inside. The city’s setting among the surrounding Basque country hills is truly majestic.


Always an amusing challenge for newcomers to attempt to pronounce, Gaztelugatxe is located just off the shore at the Bay of Biscay and can be accessed by way of a pedestrian footbridge. There is a small chapel on the island at its very top, which can be reached by scaling the 230 or so rather steep steps. It’s not a climb for the faint-hearted, but there’s no disputing how the jaw-dropping views from the top make it an exertion that is more than worthwhile.


An often overlooked yet breathtakingly beautiful Spanish city, Burgo is home to some of the country’s most important religious architecture. Deeply historic and steeped in local legend, Burgos features the only cathedral in Spain that has individually been awarded UNESCO World Heritage designation. While visiting the Castile-León region, it is also more than worth taking the time to pay a visit to the towns of Santo Domingo de Silos, Covarrubias, Frías and Aranda de Duero. Outstanding gastronomy is no less than a religion throughout this beautiful region.

Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela is the Galician capital city and one of the most important religious sites in the whole of Spain. Pilgrimages from across the country and beyond continue with the main square as the primary arrival point. Occupying a stunning spot right at the centre of the city, the main square is a stunning landmark in its own right and home to Santiago Cathedral. It is believed that an Apostle of Jesus Christ – St. James – was laid to rest in Santiago de Compostela.

Santillana del Mar

You might want to consider packing a sturdy pair of shoes if you decide to visit Santillana del Mar – an absolutely beautiful medieval village where cars and vehicles in general are not permitted. It’s walking all the way in Santillana del Mar, which is often referred to as The Town of Three Lies - it is not a Saint (Santo), nor flat (llana), nor is it by the sea (Mar).

San Sebastian

Last but not least, the stunning beach resort of San Sebastián is absolutely worth a visit during your stay, not to mention the outstanding restaurants, bars and nightlife of the nearby Old Town. There is an extensive calendar of cultural events to check out throughout the year – one of the most notable being the extraordinary jazz festival which takes place every July.

Photos by Jaime Gonzalez and Sandra Cohen-Rose & Colin Rose under Flickr Creative Commons

Top 4 Events Not to Miss at The Patras Carnival

Patras Carnival, also called Patrino karnavali, is one of the most famous carnival in Europe, and the largest event of its kind in Greece. If you ever plan to visit Greece, I recommend you to pick the month of January for it. Not only the weather is excellent, as while the rest of Europe is covered with snow, here you will find optimum temperatures for traveling and discovering this great country. On top of that, in the second part of January, on the 17th, the Greek carnival starts. Patras Carnival has more than 160 years of history and traditions. So what you shouldn't miss?

Carnival at Patras

The Opening

The Opening of the Patras Carnival takes place on the 17th of January in the Georgiou Square. You will have a blast admiring the pantomimes, the dances and the fireworks... all accompanied by the beautiful Greek music. Now what I really recommend you not to miss is the entrance of the Carnival Queen. With her the Patras Carnival will spread from Athens throughout the Greek nation.

Carnival Girls

Burnt Thursday

11 days before Ash money, all over Greece, people enjoy roasting and barbecuing meat, for this nation-wide custom called Burnt Thursday. Here I am going to teach you a word that you have to know: Tsiknopempti. It comes from two words: tsikna that stays for the smell of barbecued meat and pempti, that simply means Thursday in Greek. Imagine groups of Greeks, and not only, meeting all over in homes, in taverns  even outdoor, in the streets, to enjoy great Greek barbecue accompanied with the inevitable wine and Greek live band music. 

Greece_Feb07_Patras_Carnival 079

The Treasure Hunt Game

What is a carnival without a good game? So here comes into play the Treasure Hunt Game. The first part consists of a car with two women. One is wearing a black domino and the other a bikini. All they have to do is search for hidden items, their only guide being a radio. The total number of participants every year is somewhere around 50 000. Riddles and theater, dances, pantomime, artistic creations and more and more quizzes make this part of the carnival irresistible.

Fireworks at Patras

The Bourboulia

By tradition women do not pay entrance fee to the famous Carnival Dance Hall Ball. It's one of the main attraction of the event. There is though a dress code for the women. They have to be properly closed for a black domino, meaning that they need a dark dress and a mask. Interesting is that the paying customers, the men, come in regular street clothes. And one more detail for you guys, with this occasions, it's the women who invite their dance partners. Yes, it's a very old Greek tradition of empowering females.

5 Ways to Have Fun During A Bike Tour

Vacations are supposed to remove your stress, but after sitting on a plane for eight hours straight, you would wish you should have stayed in your apartment. To change your perception about your vacation, join a bike tour and have a new way of discovering new places.

Bike tours are getting popular these days because they give a fresh way of seeing beautiful destinations minus the traffic and numb bum. But, if you want to make this experience an absolutely unforgettable moment, then follow these tips:

Register as a Group

As the cliché says, “The more the merrier.” Invite your friends and book a bike tour as a group. Enjoy the company of the people you are closest with and build memories together. When biking with a group, there will always be those silly moments that make every vacation special. Interact with other tour groups as well. Who knows, you might find your next travel buddy from them.

Follow the Rules

This means, when the organizers say no, you must follow. Rules ensure the safety of the group. You’ll never enjoy a tour if one of your friends got lost or hurt just because he did not obey the rules. Ensure your safety by wearing a helmet and knee pad. Also, check the stability of the bike so it won’t break while you are traveling.

Make sure that bikes are comfortable

Bike tours last for up to three hours or more, depending on the travel agency, so be sure you are comfortable throughout the tour. While bikes are relatively comfortable than sitting in a bus, it is still difficult to pedal if the vehicle is bigger than you. When choosing a bike be sure you don't tip toe when the bike is at rest. If you want bicycles with a perfect fit, you can buy bikes online at Cycling Express and other online bike sellers to calculate the compatible bike frame for you.

Bring a camera

What’s a vacation without a camera to immortalize every moment? Don’t forget to bring a camera to capture every precious event. If you plan to bring a huge DSLR camera, pick a bike that has a bag rack where you can strap your camera safely. You may also bring an action camera, to make an interesting video of your adventure.

Take Your Time

Sure, riding a bike is a fast way to move around than walking, but you have to slow it down to enjoy your vacation. This is like eating a new cuisine, you have to eat slowly to savor every flavor. Remember, bike tours are not supposed to be like bust tours where you visit a dozen of places in a limited period. So, enjoy and don’t rush.

Stress is difficult to avoid when having a vacation, but you can always make it special if you try new activities. Follow the tips above when joining bicycle tours to ensure your safety and happiness. Book a tour now and build memories with your friends.

Photo by Roman Boed via Flickr Creative Commons

6 Hiking Adventures in Peru

Peru is a great destination for hiking, with a number of organised trails and routes. The country offers something to interest almost every traveller, depending on the season and the hiker’s level of fitness. There is a surprisingly varied range of climates due to its geography and land formations, with rivers and jungles. Apart from preparing well for your itinerary with essential equipment and first aid supplies, do remember that because Peru is a distant location outside Europe, Bupa travel insurance is as important as ever.

Here, we review some of the most popular treks.

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

A definite challenge, this trail is considered a ‘must do’ by many hikers. The route follows ancient Incan paths along passes over the Andes Mountains, before descending into the Amazon jungle. There are opportunities to explore Inca ruins, settlements and tunnels and before reaching Sun Gate, high above Machu Picchu. To appreciate this forty-kilometre (twenty five miles) trail to the most, a four-day itinerary is best, although a two-day option still gives a quick introduction to the area. One’s first glimpse of the forgotten city of Machu Picchu is more than sightseeing – it is a moment to remember.

The trail is closed in February for maintenance work. Booking well in advance is advisable; the government of Peru limits the number of hikers to five hundred per day including porters and guides.

Salkantay Trek

The nearby Salkantay Trek offers magnificent views of the incredibly tall Andes. The route has been classified by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine as one of the twenty-five best hiking trails in the world: its remote, ancient footpaths combine peace with breath-taking scenery. Fitness preparation and good breathing technique are important, due to the altitude.

Lares Trek

This route starts to the east of Machu Picchu and is shorter than the Inca Trail. Because of its altitude, the Lares Trek is spectacular, but requires proper planning.

Santa Cruz Trek

Starting in Huraz, the Santa Cruz route takes you over the White Mountains, usually with good weather from May to September. There are fewer regulations than other trails; the route is generally considered safe – though beware of cattle while marvelling at the unspoiled landscapes.

Choquequirao Trek

About five hours from Cusco, Choquequirao is the sister city of Machu Picchu and a peaceful alternative with similar structures and remarkable ruins. Four or five days are necessary and a good level of physical fitness due to the ups and downs, climate and altitude. Nonetheless, this tough trek is one of the least trodden and most rewarding.

See Lima

Finally, if you have spare time in Lima, why not enjoy a free guided tour of the old colonial town, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site? At 12.30pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the interesting free tour starts from Plaza Peru and lasts for around an hour and a half, with no booking required.

Photo by Emmanuel Dyan

6 Things to Know Before Visiting Sicily

Sicily is a must-visit place. There is action and drama in this beautiful Mediterranean island, with its colourful history of ancient influences. There is so much to see and do and a few days will definitely be insufficient to see the whole place. Before leaving for the island, make sure to prepare for your trip beforehand. Knowing a few facts will always come in handy in making your holidays worthwhile. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Visit the ruins. Sicily has some of the best-preserved archaeological ruins rivaling even those in Greece. You can’t miss to visit the area of Agrigento and Segesta for a tour of the Valley of the Temples. Take a ride to Segesta to see the temple - one of the world’s best examples of Doric architecture as well the well-preserved roman theater. Hop off to picture-perfect Taormina to see the Greek Theater and take advantage of the wonderful panorama of sea and Mt. Etna! Archaeological heritage are scattered around the island and you will be wowed by each one. Syracusa boasts the largest ancient theater in the island.

2. Book in advance. The island is a haven for tourists all-year round so it’s better to book in advance for your lodgings. You can find a holiday home in Sicily with the help of sites like wishsicily.com that offer various accommodation options.

3. Visit in spring. If you can’t stand hot temperatures, then spring is the best season to visit Sicily. This is also a perfect way to avoid the huge crowds during beach season. As the island can get pretty hot during summer, the climate will be milder in spring, perfect for lying around the beaches or for going around, with a cool breeze and scents of blooming flowers everywhere.

4. Indulge in Sicilian food. The cuisine of Italy is divine. Make sure to try the iconic Pasta alla Sarde. The island prides itself in having a cuisine more intense and different to the mainland fare. This is because of the mix of Arab ancestry and other cultures.

5. Visit Mt. Etna. You can actually ski on the slopes of the volcano and jump over lava bumps. You can also walk up to the crater with professional guides. If you are into wine, this is perfect for a wine-tasting excursions.

6. Rise early for the markets. Here you will find it exhilaratingly intriguing and interesting as you get to see various displays of artisan products as well as the possibility to buy fresh produce. Visit Palermo’s Ballarò where you will find yourself in a real Sicilian lifestyle.

Photo by Tomie Hansen via Flickr CC

10 Things To Do In London This Summer

Enjoy the Weather

Take advantage of the sunshine with a stroll and perhaps a picnic in one of the capital's magnificent parks. From Great Portland Street tube station, set off across Regent's Park to the zoo or watch a play at the open-air theatre.

Take a Promenade

Proms at the Royal Albert cater for all musical tastes and include late-evening concerts. Join the traditional promenaders to queue on the day for cheap tickets, or take in a free one at the Royal College of Music. If you can't get in to the famous Last Night, head to Hyde Park for Proms in the Park.


There's something for everyone at art venues like the V&A, Tate Modern or Britain, National or Portrait Galleries and the Museum of Childhood. Many are free apart from special exhibitions. History enthusiasts will love the British Museum, Museum of London or its Docklands outpost and the Imperial War Museum. Try Fashion on the Ration, 1940s street style!

The Summer Exhibition

Don't miss the Royal Academy's popular annual show, where a panel of judges chooses submissions from the public to hang alongside work by members of the Academy. Most are for sale so get your offering ready for next year.

Discover the Magna Carta

This year is the eight hundredth anniversary of the signing of this iconic document. The British Library's Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition displays two of the original documents and other artefacts, together with the first British showing for Jefferson's handwritten Declaration of Independence and an original copy of the US Bill of Rights.

By the River

The arts and music complex on the South Bank at Waterloo hosts diverse events, festivals and outdoor activities, with many being free. Summer additions include Udderbelly, the Wonderground Festival, Meltdown and the Big Wedding Weekend as part of the Festival of Love.

Totally Thames

If your holiday insurance stretches to September, immerse yourself in one of the many local events that commemorate this great river's relationship with the city and its people. Past years have seen exhibitions, walks, river races, foreshore archaeology, a floating HippopoThames and Battersea Power Station's Fire Garden.

Anyone for Tennis?

If you have the stamina, join the queue for Wimbledon, but get there very early. Celebrate with a Pimms when you make it through the gates or just drink in the atmosphere. Rub shoulders with players from the past, and catch some action by today's talent anywhere except on show courts - pay separately for these.

The Anniversary Games

If you weren't able to attend the 2012 Olympics, cheer on many of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes at July's Anniversary Games in the Olympic Stadium, and explore the grounds of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Climb the Orbit for a great view or just admire its shape and colour from afar.


Be in the heart of things with music, discussions and events in and around historic locations during the City of London Festival, or understand how immigrants integrated as weavers at Huguenot Summer in Spitalfields.

Infographic: Types of Luxury Travel

Travelling to a new destination can be as diverse as the traveller who undertakes it. Even the most expensive form of travel can now be affordable to those who may have thought it was never going to be within their price range. 

The kind of traveller can range from those who like to laze around on a beach or by the pool, to the traveller who likes exploring the cities and destinations and likes to take in the local culture and finally the  adventure junkie who thrives on the unknown. So if this has wet your appetite and you are looking for a luxurious way to travel that is affordable to you, you can book your next holiday this coming summer and your low cost flight here.

The Many Types of Luxury Traveller

What to Look for When Choosing your Travel Insurance Provider

When you prepare for your adventure away from the restlessness of real life, the last thing on your mind is travel insurance. Sure, you’ve sorted out your passport, paid any airport taxes, secured awesome window facing airline tickets and pre-booked a list of attractions you absolutely must fit into you jam-packed itinerary, but travel insurance? Isn’t that for overly paranoid travel luddites without a sense of caution? Not at all. Things go wrong all the time, striking when you least expect it, despite how experienced you are or how lucky you’ve been in the past – unfortunate events know no bias. So what is travel insurance, anyway? In laymen’s terms, travel insurance covers you in the event you are robbed, lose your luggage, find yourself injured and, depending on the plan you purchase, protects you in the case of missed flights. It’s certainly very important, but what do you look for?


Multiple Cover

If you’re travelling with a partner, family or group, you’re in luck, occasionally it ends up quite cost effective to place everybody in one party under a single insurance umbrella, reducing paperwork and excess. Though it may be difficult to discover a plan that allows you to separate and explore different corners of the country or continent, they do exist, so keep an eye out.

Inclusions and Exclusions

Now, this is where the article enters a grey area. Every circumstance is unique and travel plans vary from person to person, so there’s only so much guidance one can give in this regard. Shop around on these factors and determine what inclusions are non-negotiable, those that are and those you can either take or leave. Categorising your desires and needs accordingly will assist you in eliminating poor contenders; sadly, most travel companies, including fan favourites and big blue chips generally prefer customers to chase them, distributing a bare minimum of information on their website. It may be painful to spend so much time on the phone, but it is well worth the time to talk to a professional and nail down your needs, work through inclusions and ask questions.

The Proof is in the Pudding

It is one thing to take out insurance, pay the premium and be protected, and quite another to make a successful claim. While the majority of companies do the right thing by their customers, researching customer service and past claims on travel forums will give you an idea of how you will be treated if things do indeed go wrong. Are they speedy and efficient? Were they empathetic? Did they match the right service to the customer’s needs and was the end result satisfactory? These are all very essential questions to ask yourself before signing the dotted line.

Of course, things go wrong all the time, without warning or exception. Don’t think about it too much; instead, be safe, sane and secure, keeping a money stash aside in the form of a Cash Passport to cover immediate emergencies. Between planning and insurance, your trip away will be one to remember for all the right reasons.

Photo by Iaszlo-photo via Flickr Creative Commons

What Not To Forget When Travelling Into The Bush

It is essential that extensive preparation is made before you set out on your bush adventure. Many people are inexperienced, and simply pack a tent and supplies. However, there is a much more to remember when travelling into such isolated terrain. So here is a list compiled of what not to forget when travelling into the bush, intended to secure the safety of yourself and your fellow travellers.

Preparing To Travel

The first thing you need to do before setting out on your trip is to notify a close friend about where you are going and when you will be returning. Make sure they have a clear idea about where you are in case they need to contact you in an emergency. Next you need to check the weather updates. You need to be aware of unexpected weather changes such as flash floods or the possibility of bush fires. And remember to pack more food, water, matches, and batteries than you need. Many people don’t realise how quickly batteries die and how much water you drink.

What To Do If You Become Lost

In many cases people often wander off with the intention of coming right back, but unfortunately, their lack a map or knowledge of the area causes them to become lost. If you cannot find a way back to your site, use your communications equipment to get help, or park your vehicle in an area away from forestry areas away from cliffs and hills so you are able to be seen by air. Never leave your vehicle, as help may take a while, and it is important you are not left without sustenance.

Remember to keep yourself warm and hydrated, and rest in shady areas if you are able to. Try to use any signal device you are equipped with sparingly, as you may need to use them to indicate where you are. You can also light a small fire as another indicator of your location, however, try to keep it as contained as possible, in case it spreads to the foliage around you.

When Travelling On Private Property

Many people travel off road to get to their bush destination. Because of this, a lot of people seek out short cuts, usually through roads that cut across private property that aren’t always marked on maps. It is important to seek permission to use the road beforehand. If permission is granted, remember to leave all gates as you found them, refrain from littering, do not damage fences, refrain from lighting fires, do not camp near waterholes, do not swim or bath in non-flowing pools, do not carry illegal firearms, do not allow pets onto the property, and carry your own water.

Travelling into the bush can be as easy or as hard as you make it. By preparing your trip and remembering these three tips, you will have no problem securing the safety of yourself and your fellow travellers. Have fun!

Photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli via Flickr Creative Commons

Best Relaxing Solutions in Between Flights

Sitting down can be incredibly exhausting, as anyone who’s ever had a long flight will know. Being static for hours on end can make a person tired and depleted, and for anxious fliers it can be very difficult to unwind. Flight agencies are dedicated to making your travel experience seamless and stress-free: try some of the suggestions below to help make your travelling experience as relaxing as possible.



Meditation can take many forms but all are of benefit in cultivating feeling of relaxation and stability. The lotus position is traditional but if this is uncomfortable or impractical for you it is possible to meditate sitting up, lying down or even standing up – mediation can be done anytime, anywhere. Meditation at it’s essence involves focusing on one thing to the exclusion of all other mental activity, in aid of slowing down and stilling the mind, allowing a sense of peace to develop. Closing ones eyes to help the mind slow down, and then bring your focus to something; it could be an image of a candle flame, a peaceful natural scene or a concept, such as serenity or patience.


Those who are unfamiliar with pilates or yoga are often intimidated by it; images of pretzel people come to mind and make the uninitiated thing that yoga is complex and painful, but the reverse it true. People at any age and any level of fitness or flexibility can practice yoga and pilates in the form of basic stretching exercises. Stretching your back, shoulders, neck and legs will help to relieve these common points of tension and will generate better circulation. DVT is often associated with long flights, so it is never more important to stretch than in between flights to improve circulation and also to relax.


You don’t need to be a qualified in the art of massage to massage yourself in simple, practical ways. Take your shoes off and rub your feet and lower legs in a slow circle motion to relax the muscles and help blow flow. Apply the same motion gently to your scalp, temples and jaw; these areas can hold a surprising amount of tension. Also massage your neck and upper shoulders by gently squeezing your cupped hands on them.


Visualisations are a powerful way to relax the mind and body. Either by creating an idyllic scene or recalling a happy memory you can induce feelings of contentment, calm and joy. Try to create, or recreate, as many details of the experience as possible including sounds, smells and sensations that you will you as immersed in the experience as possible.

Proper nourishment is incredibly important to a sense of balance and well being. Flying is extremely dehydrating so it is important to drink two litres of water or more over each twenty four hour period. Having regular snacks at intervals of four hours will maintain glucose levels and will help to keep strung-out, cranky and anxious feelings at bay. Having hot caffeine-free tea such as chamomile or lemongrass will help you to unwind.