croatia

Travel

Discover Croatia on a Luxury Yacht! 7 Night Cruise With Flights, Meals & Lots More, €2234

croatia

I can hear it now, the sound of the captain saying ‘Pool’s open’, before jumping straight into the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic. Researching this fabulous cruise, I’m thinking how amazing it would be to discover Croatia on a luxury yacht….

 

I don’t actually need to read the full itinerary, I’m already sold! To see how the other half live, by spending a week in Croatia on a luxury yacht, it doesn’t get much better than this! For anyone who has been following me over the last few years, you will know that I absolutely LOVE Croatia. I spent a week travelling along the Dubrovnik Riviera two years ago, and every little village or cove we found was delightful, not to mention the fairy tale city of Dubrovnik. While Dubrovnik is on most bucket lists, I believe the real beauty lies in the surrounding islands, and the best way to see them, is by boat.

Croatia on a luxury yacht

Croatia Tours are offering you the chance to holiday like a celebrity. You will visit the hidden gems of Croatia on board a luxury yacht. The deluxe ‘Maritimo’ holds up to 38 people and has state of the art facilities on board. The spacious sun deck has loungers all passengers, as well as a jacuzzi if you fancy some bubbles while you sail off into the sunset!  Hot and cold breakfasts are served each morning as well as a four course lunch in the afternoon. Seven staff are on hand to cater for your every need, and with 38 being the maximum number of guests on board – no doubt the service will be excellent! Kids are not allowed on this cruise, so you can expect plenty of time to sit back and relax, in calm peaceful surroundings.

Croatia on a luxury yacht

Where does it go?

Itineraries vary slightly depending on when you travel but in both cases you will have the opportunity to overnight in the magical city of Dubrovnik. You can enjoy a free guided walking tour or go it alone. Choose to hike the famous city walls of Dubrovnik, or chill out and watch some tombstoners from one of the many cliff bars. For more info check out my Dubrovnik blog.

Croatia on a luxury yacht

You will also have the chance to visit many of Croatia’s famous islands.  Explore the salt lakes and National Park in Mljet or take the perfect instagram photo in the lavender fields in Hvar.  Hvar is renowned for being a celebrity hang out. Beyonce, Bono, Tom Cruise and even Prince Harry have all holidayed here. Stop off in the trendy city of Split before over-nighting in Korcula, which is one of the best preserved medieval cities in the Mediterranean. Expect lots of gourmet foods and fine wines in this lively city. Beach lovers will enjoy the famous famous Zlatni Rat beach, also known as the Golden Horn, a natural phenomenon, that is widely regarded as one of Europe’s best beaches. Another highlight will be the captain’s dinner when you overnight in Sipan Island.

Croatia on a luxury yacht

Let’s not forget that you will also have the opportunity to jump into the sea when you come across a hidden cove; to explore a secluded bay with no one around and dock in the centre of the smallest village, something that would be impossible in a larger vessel.  There are daily swimming stops and you can get involved as much or as little as you like.  The phrase ‘it’s about the journey not the destination’, springs to mind.

Croatia on a luxury yacht

Costs and what’s included:

Prices for a one week trip on the on the 22nd of September is €2234. This includes flights, checked baggage, airport transfers, a seven night cruise with breakfast and four course lunch each day, two evening meals and lots more. You can also avail of free guided walking tours in Dubrovnik, Hvar, Korcula and Split, a cable car ticket in Dubrovnik and entrance ticket to Mljet National Park.  See more details and the full itinerary here.

If you fancy chilling out in one of Croatia’s prettiest resorts, why not extend your stay? Price for the seven night cruise and a four night stay in the 5* Croatia Hotel in Cavat is only €2504. Click here for more details.

For anyone looking to fly independently, you can book the cruise without flights from €1600 per person.

 

For more details visit Croatia Tours or call them on +353 1 8780800.

 

Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. This post was sponsored by Croatia Tours but all views, as always, are my own.

 

Sarah

 

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Travel

Zadar, Croatia, 1st June, 1 week, Flights & Apartment, €372!

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Visit Zadar, one of Croatia’s coolest cities. Marvel at the old town, swim in the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic and visit the world famous Plitvice Lakes National Park.

 

With regular flights from Dublin and plenty of beautiful cities and resorts to choose from, Croatia has become one of the ‘IN’ places to visit of late. For those who are looking for something a little different but don’t want to stray too far from home, Croatia ticks all boxes. There are now direct flights to Pula, Split and Zadar adding to the already highly visited city of Dubrovnik.

zadar

Zadar is located in the middle of the country on the Adriatic Sea. It has a historical old town as well as a trendy bar and cafe scene. Expect to see a Roman ruins in the centre as well as the famous ‘Sea Organ’. This mad made masterpiece is a stone stairs which creates music from the waves of the sea. It also happens to compliment the Sun Salutation, created by the same architect, this is another must see in Zadar. Glass plates collect the sun’s heat during the day and produce a light show at night time, while lighting the harbour at the same time.

zadar

You can catch regular boats to the nearby islands and enjoy some some of Croatia’s best beaches, or visit the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park. This national park is one of Croatia’s most popular Instagram locations, with cascading lakes and stunning waterfalls and is about a 90 minute drive from Zadar.

zadar

I found a great deal in the Guverna New City accommodation which are highly rated on tripadvisor and centrally located to enjoy all that this coastline has to offer. Visit Zadar before the crowds arrive and enjoy one of Croatia’s most remarkable coastlines!

 

Click here to book flights: €130pp

Click here to book apartment: €242pp

 

Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change. Note that some of my best travel deals links are affiliate links, where I receive a small commission if a booking is made.
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In The Media

Travel Hot Spots for 2017 – As Seen on TV3’s Saturday AM

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Spain, Portugal and Croatia are looking like the top short haul destinations this year while America and Asia lead the way in long haul travel. Check out my travel hot spots for 2017 as seen on TV3’s Saturday AM.

  

European holiday destinations 

Sunway

Spain and Portugal will remain the most popular short haul holiday destinations in 2017. 1.8 million Irish holiday makers went to Spain in 2016 and this year should attract similar numbers. The Costa Dorada could be the big winner. There are flights from Dublin, Shannon, Cork and Knock serving Reus, Girona or Barcelona. Sunway and Falcon Holidays both offer package deals to Salou and Cambrils. The combination of the iconic city of Barcelona and the opening of Ferrari World at the already popular Port Aventura theme park, make it an ideal choice for all the family.

Travel hot spots for 2017

The Algarve has almost fifty flights per week from Irish airports, in the peak Summer months. Aer Lingus have added a new service to Porto, and Lisbon is already a popular city break destination. Sunway have introduced a direct flight to Sardinia in Italy, a welcome return for those looking for nice beaches in Italy. Ryanair, Aer Lingus and Aegean air are all flying to Athens so this should help those looking to travel to the bucket list destinations of Santorini and Mykonos.

Croatia may prove to be the hot spot for people looking to go somewhere different but want to be close to home. Aer Lingus have introduced flights to Split and they also fly to Pula and Dubrovnik, while Ryanair fly to Zadar. I was in Pula last year and loved it, you can read all about my stay here.

Fly from Dublin to Pula with Aer Lingus on the 23rd of May and enjoy a seven night stay in the popular Splendid Hotel for only €349 per person, including airport transfers. Situated right at the waters edge, this is a great choice for a relaxing break and is within easy reach of the city of Pula. Use my exclusive code TRAVELEXP10 to save 10% off the hotel cost.

Click here for more details.

Travel hot spots for 2017
Amphitheatre in Pula

City Breaks

WOW air have increased flights from Dublin to Reykjavik and added on a service from Cork. It looks like Iceland will remain popular in 2017 for weekend breaks and as a holiday destination. KLM are now flying four times a day to Amsterdam as well as Aer Lingus and Ryanair so this could prove another cheap city break option.

Porto for me will be the big winner. When Aer Lingus announced they were flying to Porto, Ryanair decided to increase their flights. We now have 8 flights a week to the small city of Porto – it could prove to be this years top city break destination. It is one of Europe’s oldest cities and almost feels medieval. It is also a good choice for food lovers. You will find some excellent restaurants serving traditional Portuguese food and wine, at a fraction of the cost you would pay at home.

I found a great deal to the 4* Cristal Porto hotel in May, highly recommended on tripadvisor, this modern hotel ticks all boxes. Fly from Dublin on the 11th of May and enjoy a three night stay here for only €237 per person.

Click here to book flights: €75pp:

Click here to book hotel: €162pp

Travel hot spots for 2017
Porto 

Cruises

Cruise Holiday

One of the fastest growing sectors in the travel industry, cruise holidays should have another bumper year. The competition has never been greater. Most major cruise lines have dedicated Irish websites now and many travel agents and tour operators have dedicated cruise departments. Free all inclusive drinks packages, half price kids offers and even free flights, will I am sure, entice Irish holidaymakers to cruise in 2017. New destinations like Cuba will make it easier for visitors to visit Havana without paying the increasing accommodation costs. River cruises are also proving popular for discerning clients. For those who don’t want to fly there are also cruises operating directly from Ireland in 2017.

travel hot spots for 2017
MSC Meraviglia

MSC’s Get more, Get All campaign offers free WiFi, free all-inclusive drinks package and €50 on board credit. This deal is also available on their brand new luxury ship, MSC Meraviglia. Fly from Dublin to Barcelona on the 8th of September and enjoy a seven night Med cruise, visiting Spain, France, Italy and Malta for only €1399. This price includes an upgrade to a balcony cabin, a FREE all-inclusive drinks package, FREE Wi-Fi and €50 on board credit.

Click here for more details:

 

Long Haul destinations

Flights to the States have grown to unprecedented levels. New routes to from Aer Lingus to Hartford and Miami and extra flights to Los Angeles, Orlando, Chicago and New York, should translate into a bumper year for Irish tourists to the USA. The addition of low cost flights with Norwegian Air from Cork to Boston and New York, as well as WOW air flights via Iceland, should ensure lots of good deals for Irish holidaymakers.

travel hot spots for 2017
Miami

With two direct daily flights to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi and now a new daily service to Doha with Qatar airlines, getting to Asia, Africa and Australia has never been easier. No lengthy lay overs in Heathrow and with so many flights, prices will be very competitive. Ethiopian airlines‘ Dreamliner aircraft made many news reports when they offered cheap direct flights from Dublin to Los Angeles this year. They have now added extra connections from their hub in Addis Ababa to South Africa. This means that flights from Dublin to Cape Town are easily accessible and hopefully well priced too.

 

Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change.

 

Sarah

 travel deals

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Christmas Gift ideas: 10 Four Star Christmas Breaks for less than €200!

christmas

Give the gift of travel this Christmas. I give you 10 holidays for less than €200!  All prices include flights and accommodation  🙂

 

1. Rome

One of my best sellers this year, this weekend deal to Rome is sure to impress this Christmas! Fly from Dublin on the 3rd of March and spend three nights in a superb 4 star hotel for only €199 per person.

Click here for more details:

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS FROM THE TRAVEL EXPERT

 

2. Porto

I’m just back from a fantastic weekend in Porto, a city I would highly recommend for a weekend break. Read my blog here. Enjoy a three night, four star stay on the 11th of May for only €195 per person.

Click here t0 book flights: €75 pp

Click here to book accommodation: €120pp

 

3. Algarve

Kickstart your Summer with a four night break to the Algarve. Fly from Dublin on the 16th of May and enjoy a four night stay in the highly rated Oceanus apartments, Albufeira for only  €191 per person.

Click here to book flights: €102pp

Click here to book apartment: €89pp

christmas gift ideas


4. Madrid

A city break to Madrid is a fantastic Christmas gift! Girls will love the shopping on the Gran Via while the lads can take the tour of Real Madrid’s stadium!  Fly from Dublin on the 9th of June and enjoy a two night stay in the centrally located 4*  Claridge Hotel for only €183pp. I have chosen the early flight out on Friday morning and the late flight back on Sunday evening so you really get 3 full days to explore this wonderful city.

Click here to book flights €85pp

Click here to book hotel: €98pp

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS FROM THE TRAVEL EXPERT

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5. Marrakech

Marrakech is a feast for the senses and should be on everyone’s bucket list.  Fly from Dublin on the 21st of June and spend three nights in a highly rated 4* Riad, in the heart of Marrakech, for only €185 per person.

Click here to book flights: €90

Click here to book hotel: €95

weekend in marrakech

6. Prague:

Treat your loved one to a romantic weekend in Prague. Stay at the 4* Theatrino Hotel, for three nights with breakfast, for only €164 per person, departing the 20th of January.

Click here for more details:

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert talks about Prague

 

7. Athens

Culture vultures will love Athens. The combination of the ancient Acropolis and the modern new town makes Athens is a great city break destination. This deal is superb! Stay two nights in the four star Art hotel for only €199 departing Friday the 4th of May.

Click here for more details:

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS FROM THE TRAVEL EXPERT

 

8. Lisbon

Spend a weekend in one of Europe’s favourite city break destinations, Lisbon. Enjoy a three night stay in a five star hotel for only €191 including breakfast, departing the 27th of January. #LoveLisbon

Click here for more details:


CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS FROM THE TRAVEL EXPERT

 

9. Valentines Day in Paris

Treat your loved one to a two night break in Paris for Valentine’s Day.  Price of €176 includes flights and a two night stay at a highly rated four star hotel.

Click here for more details:

 

10. Zadar

Go somewhere new in 2018 and travel to Zadar in Croatia. Enjoy a three night stay in the 4* Villa Vanilla  from €188, departing the 11th May.

Click here for more details:

Christmas gift ideas

 

All prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change.

 

Sarah

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DestinationsEuropeFeatured

My highlights of Istria, Croatia.

Labin

Sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight, for the first time in a long time I felt nervous. This was the first time I was travelling alone with really no idea of what to expect. Who, if anyone, would be there to meet me? What would my guides be like? I even wondered how I would put sunscreen on my back!

 

Most of my fears were abated when I arrived in Pula and I saw my name on a large placard. The Croatian National Tourist Office had arranged an action packed two day itinerary to see the highlights of Istria. It looked like they had everything under control! I thought of all the digital nomads who travel solo regularly and felt a new found respect for them, arriving in a new country, late at night without anyone waiting for them.

Highlights of Istria, Croatia by The Travel Expert
Rabac

My first day started early with a tour of Rabac, a pretty little harbour town with tons of character. It is unspoilt and relatively quiet, so perfect for couples looking for a relaxing holiday. Rabac has plenty of good restaurants and cafes, and boat trips are available to nearby towns and cities. You can book a day trip to Venice ( approx. 2.5 hours ) which only costs 520kn (about €70) including a guide. What a great way to see the city, with no traffic – bliss! Beaches here and throughout most of Istria are mainly pebbly so I would recommend surf shoes. Personally I love Istria’s beaches, the water is so clear and there are so many quiet places to swim. No need to fight for a sunbed at the waters edge, the rocks that are perfect for sunbathing. I stayed in the Valamar Sanifor hotel, which has a perfect beachfront location. This modern hotel offers excellent facilities for couples and families including indoor and outdoor pools, spa, kids entertainment and free wifi. A fifteen minute stroll along the promenade will lead you to Rabac. It is rated number 1 on tripadvisor and it’s not difficult to see why! Another one of the highlights of staying in Rabac, is its close proximity to Labin.

Highlights of Istria, Croatia by The Travel Expert
Crystal clear sea in Rabac

A picturesque old town perched 320 meters above Rabac, Labin is full of colourful streets, winding alleyways and now home to over 30 artists. I met the very talented artist Vinko Saina and was shown around his atelier. We received such a warm welcome, all galleries were open and tourists are welcome to explore the local artists collections. I was beginning to see why there was a certain hysteria about Istria of late. It reminded me of when I visited Umbria for the first time. Dubrovnik and Tuscany have all the hype but the unsung heroes, Umbria and Istria, have just as much, if not more, to offer.

Highlights of Istria, Croatia by The Travel Expert
Labin

I also had the pleasure of tasting some of Istria’s famous olive oil in Labin and Vodnjan. This was a first for me. I found it astonishing the difference between the ‘good’ olive oils and the regular bottle I use at home – there is actually no comparison. The peppery characteristic hit the back of my throat and made me cough quite considerably. This signifies the inclusion of antioxidants, which have excellent health benefits. I visited the art gastro gallery of Negri in Labin, where it’s tradition dates back to 17th century. Negri olive oil is used by many Michelin star chefs around the world and is  incorporated in the world’s best olive oil guide for several years. It retails for €50 in many counties. In Labin you can buy a bottle for €16. Trust me, it’s a must buy if you are in any way interested in food. Many people take a spoonful of this each day as they believe in its therapeutic value – it’s that good! You can also try wine there too, I loved the white Malvazija. Just make sure you keep some room in your suitcase, you are likely to leave with a few bottles…

Highlights of Istria, Croatia by The Travel Expert

Labin was once an old mining town and the National Museum in the centre of town has re created an underground mine, which is also worth a visit. Put on a hard hat and wander through the underground tunnels. It is hard to believe people worked in those conditions for twelve hours a day. My back was aching after crouching for 10 minutes! If you have time try to dine in the Velo Kafe for lunch. Over looking the main square, the location and food is superb. And when you have finished your nice meal why not take Sentona’s walking trail back to Rabac. The one hour downhill walk will take you through stunning scenery, full of bridges, lakes and lush forests.

Highlights of Istria, Croatia by The Travel Expert
Main Square, Labin

If you are looking for a larger and livelier town, stay in Pula. It is a city, but has a small town feel and a great atmosphere. It is perfect for a weekend break or as a holiday destination. There are numerous al fresco eateries and bars and the main Forum Square has some stunning roman architecture. There are also plenty of good shopping areas with most of the high street shops established here. Our very own James Joyce lived in Pula in 1904 and 1905. Enjoy a drink in Uliks pub ( Ulysses in Croatian) where you will see memorabilia on the wall and a a life size bronze statue of James Joyce outside, needless to say this is popular with Irish holidaymakers! Activities are organised for Bloomsday and even the cranes at the harbour are illuminated green for Patricks day! Pula’s harbour is home to one of the world’s largest working shipyards and designer Dean Skira turned it into a giant light show. This is now a tourist attraction and the light show takes place every night from dusk until 10pm throughout the year, and until midnight in the summer months.

Highlights of Istria, Croatia by The Travel Expert
Crane Lightshow in Pula

The main gateway (Arch of Sergius) that leads into the heart of Pula was built in 27BC and there are numerous remnants of buildings from the 15th century scattered throughout the city. This bustling city is also home to a stunning amphitheatre. It is the sixth largest in the world and one of the best preserved. They have all the top class concerts here so if you are planning a visit to Pula check out the list of events in the arena here.

Highlights of Istria, Croatia by The Travel Expert
Amphitheatre, Pula

I stayed in the Park Plaza Histria hotel here which offers the best of both worlds. It is only ten minutes from Pula, but close to the sea so has a resort holiday feel to it. In fact if you are looking for a beach holiday this is a great place to stay. I was really impressed with this hotel and got the WOW factor as soon as I walked into the massive reception and saw the contemporary decor. In fact I felt that this hotel deserved a five star rating. It is also close to Verudela. This is a picturesque spot where you can watch tombstoners jumping off the cliff and the sun set over their famous sacred rock.

Highlights of Istria, Croatia by The Travel Expert
Sacred Rock, Verudela, outside Pula

My next stop was the pretty town of Fanzana. It is full of character and some great waterfront restaurants! It is also the launch pad to visit the nearby Brijuni islands. Now a National Park they are home to 250 of birds, 700 different plants, stunning forest trails, a safari park, archaeological sites and lots more! Numerous politicians and celebrities have visited here over the years including Queen Elizabeth II and Elizabeth Taylor! After my tour of Brijuni I had lunch in Stara Konoba right at the water’s edge in Fazana, it was superb! They serve traditional home cooked Istrian food and their signature dish is pilchard – very salty sardines!

Highlights of Istria, Croatia by The Travel Expert
Fazana

Speaking of food, every meal I had was exceptional. It seems Istria is a food lovers paradise. With influences from Italy, Greece and Hungary it manages to take the best from all countries to create mouthwatering dishes. Istria is rich with truffles, has some of the best prosciutto, and of course amazing seafood. Make sure you try their specialty, buzara, a type of seafood stew, you won’t be disappointed. I tied Octopus carpachio for the first time in Vela Nera in Liznjan. It was outstanding! This small but modern hotel is close to the remains of the pre historic Roman city of Nesactium.

Highlights of Istria, Croatia by The Travel Expert
Octopus carpachio

There are so many interesting places to see in Istria that I wish I had more time to see them. Rovinj is the most well known holiday resort and it certainly ticks all boxes. It is a fishing village complete with piazzas and cobbled stone streets yet has plenty of bars, restaurants and shops to satisfy any holidaymaker. It’s pretty harbour offers boat trips to the nearby islands and there are some great choices of hotels to stay in. I didn’t get to visit Rovinj on this occasion so I guess I’ll just have to go back! Other popular resorts are Porec, Opatija and Lovran. Honestly I could go on forever….

Highlights of Istria, Croatia by The Travel Expert
Rovinj

Istria is the largest peninsula in Croatia. It’s mountainous interior offers amazing walking and bike trails through stunning lakes and forests. It is full of old towns, pretty fishing villages, amazing restaurants and is surrounded by the clearest sea water. Istria is perfect for a weekend break, as a relaxing destination or for an active holiday. Of course you could always combine all three 🙂

For details about booking a holiday to Istria contact Croatiatours.ie  ClickandGo.com or your local ITAA travel agent.

 

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Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

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Top Ten Holiday Destinations in 2016

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With the recession well and truly over and Dublin airport celebrating their best ever year in 2015, travel agents and airlines are predicting that 2016 will be even better. So where are the hot spots?

 

It looks like old favourites such as Spain and Portugal will be the most attractive short haul holiday destinations in 2016. Although France will be busy for Euro 2016, many families who enjoyed their Summer holiday camping in France, may decide to switch to campsites near Salou in Spain or Lake Garda in Italy. Cuba, Mexico and Thailand will prove popular for long haul travel as the poor exchange rate with the US dollar is unlikely to change. Here are my top ten holiday destinations in 2016!

Majorca & Menorca

To put it simply, Irish people love Spain! Almost 1.5 million Irish holiday makers visited Spain this year and this is sure to grow again in 2016. The Balearic island of Majorca is constantly one of the favourites. The mixture of family resorts, lively nightlife and stunning scenery is a great combination and ensures Majorca offers something for everyone.

Direct flights to  Menorca were reintroduced last year from Ireland and proved to be a great success. So much so, that an extra flight from Cork has been added for 2016. This smaller and less commercialised island oozes character and is the perfect choice for families looking for a quiet, relaxing holiday in safe surroundings.

Menorca, one of the top ten holiday destinations for 2016 by The Travel Expert

 

Lake Garda

Although always popular from Ireland, I believe many families will switch from France to Lake Garda this year making the popular Italian resort busier than ever. There are direct flights to Verona and the nearby resort of Peschiera offers plenty of campsite and hotel options. The fact that the award winning themepark,  Gardaland is on it’s doorstep, will add to it’s popularity.

Lake Garda, one of the top ten holiday destinations for 2016 by The Travel Expert

Thailand

Thailand still offers fantastic value for money for a longhaul destination. There are numerous flights via the UK, Dubai and mainland Europe to Bangkok and Phuket. A one week package is circa €800 including flights and hotel, proving to be a great option for those looking for a touch of exotic, without the expensive price tag.

Thailand, one of the top ten holiday destinations for 2016 by The Travel Expert

Athens & the Greek Islands

Always great value for money and appealing to everyone, the Greek islands will continue to be popular in 2016. There are direct flights to Zakynthos, Corfu, Crete, Rhodes and Kos and extra flights to Athens with Ryanair and Aegean air. This should open up Athens as a top city break destination and allow the bucket list destinations of Santorini and Mykonos to be serviced for the first time.

Santorini, one of the top ten holiday destinations for 2016 by The Travel Expert

Algarve

Another Irish favourite, the Algarve has almost twenty flights per week in the peak Summer months. The low priced airfares mixed with numerous resort options, will ensure that the Algarve will attract many Irish visitors in 2016.

Algarve, one of the top ten holiday destinations for 2016 by The Travel Expert

Mexico

June 2016 will bring the first direct flights to Mexico for many years. The Thomson dreamliner aircraft will fly every fortnight to Cancun from Dublin and is bound to attract couples and honeymooners looking for the luxury all inclusive holiday resort.

Mexico, one of the top ten holiday destinations for 2016 by The Travel Expert

Iceland

WOW air introduced flights to Reykjavik in 2015 which proved a great success. People chased the Northern lights and swam in the Blue Lagoon, with lots of positive reviews. It looks like Iceland will remain popular in 2016 for weekend breaks and as a holiday destination.

Iceland, one of the top ten holiday destinations for 2016 by The Travel Expert

Cuba

Diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba are at an all time high and it is likely that more and more Americans will travel to Cuba over the coming years. Many people feel they such see it before it receives the Disney effect! For this reason and the fact that there is more disposable income around, Cuba looks like it could attract many Irish holidaymakers looking to travel long haul in 2016.

Cuba, one of the top ten holiday destinations for 2016 by The Travel Expert

Croatia

For those looking for somewhere a little different but still close to home, Croatia will be a top choice. The stunning city of Dubrovnik and the introduction of flights to Zadar and Pula will ensure that there are plenty of options for Irish holidymakers in 2016. The proximity to Lonely Planet’s top destination to visit in 2016 (Kotor in Montenegro) will also add to the appeal.

Dubrovnik, one of the top ten holiday destinations for 2016 by The Travel Expert

Dubai

With four direct flights every day, it is almost impossible to avoid seeing this world class holiday destination on travel agency windows and media outlets, all offering amazing deals to Dubai. With the loss of direct flights to Egypt and Tunisia, Dubai is also an excellent alternative for anyone looking for some Winter / Spring sunshine.

Dubai, one of the top ten holiday destinations for 2016 by The Travel Expert

 

So where will you be travelling to in 2016? If I left out your favourite, please comment below 🙂

 

Sarah

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DestinationsEuropeSunseekers

Visiting Croatia And Montenegro

Cavtat

Croatia and Montenegro have so much to offer. Dubrovnik and Kotor are spectacular, the village of Cavtat is charming and Montenegro’s fjord is sublime.

 

I searched the apartment for the free wifi password, only to discover it was ‘welcome to my home’. I knew from that moment, I was going to like it here! I wanted to see Dubrovnik yet wanted a resort that would not be too crowded during the summer months – Cavtat ticked all boxes. Surrounded by cypress trees, when we arrived in the picturesque resort, it reminded me of the Tuscan coast. We stayed at the Villa Milica, which is only a few minutes from the seashore and a leisurely 20 minute stroll to the village. A traditional farmhouse, we were warmly greeted by the owner Milica who kindly offered to give us a lift to the grocery store, for what she called our ‘big shop’. This spacious 2 bedroomed apartment is a mixture of old and new. It has a country cottage feel, but with all mod cons including a large double bath, a separate shower room and a huge balcony with sea views.

Villa Milica, Cavat, by The Travel Expert

Cavtat is situated about 45 minutes from Dubrovnik by water taxi and has everything you need for a relaxing break. The village is really authentic, with stone buildings housing fantastic restaurants – none of which have photographs of the food outside! It remains unspoilt and although there are plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from, they fit in with the landscape perfectly.

Bugenvila is one of Cavtat’s best restaurants,  but you will need to book it a day in advance. The food would rival many Michelin star restaurants and the service was excellent. Unlike many restaurants there, they have a separate kids menu so the prices are very reasonable for such a high quality food. Try the hangar steak, you wont be disappointed. Pizzeria Desteka has great pizza and is a great choice for a cheap night out. In fact most restaurants were very reasonably priced and the quality was very high.

Bugenvila Restaurant, Cavtat, by The Travel Expert

There are also plenty of super yachts to mesmerise you, while you enjoy a drink at the waters edge. The emerald green sea is the perfect temperature for bathing, although the beaches are stoney. In fact, beaches along the Dalmatian coast are all more or less the same, so make sure you bring surf shoes. There are great watersports available, including jet skiing and scuba diving. There are plenty of small fish that swim close to the shore, so young kids can try snorkeling. Cavtat is a good choice for families and couples. There are lots of four and five star hotels perfectly suited for couples who a upmarket holiday as well as apartments like ours which are great for families.

Cavtat, Croatia, by The Travel Expert

Visiting Dubrovnik

There are regular ferries, or water taxis to the old town of Dubrovnik – this suited us perfectly. We decided to get a 5pm ferry so we could climb the city walls when the city was less crowded. We were able to explore the city at night time and soak up the atmosphere over a nice meal. We took an early ferry for our second visit and rode the cable car to Srd Hill and enjoyed a leisurely lunch. This is a great way to see the city without the crowds and heat with the added advantage of enjoying a one hour boat trip on the Adriatic Sea. For more information on Dubrovnik you can read my blog here.

Dubrovnik, Croatia as seen from the cable car on top Srd Hill

Day trip to Montenegro

From Cavtat there are numerous boat trips and excursions to choose from. We decided to take a day trip to Montenegro, and booked this through the local Croatia tours representative. Normally we would hire a car and travel independently, but the organised coach tour was a better option. With the recent influx of migrants to Italy and Greece, the border check points have long delays. We were advised that if travelling by car you could be hours waiting to get through.  The coach had only Irish people onboard so thankfully there was no need for multiple languages by the tour guide.

We drove around the bay of Kotor and saw the Mediterranean fjord – the only fjord in Southern Europe. The scenery was sublime. We stopped at the spectacular walled city of Kotor and had plenty of time to explore the cathedral and the city’s winding streets. This city was built to hide from the enemy and therefore not on a grid system. This adds to the charm when exploring as you really don’t know where you will end up. However, the furthest point is only ten minutes walk from the entrance, so there is no chance you can get lost.

A trip to Kotor by The Travel Expert

Our next stop was the popular town of Budva. We drove through the tunnel used by James Bond in Casino Royale, before arriving at what can only be described as a huge let-down. Budva has an authentic walled city, but unfortunately this has been ruined by the modern resort built beside it. It looked like there was no planning involved and modern high rise blocks are placed beside the medieval city – it is such a shame.  After a quick bite of lunch, we took the ferry across the fjord before heading back to our hotel. Overall it was a great trip and if travelling to Croatia, I would highly recommend a day trip to Montenegro to see Kotor specifically. Note: Although Montenegro is not in the EU, they use the Euro and don’t readily accept Croatian currency.

Cavtat and the Dalmatian coast is a great choice for a summer holiday. There is so much to see and do, yet with such stunning scenery you may just find you want to chill out and enjoy it.

 

Sarah

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Top Tips For Discovering Dubrovnik’s Old Town & Cliff Bars

Dubrovnik

It is impossible not to fall in love with Dubrovnik. It’s old walls and limestone streets are intoxicating. It is packed with tourists during peak season, so my advice is plan your visit carefully to see it at its best. Check out my top tips for discovering Dubrovnik.

 

Walking through the streets of Dubrovnik in the blistering heat, I longed for a bar with a seaview. I had read on tripadvisor about Café Buza but when I arrived, I was underwhelmed. People were packed like sardines under sweltering umbrellas, fighting for a view of the ocean. Fortunately for me, I didn’t hang around to tick that particular box.

I did however stumble across a unique ‘hole in the wall’. To be honest, it was my son Luke, whose curiosity got the better of him, who discovered it. We followed him through a gap in the ancient stonework. With no apparent signage or indication of what was below, we climbed down numerous stone steps only to discover the coolest cliff-top bar packed with sunbathers and tombstoners. For those of you who have not come across that term, tombstoners are people who jump off high (and sometimes dangerous) rocks into the ocean.
 

 

 
I asked the barman if he had a card or even an address. He looked at me perplexed and said that the less people who found the bar, the better. An unusual form of marketing, I thought! It’s called Café Bard, but keep it to yourself 😉 . Everyone was chilled out sitting on cheap white plastic chairs or sunbathing on the rocks. With no wifi, it was nice to see everyone enjoying the view, rather than posting social media updates. In fact I heard a Californian girl ask a waiter for the wifi password and his response was classic; ‘why would you want that in a place like this?’ The bar reminded me of a scene from my student days. For an hour or more, I sat back and enjoyed a few beers and watched the daredevils jump from crazy heights. I wondered, with some trepidation, if that would be my children someday.

Cafe Bard, Dubrovnik
 

 

 
Dubrovnik had been on my wish list for many years. Finally this year, I got there. I have visited many walled cities and towns before, but Dubrovnik is special. It is incredibly intact and looks like something straight out of a film set. When you consider the walls were constructed between the 12th and 17th centuries and were bombed as recently as 1992, the town is remarkably well preserved.
 

 

 
The surrounding walls are one of the main attractions – you have to climb them. If you are not feeling energetic, or like me, have small kids with you, you can choose to climb one half. This takes about thirty – forty minutes. Enter at the gate beside the port and exit at St Saviour’s church – this is less strenuous than the other half. The full loop will take ninety minutes to two hours so make sure you have comfortable shoes! If possible try to go between 6pm and 8pm after which they close entry. The hoards that descend on Dubrovnik from the visiting cruise ships will have more than likely left, so it should be less crowded. You may be lucky to get the sunset over the terracotta rooftops too.

The terracotta roof tops of Dubrovnik
 

 

 
A trip on the cable car is also worthwhile. A three minute ride will bring you to the top of Srd Hill where you can get a view of the city and the neighbouring islands. On a clear day you can see up to 60 km, hence the fortress was built here as a lookout point. This fortress is now a museum depicting the homeland war. Although many of the articles are in Croatian only, it was very moving. To think this war happened just over 20 years ago is staggering. Watching news footage of the war from the BBC made you appreciate how much has changed in 20 years. The vibrant city below shows no outward signs of the atrocities that took place.
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Next to the museum there is a modern outdoor café. This is a good choice for lunch or a snack, with good food and spectacular views. On a hot day, the cool breeze makes the al fresco dining much easier to bear, than the narrow side streets of the old town below.

Dubrovnik, Croatia as seen from the cable car on top Srd Hill

It’s not only about the paying attractions, wandering through the old town is an attraction in itself. Built on a grid system with one main street through the centre, it is very easy to navigate. The side streets are crammed with eateries and souvenir shops and the atmosphere is electric. There are street artists performing on the main street and the whole place just feels alive. The town has two drawbridges, numerous turrets and lots of places to explore. Although it houses plenty of designer boutiques and modern ice cream parlours, it still feels medieval throughout.

An evening in Dubrovnik's old town.
 

 

 
My advice would be to avoid visiting for long periods during July and August, or stay in one of the resorts close to Dubrovnik rather than in the city itself. Some days there could be three cruise ships moored. That could mean 10,000 tourists walking through this small city, in soaring temperatures. There are some beautiful resorts close by, all of which offer water taxis to the harbour. I stayed in Cavtat, which you can read about by clicking here. We visited Dubrovnik in the evening and early morning when temperatures were cooler and the city was less crowded. Croatia tours are the specialists to Croatia and they have many options available close to the old town.
 

 

 
Top Tips: Check out the monthly cruise schedule that the Croatian Port Authority publish. If you are staying outside the city walls you can choose the days which won’t have as many cruise ships docked. Click here.  The Croatian currency is the Kuna.Most places do not accept euro and many places do not accept credit cards either. You can however, withdraw money from cash machines in the airport or in most villages.
 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed my top tips for discovering Dubrovnik and that they help you with your travel plans. Dubrovnik is one the most spectacular cities in Europe, you can not help but be in awe of the place. Go see it.

 

Sarah

 

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5 Star Luxury Hotel Croatia, 1 week, 8th September, Flights, Hotel & Transfers, €787!

croatia hotel

The medieval city of Dubrovnik should be on everyone’s wish list. Although you can stay in the heart of the old town I think the best way to enjoy it, is to holiday in one of the resorts close by.

 

The city is actually quite small and can be packed with cruise ship visitors during the day. Temperatures can also be very high, depending on the time of year.  If you choose to stay outside the centre you can literally have the best of both worlds. Relax by the sea or pool during the day and hop on a water taxi in the evening when the city is less crowded.

A visit to Dubrovnik by The Travel ExpertCavtat is the jewel in the crown on of this region. Only 20 km south of Dubrovnik, Cavtat is a an upmarket resort with a delightful old village and a palm fringed promenade. It is perfect for couples and families who want pretty resort with a relaxed pace. The medieval village has a small selection of boutiques and galleries and there are plenty of excellent restaurants to satisfy even the celebrities who hang out there. To top it all off there are numerous boats which leave from the harbour all day visiting Dubrovnik and the surrounding islands. Lets face it, there is no better way to explore this stunning coastline. Read my destination posts for more information on Cavtat and Dubrovnik.

Why not treat yourself and stay at the 5 star luxury hotel Croatia for seven nights for only €846, on the 8th of September. Enter my exclusive code TRAVELEXP10 in the promo code box to save 10% off the accommodation cost, making the total €787 per person. Highly rated on tripadvisor this was a travellers choice winner in 2015 & 2016. You just have to read the reviews to see how good this hotel really is. This price includes flights with Aer Lingus, transfers and a seven night stay, with FREE breakfast and FREE wifi.

 

Click here for more details:

 

All prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to availability.

 

Sarah

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