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Why Lanzarote Is My Favourite Canary Island

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With year round sunshine, numerous sandy beaches and plenty of interesting sights, Lanzarote is my favourite Canary Island.

 

When you land in Arrecife airport the landscape is startling. There are no high rise blocks, just barren terrain and pretty white washed buildings as far as the eye can see. Thankfully building laws prohibit high rise buildings in Lanzarote and all houses, hotels and apartments have to be painted white. This makes even the commercialised holiday resorts, such as Puerto del Carmen, very pleasing on the eye. There are many resorts to choose from, Puerto del Carmen, Playa Blanca and Costa Teguise are the largest but there are also smaller resorts, such as Los Pocillos, Matagorda and Puerto Calero – suffice to say there is a resort here to suit all tastes!

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Puerto del Carmen

Puerto del Carmen is one of those holiday resorts that ticks all boxes. Located just ten minutes from the airport, we arrived at our accommodation within a half hour of the plane landing! There is just the right amount of night-life, but you would never consider it ‘rowdy’. For this reason it tends to attract plenty of families, couples as well as girls looking for a nice break away. There are plenty of different areas to stay, the growing ‘new town’ leads in to the neighbouring resorts of Los Pocillos and Matagorda. I stayed in the Aqua Suites, an four star boutique hotel which is superb for families, read why I think the Aqua Suites is the best place to stay in Puerto del Carmen with kids.

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I love the ‘old town’, which has some lovely restaurants and excellent duty free shopping, with shops like Zara and Mango about 20% cheaper than what you would find at home. The harbour is the best place to catch the sun set. There are plenty of bars and restaurants as well as a playground for kids. You can enjoy sundowners while the kids play happily – its bliss!

 

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Families will love the wide sandy beach. With pedalos and an inflatable waterpark, you could easily spend the day here. Don’t miss the open air cinema and enjoy a day out at Rancho Texas Park. This theme park has dolphin and seal shows, a small water park as well as hundreds of animals. For more details read my post on things to do in Puerto del Carmen with kids.

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Puerto Calero

Less than ten minutes by taxi from Puerto del Carmen will bring you to the pretty town of Puerto Calero. Purpose built, its marina is home to many luxury yachts and designer shops. Restaurants are reasonably priced though and it is a great option for lunch if you happen to be staying in Puerto del Carmen. If you are feeling adventurous you can take the coastal walk ( about 90 minutes ) from Puerto del Carmen all the way into Puerto Calero, enjoy a tasty lunch and catch the water taxi back.  You can also take boat trips on stylish catamarans or if travelling with kids, they will love the submarine safari.

Playa Blanca

With plenty of five star hotels and an upmarket marina, Playa Blanca is becoming the ‘sophisticated’ choice. The promenade stretches for 7km from the Marina Rubicon to the small old port where you can catch the ferry to Fuerteventura. There are plenty of inexpensive restaurants here along the seafront and most with stunning sea views. The marina has plenty of upmarket restaurants and designer boutiques, all surrounded by some luxurious yachts. The big draw is the choice of golden sandy beaches as most of the other resorts in Lanzarote have darker sand. 

 

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Playa Blanca is also very popular with families as there are numerous self catering options to choose from, most of them offering an entertainment programme and facilities for children. Aqualava, waterpark is sure to keep the kids entertained and the more adventurous can dive to Europe’s only underwater museum. If you fancy a change of scene take the ferry to nearby Fuerteventura. Once you see it’s white sandy beaches, you will think you are in the Caribbean!

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Things to do in Lanzarote

Lanzarote is the perfect size for exploring. It is very easy to navigate so I would suggest hiring a car and visiting the main tourist spots yourself. Timanfaya National Park is a must see, the volcanic landscape is spectacular. Over 100 volcanoes erupted between 1730 and 1736 but due to limited erosion, the area still looks almost Martian. It was made a National Park in 1968 and you are no longer allowed walk freely through the park. Coach trips, guided walks and camel rides are all possible but go early as it can get very busy in the afternoon. Try El Diablo restaurant, where you can enjoy meat barbecued by the heat from the Volcano – a truly unique experience. 

 

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Don’t miss a trip to Jameos del Agua, in the north of the island. Famous Lanzarote artist César Manrique created this tourist site in the 1960s, inside lava caves that were formed 4,000 years ago by the eruption of La Corona Volcano. Walk down stone steps into the volcanic tunne,l which is one of the longest in the world, at 6 kilometres in length, to discover a unique restaurant which over looks a small lake. The lake looks almost translucent, which probably has something to do with the small blind albino crabs that are only found here.

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You then emerge from the dark cave to find hundreds of tropical plants and a stunning swimming pool. The fact that you are not allowed to swim in the pool only makes it more magical! The Jameos del Aqua is also home to a large auditorium where cultural events and concerts are housed throughout the year. The Jameos del Agua is said to be the perfect harmony between nature and artistic creation.

A short drive from Playa Blanca brings you to the small village of El Golfo. This is a great spot to stop and have lunch, the seafood is fantastic and the setting is perfect. Situated on the coast, with sea views but extremely authentic and thankfully still unspoilt. If you like to haggle, visit the old town of Teguise. With its cobbled stone streets is probably the pettiest town on the island and holds a market every Sunday.

Like this post? You might be interested in these:

Five Things To Do With Kids In Puerto del Carmen

 

Why The Aqua Suites Is The Best Place To Stay In Puerto Del Carmen With Kids

 

Sarah

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Sorrento & The Amalfi Coast

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Sorrento is a firm favourite with Irish holiday makers for many years,  it is not difficult to see why.

Sorrento is the largest resort on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, but still retains it’s old world charm. Complete with cobblestone pedestrianised streets, it is the perfect place to explore at your leisure. The historic buildings house everything from designer shops to local souvenirs so there is plenty of choice for even the avid shopper. The town comes alive at night with numerous al fresco dining options so you can admire the well dressed Italians as they pass you by.

Sorrento & The Amalfi Coast by The Travel Expert

It is not just the town of Sorrento that draws thousands of tourists to this coastline each year. The neighbouring towns of Positano, Amalfi and Ravello are all highlights and have to be seen. In fact if you are confident behind the wheel, I would recommend hiring a car and driving the Amalfi coast. Marvel at the breathtaking views across the bay of Naples with houses and hotels nestled perfectly on the cliffs edge. Stop off at small hilltop villages and sample some local dishes, it has to be one of the worlds greatest road trips.

Sorrento & The Amalfi Coast by The Travel Expert

There are numerous sights to see in this part of Italy, the ‘coast with the most’! Take a trip to the ancient Roman city of Pompeii or if you are feeling energetic  enjoy the panoramic views from the top of Mount Vesuvius. It is a three hour climb, round trip, but worth it for the profile picture alone!  There is nothing like a boat trip when you are away and no visit to Sorrento would be complete without sailing to the isle of Capri. Take one of the many ferries from Sorrento or pre book an excursion, either way Capri is a ‘must see’. Visit the blue grotto, the summit of Anacapri or try celebrity spotting in some of the designer boutiques in the centre of the island.

Sorrento & The Amalfi Coast by The Travel Expert

A stay along the Amalfi coast should be on everyone’s bucket list and staying in Sorrento is a good base to explore the area.  Go on spoil yourself, I dare you not to fall in love with the place.

Sarah

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Benidorm – bold or beautiful?

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For years, I couldn’t understand the appeal. I had to know why Benidorm was the most searched destination from Ireland on Google last year.

I was aware that Benidorm had good nightlife, and of course it is renowned for its low cost of living – but don’t most Spanish resorts have this? I finally got the opportunity to visit this place that had perplexed me so much,  I was invited on a familiarisation trip and I  jumped at the chance to see what Benidorm had to offer.

After a pleasant 2hour 20 minutes flight, we arrived at the Costa Blanca.  I must admit my first impressions were not that great, high rise buildings and English bars everywhere. I found myself wondering why this place was so popular with Irish people? It wasn’t until that night when suddenly it all became apparent. Until then, the only thing I had heard about the nightlife was that it was loud and catered mostly for stag and hen parties! I have visited most Spanish resorts and have experienced nightlife on many levels, but Benidorm has so much more. There are bars, disco bars , karaoke but its the shows that differentiate it from everywhere else. People, young and old, thronged to see amazing tribute acts, Take That, Westlife, Queen, U2,  unique comedy acts, and everyone was fantastic!

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We found ourselves wondering “why are some these acts not winning  X Factor”! When it comes to nightlife, Benidorm is king, there is nowhere better – it has it all.  It was like being in the West End but everyone walks around in shorts and teeshirts and all the shows are free! The cost of living has to be lower than other Spanish resorts, 6 bottles of beer for €5, or €1 for a pint – hard to beat that anywhere!

Now that I had warmed to the nightlife, I tried to feel the same way about the resort itself. I  was pleasantly surprised when visiting hotels that most rooms had sea views.  In the 1950s, the mayor of Benidorm decided he wanted hoteliers to build upwards so everyone could get a beautiful sea view.  With these high rise buildings everything is in close proximity and Benidorm can cope adequately with 500,000 tourists at any time.

Benidorm has five stunning beaches, stretching over four miles. You can choose Levante Beach which is close to the lively centre and tends to be extremely busy, or the quieter Poniente Beach which has a newly built promenade, great for an evening stroll. In between both you have the old town of Benidorm. It is packed with shops, tapas bars and oozes character. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch with sea views right in the heart of the old town, it was perfect.

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Not only did I have a new found respect for Benidorm as a destination, but I realised that it has so much more to offer than nightlife and beaches. What other resort can offer five theme parks within a ten minute taxi ride from the centre? There is Aqualandia, the largest aqua park in Spain with one of the tallest slides in the world! There is Mundomar, a park with dolphin and seal shows and of course Terra Mitica, if rollercoasters are your thing then you can’t afford to miss it! Lets not forget all of the possibilities for day trips, there is the stunning Villajoyosa with its colourful buildings and the city of Alicante which really surprised me. The castle of Santa Barbara is well worth a visit, with lifts that go all the way to the top, the views are stunning! The palm tree lined promenade stretches the length of the City. Alicante has beautiful old  buildings and an affluent marina, it stuck me that not only is it a nice day trip from Benidorm, it also is a great option for a city break.

benidorm sarah slattery the travel expert

I know finally understood the whole Benidorm phenomenon  and why seven years later, the TV series is still such a huge success. Benidorm has sun most of the year, stunning beaches, a variety of Hotels, fantastic nightlife, an old town full of character. Benidorm has something for everyone and it is a destination everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime!

Sarah

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Family Holiday Guide to Zakynthos, Greece

Zakynthos

With beautiful scenery, amazing food and a low cost of living, it’s not surprising that Zakynthos is a firm favourite with Irish holidaymakers.

 

Until recently however, Greece was considered more suitable for couples or groups than families. I guess the perception was that the accommodation was more basic in Greece than its European counterparts and maybe lacking in some kids facilities. This may have been the case many years ago but certainly not any more…

Family Friendly Zakynthos Resort

I managed to find a great family resort on the Island of Zakynthos called the Alykanas Beach Village. It’s like a hotel but with self catering facilities so if you have small kids this is ideal for making breakfasts, baby food etc. They have endless facilities for adults and children, day and evening entertainment, a kids water park, kids clubs and  three swimming pools. There is a ‘quiet’ pool if  day time entertainment isn’t your thing and failing that, the Hotel is right on the beach.  They also offer free wifi, although if you are an avid ‘Facebooker’ beware –  it can be temperamental! 

Splash park at Alykanas beach resort, Zakynthos

 

Many family resorts in Greece are ‘All Inclusive’ , with all meals and drinks included. This works very well for many families but personally I prefer to dine out so the Alykanas Beach Village suited me perfectly. In Greece, the food is so good and so cheap, my personal favourites are their traditional dishes like stifado or saganaki and of course the typical Greek salads. The restaurants cater so well for kids too with most places having play areas or bouncing castles. My little ones had great fun choosing the restaurant each night and the restaurants with biggest play areas usually got picked! They also believe that the best spaghetti bolognese is not to be had in Italy, but in Zakynthos!


Zakynthos
But it’s not just the accommodation that made the holiday so special for me. Zakynthos has so much to see and do for all family. There are numerous options for day trips, a trip to see the famous loggerhead sea turtles is a must. These are now endangered so it is great to see them in their natural habitat. Another famous landmark is Navagio or ‘Shipwreck beach’ as its more commonly called. It is the most photographed beach in the world and is simply stunning.  It is only accessible by boat but there are organised boat trips to bring you there from all of the holiday resorts. A word of warning though, the bus trip from your Hotel is not the most comfortable! It is a long winding road and can lead to some upset tummies.  If you are travelling with kids make sure you get good seats on the lower deck of the bus ; trust me, the sound of sick kids on the upper deck was  not a pleasant way to start the trip! The pictures that you see of Navagio beach on various websites are, dare I say, a little misleading! Yes, it still is a stunning site, but the white ‘sandy’ beach that you see in the photos is actually tiny white stones and is quite hard underfoot. I would recommend that you bring surf shoes to make it easier to jump off the boat and if you want to go swimming. Also bear in mind that unless you go extremely early in the morning or late at night, there will be thousands of other people on the beach with you!


Navagio beach, Zakynthos
Although I would highly recommend taking one of the organised boat trips, if you don’t fancy doing this there are numerous other activities to satisfy you. All of the typical water sports you would expect to find at a beach resort are in Zakynthos too, from pedaloes with slides to glass bottom boat rides.  There is also a waterpark with plenty of slides and high speed tubes to keep kids entertained all day long.  And if you are still looking for more action you can visit the larger island of Kefalonia, less than an hour by boat, see the setting for Captain Corelli’s mandolin and the beautiful capital, Argostoli.

I am writing this on my return plane journey home, a leisurely 3 and a half hour flight. I can’t help asking why have I waited so long to bring my kids to Greece? It has so much to offer and still relatively unspoilt, I will definitely be returning.

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

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