Tuesday, 11 July 2017

San Francisco, Yosemite, Death Valley & Vegas Fly-Drive


We love the USA and one of our favourite areas is between San Francisco and Las Vegas, via breathe taking Yosemite National Park and unworldly Death Valley. Mark recently did this trip with a hire car and had an amazing time.

Mark suggests starting in vibrant San Francisco before collecting a car and driving to stunning Yosemite national Park. Continue to Death Valley and finish your USA fly-drive in Las Vegas. The best time to travel is from April to September, when the weather is best and Tioga Pass should be open.

Day 1 - UK to San Francisco
Fly from London to San Francisco, arriving later the same day. On arrival into this amazing city, make your way to your chosen hotel, for I would suggest a three night stay, this should give you plenty of time to enjoy this cosmopolitan city.

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

Days 2-3 - San Francisco
Spend the next few days exploring San Francisco. Perhaps prebook our San Francisco Helicopter tour, the ultimate San Francisco sightseeing trip - witness stunning views of the city skyline. Take time to visit San Francisco Bay and world-famous landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, which I would strongly suggest prebooking as it books up fast. Head down to Fishermans Wharf for a the sea lions and a bay cruise.


Day 4 - San Francisco to Yosemite
After taking in all the San Francisco has to offer, collect your rental car from the San Francisco depot, and head out of town towards stunning Yosemite (approx 200 miles / 3 hours 15 mins) starting by crossing the vast Oakland Bay Bridge. If you’re in good time head straight in to Yosemite National Park and the spectacular Yosemite Valley (extra 50 miles / 1 hour 30 mins), in the heart of the park. I’d suggest two nights in the area to take in the fantastic scenery.

Yosemite National Park

Day 5 - Yosemite
Spend the day exploring this spectacular national park - tomorrow you’ll cross the stunning Tioga Pass (weather dependent), so today we’d recommend focusing on the Yosemite Valley area. Maybe spend sometime hiking or just simply sit back and take in the scenery.

Day 6 - Yosemite to Death Valley
It’s a long drive today, but totally spectacular and extremely dramatic (approx 340 miles / 6 hours 30 mins, plus stops). As you head from the high altitude of Yosemite to the lowest place in the USA at Death Valley. From your hotel head across the spectacular Tioga Pass (weather dependent), and onwards to  beautiful Mammoth Lakes - this is about half the journey time-wise, and Mammoth makes a good place to stop. Continue on via Bishop and Independence in to Death Valley National Park, visiting features such as Stovepipe Wells. As the names suggests, it’s pretty hot in Death Valley, and when I was there it reached a balm 100F, so glad the car had good aircon! On arrival in to Furnace Creek check in to your hotel for one night.

Death Valley National Park


Day 7 - Death Valley to Las Vegas
This morning we’d suggest exploring Death Valley a little more - the views from Zabriskie Point are spectacular and at Dante’s View you can see the lowest and highest points in the contiguous USA. From Death Valley continue to Las Vegas (approx 145 miles / 2 hours 15 mins), perhaps detouring to stunning Red Rock Canyon before arriving in to the part capital of Las Vegas. On arrival in to Las Vegas drop your car off at the airport depot and make your way to your chosen hotel, for I would suggest a five night stay. This will give you time to relax a little after all that driving and sightseeing and also time to enjoy, mad, lively Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Holidays


Days 8-11 - Las Vegas
Spend the next few days exploring Las Vegas. There are plenty of trips you can do from here and I’d recommend a trip to the Hoover Dam (from £41 per person), a must do if you are visiting Las Vegas! Enjoy a fascinating visit to the Hoover Dam, one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders. Constructed in 1935, the impressive structure stands more than 700 feet high and spans the width of Black Canyon. Or treat yourself and head out to the amazing Grand Canyon by helicopter, I have to say I think this was one of the main highlights of my trip.

Day 12 - Return
Finally make your way back to Las Vegas airport for your return flight the UK, arriving the next day.

The above is just a suggestion and the type of thing Mark did on his trip. It takes in a great mix of cities, sightseeing, partying and relaxation. All holidays to the USA are very flexible so why not let us help you design your perfect trip.


Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 
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Friday, 16 June 2017

Tokyo.... one of our favourite parts of Japan


We are huge fans of Japan here at Escape Worldwide and one of Darren’s favourite areas is Tokyo.

Japan’s hectic, frenetic capital, Tokyo, is one of the world’s greatest cities, and is packed with things to see and do. Its modern side of numerous neon billboards and crazy thronging crossroads is tempered by amazing traditional temples and beautiful cherry blossoms in the parks, but it’s an easy place to get to know - go shopping in one of the quirky quarters, eat sushi in the place to be seen or take in the crazy nightlife in Shinjuku.


What to do in Tokyo
Tokyo is a vast city so much sure to allow plenty of time to take things in - although the comprehensive modern subway and overland train networks make getting around straightforward. Tokyo Sky Tree is the world’s second tallest structure and gives incredible views across the city, laying out the various districts that make Tokyo tick beneath you. Make sure to arrive early though it does get very busy.Head to Akihabara for geek subculture, Harajuku for fashionistas, Ginza for snob value and Shibuya for the world’s maddest pedestrian crossing, simply crazy but great fun. There’s a myriad of temples, museums, parks and markets also on offer - Tokyo really is packed with interest and excitement.

Tokyo is also home to some amazing bars and restaurants, with a myriad of world class restaurants to fun and funky eateries. Make sure to check out a karaoke bar, the Japanese sure know how to have fun.


Where to stay in Tokyo
Tokyo has a huge range of hotel options across the city, ranging from budget to the utmost luxury, and with a superb public transport network getting around is fairly easy - meaning that your hotel location isn’t too important for sightseeing. Areas such as Marunouchi and Ginza tend to have upmarket hotel options with the city centre being quiet at night, while the likes of Roppongi, Shibuya and Shinjuku offer options in more budgets and are ideal for restaurants, shopping and lively nightlife.

Holiday ideas to Tokyo
You’ll need at least three or four days to make a dent in to Tokyo, so allow yourself enough time to see the main sites - don’t underestimate quite how large this city is! Great flight connections from the UK and to other parts of Asia make Tokyo a key point in any itinerary, although as it;s such a hectic place we tend to recommend starting your trip in somewhere a little smaller, such as Kyoto.


We can offer a fantastic range of holiday ideas to Japan that include this amazing city so why not make Tokyo your next amazing experience. Check out some great holiday ideas: http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk/far_east/japan_holidays.html


Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Mark in Cairns, Port Douglas and a visit to the Great Barrier Reef

Mark was recently in Australia and part of his trip was to Queensland and included a visit the Cairns and Port Douglas, both gateways to the amazing Great Barrier Reef

As one of the gateways to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is the main hub for visitors to Far North Queensland and is a great place to base yourself for a few days of relaxation and activity alike. Take a trip out to the reef itself or head inland to the amazing rainforests of the Daintree region to experience one of the few places where the rainforest meets the beach. The town itself offers a huge range of activities from bungee jumping and cableways gliding over the canopy to swimming lagoons.


Whatever you do whilst in Cairns, be sure to get yourself out to the Greater Barrier Reef, one of Australia’s top attractions - there’s a myriad of options of how to visit this unique place with option for every level from qualified diver to total water-phobe, but the most important thing to our mind is just to make sure you get out there - it’s amazing!


I was lucky enough to take a helicopter ride over the Great Barrier Reef and would strongly recommend doing this as it give you a totally different perspective of this world wonder.


 Alternatively, classy Port Douglas is the closest resort town to the Great Barrier Reef, and offers a more upmarket feel to Cairns, which is an hour down the coast. The town has a more relaxed feel than Cairns and has a great selection of places to eat, drink and shop, while the impressive marina is the perfect jumping-off point for trip to the Reef itself - all of this, backed by beautiful mountains and the beautiful Four Mile Beach, which is well worth a stroll along.


Between classy Port Douglas and  laid back Cairns are a string of smaller beach resorts such as beautiful Palm Cove and Trinity Beach which offer a more intimate hideaway for a Queensland beach retreat, with easy access to either of their larger neighbours but a more low-key feel. This stretch of the Queensland Coast is a picture-postcard of tropical gems.

We have a number of great holiday ideas to this part of Australia, http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk/queensland_holidays.html , all are very flexible so let us know what you have in mind!

  
Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Pool Villas at the Evason Hua Hin in Thailand a perfect Honeymoon option

If you are looking for something a little special then how about a stay in a pool villa and nowhere does them better than Thailand.

Thailand is home to some of the most luxurious hotels you can find and many offer rooms that not only are stunning but also feature your own private swimming pool.

One of Darren’s favourite pool villas can be found the beautiful Evason in the Thailand beach resort of Hua Hin.

Hua Hin Thailand

The resorts of Hua Hin and nearby Cha Am are relaxed alternatives to some of the more commercialised resorts, and offer a more Thai feel – I find this area of Thailand to be perfect for a relaxed stay, without being dull. As they are reached by road from Bangkok they also offer a straightforward and great value option with no domestic flights involved. Hua Hin offers long, sandy beaches, great food (try the night market in the centre of town or the restaurants along the beach – the seafood is fantastic!) and a good range of quality hotels, while Cha Am has a more relaxed pace, but is only 20 minutes from Hua Hin.

Evason Hua Hin

The 4*+ Evason HuaHin is perfect for a stylish, relaxing option. It’s about 30 minutes to the south of the town centre in a peaceful setting – an excellent chill-out retreat. The resort offers high standards with a natural feel, and I think it’s a great option for a special trip without breaking the bank. The main bar is perfect a chillout sundowner and with a choice of dining options it’s hard to beat.

Evason Hua Hin Thailand

The pool villas here are not only great value for money but are just stunning and very private. These spacious villas come with a king sized bed and large indoor day bed perfect for lounging around if it all gets a little bit too hot lounging around your pool.

Bath Tub evason Hua Hin

Outside there is a bath tub set within a water lily pond with an adjacent outdoor shower, however the most outstanding feature is the good sized private plunge pool complete with adjacent sala which is ideal for chilling out with a good book before taking a cooling dip.

Pool Villa Hua Hin

Personally I think the pool Villas at the Evason Hua Hin have to be some of the nicest I have seen and are remarkable value for money. So if you’ve got a honeymoon planned or a special birthday or anniversary then these have to be top of your list.


Visit www.sixsenses.com/Evason-Hua-Hin for more details of this hotel.





Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Great Barrier Reef Helicopter Ride


video

On a recent trip to Australia, Mark took a helicopter ride over the Great Barrier Reef and we just loved his video of the helipad!


Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Marks San Francisco, Yosemite, Death Valley & Vegas Fly-Drive holiday

Mark is a great fan of the USA and one of his favourite areas is California (and surrounding areas) which is so much more than just the glitz and glamour of the cities, he suggests:

I love the USA and would suggest starting in vibrant San Francisco before collecting a car and driving to stunning Yosemite national Park. Continue to Death Valley and finish your USA fly-drive in Las Vegas. Best from April to September.

Day 1 - UK to San Francisco
Fly from London to San Francisco, arriving later the same day. On arrival make your way to your chosen hotel, for a three night stay - we have a range to choose from, and your length of stay in San Francisco is flexible.



Days 2-3 - San Francisco
Spend the next few days exploring San Francisco. Perhaps prebook our San Francisco Helicopter tour, the ultimate San Francisco sightseeing trip - witness stunning views of the city skyline, San Francisco Bay and world-famous landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.


Day 4 - San Francisco to Yosemite
Collect your rental car from the San Francisco depot, and head out of town towards Yosemite (approx 200 miles / 3 hours 15 mins) starting by crossing the vast Oakland Bay Bridge. If you’re in good time head straight in to Yosemite National Park and the spectacular Yosemite Valley (extra 50 miles / 1 hour 30 mins), in the heart of the park. Check in to your hotel for a two night stay.


Day 5 - Yosemite
Spend the day exploring this spectacular national park, which I adored - tomorrow you’ll cross the Tioga Pass (weather dependent), so today I’d recommend focusing on the Yosemite Valley area.


Day 6 - Yosemite to Death Valley
It’s a long drive today, but totally spectacular and extremely dramatic (approx 340 miles / 6 hours 30 mins, plus stops). As you head from the high altitude of Yosemite to the lowest place in the USA at Death Valley. From your hotel head across the spectacular Tioga Pass (weather dependent), and onwards to Mammoth Lakes - this is about half the journey time-wise, and Mammoth makes a good place to stop. Continue on via Bishop and Independence in to Death Valley National Park, visiting features such as Stovepipe Wells. On arrival in to Furnace Creek check in to your hotel for one night.


Day 7 - Death Valley to Las Vegas
This morning I’d suggest exploring Death Valley a little more - the views from Zabriskie Point are spectacular and at Dante’s View you can see the lowest and highest points in the contiguous USA. From Death Valley continue to Las Vegas (approx 145 miles / 2 hours 15 mins), perhaps detouring to Red Rock Canyon before arriving in to Vegas. On arrival in to Las Vegas drop your car off at the airport depot and make your way to your chosen hotel, for a five night stay - we have a range to choose from, and your length of stay in Las Vegas is flexible.

Days 8-11 - Las Vegas
Spend the next few days exploring Las Vegas. I’d recommend a trip to the Hoover Dam, a must do if you are visiting Las Vegas! Enjoy a fascinating visit to the Hoover Dam, one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders. Constructed in 1935, the impressive structure stands more than 700 feet high and spans the width of Black Canyon.


Day 12 - Return
Make your way back to Las Vegas airport for your return flight the UK, arriving the next day.
I did a similar trip to the above and loved every minute of it, though the holidays are very flexible so why not create your own perfect itinerary!


Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays
http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Our Top Trips in 2016 - Mark in India, October 2016

Mark was in India in October last year and spent a week exploring the sights of the famous 'Golden Triangle' of the North, and a few days discovering the charms of laid-back Kerala in the South. Here's why it was his somewhat unexpected top trip of 2016 . . . .


I visited two sides of India in October in two different ways, combined in to one trip. The first part of my trip was a group tour of the classic sights of the 'Golden Triangle ' - Delhi, Agra and Jaipur - which was arranged by our friends at G Adventures, who run amazing escorted tours with an adventurous streak. I then said goodbye to my group of fellow G Adventurers and headed to Kerala to spend a few days exploring the beaches, backwaters and history of this charming area, in the company of the fabulous folks at Kerala Travel Centre. Being an independent company ourselves we love working with other independent companies around the world.


In all honesty an 'adventure' tour isn't really my kind of thing - my days of roughing it are well past me (I wouldn't say I'm a travel snob, but I do like a few nice touches at the end of the day!) but my friends at G Adventures were sure I'd love it - and they were spot on! To my mind I was expecting a trip more geared towards backpackers, with a young age group and basic accommodation - not exactly my thing. Some of the accommodation was fairly simple, but some were excellent and almost all were well located and charming. The itinerary of the tour was excellent - all of North India's classic sights, plenty of experiences away from the history, and just enough downtime to take it all in. Our group gelled exceptionally well, and our CEO - Chief Experience Officer - brilliantly balanced things to keep everyone happy.

The trip had many highlights - India's sights are incredible and the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Fatephur Sikri and Jaipur's Amber Fort are amongst the most impressive historic sites I've ever been to. However, for me it was the experiences of the trip that will last long in my memory, just as much as the sights. One night was spent at Dhula, a small village outside of Jaipur and just off the well beaten 'Golden Triangle' route. G Adventures have worked closely with a local landowner who has opened a small tented property on his family land - simple but well equipped tents (more glamping than camping) plus great vegetarian meals and a fab pool to cool off in, all set around historic monuments that tell the family history. A few of us wandered around the village in the morning, and the untouched nature of the place, located just a few miles off the main road to Jaipur, was astounding. We were genuinely welcomed by young kids and old villagers alike, and popping our heads in to the local school brought huge smiles from the school kids - and everyone in our group!


It was also great to see a few places that aren't on every single itinerary of this area, and I think G Adventures are great at doing this - one afternoon we went to the Abhaneri step well, which I can't even find in the Lonely Planet guidebook. It's a thousand year old hole in the ground, part water tank and part temple, and beautifully restored. It’s unusual to get 'off the beaten track' these days, but along with Dhula village, this was one of those moments where I found myself thinking 'where am I?!'


Two other highlights were all about the group - one of the optional activities on the tour (most things are included) was a Bollywood dance class on the roof of our Jaipur hotel. Almost all the group joined in (one looked after the music and the other kept the beer flowing), and while we're not holding our breath for a call from a Bollywood studio just yet, it was incredible fun. Next evening in Jaipur was a walk around the old city as the sun went down, then we were whisked off in rickshaws through the crowded streets, stopping at a local lassi shop and various food vendors for a local snack or two. Take a look at my high-speed Jaipur rickshaw video here!


From Jaipur I flew south to Trivandrum, the gateway to the beaches of Kerala - and to a completely different world ! The big cities of Northern India are crowded and noisy, bursting with life, whereas the South is far more relaxed and laid back - the perfect antidote to the hectic North. The main beach resort is Kovalam and the area has a very traditional feel - low-key restaurants line the beachfront where fishermen bring their catches to shore each morning, for dinner that night.


I then headed a little further north to the Backwaters, a vast area of tranquil waterways, where I spend a day and a night on a traditional house boat - this is seriously one of the best travel experiences I've ever had, I adored it! The boat took two guests and came with a crew of three (someone to steer, someone to cook and someone to generally look after us), simple but fantastically tasty meals were served on deck and we stopped once or twice to explore local villages. The boat moored overnight as the sun went down and the peace and tranquility of this magical area will live long in my memory - just incredible. Have a look at my video as the houseboat floatsaround the Backwaters!

Finally, I finished my Indian journey in the city of Cochin, which has a long history of seafarers and traders, all of which can still be seen today. A local historian walked me around the sights of Fort Cochin, taking in the Chinese fishing nets, St Francis Church with the original burial site of Vasco Da Gama, Jew Town with its historic Synagogue, and the old bazaar district of Mattancherry (where I picked up a fab huge cooking pot for next to nothing!) On my last evening I saw a traditional Kathakali dance (in all honesty I had no idea what was going on!) and finished off with a few beers and a superb meal at the fabulous Old Harbour Hotel. Cochin's appeal is immediate and obvious, and I could easily have spent longer here.



This was my fourth visit to India and my second taking in the classic sights of the Golden Triangle, but on this trip I discovered a different side of the North, and fell in love with the charms of the South - which is why it was my Top Trip of 2016!





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