It has been a long year for us overe here at Travelindicator.
It's a strange contradiction when your job includes running a website about the most fantastic travel destinations in the world, yet on the daily you spend most of your time sitting at your desk coding away - wishing you were there.
Don't get us wrong, that is in no way a complaint as we love doing what we do and discovering all these new destinations, and what's more we love the fact that Travelindicator actually helps us make our holiday planning that much more efficient.
But just to change the tone here for a moment, let us today share with you a bit about our very own and very personal holiday plans for summer 2015.
One part of Travelindicator (that's me!) is actually a European who resides in Singapore. A funny anecdote is that in one of my first days here some years back I enthusiastically told a local friend about my plans for the upcoming summer holiday, only to find him laughing in my face.
"Summer, what do you mean? Every day is summer in tropical Singapore!" OK, lesson learned, but we can't quite shake that European habit of spreading our wings come June-August.
Making it even more difficult is the fact that on the one hand I am surrounded by fantastic South East Asian destinations, but on the other hand long for traveling in Europe. This year my wife and I decided to go for the best of both worlds and spend a short week here in the region, and another two back in Europe.
Leg 1: South East Asia - Koh Samui
The first part of our holiday (traveling with wife and kid, by the way) brings us to lovely Koh Samui. The Gulf of Thailand rather than the Andaman Sea is where it's at at this time of year if you want to avoid the rain, so that's where we shall be.
We are staying in a resort on the northern side of the island, roughly between Bophut Beach and Fisherman's Village. I will be the first one to admit that we booked our holiday relatively late, and so finding a place to stay proved difficult as most were fully booked or outlandishly expensive.
We ended up with a four star resort that offers us what we think we need: a good beach, near to places to drink and eat but not in the midst of it, and close to the airport. We can't wait.
Leg 2: Europe - Amsterdam and The Netherlands
OK, so I am one of those people that calls The Netherlands "home home". As in, my real and current home is somewhere else, but that is where my roots are.
There won't be much sightseeing in places like Amsterdam involved here I'm afraid, as rather than that we will drive all the way to the eastern province of Overijssel and stay with relatives there.
Come to think of it, we have not written a single piece about that part of the country (to come I'm sure), but rest assured that it is green and lovely. See accompanying photo.
Leg 3: Europe - Tuscany, Italy
After spending a few days in the Netherlands we head over to what is actually the main stay of our entire holiday: Tuscany! Here we will spend 2 weeks in utter peace in an AirBnb property that stands on top of a hill and is 500 meters away from its closest neighbour.
The funny thing is that this place cost us less money for nearly 2 weeks as we pay for a short week in the Koh Samui resort. From here we will explore places like Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre and Lucca.
We then end our trip by heading over to Genoa and Milan for a night or two, and from there we fly back to Singapore. Sounds like it's going to be a magnificent summer!
Enjoy yours too.
International Pillow Fight Day
Have you ever just wanted to take your pillow into the city and start a giant pillow fight with a bunch of strangers?
Neither have we, but apparently enough of us do because International Pillow Fight Day exists. The event boasts quite an impressive list of locations so there may be one near you; and if not, you can just start one.
Amsterdam is putting on it’s 6th annual pillow fight at Dam Square in the city centre. If you are in search of a unique, apparently fun, though quite ridiculous experience - then look no further.
This movement whilst on the surface is pretty strange carries a message behind it about freedom, enabling the citizenry to use their public spaces for what they wish, without consequence or permission; with the caveat that it does no harm.
We are still pondering how exactly this became a "thing" but there you have it - it exists and we are beholden to tell you about it.
- The date: 4th April 2015
- The place: Dam Square, Amsterdam
- Things to bring: Your soft pillow!
More info here:
So if that’s what you’re into - check out this event, grab your pillow and enjoy - It does look kinda fun.
There is something special about spending December in Europe. Wearing thick winter clothes, shuffling around on a German Christmas market spread out across a medieval town center, holding a glass of mulled wine in hand, surrounded by families on their day out... Bright lights and decorations all around. Walking into a fancy shopping mall to get away from the cold and leaving the building an hour later with half of your Christmas shopping already done.
That's a pleasant mental image, isn't it? And around this time of year, you will struggle to find a town anywhere in Europe that does not make an effort to create that extra special Christmas atmosphere. We would not dare to tell you that we have decided which ones are best (how does one decide that anyway), hence we are not calling this the "7 best Christmas destinations" or anything like that, but here are 7 places that we think are worth highlighting. Highlights in most of these places are, of course, the Christmas markets...
The throngs of tourists descending upon Bruges in summer may not realise this, but Bruges is one of those cities that is actually more appealing in winter. An ice rink is set up on the market square, buildings are spectacularly lit up and small Christmas markets dot the center of town. Head for a stroll around the canals after darkness sets in and you will be hard pressed to find a more attractive town anywhere else in Europe.
Okay, so if you know anything about Christmas markets in Germany, the inclusion of Nuremberg is not exactly going to be surprising to you. But for those of you less familiar with it, it just may be. The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is huge and the most famous in Germany, pretty much defining the whole concept: the old town gets filled with nearly 200 stands selling everything from Christmas decorations, mulled wine, gingerbread and bratwurst. It's all in perfect harmony with the lovely historic town center.
Český Krumlov is a kind of mini-Prague and a UNESCO world heritage site that is a tourists favorite in summer months. In December it is not exactly empty here, but definitely less crowded. Combined with snow (fingers crossed) in December, the whole town takes on a magical atmosphere. And of course, Český Krumlov too has a Christmas Market. This is one to go purely for the atmosphere. Highly recommended.
With its German cultural background, it is no surprise that the Alsace does Christmas markets exceptionally well. In December, Colmar looks nothing short of a fairy tale. In fact the whole historic town center with its canals and half-timbered houses turns into a Christmas market: châlets all around sell everything from Christmas decorations to pastries and sweets.
We just discussed a town in a French region with a German background (Colmar). Now its time to discuss a town in an Italian region with a German background: Bolzano! Located in South Tyrol, it houses Italy's most famous Christmas market. The mix of Italian and German influences makes this one of the most interesting markets in Europe, and the romantic backdrop of the town with its arcaded streets and a good chance of snow in winter doesn't hurt either. The gastronomic variety is even better than in some of the other markets mentioned here, mixing the northern European and the Mediterranean. Oh, and even without all the Christmas there is plenty to see and do here. Ötzi?
Salzburg is basically the quintessential Christmas destination in Europe. The castle towering over the town and brightly lit, the streets often covered with a blanket of snow and Cathedral Square filled with the yearly Christmas market selling everything from Christmas ornaments to mulled wine, Lebkuchen and caramelised almonds. And if you get bored of strolling the town and market, why not pack your skis and head up the mountain in one of the nearby ski resorts?
Wroclaw is picturesque. During the Christmas season this becomes even more the case. Poland seems more in touch with the religious origins of the festive season than the rest of Europe, which makes it a joyful place to spend some days around Christmas. The Rynek (Main Square) and Swidnicka Street house the Christmas market and an ice rink. At the market you will find the typical type of Christmas market food, but also Polish Christmas decorations and gifts which make for nice souvenirs.
At times we at Travel Indicator like to work our way through our own database to see what kind of suggestions we are actually serving up to our users. Today we looked at the best family-oriented beach destinations by searching for any and all destinations that score at least 60% on both the "family-friendly" and "beach and seaside" attribute.
So what exactly are family-friendly beach getaways? Well, perhaps that is best answered by explaining what we have classified as non-family friendly beach destinations. Party hotspots for the teenage crowds, honeymoon resorts, big cities in underdeveloped countries that happen to have beaches, etcetera. These are definitely not what we want to look at today. What does show up are 92 locations, of which we reckon the following are the best:
It is no secret that the French know how to do beach holidays with the family well in Metropolitan France. That is just one of the many things this French overseas territory has taken from it. What we wrote before: "Nouméa has a chic and cosmopolitan feel to it. That is probably partly to do with its French background as well as how it is situated: it lies in between beautiful bays and is overseen by mountain ranges. Another thing that should come as no surprise is that the restaurants and food here is generally of a high quality."
Auckland in New Zealand may be one of the most versatile cities in the world. As we wrote before: "The city offers a combination of scenic natural playgrounds in all shapes and forms (turquoise waters, beach islands, volcanoes, rainforests..) outside of the city, and multicultural big city sophistication inside of its boundaries. Add a sunny climate added into the mix and this is basically the perfect holiday destination."
Aruba is not your typical Caribbean island as its landscape has some desert like characteristics. That creates some very interesting sights including goats, iguanas and donkeys. At the coast you will find limestone cliffs and white sand beaches. The children can play in the water will mum and dad sip on a cocktail, what's not to like?
Bintan is where Singaporean families head for a quick weekend break away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Most will head to the north side of the island where you have resorts like Club Med catering to your every need. The rest of the island is more back to basics. If you head to one of the resorts, we guarantee your kids will be entertained by the vast amount of activities organised for them.
Mar del Plata is where the residents of Buenos Aires head in summer to spend time with their families at the beach. The Playa Grande is the most family friendly of them all, though be warned that it gets extremely full in summer!
Sometimes, when picking a summer beach destination in Europe, you need to look at where the package deal crowds are going, and then head in exactly the opposite direction. Greek island tend to be quite similar in terms of natural beauty and cultural backdrop, but a beach holiday between mostly Greeks and mostly northern European crowds leads to two different experiences entirely! Skopelos is popular with Greek families, and that says enough. Besides beaches, the island offers pine forests, high cliffs and many churches and monasteries to explore. This is an excellent place to take your family.
If you want to party the night away after hitting the beach, you would be better off heading to a place like Rimini. Viareggio is a more upscale and family-friendly kind of place. The beaches are long and of good quality, and behind them runs the promenade where you and the family can grab a bite to eat or have a drink after a long day of baking in the sun. Next to town lies a forest where you can go biking or hiking.
This is one of our personal favorites and a bit of a hidden treasure (unless you ask coast-bound Dutch and German people in the know!). Domburg lies in the southern Zeeland province of the Netherlands, and at about 2 hours from Schiphol airport. It is a charming old resort town that attracts families, with beaches that must be some of the best in this part of Europe. On a warm summer day, trust us, you wouldn't want to be any other place. As we wrote before: "Expect fine sand, good swimming conditions and clean beaches. The town itself - though very small with about 1500 inhabitants - has good bakeries, café's and restaurants aplenty. (...) Smaller towns around like Oost- and Westkapelle or Veere also offer some interesting sights and places to eat or drink. If you are feeling particularly Dutch, make your way to some of the other towns by bike."
Myrtle Beach offers a beach holiday in the American way. The beaches are the obvious place to spend time at, but there is also a place called Broadway at the Beach, an enormous entertainment venue where you will find everything ranging from bars, shops, restaurants to water parks. You and your entire family will be entertained here.
For Greek holiday islands, Crete is pretty much what they all aspire to be. Sun, sea and great beaches are a given, but the amount of fantastic nature (steep and rugged mountain areas, gorges and a very diverse flora and fauna plus scenery that includes olive groves and vineyards) and culture on show make this an unforgettable place to take your family. Some days, mum and dad may want to head out to explore an archaeological site, while the kids play in the water at the beach. In the evening you can all meet up for a great meal.
We have recently updated the frontpage of Travelindicator a bit to make it more clear to you what we stand for. You will likely have come across the following, which is what we like to call our "Five Pillars".
Whereas other travel websites may at most give you travel ideas based 2 dimensions or so (Beaches in Asia? Culture in Europe? There you go.), Travelindicator works along the 5 dimensions of distance, weather, cost, surroundings and themes:
Let's give you an example of how you can maximise the 5 dimensions above to your benefit. Essentially each search starts with deciding whether you want to look for travel destination in a radius around your current location (or nearest city), or whether you have already roughly determined the region or country you want to travel to and just want to see what's on offer there.
Step 1 (distance): Let's assume you will be traveling to Berlin and are looking to make a European trip that goes anywhere in a 2,750km radius around that.
Step 2 (weather): You want decent weather, let's say temperatures above 10ºC and rainfall below 130mm. Note how the weather filter applies to temperature and rainfall in April, as that is the basic setting and the period in which we are searching.
Step 3 (cost): Your budget is not minimal, but you can do without staying in hotels in places likes Monaco which will probably cost you an arm and a leg. So you select an average nightly hotel rate (measured across all available hotels with 2 stars and up) of $275.
Step 4 (surroundings): You may land at Berlin, but you care nothing for Europe's big cities. What you are after are smaller towns that have at least some form of greenery around them. So you set "urban" at a max. of 30% and "forests" at a minimum of 30%.
Step 5 (themes): Having selected all this, you still have a few more criteria you want your holiday destinations to meet. They should offer some history, architecture, culture or art and be family oriented. So no Spanish party islands into the mix, please.
Your preferences will look like this:
With this search you have just generated a list of 19 towns that meet your requirements. Ordered by distance (ascending), the top 10 includes Quedlinburg, Rothenburg, Český Krumlov, Bavaria, Dürnstein, Hallstatt, Bratislava, Maastricht, Füssen and Alsace.
Europe is a continent full of high culture, fantastic scenery and history. From Paris to Rome or from Istanbul to Amsterdam, there is no shortage of amazing metropoles that you will see described to the smallest detail in every single travel guide you could possibly purchase about the continent.
And truth be told, the main historic attractions across the continent do tend to cluster in and around these cities. But to really experience Europe, visiting some small towns simply has to be part of your itinerary as well. Travel Indicator is here to summarise all of these good places for you and make them easily searchable by country so that next time you go on a trip to, say, Germany, you can just use our database to conveniently zoom in on some of those must-see small towns. But for now allow me to summarise 6 of my favourite historic small European towns thus far have covered.
1. Manarola (Italy)
This place is a thing of beauty. You might have seen this village before, depicted on some website or magazine before as an unnamed spectacular village trying to lure you into travelling to Italy. Now you also know where it is - this is Manarola, in Liguria, northern Italy. Although in fact a tiny village, its stunning location and colorful buildings on top of a cliff overlooking the Ligurian Sea, draws many tourists here. The oldest building in town is the San Lorenzo church, dating back to the 14th century. Besides exploring the town, drinking a glass of the famous local wine and enjoying the sights of the city from the harbor, taking a hike to some of the other 'Cinque Terre' towns nearby is definitely a good spend of time. And be sure to take your camera, as you will be shooting hundreds of pictures.
2. Fuessen (Germany)
So technically we're cheating a little bit here. What you are looking at is in fact the immensely picturesque Neuschwanstein Castle that lies very nearby the town of FÃ¼ssen. Besides just the castle(s) nearby, the town itself also has plenty to offer: The medieval Altstadt (old town) of FÃ¼ssen looks like a romantic fairy tale with its colourful faÃ§ade and cobbled streets, great coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants and shops. With its own castle, fountains, and churches it is a good place to explore for half a day or otherwise to use as a base for checking out the rest of the region, which is a great area for hiking, cycling or other active sports.
3. Albi (France)
Albi is a medieval town that lies in the French Midi-Pyrenees region. Situated on the River Tarn and largely built in red brick style so typical to the region, this town became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.
4. Bacharach (Germany)
This town has a tiny population (under 2000), but is quite grandly situated. Overlooking the Rhine river from the hilly terrain that surrounds it in Rheinland-Pfalz here in Germany, this is an absolutely charming city to explore by foot. Main attraction is the Stahleck Castle and city walls as well as the general architecture in the village (think half-timbred style houses).
5. Cesky Krumlov (Czech Republic)
Scenically run through by the Vltava river that can't quite seem to make up it's mind on what direction it wants to flow here, this town is most famous for the old town center and the castle of the same name (don't make us write the name again, please). The old town consists of narrow cobblestone streets that are lined up with Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque buildings and some good places to eat and drink. The Castle dates back to 1240 and is exceptionally large for a town of this size as it is in fact the second largest castle in the country. It offers great views of the historic town center as well as the Baroque castle gardens.
6. Bled (Slovenia)
And finally there is Bled, a Slovenian Alpine city that can boast of fantastic natural surroundings in the form of lakes and mountains. Top it off with churches, castles and a national park next door (Triglav National Park), this is a great place to spend not a few days but an entire holiday, even.
Note that if you wanted to see more small historic towns that we have covered across the world, you can Have a look right here.
OK, so we know that although we have started giving an indication of the average nightly rate of hotels for every city we cover, that is hardly painting a complete picture of the real cost of travelling there. The obvious missing component is the cost of getting there, and this is something we are at the moment still asking you, the visitor, to fill in for yourselves. Eventually we would like to address this by including the information as well, but for now we'll have to make do like this.
Nevertheless, even being able to compare the price of all the different locations along these dimensions is interesting. Some places are remarkably more expensive than you might initially expect where some are surprising in the opposite sense. Of course it should be noted that these prices do fluctuate quite heavily on a daily basis, but in general the rankings remain fairly stable. Prices below are as of 15 December 2013. and are of course going to fluctuate.
When scouring through the list of locations currently covered, the following 10 are currently the most expensive:
- Serengeti, Tanzania: USD 569/night
- Bora Bora, French Polynesia: USD 469/night
- Thimpu, Bhutan: USD 400/night
- Astana, Kazakhstan: USD 316/night
- Hamilton, Bermuda: USD 309/night
- London, UK: USD 284/night
- New York City, US: USD 260/night
- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: USD 251/night
- Moscow, Russia: USD 244/night
- Port Louis, Mauritius: USD 244/night
Who would have thought that seeing some wildlife in the Serengeti, or the capitals in the middle of nowhere of Bhutan and Kazakhstan would be so expensive to reach? And what about not-much-to-see-here Riyadh? We find a somewhat less surprising "cheapest" ten places:
- Surabaya, Indonesia: USD 61/night
- Phnom Penh, Cambodia: USD 62/night
- Shaoxing, China: USD 64/night
- Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic: USD 66/night
- Xi'an, China: USD 66/night
- Patan, Nepal: USD 67/night
- Hoi An, Vietnam: USD 69/night
- Budapest, Hungary: USD 71/night
- Obidos, Portugal: USD 74/night
- Magelang, Indonesia: USD 74/night
So, all in all not too surprising. What is perhaps more so is how many premier southern European destinations find themselves near the bottom in terms of costs. If you are considering a budget trip around some renowned cities in Europe, consider touching down in the following:
Finally, if the north of Europe is more your cup of tea, consider Berlin (USD 115/night) or Riga in Latvia (USD 74/night).