Pink Fire Pointer 2010

Best European Holiday Destinations - Top Ten

Europe truly boasts some of the best holiday destinations in the world. Europe has one of the most diverse ranges of destinations of any continent, although I think Asia would possibly top the list, with its wide variety of different cultures. But as Asia is also twice as big as Europe, I think we put up a pretty good fight.

I've not visited all the delights Europe has to offer - I've still got much more to look forward to in that department over the coming years. However, I have been to some amazing countries in my life so far. Below, is a list of the ten best European holiday destinations - in no particular order I must add! Let us know if you think I've missed somewhere out.

  1. Croatia - I love everything about this country. A long trip down the Dalmatian Coast is a must, the scenery here is simply stunning. Add the Italian-influenced dirt-cheap food and Croatia is a winner.
  2. Spain - The classic summer holiday destination for us Brits. The weather is a massive draw for this country - give us the sun and we'll be happy.
  3. Norway - Visit Northern Norway in late Autumn/early Spring for quite simply the most incredible natural light show you will ever see - the Northern lights
  4. Berlin, Germany - I just love the atmosphere of this place. It's really clean, the people so friendly, with cutting edge music and creative flair everywhere you look. Throw in centuries of history and it's a brilliant city destination.
  5. Greece - Take your pick from the many islands Greece has to offer. Beautiful weather, happy happy people, ancient history and gorgeous scenery cement Greece's place in my list.
  6. Prague, Czech Republic - A great little city bursting at the seams with history. And of course a top holiday destination for a stag do as well.
  7. London, England - London has so much to see and do. The iconic sights, the West End musicals, the Queen...and, uh... the lovely weather.
  8. Italy - Great wine and delicious food equal a top holiday. What more do you need? Historical cities and gorgeous sun-kissed beaches? Then visit Italy.
  9. Austria - the perfect destination for a keen skier - the Alps are one of the best destinations for skiing in the World, let alone Europe.
  10. Turkey - Technically only half European, Turkey is as a diverse a holiday destination as any. Great weather, quality food, exciting activities and a diverse culture make Turkey a great destination.
So - those were my top ten European holiday destinations - I feel like I've had to leave many great countries out, but there we go. Let me know if you have any different views! A happy new year to you all.

Best Easter Holiday Destinations - Ski Holidays in Austria

This year, I jumped aboard a flight bound for St Anton in Austria towards the end of April for a spot of late season ski action. Austria boasts some top class ski resorts perfect for April/May skiing making it one of the best holiday destinations if you’re after a short ski break in the (fast-approaching) spring. There are also plenty of package deals available for those looking to book a holiday a few months away in "low-season" so you need not break the bank.
The resort I was staying in, St Anton, is one of Austria’s most famous resorts, largely thanks to its beautiful scenery, and exciting slopes.  The town itself is nestled at the foot of Allberg Pass, within a long, narrow valley. Obviously the quality of the slopes is a top priority for a ski resort, and St Anton doesn’t disappoint. Perfect for intermediates and advanced skiers, the resort boasts a variety of slopes leading to a good varied holiday.
One slight drawback of the resort is its probably not the best place for beginners - most of the slopes are fairly tricky so I'd advise other destinations if you fancy some nice gentle slopes to get you into the sport. Skiing is obviously one of the more dangerous extreme sports and account for more holiday injuries than anything else - it pays to do some research into insurance and such like before you jet off to help cover any potentially expensive hospital bills. If you do have an injury that isn't your fault while you're away, for example an accident due to negligence on the part of your tour operator, then consider the options that holiday compensation claims may hold. You may think most accidents while on a ski holiday will take place on the slopes but many people also get injured away from the slopes, in the hotels for example. The same goes for other types of holiday - many people slip by the pool where the hotel may be accountable, for example. Its certainly worth seeing no-win no-fee expert advice on such matters anyway.

The apr├Ęs-ski is also excellent in St Anton. Probably one of the more lively ski resorts I've been to - there are many late night bars and clubs staying open til after about 2AM so theres plenty to help let your hair down after a tough day on the slopes. The fresh air of the mountains helps refresh yourself the following morning too.

St Anton Ski Resort, Austria

Overall, St Anton is a really good ski resort for some easter skiing. The resort does get busy in peak season however by April/May things do tend to quieten down slightly. I'd say the resort is one of the best holiday destinations for an easter ski session especially for the intermediate/advanced skier, check online for flights and packages today.

Greek Islands voted most beautiful in Europe

UK holiday makers have voted the Greek Islands the most beautiful holiday destination in Europe. conducted the survey, asking users for their top holiday getaway in Europe. The survey generated a massive 14,000 responses, 44% of these voted for the Greek Islands as their number one - compared to Spain in second place with 17% of the votes - certainly a wide victory margin. The beautiful coastal islands of Croatia were in 3rd place with 16% of the vote.

The Greek holiday board will no doubt be extremely happy and proud of this result. They cite the variety of options on offer for tourists (Greece boasts over 3,000 different islands), the delicious local cuisine, along with the islands' natural beauty, as the key reasons why the Greek Islands took the top spot by such a large margin. The island of Samos was voted top in the individual stakes - with an average rating of 8.6 out of 10. I've not yet been to Samos but after this survey I have to say I am tempted to give it a visit now.

 Samos, Greece

The result is likely to be swayed fairly significantly by popularity - a much larger number of people have been to Greece and therefore a larger number of people will have voted for the islands as their number one. It would be interesting to see the breakdown of votes for tourists who have been to both Croatia and Greece, for example. I think a good proportion of people who have been to Croatia would have voted for it above Greece - from my experiences the islands there are unmatched anywhere else in Europe (that I have been). The country is still growing in popularity, with several European heavyweights such as Spain, Greece and Italy still commanding a much larger percentage of the UK holiday market. If the survey could avoid or absorb the bias in voting somehow to play out the contest on a more level playing field, to weight less visited destinations, it would be interesting to see a revised list of the top results. I think we would see some unexpected (and perhaps fairly unknown) results in the top 10.

The list does, however, certainly give some decent pointers for some of the best holiday destinations in Europe.

Best Winter Holiday Destinations - Tenerife, the Canary Islands

With August Bank Holiday fast approaching already, it seems like the summer never really kicked off. Luckily, to help cheer us up, there are a wealth of great holiday destinations you should look into when planning your Christmas holidays.Tenerife is one of the best holiday destinations around for a spot of winter sun. The Canary Islands, off the North West coast of Africa, have year long sunshine and high temperatures - because they are near the equator there are no distinct seasons. In December/January, temperatures average 20˚C and around 28˚C in August. Cheap package deals have made holidays here hugely popular all year round, combined with just a 4 hour flight and you are onto a winner. Being a Spanish island the locals speak Spanish but most know some English so you should be able to get by, if not the obligatory tourist hand signals should do the trick.

There are several main resorts in Tenerife. The first is near the airport in the South of the island, and is split into 3 areas, Los Cristianos, Las Americas and the Costa Adeje. This large resort attracts most of Tenerifes tourists, as the South gets the best weather and generally has nicer beaches than the North. Tenerife is a volcano and as a result it tends to be rainier and cooler in the North due to the winds, however it is windier (but sunnier) in the South. There is plenty to do in this area - a newly opened waterpark, Siam Park, is one of the main attractions and is much more impressive than anything found back in the UK. There are also a variety of tour operators that specialise in dolphin and whale watching.

The main disadvantage of Los Cristianos etc. is that the 18-30's flock there on lads holidays, and as a result the area has become slightly tacky. Drinks offers can be found in force, with a large array of bars and clubs perfect for youngsters. Gary Lineker's brother even owns a bar here and is one of the top draws come sunset - the creatively named Lineker's Bar.

The North of the island is slightly less developed, including Puerto de la Cruz. The town has a couple of decent black sand beaches - the main attraction here is Loro Parque, an impressive zoo which also has live dolphin, sea lion and killer whale shows - well worth a visit no matter what your age.

I would recommend getting a hire car if you wanted to explore the island, the best beaches are out of the tourist hotspots - for example Playa las Teresitas, just east of the capital, Santa Cruz (see photo below). Although the beach is artificial, it has white sand (imported from the Sahara) unlike the natural Tenerife beaches and is probably the best beach on the island, and rarely gets crowded.

Overall Tenerife has alot to offer - a trip up to the top of Mount Teide is a must as well - and is definitely one of the best holiday destinations for some winter (or summer) sun.

The most popular budget airline routes this summer

In my last post, I talked about the latest holiday destination trends being experienced by some of the largest European travel agents. Many operators have experienced a surge in popularity for Turkish holiday destinations such as Bodrum and Dalaman, with the country tipped to be the most popular destination in 2010.

While Turkey has seen an increase in popularity, Spanish destinations are still ever present at the top of many of the budget airlines popularity lists. Spain has long been a favourite of the British holidaymaker ever since the emergence of the package holiday. An array of diverse resorts, excellent climate, good food, sandy beaches and proximity to the UK have all helped contribute to Spain's popularity as a holiday destination. Aside from the typical beach resort, Spain has plenty offer in the way of city destinations. Barcelona is truly a city of culture and an excellent place to go for a short city break or longer family holiday. In fact, Barcelona saw more budget airline bookings than any other destination in June according to Low Cost Airline Guide - a site I recently used when booking my summer holidays, that searches all budget airlines to provide a comprehensive guide showing all available routes and flights in one simple search.

Alicante on the Costa Blanca and Malaga on the Costa Del Sol, are the other Spanish holiday destinations included in the five most popular June bookings on this site - these two locations have long been summer holiday mainstays for us Brits - with towns like Benidorm, Marbella and Alicante itself proving popular. Most budget airlines offer routes to Alicante and Malaga from a variety of UK airports.
Paris is another of the most popular budget destinations this June - with many of us looking to save money, the short flight to the city of romance is an attractive one and this is complemented by cheap flights and package deals to Paris.

The credit crunch has led many of us to tighten our purse strings over the last couple of years, and it is certainly worth searching around for the best deal on budget flights. No matter where you may be heading this summer, I recommend Low Cost Airline Guide to keep up to date with available budget airline routes - I saved time and money with my recent booking to The Algarve in Portugal.

Best Holiday Destinations - Trends & Stats

I have mentioned several times in my previous posts how Turkey is fast becoming the holiday destination of choice for us Brits. The decline in the economy, high unemployment, and weak Euro have all combined to cause low disposable income for a huge number of British families. This has meant people looking at cheaper alternatives to their regular holidays.
Recent stats from Co-op Travel show Turkey holidays have grown the most in the last year, with Dalaman seeing an 82% increase in bookings in 2010 compared to the same period last year. Bodrum, also in Turkey, as well as Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, Crete in Greece and Larnaka in Cyprus all popular choices for 2010. In terms of overall popularity, Co-op list:
1) Turkey
2) Majorca
3) Orlando
as their top three holiday destinations.

Travel Supermarket list a slightly different top 3:
1) Turkey
2) Egypt

3) Spain

The common theme here of course being that Turkey leads the way in both lists. The "voucher culture" that has arisen over the last year or so has led to a huge rise in people finding 'deals' for their holidays, which Turkey package holiday suppliers have been able to offer and capitalise upon. Florida remains a popular destination for the more long-haul traveler - for car hire Florida visit Hire4Less.
It seems these trends are set to continue at least for the next year or so, with holidaymakers looking to save money where possible while the economy struggles to recover.

Turkey - soaring in popularity

Heathrow's third runway plans cancelled

Heathrow's proposed plans for a third runway have been cancelled by the new Conservative-Lib-Dem government. The plans were originally put in place by Gordon Brown and Labour, with a third runway allowing for 600,000 additional flights every year. This would have brought in billions of pounds from abroad to help the economy, however the new Government want to focus more on domestic public transport, with proposals for a new high speed railway to link London and Edinburgh, as well as better transport links to Heathrow itself.

Councils, residents and green campaigners are delighted at the news. The additional flights would have had significant implications in terms of noise pollution for local residents, while the environmental damage has led to many a protest. Proposed plans for new runways at Stansted and Gatwick have also been scrapped.

Heathrow is already one of the busiest airports in the world, helping link the UK with some of the best holiday destinations in the World. Approximately 67 million visitors use Heathrow airport yearly. There is obviously huge demand for Heathrow airport parking and plans for expanding these facilities had been included in the 3rd runway proposal.

London still has exceptional links to the rest of the world, and for travelling to your favourite holiday destinations in Europe, America etc, the number of major airports in and around London is second to none.

Best Holiday Destinations - World Cup 2010, South Africa

The World Cup is rapidly approaching, and there's still just enough time to get your flights sorted to South Africa so you can be in on the action. It's been 6 years since we were last involved in a major tournament and the expectation in South Africa is as high as ever. The atmosphere in the country is going to be absolutely electric so if you have the oppurtunity to visit the country while the tournament is on you should be in for a treat.

The tournament for England kicks off on the 12th June in Rustenberg, where we play USA in the opening game. Situated about 50 miles west of Pretoria and Johannesberg - you could potentially stay in either of these cities and get a bus or train to Rustenberg - either way we recommend booking your hotel as soon as you book flights to ensure you have somewhere to stay when you get there.

Our next game, on 18th June, is in Cape Town at the Green Point Stadium. Being an excellent holiday destination outright, with a great deal to see and do aside the game, Cape Town is going to be the most popular city with tourists flocking to the World Cup.

Cape Town, South Africa

Port Elizabeth hosts the final group game versus Slovenia on 23rd June. Hopefully we should be through to the last 16 by that point however knowing England we may have to win here to progress.

Assuming we top the group, our next two games will take place at Rustenberg, and then Johannesberg, which are fairly close together. Therefore one option is to spend a week in Rustenberg before moving to Johannesberg for the possible quarter final. Even if you can't get tickets for the games, watching the games in the numerous bars will be a great experience. And the breweries are ready for us - millions of extra pints have been brewed to ensure noone goes thirsty.

There are some worries about safety in some areas- however like all cities as long as you're careful and don't stray too far from the city centres you should be fine - a bit of common sense won't go amiss, to ensure your holiday passes without any drama.

Many areas of South Africa are already top holiday destinations - so coupled with the atmosphere of the World Cup, a trip here in June or July should be a once in a lifetime experience.

Best Summer Holiday Destinations - Puerto Banus, Marbella, Spain

Marbella, situated on the Southern coast of Spain on the Costa del Sol, is one of the most popular summer holiday destinations for us Brits, and for good reasons. The climate in Southern Spain is wonderful, with long sunny days and high temperatures of 30 degrees celsius and upwards. Coupled with this, wonderful food and drink, and great beaches make the Costa del Sol a very desirable location.

If you're holidaying in Marbella or Malaga this summer, I would highly recommend a visit to Puerto Banus, although the town is certainly well worth a visit in its own right. It is known as a bit of a playground for the rich and famous, and often draws comparisons as the Spanish St. Tropez. The marina area is always full of huge yachts in the summer months, and flash Ferraris, Aston martins and Lambos line the seafront. Puerto Banus is the place to be seen, celebs will often be spotted dining in the fabulous restaurants or doing a spot of shopping in the areas many designer boutiques.

Puerto Banus Marina

You can get to Puurto banus easily - it is around a five mile drive from Marbella so if you're planning on having a few drinks with the glitterati I recommend getting a taxi. After a wander around the marina, you're bound to be slightly peckish and luckily Puerto banus doesn't disappoint. When I visited we went to a restaurant called Antonio's which quite simply served up the finest Paella I have ever had. There are several other cuisines to choose from apart from Spanish and most restaurants have kids options so you shouldn't be stuck for choice. After dinner there are a good number of bars lining the marina - so order a nice cocktail, sit back, relax and watch the world go by in front of you.

Puerto Banus is one of my favourite places in Spain and certainly one of the best holiday destinations to visit during the summer, for a week or two or just for a shorter visit.

Best African Holiday Destinations - Hurghada, Egypt

When you mention Egypt as a top holiday destination, most people will instantly think of the towering Pyramids of Cairo or perhaps the coastal paradise of Sharm El Sheikh. However, Egypt has plenty more to offer aside from the obvious.

Hurghada, on the Red Sea coast of Egypt, is one of the country's top tourist destinations and has grown in popularity in recent years. Many companies now offer holidays to Hurghada - with several airlines flying there and many package deals available. The area has seen substantial growth over the last 30 years or so leading to The facilities on offer are therefore very good and enough to cater for most discerning holiday makers.

There are some absolutely stunning hotels available to stay in in Hurghada - the feeling of excess is similar to one you get in Las Vegas although without the cheap and tacky aftertaste that downtown Vegas provides. Much of Hurghada's attraction lies in the stunning coastline. Being situated in North Africa, you can expect the weather here to be excellent from April-September and as a result many people can be sure to spend alot of the day relaxing down at the beach on the miles of golden beaches spanning the Red Sea coast. There are plenty of water sports on offer here as well which is to be expected really - windsurfing, jet skiing, paragliding and more are all exciting activities that can be experienced here. The coastline also provides exceptional scuba diving oppurtunities, much like many other Red Sea resorts.

Coral reefs in hurghada are stunning

Being a fishing vilage originally, you can be sure to eat well here especially if you like your fresh fish. The Red Sea is nutrient and mineral rich - this leads to thriving sea life at all levels of the food chain, so fish is everywhere on the restaurant menus. You will typically see it served up fairly simply - freshly caught, slapped on the BBQ and straight onto your plate.

All in all, holidays in Hurghada have alot to offer and the area deserves its growing reputation as one of the best holiday destinations in Africa. The abundance of great deals to be had in Easter, spring and summer mean it is an affordable holiday destination for families and couples.

Best Easter Holiday Destinations

It's not a good time of year for us Brits. We've been bombarded with rain, snow and generally freezing conditions for what seems like an age and everyone is starting to get a little bit fed up. Luckily, spring is on the way and in turn some slightly warmer weather - but just when you thought you could go back outside - you can put your house on constant showers over the next few months to wipe that little smile off your face. So it makes sense that a large number of us fancy jetting off for a bit around this time of year in order to get away from it all in the rainy limbo between winter and summer. And luckily for us, the Easter holidays fall in April providing a good excuse to leave the country - the first bank holiday of the year. So where are the best holiday destinations for the Easter period?

Well it depends on what you are after. Much of Europe will still be fairly mild around this time so it may still be worth considering somewhere slightly further afield if you're after a tan to show off to your mates. A recent survey suggest the following destinations are among the top choices at this time of year:

Crete - One of the most popular Greek islands, Crete boasts an excellent climate at this time of year meaning you should see some sun. It's beautiful sandy beaches are a huge draw to tourists, as well as the clear blue sea surrounding the island. The notoriously friendly locals, and the fantastic food and drink, help cement Crete as a top holiday destination in Easter. You can also book package holidays to Crete for cheap, especially if you go for last minute deals.

Muscat - Muscat is the capital city of Oman - an Arab country bordering the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with a good stretch of coastline in the form of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. Muscat has experienced a rapid development in its infastructure in the last 30 years or so making it attractive to tourists. The average April highs of 34oC mean your pretty much guaranteed good weather and the area is filled with enchanting beaches. The city itself is great for tourists with some stunning architecture. It is worth researching the customs of Oman however - for example women should be fairly conservative with their clothing, and there are laws regarding drinking alcohol, however drinking in hotel bars etc is usually fine.

Beautiful St Lucia

St Lucia - A beautiful Caribbean island, St Lucia is an exotic choice for the Easter holidays. The island is draped in rainforest, and the mountainous peaks provide really exciting hiking and cycling oppurtunities. For a more relaxing holiday the stunning beaches and gentle seas are exactly what you would come to expect from a Caribbean island. And if you're planning a gorgeous Easter wedding (maybe next year!) then the island is quite simply picture perfect and perfect for couples.